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Movie review: Promising but overlong superhero mash-up is dark, violent

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Parents need to know that "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" is a dark, serious superhero drama that pits the titular DC comics characters - Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) - against each other, though ultimately the message is one of teamwork. As the two grow distrustful of each other, supervillain Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) sets the stage for an even deadlier battle between the forces of good and a nearly unstoppable evil. The violence can be up close and personal: Characters' loved ones are captured at gun point, an entire room explodes, and people are shot execution style. There's some romance and passionate kisses between Clark and Lois (who live together) - one that takes place in a tub while she's taking a bath (her bare shoulders/legs are seen, as is a woman's bare back in another scene, as well as men's bare chests). Language is limited to a couple of uses of "s--t" and "damn," and adults drink wine and cocktails.

WHAT'S THE STORY

"Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" starts with a look back at the destructive, climactic Man of Steel battle between Superman and Agent Zod - from the perspective of Gotham City, where Bruce Wayne watches as his building collapses, making him angry at Superman. Eighteen months later, the Man of Steel, saves Lois Lane from a dangerous hostage situation, which once again causes unintended collateral damage. Meanwhile, Batman starts to brand criminals, making Clark Kent want to expose the Dark Knight as a dangerous vigilante. Entering into the fray is young biotech billionaire Lex Luthor, who's obsessed with getting his hands on enough Kryptonite to render Superman defenseless. Luthor also sets the stage for the two superheroes to battle each other ... until they discover there's a bigger villain they should band together against.

IS IT ANY GOOD?

With charismatic performances and epic battle scenes, this unrelentingly serious start to a new DC Universe franchise is intriguing but also humorless and overdone. Affleck is an ideal Bruce Wayne; he's effortless playing the broody playboy billionaire who isn't sure Superman is so super. He and Jeremy Irons (as Alfred) have a good rapport, but there's so much going on that there's little time to focus on individual character arcs. Eisenberg plays the young Lex Luthor as megalomaniacal with a side of severe daddy issues; he's willing to do whatever it takes to bring Superman down.

The heroes' big fight scene is full of the kind of action you'd expect, with Batman going the extra mile to train Crossfit-style before he faces the Last Son of Krypton. And if you've seen the posters and trailers, it's no surprise to say that Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) makes a grand appearance, wielding her golden lasso and coming to the guys' rescue to help them face a huge, seemingly invincible threat to all of humanity. Some skeptics weren't sure about the model-turned-actor's ability to capture everything that makes Wonder Woman fabulous, but the former Israeli combat instructor has what it takes. Despite the movie's flaws, it will excite audiences for the promise of future "Justice League" films that will hopefully be as full of and fun as their rival Marvel blockbusters.

RATING AND CONTENT

Recommended for ages 13 and older

Quality: 3 out of 5

Positive messages: 3 out of 5

Positive role models: 2 out of 5

Violence: 4 out of 5

Sex: 3 out of 5

Language: 3 out of 5

Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 2 out of 5

Consumerism: 1 out of 5 (Are products/advertisements embedded? Is the title part of a broader marketing initiative/empire? Is the intent to sell things to kids?)

MOVIE DETAILS

Theatrical release date: March 25, 2016

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Godot

Studio: Warner Bros.

Genre: Action/Adventure

Run time: 151 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13

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Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org (c)2016 Common Sense Media Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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