Batman v Superman: Permitting Justice (Spoilers!!!)

batman_v_superman___poster_by_camw1n-d9qol9dSo Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was finally released this weekend to critical disappointment. I’ve found the idea of Batman fighting Superman to be fascinating because in a straight fight Batman cannot win. Who won in the film will be determined by one’s perspective on the battle (i.e. who’s side each viewer is on). But let’s just think about these two titans, the grandparents of the American Superhero, squaring off against each other and ask this question: can Batman ever actually say that he beat Superman?

—SPOILER ALERT!—

When I’ve read a Batman vs. Superman issue in a comic book, the author usually inserts an equalizer of some sorts. Frank Miller used a nuclear bomb, an armored suit, teammates and kryptonite in his The Dark Knight Returns (and a similar formula in The Dark Knight Strikes Back). Zack Snyder also uses kryptonite and an armored suit in his Batman v Superman film. Batman, being a mere human, cannot just fight Superman and his god-like powers without it.

But there’s something else to consider when asking if Batman can actually beat Superman. Superman is often depicted as giving Batman the opportunity to level the playing field. Before the big fight in the climax of The Dark Knight Returns, Superman carves the question “Where?” into the snow so that Batman could determine the field of battle, effectively conceding the high ground to Batman. Many people argue that if Batman is given time to prep the location, he will beat Superman every time. That may be true, but Superman lets Batman determine the field and prepare it. He does not have to do that.

In Batman v Superman, Batman is prepping a battlefield for a fight against a Superman who has left Metropolis and Lois Lane behind to determine if he even wants to continue to be Superman. Why do we act like this is a real fight when only one person wants to do battle? The other is off having an existential crisis that whatever answer he reaches will probably end with him not wanting to fight Batman anyways.

Screenshot 2016-03-26 14.30.12When Superman is finally goaded into confronting Batman in the climax of the film, Superman and Batman are not actually fighting to the finish. Rather, Superman is trying to win Batman’s help against Lex Luthor. Batman is driven to murder Superman by Lex Luthor’s schemes, playing on Batman’s fears of Superman’s potential earth-destroying capabilities. Superman is sent to fight Batman by Luthor because, if Superman doesn’t kill Batman, Luthor will kill Martha Kent. So Superman goes to convince Batman to help him save his mother. There is big line, “Stay down. If I wanted it, you’d be dead already.” Superman isn’t fighting at all.

By the time the movie gets to the actual battle—Batman using the kryptonite created by the world engine in Man of Steel—Superman, in his weakened state, is only trying to subdue Batman. There is no true battle. Batman does not win because he’s beating up someone who is not fighting. Superman is allowing Batman to fight; he’s in total control of the fight from the outset.

Thus, Superman allowing these kinds of fights to happen as he so often does cheapens the battles. If Batman wins, it’s not because he actually won the battle. Batman never earns the victory outright, beating Superman at his best. Superman holds back, not committing his full power to the battle. So in Batman v Superman, if Superman went into that battle with the sole intention to kill Batman, the Kryptonite would have never been used because Superman is too fast and too strong for Batman to use his gadgets—grenades or spears.

Batman might have his boot on Superman’s neck, ready to impale him with a kryptonite spear, but he won a non-fight. He beat up someone who wasn’t really engaged. It’s like in the NFL Preseason. Some teams will have their second- or even third-string players in the game to face the other team’s starters. The second team might be winning, but the first team isn’t trying to win either. The victory is hollow.

Screenshot 2016-03-26 14.30.40Bat-fans might feel vindicated by the image of Superman on the ground. But take the time to watch what Superman does. Does he really try to fight Batman, like Luthor wants? The obvious answer is no. He’s there to convince Batman to join him—and he succeeds in doing that. If anything, Superman trying to convince Batman to “save Martha” (I never put together the mothers of these heroes having the same name) was his goal, and he achieved that goal. Batman, having set out to kill Superman, failed.

If Bat-fans want to say that Batman won a fight that Superman wasn’t trying to fight, then this Super-fan can say that Superman won the contest because he achieved his goal—he won.

(Images taken from Superman: American Alien #4 (2016) by Max Landis, Steve Dillon and Jae Lee.)

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~ by hankimler on March 26, 2016.

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