Sunday, April 3, 2016

Batman v Superman: D(Y)awn of Justice

Given the terrible reviews and my dislike of Man of Steel, I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with absolutely no expectations. Thus, the movie was not able to disappoint me, because it was exactly what I thought it would be. Perhaps there is an audience out there to which this kind of filmmaking appeals. Unfortunately, I'm not the target demographic.

Batman v Superman picks up where Man of Steel left off. As Superman (Henry Cavill) proceeds to smash up most of Metropolis, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) drives across the harbor from Gotham, trying to save one of his office buildings from impending destruction. He fails, and thus, this gives our two protagonists their reason to distrust each other. Other than that, I can't pretend I understood anything else that happened over the next two and half hours. There are multiple plots that go nowhere, and there's no point in pretending this movie is about anything except Batman and Superman eventually punching each others' lights out.

The movie is a relentless series of action sequences with people whaling on each other and making things explode with numbing frequency. Jesse Eisenberg is entertaining as Lex Luthor, but I'm hard-pressed to explain what his reasons were for antagonizing Superman and Batman and demanding they fight each other to the death. Perhaps it's unreasonable to expect a supervillain to have reasons for his evil, but it's usually necessary to feel like all this wanton destruction is in the service of something. However, director Zack Snyder continues to feel no compunction about toppling the world around his heroes so that an action sequence can have an epic scale. There are some occasional throwaway lines to say a building was empty and no one was harmed, but that's about all the lip service you can expect after the criticisms of Man of Steel's body count.

However, one element of this movie did appeal to me - the heroines. Amy Adams continues to be an unexpected Lois Lane, managing to save Superman as often as he manages to save her. And Gal Gadot languishes on the periphery of this movie for a long time until making a startling appearance in the final minutes that proves Wonder Woman is the only superhero worth rooting for in the entire movie. Cavill and Affleck are gamely doing their best as world-weary superheroes, but they are exceedingly violent and tiresome in their quest for justice. Even the costumes are heavy and dour, a metaphor for these two heroes who are fighting each other for vague reasons that seem to be fueled by a myriad of incomprehensible dream sequences. And of course, they resolve their dispute through some mommy issues, which tells you just how mature these men are after all their posturing.

Batman v Superman is thoroughly lacking in levity and chock-full of religious symbolism and big moral ideas. The color palette continues to be a bleak wasteland with everything black and grey and despondent. The Marvel model is not the only way to make a superhero movie - Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy was no laugh fest, but it was a cinematic marvel that took both story and spectacle seriously. Sadly, Zack Snyder only cares about action and explosions; compelling story telling is a nonexistent concern. If you want the image of cities on fire burned onto your retinas, you will love Batman v Superman. Otherwise, move along, there's nothing to see here.

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