Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is busy, loud and leaves the audience wanting more for a number of reasons and shrugging their shoulders for others.
Those used to seeing those two superheroes play nice beware, however, this isn’t your Caped Crusader and Man of Steel. Director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) has taken two American myths and turned them into something more in this movie, which opens for special screenings Thursday (March 24) and wide Friday (March 25), setting up DC Entertainment’s equivalent to The Avengers.
It’s big jarring to see Batman and Superman going at one another in any form, but in comic books and subsequent animated series the Dark Knight has acquired the reputation of crusty curmudgeon and Supe’s halo got seriously bent in Man of Steel when forced to kill his nemesis Gen. Zod.
This is the 21st century and things change. Those changes to these comic book legends represent significant, necessary and welcome ones from this corner.
Because of technology, the world in which we live evolved from a one viewed as far simpler. Sorry, no one wants simplistic superheroes. In that respect, this film satisfies on so many levels. It reveals the complex nature of humanity and what drives their actions.
Snyder and his screenwriter Chris Terrio and David Goyer craft a story that echo some of the problems facing the world in which we live and, in that respect, the audience is given something substantive to chew.
But at its heart, this is a comic book flick and the filmmaking team almost upsets the audience early on by coming perilously close to setting up too much action before the mayhem begins.
In this case, we’re presented Batman and Superman at odds because of the former’s fear that Superman is playing god with the human race. In his view, he cannot be trusted, therefore he won’t bother trying. Instead, despite the counsel of his faithful butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons), he goes to war against his perceived enemy.
But there’s a bigger enemy in the person of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to deal. And Lex, well, yes, he’s a megalomaniacal fool looking to agitate and take over the world with the aid of Kryptonian tech.
But Batman v. Superman has its share of problems, including a feeling that the pressure for success harmed the narrative and that Snyder’s operatic ambitions did significant harm to the fun quotient.
It’s difficult to discern what exactly Eisenberg is trying to do with his portrayal of Luthor. Snyder’s propensity to take the volume to Michael Bay-type levels takes audience out of the film. Some characters, including Cavill’s Superman feels under developed, an interesting accomplishment given the film’s running time. And Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman? Afterthought.
Lastly, Snyder and company cram a lot into the film, but somehow makes it all come together for a sometimes captivating brew of action, morality tale with a touch of emotional heft.
Those worried that Ben Affleck couldn’t fill the cape and cowl? Be gone. As an older Batman who should be wiser, he remains a tortured soul for reasons that are hinted at in the film. Audiences can only hope that is dealt with in a standalone Batman film. In some respects, Batman is fighting to maintain his humanity.
The interesting part is Cavill’s Superman isn’t really sure that he wants to hold on to his. To borrow from another comic book: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” However, what happens when after assuming that responsibility, fear and loathing come into play?
Those who loved Man of Steel will like this film, whether that audience is significant enough to carry the film to the riches the studio wants remains to be seen.
Movie: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Laurence Fishburne
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rating: 2.5-of-5 stars
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality
Running time: 153 minutes
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com