Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

From its inception, just about every piece of news or development connected to this movie seemed to have some kind of negative connotation to it. First, you had the crazy opposition to Ben Affleck being cast as Batman, with numerous petitions to get him removed and these crazy fans seriously trying to get the President to make it illegal for him to play the role (and they wonder why so many look down on them). Second, there was the eyebrow-raising decision to cast Jessie Eisenberg, of all people, as Lex Luthor, instead of Bryan Cranston, who would've been ideal, and the less than stellar reaction to that was further compounded later when Eisenberg compared the 2015 San Diego Comic Con to genocide. Third, writer David S. Goyer really made an ass out of himself when he was interviewed for a podcast 2014 when he not only referred to the She-Hulk as a pornographic fantasy for "geeks" but, when asked about the character, the Martian Manhunter, he dropped this little gem, "How many people in the audience have heard of Martian Manhunter? How many people that raised their hands have ever been laid?" Maybe you could write off the She-Hulk comment as it just being an off-the-cuff thing that wasn't meant to be taken seriously but the latter feels very condescending and insulting to anybody even remotely interested in this stuff (for the record, I do know of the Martian Manhunter and I'm not a virgin, so suck it, Goyer). And fourth and foremost, there was the feeling that the filmmakers behind these movies were getting ahead of themselves by introducing Batman into this continuity in only the second film, and without a standalone film featuring him, to boot. That's what I felt when I first heard of it, anyway. Even though it was announced in July of 2013, the month after the release of Man of Steel, that the follow-up would feature both heroes for the first time in live-action, I don't think I heard about it at that time, as I was away on vacation and away from computer, although I did later hear about Affleck's casting and the controversy around it. Thinking about it, it was when the title was officially announced in May of 2014 that I can first remember being aware of it and, despite my not being that big a fan of Man of Steel, I was interested in seeing it just to get a chance to see the two characters onscreen together. Not being the one to follow movie news religiously, I only slowly but surely heard about the various developments concerning the movie, such as those I've already touched on and others like the inclusion of Wonder Woman, Jeremy Irons being cast as Alfred, and so forth. When I went and saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens around the time of the New Year of 2016 (in fact, it may have been January 1st), the trailer for the movie was played beforehand and it was interesting enough, showing build-up to the big confrontation, the appearance of Wonder Woman, leading to the exchange between Superman and Batman, "She with you?" "I thought she was with you,", a hint of Eisenberg's performance, and so on. And when it was finally released, I read about how the initial buzz was not good at all but I was still interested in seeing it and had planned on catching it in the theater.

I did try several times to see it in theaters but various things, like crappy weather, more important things, and lack of time while I was on vacation with my mother and grandmother prevented it. The closest I came was several weeks after its release, when I rode with my mom to Manchester and we talked about going to see it in nearby Tullahoma. But, the thing was, this was on a Sunday, the movie didn't start until around 7:00 or 7:30, meaning that, by the time we would've gotten out of that 2 1/2 hour thing, it would've been 10:00 or later that night, and Mom had to go to work the next day. Deciding I didn't want to make things any harder for her, we decided to just go home and wait for another chance (we watched Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion when we got home instead, which turned out to have been a much better choice). That chance never came and I didn't see it until late that summer when I bought the Blu-Ray of it. Despite all of the bad things I had heard about it, I figured, "Okay, maybe it won't be high art, but it's Batman and Superman in a movie. It has to be entertaining to some degree." I'll never forget the day I sat down to watch it because, right as I was about to pop it in, a cousin of mine, who's a huge Batman fan but had misgivings about Affleck being cast, called me and told me, "It was a good movie, except for Ben Affleck." Well, after I sat through it, I swear, if he had not just become a father, I would have gone over there and beaten the absolute hell out of him (he later said he never said that but I know what I heard over that phone). I also realized that Mom would've done the same to me if I had made her stay out late the night before she had to go to work to see that movie. And if I did reviews right after I'd seen something for the first time rather than waiting until I've seen it at least twice, this review would've been a very angry edition of Movies That Suck. I was fully expecting to still make it so when I decided to do this and Man of Steel but, after watching it two more times, I can't say that I'm as irritated about it as I was before, mainly because I now knew what to expect, and I do think it has good notes, particularly on the Batman side of things and also a little bit in regards to Wonder Woman; everything else, however, is insufferable, to say the least. You'd think they would learn from their mistakes, and they did, in some areas, but for the most part, they took what was wrong with Man of Steel and multiplied it to the tenth power. This movie is infinitely more joyless, grim, talky, and pretentious than that one ever thought about being, is a drag to sit through (first time around, I felt every... single... minute of its 151-minute running time), joins the long line of comic book movies that try to do far too much at one but somehow manages outdo all of them in terms of shakiness, and is at times confusing as all get-out. It's dumbfounding to try to ponder what a colossal mess this is, but we're going to get to it, regardless. (Heads up, this is going to be long.)

As a child, Bruce Wayne's world was shattered when his parents were shot and killed by a mugger while they were walking home from the movies; decades later, Wayne, now the head of his family's billion-dollar corporation, arrives in Metropolis during General Zod's attempt to terraform Earth into a new Krypton in order to evacuate a building his company owns. However, during the attack and the destructive battle that breaks out between Zod and Superman, the building is destroyed, killing thousands of employees, irreparably damaging one's legs, and leaving a young girl an orphan, as well as Wayne with a hatred for Superman. Eighteen months later, a piece of the World Engine, containing a glowing, green element is retrieved from the Indian Ocean; at the same time, Superman saves Lois Lane when she's captured by a group of freedom fighters in Nairomi, Africa, but is then blamed for the senseless slaughter of them and the government's reactionary attack on a nearby village, prompting U.S. Senator June Finch to decide that Superman must be held accountable for his actions and given a limit to the lengths he can take with his powers. Across the bay from Metropolis, in crime-riddled Gotham City, a violent and feared vigilante known as the "Gotham Bat" has been terrorizing the criminals there, brutalizing and branding them with his symbol. In his latest excursions into taking the law in his own hands, Bruce Wayne has been attempting to track down Russian weapons and sex trafficker Anatoli Knyazev, who he says has connections to someone planning to smuggle a bomb into Gotham. Finding a link between him and young mogul Lex Luthor, who has been stonewalled by Finch in his attempt to have the element found in the Indian Ocean imported to the U.S., as a "precaution" against Superman and other super-powered beings he believes exist in the world, Wayne attends a fundraiser at LexCorp in order to hack into the company's mainframe and retrieve encrypted data. However, a mysterious but lovely woman steals the drive he uses, although she eventually returns it to him, claiming that she took it because she believes Luthor has a photograph that belongs to her. After having a dream of an apocalyptic world where Superman rules as a cruel dictator, and a vision of a man warning him of Lois Lane's role in whether or not this world becomes real, Wayne attempts to steal the element, Kryptonite, which is smuggled into the country by a ship owned by Luthor. However, Superman, who does not approve of his brand of justice, stops him, further compounding Batman's hatred of him. Superman then appears at a congressional hearing in Washington in order to explain his actions, when the building is destroyed by a bomb that he failed to see. Seeing this, Wayne manages to steal the Kryptonite and prepares for the inevitable confrontation with Superman, as well as discovers from Luthor's data that the woman he encountered is one of several other powerful beings dubbed "meta-humans." Soon, it's revealed to Superman that Luthor has been manipulating Batman and the world at large into distrusting him, blackmailing him into fighting him, while he himself prepares to use the genesis chamber in the crashed Kryptonian ship in Metropolis to create a powerful and deadly abomination that no hero, not even three, may be able to stop.

I hate it when my plot synopses are that long and I apologize for how convoluted and messy it felt but that gives you an idea of how much this movie buckles under its own weight (and I still didn't hit all the significant plotpoints, which I'll elaborate on as we go). Putting it into context, it baffles me how the people behind these types of films never seem to learn from the mistakes of others. Batman & Robin, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2: what do all of these movies have in common? They're all comic book movies where the studios and producers got too greedy for their own good, decided more was better, and forced the directors and screenwriters to cram more popular characters and subplots in than was necessary. (One could argue that all of the original Batman movies after the first Tim Burton movie were guilty of that, as was The Dark Knight Rises and even The Dark Knight to some extent, given the inclusion of Two-Face along with the Joker in that movie, but the ones I mentioned before are the most egregious examples, so I decided to stick with them specifically.) While it does seem that David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder had a lot more say in what went into it than the directors and screenwriters behind those other films, Batman v. Superman, as I mentioned in the introduction, still definitely fits into that dubious club of bloated superhero flicks that try to cram far too many different things into only so much screentime. The only difference is that I feel it manages to outdo all of them in terms of excess and that's due to Warner Bros. and DC wanting to catch up with Marvel. Seeing how well Marvel was doing with its cinematic universe, they decided they wanted a piece of that pie and, instead of taking their time and setting up each of the heroes and villains in their own individual films, crammed a bunch of them into one introductory movie, resulting in the mess that we have here. Look at these elements: the continuing story of this universe's Superman and the effects his actions and mere existence is having on the world at large, the introduction of a Batman who's been around for decades and whose brutal brand of justice does not sit well with Clark Kent, and Lex Luthor cooking up this elaborate plan to get them to battle each other to the death. That would have been more than enough but, in addition, they have to throw in Wonder Woman and set her up, acknowledge the existence of other super-powered beings who will eventually make up the Justice League, have Batman receive an otherworldly warning that Lois Lane's death will cause Superman to become a fascist, which is forgotten by the third act, and make the climax a half-assed, overlong, contrived combination of The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman, with Luthor creating Doomsday by mixing his DNA with General Zod's in the remains of the genesis chamber of the crashed Kryptonian scout ship from Man of Steel. Think they went a tad overboard in this story? Me too. So, strap yourselves in, guys, because, like I said, we're in for a very long haul here. And keep in my mind that, unless I say otherwise, all of the things I talk about here throughout 90% of the review, are based on the theatrical version; I'll talk about the Ultimate Edition cut at the end of the review.

Despite not being in the director's chair, Christopher Nolan got a lot of credit for Man of Steel and, as I said in that review, you could see his fingerprints all over that film; with Batman v. Superman, while he was involved as executive producer and you can still see the slightest hint of his influence, it's obvious he was much more hands-off and director Zack Snyder had a lot more control. As a result, a lot of the movie's failings are on him, as he pushed the gloomy, joyless, and overly serious feel of the previous one much further and gave its visuals even more of a grim, desaturated look. And while I personally do like what he did with the character of Batman, he makes Superman more questionable than he was before, to the point where he's often downright unlikable. This further cemented people's feelings that he was not the right person to have been put in charge of Superman, and around the time of Batman v. Superman's release, an old interview with him conducted in 2008 by Entertainment Weekly when he was filming Watchmen, all but confirmed it when it was drudged up by Business Insider. In that interview, Snyder, in addition to mentioning that he would like to have Batman raped in prison in order to truly make him dark rather than just "cool," which was how he felt about Batman Begins, said that he would have Superman pulling people's arms out of their sockets when he grabbed them and spout dialogue like, "People call me a superhero, but I don't even know what that means. I just blew this guy to bits!" That explains a lot about this film's portrayal of Superman and some of the stuff he does say, as we'll get into. It also shows why Snyder's sensibilities were, indeed, right for Watchmen but not for a character like Superman, who's meant to be a symbol of hope for all people. Needless to say, after this, people were not thrilled with the prospect of Snyder continuing on with the DC Cinematic Universe by directing Justice League and seriously wanted him gone. Well, they got their wish, as he did vacate the series, but it was for the saddest and most tragic reason imaginable and made the series seem cursed, as I'll get into whenever I review Justice League.

Of the two title characters, Batman is the one who gets more actual character exploration and development, so we might as well start with him first, which is fine with me because, as far as I'm concerned, he's the best thing about this movie. I've never had a problem with Ben Affleck's acting, nor did I think it was a travesty when he was cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and after I finally saw Batman v. Superman, I felt that they'd made a good choice, as I really dig him in this role. You can tell that they took some inspiration from The Dark Knight Returns in their portrayal of Batman and, more significantly, Bruce Wayne, which is that of a grizzled, embittered man who's been fighting crime in Gotham City for a couple of decades now and is more than a little world-weary, with a personal philosophy that's anything but optimistic. As he tells Superman during their battle, "My parents taught me a [different] lesson, dying in the gutter for no reason at all. They taught me the world only makes sense if you force it to." And despite his war against crime, he also doesn't seem to consider himself a hero at all, telling Alfred, "We're criminals... We've always been criminals. Nothing's changed," regarding his more recent practice of branding criminals with his symbol. But probably his most telling quote is when Alfred tries to get him to see that Superman is not the enemy and he says, "Not today. Twenty years in Gotham, Alfred; we've seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?" To him, there's no real goodness in anyone and all they can do is prevent things from escalating, even if the chances of them escalating are minute. And again, given that he considers himself and Alfred to be criminals, it's more than likely he doesn't think of himself as anything more than somebody trying to keep things from getting worse than they already are. That's definitely evident in the brand of brutal justice he dishes out as Batman and yet, in spite of all that he does to help, that sense of world-weariness still comes through in his view that it's a pretty fruitless and endless battle, as he says, "Criminals are like weeds: pull one up, another grows in its place." That's not to say that Bruce Wayne is nothing but a lot of brooding and self-pity, as shown when he goes out in public. He can really turn on the charm and come across as very dashing and charismatic when he has to, such as when he attends the LexCorp fundraiser and when he confronts Diana Prince at the antiques collection about the data drive she took from him. But it's nothing more than another disguise, as the real man, in addition to everything I've already mentioned, is still haunted by his parents' death, having bizarre nightmares concerning it, and tends to drink a lot.

Between the two personas, Bruce himself is depicted as the one who's more of a detective, visiting fight clubs in Gotham's underground in order to get the information he needs, using his status and charm to get into LexCorp in order to hack information from the mainframe and decrypt it, follow up leads, and so on, whereas Batman is more of a brawler and bruiser who uses his ferocious fighting talents and frightening visage to interrogate criminals directly, as well as save those being threatened. Indeed, this is one of the most brutal and animalistic depictions of Batman in a long time. The first time you see him, he's up in a corner in the ceiling behind a cop, looking very much like a huge bat when he's out of focus, and when he's spotted, he's able to dodge the cop's rounds and escape up through the roof with a lot of skill and ease. The cops then discover that he left the man he was interrogating chained to a radiator, with no shirt on! As far as his actual fighting skills go, if you challenge him, he'll beat the hell out of you, as you get a sense of early on with photographs Clark Kent sees of criminals who've had their own painful encounters with him and then see for yourself when he's beating up Lex Luthor's goons while trying to save Martha Kent, as well as during his fight with Superman. Moreover, this Batman has started branding his symbol into his victims' flesh, both as a calling card and as a way for the criminals to know that there's no escape for them, that he's going to be keeping tabs on them from then on. You also hear rumors that this brand has become something of a death sentence for those who have been sent to prison with it, as they've been targeted by other prisoners. That leads me into something very significant: this iteration of Batman is not above killing. So, for all of you who defend this movie but still put down the Tim Burton movies, you're hypocrites, because this Batman deliberately kills criminals, both during the chase at the harbor with the Batmobile by destroying their vehicles and when he's going for Martha Kent, especially Anatoli Kynazev, who he flat-out burns alive by destroying the gas tank on his flamethrower. Some may see this as an example of Zack Snyder's excessive hard-edged approach but I've personally never had a problem with Batman killing people, given the type of character he is (that's also why I have a problem with Superman doing it but that's another thing). And before any of you crazy comic book fans come after me, let me also say that my favorite incarnations of Batman are both the first Tim Burton movie and the animated series. It is possible to like both, as long as you feel they're done well in context. My only gripe with his killing here, though, is a moment during the chase with the Batmobile where he causes a car full of goons to crash into a passing tanker truck. I have no problem with him killing criminals but putting innocent, civilian lives in danger is where I feel this iteration goes too far and I don't like that moment.

Another thing I really like about the characterization of Batman in this film is that his hatred and distrust for Superman comes out of something that was a big issue for many in Man of Steel: all of the collateral damage, especially during the climactic battle in Metropolis. Understanding that a lot of people were not happy with that, the filmmakers, to their credit, decided to not only make it one of the big issues discussed in this film (maybe a little too much, though, as we'll get into) but also personalize it in the form of Bruce Wayne. The film's opening shows that Bruce arrived in Metropolis in order to evacuate a building there owned by his company but, as much as he tried, he was unable to be of much help, ultimately only aiding in the rescue of a man whose legs were rendered useless by a steel beam falling on them and comfort a young girl who had been orphaned by the catastrophe. Besides showing that, despite what he himself may think, there is an inherent goodness to Bruce, you instantly get why he hates Superman, as this little girl's situation undoubtedly reminds him of what happened to his parents, and when he looks up at Superman and General Zod tumbling back down to Earth following their little brawl in space, you can see in his eyes that he's thinking, "Look what you've done, you son of a bitch." As it turns out, in the year and a half since, he's become quite obsessed with his getting his hands on something that could help him fight Superman, as that's what his interest in Kynazev and his criminal activities in Gotham ultimately lead to, rather than trying to prevent someone from bringing a bomb into the city, as he initially tells Alfred. Like Lex Luthor, he feels that it's necessary to have the Kryptonite as a means to be able to take Superman down if the time comes, especially after the nightmare he has about what could happen in the future, telling Alfred when he accuses him of needlessly going to war, "Count the dead: thousands of people. What's next? Millions? He has the power to wipe out the entire human race, and if we believe there's even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty... and we have to destroy him." He becomes even more determined when Superman stops him from getting the Kryptonite and tells him to cease his vigilante activities, asking him, "Do you bleed?", and when he flies away, he growls, "You will." The explosion at the Capitol during a congressional hearing Superman attends proves to be the last straw for Bruce, as he forcefully takes the Kryptonite from where Luthor's men are keeping (hospitalizing many in the process), forges it into weapons to be used against him, and trains like a madman for the inevitable battle. He tells Alfred that this will be the most important thing he'll ever do, as it's about the future of the planet rather than just one crime-filled city, and when the battle does happen, Batman uses his newfound weapons, skills, and intelligence to slowly but surely gain the upperhand on Superman and very nearly kill him.

However, the reason why he not only doesn't kill him but also becomes his ally is my one problem with him, one that I could not believe when I first saw the movie, as it's one of the most egregious examples of poor, contrived writing I think I've ever seen. At the end of their fight, as Batman has Superman down on the ground and is about to finish him off by driving this Kryptonite spear he's made into him, Superman suddenly says, "You're letting them kill Martha," which makes Batman stop dead in his tracks, since that was the name of his mother. He demands to know why Superman said that name (does he think his mother was the only person to ever be named Martha?) and keeps yelling at him to explain himself, when Lois Lane comes running in and explains to him that Martha is the name of his mother as well. And that's all it takes to get Batman to toss away the spear and join forces with Superman in stopping Lex Luthor, taking it upon himself to to go save Martha from his cronies, promising Superman, "Martha won't die tonight." Yes, the fact that his and Superman's mother have the same first name was what made Batman go from, "He's a potential danger to all mankind," and, "You were never a god. You were never even a man," the latter of which he kept spouting to him in one form or another during their fight, to, "Hey, buddy! Let me help you out here!" I don't know who wrote that, if it was David S. Goyer or Chris Terrio, another writer credited with the screenplay, or an unknown person who performed a rewrite, but regardless, what a load. I'm sure, like the infamous line that Jonathan Kent had in Man of Steel, that there's more to it than meets the eye, like their having mothers with the same name is what it takes to make Batman realize that Superman is not so different from him or anyone else, but it comes across as nothing but plot convenience since the movie now needs them to be friends. But what really irritates me is, afterward, I still love seeing Batman beating up the thugs holding Martha hostage, as well as the two of them teaming up, along with Wonder Woman, and exchanging a little banter before the fight with Doomsday, and it makes me wish that we'd seen them become friends gradually over a series of films rather have it be so rushed in one like this. It would've made his line to Martha, "It's okay. I'm a friend of your son's," count a lot more, which is to say nothing of how sad and guilty Bruce looks when he watches Lois at Clark Kent's grave in Smallville, vowing to find the other meta-humans, saying, "I've failed him... in life. I won't fail him in death." What's more, this has restored some of his faith in humanity, as he says, "Men are still good. We fight. We kill. We betray one another. But we can rebuild. We can do better. We will. We have to." I like that scene and those lines; I just wished the lead-up to it had been so much more sincere.

You can see a lot of The Dark Knight Returns' influence on the film in regards to the two suits that Batman wears. For the first time in live-action since the movie based on the 60's TV show, the body of the suit is made of cloth, specifically Kevlar-titanium weave, rather than heavy body armor, although it's still quite impenetrable, except in key vulnerable spots; the mask is completely bulletproof thanks to some titanium plating and also has a device in it that can alter Bruce's voice and make it come across as more menacing; and the cape can withstand fire. Notably, the black and gray color scheme, the shape of the bat symbol on the chest, the short ears on the mask, and the overall bulky, muscular aesthetic is very reminiscent of the way it's drawn in both that graphic novel and the animated movie based on it. In the dream sequence that Bruce has about the apocalyptic world ruled by Superman, you see him in the suit but with a brown trench-coat over it, goggles on his eyes, and a scarf covering his mouth when you first see him, which is also an interesting, memorable look. Finally, you have the biggest nod of the hat to The Dark Knight Returns with the cybernetic suit that he wears during his battle with Superman, which is made out of very tough armor, has components that vastly increase Batman's strength, and a distinctive-looking helmet shaped like his mask, with glowing eyes that are no doubt indicative of night-vision viewing equipment within and equipment that make his voice more distinctly electronic in nature. In terms of the gadgets, Batman has the fundamentals that you've come to expect: Batarangs, smoke bombs, grappling gun, tracking devices, etc., as well as the Bat Brand that this incarnation uses to mark the criminals who've encountered him. During his fight with Superman, he makes use of various other weapons, some of which are automatic and he sets up in advance, like amplified sonic weapons and machine gun turrets, and others more directly, like a gun that fires Kryptonite gas grenades and a Kryptonite-tipped spear that he intends to use make the killing blow.

When I heard that Jeremy Irons was going to be playing Alfred here, I felt, "There's a really good choice," and I wasn't disappointed. I like how Irons, in the small amount of screentime he has, was able to create a pretty unique take on this character, one with more of an edge to it. As has always been the case, Alfred is loyal to Bruce in his war on crime, helping him by building and repairing the equipment he uses, as well as taking an active role in some of his investigations and battles, like guiding him through the LexCorp building to reach the mainframe and locking the Batwing's computer onto the warehouse he needs to go in order to find Martha Kent, but at the same time, he's just as weary from all these years of doing so as his master. While he understands why he does it, as the opening scene in the movie shows him chasing after young Bruce, trying to console him when the distraught boy runs away from his parents' funeral, he still laments Bruce's lack of a social life, which has left him with no heir to the Wayne heritage, and he also fears the road that his alter ego may take him down, trying to make him move beyond Batman and help people as Bruce Wayne, as it was when he was being himself that he that he found information linking Knyazev to Luthor. His most telling piece of dialogue about how he feels is early on, when Bruce, in regards to his branding criminals, tells him that nothing's changed and he retorts, "Oh, yes it has, sir. Everything's changed. Men fall from the sky, the gods hurl thunderbolts, innocents die. That's how it starts, sir. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men... cruel." He also tries to dissuade him from stealing the Kryptonite from Lex Luthor in order to one day use it against Superman himself, saying that he's not the enemy, and before Bruce heads out to face him, Alfred, fearing for his master's life, tells him, "You know you can't win this. It's suicide." In addition, he also has the sarcastic and witty sense of humor the character often does, with my favorite line being when he tells Bruce to go upstairs to the LexCorp party while the drive he planted downloads the information he needs, saying, "Go upstairs and socialize. Some young lady from Metropolis will make you honest... In your dreams, Alfred." Another good one is when he lets Bruce know that he's aware he's not investigating plans to bring a bomb into Gotham, telling him, "Master Wayne, since the age of seven you've been into the art of deception like Mozart to the harpsichord, but you've never been too hot at lying to me." It's nice to have a character who brings some levity and humanity to such an overly serious slog of a movie like this.

It was during my most recent viewing of the movie, which was the third time I'd ever seen it, that I realized how little of a character Superman is here. While the debate about whether he's an ally or a potential threat to mankind, if there should be limits to what he can do with his powers, the type of symbol that he is to different people (that second image here is real subtle, isn't it?), and so on, is talked about to the point of exhaustion, Henry Cavill isn't given all that much to do with the role other than the bare necessities. As Clark Kent, he has only has two defining character traits. One is his relationship with Lois Lane which, in the time between Man of Steel and this film, has now gone from her knowing of his alter ego and working alongside him at the Daily Planet, with hints of a romance to come, to a full-blown one where they live with each other and have awkward bathtub sex (that scene, I'm sure, was meant to be cute and romantic but it comes across as anything but to me). Talk about a relationship you don't give a crap about. I didn't really care about their developing relationship in Man of Steel because of how forced and unnatural it felt but here, it feels like we missed some chapters in a book and we're supposed to just buy their now being so close to each other that he's willing to send a guy smashing through a wall to save her (I'll get to that presently). The other part is his becoming preoccupied with bringing down Batman, who he sees as a violent vigilante who thinks he's above the law, stomping on civil liberties, and the notion that the cops could be helping him (i.e. the Bat Signal), is particularly disturbing to him. When he's not trying to write an article to expose him, he's directly threatening him to stop as Superman, although, given the way he himself acts in this movie, he comes across as rather hypocritical and no less brutal at dishing out justice. Yeah, Batman beats the stuffing out of criminals, brands them with his mark, and even kills some, but, that moment with the tanker truck aside, it really feels like he's just doing what he feels he has to, including when he's forced to get lethal, whereas Superman feels unwilling to take responsibility for the death and destruction he could, and has, easily cause without even trying.

Speaking of which, let's now actually talk about Superman, shall we? Remember in my Man of Steel review when I said that, once Clark put on the suit and officially became Superman, he began saying and doing things that didn't feel right, given the traditions of the character? Well, I think they decided that he was still far too likable there, so they decided to give him to modes to operate on here: either arrogant and reckless or emo and brooding. It's actually understandable why there are so many who don't trust this Superman because I sure as heck wouldn't. The first thing he does is come crashing into the underground bunker of the leader of the Nairomi freedom fighters, who has taken Lois prisoner, nod at her and give her cocky and kind of menacing smirk, and deliberately plow the guy right through the back wall. This is even more disquieting than all of the collateral damage or his breaking General Zod's neck because, as reckless as the former was, at least he wasn't deliberately targeting individual people, good or bad, and with the latter, while there were other ways to avoid that, if nothing else, he did seem like he didn't want to kill; here, there's no hesitancy or even an attempt to do something else, such as use his super speed to disarm the guy before he knew what happened. No, just plow him through the wall and break every bone in his body. Later, when he has his first confrontation with Batman, he deliberately causes him to wreck the Batmobile instead of just stopping it dead in his tracks, like he could, and then tells him this, "Next time they shine your light in the sky, don't go to it. The Bat is dead. Bury it. Consider this mercy." Yeah, Superman said that. He basically told Batman that he could snap him in half if he wanted to but he's decided to be merciful this one time and is telling him to stop with his vigilantism. I get that he doesn't approve of what he does but what if they signal him because they really need him?

That's far from the only threat Superman makes. When he confronts Lex Luthor, he tells him,"I'll take you in without breaking you, which is more than you deserve," (akin to a line he said in the 50's movie, Superman and the Mole Men, and it didn't sound right there either), comes close to frying him when he learns he's kidnapped his mother, and during his fight with Batman, he warns him, "Stay down! If I wanted it, you'd be dead already!" That latter line pretty much confirms what I said about his earlier threat towards him. He also makes it clear a couple of times that he will use lethal force in order to save someone close to him. During the first scene between Clark and Lois, Clark says that he doesn't care what others are saying about what happened in Africa (which he should), because he wasn't going to let her get blown up, and when he's forced to fight Batman to save his mother, he tells Lois that he's either going to have to convince to help or he's going to have to kill him, adding, "No one stays good in this world." Granted, he does initially try to convince Batman to help him, like he said he would, but it doesn't take much for him to decide to forget it and fight, rather than continue trying to convince him of Luthor's manipulation, at points looking at Batman with that same, smug look he had earlier and yelling crazily. You can make Superman serious and all, and it's nice that he cares about those close to him so much, but he's supposed to care about all people, and that kind of philosophy he spouted to Lois is more appropriate for Batman, who should act as a counterbalance to Superman rather than as a mirror image. (Plus, would it really be that hard for him to scour the whole surrounding area to find Martha, especially since he easily found Lois in the middle of nowhere in Africa?) And as far as the collateral damage goes during the final battle, while it's not as egregious as it was in Man of Steel, you still have Superman throwing Doomsday into stuff and causing destruction, even if the meat of the battle does happen in the abandoned Gotham harbor. Plus, he had no way of knowing that it was abandoned, so it's still him throwing his enemy into things without any regard to the consequences (particularly, an oil refinery that causes an enormous explosion). With all of this, it's not far-fetched to believe that he would, at some point, become the tyrannical ruler he's portrayed as in Bruce Wayne's dream.

You could say that I'm going overboard in my criticism of Superman's actions and argue that, in some of those instances, he was so overcome with emotion, particularly anger or desperation, that he wasn't thinking straight, which makes him more a relatable character. In addition, a friend of mine who's really into comics has told me that this portrayal of him is in line with one in 80's era stories that I was unaware of. Also, I'm well aware that I'm still harping on the collateral damage issue here when I gave a lot of credit to the animated film, Superman: Doomsday, which had its fair share of urban destruction on Superman's hands as well, but I think what made me able to overlook it there was how Adam Baldwin's voice-acting performance made Supes comes off as a guy who truly cares about all of humanity and was trying to help, whereas this iteration's attitude rubs me the wrong way. Case in point, when he's not coming across as an arrogant douchebag, he's being all morose and brooding, even when he's saving people! There's this montage of him doing good deeds like carrying people out of burning buildings, pulling a wrecked ship to shore, and coming to the aid of people stranded atop their houses by a massive flood, but the tone is absolutely depressing and the whole time, Superman has such a miserable look on his face. I know this responsibility can't be all fun and games and must be quite a burden but, for God's sake, lighten up a little bit. If he's acting this way because of the mixed opinions people feel about him, in spite of what he said about it to Lois earlier, he's not helping his case by looking so mopey all the time and showing up at a congressional hearing with that same demeanor. Again, I know they want to make him a relatable person, with emotions and flaws one can understand, but you have to project some sort of air of leadership, confidence, and, above all, friendliness in order for people to feel that they can count on you. When the Capitol gets blown up and he's revealed standing there amidst all the fire and death, you'd think that would snap him out of his funk and make him realize he needs to get it in gear in order to prevent more catastrophes like this, but instead, he's just standing there, with that same depressed scowl, looking like, "Aw, man. Life sucks," rather than, "I'm sorry I let you down. It won't happen again." Following that scene, Lois finds him standing on the balcony outside their apartment, still brooding, telling her, "All this time, I've been living my life the way my father saw it. Righting wrongs for a ghost, thinking I'm here to do good. Superman was never real. Just the dream of a farmer from Kansas." Lois then tries to make him see that he does mean something to a lot of people but, referring to the 'S' symbol and its significance, he says, "It did on my world. My world doesn't exist anymore." And with that, you see him pretty much doing what he did during the first act of Man of Steel: roaming the frozen north, looking for a purpose, and making me think, "Man, we've regressed." But apparently, an inexplicable vision of Jonathan Kent and Lois being in danger is all it takes to bring him back to try to stop Luthor, albeit with that same, morose expression on his face (I know I'm harping on that a lot but Superman should not be this way!)

In spite of Doomsday's presence, I really didn't think they would actually go through the whole Death of Superman gambit but, yeah, Superman sacrifices himself by flying at Doomsday, impaling him with a Kryptonite spear, and getting impaled himself on one of his long spines. They even have the nationwide mourning, with a big burial and funeral for him at a monument in his honor in Metropolis (although his body is really buried in Smallville) and the military showing him respect. They're really trying to make this feel like a big, emotional event when, in reality, they have not come close to earning it. Not only does it feel too rushed to have this happen in only the second movie but it feels so convenient for everyone to stop hating him, blaming him for the explosion at the senate, burning him effigy, and so forth and instantly go into mourning him. Yeah, he sacrificed himself and Luthor is revealed to have been behind everything, but the emotional baggage they're going for is not there at all, and it's not helped by the way he was portrayed beforehand, whereas in the graphic novel and the animated movie, it was very understandable why everyone was heartbroken at the prospect that he was gone. And finally, having this portrayed in live-action for the first time at the tail end of such an overdone, poor movie is nothing but a waste. I cannot tell you how much I was like, "Oh, blow me," when I saw this for the first time.

The Superman suit here is virtually identical to the way it looked in Man of Steel, with the same color scheme and aesthetics, such as the absence of the red trunks. Costume designer Michael Wilkinson, who worked on both films, said that he did make some minor changes to it, and you can pick them out if you look hard enough. I read that they made the colors a little bit brighter than they were before, which I can see sometimes, especially when he's in the light (the yellow around the 'S' does look more vibrant), but more often than not, because of the film's color palette and the dark lighting in many scenes, it's hard to tell, and sometimes, the suit looks downright black. And yeah, I did like the way the suit looked before but here, the darkness of the colors is just one more thing that makes this Superman feel so emo. I also read that they added some metallic elements to the cape and I could tell that it wasn't quite as flowing in the way the cloth looked and felt as it was before. Otherwise, there's not much of a change. However, that's not the case with Superman's abilities, as he has everything you'd expect, save for his x-ray vision, even though he should since, if you go back to Man of Steel, you can see it as part of the sensory overload he and General Zod were experiencing before they learned to focus their powers. I guess that was one he just never learned to get control of, which doesn't make any sense, and it's just an excuse for him not to see the hidden bomb at the congressional meeting, making him unable to prevent it and give him another excuse to mope (at least, in the theatrical version).

In Man of Steel, Diane Lane played Martha Kent as the warmer, more loving parental figure in Clark's life, while Jonathan did nothing but lecture him about keeping his powers hidden until the time was right and that he was meant to change the world, as well as throw some questionable morals at him. She also mentioned that her husband felt that Clark was meant for great things and seemed to encourage him in his desire to help humanity as Superman. Here, things are a little bit different, as when Superman visits her before the congressional hearing, she's acting like a selfish, overly possessive mother, talking about how she never wanted the world to have him and telling him, "Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be... or be none of it. You don't owe this world a thing. You never did." The Kent family is just full of great morals, isn't it? As I've said, Martha ends up as a part of the plan to have Superman kill Batman, with Lex Luthor demanding the Dark Knight's life in exchange for hers, something that Superman does suggest he'll go through with if he has to, and her name is all it takes for Batman to become Supes' ally and rush to her rescue. Going back to Jonathan Kent, he actually does show up here in one scene when Clark is wandering around up north, showing him a big pile of rocks he's made and telling him this story about his experience with the floodplains: "I remember one season, the water came bad. I couldn't have been more than twelve. Dad had out the shovels and we went at it all night. We worked 'til I think I fainted, but we managed to stop the water. We saved the farm. Your grandma baked me a cake, said I was a hero. Later that day we found out we blocked the water alright... we sent it upstream. A whole Lange farm washed away. While I ate my hero cake, their horses were drowning. I used to hear them wailing in my sleep." I actually do think I get and like the point of the story, that you can do something with the best of intentions but it could still have consequences that you couldn't possibly have seen coming. At least, I think that's what he was trying to relate. But then, when Clark asks him if he ever stopped having nightmares about what happened, Jonathan tells him, "Yeah. When I met your mother. She gave me faith that there's good in this world. She was my world." That kind of reinforces something that Superman said to Batman in that dream Bruce had about him becoming a fascist ruler, as well as the message he received afterward, that the presence of a loved one is all that's going to keep him on the path of goodness. So, in essence, they had Kevin Costner come back and actually deliver a good lesson, only to hurt it, as well as everything that happens during the third act, by reminding us that there's a legitimate good reason why this iteration of Superman can't really be trusted. And was that in Clark's mind or did Jonathan become a ghost for a brief moment? God, this movie makes my head hurt.

While I liked how, in Man of Steel, they showed off Lois Lane's skills as a reporter, made her an aggressive go-getter who wouldn't back down from anything, and had her know of Superman's identity from the very beginning, I was disappointed that Amy Adams, despite having an important role in the plan to defeat General Zod, didn't have much to do with the role character-wise other than that and that they also still felt the need to make her a damsel-in-distress for Superman to save, no matter how contrived the circumstances were. Sad to say, in Batman v. Superman, not much has changed, and I'd even go as far as to say that Adams has even less to do. Lois spends most of the movie trying to prove that Superman didn't kill all of those people when he saved her in Africa, using a bullet that was used in the crime as the key to this, trying to figure out where it was manufactured and who uses its type, and when she's not doing that, she's trying to make Clark understand the severity of the accusations being brought against him and consoling him when he's down in the dumps after the disaster at the hearing. Thing is, though, the mess in Africa was partly her fault, since she got herself into a dangerous place with her determination for a story, leading to her capture and Superman having to come to her rescue (to be fair, though, she does recognize that). Moreover, it was something Lex Luthor was counting on happening, since he knows how Superman drops everything to save her and even has her kidnapped and throws her off the top of a building to ensure that he'll show up so he can blackmail him into fighting Batman. This notion of people knowing that Lois' being in danger will ensure Superman's presence has been done before in other material and for me, it feels like a hindrance to filmmakers and writers' attempts to make her a more independent, modern woman, which they tried to do again in this continuity. Even in this day and age of "sophistication," they're shackled to the cliche of her being someone for Superman to save and everyone being well aware of his habit of saving here.

But even worse than that is her being caught up in the final battle, which feels even more forced than her being on the fighter jet that delivered the fatal blow to the Black Zero in the first film. Here, it starts when she manages to stop Batman from finishing Superman off at the end of their fight and, once they're gone, she throws the Kryptonite spear he was going to use down into this part of the building that's flooded. I didn't think that was necessary but, whatever; it nearly killed the man she loves, so I'll roll with it. But then, when Batman is luring Doomsday back to the port so he can use the spear on him, Lois somehow knows what's going on, goes back to the spot, and tries to retrieve the spear, only to become trapped by the rubble created by the battle outside, with Superman having to save her at the last minute before she drowns. I know I've said an iteration of this before in this review but, I can't help it, when that happened, I was like, "Seriously, guys?" But, it's a good thing he did, since if anything happened to her, he'd decide to hell with it and become a dictator that nobody could oppose, even if their relationship is about as shallow as that bathtub they made out in (I can't stress enough how bad that scene was). And again, their developing romance already felt rushed and forced in Man of Steel and was only done because you expect Superman and Lois Lane to be in love, but I really can't get into their now being close enough to share an apartment and being intimate. I know about two years have passed since the events of that movie but, like everything else here, they're trying to have their cake and eat it too and, as a result, I just don't care. And when she's so heartbroken when he sacrifices himself and, during the finale, Martha Kent reveals that he sent an engagement ring to her house so he could surprise Lois with it, I feel the same way I do about throwing in elements from The Death of Superman: you haven't earned this!

Laurence Fishburne also returns as Perry White but his role, which was fairly inconsequential already in Man of Steel, has little meaning here, as all he does is continue to act like a cynic and bark orders at those around him. He's also portrayed as more of a hardass than he was before, especially towards Clark Kent, whose obsessive interest in Batman irritates him when he doesn't focus on the sports story assigned to him and tells him that his idealistic view of journalistic responsibility doesn't fly in this day and age. But, never one to pass up a good story, he does allow Lois to go to Washington to investigate the bullet when Metropolis forensics can't figure out what it's made of and immediately jumps on the controversy surrounding Superman, dreaming up a headline that asks if people's love affair with him is over. There's nothing wrong with Fishburne's performance but he has so little to do and he also falls victim to the writers' lazy way of delivering foreshadowing and exposition, with lines like, "Nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman," and, "Crime Wave in Gotham. Other breaking news, water... wet!" (Okay, that latter line did make me smirk when I heard it but you get my point.) Perry's really the only returning Daily Planet character, aside from Lois, who's of note. That girl Jenny who got trapped in the rubble during the climax of the first movie is here but literally does nothing. (I know that this movie does do a spin on a beloved character who was completely absent before, which leads to a bad fate for him, but I'll talk about that when we get to the director's cut.)

At this point, I have not seen the Wonder Woman movie, so I can't comment on how I feel about Gal Gadot in the role because here, up until the final battle with Doomsday, she's merely a peripheral character. Diana Prince is this lovely, mysterious woman who Bruce Wayne spots and is intrigued by during the fundraiser at LexCorp, and who also takes the drive he uses to download data from the company's mainframe. He later confronts her about this when he runs into her at a display for expensive antiques, showing off her knowledge on the subject, which matches Bruce's, and explains that she simply borrowed his drive because he felt that Luthor had a photograph that belongs to her in his possession. He later finds that she returned it, putting it in his car, and continues to act mysterious and charming, telling him that she's never met a woman quite like him. Later, Bruce sends her a message that reveals to her that he found the photograph in the data and knows that she herself is in it, even though it was taken in 1918; he also links her to the footage and data that Luthor has amassed of the other "meta-humans" out there. Knowing her cover's been blown, Diana tries to leave Metropolis, despite the developing situation, but when Doomsday is created and begins rampaging through the city, she jumps in to help Superman and Batman in battling him. Throughout the battle, she definitely proves that she can hold her own, coming off as very skilled, ferocious, and fearless in her fighting style, and she actually does more damage to Doomsday than either of the other heroes. Once the battle is over and Superman has sacrificed himself, she and Batman had his body over to Lois and, at the cemetery in Smallville, she and Bruce Wayne have a conversation about finding the other meta-humans. Diana suggests that they might not want to be found and when Bruce says they have to stand together, she gives her own world-weary view of things, stating, "A hundred years ago I walked away from mankind, from a century of horrors. Man made a world where standing together is impossible." After Bruce gives his speech how man is still good, she asks him why he said that the others would have to fight and he cryptically answers, "Just a feeling."

Like I said, when we finally see her as Wonder Woman during the climax, Gadot does do well in the action department, coming across as a very tough, confident warrior of a woman, saying before the battle actually starts that she's killed things from other worlds before, so this doesn't faze her. She also has all of the weapons expected from Wonder Woman: the gauntlets, the sword and shield, and, of course, the lasso, which looks nice enough, even though she only uses it near the end of the battle. But, I'm not that crazy about the costume. The design is fine and all, as it looks like the classic Wonder Woman outfit, while changing some things just enough to give it its own identity, but I hate how drab and dull the colors look. Because of the tone and actual look they're going for here, we can't have any bright vibrant colors, despite the fact that that's been a big part of the Wonder Woman outfit just as much as Superman's suit. But, that's really all I have to say about her here. Again, I really need to see the solo movie in order to make more of a judgement on the portrayal of the character. I can say, though, that she has a very nice and distinctive musical leitmotif, which makes her feel really badass.

At this point, the only other movie with Jessie Eisenberg that I've seen is The Social Network, and the only reason I even watched that was because David Fincher is one of my favorite directors (fyi, I ended up thinking it was pretty good). I thought he was good in that, even though he wasn't exactly playing the most likable character ever (depending on whichever point of view in that movie you choose to take), and so, I've never had anything against him acting-wise. He has a vibe about him that I find to be on the egotistical and douchey side but, thinking about that, I figured it might work for Lex Luthor, even though I, like a lot of people, felt he was far too young for it. However, when I saw the movie, I did not care for his performance at all, and I still don't. Why? Because he's annoying as all get-out. I never thought I'd say that about Luthor, but it's true. The way I've always described his performance to people who haven't seen it is, "Imagine Jeff Goldblum on speed." Trust me, that's not meant as a slam on Goldblum, because I like him, but it's as if you took his odd mannerisms and way of talking and cranked it up to eleven. Whenever he's onscreen, Eisenberg has these weird gestures and tics he's going through (he forces a piece of cherry Jolly Rancher into a guy's mouth for no reason), he's overly giddy and energetic, his dialogue is often a bunch of bizarre, pseudo-intellectual and philosophical mumbo-jumbo, and, biggest of all, he won't... shut... up! Here are some of his lines to give you an idea but, trust me, I can not do justice to his irritating voice and inflections. Lois Lane calls him psychotic and he says, "That is a three syllable word for any thought too big for little minds." When he sees Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne talking at his fundraiser: "Boys! Mm, Bruce Wayne meets Clark Kent. Ah, I love it! I love bringing people together! How are we?" He shakes Clark's hand and says this to Bruce: "Ow! Wow, that is a good grip! You should not pick a fight with this person." (Ugh!) "An ancient Kryptonian deformity, blood of my blood, born to destroy you! Your Doomsday." (UGH!) When Senator Finch tells him she's going to deny him the right to import the Kryptonite: "The Red Capes are coming! The Red Capes are coming!" (While he's talking to her afterward, he begins continuously drumming his fingers on a table until she motions him to quit it, as if even she finds him annoying.) Before he shoves General Zod's corpse down into the depths of the genesis chamber: "You flew too close to the sun. Now look at you." When he's giving a speech at his fundraiser: "Books are knowledge and knowledge is power, and I am... no. Um, no. What am I? What was I saying? The bittersweet pain among men is having knowledge with no power because... because that is paradoxical and, um... thank you for coming." (It's meant to be a glimpse into both his own warped philosophy and his psychosis but it comes across as awkward and dumb.) And at the end of the movie, when he tells Batman in prison that the bell has been rung and "they're" coming, he keeps going, "Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding," and by that point, I was so sick of him that I almost did scream, "Shut the fuck up!" at my TV.

Alright, enough complaining about Eisenberg's performance; let's talk about the character himself. He cooks up quite the plan to contend with Superman, part of which is trying to bring in a chunk of Kryptonite found within the remains of the World Engine to be weaponized, telling Senator Finch that he plans to use it as a deterrent against him should the need arise. He also suggests that it would make them able to force him to bend to their will, saying, "You don't need to use a silver bullet. But if you forge one, you don't need to depend on the kindness of monsters," which is his ultimate goal. He wants to force Superman, whom he sees as a god, to bend to his will by forcing him to sully his hands with the blood of Batman and, therefore, reveal to the world that he's not as holy as everyone thinks he is, that, "The all mighty comes clean about how dirty he is when it counts." To that end, he's fueled the fires of Batman's hatred for him, intercepting checks that the Wayne Company has been sending to Wallace Keefe, an ex-employee who was badly injured in the Metropolis battle between Superman and General Zod, and sending them back with angry messages meant for Bruce, such as, "YOU LET YOUR FAMILY DIE!", as well as manipulating Keefe into becoming a suicide bomber at the congressional hearing, which Bruce feels Superman caused. So, what's his motivation for doing this? It has to do with a personal philosophy of his, which is that the powerful cannot be good. He tells Supes, "See, what we call God depends upon our tribe, Clark Jo, because God is tribal. God takes sides. No man in the sky intervened when I was a boy to deliver me from Daddy's fist and abominations. Mm-mm. I've figured it out way back: if God is all powerful, He cannot be all good. And if He's all good, then He cannot be all powerful, and neither can you be. They need to see the fraud you are. With their eyes." Yeah, part of it comes from the fact that there was no one there for him when he suffered abuse at the hands of his father, the powerful man who founded LexCorp, and as a result, he feels no one in Superman's position can be all good. It's actually an interesting concept and also explains why Luthor is as deranged as he is but, again, Eisenberg's performance makes it hard to appreciate. What's more, before he even sets the fight in motion, he has already begun the process that leads to the creation of Doomsday, whom he unleashes on Superman when he learns that he didn't kill Batman and that they're now allies, saying that if Man won't kill God, he'll let the Devil do it. I'm betting that he was planning on unleashing him on Supes even if he had killed Batman as well, since that is something he would do. But, the thing is, he seemed to be counting on Batman killing him with the Kryptonite he stole, which was clearly part of Luthor's plan, given his expression when he learns that it happened. So, what was he planning on doing with this thing that he learns he can't control if Batman had won? And at the end, he seems overjoyed at the prospect of some unnamed, powerful entity who knows that Superman is dead coming to Earth. Does he really think whoever this (I assumed it was Darkseid but, given what I've heard of Justice League, that doesn't seem to be the case) will spare him when they begin their reign of terror? I don't know.

Mercy Graves (Tao Okamoto) is a personal assistant character to Luthor who first appeared in Superman: The Animated Series and she makes her first live-action appearance here. Her role is a minor one but she's often present whenever Luthor is around and she initially catches Bruce Wayne when he tries to download data from the company mainframe at the fundraiser. She ends up becoming an unwitting sacrificial lamb when Luthor tricks her into attending the doomed congressional hearing for Superman and she's blown to bits along with everyone else there. Another notable Luthor crony is Anatoli Knyazev (Callan Mulvey), a Russian weapons and sex trafficker who plays an integral part in the story in that he headed a security team for the African freedom fighters who take Lois Lane hostage and betrayed and kill all of them, a crime Superman ends up getting blamed for due to his presence there and creating the distrust for him. Knyazev's later activities in Gotham City bring him the unwanted attention of Batman, who keeps tabs on him because he knows he's going to deliver the chunk of Kryptonite found in the Indian Ocean to Luthor, and during the climax, he heads the team that kidnaps Lois. Most notably, he holds Martha Kent hostage in a Gotham warehouse, with orders from Luthor to burn her alive with a flamethrower within an hour unless Superman manages to kill Batman. But, once the two heroes become allies, Batman breaks into the warehouse and, when he threatens to kill her if he doesn't stop, Batman shoots flamethrower's fuel tank, killing Knyazev in the explosion.

Rounding out the cast, you have Holly Hunter as Senator June Finch who, following the incident in Africa, heads the argument that Superman should be held accountable for his actions and should have some boundaries put on how he can use his powers. She sums up her position on the matter best with this quote: "The world has been so caught up with what Superman can do that no one has asked what he should do." That said, though, she's unwilling to allow Lex Luthor to import the Kryptonite so it can be weaponized against Superman, as she wants to resolve this issue through democracy and sees the "deterrence" he plans on creating as truly nothing more than an assassination weapon. Unfortunately for her, she realizes too late that Luthor doesn't take "no" for an answer in the worst way possible when, just as they're about to begin the congressional hearing, she sees a jar of urine sitting on the desk by her marked, "Granny's Peach Tea." Recognizing it as a callback to something she said to Luthor when they talked about importing the Kryptonite, she's unable to do anything to stop the explosion that engulfs the building. Said explosion is courtesy of Luthor and Wallace "Wally" Keefe (Scoot McNairy), a former Wayne employee whose legs were badly injured when he got caught up in Superman's battle with General Zod in Metropolis two years before. They had to be amputated as a result and his life has been a wreck ever since, something that he completely blames Superman for. He gets arrested when he defiles an honorary statue of Superman in Metropolis, spraying the words, FALSE GOD, on it and Luthor, who, unbeknownst to him, intercepted the compensation checks the Wayne-Tech Industries had been sending him over the years, bails him out and meets with him to help him, "Stand for something." Following that, Keefe meets with Finch, shows her what Superman's actions did to him, and this leads to the congressional hearing in Washington, where a bomb planted inside Keefe's motorized wheelchair blows up the building, further damaging Superman's image.

Another character who returns from Man of Steel is Swanwick, who's now been promoted to Secretary General and doesn't let Lois forget her part in what happened in Africa when she comes to him with the bullet she received (he has a nice line when she comes in on him in the men's room and talks to him about the military supply experimental weapons to African rebels: "With balls like those, you belong in here,"). He also does feel Superman is to blame, as he still doesn't completely trust him, but he does eventually look into the matter and learns that that type of bullet is developed by LexCorp, who security contracts with the rebels; despite this revelation, he refuses to go on record with this classified info because of the repercussions it could have for his position. During the final battle, when Superman flies Doomsday up past the atmosphere and they consider nuking them, Swanwick tries to warn the President (whose voice is only heard and is actually that of Patrick Wilson) that Superman himself could die from it, although he gives the order anyway, and afterward, he makes the grim realization that Doomsday is, for all intents and purposes, unkillable since he's feeding on what they throw at him. Maj. Carrie Ferris (Christina Wren) also returns but she has about as little to do here as she did before. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who worked with Zack Snyder before on Watchmen, where he played the Comedian, appears during the opening prologue as Thomas Wayne, who very stupidly takes a swing at the thug who holds him and his family up, in spite of the fact that he's armed, while Lauren Cohan plays Martha. Real-life U.S. Senator and avid comic book fan Patrick Leahy, who made cameo appearances in past Batman movies like Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, and the latter two Christopher Nolan films, as well as a voiceover role in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, has a cameo during the congressional hearing scene and, along with the aforementioned Charlie Rose, TV and news personalities Neil deGrasse Tyson, Soledad O'Brien, Anderson Cooper, and Nancy Grace (I hate her, by the way). And since you see General Zod's corpse a few times, I was wondering if that actually was Michael Shannon playing dead but no, it was a body double with his face superimposed on top of it.

If you think back to my Man of Steel review, my biggest bone of contention with that movie was its utterly joyless, depressing vibe, a result of both the filmmakers' attempt to take the story and themes as seriously as they possibly could and the film's actual look; well, not only does Batman v. Superman continue that trend but it's even more prevalent here. I'm not kidding when I say this is one of the most unnecessarily bleak and pretentious comic book movies ever, one with hardly any true entertainment value or sense of wonder, which I really miss in these types of films. Let's start with the film's actual look, because I can't believe how unappealing it is. As desaturated and depressing as Man of Steel looked, I could still point to some sections of the film that I did think looked good, such as in the Arctic and whatnot, but here, the only examples of truly lovely-looking cinematography I can point to are early on when the Kryptonite is being recovered in the Indian Ocean. Other than that, the film swings back and forth from stark, clinical whites, to ugly-looking greens and browns, and murky blue-whites during the third act (it almost gets to the point where it's reminiscent of the bleach-bypass process, used in movies like Se7en and the 2003 version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). The colors are so dull and drab that it's very disconcerting and instantly puts you in a crappy mood. While these visual decisions do add to the atmosphere of certain sections, such as the unsettling dark green tones during the scene where Batman is first introduced (which, speaking of Se7en, does kind of look like David Fincher directed it), the desaturated feel of the scenes inside Bruce Wayne's house and the Batcave and the overall feeling of darkness and depression hanging over that entire property in general, and the sandy browns and deep shadows for the freedom fighters' bunker in Africa and the dream Bruce Wayne has about the possible apocalyptic future of the planet, the whole movie should not be this unappealing to look at. For God's sake, at least use a richer color palette to bring out more of the vibrancy of Superman and Wonder Woman's outfits! (Seriously, they look so damn dull in a number of shots.) Also, a montage of Superman saving people should not be played off as somber as the one here is both in terms of tone and visuals, no matter what debate is going on at the same time.

That brings me to the other part of the equation: the tone and mood. Like I said when I talked about Man of Steel, I don't have any problems whatsoever with a comic book movie being dark and serious. I still don't think it's a good idea to be so grim with Superman but I do think you can make that work if you do it properly. But, like the previous one, the thing with this movie is that they try so hard to make this something that would appeal to people who write comic books off as kids' stuff that they completely kill any sense of fun or entertainment. It's just so serious and heavy, with no levity, save for a couple of throwaway jokes and lines, and characters constantly brooding, consoling one another, and talking about the bad state of things and whether or not Superman can be trusted. Among other things, you have the controversy over Superman supposedly killing the terrorists in Africa, the debate about how far he should be allowed to go with his powers, the subplot of Batman becoming obsessed with taking him down because of the danger he feels he poses, complete with an apocalyptic vision that comes out of nowhere, the brutality of his brand of justice, the two of them butting heads over it, Wallace Keefe desecrating Superman's statue at Heroes Park in Metropolis and the crappy state of his life due to the injury he suffered, Superman having to appear at the congressional hearing on what he should be allowed to do, the disaster and fallout from it, with people burning him in effigy and him brooding and having to go find himself, and on and on. It never ends with this movie, and I'm fine with things being grim on Batman's side of things, given the type of character he is, but again, when you make watching Superman doing his thing so somber and morose, you need to lighten up.

Like Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman also thinks it's being deep and profound with all of the political and existential discussions of Superman's place in the world and the god symbolism that he represents. It starts almost from the beginning, when a woman from a nearby African village that was ravaged by the tyrannical government following Superman's rescue of Lois from the freedom fighters, feels that he took the lives of the fighters themselves and it seems to go on for an eternity, with Senator Finch saying that they hold him responsible, the villager telling her that Superman won't answer to them because he answers to no one, all of the discussions by TV and news personalities about whether or not he can be trusted and what his presence means for mankind as a whole (Neil deGrasse Tyson goes on a very philosophical tangent about that, describing Superman as, "A being whose very existence challenges our own sense of priority in the universe,"), Martha Kent telling him that he can either be whatever they need him to be or nothing at all, Lois trying to remind him of the significance of the symbol on his chest, and blah, blah, blah (I know did that before in the Man of Steel review but this is what this stuff eventually becomes to me). And man, do they push the god and messiah metaphors even further than before, with Lex Luthor's obsession with proving that a being as all-powerful as him can't be all good, as well as constantly referring to him as a god, Wallace Keefe spray-painting FALSE GOD on the Superman statue, and images like all of those people putting their hands on him after he saves someone and him floating up in the sky above a stranded woman who reaches out to him. I'm glad that filmmakers and writers today recognize the depths of these characters and are interested in discussing the issues and themes surrounding them, but that shouldn't make up 75% or more of a film's content. I would think that a bigger part of the appeal of superhero movies is to actually see superheroes doing what they do and Batman v. Superman is so lacking in that department that it becomes incredibly boring as well as pretentious and self-important.

Just to add insult to injury, the debate on whether or not Superman is guiltless of killing all of those freedom fighters comes down to Lois Lane attempting to determine the origin of this bullet from the scene that she hold her hands on when it got lodged in a journal she had there, which takes up a good portion of the film's running time. First time I saw this, I wasn't sure exactly who they thought Superman killed, as the villager who attests to it in the Senate says, "So many dead," when the only person you see him tangle with is the general he barrelled through the wall, but when the issue of the bullet came up, I slowly but surely realized that they were talking about the people who Anatoli Kynazev and his men turned on and shot up. Disregarding the fact that we saw them do that plain as day, so there's no question in our minds of whether or not Superman is innocent, I still thought that I had to have missed something, because I was thinking to myself, "Surely they don't think he used a gun." But as it went on, I realized that could be the only explanation and I was dumbfounded, to say the least, because I couldn't understand why they would think Superman would use guns, considering that he only has to flick you with his pinky to send you into the next county. If they'd had them fry them with flamethrowers, I could have understood that more, since everybody would think he did it with his heat vision (it would have also been a nice bit of foreshadowing for when Kynazev holds Martha hostage with one), but guns? That's so dumb that, again, my brain did not want to believe they were going that route and it's a really shaky way to kick off the political and social response to the presence of a being liked Superman.

That leads me to something else: the poor construction of the film's story and structure. So much stuff gets thrown at you during the film that not only does it feel bloated to the point where it's about to burst but it's also disorienting and confusing, and nowhere is that more evident than the scene where Bruce Wayne dreams about the possible future of the world if Superman is left unchecked. The transition from the main narrative to this dream is so jarring that my brain just about got whiplash! One minute, I'm watching Bruce Wayne sitting at the Batcomputer, as it slowly but surely deciphers the encrypted data his drive downloaded from the LexCorp mainframe, and then, I'm seeing Batman in a Mad Max-like, post-apocalyptic landscape, wearing a brown trench-coat, goggles, and scarf over his suit and mask. Since we were in Africa earlier, I figured maybe this was taking place after he'd deciphered the data and had gone there himself to get ahold of the Kryptonite. I wasn't sure about that city that was on fire in the background but I figured, this place has massive problems with civil unrest and tyrannical governments, so maybe that's what's going on over there (I was so taken aback, I didn't see all of the other crazy stuff that was going on around him). But then, Batman and the men working with him get betrayed, he's fighting off a bunch of soldiers wearing Superman's symbol on their uniforms, and a swarm of insect-like, winged demons join in the fray! I was so lost, and then, Batman's been strung up by his wrists in an underground bunker, Superman comes in, looking looking meaner and crueler than he ever should, fries these guys who are strung up along with Batman, removes his mask to reveal Bruce Wayne, and tells him that he killed somebody who was his whole world before proceeding to fry him up. It's then that Bruce "wakes up," which made me realize that it was a dream, but on top of that, he gets a vision of some guy in an electronic portal warning him that he's right about Superman and that Lois is the key, with Bruce then waking up for real. Imagine my bewilderment as I'm sitting there, wondering, "What just happened?! Who the fuck was that?!" I got that that first dream represented Bruce's fear of what may happen but I didn't know what was going on with the guy who delivered that warning to him. I later learned that that was the Flash and, looking closer at the shot of him, I could now recognize his uniform, but the first time around, so much was thrown at me at once that I was just dumbfounded. This is a textbook example of the filmmakers making the mistake of throwing in stuff that only people who are really deep into comics would get and making it a major story point rather than an Easter egg, as I had no idea at the time that the apocalyptic vision is based on an actual story and that the Flash had the ability to time-travel (also, Bruce was still dreaming when he received his warning; can the Flash also enter people's dreams?) In fact, it could have been removed completely, as it does nothing but reinforce Bruce's feelings about Superman, which we already know, and the warning about Lois ultimately has no relevance in the story at all. It's also unintentionally funny, as the Flash suddenly asks, "Am I too soon?" when talking to Bruce and, upon realizing he did go too far back, yells, "I'm too soon!"

Then, we have the meta-human subplot. During my first viewing, I'd heard Lex Luthor and others mention it but it kind of flicked by me and didn't leave much of an impact on my mind, so when the scene comes in the third act where Bruce sends Diana Prince a message telling her that he knows of her secret, as does Luthor, and reveals to her the existence of other powerful beings, I initially wasn't sure what was going on. Obviously, I knew that she was Wonder Woman and her secret was out but it took me a bit to understand the other images that she was looking at in the message, as I didn't understand the symbols on the thumbnails she clicked on. You can call me dumb but, when we're shown the security camera footage of the Flash in action, because of how suddenly it comes up, how quickly it goes by, and because the actor playing him has fairly long hair, I thought, at first, that it was more stuff pertaining to her, which wasn't helped because there had already been such footage of her right before. Right after that, we're now looking at footage from a submersible at the bottom of the ocean and a muscled, tattooed guy with a long beard and a trident appears. At first, I was as confused as every, but my brain put two and two together and made me realize that it must be Aquaman, making me then think, "Oh, that must have been the Flash before!" And, of course, after that, we have the origin of Cyborg, so I now understood that the meta-human idea was to set up the Justice League... and my next thought was, "God, as if the movie didn't already have too much story!" Little did I know that the filmmakers still weren't done over-complicating things. I already commented on how overly busy the movie gets by the time the third act rolls around but it is mind-blowing to realize just how much they felt the need to shove into here, taking elements from The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman, throwing Wonder Woman into the mix, bringing in Doomsday and giving him a different origin courtesy of Luthor, and the nationwide mourning for Superman after he sacrifices himself to stop the monster. Talk about prematurely blowing your load!

Going back to the subject of the film's visuals, let's now talk about the production design, courtesy of Patrick Tatopoulos, who's worked with Zack Snyder a number of times (I know him best for being the inspiration for the name of Matthew Broderick's character in Godzilla '98, which he worked on). With no Krypton or anything that otherworldly, save for the Kryptonian scout ship that Lex Luthor uses as part of his ultimate plan, there's not much to talk about in the set design department this time around, as everything feels even more realistic and, as a result, doesn't stick out that much. Like before, Metropolis looks like a pretty average city, with nothing that distinctive about it, save for the statue of Superman in the middle of a park dedicated to him and the people who died in the attack on the city at the end of Man of Steel, as well as a dome that was built around the Kryptonian ship when it crashed into Metropolis. The interiors of the city's major businesses, like the offices of the Daily Planet and especially the laboratories and other interiors of LexCorp, have a very clean, cold, and clinical white feel to them, which I think is meant to bring to mind a Stanley Kubrick vibe but comes off as bland more than anything else (the LexCorp logo, which you often see in the background in those latter scenes, clashes with everything else with its rather fruity color scheme). The same goes for the interior of Clark and Lois' home, which looks like a typical, low-rent city apartment. Other interiors, both in Metropolis, like the interior of Luthor's mansion, particularly the large drawing room that used to belong to his father, and other areas like the interior of the Capitol, have that warmer, brown feeling that's akin to David Fincher and look like pretty normal, real-life places. As for Gotham City, while we are told that it does have a bad crime problem, as it's usually depicted, we see very little of it and don't get much of a reinforcement of that notion, save for Batman's introductory scene, where the police break into this filthy-looking, rundown house that's obviously being used for sex trafficking (and also has a chimney full of bats, which is convenient). That said, though, in contrast to Metropolis, what we do see of Gotham does appear to have more of a grimy, gritty look to it, like the underground fight club where Bruce Wayne continues to keep tabs on Anatoli Kynazev,, the abandoned building where Batman and Superman have their fight (which is also where the Bat Signal is located), the warehouse where Kynazev and his men hold Martha Kent hostage, and the deserted harbor where the final battle takes place. The only comparable thing in Metropolis is the prison Wallace Keefe and, at the end of the movie, Lex Luthor find themselves in. Oh, yeah, and in this universe, Metropolis and Gotham are right across the bay from each other, like New York and New Jersey.

The Batcave is also pretty standard and doesn't have much that makes it stand out from the other versions of it that have come before. It's a two-level area, with the upper-level being where the Batcomputer and the workshop where Bruce and Alfred develop and build the various gadgets and suits he uses is located, along with the elevator that leads to the house above, while down below is a gritty, primitive-looking place where Bruce works out and trains through old-fashioned means like pounding a tire with a sledgehammer, doing chin-ups with weights tied to him, and such. There's also a connecting passage that leads to a lake, which is where Batman enters the cave with the Batmobile and his other vehicles, as the shallow part of it opens up on the bottom to reveal the passage. The most interesting part of the Batcave, though, is a glass case containing a Robin costume with the message, "HA HA HA, Joke's on you, BATMAN," spray-painted on it, which I'm sure has to be a reference to Jason Todd and how he met his end at the hands of the Joker. You only see it briefly but it is cool nonetheless, as it gives you a little bit of insight into this Batman's history and the reason why he is the way he is. Another interesting thing about the property in general is that Bruce and Alfred live in a long, narrow glass house above the Batcave, while the real Wayne Manor is a burnt out, old husk in a nearby field. Like the Robin costume, it's another way of giving some history to Batman without explicitly stating it and also calls to mind the ending of Batman Begins, where Wayne Manor is burnt down and is being rebuilt during the events of The Dark Knight (another connection this has with that film is that Bruce first discovered the cave when he fell down into it when he was very young, which itself is taken from a story in the comics). Those are also, to me, the most interesting aspects of the film's production design overall, along with the interior of the Kryptonian scout ship, which is basically the same as it was before, only darker, including the genesis chamber, which is still functional but full of an orange fluid and bathed in a glowing light from it.

Tatopoulos, along with Dennis McCarthy, also designed the Batmobile, which is only featured in the scene where Batman attempts to steal the Kryptonite as it's being transported to LexCorp (actually one of the film's better sequences, in my opinion) but does manage to leave an impression. Its design is interesting, in that it feels like if you took the body and sliding hood of the Tim Burton Batmobile and outfitted it with the armor and enormous tires of the Tumbler from the Christopher Nolan films. As a result, I'd say I like its look better than the Tumbler, which I never cared for anyway, as it felt too much like a really fast tank (I was about to add that I felt it was a tad too excessive for Batman, who's meant to work in the shadows, but, when you think about it, none of the Batmobiles have been particularly subtle). The design is a bit on the messy side but I like the feeling of power the car has, especially when you see it in action, as it's not only really fast and maneuverable, despite its size, and bulletproof, it's also able to elevate and lower its body when necessary and has weapons like a Gatling gun mounted on its front, a tow-cable in back that it uses to fling at adversaries, and rockets that it fires. It can probably do more than we see but the scene is cut short when Superman intervenes and damages the Batmobile. The Batwing, which is the modern day equivalent of the Batplane, also makes an appearance during the third act when Batman heads out to save Martha Kent and when he tries to lure Doomsday to the area where the Kryptonite spear is. It has a rather odd shape, with the wings curving around and meeting in front of the body, certainly not as cool as the Batwing in the first Burton movie, and it's armed with machine guns and missiles. It also has a homing function, thermal imaging to detect enemies inside structures, and can be operated via remote control by Alfred in the Batcave.

Like he did in Man of Steel, despite the less than appealing look of the film itself, Zack Snyder does manage to have instances of the striking visual moments that he's well-known for. The opening, showing the flashback of Thomas and Martha Wayne's funeral along with the night they were killed in front of Bruce, has some nice camera angles, use of slow-motion, and a pretty striking montage of Bruce falling through the ground and landing at the bottom of what will become the Batcave. It's then shown to be a simultaneous memory and dream when a swarm of bats surrounds him and lifts him up into the shaft of sunlight streaming down through the hole up above (his silhouette in that shot is a bit bat-like). Like I said before, the small scene in the Indian Ocean when the Kryptonite is discovered is the only part of the movie where the cinematography is actually nice to look at, and when we get our first look at Gotham City, the scene transitions by showing bats swarming towards the camera in darkness, with the camera pulling back to show them erupting from the chimney of a house two police officers are approaching. The two most visually impressive sequences in the film are two dream sequences we have with Bruce. The first one begins with him walking to the crypt where his parents are interred to pay his respects, when he sees blood oozing out of the edge of his mother's tomb and, after he touches it, a monstrous, humanoid bat explodes through the stone and attacks him, causing him to wake up with a start. The same goes for the apocalyptic dream he has about the future under Superman's reign. As jarring and confusing as it is when it comes up (the previous one worked better because we transitioned from something that didn't involve Bruce Wayne), there's no denying the striking visuals of Batman in this type of setting, dressed the way he is, looking at a ruined city, and becoming involved in a big, sweeping battle that grows to involve winged demons (that sequence starts in the back of a truck and moves outside to encompass the battle in one, continuous shot, which is cool-looking), before being strung up in a dark, underground bunker like a prisoner of war and confronted by a completely tyrannical Superman. As much as I don't like the overly morose tone and the endless debates that are going on at the same time, there is some nice imagery in the montage of Superman performing heroic acts, especially when he's pulling a ship ashore in the Arctic, with the Northern Lights in the sky behind him. There's a really nice shot of Batman standing at the top of a tower at dusk, waiting for the right moment to begin his assault on the convoy transporting the Kryptonite. And the third act has a fair amount of images that are quite memorable in their own right, like Batman in his armored suit, waiting in the rain by the Bat Signal for Superman to arrive, the two of them facing off, the far off shots of the Kryptonian ship as Doomsday is coming to be, and some moments during the battle with them. So, in the end, I would say that, despite the depressing look to it, in comparison to Man of Steel, this film isn't more visually inspiring, as you'd expect a comic book movie directed by Snyder to be.

You may be surprised to learn that, for a big comic book movie, there aren't as many visual effects as you might think. According to producer Charles Roven, there are 1,500 effects shots, which is fairly small for this type of film, although it didn't surprise me given that there are no scenes on Krypton this time, the inclusion of the more realistic character of Batman, and the sad fact that there really isn't that much action until the third act. Like before, the quality of the effects varies. Superman flying, floating in the air, and landing looks good more often than not, as does the green-screen work, effects like the explosions and the electrical surges that you see leading up to the birth of Doomsday, and the compositing of the real actors within big, fantastical environments, like in Bruce's dream, the Batwing, which is made up of digital elements incorporated around a practical cockpit that Ben Affleck sits in, and during the final battle. However, there are many moments when something doesn't look all that realistic, like some of the weapons Batman uses on Superman during their fight and some of the times they hit each others, many shots of Superman and Wonder Woman in action, the former's heat-vision, the close-up of Superman's shriveled, corpse-like body after he gets hit with a nuclear missile (the shot of him regaining strength from the sun's rays looks pretty good, though), and such; some are easy enough to overlook, as they're not dwelt upon long enough for them to become distracting, but others aren't so lucky. You inherently know that there are digital elements in all of the action scenes, including the most down-to-Earth one, which is the chase with the Batmobile, but there, they often go by so fast and are small, individual parts of such big spectacles that it's unlikely that they'll become an issue. The biggest piece of effects-work in the entire movie is Doomsday, who is 100% computer-generated and is brought to life through motion-capture work with Robin Atkin Downes, who also does the vocal effects; he's also, unfortunately, where the movie's effects work does take quite a nose-dive. You just know that this thing isn't really there, as his movements and skin textures look too synthetic (he reminds me of how the Hulk and the Abomination both looked in the 2008 movie with Edward Norton), as do other elements like when he rips out of his egg sack and later sheds his skin, which is where he develops the bony spines and large muscle mass more consistent with the way he looks in the comics and other media. I think another part of the problem is that he's depicted as being the size of a house rather than his original size of maybe eight to ten feet tall, which forced them to have to use CGI a lot rather than use a combination of suit-work and makeup (they could have still done animatronics and other techniques for the shots of him that weren't big and wide, though). In fact, the whole section of the film involving him, especially the final battle, is a really big, CGI fest, which very quickly wears thin. But what really sinks him is that, on top of everything else, he comes in so late, his appearance is so forced, and he has no character other than that of a mindless beast, making the final battle against mean very little. The effects showing him use his ever-developing powers do look nice, though, and bring a feeling of scope to the proceedings when you see the wide shots of him sending out huge shock waves.

Before we get into the specifics of the action scenes and other notable setpieces, let me say that, save for the opening and the climactic battle, the former aren't as spectacular or as big in scope as those in Man of Steel, often taking place in environments that are a bit restricted, like the harbor where Batman chases after Luthor's men, the underground bunker where Superman saves Lois in his first appearance, and the abandoned building where Batman and Superman have their fight. What's more, not only are there not that many, considering the type of movie this is, but the movie's numerous other flaws rob them of any feeling of grandeur, thrills, or, most importantly, impact that they might have had better photographed and edited (like in Man of Steel, it's sometimes hard to tell what's going on) or featured in a more well-told story. As a result, they feel like they're there simply because you expect action scenes and battles in superhero movies, while the filmmakers really want to go back to endlessly discussing the meaning of things.

The movie opens with a funeral procession for young Bruce Wayne's parents, as they carry the coffins over to the family crypt, while adult Bruce narrates about how things always fall. Young Bruce runs away from the procession and into the nearby woods in grief, Alfred trying to get him back, and we get a simultaneous flashback to the death of his parents (by the way, they shove the admittedly epic-sounding title into the lower right-hand corner of the screen, which didn't feel right to me the first time I saw it and I still think is an odd choice). You see the happy family leaving the movie theater, where Excalibur is playing, when they're held up at gunpoint by a mugger on the street. Bruce is shown tripping and falling to the ground as he continues to run through the woods, while in the flashback, Thomas Wayne recklessly throws a punch at the mugger, getting shot as a result. Bruce then falls through a covered hole in the ground, as Martha Wayne is shown trying to disarm the mugger, only for him to raise his gun up, snag her pearl necklace on the barrel, pointing it right at her, and fire, shattering the necklace and sending her tumbling to the ground. Bruce hits the bottom of the pit he's fallen into, while in the flashback, he lets out a silent scream as the mugger runs for it and his father, in his dying moments, reaches for his wife and whispers her name. Martha's eye dilates as she expires and her pearls tumble down a drain, as Bruce gets to his feet at the bottom of the pit and looks up at the light coming through the opening up top (if you closely, you see one of Martha's pearls on the ground beside him and the opening kind of looks like the sewer drain, no doubt meant to metaphorical in some way, like his life tumbled down with his mother's pearls). He looks across from him and sees an enormous cavern filled to the brim with bats, which are suddenly stirred up and fly right at him, whirling around him. At first, he tries to brace himself from them but, within seconds, he stops fearing them and looks up at the light. He's then lifted up and floats up to the hole, surrounded by them, as he looks up in wonder. Revealing that this is a simultaneous memory and dream, adult Bruce says, "In the dream, they took me to the light. A beautiful lie."

The film switches to Metropolis during the climax of Man of Steel, as a Wayne-Tech Industries helicopter lands at a helipad and Bruce disembarks to a waiting car nearby, seeing the havoc the Black Zero is wreaking on the city. Driving into the midst of the warzone, with huge explosions occurring down the streets across from him, forcing him to take alternate routes, he calls a man named Jack inside a building he owns, telling him to evacuate everyone. Looking out the window at the Black Zero, which is not too far from the building, Jack begins herding everyone out, as Bruce puts down his cellphone, swerving to miss two cars that collide into each other and doing a U-turn to avoid a missile and fighter jet that crash into the road in front of him and a nearby building respectively. He drives down a backalley, sideswiping a dumpster when he comes to a sharp angle, and heads back out onto the main street, smashing off an open car door in his path. After he swerves to avoid a roadblock, the Kryptonian scout ship is shown slicing through the tops of buildings right above him as it slowly but surely heads down to the ground. Bruce barely avoids falling chunks of buildings as he continues driving, stopping at a crowd of people gathered in the street, looking up at the Black Zero. Getting out of his car, he watches as the jet containing the opposing Phantom Drive slams into the ship and they're slowly sucked into nothingness. This sends out a shock-wave and causes more destruction, prompting Bruce to run down the street towards his building. Inside, Jack watches as something is sent hurtling through the top of a much smaller building nearby and slams into the Wayne-Tech building a few floors down. The structure begins to shake from the impact, as Bruce rounds a corner and sees his building, attempting to call Jack but unable to get through this time. He sees powerful lasers slicing throughout the middle of the building, and inside, as the lasers come up through the floors around him, Jack, realizing he's about to die, says a prayer. The entire upper half of the building comes crashing down in on itself and Bruce, seeing this, screams Jack's name and rushes to the site, while everyone else is running to escape the massive cloud of dust and debris coming down the street (as if this sequence didn't have enough 9/11 imagery). For a moment, there's nothing but gray on the screen, then Bruce is shown passing by a horse and a stunned onlooker, as the dust gradually settles. Hearing someone calling for him, he runs to the aid of Wallace Keefe, whose legs are under a fallen steel beam. Calling other people nearby for help, he comforts Keefe, who says he can't feel his legs, and when some bystanders rush over and grab his arms, Bruce lifts the beam off of him and they pull him out from under it. Bruce then sees a little girl standing amidst the rubble and rushes over to her, grabbing her out from underneath a falling piece of building. He comforts her, telling her she's okay, and that they'll find her mom, but when he asks where she is, the girl points to the top of the now demolished building. Realizing the sad truth of the matter, and hearing some booms in the sky, he embraces the girl and watches Superman and General Zod hurtling back to Earth along with chunks of debris from his satellite.

Cutting to eighteen months later, at the sight of the downed World Engine in the Indian Ocean, a native diver brings a piece of the structure to the nearby shore, where a white man is waiting for it. Cracking it open, he reveals a glowing, green element: Kryptonite. The film then switches to a compound in Nairomi, Africa, where Lois Lane and another man are dragged out of a vehicle to meet with General Amajagh, the head of a group of freedom fighters. As Lois interviews Amajagh, her companion's camera is grabbed out of his hands, the film is exposed, and the camera smashed. The head of security, Anatoli Knyazev, finds a small, flashing object inside the film and tells everyone that it's a CIA device before breaking it in half. The photographer is grabbed and thrown to his knees on the ground, Amajagh grabbing a handgun and walking towards him. Lois tries to stop what's about to happen but is restrained, as the photographer tells them in their language that she knows nothing of this. He then assures her that it's okay, right before Amajagh executes him. In the next cut, he has her down in a bunker, as she reinforces the fact that she didn't know, only for him to say, "Ignorance is not the same as innocence, Miss Lane." Up top, Knyazev gives a subtle signal to his men and they turn on the other freedom fighters, shooting them up. Hearing the chaos, Amajagh forces Lois to her feet and puts her in a headlock, holding her at gunpoint. Once everyone has been slaughtered, Knyazev and his men ride off on their motorcycles, while up in the sky, Superman comes zooming down with a sonic clap, smashing through the roof of the bunker. Amajagh threatens to kill Lois if Superman comes near them but, as he watches, Lois, who's no longer panicking, removes her hands from the general's arms. Superman, taking this as a sign to do what he needs to, smiles at Lois and rushes at Amajagh, flying him through two layers of stone walls.

Our first look at Gotham City comes following the image of bats rushing towards the screen and the camera pulling back to reveal them escaping from the chimney of a house that has drawn the attention of a squad car. The two officers inside disembark and enter the house with their guns drawn along with their flashlights, which illuminate a bat-shaped weapon stuck in the wall beneath a flight of stairs. Finding a door on the other side that leads down into the basement, they walk down there, following the sounds of murmuring voices, and find woman trapped in a large cell in the wall. One of them speaks to the officers in a foreign language, telling them that a "devil" saved them, and the younger officer, promising them that they're going to get them out, opens the cell door, only for the one prisoner to close it again. She keeps it pulled to, much to the officer's confusion, and points upwards, saying, "It's still here." The officer doesn't understand her language but he then hears a man cry out in pain upstairs. He heads upstairs to check it out, while his partner secures the prisoners, and he continues to hear the sound of the man yelling and speaking to someone. The officer reaches the top floor and enters a room up there to find a shirtless man tied to a radiator. Horrified by this, the officer looks around and the camera pans by his face to reveal Batman, out-of-focus and hiding in an upper corner of the room. Slowly turning around, he sees him and quickly aims and takes a shot but Batman easily dodges it and maneuvers across the ceiling, as the cop continues shooting at him. He breaks up through the wood of the ceiling and the cop, in his adrenaline rush, comes very close to blowing away his partner when he rounds the corner of the door. The young officer rambles about having seen Batman for the first time, as he and his partner then see that the bounded criminals has his mark branded on the left side of his chest. The film then transitions to the first scene in the Batcave, as Bruce Wayne talks to Alfred, who's tinkering with the microphone built into the suit, about the link between Anatoli Knyazev and a figured named the White Portuguese, which Bruce believes intends to bring a dirty bomb into Gotham. Alfred then shows Bruce a newspaper with the headline being about the man he branded and when Bruce says that nothing's different, Alfred says he begs to differ and puts on footage of Superman and his fight with General Zod, telling him that this is the kind of stuff that creates fear that turns people cruel.

A small but pivotal scene happens shortly afterward, where Wallace Keefe, after placing a picture of himself with his family at a memorial in Metropolis for those who died two years earlier, turns his attention to the big statue of Superman there. Wheeling up to it in his chair, he jumps up and grabs onto the hand, maneuvers himself along the side of the arm and into a sitting position atop it. A police officer orders him to get down but Keefe throws a can at him and, as his partner calls for backup, Keefe takes out a spray-paint can and begins writing something in red on the side of the statue. In the next scene, at the offices of the Daily Planet, everyone there, including Clark Kent, sees the news report on the incident, where it's revealed that Keefe, who's shown raving about working for Bruce Wayne as he's placed into a police car, wrote FALSE GOD on the statue. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, who was introduced earlier, is shown cutting a deal with one of Senator June Finch's subordinates, asking for access to the wreckage of the Kryptonian ship and General Zod's body for testing, which edited concurrently with a sequence showing him getting both, followed up by his using Kryptonite to burn off one of Zod's fingerprints (this is where you see Luthor awkwardly force the guy to eat a cherry-flavored Jolly Rancher; it's just weird). Then, we see Bruce Wayne attending an underground boxing match, whispering some advice into the ear of the boxer who's knocked towards him before pushing back into the match. Whatever Bruce told him comes in handy, as the man immediately dominates his much bigger opponent, knocking him to the floor, much to the irritation of Anatoli Knyazev, who's betting on him. At the bar after the fight, Bruce and Knyazev exchange talk about the idea of luck, the former using a special device to clone the data on the trafficker's cellphone. Later, Bruce is shown slowly walking to the crypt where his parents' are entombed in slow-motion, flowers in his hand and the burnt ruins of Wayne Manor in the background. Walking inside, glancing a stained glass painting of an angel, he places the flowers in a pot by his mother's tomb and looks at it, when he sees blood slowly streaming out of the lower right edge of it. He touches it and looks at the blood on his finger, when the crypt bursts open and he's swarmed by bats before being attacked by an enormous, demonic bat that grabs and bites him. He then shoots up awake in bed with a woman he apparently met the night before, grabbing himself a drink to calm his nerves.

When Knyazev's phone calls show a connection to Luthor, Bruce decides that he needs to a "leash" on his house and intends on breaking in as Batman but Alfred tells him that he won't have to, as he's been invited to a fundraiser at LexCorp. After a moment where he stares at the Batman suit down in the cave and glances at the Robin costume with the Joker spray-paint on it, Bruce heads outside, uncovers his Aston Martin, and heads to the fundraiser. Upon arriving and stepping out of his car, Bruce catches the attention of Clark Kent, who's told who he is by another reporter. In the next scene, as Luthor is making a speech, and after the mysterious Diana Prince first catches his eye, Bruce has Alfred, communicating with him via a special earpiece, guide him to the building's mainframe using a 3-D readout of the place's schematics. This doesn't go unnoticed by Clark, thanks to his super-hearing, and as Bruce heads down some stairs, he passes by Mercy Graves, who becomes suspicious of his actions. Alfred guides him past the kitchen down there and through a glass door into a room filled with computer banks, on one of which he places a special computer drive to download data from the mainframe in seven minutes. Mercy then comes in and asks what he's doing, with Bruce saying that he got turned around while looking for the bathroom. She tells him that it's upstairs and leaves when one of the chefs speaks to her. Bruce tells Alfred that he can't stay down there for the seven minutes and he suggests he go upstairs and socialize. He arrives back upstairs right after Luthor's speech has gone off the rails in a bizarre way and he awkwardly ends in it, where Clark introduces himself to Bruce. Bruce, who's still entranced by Diana, initially babbles something about his foundation pledging its support for "books" and the two of them then get into a subtly heated discussion about their alter egos and the controversies surrounding them both. When Clark insists that most of the world doesn't share his opinion on Superman, Bruce says, "Maybe it's just the Gotham City in me. We just have a bad history with freaks dressed like clowns." Luthor then cuts into the conversation, introduces himself to both of them, and makes small-talk, when downstairs, the drive finishes downloading the data. Alfred informs him of this and he heads back down to retrieve it, as Luthor rushes to talk to the governor. Clark, having heard Alfred as well, follows Bruce downstairs but is distracted when he looks into the kitchen and sees a news report of a deadly factory fire in Juarez, Mexico; Bruce, meanwhile, finds that his drive has been taken and turns in time to see Diana walking away. He rushes upstairs after, but is slowed down by various obstacles, while Clark, seeing that a girl is trapped in a burning building in Juarez, rushes into action. Bruce heads out into the parking lot in time to see Diana duck into a car and drive off, much to his chagrin.

Now we get that overly somber montage of Superman performing heroic feats. He's first shown gently floating down to the ground with the young girl who was trapped in the burning building in his arms, landing amongst a big crowd of people who were celebrating Day of the Dead in Juarez and delivering her into her mother's arms, while everyone else puts their hands on him in a blatant example of messianic symbolism on the filmmakers' part. The debates then start, with some referring to Superman as a godlike figure who must not be forced to abide by humanity's laws while others argue that there should be limits on his power, as he's shown pulling a wrecked ship to shore in the Arctic. A rocket is then shown taking off and suddenly exploding in mid-air, with Superman bringing the nose of it safely down to the ground, followed by people trapped on the roofs of their houses by a massive flood, waving upwards, with one family having drawn the 'S' symbol in white paint on their roof. The camera pans towards the happily crying mother of the family and then pans by her while also turning around to reveal Superman floating up in the sky above. This montage ends with Senator Finch telling Charlie Rose that she's not saying that Superman shouldn't act at all but rather that he shouldn't act unilaterally against the U.S. government, as Clark is shown to be watching this interview himself and shaking his head, not knowing what to do. Following that, Wallace Keefe is bailed out of prison and is taken by Mercy Graves to a rundown house where he meets with Luthor, who offers to help him stand for something, motioning towards an electronic wheelchair he was sitting in; Finch then walks into her office to find Keefe waiting for her, asking her to give him a chance to face Superman. Bruce Wayne, meanwhile, encounters Diana Prince again at an antique show and confronts her about her taking his data drive the other night. Diana says that she's interested in Luthor as much as he is, saying that she believes he has a photograph that belongs to her but she wasn't able to crack the encryption of the data on the drive. Bruce tries to intimidate her, telling her that she doesn't fool him, and she responds by saying that she simply borrowed his drive and that it's now in his car's glove compartment. She then walks away, with Bruce now even more intrigued than before, and in the next scene, he's having the Batcomputer decrypt the data.

And here's where I, and sure a lot of other first-time viewers, got really confused, as the screen fades to black and, next thing I know, I'm watching a leather-jacket-wearing Batman emerge from a bunker into a desolate desert landscape, with explosions all-around and a ruined city up ahead, which he scans with his binoculars. The scene then cuts to him meeting up with a convoy of armored trucks and he asks the man inside the back of a semi if they got "the rock." He says that they did and Batman joins him into the cargo trailer, where he opens up a LexCorp box with a green glow inside... which is revealed to be nothing more than a battery. The man then pulls a gun on Batman and apologizes, as outside, a squadron of storm-troopers wearing Superman's symbol on their uniforms' arms, emerge from the ranks and disembark from some of the armored trucks they were hiding in, taking the men out there prisoner. Batman himself is forced to put his hands up when a man behind him pulls out an assault rifle, when the storm-troopers begin executing their prisoners. Unable to stand for this, Batman quickly knocks away the arm wielding the assault rifle, pulls out a handgun of his own and shoots the other guy, then swings around, fights with the one trooper, who tries to shoot, and is able to overpower and throw him to the floor. Batman rushes outside and joins into the fray, smacking one trooper down with the butt of his own rifle, kicking another's legs out from under him, uppercutting one and whacking another in the face with his rifle, disarming one with a number of precise hits, sending another down to the ground with a whack to the head, firing a shot to the left before throwing his handgun at one trooper, disarming him, using his assault rifle to fend off others, and flipping the trooper over. He fires at another, grabs the hand of one of the survivors and tries to pull him away but is jumped from behind by storm-troopers and disarmed, as flying parademons enter the skirmish as well, carrying away any survivors. Batman manages to take care of the troopers fighting with him, kicking the one trying to shoot him, breaking his leg, and knocking the other holding from behind to the ground and incapacitating him with a whack with the butt of his rifle. One trooper tries to tackle him but Batman manages to flip him over his shoulder but another behind him gets a cheap shot, with a third from the front knocking to his knees, and while he manages to shoot them down with an assault rifle, he gets into a small struggle with another that allows him to be overwhelmed and restrained by others. He manages to take out a few others as they try to force him down but he's forced down into submission, a parademon landing behind him and punching him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious.

Batman comes to and finds himself hanging from the ceiling of an underground bunker by his wrists and sees that four surviving members of his resistance are hanging by twos on either side of him. He hears a distinct, crackling sound and sees Superman land in the bunker at the end of a corridor connecting to the room. Four storm-troopers guarding the hall bow down to him as he walks by them towards Batman, cruelly immolating the other prisoners with his heat-vision before they knew what happened. Glaring at Batman, he removes his mask to reveal Bruce Wayne's face and, glancing at the mask in his hand, tells him, "She was my world, and you took her from me." He puts his hand on Bruce's chest and appears to shove it into his ribcage, as Bruce "wakes up" at his desk and sees a vision of the Flash in a time portal, giving him a warning: "Bruce! Listen to me now! It's Lois! Lois Lane! She's the key!... You were right about him! You've always been right about him! Fear him! Find us, Bruce! You have to find us!" Bruce then wakes up a second time, this time for real, and sees that the data has been successfully decrypted. While, at the same time, Clark is given more information on Batman at the Daily Planet, including some graphic photos of his brutal brand of justice, Bruce finds that the "White Portuguese" he's been looking for is a ship that's currently docked in Gotham Harbor. He then reveals to Alfred his plan to steal the Kryptonite aboard the ship before it's delivered to Luthor in order to have it in case the time comes to deal with Superman.

One night, at Gotham Harbor, the crate containing the Kryptonite is taken off the White Portuguese and loaded into the back of a cargo truck; unbeknownst to any of them, Batman is watching from atop a crane; once it's inside and the door is shut, he fires a homing device onto the container. The truck is then shown leaving the harbor, flanked by a convoyed of black cars and vans, but they're momentarily held up by a passing tanker truck. That's when the Batmobile makes its presence known when its bright headlights switch on and illuminate one of the cars from where it's parked inside a nearby building. The man sitting in the back of the car tells the driver to go, as the Batmobile comes rushing towards them. He fires at the armored vehicle as his car takes off and the Batmobile slams into a car behind its intended target, sending into a nearby trailer. As he chases after them, Batman deploys a towline from the back of the Batmobile, hooking the car he sent flying and dragging it behind him. They continue shooting at him as they race through the winding streets, parking behind a cement block to continue doing so while the others continue escorting the cargo truck, but as he comes around the bend, he detaches the cable and the car is sent flying into the air and smashes into the top of the gunners' car, as he drives past them. He accelerates the Batmobile, quickly catching up to the convoy, when the back window of the van ahead of him is removed to reveal a goon with a mounted turret gun who unloads his rounds on him. This does nothing to slow Batman down and he begins firing the Batmobile's own mounted gun, hitting the back and tires of the van, causing it to lose control and tumble down the road, with the Batmobile blasting right through it, reducing it to a fireball. The cargo truck and the remaining convoy pass beneath an elevated train track, and when Batman chases after them, he sees another van on the other side of the support beams is firing at him. They get on the main road, with the Batmobile now trailing behind them, and once they're back on a straight section of road, the back of the cargo truck opens up to reveal three weapon-wielding goons, one of whom is Anatoli Kynazev with a bazooka. The latter has trouble getting a clear shot, with the remaining vehicles blocking his aim, especially when one narrowly avoids running into a tanker truck coming from the opposite direction. They come around another bend and the cargo truck and one of the convoy vehicles manage to get by another tanker truck that's been about to cross through the intersection. Batman then races around the one van in front of them and they take shots at him, which turns out to be a fatal mistake as they end up driving right for the gas tank on the passing truck. They cause a huge explosion when they hit it, which Batman is forced to dodge by going through the bottom part of a building up ahead. He drives up a ramp inside the building, accelerating to catch up with his remaining prey, while those in the back of the cargo truck are perplexed as to where he went. He then shows them where he is when the Batmobile explodes out of the middle of the long building they're driving by, crashing through the roof of the container and just barely missing the men inside, slamming into and sending the last convoy vehicle tumbling, and smashing through a number of moored boats by the docks, with one large appearing down on top of him when he smashes through its bottom.

The Batmobile shoots its way through the hull of the damaged ship and continues chasing after them, as they fire on him, with Kynazev shooting his bazooka. Batman deploys a number of small rockets out of the body of the Batmobile, which hit the missile in midair and cause it to explode into a big fireball that the vehicle passes through. With some distance no between them, the two vehicles round a sharp corner but the chase comes to an end when Batman's headlights illuminate Superman standing on the corner, waiting for him. Batman hits the brakes but the Batmobile has too much momentum and slams into Superman's side, sending the car skidding backwards into a section that's under construction and causing some oil drums to burst into flames. Superman walks toward the vehicle, as Batman tries to assess the damage inside when he sees him through the fogged windows. Superman tears the hatch off the top of the Batmobile, rips it in half, and tosses the halves in both directions. Batman steps out of his seat and they face each other, with Superman warning him to stop his vigilante actions. As he walks away, Batman asks him if he bleeds. In response, Superman just fires off into the sky and Batman, as he watches, growls, "You will!" In the next shot, Batman drives his damaged vehicle back to the Batcave, entering it through the passage in the lake by his house. Once he parks the car and gets out, removing his mask, he heads up to the Batcomputer and traces the signal of the transponder he left on the cargo truck, as the crate with the Kryptonite is delivered to Luthor. Bruce then sees that it's been delivered to the LexCorp Research Park, just as Luthor opens the crate up to reveal the green glow within.

Senator Finch then announces the congressional hearing on Superman's actions and says that she hopes he himself will appear. Following a scene between him and Martha, who gives him that very questionable piece of advice of him not owing the world anything, and a conversation between Lois and Secretary Swanwick, where she learns that the bullet she gave him was developed by LexCorp and that Luthor also had private security contractors at the compound, as well as realizes that her being there was what the conspirators were counting on to attract Superman there as well, the hearing at the Senate is shown about to get underway, as Wallace Keefe clears a security check. Keefe is then interviewed by a TV reporter and as he describes how Superman's actions have shattered his life, Bruce sees him on the television in a boardroom and asks his secretary to bring a man named Greg in. At the Senate, Luthor sends Mercy Graves into the room to "save his seat" while he tells Sen. Finch that he plans to tell them of how she stopped him from creating a deterrent against Superman, while in the boardroom, Bruce asks Greg why Keefe hasn't been getting his checks. Greg tells him that he has been getting them every month but they've always been sent back and Bruce is shown a series of checks with a number of messages written on them, like, BRUCE WAYNE: OPEN YOUR EYES, B. WAYNE, I AM YOUR GHOST, BRUCE WAYNE = BLIND, and the like. Bruce demands to know why he's never seen these and as Greg says he'll get to the bottom of the matter, Bruce turns around to the television monitors to see that Superman has indeed arrived at the Capitol, which also seen on the news by Martha as she's working at a diner in Smallville. Finch is told that he's arrived and she prepares to head into the committee room, exchanging some last barbs with Luthor, as he tells, "Do you know the biggest lie in America, Senator? It's that power can be innocent." He wishes her good luck and outside, Lois joins the numerous other members of the press as Superman lands at the foot of the steps to both cheers and jeers from the surrounding onlookers.

Bruce watches on the news as he heads inside the building, while being handed another returned check that arrived just that morning, and in the committee room, everyone goes quiet as he walks in and strides up to the podium before Finch and the others. Finch thanks Keefe, who's sitting at the end of the table to Superman's right, for coming forward and says that this is how democracy works. Mercy is clearly wondering why Luthor hasn't come in yet and Finch suddenly halts her opening speech when she notices a mason jar full of a yellow-green liquid sitting next to her on the desk. Everybody in the room is perplexed by her hesitancy and she turns the jar around to read the label on it, which says, GRANNY'S PEACH TEA, a reference to something she said to Luthor when she denied him his import of the Kryptonite (specifically that called an assassination weapon a "deterrent" is the same as calling a jar of urine Granny's peach tea). Realizing what it means, she looks over at Luthor's empty chair and then glances at Keefe, as does Superman. Suddenly, a huge explosion rips through the room, spreads out into the hall, and shakes the outside as it blows through the structure of the building, startling everyone, including Martha in Smallville, who drops a coffee pot she was holding in shock when she looks up at the TV. As Lois looks up at the building in horror, the scene around her degenerates into chaos, while up in the remains of the Capitol, Superman stands amidst the flames, brooding at his inability to do anything to stop it. Bruce is as horrified as everyone else when he sees this in his boardroom and he then looks at the most recent returned check, with a message written on a newspaper clipping on the destruction of his Metropolis office building that reads, YOU LET YOUR FAMILY DIE. Incensed by this, he stares up at the screens in anger, and the next scene shows the aftermath of a vicious attack on LexCorp Research Park, with a security guard station in flames and employees being taken away in ambulances and fire trucks. Luthor arrives on a motorcycle and heads through the destroyed main doors, walking along a floor that's littered with empty bullet shells, through the smashed glass doors of the research lab, and finds that the chunk of Kryptonite has been taken, with a Batarang left inside its case, leaving no mystery as to who took it. At their apartment, Lois tries to call Clark on her cellphone, only to find him outside on the balcony as Superman, brooding. She tries to tell him that there are other people behind the whole thing but all he can do is lament being unable to stop the explosion and talk about how he's been kidding himself by doing what he's been doing. He then shoots off into the sky.

Using the fingerprints that he removed from Zod's corpse, Luthor manages to gain access to the interior of the downed Kryptonian ship and finds his way into the genesis chamber. He activates the control panel there, which in turn, activates the entire ship and he assumes command of it, preparing to gain all the knowledge he can from the archives. At the same time, Bruce is training like a madman down in the Batcave: pounding a large tire with a sledgehammer, doing chin-ups with a weight chained around his waist, pushing a cart carrying weights down a hallway, pulling a large tire down the hall by a rope, and lifting all sorts of huge weights and barbells (Ben Affleck's physique during this scene is really amazing). When he's not training, he's forging the Kryptonite into weapons, such as a spear tipped with the element and gas pellets filled with vapor composed of it, into the inevitable battle. He also looks into the data he took from Luthor's mainframe, specifically the "meta-human" section, where he learns that Diana is more than just a mysterious beauty, as there's a photo of her that dates back to 1918 in Belgium, depicting her in battle armor and with a shield and sword. Back at the Kryptonian ship, having overridden the security and activated the genesis chamber, Luthor drags Zod's body into the liquid that fills the chamber, the ship's AI then analyzing his genetic material. Taking out a knife, Luthor slices open his right hand and drips it onto Zod's face before pushing the body down into the depths of the chamber. The AI warns him that he's doing something that was long ago forbidden by the Kryptonian council but, as the council no longer exists, he tells it to proceed and the process begins. While the country begins to turn against Superman due to his absence, Clark wanders around the frozen north, while Alfred tries to talk Bruce out of going up against him but Bruce, feeling that this could be the most important thing he'll ever do, tells him that the first generation of the Wayne family were hunters, signifying how he views his relationship to Superman. In Smallville, Martha turns off the TV (can't blame her, since it's Nancy Grace flapping her big mouth), and takes the trash out back, when a car's headlights suddenly illuminate her when she puts the bag in the bin. Sensing danger when it begins to slowly approach her, she walks down the alley away from it and takes off in a run, only to be cut off by a van and pulled into it by some men. At that time, in Gotham, Batman, dressed in his iron suit, prepares for battle, placing the Kryptonite spear into the floor of the bottom level of an abandoned building and activates the Bat Signal outside, waiting for Superman to come. Seeing the signal from across the bay, Luthor makes a call on his cellphone, saying, "The night is here."

At the offices of the Daily Planet, Lois gets the shock of her life when a man polishing the floor in the lobby turns out to be Anatoli Knyazev and she's promptly abducted and taken to a helipad at a LexCorp office building. She's forced out of the helicopter and onto the platform, where Luthor is waiting for her. She tells him that she's proven that he's behind everything but this doesn't faze him, as he talks to her about her being the shortest path to Superman and, standing behind her, pushes her off the helipad. She falls quite a distance before Superman comes in, catches her, and places her safely on the ground, sharing a kiss with her before soaring back up to face Luthor. As he slowly floats over to the platform, threatening to take him in, Luthor, after winding up a timer, reveals to him that he knows he's Clark Kent and that he intends to show everyone that he's not as virtuous as he appears to be. He directs his attention to the Bat Signal in the sky above Gotham, tells him how he's Batman over the edge, and that he intends for them to battle. Superman scoffs at the idea that he'll battle Batman just on his say-so but then, Luthor shows him some pictures of Martha, one of which has the word, WITCH, written on it, as she's the mother of a "flying demon" and tells him that the punishment for witches is death by far. He tosses the pictures down, Superman dropping to his knees in shock at this and, growing enraged, demands to know where she is. Luthor, however, says that he wouldn't let them tell him where they took her and says that they only way to save her is to kill Batman and bring him his head. A helicopter arrives to pick Luthor up but, before he leaves, he tells Superman that he has less than an hour to complete his task. At the warehouse where she's being held, Martha is shown a timer that says she has less than 35 minutes left, while in Metropolis, everyone's attention, including the media, is drawn to massive power surges being sent out from the Kryptonian ship. At her hotel, Diana sees the reports of the unusual activity as well, while Superman meets up with Lois and tells her that he has to convince Batman to help him or he'll have to kill him, before heading to Gotham. As Diana is looking at news reports of what's happening on her laptop, she finds a message Bruce sent her, revealing the photograph she was looking for. There's also an attachment to the meta-human research Luthor has been conducting, which shows her security camera footage of an abnormally fast man thwarting a robbery in a store, footage from deep below the ocean of an aquatic, trident-wielding man who destroys the probe filming and speeds away from the submersible that deployed it, and a record of a S.T.A.R. Labs scientist's attempt to save a man's life not going as expected, as metallic parts attach themselves to what's left of him before the scientist shuts the camera off. This prompts Diana to close her laptop.

98 minutes in, we finally get to what the title promises. While Lois manages to talk Perry White into getting her a helicopter ride to Gotham, Batman is shown looking up at Superman, as he hovers in the stormy sky above before landing across from him. Batman tells him, "Well, here I am," but Superman tries to appeal to him to listen, walking towards him as he backs up. He tries to explain what's going on, when he steps on a lever in the ground that activates powerful sonic devices on either side of him, bombarding him with their punishing frequencies. Superman grabs a manhole cover at his feet, rips it in half, throws them at both devices, destroying them instantly. He marches towards Batman, telling him, "You don't understand. There's no time," and in the shot where they're face-to-face, Batman snarls, "I understand!", with Superman then proceeding to shove him back, making him skid across the ground a great distance. Batman groans as he struggles to get up, while Superman unintentionally activates a group of hidden, automatic gun turrets that unleash a barrage of bullets on him. Unharmed by this, he floats up into the air and easily destroys them with his heat vision. Batman gets to his feet and sees that his second trap has failed, as Superman lands outside of the flames, marches up to him, and flies him through the center of the abandoned building behind him, up through the roof, and tossing him into a spotlight there, sending him smashing through it and the edge of the roof. Superman lands on the other side of the roof and, as Batman gets up, he warns him to stay down. Batman, however, takes out a smoke bomb, releases the airtight lid, and flings it at the center of the roof, creating a cloud that obscures Superman's vision. Superman rushes through the cloud, only to find that Batman's gone when he reaches the other side of it, and turns around to see him pointing a type of rifle at him. He fires a small projectile, which Superman catches, but it then explodes a cloud of Kryptonite gas in his face (as with the bomb at the Senate, there is no reason why he couldn't have used his x-ray vision to see what was in that). He immediately starts coughing and convulsing from its effects, falling to his knees, as Batman, watching him struggle, tells him, "Breathe it in. That's fear. You're not brave." Superman throws a punch at him but, in his weakened state, Batman easily stops his fist in midair, telling him, "Men are brave." Superman glances at his fist, shocked that he stopped him, and goes for another punch, only for Batman to easily block that, along with a couple of others, before headbutting him and landing his own punch. He continues blocking Superman's own blows and scores more hits, punching him in the face, kneeing him in the gut, elbowing him in the throat, and swinging around and kicking him onto a skylight. Batman then stomps towards him and jumps into the air and lands right on him, sending them both crashing through the glass and into the level below.

Superman winces in pain from this and Batman kicks him, knocking him across the floor, and following that up with a kick to the face, landing him on his back, and a series of punches to the face and torso. He grabs Superman by the throat, slams his head into the wall, headbutts him, and whacks him down to the floor with a powerful blow to the head. Feeling his strength coming back, Superman gets up and catches a kick that Batman tries to deliver to him, grabbing his leg and throwing through the wall. Batman slams roughly against the wall in the next room and they both get to their feet, with Superman charging through the wall and Batman rushing to meet him. Batman manages to grab him by the shoulders and slam his back into the wall behind him before delivering a series of punches to the face. However, his blows gradually lose their impact as all of Superman's power returns and Batman, realizing he's in trouble, backs away, with Superman rising into the air and lunging at him, the two of them going through the floor and landing in a restroom on the level below. Before Batman can get up, Superman grabs him and flings through all of the stalls lined up in a row, making him land on his back. Seeing Superman get up and ready to attack again, Batman loads another Kryptonite gas round into his rifle and fires it at him right as he leaps into the air and comes down on him. He manages to land a blow right on his helmet, sending him tumbling across the floor, his helmet now cracked open and malfunctioning. Superman again struggles against the weakening effect of the Kryptonite, writhing on the floor, and Batman takes the opportunity to rip off the lid of a nearby toilet, march over to him, and smash it on his head, knocking him completely down to the floor. He picks him up the top of his cape, grabs him by the hair, puts him over his shoulder, walks him over to the center of the numerous stairways that lead all the way down to the building's lower level, and tosses him down there. Superman crashes onto some grating on the floor, while Batman uses his grappling gun to easily lower himself down after him. Removing the line with the hook from the gun and tossing it aside, he ties the remaining line around Superman's left foot and drags him across the floor, telling him about the different lessons their parents taught them, and when he gets to the center of the room, he hits the button on the gun that makes the line recoil into it. Superman is quickly dragged towards Batman, who whirls him through the air and slams him through the pillars dotting the edge of the room, bringing him down onto some rubble.

Deciding it's time to end this battle, Batman grabs the Kryptonite spear he stuck in the ground there and marches towards him with it, as the helicopter carrying Lois lands outside. Lois disembarks and rushes into the building, as Batman knocks Superman over onto his back, puts his foot on his throat, and growls, "You were never a god. You were never even a man." Using the spear's tip to make a cut across Superman's left cheek, he raises it up and is about to plunge it into him, when he gurgles out, "You're letting them kill Martha." Not expecting this, Batman asks what he meant by that and Superman chokes out, "Find him. Save Martha." As it causes him to remember the tragedy that changed his life, including that his father's last words were uttering his wife's name, Batman continues demanding to know why Superman said, "Martha." Lois rushes in and kneels down by Superman, begging Batman to stop and explaining that Martha is the name of his mother. With that, Batman takes his foot off Superman's throat, pulls the spear away from him, and tosses it away with a loud grunt. Back in Metropolis, the power surges emitting from the Kryptonian ship are becoming more and more severe, while at the warehouse where Martha is being held, Kynazev straps on a flamethrower and fires it up, preparing to burn her alive as her time is almost up, with just ten minutes left. Back in Gotham, Superman explains Luthor's plot to Batman, while Lois tells them what's happening at the ship. Superman, intent on saving his mother, tries to head out to find her but Batman insists he go to the ship, saying that he'll make sure Martha survives. Superman then heads back to Metropolis, while Batman, having ditched his destroyed iron suit for his more traditional one, takes off in the Batwing, Alfred telling him that he's tracked Kynazev to a warehouse at the port and that he's locked the aircraft's computer onto it.

Kynazev tells Martha that this is where they say goodbye, when the Batwing's lights come through the window and the building begins to shake from the force of its thrusters. Batman guides it towards the warehouse, the men outside opening fire on him with assault rifles and mounted guns, and he responds with the Batwing's own, more powerful, Gatling gun, which easily cuts through the goons' vehicles. Batman brings the Batwing around, preparing to enter the warehouse, and hands it over to Alfred, who activates the remote function. Seeing numerous threats on the third floor thanks to the thermal imaging, Alfred decides to drop Batman off on the second, and as the Batwing hovers in towards it, Batman jumps out of the cockpit, runs across the front, and smashes through the window. On the third floor, the man all have their weapons drawn, waiting, and Kynazev motions for two to guard the next room, when Batman, instead of coming through the door like they're expecting, explodes up through the floor in the center of them, zooming up into the rafters thanks to his grapple gun. There, he throws devices on all of the goons' weapons that instantly shorts them out and causes them to explode in their hands, knocking them to the floor. One goon, who doesn't realize where Batman is due to the confusion, fires down into the hole he came up through, when his leg gets tangled up by his line and he's hoisted upside down. Batman drops down to the floor, grabs another goon's arm, and whirls his body around in place, spraying the room with bullets from his assault rifle and forcing everyone to duck to the floor. He tosses the goon away and when another on the other side of the room opens fire, he hooks him with his grappling gun, yanks him towards him, and whacks him onto the floor, making him skid across it and fall through the hole. As another goon comes through the door behind him, Batman takes one out with a Batarang and whirls around to face his opponent. The goon pulls the pin out of a grenade but Batman knocks the goon he's left hanging up into him, causing them to fall into the next room with the grenade, which explodes before the one guy can get rid of it. Batman systematically eliminates more goons, dodging their attacks and delivering powerful blows, throwing one knife-wielding goon over his shoulder and smashing him into the floor.

In the room with Martha, Kynazev hears the chaos that's going on, as Batman dodges bullets, jumps over a crate and slams a goon down onto it as he does so, quickly turns around, fires a line into the crate, and flings it through the air, whacking one guy up against the wall with it. Another goon manages to shoot his grappling gun out of his hand but Batman rushes at him and the remaining ones and completely dominates them, blocking hits, breaking arms, landing blows, and whacking one guy hard enough to cause him to face-plant into the floor (that really looked like it hurt like hell!) He throws one guy down into the floor, beats him into submission, and when one comes up behind him and tries to shoot him in the head, unable to get through his bulletproof mask, Batman grabs his arm, struggles to make him drop the gun, throws him over his shoulder, and brutally twists him. He gets kicked in the face by another goon and is pulled down to the floor by his cape but he manages to block a knife-blow from both sides with the gauntlets on his gloves and continues doing so, until one manages to find a weak spot and stab him in the shoulder. Before the other can attack, he trips him, knees the other by him in the face, gets to his feet, swings around, blocks another attack by the goon he tripped, and his legs out from under him. Pulling out the knife that's still sticking in his shoulder, he slams the goon who did it against the wall and sticks it through his shoulder, and when the other goon attacks again from behind, he swings around, punches him in the face, knocks him to the ground, and throws him right through the very weak plaster on the wall there. In the room with Martha, Kynazev and one last goon wait for Batman to attack and, before they know it, he explodes through the wall behind the latter, puts him a choke-hold, grabs his gun, and points it at the Russian. Kynazev threatens to kill Martha if he doesn't drop the gun and Batman says that he believes him, which is why he shoots a hole in the flamethrower's gas tank. He rushes at Martha, grabs her as Kynazev is engulfed in flames, and uses his cape to shield her from the flames. When it's passed, he tells Martha that he's a friend of her son's and she says that she figured that because of the cape. Lois is then shown dropping the Kryptonite spear into a part of that building where a hole in the floor is filled with water, a move that will end up complicating things soon.

At the Kryptonian ship, Luthor's timer hits zero and Superman smashes through the top of the dome around it, landing in the corridor behind him. Luthor boasts about him being late and his having not killed Batman, and when the phone rings, he answers it on the speaker, expecting it to be Kynazev to report that Martha is dead... but, instead of breaking the bad news, as Luthor says, Batman growls, "I'd rather do the breaking in person." Superman tells Luthor that he's lost but he refuses to admit defeat and as the ship's AI reaches zero on a countdown of its own, he proclaims, "If man won't kill God, the Devil will do it!" A huge, pulsating egg sack is pulled from the genesis chamber, creating power surges that are now strong enough to plunge most of Metropolis into darkness, which doesn't go unnoticed by those in Washington, as they see news reports of the incident. Seeing the enormous creature inside the sack, Luthor proclaims it to be an ancient Kryptonian deformity born to destroy Superman, who is horrified as he watches the monster rip out of the sack, pull afterbirth slime off his face, and let out a bellowing roar. Doomsday sets his sights on both of them, with Luthor sneering, "Now God... is good... as dead." Roaring into his face, Doomsday, showing how unpredictably violent and uncontrollable he is, attempts to kill Luthor with his fist but Superman flies and stops him, grabbing his fist and tossing it aside. He then punches Doomsday into the genesis chamber's equipment and charges at him, only to get grabbed in midair and to be carried by the monster up through the roof of the ship, before he punches him and sends him smashing into Hero Park. Superman gets to his feet amidst the rubble, as Doomsday lands near him and, after glancing at his statue, turns to face him. Superman charges at him, slamming him backwards into the statue, only to get grabbed thrown through one of the stone memorials circling it. Doomsday picks up one of the stones, stomps over to Superman, and smashes it on him, before pulling him out by his feet and flinging him through the side of the statue, sending him crashing into a building across from the park. Doomsday's attention is then drawn to a hovering helicopter behind him and he jumps at it but misses and ends up at the top of the LexCorp tower that was featured earlier. In Washington, Secretary Swanwick tries to explain to the President what's going on, as images of Doomsday have been captured by the news camera, and military helicopters are deployed to handle him, while at the airport, minutes before her flight is to leave, Diana sees the news report of what's happening on one of the small televisions aboard the plane.

The military helicopters open fire on Doomsday with their Gatling guns and missiles, but all that does is cause him to slam backwards into the tower's spire and prompt him to land on the platform below. He roars a challenge and is hit with round after round of missiles and gunfire, until he charges up and unleashes a powerful energy shock-wave throughout the city's skyline, destroying the top of the tower and other buildings in the vicinity. The news stations also lose coverage of the incident as a result, and upon seeing this, Diana changes her mind about leaving and gets off the plane, while Batman, as he approaches in the Batwing, asks Alfred what's happening but he isn't sure how to describe it himself. Doomsday roars madly atop the nearly destroyed tower, when Superman bursts through beneath his feet and carries him straight up into the sky. Once they've cleared the clouds and head towards the atmosphere, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs in Washington suggests hitting them with nuclear missiles, as they're high enough for there to be no casualties. Swanwick, however, informs the President that there will be one casualty: Superman. Over the speaker phone, the President sighs and says, "God have mercy on us all." They arm the nuclear missiles and the President gives them the order to fire at will, leading to them being launched. Out in space above Earth, Doomsday manages to punch Superman away but he flies at him and delivers his own punch, following it up with another. Seeing the missile's warhead heading towards them, Superman rushes at Doomsday and grabs onto him, holding him in place and bracing for the impact. Doomsday tries to pull him off but is unable to before the missile hits them, creating a massive fireball in the sky above Metropolis, which Batman sights as he flies into the city, as does Lois back in Gotham. A projectile comes streaking back down to Earth and crashes with a massive explosion onto uninhabited Striker's Island, just east of Metropolis; in Washington, Swanwick reports to the President that there's no reentry at all by Superman. Swanwick is then told that Doomsday is moving, and on Striker's Island, the monster rips off his skin to reveal a much more muscular layer, with bony protrusions, underneath, and when he brings his fist down, his body begins crackling with power. Concentrating it, he fires an enormous beam up into the sky and sends electrical shock-waves around the island and cascading through the ocean, while up in space, Superman is floating, looking very shriveled and corpse-like from the effects of the nuclear missile. Seeing how much more powerful the shock-waves are Swanwick, reports to the President that their attacks are only making Doomsday stronger and that, as a result, he's unkillable.

Batman flies towards Striker's Island, amidst the dissipating shock-waves and energy blasts, getting his first look at Doomsday. Seeing him, the monster fires an energy beam at the Batwing, which Batman is forced to outfly as Doomsday follows him with it and ducks behind a ridge on the island to finally evade it. He realizes that the monster is Kryptonian, meaning he can only be killed by Kryptonite, and decides to lure him back to Gotham Harbor, which is abandoned and is also where the Kryptonite spear is. He flies the Batwing up into the air, comes around, and flies at Doomsday, firing at him as he zooms over him. This is all it takes to get the monster to chase after him, using his incredible jumping skills to keep up with him. Up in space, Superman is exposed to the sun's rays and he quickly regains his full strength, while back on Earth, Doomsday jumps after Batman while firing his eye lasers at the Batwing, clipping his wing as he reaches the harbor and sending him crashing down to the street below. The Batwing rolls roughly along the road and crashes up against the side of an abandoned building, with Doomsday crashing through the edge of a building across from it, hitting the ground, and skidding towards the downed aircraft. Realizing he's trapped, Batman murmurs, "Oh, shit," and braces himself as Doomsday powers up, ready to fire. At the last minute, though, a figure drops in and shields Batman from the beam. Doomsday breaks off his attack and the screen clears to reveal Wonder Woman, who blocked the attack with the gauntlets on her arms. Batman watches as she slams them together, creating a shock-wave that blows Doomsday back across the ground, and before he can attack, Superman shoots towards him like a missile and slams him into a nearby oil refinery, causing the place to erupt in explosions and flames. This is when Lois somehow knows what's going on and runs back inside the building to fetch the Kryptonite spear. Wonder Woman asks Batman why he brought Doomsday there and he explains both that the port is abandoned and there's a weapon there that can kill him. Lois tries to find the spear in the sunken part of the building, as Superman lands and asks Batman if he found the spear. Batman says, "Been a little busy," and Wonder Woman notes how Doomsday seems to feed off of energy. As they come together to fight him, Batman loading his last Kryptonite gas round into his weapon, Superman explains that he's from another world and she says that she's killed things from other worlds before. You then have the exchange between Superman and Batman about who she's with, as they brace themselves for the battle.

Doomsday unleashes another energy shock-wave, this one big enough to envelop the entire harbor, forcing Batman to take cover under a large, fallen piece of concrete, while Superman and Wonder Woman brace themselves against it, being pushed back the incredible force of it as it eviscerates everything in its path. The force shakes loose the ceiling and pillars in the room where Lois is and she's forced to dive beneath the water to avoid being crushed, but ends up trapped beneath the surface in the process. Once the shock-wave clears, Wonder Woman launches herself at Doomsday, who leaps at her as well, and Superman also joins into the fray. Doomsday smashes through the remains of a structure, sending debris as Wonder Woman, who easily wades through it and stabs at him, while Superman flies past his head. With Doomsday distracted, Wonder Woman knocks his feet out from under him with her shield and Superman fires at him, slamming into his torso. Wonder Woman leaps up and tries to come down with her sword but Doomsday gets to his feet and jumps away, managing to send Superman hurtling through the air with a punch. Wonder Woman then manages to slice the back of his leg, causing him to fall to his knee, and he flings a car at her, which she slices in half, while Superman flies past him, only to get grabbed by the leg and thrown across the ground. Doomsday follows that up with a kick that sends him tumbling further along, and as Batman gets to his feet, he sees Wonder Woman getting knocked and blasted back by Doomsday. She gets slammed up against a concrete slab but she charges back at him and continues fighting. Elsewhere, Lois finds that the section of the ceiling that's trapped her underwater has a slit in it but it's too narrow to allow her to get any air. She begins pounding on the concrete in desperation, while out on the battlefield, Superman flies at Doomsday and fires his heat-vision at him. Doomsday does the same and their beams meet in the middle, both of them yelling as they try to overpower each other, until an explosion in the center sends Superman tumbling backwards along the ground. He blasts up into the air and is about to attack again, when his super-hearing picks up the sound of Lois' muffled pounding. As her strength begins to dissipate and her pounding weakens, he shoots towards the spot, rips off the concrete trapping her, and pulls her out of the water, placing her safely on the ground as she regains consciousness and coughs up water. Knowing what she was doing, he dives down into the water to find the Kryptonite spear. Back at the site of the battle, Batman uses his grappling gun to dodge an attack by Doomsday, grabs onto the corner of a brick wall (for a split second, the image looks like the cover for the graphic novel of The Dark Knight Returns), and shoots another line, dodging the monsters laser beams. However, the force of it causes him to slam into the side of another wall and fall onto some scaffolding below. He tosses a smoke bomb and jumps off the scaffolding as Doomsday jumps after him, crashing through the top of the building and jumping back down, scanning the clouded area for him.

Superman makes it back to the surface with the spear but Lois has to help him out of the water due to the effect of the Kryptonite and toss it away from him. She makes sure that he's alright, while he sees the ongoing battle, as Wonder Woman is knocked backwards and rolls violently along the ground, slamming through numerous obstacles. Her sword is knocked out of her hand but she manages to get up, grab it, and stab Doomsday in the arm with it when he attempts to bring his fist down on her, before subsequently lopping off his right hand. He recoils and roars in pain, but when she tries to follow that up, he blasts her away and uses his genetic capabilities to grow spins out of the stump where his hand was. Superman turns to Lois and tells her that he loves her. She glances at the battle and realizes why he said that, which prompts her to try to talk him down. However, he simply says that this is his world, just as she is, and he flies away, grabs the Kryptonite spear, and flies towards Doomsday, whom Wonder Woman lassos, yelling and straining as she tries to hold him in place, while Batman fires his last Kryptonite gas round at him from nearby. Superman flies at Doomsday as fast as he can and stabs him in the chest with the lethal tip, instantly causing him pain. Wonder Woman is pulled through the concrete block she's standing behind, as Doomsday grabs Superman in his hand and stabs him in the chest with one of the spines growing from where his hand was. Superman yells in pain but, unwilling to give in, forces the spear deeper into Doomsday until the tip comes out his back, but further impales himself on the spine in the process. One last blast of energy shoots out of Doomsday's body, along with a green beam of Kryptonite, and then, the energy stops crackling and the monster falls to the ground, dead, dropping Superman's lifeless body, which is still lying in his palm, on the ground next to him. Batman walks over to the fallen Man of Steel and is joined by Wonder Woman, who turns to see Lois standing nearby. Lois gradually realizes what's happened, as Batman lowers Superman's body down into Wonder Woman's arms, setting him down in the devastated Lois' lap. Lois kisses his cheek and cries against the side of his head, as Batman and Wonder Woman solemnly look on.

Lex Luthor is sent to prison, his head shaved bald; the Daily Planet prints a headline that reads, SUPERMAN DEAD: NIGHT OF TERROR, MORNING OF LOSS, with two other articles reporting on the death of Clark Kent, who died while "Reporting Gotham Battle," and Luthor's arrest; and in Smallville, there's a visitation before Clark's funeral, where Martha places a picture of Jonathan in the casket with him. Up in his old bedroom, a grieving Lois is given a package that Clark had sent there to surprise her. Inside it is an engagement ring. Amazing Grace is played on bagpipes as Clark's coffin is wheeled to the cemetery through a field of wheat, while in Metropolis, Superman is given a hero's funeral by the U.S. military, complete with cannons fired in his honor and a shiny, black coffin with his symbol on it in silver (although you later find out that it's purely symbolic, as it's empty). After the funeral in Smallville, a somber Bruce Wayne is shown watching the procession from afar and is joined by Diana Prince. They mention how he's being honored as a soldier back east, while Bruce vows that he won't fail Superman in death and asks her to help him find the other meta-humans, saying that they have to stand together. They discuss whether or not such a thing is possible in this world, with Bruce assuring her that man is good, as a candlelight vigil is shown being held for Superman in Metropolis, with civilians and military in attendance and gathered around the spot where his statue once was, now a memorial plaque that reads, IF YOU SEEK HIS MONUMENT, LOOK AROUND YOU. Diana asks Bruce why he said the other meta-humans will have to fight and he answers, "Just a feeling." We're then shown why he has that feeling: he paid a visit to Luthor in prison as Batman. He told Luthor that he'll be watching him, no matter what becomes of him, and had backed against the wall, brandishing his brand. Luthor, more deranged than ever, isn't fazed and tells him that the bell has been rung and someone out amongst the stars has heard it. Enraged by his words, Batman stabs the brand into the wall, leaving his symbol burnt into it, and within the moment Luthor glances at it, he's gone. Luthor runs to the cell door and yells, "The bell cannot be unrung! He's hungry, and he's found us, and he's coming!" As everything in his house is being taken away, a picture depicting angels fighting demons is turned upside down and reveals an ominous figure up top. The movie ends with Lois dropping a handful of dirt on Clark's coffin in the open hole, and as the camera pans down and holds on it, it starts to rise up right before the film cuts to black (and I think to myself, "Wow, you held that dramatic tension for all of ten minutes, if that!")

Once again, Hans Zimmer provided the score, along with Junkie XL, whom he'd also worked with on Man of Steel, and while I felt that the score for that movie was pretty forgettable for the most part, I think the work came up with here is far more memorable and impactful; in fact, I'd go as far as to say it's one of the film's strongest assets. I especially love the theme they came up with for Batman, which is a very powerful piece with loud, vocalizing voices that emphasizes the dread and fear he instills in those who become his prey, and there's a similar, albeit slower, version of it that you hear when Bruce Wayne is training for the coming battle. The opening theme is a somber, sad piece that is very indicative of the tragedy that befell Bruce when he was a boy and the loss of his innocence, building and building with a distinctive, tragic melody that's soon accompanied by a woman's vocalizing voice. It fits the opening sequence very well, and is heard again when Superman's mentioning the name "Martha" causes Batman to remember, as well as during the ending credits. Like I said before, Wonder Woman's theme is pure badassery, a pounding, driving beat accompanied by an awesome electronic guitar solo, which you first hear when you see the picture of her from 1918 and reaches its full zenith during the battle with Doomsday. She has a softer, more exotic and mysterious theme for when she's in the guise of Diana Prince and it suits her well there, too. Lex Luthor's theme is interesting, in that it has the sound of classical music but is played rather chaotically to match his psychosis, with a crazy, violin piece played when he points out the religious painting in his father's old study to Sen. Finch. As for Superman, while they do reuse this soft, warm piano theme that they established in Man of Steel to emphasize his humanity, his main theme is actually a low and kind of menacing bass piece, which is first suggested when he arrives to save Lois from General Amajagh and is heard full-on during the montage of him performing heroic acts while the political and philosophical debate surrounding him is heard. The music that's heard during the action scenes does do its job in giving them some energy, and the use of Amazing Grace on bagpipes does lend some effectiveness to the tone of Superman's funeral (although, I can't help but think of the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers whenever I hear that, as it was featured in that movie and was all over the trailer for it). So, all in all, I feel Zimmer and company redeemed themselves after their rather generic score for Man of Steel. However, Zimmer has it made clear that he's not going to score any more superhero movies, as he found it difficult to approach these characters in a different, musical way than he had before, especially when it came to Batman.

You want to know how dedicated I am to making these reviews as good and complete as they possibly can be? Before I even wrote my review of Man of Steel, I watched Batman v. Superman for the first time in a year in order to get it fresh in my mind again and I watched it a second time right before beginning this review. Then, in order to do that breakdown of the action scenes and major setpieces, I basically watched it a third time, even though I skipped over the parts that were unnecessary. And finally, as if that weren't enough, in order to talk about the director's cut, I had to watch the movie a fourth time. So, yes, I do take this very seriously. In any case, I was initially reluctant to watch the director's cut, especially after the first time I saw the movie, because I couldn't imagine how much more swollen and convoluted the story could get than it already was. I also wasn't too keen on the running time. The theatrical version is already overlong at 151 minutes, whereas the director's cut is three hours. I initially considered simply watching the added scenes and shots by themselves but I realized that, to do this properly, I had to see them in context with everything else, so I gritted my teeth and watched the entire three hours of the "Ultimate Edition," as it calls itself (I don't think I've ever seen an alternate cut of a movie actually call attention to the fact that is an alternate cut in the very title). First and foremost, I will say that the director's cut is considerably improved from the theatrical version. It does drag a lot more than it did before, due to a lot of added shots and footage that are unnecessary and should have been left out altogether, and you can still feel the length, but there are scenes and pieces of dialogue that flesh things out and help the story make more sense than it did before, meaning that removing them from the theatrical version was a big mistake.

Let's start this with the most controversial addition, that concerning Lois' photographer companion (Michael Cassidy) who accompanies her to Nairomi, is revealed to be a CIA agent, and promptly executed by General Amajagh. A different introduction to Lois that shows her meeting him in the desert before they're driven to the bunker confirms that this guy is, indeed, Jimmy Olsen, and Zack Snyder has said that he did this to "have some fun with the character." Needless to say, diehard Superman fans were not too thrilled at Snyder's idea of having fun with a beloved character like him was to make him a photographer only as part of a cover and for his brains to get blown out. However, the progression of the scene, which includes an added bit with Python, leader of a CIA mobile strike force, disobeying orders from headquarters in order to save the civilians at the bunker, leads to something I ended up mentioned earlier in the review: Anatoli Knyazev uses a flamethrower to burn up some dead bodies. I swear, I had not yet seen the director's cut before I wrote what I did earlier and when I did watch it, I was like, "That's what I'm talking about!" I get that they removed a lot of the more brutal violence in this version in order to get a PG-13 rating for theaters but they could have still used the shots implying that he used the flamethrower to get the point across. If they had, I wouldn't have been so confused as to why they thought Superman killed all these men. Superman's first appearance is also different here, as he destroys a missile heading for the bunker and the drone that fired it before smashing down inside to rescue Lois, and afterward, you see Python's strike force and find the aftermath of the slaughter that occurred.

A number of important story and character moments are here that aren't in the theatrical version. For one, you learn just how deep Lex Luthor's plot to discredit Superman goes. There's a scene where Kahina Ziri (Wunmi Mosaku), the Nairomi citizen who testified about the death and destruction Superman caused, which led to the government retaliating and her parents being shot, tells Sen. Finch that she wasn't telling the truth and in the lead-up to the congressional hearing, she mentions to her subordinate that Luthor had threatened her into lying about what happened. Additionally, before the hearing, when Kahina is waiting for a train down in the subway, Knyazev pushes her into the path of an oncoming one. You also learn that Wallace Keefe had no idea that there was a bomb inside the wheelchair Luthor gave to him, as Lois investigates the inside of his house and finds that he had just bought fresh groceries, something a man who knows he's going to his death wouldn't do, meaning that the bomb-making equipment they found inside was planted there. (Speaking of Keefe, you get more of an idea of how wrecked his life now is here, as he mentions that his wife left him after his legs were amputated and that he can't even pee while standing up.) What's more, the director's cut makes Superman look like less of a douchebag. Here, after the explosion, he's shown helping as many people to safety and medical care as he can, instead of just disappearing, and he also has to deal with people being a little awkward around him after what happened. Even more significant is that Lois talks to Jent Klyburn (Jena Malone), a forensics analyst who initially analyzed the bullet and who isn't in the theatrical version at all, who tells her that the wheelchair's base was lined with lead, explaining why Superman couldn't see it. Well, if they'd bothered leaving that in the theatrical version, Superman's brooding would have made more sense and felt less emo, as it's now understandable why he's so down on himself, because he really doesn't know why he couldn't see the bomb.

The effects of Batman's brutal kind of justice and Clark's investigation into it are delved into deeper, too. Here, Clark first hears of Batman when he goes to Gotham to do a sports report on their football team but instead, decides to track down Kahina, who's staying there, and talk to her about a statement she made on the news about Superman (this replaces the news report about Batman's brand of justice that he sees in the theatrical version). He finds the apartment building she's been staying in but, after they tell him she's left, the neighbors mention the city's Dark Avenger, who goes after those who have it coming. Later, Clark does some research and learns of the Bat Brand being something of a death warrant for those who receive it, which is later illustrated when you see the man who was branded at the sex trafficking house is terrified as to what will happen to him when he's moved to another cell block. Said trafficker is killed in prison, a hit that Knyazev personally arranged with another inmate, and when Clark hears of this, he talks to the man's lover, who's had his baby. She confirms how the brand is a death warrant for those imprisoned with it and that someone like Batman can be stopped only by violence. Again, had this been left in the theatrical version, it would have made Superman look less like a douche than he did, as his anger towards Batman is much more understandable and his line to him, "Consider this mercy," can be seen as him giving it to someone who doesn't give it to those who encounter him.

As far as character moments go, you have a moment where Clark confronts Lois about the bullet that she hid from him; after seeing the conversation between Sen. Finch and Charlie Rose on TV, Clark calls Martha in Smallville to ask why Jonathan never left Kansas and she says it's because he felt he had already arrived at his destination; Bruce taking a pill after his nightmare; Alfred seeing news coverage of the disaster at the Capitol on a TV in the house and it dawns on him where Bruce probably is at that moment; a small moment where, as he watches Bruce head out to face Superman, Alfred feels this could mean the end of the Wayne family; and a couple of moments with Luthor, one that delves a little more into the tumultuous relationship between him and his father, as he tells Sen. Finch that he named the company LexCorp in order to get old women to donate money because they thought he was a cute kid, and a moment where, after he learns that Superman and Batman have joined forces, he says he doesn't know how to lose and tells him, "I don't hate the sinner. I hate the sin, and yours, my friend, is existing." I also like that you see Perry White and Jenny attending Clark's funeral, along with a couple of characters who appeared briefly in Man of Steel (the priest Clark confided in and the kid who he saved, despite his being a bully to him), a moment where Martha is told an anonymous donor (Bruce) paid for the funeral, and this added bit of dialogue between Luthor and Batman near the end, where Batman informs him that he's going to be transferred to Arkham Asylum, where he has some "friends" waiting for him. However, not all of the material in the director's cut is necessary, as there are a lot of superfluous establishing shots, extended and added moments (such as more of the compound in Batman's dream, Mercy Graves looking at the Kryptonite with Luthor when it's delivered, Luthor seeing security footage of Batman in action when he visits the aftermath of his attack on the research facility, the Daily Planet and Metropolis as a whole being empty during the time of Superman's funeral, and such), and small bits of camerawork or dialogue that you can understand why they were removed from the theatrical version. The chronology of scenes is a bit different, in some instances (Batman's introductory scene happens before the scene between Clark and Lois in their apartment, for instance). The most random added scene, though, is one that you see when, after Superman's death, a SWAT team enters the Kryptonian ship and, in the genesis chamber, they see Luthor standing in what appears to be a big pool of blood in front of a vision of a being that promptly vanishes into thin air before he's arrested. I've since learned that that was meant to be Steppenwolf, one of Darkseid's subordinates and who, I think, is the main villain in Justice League, but when I saw that, I was just as dumbfounded as I was when I first saw Bruce's dream and the Flash's warning. It lends a little more credence to what Luthor's raving about at the end but, man, did that throw me!

There's more violence in the director's cut, which come in the form of both CGI blood added to shots that are in theatrical version and new bits, both visual and auditory, added into the action sequences. For instance, during the massacre at the freedom fighters' encampment, you see blood splatters when people get shot, along with new bits like a grenade being tossed inside a tank and Knyazev's burning the dead bodies, which I already mentioned. You also see more blood on the chest of the man Batman branded, he gets gutted while in prison (the actual gutting is offscreen but the implication is quite gruesome, regardless), blood and more bits of violence during the dream Bruce has (when one of Batman's men gets fired by Superman, you hear the guy scream), Superman throwing Batman down an alley early on in their fight, added punches during the fight, Superman groaning and squirming in pain when he gets thrown onto grating on the floor at the bottom of the stairwells, and some extra hits that Batman gives Knyazev's goons when he's fighting, including a moment where he possibly stabs the man who knifed him in the shoulder earlier. Doomsday causes more destruction once he's unleashed and manages to destroy some of the military helicopters he faces, there are more hits during the battle with him, and when Superman shoves the Kryptonite spear into him and further impales himself on one of his spines in the process, you get a much better look at it. Finally, there's a little more skin in the director's cut. When Clark gets into the bathtub with Lois, you see him take his shirt off before he starts kissing her, and before Bruce heads to the LexCorp fundraiser, there's a wide shot of him in the shower and you see his entire bare backside, so if you're interested in that, you know where to find it (if you want a closer look at Ben Affleck's butt, watch Gone Girl; also, why did he get in the shower when he was already dressed up for the event?)

What a place to put the title. Kind of sums it all up, doesn't it?
Despite the improvements that the director's cut makes, it doesn't change the fact that Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a movie that had the potential to be great but, due to its rushed development and overblown storyline, ended up being very mediocre. Like its predecessor, it does have good elements, like a great performance by Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and Batman, a badass depiction of Wonder Woman, some nice visual moments and action scenes here and there, and a good music score, but for the most part, it's a colossal mess. The story is the definition of the term "too busy," it throws in and introduces so many different elements and characters that it all but collapses under its own weight, there are many instances where the writing is incredibly contrived and dumb, the way things are structured is not only clumsy but also downright confusing to the uninformed (like me), the tone is overly grim and serious, the film's actual look is unappealing, the discussion of the political and philosophical ramifications of the two characters, especially Superman, is tiring, to say the least, Superman himself isn't depicted in the best light (especially in the theatrical version), Jessie Eisenberg's performance as Lex Luthor is irritating for the most part, the other actors do what they can but they're marred by the unfocused screenplay and less than stellar dialogue, and many of the action scenes are underwhelming and badly edited. But the movie's biggest sin, at least for me, is that it's just not fun to watch. Regardless of which version you watch, it's overly long and slow, the promised match-up doesn't happen until very late into the movie and it's not as awesome as it should be, and by the time of the climax, everything's been so poorly done and you're so weary from it that you just don't care. That should never be the case with a movie called Batman v. Superman. If you like it, good on you. Continue to like it. But for me, this was an even bigger misstep for the DC Cinematic Universe than Man of Steel and damaged its value and credibility even more. And given how much more tumultuous and troubled its production was, at this point, I can't imagine what Justice League is like.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice job on an extremely thorough review. I agree with your points on Superman.