Batman Vs Superman took a nosedive in the second weekend box office numbers, giving critics some sense of vindication. Nevertheless, I’ll continue from last week’s post, telling you what I liked about the movie.
A lot of people are blaming the negative reviews and reactions on its darkness and cheerlessness. I learned a new word – grimdark – that means dark and gritty masquerading as serious.
But doesn’t it have to be pretty bleak for these guys to be necessary?
Without a fearsome enough antagonistic force, isn’t Batman just a rich psychopath? Is he chasing a pick pocket in his nuclear powered jet car? If the police can handle it, there’s no room for him. The citizens of Gotham and the police wouldn’t secretly tolerate him; they’d be afraid of him.
My fictional universe requires the same distortion of reality, just yanked way back on the spectrum. The number of bodies that drop is way out of proportion to reality in Toronto. And because I’m writing a PI story, the cops have to take a back seat. So extraordinary circumstances are required.
And the more amped up the hero, the ever more extraordinary the circumstances and the attendant fallout must be, as in the case of Batman and Superman and the like.
In particular, there are many voices unhappy with the darker Superman.
I think it’s wholly consistent with reality to think that if a guy like Superman showed up on the planet, we’d love and fear him in equal and at times schizophrenic measure. And wouldn’t that be tiring for him? Wouldn’t he be thinking, Hey, I’m trying here. I’m doing everything I can which is more than any single one of YOU can, but I still can’t be EVERYWHERE.
There’s a scene where Superman is shown hovering over flood victims waiting to be saved. He’s about to perform a task that a fleet of helicopters could do better and more efficiently. But the point is that people are awaiting their saviour and Superman is the messiah.
He looks pretty grim hovering in the light as they reach for him.
Jesus had bad days too (even if most Christians would disagree with me). Here’s a quote from one of my favourite books, Misquoting Jesus, by Bart Ehrman:
Mark 1:41 originally indicated that when Jesus was approached by a leper who wanted to be healed, he became angry…. (Ehrman 2005, 200)
And the reaction Ehrman states is pretty similar to the fanboy reaction to the darker Superman: “Scribes found it difficult to ascribe the emotion of anger to Jesus.”
In The New Jerusalem Bible, Jesus sends the man away after healing him, telling him not to tell anyone. The man promptly does just this and the result is Jesus can’t go into any town without being mobbed.
If Jesus can seek anonymity from the meek and the ill, can’t Superman be a little mopey about his tepid reception?
The problem Christians have with the angry Jesus is the same as the fanboys with the darker Superman. Too human when neither are supposed to be.
In my opinion, human is interesting and relatable. The other plane of existence doesn’t work for me.
The Superman fanboys want is pretty bland. Selfless and righteous and powerful and kind and good and – retch. And his only weakness, the green rock, is just as boring. It’s the only way he can be brought down, but it’s like flipping a switch; one minute invincible, the next, at death’s door.
At least in this movie, Superman’s love for Lois is so strong it’s a weakness reaching for a par with Kryptonite. He pauses, mid-apocalyptic fight, to go save her. And when she and his mother are threatened by Lex Luthor, Superman reacts with a murderous rage.
Nevertheless, he didn’t come off like Batman’s emotional twin. He had moments of hope and optimism where Batman had none. But the world he and Batman were shown in didn’t give him much to smile about. He shows up in Africa to save Lois and the village is wiped out by the local government. He shows up on Capital Hill to answer for the village and the whole building is blown up. And he gets to stand in the middle of the inferno and hang his head because he missed it while everyone else died – because of him. Nice. Give us a wink big guy.
I’m not sure why Batman Vs Superman is getting such targeted criticism about its take on the fallout of epic super-battles. This is not the first time that superheroes have been shown to come with dangerous consequences. Even Marvel’s sunnier universe is about to put its heroes on the hot seat in Captain America: Civil War. Hell – Pixar spun the entire premise of The Incredibles around the idea. And that was a kid’s movie.
Ehrman, Bart D. 2005. Misquoting Jesus. New York, New York: Harper Collins.