Over the seventy-five plus years of comic books there emerged two characters that have transcended the genre, Superman and Batman. The former being the first superhero who was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. The later is easily one of the most beloved and highest grossing characters in history. These two have easily shaped comic books for generations, and still are today.
Superman (a.k.a. Clark Kent also Kal-El) is what many people in the industry and fandom call “the measuring stick.” He set the bar for comic book characters moving forward. To this day, the first question asked whenever we’re introduced to a brand new (but yet not so different from another) character is, “can they beat the Man of Steel?” It reinforces the pedestal that he’s been placed upon, and for indisputable reasons.
Then on the opposite side of the same coin we find the “Dark Knight,” Batman. He’s changed a bit (or a lot) from his original creation at the hands of the legendary writer Bob Kane and respected artist Bill Finger. Originally donning a gun with him only to eventually have editor Whitney Ellsworth lay down the law that the “Caped Crusader” could no longer use a gun or kill, which would be cemented in the 1940’s Batman #4 when Batman tells Robin, “we never kill with weapons of any kind.” The mythos would over time take this and forge his parents’ murder as the backbone of that one rule.
This brings us to arguably the most debated “versus” in comic book history, “Batman versus Superman?” I’m sure you’ve heard it, or even been asked that simple question that can turn into an extremely heated debate sparking shouting matches, internet surfing and paging through comic books looking for a reason why the “World’s Greatest Detective” can beat the “Man of Tomorrow.”
We’ve seen these two titans clash in the pages of comics (of course none of it canon.) We’ve seen them throw down in animated movies, but for roughly seventy-five years we never saw the “Bat of Gotham and Son of Krypton” fight on the big screen… not until the visionary genius Zack Snyder gave us “Batman v Superman” that is.
After the mixed reviewed, spearheading into a collaborated cinematic universe, DCEU’s origin for Superman movie, “Man of Steel,” we got the long awaited announcement. Us fanboys had been waiting our entire lives to see the two biggest characters in DC Comics history in the same live-action movie, let alone duking it out. What more could anyone ask for with our prayers answered?
Though as many know, you cannot please everyone (and when it comes to comic books and their adaptations, it’s more along the lines of nigh no one.) “Batman v Superman,” just as its predecessor, received mixed reviews. It was “attacked” by critics.
Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post had wrote,
“Director Zack Snyder returns to those questionable core values in a film that replaces genuine intrigue and suspense with a series of confounding red herrings, tossing out solemn observations about men, gods, martyrs and saviors while invoking such hot-button issues as terrorism, drones and immigration. “Batman v Superman” is so desperate for the audience to take it seriously that it forgets to have any fun at all: Rather than escapism and sensory exhilaration, viewers get down in the mire with protagonists who grimace, scowl and wince their way through heroics with the joyless determination of shift workers making the doughnuts.”
And the fans appeared divided, though, a large portion of those shouting from the rooftops were – from my view, and many others – out of a vocal minority. A lot of the hate and dislike of the movie, and the messages it was sending appeared pointed at one thing, Zack Snyder.
Where critics and fans refused to delve deep into the movie’s biblical symbolism and pulling back the veil on realities dark and unfair nature, they instead chose to single out its director. Attacking him via his product. Missing layers upon layers of greatness that I to this day continue to pull back and find there’s more of.
From a very globalistic Superman trying to save the world and a nationalistic Batman only worrying about his home – Gotham City – that the negative effects of an alien, who he sees possessing enough power to wipe out mankind, would have on it to “Big Corporation” (Lex Luthor) pulling the strings to manipulate the people (Superman and Batman) to get what it wants. And then the massive canonical influences from stories such as “Kingdom Come,” “All-Star Superman,” and most noticeably “The Dark Knight Returns.”
Then came the philosophical questioned that were raised and spoke to many of us who look to the world and wonder. “Are men still good,” which Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne answered, “men are still good” after burying the man who willingly sacrificed everything for the people and world he loved. It showed that such selflessness was enough to restore a tattered Batman’s perspective, which had been worn down by the murder of Jason Todd (a.k.a. Robin.) And whether or not if power can be innocent, as Lex tried to prove the opposite by blackmailing Superman. It was another case of political symbolism that speaks to the Conservative stance of not trusting the government and that power in the hands of those who cannot be controlled will only result in evil intentions.
“Batman v Superman” in comparison to other comic book movies took a massive risk by not conforming to the mold. It turned from the approach the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken and cemented, which is a family friendly popcorn flick with the exception of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” When something or someone chooses to try something different, it should not be an opportunity to attack it, but instead a chance to enjoy the contrast and appreciate what it holds.
Hopefully the next time you sit down and give “Batman v Superman” another watch, you try to look for those layers. Peel them back. Allow for it to speak to you in all the ways it can, and maybe it’ll show you something you hadn’t realized before. Perhaps what’s going on in the world around us will become just a little bit easier to understand. There’s always something we can take away from a movie that has so many messages and symbolism with every day life.