About two minutes of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” shows that a terrific Ben Affleck Batman movie could have been made.
This is not it.
Although Affleck called in his Oscar-winning “Argo” screenwriter Chris Terrio to help, the screenplay still has about five different character motivations for Bruce Wayne. He’s not obsessed; he’s wishy-washy.
Even so, Affleck uses his eyes as well as his brawn, and gets the right combination of pain, swagger and brute force into his Caped Crusader.
The many problems with “Batman v Superman” lie elsewhere.
Director Zach Snyder’s finished product is — like his “Man of Steel” and others — a very long, heavy, cluttered, scattershot movie laden with seriousness, explosions, boring CGI creatures, and a thundering musical score.
Everything is shrouded in a kind of black sludge, and frankly, it’s depressing. Even the would-be iconic meeting of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman looks like it was ground out from an old Xerox copier.
Conspicuously missing is any kind of color, beauty, grace, hope, joy or fun. Even the hated flops “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” and “Batman & Robin” offer that much.
The movie borrows from at least two major comics story lines, and throws in elements already used to better effect in the “X-Men” and “Avengers” series. Like earlier superhero sequels (“Batman Forever,” etc.), it tries to cram in too much, and everything gets short shrift.
Playing Superman as he did in “Man of Steel,” the perfectly-chiseled Henry Cavill once again broods, goes shirtless and tries to do a kind of dramatic raising of his eyes every time Superman lands.
His main weakness is not Kryptonite; it’s personality. He simply can’t connect emotionally with his co-stars, or viewers.
A smattering of great actors in tiny roles (Holly Hunter, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, etc.) only underscore this void.
Jesse Eisenberg, usually a fine actor, plays Lex Luthor — not as a steely genius, but like a mugging, giggling Joker.
Perhaps worse, the director seems to care little for women. Lois Lane (Amy Adams), once brassy and brave, is reduced to pouting and fretting. And while Israeli actress Gal Gadot is an appealing new Wonder Woman, she’s sadly underused.
Affleck may never get his real Batman movie, but one can hope that the in-the-works “Wonder Woman” will shake off the residue of this mess and serve up a superhero that reminds us why superheroes are worth caring about.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg
Written by: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Running time: 2 hours, 33 minutes