Illuminating Batman V. Superman: 12 Theories Revealed [FILM EDITORIAL]

Warning: This article contains detailed spoilers.  It’s intended to be read AFTER you’ve read our article, “Beneath the Cowl: Seeing the Brilliance in Batman V. Superman,” and after you’ve watched Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Batman v. SupermanSo you’ve now seen Batman v. Superman (B vs. S) and, if you’re like me, have a lot of concepts swirling around in your head. For regular readers of DarkestGoth, I’m going to assume that one of the thoughts swirling in your head was NOT that “this movie is too dark.” Unrelenting and deep? Yes. Confusing and dense? Maybe. Too dark? No.

Arranged loosely in order of appearance in the film are my 12 theories on this film, some of which will hopefully give you new reasons to enjoy and respect this impressive film that’s been getting a lot of hatred.
The core message of Batman v. Superman is that, even though we're different, we're very much the same.

Core Message

Now that you’ve seen the film, you understand that one of the core messages throughout was that, although Batman and Superman seem very different, they are actually very similar. So much so that you can argue that they’re two sides of the same coin. (This yin-yang element between Batman and Superman has been something that has always held true in the comics, as well.) If Batman were Punisher from the new season of Netflix’s Daredevil, he might easily say to Superman: “You’re just one bad day away from being me.”

And in truth, we see Superman start to go down the path of isolation after Lex Luthor’s bomb…until his Obi Wan Kenobi-like vision of his father, reminding him that even humans can’t see the effect their heroic acts will have on others. (That was one of the standout scenes from the film for me—bringing reflections of Hanibal Lecter’s monologue from Silence of the Lambs to me.)
The Lex Luthor played by Jesse Eisenberg is much more manic than any we've met before.

Lex Luthor

In our last article, I told you that I suspected the Jesse Eisenberg’s interpretation of Lex Luthor was intentionally designed to reflect another famous villain in DC mythology.

With that said, which super villain did I feel Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was reflecting? The Joker.

And not just any Joker, but the Joker that Jared Leto seems to be embracing from the trailers we’ve seen for Suicide Squad. If I’m correct, then these two heroes who are contrasting reflections of each other have their greatest foes who are contrasting reflections of one another, as well, like a yin-yang of villainy. (Contrasting because even though both are willing to bring chaos into situations, Luthor does it because he’s looking for angles that he can exploit, like a scientist, while the Joker wants to bring chaos into a situation which causes fear and he believes he can exploit fear directly.) The potential here is incredible!
Lex Luthor may be intentionally designed to reflect the Joker in B vs. S

You can further see what leads to Lex’s brush with madness in this deleted scene that’s recently been released by Warner Brothers:


The psychology of each of the male characters in this movie is similar in its foundation.

Pyschology

The psychology of the male characters (because we don’t yet have enough info on Wonder Woman to comment) explores the impact of their fathers on them and how they saw the world. Clark’s adoptive father saw that the world needed to be inspired by someone and believed that, one day, Clark could do that; and his dead birth father had inspired him that he could take justice to a chaotic world with his abilities.

Bruce, on the other hand, had seen his parents slaughtered due to a stupid robbery and had been left with the belief that, if someone won’t seize control, the world will fall to pieces. If he can fully seize control enough and make the world safe enough, he believes it will be almost as good as if he saved them—even though it never will be. His honorary father in Alfred has had no success in getting him to temper this crusade, and notes that he’s growing more and more cruel.

Lex Luthor is born from a family that dealt with fascist leaders and seeing the cruelty at the hands of his own father, wants to destroy anything that he feels is too powerful and can make him feel helpless. He will do whatever it takes to feel like he’s in control, regardless of the costs or the consequences.

Senate Explosion

I’ve heard a number of film pundits state that the senate explosion scene was a complete waste of space. However, the reality is that it’s very much needed. It shows HOW Lex manipulates people (including how he pays attention to what they have said in the past when it comes to exacting his revenge) and how he gets rid of them to further his own agenda.

Not just that, but one of the most powerful goals Lex has in the way he set up the explosion is to demoralize Superman—because if Superman begins to believe he can’t save people and that people will always kill one another, then you have the perfect storm to create the monster Lex wants. And it nearly works, if not for the beautifully crafted vision with Clark’s adopted father. (And, for the pundits who had a similar opinion about the Africa stuff where Superman saves Lois, it too is needed to further showcase the mentality and ruthlessness of Lex Luthor.)
Passion and romance are one of the few bright emotions in this film, which is why more time is given to them.

Clark & Lois’ Romanticism

Now, one area that people give grief to in this movie that I don’t fully disagree with is the amount of affection and passion between Clark and Lois. There are times Snyder lingers on shots of them kissing or saying sweet nothings to each other which feel a little extended. However, any time you deal with a very dark subject—especially revolving around a central character motivated largely by rage, paranoia, and bitterness, you HAVE to showcase lighter emotions, as well. Not just to keep some sort of balance between emotions, but also to give us as the audience something to root for. Since Batman doesn’t provide any of these sorts of things until the very end, it falls to Superman and Lois to provide some sort of hopeful counterpoint. While I’m not going to say that these scenes were used perfectly, I am absolutely going to say they were needed. (I guarantee there was a cut of this that minimized these scenes and, without their presence, the film went from heavy to crushing.)

Martha Breaking Up the Batman/Superman Battle

It may seem strange for Bruce to stop attacking Clark when he begs for Martha’s life, but, as the flashbacks hint at, the simple reality is that Bruce has been trying to save Martha for his entire life. The realization that two people that seem so different are both trying to save a mother with the same name really can have a tectonic shift in perception between people.

When we go to war, we dehumanize those we fight with. When something forces us to realize that they’re just like us, it’s very hard to want to destroy them.
Despite Doomsday's artificial creation, his essential physiology is Kryptonian with both its strengths and weaknesses.

Doomsday

Although they took liberties with the comics origins of Doomsday in the film, the reality is that Doomsday was a genetic experiment that was created by a mad scientist using a kryptonian and modified DNA, so it’s not far off from Luthor putting Zod’s body and his own blood into a Genesis tank to create him. In the comics, he was designed to be able to die, rapidly evolve, and then rejuvenate himself, growing stronger and stronger with each death and rebirth. The absorption of the nuclear blast and then rising with new armor was their way of paying homage to that in the film.

In the Death of Superman comic storyline, Doomsday is indeed the one who kills Superman, although he dies in the process. (Kryptonians, however, turn out to have a special deep coma response upon being mortally wounded, allowing them to appear dead, while actually healing. This is how Superman came back to life in the comics and how the film is clearly indicating he will come back to life in the first Justice League film.)
Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) is a demigod warrior trained by the god of War.

Wonder Woman

As I mentioned in the last article, the Wonder Woman in the new 52 and the DC movie universe is a demigod who is very old, very powerful, trained in the art of War by Aries, and able to use her mystical heritage and weapons to go toe to toe with any Kryptonian—even a hybrid like Doomsday. (The fact that her sword is mystical is why it could chop off part of Doomsday’s body and the fact that her lasso is mystical is why it could hold him long enough for Superman to plunge the spear into him.)

Before we conclude this section, we need to remember that more people gave grief to the casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman than the casting of Ben Afleck as Batman—simply because she’d started her career as a model, rather than an actress. Apparently, folks who bitched (a) hadn’t seen her performances in the Fast & the Furious movies or (b) failed to realize that she’s already spent two years being trained by the most effective military group in the world on the art of war in the Israeli army.

In my opinion, Gadot’s portrayal of a blood-lust filled Wonder Woman is so incredible that she almost stole the show from the extraordinary performances by Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill. Almost.
Although Lois Lane being saved by Superman is a comic trope, it does have a very real world correlation.

Saving Lois Lane

Superman is always finding and saving Lois, but how does he keep knowing what to listen for? Anyone with small children can tell you that your hearing grows accustomed to the sorts of sounds your children make, as this tells you when they’re safe or in danger. Now, I’m not calling Lois Lane a small child, rather pointing out that if human senses can be so attuned to another life form, then super-powerful senses could be even more attuned to another life form—enough to hear her banging against a rock formation under water.

Destruction of Property and People

At first it looks like they’re destroying just as much real estate and lives in B v. S as they did in Man of Steel, but Batman reveals that he’s been leading Doomsday back to an abandoned part of the city. This is a nice touch that, first, forces Batman to see what it’s really like to be in one of these battles with a rampaging alien, but, then, allows Batman to use his experience as a crimefighter to minimize the damage. This nicely leads into JLA, because it shows how much better a group of heroes can function as a team when they have each other’s knowledge, wisdom, and abilities to draw on.

Secrets of the Future

Batman’s visions show us two concepts from two different dimensions, both of which have had interactions with Earth in the DC comics.

The first is in the form Darkseid and his Parademons, who overwhelm Batman in the first part of his vision. Darkseid is from a violent alternate dimension that houses just two worlds: Apokalyps and New Genesis. Darkseid is ultra-powerful, wields mystical power, and has an eye on taking over planets in other dimensions. This first vision seems to show that Darkseid and his Apokalyptic legions will be the ultra villain in the first Justice League film. (The deleted scene shown earlier in the Lex Luthor area further confirms this assumption, as the people he’s communicating with are part of Darkseid’s inner circle.)

Darkseid, the rule of Apokalyps, Commands Vicious ParademonsThe second part of the vision occurs when Batman is chained up within the cavern along with other men. Superman descends and soldiers bearing the superman logo on their arms kneel before him. He walks forward and quickly executes all of the men except Batman with his heat vision. He then moves forward, pulls off Batman’s mask, and says something to the effect of, “She’s dead.”

This clearly seems to refer to the Injustice: Gods Among Us storyline which actually started out as a video game before later spawning a very successful prequel comic series. This storyline revolves around an alternate dimension in which the Joker kills Lois Lane and, overcome with rage, Superman kills him. Once Clark crosses the line of killing an “ordinary” human, he decides to use his power to enforce a fascist rule so that everyone toes the line of the law—or dies.
Injustice: Gods Among Us looks at an alternate dimension with an Fascist Superman.In doing so, he creates an army of soldiers with almost identical armor to that seen in the vision in B vs. S, albeit with a slightly different logo on their shoulders. The similarities are too striking to think that it’s coincidence, in my opinion, and I suspect that we should consider the possibility that the Justice League Part 2 will revolve around this Injustice storyline (especially since it plays out the dark fears Batman struggles with throughout B vs. S). My best guess would be that the Justice League pushes Darkseid back to his own dimension in the first Justice League movie but, in trying to return to their home dimension, they end up in the dimension in which Superman is the fascist leader, where they will have to figure out how to depose him before they can escape back to their home dimension.

If you’d like to watch the collected cut-scenes as a sort of film from the Injustice: Gods Among Us game to see if you agree with my theory, check it out below:

Need for The Death of Superman

It’s a ballsy move to recreate the most controversial moment in Superman comics in the second film to feature the new Superman—his death at the hands of Doomsday. However, in the world that B vs. S is set in, that Batman could never truly get over the paranoia he has towards Superman until his death. (He was willing to essentially call a ceasefire in his fight with Superman after being reminded of some of their similarities, and he was willing to fight beside him because Doomsday was a bigger threat, but, without Superman’s death, Batman isn’t forced to live with the guilt of another good person dying on his watch. That pain and guilt pushes him towards the creation of the Justice League in a way that nothing else would.)

Now, with that said, as to Superman’s death, as I inferred in the Doomsday section, he’s not dead. Just in a Kryptonian rejuvenation sleep which will have him ready to fight whatever comes down the pike when the time comes. And, at that time, Batman will be anxious to have a second chance—even if, like any good pragmatist, he’ll always keep a method for taking Superman out if it comes to that.

Concluding Thoughts

Although I really enjoyed Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, it’s not a perfect film. (But it’s also not the “beautiful mess” that certain other pundits like to belittle it as.) While I don’t believe it’s better than Man of Steel—which I thought was a masterpiece—I do think that this is a film that is much farther reaching, as well as much more psychological and complex.  That depth and reach is something that many films don’t achieve and which I truly love.  (I especially love that they were willing to put in so much work to develop the villains in this film, which is a strong point to DC as a comics company, in general.)

There’s a lot of incredible things they did really well in this film, not the least of which being how they introduced us to future members of the JLA in Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg in a brilliantly organic way, without ever taking us away from the main story they were exploring! 

And the fact that there are so many conflicting opinions on ALL aspects of this film means that it’s a lot less a mass media entertainment, and a lot more a true form of art–which again, makes it a much more Gothic experience altogether. 

What did you think?  If you loved my thoughts, chime in with your comments below.
If you think I’m an idiot and completely disagree, chime in, as well! 

Author: JT Hanke

J.T. Hanke is the founder and former editor of DarkestGoth Magazine. Stepping down as editor in 2019, he currently serves as its technical adviser and a contributing writer.

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