‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is Both Despairing & Disappointing

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CHICAGO – Dang it, DC Comics and Warner Bros.! Two of my favorite comic book characters get dragged through a dull mud in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” There is a dawn all right, but instead of the bright sun over the horizon, it’s a full mooning to the fans who anticipated the film.

The stiff Henry Cavill and Batfleck (TM, ha ha) – Ben Affleck – portray Superman and The Batman as initial rivals, and the script has them going through a mass of complex issues, and silly dream sequences, while a blaring soundtrack gives them “walking (or flying) music” for virtually any instance in the film – seriously, there is walking music for Bruce Wayne going downstairs at a party. The first hour and 15 minutes or so is death, as the set-up doesn’t even get them into costume for “reals” until that point. Afterward, the film perks up a bit, but there are so many logic holes, especially involving villain Lex Luthor, that even the appearance of Wonder Woman to help out can’t elicit a comic book woody. It starts out dull, and can’t re-shine the finish. and It’s time for the WB to consider some new blood on the production team.

Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is one of the angry citizens that watched Metropolis fall during the General Zod and Superman (Henry Cavill) battle from “Man of Steel.” Wayne has been the Gotham City vigilante The Batman for twenty years now, with the loyal Alfred (Jeremy Irons) by his side. Wayne and Superman’s secret identity, Clark Kent, meet at a benefit honoring Alexander “Lex” Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg).

Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill
Face/Off: Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

A U.S. government committee headed by Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) is investigating Superman’s place in America as a hero, while Luthor is trying to get Kryptonite through back channels. Reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is keeping the secret on Clark’s double life, while their relationship continues, and a mysterious woman named Diana (Gal Gabot) may be able to intervene and/or team up with the duo in the midst of the Batman versus Superman fracas. It all comes down to a creature, a villain and a kitchen sink full of plot points.

That’s right, Batfleck even uses a kitchen sink as a weapon at some point, which is strangely emblematic of the film. Ben’s Batman is properly brooding, but his Bruce Wayne needs work. In this script, Batman/Bruce really isn’t given that much to do, except sneer at Superman initially, and then try to run him down later with a Batmobile that defies wreckage. Batfleck has been on good film sets, he had to recognize the mess this one was in, and it shows in his performance.

The stink of the worst part of “Man of Steel” is on this film – both directed by Zack Snyder by the way – and it involves the complexity of making sure Snyder’s “vision” is all over the Last Son of Krypton. Supes is again a messianic figure, with plenty of Christ-like “hovering” to make sure we get it. The metaphor is clunky, and is knocked over the head several times, plus it doesn’t help that Henry Cavill can’t decide what to do with the character or the symbol.

It’s no secret that Wonder Woman makes an appearance in this film, in anticipation of the upcoming “Justice League” movies (also directed by Snyder… sigh), and the newcomer (Gal Gabot) playing the Amazonian is miscast, at least when she becomes Wonder Woman. There is also an unintentionally funny “roll call” of the upcoming Justice Leaguers, and Aquaman looks like a bearded hipster who is drowning.

This a film easy to poke fun of – for example, Lex Luthor’s motivations are unfounded as a villain, as Jesse Eisenberg portrays him like a tic-filled combination of Heath Ledger’s Joker and Jim Carrey’s Riddler. I anticipated him portraying a Mark-Zuckerberg-internet-billionaire type, but his character just becomes hard to understand, and the reasons for his evil are lacking (he’s inordinately interested in all things Kryptonian, literally wanting to wear their skin, don’t ask). Luthor’s dishwater reincarnation may have been the most disappointing element in a series of disappointments.

Jesse Eisenberg
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

It ain’t all bad, but by the time the story gets to anything interesting, the oxygen is sucked out of the narrative. The main fight, while overlong, has some implications, and there are some moral issues (again, overlong) that come out of it. But in a sense it’s too little, too late, even as the personalities of Batfleck and Henry finally start to mesh. And what is it with the glowing Batmam eyes? Oh well.

Yes, I’m a DC Comics geek, and the film suffers from its Marvel Universe envy. Will the pendulum swing back, ala The Dark Knight series? It all depends on the creators, and Warner Bros./DC seriously has the lesser creative team. I don’t care how much Zack Snyder whines to the press, get him off this brand.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” opens everywhere on March 25th in IMAX and regular screenings. See local listings for IMAX theaters and show times. Featuring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons. Holly Hunter, Lois Lane, and Gal Gadot. Screenplay by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Directed by Zack Snyder. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2016 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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