Did you ever think you’d long for the horrible puns and scenery chewing of the campy ’90s Batman movies? For Keaton, Kilmer, or even Clooney to fill out the Batsuit?
The former playground of Tim Burton was drained of joy by Christopher Nolan, and now Zack Snyder has taken it upon himself to flog the desiccated husk of Batman into cinematic oblivion. In “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” he does it by stuffing Batman into the sequel of a Superman reboot. That’s just plain wrong.
While ostensibly a Superman film, Snyder doesn’t give human butter sculpture Henry Cavill much to do here, so it feels more like a Batman movie, and this is the blandest version yet. Both characters are as exciting as oatmeal, and while Ben Affleck isn’t terrible as the Caped Crusader, he just feels miscast, his usual irascibility tamped down.
Jesse Eisenberg is at least working a more exciting tonal range as Lex Luthor, positioned here as a wunderkind venture capitalist/tech innovator who wants to disrupt Superman. He’s got his fingers in a few pies involving human trafficking and experimental weapons manufacturing, and though neither of these subplots have any impact on the story, Snyder spends a fair amount of time chasing them down. Lex’s disdain for government regulations is embodied by his feud with Sen. June Finch (Holly Hunter), whose hearings stand in the way of his free import of kryptonite, which he hopes to weaponize.
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The two-and-a-half-hour film is stuffed to the gills with plot but feels very short on actual story. It’s so busy — but it’s clear that it’s all just a puppet show to distract from the lack of anything original or emotionally resonant. All of the scurrying from character to character, seemingly at random, is profoundly dull, confounding and pointless.
With a surplus of characters (including Amy Adams as Lois Lane, aka Superman bait, and Gal Gadot bringing Wonder Woman to glorious life), the story is ultimately about just a few things:
1. What good is good? Who can be good? What is good? Got it? Good. 2. Fighting over a green rock 3. Boys who love their mothers. Experimental weapons and Senate hearings and terrorism and encrypted hard drives filled with Justice League clues are totally arbitrary to the core tale.
You might even wonder why Batman is fighting Superman. Lex Luthor tells them so, but the film shows that Bruce Wayne’s business and employees were part of the collateral damage from the destruction and carnage that Superman wrought at the end of “Man of Steel.” Linking the climatic events of the prior film to the introduction of the world of this one is the one thing that Snyder gets right, even if it exploits the opportunity to wring out every drop of 9/11 imagery.
The final bludgeoning act is just as tedious and terrible to look at as the first two hours. Snyder shoots everything too close to be easily discernible on a large IMAX screen, and the action scenes are at once chaotic and totally meaningless. With the arrival of Doomsday, an indestructible being prone to nuclear tantrums, “Batman v. Superman” becomes Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman vs. King Kong. Unfortunately, by the time we get to this point, it’s impossible to care.
“BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”
☆ 1/2 (out of 4)
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Scoot McNairy.
Director: Zack Snyder.
Running time: 2 hours, 33 minutes.
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.