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Categories: Features

From parallel dimensions to Donald Trump. We count off our favourite fan theories from one of 2016’s most divisive films, Batman v Superman.


Whether you liked it, loathed it or didn’t even bother seeing it – there’s one thing that’s undeniable: Batman v Superman elicited a strong reaction from its audience. The beleaguered franchise behemoth quickly became a topic of anger among many critics and fans of the genre; raising debates about advertising, critical consensus and the state of mainstream filmmaking altogether.

As the so-called “Ultimate Edition” (or Director’s Cut) emerges on home video (perhaps even permanently replacing the theatrical cut) the film is being viewed in a more favourable light by a few critics. Certainly the extended version of the film solves several pacing issues and narrative plot-holes that left many reviewers irate and confused.

Rather than reviewing the film again (the fundamental tone and plot remain the same, if slightly more fleshed out) we thought it’d be fun to count off some of the best and most peculiar fan theories that have spawned around the film.


The Social Justice League


Kicking off with perhaps our favourite, we have the notion that the entire film is one big metaphor for the internet. With Superman representing an optimistic liberal idealism, and Batman representing a pessimistic conservative realism, the two characters, naturally, end up being in direct conflict.

The theme of duality goes hand-in-hand with stories containing the two, making it actually quite difficult to show them together in the same scene. With Superman and his gaudiness looking best in daylight and the shadowiness of Batman only really working when being shown at night.

But what makes this particular theory work is the inclusion of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. Certainly a very different take than previous film adaptations and most comics too.

If we were to break it down by social media standards, Superman is most definitely a Social Justice people’s champion, Batman an old-school right-wing reactionary, which makes Lex Luthor an uncanny example of a troll: someone using lies, and media manipulation, to deliberately pit two sides, who ultimately want the same thing, against each other as part of either some twisted personal joke or to prove something to themselves.

Similarities between Eisenberg’s casting and performance with that of his role as Mark Zuckerberg have not been lost on viewers, could he just be a metaphor for social media altogether?


Immigrant Jesus v Donald Trump

bvs protest

Batman and Superman aren’t the only thing at odds in the film. Director Zack Snyder creates a world within the film that can be defined by one word: division. Division by wealth, by class, by race, by gender and by geography. But there’s also the internal conflict of the characters themselves. Batman goes through his own story arc of a depressed, and angry, tycoon coming to terms with the idea that perhaps he is the aggressor, not the aggrieved.

While Superman struggles with his two different personas, which fans often refer to as “The Man of Steel” and “The Man of Tomorrow”. The former often being associated with the characters origins as the brainchild of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, both children of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The term itself has clear connotations of communism and ties into some views of Superman’s early meaning in the FDR era as some sort of super-immigrant. 

“The Man of Tomorrow” is a reference to Superman’s representation as the more Christ-like figure we’ve seen him portrayed as in most film adaptations and also as a representation of a perfect man, an example for all people to follow. Religious imagery is layered on thick in both of Zack Snyder’s Superman films and a large part of the film’s dialogue centres around Epicurean paradox.

It’s precisely this God complex that feeds into the bigotry of Ben Affleck’s Batman within the film. It’s a point fleshed out much more in our deeper look at the political meaning in Batman v Superman but this, coupled with frequent evocations of terrorist acts (particularly 9/11), makes a strong case for not just the right-wing/left-wing dynamic but also that the film is a commentary on current political fears over immigration in the West. The film’s conclusion being that Superman is neither a destroyer or a saviour but just a person who we’ve unfairly projected our fears and hopes onto.


The “Time Boom” Theory

bvs knightmare

One of the most contentious parts of the film was what’s become known as the “Knightmare” sequence, where Bruce Wayne appears to have a terrifying vision of a war with Superman sometime in the near future with signs that DC comics’ biggest, baddest, villain Darkseid is also involved.

Many viewers were left confused as to whether or not this was a dream sequence or a prophecy, with an appearance by fellow Justice League member The Flash adding to confusion as he appears at the end of the sequence in some kind of vortex to deliver a vague and ominous warning to Wayne.

Most fans of the universe recognised The Flash and that he was travelling backwards in time to deliver the message, but this was understandably lost on a lot of viewers. The scene is deliberately jarring and weird, like many other dream sequences and visions scattered throughout the film, and has raised many a fan theory.

The “Time Boom” theory comes from one of the the film’s storyboard artists, Jay Oliva, who muses that Flash’s time travel creates unseen consequences in the fabric of the universe; the “Knightmare” being one of them. He goes on to say that perhaps it’s not a dream at all (although the audio cue used to signify dream sequences throughout the film is in there) but it is in fact a memory of a future which no longer exists due to the mere use of time travel creating an entirely new course of events.


There Is More Than One of Everything


Another interpretation of the “Knightmare”, and Flash’s appearance, ties into one of DC comics’ most defining features, what fans call the “multiverse”. A collection of DC’s biggest cross-over events centre not just around the villain Darkseid but also around the collision of multiple parallel universes populated by different iterations of the characters. At any given moment, it’s generally accepted in DC comics that there are at least three different versions of Earth coexisting at the same time. (Simply called Earth One, Earth Two and Earth Prime.)

It’s possible that The Flash that Batman sees in the film isn’t even from his universe. Meaning Flash has not just misjudged the moment when he should’ve gone back to but also the place. It’s possible that the “Knightmare” is a glimpse into another dimension in which the worst versions of the heroes have gone to war with each other after being corrupted by the worst parts of themselves, a running plot-thread in DC comics.

But, considering how much confusion the plot has caused thus far, it’s unlikely that Warner Bros. are going to make the DC universe any more complicated than it already is and if DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline could be called anything it would be called complicated as all hell.


Batman & Superman: Dawn of Romance

bvs 2

There are numerous little details in Batman v Superman that are just kind of there for the fun of it. A personal favourite is in the opening credits sequence where John Boorman’s Excalibur is advertised outside the movie theatre, foreshadowing the fate of Superman in the film. Another fun little moment is when Superman and Batman meet for the first time at a party while Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” plays in the background. First and foremost the song choice is a nod to the conflicting nature of the character’s personalities and their, aforementioned, colour schemes. But there’s a fun little detail in the timing too.

The song, an old love ballad, starts to play as Bruce Wayne notices Diana Prince (a.k.a Wonder Woman) across the room, indicating some kind of attraction between the two (not something familiar to comic fans) but as the song reaches its second line “You are the one” Bruce Wayne finds his gazing interrupted by the introduction of Clark Kent, which you could interpret as saying that Superman is Batman’s true one and only (an idea very familiar to comic fans).

There are overtones of homoeroticism throughout the film and Zack Snyder is well-known for not just his appreciation of the male form in all its sweaty muscular glory but also for his use of incredibly overt phallic symbolism. (See the infamous flying space dildos in Man Of Steel for a good example of this.) But there’s also a very strong history of people regarding Batman and Superman as the first gay power couple in mainstream comic books.

Writer Warren Ellis famously began a sexual relationship between lesser-known DC comics characters Apollo and Midnighter, obvious stand-ins for Superman and Batman (one being a sun god the other a darkly clad detective). You may have read about the push recently made by fans of Captain America: Civil War to get Disney to admit that two of its lead characters, Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, are in love with each other. We’d argue there’s just as strong a case to petition Warner Bros. to let Bats and Supes be together.

“Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice Ultimate Edition” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on August 1st.

Mark Birrell

Mark is the editor of The Spread as well as a copywriter, and lifelong cinephile, who received his bachelors in Film and Comparative Literature from the University of London. You can follow him on Twitter @markwbirrell

Posted on Jul 16, 2016

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