I sat in the cinema next to my cousin and got ready to see Thomas and Martha Wayne die. Here is one of the inviolable laws of life in the movies and TV shows-Thomas and Martha Wayne must die. We must see Thomas and Martha Wayne die. We have to see the alleyway. The gun, the pearls. We have to see the young boy who would become the Bat have the whole of his world broken right in front of him. This we must see.
We may see the young boy fall down a hole into a place filled with bats. This calls on us to imagine this young boy and his twin traumas. The loss of his parents right in front of his eyes that’s a tragedy no young boy should face. Falling down a cave filled with bats that immediately start flying around and screaming at him- a horror that would stay with any young boy forever. The horror and the tragedy are the things that make him the Bat. One and he mourns his parents but moves on to a normal life the other he is forever scared of bats. Together he forever uses bats as a refuge from the real pain he was feeling-the stab of cocaine after an accident that leads to a life-long habit.
In this rendition the bats begin to circle the young boy. They swirl round and round him. Being as demonic as we all secretly believe these creatures are: shrieking, blind, lovers of the dark, carried on leather wings the screams of the damned. And as they swirl and swirl around him he begins to be lifted to the opening of the cave. He’s flying on the bats. They pick him up, they put him back on solid ground. We find out that this was a dream. We see a couple of batman’s dreams and this is what we learn from them: this is one fucked up dude. There is no question in anyone’s mind about at the very least that.
After this scene we are taken to Superman’s first outing. The battle that ended Man of Steel. His huge, destructive, life-taking fight with General Zod. That was a great action scene. The two Kryptonians hit each other over and over. They broke buildings and roads, they injured infrastructure and upended all urban planning. At the end of that movie (an end we get to see again) Superman breaks Zod’s neck in order to stop him killing 2 people. This after the thousands and thousands dead as a result of the fight he had. But this at the very least is a consistent character trait. He believes with an iron will that only a death he causes directly can be attributable to him. This is a strange thing to believe but perhaps it’s the only way that a creature like him could sleep at night.
Bear with me for a little bit, Superman spends a lot of his time as Clark Kent. Writing stories and keeping up appearances. Doing human things that you really can’t do fast-lining up at Equity to pay rent for example. If you sit still and consider it this is evil. Here is an alien with the power to stop, if not all, a significant amount of all violence and accidents. There are people somewhere right now being robbed, raped or ripped from life. Right now accidents are happening-car accidents, freak accidents, fatal accidents. If you have the power to stop all of these things and you do not because you were pretending to be a reporter can’t it be argued that they are all attributable to you. There’s a scene in the movie where he sees a kid in a fire on TV and goes there to save the kid. His superpowers specifically allow him to know about the fire before its shown on tv. Still he does nothing to stop it till he sees it appear before his face. It can be argued that a truly moral superman would be out there all the time. Saving people all the time. Putting fires out all the time. Stopping bullets all the time. All the god-damn time.
But, he isn’t. He isn’t and is still able to live a happy life. Half of all violent deaths in the world are indirectly attributable to his inaction. There’s a kid somewhere in Australia or Europe who didn’t get this treatment and died because North America will only show fires from South America. The only way a person like this, with these abilities could live is if he decided that any killing that is not directly attributable to him is not his fault. That’s why he can’t let Zod kill those two right before his eyes. This is how he justified a similarly reprehensible act somewhere down the line in DoJ. But this is the only way superman can really live.
Back to the movie. Bruce Wayne rushes here and there, trying his best to save as many people as he can. Running into the fire to get people out and being confronted with his inability to do it. He has to make a choice and it’s not between pretending to be Clark Kent and saving the world. It comes down to running into this building or that one. Allowing himself to believe that the life of an employee of his deserves more consideration than the life of a person in another building. He can’t be everywhere after all. He also understands that a life taken indirectly is still his fault. You can see it in the way he holds that little girl in the trailer. This is not the morality of a god but the morality of a man. All he knows as he sees all this death and destruction is that Superman caused at least half of it.
From that moment the confrontation is inevitable. Of course the characterisation of both wavers a little. Fuck this I don’t even know if anyone read this far but I feel like really writing about this movie and that means there are going to be SPOILERS.
One aberration in Sups character is his justification for hating Bats. Batman has been branding people with his insignia. The news reports that this is a death sentence, if you show up in jail with this mark on you soon you show up in the morgue. This vigilantism really gets to superman. He somehow feels as if this direct contribution to the homicide of horrible people makes the Bat culpable. This though is the kind of aberration from character that all people experience. Someone does something slightly worse but in the same ball-park as the things you do and it tickles something inside of you. A mirror of your worse impulses that is the most repulsive thing that you have ever seen. So of course Superman hates Batman too. Isn’t that beautiful-their conflict growing organically from their characters, the weakness of their characters, the things they do in order to sleep well at night being the things that drive them to this fight.
The resorption in their fight was also a testament to how well Bat’s character was established. By this point we have seen all his nightmares-one in which his mother’s grave is huge character. It’s perfectly understandable that when he hears Superman whisper the name Martha just as he is about to die (just as Bruce’s father did in the beginning of his journey) that he’d stop. That the reminder of this person’s humanity comes from a moment that is so much like that which stripped away so much of his.
Lex Luthor was awesome too. It was great to have a different take on Lex that still honoured his past incarnations as a scientist. Lex Luthor is the smartest man in the world in possession of the one of its richest corporations. He is smarter than Bruce Wayne. He is smarter than Superman (though this is because almost nobody ever writes superman smart.) There is none of this bullshit they always have where he doesn’t know who Clark Kent and Batman really are. The world changed for him on the day that the Kryptonians came. His position in the world changed. He is an atheist that seems to have come to his decision because of the paradox that claims god is all powerful and all good. He holds on with tenacity to what he calls the oldest lie in America “that power is ever innocent.” He knows power corrupts. For him it is not something theoretical it has corrupted him. It changed him, power. It allowed him to have anything he wanted. The thing he wanted was knowledge. The knowledge that there were others out there can’t let him sit back and do nothing.
This seems to have been the motivation behind most of his actions in the movie. He wanted to know what would happen if superman was painted as evil. He wanted to know whether batman could beat him. He wanted to know the effect of people finding out that Superman had killed batman. He wanted to find out what abomination comes about when you bring something to life. He wanted to call out to the hundreds of thousands of planets out there that the kryptonian ship had gathered knowledge from and superman never gave a fuck about because Lois Lane is his “world.”
I’m not ending this without mentioning wonder woman. She was awesome. Walked sexily through parties. Honourably returned to Bruce what he had stolen from Lex. Piqued our curiosity when she was in a picture from 1918 (what the fuck was she doing there) and again when she casually says “I’ve killed things from other planets too.” There is a scene where Doomsday has taken a beating-remember that Doomsday gets bigger and stronger the more is thrown at him. At this point he has had a nuclear weapon thrown at him. He has had all that Superman can offer. She has a laso around him, trapping him, he is unable to move, she is that strong. As I heard someone say she is all mystery. A mystery I look forward to seeing being unravelled.