Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I was thinking…

…it is kind of ironic how the folks at Warner Brothers and DC Comics waited years to launch an ensemble series for their super hero cash cow when Disney/Marvel proved it was not only possible but ridiculously lucrative with each successive installment to their Avengers world.

Why ironic, you ask? Well, because almost every one of those Marvel characters we’ve grown to love–and more importantly, shelled out ten bucks a pop to see cinematic incarnations of–were copied or outright stolen from their DC predecessors. Any fanboy (or fangirl–I know there are plenty of you out there), knows Marvel piggybacked on DC’s success by all but pilfering an entire stable of characters.

Marvel’s Black Cat, say hello to Catwoman. DC’s Green Arrow, meet your illegitimate son Hawkeye. Marvel’s Bullseye, you’re lucky DC’s Deadshot doesn’t hold a grudge. Not to mention Deathstroke and the blatant ripoff that is Deadpool (not that Rob Liefeld has had an original idea in his entire life).

And the list goes on and on.

But perhaps the most obvious are the aforementioned Avengers (debuting in 1963) and their DC forebear, the Justice League (1960). And yet, when it came to attempting film serial adaptations of their respective ideas, DC opted to wait to see if their neighbor could pull it off first.

The real question is: was their wait worth it?

I’ll let you know after the synopsis. And, as usual, there are no spoilers. Read on without fear.

Roughly a year-and-a-half after the events in Man of Steel (2013), the city of Metropolis is still being rebuilt and people are starting to question whether or not Superman (Henry CavillThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.) should be seen as a potential threat to mankind rather than just a savior.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring city of Gotham, Batman (Ben AffleckArgo) is not only wondering the same thing, he is also turning to more brutal methods in his war against crime. These torturous tactics are bringing him to the attention of our boy in blue, the son of Krypton himself.

And feeding off the public’s growing distrust of Superman while engineering machinations of his own is the billionaire industrialist/philanthropist Alexander “Lex” Luthor (Jesse EisenbergNow You See Me). While attempting to procure a massive chunk of Kryptonite from a crash site in the Indian Ocean, Luthor tries to manipulate the government into officially turning against Superman and granting him the ability to develop anti-Superman weaponry.

Popping her head in here and there is Diana Prince, a.k.a. Wonder Woman (Gal GadotFast and the Furious 7).

That’s the gist of it.

Let’s get the most unpleasant thing out of the way first, which would be the casting. Anyone who has followed the Ammo Dump since its days on Examiner.com will know I thoroughly loved the casting of Henry Cavill as Kal-El (Read my Man of Steel review by clicking here), but that’s about where my love affair ends with the cast of this new film.

I was one of the millions who groaned, “Noooo, not him,” when it was announced Ben ‘Aflac’ Affleck was going to don the cape and cowl of Batman for Batman v Superman. I was convinced–and still am–that Affleck’s involvement was a knee-jerk reaction to his winning an Oscar for Argo. But as the little golden statue was for best picture and not best actor, the casting for Batman remains a mystery. This mystery is doubled by the fact there was an equally loud outcry at his playing the lead role in Argo, that of Tony Mendez, considering Ben Affleck is about as Hispanic as my childhood pet turtle. And let’s not forget his ruination of another comic book superhero–Daredevil. In other words, he doesn’t have a good track record.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman caused some consternation, too. While the Israeli woman certainly has the exotic beauty for the part, she is more than lacking in the brawn department.

Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor made me scratch my head until it was way more free of hair–and therefore, more Luthor-ish–than Eisenberg’s ginger-locked noggin in the film. Heck, I thought, shave my head and I’d be a better pick. I’ve already got the name.

Then there are the minor, almost extra roles into which I will not delve at this time.

But, I am a man who can admit–ladies, prepare for a shock–when I am wrong.

Eisenberg does a phenomenal job of playing a psychopathic genius. Little mannerisms show he’s always just shy of snapping. And his locks, I feel, were more an homage to Gene Hackman’s curly do in the 1978 Richard Donner flick than they were a new take on the iconic villain.

Gadot, I admit, is no less buff than my childhood (and adulthood) crush Lynda Carter was when she played Wonder Woman.

And then there’s Ben Affleck…

Nope, still not happy about him. Although he doesn’t destroy the character with Schumacher-ian intent, he never truly carries the grim, brooding gravitas we love about Batman. Nevertheless–and it pains to me to admit this–Batman v Superman is not actually ruined by his inclusion.

In fact, the cutting, the rapid pace of the storytelling and the interest I had in these characters made me want the film to stretch a little longer…except for maybe the climactic battle. That was plenty long.

Director Zack Snyder’s shot choice bounced back and forth between beautifully balletic, as evinced in the opening credits, to face-scrunchingly confusing, as displayed in the Batmobile chase. With a project this massive and fan-dependent, one feels he didn’t give equal care to each scene. Certain sequences also feel disjointed and inexplicable to anyone but the most avid reader of the comics. Let’s face it, nobody likes missing part of the film in order to explain to their seatmates what that all meant…

…except maybe for the hidden Star Wars reference. The Stormtrooper Luke Skywalker masquerades as on the Death Star–or rather his number–makes an appearance. Try to find it, fellow nerds.

For the fan of outright action, the fight scenes are not only choreographed well, they are not repetitive. Each one has its own style and feel.

Feel is something that changes in the prologue as well. We are granted a different point of view on the climactic fight between Superman and Zod from Man of Steel. Perceived by Bruce Wayne and other bystanders, it becomes easier to understand the level of distrust the public begins to emote toward Superman. Witnessing the destruction and death from an earthbound perspective removes the romance and glamor from the extra-terrestrial character.

The true standout of the picture is the music. Composed by Hans Zimmer (Dark Knight Rises, Inception) and Dutch-born Junkie XL (Deadpool, Mad Max: Fury Road), the score is a steady mix of thematic grandeur. Superman’s theme makes the occasional resurgence, and Lex Luthor’s theme pounds with all the exuberance of a Wagnerian opera. The only disappointment comes in no recognizable new theme for the Dark Knight Detective.

An energetic and humanized super hero film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (I still hate the title) makes for a fun, action-packed night at the movies…even if it does star Ben Affleck.

Ammo Dump rating: 7 out of 10 batarangs

I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show every Friday afternoon at 4:10 pm. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on WJBC.com. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ALphaEXray.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Rated PG-13
Run time: 151 minutes

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