‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill
2 (out of 5) Globes
It has a good idea, anyway: For awhile “Batman v Superman” seems to be about the ethics of superheroes. When we last saw him in “Man of Steel,” Henry Cavill’s roided-up, aggro Kryptonian was destroying Metropolis so he could save it. The follow-up seems to be an apology for one of that film’s harshest and rightest-on criticisms: That Superman, in fighting the bad guys, had basically succumbed to mindless city destruction porn. Citizens and politicians now debate whether having a svelte alien in their midst is a good idea at all — to say nothing of that caped crusader (Ben Affleck) who’s busy meting out his own unregulated justice in Gotham, which is apparently just across the bay.
There’s lots of brooding, even more real-life journos (plus Neil deGrasse Tyson) ruminating on TVs and a steady peppering of pessimistic aphorisms about how “the world only makes sense if you force it to.” It’s a dour, funereal affair, but not, alas, a serious one. After all, it doesn’t have time. “Batman v Superman” may start out as a knockoff of the ambitiously philosophical Christopher Nolan entries. But thought peters out, replaced by pummeling action scenes and, more important, set-ups for coming episodes and spin-offs. Superhero movies are now like websites with too many pop-up ads, clogging the running time with teases for future films that won’t be fun either.
At least, unlike the joylessly cramped din of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” this tries to tell a self-contained story. It's just not a very good one. It’s one of those “vs.” movies, like “King Kong vs. Godzilla” or “Freddy vs. Jason,” which take forever to pit our dueling titans together then deliver an anticlimax. Affleck’s Bruce Wayne doesn’t like Cavill’s Superman, and vice versa. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor — reconfigured as a coked-up ham who acts like a demented children’s show host or, worse, Johnny Depp — wants to get them together so that…well, it’s not clear. The two’s promised title match appears to have little to do with Luthor’s scheme, which is to create a slimy colossus that will destroy Metropolis and Gotham, so he can then…well, that’s not clear either. (But here’s betting it will make sense three, maybe four DC films from now.)