As always, Warner Bros. and DC feel like a step behind. In attempting to mimic Marvel and its über-successful Avengers universe, DC is appearing increasingly desperate. Their attempts to build a Justice League world got off to rocky start with Man of Steel, a movie that few people seemed to actually like (full disclosure: I enjoyed it for the most part). Of course, when the time came for the inevitable sequel — these movies don’t get green-lit anymore without a blueprint for at least three films — they didn’t heed any of the concerns from audiences and fans that this newer, darker version of Superman was far less palatable than they assumed he would be in the wake of Christopher Nolan’s “gritty” Dark Knight reboot. Instead, they just went about making the exact same movie.
Oh, except this time they added Batman. Because of course they added Batman. This is Hollywood, after all. The expression “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is lost on Hollywood’s franchise factories right. Since it’s only been four years since The Dark Knight Rises, naturally they thought we needed yet another one. Hell, if you want to get really pedantic, it was only two years ago that we got emo animated Batman in The Lego Movie. Never let it be said that this iconic character’s creators aren’t rolling in some seriously-ridiculous amounts of cash right now.
So now we have Batman V Superman, which actually does a good job at balancing the two superstar superheroes in terms of both screen-time and narrative. Neither gets preferential treatment by the story, and that’s a relief — don’t name your movie after both of them if you’re just going to focus on one. The film more or less works when the antagonism between the two is at play. However, once the mano a mano fight happens and once they team up to battle the real bad guy — which is obvious and inevitable, so this isn’t a spoiler — the movie loses its grip on whatever intrigue it had. The film, already swallowed up by director Zack Snyder’s incessant need to make this world as monochromatic as possible, becomes even more black and grey. The drab scenery is only broken up by the incessantly boring use of lightning strikes that represent surging power. Why must so many of these fantastical supers (heroes and villains) have powers that manifest as red or blue bolts of electricity? It’s a tired visual cliché, and one that only makes the final third of this movie look like a real dog’s breakfast where little spacial sense is allowed and destructive mayhem is mistaken for gravitas.
It’s admirable that Affleck’s caped crusader is a bit older than the usual one, his body tiring as he struggles to keep up with the intergalactic Superman. Affleck, ever a fan of himself, isn’t above a half-naked training montage that is absurd, but he more or less succeeds in the role. It is probably damning with faint praise to suggest that it’s Cavill’s lack of superstar charisma that makes him ideal for the role of Clark Kent, but it’s true. He comes off as a perfect alien void, whom billions of people around the world could impose upon any sort of ideology they wish. Amy Adams is, as usual for any role she takes, serviceable as Lois Lane, but her relatively docile performance shines when compared to whatever it is Jesse Eisenberg is doing as Lex Luther. Whoever instructed Eisenberg to perform the role as a hyperactive toddler with voices in his head ought to be ashamed. At least his terrible performance distracts from how underused an Oscar winner like Holly Hunter is. Yikes.
Batman V Superman is fine. Anybody who waits to watch it at home will, I have no doubt, find it severely lacking, but the bombast of its 153 minutes certainly leaves an impression of some kind. We will see a Wonder Woman film next year, and I look forward to it because Gal Godot makes an okay space princess from what little she’s given to do here. I just hope, for Warner Bros. and DC’s sake, by the time we finally get to Justice League audiences aren’t worn out by the grim and the grey. There’s no turning back for them now.