In the latest superhero movie, the two dynamos of the DC Universe are pitted against each other (sort of): Superman and Batman. For decades cinema fanatics have fantasized about such a scenario. Frank Miller's genre defining graphic novel The Dark Knight Retruns offered an iconoclastic take on comic book lore - a masterpiece that imagined a plausible scenario for Batman and Superman becoming enemies. Dawn of Justice takes direct inspiration from Miller - minus the satirical edge that made the graphic novel transcend its genre.
The plot picks a few years after Man of Steel (2013), when the Battle of Metropolis left Superman's city in ruins.
Bruce Wayne sees something sinister about Superman and fears he will attempt to enslave humanity. Meanwhile, Clark Kent disapproves of Batman's vigilante activity. Miller saw Superman as a corporate hack and Batman as an anti-establishment crime fighter. Here, their conflict lacks gravity. It feels forced to simply satisfy audiences.
Ben Affleck gives a strong performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman, a grim, but driven caped crusader. But Henry Cavill's stoic take on Superman fails to achieve a much of an emotional connection. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) also appears in a peripheral role (she will get a stand alone film next year).
Jesse Eisenberg's villainous turn as Lex Luther takes the "mad scientist" mythos to another level. The film crackles whenever Eisenberg's on the screen - a super-villain for the age of google.
Human relationships are totally absent. Richard Donner's Superman films brought a zany screwball comedy repartee between Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Here, their dialogue is cold as ice. The only decent lines went to Lawrence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor Perry White, a character who makes light Dawn of Justice is nothing more than a corporate product.
Reviews keep going on about how dark the film is, I don't mind a dark superhero story at all. But I do find all the repetition tiring.
Miller's Dark Knight allowed Batman dignity and pathos, here he's a one-dimensional, one-man wrecking machine.
On top of the clunky storytelling the film introduces several new characters for upcoming DC Universe films, diluting the main story - making the Batman/Superman duel feel even more contrived.
Overall, I enjoyed Dawn of Justice for what it is. Do audiences deserve better? Yes. But this is a comic book movie. Nothing more, nothing less. Lower your expectations and enjoy the ride.