Coke v Pepsi, Domino’s v Pizza Hut, Jacob v Edward. Nobody really gives a shit anymore about these classic match-ups between titans of corporate commercialism. But Batman v Superman? Now that’s a battle we (read: Warner Bros.’ marketing department’s vision of contemporary consumers) can all get behind. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is being sold to us popcorn-munching masses as the “meta-human” duel/duet made in comic book heaven that we never knew we needed. Spoiler alert: we don’t.
Unfortunately, the Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill-starring, Zack Snyder-directed Dawn of Justice is exactly the kind of overwrought, underacted film that taints today’s superhero-saturated cinema market. For starters, rebooting the Batman franchise was a mistake. Christopher Nolan had the last word in Gotham with the conclusion of his Academy Award-winning trilogy back in 2012. Whereas Nolan’s series featured a realist take on terror and vigilante justice, Snyder relies on disorienting CGI battles and a downright confusing narrative structure that too often keeps the audience in the dark. (Literally. I couldn’t see a thing for the first forty minutes, and my 3D glasses definitely didn’t help.)
Affleck attempts to bring some maturity to the Bat, but with dead and disgruntled employees as his driving motivation for trying to stop Superman from zapping Metropolis into rubble, Batman feels more like a divorced dad on a self-help bender than a suave, sexy billionaire. I mean, Affleck’s not ugly, but he just cannot compete with Henry Cavill’s chiseled Superman bod or Gal Gadot’s supermodel-status Wonder Woman. Amy Adams reprises her role as a Lois Lane that’s as pretty and helpless as ever. Bonus points to Diane Lane, who plays Superman’s Smallville Ma. She reminds the hero that he is human at heart, but not before somehow getting captured by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who uses her as bait in a Dark Knight-style catch-22: kill the Bat in an hour, or Superman’s mother dies. Ah. So that’s why they fight.
Before I go back to reluctantly opening my wallet for the better-made films of the Marvel Universe, I must admit: I didn’t actually see the fight. The big fight. The eponymous battle between the greatest DC heroes that have ever lived. Technically, I only missed the middle section. I fell asleep at the point when the mortal Batman keeps losing to the invincible alien Superman, and I woke up when Lois Lane wanders into the abandoned warehouse/mansion/grotto where the fight takes place and wins them both over with her girlish charm. The fight is only plausible because the Bat weaponizes a hunk of kryptonite stolen from Luthor, but it seems like Superman goes down easy. No mortal man is a match for Superman, and Snyder would have done better to acknowledge and test that fact than to try to save face by keeping Affleck’s Bat an unlikely threat.
,.Don’t take my word for it. After all, I’m not an authority on the characters or source material that Snyder shot up with his signature gritty “vision.” I encourage you to descend further into the depths of this Internet-review Inferno, fueled by the many, many BvS “experts” who spend their days dissecting Dawn of Justice’s obvious Justice League teasers and plot holes. (FYI: The Ninth Circle is a comment thread about how “real” Batman never killed anyone.)
For a movie whose Bruce Wayne begrudges Superman’s casualty-filled destruction, Batman v Superman really sells out in the last half-hour, when Snyder goes for the all-out city-smashing orgy. In the coming years, fan opinion may just prevail, and the all-hands-on-deck Justice League franchise may take off despite this half-baked Dawn of Justice. Given the record opening despite such harsh critical rhetoric as that, however, I doubt any of DC’s heroes will be dying anytime soon.