Looking The Part vs. Embodying the Role

David Mazouz was born to play Bruce Wayne.

Child actors are often pretty hit or miss, right? I mean, sure, you could argue the same thing is true of adults. But it’s often worse when it comes to kids, due to a combination of inexperience and scripts written by people that have apparently not interacted with anyone under the age of eighteen in years. Because of this, the combination of a talented child actor and a competent writer can be absolutely memorable. That’s definitely the case with Gotham.

Every single time I watch an episode of Gotham, whether it’s one from the first season or one from the fifth, I’m left completely in awe of how well Mazouz plays Bruce. In a show full of impressive performances, it’s Mazouz’s Bruce that stands out the most to me. That’s partly because of great writing that shows him developing from a helpless kid that doesn’t know what he’s doing into a capable, confident, and driven young man that may not have all the training he one day will but still embodies the spirit of Batman. The rest of it is because Mazouz’s excellent performance brings the character to life. I look at him and think, this is Bruce Wayne. He’s still a teenager. He doesn’t have the height or build we expect. But you know what? To me, at least, he still feels like Batman.

Maybe it’ll be awkward seeing him in the suit at the end, because he still looks young. I keep seeing people say things to that effect – like, I can’t take him seriously as Batman, he’s too scrawny and young! I disagree, though. Sure, maybe seeing his head imposed on a body double as they try to pass him off as a decade older will be a bit jarring. It’s not like they’re trying to make a thirty year old look forty, where it’s just a question of maybe greying the hair a bit and adding some lines, they’re trying to make a teenager an adult. But I have absolutely no issue with him being Batman. None.

I’ve seen a lot of people – and this was before it was announced that the series finale will take place in the future – saying stuff about how they want to see Batman, or they want to recast with a timeskip because Mazouz was great for kid Bruce, but not Batman. I think all those people are kind of missing the point, because they’re too focused on Batman as “big guy in a cool suit”, and because they’re not seeing that suit, they’re still talking about “when are we going to see Batman”. The way I see it, the answer to that question is we already have.

Forget the proto-suit he wore at the beginning of season four. Forget about the future scene we’re going to get. Forget about how people are always drawing distinctions between Bruce Wayne and Batman. And think about scenes like in 3×14, where he fought Jerome and decided that I will not kill will be his mantra, or when he told Selina’s fence he should have taken the offered deal in 4×15, or at the end of 4×22, when he slams a guy into a storage unit; demands to know where Jeremiah is; then, once the guy claims ignorance, tells him to tell Jeremiah Bruce is looking for him and knocks him out. Those scenes? Those are more Batman than most actors to have played the role have ever gotten. He may not have the name. He may not have the costume. He may not have the build or the age. But he already embodies Batman.

You can see something similar if you look back at Michael Keaton’s version of the character. Keaton is only 5’9″. I’m pretty sure he’s the shortest actor to have ever played adult Bruce. And I think until Mazouz and Affleck, he was the best. With Mazouz, I think people that would otherwise care about the height manage to set that aside just because they see it as him not really playing Batman – which, I guess, is justified by the fact they’re using a stand in in the finale, despite my feelings about how perfectly Mazouz embodies the character. With Keaton, it was more a question of a good use of the camera so his height wasn’t noticeable – and, when we look back on his movies, probably some element of nostalgia. But Keaton’s performance was also convincing enough to pull focus away from how he looked. Looking the part is good. Embodying the role is better.

I was very disappointed when the news broke that there’ll be a new Batman for the DCEU solo movie – especially coming, as it did, so close to the end of Gotham. Ben Affleck’s performance was one of my favourite parts of  Batman v Superman – a movie that everyone reading this probably already knows I love. For me, Affleck was completely unparalleled casting, both because of the fact he looks the part – height, musculature, good looks – and the fact that he nailed the spirit of the character – the intensity, the determination, the drive. The looks alone will never be enough, but it was a very nice bonus. It’s breaking my heart to lose both that Bruce and Gotham‘s so close together.

The problem when it comes to me accepting a future Batman in the films is that Affleck both looked the part and embodied the role. While obviously I prioritize an actor that embodies the character over one that looks the way I expect the character to look, both is preferable. I’d be able to set that aside for an actor that does as tremendous a job as David Mazouz in making Bruce Wayne believable…but I’m not seeing that happening with this next movie. We were fortunate enough to get to two fantastic incarnations of Batman at the same time with Affleck and Mazouz. Now I think we’re going back to decent. After being so spoiled with Gotham and Batman v Superman, I can’t help but be disappointed.

I would have loved to see Mazouz play adult Bruce in ten, fifteen years. He might get taller or he might not, but he’d be fully grown, so his face wouldn’t look weird under the cowl, and he’s already demonstrated how good he is in the role. We’re not going to get that. We’re probably not even going to get someone at that level. So I think all I can do now is hope that whoever is next cast as Batman can do even close to as good a job as Mazouz, because if he can’t…well, his movie is going to be about a Bruce early in his crime fighting career. If he’s not up for the task, I’m going to go back and rewatch  Gotham instead.

‘The Divine Comedy’, Greek Tragedies, and the Classic Hero’s Journey: The Different Character Arcs in the DCEU

Batman v Superman centres around Clark Kent. Bruce is the deuteragonist of the piece, and while Clark’s arc is primarily about being hated and feared and demonstrating to the world that he’s on humanity’s side, Bruce’s story is one of doing bad things and seeking redemption.

The Divine Comedy tells the story of Dante’s journey through hell, Purgatory, and heaven – the path through sin and redemption. In Greek tragedy, the hero is brought down by his own hamartia – his fatal flaw. Both of these things are hugely relevant to Bruce and his story throughout the movie.

If I remember eleventh grade English correctly, the characteristics of a tragic hero as described by Aristotle are as follows:

  1. They begin the story as a hero of high status.
  2. The story is about their fall from grace.
  3. The fall is an inevitable event, brought about by the hero’s own actions.
  4. The audience must feel a sense of catharsis upon their death.

Bruce embodies all of these attributes, save for one thing: the last half hour of the movie features him realizing just how bad his actions were and wrenching himself back to being a true hero. The movie isn’t actually a tragedy. The ending is bittersweet, but it doesn’t qualify as a tragedy, either in literary terms, as described above, or what we’ve come to interpret tragedy as – a story with a sad ending.

This is a story about redemption.

This brings us back to The Divine Comedy. It’s a fascinating, if hugely xenophobic, read. Ignoring the “this was written in fourteenth century Italy and is therefore hugely racist and homophobic” thing, each of the three parts can be related to Bruce’s character arc.

The first ten minutes of BvS are a quick, efficient explanation of how Bruce came to be in a mental state where he thought murdering an innocent man was justifiable. The death of his parents. The helplessness of standing there in the rubble of a city destroyed by a fight between aliens with superpowers. Those first ten minutes are the most heroic he is in the entire movie until the end, when he throws aside his spear and goes to save Martha Kent. Because he’s not fighting criminals. He’s not in costume. He is running through a disaster zone, straight into the danger, to see who needs help. For the rest of the movie…as the one man said, “there’s a new kind of mean in him”. That’s the path through sin: the Inferno part of The Divine Comedy. Bruce’s paranoia and obsessiveness changed him from the man that comforted a child that just lost her mother to one that terrifies the people he just saved even more than the human traffickers holding them hostage.

Clark is the catalyst for Bruce realizing that he was the villain in this piece. While The Divine Comedy is about finding God, BvS revolves around reiterating that Superman isn’t a god, he’s just a man that chooses to use his power to make a positive impact in the world. Bruce’s story is about believing in Clark as a good man, and coming back to being good himself. While oftentimes, tragic heroes are static and blind to the faults that will cause their own doom, thus ensuring that their fall is unavoidable, Bruce isn’t a static character. He can change, and he does. He goes to save Martha while Clark confronts Lex and fights with Clark and Diana to stop Doomsday – Purgatorio,  the redemption part of the poem. After Clark’s death, he’s inspired to form the Justice League – Paradiso, the final part of the poem, the journey through Heaven.

Like Bruce, Clark also fits several of the characteristics of a tragic hero. He’s a hero of high status because he’s the last son of Krypton. He’s an alien on Earth, othered and revered, and a literal superhero. That makes his metaphorical fall inevitable, because no one can live up to the impossibly high expectations people had of him. But neither his fall from grace nor his death occur because of his own actions or any fatal flaw, they occur because of other people – Bruce and Lex. After his death, he’s recognized by both the world in general and his would-be killer as a good man and a hero that should be accepted, not feared, because BvS is  not a tragedy.

The film begins with Bruce’s “start of darkness”, as it were, and his path of doing worse and worse things. I’ve talked about Nietzsche and how his philosophy applies to BvSbefore. And then again. Now, I’m going to have to do it again, just to bring up the quote that I somehow forgot to mention before and that encapsulates Bruce’s character arc. I’m sorry, I swear this is the last time!

He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

By the time Lois stops Bruce from killing Clark, he has become comparable to the criminals he fought and had alienated the people closest to him. This again ties in to The Divine Comedy – when Dante met his dead lover, she reminded him that he set himself on a self destructive path after her death, despite the good she’d done for him. It’s very reminiscent of Bruce’s loss of Robin, of his parents.

In contrast to the tragic hero, the main stages of the classic hero’s journey (heavily abbreviated) are:

  1. The call to adventure
  2. Refusal of the call
  3. Meeting the mentor
  4. Crossing the threshold
  5. Reward
  6. The road back
  7. Return to ordinary

This doesn’t apply to Bruce in BvS at all, because the story takes place so late in his career as Batman. It can, however, be used to loosely describe Diana’s arc, as well as Clark’s in Man of Steel.

Clark may have never refused the call, but if his call to adventure was the development of his powers, we can argue that his “meeting the mentor” was the holographic Jor-El. He crossed the threshold when Zod came to Earth. And so on. Diana wasn’t in much of BvS, but she arguably fits these stages even better than Clark in MoS. Her call to adventure was seeing the beginnings of the disturbance in Metropolis. She refused the call when she started to leave. She met the “mentor” when she fought Doomsday with Clark and Bruce. She crossed the threshold when Clark died and she agreed to help Bruce assemble the League. The reward and the road back took place during Justice League, culminating in her return to the ordinary when she stepped back into being a public figure.

The members of the Trinity all have different character arcs with a few similar aspects. BvS draws upon every kind of classic literature to craft these arcs and define every character as a unique individual. It’s fascinating, and I love it.

Happy birthday to Zack Snyder, my favourite director around, and happy early birthday to my friend Selene, one of the most awesome people ever.

Villainy in ‘Batman v Superman’

No other superhero movie can hold a candle to Batman v Superman for me, and a major part of that is because of how great a villain this interpretation of Lex Luthor is.

Lex is a very well developed villain. He’s spectacularly intelligent, enough to manipulate both Clark and Bruce into doing exactly what he wanted them to do. Lois is a brilliant journalist, and she had both the intelligence and the connections she needed to fit the pieces together, but she only had the pieces she needed out of pure luck – a bullet lodged in her notebook giving her something to go after. Lex’s plans were effective enough that even after Lois figured it out and intervened in the fight, after Clark and Bruce joined forces, after Bruce rescued Martha, he still got what he wanted in that Doomsday killed Superman.

What’s even better about this interpretation of the character? Lex drives the plot. He’s undeniably the villain. But what tips him over the edge into being a great villain rather than just a good one is that throughout the movie, he forces the characters to develop through the way he influences the others that exist in the universe. He pushes others to become villains.

Lex represents all of humanity’s worst instincts. He brought out the worst in Bruce, in random citizens – the xenophobia, the hatred, the cruelty. He manipulated Wally and used his anger at Superman to push him into going to the Senate hearing. His own hatred of Clark doesn’t stem from fear of the unknown at all. It isn’t due to ignorance or stupidity, it’s about him wanting to demonstrate power and inspire fear. It’s about him hating not being the most powerful person in the room.

He brought out the bad within us, and gave Clark a chance to demonstrate the best – Clark still saved Lex’s life even after Lex kidnapped his mother, shoved his girlfriend off a roof, and tried to make him a murderer. Clark tried to negotiate with Bruce rather than fight, despite the fact that he thought Bruce was a killer and had no reason to believe in his goodness. So much of the movie was devoted to breaking Clark down: the angry mobs telling him to go home, news reports accusing him of being a murderer, the Senate holding a hearing about him, Batman physically beating up. But even after all that, he still had enough faith in people to think that reason might work, that Bruce would help him save his mother. Clark is the single most heroic character in the movie.

Lex failed in large part by underestimating the women. He knew that Martha and Lois were important to Clark, but he couldn’t grasp just what that meant. He was so caught up in his refusal to see Clark as human, he never thought that Lois could love him enough to put herself between him and the maniac with a spear that was trying to kill him. He never considered Bruce loved his mother so much, was so traumatized by her death, that her name would help him forge a connection with the alien he hadn’t seen as a person. He never thought that Bruce and Clark would both have enough decency to stop fighting and work together. Lex understood human hate and human fear. He didn’t understand human love or compassion or mercy. The concept of heroism is one that he couldn’t grasp.

Lex is a scary villain because his plans didn’t fall apart due to holding the idiot ball, or because he wasted time to gloat or explain every aspect of his plan. He’s terrifyingly reminiscent of people we see in the real world, of leaders of hate groups. His plans failed – loosely, as I said before, his actions still resulted in the death of Superman – in arguably the most optimistic way possible. He was ultimately wrong about human nature. After an entire movie of bringing out the worst in people, those people proved him wrong when they decided to be better. He manages to be a terrifying villain and win while at the same time, helping demonstrate a hopeful message about good triumphing over evil. Now that is quality writing.

DC, SDCC, and Awesome Trailers

DC puts out an amazing show for Comic Con every year. Last year, they managed to put together the special footage for Justice League, a movie that was a year and a half away at the time, while they were in the middle of filming. I had expected a few stills, or maybe a snippet of a scene. Nope! They put together an incredible first look.

Now, we’re only a few months away from the movie, and the trailer was confirmed before SDCC. I was so excited for this trailer, and it didn’t disappoint at all. It’s not that we needed to see it at all – the material we got before this did its job and hyped us up and left us wanting more – but we did want it, and I’m certainly not going to complain about DC giving me exactly what I wanted.

I have a soft spot for last year’s Comic Con footage, because that was the first look we got at the movie, and it looked great, and it started to hit me that this movie is actually happening, but everything we’ve gotten has been amazing. This trailer was no exception.

Going into this, knowing that we’d already gotten a mostly lighthearted official trailer and Comic Con footage that was essentially a trailer, I was hoping for something a little more serious, a little more thoughtful and introspective, like that gorgeous Man of Steel trailer with Jonathan Kent’s voice over, because as great as Snyder’s bombastic action sequences are, he’s at his best with the slow, quiet, beautiful scenes. I’d wanted more Cyborg, because it seemed like we’d gotten less of him than we had anyone else, and perhaps just a hint of Superman – a flash of his cape, a shot of the S, a mention of his name.

What we got was more serious than the others, and it was great. It wasn’t the MoS level, but it was heartfelt and wonderful. There were still a few jokes, and it wasn’t BvS level heavy, but we got references to Clark and how he’s a beacon of hope, Alfred talking to someone that probably was him – there was a flash of red at the bottom that could have been his cape, more Victor, references to the Green Lantern Corps. It was stunning, and I adored it.

Alfred Justice League SDCC trailer
Credit: Warner Bros.

I hate the word fun to describe movies, especially because of how it’s been used as a criticism of Batman v Superman being a serious movie. But I kind of have to use it with this anyway. This movie is going to be fun and entertaining and enjoyable. It’s still going to be a DCEU movie, a Zack Snyder movie – thoughtful, emotional, meticulously made – but it’s going to be lighter and gentler than Batman v Superman. We’ve seen that in the trailers. And that’s great. The varying tones and amount of emotional weight in the DCEU movies mean that I’m always going to have one of them I can watch, no matter my mood.

Justice League is obviously the conclusion to a story arc. It’s the lightness that comes after everyone has hit their lowest, darkest point and worked through it. And to me, that makes it a very satisfying, cathartic concept and a much richer story than had we just gotten this movie without Man of Steel and Batman v Superman preceding it. However, it’s undeniable that this movie is going to be much more in line with what critics and the general audience wants – lighter, more jokes.

I loved Man of Steel and Batman v Superman because every time I rewatch them, I catch something that I missed before. Because they’re layered and gorgeous and wonderful. They’re clever and detailed without ever being pretentious. These are movies that were clearly made by a director that loves movies, loves superheroes, loves stories. Zack Snyder doesn’t take our intelligence for granted at all. In Man of Steel, he gently guided us in the direction he wanted to go. After people apparently thought that was too subtle, he made aspects of BvS very pointed and direct, while never sacrificing the artistry or being overly in your face, and even then, he’s probably giving most viewers too much credit. Like other people have said – it’s probably the world’s most expensive indie movie. How people think his movies are just dumb action flicks where things blow up is beyond me.

I know I’m going to love Justice League. It’s going to have all the heart, emotion, beautifully written characters, and incredibly shot action sequences that the previous DCEU movies had, while never feeling like the same old thing rehashed again. The people involved with making it – Snyder, Terrio, the producers, even DC and WB – are clearly willing to take risks. They make movies that are anything but generic. Even the trailers show that off. When Justice League is great, it’s not going to be because Snyder capitulated to what critics wanted. It’ll be because he stayed true to his vision and carefully guided it through a story arc to create a smooth, elegantly developed, well paced trilogy. He earned his lightness because he went to a dark place with BvS.


You know the “reaction videos” that are always on Youtube? The ones where people watch trailers and sometimes talk about them? I know they’re kind of stupid, and it’s not like most of the people reacting are saying anything interesting or unique, and their reactions are almost always over the top and unnatural, but I find myself watching them anyway, just because I love the sense of companionship stemming from watching a trailer while someone else does and getting excited about it together. It’s such a cozy feeling. I’ve finally found a few people that can talk about how they’re excited for a different DC movie without complaining about Batman v Superman, and it’s amazing. I can’t wait for more of those videos uploaded, I need to watch like ten.

What did you guys think? Let me know!

Six Gotham-Based Characters That Should Show Up In the DC Extended Universe

We’ve been introduced to a lot of the DC Extended Universe’s interpretations of DC characters, and we have confirmation that there are plans for several more, but DC has been publishing comics since 1934, and it has a lot of characters. Knowing that there are plans for Batman, Batgirl, and Nightwing movies in the works, I started thinking about characters specifically tied to Gotham and the Bats. Here are some of the ones I want to see most of all in a future Batman related movie.

1. Cassandra Cain (Batgirl/Black Bat)

I’m a huge fan of the Bat family. When the still from Batman v Superman where Bruce looks at the case containing Jason’s Robin suit, with the Joker’s writing still covering it, first came out, my heart broke into a million pieces. When I first heard that Nightwing will get his own movie, I completely freaked out and spent the next few days alternating between joy that my favourite character is going to get his own solo and terror over how if it’s not good, I’ll cry for years to come. So, naturally, I want Bruce’s daughter to join the party as well.

Cass is the most skilled fighter in DC. That’s completely canon. No non-meta can beat her because she knows what everyone’s going to do before they do it, and she’s in peak physical fitness. She was trained from birth to be an assassin. She’s also incredibly compassionate, unable to effectively express herself, and oftentimes, very conflicted. She’d be a beautifully human edition to the cast of characters – hers would be a story of self discovery, of family and kindness and growing past abuse and a poor upbringing.

My ideal scenario would be Cass as Batgirl in the upcoming Batgirl solo, as I mentioned here, potentially with a brief character introduction in the Batman solo. However, as I strongly doubt that Cass will be introduced so soon and the Batgirl movie will probably be centred around Barbara, I’m instead hoping for her to show up in a future Batfamily team up movie.

2. Katherine Kane (Batwoman)

batwoman kate kane bad blood.jpg
Batwoman in ‘Batman: Bad Blood’. Credit: Warner Bros.

Kate Kane, the soldier kicked out of the military for refusing to lie about her relationship with another woman, fits very well with the already established characters in the DCEU because of her strong sense of ethics. The DCEU is all about hope, love, and justice in dark times. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell may have been repealed, but it’s far from a distant memory, and Kate will almost certainly be about Bruce’s age in the DCEU, meaning she would have absolutely been affected by military prohibitions on same sex relationships. Her going on to fight crime and protect civilians after her poor treatment at the hands of the military for her sexuality would be a beautiful parallel to Clark still fighting for humanity after being rejected and ostracized for what he is.

Kate is one of the members of the Batfamily that’s most often forgotten. She’s still well known, of course, especially as DC’s most high profile LGBT character, but since she mostly does her own thing, it’s easy for her to slip under the radar when compared to the core members of the Gotham heroes – Batman, Robin, Batgirl. That’s a shame, because Kate is an excellent character. She’s not my favourite member of the Batfamily, but she’s a solid character that would continue to present themes that have been present in the DCEU from the beginning, and by being a Jewish lesbian hero, would contribute to building a more diverse cast.

3. Artemis Crock (Artemis/Tigress)

artemis young justice.jpg
Credit: Cartoon Network.

While Artemis does exist in the comics, Young Justice remade her as a new character bearing almost no resemblance to her original incarnation, one that’s a much more fully realized character and extremely interesting to watch. I think the Young Justice version deserves to shine in live action.

She’s not a meta-human. She’s the daughter of two supervillains, one of whom is retired and paralyzed. She’s an archer that’s also highly skilled in hand to hand combat. She started off on her own, without a partner or a mentor. Her own hero, no one’s sidekick or protege. And she did that without the money that most non-meta heroes have. Batman, Green Arrow, the Ted Kord Blue Beetle – they all have the advantage of billions of dollars to help them out. Artemis didn’t. She had a bow, great aim, and determination.

She’s the type of character that would fit in very well with the DCEU’s brand of realism if handled properly. Affleck’s Bruce can handle himself in this universe, whereas Bale’s Bruce would be completely outclassed. The focus that these movies so far have had is on the political, philosophical, religious impact of people with superpowers making themselves known to the world. It’s a realistic take on what the world with these heroes would be like. Having Artemis in there would be fascinating, because, like Bruce, she’s also a human – in a world with Superman and Wonder Woman, she’s breakable. Being an archer makes so much sense for a human with no powers in this world – she can fight at a distance, which would be much more effective than hand to hand with people that have super strength. Her constant awareness of all of this would make for some great internal conflict.

The season one episode Homefront of Young Justice explored a lot of Artemis’s insecurities as one of the only two regular humans on a team of people with superpowers and as the last person to join. In this episode, she demonstrated just why she belongs, and how good she is at what she does. It would be great to have that in live action – a further demonstration of why it’s not superpowers or money that makes the hero, but tenacity and a desire to make the world a better place. And it’s more than just wanting to help people – being a hero is who she is, what she does. She loves it. After leaving the team to go to college, she came back the instant Dick asked for her help.

Having Artemis around would also further develop Gotham as a city, as well as the heroes protecting it, because while she’s another of the many characters that call it home, she isn’t a bat. She doesn’t wear the symbol or work regularly with Batman. She doesn’t come from money. She doesn’t have powers. She’s something else – an average Gothamite that wants to protect people and not follow in her family’s footsteps. Through her, the audience could gain a greater understanding of what Gotham is, what it’s really like to live there, and why the heroes that do are so dedicated to protecting it.

Her relationship with Dick was one of the more interesting dynamics in Young Justice. They were both nonpowered humans on a team of metas. They were both from Gotham. Their parental figures had both started training them from a young age – Bruce training Dick to be a hero and Lawrence training Artemis to be a criminal. They have a lot of similarities, as well as vastly different ways of thinking, and a deep level of trust. It would be fascinating to see her appear, perhaps not in a Batman movie, but in a Nightwing one.

4. Edward Nygma (The Riddler)

ed nygma riddler gotham
Credit: Fox.

I’m a little hesitant on this one, because I sincerely love the Gotham incarnation of the character, and it’ll be hard to imagine someone else in the role at the same time. Having the TV version is probably enough for me right now. But the Riddler is a great character, and I’m so tired of just seeing the Joker in all Batman media when there are so many Batman villains that I find much more interesting.

Gotham, has, in a lot of ways, spoiled me for Batman related media. It’s over the top and ridiculous and the timeline is kind of weird, but it’s so much fun to watch, none of it matters. It’s black comedy at its finest, while also managing to pull off the emotional scenes well. Best of all, it has incredible casting. Its version of Bruce is one of my top two live-action Bruces and top three if we include animation. It took the Riddler and made him absolutely terrifying.

Nygma has so much flair. He’s very, very smart, which is both his strength and his weakness. He’s Lex with even more flamboyance. He’s an entertaining character to watch, and he hasn’t been overused. The Riddler would be a wonderful villain to use to show off Bruce’s detective skills.

5. Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow)

scarecrow jonathan crane.jpg
Credit: DC Comics

Batman is a flawed, broken, traumatized character. I’d love to see a Batman movie take advantage of that by being a psychological drama. And what better villain to use for that than the one that’s weaponized fear even more than Batman himself has?

One of the most important things about Bruce in my view is that he’s a father. In this universe, he doesn’t have his entire family yet, but he has at least two sons, one of whom died violently and the other of whom he’s estranged with. He has a lot to be afraid of. A movie centred around fear and Bruce’s love for his children would be very different from any Batman movie we’ve seen before, and it would fit in perfectly with the more human, genre defying movies we’ve gotten so far. It would be an interesting lead in to movies about other members of the Batfamily in that it would show off just who the people are for whom Bruce is so afraid.

Bruce absolutely has not conquered his fear. He’s just learned to use it. And his biggest fears? They aren’t bad things happening to him. They’re bad things happening to other people that he can’t do anything to stop. Jason’s murder. Barbara’s paralysis. The deaths in Metropolis. That’s why he was so fixated on killing Clark in Batman v Superman. A movie completely revolving around all of these fears would be terrifying and heartbreaking to watch. It’d be fantastic.

6. Victor Fries (Mr. Freeze)

mr freeze btas
Victor and Nora Fries in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’. Credit: Fox.

Bruce is a hugely compassionate character. We saw that in Batman v Superman – the man took a helicopter to Metropolis as soon as he heard what was happening, then ran straight into a disaster zone to rescue people. He hauled a fallen beam off his employee. He comforted a little girl that had just lost her mother. He took the time when rescuing Martha to reassure her and tell her he was a friend of her son’s. He paid for Clark’s funeral. Batman: The Animated Series is one of my favourite interpretations of Bruce in an adaptation, along with DCEU Bruce and Gotham Bruce, and it did did a great job with humanizing Bruce and giving its villains depth. It was the start of Victor Fries as the tragic villain he’s been in all media ever since, and I’d love to see that in the DCEU.

He’s an excellent character to have as part of the Batman mythos, because while he’s a villain that’s done indisputably terrible things and should be in prison, he’s also someone that it’s very easy to sympathize with – he just wants his wife back, and his love for her was the motivating factor for his crimes.  He’s one of the most sympathetic members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery.

The villains that Batman has interacted with so far haven’t been hugely sympathetic. Lex certainly wasn’t. Nuanced and complex, yes, but not redeemable or sympathetic. Deadshot and Harley may have had some redeeming qualities, and they – Deadshot, especially – were somewhat sympathetic, but they were definitely not as tragic characters as Mr. Freeze. I’d love to see more of Bruce’s compassion in a movie where he’s the main character, and I think Mr. Freeze would be the best of his villains to demonstrate that trait.

Harley and the Joker don’t deserve Bruce’s sympathy. A major trend in fandom is to woobify Harley as just a victim! And yes, the Joker is abusive, her relationship is very unhealthy, and she needs treatment. But that’s an explanation, not a justification. So she has moments of conscience. Doesn’t change the fact she’s still a murderer. In this universe, she was an accomplice to Jason’s murder. Bruce doesn’t owe her a thing, least of all his sympathy. He’s just a man –  he can understand mental illness, but he doesn’t have to forgive her for murdering his son in cold blood. But Mr. Freeze? He’s a villain, too, one that Bruce will fight against to protect the innocent, but his crimes were born of desperation, not any kind of malice. Bruce would find it much easier to sympathize with him, because it’s not personal there. He can understand that anger, and that desperation to protect a loved one.

Of course I’m excited to see Nightwing as I discussed in this post. And once I get past my apprehension about the way Barbara will be handled, I’m excited to see Batgirl, too. I’m certainly excited to see more Batman. But Gotham City is more than just Batman and his children, and I’m incredibly ready to see the world expanding with new characters, each of which could provide more insight into Bruce as well as being fantastic characters in their own right.

Batman v Superman, Religious Imagery, and Nietzsche

Disclaimer: I’m not religious. My family is loosely Hindu, but I don’t believe in any god. Nor do I have an emotional connection to any religious text. Therefore, my understanding of religion – both as a concept and in regards to the specifics espoused – is limited and strictly academic, and even that academic knowledge doesn’t come from formal study. Similarly, I have limited understanding of Nietzsche, and this interpretation of his work is strictly my own.

Batman v Superman interestingly presented both themes where Clark represents a god, or a divine entity, and ones where he’s just a man. The story itself clearly takes the position that he isn’t a god, though perceived as one, while the visuals alluded to the divine, which I thought was a brilliant storytelling technique – we, as humans, see the symbolism and see the ways in which he could be seen as a god or Jesus figure, and through the story, we understand that he’s very much not. Both these angles are used in Batman v Superman to craft a loving analysis and intelligent critique of Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Clark was raised on Earth as a human by human parents. He has a regular job, one in which he’s a much more confident and assertive person than he is while in his Superman suit. He shares a regular apartment with his human girlfriend. He has extraordinary powers, but he’s just a regular guy there to help. He’s a Moses figure, the child sent away from his parents so he could be safe, the one that will guide his people to a better future.

Familial love – especially in regards to adoptive and found families – is an important motif in the DCEU, and in DC in general. Clark and Martha. Bruce and Alfred. Bruce and Robin. Clark and humanity. Earth is Clark’s world, and humans are his people. His adoptive family means everything to him, and when he’s forced to choose between his adopted people and the Kryptonians, he chooses Earth. That shifts the depiction of Clark a bit away from Moses, as he stands by his adopted people against his fellow Kryptonians against Kryptonian aggression, whereas Moses’s adopted people were the aggressors, but the loose parallel still stands. This idea – Clark representing a very human religious figure, rather than a divine one – helps illustrate Nietzsche’s points about God.

Creating a God

Nietzsche believed that man created God in his own image. I’ve seen it argued that BvS turned this neatly on its head by having man, Lex, literally create the Devil, Doomsday, out of his blood. While I do agree that this is a fair interpretation, I also think that BvS interpreted it in the figurative sense that the idea was originally intended, and in a more direct fashion, through Superman.

Clark Kent is a man. He has powers and abilities beyond any human, but he was raised not as an alien or a god, but a regular human being, and that’s exactly how he views himself. And other people see him that way, too – just a regular guy, trying to do the right thing. But when he introduces himself to humankind as Superman, we elevate him. He is worshiped as a god, even as people know he’s an alien. We create an idea of what he is that has little to do with the actual person.

Statue of Superman. Credit: Warner Brothers

God Is Dead

Nietzsche, of course, did not mean it literally when he claimed that God is dead and we have killed him, but in BvS, that statement was illustrated in both literal and figurative senses. Superman died by Lex Luthor’s hand. And when Clark Kent died, the world recognized that Superman wasn’t a god, wasn’t some omnipotent being. They finally accepted him as a man that was trying to do the right thing. The idea of him as a god was killed. Not through scientific advancement or better comprehension of the universe, but through greater understanding of and compassion for other people. And that was a very good thing.

And despite all of this, despite how much BvS illustrates Nietzsche’s philosophy directly and literally, it also challenges it, because God’s death isn’t also the death of humanity’s morality. It’s the cause of its return. Nietzsche discussed mankind’s dependency upon religion to define morality, which was alluded to in the montage of interviews and news clips. Superman’s existence challenges everything humans thought they knew and believed. But his death shifted them to a better way of thinking. Clark inspired Bruce and Diana to become heroes again. People weren’t dependent on him to define morality. They look to him as an example, as someone to help guide them to become better, to become the best they can be. Superman is the literal übermensch – he’s the man from above, the alien. By existing, he challenges all belief systems on the planet. Him being good enough to sacrifice his own life for a people that feared and ostracized him made people realize they didn’t have to be afraid – that they could be better, should be kinder. Mankind doesn’t rely upon Superman to tell us the difference between right and wrong, but he can help guide us so that we can join him in the sun.

Lex wanted to prove that Superman was neither all powerful nor all good. He sought to disprove the myth of Clark being all powerful to himself, by forcing Clark to bend to his will, and to disprove the myth of him being all good to the world, by framing him for the slaughter in the desert, implicating him in the Capitol bombing, and forcing him to kill Batman. And even though he did succeed in killing Superman, that Superman died for mankind convinced the world that he was good. By proving that Superman isn’t all powerful and is still willing to defend humans against threat, Lex demonstrated that there was nothing to fear. Clark’s neither a vengeful god nor some kind of Jesus figure – he’s flawed, he’s human, but he’s tries so hard to be good. He wants to help other people and be the best person he can be, and that – much more than his Kryptonian heritage or his powers – is what makes him Superman.

A Meaningful Death

God is dead, but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.

Clark’s death has a lasting impact. We as an audience know that he’ll return, but the people in universe don’t. Nietzsche viewed the shadow of God as a negative and religion as an ultimately destructive force. Here? Clark’s shadow is nothing but positive. The world changed when Superman flew in the sky, then again when he didn’t. He inspired people to be better. His death is going to bring the Justice League together.

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Clark saying goodbye to Lois, drawing to mind the image of Christ leaving his mother depicted in many works of art. Credit: Warner Brothers

If you seek his monument, look around you. Before the Death of Superman, mankind sought to honour him through massive monuments. After, Diana said that they didn’t know how to honour him but as a soldier, with a military funeral for an empty casket. That’s true, but it’s also true that the government and general population recognized that they didn’t need to erect a statue, because the greatest monument to Superman’s achievements was that the people of Earth were still alive. Bruce chose to honour him by forming the Justice League and protecting the Earth, just as he did. I think this is the closest to a real Jesus parallel that BvS has, and it’s more a criticism of Christianity than anything – yes, there’s a great deal of imagery, but most of it is just that, because the story and Clark’s actions tell us that he’s not a God or Christ figure, he doesn’t see himself that way and neither should we. He’s one of us.

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Lois holding Clark’s body, similar to Mary holding Jesus in the Pietà. Credit: Warner Brothers

Throughout history, people calling themselves Christians have fought to prove how devout they are through building bigger churches, or fighting wars, or criticizing other people’s faith or other religions, when none of that was part of Jesus’s teachings. To follow Jesus would be to follow his example. The same can be said for Clark – he doesn’t want people to worship him. He doesn’t want statues or monuments built for him. He just wants to live his life, to help people and for other people to do the same. Nietzsche disdained Christianity, but he had a healthy respect for Jesus. As he put it himself, “There was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.” At the end of BvS, the people of Earth stopped feeling the need to build statues. Stopped feeling the need to look up to Clark with fear or awe. They mourned him, the man that cared enough about them to give his life to stop a monster, with respect and genuine love.

There’s something very appealing to me about how decisive BvS is when it comes to making a point. How unafraid it is of going against the grain. I could be interpreting the movie and Nietzsche in a very different way than Terrio and Snyder intended, but the allusions to Nietzsche were clearly deliberate and left somewhat open for interpretation. BvS is never lazy or timid with its philosophy. It delves into the opinions of well known philosophers whose work is commonly known and doesn’t just parrot them at the audience. It’s not fake-profound. It’s legitimately meaningful because it examines and challenges philosophies rather than just repeating them. It comes from people that take care to interpret the text and counter it, rather than referencing these philosophies out of context, and on top of that, themes are presented in a way that forces the audience to think about them and the symbolism rather than just being spoonfed everything. There is something there, and it’s possible to disagree about what that is and debate the different meanings. That’s a good story. That’s real art. That’s why we’re still talking about it, more than a year after the release.

Justice League, Anticipation, and Geeking Out A Ridiculous Amount

When Wonder Woman came out, it felt surreal. It didn’t feel like it was actually happening until I was sitting in that theatre. It felt like a movie I’d been waiting for forever that I was in shock I was actually getting to see. Justice League? It’s going to be that feeling times ten.

The movie isn’t coming out until November. That’s five months.  That’s still a long time to wait. But compared to how long I’ve been waiting to see it, it’s no time at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly excited to see Wonder Woman. And I loved it. But that was just Wonder Woman. Justice League is going to have her, Superman, and Batman together again in the same movie, like in Batman v Superman, except there’ll be more, because she’ll be more than an extended cameo, she’ll be a character. It’s going to have Aquaman and the Flash and Cyborg, for the first time ever on the big screen. It’s going to have Mera. The League is going to fight Parademons together.

Thinking about this movie – and the fact that we’re getting another trailer in a month – makes me grin like an idiot. It’s going to come out on the anniversary of the Justice League cartoon first airing. The Justice League is finally going to come together, and we’re going to get to see all of them together. I’m going to be there opening night.

Even aside from the this is so awesome geeking out, it’s going to be so satisfying to watch this movie. It’ll be the epic conclusion to a three part story. We’ll finally get to see the entirety of Zack Snyder’s vision brought to fruition. Wonder Woman was excellent, and Suicide Squad was entertaining, even if it was a bit messy compared to the other entries in the DCEU, but Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League are/will be the core of this universe. Superman is the heart, and he was the catalyst for the formation of the League.

…Can it be November yet?

The Cohesive DCEU Story

I love the way all the movies in the DCEU tie in to each other. Not just through characters, but through themes and the story. They don’t need post credit scenes to reference other movies – there’s direct cause and effect, and the movies are woven together much more tightly. Batman v Superman occurred because of Man of Steel and all the destruction caused by the Kryptonian fight. Suicide Squad described the world after BvS. Wonder Woman went back in time and explained how Diana became the woman we saw in BvS.

Each movie has its own style and setting and even genre, but they work so well together. They’re all essentially love stories at their core. I love that Wonder Woman is being acknowledged as such, but I’m still perplexed at how people don’t see that Man of Steel and Batman v Superman are as well. People claim that MoS and BvS are too dark and gritty and grim for the sake of being grim,  but I’m not convinced those people watched the same movie as I did. These movies are all about love and hope in the darkest of times!

In MoS, Jor El and Lara loved Clark enough to send him away so that he could survive the destruction of Krypton and build a better world than theirs. Jonathan and Martha took him in and raised him to become a good man. He travelled the world and helped people, despite not knowing anything about who and what he was because it was the right thing to do. Out of love of humanity, he destroyed the World Engine and killed Zod.

In BvS, Bruce charged head on into a disaster zone because there were civilians and his employees trapped, and he refused to sit back and do nothing. His fury towards Superman began with him seeing a little girl lose her mother. It was hearing his own mother’s name that made him pause long enough to listen. Lois loved Clark enough to stand between him and a maniac with a spear. Lois and Martha brought gave Clark hope and inspired him to keep going, reminded him of why Earth is his world and why he’s willing to die for it. His sacrifice made Bruce and Diana become the heroes they had once been again and form the Justice League.

Justice League is going to be the culmination of a trilogy that began with Man of Steel. They are past their darkest moments now. They’re going to become their best selves, inspired by love and sacrifice, and they’ll be the team of heroes the world needs. I, for one, can’t wait.