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Dawn of a new universe or a giant black hole? – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

March 25, 2016


It seems like we’ve been waiting for this thing forever, and in multiple ways. Superman and Batman have been around for almost 80 years now, and never, not once, have they crossed paths in live action. It’s stunning when you think about it — never in a movie, never in a TV show, never in a serial, nothing. Nada. And this movie has been a long wait in and of itself ever since director Zack Snyder announced it in San Diego in 2013 as a sequel to that year’s Man of Steel, which was itself delayed from a 2012 release date after being announced in 2010. We were supposed to see Batman meet Superman last summer, back when the 2015 blockbuster season was to feature an Avengers sequel, a Star Wars sequel, and the World’s Finest, which might have been enough to make the universe collapse in on itself. But anyway, here we are. What a long, strange trip.

As long as the wait has been, there’s been more than enough time for salivating hordes to develop agita about the whole thing. Does the title suck? Yeah, it does. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice sounds like a Justice Department attorney named Dawn is intervening in superhero litigation. It’s focus-grouped blergh. The casting of Ben Affleck in the Bruce Wayne/Batman role met with stunned disbelief from an audience still reeling from the decade-old Daredevil disappointment. We all had our favored sons for that part, and he wasn’t anyone’s. (My personal choice was Lee Pace, who of course was Ronan the Accuser in the surprisingly successful Guardians of the Galaxy.)  Should they have rushed the Dark Knight Returns imagery for the first meeting of two icons? Probably not. Has the promotion been uneven? Indeed it has — vacillating from the underwhelming “Do you bleed?” first teaser to the scintillating (and lengthy) Comic-Con trailer and back and forth again. It’s all been fuel for the online blaze, an arena where opposing camps are more than willing to defend and condemn a movie before it even premieres. And when you have something as eagerly anticipated as this, brace yourself for the firestorm.

But now it’s in theaters. And?

And it’s kind of good. It’s not great, which is a disappointment in and of itself — we have every right to expect perfection from a movie we’ve all been waiting all our lives to see. DoJ has taken a drubbing in the press and among the online cognoscenti, and I get where most of the criticisms are coming from. It’s bloated, often lurching to a stop to set up movies to come, with questionable editing choices all around. It goes to places narratively that it simply hasn’t earned, and you’ll see that in that regard the Dark Knight Returns material is merely the tip of that iconography iceberg. Characters make questionable decisions at times — Lois Lane in particular goes to retrieve an item in the last act without knowing what the item is or what bearing it could possibly have on anything. But it comes down to this: I enjoyed watching this movie more than any I’ve written about here in a long time. More than Age of Ultron. More even than the good but too safe The Force Awakens. It has problems — oh it has problems — but it gets some very big things right. Maybe it’s simply the novelty of it, but I’d like to see it again, all two and a half hours of it.

Some more in-depth analysis and observations over on the next page. Click over if you’re so inclined, but beware of spoilers — I put some warnings in bold type where the big ones lurk.

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