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domingo, 27 de março de 2016
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is the most incoherent blockbuster in years - review
Marvel can rest easy. Zack Snyder's superhero spectacle is a meatheaded, humourless mess that squanders its cast and makes little sense
Around two and a quarter hours into Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, even Batman (Ben Affleck) has no idea what’s going on. A giant horned creature has hatched from an amniotic sac and is swinging from a Metropolis skyscraper. A kryptonite spear is lying at the bottom of a flooded stairwell. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is playing with a kitchen timer. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is flying to Gotham City, premium economy. Superman (Henry Cavill)…well, let’s say he's temporarily indisposed.
“What’s happening, Alfred?” our hero barks at his faithful butler (Jeremy Irons) via the intercom on his Batwing fighter jet. There’s a brief pause, then Alfred’s voice comes crackling back, reedy and sardonic. “How best to describe it?”
Under the circumstances, it’s a reasonable question. The best I can do is apocalyptic sneezing fit: largely because whenever you think it’s dying down, its nostrils start fluttering again.
No major blockbuster in years has been this incoherently structured, this seemingly uninterested in telling a story with clarity and purpose. It grumbles along for what feels like forever, jinking from subplot to subplot, until two shatteringly expensive-looking fights happen back to back, and the whole thing crunches to a halt.
That Wagnerian final brawl is exactly what you want in a film called Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – but it doesn’t come close to compensating for the blithering chaos that preceded it. The first hour in particular is so haphazardly assembled, I honestly wondered if a reel had gone missing from the projection booth.
Perhaps the kindest thing you can say about Zack Snyder’s film – a sequel to his superb standalone Superman movie Man of Steel (2013), but also the lodestone of a new DC Comics Extended Universe, around which further DC films will cluster – is that its ambitions wildly exceed its reach.
Rather than opting to mimic the colour, warmth and wit of the Marvel superhero franchise, Snyder wants to show us gods and monsters, battling against a backdrop of lightning and smoke. Every other scene is a murky allusion to classical mythology or baroque religious art.
But that’s categorically all they are: the film regularly defies common sense and logic in order to cue up the next cod-transfiguration or pietà. When Lois Lane (Amy Adams) hurls that kryptonite spear into the water, she does it for no apparent reason other than the fact it looks, like, totally cool – and accordingly, she and Superman are fishing it back out again five minutes later.
The heavy religious symbolism of Man of Steel now looks relatively restrained: Superman himself has gone Full Christ Metaphor, and his life is an endless cycle of rescuing people (mainly Lois) and pulling expressions of pained benificence. Cavill has almost nothing to do apart from look chiseled, which makes a depressing kind of sense, given the film seems to view his character as a living statue.
Batman V Superman launches into its myth-making immediately and humourlessly, setting the tone for everything that follows. Under the opening credits we get a refresher course in Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma: yet again, we see the shooting of his parents (this time outside a cinema showing Excalibur and The Mark of Zorro) and his subsequent tumble down a bat-infested shaft.
It’s staged with sadistic elegance – there’s a skin-prickling shot of the mugger’s pistol hitching up Bruce’s mother’s string of pearls – although there are only so many slow-motion aerial shots of coffins and black umbrellas a man can come up with, and much of it smacks of similar passages in Snyder’s earlier films, Sucker Punch and Watchmen.
It also turns out to be the only substantial insight we get into who Bruce Wayne actually is, or what drives him, in the film’s entire two-and-a-half-hour running time. Giving Affleck’s Batman the physique of a concrete pillar makes aesthetic sense, but did he need the personality of one too?
One more thing about Bruce: he loathes Superman, because of his city-razing antics at the end of Man of Steel, which toppled Wayne Tower with hundreds of employees inside it. Here, Snyder gives us a street-level recap, transparently invoking 9/11 in every shot. (Later, the film works the terrorism angle even harder: Superman's actions prove to be the catalyst for a suicide bomb attack on US soil.)
In short, Batman has grounds for vengeance. But it’s Lex Luthor who has the appetite. After hauling a clump of glowing green kryptonite from the Indian Ocean, the young technology mogul devises a ‘silver bullet’ that could bring Superman to heel. Eisenberg gives a catastrophic performance here, all itchy and spasmodic, and built on mumbled rants about Copernicus and Nietzsche.
But if Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer’s script hobbles Eisenberg, it judo-sweeps the feet out from under every woman in sight. Both Adams’ Lois Lane and Diane Lane’s Martha Kent are serial victims, Holly Hunter’s potentially sparky role as a senator prepared to stand up to Luthor never coheres, and until the big finish, Gadot isn't called on to do much but slink.
It’s a Men’s Rights loon’s dream of meathead orthodoxy, and leaves you wondering if Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens actually happened. Imagine Affleck, standing shirtless in a dungeon, repeatedly thumping a bus tyre with a sledgehammer. Got it? Good: that’s not just what the film feels like, it’s a real scene from it. And that’s all you need to know.