Friday, March 25, 2016


Storytelling. Since the dawn of man, it has been an elemental part of the universe. It evolves, and now has its biggest and grandest stage on the silver screen. It is a home for heroes, and no two heroes in our time have more popularity than Batman and Superman. Much like the art, these two characters have taken on many forms and renditions, but have never shared the big screen together until now. Bringing them together is a treat for loyal and casual fans, but for director Zack Snyder, the act, just like a hero and a story, must have meaning.

After witnessing the cataclysmic events of MAN OF STEEL, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) vows to take down Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill). Meanwhile, intrepid reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is on the trail of a story which leads her to billionaire tech-genius Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg), who is planning something bad.

As the second film in the Warner Bros. new series of films based on characters from DC Comics, it must first be said that the first film, the Superman kick-off MAN OF STEEL (2013), is essential viewing before diving into DAWN OF JUSTICE. In a stunning, 9/11-inspired sequence, DAWN OF JUSTICE begins during the end-battle of STEEL, with our new Bruce Wayne witnessing first-hand the power of Superman. It’s a powerful opening which is eerily familiar, and from there the film spends a ton of time with characters talking about the aftermath. A congressional delegation investigating the need for superheroes (led by Holly Hunter) drags the film down with endless debate about whether or not the world needs Superman. While all that is going on, DAWN OF JUSTICE moves into several other sub-plots with the principle players (Wayne, Kent, Lane, Luthor), and suddenly the film feels like 10 unrelated short-films running in succession. It doesn’t take long to realize that DAWN OF JUSTICE doesn’t have much of a story, and just moves into sub-plot after sub-plot; it’s choppy and has nothing to strive for.

Director Zack Snyder, working off a script by David Goyer and Chris Terrio, is juggling a lot of things at once; so much that there’s not room for it all. The big-idea themes are introduced but never developed, and are moved aside for some bizarre out-of-body dream sequences in which Wayne and Kent see things that make no sense in the overall film. Snyder apparently is burdened with the task of teasing the larger universe yet-to-come (or, the pending sequels), and the nutty dream sequences grind the film to a halt. The most egregious of which happens when an important character discovers more superheroes, and the film stops dead DURING THE FINAL BATTLE. It’s clumsy and baffling.

The only thing worse than the storytelling, or lack of it, is the technical execution. If film-editing is a fine-art, then DAWN OF JUSTICE was cut together with a jagged machete. Many scenes seem to start in the middle and feel like they’re missing their beginnings, while other scenes feel like they’re coming out-of-order. To make it all worse, DAWN OF JUSTICE can’t even get its setting clear. With the film taking place in Wayne and Kent’s cities of Gotham City and Metropolis, respectively, the lazy decision to place the two cities seemingly a mile apart (separated only by a body of water) is made. Characters bounce back and forth from city to city with no indication where they are (there are no defining characteristics to either place), and the geography isn’t made clear until late in the film, which at that point everyone would be dizzy from trying to follow things. It’s astounding that a major release like this would have such a confusing and sloppy aspect.

But if its superheroes that are expected out of DAWN OF JUSTICE, then that much is delivered. Batman is a menacing character, Superman gets to do some super-things, and the show is nearly stolen by Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman; who gets the biggest (and only) cheer when she does her wonderful things. There are some big-wow moments to be had, and Snyder, who at the very least was capable of big-screen, big-imagery iconography, makes for a visual treat whenever these three are on the screen.

Acting ranges from one extreme to another. Ben Affleck is perfect as an older and mean Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Jeremy Irons as his butler Alfred is a perfect foil; the two light up the screen every time they’re trading verbal punches. Henry Cavill certainly looks the part of Superman and is growing into the role nicely, and his short time as the alter-ego Clark Kent has just enough charm. Amy Adams as Lois Lane gets one big moment in the early goings, but then becomes a damsel-in-distress every five minutes which makes her annoying. Gal Gadot is spectacular as Wonder Woman, and the smaller roles held down by Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, and Scoot McNairy are solid. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is nails on a chalkboard; it’s no fault of his own doing, but the role is built as an eccentric weirdo who does weird things for no reason.

Luthor and Superman have a great moment prior to the big showdown the man of steel has with Batman (Luthor is behind it all, although for what reason is never made clear), and when the showdown does come, it is one hell of a fight to see. They of course make friends (in a groan moment), and then have to take on a third villain in the form of a CGI blob which is disposed of just as quickly as it shows up. The three or four endings needed to wrap the film are predictable, and one has to wonder just how the future films will shape up as Snyder and his crew have painted the franchise into a corner. DAWN OF JUSTICE does have a shiny-object effect to it, where it’s easy to be mesmerized by the holy-cow moments and the novelty of seeing these classic heroes interacting. But that shiny object is very thin and has nothing underneath it, as DAWN OF JUSTICE is a deeply flawed, poorly constructed, and maybe even poorly conceived idea…with no grip on storytelling whatsoever.


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