Batman v Superman
Batman v Superman

Alternate universe: Batman v Superman

by / Mar. 23, 2016 12pm EST

When Wonder Woman and Lois Lane are the two most interesting characters in a film titled Batman v. Superman, you have to wonder if the filmmakers had a clear game plan before spending the studio’s reported $400 million. Subtitled Dawn of Justice, the film serves as Zach Snyder’s sequel to his dreary Superman kickoff Man of Steel, a reboot of the Batman franchise, a cinematic introduction to Wonder Woman (among others), and a setup for the upcoming two-part Justice League film. That’s an awful lot of groundwork to build, and Warner Brothers (which owns DC Comics) has entrusted Snyder to build their onscreen universe. The good news is that as overlong and grim as this film is—I counted one small laugh in the entire movie—it is at least more intriguing and suspenseful than its direct predecessor. In the tradition of classic team-up comics, our heroes must fight each other before joining forces to take down a villain or two. One problem is that is takes 90 minutes before we reach the required introductory slugfest. Another is that viewers unfamiliar with the DC Comics universe and many of its lower echelon characters will often have little idea what they’re watching. Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck are fine as the titular heroes, but Jesse Eisenberg’s villainous Lex Luthor, who triggers most of the action, is horribly written, reducing him to the status of Renfield from Dracula by the end. DC’s heroes have always worked primarily as modern interpretations of mythological gods (whereas Marvel’s characters are more relatable as human beings), and Snyder’s treatment of them here is heavy-handed. Comics fans will recognize images and entire sequences reproducing the work of writer/artist Frank Miller. The lack of genuine fun is compounded by the nighttime setting required by Batman’s inclusion, which renders much of the action murky. Most depressing is seeing Holly Hunter as a senator holding hearings on Superman’s role in the world, but what’s an actor to do when so many of the movies produced by Hollywood are based on comic books?