Okay! So, you most likely would not expect to find a critique of the most recent Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice in a Grandma’s Door post. Still, here it is! Let me preface my review by saying that my family has long enjoyed all forms of myth and science fiction, especially when it deals with questions of theology, psychology, and morality.
I will do my best to keep any spoilers out of this post. In deference to those who have not yet seen the movie, I promise I will take extra time and effort in editing to ensure I don’t reveal any key information.
My son and I somewhat disagreed about the first part of the movie being overstuffed with information and seemingly pointless plot lines. I felt that several scenes could have been edited or completely cut. I admit that, beforehand, I read several critics who also felt that way during their viewing. I respect my son’s knowledge of the genre, and admit that he has a better understanding of the mythology being created in these comics. He astutely pointed out that much of the information, contained in my disputed scenes, will be important in setting the stage for future movies, which are already in production. I realize that I am not heavily invested in the DC and Marvel universes, so I will leave those technical discussions to the experts.
We both agreed that some of the dream sequences might have been edited, yet I could also see how those scenes were inserted to impress upon the viewer the fact that one of the characters was heading down a very dangerous psychological path of increasingly sadistic behavior.
I have always found the religious symbolism and moral dilemmas of the Superman and Batman mythologies to be very intriguing. When I think back to watching George Reeves in The Adventures of Superman, the morality was very clear. Superman was the “good guy,” who always did what was right, and never questioned the actions he took against the “bad guys.” Because he always fought for “truth, justice, and the American way,” and because I was only a little kid, I never would have thought of George Reeves as a Christ-figure, but things have certainly changed.
In Man of Steel, which preceded the current Batman vs Superman, I felt that Henry Cavill’s lines and actions often mirrored Biblical themes. The religious connection was a little less obvious in the current movie, though it is still a very strong undercurrent and becomes stronger as the movie comes toward a conclusion. One particular scene emphatically portrayed a composite of many of the artistic images of Christ being taken down from the cross.
This most recent interpretation of the Superman mythology also has a greater focus on Kal-El’s internal struggles. Similar to Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ, Superman struggles with the temptation to ignore the high ideals his father has laid out for him. He questions whether it would be easier to lead a “normal” life, rather than use his extraordinary gifts to fight for the survival of humankind. He must decide whether to obediently live out his father’s commission, or live according to his human desires.
The current movie finds both superheroes being internally tortured by the sacrifices they have made to protect the innocent. Batman faces the realities of an aging body and a creeping darkness that has always overshadowed his soul, since the death of his parents. Much of the dialogue between Bruce Wayne and his butler, Alfred, demonstrates that they are losing hope. Batman seems to be losing the certainty in his higher purpose, and succumbing to his “vigilante” reputation.
Superman is weighing the depth of his love for Lois Lane against the needs of humanity. Like Batman, he is dealing with his relationship to his parents and the limitations of a human life span. I definitely got the feeling that both characters were dealing with the tasks of mid-life and differentiating their own life purposes apart from those of their parents.
In this movie, and its predecessor, I could not watch images of large office buildings being toppled and exploded without thinking of the 9/11 massacre. In the current movie, when Bruce Wayne is driving through the streets and rescuing people from the concrete and metal debris, with clouds of dust engulfing him, the audience can understand his visceral anger against the two beings who are destroying his city.
Peace and understanding are only reached after tremendous sacrifice. A true battle royal ensues until the super heroes suddenly, and quite by accident, discover a common cause and begin to resolve the issues which have divided them. From then on, the action is driven by a new purpose and the spotlight focuses on Lex Luthor and his diabolical machinations. The movie concludes by pointing toward the next installment of the superhero saga!
Now we just have to be patient for nineteen months until the release of The Justice League! Of course, in the meantime, we can look forward to Captain America: Civil War, The Huntsman, X-Men: Apocalypse, Star Trek Beyond, and King Arthur. Grandma is going to be spending a lot of time looking at the big screen!