One day, I’ll have children, and from the moment they come out of the womb, I intend to start indoctrinating them with the love of DC comics, but if I had a kid today, I don’t think I’d take them to watch Batman V. Superman. Previously, I talked about Batman and Superman as cultural figures and heroic role models, but now I have to explain how Batman V. Superman utterly failed to represent these characters appropriately. Though I have to talk a little about what happened in the movie, I won’t reveal anything you couldn’t glean from the trailers.
In this movie, Superman is a tortured soul who strives to do the right thing and receives nothing but punishment for his noble intentions. When Superman saves people, he usually does so with a grimace on his face as if he takes no joy in his heroism. If his actions are based on any ethical principles, they remain a mystery for he never attests any.
This mystery is deepened by the insane characterization of Superman’s parents, Jon and Martha Kent. Whereas these characters in the comics provide the moral foundation for Superman, the Kents in the movies seem intent on stomping out any hint of ethics in their son. In Man of Steel, Jon Kent suggests that Superman should have let a busload of children die rather than reveal his superpowers, and in Batman V. Superman, Martha Kent tells Superman he should, “Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be. Or be none of it. You don't owe this world a thing. You never did.” In other words, “Be a good person…or don’t. Either one is fine.”
The entire movie wallows in ethical ambiguity. It’s not that the protagonists struggle to find the right path but that the entire concept of a right path is dismissed.
Despite these shortcomings, Superman is at least heroic consistently choosing to help others. In contrast, Batman is no hero at all.
In BvS, Batman says of Superman, “He has the power to wipe out the entire human race, and if we believe there's even a 1% chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty,” and this is the entire motivation of Batman to try and obliterate Superman. Batman condemns Superman not for his actions but because he has power that could potentially be abused.
This ends justifies the means mentality sickens me. Internment camps, gun confiscations and the Patriot Act were all implemented because people allowed fear to overwhelm their desire for justice. People chose to abuse individual rights for promises of collective security.
Batman is supposed to be a figure of justice, but this pathetic version of Batman allows his own fears to overwhelm him and he thereby subverts justice by seeking to destroy an innocent man for the supposed good of the collective.
For entertainment value, this movie might deliver, but the lessons it teaches are abhorrent. I’ve already seen more than a few adults try to justify Batman’s willingness to destroy Superman even though I suspect if the same actions were attributed to Lex Luthor, everyone would universally condemn the villain. This is the power of heroic figures. When we sympathize with people, we are prone to excuse their wicked actions. It’s difficult to guess how many adults are ethically influenced by this movie, but I have no doubt that every child’s mind is soaking up this new model of heroism that says morality is ambiguous and the ends justify the means.