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Laramie Movie Scope:
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Dark, depressing mess of a superhero movie

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 30, 2016 -- I watched this in 3D in a newly remodeled big screen theater, but that didn't help. The movie needed to be brighter or maybe the projector wasn't bright enough. This is a dark movie in more ways than one. More than that, it is actually so downbeat, so one-note dark and dreary, that it actually is dull at times. Not good for an action movie.

This movie is the opposite of “Deadpool,” with its bright, witty self-mocking comedy. One of the tiny bits of humor in the film was spoiled by one of the trailers. This film takes itself way too seriously. The movie starts with an elaborate, and entirely unconvincing setup of Lois Lane (Amy Adams, reprising her role from “Man of Steel”) being lured into a trap, and being rescued by Superman. It turns out, the whole rescue scenario is supposed to make Superman (Henry Cavill reprising his role from “Man of Steel”) look bad. It really doesn't.

Because Superman is being made to look unconvincingly bad by a criminal mastermind, people turn against him. There is a Congressional hearing presided over by Senator Finch (Holly Hunter of “Crash”) but that all goes kablooie, and Superman is blamed for all kinds of bad stuff. People actually believe that Superman, with his god-like superpowers he really needs to use guns and bombs to kill people. Well, people do believe all kinds of silly stuff.

Superman's secret identity as Clark Kent is no secret to his enemies in this movie and his friends and family are used against him to force a showdown between Batman (played by Ben Affleck of “Argo”) and Superman. By the way, Batman's secret identity is also known to the criminal mastermind in this movie, who uses this knowledge to manipulate Batman. Can't these superheroes keep secrets? Ordinarily, this would be no contest, but Batman has discovered kryptonite. Still, this battle, which is a great extended action sequence, does seem pointless, because the setup is not convincing.

The setup for the final battle royal is a little better. It has the addition of Wonder Woman, played by Gal Godot (who played Gisele in the recent “Fast and Furious” movies) but like the play “Waiting For Godot” you wonder if Wonder Woman is ever going to show. She finally does, after what seems like several hours of foreshadowing. Again, this battle, like the earlier battle between Superman and Batman, is very well done, but the setup to the action is weak, despite how long it takes.

This movie looks like it was written by a committee. It looks like each scene was written by a different person with different ideas about which direction to take the story. In fact, it was written by two talented writers, David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Chris Terrio (Argo). I suspect a lot of this movie's plot ended up on the cutting room floor (reportedly, it was cut from 180 minutes to 151 minutes) purely to cut the movie short enough to fit more showings every day in every theater. On a movie this disappointing, there is plenty of blame to go around. Looking at the credits, it looks like there were more people working on this movie than the entire population of the city where I live.

The much-hated Ben Affleck is getting way more than his fair share of blame for the lack of quality in this movie, but he is actually good as Batman. I don't blame the actors. The fault lies deeper than that, as usual. Take Jesse Eisenberg, a fine actor, who plays Lex Luthor in this movie. He does his best, but there is no motivation provided for his actions, other than being crazy, so he plays it really crazy. I can see why some fans are circulating a petition against the director, Zack Snyder (“300” and “Watchmen”). I'm not sure it is Snyder's fault, either, even though he tends to walk on the dark side.

When you look at the Marvel movies, like “Iron Man” and compare them to the D.C. comics movies, like “Man of Steel,” the Marvel movies are lighter, brighter in tone and they are more fun to watch. I think that is why Marvel movies are so much more successful financially. With the daily mass shootings in this country, the bombings overseas, the awful suffering in Syria, Iraq and Africa, the madness of ISIS, do we really need depressing superhero movies? Shouldn't superhero movies, especially, be more oriented towards escapism? Shouldn't they offer hope, rather than cynicism?

This film does have some good action scenes and a lot of good digital effects. There are some talented actors in this movie and they do the best they can portraying their flawed characters. The 3D looked good, although the film looked too dark, for whatever reason. Basically, this is a little over half an hour of good action scenes framed by two hours of narrative nonsense. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)