Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Title: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: 

Fallout Boy: "Billowing backpacks, Radioactive Man! It's the worst villain of them all: the Scoutmaster!"
Radioactive Man: "I see him, Fallout Boy."
Scoutmaster: "Go get 'em, scouts! Don't be afraid to use your nails, boys!"
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two dead Robins out of five. 

Brief Plot Synopsis:
 Avengers resemble!

Tagline: "Two worlds will collide."

Better Tagline: "Luthor has a cave troll."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Eighteen months have passed since the near-total destruction of Metropolis, and it appears few are ready to forgive Superman (Henry Cavill) for his role in the affair, threat of planetary extinction or not. One key critic is Gotham City tycoon Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who lost untold millions (and sure, some employees) when his Metropolis HQ was blown up. Wayne, of course, is also the costumed vigilante Batman, and he decides to apply his certain set of skills to finding a way to defeat Superman. A goal shared, coincidentally, by corporate philanthropist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg).

"Critical" Analysis: Zack Snyder's production company is called Cruel and Unusual Films. Anything I say from this point on is probably redundant, but here we are. His latest, Tony Orlando and Dawn of Justice or something, is not good. The best parts are courtesy of one new character and another that's mostly lifted from a 30-year-old comic book. The rest? Well, let's break it down.

Wonder Woman: For the [checks stopwatch] ten minutes or so we actually get to see Wondy in action, she's pretty awesome. During the final fight, when Batman is (understandably) cowering helplessly and Superman is (predictably) rescuing Lois, Wonder Woman is the only one actually dealing damage to Doomsday. And I don't know for sure which composer — Hans Zimmer or (most likely) Junkie XL — was responsible for her score, but her entrance music gave me legit chills. Too bad we have to wait two hours to feel something.

Batfleck: I'll say it: BvS actually made me interested in a standalone Affleck Batman movie. Loved the Batcave, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, the gadgets and Bruce Wayne himself. Of course, all the best bits and dialogue are taken from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, where the guy is largely a moody asshole and, well, let's just say Affleck captures that side of his personality admirably.

Wonder Woman: Batman and Superman have, in the past 40 years, headlined 14 movies that have depicted their origins a half dozen times. We've witnessed the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne four times since 1989, and we get to watch them get killed *again* in BvS. And yet Diana Prince remains an intermittent presence in the film's first two hours, with hints of her origin found only in a grainy photo Bruce Wayne steals from LexCorp. I'm sure we'll get our questions answered in her upcoming movie, but the appearance of the first DC movie character in decades who isn't a CGI shitfest should warrant more than a glorified cameo.

Smoperman: Any benefit of the doubt you felt like giving Snyder and Henry Cavill after Man of Steel can be discarded here. Aside from beefily looking the part, Cavill seems to have no idea what makes Superman tick, and the guy behind the subtle exercise in ephebophilia known as Sucker Punch is the wrong director to try and tease that out of him. At least Brandon Routh was a creep: Creeps possess emotion. Cavill's Superman sits in the aftermath of a bombing that killed a hundred people and looks around with a sulky "Why me?" expression on his face.

The lead-up to the battle is also fairly ridiculous. Superman's roped into the fight because everyone involved in the production conveniently ignores the fact his character has super-hearing and X-ray vision and can fly at nearly the speed of light. Likewise, the resolution, which I won't spoil except to give credit to Snyder for realizing both Bruce Wayne's and Clark Kent's mothers have the same first name, is ridiculously pat.

The fight itself is fairly nifty. But again, the best beats are from 1986's TDKR.

The Night They Burned Ole Metropolis Down: Snyder really listened to your comments about the wanton destruction of Metropolis in Man of Steel, you guys. There are at least three references to it during the Big Boss Fight, and it's the basis of Bruce Wayne's single-minded obsession with taking out Superman (and apparently accounts for his numerous weird-ass dreams). Yet Snyder just can't help himself. In spite of the port's being "abandoned" and therefore safe for Batman to lure Doomsday there, they end up blowing an entire refinery to hell, and downtown Metropolis still gets hammered anyway. All we missed was Godzilla showing up to finish the job.

Lex Ledger Luthor: If you're fond of the comic version of Luthor, well, you'll stroke out after 30 minutes, so get your affairs in order. However, even if you're not familiar with him, you'd probably expect the Man of Steel's greatest foe to be a ruthless and extremely powerful man, the epitome of "evil genius." In BvS, Jesse there a worse comparison point for a performance than "raging tire fire"? There's no menace to this Luthor, no sense of sinister machinations beyond his arranging the ultimate Ultimate Fighting Championship. It's as if Snyder decided Heath Ledger's Joker was the gold standard of DC movie villains (it is) and figured that template is easily applied to Lex Luthor (it isn't). Adam Sandler would have been a better choice.

Woe is Lois: I swear I remember a smart, tough, investigative journalist a movie or so ago. Here, Lois's primary function that of is being rescued by Superman, multiple times. I will give credit to Snyder and company for moving past "Why can't she tell who is with glasses on?" by putting them in a relationship right off the bat. Then again, the one time they have a meaningful conversation about the world and Superman's place in it, she's naked in a bathtub the entire time.

And the Rest: You may have heard some rumors about the presence of certain other potential Justice League members in the film (and it isn't like the casting of Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller as Aquaman and Flash, respectively, has been a secret). It's true, but their appearances amount to little more than the Easter egg moments at Alkali Lake in X-Men 2.

It may seem unsportsmanlike to pile on Batman v Superman, but it's increasingly apparent Snyder still has no idea how to make these characters not terrible. Certainly there's a place for darkness in comic book movies, but counterpoint: maybe it's time DC took the keys to its legacy away from the guy who clearly doesn't know how to drive the car.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar