“Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” (2016)

The sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel (NOT my favorite Superman film), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is a comics fan’s dream almost come true.  However, a rambling, disjointed pace, stilted dialogue, murky lit sequences, and an almost  joyless tone keep this film from being as entertaining as it could’ve been.

Briefly:  In Batman v Superman, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) whips himself into a near psychotic obsession about Superman (Henry Cavill) after the events of the previous film when the city of Metropolis was nearly destroyed by attacking invaders from Superman’s home world, Krypton.  Meanwhile, while his girl friend, Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams), is   investigating ties between terrorist groups, the Russian mob, and billionaire Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) -an connection Batman and a mysterious art dealer (who -surprise!- turns out to be Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot) are also looking into -, Superman mopes and gazes at his navel about whether  he actually makes a difference in the world..

MEANWHILE, Luthor has somehow, with the help of a Senator (Holly Hunter), gotten ahold of Kryptonian technology  AND some kryptonite, AND plans to, um, make Batman and Super fight each other. I’m still not sure why, other than some double talk by Luthor about seeing a God fall, or something.  Did I mention  Luthor’s weird DNA experiments with the body of the previous film’s antagonist, General Zod (Michael Shannon)?  That extraneous plot development plays a part in the busy, overstuffed climax.

There are a LOT of extraneous scenes & subplots in the muddled screenplay by Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer, including a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance by Superman’s pal, Jimmy Olsen (Michael Cassidy).  The meandering film goes back and forth from one scene to the next with little sense or continuity.  Zack Snyder directs the proceedings in a sluggish, heavy handed manner.

There’s some, but not a lot of, humor.  Snyder and the screenwriters were apparently trying to achieve some kind of a Shakespearian tragedy quality (elements from the 1986 graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns and the 1992-93 “Death Of Superman” storyline were tossed into the script), but given we’re watching grown adults in capes and tights run around, plus the usual fight scenes and stunts (Batman’s now shooting and branding his opponents!), the attempts at high drama are more overbearing than compelling.

The cast tries.  Affleck, Adams, Gadot, Hunter, Diane Lane (as Superman’s adoptive mother, shoehorned into the last third of the film), Laurence Fishburne (whose Perry White character has the best line in the film, in regard to Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent), and Jeremy Irons (the Wayne family butler Alfred, now working as Batman’s tech support) give better performances than you’d think, given the poor editing, direction and script. Eisenberg’s Luthor is just plain grating and not at all threatening.  And Henry Cavill’s Superman & Clark Kent characters are so stiff and devoid of personality, he/they practically fade into the background.  (Not hard to do, given the film’s poor lighting.) For good measure, Kevin Costner returns as The Stepdad From Hell & is just as annoying as he was in the last film.

While not nearly as bad as Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice still stops short of being an entertaining classic super hero film.  Your call.

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