Tuesday, April 5, 2016

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)

Written by Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer


Directed by Zack Snyder


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. March 29. 2016


Plenty of high-flying, super-powered punches are thrown in "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice", a bleak epic battle between these two legendary super-heroes. Zack Snyder is back with this quasi-sequel to "Man of Steel", a box-office hit that brought Superman back to the big screen. And once again, we have thrilling action sequences and mesmerizing visual effects paired with sluggish pacing and incoherent storytelling. Henry Cavill also returns (and still fills out the suit quite nicely) as an emotionally blank Superman while we now have actor/director Ben Affleck wearing the bat suit. The actor is fine as our latest brooding Dark Knight and as the fifth actor playing Batman in film, Affleck won't make us forget about Christian Bale however he leaves a much stronger impression than George Clooney.

"Dawn of Justice" begins where "Man of Steel" ends except this time we get the perspective from on the ground. Bruce Wayne witnesses the destructive aerial fight between Superman and General Zod while watching helplessly as this leads to the loss of many lives at his company's office tower. This tragedy leaves Wayne angry, bitter and quite distrustful of the unrestrainable power of this alien hero.

A few months later, an incident involving an investigative story that Lois Lane (Amy Adams) was covering goes horribly wrong with more innocent lives lost after Superman comes to her rescue. This new tragic situation has some people becoming very concerned that the crime-fighting of Superman is actually dangerous and a threat to national security. He's even called before a Senate committee to answer questions about his actions.

This is where our super-villain and his diabolical deeds of turmoil and destruction enters the story. Lex Luthor has been a long-time nemesis of Superman, usually seen as a mature, bald, twisted mastermind. But here, he's now a twitchy, millennial tech-wizard billionaire played with a complete lack of charm by Jesse Eisenberg. His mannered performance grows increasingly exasperating as he brings no convincing sense of brilliance or menace to the role.

Luthor's plan involves the lifeless body of General Zod, getting his hands on a stock-pile of Kryptonite found aboard Zod's wrecked ship and creating additional friction between Superman and Batman. It's during the Senate hearing that he sets the scheme in motion, causing deadly chaos. With Batman blind with rage at Superman, it's very easy for Luthor to manipulate a battle to the death between our heroes, particularly since he has a hostage to force Superman to fight. It's no spoiler (nor much of a surprise) to reveal that the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel manage to patch up their differences and work together against their common enemy.

"Batman v. Superman" is a slickly packaged entertainment with little motivation to offer more than your average roller coaster ride. There are brief, fast-paced thrills, chills and scares but after it's all over, it will be difficult to remember any of the fine details. What is noticeably absent is even a momentary sense of fun. This is one seriously intense comic-book movie with no jokes, laughs or smiles even briefly allowed. Gloom and doom covers every inch of the film like a very dark, heavy, dirty blanket.

A welcome addition to this male-dominated genre is the long overdue arrival of Wonder Woman. It is the first film appearance of this feminist icon in over seventy years and Israeli actress, Gal Gadot brings mysterious allure and savage power to the Amazon warrior. Wonder Woman helps the boys battle Luthor and his Kryptonian monster creation, Doomsday. As the most interesting character here, she's not in this nearly long enough. Thankfully, Wonder Woman has her own feature due next year and I can't wait.

The rest of the women in the cast do not fare nearly as well. As Lois Lane, Ms. Adams is supposed to be a sharp, modern reporter yet comes across more like a throwback to the character of the past who was continuously being rescued and comforting the distressed Superman. Holly Hunter briefly appears as a steely Kentucky Senator and while she brings life to the few scenes she's in, this is still beneath the Oscar-winning performer. However, poor Diane Lane, as Clark Kent's mother, has it even worse. The fifty-one year old actress is made to look old and haggard with little to do except be horribly victimized by Luthor.

Wonder Woman is not the only character from the world of  DC Comics to appear in "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice". We are given brief introductions to The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg who will all be seen in their own feature films either before or after the upcoming "Justice League" movie in which they all will be seen together. All of this promotion makes this film comes across more like an entertaining infomercial instead of a compelling dramatic action adventure.