Sunday, March 27, 2016

In Theatres: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

It is one of the oldest tropes in comics. Two heroes meet for the first time, and, under curious circumstances, fight until they realize they've been manipulated by a third party with an agenda.

In a nutshell, that's what "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" comes down to. The Man of Steel (Henry Cavill), dealing with a distrusting public and government, is pulled into a battle with the Dark Knight (Ben Affleck), who has begun resorting to branding his defeated foes. Something that is SO NOT BATMAN.

At the center of it all is Alexander "Lex" Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), wealthy industrialist, scientist, geek, and sociopath all rolled into one. If you were expecting Lex to be in finely tailored suits throughout the movie, you're going to be badly disappointed. This Lex is a nerd who prefers dress casual. The bit about being abused by his father? Borrowed from Smallville, one would imagine. Unfortunately, Lex's mindset is more along the lines of the writers merging him with the Joker, and Eisenberg doesn't totally sell it so well. And since the Clown Prince of Crime is busy elsewhere, as you'll see this summer, using Lex as a surrogate just fails. Color me unimpressed.

I'm told there is a R-rated cut that will be available on DVD later this year. You'll need that if you really need to see Lois Lane (Amy Adams) totally in the buff. That whole bit where Clark Kent joins her, fully clothed, mind you, in the bathtub early on is one of the cuter bits of the movie.

And, then, there is Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). In the mind of director Zack Snyder and co-author David Goyer, among others, Princess Diana of the Amazons is seemingly immortal, and has been around at least 100 years, as Bruce Wayne uncovers a picture of Diana dating back to 1918. Of course, Wonder Woman has actually been with us since the Golden Age, but that's neither here nor there at this point. Funny how William Moulton Marston, Diana's creator, wasn't given credit, unlike Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster (Superman) and Bob Kane & Bill Finger (Batman). Hmmmmm. We also get glimpses of The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa), setting up next year's "Justice League, Part 1". The scenes with Diana & Bruce hint at something down the road that might be a call-back to fans of the Justice League cartoons from a decade ago.

Where "Dawn of Justice" ultimately missteps is using one too many false climaxes to set up the last one. I won't spoil it for you, but suffice it to say, if you're a long time comics fan, you'll remember it, because WB has adapted it before. Luthor finally loses his hair, but it's shaved off in prison. Don't ask why. I wasn't down with the clownish, curly look that makes Lex look like the younger brother of the Wendy's babe.

I won't list all the trailers. Suffice to say, they include:

"Warcraft" (June): Based on the video game series.
"Suicide Squad" (August): Jared Leto as the Joker. Plus, Will Smith, Viola Davis, and Margot Robbie. I'll be up front. I'm not digging the grills on the Joker's teeth. That is SO NOT THE JOKER!

"Central Intelligence": Kevin Hart, after 2 "Ride Along" movies with Ice Cube, now tries to get the rub from the people's movie star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

"X-Men: Apocalypse" (May 27): Last chance to see Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2" (April). The Heroes in a 1/2-Shell are back. The human supporting cast includes Megan Fox, Fred Armisen (Portlandia, ex-Saturday Night Live), Stephen Amell (Arrow), and WWE superstar Sheamus (credited under his real name, Stephen Fennelly, from what I'm told). From director Michael Bay, so expect more explosions than actually necessary.

"Ghostbusters": Ivan Reitman's 80's franchise is getting a distaff makeover, fronted by Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), who will be in theatres in "The Boss" in about a week or two.

And, now, a sample of "Dawn of Justice":

Affleck was fine, Jeremy Irons was sublime as Alfred. You know Superman will return, along with the others, which made the final climax a little bit of overkill. While the money's rolling in already, and it will turn a profit, DC/WB needs to figure out a better way to convey their overall stories so it doesn't tax the fans' collective psyche.

Rating: B+.

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