Why Batman v Superman Is Only Getting Better With Time
The arrival of Zack Snyder's Justice League on HBO Max has DC movie fans looking back over the [...]
The arrival of Zack Snyder's Justice League on HBO Max has DC movie fans looking back over the entirety of Zack Snyder's DC movie vision. Indeed, the "Snyderverse" has become a thing of increased focus and fascination since Warner Bros. decided to give fans the fabled "Snyder Cut" of Justice League they've been campaigning for. Snyder's vision seems to be much more en vogue with the superhero movie mainstream right now, and it's a well-earned turnaround.
Snyder's DC films have withstood some heavy tests of time and looking back at it now, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Ultimate Edition looks almost prescient in just how closely its story echoes the socio-political events that followed its release in 2016.
This is why Batman v Superman is only getting better with time:
Batman v Superman: Culture War
We've already done a deep-dive into why Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition is a much smarter film than people give it credit for. But that was back in 2017 - in 2021, Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio's script is a stark (but ultimately accurate) prediction of America's divisive culture war.
Ben Affleck's Batman is now a clear embodiment of right-wing outrage, xenophobia, and authoritarianism. Not even Snyder and Terrio could've known how Batman's violent vigilantism and complete distrust of people and the system would mirror the frightening rise of insurrectionist groups in the years following Batman v Superman's 2016 release.
The same is true for the Superman side of the story: the hero's noble All-American idealism gets much more shades of left-wing social politics in Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition, as Clark Kent investigates Batman's effect on Gotham City and the violent branding of criminal Cesar Santos (Sebastian Sozzi). But again, Snyder and Terrio could never have predicted just how closely moments like Superman confronting Batman and telling him to "Bury the Bat, it's dead," would serve as perfect echo of "Cancel Culture." Superman literally tries to cancel Batman. It's just too perfect.
Ultimately, Batman v Superman's story of its two titan heroes clashing and then uniting serves as both stark warning and hopeful fantasy of how American culture can come back together.prevnext
Man of Steel Connections
Aside from all the heady socio-political metaphor, Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition is also great as both a franchise follow-up to Man of Steel's strong start and a perfect tee-up of Zack Snyder's Justice League. Marvel gets all the credit for how it's built-out an entire franchise universe - but Snyder get slammed for his universe-building in Dawn of Justice. Looking back now at the film, with everything we know about Zack Snyder's Justice League and the larger franchise it spawned, Batman v Superman serves a pivotal introduction to a much bigger DC Movie Universe.
Seeing the climatic battle of Man of Steel from Bruce Wayne/Batman's perspective is a seamless POV reversal; Man of Steel used a few shots of Wayne/Luthor properties being destroyed to provide ample reason for both Bruce and Lex to have a grudge against Superman. Gal Gadot's introduction as Wonder Woman and her chemistry with Batman feels so much more important after the Wonder Woman standalone films. Finally, all of the story threads about Kryptonian ships and technology left behind after Zod and Doomsday's defeat will culminate perfectly in Zack Snyder's Justice League as a foundation for how Steppenwolf and Apokolips are alerted to Earth's presence - and how Lex is able to warn Batman invasion is coming.
In the tradition of pivotal "expansion" chapters in big franchise universes (see also: Iron Man 2, Avengers 2, Amazing Spider-Man 2), Batman v Superman does it best.prevnext
The Psychotic Billionaire
Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor was one of the more controversial castings and character depictions that Zack Snyder went with. Eisenberg's weasely industrialist was a digital-era wiz-kid with some Asbergers ticks. A lot of comparisons were made to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg - who Eisenberg portrayed in the biopic The Social Network. Years later, it's now apparent that Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor is a spot-on composite of both Mark Zuckerberg and Donald Trump.
It's hard to watch Eisenberg's Lex coercing senators, stoking fear and rage in the populace, and greenlighting the assassination of foreign generals and not think of all that occurred in the Trump Administration. The same goes for listening to snippets of Eisenberg's backstory about his abusive and unloving father, who used the family name as a business prop.
Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg have been held to account by many as major contributors to America's current culture war. That's a pretty undeniable (if not glorious) endorsement that Snyder and Terrio were looking in a crystal ball when re-designing Lex Luthor for the modern DC movie universe.prevnext
Domestic Terror & International Scandal (russian ops)
As we said, Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor carries a lot shades of former president Donald Trump in his characterization - and the events that happen in and around Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman echo what happened around Trump in recent years.
The second act climax of Batman V Superman sees Superman and Senator Finch (Holly Hunter), an anti-Superman radical (Scoot McNairy's Wallace Keefe) and even Lex's own aid, Mercy Graves (Tao Okamoto) all drawn to the US Capitol by the socio-political fervor Lex has caused. Because Finch won't give Lex the political favors he wants, Lex schemes to use the radicalized protester to take out the senator, cause having at the capitol, and further spin Superman as a danger to mankind. To say that sequence is hard to watch after the events of January 6th, is a massive understatement. Snyder never could've known just how real this sequence would become, but he was clearly on the mark of knowing how (and by whom) political fervor can be exploited, to tragic results.
If the capitol attack isn't enough, the fact that Lex is supported by a major figure in Russian espionage (Callan Mulvey's Anatoli Knyazev), who carries out foreign false-flag operations and creates misinformation campaigns using a coerced "witness" (Wunmi Mosaku's African woman, Kahina Ziri) is just icing on the metaphor for how Batman v Superman's Lex truly is the villain of these timesprevnext
Keeping with the metaphor about Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor, and all the cultural metaphors at work in Batman v Superman, the climatic fight with a monster named "Doomsday" seems all too fitting, after the year 2020. "Doomsday" is a word we had to all consider more than we thought we would - for a killer virus, the threat of societal collapse, protests, and riots, a divisive election, culture-clash culminating in a violent insurrection attack... Pick one, or pick all of the above, the Doomsday monster has a lot of correlation to where we've been recently. We don't know if we should feel proud of Snyder and Terrio's storytelling, or sad for all of us.prevnext
A Wonder Woman
Batman v Superman introduced the world to Gal Gadot's Woner Woman, and she's arguably become the breakout star of the franchise, since then. Watching the film again now, with two solo Wonder Woman films and Justice League all established, seeing Diana first allying with Batman and Superman takes on whole new levels of meaning.
First of all, it's great knowing Diana's deep romantic backstory with Steve Trevor (and her god-like power) when Bruce Wayne/Batman tries to put the moves on her. It's even funnier watching Bruce think he has the upper hand on Diana when he eventually tracks her down, as Diana's centuries of military/espionage experience mean Batman is always way out of his depth. The dramatic irony is delicious - and Ben Affleck is the only convincing man to have chemistry like that with Gadot, after Chris Pine's Steve Trevor.
Culturally, Wonder Woman fits perfectly into the socio-political metaphor Batman v Superman builds for itself. Even more so now, after the major female-empowerment movements of the last few years, from "Time's Up" to the political and social justice movements that women have overwhelmingly been at the forefront of. The boys wouldn't have been able to face down Doomsday and save the world without Wonder Woman's help. Snyder understood that long before Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman earned her place as an international sensation.prevnext
Look, the delivery between Henry Cavill's Superman and Ben Affleck's Batman will forever be woefully clunky, but the point remains validly powerful: The Martha Moment of Batman v Superman reminds us that no matter our socio-political differences, there's still so much on a personal level that unites us - such as, loving mothers of the same name.
There's a lot of deep character work in Superman trusting Bruce/Batman is noble enough to listen to his plea and save Martha Kent; same for Batman taking on that job and vowing to save Superman's mom the way he couldn't save his own. It makes Snyder's awesome Batman warehouse fight sequence more than just cool action: Bruce fights like a madman (no, seriously) because he won't let Superman down, or tragic history repeat itself. The Martha Moment cements everything about why Batman will be so hellbent on getting Superman back in Zack Snyder's Justice League - and why they'll eventually come together as true friends, and the "World's Finest" heroes.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition is streaming on HBO Max. Zack Snyder's Justice League will be added to the streaming service on March 18th.prev