God versus man. Day versus night.
That Dawn of Justice is a movie about battles is obvious. First, there's the titular battle. Second, the battling of inner demons both of the characters face. And then there's the battle director Zack Snyder constantly has, trying to keep what is an unwieldy movie from breaking at the seams.
And the fact that Snyder, who is a visual poet of sorts on occasion, has a flair for drama is a truth that cannot be denied. It leaks into every aspect of the film.
And destroys it.
Honestly, there were moments where I had to actually stop my brain from thinking about other things - like how to completely get the Holi colour out of my hair and what groceries I need to buy.
And even with its moral soul-searching, the film suffers under its duty of laying the foundation stones for DC's next money grab: the Extended Universe.
The film opens with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. (Honestly, have two fictional characters been killed on screen more often than these two poor souls?)
After we live through that AGAIN, the movie flash-forwards to the events of Man of Steel, only from Bruce Wayne's (Ben Affleck) perspective.
Superman (Henry Cavill) is a hero, but despite his meticulous side part, perfect teeth and skin, people are starting to realise that a godlike being could be a liability when it comes to foreign policy, sovereignty, and due process.
Wayne, who has seen firsthand the devastation that Superman can cause, is one of those people. "He has the power to wipe out the entire human race. If we believe there's even a 1% chance that he's our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty."
The film jumps two years into the future, and Superman's popularity has dipped. A hyperactive, skittish Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, with a full head of hair) is striving to take down first Superman's image - by framing him for atrocities in an African desert (that never fully get explained) - and then Superman himself, with the help of recently discovered kryptonite.
After the introductory sequences, the pace goes a little nuts: there's flashbacks, dream sequences and random plot machinations.
Until Batman and Superman inevitably, briefly fight. And then, surprise surprise, join together against a common foe.
That foe, I won't tell you who it is, is dumped in with such arbitrary laziness that the entire last battle - with its huge, meaningless array of fireballs, electrical shock waves, nuclear bombs - could be cut out of the film and you'd lose almost no actual story.
It's a climax to a climax. It's CGI overkill. It's kind of reminiscent of most Hindi movie fight scenes.
As for the DC world building, there's a lot to take in, though much of it amounts to a superhero watching clips of other superheroes on a laptop. Metahumans are glimpsed - hastily setting the table for next year's Justice League.
None of this can, however, dispel the notion that we are being sold superhero movies by the litre. Just put a bucket of generic Batman in here and stir in a few pints of Superman.
When they cast Ben Affleck as Batman, I groaned. Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is still too fresh for us to be force fed yet another Batman. But he's fine as a raspy, grim Batman, if not very compelling as Bruce Wayne.
Eisenberg's Luthor can be intriguing, but some of his motivations and tactics don't make an awful lot of sense. He's megalomaniacal, but perhaps a little too goofy in the style of the pre-Nolan Batman films.
Sadly, the least interesting character is Superman, even though his presence is the catalyst for virtually everything that happens in this story.
There's even an entire scene where talking heads (Vikram Gandhi, Neil deGrasse Tyson) on news programmes pontificate about what Superman means to the world, but there's scarcely anything of Superman himself wrestling with his place in it.
Amy Adams as Lois Lane gets far more screen time than expected and it's not all bad. Jeremy Irons makes an agreeably active sidekick of Batman's often-underused butler Alfred Pennyworth.
Hans Zimmer is back, with a heart-pumping, sometimes chilling score that pairs well with moonlit, smoke-filled battles featuring gadgets and explosions.
The powers that be at Warner gave director Snyder a budget of $250 million. So to his credit, the action is completely state of the art.
Snyder is, after all, one of the interesting visual directors working today. He did legitimately great work in movies like 300 and Watchmen. And even a terrible movie like Suckerpunch was at least fun to look at.
What proves to be kryptonite is the editing and the senseless direction.
But it's a superhero flick and if you're even remotely interested in the comics, you'll criticise and enjoy it all the same. Hell, it's the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel going at each other. It's entertaining, but you'll be left wondering if this could have been executed with a little more finesse and a lot less melodrama.
But if nothing else, Dawn of Justice will get you excited to see Gal Gadot take centre stage in Wonder Woman - due in theatres next summer.
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