As the title suggests, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hinges on a fight between a masked private detective who has machine guns mounted in his car and a flying alien who wears a red cape and shoots laser beams from his eyes.
It sounds as if it should be a rollicking children's cartoon, and it probably would have been, four or five decades ago. But not any more. Superhero blockbusters are a lot more earnest than they used to be, and none more so than Zack Snyder's two-and-a-half-hour epic. It couldn't be more expansively grim if it was a four-part documentary on the bubonic plague.
A sequel to Snyder's Man of Steel, it starts by restaging that film's climactic battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and his Kryptonian opponents. The twist is that the conflict is seen from street level, where the unfortunate citizens of Metropolis are forced to run and cower as shattered skyscrapers shower them with debris.
From their perspective, which deliberately evokes footage of the World Trade Center attacks, Superman doesn't seem like the saviour of humanity, but a living weapon of mass destruction, hence the questions which run through the rest of the film.
Is he really a force for truth and justice? Is he responsible for the thousands of casualties and the billions of dollars of property damage caused by his titanic tussle? Could he one day turn against the human race? And if he did, could anyone stop him?
If the trailers are to believed, these same issues underpin Marvel's imminent Captain America: Civil War, but there is no way that CA:CW can have as much doom and gloom as BvS:DoJ.
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