BDC also writes for JACKEDUPTALES.com
As always there is a lot of chatter these days about the movies showcasing our comic heroes for the first time. We see exultation along with despair as the fans war online about the latest offering from Marvel, Fox, Sony or Warner Brothers. The latest rage has been over the dark and gritty heroes that have emerged from these tumultuous times. It seems the stories we get and the heroes they portray stray from what we remember or wish for. Not to mention that every fan comes from a varied background in the subject matter. Whether they have read comics all their lives or just started watching the glut of movies and television shows, there is a war about the end product that doesn't show any sign of slowing.
This year, like none other, seems to be dawning with a particular theme. And it is all summed up in a quote from one of the trailers of Marvel's second season of the Netflix hit, Daredevil. Punisher seems to think that he and Daredevil are not that much different.
“You're just one bad day from being me!”
Thus the moral dilemma begins. The hero has to wonder how far he would go to do the right thing. Matt Murdock is plagued by this the whole first season, if not his whole existence as a hero. Some would list him among the anti-heroes. I'm sure, as a character, he would dispute that. The question remains how far can a hero be pushed until he goes off the deep end and becomes counted with the criminals and demons he battles.
The moral issue is suspended in DEADPOOL. Even before his 'pushed off the cliff' moment, Wade Wilson is a morally questionable man. He kills people for a living, but he has a heart for the innocent, the downtrodden and those just done wrong. He's definitely the definition of the anti-hero, but there's no real struggle like there is for Daredevil.
That brings us to the latest cinematic offering of the comic world,
Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Only one week in and the fan-boys are raging. Typical. Most of their arguments, I dismiss as ravings of online lunatics. But when they begin to rant because the characters they know and love aren't what they expect, I have to intervene.
First of all, the fans of the Dark Knight series have wanted this for a long time. They screamed for dark and gritty like Nolan's Batman. Dawn of Justice is simply the next step in the evolutionary chain of DC Cinematic. Only, I think they have far surpassed what they did with the Nolan Batman trilogy. The simple fact is the fans of the edgier Batman got what they asked for and it isn't sitting well with them.
Affleck outdid himself giving us a more damaged and brooding Batman dealing with unbelievable events that would push any man to the breaking point. And that brings us to the moral dilemma. How far will a man go? How far can a hero be pushed? The Batman of Dawn of Justice is a man who has witnessed the unthinkable. People who were under his watch-care destroyed in a heartbeat by unfathomable alien powers. Thus, Bruce Wayne gets his 'pushed off the cliff' moment and a decision must be made.
Now, arguably, Batman is already an anti-hero. But he has set moral parameters that defy that definition. Throughout the ages, Batman has refused to carry a gun. In fact, the vigilante has refused to kill. This puts him on the moral high ground that keeps him the hero he is.
So what happened with Dawn of Justice?
Obviously there were several scenes with Batman picking up guns and killing quite a few people. For most, this was a break with comic source material. And, I, for the most part, must agree. But what we have here isn't the quintessential Batman. We got to see that in the Dark Knight trilogy. The back story has been set. No need to revisit what makes Batman...well...Batman. No this Batman is a man pushed to the edge. The Bruce Wayne of Dawn of Justice is a hero who is exceeding his moral boundaries in the pursuit of what he believes to be the ultimate justice.
Now, most people would categorize his actions under more extreme definitions like revenge. Bruce Wayne is definitely looking for a bit of that. What we find is that there is a short distance between one man's justice and another man's revenge. In fact, the lines blur and the final verdict comes down to the definition of the beholder. This doesn't get Batman off the hook, however. Actions like killing or outright murder, like he tried to commit at the end of the movie, is still wrong and there is no moral high ground to justify it.
Let's take a step back shall we? What IS the source material? Well, I believe he's drawing strongly not only from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, but the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us. Concerning the sudden dismissal of his former taboos (aka killing and handling a gun), we see him in the comic carrying a rifle. And what did we think those things coming out of the turrets on his Batmobile were? Blanks?
No, the Batman we have here is out of sorts. He believes that, since he is up against a near god-like power that answers to no one, it takes an equally extreme answer to make things right. Like many today, he is willing to go to war under the slightest evidence of danger. And, as the tension rises and our hero pushes himself farther and farther past where he was willing to go before, Batman is less and less concerned with the gravity of his actions. So, in the heat of the moment, he is willing to kill to finish his quest for justice.
Now back to that awesome quote from Daredevil. Dawn of Justice epitomizes the idea that we are all 'one bad day away' from being someone we swore we would never become. That day, for Batman, happened in Metropolis in the aftermath of the fight between Zod and Superman. Without thinking about the consequences, the two Kryptonians fought on; destroying a great part of the city. Part of that destruction was obliteration of Wayne Tower and all of the employees who innocently found themselves in the war zone. This day changed Bruce Wayne and set him on a collision course with the alien he blamed for the deaths of his people.
The movie also masterfully showed us that even the Man of Steel has a breaking point. In the dream sequence that showed a bleak future to Bruce Wayne, Superman was a god-like being who mastered over the world flanked by both parademons and human soldiers bearing his symbol. Upon facing Bruce chained and subdued, he simply said, “She was my world and you took her from me!” And then Superman killed Batman. Why? What would push the big blue boy scout that far? We find out in the course movie it is probably the loss of the woman he loves, his greatest weakness, Lois Lane. He could have also existed in an alternate universe where Bruce's actions against him cost his mother his life.
Either way, like in Injustice: Gods Among Us, we see the greatest, most pure among us fall victim to vengeance, pain and anger. We see that even Superman can have that 'one bad day'.
This is the theme of Dawn of Justice and most of you missed it. The second part of that theme is that we all have to make a decision when confronted with that 'one bad day'. The ending of the movie gave us hope in the face of ultimate darkness. Both men changed reality by finding that the men they were up against were good men and worth allies. And it's good they're facing this darkness now. Bigger darkness is coming.
And, as a side note, the same can be said of Captain America: Civil War. 'One bad day' can make the difference between friends and allies and a war none of them can come back from.