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31 Mar 2016

Superhero Slip-Up: 'Batman v Superman' Is a Messy, Slow-Moving Marketing Ploy

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Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The end credits of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice give a thank-you shout-out to Frank Miller, author of The Dark Knight Returns. That’s the groundbreaking graphic novel that inspired the late-20th-century rebirth of Batman, influencing everything related since Tim Burton’s Batman.

Considering what transpires in the 2 1/2 hours before Miller’s name appears onscreen, Warner Bros. should be offering him an impassioned apology.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is definitive proof that director Zack Snyder should be banned from the DC universe. The man who gave us Sucker Punch has effectively knocked the wind out of two great comic-book heroes. This film is a crime against every geek who has ever picked up a graphic novel.

Hell, it’s also a crime against hard-core Ben Affleck fans. Affleck could be a fine Batman. Actually, he could be a great Batman. But, like George Clooney before him, he winds up looking quite ridiculous, running around in a messy movie in which his character simply doesn’t fit. A nice effort by Affleck to portray a nuanced, older, somewhat weary Bruce Wayne (in a badass suit!) is utterly wasted.

As for Henry Cavill’s Superman, I’m longing for those short-lived days of Brandon Routh as Kal-El. While it isn’t entirely his fault, Cavill’s Supes is officially a dud.

A sequel of sorts to the dreary Man of Steel (also directed by Snyder), Batman v Superman is a soulless step in the wrong direction. Snyder, who made a great graphic-novel movie with Watchmen, seems to have completely lost the ability to put a cohesive, exciting movie together.

The film meanders aimlessly, accompanied by an alternately sluggish and bombastic score by Hans Zimmer. Like Michael Bay before him, Snyder has become too reliant upon useless, unnecessary slo-mo. He follows these slo-mo scenes up with noisy CGI action that is often incoherent.

The movie commits many of the same sins as last year’s party-pooping Avengers: Age of Ultron: It’s nothing but a setup—a setup for a big battle that everybody knows will have a lame ending (and, boy howdy, is the fight resolution lame). It’s also a setup for future superhero and Justice League movies. It’s just a big marketing ploy.

The first true Justice League movie is set to begin production soon. Yes, Batman v Superman is making big money, but it would behoove Warner Bros. to step back, take a breather and consider giving this franchise over to a more-capable director, like George Miller. Christ, even Bay would be an improvement.

Snyder wants to get a bunch of characters (Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash) up to speed so we can get a Justice League movie that’s the equivalent of Marvel’s Avengers movies. He wants to get it done in one fell swoop, and it all feels forced and manipulative.

His film has no life, no pulse. It drags, drags, drags. By the time Batman and Superman are slugging it out, it’s just one element in a film that has way too many plot threads that aren’t getting proper attention.

It dawned on me while Batman and Superman were fighting that I didn’t really want to see these two incarnations of the characters fighting at all. It’s just kind of dumb. For a good, surreal Batman v Superman battle, read The Dark Knight Returns, or watch the animated movie adaptation that WB put out three years ago. The cartoon handles the battle in a much more convincing and logical way.

Subplots involving Lois Lane (Amy Adams, looking bored) and Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, embarrassing himself) are howlers. Luthor’s nefarious plot to make the superheroes fight and ultimately face off against Doomsday is preposterous and pointless. 

My geek heart has taken a kryptonite spear to the chest with Batman v Superman. Yes, Affleck is good, so it is not a total loss, but, please, get Zack Snyder away from the DC playground. He represents the complete absence of fun.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is playing at theaters across the valley.

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