Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Directed by Zack Snyder

BY James KeastPublished Mar 24, 2016

In one of the most incoherent, muddled and morally suspect blockbusters in recent memory, Zack Snyder has completely bolloxed Warner's foundational piece in building a Marvel-style universe in which the DC properties it owns could play. Batman v Superman is a drudgery of macho posturing, a clenched-jaw pissing contest that actually does a lot of brand damage in trying to be "edgy."
When Superman reboot/sequel Man of Steel landed in 2013, Snyder took some flack not only for a dark, brooding take on the Kansas farmer's boy that would be more appropriate to his more revenge-fuelled Gotham counterpart, but for the seemingly gleeful destruction brought down upon Metropolis in Kal-El's battle against Zod. Snyder was accused of being tone-deaf to the blatant 9/11 imagery he unleashed in the name of costumed hero entertainment.
As Batman v Superman opens (following another alleyway flashback of course), Snyder is taking on those criticisms — and laying them squarely at the feet of the man from Krypton. We flash back 18 months and see Superman (Henry Cavill) again crashing through skyscrapers above the city, while on the ground Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) runs into a billowing cloud of dust to save innocent employees of Wayne Enterprises — victims of Superman's thoughtless saving of the world against mass destruction.
It's Superman's fault that innocents died, BvS tells us, and besides, he's not even from here. He's an alien, the film emphasizes repeatedly. He's an immigrant. Earth politics should be left to Earth people like Bruce Wayne. If there's even a chance that someone so powerful could turn against humanity, Wayne reasons at one point, he has to be taken out.
It's on this Trump-esque anti-immigration platform that the whole conflict between a one-percenter and a god-like alien stands — indeed, it's the whole foundation, writ large in the title (although where or how justice is supposed to dawn in this mishegoss remains a mystery).
So while Clark Kent gripes to girlfriend Lois Lane (Amy Adams) about Batman's lack of decorum — the Dark Knight has taken to literally branding the worst criminals — Bruce Wayne hits giant tires with a sledgehammer in his basement while Alfred (Jeremy Irons) make protein shakes, presumably.
The first hour of BvS — before we get to over an hour of the exact sort of innocent-risking mass destruction the film decries — is as confused, incoherent and frankly boring as an action movie can be. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is playing petulant god with daddy's money, throwing lavish parties and plotting revenge or something. The film doesn't care about consistency or sense; Eisenberg's whiny spoiled child is about as threatening as his floppy shoulder-length bob.
Worse off is anyone trying to bring sense of this world, especially women: Lois Lane and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) are nothing more than heads against which guns can be pressed to make Superman comply; Holly Hunter's Senator Finch, who's just trying to have a conversation about working together, is waved away like an annoying gnat trying to get in on the business men are doing.
The much-hyped arrival of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman is shockingly dismissive. In the first hour she's the object of Batfleck's leering gaze at various high society functions and she doesn't get to speak until at least 60 minutes have passed. She's doesn't rate a proper origin story or even two-sentence exposition — but of course we have to watch Martha Wayne's pearl necklace tumble to the ground in erotic slo-mo in a 1981 back alley flashback that explains Batfleck's pain. Yet Wonder Woman — a cornerstone of the DC universe, who'll be getting her own movie shortly as part of Warner's "be Marvel" approach — doesn't even get referred to by her full name at any point in Batman v Superman. After all, there's important business to be done between a rich asshole and an entitled super-being. The rest of us are just pawns waiting for them to decide on what counts as justice.

(Warner Bros.)

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