Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice brings intensity through grit and violence, but not much else.
After Man of Steel and now Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC Comics has made it imminently clear that they want to separate themselves from Marvel by using grit, violence and Zack Snyder. The director of both films and the upcoming Justice League movies has a penchant for destruction, evident in previous films 300 and Watchmen, that simply doesn't work to accurately translate some of the arguably most popular superheroes from comic book to big screen.
A year and a half has passed since Superman (Henry Cavill) wreaked havoc in Metropolis in the long, drawn-out battle to defeat General Zod. As such, he's become a highly politicized figure, some arguing that he is a threat to mankind and others viewing him as a savior for the planet. For instance, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), already working as Batman, views him as the enemy due to his immense power and lack of accountability, whereas an entire park and memorial has been created to recognize Superman's defeat of Zod and protection of earth.
In his alter ego Clark Kent, though, he's just moved in with his girlfriend, award-winning journalist extraordinaire, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) -- who figured out the biggest reveal in comic book history in the last movie Man of Steel. In his day job at the Daily Planet, Clark works to bring down Batman for his cruel methods of bringing so-called justice, including beating and branding criminals, by calling him out through his watchdog journalism.
Bruce, though, is more focused on Anatoli Knyazev (Callan Mulvey), a weapons trafficker who seems to be working for LexCorp mogul and genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), and finding out what he is doing. Elsewhere, Lex tries to convince Senator June Finch (Holly Hunter) to allow him to import a large piece of Kryptonite as a deterrent, as she is spearheading the congressional committee against Superman. She considers the proposal but eventually rejects it, but before then, Lex is at least allowed access to Zod's body and the Kryptonian scout ship for research purposes.
To further his investigation into Lex, Bruce goes to his house under the guise of being a mere party guest while actually there with the purpose of gathering data from the mainframe. Superman too is in attendance, though as reporter Clark Kent, and hears Alfred (Jeremy Irons) giving Bruce instruction. However, he doesn't interfere and merely observes. But a gorgeous antiques dealer, the mysterious Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), does interfere and steals Bruce's data, claiming that Lex has a photo that belongs to her. Unable to decrypt the files, though, she soon returns the drive.
Upon his decryption, Bruce realizes that Lex is secretly importing the Kryptonite, so he admits to Alfred his plan to steal and weaponize it to fight Superman. While searching through the files, he also discovers that Lex is looking into other superhumans. So Lex doesn't have a photo that belongs to Diana but rather a photo of her in full Wonder Woman regalia -- a not-so-subtle nod to the upcoming Wonder Woman film. Cue cameos by the Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Victor Stone) and the obvious set-up for the other DC films to come.
The difficulty with watching Batman v Superman -- let alone enjoying it -- is the convoluted nature of its story. With farfetched plot twists and disjointed storytelling, the narrative hardly gives audiences a chance to understand what is happening and instead moves at a lopsided pace. The film moves too fast in moments packed to the brim with exposition, but in others it drags due to a lack of character development and thus audience investment.
Man of Steel is sorely lacking in terms of fleshing out Clark Kent, and Batman v Superman continues that trend. Thus, his relationship with Lois is devoid of any sort of depth. At the same time, Bruce Wayne/Batman is only just introduced in the film (complete with the requisite scene of the death of his parents), but not enough for viewers to actually be fully invested in him or his crusade against Superman. This isn't helped by the fact that both characters are far more violent, and thus unsympathetic, than canon has shown them to be, thanks to director Zack Snyder's appetite for destruction. On top of that, villain Lex Luthor is supposed to be a genius, which makes him a formidable opponent, but rather comes across as maniacal rather than calculating.
And it's not for lack of trying on the part of the actors. Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight is particularly compelling, bringing a real humanity to the character, and Gal Gadot as the Amazonian warrior princess is delightfully perfect, despite previous criticism of her casting. And there is even a beacon of brilliance: the moment when the characters come together to fight in the final scene -- something out of even the most fanatical of fan's fantasies. Unfortunately, the film's excessively dark tone, gritty violence and long, nonsensical story make for a grim, humorless, disappointing two and a half hours that simply cannot be saved.
Images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.