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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ••

Batman_v_Superman_posterStarring: Ben AffleckHenry CavillAmy Adams
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenplay: Chris TerrioDavid S. Goyer
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 151 minutes
Release Date: March 25, 2016


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It’s the battle of the century. Batman v Superman – are you team Clark or Bruce?

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

I’m rather partial to Alfred and Lois, actually. Let’s recap.

During the battle between Superman and General Zod (see Man of Steel), Bruce Wayne was in Metropolis. His employees were in the buildings that were devastated by the damage incurred by super beings fighting in the skies above. Bruce (aka Batman) is deeply disturbed by the danger that Superman has brought to the planet. He feels Superman is more of a liability than an asset. He makes it his goal to destroy Superman.

Meanwhile, Superman is also becoming unhappy with Batman, whom Clark Kent sees as more of a villain than a hero. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) steps in to take advantage of the rift between the two superheroes. Luthor retrieves a weapon containing Kryptonite from the bottom of the Indian Ocean. While attending Luthor’s party Bruce Wayne meets Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), who manages to steal information from Wayne that Wayne stole from Luthor. Soon it becomes clear that Batman and Superman must have a showdown, and that such a fight can only work to Luthor’s advantage.

BvS Is a totally mixed bag of nuts. The plot meanders from Superman’s love interest, to Batman’s angst, to Superman’s nightmares, then Batman’s nightmares, to Lex Luthor’s manic obsession with killing both Superman and Batman (for reasons never made clear). And Wonder Woman thrown into the mix just because. We’re witness to Superman’s keen instincts to Lois being in danger and Lois appearing in places just as Superman needs her. There is no logic or internal consistency to this story, just scene after scene of special effects knit together by bits of dialog that make no sense.

Greg, I had problems with the entire premise of the movie, namely, that Batman and Superman could be duped into disliking each other. We recently reviewed the movie Allegient in which I noted the discontinuity of a genius hero such as Tris being easily fooled by the villain. In BvS, we have not one but two superior beings who show a silly misjudgment of each other. It’s as if some higher-up in the movie industry was inspired by King Kong vs. Godzilla and thought two legendary heroes fighting it out would be brilliant. It isn’t.

We’ve now reviewed three movies in a row in which there is no hero transformation. This pattern is unfortunate, but perhaps it is no coincidence that these are March releases and not Oscar season releases. The other two recent non-transformative movies were Allegiant and London Has Fallen. One could argue that Batman and Superman were transformed in their opinions of each other, with each of them realizing at the movie’s conclusion that the other wasn’t such a bad guy after all. For me, that hardly qualifies as a transformation. It’s more a statement of the obvious, and we didn’t need two and a half hours to figure out that both superheroes are super-heroic and really deserved a better movie than this.

You’re right, Scott. There is no logic to this movie. Apparently Batman becomes best buddies with Superman when the Man of Steel begs the Caped Crusader to save “Martha.” What a coincidence that both men have “Martha” for a mother’s name. It’s a ridiculous plot point and is only one of many in the film. As you point out, neither hero is transformed. And this is the case with many episodic heroes. We don’t look for a change in their character because that means they will be different in the next incarnation and we need Batman to be angst-ridden and we need Superman to feel alienated.

As for mentors, there really are none here. Alfred acts more as an engineer, building suits and toys to Bruce’s specifications. And Lois Lane is the constant damsel in distress. Clark’s mother offers some advice and a ghost/dream/imaginary visit from Clark’s father also offers some guidance. But otherwise, it’s a mentorless journey. Pretty dull stuff, really.

Yes, we’re treated to a lot of cool CGI effects and some terrific fight scenes. You can tell that the movie knows it is lacking substance when it becomes what we call a cluster-truck. Only substitute the word truck for a word that rhymes with it. When the big green monster makes an appearance at the film’s end, I was not only looking at my watch, I was actively rooting for time to speed ahead faster than a speeding bullet. We needed this movie to end about 30 minutes before it actually did.

And you’re correct about the vapidness of the hero’s journey, and about the mentors to our heroes being largely absent. I do need to mention one positive to this movie, and that is the performance of Jesse Eisenberg in the role of Lex Luthor. I remember admiring the potential for evil in Eisenberg in his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Now we see Eisenberg’s unsurpassed ability to play a quirky, humorous evil genius who is more than a match for not one but two legendary superheroes. It’s fun to watch.

I won’t drag this review out any further. There’s virtually nothing good in this film. I thought Lex Luthor lacked any sense or motivation. There’s an attempt to foreshadow other Justice League characters besides Wonder Woman. I think that the DC Comics execs have seen the success of the Marvel Studios movies and felt the need to catch up – so they dumped everything into one movie and it is just superhero stew. It needs salt. I give Batman v Superman just 2 Reels out of 5.

We’ve already discussed the deficiencies with the heroes here. We have a certain common thread in that the heroes are orphans but one got over his loss and the other didn’t. There’s no transformation and a very strange buddy friendship in the end. I can’t muster more than 2 Heroes out of 5.

And there were no mentors. None. So I award 0 Mentors.

 Movie: reel-2 Mentor: Zero_Skateboards_Skull_Logo Heroes: h-logo-2

Batman v Superman is based on the gimmicky idea that two super-smart heroes would make the super-dumb mistake of believing the other to be a villain. It’s a faulty premise, and the mistake is compounded by the movie’s poor execution that relies on weird things going on like the appearance of Wonder Woman and a big green monster. Also, any movie that kills superman twice, and is twice wrong (of course) is lacking in creativity and stretching the bounds of credibility. I can only award this film 2 Reels out of 5.

We’ve both pounded home the point that there is no hero’s journey, no hero’s transformation, and no point in watching, unless of course we like big green monsters. You’re right that this movie follows the pattern of a buddy hero story. We have two men who dislike each other but are forever bonded together because their mothers happen to share the same name. Good grief. I can only award a rating of 1 Hero out of 5.

I suspect that Alfred was a mentor to Bruce Wayne, although you are correct that his mentorship was limited at best. One could say that these two superheroes are guided by super-codes of super-conduct. So while there may be a dearth of actual living heroes, there are implicit codes by which they live their heroic lives. Still, there’s not much mentorship going on here, so I can only muster a rating of 1 Mentor out of 5.

Movie: reel-2 Mentor: mentor1 Heroes: h-logo-1

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