Thursday, March 24, 2016

Clash of the Titans

So now that I’ve had a couple of hours to mull it over, I get what Zack Snyder was going for there....

The polarizing director really wanted Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – the eagerly awaited superhero mash-up that officially sets up the DC Comicsverse, and the immediate follow-up to 2013’s Man of Steel, which he also helmed (to a decidedly mixed reception) – to have that meme feel.

What else can explain that every oh-so-dramatic moment in this bloated film unfolds in like, beyond-moody, 3-D-and-IMAX-friendly slow motion (btw, do not overdo the soda before or during your viewing of the blockbuster, for it goes on and on to clock in at a mostly slooow 2 1/2 hours). I mean, I know that, leading up to this critical weekend, Snyder has said that, aesthetics-wise, he definitely set out to deliver a movie that’s faithful to its comic-book origins.

Know what comic books do, though? They pop.

This darker and predominantly offering does not do that, and memefying its every other key shot and even some of the action sure doesn’t do the trick. This is coming from a guy who liked Man of Steel, which, three years later I can agree, was nothing like Superman Returns, much less the Reeves Supes. As it were, quote-unquote adult to a fault, Man of Steel had and owned its look, and, see, I found something to be intrigued about it, even at its most morose.

Well. What a way to kick things off, huh.

Chagrin de chagrins, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a true disappointment. Truth be told, the film has everything it needs to succeed and so, so much more, but, for whatever reason, it falls short of just about everything it could/should have been (cuts have been made, and I am not sure how to feel about them).

Henry Cavill is back as Clark Kent/Superman; the dual characters are more conflicted than ever about Supermans role as the ultimate outsider on Earth, and the actor is still hot, but he reads rather detached and essentially catatonic. Cutting to the chase, the question on deck is whether Superman is a savior or a danger?

Cavill is upstaged joined by Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, who answers by making a strong case for the latter, exceeding expectations as a weariest Batman. Clearly, since Affleck’s part is in the movie’s title (holla!), the Caped Crusader is crucial to the story. In fact, Snyder opens with his childhood trauma, swiftly chronicled by two actors about to come face to face on AMC’s The Walking Dead (the lot of ya will get a kick outta the coincidence, I’m sure).

From the get-go, however, we face big problems. For one, Batman, yes, gets a bit of the short end of the stick, but I get it: Much like Spider-Man, we’ve been shown his origin story a lot. So the guy’s a brooding, walking anti-climax from like, page 1 of the script, which was co-written by Oscar winner Chris Terrio (Argo).

For two, Bruce has a major bone to pick with Superman for leveling his Gotham while fighting Michael Shannon’s General Zod over Metropolis one movie ago – without really bothering to understand Superman. This leads Bruce to rush into Metropolis without rhyme or reason (or with like, his alter ego’s Batsuit, for that matter), while the two Kryptonians duke it out with might, to what? To get proof – a front-row view of the unmissable destruction and assess the collateral damage?

It makes little to zero sense.

From there, Jesse Eisenberg’s shag-topped Lex Luthor, a young heir of industry with manic villainous tendencies, daddy issues, and a Frankenstein complex, makes pawns out of our two hero figures in his own personal game of confronting powers he doesn’t have but kinda sorta totally wishes he did, and almost certainly thinks no one should have if he can’t. The actor goes over the top with his performance, but the result, while interesting, is far from Heath Ledger territory. Eisenberg does serve one heckuva sinister look during a scene he shares with Holly Hunter, who portrays a senator demanding accountability from Superman, that gave me the hibbie jibbies it felt that grounded.

My goodness. This. Sounds. Like non-stop fun, huh.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice only excites when Gal Gadot enters the scene as Diana Prince and, later, as Wonder Woman. Her appearances are brief, but, boy, is she effective.

If this surprisingly hollow spectacle is meant to begin to establish the Justice League and Thanosfy the dark side to come, then I should just say, with polite apologies to the men (and to the clever cameos, in the flesh or on the phone), Gadot is the one who really leaves us wanting more (and more – of her, at first – we will get next summer). Because women are the true heroes of this and any world.

The powers that be hit on a interesting note in spinning this yarn by asking if someone with seemingly all the power can be all good. Eventually, a conclusion is drawn with what appears to be a surprising and ultimate sacrifice (rendered pointless, given that it was earned fighting a CGI monstrosity, a.k.a. an enemy with more bite than psychological bark, and by implicit nature of its sleight of hand-ness).

That no real entertainment comes from this showdown is a crime that makes me wanna turn on the Batsignal, scream for a man that is all things super, and, absolutely, call for a woman of wonder.

I doubt this was the desired effect.

Time to lighten up. Otherwise, this will always be a Marvelous game par excellence.

My Rating **1/2

Photo: Warner Bros. 

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