Snarcasm: That Martha Moment in ‘Batman v Superman’ Is Smarter Than You Think

martha batman v superman

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

I didn’t care for Batman v Superman, but you have to admit that the movie has at least succeeded in getting people to talk about it. And I applaud any fan of the film who is continuing to defend it in a way that’s constructive and meaningful for both sides of the debate.

But at some point, your defense of this movie becomes more akin to speculation, rather than an honest interpretation of what’s presented. What I mean is that it’s easy to fall into a trap where you’re adding an interpretation to your defense that makes the movie seem better, except that it doesn’t flow from what’s been set up in the narrative. This is one of those times.

John Campea is a skilled critic, though I disagree with him often and certainly with this movie. One of his latest videos is titled, “Defending the ‘Martha’ Scene in Batman v Superman,” and it’s his case for why the movie is smarter than people give it credit for.

I obviously disagreeSpoilers for the movie from here on out.

I know the movie’s been out for months and months and months,

It’s only been two months, so don’t sweat it.

As one of the people who like Batman v Supermanthere’s one criticism that movie always gets (you still see it joked about all the time all the time) and I wanted to give a defense of it. And the moment I’m talking about in Batman v Superman is the “Martha” moment. You know what I’m talking about. You see the jokes all over the place online, right? 

Sure, but not just jokes. People genuinely criticize the movie for this moment without poking fun at it. Hopefully, your defense will cover this, and not just the knee-jerk meme reactions that turn the opposing argument into a straw man.

I just think that that scene has been misunderstood a lot. 

In a soft way, he’s basically saying here that there is a correct way to interpret this scene, by saying most of us “misunderstood” it.

Because then he goes on about three times, saying what boils down to, “your way of interpreting this scene might have been different than mine and that’s cool.”

Well, which is it?

…I actually see that scene as a strength in the movie as opposed to a major major flaw in the movie.

If a film falls down in a forest, but no one is around to hear it…wait, no, that’s not how i goes.

My point is that even if you’re right, and we’re all just too blinded by the Spidey-light to see this moment’s greatness, the fact is that this scene, the most pivotal point of the film, was in fact a massive failure for the majority of moviegoers when they first experienced it. That doesn’t make the movie bad on its own, but it is a crucial flaw of the execution that you need to accept.

Batman and Superman finally have their fight. They had a definitive winner. Batman was the winner of the fight. And of course, Batman is about to deliver the killing blow to now a downed, helpless opponent. And Superman raises up his hands and says, “Save Martha.” And of course, Batman has his freak out, like “what did you say that name, why did you say that name.” Here is how I interpreted it the first time I saw the film, OK.

Here we go.

Look, Batman is the detective, right? 

Clearly not a good one, like at all,  in this movie, but go on.

And what we know as an audience up till that point is that Lex Luthor has actually been playing him and been playing both of them. Even when Bruce thought he was playing Lex, as it turns out, Lex was playing him.

He was? Because here’s what really happened with Bruce and Lex in this movie. Bruce steals a bunch of Lex’s information about metahumans and uncovers the secret about kryptonite. Then he steals the kryptonite to build weapons to kill Superman. Lex was never “playing” Bruce or manipulating his actions here. He simply allowed Bruce to carry out his plans, while somehow also knowing he was Batman for some reason that’s never explained, and then manipulates Superman, which let’s admit is not hard to do in any interpretation of the character.

Sure, Luthor says to Superman that he’s been playing them because he’s been fueling the animosity between both characters. But one of my main issues with that scene is that this line makes no sense. Luthor had nothing to do with the opening scene where we see why Bruce hates Superman to the point that he does.

If we’re to believe that the blowing up of the congressional hearing is all it took for Bruce to take action (which isn’t the case because he was already gearing up for the fight), then we have to believe that Bruce is a total idiot for “detecting” Superman’s involvement in any of these situations he’s obviously being framed for.

martha batman v superman

Even when Bruce is justifying his decision to kill Superman, he seems to admit that the guy hasn’t done anything wrong, yet. But the “if there’s a 1% chance” line along with his nightmare where Superman really does kill him has everything to do with his fueled animosity toward the guy, not Luthor himself.

But by all means, continue.

He thought, “Oh, I was so smart. I broke into his house and his party. Got that information. Turns out, that’s what Lex wanted all along.

Really? His plan was to hope that Batman would show up and steal something from him? That’s the extent of his manipulation?

Of course, nothing in the movie actually sets this up or leads us to believe any of this is part of Luthor’s plan, but that’s probably why Campea’s interpretation is so much different from, you know, pretty much everyone else’s.

Anyway, so here you have Bruce Wayne, who is the detective, and he figures all this stuff out on his own, normally, and he has this moment where…remember that one big conversation he had with Alfred, where Bruce has convinced himself, thanks in no small part to the manipulations of Lex Luthor, that Superman is actually a monster.

Yes in small part. In the atoms of that small part. Because at no point does Luthor steer Bruce toward wanting to kill Superman. That’s all been established by the first 20 minutes when his character watches the collateral damage from Man of Steel occur.

He has convinced himself that he is a threat to humanity. When he’s talking to Alfred, you know, it’s not just, “Hey, I know he’s a good man, but you know, if there’s a 1% chance he could destroy the earth, we gotta take that certainty.” No, it’s like, “That son of a b***h brought the war to us!” The movie gave us glimpses…he’s convinced that Superman is a monster and will be a catastrophe for the earth. 

Nothing says Batman like a guy who — instead of figuring out who the enemy is and understanding them — decides to just kill the guy to death because…well you’ll have to watch the Director’s Cut to get more “glimpses” of that.

He’s about to finish him off, and remember up to this point, we haven’t seen Batman kill an unarmed, helpless person.

Right, we’ve only seen him blow up criminals driving cars setting off chain reactions of other cars blowing up more criminals. No big deal.

Superman reaches out his arm and he says, “Save Martha.” And what I saw happen onscreen was, number one, we all know Batman is a little bit disturbed. We know that. We’ve always known that about Batman. But when he reaches out and in his last breath, he doesn’t beg for his life, he doesn’t say some ominous threatening thing that a super villain would say in that scene.

Really? A lot of super villains will say anything to get out of being killed, including, “if you kill me, she’ll die! Ha ha ha!” Not saying Superman was going for that, but the point remains.

He uses his last breath to plead for the life of somebody else.

No, Superman says, “You’re letting them kill Martha.” He doesn’t plead for anyone’s life. He basically throws a guilt trip at the guy in the hopes that he’ll put the spear down. Also, he’s doing this in a very odd way. He’s calling his mother by her first name instead of “Mom” for some writers-team-related reason. And how will Batman know who’s he’s talking about? Superman can’t say, “Martha Kent” because…well,  because then Batman won’t get confused and the plot will be halted. The writing team strikes again.

Eventually, Superman does say, “Find him…Save Martha.” But again, how are these pronouns and first names helpful in any way? Superman doesn’t know Lois Lane isn’t going to pop in and add some much-needed exposition.

They’ve set up in the movie that Bruce has some loose wires when it comes to memories and visions about his own mother.

Yeah, it’s almost as if the purpose of their existence was just to pay off this one moment in the movie, not to cohesively flow with the rest of the narrative.

This being Bruce had convinced himself was a pure monster…he sees him in that moment reach out and asking for the life of somebody else. He’s asking the guy who’s about to kill him, “Please go and save this person.” 

So that’s why your experience was so much different than everyone else’s! Because you apparently watched a screening with drastically different dialogue. I mean, come on, Zach Snyder’s version of Superman asking please?

That creates a disconnect for Batman. It’s a contradiction to what Batman believes about this being laying in front of him.

That’s why after this line, Batman puts the spear down realizing that Superman isn’t a monster.

Wait, what? Oh, that didn’t happen at all, did it. What really happened was, he kept the spear up and started yelling, “Why did you say that name? Martha? Why did you say that name? WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?”

What a disconnect, wow!

Lois Lane comes in and she throws himself (herself?) down on top of him. This creates another disconnect for Batman because he sees a famous, intelligent human being who loves this person pleading for his life.

Except, well, Lois doesn’t plead for Superman’s life. She says, “It’s his mother’s name! It’s his mother’s name!”

Which is why, class, everyone paid more attention to the fact that “Martha” was said as a coincidence, rather than this idea that Batman could have a change of heart. Few will disagree that your interpretation is what the movie was trying to do. But the execution was so sloppy and mishandled that audiences were forced into an interpretation that latched closer to what was actually happening onscreen.

Think about it. If these disconnects are so relevant and compelling, why did the movie have to also point out that their moms have the same name? By your logic, he could have just said, save my mom, and Batman would have gone through the same change of heart.

It’s not misunderstood. We know what Snyder and his writers were going for. You are simply misunderstanding the execution, believing its stronger than it really is.

Then it goes to a third stage of disconnect for Batman.

Seriously? According to you, the guy should have an aneurysm at this point.

She explains, “That’s the name of his mother.” Now you gotta understand that these are three points of disconnect for Bruce in this construct he’s had in his head about Superman, this monster that’s gonna be the destruction of the world.

The problem with this is that when you’re watching the movie, you don’t feel any real sympathy for Superman that can be related to what Batman’s going through. All of these arguments for why Batman should sympathize with Superman fly in the face of everything we’ve watched and learned about the character throughout the movie.

He’s violent, aggressive, and acts like he’s above everyone else because he refuses to participate in his own defense. Even when he goes to the court hearing, the script prevents him from ever getting a word out. So when we’re supposed to believe that he’s not a monster for arbitrary reasons like, “Well, he has a mom and some woman loves him,” we’re left wondering why that’s enough for Batman to drop his weapons and suddenly work with this guy.

batman v superman wrong

It’s not satisfying, to the point where we’re also left wondering if the “Martha” connection is meant to be a stronger emotional weight than it should be, which is where the criticism and a lot of the jokes come from. Again, the problem has more to do with the execution than the idea itself, so if you ignore the main flaws of how this plays out in the film, you’re going to like it more and find it weird that everyone else disagrees with you.

Campea goes on to explain that Batman freaking out over all this is somehow him “figuring it out” because he’s such a great detective and compares it to how a supercomputer thinks.

Seriously. Seriously.

“This guy has a mother, too!” won’t quite hold up in court, and it doesn’t negate any of Batman’s hatred for this guy who’s caused the deaths of so many people. Campea even argues that he’s figured out that this is all Lex Luthor, except that also doesn’t make any sense because again, Lex Luthor had nothing to do with the events that cemented Bruce’s hatred for this guy.

When a lot of people saw, (starts doing a jokey impression) “Wait a minute, Superman says his mom’s name is Martha, too, and Batman goes, ‘Oh, well we should be best friends!'” I get why some people saw that. 

Sigh.

What I saw was a complex, intelligent deconstruction of the great detective putting the pieces together when new information was brought into it.

What everyone else saw was, “Wow, this screenwriting is trying to be complex and intelligent but it’s doing a horrible job. Am I really supposed to believe what I’m seeing right now?”

This is exacerbated by Batman calling himself Superman’s friend ten minutes later, adding to the steaming pot of bloated confusion that is this movie.

Don’t get me wrong. Campea is a good guy, and nothing about this video is mean-spirited or meant to make people feel stupid for disagreeing with him. He’s simply offering up his own perspective and why he thinks that makes the movie better.

batman v superman wrong

That said, it’s also clear to me that a little reaching is going on in order to pass the movie off as better than it really is. And it’s veiled as deep film analysis in order to convince people that they missed something when they first saw the movie.

But no, this isn’t another one of those under appreciated films that will one day be celebrated despite the fact that it was somehow ahead of its time. Films like that have always been criticized more for their content and brazen style, not fundamental misunderstandings when it comes to filmmaking and how to tell a unique story.


Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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3 thoughts

  1. I hope by now you’ve had an opportunity to watch the directors cut of the movie, rather than the (mangled) version the studio created for theaters. While not every last one of your objections is addressed, the majority are. Luthor’s extensive efforts to engineer and augment the conflict, his reasons for doing it, the internal struggles of both Superman and Batman, the “Martha” moment, and a lot more come into much sharper focus….really, the movie reveals itself as layered, nuanced, and powerful.

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    1. Yeah… I am actually watching it right now, and the Martha moment still seems as disjointed as ever. Yes, the extended cut improves the movie quite a bit, but it still leaves a lot to be desired.

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  2. Well, the fight was awesome, untill… Martha! That makes no sense, if superman wants to play with batman emotion, i think just said “you let them killed my mom” just enough, remember batman is a detective he is not that atupid to just kill supes with no thinking, and just with say that line will make him thinking twice before stabing supes, and it will be more emotional, at least for me.

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