'Batman v Superman': Not the high-flying Superman I grew up with

CNET editor Roger Cheng flexes his Superman geek cred and offers a (nearly) spoiler-free list of highs and lows from the latest comic book epic.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
3 min read

Editors' note: Roger Cheng, a CNET executive editor, saw the premiere of "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" at New York's Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, and walked away incredibly conflicted, a feeling he details here. Here is CNET's more complete review of the film, written by Rich Trenholm.

I've been a Superman fan longer than I can remember.

I was so obsessed with the "S" shield as a small child that my father pried a metal S off a Safeway supermarket shopping cart because I kept grabbing for it. At least, that's what my father tells me. My baby already has a pair of tiny shoes and hat emblazoned with a Superman shield, and he hasn't even been born yet.

But Superman fans have had a rough go over the past few years, first with the slavishly loyal and sedated "Superman Returns." Then director Zack Snyder took his shot in 2013 with the controversial "Man of Steel," with Henry Cavill in the title role. I'm still annoyed by the destruction wrought and Superman's decision to kill off Zod.

Undeterred, I had hopes that with this year's film the addition of Ben Affleck as Batman could redeem the series (which, given the actor's track record with "Daredevil," is its own ridiculous conceit). Snyder is again at the helm. The early footage featuring Affleck looked intriguing, and Snyder's washed-out color palette and grim tone seemed more suited to the Dark Knight.


Superman (Henry Cavill) is sort of there, but he lacks the presence of the Christopher Reeve version.

Warner Bros.

I'm not the only one with lofty hopes. Warner Bros. is betting big on "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," with the movie serving as a launchpad for a series of films delving into the DC comics universe. Success could yield a multibillion dollar franchise to rival the Marvel cinematic universe. A bust could derail things before they even get started.

Full disclosure: I grew up with the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Say what you want about the dated effects and basic costume, but I truly believed he could fly.

Eye-catching moments from the new 'Batman v Superman' trailer (pictures)

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But the studio's concerns and my personal baggage mean little to you. I had a chance to watch the film Sunday, and "Batman v Superman" is unfortunately a mixed bag that isn't good enough for me to recommend. But I'm conflicted because there are enough interesting elements that I want to see more out of this franchise.

My colleague Rich Trenholm has a more complete review here. For those who haven't yet seen the film, here are a few spoiler-free thoughts about "Batman v Superman":

Disconnected. The first three-quarters of the film were a disjointed mess. You can feel Snyder's struggle as he juggles multiple balls in the air. You rarely connect with any of the characters, but then again, that's a recurring theme with the director.

Loud explosions. The film brings up great ideas such as the consequences of the devastation seen in "Man of Steel" and the responsibility of a god-like being. But rather than payoff, you get action and fireworks.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 problem. The film's "Easter Eggs" hinting at future movies aren't subtle (Snyder doesn't do subtle) and don't really fit. There are also a few possible teasers sprinkled throughout that don't make sense.

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Wonder Woman makes good use of her limited screen time.

Screenshot by CNET

Anticlimactic ending. The final rumble felt like a video game, and the conclusion is robbed of any emotional resonance because you know where this franchise is going.

OK, so it wasn't all bad. As I said, I have mixed feelings about this. Here are reasons to be encouraged:

Batfleck lives up to the hype. Ben Affleck is absolutely convincing as a tortured soul. It's too bad Batman doesn't do that much until the end.

Snyder nails the titular fight. It's brutal, well-choreographed and plausible enough that you buy into it.

More Wonder Woman please. The only time the entire theater cheered was the first time Gal Gadot showed up in costume. She has me looking forward to a Wonder Woman movie.

Sadly, Superman gets short shrift when it comes to interesting things to do. And there are enough intense scenes that it'll be many years before I feel comfortable taking my kid to watch this movie. This wasn't exactly the Superman I grew up with.

2016 movies to geek out for (pictures)

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