The Christian Angle on Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice
The most common complaint about Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is that it just isn’t “real” enough. According to the naysayers, the characters are either underdeveloped or overplayed, the action is bawdy and predictable, and there’s just too much CGI for the scenes to bear any semblance at all to reality. Such complaints would be warranted if this were a character-driven Marvel film, but such is not the case.
Because Batman vs Superman hails from DC, in which theme is king and all other elements of artistic storytelling kneel within its protective shadow. That’s not to say that these characters are weakly developed in the least; the Batman and the Superman of this latest iteration are as archetypal as they’ve ever been. Both are driven by the universal longing for justice – an evidence of God if I’ve ever seen one – yet each is slightly misinformed about the other – a simple yet unchecked misunderstanding that leads to the titular “vs.”
The skeletal structure of plot points of Batman vs Superman is not that complex: Batman thinks Superman is a careless hero who saves some while killing others in the process, and Superman thinks Batman is a rogue vigilante who has turned to cruel measures in affecting his own brand (heh) of justice. And sure, from each’s own perspective, he is right to believe what he believes about the other. But we as the audience see something that our heroes do not: the manipulation of the information each is receiving. As the movie goes on, we know things about these characters and their world that they do not, and the journey for them to learn what we know is a textbook definition of dramatic tension so intense that one would need a Kryptonian scalpel to cut through it.
Despite being “too old to die young” (Alfred’s words, not mine), Ben Affleck gives Batman a volatile boldness while at the same time providing a childlike trepidation that further deepens his character – a welcome even if familiar digging into the psychology of the Caped Crusader. In several instances, he is simultaneously so awestruck by Superman’s superiority and yet so moved by his own desire for security that we as the audience are left wondering if we are watching the fallen Bruce Wayne or the risen Batman on the screen, no matter which costume Affleck is actually wearing.
Likewise, Henry Cavill’s Superman is torn between doing right by Lois and doing right by everyone else. The world believes that whenever Superman saves Lois, he forgets about and leaves to die the other innocent people in the vicinity. The hand that Superman is then dealt is that of balancing his love of Lois and his love for justice for all. Cavill manifests that dramatic tension so well throughout the film that when the time comes for Superman to make certain choices and take certain actions, we can see him mentally going back and forth – as if wavering faith and doubt – the whole time.
At first, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor feels unnaturally forced – fidgety and catty, like he’s trying to be Heath Ledger’s Joker – but as the story progresses, that feeling quickly rescinds into genuine fear, proving Eisenberg’s Luthor to be a genuine villain. And although Wonder Woman doesn’t make herself fully known until the big fight in the end – and her entrance is well worth the wait – Gal Godot’s portrayal of Diana Prince from the beginning is as silent as it is intriguing. And yes, other characters in the DC universe make cameo appearances, but they are tastefully done.
As for the grievances against the arguable overuse of CGI, my only guess as to why Snyder chose this medium is that it produces a picture primarily more stylized and ultimately more endearing. As mentioned earlier, these are some pretty heavy themes that are being tossed around, and if implemented well enough (as I believe it to be the case with this film), CGI can hoist those themes higher than other “real” cinematic techniques and thus make them more palatable to the audience.
Ultimately, it is that longing for justice that drives both Batman and Superman, and once they realize that they are on the same team, they comprise a force to be reckoned with. I can’t help but think that such can be the way of the Church. If we could get past the misinformation and misunderstanding about the things that make us different, we could focus on what unites us and be much more effective at stamping out the Lex Luthors of the world. We have, after all, heard what is good and pleasing in the eyes of God – loving kindness, seeking justice, and walking humbly with Him – and if we need superheroes to remind us of that, then so be it.