Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice initiates director Zack Snyder in a rogue's gallery consisting of Mark Steven Johnson, Jean-Christophe “Pitof” Comar, and Joel Schumacher.
In his 1882 collection The Gay Science, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coins his crowning quote “God is dead,” in reference to the death of the belief in God. Within a harrowing 153-minute running time, Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. Pictures do justice to the nihilistic philosopher's quote figuratively and literally. If the film's 2013 prequelMan of Steel laid the ground work for the fall of an American icon, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice loads the shotgun with kryptonite rounds, takes our beloved hero out back, and delivers the unsightly coup de grace. Hope for the return of the glory days of Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve fade to black. Cue Amazing Grace on the bag pipes, and the twenty-one gun salute; Superman is dead.
This modern art masterpiece opens with a flashback. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) witnesses the battle from Man of Steel between Superman and General Zod. Observing the carnage done by the warring gods, to say nothing of his own personal losses during the incident, Wayne concludes that Superman is a threat to the planet, and takes it upon himself to end him. Lex Luthor engineers the showdown between The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight. When the smoke clears, Batman and Superman are joined by Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot).
It's an amusing sentiment that identity is the struggle at the core of every superhero, especially Batman and Superman, and yet Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has no identity of its own. Taking place in Metropolis and Gotham City, Snyder pioneers the first big-screen picture to feature both cities, and passes up the opportunities that provides. Both are filmed using the same palettes and filters, and famous landmarks such as Metropolis' Daily Planet globe or Gotham's Ace Chemicals tower aren't even given a glancing shot. Metropolis and Gotham are indistinguishable, and their interchangeability destroys any prospect for immersion.
This problem extends to the each city's respective savior: Batman and Superman are the same character. Both heroes mope their way through life, leaving trails of tears and a body count that easily surpasses the villain's. Even with seven prior films under his belt Snyder has yet to learn that CGI destruction and teenage angst don't constitute an identity.
As children, we all wanted to be Superman and Batman: fighting super-powered bad-guys with unimaginable strength, and calling it justice. As we view comic-book films as adults, we want to be taken back to that time where we tied a blanket around our necks and went running against the wind. That nostalgia loses its way in a hurricane of clichés, clunky story-telling, appalling editing, and abysmal performances, the worst offender being Eisenberg. 153 minutes feels like an eternity to meditate on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice's most grievous offense: It snuffs out the magic of the superhero. Superman is dead. Superheroes are dead. The culprit: Our own expectations, and a feature in which the only good part was seeing the credits roll.
04/18/1938 – 03/25/2016