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Everyone loses in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'

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Strong performances can't overcome sloppy, misfiring narrative

I'll be the first to admit that I'm in the bag for comic book movies. I've loved superheroes since I was a kid; I'm still awed by the fact that cinematic technology has finally caught up to the movies that have played in my head since I was six years old.

However, while once could argue that my objectivity in this regard isn't what it could be, the truth remains that I can recognize a difference in quality between a good superhero movie and a not-so-good one, and despite good faith efforts from many of the participants, 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' falls more into the latter category.

The film takes place after the events of 'Man of Steel.' We get a new perspective on the massive Kryptonian-powered destruction of Metropolis through the eyes of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, 'Gone Girl') as he races through the streets in hopes of saving lives. He saves a few on street level, but is left helpless as one of his corporation's buildings is reduced to rubble by the battle between Superman (Henry Cavill, 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.') and General Zod.

Flash-forward 18 months or so. Wayne who, with the help of trusty manservant/mechanic Alfred (Jeremy Irons, 'Race'), has spent the last two decades combating crime on the streets of Gotham (which in this film is somewhat inexplicably right across the bay from Metropolis) as Batman (though he's just as inexplicably never actually referred to as 'Batman') still broods on the destruction of that day and the alien that he holds responsible. He's not alone, either; plenty of people are questioning just how Superman's vast power might be held in check.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent is a reporter at the Daily Planet. He's living with and loving fellow journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams, 'Big Eyes') and developing quite a curiosity regarding Gotham's costumed vigilante. Meanwhile, Lois is onto a big story, one that involves highly advanced weaponry making its way into unlikely hands through mysterious channels.

In the midst of all of this, tech whiz kid Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, 'American Ultra') is running his late father's massive conglomerate and putting on a bit of a philanthropic show, but it's just that a show. His real motives ones that are sadly underexplained wind up drawing both Batman and Superman into the fold, putting the two heroes on a collision course to justifying the 'vs.' in the title of the film.

There's more, obviously, but in the interest of spoiler avoidance, we'll stop there. It's just as well, because that plot is largely wrung from 150 minutes of redundant flashbacks, gratuitous dream sequences and just a RIDICULOUS amount of slow-motion shots. Seriously, when the cannon shell from a 21-gun salute at a funeral falls in slow-mo, things have gotten out of hand.

The vast majority of the blame rests on the shoulders of director Zack Snyder. Not content with turning the DC Universe's brightest light into a gritty grey muddle, he has continued the trend with this movie, setting grit against grit in such a way that it's difficult to find any moments that feel like they're any fun. And while edgy can be interesting, if your superhero movie isn't any fun, you've made some pretty big mistakes along the way.

Screenwriters Chris Terrio and David Goyer also share some of the blame for the many ways in which this film went awry. However, their issues likely spring from simply having too many bosses not only did they have to make Snyder happy, but they also were beholden to the studio higher-ups who were simply unwilling to allow their clear end goal of a Justice League film to happen organically. Instead, Terrio and Goyer were forced to cram their script full and try to do the work of three or four films in one go.

However, it isn't all bad. My immediate reaction was one of complete disdain, but with some time to think, I've come to see some bright spots. Affleck, for instance, is excellent. He's a really good fit as a cynical older Batman/Bruce Wayne, sharp and smart and just the right amount of damaged. I'm actually looking forward to seeing him play the character again hopefully with a little more room to breathe. Cavill is growing on me a little; while he may never be able to call forth the guilelessness that makes Clark Kent so great, he's a solid Superman. It would be nice to see him call forth a bit more of the hopefulness that the character represents, but he's been doing what he's been asked to do.

The supporting cast is mostly good as well. Gal Gadot is going to be a hell of a Wonder Woman, even if she was largely an afterthought in this film. Amy Adams is fine as Lois Lane and Lawrence Fishburne is a kind of awesome Perry White. The sadly glaring exception is Eisenberg, whose jittery fast-talk shtick is exhausting within minutes. I like him as an actor, but he's sadly miscast (or misdirected, really).

I get why this movie is the way it is. That doesn't make it better, but at least I understand. The big thing now is to get Snyder's soulless little hands off the DC Universe before he does actual irreparable damage.

It isn't a good film. But it could have been. The most heartbreaking parts are those moments when you catch a glimpse of the movie 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' wanted to be. I would have liked to see that one.

[2 out of 5]

Last modified on Sunday, 17 April 2016 12:43

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