BEWARE! A lot of spoilers follow so don’t read if you haven’t seen the movie.
Nothing is more annoying for a writer, a painter, a director or any kind of creator than when their work is misunderstood and then ridiculed. It’s one thing to make a bad piece of art, have it ripped and shredded to pieces, but at least the artist can learn from the failure. What can an artist learn when their masterpiece is just misunderstood? The artist can improve himself, but not the IQs of the hopeless.
I have to imagine that’s how Zack Snyder is feeling when he sees what has happened with “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and the fan reviews. I only hope he hasn’t seen the ridiculous memes that mock the most important scene of his movie. The scene where, to the Cro Magnum mind, it looks like Batman gives up his mission to kill Superman simply because their moms share the same first name: Martha
The scene has become a punchline for online trolls and flat-out haters and it’s gotten quite absurd. That’s why I’m going to attempt to explain the depth of possibly the greatest Superhero movie scene ever created. What people need to understand that the name is a trigger that ironically prevents the gun from going off.
One of the major criticisms of the movie is addressed in this scene. People were aghast and horrified that Batman would kill Superman or any of the 217 thugs that died in the movie directly or indirectly (mostly indirectly) by his hands.
Well duh people, if you ever read Frank Miller’s graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns,” that the movie is somewhat based on, you’d see that the darkness the Batman surrounds himself with ended up spreading to his heart somewhat.
Because Batman is not who he used to be. Ben Affleck–the greatest Batman ever–masterfully portrayed the Dark Knight going on the dark path. The theme addressed is that Batman, like any ordinary human after years of disappointment, has now changed and adjusted to the new reality. It’s not for the positive and it’s leading to destroy what he stands for.
Batman has had an ephiphany (or rather shoved his head up you know what) and thinks that in order to truly make a difference, he has to rid the world of Superman, a human nuclear warhead essentially. None of what he has already done means anything. All the felons he’s put behind bars means nothing because, “Criminals are like weeds; pull one up, another grows in its place.”
After stealing the kryptonite from Lex Luthor, Batman is ready to kill Superman and that’s where a lot of fans had to have walked out. I can understand why too. Because it’s obscene that Batman, the symbol of justice, would play the preemptive strike card.
Yet he is! He’s willing to kill an ally because he “may” become an enemy. Like he said to Alfred: “If we believe there’s even a one percent chance that he is our enemy we have to take it as an absolute certainty… and we have to destroy him.”
Alfred: “But he is not our enemy!”
Bruce Wayne: “Not today. Twenty years in Gotham, Alfred; we’ve seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?”
Even if fans accepted that Batman may have killed or let a few thugs die violently, this is not Batman. This is…this is murder. He’s going to murder Superman and there’s no other way to put it.
Not even his father figure can wake him up from this trance, this mission. Gotham’s protector is tired of seeing the innocent killed. He’s tired of seeing “good people” changing and the most tragic irony is he if he does this, there will be no good guys left.
The pot subsequently boils to the scene that Shakespeare would be proud. It can be seen as a twist on his popular quote, “What’s in a name?” It’s well-crafted and easily one of the best scenes of the movie.
“Superman: [hardly breathing] You’re letting them kill Martha…
Batman: What does that mean? Why did you say that name?
Superman: Find him… Save Martha…
Batman: Why did you say that name? Martha? Why did you say that name? WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?
Lois Lane: [enters running] It’s his mother’s name! It’s his mother’s name.”
Now, this is the part where the uneducated and the unappreciative snort and chuckle. Yeah, I get how some people don’t grasp the depth of this scene. Some people don’t have the cerebrum or the analytical mind to see the subtlety of this powerful moment. That’s not what baffles me. What confuses me is it seems like the MAJORITY of the audience didn’t comprehend the message of it and this includes the so-called die hard Batman fans who read every comic book and know him inside and out.
First, the name Martha is used because it’s an actual identity. If an alien of an extinct race asks you to save its mother, the question is who is your mom? That’s why the use of the first name actually makes sense here vs. “my mom” or some variation.
Second, Superman isn’t just talking about his mom, Martha. That’s the scriptwriters Chris Terrio and David Goyer sending us a message that Batman’s mother is going to die all over again if he does this. Why? Because if he kills Superman right here, he’ll have turned his back on her and his father’s example and an innocent woman will die.
What he also realizes is that Superman’s mother is on the line. Her life is in the balance and what does the alien do? He doesn’t murder Batman, zap him with his heat vision or drop a car or even a building on him. Their fight this entire time has been a charade because only one man was trying to win. Superman wasn’t going to betray what his family taught him, even if it meant the cost of his own mother’s life.
Here’s Batman, willing to destroy an ally and turn his back on the principles that he embodies. Repeat: willing to. While Superman is being extorted/blackmailed/Sophie’s Choice into choosing either to kill the Bat, or let mom die and he’s still trying to risk everything for a third option because he won’t kill a man who has declared himself to be an enemy.
But this is beyond our grasp though right? Batman’s only here to beat people up and stop the bad guys right? He can’t be affected by emotional pain and trauma right? It’s too farfetched to see that when Bruce Wayne hears his mother’s name, he realizes that Clark is the younger version of himself? An idealistic youth who fought and killed to protect the people he loves and the world that adopted him. We can’t understand that in this moment is when Batman sees Superman for what he is: His greatest ally and a kindred spirit.
So… “What’s in a name?” Apparently a man’s salvation. Martha was never just a name. It was the last line of defense between Bruce Wayne and a darkness so pitch black, that he’d never be able to take it off. Saying it saved him from himself.
When that name struck the nerve, Bruce Wayne became the Batman again. That’s why he threw the spear away. That’s why he promised Clark that he’d rescue “Martha.” That’s why he didn’t brand Lex Luthor when it was all over with. Because the real Dark Knight, the warrior of justice, had come back.
That’s why that scene means so much because it shows how even Batman can go down the path of darkness. We all do. It’s whether or not we fight it back that makes us who we are. Batman almost lost who he was.
Martha saved him.