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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Nobody’s Smiling

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday March 31, 07:20 pm
This frowny hero punch-up is a tedious super-mess

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Cineplex
2.5 out of 5

Much like with Michael Bay, people are lining up to bash director Zack Snyder. Snyder’s vision of DC Comics Cinematic Universe is dark and humourless, in stark contrast with Marvel — and that doesn’t sit well with many fans. Even people who like their superheroes treated seriously are griping about this universe going out of its way to be sour.

It’s not Snyder’s first black eye. His Superman reboot Man of Steel introduced a version of the superhero (Henry Cavill) with no qualms about battling his arch-nemesis Zod in the middle of a city. The scuffle killed thousands, including Zod himself — who got his neck snapped (killing is another huge no-no in the Superman canon).

Sequel/franchise launcher Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice arguably doesn’t make mistakes as glaring as the ones in Man of Steel, but it just exudes lack of purpose: there’s no message, like in Christopher Nolan’s very political Dark Knight trilogy, and there’s little effort to entertain moviegoers.

Frankly, it feels like the studio is trying to save face and money by not rebooting Superman despite mounting evidence this isn’t working.

At least Snyder’s retroactive continuity is clever. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) sees several of his employees perish during Supe’s brawl with Zod, and vows revenge. The echoes of 9/11 are a little much but overall it’s the movie’s best sequence.

Eighteen months later, humanity sees Superman as a saviour but there are a few who hold grudges and fear: Batman, the U.S. Congress (desperate to control the indestructible superhero), a disgruntled Wayne Enterprises employee and Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, an embarrassment). When Luthor learns Superman is susceptible to Kryptonite, he uses his vast resources to collect a huge chunk of it.

I won’t go into how these three allegedly hyper-intelligent, highly damaged individuals end up at each other throats, partly for space and partly because it doesn’t make any sense. Suffice it to say this plot thread hurts the movie even more than Eisenberg’s incessant twitching.

Unlike Christopher Nolan, who is uniquely skilled at telling complicated stories, Zack Snyder is a one-dimensional visual guy: every frame in Batman v Superman is curated to a fault. Batman’s hundred-times-seen origin story is shown over the credits and it’s exquisite. The action scenes are pure chaos but stop short of becoming unintelligible. All very much in line with Snyder’s filmography (300, Sucker Punch, Legend of the Guardians).

Story and character development are Snyder’s weaknesses. If Nolan’s Batman movies were rich in subtext, Snyder just recycles Watchmen’s premise (Who watches the Watchmen?). The “intrigue” surrounding Batman v Superman not only fails to drag you in, it feels like a chore you have to endure to get to the good parts.

Batman v Supermandoesn’t hide its intention to spawn several franchises in one swoop. The introduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, rather emotionless) is a notch underwhelming, but then again, this isn’t her movie. More problematic is Lex Luthor, who is bound to become a DCCU mainstay. Jesse Eisenberg follows his worst tendencies and delivers a performance full of twitches and little substance. It makes you yearn for Gene Hackman’s casually evil Luthor of yore. Kevin Spacey was also better.

As for the main guys, Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are good but are hardly memorable. Cavill is a little less mopey this time around while Affleck injects some gravitas (better than Kilmer, not as good as Keaton).

The DCCU will probably continue limping along, not good enough to challenge Marvel but not bad enough it has to put it down. Too bad. It could’ve been super.

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