By Mark Saldana

 Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars) 

Warner Bros. Pictures and director Zack Snyder have attempted to do with one film that Marvel Studios has done with several and the results are neither exceptional nor horrendous.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice not only serves as a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, but also lays the framework for a DC cinematic universe.  The film is slightly long, but nevertheless entertaining.  Fans of DC Comics will either love or hate this film, but, I get the feeling that the more casual fans, or movie goers less familiar with the comic book stories, might get bored or confused with the more subtle references and nods to the comics.

In the aftermath of the destruction caused by General Zod’s attack in the first film, Superman (Henry Cavill) may have his fans, but he also has made some adversaries wary of the tremendous powers he has.  Billionaire Bruce Wayne, who also happens to moonlight as Gotham City’s vigilante Batman, is one such adversary who witnesses first- hand the collateral damage caused by Superman and Zod’s battle royale.  A man who uses fear against those who prey on the fearful, Batman is very afraid of Superman.  His mistrust of this strange visitor for another galaxy drives him to the point where he feels he has no choice, but to stop him.  Meanwhile, another, less altruistic billionaire named Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has these same exact fears.  However, Luthor has some ulterior motives behind his desire to either control or eliminate Superman.

Overall, I enjoyed this film, but do have a few problems with it.  On the positive side, I absolutely loved this more mature and darker incarnation of Bruce Wayne/Batman.  The development of his character here is great, walking that very fine line between hero and villain.  Writers Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer and director Zack Snyder present a version of the Dark Knight that most closely mimics the character on the pages of DC Comics.   The obvious inspiration comes from Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns where Batman dons a special suit of armor to battle the Man of Steel.

Speaking of Superman, the development of his story does make perfect sense in a more grounded movie reality.  The movie examines the implications of the existence of an alien being who has seemingly unlimited power and the mixed responses of the people of the world.  Fear of such power seems to be the dominant theme, but also the desire to control or exploit that power plays a big part.  That’s where Lex Luthor comes in.

This brings me to my main annoyance with the film.  This is neither the Lex Luthor of the comics, nor is it the farcical version as portrayed by Gene Hackman in previous movies.  This version of Lex Luthor is something completely different and feels more akin to a hybrid of the Joker and Riddler.  During the film, I grew increasingly irritated with Jesse Eisenberg’s performance of the character which comes across as a manic, hyper-caffeinated man-child.

On the other hand, the rest of the cast delivers solid work, particularly Ben Affleck who proves all of the nay-sayers wrong by performing superbly as Batman.  He and actor Jeremy Irons, who portrays butler/assistant Alfred Pennyworth, have some awesome scenes together and share a palpable chemistry.  Henry Cavill returns as Clark Kent/Superman and performs well.  As for Gal Gadot, who plays Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, she offers a solid turn, but her role in the film serves only to expand the DC movie universe beyond the Bat and last son of Krypton.

To add more to this already full movie, Snyder and his writers introduce the Amazonian Princess, who will have her own movie next year.  Her presence is fun, but serves little purpose within the conflict between Batman and Superman.  Snyder also very subtly introduces other heroes from DC, but thankfully, these moments do not take much time. As it is, this movie has so much going on that any more subplots would have led to an even more bloated movie.

So even though the action is fun and thrilling, and the character development of the two leads is great, the movie honestly has a bit too much going on for its own good.  Warner Bros., Snyder, and the writers should have taken the time to develop more DC Universe films instead of putting their eggs and Easter eggs in few baskets.  I realize that they are trying to play catch-up with their competitors at Marvel, but Marvel is already ahead of the curve when it comes to a cinematic universe.

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