Starring Ben Affleck. Rated PG. Now playing.
Zack Synder’s Man of Steel featured elegant visuals and a truly buff Henry Cavill in the blue tights, but the climactic battle puzzled and irked many viewers. Compared with the Avengers, who have their issues but always rescue civilians, Supes flattened downtown Metropolis without a second thought for anyone's safety and then snapped Zod’s neck. Is that the mien of a hero?
Snyder’s sequel supplies a cynical answer: no, not until you’re faced with something worse. Then the people will claim the villain, and cheer for him
Laboriously exploring superheroism (it may set a record for most actual TV pundits pontificating on the religious meaning of a fictional protagonist), the movie aspires to be real, groundbreaking, and important in a way that can only recall Will Arnett’s Batman in The Lego Movie, a film with more wit, fewer “it was only a dream” montages of gloom, and, truth be told, more believable special effects.
At least Ben Affleck is allowed to seem admirable. His Batman is weary and brutal. Understandably terrified of Kryptonians, and over his previous “no killing” policy, the Caped Detective has set his considerable resources on the problem of how to kill a god. His solution is pulled straight from the pages of The Dark Knight Returns. Although the context is completely different, the tactics and even the specific imagery are pure Frank Miller.
Synder’s ability to re-render these iconic comic book poses is his strength. He and cinematographer Larry Fong serve up glorious shots full of edge lighting, smoke, and glowy beams, through which one may discern Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), another “metahuman” who wanders into the third act to help the lads with Doomsday, a Kryptonian badass engineered by squirrelly maniac Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). The “Art of” tie-in book might be the best way to enjoy their work, collectively.
As a movie, perhaps not so much. It’s too violent and intense for kids. As a peripheral fan of comics, I appreciated getting its references, but where’s the fun? No one would want to be this Superman from this movie, except at the gym.