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. "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"

Animosity between superheroes is the core of tension here, the backdrop to a grocery rack of subplots to keep the pot boiling. It's what DC Comics and Warner's are calling their "Extended Universe" which, in this instance combines Batman with Superman, with the caped warrior none too pleased with how the latter uses his power.

Super-rich Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is in his hidden tunnel fortress beneath the city, which he shares with his terse butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons replacing the more voluble Michael Caine), seething over the destruction to the city caused by Superman's (Henry Cavill) battle against General Zod (Michael Shannon) in the preceding episode of the legend, "Man of Steel."

Wayne/Batman (aka, The Caped Crusader) has joined the murmer of the multitudes in berating his superhero competition with echoes of "he had gone too far," "he thinks he's a god," etc. resonating in his mind. For well over a year, now, local vigilante Wayne has been steaming about his caped crony. When Clark Kent sees Batman turning into an enemy, he begins his campaign of firing up the throngs by throwing scathing newspaper articles at him,. Of course, it's much to the deliht of Editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) who enjoys the improved circulation the controversy is generating.

All of which is part of the efforts the team of screenwriters Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer (& others), director Zack Snyder ("Man of Steel," "Watchmen") and, possibly, a few of the DC Comics producers are making to give us something bigger, better, different. But turning the heroes into enemies doesn't exactly play well. The citizens are painfully quick to condemn the man who has saved lives countless times because someone has posited the idea that he's been acting like he thinks he's a god?

Interestingly, Batman films outgross Superman's. My guess is that it's in the mortality. You can't make Mr. S suffer like a human no matter what, the theory goes, and that limits the tension and his drawing power. And, so, in this sequel, Superman (aka, Kal-El) is given some adjustments, a backstory with some pain and suffering we can identify with... AND a brute demon, developed and unleashed by Lex Luthor (fitful Jesse Eisenberg). After being denied a sample of kryptonite to use against Superman, his evil genius mind, with the resources of his LexCorp company, comes up with a supercharged beast that just might be equipped to thwart Superman's power and melt him down to a molecule.

Barring a few hundred thousand volts and amps, we've seen the likes of this brute in "Godzilla" and Doctor Manhattan from Syder's own "Watchmen" as role models. It seemed to me a matter of: when in doubt, overdo! Especially when you want to excite on a planetary level. But, the "Dawn of Justice" has yet to arrive.

Meanwhile, Kent has two people in his life that retain utter faith in him and the purity of his intentions: the feisty, head-strong but fetching Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and mom, of course, Martha Kent (Diane Lane): two who know he's our only hope of ridding the world of those who have the power to demolish mankind.

In making this two and a half-hour tentpole extravaganza, director Snyder assumes our foreknowledge of his famed duo, but it's a safe bet; particularly with some added detail and an attempt to wring some emotion out of the foster mother-son relationship. The introduction of superheroine Wonder Woman (Israeli actress Gal Gadot, "Furious 7") here may have been meant to ensure a wider turnout and collosal grosses. Or is adding a female super taking a cue from the competition -- Marvel Comics? Another safe bet is that more than one choice like this is born in market studies.

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                                                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  

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