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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Drama and Incoherence

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:51 IST

God versus man. Day versus night.

That Dawn of Justice is a movie about battles is obvious. First, there's the titular battle. Second, the battling of inner demons both of the characters face. And then there's the battle director Zack Snyder constantly has, trying to keep what is an unwieldy movie from breaking at the seams.

And the fact that Snyder, who is a visual poet of sorts on occasion, has a flair for drama is a truth that cannot be denied. It leaks into every aspect of the film.

And destroys it.

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Honestly, there were moments where I had to actually stop my brain from thinking about other things - like how to completely get the Holi colour out of my hair and what groceries I need to buy.

And even with its moral soul-searching, the film suffers under its duty of laying the foundation stones for DC's next money grab: the Extended Universe.

Lost in the murk

The film opens with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. That's obvious - can you recall any two other fictional characters that have been killed on screen more often than them?)

So after we watch that happen for the billionth time AGAIN, we flash-forward to the events of Man of Steel, but from the perspective of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

At this point, Superman (Henry Cavill) is a hero. But things are churning - people are starting to realise that a godlike being can and is a liability when it comes to foreign policy and due process.

Wayne, who actually witnessed the firsthand the devastation that Superman is capable of causing, is among them. "He has the power to wipe out the entire human race. If we believe there's even a 1% chance that he's our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty."

The film jumps two years into the future, and Superman's popularity has dipped. A hyperactive, skittish Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, with a full head of hair) is doing his very best to take down first Superman's image. He frames him for atrocities in an African desert (very confusing stuff there).

After the introductory sequences, the pace goes a little nuts: there's flashbacks, dream sequences and random plot machinations.

Until Batman and Superman inevitably, briefly fight. And then, surprise surprise, join together against a common foe.

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That foe, I'm not going to reveal who it is, is thrown into the mix with such extreme arbitrary laziness that the entire last battle - replete with a meaningless bunch of fireballs and nuclear bombs - could be cut out of the movie. And there's still no loss of actual story.

It's a climax to a climax. It's CGI overkill. It's kind of reminiscent of most Hindi movie fight scenes.

As for the DC world building, there's a lot to take in by means of this: There's a lot of superheroes watching clips other superheroes on a laptop. You basically get a quick glance at several metahumans - all in preparation for next year's Justice League.

None of this can, however, dispel the notion that we are being sold superhero movies by the litre. Just put a bucket of generic Batman in here and stir in a few pints of Superman.

The leads

When they cast Ben Affleck as Batman, I groaned. Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is still too fresh for us to be force fed yet another Batman. But he's fine as a raspy, grim Batman, if not very compelling as Bruce Wayne.

Eisenberg's Luthor can be intriguing, but some of his motivations and tactics don't make an awful lot of sense. He's megalomaniacal, but perhaps a little too goofy in the style of the pre-Nolan Batman films.

Sadly, the least interesting character is Superman. And this is despite the fact that he the catalyst for nearly every part of the story.

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There's even an entire scene where talking heads (Vikram Gandhi, Neil deGrasse Tyson) on news programmes pontificate about what Superman means to the world, but there's scarcely anything of Superman himself wrestling with his place in it.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane gets far more screen time than expected and it's not all bad. Jeremy Irons makes an agreeably active sidekick of Batman's often-underused butler Alfred Pennyworth.

The score

Hans Zimmer is back. It's heart-pumping and sometimes chilling and it pairs well with the moonlit, smoke and explosion-filled battles.

The powers that be at Warner gave director Snyder a budget of $250 million. So to his credit, the action is completely state of the art.

Snyder is, after all, one of the interesting visual directors working today. In movies like 300 and Watchmen, he did legitimately great work. And even a terrible movie like Suckerpunch was at least fun to look at.

The verdict

The movie's kryptonite is the editing and senseless direction.

But it's a superhero flick. And if you're even remotely interested in comics, you'll criticise and enjoy it all the same. Hell, it's the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel going at each other. But it could have been made with a little more finesse and a helluva lot less melodrama.

But if nothing else, Dawn of Justice will get you excited to see Gal Gadot take centre stage in Wonder Woman - in theatres next summer.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5

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First published: 25 March 2016, 3:27 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.