“Batman v Superman” v underwhelming start to DC universe

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is the follow-up to 2013’s “Man of Steel” and, if the tagline tells us anything, serves as the official launch of the DC Extended Universe and all things Justice League. Well, after sitting through two and a half hours of Batman and Superman beating the snot out of each other over ideological differences about what it means to be the type of superhero the world needs, all while destroying Gotham and Metropolis at the same time, I’m not sure how excited I am for future DC installments.

Now, “Batman v. Superman” isn’t an awful film, but it’s certainly not great either. The film is poorly managed by Zack Snyder, whose director credits include such films as “300,” the aforementioned “Man of Steel” and “Watchman.” While these films have proven that Snyder is a competent filmmaker when he is allowed to muck about in his particular niche of dark and gritty storytelling, I wouldn’t have trusted him with the responsibility of directing the maiden voyage of the DC flagship.

The first two thirds of the film primarily set up the big battle that we know is coming. If handled well, this could have made for some good superhero drama. Unfortunately this set-up is handled clumsily, with long stretches of boring exposition and character motivations and subplots that aren’t thoroughly explored.

At least Ben Affleck as Batman puts to bed any doubts about his ability to take on the famous role as Caped Crusader. Despite being the most violent and grim Batman to date, Affleck might rival Christian Bale’s interpretation.

On the other hand, Henry Cavill as Superman certainly looks the part, but his performance is too restrained and one-dimensional for us to latch onto him and care about his character.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Lex Luthor in a completely ridiculous and over-the-top performance. His mannerisms are too quirky, and I never once took him as a serious threat. The fact that people around me in the theater snickered at some of his idiosyncrasies seems to further reflect my view.

Unfortunately the most interesting character, and one who was far too underutilized, was Wonder Woman played by Gal Gadot. I look forward to seeing her in her standalone film.

Perhaps the film’s biggest flaw is the lack of driving motivation for any of the heroes. There was no deep moral conundrum for Batman to wrestle with over his use of violence. This quandary was often the only thing that separated him from common criminals, and apart from the tired damsel in distress trope and insubstantial ideological differences, there was really nothing for Batman or Superman to fight for.

For the most part the action is fine, although towards the end it becomes so encumbered with explosions, flying rubble and other general destruction that it becomes burdensome to watch and not all that entertaining. Unlike Nolan’s Batman series, the stakes for Gotham and Metropolis are never high enough to get your heart rate up.

“Batman v Superman” might satisfy some DC fans, but those looking for their superheroes with depth or even for some well-paced and well shot action sequences should look elsewhere. Or wait for the next Marvel movie – that’s done the trick so far.