Movie Review: 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' (2016)

Batman v Superman Movie Art, Soundtrack
With a “sham”, “bang”, “pow” director Zack Snyder delivers the hotly debated and hesitantly anticipated face-off between Superman (Henry Cavill), the most powerful hero in comic book lore and Batman (Ben Affleck), the stoic crime fighting billionaire.

Who would have thought that the showdown between these two famous caped crusaders could be so boring? It is not for lack of trying.

There are intense swells of gorgeous music from Hans Zimmer, fantastic special effects and another fine performance from actor Henry Cavill. There is also a forced plot mechanism used to justify the superhero showdown, a fast-talking millennial take on Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and an equally incoherent and unnecessary launch for Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). If there was one thing this movie did not need, it was another superhero in the mix.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (the title is way too cool to keep the “s” in versus) picks up a year and a half after the conclusion of “Man of Steel”, wherein General Zod (Michael Shannon) laid waste to Metropolis.

In the aftermath, Superman has become a lightning rod of polarizing public sentiment as the people he has worked to protect have turned against him.

Stepping up to the plate to battle for the title of humanity’s top defender is the gloomy Batman, who has assessed Superman as a major threat to the world. Thanks in large part to a series of miscommunications and frame jobs.

This leaves viewers with a roughly two and half hour, covert war of passive aggression on the part of Bruce Wayne as he tries to combat Superman - an entity innumerably more powerful than himself.

This battle requires Wayne to dig deep and utilize Alfred (Jeremy Irons), a once buttoned down butler turned tech gizmo genius, in his mission against Superman.

Bruce not considering any sort of diplomacy or offering Superman any benefit of the doubt, makes him come across as extremely ignorant, at best. The Batman side of the storyline does not even have the advantage of starting off on a good foot.

The movie begins with a flashback to the Kryptonian attack on Metropolis, as one of Wayne’s employees calls him from inside headquarters to report that the surrounding buildings are collapsing and then awaits his permission to leave. Yes, seriously.

As his critics feared, Affleck’s performance is as monotone and listless as his turn in “Daredevil” was, bringing nothing off the page to make one care for Wayne's plight or side with him in the superhero spat.

While Batman is off grinding his gears, Superman is embroiled in a controversy that arises following a rescue mission to save Lois (Amy Adams). Amid the firestorm, his love life with Miss Lane is flourishing.

A welcomed romantic interlude buoyed by Cavill and Adams’ palatable chemistry. Interestingly, all of the life and death stakes are born out of the indestructible man in red and blue’s story. When you cut away his parts, you have the best the movie has to offer.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Movie Poster
The ensuing fight between our heroes is as frustrating as one would expect. A few words from Superman could head the entire thing off and that very contrivance is impossible to overcome or ignore. While that is hard to swallow, it pales in comparison to the massive choke hold the movie suffers every time its cockamamie Gen Y version of Lex Luthor comes on screen.

Actor Jesse Eisenberg gets off to a decent enough start before the aching similarity to Heath Ledger’s Joker comes pouring through in icy waves. As written, this Lex Luthor is basically Eisenberg’s characterization from “The Social Network” on steroids and that is not a good thing.

The departure of Luthor from prophetic genius to frothing hipster and Alfred from a kindly butler to hardcore tech wizard is just another in a long line of uninventive adaptive tweaks, apparently meant to appeal to millennials.

As the movie limps to its denouement, it is not without its share of ideological ruminations and it is here the movie finds its most stirring strengths, even imparting some surprisingly strong quotes.

The most impressive actually coming from Luthor: “The bittersweet pain among men is having knowledge with no power…” Truer words cannot be spoken. While Luther’s ramblings are often scattershot, too obscured by his neuroses to decipher, this line is pristinely lucid.

The messianic symbology that has always comprised the Superman mythos is in full force in “BvS” and Snyder conjures spectacular imagery that compliments this to tremendous effect. Humanity’s relationship with God or any force greater than themselves and their insatiable internal war with whether to surrender or fight it, is excellently explored here.

Unfortunately this all comes on the heels of an incredibly regressed, cringe worthy moment where Scoot McNairy’s character describes himself as “half a man” due to the loss of his legs in the Metropolis fiasco.

To insinuate that any amputee, or a combat veteran for example, who sacrificed their limbs fighting for their country is in any way "half a person" is simply unacceptable. They are real life’s wholly super heroes.

The theme of mankind turning against its protector will strike a familiar note. It is a topic that was superiorly investigated in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2”, mainly due to how it was portrayed effecting Peter Parker.

Peter took it far more personally than Clark Kent appears to here. In its third act, “Dawn of Justice” hurtles towards creature feature ludicrousness, sacrificing its real world feel in the process.

It is just another half-hazard tangent that fails to engage. If you thought the movie would back down from declaring a winner in its title rivalry, there is no need to worry, it frustratingly does. Of course, why get overwrought with who wins or loses when these two will likely live to fight again in another sequel. Rating: 5.5/10