Forget the Joker or Lex Luthor. Director Zack Snyder may be the greatest villain threatening DC’s greatest heroes. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (opening in theaters nationwide March 25) isn’t merely a bad movie because it will certainly disappoint fanboys/fangirls — this is simply a heartless spectacle that trudges to its main event.
In short: Grizzled vigilante Batman (Ben Affleck) sees Superman (Henry Cavill) as a threat to humanity – the Dark Knight decides to take the Man of Steel down. Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons and Gal Gadot also star.
For a film with so little plot or character development, there’s just simply no reason why “Batman v Superman” should be two and a half hours long. The entire movie is an excuse for a Batman to fight Superman — which is fine, but this movie takes the long, circuitous scenic route to force this heavyweight fist fight. Everything leading up to the obvious main event fluctuates between tedious and boring – whether it’s the lengthy Congressional hearing scenes or Lois Lane’s frustrating investigation of mysterious bullets. Movies with excessively-long run times that build up to one massive plot points can be good (ie, ‘Titanic’ or ‘Return of the King’) — but this is not one of them.
The one undeniably good aspect of “Dawn of Justice” is Batman. Affleck’s version of the Dark Knight is a violent, ruthless vigilante who has apparently long given up his rule of “no killing.” This is a version of Batman never before seen on film – a truly unhinged “hero” who has more in common with The Punisher than even Nolan’s version of the Caped Crusader. Batman manages to keep this film energized and (relatively) compelling – the same cannot be said of Cavill’s Man of Steel. Superman is pretty inert for much of the movie. He shows up here and there, but other than fighting Batman (eventually) the only real choice Superman makes is to not write a few news articles. Oh, and you can take a quick bathroom break pretty much anytime Lois Lane (Adams) shows up – her b-plot is annoying and adds very little overall to the story.
A recent survey says Wonder Woman is the main reason audiences are excited for “Batman v Superman” — well, prepare to be disappointed. Not only is she barely in the movie – there’s virtually no reason for her to be in this movie at all (except for the chance to have Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman together for the first time on the big screen). Her entire reason for even being in Metropolis is pretty flimsy — and it’s plainly obvious she’s only in the movie for the climactic final battle. To anyone who might not be a comic book geek, this film looks like it oddly features some random woman (whose background is not explored to any depth) who suddenly turns into a superhero on par with Superman. While this movie clearly establishes Wonder Woman as a top-tier bad ass, it has little else to say about who or what she is.
If nothing else, “Batman v Superman” absolutely reveals how desperate Warner Bros. is to replicate the success of the Marvel movies. And in trying to catch up with Marvel too quickly, this “Man of Steel” sequel is clearly just a stepping stone to a forthcoming “Justice League” movie. Fleeting cameos by The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg (future members of the Justice League, alongside Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman) are not tantalizing – they are momentum-killing distractions that mean nothing to this film’s plot.
And the final battle is the definition of unearned plot turns. Only the minimal amount of storytelling is made to justify Doomsday and the battle’s ultimate conclusion does not have the impact it should. Sadly, it’s hard to care about what happens to the main characters because so little effort was made to make audiences connect with them.
Final verdict: Everything in “Batman v Superman” feels too rushed and its major plot turns are unearned. Batman injects kinetic energy into the movie whenever he is onscreen — but not enough to overcome Superman’s lack of character arc and the sadly small role for Wonder Woman.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” opens in theaters March 25 in various formats – standard, IMAX and 70mm. This film is PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.