Now it is officially the season of the mother. Two supermen clash in a $250 million fight, and the only hero is a woman in grey hair intermittently doing laundry and looking worried.
You may cry for Diane Lane, but doing laundry may be about the only sane thing anyone does in this 153-minute mess where the most well-defined thing is Cavill’s chin cleft. Naah, Affleck’s lips are no competition.
Cavill, of course, is Superman, Affleck Batman. Stringing them along is Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg, who has his own defining body part – his unkempt hair. There may have been an idea there to pit a Silicon Valley-like boy genius in tees against bulky men in tights, but Eisenberg hams his Zuckerbeg into this crazed incomprehensible figure with nervous tics and mumbled words that is a lifetime away from The Social Network.
However, having a villain without any charisma or appeal is not the biggest problem with Dawn of Justice — that would be the reason Batman and Superman are fighting. A lot of words are thrown about, of “humans playing gods”, of “democracy being about conversation”, of “consent of the governed”, of “being all powerful means you can’t be all good” etc, etc. All of which logically should see Superman and Batman on the same side of the fence. The reason they decide that the other one is wrong is absolutely unclear, except for the fact that it gives a sexy title to this film. The way it gets all resolved is even funnier.
Another actor of note plodding away against his better self is Jeremy Irons, as Alfred. Replacing one Englishman for another turns out to be not the answer as Irons doesn’t have the wry self-humour or warmth required of that father figure to Batman. Irons is a hardened cynic, and you have other thoughts — none of them charitable — when he wonders whether Batman will ever have children.
The only profession of note is journalism, as practised by Lois Lane (Adams) who, in the course of it, keeps needing Superman to rescue her. Much in the nature of Snyder’s other rushed, half-confused ideas, we constantly return to her paper, The Daily Planet, only to hear the editor say the newspaper business is worth nothing.
Holly Hunter is a Senator who hangs around in hair even worse than Luthor, chairing hearings that summon Superman to account for, among other things, his acts in a village in Africa. It’s a wonder he understands — though the frown on Cavill’s forehead is as constant a cleft as on his chin — given how Hunter literally clenches her teeth while speaking.
It is clearer what the $250 million have been spent on. Hardly a scene passes than something not blow up, fall apart or gets shot down, even in dreams. Gal Gadot gets introduced as Wonder Woman while we get glimpses of other creatures in DC Comics’ world who are set to populate the screen in the coming years, in a universe presumably parallel to Marvel’s Avengers.
Before the end, just when you think it is all about to get over, another monster surfaces as Luthor messes about with genetics and a giant amniotic sac inside a kryptonite ship. Kryptonite, in fact, isn’t as rare as it used to be, almost everyone has a piece of it.
Cavill and Affleck, who sports grey sideburns to show an aged Batman, have little to do but grimace, straighten their shoulders and fight. Both get to appear shirtless, and while Affleck wins that one, pack for pack, at least Cavill is poaching eggs for Lane at the time. Batman has only giant computer screens for company, where he keeps searching for Russians and ‘White Portuguese’. And falling asleep very often, to dream some crazy dreams. Alfred doesn’t seem to notice this new predilection.
To shore up its man vs god ideas, the film falls back on a giant statue of Superman that takes off from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, and lines up real-life scientists and commentators such as Neil degrasse Tyson and Andrew Sullivan. Alice in Wonderland gets referenced, as does The Wizard of Oz, in the strangest of ways.
Supermen may need a bit of it all, but science, faith or fairy tale, nothing can rescue this one.
Directed by Zack Snyder
Star Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane