BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE | ★★½

When the title "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" was first announced all the way back in May of 2014, I knew that this film would have a considerable amount of problems. It's an epic title, but one that promises more than it can actually live up to. Yes, Batman and Superman finally share the screen together after years of waiting by fans, and the seeds of Marvel's competition, the Justice League, are planted in order to pave the way for the rest of the DC Extended Universe. Unfortunately, director Zack Snyder cannot juggle everything that the script and the studio have thrown into his hands. Though he has a lot of trouble constructing a cohesive narrative, it's easy to see that Snyder is having a ball with the material. All the same, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" is the equivalent of a kid throwing action figures at each other, on the ground, and against the wall over and over again. And that's only one-third of this two-and-a-half-hour movie.

Since his destructive battle with General Zod in Metropolis, Superman (Henry Cavill) has been a figure of controversy all over the world. Some believe him to be a god, while others see him as a potential threat to all of human life. Gotham City billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who moonlights as crime-fighting vigilante Batman, is one who believes that the Kryptonian must be stopped once and for all. As the Dark Knight gears up to face off against the Man of Steel, he is intercepted by the mysterious Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), while business magnate Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) also plans to unleash hell upon Superman, whom he considers a false god and his archenemy.

Problems arise from the onset of the picture. Snyder opens with a stylized interpretation of the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents, a sequence that, unless you've never seen a Batman movie, offers absolutely nothing new to this version of the Caped Crusader. This level of uninspired filmmaking is littered throughout the film, as Snyder revisits imagery that even average viewers will recognize. Some of it is inescapable, such as Batman plowing his way through armed thugs and Superman committing various acts of heroism, but Snyder is ultimately incapable of making these iconic superheroes and their human counterparts freshly compelling.

The only semblance of inspiration comes from Snyder's obvious fascination with the idea that superheroes are the Greek gods of contemporary pop culture. The film poses questions regarding what would happen if such powerful figures were to appear in our world, and it is admittedly intriguing to see how Snyder attempts to answer them by mixing real-world grit with the bombastic might of the titular characters. There is also an air of darkness and tragedy to this brutal superhero soap opera that sets it apart from the more light-hearted efforts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some extravagant cinematography bolsters the heroes' almighty auras and keeps everything tonally consistent, but it isn't enough to save the rest of the film from its overcrowded storyline.

"Batman v Superman" does have its moments, though it takes over an hour to get to them. In the meantime, there is some impressive work from a few members of the cast. Affleck is by far the highlight of the film, offering a remarkable portrayal of both Bruce Wayne and Batman. His bat-voice, however, sounds a bit too monstrous. Jeremy Irons also displays some exceptional work as Alfred Pennyworth, Batman's trusted butler and confidant. Gadot, who sadly doesn't have very much to do until the end, makes a superb debut as Wonder Woman (her entrance will have fans bursting with excitement). The rest of the ensemble squander their chances to the match the efforts of their aforementioned co-stars. Cavill is still as bland as he was in "Man of Steel." Amy Adams's Lois Lane is disappointingly reduced to the damsel-in-distress once again. Eisenberg is as confused as the film itself, unable to decide whether Luthor is a mad genius or just a spoiled brat with psychopathic ticks.

Long story short, the film's issues all boil down to its title, or rather, its titles. Shockingly enough, it doesn't deserve to be called "Batman v Superman" at all, since the big fight only lasts a little over five minutes. "Dawn of Justice" on its own would have been a much more appropriate title, considering how the film seems more concerned with uniting Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman against a common enemy, while also hinting at what is to come in future installments. Nevertheless, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" is in need of more than title-trimming. A cleaner edit and more streamline script might have rescued the film from falling into the realm of mediocrity.

(5/10)