Sunday, July 17, 2016

Video review: "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"

I remember when it was first announced a couple of years ago that Ben Affleck would play Batman in the epic throwdown between him and Superman, the fanboys lit up the Web with their ire. Turns out he’s the best thing about “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Indeed, he’s just about the only good thing.

The D.C. Comics folks, poring over the box office grosses of the last 15 years of Marvel movies, were desperate to get their super heroes back into flicks. Really, this film is the set-up to a bunch of Justice League and solo hero movies they have planned. That’s great, but they were in too much of a hurry to get the ball rolling that they don’t properly set up this universe.

“BvS” feels like it’s in too much of a hurry, even at 2½ hours.

The premise is that Batman/Bruce Wayne is enraged over the thousands of people killed during Superman’s fight with General Zod (as chronicled in “Man of Steel”) -- including some of his own employees -- and comes to view the boy in blue as too much of a threat to have around. Of course, he’s also being manipulated by Lex Luthor, here presented as a conniving boy billionaire played by Jesse Eisenberg, who knows of such things. Imagine his Mark Zuckerberg from “The Social Network” but (slightly) more malevolent.

Soon enough the boys are at each other’s throats. It’s a fight that by any reckoning should last two seconds or less, as Superman is an immortal demi-god with laser eyes and Batman is just a regular guy with determination and a good tailor. Director Zach Snyder and scriptmen Chris Terrio David S. Goyer labor to make their combat believable.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as loyal Wayne butler Alfred and Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor Perry White are all pretty well wasted, showing up to move the plot along as needed and then disappearing for long stretches. The razzle-dazzle introduction of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is a high point; I look forward to her having her own film.

If it weren’t for Affleck, I’d call the movie a total disaster.

He’s brooding and self-doubting and tragic. He shows us a Batman who’s aging and losing faith, so we understand when he lashes out with anger. Frankly, I’ll take Affleck over Christian Bale, Michael Keaton or any other actor who’s worn the pointy ears.

So call it just a partial disaster.

Bonus features are pretty meaty. Although there’s no commentary track, there are 11 making-of featurettes: “Uniting the World’s Finest,” “Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants,” “The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder,” “Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile,” “Superman: Complexity & Truth,” “Batman: Austerity & Rage,” “Wonder Woman: Grace & Power,” “Batcave: Legacy of the Lair,” “The Might and the Power of a Punch,” “The Empire of Luthor” and “Save the Bats.”

In addition to the usual versions on DVD, Blu-ray and 3D, there’s an “Ultimate Edition” – also available via digital retailers -- that contains about 30 minutes of new footage.



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