Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Director: Zack Snyder
Screenwriter: Chris Terrio, David Goyer
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 151 Minutes
Release Date: March 25, 2016
“What have you done?”
You know those combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell fast food places where you can get a Pepperoni Lover’s® Personal Pan Pizza and a Doritos® Cheesy Gordita Crunch with a Mountain Dew Baja Blast®? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is kind of like that, except the pizza is a soggy, overloaded sadness pie and the Cheesy Gordita Crunch is deep-fried in sweat and dread. So, your standard Taco Bell experience I guess.
Directed by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, Watchmen), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is both deadly serious and aggressively silly. It’s a heavy-handed treatise on post-9/11 America written on a Quesalupa wrapper; a soliloquy on sacrificing freedoms for the illusion of security, delivered by a GameStop manager between trade-ins of LEGO Batman 3.
Don’t get me wrong: A movie about the ideological divide between Batman and Superman could be compelling, but that isn’t this movie. There are no heroes in this movie, only violent psychopaths trying to one-up each other in the “right-wing nutjob” department. This isn’t a battle of ideologies; it’s a war for bragging rights. These guys aren’t fighting for justice – they’re gunning for the highest body count.
Following the cataclysmic events of 2013’s Man of Steel, a paranoid schizophrenic (Batman, Ben Affleck) travels to Metropolis to preemptively combat a mopey extraterrestrial (Superman, Henry Cavill), fearing what could happen if the invincible immigrant is left unchecked. It’s almost as if Batman is jealous of Superman’s ability to level entire cities to ash – he still has to kill people with semi-automatic firearms, the way God intended.
Enter LexCorp CEO Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), an eccentric twerp who sees Superman as a threat to humanity and, more importantly, to his own pursuit of power. Eisenberg plays Lex as a twitchy lunatic with daddy issues – a punchable pastiche of Jim Carrey’s Edward Nygma, Heath Ledger’s Joker, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Why does Lex hate Superman so much? Because Lex Sr. hit him as a child, which made him stop believing in God. An atheist billionaire hates a space alien because it reminds him of the God he doesn’t believe in since his dad hit him. Got it? Me neither.
Lex hatches a convoluted scheme to frame Superman as a murderer, appealing to the American government to take action against this false god before it’s too late. He cultivates a culture of fear that spreads to Gotham City, where Batman is ready and waiting to kick some Kryptonian ass. Affleck makes for a great Bruce Wayne, but his Batman is nothing more than a hotheaded dope. This isn’t the “World’s Greatest Detective” version of the caped crusader. This Batman is so dark and gritty that the criminals he doesn’t kill, he brands with a bat symbol so the other bad guys will kill them in prison.
After two hours of pseudo-philosophical babble about innocence and power, Batman and Superman finally come to blows. You see, Superman has to kill Batman, or else Lex Luthor’s goons will take out Ma Kent (Diane Lane). And Batman has to kill Superman, or else he’ll never get an erection again (this isn’t actually in the movie, but it’s probably true). Just in case Superman and Batman don’t kill each other, though, Lex has a backup plan: Doomsday.
An unstoppable killing machine synonymous with 1992’s The Death of Superman, Doomsday appears as a generic computer-generated behemoth that looks like a cave troll from The Lord of the Rings with the smooth, shiny crotch of a Ken doll. Doomsday has no intent or motivation – it’s just there so the “heroes” can put aside their nonexistent differences and beat up something even more monstrous than they are.
Cue Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), a 5,000-year-old Amazonian princess who’s been keeping tabs on Lex Luthor and his research on meta-humans. Gadot seems like she’ll be a great fit for the character, but there isn’t much for her to do here. Seeing her jump into action with sword – and her trademark lasso – in hand is the high point of the film, though. If nothing else of value comes from DC’s cinematic universe, Patty Jenkins’s standalone Wonder Woman film will be worth watching.
The finale is as underdeveloped, overwrought, and ineffectual as the rest of the film’s 151-minute runtime. How anyone thought this conclusion would be surprising or remotely satisfying is baffling to me. Then again, I’m not sure anyone involved with this film cares about satisfying an audience or presenting an accurate portrayal of these iconic characters. Snyder and cinematographer Larry Fong create some impressive visuals, but Chris Terrio and David Goyer‘s script isn’t a story so much as a studio-mandated checklist of scenes required to set up future movies.
Overall, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is too dumb to be taken seriously, but too serious to be any fun. There’s a good movie in here somewhere, but it’s buried beneath bad writing, ugly special effects, and crushing nihilism. Like that Pizza Hut/Taco Bell combo, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a corporate concoction dreamed up by a conglomerate that took stock of what they owned and decided to combine assets to maximize their profits. Too bad the final product tastes like crap.