D: Zack Snyder. DP: Larry Fong. W: Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer. Starring: Henry Cavill/Ben Affleck/Jeremy Irons/Gal Gadot/Amy Adams/Jesse Eisenberg/Holly Hunter/Scoot McNairy/Laurence Fishburne/Diane Lane. (Based on the Batman character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and the Superman character created by Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster.)
As Marvel’s Avengers continue to assemble and reek havoc at the box office it was only a matter of time and rights before DC Comics would attempt to put together their Justice League. Without spending endless time explaining which studios have the rights to which characters, safe it to say it is a complex mess. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice attempts to pit the caped crusader against the batman in order to contextualize events that can lead to the justice league and the philosophical frictions of these two characters.
Batman v Superman picks up where 2013’s Man of Steel ends with a very svelte Ben Affleck as the new Batman witnessing the final destructive fight between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon). As a Wayne Enterprises building goes down in Metropolis Affleck’s Bruce Wayne begins his grudge match with alien Superman. We move to eighteen months later where both men continue to hunt the other and furrow their brows at their competitors moral choices. Superman is treated like a god, but yet is easily framed. Batman pounds the flesh of criminals for information, but misses what is under his nose.
Cavill continues to look the part of Superman, but he still cannot save a dated and one-dimensional character. No one believes this glass wearing alias anymore. He mostly stares and recites, forcing poor Amy Adams to keep trying to give Lois Lane some purpose other than the love interest. Affleck’s Batman is a heavy jawed bully that lacks the sparkle and edge Christian Bale gave us in his Dark Knight films. Alfred gets his sexy back here with a dry and spry Jeremy Irons lending a more casual approach to the Wayne family which now lives in a floor to ceiling glass house perched next to some sort of moor. Don’t worry Batman will drive by the burnt down mansion in case we had forgotten. There is also a tremendously silly work out montage for Affleck, Warner Brothers clearly wanted every bang for their buck.
Director Zack Snyder returns to comics after directing Man of Steel. A movie too loud and violent for its own good, something this new film picks up on. Thematically the film wants to address the questions of violence and hope in both figures. Yet Batman v Superman instead uses Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luther as a scapegoat, excusing the violence as retribution for his actions. Overall Eisenberg is not actually given much to do, but safe to say the creation of his villainous status is sure to come up again.
Cinematographer Larry Fong who shot the excellent Super 8, as well as Watchmen and 300 with Snyder, is working in over drive here. The opening sequence is high resolution glossy commercial art tenuously trying to build a dramatic mood the film cannot maintain. Nearly every zooming close up is accompanied by a blaring bore of a soundtrack that announces every moment with pounding drums. The best bit of music is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman theme all a bit rock n roll cowgirl. Her own film will be released next summer so she is also introduced here to build interest in that.
Ultimately Batman v Superman is an overstimulated and over inflated bed partner for The Avengers. There is not a moment of humor in nearly two and a half hours of film. Rather the humor comes from laughing at a film that takes itself entirely too seriously. Do Batman and Superman mothers have to be named the same name? After the somewhat realistic Nolan Batman series, which I loved, this group needs some light into it. Here’s hoping Wonder Woman, which is being directed by Patty Jenkins, will be a bit better.