Friday, March 25, 2016

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” = spectacular effects, yes; classic superhero movie, no

By Steve Crum
Teaming up fictional heroes has always held fascination and excitement for me, beginning in the 1950’s with childhood movie cowboy stars (The Range Busters) and comic book superheroes like the Justice League of America. Always a devoted DC Comics nerd, I loved it when Superman and Batman teamed in their World’s Finest comic book series. Great Krypton, it has now—finally—happened on the big screen with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’m happy about the team-up concept, but not so with the end result. 
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice severely trashes the original concept of both characters, particularly Superman, and ends up as a whole lot of bells and whistles. LOUD bells and whistles. This is not to say the two characters have not already been tweaked in movies, TV, radio and comic books since their 1930’s comic book origins. (Superman premiered in 1938, and Batman in 1939.) That includes costuming, a redesigned Batmobile, and a smugness about the business of law enforcement. The Caped Crusader really turned ominous with Christopher Nolan’s three Dark Knight Batman films, beginning in 2005.
In this current take, Superman has become a humorless bastion of strong arm police work—even labeled a terrorist by many in the media and public. At the same time, Batman is beset with nightmarish flashbacks about his parents’ murders. His ongoing paranoia falls to a new level when he swallows media hype in believing Superman is indeed a threat to world peace. 
Batman himself is still the same reliable protector of truth and justice, except now he finishes off murdered bad guys by literally branding them on their necks with his Batman symbol. There is a high murder count in Batman v Superman, making it seem more like a high tech video game. Add spectacular CGI effects, and by golly this IS a big budgeted kill or be killed video game. 
Ben Affleck is perfectly cast for a Batman/Bruce Wayne of this unsmiling and stoic nature since he already fits the mold, based on many of the movie characters he has portrayed. Adding Henry Cavill’s similarly stiff acting as Superman (originally playing him in 2013’s disappointing Man of Steel) gives the audience two robotic actors in superhero costumes that appear to be made of Goodyear rubber. 
Director-producer Zack Snyder is the DC superhero golden boy responsible for any kisses and hisses B v S will garner. Evidently Man of Steel box office was great enough for him to continue with another Superman saga. He is already in pre-production with next year’s Justice League: Part One, which will combine a Gold’s Gym of superheroes. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) has a major sequence in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and we glimpse Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. These super beings will be better showcased, in addition to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, in 2017’s franchise installment. 
The running time of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a grueling 152 minutes. With most of the screen time devoted to Batman and Superman clobbering each other as well as the humongous creature called Doomsday, there is scant time to showcase the many fine actors who have been given seemingly key parts with little to say or do. Still, let us give them credit for their near cameos: Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane (Martha Kent, Superman’s earth Ma), Laurence Fishbone (Perry White), and Holly Hunter as Senator Finch. Look for true cameos by real people playing themselves: Sen. Patrick Leahy, Charlie Rose, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Anderson Cooper, and others. 
Oh yes, there is a brief scene featuring Kevin Costner as Clark Kent’s earth father.  True, he died in Man of Steel, so…well, you’ll figure it out. 
As a positive, Jesse Eisenberg tears up the scenery with his take on the vicious Lex Luthor. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred (Bruce Wayne/Batman’s loyal butler) is a unique interpretation of that well known character. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s bizarre score is a borderline plus. 
After 2-1/2 hours of sitting through relentless CGI violent visuals and deafening sound effects, I was exhausted. Recuperation should end just as next year’s Justice League movie opens.  

GRADE on an A-F Scale: C-