It is no secret that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not going to be just another fun and lighthearted comic book flick, but that it will have real world drama and deep social issues as the Christ-figure of Superman left a wake of both fear and hope after the Metropolis incident in Man of Steel, which the subject of both Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor’s vitriol towards him, as well as the cries of millions who wonder if the Son of Krypton is our guardian angel, or the world’s worst nightmare if left unchecked.
Zack Snyder seems to love this angle of presenting superheroes as anything but super, and with “hero” in bold quotation marks, just like his 2009 film WATCHMEN did and excelled at. In a previous article I mentioned that these similarities are too hard to ignore, and I will now go into a bit of detail on that.
From the start, the similarities begin even in the marketing of the two films, with the IMAX teaser posters being head-shots of Superman and Batman on what appears to be worn and wrinkled paper, with their faces harshly scratched out with the emblems of the opposite player etched into them, “underneath” the poster, which makes me think of WATCHMEN‘s final theatrical poster, which saw Rorschach standing next to a Government poster and the words “NO MORE MASKS” with the pictures of several characters within the movie, and also throughout the film with graffiti reading the infamous tagline, Who Watches the Watchmen? featured so prominently. I’m not suggesting Warner Brothers pioneered propaganda posters for film and marketing, but the IMAX teaser posters say and suggest so much about the film that it’s close to genius.
The color scheme for Superman’s poster is a highly saturated red and blue, similar to campaign posters for U.S. President Barack Obama which famously touted “HOPE” as it’s 2008 slogan. Now what does the “S” stand for again…?
Batman’s, however, is a dark black and white which recalls a mugshot or a WANTED poster, keeping in line with the fact he is an urban legend, a vigilante who has hunted the streets for years. Put this with the fact that Batman “covers up” Superman’s shield and Superman covers up Batman’s emblem, and it fits all too well with the message we have been given for this film: there is always something hidden, be it Lex Luthor’s true nature or Batman’s motivations of pursuing Superman.
Now, it only takes a very basic knowledge of comic-books to piece together the obvious that WATCHMEN was written with DC superheroes in mind, with Rorschach and Nite Owl clearly being homages to characters like The Question and Batman, and Dr. Manhattan having the same sort of religious iconography that Superman is known for.
From the trailers, and comments Zack has made in the past about Batman, Superman, and the world they are crafting for this universe, I will begin with a quote from Snyder’s WATCHMEN film:
You see, at the time I was misquoted. I never said ‘The Super-man exists and he is American’, what I said was ‘*God* exists and he is American’. Now if you begin to feel an intense and crushing feeling of religious terror at the concept, don’t be alarmed. That indicates only that you are still sane.
In Man of Steel Snyder made it a very clear point to address Superman’s Christian-based angle as a Jesus Christ figure, going so far as to frame Clark Kent directly in-front of a stained glass image of Jesus in a church, coupled with the crucifix-like pose Clark strikes as his body drifts into the sea near the start of the film after he saves several people on an oil rig.
This point is hammered even further with the Batman v Superman trailer, starting off with the teaser which showed the “FALSE GOD” graffiti on Superman’s statue, the Day of the Dead congregation holding onto him, and later into the SDCC and theatrical trailers which showed Superman floating down infront of the sun, cape bellowing in the wind, and a stranded family in a flood zone holding their hands up to him.
In the preview clip aired during the season finale for Fox’s Batman series, Gotham, there is a scene from Batman’s “Knightmare” which features an angry dictator-like Superman unmasking a chained up Batman. The look on Bruce’s face is one of fear- like a rapid animal being cornered. I felt this strongly resembled Rorschach’s own unmasking in WATCHMEN where he howls for the police officers to “Give me back my face!”
The trailers and general idea behind Batman v Superman present, at the most basic form, the same concepts that WATCHMEN hit home through Snyder’s lens almost 7 years ago and that is accountability for people who call themselves heroes as well as where they really belong in a contemporary society.
Superman is brought before the United States Government on Capitol Hill as Batman is telling Alfred that the “son of a bitch brought the war to us“.
Superman obviously didn’t have any control over the invasion of General Zod and his soldiers, and to him this was a case of defending his new ‘home planet’ against a threat- a threat which Superman stopped at the cost of leveling half a city and alienating half the planet who can’t determine if he is here to help or destroy. On the other side of things, newspaper clippings and dialogue from Perry White tell us that Batman is insane: a vigilante who is a “one man reign of terror”.
The general public doesn’t have a single figure to rally behind in the battle of Batman and Superman because they aren’t really supposed to. To society, it is a choice between the lesser of two evils, while the smooth-talking billionaire entrepreneur Lex Luthor stands as a beacon for humanity- much like Adrian Veidt- even while hiding his deadly Superman contingency plan: Doomsday.
I mean, after all is said and done, this wouldn’t be the first WATCHMEN callback that Zack has done for his Superman-based universe, such as the scene above which resembles Nite Owl’s “Hiroshima Lovers” dream with the Silk Spectre; but lets delve a bit further.
We get the feeling in the trailer that Superman is becoming slowly disheartened by the overwhelming weight of the world on his shoulders as well as the judgmental eyes of the public who show up with signs painted that “God Hates Aliens!” and so on.
This seems to be similar to Dr. Manhattan in a lot of ways, who does eventually leave Earth for the solitude of Mars and then later in the film he leaves for good after being framed for the devastating weapon of Adrian Veidt with his goal being peace on Earth through terror.
While we only have a very short few weeks until the March 25 opening of Batman v Superman it’s still a lot to take in on just how the events of film will change Superman’s world. Perhaps a follow-up will be in order….