Please note that the below post is my own personal, rambling opinion and I welcome alternative view-points in the comments.
As you already know, I started studying for a degree in October last year and I can honestly say that it has caused me to look for deeper meanings in my interactions with media, literature and the world around me.
I went to see Batman Vs Superman at the cinema with my fiancé this week and where I would previously limit my analysis to whether or not I enjoyed the main plot, this time I found myself talking about ‘the insecurities and arrogances of mankind’ on the way home. There is a theme throughout the movie about how human beings view themselves as the dominant species on the planet and how the concept of super-humans threatens their superiority. My fiancé argued that Batman never intended to kill Superman but just wanted him to know that he could be killed. This is how it was in the comics, but not in the movie. There is a long standing discussion about the amount of damage that is wreaked on the cities that suffer in superhero movies and how it never seems to be mentioned. This movie was probably conceived because of that discussion and I think it was an interesting exploration. There would be large scale consequences to superhuman battles and it would have been naïve to keep ignoring this in superhero movies. In Batman Vs Superman, Bruce Wayne loses a trusted employee and friend when Superman battles General Zod. Whilst feeling his own loss, Bruce rescues a girl who has just been orphaned during the battle. This brings to Bruce’s mind the trauma of losing his own parents and he projects his pain and hurt onto Superman, using him as a scapegoat to direct his inner demons. He makes a plan to build a suit capable of withstanding Superman’s strength which takes years to complete. (Think IronMan but black and clunky looking.) It becomes an obsession far beyond the damage inflicted during the great Superman Vs Zod battle. This is an important catalyst, I believe it is merely an excuse for much of what happens in the movie.
In my opinion, Batman also felt threatened by Superman’s clean-cut image and by his superior power. Nothing makes Batman feel more like an inadequate human antihero with gadgets than a superhuman hero who is almost invincible by human standards and who doesn’t like to go around killing and branding people. Even Alfred was concerned by the path Bruce was taking and kept reiterating that Superman was not the bad guy. Batman was battling with a sense of inadequacy that poisoned his mind and I think he most definitely would have killed Superman to take out the symbol of everything Bruce failed to be if he hadn’t found out that they both had mothers called Martha. (I saw that particular plot twist coming from a mile away.) Of course, Superman isn’t perfect.
There is a comparison of Superman to God and what it means when ‘God’ actually shows up. In the movie it is postulated that humanity wants a saviour but also wants to have ultimate control over the saviour to allay their fears that he may turn on them. This interests me in the fact that my understanding of religion highlights that we should behave and appease our God or face his wrath/spend eternity in hell, but when a superhuman or ‘God’ shows up, aka, Superman, theory appears to be that the overriding desire will not be to appease them, but to control them. I wonder: If God truly did exist and if he showed himself on earth, would humanity expect to be able to control him and bend him to our will?
The character of Superman, however, is not a god, but an alien who was raised by human parents to love Earth as if it was his home planet. Underneath all that, however, is not the infinite wisdom and knowledge that humans believe a god possesses, but the limitations of man. Clark Kent is essentially just an alien man in love with a human woman who seems to keep getting herself into trouble. Sure, he’s almost invincible and has a pretty strong moral code, but he’s not all knowing and his love for Lois Lane is portrayed as a weakness that leads to him behaving with his own interests in mind, rather than just the good of the planet. Since he’s been revered as god-like, this scares the crap out of humanity who expect him to ignore his own interests and desires in case those desires cause him to randomly murder everyone. It all comes down to power and control. Superman has a great deal of power but is pressured to hand control over to humanity because they fear him. Humanity wants to have power and seeks to control Superman as a way of harnessing his power. Possibly to delude themselves into thinking they are still the dominant species, but for some, it is likely to be an attempt to raise themselves above the rest of humanity through him.
This brings me back to Bruce Wayne, and also brings to mind Lex Luther. It could be argued that both Bruce and Lex have been able to raise themselves above the rest of humanity in terms of power and control through their technological brilliance and strength of will. Indeed, it appears the only people who could challenge either of them, at the beginning of the movie, is the other, and Superman. Lex uses Batman’s feelings about Superman to aim the two at each other, and it works. Right up until the Martha twist, anyway. Of course this movie also serves to setup further movies for the Justice League of America, so Batman learns that there are meta-humans, another level of potential power, if you will, between the likes of himself and Lex, and Superman. That’s got to hurt the ego; especially since he has flirted with one a few times and never knew who he was talking to.
Lex Luther, in a bid to make himself yet more powerful, creates a monster – Doomsday – out of General Zod’s body, and his own blood. Talk about symbolism for his internal monster! Fortunately Superman, Batman and WonderWoman are able to work together to take him down, using the kryptonite spear Batman made to use against Superman. Happy ever after, right? Well, except the part where Superman gives up his life for the planet that can’t decide whether to revere or fear him. It looks like Superman wasn’t after controlling the world after all.