Batman and Superman face to faceWhen Superman reboot Man of Steel landed with a crashing thud in 2013, more than one viewer noted that the mayhem of the final battle in Metropolis had reached some kind of absurd, skyscraper-toppling peak. When DC Comics’s corporate overlord Warner Bros. decided to double down on director Zack Snyder and writer David S. Goyer for Man of Steel sequel / Justice League kickoff / bad title Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, even more mayhem seemed inevitable. Then the publicity started to come out. Superman called to the U.S. Capitol to explain himself? A 9/11-esque memorial in Metropolis? Imagery cribbed straight from Frank Miller’s classic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns? Things had suddenly gotten a little interesting. Was the destruction at the end of Man of Steel intentionally over the top, carnage with a cause? Could there be more here than an attempt to replicate Marvel Studios‘ Avengers success?

The story opens with the public divided on Superman (Henry Cavill) after the aforementioned battle in Metropolis. In one of the script’s many, many time jumps, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), a.k.a. Batman, watches a Wayne skyscraper added to the fight’s tally. Along with another flashback of what feels like the 52nd film adaptation of the deaths of Bat-parents Thomas and Martha Wayne, Batman comes down on the side of those opposed to Superman and the potential danger he poses to humanity. (As a complete aside, no one associated with this movie must have seen the The Trip to Italy bit on The Dark Knight Rises, which should have closed the door on further Wayne death filmings.) Add a young Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, basically reprising Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network) manipulating events, and the stage is set for, um, more mayhem.

Batman v Superman posterHollywood’s cynical calculus has strict rules, and a studio movie with a budget north of $250M intended to launch a double-digit entry franchise will not be allowed to take any risks, least of all the kind that result in art or even simple commentary. As a direct result, Batman v Superman is the kind of atrocious blockbuster we get far too often, an incoherent jumble of clumsy exposition, silly dialogue, and dream sequences. It is worse than the pre-release buzz, a film that bounces about randomly, its only interesting bits stolen from superior comic tales. The aforementioned Frank Miller vibe is a bad tonal decision for a movie supposedly about heroes coming together. There is no justice dawning here, only a bleak, endless night.

Ultimately, these kind of films get made because the genre fans (of which I am a card-carrying member) reliably buy tickets. The writing was on the wall here given the creative team, including both crew and cast. No one involved comes out looking very good, nor arguably should they. The ongoing attempt by more than one studio to launch a combined Marvel-like “universe” is sure to result in more Batman v Superman‘s. Ticket buyer beware.

UGeek Rating: 2/10