‘Batman v Superman’ is too heavy to fly high

The ‘Man of Steel’ sequel is dour, lengthy and dull despite its top notch fight scenes.

Jacob Judd, Staff Member

With a title as convoluted and tonally conflicted as “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” it should come as no surprise that Zack Snyder’s latest opus buckles under the weight of its own ambition.

A direct followup to the successful but divisive “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman” doubles down on its predecessor’s tin foil vision of superheroics. The destruction of Metropolis in that film incites an ongoing public controversy as to whether Superman is our savior or a totalitarian nightmare waiting to happen.

Most paranoid of all are “eccentric” billionaires Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne who each set out to ensure that Superman will not be this planet’s doomsday. Luthor by becoming a mad scientist with shady government contracts, and Wayne by…well, doing Batman stuff.

All this of course leads to the gladiator match of the title, which admittedly is as exciting as one might hope. Snyder is nothing if not a fantastic director of action and this is clearly where he had the most fun. Every punch resonates with a godlike weight and Batman’s tricky set of booby traps keeps the two on an even playing field, creating a genuinely exciting brawl between the worlds most famous heroes.

Sadly that level of engagement is not sustained throughout the film. Much of the film’s run-time is spent methodically building up to these events, but rather than establishing genuine emotional stakes the film haphazardly attempts to cram as much plot down our throats as possible.

Jumps from scene to scene just sort of happen, without any narrative motivation. As a whole the film feels overstuffed with narrative threads and seems to have been edited down from a drastically longer cut that may have had more narrative cohesion. There’s still too much happening, but now half of it makes no sense. The result is that the film left me totally cold, and emotionally distant. I did not care about what was happening to the characters on screen.

Of course it wouldn’t be a modern comic book movie without a tease for the sequel, and “Dawn of Justice” has at least seven. Again, the tragedy here is that none of them are integrated elegantly into the story. Characters from “Justice League” show up like Jeb Bush with a sign around their neck that reads, “Fanboys: Please Clap” before disappearing from the film altogether and having no meaningful reason to have been there in the first place.

Ben Affleck’s Batman is sure to put haters at ease. He’s nimble, intimidating and feels more like his comic book counterpart than any live action version before him…when he’s not straight up killing people, that is. Seriously, for those who decried Superman’s casual disregard for lives lost to collateral damage in “Man of Steel,” Batman’s approach to dealing with armed thugs will prove severely problematic.

As Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot acquits herself well. She’s a strong presence and handles herself commendably in the action scenes. Unfortunately her part is so underwritten there’s little else to say; much of her screen time has already been seen in the film’s trailers.

Jesse Eisenberg is clearly having a blast as a character named Lex Luthor that bears little to no resemblance to any traditional version of the character. And admittedly his exponentially hastening descent from fidgety tech-bro billionaire to an actual raving lunatic is some of the best (and only) silly fun in the movie.

Ultimately, despite Snyder’s visual panache, “Batman v Superman” is a tedious slog for much of it’s considerable run-time. And despite toeing the line of an R-rating, it should still move plenty of Batman toys. After all, that’s what really matters isn’t it?