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Dan's Review: "Batman v Superman" a big, hot mess - but worth a look

Mar 24, 2016 12:33AM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Rated PG - 13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.

Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot.

Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer.

Directed by Zack Snyder.

GRADE: B+

REVIEW:

Depending on which side you fall in the DC v Marvel comic book feud, you may or may not be very excited about the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this weekend. For a while, it seemed Marvel had the upper hand and could do no wrong after unveiling their cinematic universe with the release of 2008’s Iron Man and culminating with 2012’s runaway Avengers hit. DC/Warner Bros. tried and failed to gain a footing with characters beyond Christopher Nolan’s successful standalone Dark Knight trilogy, but never had much success outside of Gotham (see: Superman Returns, Green Lantern, etc.). For years, DC fans pined for a similar Avengers-style collaborative effort. There were rumors of a Justice League cinematic universe, but they never panned out. Then, in 2013, DC surprised everyone by rebooting the Superman franchise with the successful Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill.  It seemed like the perfect chance to finally join their most beloved superheroes into a team and get the Justice League out of the shadows and onto multiplex theater screens around the world. Here it is, DC fans. You finally get your cinematic universe.

The story picks up during the final battle scene between Kal-El/Superman (Henry Cavill) and his Kryptonian arch villain General Zod (Michael Shannon) in the end of Man of Steel. As the alien “gods” duke it out, there is a lot of collateral damage going in in and around Metropolis, where Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) owns a corporate office building that houses his company, Wayne Enterprises. Needless to say, a lot of people die during the fight, leaving Wayne less than excited to welcome Earth’s new savior. Bruce has his own agenda, spending his nights as Batman, hunting for the source of a crime syndicate in nearby Gotham City. Another fella interested in Superman’s newfound fame is Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), a billionaire wacko who seems to know a lot about the secret identities of “super” folks all over the globe (yeah, there are previews of a few other Justice League types), including the mysterious Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), a.k.a. Wonder Woman, who is over 5,000 years old and has all kinds of superpowers and gadgetry. Wonder Woman is trying to get inside Luthor’s encrypted database to erase her true identity, while Batman discovers that Luthor may be the driving force behind that crime syndicate he’s been trying to shut down.

Meanwhile, Superman is framed for a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C., leading him into exile. He returns as Luthor manipulates him into a winner-take-all showdown with Batman. Secretly, Luthor has also kidnapped Clark Kent’s mother Martha (Diane Lane) and threatened the life of his lover Lois Lane (Amy Adams). He’s also been growing a monster using the DNA of Zod’s dead body, a.k.a. “Doomsday.” All this conflict leads to a huge battle in which one of the two superheroes must kill the other, or figure out Luthor’s plan to manipulate them. Oh yeah, and Wonder Woman has to choose between staying anonymous or join in the fight.

No spoilers, but the epic battle has tragic consequences, leaving the survivors with the option of joining forces into what will obviously become that Justice League franchise everyone has been clamoring about.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not an easy film to follow, with a lot of moving parts, story lines, missing background stories and a host of major characters to deal with. There are equal parts of diverging moral themes, expositions about the true nature of god, the duplicity hero worship, along with a sprinkling of daddy issues, and oh yeah, the tragic death of Bruce Wayne’s parents way back in 1980-something.

Yet, in the middle of all this hot mess of comic book darkness, special effects and ensemble cast, there’s an epic feel to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Affleck’s Batman is very well done, showing a flawed and damaged personality in middle age, not to mention he kicks some serious bad guy butt (he’s even darker than Nolan’s version in meting out justice). Cavill portrays Superman with more of a dark side than you’d expect, dropping the “golly-gee” Boy Scout routine a little. Gal Gadot is perfectly cast as Wonder Woman, giving the character a sense of tough class, without coming across as some sort of patronizing sidekick. Her arrival on the field of battle will draw the most cheers, too.

So, the good news is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice delivers plenty of action and epic superhero drama. The bad news is, it’s not a well-structured film. There are several gratuitous dream sequences meant to explain the main character’s fears, motivations or nuttiness in the movie, creating even more needless distraction.

Such flaws don’t completely overshadow the cool factor of having two iconic comic book heroes duking it out, which makes Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice worth a look, and certainly worthy of being an adequate stepping stone to launch the new DC cinematic universe.


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer

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