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Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Amy Adams as Lois Lane.
Superhero movies are supposed to be fun: stories of danger, yes, but also stories of adventure whose characters represent our desire to be someone better, someone that can change the world and receive the adulation of the crowd. But if being a superhero requires the ordeal that Superman endures or the certifiable insanity that clearly afflicts Batman, I’ll pass. And that is where the fault of Batman v. Superman lies: neither of our two lead characters are inspiring. One is basically a god who can’t get people to like him and the other irrationally believes the former is a threat to humanity despite his actions to defeat the villain Zod.
At the beginning of the film, Batman is still fighting crime, torturing bad guys, remembering his dead parents, refusing to visit a shrink. Things don’t look so rosy for Superman either. After an incident in Africa, many believe him to be a threat to humanity including U.S. Senator June Finch, young businessman Lex Luthor, and Batman. In a twisting plot, Lex Luthor and Batman develop separate plans to end Superman who continues working as journalist Clark Kent. Meanwhile, Senator Finch pushes for more accountability from Superman. These events ultimately lead to a violent clash between Batman and Superman, the appearance of Wonder Woman, and the creation of an abominable creature by Lex Luthor that threatens the Earth once again.
Batman vs. Superman’s potential is unbelievable. Who doesn’t want to see two of America’s greatest superheroes go head to head? But it falls short of its potential for several reasons. To begin, the mood of the film is oppressively dark: a dearth of humor, low key lighting, and a muted color palette suck any joy from the experience. The plot is also twisting and confusing, a medley of flashbacks, dreams, and multiple perspectives that fail to form a cohesive story. But most importantly, Superman and Batman do not inspire us. Batman is an obsessive, traumatized, and violent quasi-sociopath. Although Batman has always been a dark figure, the Batman of the Christopher Nolan films was a rational and principled superhero with some restraints on his “ends justify the means” philosophy. This Batman is willing to kill in cold blood and serve as judge, jury, and executioner. Superman, on the other hand, is impotent in the face of a bomb and unable to demonstrate that he poses no danger to society. Both are far from admirable figures and rob this superhero film of what should make it great.
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