‘Batman v Superman’: What Upstate families need to know
I should preface this review by saying that I am a huge Superman fan, which might make me a bit biased in my opinion of the newest superhero movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a sequel of sorts to 2013’s “Man of Steel,” and the story picks up where that movie left off. Actually, it begins with an introduction to Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), a child who witnesses his parents being murdered in Gotham. Bruce grows up, of course, to become Batman, and we suddenly flash forward to Bruce rushing to Metropolis for the world’s introduction to Superman (Henry Cavill). Essentially, we see that Bruce was present when Superman and General Zod had their final battle in “Man of Steel,” and Bruce witnessed up close and personal how devastated the city was following that violent showdown. This begins a simmering hostility towards Superman, which we see is shared by many on earth who fear him and his powers. Things are made worse by Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg), who is secretly manipulating Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent (aka Superman) in order to orchestrate the biggest gladiator match in history.
I screened this movie by myself — no kid tagged along — and I’m glad for that. I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies — it’s one of my favorite genres — and I am pretty certain “Batman v Superman” is the least kid-friendly superhero movie I’ve ever seen that wasn’t actually rated R. That’s disappointing because, you know, this is Batman and Superman we’re talking about — two of the most famous superhero icons in history. I know enough about both to know that some of the graphic novels with them are pretty dark and disturbing, but one would expect a movie of this scope and fanfare to be more accessible to all ages.
I’ll try to keep the rest of this review as spoiler free as possible, but there are some things I want to note for parents considering taking their children to see it.
The reason I strongly caution parents to adhere to the movie’s PG-13 rating isn’t because of profanity — there’s only a few instances of it — or sex — Clark and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) live together and share a mild encounter in a bathtub. It’s because of the movie’s dark and depressing tone. It is also very violent, as are most comic-book adaptations these days, but this one feels somehow heavier. Superman simply endures a lot of hatred and hardship throughout. Batman (and his alter ego) seems to be the main character, and he's not always very likable. Like the Dark Knight, this movie is very, very dark, and I'm not only talking about film saturation.
Honestly, I think most kids younger than 13 will be bored during the first half of the movie because not a lot of action happens until after the first hour or so. The plot jumps from scene to scene and character to character a lot in sometimes confusing ways. Keep in mind the run-time is 2 hours and 31 minutes, which might be too long for some children to sit through.
Most superhero movies carry a feeling of hope throughout, but there is very little of that here. Bruce is angry and bitter. Clark is sad and brooding. Lex is simply disturbing in his speeches that question the validity of heroes, gods and devils. Female characters are kidnapped and treated horribly. The movie also ends on a very dark and traumatic note with only a smidgen of hope offered. There is very little humor or comic relief to help prevent you from feeling emotionally drained after watching this movie. Here’s a very big spoiler alert, so skip ahead to the next paragraph now to avoid it: Not everyone survives this movie and that death might really affect sensitive children.
Director Zach Snyder utilizes the stories from at least two very dark graphic novels in the movie’s plot, which might be exciting for comic book fans. The rest of the population will likely walk away scratching their heads or with heavy hearts.
To be fair, there were some things I really enjoyed about “Batman v Superman.” Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) makes her first appearance ever on the big screen to complete the comic book trinity of heroes, and she is, hands down, the best thing about the movie. Sadly, she only appears briefly and in what is only a setup to the upcoming Justice League films. I also have to praise Affleck, whose casting was ridiculed by most fans, but he actually did a great job as Bruce Wayne.
Overall, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” showed plenty of promise only to end up disappointing and, frankly, depressing me when all was said and done. I strongly caution parents not to take children younger than 13 to see this movie without screening it first.
Also, if you do go, don’t bother sitting through the credits. There isn't a teaser to the Justice League movie after them. Trust me. I checked.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality. It is now playing in theaters nationwide.