Smorgasbord of comic book elements, done with rapid-fire cutting, in search of a story. Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice is another one of those mass consumer blockbusters made of go-nowhere “dramatic” fragments that you may find yourself tolerating for the longest time, even though it’s dim-witted, until you get to the end set-up and you just throw your hands up in disgust. Well even before then, at the forty-five minute mark, I said good grief: There isn’t an actor, not any one of them and certainly not Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman, has had a single witty line of dialogue. Then there’s this montage of TV journalists and political commentators horning in their critical opinions of superheroes being a threat to our planet, and I said Jesus Christ: This stretch of dialogue is now too egghead to understand!
As villain Lex Luthor, the unctuous but usually sharp-tongued actor Jesse Eisenberg is, in a word, awful. Stammering away with nonsensical dialogue that’s supposed to make the common person around him shrink in fear, I barely understood half of what Eisenberg was saying. It doesn’t help that his mop hair is a distraction (like it was vaguely muffing his speech), but it seems like the actor was brought in to turn Luthor into a nutty but egomaniacal tech-geek. It’s Luthor’s job in the movie to draw up a conspiracy that will turn Batman and Superman against each other – but the plotting is, I’m sure you’re expecting this from me, is nonsensical.
There is a North Africa scene at the beginning of the movie where Superman thwarts some gunrunning warlords and rescues Lois Lane (Amy Adams, providing a kindly face and cleavage), but somehow, Superman destroys some innocent lives. I say somehow, because we really – I mean really – we don’t see how this happened. And there’s a kidnapping at the last section of the movie that impels Superman to have to destroy Batman. But hold on – Wouldn’t it make more sense for Luthor to have Batman have to destroy Superman, instead of the other way around? I mean, if he was trying to make things easy for himself?
“Batman v. Superman” is mostly not visually boring in individual shots, it has a doom and gloom comic book look with film noir flavor bleeding out of it. But as directed by Zack Snyder, one of my least favorite Hollywood people, it has no cascading rhythm. I imagine an exasperated editor trying to work with hundreds of splintered images that don’t juxtapose in any way, but then, by force of occupational duty has to! Fill in the booming soundtrack noise and then paint with a half billion computerized pixels over every other scene, pour on some grime, and viola, you have a Snyder movie!
Warner Bros. owns the properties of DC Comics, and so that means the rights of Batman and Superman obviously. I don’t believe in my heart that even the top executives think Snyder is a good filmmaker, but that they bring him in, because for whatever reason, he puts together the right sensationalistic pow-wow visuals to package a coming attractions trailer. This is either a film critic’s cliché, no wait – this is just lazy writing – but, gee, I hate it when this happens. Consider the James Bond series and the entry “Quantum of Solace.” Easy to market trailer, but it too was a smorgasbord of elements that neglected to portray the true Bond personality, and so after winning a few weekend’s box office, it became the most despised 007 entry with less shelf life interest than the rest of the Bond series.
“Batman v Superman” is like that, designed to win a few weekends at the box office but won’t have much shelf life interest in five years as long as you discount 8-year old boys with no developed taste. I mentioned it had no dialogue of interest. Well, I’ve said this before, but that’s what a studio does when they’re trying to market a film to financially perform well for the whole dumbed down international market instead of trying to make a movie for potential smart American audiences. But choke on this: Because of the built-in ingredients, that are practically presold for international demographics, we can now expects at least a dozen DC Comics spinoff movies where, by marketing design, each new chapter inches it’s way to the next installment to reap the next billion dollars for the studio.
I’m, of course, sick of reviewing superhero movies because I have to mention the same tropes over and over again (LOOK: It’s young Bruce Wayne witnessing his parents’ murder yet again! LOOK: It’s another set piece that echoes and has superficial allusions on the 9/11tragedy! LOOK: Sex trafficking of Asian slaves are rescued by Batman from unnamed goons, sort of, without yet being uncaged!). But Batman and Superman have always been my favorite superheroes, even though I was never a qualified superhero freak. I suppose a superhero freak is someone that sees a film franchise at least thirty times, can quote catch-phrases without missing a beat, and can make argumentative sense out of nonsensical plots. But 1978’s “Superman” was the first movie I was ever in love with, and learning how to work a Betamax machine (now obsolete) was the first piece of machinery I could operate as a toddler. I thought 1989’s “Batman” was the coolest thing I had ever seen, at least until Christopher Nolan remade them into the most complex and artistically daring big studio blockbusters of this century. This is a dumbbell thing to point out, but Snyder is no Nolan.
I couldn’t understand what actress Holly Hunter was saying in this movie, either, because her dialogue as U.S. Senator June Finch from Kentucky is too simplistic to comprehend. Gal Gadot is a gorgeous lithe object in the movie, a mystery person who you know sooner or later will turn out to be Wonder Woman (the armor suggests more cleavage than Gadot actually has). Jeremy Irons didn’t shave for the part, and to this date plays my least favorite Butler Alfred. I wanted to say Jesus Christ pays an appearance in the very final shot of the movie, but then my right brain told me, no, that’s just Superman. I hated seeing Laurence Fishburne again reprise his “Man of Steel” role as the Daily Planet editor-in-chief, I hated seeing Michael Shannon again as the corpse of Zod (a great actor who got paid just to lay there!), and I hated seeing Kevin Costner again (not because I dislike Costner, but because his appearance is so gratuitous).
Then you have a climactic war against this hulking monster with jagged teeth who literally hatches out of an egg conveniently when Luthor needs him to fight Superman. Question: How did Luthor know how this monster would turn out the way he did without even doing a test run? (Only a superhero freak would be able to answer that question, but really, I don’t want an answer.) I didn’t know the name of the monster until I got home and looked him up. I’d tell you who it’s supposed to be, but I’d rather just describe him as a computerized hulking glob. I’d rather get on and tell you again my usual complaint, that the special effects are so overdone, that again, well, it’s almost all computerized images on the screen. There’s nothing to believe in anymore when it comes to make-believe at the movies, at least in the New Hollywood that slavishly works with computers because even though it’s tacky, it’s cheaper than building a real set.
Final note: I don’t dismiss either Affleck and Cavill’s efforts to show up and act. They have the charisma, the brawn and the moral applications, to play these superheroes. However, Affleck’s last traded dialogue with Gadot is so wooden it’s both hilariously bad and soul-shaking pitiful. Did Snyder goad them to say their lines that way? And I said moral applications, but did Snyder goad Affleck and Cavill to play their characters angry?
151 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
COMIC BOOK MOVIE / ACTION FANS / BLOCKBUSTER WEEKEND CROWDS
See the 1978 “Superman” on Amazon streaming.
See the 1980 “Superman II” on Amazon streaming.
See the 1989 “Batman” on Amazon streaming.
See the 2005 “Batman Begins” on Amazon streaming.