Editor’s Notes: New to Blu-ray/DVD: Batman v. Superman will be released on its respective home video format on July 19th.
In an attempt to duplicate the success of Marvel in bringing its superheroes to the screen, DC, following the tepid reception to Man of Steel, has paired its two biggest names in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Warner Home Video). The current film picks up with the battle between Superman and General Zod and the collateral damage it causes to both Metropolis and Gotham City (which appear to lie across the river from one another in a New York/New Jersey relationship). The film opens with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) dodging falling concrete, shattered glass, and thick clouds of 9/11-type smoke. Witnessing the destruction of lots of Gotham City real estate, including the Wayne Enterprises building, he is devastated.
Eighteen months later, things are supposedly back to normal, with Superman streaking to rescue Lois Lane (Amy Adams) wherever in the world her journalistic career takes her. But his latest rescue caused the loss of more innocent lives. Because of Superman’s power and the virtual inability to stop him, Congress holds hearings on what to do about the Man of Steel. The Congressional committee is headed by Kentucky Senator Finch (Holly Hunter).
Bruce Wayne/Batman, still smarting from the decimation of his home town, is equally determined to bring down Superman. Much is made of the world’s reaction to Superman as god-like with his omnipotent ability to save children, prevent calamities, and combat bad guys. The problem, once again, is that nasty collateral damage — the guy has the unfortunate habit of leaving dead bodies in his wake after well-intentioned exploits.
Square-jawed Henry Cavill looks the part of Superman but never really convinces as Superman’s alter-ego, Clark Kent. Especially when sharing the screen with editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburn) or Lois Lane, Cavill’s Kent just blends into the background.
Superman continues to question his rightful place on Earth, as he did in Man of Steel, and this introspection tends to wear thin in an action flick. His adopted mother, Martha Kent (Diane Lane), pops up here and there to encourage him and offer motherly advice, but these scenes seem more padding than character enrichment.
Batman in this movie is the brooding character of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight comic book series, and is the more satisfying superhero, primarily because of Affleck’s strong portrayal and the fact that, unlike Superman, he is of this earth and thus vulnerable to bullets. Though he has plenty of gizmos on hand to protect him and gain the upper hand, Superman’s invulnerability proves problematic. If only Superman can in some way be weakened.
This takes us to the film’s third main character, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), a multi-billionaire megalomaniac who gets wind of the discovery in the Indian Ocean of a chunk of Kryptonite (Superman’s Achilles heel) large enough to make into a weapon that can destroy Superman. Eisenberg plays Luthor from his well-used bag of tricks — twitchy movements, rapid speech, and penetrating eyes that telegraph instability. Coming off more as an unbalanced geek than a villainous genius, he hardly seems a match for either Superman or Batman. In addition, we never have a clear idea of what Luthor wants. Why is he so determined to get the two superheroes to do battle? What is his long-term plan? If he’s a generic nut case, the character is simply too ill-defined for a movie of this scope.
Batman v. Superman also introduces the character of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), aka Wonder Woman, who gets to show her stuff in the film’s pyrotechnic finale. As with most superhero movies, there are indications that sequels will follow, particularly the all-star line-up of DC’s Justice League, but at least this one is a self-contained story that will satisfy viewers.
Director Zack Snyder has fashioned a worthy superhero film. At 153 minutes, however, it could stand some judicious editing. A packed audience at an opening day showing was excited by the many action set pieces and the dazzling special effects. The tone of the film is melodramatic, with few moments of humor. When a character did utter an amusing line, the audience reacted enthusiastically. Additional well-placed bits of humor would have balanced the heavy plot.
To attain its PG-13 rating, the film never dwells on death, blood, or grim images, though several sequences are intense and may not be suitable for young children.
Bonus extras on the 3-disc Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray Combo Pack include the featurettes “Uniting the World’s Finest,” “Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants,” “The Warrior, the Myth, the Wonder,” “Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile,” “Superman: Complexity & Truth,” “Batman: Austerity & Rage,” “Wonder Woan: Grace & Power,” “Batcave: Legacy of the Lair,” “The Might and the Power of a Punch,” “The Empire of Luthor,” and “Save the Bats.” A 3-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack and a 2-disc DVD edition are also available.