Two-and-a-half out of five stars
Rated - PG-13
After walking out of the screening of "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," a gentleman shared with me that an early cut of the movie had run a full three hours. While I can’t be certain that’s true, my response was, “You mean the movie we just saw wasn’t three hours?”
The first 15 minutes of "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" are kind of fantastic. One of the most important (facetious) questions of our time -- “Can Ben Affleck make a good Batman?” -- is almost immediately answered: Yes! He’s confident and dapper but clearly damaged, exuding charisma even in his most introspective moments.
All of those characteristics come to life through a flashback to the events of "Man of Steel," when Superman and Zod lay waste to Metropolis and Bruce, driving an SUV, does his best to try to save his employees and the citizens of his city. It’s a heartbreaking yet enjoyable sequence, but it raises one nagging question: Why wasn’t he in his bat suit and Batmobile? Wouldn’t he have been able to help and save more people with all of his tech and tools that are, you know, designed to help and save people?
Even so, I was able to forgive that silly lapse of logic, thanks to the evocative nature of another well-executed flashback -- the one in which little Bruce witnesses his parents’ death and attends their funeral, and the seeds are planted for his future as Batman.
Sadly, director Zack Snyder uses up all of the movie's emotional currency in that first 15 minutes. The rest of the film seems like it was written and directed by the popular "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Twitter account “Emo Kylo Ren,” just without the irony.
That said, here’s the story:
Bruce Wayne doesn’t trust Superman because he’s a powerful alien who can destroy us, literally, in the blink of an eye. Superman doesn’t trust Batman because he’s a dangerous vigilante. Amazing Jesse Eisenberg, as Lex Luthor, is a fast-talking, wisecracking genius with a god complex who wants to see Batman and Superman destroy each other.
As far as storylines go, Batman’s disdain for Superman is overdeveloped. Superman’s disdain for Batman is underdeveloped. Lex Luthor’s desires are convoluted and a little hard to understand.
We also get to meet Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, a super-compelling character who’s completely out of place in this movie. It’s like using a rotary phone to order an Uber.
Zack Snyder, to me, is one of the world’s most frustrating directors. He always brings an eye-popping aesthetic to his films, then attempts to force his story to fit that aesthetic, rather than the other way around, which is to let the story drive things. Because of this, what tends to happen in Snyder’s movies is the characters become one-dimensional. They feel more like props than human beings -- or in this case, humanoid aliens. Sure, there are words and feelings but Snyder’s style renders them meaningless. I’m sure, one day, he’ll find a way to marry the two but until he does, his movies will continue to make you feel nothing.
It’s easy to grow tired of this over-saturation of superhero movies we’re experiencing, but great storytelling defies genre. "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" will probably please those who just want to see their comic book heroes come to life in a visually stunning way, but it will frustrate anyone looking for substance.