Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is less a movie and more an advertisement for the extended universe it represents. The 2016 picture represents the way of things in the superhero realm, where each film is a link in the chain and a preview for the next coming attraction.
In this case, said preview is a drawn-out piece of annihilation occasionally interrupted by spurts of plain philosophy and exposition. There are few moments of humanity and most involve a third superhero, who is getting her own outing next year.
This movie finds Superman (Henry Cavill) a controversial figure after the battle with General Zod took out a chunk of Metropolis. Batman (Ben Affleck) thinks that Superman might be a threat. Superman’s bespectacled alter-ego Clark Kent uses his post at the Daily Planet to shed some light on Gotham City’s caped conqueror.
Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) starts working with Russian traffickers and wants to import kryptonite left behind by General Zod. The mogul tries to press Batman into battle with Superman, plus he’s been investigating so-called metahumans like Diana Prince (Gal Gadot). Everything comes to a head when Luthor kidnaps Superman’s mom (Diane Lane).
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the sequel to Snyder’s Man of Steel and therefore begins with what could be seen as an apologia for the conclusion of that 2013 flick. He shows the action from ground level, with Affleck’s Wayne zooming through the city to remind the audience that there are and were people in them there buildings.
This suggests self-analysis, but it’s fleeting because Batman v Superman takes wanton ruin to new levels. The action is so embellished and mindless it makes the boss-level sequences in some anime shows look realistic by comparison. There’s a lot of flashing and light and blunted colours. Details like tension and impact and thrills are nowhere to be found.
The same can be said for tone, which is absent but for the very glum texture that coats the entire project. The clouds only part when Gadot’s character arrives and Supes and Bats manage to have something resembling a conversational exchange, even if it is for just one joke.
Amy Adams is in the movie, too, by the way. She spends most of her time running around after the boys, except for when she dunks and later retrieves a critical green weapon. Ditto for Lane’s Martha, who is around because she shares a name with Batman’s mom.
Eisenberg hams it up as Luthor and staggers through a series of Philosophy 101 quips, finishing the act with the sort of frantic jump that comes with his territory. He jangles about goodness and power and how never the two can meet because powerful people cannot be good and good people cannot be powerful.
Snyder and cinematographer Larry Fong carry the pallid action with an exploded sense of superiority, but nothing resounds. As big as the action gets, its sustained reach for a larger explosion or a bigger block of demolition is stale. Even as the addendum Doomsday hammers away, it doesn’t matter. It never matters.
For all the potential depth offered by a Miller-inspired older Batman or a disputed, banished Superman or a kick-ass Amazonian princess or even Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is as bulky as its title and as overflowing as Lois Lane’s bathtub.