It has been two years since Warner Bros. DC extended universe kicked off in earnest with Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The film was incredibly divisive, and reactions lead to a destabilization of Warner Bros. vision that is still being balanced out today. But whether you loved or hated the film, there is no denying that it provides plenty of things to discuss and examine. One of those aspects is the film's opening, where a young Bruce Wayne is surrounded by swooping bats that lift him from a cave in a dreamlike sequence. Ben Affleck's voiceover talks about the bats lifting him to the light as "a beautiful lie." Zack Snyder recently spoke about the meaning of this scene and how the quest for justice can lead us astray, check it out:
Zack Snyder's response comes when asked about the sequence by a fan on Vero. This opening scene really set the stage for the tone Batman v Superman would strike and the themes Snyder would explore, in some juxtaposition to Man of Steel. While we can debate the execution in Zack Snyder's films and whether or not they live up to his lofty ideas, it's clear that he is trying to incorporate deep thematic and symbolic elements. My interpretation of Zack Snyder's explanation is that the pursuit of justice does not always grant the hero the absolution he seeks, nor does it allow him to walk in the light. Fighting for justice is an inherently noble cause that you would think would lead you to the light, but the very act of seeking justice is the thing that keeps you in the dark.
If you need a refresher on the opening scene you can watch it below:
This is a fascinating and complex idea, and one that certainly dovetails with the Batman we see in the film. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight showed a Bruce Wayne who was struggling to walk in the light, while facing a villain that pulled him into the dark. In Batman v Superman, we witness a Bruce Wayne who hasn't seen the sun in a long time. His grief after a lifetime of tragedy manifesting itself as moral code that is far from upright, even though he can no longer see it. That is how this Batman, who seemed so distant from the interpretations most of us are familiar with, justified murdering criminals and his absolutist approach to Superman. He thought the pursuit of justice would free him from his grief and absolve him from his guilt, when in fact that notion is simply a beautiful lie. That is also why Superman winds up being such an inspiration to him, the Son of Krypton was able to pursue justice while basking in the light.
This is some heady stuff from Zack Snyder, and it does examine Batman's psyche in a way that we haven't seen before. The concept also deconstructs the act of vigilantism in a way that is very interesting. Unfortunately, for many, Batman v Superman did not live up to the ambition of these ideas, largely failing as a piece of filmmaking. That said, it is clear that Zack Snyder has some compelling things he wants to explore in his films and I'll be interested to see what he takes on next. For all the upcoming films in the DCEU, check out our guide.