Summer season at the movies always kicks off with a bigger than life blockbuster designed to thrill audiences and drive big money into the box office. Hollywood’s recipe is simple: big star power, bigger explosions, and a franchise on which to pin the entire success story. With a cast list longer than Wonder Woman’s skirt and enough big-name star power to impress NASA, the latest installment in the DCU is trying very hard to be that movie. Sadly for the fans, Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is as poorly realized as its clunky title would suggest.
The action picks up 18 months after the the events of Man of Steel; Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is less than pleased with Superman (Henry Cavill) and the myopic, god-like adulation he receives from virtually everyone. When he isn’t busy pointing out Superman’s flaws to his erstwhile companion Alfred (Jeremy Irons), Batman spends his time trying to track down the leader of a group of white slavers. The MacGuffin of trying to save young women is promptly abandoned when Batman learns the location of a giant piece of Kryptonite he believes could be used to defeat his nemesis. Meanwhile in Metropolis, Superman has bigger fish to fry: his attempts to keep his trouble-magnet girlfriend, Lois (Amy Adams), safe have landed him in hot water with the government and his boss at the Daily Planet (Laurence Fishburne) won’t let him write the stories he believes are important.
When the two biggest heroes in the world finally battle it out, they both have an axe to grind. Unbeknownst to them, the man truly playing puppet master is a clumsily drawn Lex Luthor who sounds more like a deranged cross between the Riddler and the Joker than a man who will (in the comics) someday run for president. Luthor’s manipulations payoff in the final climatic scenes which simultaneously set up a surprise ending and many future franchise films.
Since this movie is really Superman’s story, he manages to appear slightly less unhinged and on the moral high ground compared with Batman. But with screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer providing stiff dialogue like, “Do you bleed? You will,” Batman never stood a chance.
The promised appearances of new DC superheroes don’t materialize quite as fans may hope. Despite huge build-up, Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s Flash are mere blips on the radar. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is little more than a one-dimensional caricature of a hero whose primary job appears to be looking great in a dress and filling out that iconic costume.
Movie goers with a sharp eye are sure to love to love the blink and you’ll miss it Easter eggs that pop-up regularly. Referencing everything from the animated series to future DCU movies this acknowledgment of the fanbase can not be trivialized. It is these fans after all, Warner Brothers hopes will financially support their challenge Marvel’s Avengers. Unlike the Marvel Universe, which bleeds from the movies to TV, the DCU is strictly cinematic which will hopefully provide a defense against superhero the fatigue many fear is fast approaching.
Muddled plots, laughable team building, and painful CGI aside Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t an entirely bad movie. If the road to box office gold is paved with good intentions, BvS has nothing to worry about it. Go for the tense fight sequence promised in the title but stay for the sweet moments of humanity when the movie stops being about superpowers and remembers to be about actual people.