Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
* ½ stars (out of four)
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is director Zack Snyder's follow up to his lousy Superman epic Man of Steel from 2013, as well as being a preview for his upcoming Justice League movie (DC Comics' answer to Marvel's The Avengers). Billionaire and crime fighting avenger Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) considers the alien Superman aka Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) a destructive menace and plans to take him down. Megalomaniac Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) wants to see the two heroes kill each other so he can move on with his plan of world domination. There is also some cardboard Russian villains. And a scrawny Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) shows up.
Snyder's direction is shaky at best, but it hurts more when he is working from an anemic screenplay, credited to Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. There is no real focus and none of the characters are well developed.
Cavill's charm and comedic chops from last summer's Man from U.N.C.L.E. isn't present here because the underwritten Superman character is so dour. Affleck is just fine as the Caped Crusader and does what he can with the little he's given. Eisenberg's manic, highly caffeinated, scenery-chewing Luthor is annoying and a sign of an actor frustrated with a weakly written character. Gadot barely registers in a paper-thin role.
More than half of the film's running time is dragged down by unnecessarily complicated plotting, and when the movie finally gets on with the scenes of unending property damage by way of digital technology, it's pretty ineffectual. There are occasionally moments in the final battle that register, but very few to fully bring the film to life. Remember the practical effects and stunts in 2008's The Dark Knight, particularly when that semi truck flipped forward and the resounding applause it received from the audience? Nothing like that here.
With an overstuffed story line crowded with characters and incomprehensible digital action, Batman v Superman is a dud.