Finally! I can give a more informed opinion on this franchise upsetting piece of work.
Disclaimer, I have only seen the theatrical version and I hear the Ultimate Edition is much better, if you’ve seen that and I don’t address something that was in it, my apologies.
The big question is: Did it suck?
Unlike most folks who cared enough to see this movie when it came out or at least in the same year it did, I didn’t. So my knowledge of it was based on mostly negative reviews, plus one positive one. Maybe two.
I was predisposed to fine the idea of two of my favorite DC guys fighting to the death a terrible experience.
With that somewhat unique perspective, watching this movie was not the fresh take on the characters that it seemed to be to others. And I’ve seen so much dark and gritty from superheroes now that it wasn’t so big a shock.
This movie tuns one of the most beloved superheros, if not the most, into a bad guy. Who murders and makes irrational decisions. It also turns Superman, who is normally confident and cheerful, into a troubled and uncertain hero.
But this Superman is a lot newer to crime fighting then his previous versions, so maybe I can excuse that. And honestly his perpetual frown didn’t bother me, since every scene he was in there was something depressing happening, I wouldn’t be smiling either. He’s never been the wise-cracking kid of super who never gets down.
I could forgive Batman a lot less readily. But upon seeing it for myself, I actually don’t think Batman was acting entirely on his own initiative.
It may be grasping at straws but I felt like all Batman’s nightmares and oddly rage-filled actions seemed a lot more like they were pointing to mind control then to just him. It sound convenient, but being a DC animated series watcher, I can tell you it’s just the sort of thing that they would do. So why not in a movie. (Actually the whole dream-mind control thing has been done before. It was pretty terrifying.)
Even if you don’t buy that an alien force (hint: Darkseid) could be twisting people’s minds (and I’m not the only one who thinks Luthor was acting like he was being influenced by Darkseid) I think it’s not too big a stretch to say that everyone had a darkness they have to face. Wonder Woman said that in her movie.
So with that in mind, I’ll analyze the movie.
I won’t talk about cinematography or acting, or the Martha line as it relates to good story telling; you can get that a dozen other places. I’m going to talk about what I think the story actually means if you just look at it as a story. An analogy. Which is what all superhero movies really are and always have been.
The first thing this movie introduces us to is Batman/ Bruce’s fear of bats and of superman. Which appear to be connected. The bats aren’t literal, they represent the batman side of Bruce, and how he fears it taking control of him. The reason he fears it is because deep down he knows he’s going down a dark path. With the branding and all. I think his disturbing dreams indicated that several times.
For Bruce that fear is still subconscious, and he blames Superman for the sense of danger he keeps having, of helplessness, Alfred tries to warn him about this, but he doesn’t get the hint.
So over a two year period Bruce’s resentment of Superman grows, for no real reason that we can see since Superman doesn’t destroy any ore cities and often prioritizes saving people over catching up to other people he’s suspicious of. But Bruce isn’t going to be bother with facts, since it’s the possibilities that concern him and he doesn’t realize that we can’t base our decisions on all the possible outcomes of something.
Superman is compared to God a lot. But it’s also pointed out that he should answer to God. Superman doesn’t seem to believe this himself, but the comparison bugs him. As it should. Still, he rightly thinks that Batman’s actual Brutality is a top priority over Superman’s possible damage. I mean, one is a fact and the other is a hypothesis right?
But Bruce is having none of that logic crud when Clark Kent tries to point this out to him. Instead he keeps brooding over Superman and finally decides to get rid of him by making a bunch of Kryptonite weapons. After first meeting Wonder Woman a. k. a. Diana Prince. Whom he eventually figures out the identity of.
What we are seeing with Bruce, in my opinion, is the darkness o f fear and hate clouding the judgment. Fear breeds hate anyway. And Luthor is an example of the same thing. Although his is definitely more unstable and out of control (I say more because Batman is the same way) Luthor hates God and blames Superman the way he blames God, because Superman has enough power for one to say “He could save more, but he choose not to. He could destroy us all.” Of course Superman has no wish to do that, but what he intends doesn’t matter anymore These people hate him irrationally.
So Batman tries to kill him, and seems completely shut off to any logic or decency as Superman tries to talk to him and then fights him when Batman refuses to listen. Then that infamous Martha moment.
I don’ think the idea behind it was terrible, I just found the build up unsatisfactory, but ignoring that, I think it’s true that something as small as a name could trigger the humanity in a person. There are true stories of it happening. And I think all of us can remember moments in our life when our perspective shifted because of one sentence someone said to us.
The idea is that love is the key. Bruce still had love for his mother, even when he’d shut himself off to almost everyone else. And the moment strangely parallels one of the Justice League show episodes in which an alternate Superman had taken over the world, along with the rest of the League, and our Batman convince the other Batman to help him by asking “Mom and Dad, they would be proud of what you did?” and that’s all. But the other Batman realizes the truth.
The truth being that if we love people, then we need to love what they valued also. Provided it was good. Bruce’s parents were clearly good people who would want peace and mercy to be apart of his life.
And since Superman’s mom represents the same a sort of compassion for him as Bruce’s does, the moment does make sense.
I get why people think it’s stupid, but I don’t find it so. In fact I don’t really see how it was much different from Darth Vader changing sides because his son ended up being alive and was almost killed by the emperor.
Anyway, the point is, love conquers fear and hate. Diana tells us in her movie that only love can save the world. And Bruce is showing us how true that is. Because he was actually becoming the greatest threat to the world by trying to kill superman.
I have to say with all it’s faults I like the point DC has been making. That love is the only answer to the fear and hatred and evil we inflict upon each other and the world. Only love will change someone like Batman from a maniac to a man again. And only love can keep someone on the right path.
Love is what convinces Superman to make Earth his new home. Because of the people in it he loves and who love him. Love is what sets Diana on her path of preserving humanity. Love is what opens Batman’s eyes to what he’d become.
And love is all that will make us able to forgive each other for the terrible mistakes we make. Which to his credit Superman does pretty quickly forgive Batman for almost killing him.
So, was this movie perfect? No. Did I like all of it? No, I actually didn’t like most of it. I don’t think I was supposed to enjoy it honestly.
But it is not without its lesson, and the lesson isn’t a total flop. It makes sense. And for setting up the Justice League this movie serves the purpose well enough.
It always could be better, and I think it should have been, but it also didn’t fail completely at what it was trying to do. At least in terms of Batman’s arc. So I’d say it’s worth seeing at least once.
Until next time–Natasha.