Revenger Submission: ‘Looking Back On BATMAN V SUPERMAN, A Misunderstood Masterpiece’
Here at Revenge of The Fans, we pride ourselves on giving fans around the world a sounding board for their opinions. In recent weeks, we’ve posted Vlogs and Columns submitted by readers, listeners, or- as we like to call them- Revengers.
If you’re a fan of the site, and you make yourself part of the community by commenting, liking, sharing, and especially if you’re a Patreon Patron, then YOU, my friend, are a Revenger.
This week, we’re delighted to share a column by Revenger Thomas L. Kelly. We have a feeling he’s going to become a regular contributor, similar to what’s happened with Aaron Virola. If the quality of this piece is any indication, we’ll be lucky to have him!
Check his column out right here:
Revenger Submission: “Looking Back On BATMAN V SUPERMAN, A Misunderstood Masterpiece”
By Thomas L. Kelly (@rushman07)
I wrote the piece below after seeing Batman v Superman for a third time in its final weekend in theaters.
As I sat there then, I was confused. I still could not quite process the backlash the film had faced, yet I remained hopeful. Justice League was coming, and, despite the inevitable tweaks to lighten the mood, the world would get to see what I understood was Zack’s vision for my favorite superhero. Superman would finally become the hero we all recognized, and his final ascent would be so much richer because of the road that brought us there.
When Justice League came out, I enjoyed it. It was shallow, inoffensive fare, and it had some clever nostalgia weaved in. What it was not was Snyder’s original vision. How true that assumption was grew more clear by the day, as the film scrambled to break even and leaks plagued WB worse than they did the Titanic. If you think about it, the fate of the fabled ship is an apt comparison to that of Zack Snyder. His vision for DC is gone—sunk to the bottom of the proverbial ocean that is Warner’s vault.
It stung, yet I remained casually optimistic and invested. I signed the petition, knowing it was nothing more than screaming into a void. I was at peace, a peace born of the naivety that we would at least get an extended cut of some sort, mixing in more of what Snyder had shot. That was WB’s modus operandi—release an underwhelming film, panic, release a better version on blu-ray and digital.
Then, I began to notice a surge in the speculation about what truly went on behind-the-scenes. The internet was again ablaze. This time, though, unlike the last, it seemed I was not the minority. People, just like me, wanted what they had been promised. They wanted the scenes touted in the trailer, and the scale that befits such a team up.
Reading Mario’s article, “Let’s Talk About The Firing of Zack Snyder From JUSTICE LEAGUE And The DCU, prompted me to dust this off. As I scrolled across the final sentence, word, and punctuation point of Mario’s assessment, it dawned on me that the completion to the arc I so loved would never come. It was truly over. There was no joy in Mudville. I am excited for the future of the DC films, but I think, in time, we will all grow to regret what I knew sitting there in that final screening: Zack was doing something different. He was doing something special.
As you will notice in my conclusion, my worst fears for what Justice League may become were exactly what we got, which is what makes this pill even tougher to swallow. In a world overflowing with comic book films, it was nice to have a voice that was attempting to treat these beloved characters with a certain amount of gravitas. For that, I will always be grateful.
Thank you, Zack.
In Defense of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
There is something unfortunate about Batman v Superman (BvS), yet it has nothing to do with what was onscreen. The film, for its occasional faults, editing issues, and subtle mischaracterizations, is quite brilliant, point of fact. It’s smart and savvy in what it does. It gives us a conflict that boils down to more than some petty squabble over taking sides on an obviously clear issue. But for all its brilliance, it, quite frankly, was grossly misunderstood, which leaves it with an ill fate—DC will have no other choice, but to pander to the masses who were all too eager to pile the dirt on its grave.
The internet crowd is a bully. In a way, like Lex Luthor, it’s on a never ending quest to tear down, rather than build up. The ground swell of hate on BvS began far before this movie lay in front of the eyes of critics or fans. And, as the negativity spread, the horde assumed that what was coming could only be the atrocity pundits had predicted. It’s sort of disturbing to see where society is headed—an irrational, quick-to-judge maelstrom of the uninformed. Knowing that, this piece is already irrelevant. Were it to pick up steam, I’d be branded a “DC fanboy” or someone so blinded by their love of that company’s comics that my opinion was diluted, not fit to be trusted by those outside my earshot.
But I will write it, anyway; this film deserves its defense.
*As an aside, I will try not to spoil the movie — but admit that may be a hapless pursuit. This is more an assessment of why I felt it worked by analyzing its three key components, those being its villain and titular combatants.
“If you seek his monument, look around you…”
At its core, BvS is an examination of the deficiencies of man, an exploration of their obsession to be in control of or better than what is alleged to be perfect. Perfection has and always will be an impossibility, so the inclination becomes: How do we stain that pristine visage? This exists on both sides of the proverbial “super tug-of-war.”
In Defense of Lex Luthor
Alexander Luthor is a genius, but he is forever chasing a light at the far point of an endless tunnel. He, for all his accomplishments, will never live up to the standard set by his father—who, in his own right, was a deeply flawed man. That fixation consumes him, eats away at his very fabric. This is never clearer than in his outward persona. He is fake, masking himself through a guise he believes the public prefers to see. It’s his own critique on the hollow nature of society, as if the people that surround him are too stupid to grasp what he truly is. When somebody isn’t fooled by his shtick, he can also be dangerous.
Thus, to him, Superman is the reflection of a lie. There is nothing in the world that is beyond fault. His maneuvers seek to prove that. By breaking Superman down, he can demonstrate that even our savior isn’t unflappable. In doing so, he preys on that mentality I mentioned above: People will believe what you tell them to. The Africa incident is proof of that.
By casting Superman in a negative light, he’s testing the hero’s will. Additionally, he’s challenging how far the government will allow Superman to go before they must step in. Most important, though, the firefight in the dictator’s camp also confirms what Luthor himself already knew—Superman has a weakness, making him as fallible as any common man, and her name is Lois Lane.
Luthor, over the course of the film, becomes increasingly unhinged. For him, it was never enough to simply bend Superman; his intent is to break him. He offers the U.S. a weapon, a deterrent to an unsolvable riddle, and they spit in his face. Deep down, despite their posturing, the government understands that what they have is quite unique—a being of incalculable power, who acts to save those in need. Their unwillingness to cater to Luthor’s needs are met with equally calculated responses. He’s playing a game of chess that others are unaware they’re partaking in.
The infamous “Peach Tea” is yet another, in a string, of Luthor’s “I’m much smarter than you” moments of sheer narcissism, and a symbol that he will not be chastised by some plebeian senator from Kentucky. The crass gesture, more so its aftermath, serves more than just his ego: It isolates Superman from the world he’s come to adopt, and it ushers Bruce Wayne further down a road he needn’t travel.
When all else fails and even when bested, Lex will find a way; there is nothing more Luthor than that. Superman will either die or his reputation will be sullied to the point of no return.
In Defense of Bruce Wayne/Batman
What we understand from the start of this film is that Bruce Wayne was witness to the tragedy of Metropolis. He was there, literally racing to save the lives of the people ensnared in the throes of Superman and Zod’s devastation. He wasn’t casually handed some photo and given a sob story at an elevator. He was a survivor of the destruction and its grim wake.
For a man who’s become progressively disillusioned with his purpose, this is powerful. A point that Alfred not so casually raises as they discuss the Batman’s latest excursion two years later. It is in the times that we feel most insecure, that we are capable of being our cruelest.
The cowl weighs on Bruce, but he needs it. And the line between the Bat and the man has become gradually blurred. His violence in the suit is harsher, less restrained, which is even more reason Alfred wants him to cast it aside.
He’s haggard—older, yet not wiser and overtly cynical. For all that he’s done—the criminals he’s beaten, battered, and put behind bars—there isn’t much discernible evidence to suggest the Batman has been good for Gotham. Robin is dead, crime persists, and the men, who once surrounded him as accomplices in the noble quest, have fallen off or turned.
This singular focus shades what lurks in the veil.
But Batman’s the world’s greatest detective? (He does a sufficient amount of sleuthing here) He’s also a man consumed with grief; saddled with so much regret, that he fails to even register Alfred’s plea that Kal-El is not their enemy. He sees Superman as the chance to be the hero he couldn’t be before.
Superman, then, is the glimmer of a faded ideal—an opportunity to set right what he couldn’t when his parents were murdered or when Robin fell at the hands of what we assume to be the Joker. It’s a mission of such magnitude that it offsets the now minimal nature of his past crime fighting pursuits. He wouldn’t be saving a borough or block; he’d be saving the human race. The eventual fight isn’t built upon a foundation of mutual distaste; it’s Batman’s perception that he’s doing what only he can. Should he fail, the consequences would extend far beyond the loss of a young protégé.
In Defense of Superman
This film is a consideration of how hard it can be to carry the world upon your shoulders. I get that Superman does what he does because he is the moral compass we should all strive to be.
But we must remember that Superman is still a new hero in this universe. Naturally, he would question whether his actions truly are benefitting those he wishes to protect. That’s not Superman? The hell you say! It’s a near perfect contextualization of the difficulties/enormous expectations of being the world’s beacon. If you can’t save them all, is it enough to save only some? He is tortured by the unfortunate few that escape his grasp. (Wouldn’t he be more of an asshole if such things did not affect him?)
I once told a friend that Superman was unequivocally the greatest superhero because what was required of him was on a much larger plane than his fellow heroes, and by the nature of his existence, he is alone. One misstep, one second too late, and the loss could be immeasurable. He is operating on a global, and sometimes cosmic, level; and, as a result, there are crises he won’t be able to prevent. There is an immense amount of pressure in knowing your power is infinite, but your heroics are finite; he simply cannot be everywhere at once. There are going to be growing pains in accepting that reality.
That transition is on full display. Much of his deeds are done with sort of an airy naivety. He just acts. And presuming what he is doing to be right, he’s naturally a bit hurt by the vitriol it’s met with.
He’s wounded by the assumption that because he went to Africa people died (I use this scene as a primary example so that I don’t divulge too much of what happens later), or when television critics speculate the need for his presence. How does one properly adjust to that?
Despite the backlash, he persists in his heroism. That is, until Luthor’s schemes beat him down to the point that he can longer tell if the reward outweighs the risk. He, because of that internal conflict, did not see what was literally right in front of him. This, too—the crisis of conscience—has happened in the comics and to far more seasoned versions of the Man of Tomorrow.
Is he morose in much of the film? Maybe, but wouldn’t we all be if something we did that was benevolently reactionary—i.e. saving a city from a genocidal tyrant or swooping in to deliver families from the rage of a flood—could be spun to focus on the catastrophic?
What makes Superman the hero that he is, is that he comes back. He returns to be the savior we all hope him to be. Alas, in those moments of question, he too has failed to see what Luthor has been up to.
And, perhaps in Lex’s most brilliant play, he tasks Superman with an unenviable choice — kill the Batman and let the people see their deity stained with the blood of one of their own, exposing him as the fraud Luthor believes him to be, or suffer equally undesirable consequences. Either way, he loses.
As I’ve stated above, my intent is not to spoil BvS. But the powerful finale to this film further establishes these characters for how we’ve grown to appreciate them. Superman, the selfless and unyielding, does what no other hero can, and it is through those actions that Batman sees there is still good in this world. It is the dynamic that has persisted over the last 75+ years. Movies are misunderstood; it happens. The Shining was nominated for the “Razzie,” as was DeVito for his portrayal of the Penguin. What I fear most is that the reaction to BvS’ failure to resonate at the box office and with critics will lead to a canned attempt to replicate what Marvel has come to do so well; but that is Marvel. I don’t need or want more movies like theirs; there are plenty. What I wanted was a movie that asked important questions of our heroes and examined the cost of their existence. This movie did that. It’s just a shame people were so quick to judge it.