“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is the most anticipated superhero crossover movie since “The Avengers.” Actually, it might be even more anticipated than “The Avengers.” Superman and Batman have starred in big-budget blockbusters since the 70’s and 80’s, respectively (and smaller-scale movie serials and TV shows long before that), but who cared much about Iron Man or Thor before the last decade? Expectations for this movie are extremely high, as is the potential for disappointment. After all, this movie is directed by Zack Snyder, helmer of notorious Superman mark-misser “Man of Steel.” The casting of bomb-prone Ben Affleck as Batman also sent fans into an uproar. It turns out that all of that worry and pessimism was pretty much justified.
The movie starts out during the climactic battle from “Man of Steel” when a Metropolis-based Wayne Enterprises building gets destroyed. Bruce Wayne (Affleck), separated from his Bat-gear, saves a few people in the rubble, but losses are heavy. He’s obviously angry at Zod, but he’s mad at Superman (Henry Cavill) too. He’s the reason they’re having this battle, he’s being too reckless, and is it really good for the planet to have someone as unstoppable as him, even as a good guy? Superman spends a lot of time struggling with these questions himself, though he doesn’t spend much time thinking about Batman. Maybe Batman’s ego is hurt by how little Superman thinks of him and that’s why he hates Superman so much.
Batman vows to build a weapon to destroy Superman that he may or may not have to use. He settles on stealing the one being built by fellow billionaire industrialist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who has discovered that Superman is vulnerable to Kryptonite. Batman wants the weapon for himself because it should only be in the hands of someone good like him instead of someone who probably wants to commit some sort of unspecified evil like Luthor. Also trying to steal from Luthor is a mysterious woman (Gal Gadot) with different motivations. It’s a poorly-kept secret who she is, but I’ll avoid spoilers except to say that she got the biggest non-trailer reaction at my screening.
A superhero movie is often only as good as its villain, and I have mixed feelings about Eisenberg as Luthor. I don’t hate his twitchy delivery as much as some other critics, nor do I think he “ruins” a tense scene by interrupting an important conversation between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. The argument is that there’s no reason he should be commenting on a conversation between a billionaire playboy and a mild-mannered nobody reporter, but I say that he’s already figured out that Henry Cavill with glasses is Superman and Ben Affleck’s chin without the mask is Batman. On the other hand, he’s a villain with long hair, wild rambling, a disruptive nature, and a scheme that doesn’t seem to extend beyond messing with our heroes. If the movie wanted to do this character so badly, why make him the megalomaniacal Lex Luthor and not The Joker?
I’m not going to say that I feel “cheated” by “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” We get Batman, we get Superman, and they tussle. It’s hard to get invested in their fight because of how likely it is that they’ll eventually put aside their differences to go after the real villain and his boring CGI monster, but the requirement for a fight scene is fulfilled. The second part of the title is also present, mostly through hints and one debut. I would have preferred a few more debuts, but I was minimally satisfied. Overall, however, this movie is a mess. The narrative is disjointed and character motivations are barely more developed than “They’re so-and-so, they have to be like that.” We get the expected superhero shenanigans, but otherwise this movie spends over two and a half hours not making sense.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality. Its running time is 151 minutes.