Don’t believe everything you’re told as a child. Contrary to what we’re told in our youth, cake can be a substitute for dinner, bedtimes are at the discretion of the sleeper and Batman and Superman can duke it out in a no holds-barred battle royale of epic property damage. That particular youthful fantasy is fulfilled in spades by Zack Snyder’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the juggernaut of a sequel to 2012’s “Man of Steel” that does the impossible: makes the darker DC cinematic universe worth caring about.
Snyder once again proves his artistic prowess of conveying information through the opening credits like he did in “Watchmen” with a somber, yet tasteful montage of the “Batman” backstory we’ve seen a thousand times. Fast forward to the little spat between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod that destroyed a good chunk of Metropolis (from Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) point of view: his employees killed or injured for life).
It’s been 18 months since that fateful day. The honeymoon phase is over and humanity is grappling with the ramifications of a god-like alien living on earth. Should he be revered? Should he be worshipped? Or should he be held accountable for wanton acts of mayhem and be destroyed? That’s the idea of Lex Luthor who has recovered a large nugget of Kryptonite from Zod’s failed world engine in the Indian Ocean. Superman’s arch nemesis gets a younger and more neurotic twist by an invested Jesse Eisenberg, as if Woody Allen became a supervillain.
Meanwhile, the dashingly handsome Clark Kent, who looks a lot like that Super fella, is exploring the implications of his relationship with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) while trying to do an expose on Gotham’s “Bat” vigilante. “No one cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman,” says Daily Planet editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne). Pulitzer’s ironic awards office senses a disturbance in the force.
In terms of his contribution to the iconic character, Affleck brings a unique approach to Gotham’s Dark Knight (aka ‘Batfleck’), with more muscle and less misgivings about punishing the wicked, who he equates to cattle. Even Alfred (Jeremy Irons) is a snarky badass mechanic who is more of a sidekick than a butler.
Switching between Metropolis and Gotham, Batman and Superman, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, Snyder expertly builds up to the movie’s legendary climax while also laying a sh—ton of groundwork for future DC adaptations. It’s packed to bursting with Easter eggs that harken to everything from “Justice League” to “Suicide Squad.” What took Marvel almost ten years to build is introduced in the span of two and a half hours. I was skeptical, but Snyder pulls it off.
Oh, and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is a revelation. Gone are the Underoos of yore. She’s a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man. In fact, the men come to rely heavily on her talents.
This is the first movie since “Pacific Rim” that really speaks to the kid in all of us; our action figures and fictional scenarios from back in the day have magically come to life. As the movie cut to black after the final “Inception”-style frame (Christopher Nolan produced), the youngster in me was tempted to dig up his old Batman costume and run around the house, pretending to save the world just one more time.