February 7, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Boring superhero flick falls short of hype

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"

Life as a superhero is never without controversy. Superman’s (Henry Cavill) journey as an international savior of Earth has since graduated from 2013’s “Man of Steel” to “Man of Steel with Batman,” and thus features pretty much the same character conflict as “Man of Steel.” While Metropolis gets the butt end of his excessive collateral damage, Superman has to deal with politicians and media’s forcing a god-vigilante complex in his face. He promptly projects this complex onto his new frenemy, Batman (Ben Affleck), who returns the favor and wishes to see Superman dead. Yes, Batman kills now.

Thus, the tension begins building and pretty much keeps building until it manifests as a tall building that even Superman can’t leap in a single bound. Tension and symbolism permeate director Zack Snyder’s 2016 superhero film “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Batman and Superman are at each other’s throats, each blaming the other for taking justice into his own hands, while Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) orchestrates a scheme to provoke them into killing each other and creating a power vacuum for him to seize.

This film marks the seminal beginnings of DC Comics’ leap into following Marvel Comics with its own cinematic universe, hopefully with more Batman and Justice League films. As for opening weekend, DC has about $424 million reasons to extend the minimal screen time of the film’s iconic cameos such as Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller) from a few minutes into fulllength features. The question is whether or not audiences want to look to the future oversaturation of superhero films with a happy face and a sense of humor like Marvel does, or with self-aggrandizing symbolism and depressing conflict that seems to mar the runtime of “Batman v Superman.” The family-friendliness of the typical superhero movie is completely gone here. The jokes are few and far between, most of the time coming reluctantly from Alfred (Jeremy Irons), who, by this point, looks like he’s getting too old for Batman’s antics in a cynically humorous way.

The editing of “Batman v Superman” takes some getting used to, especially considering that Batman has three different dream sequences layered into four or five different plots going on all at once. The production crew has to rely on symbolism and epic orchestral music to keep the emotion high.

The most prevalent issue with the film is its severe case of mistaken identity. Herein is the first iteration of Batman, who has become so brutal and bloodthirsty that he’s willing to burst out the machine guns on his Batmobile and open up a few rounds on an enemy car before driving straight through it. Ignoring the fact that this will confuse audience members who have been taught “Batman doesn’t kill” by many of his recent incarnations, this creates a lost potential for Batman’s character development as well as any dynamism between the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel. Because he is now deprived of having an inner monologue on the justification of killing, Batman’s conflict with Superman is bland and boringly mirrors Superman’s own conflict with Batman. Thus, their mutual hatred boils down to “I hate you because you’re a murderous vigilante, and I don’t think I am.”

Thankfully, the action is memorable and glorious. It’s a welcome payoff for all the tension-building when Batman takes a short break and just wails on baddies. Superman brings back all the lightning-fast shaky-cam power from “Man of Steel.” Also featured, unfortunately for only a few minutes, Wonder Woman jumps into the action, her on-screen time so fleetingly adrenaline-filled that she can almost be forgiven for being a complete deus ex machina.

In the end, it isn’t so much the clash between Superman and Batman as it is the clash between production value and lost potential for a greater, more wholesome story, resulting in a middle ground that’s guaranteed to polarize audiences for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” It’s very likely the film will meet the same fate as its predecessor, “Man of Steel,” and either be considered great or panned as garbage.