‘Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is strong on visuals, weak on story
“Master Wayne, since the age of seven you’ve been into the art of deception like Mozart to the harpsichord, but you’ve never been too hot at lying to me.” – Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
It’s been almost three full years since the Superman film franchise was relaunched and what a relaunch it was. Man of Steel was an outstanding film. One would think that after an extra year for the filmmakers to have “…time to fully realize their vision, given the complex nature of the story” the sequel would be up to the level of Man of Steel. That did not come to pass. Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is a good movie. It just doesn’t come anywhere near the bar set by Man of Steel.
We’re given the 94th (give or take) rehash of how young “Bruce Wayne” (Ben Affleck) came to be Batman. Necessary? Probably not but certainly understandable on the part of director Zach Snyder and writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Less than two years after the near destruction of Metropolis during the battle between “Superman” (Henry Cavill) and “General Zod” (Michael Shannon, back only as a corpse), Superman’s benevolence comes into question. Partially due to how many died when he rescues “Lois Lane” (Amy Adams) from a dictator, and partly because a junior U. S. Senator from Kentucky (Holly Hunter) uses the fallout from the incident to call Superman a potential threat.
With Bruce Wayne/Batman also concerned that even the slightest chance of Superman decided to reign destruction on life on Earth a justifiable reason to kill the Man of Steel and “Lex Luthor” (Jesse Eisenberg) turning his attentions to Superman, trouble is on the horizon.
The first negative that must be pointed out about Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is the same criticism that was proper to apply to the film that launched it. It’s too long. Then there’s the issue of Jesse Eisenberg. It isn’t that he is a bad actor, because he’s a brilliant one. It isn’t that he gives a poor performance, because he does not. The problem is he’s horribly miscast as Lex Luthor. Traditionally Lex Luthor is older than Superman. Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey were terrific in this role in their turns in it. Making Luthor a younger genius just did not work out. Also, IMHO, once an actor has played one major “superhero” as Ben Affleck did in the titular role of 2003’s Daredevil, it is probably not smart to cast that performer as another major superhero.
There is much to like about Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Amy Adams and Henry Cavill are once again well-matched and deliver strong performances. Holly Hunter makes a perfect politician. Casting Gal Gadot as “Wonderwoman/Diana Prince” was something I felt was a mistake; but it didn’t turn out that way. The special effects and general visual feel of the film were very enjoyable. Jeremy Irons, who would be excellent portraying a tomato, made a great Alfred.