The Bock’s Office: ‘Batman v Superman’ — Expectations are the greatest kryptonite
There are few superhero clashes that every comic book fan has wanted to see on the big screen more than that of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” a youthful eagerness kept in check by a steadfast decision to despise the outcome before even seeing it.
The casual film viewer should never trust a fanboy’s assessment on anything within pop culture, but yes, there are good reasons for the negativity you’ve already heard.
If you go…
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” rated PG-13
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Running time: 151 minutes
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg
The city of Metropolis has more or less recovered from the devastation it’s seen, but the reputation of its nearly invincible protector, Superman (Henry Cavill), is a different matter. Around the world, people are divided on whether the last surviving Kryptonian is a noble defender of goodness or an arrogant demigod who causes more catastrophes than he prevents.
After seeing the downside of Superman’s actions, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) has made his decision that one man with the strength of an entire army and a slew of formidable powers can’t be trusted. Still, the guy who spends his nights stalking the streets of Gotham City isn’t the only one with doubts about someone taking on the mantle of unauthorized guardian — Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent, is hard at work investigating Wayne’s alter ego, Batman, and his vigilante activities, which he believes are well over the line of legality, perhaps requiring an intervention while wearing a red cape.
As these two personalities size each other up for an epic confrontation, their paths cross in the form of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), scientific genius and business wunderkind, who’s got his own plot in motion that may be more than the two heroes can handle alone.
The last time he suited up with a leather outfit and mask it didn’t make much of an impact with audiences, but Affleck’s go as the bat with the bankroll is no less vexing than his role in “Daredevil.” It’s not the actor so much as the fact that almost none of the live-action movies about the Caped Crusader have done justice to Bruce Wayne when he’s not dressed in pure black.
Ben does his best as a self-medicating, emotionally overwrought Dark Knight, not quite the forced-out-of-retirement middle-aged mess that Frank Miller popularized 30 years ago but well on his way down the path of madness, experiencing traumatic dreams that could be something more.
Cavill picks up the slack in his second time as Kal-El, wondering along with the rest of the world if he truly has a right to do what he does or if his presence only endangers those he loves. Amy Adams does well as newshound Lois Lane, aware of her co-worker/boyfriend’s dual identity and feeling her own sense of guilt stemming from an international incident that helped cast Big Blue in a bad light.
Or at least, a worse light than that time he leveled most of an urban population fighting his dad’s old enemy.
What can be said of Eisenberg as a shaggy-haired, more-delusional-than-usual Luthor, whose main motivation for his scheming is that bad guys do bad things? If there’s one thing the antagonist with the narcissism of Napoleon and the wit of Dennis Miller needed, it was to be re-imagined with the Millennial viewpoint that everyone around them has no clue about the world really needs.
Let me guess — there’s a green, glowing rock involved in your plans?
Supporting characters have their chance to shine here and there, and though Jeremy Irons’ Alfred, Michael Cassidy’s Jimmy Olsen and Tao Okamoto’s Mercy Graves are not among them, Diane Lane’s Martha Kent and Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White provide some welcome, grounded relief.
And, despite being crammed into an overstuffed story, let’s all take a minute to appreciate that Gal Gadot is entirely worth waiting for as a mystery woman whose true identity is no shock at all if you’re paying attention.
Those other cameos, no comment.
Playing the long game is not the forte of director Zack Snyder, who shows us that if you were offended by the liberties taken with “Man of Steel,” all you had to do was wait a few years. At least he only focused on one hero there.
A man who is not a storyteller needs someone better than himself writing, but a fatally overlong script credited to Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer tries to do it all and comes up short by both betraying basic tenets of its title characters and limiting the narrative to an endless list of idiotic plot points.
By the way, how many times do we need to see the imagery of a strand of pearls falling apart on the pavement and a distraught orphan boy falling into a cave?
What’s meant to be the launching point for a lot more DC Comics content to come succeeds in the “To Be Continued…” department, yet in trying to craft the monumental pairing that took Hollywood more than seven decades to figure out, Snyder manages to weaken what should have been an iconic climax for the ages by making us stop caring about a being who represents pure hope.
At least Lex is laughing.
Between a title that sounds like a court case — and there do exist actual documents with such plaintiffs — and a subtitle that evokes just as much of an eye roll, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is too much of everything and yet not enough.
There’s something almost poetic in a feature that tries to bring complexity to what was once a very one-dimensional medium, resulting in a flick where the audience reaction is just as ambivalent as its morality.
While it’s not the worst cinematic incarnation either hero has had and still has the minimal amount of merit to not be considered a complete wash, it casts a dark shadow on the rest of the lineup for DC and Warner Brothers.
Meanwhile, Marvel Studios executives are toasting the fact that all they had to do to make up for “Captain America: Civil War” being beaten to theaters was let it happen.
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