With Marvel already leagues ahead of DC comics in establishing a cinematic universe, all eyes were on “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” to kick off another box office monopoly. It’s even unfair to compare the two because DC’s battle royale is gritty and surreal while lacking any campiness typically associated with Marvel films.
The premise is simple, Batman versus Superman, man versus god, but it goes much deeper than this. After the events of “Man of Steel,” Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) seeks a solution to the problem that is Superman (Henry Cavill), who has operated with no earthly restrictions. Meanwhile, the devilishly charismatic Lex Luthor, portrayed by Hollywood hotshot Jesse Eisenberg, attempts to drive Superman and the other “metahumans” from earth by developing the ultimate “doomsday” weapon.
While boasting a run time of 156 minutes, BvS spends its time tediously, opting to explain new characters as fast as they were introduced. The plot thus suffers from this rapid-fire character development that makes the audience feel as though it may be impossible to fall in love with any single character. Surely this is due to matters of merchandising and advertising, but shame on director Zack Snyder in creating a muddled plot when DC desperately needed a solid foundation after the lackluster “Man of Steel.”
The hallmark of acting comes with Eisenberg’s spin on Superman’s arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor. Inspired by Grant Morrison’s “All-Star Superman,” Eisenberg sits at the fringes of insanity as he manages to play Batman and Superman like pawns in his giant game of chess. Eisenberg is best when he ditches all norms of sanity and delves into the sociopathic intentions of the crime boss, ushering in a much needed sense of method acting.
However, Affleck must also be commended for his portrayal of Batman, which was as brooding as it was clever. Taking some pointers from Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns,” we finally get a glimpse at a weathered Bruce Wayne that has been tired out by years of crime fighting, something not cinematically seen, not even in Christopher Nolan’s glorified Dark Knight series. Affleck brings a much needed reinvention of the titular character and had audiences around the globe begging for Batman to pumble Cavill’s Superman, whose acting was as rigid as it was in “Man of Steel.”
Of course, Batman is only as good as his loyal butler, Alfred, played by esteemed British thespian Jeremy Irons. Irons is as exhausted as Affleck, providing a pleasurable balance and camaraderie that seemed almost too natural. Another smart casting choice came with Gal Gadot’s take on Wonder Woman, the first time the character has graced the silver screen. Her amazonian beauty is tantalizing and once her theme commences, you know you’re in for a joyride of both intelligence and brawn. She even duped Batman, who’s considered the “World’s Greatest Detective.”
Let us also talk about that score, done masterfully by Hans Zimmer with a little help from Junkie XL. Each scene is exemplified by the undertone of the score that mixes both an unwavering sense of dread with a straight shot of adrenaline.
A score of this magnitude is needed; however, to balance out the misstep that is Snyder’s shaky camera work and borderline-obsessive use of CGI that pays off only when the two titans duke it out. Snyder, who has been hailed for his visionary work in “300” and Watchmen,” takes the same bombastic approach in this effort, but he has got to realize that comic books films are where the money is in Hollywood and with already two strikes now against him, can we trust him with the highly coveted job of directing “Justice League”? Fortunately, Snyder realizes the pressing nature of establishing the universe, dropping enough easter eggs and cameos to leave any DC fan satisfied until the release of “Justice League.”
Despite the 29 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice” is a necessary hurdle for the team over at DC comics and minus the slight directorial and scripting issues, the film is a solid superhero adventure that exudes the inner child in all of us.