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Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice

Zack Snyder’s comics actioner is a clunky franchise-starter that you could probably just skip

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The short version is that Zack Snyder’s clunky Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice is not very good. I wish I could tell you it’s at least a decent popcorner featuring two of Earth’s most beloved comic-book characters. But its primary function is as franchise-starter, to set up a DC Comics cinematic universe to rival Marvel’s, and to ensure that every summer from now until 2050 will feature a variety of square-jawed men in spandex blowing each other up. A pointless roundelay where nobody ever really dies, and the same guys win — it’s like very, very big-budget pro wrestling. 

But I digress: The dispute between Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) picks up at the end of Snyder’s 2013 Man of Steel, when the caped red one and his foe, Zod, are battling furiously and — oops — destroying a bunch of inconsequential buildings filled with humans. One of the buildings belongs to Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, and he’s enraged that his employees are killed. (If like me, you’ve struggled to keep Gotham and Metropolis straight, the good news is these two cities now exist side by side, separated by water. Turns out it was Minneapolis and St. Paul all along!) 

But Batman has his own issues; he’s out at night branding people! This sets up the moral pondering that SvB is marginally, and only initially, interested in: Are these doers of justice actually a dangerous alien and an unchecked vigilante, respectively? It’s debated by Congress, by every living talking head on TV (Anderson Cooper takes a stand!) and by our villain, Lex Luthor Jr. (Jesse Eisenberg). And into this Snyder clumsily adds: Lois Lane (Amy Adams), on the beat in Africa; flash-forwards (I think) and dream sequences; and a sub-plot about a stray lump of Kryptonite.

The much ballyhooed brawl between our titular men is rather dull — and honestly what’s the point? Everybody knows these two good guys are gonna get together 20 minutes later to fight this film’s real bad guy (here, a giant angry glowing blob), plus make about a dozen movies together. Rather than yet another CGI-intensive, set-crushing fist fight, Snyder should have staged a pose-off, or a lip-sync battle.

Snyder has publicly requested early viewers not give away any of the film’s “surprises,” but nearly every moment of SvB was predictable. (True, I did not anticipate the scene of a grim, shirtless Batman engaging in some low-budget home-gym training; I gotta get one of those giant tires for my basement.) I feel if you were otherwise busy, you could just skip this film and head straight for the hopefully better-focused dozen or so more heading down the pike with the surety of a speeding bullet.


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