DC Comics' titans face off!

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, Scoot McNairy, Jason Momoa, Lauren Cohan

It's a simplistic plot, but one that should suffice for an action romp. Snyder doesn't do romps though, and this is the most humourless and dialogue heavy superhero movie we've yet seen. I feel sorry for any kids who watch this - they may as well sit through All the President's Men for all the fun they'll have.

When it comes to tent-pole cinema, contemporary Hollywood is all about franchise building. This has created an unenviable task for screenwriters, as they attempt to untangle the many knots created in the previous installment, while simultaneously creating their own knots, which then must be once again untangled by subsequent writers. Nowhere is this more evident than this sequel to the much derided Man of Steel.

You'll recall at the end of that movie how Superman (Henry Cavill) acted bizarrely out of character, slaughtering thousands of Metropolitans by levelling skyscrapers in a fit of narcissistic rage directed at General Zod. With so many critics understandably bringing up this gross inconsistency, Zack Snyder and his writers faced the monumental task of dealing with this in any sequel. But they really haven't. Superman here has understandably become the arch enemy of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) but not the general populace of Metropolis, who have oddly erected a monument to the Man of Steel, right beside a wall of remembrance (which features merely a fraction of the amount of names that should really be on that wall given the scale of damage). Ever the opportunist, Lex Luthor (a highly annoying Jesse Eisenberg) sees this animosity as a way of getting rid of Supes, though the film never bothers making it clear why he actually wants Superman removed.

It's a simplistic plot, but one that should suffice for an action romp. Snyder doesn't do romps though, and this is the most humourless and dialogue heavy superhero movie we've yet seen. I feel sorry for any kids who watch this - they may as well sit through All the President's Men for all the fun they'll have. Like most of these movies, the first two acts consist of an awkward mix of addressing previous installments and preparing for future sequels. Then in the final act we have the obligatory wrestling match with a giant CG villain, set here against an innocuous backdrop that looks a lot like the one we saw in last year's Fantastic Four, a movie that now seems like a relative resounding success compared to this. Superman is unrecognisable as America's great pop culture icon here, a moapy git who seems to take sadistic pleasure in punching his enemies through walls, and his heroic activities are largely kept offscreen. If the traditional Superman was an American GI rolling into Paris in 1944, this version is a guard at Abu Ghraib in 2003.

For a movie that tries so hard to be sombre in its sub-Fincheresque tone, there's an awful lot of silliness at play, and some bewildering inconsistencies. Why does Bruce Wayne use his Batman voice when talking to his butler Alfred (an easy paycheck for Jeremy Irons), who already knows his identity? A major plot point relies on Bruce Wayne's love for his slain mother (Lauren Cohan), but if he loves her so much, why is her tomb left in such a state of disrepair? In a reverse Anomalisa scenario, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is literally the only person in this world who can clearly see that Clark Kent is obviously Superman; not even Bruce Wayne, who has spent the past 18 months stalking the son of Krypton can connect the dots with Kent stood right in front of him!

The narrative is painfully obvious, checking off a list of superhero tropes/clich├ęs, and its plot beats are all too easy to predict. At one point Snyder gives us a set-piece that's immediately identifiable as a dream sequence (particularly for anyone familiar with An American Werewolf in London), yet drags it on for a ridiculous amount of time. What's really damning is how it's the movie's most exciting moment, a rare glimpse of drunken madness in an otherwise stone cold sober movie. At least we're not forced to endure another protracted origin story, with Bruce Wayne's childhood trauma dispensed with in the opening credits. Say what you will about Snyder, but he knows how to put together a credits sequence; if his movies all ended after their title sequences, he'd be one of our most exciting filmmakers.

The offensive and endless trend of evoking 9/11 imagery in blockbuster cinema hits new lows here, with an office worker seen making a farewell phone call before his skyscraper collapses in the rerun of Man of Steel's climax, covering those below in an all too familiar cloud of dust. Later on there's a suicide bombing, made all the more problematic by the ethnicity of its perpetrator. As I'm writing this, Europe's de facto capital has been devastated by all too similar atrocities; do we really need to see such horrific real life events acted out on screen in our comic book movies?
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