Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Review

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Director: Zack Snyder

Rating: 2 out of 5.

In taking a recent dive through the mythos of DC Comics, I endeavored to watch all of the Batman and Superman movies –thus far most have been good fun, even the bad ones, but few have matched the existential dour and drabness of Zack Snyder’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. This movie offers a forgettable attempt to mirror the Marvel Cinematic Universe as DC/Warner Bros continues to flail with some of its extraordinary IPs, namely the popular Batman and Superman properties. Rather than pursuing a bleak existentialist string of films focused on Batman and Superman, perhaps they could instead look upward for a more aspirational tone for these heroes.

Sadly, this is not an aspirational film. The heroes are broken, jaded, and questionably moral. I watched the so-called “Ultimate Version” which added an extra thirty minutes to the film, making it clock in at over 3 hours, and even in this case the plot is hardly comprehensible. I guess in some senses it is a tale of two cities: Metropolis and Gotham. Here, Ben Affleck plays an older Batman, a reluctant and retiring hero a la Frank Miller’s celebrated comic book The Dark Knight Returns. He is alcoholic and grim, often branding criminals with a flesh-burning bat symbol so they will later be brutally murdered in prison. He begins to grow suspicious of “the Superman” (reprised by Henry Cavill from 2013’s Man of Steel) amidst oddly inserted dream sequences and visions of the future. The events of Man of Steel have led many to believe Superman is not the savior they had once hoped. Both Batman and Superman are at odds as kryptonite is discovered, and infamous entrepreneur Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) pits them against one another. Luthor launches a covert marketing campaign to make people believe that Superman is a vicious killer. Superman is publicly condemned as a villain, he seems to only care about his love for Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and his mother Martha Kent (Diane Lane). Following a series of mysterious clues, Bruce Wayne/Batman Gal Gadot makes a surprise appearance as Wonder Woman. Other notable actors in the film include Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth and Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor Perry White.

It concludes with a 40 minute “epic” battle filled with lots of slamming, destruction, and seizure-inducing special effects. Despite being a murderous killer, Batman ultimately decides not to slaughter Superman with a kryptonite staff, and then Batman and Superman decide to team up with Wonder Woman to destroy Lex Luthor’s genetically-engineered rock monster, but in the end (spoiler alert) the battle kills Superman. But wait! After his funeral in Smallville, the dirt around his burial suddenly moves, implying that Superman has been resurrected (yawn). I tried two times to get through this long, dour, grey, depressing movie, but it just a bore and many scenes are non-contiguous, making little sense to the viewer. I’m sure there were at least some ideas on the cutting room floor with this film, but actually watching it feels like the death of the superhero genre. Batman v Superman was not even funny or moderately entertaining, unlike other campy crossovers like Alien vs Predator which is at least good for a few chuckles. It is dark and weighty with no clear message or narrative thrust, and the indecipherable plot runs away from the audience leaving a sour sense of encroaching nihilism –a rare accomplishment for a movie which features two of the most popular superheroes in cinematic history. I recommend skipping this jumbled, three-hour catastrophe.

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