batman_v_superman_stills_2Year: 2016
Director(s): Zack Snyder
Writer(s): Zack Snyder
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, some scenes 1.44:1 in IMAX (70mm and Laser versions)
Rating: PG-13
16mm, 35mm, 65mm, Color, 151 mins

Synopsis: Batman and Superman eventually fight, but what’s the point?

The DC Cinematic Universe is proving to be a tired experiment by just its second film, the awkwardly titled Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s a shame too, because amidst a sea of undeveloped ideas, poorly written characters, and a general lack of respect toward source material are some wonderful seeds for what could’ve been a towering new standard of the superhero genre. Adding insult to injury, director Zack Snyder delivers plenty of eye candy and lets wonderful performances take center stage, despite an inability to navigate the film’s dense, narrative incoherence.

18 months after Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) level of Metropolis during a fight, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), a victim of the attacks, searches for the mysterious “White Portuguese,” an artifact he believes could be used to incapacitate or cripple Superman. Haunted by the death and devastation, he will take no chances against the Man of Steel. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), a tech mogul also seeks to put and end to the red-caped hero.

Despite “Superman” being a titular draw, Zack Snyder and David Goyer spend the length of the entire film completely misunderstanding and, dare I say it, slapping the character around to the point of painting him as a terrorist. The film intriguingly sets up how the world would react if an almighty figure of his type were to suddenly appear, but we never get to see things from his perspective. The destruction of Metropolis is never touched on after the films opening, and though we see that Supes’ has gotten himself a tribute statue for heroism, the film barely shows us those who side with him throughout all the negative media attention. It’s an unfair disadvantage, and one that never makes us care for the iconic hero when it matters. Carrying over from Man of Steel, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams have absolutely no on-screen chemistry together, and she’s used mainly as bait for Superman.

batman_v_superman_stills_1The film fares best when it’s about Batman, in particular, how Ben Affleck paints a disturbed and angry portrait of a man who has seen too many of his loved ones die. What the film does well is get the audience on the sympathetic side of the Bat, taking the cold, detached climax of Man of Steel and creating a sympathetic introduction to Bruce Wayne and Batman. The well roundedness of the Bat is in stark contrast to Superman’s one-sided portrait, and intermittently gives us something to care about.

Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is a plus as well, and his scenes with Affleck’s Wayne are cut way too short. In contrast to the tortured Wayne, Alfred urgently paints a picture of how the Dark Knight has lost it, coming very close to the villains he aimed to stop for so many years – it’s too bad scenes featuring the two are far and few in between.

Acting opposite of the two titans, Jesse Eisenberg is so over-the-top and miscast as Luthor, it’s almost as if he were pulled from a Tarantino film and dropped into the DC universe. He also has no motivation for what he does, and his plots to frame Superman are embarrassingly amateurish at best. The Justice League reveals are tied into Luthor but in the worst way possible – it’s a subplot that sidetracks Batman’s real motivation throughout, and feels like a ham handed trailer which breaks urgency and believability.

batman_v_superman_stills_3For such a small amount of dialogue, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is easily the most memorable character to unfold on the screen, and BvS becomes an impatient waiting game until we get to that final moment. She gets in on one of the film’s biggest moments, showcasing Snyder’s vision of spectacle and wonder, regardless of her being utterly shoehorned in.

Without spoiling the plot’s conclusion, it doesn’t feel resolute or settled. Obviously, the story must continue – but the fate of a major character in no way feels permanent or emotionally earned. It results in a cheapening of all the characters involved, instantly making the high stakes for nothing.

Zack Snyder is a great visual director, but unfortunately, none of his movie’s aesthetics matter thanks to a vague story and shoddy characterization which allows beloved characters to act in ways that simply don’t make sense. Diehard fans will find things they like, but that may not be case for the average moviegoer (accessibility was something Christopher Nolan did extremely well with his Dark Knight trilogy). For the first time in history, we’re able to see two of the greatest comic book characters meet on screen, and the end result is an anti-climactic slap in the face.