“Why you in my movie now, bro?” “I just am, bro. Deal with it.”
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg
Directed by Zack Snyder
2013’s Man of Steel establishes a Superman who is profoundly uncertain of himself and his place on this alien planet. Is he a savior? Is he a threat? His parents don’t know what to tell him (raising a normal kid is hard enough—imagine if your child is bulletproof and can fly). The defining battle arrives and though he does come out on top there’s no questioning that Superman makes a handful of serious mistakes. This set the stage for a potentially excellent sequel where the Last Son of Krypton could work through his identity issues that are now also issues for the world at large.
Batman v Superman tries to get to the heart of all this, but as the title implies Superman (Henry Cavill) is now sharing the marquee with another financially solvent comic book hero. Shoehorning the Dark Knight into Man of Steel 2 is a cheap move that cripples our favorite Kryptonian’s character development, but this Batman (Ben Affleck) proves an interesting personality contrast in the sense that he is not lacking in confidence. Fearless, undaunted, occasionally brash, Gotham’s rogue has an answer for everything. Unfortunately, he’s also totally fried from twenty years on the prowl and not in good headspace to be entering a “Superman: friend or foe?” debate with the exile himself.
Ben Affleck, by the way, succeeds as Batman because it is easy to believe Ben Affleck would go fucking crazy if he had to be Batman for any amount of time in real life. He’s barely handling the terrible reviews this film is getting, can you imagine if he had to hide the Batmobile every night?
There’s enough to work with when Batman and Superman are investigating one other, the former running back to Alfred (Jeremy Irons) each act break, the latter to Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Alas, once Batman was throw into the fray the filmmakers thought, “Why not everybody else?” So we also have Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), Lex’s cronies, the U.S. Senator trying to stop Lex (Holly Hunter), the U.S. Senator who isn’t trying to stop Lex, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Wonder Woman’s computer, a little bit of the Flash (Ezra Miller), a little Aquaman (Jason Momoa), a dash of Cyborg (Ray Fisher), one or two characters who died in Man of Steel, and another major villain who probably should have held out for his own years-long franchise.
And yet, as overstuffed as this caped opera gets piling all these people atop one another, Batman v Superman keeps pace and manages to engross. Not everything onscreen is agreeable but nothing catapults you from the universe (not even the Neil deGrasse Tyson cameo). There’s intrigue, suspense, a few iconic visuals, and even a couple great jokes.
Going back to the self-assurance motif, Wonder Woman steals every scene she’s in because she knows exactly who she is, why she’s there, and where and how to draw the line (the thunderous musical sting she’s granted by the score doesn’t hurt either). Gadot’s buoyancy cuts through the visual pallor and makes you hope for Wonder Woman v Anybody. Actually, maybe start with Wonder Woman v Perry White. I want to see Laurence Fishburne—who plays White, boss of Lois Lane—take his delightful grump to the main event.
Similar sentiments can be extended to Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, a mincing prick you love to hate who appears closer to victory than a great deal of his cinematic predecessors. Killer wardrobe, too.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gets just as grim and heavy as any other Zack Snyder film but the entire premise is grim and heavy: two of our favorite superheroes hatin’ on each other like a couple of goddamn haters. In order to make it anywhere near plausible you have to saddle these guys with handicaps of disquiet, fear, exhaustion, and recurring nightmares. If this isn’t your flavor of choice, don’t worry—depending on the way you count, BvS is the seventh Superman movie and the tenth Batman movie and there’s no way Hollywood won’t make that many more for each dude because they’re some of the most profitable folklore America has to its name.
And if all those stink, there’s always Wonder Woman.
FINAL SCORE: Three grumpy Larry Fishburnes (out of four).
“OH MY GOD, I love Husker Du, too! We should totally fall in love!”
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader, Martin Starr
Directed by Greg Mottola
Hey, did you know that only cool, smart, rational people who are completely in touch with their emotions listen to the New York Dolls and the Replacements? Did you know only vapid, superficial idiots who have no regard for other people’s feelings listen to mainstream pop crap like Judas Priest and Falco? These are the not-so-subtle ideas at the heart of Adventureland, a pretty routine Fast Times retread that dials the yuks and nudity down to nil so they can drive home the point that Lou Reed fans are the only worthwhile lifeforms on our planet.
This movie was pushing the soundtrack before the goddamn production logos even came up. The ramshackle opening of “Bastards of Young” filled the theater right after the last preview, as if to say, “Bon Jovi fans, get the hell outta here right now.” Seconds later, we meet a fumbling Jesse Eisenberg, a Pennsylvania college grad with dreams of further matriculation at Columbia dancing in his head. Unfortunately, his folks have hit a rough financial patch. If this buttoned down aspiring Ivy Leaguer wants to get to NYC, he’s gonna hafta pay for it himself. Cue shitty amusement park job (featuring all the requisite weirdos – creepy bosses, fat Rush fan, pipe-smoking misanthrope, and hot damaged vampire chick).
Adventureland almost comes across like a biopic about P.J. O’Rourke or some other seasoned Rolling Stone contributor who exclusively wears khakis, smokes pot, and totally horns out for girls with nice vinyl collections. The whole crux of this movie—rich kid works at trashy theme park so he can afford grad school—could have been solved by two words: student loans. Sure, they follow you to the grave, but it’s gotta beat standing around in the hot sun all day for three months taking abuse from the best Monroeville has to offer.
Ah, but if Eisenberg doesn’t sign up at Adventureland, he won’t meet Twilight hottie Kristen Stewart, who he has to fall in love with so there’s something to stick between the shots of Bill Hader and his hilarious mustache. The kids try to keep it casual until other dalliances start to muck things up. There’s yelling and crying and confrontation; thankfully, a generic movie downpour comes along at just the right moment, providing the perfect clichè wherein the couple can sort the whole mess out.
Although I enjoyed the muted character approach and a few of the performances, there’s no getting around the fact Adventureland is just another by-the-numbers “cool people listen to cool music and fall in cool, intense love until uncool people who like uncool music get in the way and fuck everything up” motion picture. Hollywood, when will you stop slandering those who genuinely like “Rock Me Amadeus” and Foreigner? What did Falco ever do to you? Lou Reed never wrote anything I could dance to. Does that make me evil?
FINAL SCORE: One and a half vinyl copies of Tim (out of four).