‘Batman/Superman’ Is Interesting, But Flawed


I found Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice interesting but flawed. Why would two good guys fight? Not to mention that Superman could almost certainly easily wipe the floor with Batman. One is a hero, but the other a superhero. Well, there is an attempt to answer that, and it almost makes sense. And, of course, kryptonite plays a major role in evening the odds.

The idea behind all of this is that at the end of the last Superman film, Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder, the current one’s director and driving force, Superman saves the Earth from General Zod, but more than a bit of damage is done. There are a lot of people who fear Superman’s power, as many die or are hurt. The argument behind this brilliant idea is simply enunciated by Lex Luthor, here portrayed as a major business leader by Jesse Eisenberg: “He has the power to wipe out the human race. And if we think that there’s even a one percent chance that he’s our enemy, we have to treat it as an absolute certainty.”

That, of course, sounds just about like some of our more hysterical foreign policy makers. That is the kind of a mess that runs through the movie. Superman (Henry Cavill) is clearly a good guy. Things may get messy as he works to save the planet, but he is clearly a good guy. And, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) is also a good guy. But from the start, the two do not get along.

Luthor sets up a complex plot using corrupt politicians whose ridiculous statements are enhanced by real-life CNN reporters expert in pumping mildly interesting news into new crises. First, the media go after both men as vigilantes, in the case of Batman crying over the damage done to the thugs he brings in for arrest. And Superman is blamed for an explosion at a hearing he attends. And then the two have to battle each other, and when that is finished, there is an even bigger villain to battle.

At one point, it is clear that Batman actually wants to kill the other superhero, and, without a rather far-fetched intervention, might have. And, of course, based on all previous DC Comics mythology, that is crazy. After all, he went out of his way to capture, not kill, his usual villains. Batman, as human, is more interesting, and has been portrayed as more complex in most films, particularly the recent Christopher Nolan ones. Superman/Clark Kent is too powerful and essentially indestructible to be truly interesting.

Affleck is just about the only performer really allowed to perform, but his character is so petulant at times, so unlike Batman, that the outfit became necessary to identify him. There seems far too little point to the role. There is no subtlety at all. Affleck should stick to directing; he does that very well.

Cavill, or perhaps just his part, is mostly boring unless he is reacting nicely with Lois Lane (Amy Adams). As Kent he is warm and winning; Superman is emotionless. Gal Gadot, playing Diana Prince, almost stole the movie at the end when she put on the Wonder Woman outfit just because, well, she looked great in it. There will, of course, be a Wonder Woman movie next year.

One of the problems in doing a movie with many well-known actors is that some get cameos with not much at all to do. Lois Lane has only two roles: loving Superman and getting kidnapped so he can rescue her. She does a nice job, helping her superhero be more of an interesting character, and actually does help in all the fighting. Jeremy Irons is quietly effective as the butler. Eisenberg plays Superman’s greatest, or at least longest-lasting, enemy more as a silly nut than as a real danger.

Just about all the other actors are wasted. They are all talented and have demonstrated that clearly elsewhere. But DC Comics wants to have a Justice League film series that matches up to Marvel Comics’ Avengers. And so they have pushed into a film that could use a far better script.

This is a reasonably decent movie, although it has huge plot holes. The people who see the film are only doing it because of the big names of the lead characters. But March is a good time to see a movie like this: well ahead of the big summer films.