Following years of hype and anticipation, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice finally debuts before a massive built-in fan following, eager for something transcendent and mind blowing. However, this DC Comics attempt to replicate the magic, humor and sheer fun that led to Marvel’s multi-superhero packed “The Avengers” is, instead, an overly dark, excessively brooding, ultimately overstuffed mess who’s failing lies squarely at the feet of its director Zack Snyder.
As evidenced by the film’s title; we’re not just seeing two of the most famous superheroes ever go mano a mano; we’re also supposedly witnessing the genesis of what will ultimately become DC’s equivalent of The Avengers IE “The Justice League”. The problem is Snyder tries to jam far too much down the audience’s throat in one alternately preachy and frenetically paced narrative.
The storyline begins where “Man Of Steel” left off. Metropolis is being decimated from the battle between Superman and General Zod. However, amid the carnage is Bruce Wayne AKA Batman ( Ben Affleck ) who sees Superman as an otherworldly alien menace; worshipped by some as a god-like savior with no limits on his actions and no accountability for the destructive consequences.
Conversely, Superman / Clark Kent ( Henry Cavill ) begins to see the aging and ultra-violent Batman of Gotham City as an out of control, cruel and merciless vigilante. Neither hero realizes their growing animosities are being orchestrated behind the scenes by the manipulative and mentally imbalanced, albeit technically brilliant tech scientist, Lex Luthor ( Jesse Eisenberg ).
Add to the mix, Diana Prince / Wonder Woman ( Gal Gadot ) who, discretely at first, enters their circle for purposes all her own. Lois Lane ( Amy Adams ) figures into much of the intrigue; but only as little more than a reason for Superman to save her life not once, not twice, but three times over the course of the film. So much for female empowerment.
Ben Affleck does an admirable job as Batman / Bruce Wayne giving both characters a world weary and uncompromising edge that sets him apart in his own way from his screen predecessors. Gal Gadot shows promise as a strong but mysterious Wonder Woman; though her screen time here is woefully limited.
Eisenberg is the weakest miscast link among the group, playing Lex Luthor as a twitchy, self-assured psychotic. His Lex Luthor comes across looking as though Eisenberg is, instead, playing his Mark Zuckerberg character from “The Social Network” as a cocaine addict.
Ultimately, Batman v Superman spends much of its two and half hours running time as an often tediously paced morality play lacking much of the action promised in the film’s popular trailer. As a result, Snyder tries to make up for lost action time by directing the climactic final battle between Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and a Luthor created super villain with frenzied, over the top CGI effects that are so jarringly edited, loud, poorly lit and devoid of vibrant color; it’s a miracle if some in the audience don’t fall victim to seizures from the onslaught of abrupt, disjointed visuals. The dour seriousness of the film and violence may also prove upsetting to young kids expecting some level of levity and light that’s so expertly woven into the Marvel films.
Batman v Superman will no doubt please many eager to see two of their comic book heroes make stuff “blow up real good”. However, this “Dawn of Justice” may prove far too dark and convoluted a beginning for many others.