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Thursday, March 24, 2016 12:04 am

Intelligent script grounds Justice

Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
PHOTO COURTESY Warner Bros. Pictures

 

With the exception of the recent Star Wars release, no film has generated a sense of anticipation like Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Every press release, on-set picture and trailer has served to simultaneously build excitement among fans as well as sow the seeds of doubt, what with the specter of the flawed Man of Steel hanging over the production. Of course, the only question that really matters is if the film is any good. I’m happy to report that it’s a vast improvement over Steel, a dark, brooding, but most importantly, intelligent take on the seminal figures of our 20th century pop culture mythology, a movie that at once pays tribute to these characters’ roots while offering up modern incarnations of them that ring true for our times.

One of the most striking things about Justice is that this is more a Batman feature than a sequel focusing on Superman. We begin with a concise, poignant retelling of the Caped Crusader’s origin, which segues into the trials facing the modern-day Dark Knight. Older now and questioning his purpose, Bruce Wayne (a fine Ben Affleck) finds himself taking his war on crime to dangerous levels. He finds himself on the trail of an operation that specializes in human trafficking, weapons shipments, and is said to be bringing a dirty bomb to Gotham.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is investigating the origin of a brand of ammunition that has never been seen before. She doggedly pursues this as Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) sets out to do an expose on Batman, something his editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) opposes. Of course, as Metropolis rebuilds from the Kryptonian attack that left it in ruins, industrialist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is front and center in these efforts, which cover up some nefarious goings on that occur behind closed doors.

The most welcome change in Snyder’s approach this time out is that he does not bludgeon the viewer with one overly long, loud scene of destruction after another. Instead of beating the viewer into submission, he allows the smart premise in Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer’s script to play out. Time is taken to understand the motivations of all the key players as well as attempt to look at how the presence of meta-humans would affect the world in terms of international politics, national identity and personal perception among the world’s citizens. If the film has a fault, it’s that it takes it flirts with getting bogged down in these matters, almost taking too long to get to the title throwdown.

As for the pyrotechnics that ensue, they are much the same as those that Snyder presented in Steel but are contained to the third act rather than dominating the whole affair. All that ensues in the final battle, which finally introduces Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to the mix. The battle is spectacular in nature and will satisfy fans of the comic, though there are more than a few questions as to the logic of all that ensues.

In the end, Justice is a successful enterprise that gets more right than it does wrong. The way in which other heroes in the DC Universe are introduced is inspired; it left me eager to see the stand alone Wonder Woman film on tap next year and actually has me curious as to how Affleck will handle the upcoming Batman feature he’s set to write and direct. That the film surprised me on more than one occasion was welcome, as was the fact that I actually felt something for the characters. All in all, this is a solid first step in cinematic DC Universe, one that will be improved upon but is hardly an embarrassment.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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