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Superman versus Batman: movie challenges fans but delivers action

Updated on May 3, 2017
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Film mixes Batman and Superman stories

Superman versus Batman: Dawn of Justice (released 25th March 2016) challenged fans sensibilities by pitting the two great super-heroes against each other. According to IMDB: The film was directed by Zack Snyder, with screenplay by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. It called upon the mythology of the Batman saga created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and mixed it with the Superman mythos created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

The film likewise had a blended cast of characters. It starred Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman, with Henry Cavill as Clark Kent / Superman, and Amy Adams as Superman’s girlfriend Lois Lane. Jesse Eisenberg starred as villain Lex Luthor, while Diane Lane portrayed Superman’s mother Martha Kent and Laurence Fishburne portrayed Daily Planet Editor Perry White. Jeremy Irons acted as Bruce Wayne’s chief inventor and advisor – Alfred.

Moreover, the film also threw in Diana Prince (Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston and drawn by H. G. Peter) although her costume was unique and one wonders whether she really is Wonder Woman or the Asgardian warrior Sif!

Superman blamed for damage

image from: ('Endings' Action Comics #556, June 1984)
image from: ('Endings' Action Comics #556, June 1984)

The fear of Superman's powers is featured in the original comics

In Superman versus Batman: Dawn of Justice the world turns against Superman and Batman begins to perceive him as an alien threat to humanity. While Batman is not usually involved, the trope of public opinion turning against Superman fits the Superman mythos and has been written about in the comics.

Public rejection of Superman and fear of his powers has also been featured in episodes of the various Superman based film and television series. From his pint of view, the fear of rejection by humanity is one of the major reasons Superman resorts to hiding his identity behind the image of mild mannered Clark Kent.

Public opinion turns against Superman in Lois and Clark

For example: in Lois and Clark: the new adventures of superman,

Season 1 – Episodes 2 & 8, Jason Trask, who claims to be a government agent is pursuing Superman because he believes Superman is the fore-runner of an alien kryptonite invasion of earth.

Season 1 – Episode 9, “the Man of Steel Bars” Scientist theorise that Superman drawing on the sun for power is causing a catastrophic heat wave. The Metropolis court orders Superman not to use his powers. Superman agrees, but as this proves impossible, leaves Metropolis. The situation is only improved when Lois discovers secret experiments by Lex Luthor are causing the heat.

Season 4 - Episode 13, "Sex, Lies and Videotape" people lose faith in Superman because he has been caught on videotape in a compromising romantic position with Lois (who is presumed to be married to Clark Kent). Public opinion turns against him quickly and he is blamed for causing damage rather than saving people. This situation is not resolved until the photographs are proved to be fakes made in a dodgy photo lab.

Self Protection

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Smallville also hints at a dark side to Superman

  • Season 8 – Episode 15, “Infamous” Linda Lake blackmails Clark who asks Lois to write his story and out him as the “red-Blue Blur” (Superman) in self-defense. At first all seems to go well and Clark is overwhelmed by fans. However, Linda announces that Clark is part of a planned alien invasion, and accuses him of killing Lex Luthor. Clark has to re-set time to redeem the situation.

An emotionallytortured Clark Kent

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In later seasons of Smalville

  • We see a Clark who is grieving for lost loved ones and is very dark compared to the beloved Superman of the old half hour shows and comics. For example:
  • Season 10 – Episode 1, “Lazarus” Clark fears that he will be a threat to humanity after Jor-El convinces him that the darkness within himself take over, but a vision of his earthly father Jonathan Kent reminds Clark that he can still be a hero.
  • Season 10 – Episode 3, "Supergirl" - Radio personality Gordon Godfrey becomes possessed by the dark force and begins waging a crusade against all super-heroes because they may be dangerous. Lois learns Godfrey is planning to create doubt all over the world about the super-heroes. Clark’s kryptonian cousin Kara El also returns to Earth and tells Clark that Jor-El has sent her to take care of the evil because, the doubt in Clark's heart may turn Clark into the ultimate weapon.
  • Season 10 – Episode 7, "Ambush", Lois’ father General Lane plans a Vigelante Registration law which will allow the government to control superheroes. Clark saves Lois and softens the general’s stance, but the government passes the law anyway. Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) agrees to be registered!
  • By Episode 12, "Collateral", it is revealed that the government desires to be able to turn heroes powers on and off in order to better control them.
  • In Episode 17, "Kent", the arrival of a bad Clark from a parallel universe appears to justify everybody’s’ fears.
  • By the end of the series, Clark has saved the world once again. However a great deal of death and destruction has occurred and can be blamed upon his fellow Kryptonians. This thinking could lead to the conclusion drawn by Batman at the beginning of Superman versus Batman: Dawn of Justice. He sees Superman struggling with General Zod, and associates Superman with the destruction caused by the battle.

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Batman fans may be dissappointed

In the final analysis, it seems as though the Batman fans should be most disappointed in the movie. In terms of characterization, it seems the writers leant slightly more towards the Superman mythos than the Batman saga. For instance, Superman has been provided with his beloved Lois Lane, but Batman has not been given a love interest. The super villain from Superman, Lex Luthor appears, but Bat-villains like the Joker do not appear explicitly in the movie. (More on this below).

Batman also receives the most unsympathetic portrayal. He conceives a prejudice against a hero beloved of many and spouts paranoid theories regarding his origin and intentions. He also seems to sense a “rival” for the place of public hero in Gotham city.

Batman is seen as inhumanely branding criminals instead of delivering them to the justice system. While Bruce Wayne may have a brooding nature, the Batman in this movie had a darker relationship to his fellow humans than is usual in the Batman films.

Batman also comes across as the little guy in battles because his alter ego, Bruce Wayne is not able to face Superman without his amour and gadgets. Moreover, he could not prevail against superman without the aid of kryptonite to weaken Superman.

When Batman is reminded by the coincidence that he and superman share a mother-figure named “Martha” he is able to get past his fear and prejudice. It is Batman who is the hero of the evening in the sense that he “saves Martha” for Superman. However, I do not think that five minutes of heroism is enough a satisfy a true Batman fan.

Compare Jesse with Heath Ledger as "the Joker"

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Jessie Eisenberg as a combination Lex Luthor and Joker

Jesse Eisenberg stars as Lex Luthor. He sported a mop of golden curls through most of the film and revealed a madness of manner. This contrasted with previous Lex Luthors who began their fictional careers as suave business men and rivals for the hand of Lois Lane. (Substitute Lana Lang in Smallville).

Some fans have expressed disappointment in Jesse’s portrayal of Lex Luthor as he only became recognizable as the classic shaven-headed Lex Luthor in the final scenes.

I would like to point out that in this movie, Jesse (Lex) had to act as the arch-villain for both the Batman and Superman mythos’s. The super villain of many Batman movies is the Joker. The pictures on the side will help you compare Jesse Eisenberg’s “Lex” with Heath Ledger’s “Joker”.

Heath ledger’s Joker was diabolically convincing as an insane villain in The Dark Knight (2008). Note a number of similarities including, wide slash of a mouth, naturally full on Jesse but painted wider on heath and a shag of golden curls. When acting their characters, both Jesse’s “Lex” and Heath’s “Joker” showed a tendency to insane philosophizing.

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