Zack Snyder has proved to be one of the most polarizing directors of the last decade, with fans and critics divided over his #DCEU superhero epics. That said, there's one thing even his detractors have to admit; in terms of visual style and symbolism, Snyder is an absolute genius. He weaves layers of imagery together in subtle and creative ways, giving his movies a remarkable visual depth.
As a result, over a year after the theatrical release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, fans are still poring over the film. Take, for example, this recent fan-theory — which has actually been confirmed by Zack Snyder himself...
A Subtle Connection Between 'Man Of Steel' And 'Batman V Superman'
Partway through the film's first act, Superman learns of a disaster in Mexico, where a girl is trapped in a burning building. Naturally, he heads off to save the day, and rescues the girl; he's then surrounded by a delighted crowd. Visually, the way the crowd reacts to Superman is a central part of the movie's Messianic imagery; they can only be described as worshippers.
But here's the twist. In typical Snyder fashion, the tragedy happened during the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration, meaning Superman's worshippers are as much sinister as anything else; their faces are painted as skulls. It's as though the dead are worshipping Superman, and the scene has struck fans as odd ever since the movie's release. Over on the social media channel Vero, one fan dug deep into the scene, and pointed to an intriguing thematic tie. They didn't expect Zack Snyder himself to chip in, though!
It's a fantastic insight, and adds an extra depth to Superman's character in Batman v Superman. One of the main complaints over Man of Steel was the horrific loss of life, and this subtle detail suggests that Superman is haunted by those deaths. This, the scene subtly implies, is the reason he's so grim in Batman v Superman; he's weighed down by a sense of loss, struggling to deal with guilt over the lives he failed to save.
Taking that into account, the slightly-surreal 'Day of the Dead' scene carefully parallels another moment in Man of Steel. At one point, Zod gives Superman a vision of ravaged world, of skulls swallowing him up. This, we realize, is the world that Zod would build, should Superman fail to stop him. And, although Superman triumphed, it was at a terrible cost in terms of lives lost; he remains haunted by the dead, swallowed up by them.
By that reading, the inevitable resurrection of Superman in Justice League is the conclusion of a subtle arc that Zack Snyder has been building up since Man of Steel. In Justice League, Superman returns as the conqueror of death — completing the Messianic imagery that Snyder loves, and escaping the power of the grave once and for all.
Say what you will about Zack Snyder's films, but the reality is that he's an absolute genius when it comes to clever, subtle imagery. In this case, there's an entire character arc seeded in two strange, surreal scenes. And it's been done with such subtlety that it's taken us over a year to spot it.
Which of the DCEU movies to date is your favorite?