My husband surprised me yesterday by bringing home tickets to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
And he didn’t just get tickets for the two of us, either. He bought enough for our kids and grandkids to see it, too. So we all crowded eagerly into the theater sporting superhero shirts and capes.
Here are a few important lessons I learned from that little family outing:
Always research a movie before you watch it.
Batman v Superman is not a kid-friendly movie. From grand-scale scenes of mass destruction, to nightmarish flashbacks of murder and mayhem, to implied trysts between Lois Lane (obviously naked) and Clark Kent, who joins her (fully clothed) in the bathtub, the movie was chock-full of stuff I’d rather my kids and grandkids not have been exposed to.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t have attended the movie with my husband as a date had it been important to him to see it. But I would have lobbied to leave the little ones home had I known beforehand what awaited us at the theater.
Hollywood loves to blur the lines.
There is a popular trend among film makers today to blur the lines between good and evil until everything is just one dark, murky shade of gray. It’s one thing to present a character — even a superhero — as flawed, for flawed we all are. But those flaws should be presented as being undesirable. As a weakness or shortcoming that limits his effectiveness. As something he struggles to overcome. Sadly, this was not the case in Batman V Superman.
Fairly early in the movie, we learn that the Dark Knight has taken to torturing and branding criminals, a disturbing fact viewers are asked to accept without question — or possibly even justify due to the nature of the crimes committed. (The oppressively dark feel to Batman V Superman made a little more sense when I noted during the credits that the name of the production company was “Cruel and Unusual Films.” The credits also revealed that at least one of the songs in the movie’s soundtrack was recorded using wind instruments made from human thigh bones. How’s that for creepy?)
Unfortunately, Batman V. Superman is not the only superhero flick to get this sordid treatment. Of the trailers previewed before the feature film — Captain America: Civil War, X-Men Apocalypse, and The Suicide Squad — all three promise to be at least as dark, if not worse. That makes me sad. I miss the days of wholesome heroes.
There is no such thing as a movie without a worldview.
Lex Luthor sums up a recurrent theme in Batman V. Superman succinctly when he explains to another character that God can be all powerful or he can be all good, but he can’t be both. No sooner were those words out of his mouth than my five-year-old grandson piped up, “That’s a lie!” And he said it loudly enough for all the movie-goers around us to hear. So I shushed him with a reminder to be quiet during the movie. But not before I’d heartily agreed, “You’re right, Sweetheart! That is a lie!”
It’s important for us to remember that there is no such thing as neutral entertainment. The people who own the studios that make the movies have a worldview that often differs sharply from our own. And their worldview unavoidably influences the story they tell on the silver screen. Sometimes the messages are subtle. Sometimes they’re in-your-face. Batman V. Superman takes the latter approach.
A father’s impact on his children is huge.
At some point in the movie, all three main characters — Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Lex Luthor — share the lessons they learned from their respective fathers. This underscores the fact that fathers really do matter. For better or worse, dads play a powerful role in shaping the lives of their children. This is true, regardless of whether said father is living or dead, attentive or absentee. That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?
Of the three, Clark Kent enjoyed the most positive relationship with his (adoptive) father for the longest period of time. The movie made that clear. Clark reflected often and deeply on the truths his dad taught him and strove to live by those principles. Not surprisingly, he also seemed the most stable and well-adjusted of the three. And he demonstrated the healthiest relationships with those closest to him.
Society has an unnatural fascination with blowing things up.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have a Y-chromosome, but I’ve never understood Hollywood’s obsession with blowing things to smithereens. Too often, plot and character development take the backseat to special effects. This is certainly the case in Batman V Superman. If I wanted to see a psychopath bomb a bunch of innocent people, I could’ve stayed home and watched the evening news. Hollywood shouldn’t glamorize such doings on the silver screen. They are heinous crimes. Not entertainment.
When we focus on fighting each other, we lose sight of the real enemy.
Both Batman and Superman spend an inordinate amount of screen time preoccupied with, plotting against, and battling one another. Their fixation seems to be motivated as much (if not more) by pride and jealousy as by any desire for accountability or justice. As a consequence, they miss telltale signs that something far more sinister is afoot.
It’s a good lesson to remember during this election season, when we’ve been subsisting on a steady diet of petty skirmishes between contenders instead of giving attention to far weightier issues. There are powers at play that are bent on our destruction. All the name calling and bickering amongst one another tends to blind us to our real enemy — and I don’t mean Donald Trump, or Democrats, or even ISIS. Those who would do us harm are only pawns and prisoners in our true enemy’s hand, and it will take a Power from out of this world to defeat him. That power belongs to God, our best and only Hope. Jesus is the One to whom we must look to save us.
The story isn’t over yet.
Like so many other superhero movies, this one takes special care to set the stage for a sequel before the final credits roll. Spoiler warning: Batman V Superman ends with a funeral. But one split-second glimpse of what happens to the first handful of dirt dropped on the casket warns us the story is far from over.
It is fitting that this movie should be released on Good Friday. That day closed with a beloved hero being laid in a grave, as well. But three days later, Christ arose from the dead, a fact to which many eye-witnesses bore testimony at the time. Jesus walked on Earth, fully God and fully man, unequaled in power and goodness. Before ascending into heaven, He promised to come back again. His story is far from over. The question we should be asking is, will He find us faithful when He comes?
I’m not telling you whether you should see Batman V Superman or skip it, but I do want you to know what you’re getting into before you buy a ticket. For an in-depth analysis of the film’s positive and negative elements, I recommend checking it out on Plugged-In Online. That is what I normally do, and what I wish I’d done before heading to the theater for this one.
Thank you Jennifer, this was really helpful. My husband and I love to read the movie reviews on “Plugged In” , which is a ministry of Focus on the Family. For anyone who is unfamiliar with it, they review every movie that comes out, and they review every facet of a movie from a Christian world view. You can get the link by going to Focus on the Family’s web-site. One other thing my husband and I really dislike in all these Marvel Movies has to do with the role of women, not as heroines to be rescued, but as fighters beating up some men and rescuing others. As you said, movies always push some kind of cultural agenda, whether it’s subtle or in your face. Blessings, Michelle~ Fayetteville, NC
Jennifer Flanders says
Plugged-In is what I usually check, too. Great site.
Hello Jennifer, thanks for this review. My husband and I share many of your insights into what our children are being exposed to in the guise of supposedly ‘kid friendly’ movies. Another case in point is the animated film ‘Hotel Transylvania’ which we took our young girls to last month, unfortunately without having done our research beforehand. Many blessings to you and yours as you live a God-honouring life- Shikainah, London, UK