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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice




Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

03/31/16
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Hey, it’s Batman’s origin story again in slo-mo, just like nobody wanted, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a dull, sad attempt by DC at capturing some of that Marvel multiverse magic.

The story begins by shoving a little Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) action into the end of Man of Steel. Just like many in the audience, Wayne is highly critical of the massive destruction and loss of life caused by Superman’s boring CGI fight with one dude, especially when it causes death and destruction at Wayne Financial. Wayne pulls one employee, Wallace (Scoot McNairy), out from under a beam that has crushed his legs. He also comforts a little girl who has lost her mother — who was on some top floor of the building while the little girl was outside on the street, er, having a smoke? how does this moment even come together? — while looking up at Superman and shaking his fist and yelling “Khaaaaaan!” You know, on the inside.
Some 18 months later, Superman (Henry Cavill) saves intrepid, not terribly bright reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from terrorist bad guys in some country that might as well be called Randomistan. The event coincides with some kind of terrorist bad guy double cross and a resulting pile of bodies, both at the terrorist compound and in a neighboring village, leads to congressional hearings about Superman. Should an all-powerful god-man really be allowed to act without any check, leaving others to deal with (and suffer from) the blowback? Because Congress seems to be leaning toward “no” on that question, nutcase inventor Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) inserts himself into the conversation, looking to get a government contract for a Superman-killing weapon. In exchange, he asks for and gets the dead body of General Zod and the wreckage of Zod’s ship.
Superman agrees to go to the hearings, but things go very bad very fast and Superman is left trying to explain why he couldn’t prevent massive loss of life. Actually, loss of life seems to be his thing, so I’m not sure why it would surprise anyone.
Meanwhile, Wayne has been working on his own plan to go after Superman. He is convinced Superman is a danger to humanity, just as Superman/Clark Kent is convinced Batman is an illegitimate vigilante who needs to be stopped. Superman tells Batman as much about an hour into the movie, when they finally meet.
Later — way too later in my opinion — Lex Luthor maneuvers both heroes into a position where they must fight each other. Perhaps he hopes that somehow, with each man having the means of killing the other, they will both be left dead and he will have free rein in a world that is devoid of superheroes.
I guess. 
I don’t really know what he wants. Eisenberg’s Lex feels like his Mark Zuckerberg doing Heath Ledger’s Joker. He seems like he is interested in chaos both for its own sake and to get everybody signed up for LexCorp’s social network. He feels cheaply looney and not like a terribly formidable villain.
The movie’s real rivalry is the not tremendously well-explained Batman-vs.-Superman fight. Even as Eisenberg’s Lex lames up the duo’s rare moments on screen together, there is a spark of something that happens when Superman and Batman share a scene. Just a spark, mind you — there is nothing the like rounded, personality-rich relationship between Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America. Though I don’t have the highest hopes for May’s Captain America: Civil War, it means something for those two characters to face off in a way it doesn’t with Superman and Batman because the actors haven’t made those characters distinct people.
This movie’s attempt to build that is, I guess, by boring us with constant Wayne flashbacks to Martha Wayne’s pearls falling as she is shot during the crime that set a rich boy on the path to becoming a secret vigilante. We see this a lot, in the slowest of mo, along with a few other highlights from canonical boy-to-bat incidents.
And then there’s Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), whose role in this movie is so minor I forgot that she was even in it. When all three supers are finally together, we see a hint at what could have been, a hint of the “ah, here’s something new” energy of having these three iconic characters together. Their teaming up is so brief, however, that we barely get to enjoy it. 
Every superhero movie doesn’t have to be Joss Whedon-y and quip-filled, but some lightness helps to give movies like this energy. I found myself thinking of Disney’s live-action Cinderella when I watched this movie. Cinderella, like Superman, feels like a throwback character — full of a kind of optimism and lack of shadowy parts that doesn’t completely fit with modern storytelling. That movie handled this by heading straight at it, by making kindness one of Cinderella’s, in effect, superpowers. This movie goes in the opposite direction, shoving the Superman character into some allegory about drones or something. Instead of using the lightness of Superman to contrast with darkness in other characters, director Zack Snyder seems to have chosen just making everything a murky gray. (Which I mean both metaphorically and literally, as there seems to be some kind of dinge filter on every scene.)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had spectacular potential, both as a bit of storytelling and as a way to set up a new franchise. But it feels like a letdown on both counts. C-
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality. Directed by Zach Snyder with a screenplay by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a totally unnecessary two and a half hours long and distributed by Warner Bros.
 





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