Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (film review by Frank Ochieng)
One would think that the ultimate showdown between two of the most iconic super-heroes would make for some downright compelling action-oriented exploits against a landscape of angst and destruction. Plus, it certainly did not hurt that exhilarating filmmaker Zack Snyder (‘300’) was at the helm in bringing together the colorfully and concocted confrontation between The Caped Crusader and The Man of Steel. Also, it should have been an effortless task to bring together ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ leading men Ben Affleck and Henry Cahill since they had prior experiences donning heroic attire as mighty super-heroes on call to save the day. So why then does Snyder’s big-budgeted connect-the-dots comic book caper feel so incoherently stiff and aimless?
The dour randomness of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ is quite disappointing because this moping actioner wants to grab more than it can chew in its crowded mouth. Snyder and screenwriters David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio aspire to plug in such contemplative issues pertaining to moral ambivalence, political platitudes and religious themes but none of these factors energize or sustain this action-packed narrative that seems to slouch all at the expense of a sluggish approach to the mechanical hedonism that labors.
There is no doubt that ‘Dawn Of Justice’ has its share of visual opulence as this is obviously expected in an expansive super-hero saga where the proven selling point are two mythical comic book titans spearheading the pumped-up proceedings. Again, an over-reaching script that plods along, a couple of super-powered sourpusses going the moody motions and the lack of carefree robust action undermine the potential explosiveness that ‘Dawn Of Justice’ could have capitalised on with dynamic aplomb.
Sure, there is a noted curiosity and interesting element about the topic of ‘heroism fatigue’ and hidden demons that could have certainly contributed to the psychological strain for our Caped Courageous Ones. Still, ‘Dawn Of Justice’ never quite turns this premise into a sparkling case of burn-out conviction, Instead, knuckle-dragging duo of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) and Clark Kent/Superman (Cavell) make the common sleeping pill look like an excitable bag of M&M candy treats. Thankfully, another fan favorite super-hero in the form of Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) is thrown into the mix to break up the monotony of the boorish Boys Club. Unfortunately, the appearance of the wily Wonder Woman during the tail end of the second half is too little and too late for her welcomed presence to rescue the film’s clunky pacing.
Gotham’s Bruce Wayne and Metropolis’s Clark Kent are experiencing setbacks that could be perceived as reaching the depressive crossroads. For starters, a maturing Waynes/Batman’s crime-fighting prospects have been tailing off drastically. As for Kent/Superman, his existence at the Daily Planet newspaper seems mundane especially when his boss, in editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), declares that the public has moved away from print given the major impact of social media and other on-line resources. So yes…Wayne and Kent are in a critical funk in their professional lives both in and out of their familiar costumes. However, can the slumping cities afford two down-and-out super-heroes when one can probably carry the load in rough, unsure times?
When the film establishes the dilemma that there can be only one muscle-bound ego to handle the affairs of the region’s unprotected this is where the ‘Batman v Superman’ portion of ‘Dawn Of Justice’ looks as if the frenetic fantasy will percolate. Inexplicably, the hype involving the sparring twosome is put on hold as the exposition takes its tedious time building up the conflict to satisfy the clashing insecurities of the capable caped crime-stoppers. For those that witnessed Cavell’s mediocre ‘Man Of Steel’ a few years ago will probably understand the current bad blood that exists between the two super-studs. Whatever the case, both Batman and Superman have pegged each other as brawny bad news ambassadors…something that does not sit well with either struggling super-hero as their revered reputations are on the line.
Naturally, there are other outside forces to consider as the acrimonious overtones continue to flow between the brooding mega-powers. The famed instigator in Superman foe Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is realised as the high-tech billionaire nuisance that has an underlying scheme to eradicate both bickering super-powers once and for all but not before Luthor pronounces his take on philosophical tirades. In the meantime, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is on board to profess her undying love and support for her desired dreamboat, Superman. Luthor loathing Superman while Lane fantasising about her strong flashy fly-boy. In other words, it is business as usual. While Superman is trying to figure out his place in the sun, Snyder piles on the bothersome dreamy anxieties that plague the aging Wayne.
‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ is a jumbled mess. Snyder undertakes a convoluted production and tries to sell it as a sophisticated meeting of the misplaced minds between two embattled entities embroiled in uncertainty and super-sized cynicism. Still, Snyder’s vision is mishandled as he seems to have forgotten one crucial point, simply making an action movie that registers with genuine thrills. One cannot help but stumble upon the pretentiousness and piousness that ruins this boneless blockbuster. The film finally decides to stack on the combinations of boisterous match-ups involving everyone but the kitchen sink but all comes off as frivolously forced. Cavell was never really an enticing Superman ever since he donned the big ‘S’ on his chest back in 2013’s ‘Man Of Steel’. Affleck’s Batman is a little more palatable but the constant scowl (both on his face and on the mask) is too much to digest. One would not mind yelling at the screen for Affleck’s alter ego to lighten up a bit.
The supporting players are virtually wasted in this exhausting CGI popcorn pleaser. Eisenberg, normally a trustworthy performer with considerable scope, merely irritates as the punkish techno-magnate Luthor. The always radiant Adams is a wash as the gushing Lois Lane. Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons’s Alfred the butler won’t make anyone forget Micheal Caine’s take on Wayne’s trusty man servant anytime soon. Even the reliably adventurous Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon cannot exuberantly bring to life the menacing presence of Zod.
Humorless and hackneyed, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ will probably satisfy indiscriminate devoted fans that will buy into the proposed heralded rivalry. As for others, they will wonder what lies ahead in terms of other ‘League Of Justice’ movies that hopefully can muster up more entertaining stimulation than this over-indulgent doomsday dud. Is anyone up for ‘Wonder Woman vs. Redwing’ with an empowering feminine twist?
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
Warner Bros. Pictures
2 hrs. 30 mins.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Gal Gadot, Holly Hunter, Michael Shannon and Ray Fisher
Directed by: Zack Snyder
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/Action and Adventure/Superhero Saga
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng