Zack Snyder doesn’t understand Superman, and he never will. A few years ago, when everybody went to see Man Of Steel, they were incredibly eager to experience a new, modern take on Superman, by a very acclaimed director. Nearly everyone left the theatres feeling a little confused. Superman was certainly super, but there was something a little… off, that they maybe couldn’t put their finger on, and took a little while for them to unpack. (At this time I wrote a review of Man Of Steel and within days it became my most shared post ever, most of those links coming from people posting it on Facebook to help explain why this Superman wasn’t the Superman they wanted).
And then Batman V Superman happened, even grittier, even edgier than the last movie, although with concessions to the fact that people actually wanted to see Superman actively SAVE people, but missing the mark by even a larger margin than the previous movie. Despite my success with reviewing the last movie, I didn’t even bother to review it since its failings were so obviously apparent. But hearing that Zack Snyder(in all likelihood) subscribes to Objectivism pointed to something much deeper, which explained completely why he doesn’t understand, on a purely conscious level, why someone with incredible powers would ever help anyone else at all.
Objectivism, as posited by Ayn Rand, is all about protecting your power, your uniqueness, your genius, from the rest of the world, from the powers of the collective which will erode those properties into mediocrity. If you make something of beauty and originality, someone will come along and take it and say it belongs to everyone, or they will create cheap imitations to intentionally devalue its worth. And on the face of it, there is a direct, observable logic to that scenario. Where it starts to enter the political realm is where you translate power/uniqueness/genius into money, and the follow-on from that is that the rich must be protected and the riches saved from any sort of devaluing or distribution. (At this point I understand that you go and join a Tea Party somewhere.)
So let’s apply these basic tenants to Superman: his powers and uniqueness must be kept for himself, under no circumstances must they be shared with anyone else–that would devalue them. They must only be used for Superman himself, as an individual… which is where the problem lies, because Superman actually doesn’t have any self-desires. The only reason he exists is to help other people in need, never to obtain his own desires. In fact, classically, Superman has overtly prevented himself from obtaining the only thing that he desires through the use of his powers, and that is Lois Lane.
Which, again, Zack Snyder knows but doesn’t understand, because his Superman very much gets Lois Lane. In fact, at many times in both of his movies, we see Superman completely abandon what he’s doing/fighting at the time to save Lois, in fact, this is the only overt action of saving someone that we get in either movie. We have a brief montage of Superman contemplating saving some people on a rooftop, of Superman rescuing some expensive government property, and of Superman looking very disturbed after rescuing a boy, but the only on screen instances we have of Superman removing someone from harm’s way have to do with Lois, because that’s the only thing that Superman actually wants.
It’s selfishness, pure and simple. It’s a Gordon Gekko view of the world which says that greed is good. The statue of Superman in the movie bears a striking resemblance to Atlas bearing the world’s weight–but without the actual weight of the world, which is the perfect visual description of his character.
Ironically, application of Objectivism is how most super-villains act in most movies–all of their powers used for their own ends at the expense of everyone else on the planet. So it is therefore telling that all of the true bad guys in Snyder’s movies are, literally, mad. They aren’t people with a different view of the world, with opposing ideologies, or even the same ideologies but opposing aims, they are people with a lot of power who have been driven crazy by other circumstances (I would include Snyder’s portrayal of Batman here), and forced themselves into Superman’s sphere. Both Zod and Luthor go to tremendous extremes to force Superman into any kind of action.
In Rand’s books, it is often government officials who are the hero’s antagonists, and so they are also in Batman v Superman. Here we have a government committee sitting judgement on Superman and asking if Superman “should” do anything. Zack Snyder, after two movies, is still having difficulty with Spider-Man’s first principles of “with great power comes great responsibility”.
Which, in itself, is a kind of irony since Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko is a Randian Objectivist as well. It’s said that he originally split from the Spider-Man comic after a disagreement between himself and Stan Lee over what the identity of the Green Goblin should be–Lee wanted him to be millionaire industrialist Norman Osborne, but Ditko believed that such people should be celebrated, not vilified. This account has been candidly denied by all parties involved, but it does fit with Ditko’s ideologies. In the years since Spider-Man, he’s filled his time making very angry comics telling people that they shouldn’t help out the less fortunate, and insisting that he came up with Spider-Man all by himself (everything but the name).
In any case, this is the reason that we will never get a good superhero movie from Zack Snyder, or indeed any Objectivist, because power is something that should be guarded, not shared.