I've already written this in another website. But I felt like it was better suited for DeviantArt, as there is a lot of interesting fan fictions, analysis about anything, and most importantly, because it's a website where everyone gets along.
It's no secret that I'm in love with the film BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (ULTIMATE EDITION). I'll go as far as to say that it's in my top five favorite comic book movies of all time. What strikes me as fascinating is how thought provoking this movie is. If there's one thing I've always loved doing with movies is looking at some consistent themes in them. Now this is all subjective, so if this movie really frustrates you, then this journal is not for you. So let's not waste any more time and let's start looking at the themes in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (ULTIMATE EDITION).
It may baffle some people, but this is really the fundamental theme of the movie. It is not just about Superman, whose suit’s S meant “hope” on his already destroyed home planet, Krypton. It’s also present in the other character arcs. Clark Kent/Superman tried to get closer to humanity, and Lois and Martha were the two people he loved the most and the ones that inspired him every day. But at the same time, he was affected by those who criticized him because of what his powers were capable of. At one point in the movie, he had lost his self-confidence as a hero and as someone who just wanted to help others, taking the blame on his shoulders for things he hadn't done in the first place. But it was thanks to the things he had learned from his adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, that he didn't give up.
Superman gave people hope whenever he was around to save them from danger. But when he died, they cried for him and they built once again a monument in honor to him, only this time featuring a quote of Sir Christopher Wren’s. There were also subtle references to Joseph Campbell, which you can only find out about through some interviews with the filmmakers (Superman and Wonder Woman having some quotes from his books inscripted in their suits). The more you analyze the story, the more you realize how much this movie borrowed from Campbell's philosophy about the hero's path. That's not to say that MAN OF STEEL didn't borrow from THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, but BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE dived deeper into those ideas. And I'm certain that they will come full circle in JUSTICE LEAGUE. Superman is the key player here. He’s the true hero of the story. It’s not Batman, it’s not Wonder Woman, it’s Superman.
Going back to the film that started the DC Extended Universe, we saw that Jonathan didn't want his son to be rejected by the world, but his very dream was that people welcomed Clark as the hero he was destined to be. However, he never expected it to happen because we live in a very distrustful and paranoid world. And the truth is that we don't deserve a Superman, but we need one. We need someone who becomes the light to shine the way. Clark eventually became that when he died. We, as human beings, usually don't appreciate the things around us up until they are gone, and that's exactly what happens once Superman is gone.
Bruce Wayne/Batman's arc was about redemption. He was the exact opposite of Clark Kent because aside from Alfred, the people he cared about were dead. He felt broken inside, he was more careless, and even considered himself a criminal. After the events in MAN OF STEEL, his ultimate goal was to destroy Superman. He felt that doing so was not only his duty and responsibility, but also his legacy for humanity. However, at the end of BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, he realized that Superman was more human than he thought he was and that if he had let Martha Kent die, he would've become Joe Chill, the man who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne. It was Clark's actions that brought back Bruce’s faith that there's still good in humankind.
Lex Luthor was a lost cause because he believed that someone like Superman should not be considered a hero, and also because he viewed humanity as nothing more but a tool for his plans. He was mentally unstable and full of rage. Those two elements lead to him being playful, socially awkward and a total sociopath, all at the same time.
Then we had Lois Lane, Diana Prince, and the whole world. Lois believed that Superman was not a bad person in the slightest and she was willing to do what was necessary to prove it. Diana told Bruce that she had lost her faith in the human race and that she had stayed away from it during a time of hatred and suffering (World War I).
Almost everyone, Batman included, was afraid of Superman. They didn’t trust him because of what happened in Metropolis and because of his immense power. Part of that was thanks to Lex Luthor, who manipulated everything and everyone against Superman. He also paid criminals to murder those who had been branded by the Bat, so that the dark knight looked like an executioner.
Clark showed weakness and was afraid of a few things: He was worried about the world seeing him as a either a monster or a god, and he was scared of losing Lois and Martha. He was always wondering what was right and he felt insecure at times about it. This not only shows that being a superhero is not as easy as it looks like, but also that even doing the right thing can have bad consequences. He got hit with kryptonite for the first time, and not only did it affect him physically, but psychologically as well. As a result, Batman saw that as an advantage to the fight. It could also be argued that Clark was a little scared of Doomsday at the beginning, but he overcame that last one by giving the creature the best he'd got.
Lex not only hated Superman because he saw him as a threat to humanity, but also because he saw him as the reflection of his own insecurities. Just like in the comics, he felt like he was a step ahead of everyone else, but Superman was the only one that could make him feel inferior. In his first scene, he mentioned the necessity of kryptonite to use it as a silver bullet in case Superman turns against Earth. But in reality, ego is the main factor behind all this. The deterrence part is a façade for a bigger and more complex goal.
As for Bruce, he was always tormented by something, whether it was the night his parents died, bats or just facing this alien from another planet. But fear is the main factor of how Batman has worked ever since his inception in the comic book industry. It’s what drives him to do all these things. He’s always concerned about something and does as much research as possible.
Without characters with extraordinary powers, superheroes wouldn’t even exist. It’s been said a million times “POWER CORRUPTS“, and this movie reflects that through many lines. It also touches upon the abilities of the characters through a series of events, such as the opening of the film, the Black Zero event, the massacre in Africa, the nightmare sequence, the explosion at the Capitol building, Bruce training and pushing his boundaries, the use of kryptonite, the fight between Batman and Superman, the Trinity battling Doomsday, the list goes on.
Superman has extraordinary abilities, but his greatest power is his will to do the right thing. Although, that doesn't mean that he is a perfect character without flaws, especially this incarnation. This Superman was in a lose-lose scenario. When he helped others, he was criticized for doing so. And when he didn't interfere, people still pointed fingers at him for not doing anything. He wasn't invulnerable to these situations because they were larger than life, especially when he wasn't able to save everyone in the Capitol.
In the comics and the TV shows, Lex Luthor is usually known for three characteristics that are also his greatest weapons: being a business man, a manipulator and a criminal master mind. In BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, he was the one who pulled the strings for Batman and Superman to fight. He was constantly mocking Senator June Finch, who was about to expose him at the Capitol, only to find out that he outsmarted her and that her doom was a few seconds away. He forced Superman to battle Batman or otherwise, Martha Kent would die. He got access to the Scout Ship, Zod’s corpse and kryptonite. He learned about countless other worlds, such as Krypton and Apokolips (Darkseid, Steppenwolf, etc.). And he created Doomsday in order to kill Superman (kind of like when he created Bizarro in the comics). He also seemed to be fascinated with metahumans. He was a very busy man, who was consistently proving to be the smartest guy in the room. Lex also philosophized about the meaning of power, gods and devils. His belief was that nobody should have immense power. Although, his ultimate goal was to be the most powerful man in the world. And the paradox that being the most intelligent person doesn't necessarily equal being the most powerful person is what drove him mad.
Batman had been fighting crime for twenty years, but it seemed like he was more brutal than ever, whether it was branding the worst of the worst criminals to strike fear and warn them to think twice before they committed a crime, breaking bones, or even straight up killing people. And just when he had the opportunity to brand Lex, he chose not to do it because he’s trying to be a better person.
SACRIFICE AND HEROISM
Sacrifice is part of being a hero, and we see a lot of that through several characters:
- Thomas and Martha Wayne tried to protect their son and they were both killed.
- Bruce Wayne did everything he could during the destruction of Metropolis, but still, thousands of people died. He thought that by getting the world rid of Superman, he was saving it, and he was willing to risk his life to fight this alien. After understanding that everything was planned by Lex, Batman promised Superman that Martha Kent would not die. So he went to the ware house that she was in, fought everyone in there, and saved her. He did all that for someone he had never met before. Not only was Batman redeeming himself from his blinded hatred towards Superman, but also from his feeling of powerlessness, his feeling of not having been able to do anything when his parents got shot. He also risked his life distracting Doomsday, so that the kryptonian deformity would follow him to an unpopulated area in Gotham.
- As I said before, Superman is the hero of the story, and his arc as a whole reflected a lot of what Joseph Campbell talked about in his book THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. He was constantly saving people. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop everyone from criticizing him and questioning his existence. He carried the victims of the bombing of the US Capitol to the ambulances. He saved the love of his life, Lois Lane, quite a few times. He went to Gotham, where Batman was waiting for him, because all he wanted was to save his mother. With the resolution to the fight, he saved Batman from becoming a villain. He also saved Lex, the one who had planned everything to destroy him, from Doomsday’s fist. And finally, Superman made the ultimate sacrifice by killing the creature with the same weapon that almost killed him in the first place. While he succeeded in doing so, Doomsday in return stabbed him with one of his spikes. That act of heroism by the man of steel is what inspired Batman to change, as well as many others.
- Lois Lane unmasked Lex Luthor and revealed to the public all of his terrorist acts. It was thanks to her that Batman didn’t kill Superman. Her presence during that moment helped Bruce see that an alien can be humanized. And while she made a mistake by throwing the spear to the water, she still tried to help by getting it back.
- Wonder Woman saved Batman from Doomsday’s heat vision and stayed there to help both him and Superman stop the monster.
- In the scene where Clark was walking through the mountains, he had a vision of Jonathan Kent, who told him a tragic story about how one day he had saved his farm and had been rewarded with a "hero cake", but had accidentally messed up the Lang's farm in the process. Then, Jonathan said that this had been haunting him for years until he had met Martha. And because of her, he had restored his faith in the world. This goes back to the theme of hope.
Part of what drove the three main characters (Bruce, Clark and Lex) to do what they did had something to do with their families. Clark still had his mom and he moved to the next level with Lois. Both women were the two people he could count on for anything. We also saw how much Clark missed Jonathan and that he valued everything he'd learned from him.
Bruce was severely scarred by the death of his parents and he frequently visited their grave house. As for Alfred, he was more of an older friend than a father figure this time. He tried to reason with Bruce about how far he had gone with all this stuff, but Bruce wouldn't listen because he was driven by rage. When Batman was about to kill Superman, the latter one screamed “Save Martha”. That affected Bruce Wayne emotionally and brought him back a lot of memories about his mother. At that moment, he mirrored himself in Clark, remembering that night that had changed him as a kid forever. That being said, it is not about their mothers having same name. It's about Batman regaining empathy and realizing that he wasn't being himself. Reality hit him so hard. The love between a mother and a son is unconditional, and it's a feeling that Bruce had lost ever since that tragedy. That’s what made Batman and Superman reconcile with each other, and united them at the end.
Going back to Lex being irredeemable, part of that is due the rough childhood he had. When Superman met him at the top of the Lexcorp building, he mentioned how much he had suffered as a child because of his father’s cruelties. Speaking of Lex Luthor’s father, he gave his son Lexcorp Industries at a very young age. Then, the eccentric young businessman modernized it and turned it into an incredibly advanced high tech company. Lex also displayed an obsession with the way his father had left his private office before he supposedly died. It's also a nice parallel that Lex, Clark and Bruce lost their fathers.
In addition, we had the Daily Planet, in which the boss, Perry White, was more or less like a paternal figure and all his employees were like his children. Lois would be his favorite daughter, whereas Clark would be that rebellious son that wants to do something different from what his parents have told him to do, and is always arguing with them (in this case, with Perry).
The subtitle "Dawn of Justice" isn't just a tease for the eventual JUSTICE LEAGUE movie, it is also the second most important theme right behind hope because BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is a movie that explores the injustices of today's world. The lies developed by Lex Luthor to make Superman and Batman look dangerous, the mistrust from some citizens towards both heroes and the questioning of their methods are what lead to a constant debate.
Bruce Wayne was doing what he thought was right when it came to the last son of Krypton. Clark Kent investigated the dark knight and came to the conclusion that the caped crusader had to be stopped. Unfortunately, the police didn’t do anything about it. Perry White was constantly reminding him that today's USA was no longer the one it had been decades ago.
Lois Lane was searching for the truth behind the events in the Sahara through a bullet that had gotten stacked in her notebook. Things only got more complicated with the Capitol blowing up. In the end, she proved that Lex Luthor was the puppet master of all the mayhem.
Justice is essential in politics from both an objective standpoint and a subjective one. Senator Finch was always talking about the meaning of democracy and what a powerful being like Superman should do. In the comics, Superman is known for doing everything outside of politics. But when you place him in the real world, you’re faced with the challenge that every public action has a political impact. And that’s what this movie was mainly about. It's inevitable that there will always be consequences, as well as controversy.
In the third act of the film, Batman and Superman put their differences aside to fight together against evil forces, and Wonder Woman joined them. Lex had been faking his insanity so that he wouldn't have to worry about trials. But Batman brought him to justice by transferring him to Arkham Asylum.
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE was mainly a deconstruction of the two most iconic superheroes in the world. And I think that's why it was a very divisive movie. Some people loved it and some people hated it. It is a film in which there's a lot going on, but at the end of the day, it's the "Dawn of Justice".