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'Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice' review

Posted at 9:44 AM, Mar 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-29 13:15:31-04

The moment that defines the ramshackle mess that is "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" comes about midway through the way-too-long 153 minutes.

Ben Affleck, unwisely cast as the downbeat Caped Crusader, snaps out of his scowl as he emerges from a wrecked Batmobile. He looks around, horrified at what he sees, then looks forward, eyes full of horror, and shouts out a swear word. 

That existential despair is exactly what director Zack Snyder's bludgeon of a superhero mash-up film does to its actors, the characters and, most of all, the audience. Combining a script as dumb and ludicrous as the campy Batman and Superman mid-20th century TV shows with a morose tone geared to send nerds out of the theater sobbing, the movie is the worst possible outcome for a concept that was ill-advised to begin with.

The DC Universe and Warner Bros. studio's effort to match the synergy of Marvel/Disney's "Avengers" saga does more to kill the momentum than expand it. The only hope for a continuing DC movie dynasty comes before the opening credits, when a trailer for "Suicide Squad" rolls. The bad guy team-up flick, due out Aug. 5, at least has the hope of matching the freewheeling fun of "Avengers."

Not that it's easy to tell the difference between heroes and villains in the DC world now that Batman and Superman have embarrassed themselves to such a pathetic degree. Affleck and Henry Cavill (as Superman) do what they can to keep the rambling mine cart stay on the rails. Even the villain, an effete Lex Luthor played by Jesse Eisenberg, is watchable. But the sandbox they are given to romp around in is stupid, stupid stupid.

Some examples of the horror:

-Superman, beaten and near death, screams out for his mommy by her first name.

-Batman, determined to match Superman's strength with an Iron Man-like super suit that grants him the enormous strength and invulnerability he lacks without it, ditches the suit when he tries to slug it out with a superpowered Doomsday at the climax. It brings to mind the old Seinfeld joke of if the black box is the only thing that survives a plane crash, why not build the whole plane out of the black box?

-Batman and Superman, who slowly build up their grudges throughout the movie, suddenly decide to kill each other for no good reason, then become friends just as quickly, for an even dumber reason.

-Whenever something cool happens, the scene ends and reveals it was either Batman playing a virtual reality video game or one of the heroes suffering a psychotic hallucination.

-Superman takes a nuclear bomb to the face, which seems to melt away his skin, then in the next scene is immediately good to go, all healed up.

-Batman's voice disguising computer makes him sound like a Speak & Spell.

I could go on -- the movie certainly does -- but that's enough to let you know the sort of distaff befuddlery you're in for when you fork over your money for a ticket. If you really need to see this, due to adherence to the geek code, leave your loved ones at home. Restrict the pain to yourself, then mope along in despondent silence.

After I left the Thursday night screening, I crossed paths with a fellow geek who was marching eagerly to line up for the next showing. He could tell that I had just seen the movie, and looked for some reassuring eye contact. I shook my head, leaving him to trudge onward with the expression that matched the one he would soon see on Affleck's face.

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