Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/3/16
Director: Zack Snyder
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Lawrence Fishburne, cameos by Holly Hunter, Tao Okamoto, Kevin Costner, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Soledad O'Brien, Anderson Cooper, Nancy Grace, Jason Momoa, Jeffrey Dean Morgan,

Following the events in "Man Of Steel" (2013), public sentiment towards Superman (Henry Cavill) has turned to fear, paranoia, and prejudice. Crazed madman Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) uses the nation's growing xenophobia to engineer Superman's demise by pitting him against Batman (Ben Affleck). Bruce Wayne falls easily into Luthor's trap, and beats him to the punch at creating an arsenal of high tech Kryptonite based weapons. Against all odds, Batman nearly succeeds in destroying the Man Of Steel, but spares Superman's life on a ridiculous one-in-a-million technicality. At that point they become friends and team up against Luthor, who somehow manages to use Kryptonian science (and the corpse of General Zod) to give birth to Doomsday. And then for reasons unknown, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) decides to jump into the fray. After the ashes of Metropolis settle, Bruce and Diana start discussing plans to form The Justice League.

"Batman V Superman" is a mess, but what a beautiful mess it is! Zack Snyder is a great filmmaker, but a horrible storyteller. He once again proves that he's a master of moments and vignettes, but his hyper-adrenalized style simply can't sustain a two and a half hour film as a cohesive whole. The film looks fabulous and is meticulously crafted, but the narrative is overstuffed with multiple starts, multiple endings, distracting tangents, and disorienting hallucinations. Ben Affleck gives a solid performance as a dark and brooding Frank Miller inspired Batman, and is much more relatable than Christian Bale's interpretation. He's an old and weary soul who openly admits to being a criminal, and he's determined to take down Superman before he becomes a threat to world security. Henry Cavill does a good job as a Superman who is weighed down by his conscience and actions. He's only trying to be a good person and do what's right, but what are the costs and consequences? Gal Gadot (who was the best thing about "Fast And Furious 6" (2013) ) is awesome, but sorely underutilized. Her presentation is spot-on, although I laughed out loud at her ridiculous entrance music. Jeremy Irons is wonderful as Alfred and Amy Adams wears fantastic boots, but that's all I can recall about her. And let's not forget lovely Tao Okamoto's ("The Wolverine" (2013) ) thankless and short lived cameo as Mercy Graves, which is the best piece of eye candy in the entire show, as well as the film's biggest disappointment.

And then there's Jesse Eisenberg, who is simply awful. Every scene he's in is cringe inducing and over the top, but to say he single-handedly ruined the film would be giving him too much credit. The film's biggest problem is its divisive story and absurd premise. The way it blatantly disregards all established history and continuity is guaranteed to invoke nerd rage in anyone who cares about the material. Thankfully, I'm way too old to be bothered by comic book details these days, and the film offers enough sweet eye candy to keep you distracted from all but the biggest gaffes and discontinuities. I think Joss Whedon said something along the lines of "it doesn't matter if it makes sense, as long as it looks cool," and that's certainly served "The Avengers" (2012) well. The film also commits the cardinal sin of gratuitously setting itself up as a springboard for a whole slew of DC spin-offs, including "Wonder Woman", "Aquaman", and a new series of Batman and Justice League films. In fact, I recently read that they're planning to reboot Batman again in 2020. Good grief. "Batman V Superman" isn't a terrible film, but it's not a great one, either. It's fun to watch, but it's also overly long and tedious. The sum of its parts is greater than the whole, so it's best remembered as a collection of great moments rather than a single, epic adventure.