Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a cinder block of a movie, smashed over your head for 152 minutes until you’re semi-conscious, throbbing with pain, and bleeding from your ears into your popcorn. Utterly joyless, it’s sheer torture.
Zack Snyder’s movie is filled with Bat Signals and stylized consonants, but its most iconic moment is a scene in which Batman takes some of his rare R&R time to go through what you might call the Herb Ritts workout: gleaming and shirtless, he repeatedly bashes a tire with a sledgehammer. It’s the perfect distillation of a movie that’s completely forgotten how ridiculous it is.
Both DC and Marvel are setting their biggest heroes against each other this summer, as the presidential campaign hurtles forward in a climate of fear and loathing. Batman v Superman makes unmistakable references to terrorist attacks — such as the one that took place in Brussels on the very morning of the preview screening I attended — but it offers no uplift or resonant allegory, just a resigned scorched-earth ethos that suggests we’re all, at heart, suicide bombers. Yeah, it’s that bleak.
Whatever Captain America: Civil War holds, it’s hard to believe it can possibly be as bad as Batman v Superman, which is so far up the ass of its own mythology that as an audience member, you feel utterly taken for granted. How could anyone who cares about popular culture in 2016 not march diligently to the theater to see the latest chapter in this oft-rebooted saga? If you take my advice, you’ll show DC exactly how.
Before the preview screening, we were asked not once but twice — both in a statement read aloud from the studio, and in an onscreen plea from Snyder himself — to refrain from revealing any spoilers. To me that seemed an implicit acknowledgement that if you know what the plot developments are, there’s no reason left to actually go see the movie. Would that I could so mercifully spare you that ordeal, but I’ll instead play nice and refrain from so much as describing the plot. Anyway, once you’ve read the title, what more do you really need to know?
Henry Cavill reprises his role from 2013’s also-terrible Man of Steel — and good God, does this man hate his job. Will we ever again see an onscreen Superman who takes the least bit of pleasure in being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? He’s well-matched with Ben Affleck, whose Batman just looks like a fucking Garthim, encased in an armored carapace with eyes that glow to show how intense he is.
The trailers have also revealed the appearance of Wonder Woman. She emerges from an impenetrable backstory in the person of Gal Gadot, who achieves what amounts to a transcendent moment when she actually smiles in the course of being a superhero. The three of them are set against mischief unleashed by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, straining mightily to be quirky enough to make an impression amidst the bombast).
If we’re lucky, Batman v Superman will herald not the Dawn of Justice but rather the demise of the bloated and self-important CGI spectacle passing for popcorn fare. That’s probably too much to hope, but no wonder so many superhero franchises are moving to TV — where writing and acting count for more than expensive effects.
Hans Zimmer, the composer laureate of this generation of action movies, collaborated with protege Junkie XL to create a score that sounds like what it was doubtlessly supposed to evoke, the end of times. When the action’s over, the credits roll while Zimmer’s trademark blaaams deliver one body blow after another. We get it, we get it! Uncle! Uncle! Uncle!