Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is finally in theaters, but it’s darker than Michelle Pfeiffer in Catwoman spandex. Imagine giving someone hundreds of millions of dollars and an immense amount of control. Additionally, give him over eighty years of comic books, TV shows, animation, humor and a friendship that began in the thirties for research. Ask the same person, Zack Snyder, to make a movie about the two of the most iconic and popular superheroes in history. Are you kidding? With all that ammunition, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice should have been a multi-billion dollar behemoth.
Snyder brings Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) to the big screen with an amazing twist: apparently the two super heroes live across the bay from each other and have never met. Yes, finally the two superheroes from the 1930s are together in a film that should be called Batman v Superman: Absence of Logic.
The film begins near the end of Man of Steel with chunks of concrete and steel crashing to the earth. Bruce Wayne, watching the ongoing battle above, is trying to rescue the survivors. That’s when the trouble starts. Bruce Wayne watches in horror as Metropolis is being destroyed. Clearly he blames Superman.
Enter a particularly psychotic Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who uses the already weakened reputation of the Kryptonian to set up the battle to come. Loading on is US Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) and Batman. Both see Superman as a dangerous alien bringing violence and death to the planet. With a steadily building resentment the ever-optimistic superhero is driven to doubt and despair. Batman, already a very questionable hero in this version, turns to a nearly insane anger. He begins to plot against his now enemy and plans his destruction. Seems bright and cheery, right? I think even couple’s therapy held no hope.
The good news, and there is little enough, is the birth of the Justice League. With the introduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and cameos by The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa), there is at least some hope for the future. When Wonder Woman enters the hopeless battle against a terrible Kryptonian monster at last the film lives up to its potential, for about twenty minutes. It was finally what the audience was waiting for and the theater erupted with joy.
The performances are reasonable, but the characters are weak and uninspired. Ben Affleck, as an extremely paranoid Batman, is certainly not likeable or interesting. His performance wasn’t terrible, just wrong. Henry Cavill, manages to make Superman completely bland, always a danger with the character. Amy Adams, as Lois Lane, atypically, adds nothing to the film. Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne and Jeremy Irons have so little screen time that it seems a waste. Holly Hunter’s performance too, is adequate, but hardly special.
The two actors that did bring something special are Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot. Unfortunately, Eisenberg plays Lex Luthor, the ultimate sociopath and criminal genius, like a total schizophrenic psychopath. Eisenberg is brilliant as Luthor, but this performance should have been saved for The Joker.
Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman so minimalist that she is mesmerizing. She is the only character that is as she should be: beautiful, powerful and in total control. When Gadot is on the screen she exudes the confidence we should be seeing from ALL of the other characters.
I place all the blame on Zack Snyder. His vison of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is criminally flawed. Were it a masterpiece, like The Dark Knight, that would be excusable, but it is not. It is a depressing, below average film.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice should be a celebration of friendship, overcoming obstacles and perhaps redemption. These are not characters that need introduction or origin stories, they are part of the American landscape. Well, not the way Snyder presented them.
Had Zack Snyder taken a hint from the recent Avengers films, Guardian of the Galaxy and Deadpool, he might have realized the audience is begging for entertainment. With Superman as the ultimate Boy Scout and Batman as the morally challenged, but brilliant detective the opportunity for belly laughs seems obvious. Snyder would still be hauling cash home by the semi had he played this for fun. Not to be too brutal, but maybe a long visit with the Hulk?
RELATED: Check out the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debate on the Pop Confidential podcast!