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It's ironic watching Batman v Superman Friday and catching Batman Begins now on cable. Nolan’s seminal film, along with ‘iron Man’, started something very special. Nolan’s films took the super-hero genre and used it as a way to look at the real world. Meanwhile 'Iron Man' brought us Nick Fury's pithy line about the Avengers. What was meant to be a joke if the film bombed became a dream, then a reality, and finally the ginormous, money-machine which is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both films took what was just another revenue stream for the movie industry and gave it much deeper story-telling cred and huge box office potential.

Flash forward and as venerated as Nolan’s work has become over the years DC and Warner Brothers are hoping to hit a giant jack-pot. Franchises come and go, but an entire universe of stories to tell? Not just a single character like either Bond, Harry, or Kirk. Instead an entire universe of characters which could span decades. Yes, studios and execs salivate at the possibilities. They also slam their heads into their lap-tops at every attempt to replicate what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done and what Star Wars could do with ‘Rogue One’.

The plan/prayer was ‘Man of Steel’ would be the launch point for DC’s attempt at a series of super-hero films. And how hard could it be, right? Most of the DC catalog of characters was a marketing dream. Superman and Batman have already been successful franchise. They needed one more push, one little nudge, a teeny, tiny shove to get them from money making intellectual properties and cultural icons into billion-dollar generating pop-culture machines. Yeah, kind of a depressing thought this is what it comes down to but welcome to the 21st century.

Sooooooooooooooooooooo after so many expectations, hopes, prayers, dollars???? Um, well, the good news is the film is NOT a replay of Green Lantern. On the other hand, that ain’t sayin’ much. Ugh.

Ok, folks, spoiler shields are set at maximum!

The film actually begins with a very abbreviated origin for Batman. It’s short, sweet, and very effective. It’s also a good way to remind everyone Bruce has severe issues after seeing his family slaughtered before his eyes from two gun-shots. The film then breaks your heart further as Wayne races into Metropolis to do what he can for him employees as Superman and Zod level Metropolis. Warning, if scenes from 9-11 mess with you, you wanna turn away.

Flash-forward about two years and things have gotten messier. The world’s reaction to having a savior/messiah/big blue boy scout around? To say mixed is a huge understatement. Trust him? Not trust him? Doing everything he can? Blame him because he saved those people but not these people? And if the ambivalence of the public wasn’t bad enough, the US government is having doubts about the advantage of having Superman around. And I haven’t even mentioned Batman and Lex Luthor who have their own reasons for seeing the Man of Steel as a giant menace.

The film goes in a ton of directions from there. One thread is Superman watching the world have a public discussion about this work while he’s just trying to do the right thing. Meanwhile Bruce Wayne is an older, burned-out, bitter Batman having doubts on what good he’s done and sees the Last Son of Krypton as the umpteenth unpredictable threat on the planet. ANOTHER thread is Luthor, as we see what the demented, ego-maniacal, brilliant man gets involved in discrediting Superman. Oh, and in a tiny subplot Wonder Woman is sneaking around. In the midst of all this are some super-hero fights, some soul-searching, blah, blah, blah, and Doomsday appearing to kick some major ass. GASP GASP GASP GASP.

So how exactly does all this work? Oy. Some things work really well. Some things just blow up in your face like Doomsday’s heat vision. Ugh.

What's good in the film? Actually a number of things.

Hate Affleck? Stop. His take on Batman is a nice continuation in tone from Nolan's Batman. What if Dark Knight Rises didn't happen? What if Bruce gave in to his sense of loss and failure and continued his endless crusade? How bitter and angry would he get? Its’ a pretty ugly mess. How would this man change after seeing God drop from the sky and help to destroy a city? Yeah, this is going from bad to catastrophically bad.

Jeremy Irons is fantastic as Alfred. He's less of a father figure here then Caine’s Alfred. Nonetheless he does what he can to remind Bruce of what his real fight is about, and praying his charge stays alive. And don’t forget the funny side-jokes.

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman doesn't get a lot of screen time. (Which at 2 1/2 hours, ya know...) But what she does get is pretty freaking awesome. Batman is a martial artist out of necessity. Wonder Woman is a martial artist because she LOVES it. Watching her go toe-to-toe with Doomsday and holding her own is expected. What’s wonderful to see is her get cold-cocked by Doomsday, and smile with glee because she’s finally involved in a challenging right! Oh yeah, bring it bitches!

Eisenberg is amazing as Luthor. He's brilliant, arrogant, cocky, funny, and bat-shit (Pun waaaaay intended.) nuts. Watching him think 20 steps ahead of everyone (And figuring out who Superman is. Duh. If Lois can do you really think Luthor can't?) is a freaking joy.

The CORE of the story is a great idea. Continuing the concepts from Man of Steel, how does the world react to God being on Earth? Well, as expected it’s a mixed bag of joy, confusion, entitlement, veneration, anger, you get the picture. Throw in a paranoid superhero and the antithesis to Tony Stark as the lead villain and you’ve got a massive number of interesting questions, ideas, plots and sub-plots.

And finally, you read that right a few paragraphs ago. Doomsday. The final fight with Doomsday is AWESOME! The Triumvirate of DC taking on the deadliest killing machine in comics. Nice! Watching all three characters do what they do best to take Doomsday out is the confrontation you’ve begged for.

So what the hell happened? Wow, where to start… s

First there’s Super-whiner, er, Superman. How do you react to people crapping on you? Superman goes REALLY into whiny mode. Sigh. Cavill has a constant, pained look on his face as people criticize everything he’s trying to do. But rather then respond he just has this grimace on his face. He appears before congress to explain himself and even then he doesn’t get a chance to do anything except feed Luthor’s rather brilliant plan to discredit the Man of Steel. Ugh!

There’s also the transformation of the conflict to partnership between Batman and Superman. Much of the film has Batman giving in to the darker side of his distrust of things (With Alfred trying to talk some sense into Bruce.) Supes and Bats get into the giant fight with lives in the balance. Fists and Kryptonite are flying everywhere. And then it STOPS. Batman goes from trying to gut Supes like a trout to singing camp-songs together. Um… huh??????

Speaking of the fight between Supes and Batman? The reason the film is Batman v Superman? The fight of the millennia? The ultimate test of brain vs brawn? The opportunity to settle the question asked by geeks for decades of who wins? Surprisingly boring, repetitive, un-imaginative and simply… lame. It reminded me of the problem of the final confrontation between Zod and Kal El. A fight between gods should involve all sorts of different abilities and environments and techniques. After a while it degenerated into two guys throwing each other into walls. Smack smack smack. It’s more of the same here. Hey, let's throw you into ANOTHER freaking wall. Hey, let me slam your head into some more concrete and then throw you down 10 floors and crash into more concrete! Woohoo!

The final battle in 'The Dark Knight returns' animated film is how this final confrontation should have been staged. The duel was a showcase for what each character does best. The might of Superman using his full range of powers, from speed to heat vision to pure strength. The ingenuity of Batman using his assorted gadgets and techniques. Oh, coulda, woulda, shoulda.

The biggest problem with the film is it's doing a LOT in 2 1/2 hours. You're introducing Batman, Lex Luthor, AND Wonder Woman. And trying to explain why Batman's normal paranoia and need to control everything leads him to wanna kick Superman's ass. And why half the planet venerates Superman while the other half wonders where Superman was when my child/family/spouse died. Oh, and there's a cameo of a few meta-humans as well. And a partridge in a pear tree.

There is talk already of a 3-hour director’s cut of the film on blue-ray. I wonder if that extra time may fill in the gaps which the film has. Hell, how about just doing two films to give the wealth of material the time and development it needs. The film creeks under the weight of what it’s trying to accomplish and expectations due to the success of another group of heroes. The Avengers worked perfectly because it was the final chapter in a six-chapter novel. B v S is trying to be BOTH the end of a massive novel AND the beginning of another multi-chapter novel. That's a LOT to do in 2 1/2 hours.

Final call? Ouch. Is film a horrible, unwatchable story? I like the film. I enjoyed Man of Steel and loved 300 and Watchmen so I like Snyder’s work. The film does a number of things well and is not an utter disaster. However, remember what I said about ‘weight’. To say the film has gigantic expectations is an understatement. When your base budget is $250 mill BEFORE you add the marketing budget your film can’t just be decent. Yeah, talk about a back-handed compliment, right? Sure, the Transformers franchise has gotten away with horrific reviews while making a ton o’ money but that’s the exception which proves the rule. All-in-all the film fails under the stress of EVERYTHING. Like Superman, it can’t DO everything so it's trapped doing a lot of things a bit and hoping it's enough.


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