All throughout "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," I had a feeling that the movie was attempting to convince me to stick around. Amid the mixture of murky hues, sullen superhumans and less-than-subtle hints at the coming onslaught of the expanded DC film universe, I couldn't escape a pleading voice in the background, "You want more of this."
I'm still unsure if it's raising a declaration or asking for confirmation. Director Zack Snyder continues the dark, serious tone that Christopher Nolan's trilogy of "Batman" films struck, this time subbing in an unnecessarily bleak outlook in lieu of quality -- or coherent -- storytelling.
The plot is at the same time both over-stuffed and fragmented, with edits that come closer to puzzling time lapses. Confusing dream sequences seem to have been included as an excuse to stick Batman in an alternate desert-themed batsuit that will undoubtedly find its way into a DC videogame as an extra downloadable costume (with a price tag of roughly $4.99).
Heroes and villains alike (mostly Jesse Eisenberg's coked-out millennial version of Lex Luthor) get a turn at ruminating on the nature of men, gods and power, as every DC comic book movie now must share in the secret sauce of Nolan's success and shoehorn in makeshift thematic weight in all corners that appear unstuffed. Aspirations of actually answering these questions are either wrapped in frames of syrupy slow motion and piercing choir music or disregarded entirely in favor of city-leveling destruction. (I guess it is a superhero movie after all.)
Amid the brooding, Ben Affleck's Batman finds some time to knock skulls together with an uncharacteristic cruelty while Superman wonders why the mortals he hovers above are being so mean to him. When the one or two intentional bits of humor carved into the script surface, they feel utterly divorced from the rest of the film, like an incognizant uncle's shot at lightening the mood at a funeral.
A viral ad campaign for other coming attractions also manages to sneak in amid the violence and forms a parasitic bond with a good 10 minutes of the film — a reminder that hammers home the idea that "Batman v Superman" is as much "Dawn of [the] Justice [League]" as it is a showdown between two narcissists in capes.
Should we stick it out? Do we want more of this, these two-and-a-half hour rituals of viewing — is the comic book aura enough to render our attendance as expected?
The film seems to think so with its hints at a multi-year plan and an unfolding pantheon of characters waiting to spring into view. We shouldn't give it the satisfaction.
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