Over on a my facebook wall, someone posted a link to the trailer for Batman V. Superman movie due out next year. Most of you know I am a comic book nerd and I love my superhero movies. I am also a huge fan of the Batman.
In Batman V. Superman, there are supposed to be some callbacks to a Frank Miller storyline wherein Batman returns after years away to find a very different world, one where Superman has become the fascist leader we have always expected him to be. In the end, Batman defeats Superman.
In the middle of all of this, is critical theory and, I think, something to do with Mimesis… a rather natural mimesis where we see motifs replicated in various ways. Because of this, I think I can see in Batman V. Superman various theological points. This is pretty clear in Man of Steel. (Rodney has a four part review up). So, here are some thoughts on Superman and Batman and how they as characters relate to our Christian theology.
Superman is the symbol that pushes is to a better humanity — but there is an equal danger of having humanity rely upon Superman. If we rely only on Superman, we will grow apathetic. We must take the little bit of order and safety he gives and work to expand it and make it our own. Batman is the reality which we face but there is a danger in accepting this reality as the only worldview. We become cynics and suppose we can impose our vision of justice in the absence of justice. Then we become the villain when we take away the objective system and replace it with a subjective one. Superman’s power is tempered by his refusal to do everything for humanity. In that regard, Superman is rather weak because he is limited. He is, one may suggest, Arminian, whereas Batman is almost Calvinistic because he decides fates. He is almost all powerful, because he will find a way to solve any problem, even if the end is rather extreme. Batman’s limits are challenges to overcome.
The question is rightly raised about whether or not the world still needs Superman (a recurring theme in both the comics and in Superman Returns). I would think so. Even with his powers that are godlike, and almost silly in light of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy not to mention Netflix’s Daredevil, we still need Superman. Why?
Why couldn’t Superman just end it all, take over the planet and restore order? If you have ever read Red Son, then you know why. Because, the human spirit is ended. Superman has become very much the answer, even via pop culture, to the question of why doesn’t God just end evil. Because, we couldn’t then be human. Our human experience would be meaningless. Salvation is meaningless if we aren’t human.