The problem with DC Comics compared to, say, Marvel’s is that their superheroes are mutually exclusive. Bringing them together is therefore a difficult task, to say the least. It just doesn’t work in this instance. Also, DC is very late in the convergence business, when the other team, for all its onscreen sins, has developped most of the Avengers characters into their own franchise, allowing for a passable team spirit with occasional bouts of dialogue brilliance. Nothing of the sort here.
The movie, already bloated at 150′, also exists in a 180′ minutes “full” version, the deleted scenes giving some screen cred to some of it most baffling scenes but doing nothing to improve pace or character development. If Zach Snyder remains gifted with this rarest of quality in action movie directing, i.e. spatial consciousness, allowing the audience to follow who is fighting who, where and sometimes even why, his writing crew, who already presided over Man of Steel and the Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman trilogy, attemps at mixing oil and water and trips until it crashes under the weight of their portentous project.
For a movie opposing an omnipotent flying boyscout and a sociopath multibillionnaire with all sorts of vehicles at his disposal, Batman v Superman is shockingly pedestrian. Worse, it respects roadlights and zebra crossings. So, what is the heck happening in two and a half hours?
After we are treated to the uptenth version of the scene in which Master Bruce is saved by a Batnado, he growns up into Bat Affleck (doing his best Christian Bale impersonation and appearing smug in the process), who fills Gotham’s prison with criminals he brands with red iron, meaning “certain death” at the end of their fellow convicts. Not only this is an idiotic idea, but it subverts the League of Justice purpose by reintroducing death penalty through the back door, while the State looks the other way. Hollywood, you are going on a dangerous limb.
The State acts in the opposite way in Metropolis, where Superman’s proclivity to bring home his Kriptonian buddies for urbicide and countless civilian casualties comes under scrutiny. A “Kentucky junior senator” (Holly Hunter) wants him to answer to a federal commission and be harnessed for the greater good, to which Sup (Henri Cavill, gloomy) reacts by sulking. No doubt she’s a democrat and she wants more State intrusion into the American people’s constitutional rights. Only, in Kentucky.
Under the pretence of caring for collateral victims – an interesting idea in itself, if possibly quite boring in its ‘The State vs. Superman” execution – the movie succumbs to its own hubris, shared in equal measures by its producers and its characters. Lois Lane (Amy Adams, bland) has never been so stupid – she interviews yet another African warlord (why are they popping out in every blockbuster this year?) and her first question is “Are you a terrorist?”. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, interestingly mannered) is obviously deranged but no one seems to mind. At some point he mates with General Zod’s corpse in a red pool and gives birth to “an abomination” called Doomsday, which could be doing an internship from any Kaiju next door, since it’s just a mass of pixels, unkillable until it’s killed.
So the Gotham Bat, as they call him, and Superman fight for a while, kryptonite kriptonite kriptonite, Batman knocks Superman out with a bathroom sink. Appear briefly The Flash (unnamed) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa). Also, Wonder Woman (Gad Gadot, sleek) comes to the big boys’ rescue, allowing a “Bruce, I am your brother” moment who does not only feel embarrassing but the mark of writers at the end of their tethers, unable to elevate the material to its God-like ambitions.
What else? There is a lot of tuning, Bruce Wayne sporting a bat logo on his civilian car and Superman his logo on the coffin he’s beyond the shadow of a doubt not buried in. Lois Lane dies but not, as required by her character. The Army nukes Doomsday, misses and the charge – apparently a mild one – falls on an “inhabited” island in the middle of the bay separating Metropolis from Gotham (asking all sorts of questions about why an encounter between Supie and Bat Boy didn’t occur before and cautiously not answering any of them). There is a bit of King Kong, a bit of Tarzan and whatnot. Best of all, there is Jeremy Irons as Alfred the Butler, a considerable step up from Sir Michael Caine.
Oh also, there is what one prefers to think is a touch of meta humour, by courtesy of a open jar of urine labelled “Granny’s Peach Tea”. As a metaphor for inspiration, it works rather well. Come on, get back to the writing table already. It’s already absurd with two and a half superheroes, how could it possibly be better with five?