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When Men are Still Good in Batman v Superman

Written by James Leggett

You can be sure of SPOILERS below.

Throughout Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the promise of reward seems nonexistent. There are two different conflicts within Batman and Superman which reflect their actions. The most noble thing Batman does is outside the costume in the opening sequence retelling the climax of Man of Steel. The way he races into the fray as everyone else runs from it is a heroic and brave move. As the film progresses and we see him don the cape and cowl, we are instantly presented a different Batman. A darker Batman. This is very much the Frank Miller Batman whose bitterness and anger towards injustice has pushed him off the edge of heroism and into full-on vigilante. This Batman is unhinged and revels in the brutality inflicted on his enemies. Bruce tells Alfred that over the course of his twenty-year crusade, promises haven’t amounted to much and the good guys have left. This heavily alludes to Jason Todd, with his Joker-tarnished costume on display, but also to Batman himself. This is a defeated Batman; the shell of a hero who strayed from his moral grounding. Alfred tells him he’s changed, though it brings no clarity to Bruce.

Superman, on the other hand, is a victim of media perception and division among the people who were supposed to join him in the sun. All of Jor-El’s messiah-heavy declarations from the previous film don’t seem to offer any benefits. The faith instilled in him from Pa Kent has deteriorated and forced Superman to question his stance in this world. Sure, there are some who indeed see Superman as the beacon of hope, but thanks to Lex Luther he’s constantly thrown into repercussions from false wrongdoings. And Superman, for all his powers, is imperfect. His intentions are always good, but his flaws are not impervious to society’s speculations and inherent fear of his potential.

While Superman struggles with conflict in a way far removed from the boy-scout image embedded in the mainstream conscious, he is a good guy throughout the film. Not perfect, but he’s trying to be a hero. Even when the titular fight arises, Superman’s sole reasoning for squaring against Batman is to save his mother. Sure, his temper is tested and he entertains the fight, but the only reason he would fight someone of Batman’s stature is in the hope of saving a loved one. In contrast, Batman’s motive is fueled by anger and hatred, wanting Superman to be removed like a parasite.

The conclusion of their fight is already one of the bigger points of contention for people. As Superman mutters “Martha,” and Batman recalls his own mother out of distressed confusion, the realization that his mother shares the same name strikes an emotional chord with him. But what’s so effective about this simple moment is that it does two significant things for Batman. First, it humanizes Superman in a way that is completely detached from Batman’s previously unflinching disdain. With Lois Lane’s arrival, it confirms that there are people with emotional ties to Superman. That the preconceived notion that Superman is an alien with zero empathy towards humanity is wrong. And second, it reignites the hero that has been lost in Batman. The sole reason Bruce put on a cape and cowl in the first place was because he lost his mother and father. His quest has always been to avenge their deaths and prevent similar occurrences from happening. This Batman, who has become a product of the injustice, has lost that glimmer of light. Hearing Superman’s selfless plea to save his mom allows Batman to realize the hero he hasn’t been. This internal switch certainly looks rushed in cinematic storytelling, but also gives a lot of weight to Batman’s sudden drive in the next scene.

It will obviously need to be seen if this arc for Batman extends into Justice League, but I would assume so since I can’t imagine the other heroes tolerating Batman’s indifference towards murder. The insightful assurance comes at the end when Bruce tells Diana, “Men are still good.” at Superman’s graveside. Is all of this heavy-handed? Sure, but it’s a superhero movie so that should not be the issue. The dark, brooding tone which is consistent in the entire film certainly paints these characters in a new light (or no light). But as said in an other DC film, “The night is darkest just before the dawn.”

What did you think of Batman v Superman? Are you excited for Justice League? Comment below or on Twitter!

About the author

James Leggett