** WARNING THIS BLOG CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BATMAN V. SUPERMAN **
Growing up, I was a DC guy. I loved them all: Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, the list goes on.
None were cooler than Batman, though.
I can’t articulate what about him I found so compelling as a child. Perhaps I simply liked the fun action and bright colors, I don’t know. As I grew, so did Batman and his impact on my life became clear.
Batman is ultimately the story of a man with great means who decides he should take it upon himself to help his city.
He sacrifices a life of comfort in order to help make his world a better place. Yes, he feels a sense of injustice because he was robbed of his parents, but that’s not the only reason he does what he does. It’s this tension between altruism and vengeance that helps keep his character interesting.
In Batman: The Animated Series (my favourite version of Batman), he was often tempted by a life of comfort, moral compromise, and vengeance.
The choice wasn’t always easy, but he would inevitably choose personal sacrifice on behalf of the city of Gotham… every time.
He was a hero to me as a kid, not simply because he had the moniker of “superhero”, but because I watched week after week how he would sacrifice his own needs and desires in order to help the people around him.
Because that’s what a hero is.
Heroic minus the Hero
Fast Forward to 2016.
I’m in the cinema watching Batman v. Superman.
You can probably see where this is heading.
I walked out genuinely hating the film.
It wasn’t until I watched the absolutely atrocious Suicide Squad this weekend that I was finally able to articulate why the new DCEU (DC Extended Universe; what Warner Bros. is calling the film continuity that now exists between Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad) bothers me so much (other than the fact that all the films have been mediocre to terrible in terms of quality).
Whoever is in charge of the creative direction of these films at Warner Brothers do not understand what it means to be a hero.
“Heroes should believe in the the potential of mankind for good, they value human life, and they are willing to sacrifice their lives and their desires to help make this world a better place.”
Batman spends most of Batman v. Superman trying to murder Superman, and murders several criminals along the way. Sure, he saved a few people at the start of the film, but the majority of his screentime as Batman is spent violently throttling criminals in order to achieve his own selfish ends.
Superman spends the whole movie whining about how mean people are to him, and then decides they aren’t worth dying for…but Lois is. He promptly dies with little to no impact.
The end battle happens more out of self-defence than sacrifice.
These aren’t the heroes I grew up with. Which I think was the point, but there is a way to be fresh without undermining these characters and the values they stand for.
Watching Suicide Squad, I didn’t see a difference between the heroes and the villains in this universe. I saw people looking out for themselves and their loved ones and not much else.
Heroes should believe in the the potential of mankind for good, they value human life, and they are willing to sacrifice their lives and their desires to help make this world a better place.
This is why I’ve decided, with great heaviness in my heart, I’m no longer a DC guy.
I’m a Marvel guy.
The films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) consistently feature hero after hero sacrificing their own needs, desires and lives for the greater good of humanity.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, a group of thieves and rogues band together and decide to save the planet of Xandar. There is nothing in it for them. They simply decide to help people that are in need because it’s the right thing to do. They have power and decide they should do something good with it for others.
In Iron Man, a weapons contractor sees how his lack of accountability is arming terrorists around the world. Filled with compassion, he not only dismantles his weapons company, but actively puts himself in harm’s way and fights against those who are misusing them against innocents.
In Thor, Thor has lost his powers and decides to sacrifice himself in order to save, not only his love interest and friends, but an entire town. It’s only after this act of sacrifice that he regains his powers, literally learning that a true superhero is anyone who is willing to sacrifice themselves for others.
I could go on and on, because the creatives at Marvel Studios get it. We love superheroes because they’re heroic.
These are the kind of heroes I remember as a kid.
DC, in their attempt to humanise their heroes, have taken away the one thing that makes them appealing in the first place.
Life Without Sacrifice
When I have kids, I want them to have the same experience I did when I was young. I want them to see men and women with means and power using it sacrificially to help others.
Because that’s the sort of person I want my kids to be, and that’s the sort of person I want to be too.
As Annie Dillard observed, “When the candle is burning, who looks at the wick? When the candle is out, who needs it? But the world without light is wasteland and chaos, and a life without sacrifice is abomination.”