Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★★½

"Souverän ist, wer über den Ausnahmezustand entscheidet."
(Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.)

So begins Schmitt's book "Political Theology." As famous an opening as any in theory and one which has spawned numerous theorizations, discussions, and attempts to define and make sense of the theorization of sovereignty. What Snyder's BvS aptly demonstrates in vivid detail is a contest between two sovereigns contesting their right to decide. Snyder is staging a series of conversations at the intersection of political theology, theological politics, and the question of fascism of the 21st century: what form will our authoritarian father take?

Clark Kent tells Bruce Wayne that Batman is a vigilante trampling on civil rights in Gotham. Bruce Wayne tells Clark Kent that Metropolis has its own inability to recognize Superman for what he is: someone taking the law into his own hands. Shortly thereafter Superman shows up in Juarez and rescues people from a fire. Snyder then punctuates the sequence with images of Superman rescuing people and being a hero. In some sense the debate is between the human sovereign (Batman) and the divine (Superman). Batman's "fascist" tendencies strike me more like a human judgement of God, demanding a place on this earth to decide in all his technological, billionaire power, against God, or Nature. And Superman strikes me as just as fascist but in the religious sense: a God who must act, violating his own capacity to back off, instead always acting, always meddling. And through it all Lex Luthor functions as divining rod, a scapegoat, a figure around whom Snyder can organize the debate about who the sovereign is or is not. Luthor's function in the grammar of the film depends on the time of narration as opposed to narrated time.

I have seen this movie a handful of times and the strict formalism, the weirdly opaque, literary, and often weirdly vague dialogue all complete my sense that Snyder is not interested in narrative or story or even coherence in a traditional sense. He wants to stage ideas and conflicts rather than traditional stories.

If one were to historicize the film(s) in Snyder's DC universe one might begin to see a conversation worth having.

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