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It might be a sequel to his own film, but will Superman be the antagonist in “Dawn of Justice”?batmansuperman

Superhero movies seem to enjoy the hype that occurs around speculation, don’t they? The second a teaser trailer for the latest universe-expanding title from Marvel or DC drops, people rush online to state their theories and thoughts about what will happen in the finished product. This is certainly the case for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Whether it be about the inclusion of yet-unseen characters such as Robin of Batgirl, or whether a main character will die a heroic death or not, people have been going insane with their theories about the events of this film. One group of these theories, mind, take regular superhero movie tropes and throw them out the window: is Superman…the bad guy?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel. Henry Cavill reprises his role as Clark Kent and his red-caped alter ego, whilst Christian Bale has been replaced by Ben Affleck to play the role of the Dark Knight himself.

Seeing as this film is a sequel to Man of Steel, one wouldn’t expect Superman to be the antagonist, but the warning signs are there. For instance, the title alone suggests that the audience should be rooting for Bruce Wayne. Having ‘Batman v Superman’, instead of ‘Superman v Batman’ suggests that Batman is taking on the caped crusader to defend us from him, and very slyly hints at Superman being an antagonist. A few posters for the film show Superman flying high above Batman, a commonly-used troupe in media to denote a person’s power over another person.

The trailers are where the real hints lie, though. The first couple of trailers are more misleading about the subject. They show that Bruce Wayne deems Superman to be capable of destroying everything, but at the same time these two trailers show Superman being praised as a hero by many, gaining even God-like status. But peppered into these two trailers are hints of Superman’s bad side, and the third and final trailer is the strongest contestant for these implications.

Scenes of armed soldiers with the Kryptonian symbol for hope emblazoned on their sleeves kneeling before Superman leave the audience wondering, why would a good guy need an army rallied behind him if his intentions were pure? The fight scenes between the two titular heroes show Superman giving in to anger and rage, a trait that most pure-hearted heroes would never possess. For me, the thing that has the most impact is a simple line spoken by iconic Superman antagonist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) whilst he speaks with a U.S. Senator: that the oldest lie in America is simply “that power can be innocent.”

Outside of the promotional material, though, is there any credence to the idea that Superman hasn’t been America’s true hero for many years now, and that Batman represents the hero of today’s U.S.A? I spoke to length with a friend of mine on this subject, and he gave me an interesting insight into how the history of Superman parallels the history of modern-day America itself.

For a while now, Superman has been seen as a bit of a lame superhero by most people. He is seen as being way too powerful to be entertaining, as there is no way an invincible, indestructible god should be beatable, so what’s the point, right? Up until recently he hasn’t had many movies dedicated to him, and ones he has had are lacklustre at best.

darkknight

Batman, on the other hand, is the favourite hero of many. The fact that he doesn’t need powers to be a hero really relates to people, and Christopher Nolan’s excellent Dark Knight trilogy certainly bolstered the Bat’s cool factor in the eyes of the public.

The shift in likability from Superman to Batman can be argued as mirroring American history, though. Superman’s peak of popularity was during the 1950s. In a way, Superman WAS America, being the infallible good guy who took evil head-on and could not be defeated.

That’s when the Cold War and Vietnam happened. America weren’t infallible anymore with certain actions they took during the Cold War, and they certainly weren’t invincible anymore due to their defeat in Vietnam. These events had a similar effect on America as the Suez Crisis had on the British Empire: they showed that they weren’t all-powerful, and that they needed to do some bad things to ensure that good prevailed. That sounds an awful lot like the Dark Knight, now doesn’t it? America needed a hero who represented them as they are now: powerful yet vulnerable, and willing to take risks to further the course of good.

All in all, I’m pretty certain that by the end of the film the two title characters will kiss and make up. The reveal of iconic Superman antagonist Doomsday in a recent trailer surely indicates a truce to arise between them, and herald in the formation of the Justice League as the title of the film ‘Dawn of Justice’ surely implies. At the end of the day, we will have to wait and see about Superman’s true intentions when the film comes out at the end of the month here in the United Kingdom. Until then, I’ll be keeping my eye on the Caped Crusader… 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is out in the UK on March 25th, 2016. 

Neill McNamara

I am a recent Film and Popular Culture graduate from St. Mary’s University Twickenham, graduating with a 2:1. During my time there, I wrote and helped film a ten-minute short film, and after graduating went on to do a journalism evening course, which I completed with a B+ grade certificate.

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Posted on Mar 7, 2016

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