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Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons

Written By: David S. Goyer, Chris Terrio Directed By: Zack Snyder

The Shot

If you enjoy beautifully framed shots and have no idea who Batman and Superman are historically supposed to be, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice might be a halfway decent movie.  For anyone else, it’s a dark, joyless slog through a cinematic gulag with that could have been and should have been a whole lot better.

The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


It’s supposed to be fun, but instead it’s dark and joyless.

Pairs Well With...


Yeah.  That.

“How many good guys are left?  How many stayed that way?”

I very clearly recall my first reaction to the initial trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  My exact words were “It looks like it was filmed in a gulag.”

Having now seen the actual movie, the only reason I might change my mind is that I’m pretty sure that even in a gulag, the inmates find occasion to crack a few more jokes.  Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a dark, joyless slog begging for a My Chemical Romance soundtrack.  It completely does away with the comic book origins of its characters and expects the audience’s thanks for it, and is absolutely not appropriate as a family movie watching experience.  (Honestly, the filmmakers should have just gone for the “R” rating they skate the whole time, because the end result is really not something to be put in front of children, especially if you ever want them to read comic books.)

But hey!  The cinematography is gorgeous!  And wow, that Zack Snyder sure knows how to set up a shot!

What?  That’s not enough?  No, it isn’t.

If the characters of Batman and Superman hadn’t been pop cultural icons for roughly the past three quarters of a century, maybe it would be.  But while it is understood that the characters have evolved over time and that there’s always some license taken when translating characters from page to screen, there’s such a thing as going too far, and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice does it.  The characters we see on the screen may be called Batman and Superman, but they are not Batman and Superman, just as Lex Luthor is not Lex Luthor.  Instead, Batman is an amalgamation of the darkest aspects of The Punisher and RoboCop, and the movie goes as far out of its way as possible to turn Superman into a depressive, angry riff on Jesus.  But I guess The Punisher v. Jesus: Dawn of Profit didn’t do well with focus groups as a title, so… yeah.  Batman v. Superman it is.

With that said, all blame here must lie squarely with Zack Snyder, David S. Goyer, Chris Terrio, and the studio suits who allowed them to get away with pushing this horrid reinvention of the DC Comics universe.  Everyone else involved does the very best they can to make something decent out of the nihilistic script they’ve been given and the dungeon yard atmosphere it creates.  Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Jeremy Irons put in fine performances under the circumstances, and Amy Adams and Diane Lane do what they can with roles that make them squarely into hapless victims.  But… but… There is one person who manages to rise above the joyless darkness that is Batman v. Superman and provided a small glimmer of hope for the future of the DC movie universe.

When I was in the theatre for the first showing of the movie, the audience cheered exactly twice.  The first was before the movie even started, when the teaser trailer for The Lego Batman Movie (which looks way more fun than this) played.  The second was when Gal Gadot made her first totally-in-costume appearance as Wonder Woman, come to save the day as the two nihilistic title characters floundered against the Big Bad CG Effect.  Brief though her total screen time is (even counting her occasional earlier appearances as Diana Prince), it is Wonder Woman who saves Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice from being a complete waste of time.  She is, in a word, awesome, and Gal Gadot is dead solid perfect in the role.  And since Zack Snyder doesn’t have control of her upcoming solo flick… Like I said, maybe there’s hope.  Because no one, not even my friend the die hard Superman fan or me the die hard Batman fan, was cheering for either Superman or Batman.  (Quote from my friend: “Even I fucking hate Superman right now.”)

It’s telling, I think, that the box office numbers dropped like a stone for the film’s second week.

Bottom line, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t really about the characters we’ve come to know over the course of our lifetimes as Batman and Superman; it is, instead, about some nihilistic impostors battling it out in an urban gulag.  I suppose it’s better than Man of Steel (to which this film is a direct sequel), but that’s not really saying much, is it?

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, May, 2016

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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