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Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: March 25th, 2016

From director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) comes Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, starring Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo) as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Henry Cavill (lMan of Steel, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Superman/Clark Kent in the characters' first big-screen pairing.

Fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City's own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis's most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it's ever known before.

Directed by Zack Snyder, the film also stars Oscar nominees Amy Adams (American Hustle, Man of Steel) as Lois Lane, Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) as Lex Luthor, Diane Lane (Unfaithful, Man of Steel) as Martha Kent, and Laurence Fishburne (What's Love Got to Do with It, Man of Steel) as Perry White; Oscar winners Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune) as Alfred, and Holly Hunter (The Piano) as Senator Finch; and Gal Gadot (the Fast and Furious films) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince.

Snyder directed from a screenplay written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, based on characters from DC Comics, including Batman, created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger, and Superman, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The film is produced by Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder, with Wesley Coller, Geoff Johns and David S. Goyer serving as executive producers.

Snyder's behind-the-scenes creative team includes director of photography Larry Fong (300, Watchmen) and production designer Patrick Tatopoulos (300: Rise of an Empire), and from his Man of Steel team, editor David Brenner, costume designer Michael Wilkinson and visual effects supervisor John DJ DesJardin. The music is by Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, Man of Steel) and Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road).

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, an Atlas Entertainment/Cruel and Unusual production, a Zack Snyder film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. The film opens nationwide in RealD 3D, and in 2D, and in select IMAX 3D theaters on March 25, 2016.

This film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.


REVIEW

Despite moments of stunning action, small character beats and breathtaking imagery seemingly ripped straight from the comics, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice ends up being the muddled mess we all feared upon its first announcement years ago (and serves as a surprisingly on-point example of what's also wrong with the majority of DC Comics' published content these days). It's a movie that tries to do and tell too much but, ultimately, crumbles under its own weight in the process and becomes a frustrating affair.

While I had many issues with Man of Steel, I ultimately thought it was an acceptable story that brought Superman into modern times. Yes, there were plenty of times where the directing was suspect or the script zigged when it should've zagged (Jonathan Kent, for one), and the less said about the Superman/Zod tussle the better, but ultimately it established a workable starting point to build off of for future installments. I suppose, in a way, the same can be said for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There are moments where the film is absolutely stunning, and it's a joy to see DC's Trinity on the big screen for the first time, but all of that gets lost in a movie that seems to be an out of control mess.

In terms of the main characters, Batman and Wonder Woman come off the best. Despite her meager screentime, Wonder Woman leaves a definite impression. The movie lays out a few tidbits and establishes the mystery, but still leaves her story open for discovery with her own upcoming movie in 2017. Gal Gadot nicely brings Wonder Woman to the screen, actually doing far better than I was expecting. She presents Wonder Woman as strong, fierce and determined, the same of which can easily be said about her secret identity (only referred to as Ms. Prince).

As for Batman, this is the Batman that comic fans have been waiting for ... to an extent. The costume is fantastic and Ben Affleck does a solid job as a tired, burnt-out Dark Knight. Batman cutting loose, taking down criminals, is truly something to see and, despite some rough directing work, those scenes are riveting to watch. There is legitimate potential for Affleck to become the definitive live-action Batman, depending on how future sequels and movies pan out. However, like Man of Steel, there are moments when Director Zack Snyder doesn't seem to truly get what Batman is all about. Snyder, who also directed Man of Steel, seems to push Batman a bit too far into the darkness, at times to the point of grim-dark self-parody, and even gives our hero a significant body count. Batman ends up coming off as a bit of a psychotic bully, pushing his way into a fight that seriously could've been avoided with a five-minute conversation.

Superman unfortunately comes across as pretty bland, and his character arc gets lost amidst in a stiff performance from Henry Cavill. I do appreciate that his character is trying to really prove himself and move beyond the events of Man of Steel (which, not only is a major plot-point of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but the film will also makes it crystal clear repeatedly that - due to the events of that most and its high death toll - most battles in this film take place in areas lacking potential civilian casualties), but a distrusting public (and some truly bad luck) keeps him firmly in the public eye as a catalyst for the potential destruction of the world. His arc is actually one of the more palpable ones in the movie, as he starts to really push himself toward the Superman we all know, but things don't really go his way. He also spends way too much time moping about Batman, so much so that it just seems to deflate any progression he makes as a character during the movie.

In terms of the supporting cast, it's a lot of talented actors with not much to do. Amy Adams' Lois Lane seems to flirt around the edge of the plot, barely remaining relevant until she finds herself in distress at least three times. It's a shameful waste, the same of which can be said the majority of the remaining cast. Holly Hunter, as Senator Finch, gets a couple good moments, as does Diane Lane as Martha Kent, but the rest barely leave any impact. Jeremy Irons, as Alfred Pennyworth, manages to do great work with his small role, however.

And then there's Lex Luthor. Trying to get a grasp on his motivation, on his character, feels nearly impossible. The ultimate goal of Luthor in the movie is to have Superman taken down, clearly, but why he does it is muddled. The film seems to hint at two or three different potential motivations, but never bothers to come out and stick with one. Jesse Eisenberg does a great job at making us hate the character, playing Luthor as a mean, spiteful version of The Riddler from Batman Forever. I applaud the attempt at reinventing the character, but it doesn't work here.

There are times when it really feels like Snyder just doesn't get these characters at all. Yes, he brings them to life all fine and good (mostly), but something never seems quite right. And time and time again the movie has moments where Batman, or Superman, or whoever, makes a choice that they clearly wouldn't make in the same situation in nearly any other interpretation of the character. Even supporting characters, like Martha Kent's "you don't owe them anything" speech, seems just flat-out wrong.

And, somewhat related, how ridiculous is it to have Gotham City and Metropolis as neighboring cities? It doesn't work and comes across as a dumb shortcut to get Batman and Superman in the same basic vicinity.

In terms of the film itself, it throws itself far into the dark end of the spectrum and never looks back. Time and time again, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice just bludgeons us with how dour and depressing everything is. Snyder's lack of subtlety is also on full display here, repeatedly smashing us over the head with the movie's themes (and at times having characters basically shout them out to the audience), including an overbearing amount of religious imagery. Even Luthor's final moments in the film, wherein he's meant to come off as dark and ominous, eventually gets a little laughable as a the film just ... lingers on him far too long. Moments that should be short and pointed become overly long and tedious. And given that there's no rhythm to the movie's flow, it also becomes a little puzzling. The film's first hour, once the opening credits and Man of the Steel flashback are over with, feels like an extended montage sequence that just drags on and on.

Some scenes even seem to have no real merit to the movie's story. There's one section of the film that basically produces teasers for four upcoming DC Cinematic Universe movies, and it's handled in a jarring, almost insulting way. Even Batman's nightmare sequences, which hold some genuine surprises, can be completely excised without impacting the movie whatsoever. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice keeps producing these types of interesting moments, but fails to create any connective tissue between them to make them seem relevant. Those nightmare sequences are great, and could actually help drive the narrative and influence a choice Batman makes in the film's final minutes, but they seem so divorced from the rest of the film. But hey, we see Parademons, so...that's cool.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is trying to be something different, something big, but it falls short. It's the same old trappings we've seen before - particularly in Man of Steel, which this film really echoes - but with a handful of tweaks made to make it seem more edgy (or at least, what the filmmakers consider would be edgy). The film's creative team spends so much time focusing on the look and feel of the movie that they forget to add the core human element to it. There are some gorgeous visuals in this movie. At the film's climax, after all the chaos is over and the heroes have won, there is this absolutely jaw-dropping shot of Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, Superman and Batman that is a work of pure art. The framing, the composition, the posing, all of it straight out of a comic book and looks absolutely gorgeous. And you can tell the creative team spent a lot of time nailing those aspects of the movie. However, it's at the cost of a coherent script.

And, for a movie meant to deal with the fallout of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn't even address the fact that Superman killed Zod at the end of that movie. Yes, it deal with the chaos and carnage from Man of Steel's Earth-shattering finale, but what we don't get is Superman dealing with his massive decision to take a life. That actually could've made for some poignant character moments for Superman here as he struggles to become the hero the world truly needs, particularly during the film's climactic battle, though given that both of the film's title "heroes" don't seem to care about leaving a body count, it would likely be a shade out of place considering this dark, depressing world Snyder has established.

What also troubles me a little is that this a movie starring Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman ... and it's not safe for kids to see. Did we really need to make the movie this dark and depressing? These are characters that kids love and yet, they can't see this movie. This movie seems aggressively anti-child, and while I get the older fans might appreciate a more mature take on the characters, it's also counter-productive. Adults will see this film regardless, so why not make it all-ages appropriate, or at least suitable enough that kids can see it? If the DC Comics can give us cartoons that both kids and adults can enjoy, why not the same for their movies? That decision alone, to make this over-the-top gritty and depressingly dour, seems so counter intuitive. I understand the idea - to offer an alternative from the lighter Marvel Studios fare - but there are others way to do it.

There are some little bits of greatness sprinkled throughout the movie, as I said. Wonder Woman's entrance into the film, and that little smirk she gives to her opponent mid-fight during the finale, are stunning and so on point. Batman's takedown of a bunch of thugs inside a warehouse is absolutely amazing and perhaps the film's highlight - it's the Batman we've always wanted to see brought to life (in that one particular scene, at least). Even though it's not as massive as it was hyped to be, Batman and Superman's little tussle is pretty well done, even if the majority of it is CGI characters smacking each other around. Even the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's climactic battle, which also falls a little short, is worthwhile. The storyboarding also holds solid work, and the staging really helps sell the scope of the battles. Even amidst all the clunkers, there's some noteworthy dialogue and character beats. There is legitimately great stuff in this movie, including the rockin' score, but it's just buried in a meandering mess.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a mixed bag, though with more cons than pro. As a long-time DC Comics fan, there are some truly satisfying moments - especially when it comes to Wonder Woman - but the film is just such a mess that it's hard to overlook the faults. Regardless, it's still worth seeing on the biggest screen possible, just to truly take in the beautiful imagery that Snyder creates (even if it ends up being more "80s rock band album cover" than "Alex Ross"), but it can be difficult to get through the film's bloated story and lumbering pace. The film is ultimately a letdown, but there are parts to it that show that, if someone could've just guided Snyder and perhaps told him 'no' once or twice, he could've produced something special. Instead, we get one of the most visually arresting cinematic disappointments in some time. The film's not worth a skip it or a recommended tag, but perhaps an enter at your own risk.

-James Harvey, The World's Finest


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