Sunday, March 27, 2016

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

2.5/4

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Holly Hunter, Laurence Fishburne

Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violence and Action Throughout, and for Some Sensuality

Another summer, another wave of superhero movies.  Am I the only one who is tired of watching guys in leotards beat the tar out of each other while being filled with faux-angst?  To be fair, geek god Joss Whedon is nowhere to be found here, which means that the writing is better, and it's more concerned with telling a story than providing a rundown of the most comic references and cross-connections the hack filmmaker can fit into a 2.5 hour run time.

The good news is that it's not another origin story.  Marvel pumps out as many of those as it can, it seems.  "Ant-Man," the third reboot of "Fantastic Four," and so on.  They all run together.  It's also not a cut-and-paste job like so many of Marvel's movies.  The bad news is that the plot rarely makes a lot of sense.

Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Affleck) is not happy with Superman (Cavill).  His fight with General Zod in "Man of Steel" led to the destruction of one of his buildings and by default the deaths of countless people trapped inside (note: this sequence might sound like it exploits 9/11, but it doesn't because it's dealt with honestly and it serves a purpose).  He wants the Man of Steel to answer for his crimes, but support from the Daily Planet, led by Clark Kent and his plucky girlfriend Lois Lane (Adams) make that hard to come by.  But a new incident in the Middle East has raised the attention of a senator (Hunter), who calls him to a congressional hearing.  Meanwhile, eccentric scientist Lex Luthor (Eisenberg) is using both to serve his own ends.

This isn't a bad idea for a movie.  It takes where "Man of Steel" left off and takes it in a direction that we don't expect.  In other words, it does exactly what a sequel should do.  What's interesting is that it's taken this long for a sequel to acknowledge its predecessor.  Oh sure, many sequels build upon the films that came before, but they usually start at zero.  The first act made me recall a photoplasty from cracked.com where the subject was what it would be like to live in a Michael Bay movie or something.

It's too bad then that the screenplay is underwritten.  While certainly not a disaster, it could have used another rewrite or two to clean it up.  The plot is frequently confusing and things don't always hold together even in the moment.  A good movie lays out each piece of the plot cleanly and succinctly.  The script here is a bit waterlogged.  Perhaps the R-rated extended cut will clean things up a bit.

Speaking of the R-rating, it's unthinkable that the MPAA let this film slide with a PG-13.  This is a dark superhero movie and the violence is brutal.  It's like "Kick-Ass" minus the blood.  I would advise against taking the young ones to see this movie unless you've previewed it yourself.

It will be interesting to see where the "Justice League" goes from here.  Brief cameos by a few other superheroes hint at the "Justice League" movie, although Snyder doesn't overdo the fan service.  This movie is very much a stand-alone film, unlike the Marvel movies, which are essentially walking advertisements for the next installment.

There are definitely some things to like about this movie, but it's too problematic to recommend taking a trip to the theater for.  Better wait for the R-rated Blu Ray version and hope that they didn't just add in some profanity to bump up the rating.

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