Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Kevin Costner, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Written by: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Directed by: Zack Snyder
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality
Running Time: 151
Date: 03/25/2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Capes of Wrath

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

About two minutes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which opens Friday in Bay Area theaters, shows that, at some point, a terrific Ben Affleck Batman movie could have been made.

This is not it.

Despite the fact that Affleck called in his Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio to help, the screenplay still has about five different character motivations for Bruce Wayne throughout the story. He's not obsessed here; he's wishy-washy.

Even so, Affleck uses his eyes as well as his brawn, and gets the right combination of pain, swagger, and brute force into his Caped Crusader.

The many problems with Batman v Superman lie elsewhere.

Director Zach Snyder's finished product is, like his Man of Steel and others, very long, heavy, cluttered, scattershot movie laden with seriousness, explosions, boring CGI creatures, and a thundering musical score.

Everything is shrouded in a kind of black sludge, and frankly, it's depressing. Even the would-be iconic meeting of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman looks like it was ground out from an old Xerox copier.

Conspicuously missing is any kind of color, beauty, grace, hope, joy, or fun. Even the much-hated flops Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Batman & Robin offer that much.

The movie borrows from at least two different, major comics storylines, and throws in elements already used to better effect in the X-Men and Avengers movies. Like earlier superhero sequels (Batman Forever, etc.) it tries to cram too much together, and everything gets short shrift.

Again cast as Superman after Man of Steel, the perfectly-chiseled Henry Cavill once again broods, goes shirtless, and tries to do a kind of dramatic raising of his eyes every time Superman lands.

But Cavill's main weakness is not Kryptonite; it's personality. He simply can't connect emotionally with his co-stars, or with the viewer.

A smattering of great actors in tiny roles (Holly Hunter, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, etc.) only underscore this void.

Jesse Eisenberg, however, plays Lex Luthor, but rather than a steely genius, the otherwise fine actor chooses instead to play him like a mugging, giggling Joker.

Perhaps worse, Snyder seems to care little for women. Lois Lane (Amy Adams), once a brassy and brave character, is here reduced to pouting and fretting. And while Israeli actress Gal Gadot is an appealing new Wonder Woman, she's sadly underused.

Affleck may never get his real Batman movie, but one can hope that the in-the-works Wonder Woman will shake off the residue of this mess and bring us a superhero that, once again, reminds us why superheroes are worth caring about.

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