Zack Snyder is quoted with saying that Batman vs. Superman could be too smart for the average moviegoer. In no way is this article going to back that up, because for many reasons that statement is not true. Execution of theme in film plays a key role in resonating a smart ideology within the audience. Unfortunately, in a market where franchise continuity dominates the quality of the stand-alone film, we’re given unnecessary bloat and detours that make for a disorienting experience. Much of what is being criticized can be linked to the deconstruction of what would’ve been a worthwhile film by the market of franchising. Screenwriting flubs and franchise hype tactics shroud one of the most spectacular views of the battle of man and god to come to a mainstream film in the age of superhero dominance.
Batman is the model representation of man within the struggle of power. The use of technology and human ingenuity to withstand and at times dominate god himself. He teeters on the balances of justice. It never is truly clear whether his tactics of justice can be viewed as completely moral. Placing his mark on those he feels that deserve their punishment and at times murdering criminals in his battle to proceed towards justice. This has angered many fans of the franchise, but again with the idea of separating a classic comic book character from a neo-cinematic representation, it’s completely fitting for Batman to make the most human of mistakes by taking collateral to obtain justice. His ultimate goal is to create a better society, but the passion, rage, and collateral damage are all necessary in order to paint the perfect picture of man’s hero.
Superman faces the challenge of maintaining a positive role in the mind of man while being viewed as a god. While most-likely originally a misstep in screen-writing, the end of Man of Steel leaves all of Metropolis in ruin due to Superman’s godly battle causing mass destruction and unintentional loss of human life. From the perspective of man, Superman is the cause of these problems. The same view can be presented when a disaster occurs in realistic times. When a city is in ruins, the question that man asks, “How could god do this to us?” The imperfection of god is something that man can never understand. It isn’t until the world is able to connect Clark Kent to Superman that we see that even god himself is imperfect. He still feels passion and makes mistakes whether he decides to play as a global defender or not, he will be affected by human flaws.
The last factor seems to be the most obscure even to my own eyes, but in an attempt to make reason out of characters, Lex Luthor can be viewed as a Loki-like being who seeks to cause chaos through underhanded trickery. While this probably better fits another DC villain, it suits the story as he is a driving force for man and god’s friction. His use of shady lies and deceit in order to bring the two factors to a catastrophic disaster is more of a smokescreen in order for him to try and synthetically become a god. This act is more of a distraction from the more compelling section of the theme, but it services the unity of god and man towards the climax of the film. It can be seen that Superman and Batman were building tension before, but Lex ensures that the process be made quicker and more brutal than it originally would have been. Luthor in fact could have been completely written out of the script for the sake of maintaining a focused core theme of god versus man.
The view of god from man’s perspective is what drives Batman to seek preventative justice towards Superman. This drives his human flaws to stop this god with little knowledge of whether Superman is intentionally harming this world or not. Wayne is able to use human ingenuity to conquer a god, but he is stopped when human connection is made. The idea that Superman could be using his powers to save someone he loves is enough for Bruce Wayne to feel human empathy and create a bond. Having the mutual name in mothers is not the only reason that Batman would give up his passionate hatred for Superman. It’s the idea that the man he so viewed as a reckless god actually had a human side. The lethal mistakes that Superman makes are all justifiable by the same flaws that Batman shares.
If anything, despite my love for this film, it can be said that this is a prime example of what Hollywood does to make it as obvious as possible that it’s a business. The idea that DC once had was “quality over quantity,” but in a market where franchises sell and every movie is a sequence of cool shots and future movie hype, it’s only appropriate to start a new chain of movies. The Dark Knight films succeed and stand as modern classics because they weren’t worried about ensuring the existence of more. The focus was making something of quality and seeing where they could go with the series after the fact. When studios step in to make money, movies lose their quality. Batman vs. Superman can be attributed to this. Zack Snyder held in his hand the chance to create a standalone thematic blockbuster, but was bogged down by the need to facilitate a franchise. Creators need free will in their films, and studios act as a method of limiting quality. Inside of Batman vs. Superman exists the free-willed beauty that film can create. The theme of god versus man can be seen both inside and outside this jumbled mess of a film. Because in the grand scheme of film, studios are god and we are man; they play our vices like a fiddle and watch the money flow.