Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (**)
The dirty secret of Batman v Superman (BVS) is that it's not about Batman or Superman. This movie is a long setup to introduce the Justice League (the "Justice" part); the rest is just window dressing to get you in the door.

Remember that huge battle where Superman and Zod pretty much leveled Metropolis? Well, lots of people died, you guys! The movie didn't show that of course, but Bruce Wayne experienced first hand. If you think the guy who became Batman was ticked off about the murder of his parents, you can imagine his response when a bunch of his employees die.

Hold up, is that Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) as Bruce's parents in that flashback? Holy bizarre casting Batman...I really hope Negan doesn't end up murdering Maggie in the next season of Walking Dead or Batman v Superman will go down in history for all the wrong reasons.

Ahem. Where was I? Oh right, Batman has totally lost it. He doesn't even bother keeping up his mansion. Also surprising: Alfred is played by Jeremy Irons, whom I thought at this point was banned from Hollywood. Also resurrected -- Jesse Eisenberg as the giggling maniac Lex Luthor. Eisenberg is a talented actor, but his Lex Luthor is just plain bonkers and frankly distracting.

Also distracting: the "plot." While Batman increasingly stews over Superman's ascendance, good ole Lex is bribing the government to get his hands on kryptonite, breaking into the crashed Kryptonian ship, and creating random genetic experiments with his blood. None of it makes any sense, and the gravity of an alien invasion that haunts Batman is undercut by the staggering incompetence of...well, basically, the entire world.

One acting credit that can't be overlooked in critiquing this film is Zod's corpse. His dead, naked body does a better acting job than Eisenberg.


The movie concludes by ripping a page from Frank Miller's masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns. Batman's battle with Superman is straight from that series, complete with Bat's super suit and glowing eyes. Just like in the comic, Superman gets hit by a nuclear bomb, and sallow-cheeked, slowly comes to life as the sun touches him. But in the comic it's because a nuclear cloud has obscured the sun, and the inner monologue is a powerful testament to Superman's promise to protect a universe that in turn nurtures him. In the movie, it's a five-minute scene in space that's totally devoid of emotion.

BVS should have ended with the Batman/Superman fight, but it keeps going. The movie also rips a page from the Death of Superman with Doomsday. Doomsday is a worthy foe to Superman and his battle with Supes is suitably climactic. But it's yet an additional battle that feels unnecessary.

In the end, BVS seems to say that we need an all-powerful alien to defend us from other all-powerful aliens. It's a war that's familiar to Americans -- the justification of escalating force to defeat the threat of a potentially powerful foe we haven't faced yet -- but here it just feels like Batman is crazy, Superman is sloppy, Luthor is a nutball, and humanity deserves what it gets. The same applies to DC and Warner Bros.

Except Wonder Woman. She was awesome and it's clear even she had no idea why she was in this movie.

TL;DR: See this infographic.

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