Monday, May 23, 2016

Dawn of Justice: Batman vs. Superman

Lets talk about the Dark Knight fighting the Man of Steel. Can’t go wrong, right? Millions of moviegoers would agree but if you step back and look over it again very carefully, you might see a hiccup or two.

This highly anticipated superhero extravaganza is a direct sequel to 2013’s Superman film franchise reboot, and the second part of a planned multi-picture epic by the production collaboration of Warner Brothers and DC Comics, the so-called DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Under the direction of 21st century SFX-CGI epic maven Zack Snyder, the movie follows an original storyline taking choice bits and pieces from classic comic yarns featuring its two super-characters such as Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” mini-series and an early 90’s Superman comic storyline. The end result however, comes off as being something of a disjointed mishmash of separate events that are united by a generally dark atmosphere coupled with somber and brooding dialogue.

Now this is understandable considering it has always been how Batman was portrayed in movies, but the same grimness that is his bread and butter has also bled into the other half of this crossover. I suppose it doesn’t help that its predecessor “Man of Steel” did inject some darker and edgier into Superman and his supporting cast, but now this double whammy ends up making the film less an exciting action adventure that is expected when superheroes are involved and instead grinds down into a tedious slog.

We start off with a cliff’s notes flashback prologue of Batman’s origins to bring the audience up to speed since he’s coming in without his own introductory solo flick – that’s for in the future apparently, but as a sequel. Fast forward to a sequence where a grown Bruce Wayne portrayed brilliantly if not comic-accurately by Ben Affleck, gets involved in the climactic battle in Metropolis in “MoS” that sours his impression towards the godlike Superman for being such a destructive saviour. Said alien unbeknownst to him is living a double life as well-meaning country boy and now newshound Clark Kent, played by returning actor Henry Cavill with the same not-great but not-bad middle ground performance from 2013. 

More attention thus goes to Affleck whose character has actually been an active hero for far longer story-wise than Supes, and must now gear himself as an ordinary if highly fit and trained man against a super-powerful being that he believes to be a threat to humanity. In the role of main antagonist for the story we get Jesse Eisenberg as young CEO and genius Lex Luthor who secretly manipulates the Cape of Metropolis and the Cowl of Gotham City into open hostility against one another. Contrary to his comic counterpart, this Lex is pretty manic and excitable with a dash of eccentric mad scientist, although his quirky comments and mannerisms, if they were an attempt at humor, were sadly not up to snuff.

Anyway, due to circumstances and plotting, we get Batman and Superman finally coming to blows, but this money shot grudge match is a noisy and shadowy affair, while Bruce Wayne’s dream sequence where he imagines himself as a rebel leader fighting against a tyrannical Superman in a post-apocalyptic Earth turns out all dusty and drab, like it got lifted from cut scenes of “Mad Max: Fury Road”.

Almost every scene just seems to drag on as if to extend viewing time. Zack Snyder’s subpar directorial control over the story is usually compensated by lush visuals like in many of his previous films but here it’s just too dark most of the time.

Some good can be found in the brief appearances of Gal Gadot as the third of DC’s hero trinity, Wonder Woman. She makes her small role effective at least. Also look out for cameos of other would-be DC superheroes all over the place; it’s all setup for the “Justice League” movie that would be the highlight of the DCEU. In summary, “Dawn of Justice” was a surprising letdown given the hero vs. hero subject.