B v S: A ‘paint by numbers’ movie product that fails to evoke a single emotion

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I wonder how it is possible to get so many acclaimed actors on screen, surrounded by such awe-inspiring sets, props and special effects paid for with a budget in excess of $200 million and still fail to evoke a single emotion through two and a half hours of viewing. I didn’t feel a thing – neither awe nor joy nor suspense nor anticipation nor satisfaction nor grief. Nothing. The analogy that comes to mind is of watching windmills turn on a wind farm or oil rigs pumping away in the desert – amazing marvels of engineering, but with an entirely predictable sequence of events.

With both 300 and Sucker Punch, Zack Snyder was able to combine stunning visuals with interesting and quirky characters who we really cared for. He was unable to repeat that with Watchmen, but even in that flawed adaptation, there was a sense of wonder and discovery, plus some seriously emotionally damaged characters worth getting interested in.

Of course, the challenge with a Batman/ Superman movie is that these characters are too well known, with virtually nothing new that one can say or learn about them. It’s the same malaise that affected the recent Spider-Man films with Andrew Garfield. That’s one of the reasons why comic book films like Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool about lesser known characters are such big hits.

Here, the two titular superheroes are cardboard cutouts who seem unable to emote. The same Henry Cavill who was so perfectly cast in last summer’s The Man from UNCLE, looks like a plastic mannequin with his perfectly stuck-in-place hair and his impossibly bulging muscles. When he scrunches up his face during fight sequences, he looks so ridiculous I thought the villain would die of laughter. Ben Affleck is ok, but can’t do much more than glower as Bruce Wayne. We’ve seen all that Batman can do in the three Chris Nolan movies, so I thought it was a neat trick to give him a metal batsuit to combat Superman in this film. Somehow, even that was not too impressive. What did look pretty cool was the sequence in which he goes into the desert looking like a real vigilante with a big trenchcoat over his batsuit.

Among the supporting cast, Jeremy Irons is unable to bring any humanity or humour to the Alfred Pennyworth character. Laurence Fishburne has some blustery moments as Daily Planet editor Perry White. Amy Adams has decent screen time but mostly in action sequences and therefore no opportunity to bring any depth to Lois Lane’s character.

Israeli model-turned-actress Gal Gadot catches the eye in a series of interestingly cut evening gowns before kicking some serious ass when she turns up in Wonder Woman costume at the end. There is general consensus that she has set things up very well for her standalone movie coming out in June 2017. In particular scene, Bruce Wayne discovers a grainy picture of her dated 1918, which shows her and a group of fellow adventurers, including Chris Pine as her love interest Steve Trevor. I immediately pictured in my mind a fun, swashbuckling period movie in the manner of The Mummy or Captain America: The First Avenger. Will definitely be looking forward to this one.

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My biggest issue of course is with the Lex Luthor character. For this, I cannot blame this particular set of filmmakers because over the years, none of the Superman films have got the casting right. From Gene Hackman and his ridiculous goons in the Christopher Reeve films to Kevin Spacey in Superman Returns (2006), we now have another actor Jesse Eisenberg hamming it up as Superman’s arch enemy. For a man drawn in the comic books as a sinister, super-intelligent industrialist, I don’t understand how every on-screen incarnation ends up behaving like a bad Hindi movie villain. Rather than pick someone who fits the looks and personality (say like Mark Strong), we have Jesse Eisenberg who seems to think that he is still playing Mark Zuckerberg in 2009’s The Social Network. With his strange facial and verbal tics, it is an unwatchable, unbearable, intensely irritating performance.

Lastly, I also found the music disappointing. On paper, it sounded like an interesting experiment to pair up Dutch music producer Junkie XL with veteran film composer Hans Zimmer. Instead, all that one gets is a combination of generic electronic music with generic bombastic orchestral music. No memorable hook or musical line that defines these characters, in the way that John Williams did for 1978’s Superman or even the way Henry Jackman has done for Magneto in the X-Men: First Class.

So, in conclusion, Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder have dialled in the most generic and uninspiring of comic book films, with a confused script, wooden acting, a joke of a villain and absolutely no emotional connect whatsoever. Not worth spending two and a half hours in a theater. For a real superhero showdown with high emotional stakes, let’s wait till early May for Captain America: Civil War.

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