About an hour and fifteen minutes (or about halfway) into BATMAN V SUPERMAN, I had one question that kept filling my head. "Remember when Superman movies used to be fun?"
The late seventies and early 80's Richard Donner/Richard Lester films were exciting, thrilling and fun to watch. I couldn't wait to see them again and again.
Once will be enough for Zack Snyder's ponderous, overlong serious epic, where smiles are as rare as a brightly lit scene and everyone's filled with angst, personal issues and a social burden heavier than a kryptonite boulder...but we'll get to that later.
I'm not going to reveal any major plot points that haven't already been shown in the trailers, no spoiler alerts necessary.
After a long title sequence in which you can feel Snyder straining (and failing) to bring something fresh to the story of Bruce Wayne's parents being killed outside a Gotham theatre, the film's best twenty minutes begin, with a different perspective of the finale of "Man of Steel".
We see Bruce Wayne trying desperately to get to the towering Wayne office building, while Superman and General Zod's battle in the skies tears down building after building.
As Wayne is enveloped in massive, billowing clouds of dust all too reminiscent of 9-11 footage, the film cleverly sets up an analysis of the physical and human impact of those alien invaders that we've watched in all those Avengers and Transformers, Batman and Superman films.
Flashing forward, we see a Metropolis under construction, rebuilding while paying tribute to Superman. But Batman is filled with hate, determined to hold Supes accountable for all his friends and workers lost that day when the Wayne tower collapsed as collateral damage.
And then.....the film begins to collapse under its own drab, dark weight. I don't mind dark. No one will ever accuse the Nolan Batman trilogy of being filled with laughs, but they were so well written, acted, designed and directed that you were flown through the darkness with a clear delineation between good and bad.
In Snyder's film (and perhaps in today's world) no one is allowed to be good or bad, everyone has pain and angst and guilt and doubt, like some cosmic redistribution of happiness in which you must also feel guilt in equal measure. Blech.
The Marvel movies know how to have fun.
It appears the DC films are going to fall all over themselves to be bloated, serious epics and that wil not bode well for future films in the series. Let's hope someone gets Snyder out of the director chair like Star Wars did Lucas, so someone can mix in some entertainment along with the doom and gloom.
Snyder's best film in my opinion was one of his smallest, his 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead". It was lean, fast, smart and oh yeah, FUN. His "Watchmen" was a very similar mess to this film.
So what's good about this film?
Ben Affleck is a very good Batman, probably a little better as Bruce Wayne than he is as the Caped Crusader, but damn good.
Gil Gadot makes a great Wonder Woman and leaves you hungry to see more of the character in her upcoming stand alone film.
Henry Cavill is very good as Superman, but is given surprisingly little to do for the first half of the film.
There is also one dramatic plot twist on Capitol Hill that is ballsy, powerful and very well executed. It, for a moment, lifts the movie into unexpected territory, before Snyder crashes it back to ground with the much more predictable Lex Luthor making a monster subplot.
Which takes us to what's NOT good in the film.
Jesse Eisenberg is WAY over the top as Lex Luthor, all tics and no substance. The monster he creates is really silly and bad, like some angry dog turd Michelin Man, just ridiculous.
Hanz Zimmer is phoning it in with the music score, with some surprisingly weak "help" from Junkie XL, who did great work on "Mad Max" Fury Road" and "Deadpool". XL's theme for Wonder Woman is so loud and bombastic it about knocks you out of your seat every time she comes on screen, screaming at you 'HEY! THERE'S WONDER WOMAN AGAIN!!!"
uh yeah, we get it.
This is supposed to be the film that paves the way for the Justice League films, with all of our heroes together on screen. If Snyder's directing them, I can't say I'll be excitedly waiting for any of them.
Christopher Nolan produced this film.
I wonder what his take was on the very final seconds of the film, which somehow manage to simultaneously honor and bastardize his final moments from "Inception".
If he's like me, he just rolled his eyes and was excited that the dawn of justice was finally over....
Batman V Superman gets a predictable and boring C-.