Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA, 2016. Warner Bros., Atlas Entertainment, Cruel & Unusual Films, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, RatPac-Dune Entertainment. Screenplay by Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer, based on Batman created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Superman created by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster. Cinematography by Larry Fong. Produced by Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder. Music by Junkie XL, Hans Zimmer. Production Design by Patrick Tatopoulos. Costume Design by Michael Wilkinson. Film Editing by David Brenner.
The inability to keep Superman in check makes a number of people nervous, including a skeptical senator (a perfectly game Holly Hunter) and a fellow superhero from a neighbouring town named Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Nearly two years after a battle in Metropolis practically destroyed the city, Superman (Henry Cavill) is dubiously popular with the general public and the very example of excessive authority for Batman, whose vigilante tactics are equally controversial in Gotham City. Sniveling bad guy Lex Luthor (a terribly overwrought Jesse Eisenberg) is preparing to cause mayhem and the fact that these guys aren’t getting along means it’s going to be worse before it gets better. Meanwhile, reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) tries to help but mainly just gets in trouble to show everyone how cool her boyfriend is, and a mysterious woman (Gal Gadot, who is marvelous) is on the periphery for much of the story until her grand reveal in the finale.
The middling box office and critical response to this entry in the endless line of superhero movies has unfairly labeled it a bomb, it has enough fun action and nifty production design to keep you engaged, but it does have its enormous drawbacks. Unnecessarily dull characterizations are in great supply, as Affleck spends the entire film with a stick up his ass (enough with the parents, we get it!) and Cavill always looks like he’s worried that he left the oven on (you’re dating Amy Adams, for God’s sake, SMILE). It’s a shame that the story takes itself so seriously, a two and a half hour running time far too long a period to spend without comic relief (the best laugh actually comes from Diane Lane as Superman’s mother, likely because Eisenberg’s overly calculated performance is irritating in every instance that it is trying to be funny, and nice wig, by the way) and a weak, messy ending reminiscent of the parts of Alien: Resurrection doesn’t help much.
The biggest problem with this film, though, is that its central conceit is not justified enough: the idea is to get these two titans of popular culture to be Versus each other but the reason for it is weak and disassembled far too easily. Despite having devoured all other box office possibilities in the second decade of the twenty-first century, superhero films are not just for technology junkies and comic book nerds, they are, when done well, imaginative expressions of both physical and political idealism that benefit greatly from strong personalities and creative storytelling; here a devoted, loyal audience is treated as an easy mark to sell tickets and popcorn to and I don’t blame anyone who walks away feeling insulted by it. If your expectations aren’t too high, though, you’ll be surprised at how watchable it is.