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REVIEW: 'Batman v Superman' flawed, but fun

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Batman v Superman sounds like a gimmick, but in Zack Snyder’s second outing as a director of a Superman-related movie, he sets up the premise successfully.

After witnessing Superman’s fight against General Zod and the resulting destruction which took place in Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) doesn’t trust Superman’s motives or powers. This version of the Dark Knight is older, weary, and completely out of patience. Having Superman be responsible for so much destruction is one of the challenging parts of this film, and the writers have created an uncomfortable dilemma for the character. At the same time, this same dilemma serves as motivation for Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) who is looking for some accountability from Superman. Photo IGN.com

Meanwhile, fast forward to Metropolis, where Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) are now in a relationship. In this film, we get to see a more lighthearted Clark, compared to his angst-ridden self during his first go-round three years ago. His relatively normal Midwest upbringing enables him to be super boyfriend, and after a hard day fighting for truth through journalism, Lois is legitimately happy to be home with him. As an actor, Cavill seems less restrained than in Man of Steel, bringing out the warmer side of Clark as he tries to balance his power with the desire to help people. Cavill and Adams have great chemistry in their scenes together.

The scenes alternate between the two heroes in the early going, until they ultimately cross paths when they both target Alexander “Lex” Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). This Lex seems younger than both Clark and Bruce (Eisenberg and Cavill are both 32, while Affleck is 43), and at first he comes off like a spoiled hipster with a trust fund. Many of Eisenberg’s characters he plays are clever, hyper and a bit antisocial (Social Network, American Ultra). His performance includes many of those traits, but he successfully adds menacing and unstable to the mix.   

As the Caped Crusader, Affleck makes a convincing Bruce Wayne. Unlike several versions of the character who either avoid the spotlight or go jumping into hotel fountains, this particular Bruce works in Gotham and is a good boss who cares about his employees. However, some of the best parts of Affleck’s performance are when his character hides behind his billionaire persona. He’ll drop a condescending remark (using a cocktail to dissemble) then, in an instant, you can see Batman in his eyes. The film briefly touches upon his tragic past – but Snyder knows not to trod on Christopher Nolan’s territory too much. It’s a foregone conclusion that no matter what version of Batman you watch, the character of Bruce Wayne will be forever scarred in some capacity. Affleck’s Wayne seems to focus on moving forward, rather than recovering.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is a delight (partially because the character is the best), and his love for Master Wayne doesn’t fade. Instead, it is tempered with dry humor. At the same time, he brings a new set of skills to the Batcave. Adding Wonder Woman to the story seems like overkill, but it mostly works. Gal Gadot is striking as Diana Prince, and at first glance, Bruce’s playboy instincts kick in. However, it doesn’t take him too long to realize there’s more to her presence, and he’s determined to learn more.  

Whether it involves characters or cameos, director Snyder’s habit of throwing too much into a film rears its ugly head again. This particularly applies to fight scenes. Batman v Superman clocks in at roughly two and a half hours, which is almost the same length of  Man of Steel, which also contained two extended fights. Even though these battles didn’t seem quite as excessive this time around, the fight that takes place during the film’s climax will be controversial, as it overly complicates an already packed plot. If that wasn’t enough, the film also contains references to the larger DC Universe. It’s no secret that the filmmakers are clearly taking a page out of the Marvel playbook, in hopes of creating an equally successful series.

Batman v Superman certainly has some flaws, but it was fun seeing Clark Kent's journey evolve, and this new incarnation of an aging Batman brings nuance to the beloved Bat.

The movie was thrilling in IMAX and is rated PG-13.

Contact Diane Cooney at dcooney@philly2philly.com 

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Photo: IGN.com