By: Nathan Helfferich – Staff Writer
Two iconic superheroes come together on the big screen for the first time in DC Comics’ most recent box office smash hit, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” While their worlds have never crossed in Hollywood before, Batman and Superman have joined forces in countless comic books, starting in 1941 with “All Star Comics” No. 7.
Zack Snyder returns to the director’s chair for “Batman v. Superman” following the moderate success he garnered from “Man of Steel” (2013), Superman’s last appearance on the big screen. Snyder is also well known for movies like “Watchmen” and “300,” bringing him notoriety for intense, over-the-top action sequences.
“Batman v. Superman” opens with the same action-packed scene as in “Man of Steel,” where Superman and General Zod’s final epic battle leaves the city of Metropolis in ruins. This time, we see the battle from the eyes of Bruce Wayne, who is scavenging the streets of the city to help those around him amidst a flurry of destruction. It’s a way to set up the future themes of the movie that revolve around Batman and Superman’s varying perceptions of what defines a hero. By placing both heroes on the center stage, the audience see this story unfold from two distinct perspectives.
Beyond this opening sequence, the search for a clearer understanding of the plot becomes increasingly difficult to a point of frustration. Snyder’s storytelling is choppy, seemingly unintentional and downright messy. Transitions from scene to scene in the front half of the movie were abrupt, and the physical content presented oftentimes did not move the story forward. The story centers on a world in which the need for Superman is questioned. Among those who question this need the most is Bruce Wayne, who only sees Superman’s existence as destructive and threatening.
Looking past the multiple shortcomings of the film, praise can be found in the form of the brilliant cast. Among the returning cast includes Amy Adams in her role as Lois Lane and Henry Cavill as Superman, who both deliver solid performances. The biggest surprises of the movie were the new faces to the screen, though. While many were skeptical about the casting of Batman/Bruce Wayne, Ben Affleck silenced all doubters with a stunning portrayal of the punishing and brutal Caped Crusader seen in “Batman v. Superman.” Not to be outdone by Affleck is Jeremy Irons, who portrays Bruce Wayne’s beloved butler, Alfred. This film brings a fresh portrayal of Alfred, who now assumes a role of more than just Bruce’s butler. Irons presents a character with tech savvy skills and a genuine voice for humanity.
One of the elements this film is lacking is the character of the primary villain, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). While Eisenberg’s take on Superman’s most famous villain is different, it fails to convey Luthor’s evil nature and the motives behind it. If given the right character development and backstory, Eisenberg’s interpretation would have been extraordinary. But like many aspects of Batman v. Superman, Luthor’s character remains underdeveloped and unexplored.
Themes of good versus evil and questions of morality permeate the plot lines at a shallow level, but never delve into depths that would have added intricacy to the story. Batman and Superman are challenged to question both the need for heroes and worth of humanity in a world filled with crime and evil. A unique inner struggle manifests in both heroes as they try to understand the best ways in which they can serve the world they live in. It’s a theme that isn’t addressed in many superhero films. While the theme presents opportunity to create a truly special movie experience, the film fails to evoke the emotions it calls for. There are a few scenes in particular, such as a vital moment that takes place on Capitol Hill, that don’t capitalize on the complexities of these heroes’ inner struggles.
While there were a few shining moments in “Batman v. Superman,” such as standout performances from Affleck and Irons, the lack of continuity and failure to extract deeper meaning from substantial moments in the story hold this movie back from being successful. A fascinating theme is built up in this film, but too many questions are left unexplored. Superheroes like Batman and Superman are known to fight for justice, but, unfortunately, “Batman v. Superman” gives no justice to the potential home-run that this storyline could have produced.
RATING: 2/4 STARS
Photo courtesy of HitFix.com.