Sunday, March 27, 2016

#JustaQuickiePlease: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

     In all honesty, and to allow for total transparency, I went into this hating almost every aspect of this much-anticipated meeting between two comic juggernauts.  The trailers were disappointing, casting frustrating, and the preceding Man of Steel was one of the worst films comic or otherwise; nearly reaching a point of pure blasphemy when it comes to disrespecting such an iconic character.   So with that said, the highest expectation I had was below none.  However, by credits end, I was left in a precarious dilemma as defining this newest installment was not an easy task, by any measure.  All one can do is compare it to past DC silver screen incarnations and to the current scope and sweep of films of this genre.  To merely critique it based on film basics is unfair, as rarely does any production of this genus color within the cinematic guidelines.   So, I will try to break it down as best as I can, delicately separating the high points from the unforgiveables.  Please prepare for mild spoilers as there is no way to adequately analyze this picture without revealing some key plot points and character details.

     We will begin with the cast.  To start off, and I can't believe that I am saying this, but Affleck is a pretty terrific Bruce Wayne.  He embodies the fullness of Frank Miller's grimmer, coarse, and oft-brutal manifestation, grizzled by loss and a perpetual battle against crime and corruption.  There are hints to the tragedies that have shaped this more violent, dejected, and cynical Caped Crusader and Ben wholly fleshes that out, all the while, maintaining the charm and humanity of the character.   But that is outside of the cowl and cape.  The costuming is so laughable that it severely damages his remarkable performance.  His mask is too tight, making every facial expression look like fatigue from chronic constipation.  The remaining ensemble is so drab and uninspired, it steals away all the edge and ferociousness of the tortured vigilante.  It's hard to be the embodiment of fear when you look like you are wearing a caped onesie.   Now, I give points to his latter battle armor, but it's far too little too late.

     Eisenberg's Mad Hatter version of Luthor is a mixed bag of accolades and irritations.  He brings a gradual lunacy to the character which some have objected to.  However, lest we not forget; Hackman also gave us a tongue and cheek Lex, who almost parodied himself with antics bordering on pure slapstick.  So, to get all uppity about how this infamous villain should be portrayed is a bit hypocritical.  Let's face it; his screen adaptions have never been faithful to the source.   But Jesse, whether or intended or not, eventually takes it too far, trying to channel a little too much of Ledger in his performance.  Remember, this is supposed to be a darker, more realistic version of these DC denizens, so his over the top, almost manic embodiment seems misplaced and cartoonish. 

     Cavill's Superman is as stale and disingenuous as ever.  It is no help to him that Snyder's rebooting of such a legendary figure failed so miserably.  Zach never establishes the Son of Krypton as a true hero, instead, miring him in reluctance and uncertainty compounded with an astounding amount of collateral damage; impossible to rationalize, even for the most devout fan.  There is no empathy available for the hero who once represented light and hope.  Again, that is half Snyder's inadequacy and half Cavill's acting impotence.   Neither actually grasps the essence of the character, and it is deeply felt.  Simply adding in gap filler heroics to somehow define a legacy of nobility just doesn't cut it and, in the end, he represents all the worst about us instead of inspiring us to be more than our best.  You just don't care about Superman, and that is by Snyder's design, whether purposeful or accidental. 

     Gadot's Wonder Woman is as exciting as watching paint dry in cold weather.  Even her fight scenes seem forced and overbearing.  Her presence feels like happenstance instead of purposeful with acting that only ensures that.  It doesn't give me any hope for her solo feature.

     Adam's is so miscast as Lois that it is nearly comical.  There is zero chemistry between her and Cavill or any other cast member, for that matter.  She is mechanical, cold, and downright boring.  A solid actress in most other films she has starred in; but this series has quickly become her dramatic Kryptonite.  Whether that is due to an imperfect script or just a resistance to the role, her ineffectiveness is apparent in every scene.

     With the main cast out of the way, let's focus on the scope and story.  This is undeniably a Zack Snyder movie, with all of the gimmicks and staples that his audience has come to know and for me to regret.  Unnecessary and overused slow motion techniques (watching spent shells fall to the ground at one-fourth speed really doesn't do anything for me anymore), chaotic violence that is so heavily CGI'd that it becomes nothing more than a noisy blur, and abrupt editing that, instead of moving between scenes fluidly and seamlessly, makes them feel disconnected and disjointed.  Although, I will admit, the final combat scene between Batman and Martha's captors is striking and savagely artistic and the battle between the Dark Knight and Son of Krypton is also fairly well done.  However, the Doomsday conflict, by film's end, just becomes one big effects mess. 

     The script is overtly convoluted and bloated, almost silly at points.   It is obvious he tried too hard to set up the upcoming Justice League sequels; so much so, it dilutes the key scenes meant to do just that.  There are too many incoherent dream sequences that invade and perplex rather than engage and enhance baring one, that again, is an abruptly inserted precursor to Snyder's upcoming "team up."  The allegorical aspect gets lost quickly as the tale turns from introspective examination of what these types of entities represent in a broken world to an abstract anti-religion manifesto.

   Even more disturbing is the fact that this is supposed to be hero movie, when in fact, it's hard to determine whether any of these individuals truly are.  The mood and scope becomes too dark and any optimism seems, at best, poorly fabricated among the purposeful murk.   It's hard to find any sympathy or encouragement with a Batman who is more a version of a reckless, purposeless Punisher than Dark Night and a Wonder Woman who has zero substance due to a blatantly inferior development.   Whether Freudian slip or not, it feels like Snyder has a great deal of animosity towards these characters' rich heritages and that creeps into every aspect of his story-telling and their evolution.  By the time we get to it, even the reasoning for the two primary heroes’ dispute is ridiculous, bordering on being outright juvenile.

    Finally, the obvious forced addition of Doomsday is mindnumbingly contrite and nonsensical. Snyder had zero respect for canon or continuity before, but now suddenly wants to manipulate several major story parts into one movie without caring if the puzzle pieces fit together, let alone create a coherent, decipherable picture. This flick is an undeniable testament as to what happens when you attempt to build such a legacy without the time and care required to do so; as Marvel has so successfully done with their mythology. 

     In conclusion, this is an example of cinematic gluttony; where the audience leaves the table bloated instead of satiated.  You would think in three hours you could tell a quality story. You would think.  Instead, we have an excessively long and drawn out mediocre version of DC's Injustice: God's Among Us with some nods to critical story arches ludicrously mashed together in one mess of a motion picture.  With that said, as far as DC fare goes, this is by far the best among the worst, and I am not entirely sure that is a compliment.  

2 out of 5 Kernels: Zach Snyder; taking the fun out of your childhood since 2005.  In the tone of King 

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