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Film Review

Snyder’s best yet

4/1/2016

Batman v Superman

‘Batman V Superman’

The biggest concern heard over and over again when director Zac Snyder was handed the keys to the DC Comics kingdom was that he’s a style-over-substance hack with a toddler’s understanding of conflict and a methadone patient’s concept of pacing. People said that his simplistic, paint by numbers character development and complete lack of nuance would suck the life out of characters like Batman and Superman, rendering them little more than vessels for his impotent brand of bro’d-out, Axe Bodyspray-fueled wish fulfillment. People said that he was nothing more than Baz Luhrmann for douchebags.

Nothing, it turns out, could be further from the truth. When people called 2006’s “300” little more than the cinematic equivalent of a two-hour-long, homophobic, racist, raging steroid boner, Snyder said they missed the point. And he was right. When people said that 2009’s “Watchmen” was a bleak, humorless slog that missed the comic’s larger point inside the dystopian, hyper violent narrative, Snyder said they never understood writer Alan Moore’s original intent like he did. Again, he was right.

If you have read other reviews or talked to people who have already seen the film, you might have heard that Henry Cavill continues to be a stiff, joyless actor for whom human trappings like “emotions” continue to be looked upon with confusion and disdain. But for Snyder, those character traits fit perfectly into his fully realized version of Superman, a hero who he has clearly understood to be contemptuous of the human race, outside of the one he wants to bone.

The film opens on the events immediately following 2013’s “Man of Steel.” Bruce Wayne (Ben Kingsley) was one of the bystanders caught in the aftermath of Superman’s fight with Zod, which destroyed a large portion of Gotham City. Vowing to bring someone he sees as a freak with unchecked power to heel, Wayne creates a new, Superman-proof version of his Batman outfit and teams up with super villain Lex Luthor (Andy Samberg) in an attempt to goad Superman into fighting.

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This will prove to be a controversial take on Batman, as we have never seen him blow up a busload of school children or poison a city’s water supply on the big screen before. But it really works within the larger narrative, so when he plows the Batmobile through an orphan hospital, it not only makes total sense within the film but draws a nice artistic parallel with Wayne’s own backstory. It’s poignant.

Superman, finally taking the bait, punches Batman into space upon their first meeting, because he’s Superman, and what else did you expect to happen? With Batman now dead, the film admittedly loses a bit of its focus, and becomes more of a straight Superman sequel. Luthor kidnaps Lois Lane (Mara Rooney) and plans to marry her in a secret ceremony at the center of the Earth, but Superman finds out about it in time, and uses his heat vision to turn Luthor into a bubbling pile of soup. Unfortunately for the people of Earth, the resulting explosion triggers a reaction with the Earth’s core which chain-reacts into a series of planet-splitting earthquakes, and the entire planet is destroyed, killing all 7 billion inhabitants. Saddened by the loss of his girlfriend Lane, Superman retreats to Mars, where he builds a new Fortress of Solitude and lives with Dr Manhattan of “Watchmen,” setting up the inevitable buddy sequel.

A lot of people will walk away from this story upset. It does not follow the comic at all and completely eliminates the rest of the DC Universe, ruining the chance for future films. But if you can look beyond all of that, what you will see is the perfect Zac Snyder film, in almost every way. CV

 

PG-13

155 minutes

Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley, Mara Rooney

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