With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, director Zack Snyder was never interested in just taking these iconic characters, and putting their literal translations on screen. That would be boring. Instead, Snyder takes the two biggest icons in pop culture, and deconstructs them in a way that acts as an indictment of society as a whole and the world we live in. If you think the world in the film is too bleak, too dark or too moody? Well, take a look around, and you’ll see our world reflected back through the lens of a fictional movie.
In essence, BvS is an indictment of the world in which we live, where the creators are straight up telling us that we do not deserve a Superman, because we would never be able to accept one. We are too cynical, too pessimistic and too petty to simply accept a man who does good things for the sake of being good. And Zack Snyder asks one simple question: In a world such as ours, is it possible to corrupt the beacon of hope that is Superman? Is it even possible for a Superman to exist in a world that does not want him? The character arc that Superman goes through relies on the idea that enough tragedy, enough backlash and enough rejection could even turn the most purest of hearts rotten. But Zack Snyder never gives us that satisfaction. Instead, we are presented with a Superman who, in the face of rejection, ends the film inspiring us to the point where we could finally understand the character of Superman. We understand his heart, his character and his soul. Superman cannot be corrupted, no matter how much we think we don’t need him. Superman’s story arc in the film concludes in one of the most inspiring moments from any comic book film I have ever seen, and in that moment we realize that the world needs a Superman, and for Justice League we will see the character from the comics arise. In BvS, this Superman is still the man you may recognize from the comics, but he exists in a world that straight up rejects him, and going forward because of the conclusion of this film we will see a character more in line with the comics because of the way that the world around him begins to accept him. Superman’s character arc was handled beautifully, and Snyder really used the character to attack the nihilistic nature of society.
Batman’s character arc in the film revolves around Bruce Wayne regaining who he was, and trying to regain his humanity in a world that’s stripped him bare. There is a real tragedy and sense of sadness to the character as we start off the film with the opening credits, which juxtaposes the death of the Wayne’s with their funeral. And yes, we have seen this countless times before, but here Snyder handles it in a very eloquent manner, just giving us a montage with images that pop from the screen and align in your head. Thomas Wayne’s fists balling up as he looks down the barrel of a gun. Martha’s pearl necklace resting on the gun as it fires. The gun cocks back, and the pearls ricochet from the necklace and fall to the ground. This is vivid, beautifully, tragic imagery. Not a word is uttered, yet we completely understand who Bruce Wayne becomes by the death of his parents, because we learn about his parents as they react to the gun in their face. With this character, Bruce Wayne is essentially broken, and again, Zack Snyder is yelling at us: Look what you’ve turned Batman into. This man is an icon, and we’ve broke him. Not even Batman could maintain his moralistic attitude in the face of a world that is grimy, dirty and outright terrible. Yes, that is the world that this film exists in, a world much like our own.Batman is brutal, uncaring about human life. he might not kill you directly, but he doesn’t care if you put yourself in a position that will get yourself killer. Again, he is a broken man and it is our nihilism that broke him. Our nihilism that creeped into our most beloved character and whispered into his ear: “You don’t matter.” And it is not our world that saves Batman, but it is the humanity within Superman that allows some of that humanity to creep back into Batman, and as the fight between our two heroes concludes, he have this idea that humanity within an outcast alien is what saves Batman from a world that consumed him, and Batman was reminded about why he put on the cowl in the first place. His character arc is about redemption in an unforgiving world, and Superman is what completes this arc.
Lex Luthor’s character is a manic, young and psychologically troubled billionaire who is unhinged, and the way he looks at Superman is in essence a reflection of humanity as a whole, and it’s truly for a simple reason. Lex didn’t have a Superman when he was younger, to save him from a father that abused him, so he transcribes all of his irrationality onto a character that doesn’t deserve it. And that right there is a perfect encapsulation of our world were a Superman to fly down right this second to help. No matter who Superman helps, there is somebody he couldn’t. It’s the same argument we continue to make about God. If there is a God, then why do bad things happen? We fail to see past our own selfishness to the bigger picture, so to Lex, if Superman couldn’t save him from his childhood then he is really not a hero but a villain. Mix that with the God complex of this character, and the fact that a God just landed in his backyard, and he doesn’t just hate Superman, but he wants revenge for what he had to go through because Superman wasn’t around. He needs this God to kneel before him in submission so he could elevate man above a being who he sees as the true villain of this story.
There is nuance and depth seeped into every aspect of this film, and Snyder truly made one of the few films to really comment on the nature of humanity, and the fact that we don’t deserve heroes because all we would do is tear them down into nothingness. But the beauty of a character like Superman is that he refuses to be torn down, and he will fight for us until we learn to accept the purity of his heart, and that same heart and selflessness that the character of Superman exudes is what inspires Batman to get back to his roots. Batman v Superman is truly a dark, unflinching commentary on the state of humanity, yet it is also an inspiring and beautiful look at why a hero like Superman is needed, and how he inspires us all.
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Jesse Eisenberg