Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★★

Ultimate Cut

File with Dirty Grandpa under "What Have You People Done to Me?" Sure, it's a total clunker more often than not, with what few coherent narrative beats there being too paltry or erratic to provide substantial connective tissue to its shape-shifting ruminations. But if you can meet Snyder on his brash and probably inadvertently perverse wavelength, there's genuine poignancy and catharsis to be found in the portentously loaded imagery he spins. It is simultaneously far more tenuous and contemplative than anything else in the genre as of late, leaving something borderline abstract in its shaky maneuvers between punishing, increasingly apocalyptic situations. Piece after piece, it builds higher and higher in its scattershot monolithic ambition, hitting on each fascist decision that goes into justifying its titular Americana schoolyard fight, only to have it revealed as yet another escalation toward an exhausting climax that's pure fire and brimstone.

Particularly daring is the total ambivalence toward crowd-pleasing charisma. Cavill's Superman has been criticized as smug, but its the character's fear of accountability (which he never asked for) that drives him toward a detachment as to be able to live with the magnitude of his decisions. Meanwhile, Wayne's world-weariness has driven him to unquestioned, fascistic enactments of private agenda; him and Alfred legitimately look like alcoholics in their scenes together. The extreme authority that both men continue to exercise in their pursuits of self-professed justice only further cuts into their ostensible heroism, employing the myth of their divinity as to justify their mission of separating a world of moral grays into digestable, deceitful black-and-white. Superheroes shouldn't exist, it's so stupid and evil! This is probably the closest thing to a genre killer that this wave of caped crusaders will produce. Even the obligatory sequel teasing feels somewhat forgivable in that regard, serving next to no purpose to the plot yet placed there because the world demands it. No idea if this will mean anything to me in ten years or however long it takes for Kevin Feige to finish a story, but for now it's a magnificently bleak tonic as well as a genuine interrogation of our culture's alarming elevation of these figures and narratives. It's just refreshing that nobody really knows what to do with one of these movies. Brilliant, raw material that only makes sense if you force it to.

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