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"BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE"
(2016) (Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Superhero Action: A villain masterminds an epic battle between two superheroes who were already growing increasingly suspicious of and hostile toward each other.
PLOT:
Ever since Superman (HENRY CAVILL) arrived in Metropolis in an epic battle with attacking aliens led by General Zod (MICHAEL SHANNON), Bruce Wayne (BEN AFFLECK) of nearby Gotham has viewed him suspiciously. After all, the man of steel -- whose secret alter ego is Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent -- is seemingly unstoppable, and if he decided to turn against humankind, that could be the end. Bruce, an ultra-rich playboy businessman who lost his parents as a boy to an armed robber -- knows a thing or two about bad guys. And that's because with the help of his "butler" Alfred (JEREMY IRONS) he moonlights as Batman, a caped crusader/vigilante with a unique style of doling out justice.

That doesn't sit well with Clark, but his editor, Perry White (LAURENCE FISHBURNE), isn't interested in stories about Batman. Nor is Clark's girlfriend, fellow Daily Planet reporter Lois (AMY ADAMS), who ends up needing his help as Superman to get out of a violent situation. But Superman's actions are twisted in public perception by diabolical young businessman Lex Luthor (JESSE EISENBERG) who wants to convince U.S. Senator Finch (HOLLY HUNTER) that Superman is a danger, and that kryptonite fragments of the superhero's long-lost planet are the only thing that can protect them. Bruce ends up attempting to steal information related to that kryptonite but is caught in the act by Diana Prince (GAL GADOT), who hides her own superhero alter-ego, Wonder Woman, from all involved.

When Lex has his goons kidnap Clark's mother, Martha (DIANE LANE), he sets into motion an epic battle between Superman and Batman, all while unleashing a powerful monster, Doomsday, with the safety of those in Gotham and Metropolis at stake.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Due to thousands of years of built-in instinct built up from a literal survival of the fittest world, humans still possess a keen competitive spirit. While it's thankfully evolved -- for the most part, but not entirely -- past the kill or be killed trappings of our primitive ancestors, boy do we like to compete.

And not just against each other in head to head or team to team matches, but also via surrogates found in sports, business, politics and all matters of life. Heck, we're so competitive that we even make up imaginary battles of past heroes of ours. Some wonder who'd win a boxing bout between Ali and Tyson, or a presidential election between Reagan and FDR.

As kids, one of our favorite pastimes was matching up superheroes and then debating who'd win in a fight. Of course, whoever got Superman would usually be victorious, what with kryptonite being the only thing that could slow down the man of steel, and even then, unless lead lining was involved, he'd see that ploy coming from miles away.

Speaking of the world of comics and competition, Marvel has been kicking D.C.'s rear for some time. Notwithstanding the Christopher Nolan-helmed "Dark Knight" flicks, Marvel has been moping the floor with its competitor via its cinematic assemblage of "Avengers" films and standalone, but often cross-over superhero movies. Simply put, due to the variety of characters and the approach taken in telling their individual and collective tales, audiences seem to prefer watching entertaining Marvel Comics flicks rather than the brooding and somber D.C. ones.

Not wanting to back down from such a fight, though, the latter entity has concocted "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice," a big budget studio tent-pole that positions Gotham and Metropolis as adjacent cities separated by a bay and featuring hometown characters apparently ready to duke it out.

With both Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale now done with the caped crusader franchise, the powers that be decided to tap Ben Affleck for that part and give Zack Snyder the reigns following his helming of the first installment of the so-called DC Extended Universe, 2013's "Man of Steel."

The resultant film is obviously a lead-in to the bevy of characters from D.C.s "Justice League" comic books along with a realization of every kid's "who'd beat who" fantasy about some of their favorite superheroes. Alas, at more than two and a half hours, it's way too long, barely has any much-needed comic relief, takes itself way too seriously, and falls prey to the recent trend of such characters bashing each other about and through buildings.

In fact, another reviewer and I nearly bet on how many structures would be damaged in the flick (as compared to our usual counting of montages in romantic comedies and such). Thankfully, we didn't as that would have been an exhaustive endeavor, something that describes this movie, a decidedly muscular flick that simply isn't much fun to watch.

And that's despite a cast that includes Affleck (who's actually good in the role despite many earlier "What????" reactions to the casting) and Henry Cavill reprising his Man of Steel protagonist. There's also the likes of Jesse Eisenberg (playing Lex Luthor more akin to a deranged Mark Zuckerberg than Gene Hackman's version decades ago), Laurence Fishburne (as Perry White), Diane Lane (as Superman's mom), Kevin Costner (as his dead father), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Jeremy Irons (Alfred) and Holly Hunter (playing a U.S. Senator).

Gal Gadot (Diana Prince) keeps showing up in scene after scene and you keep waiting for her to finally reveal she's Wonder Woman (an all-too-obvious "secret"), but once she does, that breathes some feminine hero energy into this testosterone-laden mess.

Speaking of waiting, you'll end up doing that and then some, for the titular event to arrive. Once it does, though, one quickly realizes it's just going to be more of the same character bashing and smashing, albeit with lapses in story and character logic that even the kid versions of ourselves would have picked apart decades ago.

For example, it's never explained why Superman (far removed from the old Christopher Reeve traditional -- and far more enjoyable -- interpretation of the character) simply doesn't fly around Earth really fast, reverse time, prevent young Bruce Wayne's parents from being gunned down (seen not just once, but twice in the film), and thus prevent Batman from ever existing. Game, set, match.

Instead, Snyder seems intent on continuing his obsession (or fetish) of showing powerful men clashing (beyond "Man of Steel," he also helmed "300" and the far better superhero flick, "Watchmen") when they're not otherwise brooding and generally looking unhappy. Scribes Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer try to touch on some of the reasons for that, but it's just superficial dressing, as is all of the symbolic talk about power, gods and how that fits into our lives.

Which is too bad, as there are some interesting thematic elements at play, not to mention a budding cinematic superhero universe that has nothing to do with Marvel. But it really needs a better director, script and examination of its characters if it wants to go toe-to-toe (or cape-to-cape if you will) with its better constructed and received rival.

Decent at times, but otherwise a jumbled and mostly joyless mess, "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" is an overlong and bloated start to a franchise that needs to get better pronto. It rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed March 22, 2016 / Posted March 25, 2016


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