For most of BATMAN V SUPERMAN’s bloviated pretension, I was merely bored. This half-baked idea studded with ponderous pronouncements, shockingly sedate action sequences, and the simulacrum of serious philosophical inquiry plodded along, weighed down by an overstuffed plot and an underdeveloped narrative. But when we arrived at a meticulous recreation of the deposition from the Cross, followed by an evocation of an ersatz Calvary in the ruins of Metropolis (or was it Gotham City and who cares?), my passive distaste become active, passionate dislike. Conceived as the launching pad for a new franchise dedicated to the Justice League, it may instead be a final resting place for this incarnation of Batman and his pals.
Ben Affleck takes over the role of Batman, and while he is fiercely committed in those scenes showing Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, bulking up in preparation for his final showdown with the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill), including, for some reason, beating the heck out of a truck tire with a sledge hammer, Affleck’s demeanor throughout is somewhere between petulant and dyspeptic.
Cavill, on the other hand, has a righteous solemnity about him, even when Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, joins his true love, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in the bathtub for a bout of splash and tickle. He has mastered the concerned, slightly pitying expression of a superior being feeling true sympathy for the lesser creatures around him. In short, he may be dazzlingly attractive, but he’s just a little too saintly.
Thank the cinematic gods for Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, the psychotic, sneaker-wearing philanthropist who longs to see a final showdown between the two superheroes, and has both the means and opportunity to make it happen. He makes the twisted theology of a madman almost entertaining. Theology, as you might have guessed, looms large In this film, as do philosophical musings on what it means to do good. For the political take, there is Holly Hunter and her chewy southern accent as the junior senator from Kentucky who wants Superman to submit himself to a Congressional inquiry into his ultimate trustworthiness, what with his capability of destroying the world with those superpowers that, heretofore, have only been used to save humankind. Okay, destroying billions of dollars of infrastructure sometimes, but ultimately saving the planet, as well as people trapped in burning buildings.
There is so much wrong here. Too many attempted fake-outs with Bruce Wayne’s nightmares. The way Michael Shannon’s entire role is that of a corpse. A somnambulant Jeremy Irons as Alfred, the wonder Butler at the nerve center of Batman’s technological weaponry fretting about whether or not his master will settle down with a nice girl one day. The opening music from EYES WIDE SHUT, Shostakovich’s “Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra”, playing when Bruce Wayne first talks to Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), the mysterious (wonder) woman he keeps running into at swanky soirees. That tin-can of a bat suit that turns Batman into a less agile Robocop knockoff. I could go on, but I refuse to relive the horror except to say that why Batman is so intent on killing Superman is sketchy at best. Sure, he decimated one of Bruce’s skyscrapers saving the world from aliens, but it wasn’t personal. Is he irritated by Superman’s innate goodness when he, Batman, gets less respect for walking so decidedly on the dark side? Is it the way Superman’s seemingly prehensile cape always wafts majestically even when there is no breeze? Or was it the way Superman ripped the doors off the Batmobile at one point? I understand guys are real touchy about these things.
Many things get blown up in BATMAN V SUPERMAN. Many building crumble. Dreams are shattered. Terrorists pop up. Pseudo-intellectualism embraces chaos and all so that those superbly square jaws of Cavill and Affleck can jut at one another in all their cleft-chinned perfection. No chins are worth it, not even these.