Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 12.22.33 PMBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Directed By: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, based on characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger (Batman) and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman)

Batman/Bruce Wayne: Ben Affleck

Superman/Clark Kent: Henry Cavill

Wonder Woman: Gal Godot

Lois Lane: Amy Adams

Lex Luthor: Jesse Eisenberg

Alfred: Jeremy Irons

Martha Kent: Diane Lane

Perry White: Laurence Fishburn

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

Lord Acton

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,  is a 2 and a half hour long movie that occasionally feels longer. One shudders to imagine what the director’s cut would be if Zack Snyder were given leave to make the movie he really wanted to make. I’ve read a number of reviews, including an amusing review by John Podhoretz: 

I’m not saying that Batman v. Superman is a bad movie, but when Ed Wood—the guy who made Plan 9 from Outer Space—saw it in Purgatory, he said, ‘Really, there should be standards.

Plan 9, is, of course, the epitome of a poorly made movie. Even though Ed Wood did his limited best to make a good movie, it’s so bad it’s unintentionally hilarious. Podhoretz, however, is too glib, his comparison inaccurate. Among the worst qualities of Plan 9 were its production values, special effects, plot and screenplay. The acting, too, was laughably bad. The same qualities in Batman v Superman run from average to exceptional.

I suspect this movie will truly be an all-too-common case of critics hating it, but the public enjoying it regardless. I’ll not over-psychoanalyze it. Perhaps we do need a bit of escapism more than usual these days. Perhaps the iconic characters of Batman and Superman simply have archetypal power in our imaginations. Perhaps we just like grand, sprawling stories despite their logical gaps and inconsistencies. What more reason do we need to see a movie, other than, of course, liking the popcorn?

What sort of logical gaps and inconsistencies? There are flashbacks to events from Man of Steel (2013) that didn’t actually happen in that movie, such as the huge Kryptonian ship originally found in the frozen wastes crash landing in Metropolis during Superman and General Zod’s climactic battle. Why would the ship, of all places on Earth, crash in Metropolis? Why during that battle? The plot requires Kryptonian technology to manufacture a monster for the climactic battle of Batman v Superman, something obviously not imagined in 2013.

Lex Luthor, a disgustingly psychotic and bull goose looney–but scientific and business genius–bad guy somehow knows the secret identities of Superman and Batman, and they, initially don’t seem to notice. In fact, the entire secret identity element is entirely out the window. Lois and Superman are living together in the beginning of the movie, and by the end, even Perry White–and likely everyone at the Daily Planet–knows Clark Kent is Superman, unless of course the plot of the next movie calls for them not to know it, but that’s an inconsistency for the future.

Superman’s costume is much more colorful than in the first movie, and no explanation is available. In various scenes, Superman forgets his super powers, powers that would easily allow him to know and act on things of great importance. The essential conflict in the movie is Superman and Batman thinking each to be evil vigilantes that must be stopped at any cost. Superman, with his abilities, such as X-ray vision (something that wasn’t exploited at all in this movie), super hearing, obvious super stealth and speed, etc. could easily have discovered that Batman really was a good guy working toward the same ends, but he doesn’t.

And this leads to a substantial discontinuity with Batman…

NOTE: If you think I’m jumping around a bit in this critique, gentle readers, you’re correct, however the nature of the movie makes that unavoidable. When you’ll see it, you’ll know what I mean.

The most valuable asset the Batman of the comics, and even the campy TV series, always had was his mind. He was always sold as a brilliant detective, his abilities allowing him to triumph over the most evil malefactors. Technology always took a back seat. The Batman of the more recent movies was an angst-ridden, misfit avenger, whose technology, which came from a variety of never well-defined sources, overshadowed, even defined him.

In one odd scene, Bruce Wayne drives an apparently 1950-60-ish sports car resembling an Aston Martin DB5 to an event, and the camera languishes on its brand badge, which sort of resembles a sort of bat symbol. There is no apparent reason for that scene, and nothing about it makes a connection for the audience.

This Batman seems oblivious to the obvious. He too, the most brilliant detective ever, could have, with little effort, determined that he and Superman were being manipulated by Lex Luthor and that Superman was his ally, not his enemy, but Star Wars-like, he was allowing the dark side to seduce him, and single-mindedly allowing himself to be manipulated, even unto his almost certain death.

From whence did his techno goodies come? Alfred, a relatively young man, played by Jeremy Irons, is not only Bruce Wayne’s conscience, but apparently his tech genius, creator or co-creator of all Batman’s goodies. This is merely implied, however. He tries to convince Bruce Wayne that Superman is a good guy, yet even he can’t figure out what is really happening. Lois Lane seems to have figured things out, yet does nothing with the knowledge.

The plot–of sorts–moves rapidly and jumps around at super speed. Early in the movie, Superman saves Lois Lane from evil terrorists in Africa, and evil mercenaries kill an entire village in the process. Some reviewers see this as an inconsistency, but it’s truly not. The mercenaries are minions of Lex Luthor, who is the evil mover behind the scenes throughout the entire movie. He is working to turn humanity against Superman.

His motivations are not at all like those of the classic Luthor of Superman lore. He and Clark Kent apparently had no relationship in their youth, nor did Luthor lose his hair. He seems to think Superman to be a sort of false god that needs to be destroyed for the good of mankind, which is rather a strange motivation for a deranged monster willing to murder thousands, even millions.

Luthor obtains Kryptonite, and discovers it’s, well, Kryptonite. Batman steals it from Luthor and makes weapons with which to kill Superman, which perhaps Luthor intended, or perhaps didn’t. Little in the movie is absolutely clear.

Batman has extended nightmares that are mini movies in and of themselves, and Superman too has nightmares. One can sort of connect them to the present movie with a bit of imagination, but Batman v. Superman could easily do without them. Oh yes, he also has a bathtub love scene with Lois Lane. Superman, I mean. That actually humanizes Superman a bit, and allows him to do something other than scowl.

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And then there is Wonder Woman, played by Gal Godot. She pops up, playing secret squirrel, just like Bruce Wayne, and they have a bit of repartee. She seems to be looking into Luthor, but is, for reasons unknown, on the plane out of town when she realizes she must, after a century, be Wonder Woman again. So she girds her loins, fastens on her breastplate–which covers breasts that seem much larger when she’s Wonder Woman; some super-estrogen effect, apparently–and joins forces with Superman and Batman.

Oh, they’ve joined forces? Luthor kidnaps Superman’s mother to force Superman to kill Batman, who he hopes will kill Superman–or something. Rather than using his super powers to find his mother, Superman plays along, and tries to talk to Batman to explain they’re being manipulated. Remember the whole “Batman is the most brilliant detective ever” thing? Not in this movie. Batman won’t listen, so he and Superman duke it out, until, when Batman is about to kill Superman, Superman mentions his mother’s name, which is the same name as Bruce Wayne’s dead mother, and he suddenly realizes he must work with Superman rather than killing him. Yes. It’s implausible, but without it, there can’t be the final, climactic battle with the monstrous Kryptonian spawn of Luthor (you’ll just have to see the movie).

The plot also sets up a variety of other heroes such as Aquaman, The Flash, etc. There are easily five or six set ups for additional movies.

The casting was well done; there were no apparent mis-fits. Some have criticized Ben Affleck’s Batman, but his admittedly wooden acting was in large part due to the costuming, the script, and Snyder’s direction. It’s rather hard to emote well when about all the audience can see of a character is their chin.

Special effects and production values were state of the art, and the music was well done. In any movie, if the music is professionally done, the audience tends not to notice it. It grabs their emotions and takes them where the director wants them to go. Bad music, however, is jarring, which is one of the things that makes Plan 9 so charmingly bad.

Amy Adams–love her nose–does well with a limited role. Lois Lane exists primarily to puzzle over the fact that one never sees Clark Kent and Superman at the same place at the same time, and of course, to be in peril so Superman can rescue her, which he does, repeatedly, in this movie. Now, with the secret identity out of the bag–or is it? Perhaps another Kryptonian ship will have to crash land in a flashback in the next movie–she’s mostly relegated to being in peril. She looks good doing it, but thankfully, she screams less in this movie than in Man of Steel.

Laurence Fishburn continues the role of Perry White, a pretty one-dimensional character, but he carries it out in a workmanlike fashion. What he’ll do in the future since he now knows Superman is working for him, is pretty much unfathomable.

Lex Luthor, now–at the end of the movie–bald, is in jail, and is loonier than ever, but the movie leaves him muttering darkly about someone or something coming, suggesting Lucifer himself. Jesse Eisenberg plays Luthor as an evil, leering, beady-eyed, little creep, though he does it reasonably well. In this movie, we learn nothing of the background of Luthor, nor is there any development of his character. He’s essentially a device for moving a meandering plot forward-ish.

Diane Lane as Martha Kent plays a mother, and also a damsel in peril, though she does it competently. Jeremy Irons as Alfred is something of a one-dimensional cypher. His Alfred is even less essential to future movies that Affleck’s Batman. Future plots could easily morph around different actors.

Gal Godot looks good in her Wonder Woman outfit–she looks good in any outfit–but has very little acting to do in this movie. Even so, she does it well, and her action sequences are credible.

Henry Cavill builds on the Man of Steel of the original movie, but as with Affleck’s Batman, there isn’t much acting to be done, nor is there any real character development. Superman is conflicted about his role as Earth’s greatest hero. He’s feeling unappreciated. One bit of conflict in the movie is represented by people criticizing Superman for the damage done in his battle with Zod. Thousands perished. Yet no one, particularly Superman, points out that Zod intended to murder the entire human race after he finished off Superman. The movie doesn’t entirely resolve that issue, but Cavill now owns the role. It’s hard to imagine anyone else as Superman.

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The role of technology, specifically computer graphics, can’t be underestimated in movies of this type. Publicity for the first Superman movie, starring Christopher Reeve, featured this line” You’ll believe that a man can fly.” There is now no question about that.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 3.19.14 PMFor ladies, and certain kinds of gentlemen, there are the obligatory shirts off, six pack flexing scenes of Affleck and Cavill. 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a movie best seen on the big screen, and despite its obvious flaws, it’s worth the price of admission. It is certainly worth buying on DVD. This movie will make a substantial profit–it’s already well on its way–and there will be more. A bit shorter and more coherent, though, please.

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