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One could easily be deceived by the PG-13 rating and also by the way the Batman movies have been done in the past. Do not be fooled that this blockbuster hit starring Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman is by any means meant for a younger audience. It is not due to violence, either. Rather, it is the debatable religious overtones sprinkled throughout the film that preps the plot for controversy.
The Zack Snyder-directed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that came out March 25, 2016, is layered top to bottom with religious connotations that stir-the-pot and beg for controversy. The film’s director was prepared prior to the release of the movie. Snyder has been open and honest when asked to elaborate on his controversial motivations that went into the making of the film’s new plot.
The film is riddled with powerful ideas, beliefs, and intense abstractions that raise both strong religious and philosophical questions, which seem to be far too adult for the intended audience. Snyder, known also for his work with Alan Moore’s comic book adaption of Watchmen (2009), and Man of Steel (2013); two films that that show the non-glamorous lifestyle and consequences that go hand-in-hand with heroism.
A skeptical overcast on screen is what Snyder is quickly becoming notorious for. Snyder’s glum and at times morbid take on heroism in his most recent comic-to-theater film proves no different.
Just as he did in Watchmen, and with the same lack of subtlety, Snyder casts an eerie shadow of religious cynicism over the plot, setting, character personalities, and especially, the dialogue between the superheroes and Lex Luther. The mature concepts in the movie create scenarios that raise and exploit the dark notions that plunge deep into the heart of religion, society and even going so far as to show a sincere distrust in human nature.
Snyder’s adaption of Superman, as the role of God, in both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and in Man of Steel (2013). There is no hiding that. During the release in 2013, Snyder admitted that his Superman was strung together from mythology, religion, and philosophy.
What creates the controversy in the new plot is the dialogue throughout the film. Which once again, can be misleading as an appropriate family flick due to the lack of profane adult language but is thick with adult substance. In particular, the case of Jesse Eisenberg’s character, Lex Luther rips at the idea of a Higher Power throughout.
“The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world,” Luther says, “God versus Man.” Which he follows up by saying, “If man won’t kill God, the Devil will do it.” Once again, referring to Superman as God and embraces the role of evil to gain ultimate power.
Those are just a few examples of the religious overtones that played on repeat for the two and a half hours. Both Batman and Lex Luther adapt this “It’s better to reign in Hell rather than serve in Heaven,” mentality. The overtone becomes evident in the way both want the power to be taken away from Superman, of whom is referred to on multiple occasions as a higher power.
The fight to defuse Superman’s power between the two characters is for far different reasons, of course. By having a good verse evil fighting the same fight, one is once again drawn back to a very adult philosophical question that happens to be one of Eisenberg’s memorable quotes, “If God is all-powerful, He cannot be good. If God is Good, He can not be all-powerful.”
A quote that can be taken by some as a poke at religion, or it can arguably be taken as philosophically rich food-for-thought to a more mature and ready audience. Neither connotation would appear to be appropriate when given to the flocks of children flooding into theaters for the PG-13 rated film.
Eisenberg’s character is not the only one who implies Superman represents a God-like figure in the film. Lois Lane, played by the 5-time Oscar-nominated actress, Amy Adams, helps feed the idea as well. “This means something,” Lois Lane says while clutching the infamous “S” on the chest of Superman. “It’s all some people have; it’s all that gives them hope.”
Snyder’s theme in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is reminiscent of his earlier film, Watchmen, which is stated in the movie when the main character says, “God doesn’t make the world this way. We do.” And by no mistake, a similar theme is echoed in the latest film, as well, with each of the main characters.
Snyder creates a Devil-behind-the-Mirror theme and builds off the idea through innuendos in the dialogue and symbolic subtleties. Whether it is Bruce Wayne shouting at Alfred that in his twenty years of fighting for the city, how many good people are left? Better yet, how many stay that way? Or it could be the intense speech Alfred makes to Bruce Wayne about what turns men rotten.
“That’s how it starts,” Alfred says. “The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.” The movie sets up well for a sequel by introducing the others who will be joining the Justice League.
Some could (and do) argue Snyder is one of the best directors. He is certainly one of the most intelligent, being selected number 25 of the top 50 smartest people in Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. His cinematic IQ can be admired, possibly embraced, despite the controversial new plot in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, as long as it is clear this is not a film for a light-hearted or young audience.
Opinion by T. Aaron DeGeorge
Edited by Jeanette Smith & Cathy Milne
Rolling Stone: The Caped Crusader battles the Man of Steel in the Dawn of DC Cinematic Universe
Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight
IMDB: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zack Snyder, Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill
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