Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

batman v superman

I was so excited to see this movie. I figured that — even if it didn’t blow my mind completely — it would still be extremely entertaining. But now, 24 hours after I saw it in beautiful RealD 3D, I still can’t believe how mediocre it was. The movie wasn’t necessarily bad… but it should have been so good. I mean, for shit’s sake, we’ve got Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman (the Justice League coming together!) — along with glimpses of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg — as well as Lex Luthor and Doomsday in a single film directed by one of the most visually stunning directors of our time!! How was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice not an utter face-melter?!?

As it so often happens, the studio simply bit off more than it could chew, attempting to fit way too much story line and character development into a two-and-a-half-hour time frame. The end result was the same as it always is: an emotionally flat film with glossed-over plot points and shallow caricatures. (I understand that Wonder Woman’s story will be fleshed out in a stand-alone movie next summer, but that didn’t help me enjoy her role in Dawn of Justice last night.) And Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead [2004], 300 [2006], Watchmen [2009], Sucker Punch [2011], Man of Steel [2013]), who I’ve always gone out on a limb to defend, seems to have finally lost control of the reins on the Warner Bros/DC Comics money-grab train. His gorgeous, colorful action sequences — usually done in slow motion — have devolved into incoherent, frenetically edited tornadoes of images that can barely be deciphered.

Personally, I don’t think I can keep watching these big-budget mockeries of my favorite superheroes, especially considering the fact that DC Comics has released 25 feature-length animated movies that are really cool! Why even bother with these lame live-action attempts anymore? Everything in Dawn of Justice, for example, had already been covered [better] in films like Justice League: The New Frontier (2008), Wonder Woman (2009), and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2012-2013).

I’m being particularly harsh on this movie because it honestly should have been better. The acting was fine — even Affleck and Eisenberg, who I normally can’t stand — but the trope-filled CGI action fails to impact its audience in any meaningful way. Roughly put: Warner Bros/DC should stop trying to be Disney/Marvel and just do its own thing.

Two pot leafs out of five:
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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Midnight Special (2016)

Midnight Special

Now, this is some refreshing sci-fi! Midnight Special starts in mid-stride, with two men hustling a cooperative young boy into the back of a ’72 Chevelle as an AMBER alert describing the trio blares in the background. The driver of the car then puts on a pair of night vision goggles, switches off the headlights, and tears off into pre-dawn darkness. It’s a badass opening sequence — and it all takes place before the title screen — but, thankfully, the movie doesn’t proceed on some mindless chase, full of gunfights, explosions, and unlikely scenarios. (That kind of faux sci-fi has been done to death.) Midnight Special instead takes the high road, adopting a deliberate, albeit slow, pace that eventually yields a unique, character-driven sci-fi/drama rather than another trope-filled sci-fi/action flick.

Writer/director Jeff Nichols, whose credits include Shotgun Stories (2007), Take Shelter (2011), and Mud (2012), relies once again on Michael Shannon — one of the most interesting and expressive actors in Hollywood — as well as the American Deep South to tell a moving and meditative story. Taking cues from the sci-fi blockbusters of the ’70s and ’80s (Close Encounters of the Third Kind [1977], E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial [1982], Starman [1984], Cocoon [1985]), Midnight Special weaves together government agents, religious cult members, and a boy with seemingly “alien” abilities into an extremely suitable, though particularly subtle, tapestry. The script doesn’t spend much time explaining itself and the dialogue doesn’t spoon-feed the audience any plot points. Viewers are forced to pay close attention if they want to put the whole story together, piece-by-piece. (And, as you surely know by now, I generally find that kind of “work” refreshing.)

Midnight Special is worth the slow ride because it ultimately pays off with an unforgettable conclusion, unlike any I can remember from the past two decades of cinema. With this film, Nichols’ certainly solidifies his status as one of the most fascinating (and uniquely American) writer/directors working today. (Actually, I tend to believe that he’s poised to excel in every way that his predecessors — directors like Terrence Malick and David Gordon Green — have failed. [Give me a shout in the comments section if you want me to explain that rather brazen comment further.])

Nichols is like that rare, good friend, who actually has very thought-provoking things to say, but never talks too much — and I’m really psyched to see what he does next.

Four pot leafs out of five:
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Midnight Special (2016)