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Can't Talk | September 22, 2020

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Batman v Superman: The Loss of Hope

Batman v Superman: The Loss of Hope

It would be easy to think by the title of this piece that I am about to be another critic trashing the latest Warner Brothers/DC jump into the movies with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but I’m not. I had little desire to see the movie; I only did so at the insistence of my son and a friend who said it was “the greatest superhero movie ever.” While it wasn’t that, it was something else, something that movies should be, something that had me thinking about other things in the film other than who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman.

The rest of this article is full of spoilers of the movie.

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“Man of Steel,” the first “Superman” movie, was largely criticised for the massive amounts of destruction caused when Superman fought General Zod in the final act. While it may not have been intentional, that criticism opened up a storyline for this movie that resonates with our time; the themes include power, ideologues, corruption, and hope. Much of this movie is spent with little to no action at all; the powers that be are all discussing the political implications of Superman’s existence, and let us be clear: If someone like this existed today they would be more polarizing than Donald Trump. Superman, is unkillable and has the power to destroy the world or, at the very least, subjugate it. That is a frightening amount of power and I have to side with Lex Luthor when he makes the point that the greatest lie we tell ourselves, “is that power can be innocent.” With that kind of power behind him how can we trust Superman, who isn’t even human, to fly about unchecked? Based on the world we live in, the answer is that obviously we can’t. We need something to check that absolute power lest it reign over us like a god. The counterargument is perhaps the most mocked line from the first movie, “It’s not an S. On my world it stands for hope.” Hope is what Superman stands for, the hope that absolute power doesn’t corrupt absolutely. The hope that someone who has the power to do whatever they want can make moral choices, put others before themselves and be what humanity has always aspired to be. When in the hands of humans, power instead gets corrupted even when it is wielded with the very best of intentions. I find it no surprise that some of our most celebrated villains and well written stories are of those who try to do the right thing but fail in spite of the power that hold. I am not a follower of the DC Comic’s many worlds, I have no horse in the race of who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman because to me, especially based on this film, the fight isn’t about who’s the fastest or strongest. It’s about power and who can be trusted with it. It’s about methods and ideologies, it’s about hope versus the cynical world we live in. Many people, myself included, believe that the world we live in is mostly devoid of hope. Corrupt political processes, terrorism threats, racism, misogyny, climate change, are just a few of things out there that make the world a truly awful place. People make the world awful. The crux of the movie is Lex Luthor setting up an elaborate plot to pit Batman against Superman in a battle to the death, using both Lois Lane and Martha Kent as traps. Likening Superman to God, he clearly states what is a pretty general world view; that being all powerful you can’t be all good, and if you are all good you can’t be all powerful. Meaning that since Superman loved his mother he would kill rather than see her die making him all powerful, but ultimately selfish and not the symbol of hope and goodness that people believed he was. But, if he let his mother die, then he couldn’t be all powerful since he was unable to stop it from happening. Of course because it’s a movie the good guys win, the cynics are moved, and the fear is gone but Superman is also dead. He’s slain defending those who wanted him dead, sacrificing himself on the altars of hope and justice. However he was still a symbol of hope, and perhaps the best part of the movie was right at the ending, and something that we should all take to heart: “If you are looking for his memorial, it is all around you” Meaning that if you are looking to honor that legacy look around you, be that hope, be Superman. This isn’t an endorsement of the movie. I wouldn’t recommend that you rush to see it in theatres, it wasn’t great. Instead, think about the symbolism of Superman; the human drive to hope for the world, the aspirations of bigger and better things for everyone. Superman may not be real, and we may not want to hop into blue and red spandex and try and save the world, but we can hope that we have that desire to be better people and be Superman though our actions. We can do the right things for the right reasons; we can be selfless, be brave, stand tall, and work together to be better, to lift us all up, rather than stepping on people as we climb up ourselves. We can all be Superman.
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