Heroes at Large
You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
That appears to have been the approach taken by the makers of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, an overblown, overlong, overstuffed, but undeniably entertaining superhero smash-up that combines two of DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ most durable franchises.
The story is more directly tied to 2013’s Man of Steel than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (although Nolan earns an executiveproducer credit here), with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman and his Earthling alter-ego, Clark Kent. Having saved the planet (more or less), he’s taken aback by the lingering criticism of his heroism.
A brooding Superman might be more unique were he not up against Batman (Ben Affleck), whose persona from the very beginning has been of a brooding, conscience-stricken nature. Super-powers and costumes aside, there isn’t much to differentiate the two in terms of their emotional make-up.
Ironically, the main point of contention between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel is that each views the other as operating above the law, with no regard for the collateral damage their actions cause. The second half of the movie, however, is nothing but collateral damage – spectacularly rendered, to be sure – yet it’s massive destruction on a mammoth level, as much bang for the buck as a comic-book fan could hope for.
Despite the title and the initial antagonism between Batman and Superman, it’s revealing nothing that the real villain is Jesse Eisenberg’s jumped-up, jittery tycoon Lex Luthor, who would like nothing more than for the two neighboring superheroes – who knew Gotham City and Metropolis were right across the river? – to eliminate each other. Eisenberg’s over the top, but he’s nothing if not lively.
Affleck, whose casting aroused inexplicable controversy among fans (who clearly had nothing better to do), is acceptable as a slightly older Bruce Wayne but no less vindictive Batman. Cavill is an earnest and handsome Superman, but neither he nor Brandon Routh (in 2006’s Superman Returns) can equal the indelible impression of Christopher Reeve.
Amy Adams returns as Superman’s love interest Lois Lane, and their relationship has certainly progressed since the last film. Additional Man of Steel holdovers Diane Lane (as Ma Kent) and Laurence Fishburne (as Daily Planet editor Perry White) make token appearances, but they fare better than Kevin Costner (Pa Kent) and Michael Shannon (General Zod), who are relegated to cameo status – with Shannon essentially playing a corpse.
Adding some Oscar-winning star power are Jeremy Irons (looking very fit indeed), who settles comfortably into the role of Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler Alfred, and Holly Hunter, who makes the most of her brief role as an ambitious senator whose zeal gets her – and just about everyone else on the planet – into trouble. Gal Gadot is a woman of mystery whom fans will immediately recognize as one Diana Price, not so much a woman of mystery as a woman of “Wonder.” (How’s that for circumventing a “spoiler”?) Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer’s overly busy screenplay occasionally ascribes religious and political undertones to the characters and their actions, which is hardly necessary but, one supposes, somewhat topical. It could be said that director Zack Snyder, also encoring from Man of Steel, throws in everything but the proverbial kitchen sink, and in one scene Batman does indeed bash a sink (albeit a bathroom sink) over a baddie’s head. So that takes care of that.
The main objective here is clearly an attempt to fashion an Avengers-type franchise, which, of course, will be called Justice League. In fact, it’s in pre-production right now. There’s even a release date. Isn’t that the best way to make movies, to announce the release date before making it? That’s Hollywood, folks.