‘Batman v. Superman’ does justice to its high expectations

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Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Directed by Zack Snyder

Like Batman and Superman, locked in destructive battle, eventually set aside their disagreements, so too should you. Whether it’s the idea of an inner-DC battle that you object to, or the fact that Bruce Wayne is played by Ben Affleck, or maybe Lex Luther’s long hair…forget all your worries. “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the universally anticipated sequel to director Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” is everything you might want from a DC movie.

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Shaken by what he sees as unchecked power in the hands of Superman (Henry Cavill), orphaned entrepreneur Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) tasks Alfred (Jeremy Irons, serving as butler and tech-savvy handyman) with building him a highly-upgraded Batman suit. With this, he’ll try to put Superman in his place—to humble him before an adoring world, who sees the Man of Steel as nothing short of a god. But the two have a common enemy in evil genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who’s been plotting the destruction of both superheroes for years. With the help of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Batman and Superman will eventually have to combine their efforts to try to stop a seemingly unkillable monster of Luther’s creation.

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Jokes about hockey pads, thick Boston accents, and gray hair quickly followed the announcement that Ben Affleck would be in the position to fill Christian Bale’s bat-shoes. But I always had faith. “Give him a shot,” I said. I’m not bragging, but I think I was right not to doubt. Affleck has the stamina, the swagger, and the swoll to carry himself as the billionaire businessman/night vigilante. My problem with Batman has nothing to do with the Oscar-winner. It’s that, here, he gets very little characterization. From quick quips from Alfred, we can surmise that Bruce Wayne isn’t likely to settle down. Maybe he’s a womanizer, but aside from one woman’s figure in his bed, we can’t see evidence of any romantic interest at all. Nor do we see him run his company, or do much of anything aside from his seemingly singular mission to fight. Coming from writer David S. Goyer (with credits on the entire “Dark Knight” trilogy), that’s disappointing. We get even less—much less—about Wonder Woman, though Gal Gadot does all she can to excite us for her own solo movie next year. As lunatic Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg is the ideal casting choice. He’s lovable and hatable all at the same time. Yet, he doesn’t get much background either. In a movie so widespread in its focus, I hoped to see a clearer picture. The star of the show is still Superman himself. Henry Cavill gives another rousing performance, full of intensity and humility. “Dawn of Justice” paints Superman as a godlike figure coming to terms with his mortality and humanity, a phenomenal approach that makes this the clearest picture of how an easily influenced populace might see a messianic superhero in the present day. It’s fascinating.

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An electrifying score from Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer (“Man of Steel” and the “Dark Knight” trilogy) and Junkie XL (who should’ve been nominated for “Mad Max: Fury Road”) stood out as another particular bright spot. You better believe I’ll be listening to that tomorrow at work. And there’s hardly a flaw to be spotted when it comes to the masterful use of visual effects. From cinematographer Larry Fong (“Super 8,” “Watchmen”) all the way to the editing room, everyone had a careful touch while working with “Dawn of Justice.” All the pieces are there. Sometimes, they’re a little more jumbled than you’d like them to be. More focus on Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor would have been nice. But I walked out not only not disappointed, but incredibly excited for the DC releases to come. Even more than Marvel? Maybe. DC is back on the map.

7.5/10

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