The same people who rebooted Superman back in 2013 with “Man of Steel” have rebooted the Caped Crusader with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”(***1/2 OUT OF ****), and “Watchmen” director Zack Snyder treats The Dark Knight character as reverently as he did the Last Son of Krypton. Clocking in at a marathon 151 minutes, this austere costume-clad, crime fighter extravaganza surpasses all previous “Batman” movies in terms of spectacle. Snyder and scenarists Chris Terrio of “Argo” and David S. Goyer of “Blade” neither squander a second nor delay the action for bouts of expository dialogue. Meantime, you’ll see Batman as has been portrayed since the early comics, while Superman clearly qualifies as no slouch himself. Not only must Superman contend with Batman, but he also finds himself pitted against a monstrous Doomsday. Suffice to say, the hideous Doomsday resembles the Incredible Hulk after his features have been nuked in a microwave. Furthermore, not content merely to reboot just Batman, Snyder and company have ushered Wonder Woman onto the silver screen, too, and this dame is no damsel-in-distress. She can hold her own with both Superman and Batman! Snyder clearly loves all three of these larger-than-life characters because he keeps them front and center. He has orchestrated several sensational, over-the-top scenes of close-quarters combat that will make you flinch at every punch thrown and cringe at every body blow absorbed. As he did with “Man of Steel,” Snyder relies heavily on CGI galore to present as much credible collateral damage to Gotham City as he did to Metropolis. Some spectators may scoff at the premise that Batman would stand a chance against Superman in a straight-up fight. You’re right! Batman wouldn’t stand a chance, except he is the devious Dark Knight, and he always has an edge when he plunges into peril. What makes “Batman v Superman” such an exhilarating escapade is the changes that occur here and there, along with the surprises that accompany them.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” unfolds as Superman is battling General Zod over the skies of Metropolis. As it turns out, one of the buildings that topples during this Olympian smack down belonged to billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne. Wayne (Ben Affleck of “Daredevil”) careens into Metropolis at the last minute to rescue an employee, Wallace Keefe (Scoot McNairy of “Gone Girl”), trapped beneath a girder. Afterward, he notices the devastated little girl about to be creamed by a falling wall and sweeps her to safety. Had he not intervened, the poor girl would have died. An outraged Wayne decides that Superman needs to be reckoned with before he destroys civilization. Wayne isn’t the only one that Superman alarms. Alexander Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg of “Zombieland”) is just as alarmed. He has his henchmen scouring the globe for anything that will make place him on equal footing the Last Son of Krypton. Namely, one of General Zod’s war machines in “Man of Steel” contained a rock of green Kryptonite. After the destruction of this machine, a large chunk of Kryptonite sank into the Indian Ocean. Luthor’s personnel managed to recover it. Naturally, Lex doesn’t trust either anybody or anything he cannot control for his own advantage. Indeed, Luthor wants to enter into a pact with Senator Finch (Holly Hunter of “Raising Arizona”) who shares Luthor’s anxieties about Superman. Mind you, the timing couldn’t be any worse for Superman. He saves Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams of “American Hustle”) when she ventures into the desert to interview a notorious terrorist. No sooner has Superman shown up than the armed guards contracted presumably to safeguard the terrorist turn on him and wipe out his own men. When word of this massacre reaches America, people believe that Superman killed them. Incredibly, Superman consents to appear before a Senate hearing in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, Superman finds himself caught off-guard by the tragic calamity that ensues. Meanwhile, Batman has been keeping tabs on Lex Luthor. He discovers Luthor’s plans to smuggle in the green Kryptonite. Imagine Luthor’s surprise when Batman tries to purloin the Kryptonite. The high-octane speed chase between Luthor’s heavily armed gunmen and Batman in his souped-up Batmobile constitutes a no-holds-barred demolition derby. Meantime, Luthor has more than Kryptonite at his disposal. The government allows him access to the Kryptonian ship and General Zod’s corpse and he conjures up something else that proves just as formidable as Kryptonite.
Henry Cavill reprises his role as Superman. Cavill has added more muscle so he looks genuinely Herculean. Superman has a day job now as Clark Kent at The Daily Planet, and Lois Lane still has her eyes on him. Cavill’s Superman seems uncharacteristically stern at moments when he confronts his enemies. Meantime, Ben Affleck has inherited the cape and the cowl, and he plays an older, wiser Dark Knight with gray temples. After you’ve seen Affleck as Batman, Christian Bale, George Clooney, Val Kilmer, Michael Keaton, and Adam West will pale by comparison. Snyder has fashioned Batman after Frank Miller’s classic graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns.” Snyder’s Batman sheds the kid gloves that his previous incarnations wore. He clobbers his adversaries without a qualm, and he blasts away at them with an automatic pistol. At one point, when Batman confronts Lex Luthor’s trigger-happy henchmen, the Caped Crusader retaliates with fusillades of machine gun fire from two forward gun ports in his armored Batmobile. Snyder pushes his PG-13 rating to the breaking point with savage pugnacity.
Unlike Disney’s produced Marvel Super Hero sagas, “Batman v Superman” shuns humor. The closest thing to a joke occurs when Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot of the “Fast & Furious” franchise) arrives for the grand finale. Batman and Superman wonder who invited her. Supposedly, when it hits home video, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” will contain more characters and scenes left on the editing room floor that the filmmakers couldn’t cram into this blockbuster. Reportedly, the video version of “Batman v Superman” will come with an R-rating, too.
“Your imagination can take you where nothing else can.” Van Roberts