Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Spring 2018

Department

Library & Information Services

Language

English

Publication Title

Mise-en-scène: The Journal of Film & Visual Narration (MSJ)

Abstract

In recent years, the superhero genre has grown to account for a significant amount of studio profits. However, superhero films are largely presented as action films, and critics simultaneously tire of and hope for the genre’s simplicity. Nevertheless, superheroes are not merely disposable entertainment, but an important part of how society understands justice. Their cinematic association with simplicity propagates a detrimental focus on capture or death that obscures the complexities of justice and reduces society’s ability to overcome crime. This is reinforced by the predetermination of heroes and villains by their iconic identities, which are built over the course of their respective histories. While Logan (2017) was lauded for its Western influence, Wonder Woman (2017) for its Superman (1978) influence, and Thor: Ragnarok (2017) for its myriad of other influences, the influences of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) have largely been ignored. Despite its action-oriented title, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice warrants analysis as a particularly ambitious development within the evolving superhero genre. It applies a remarkable amount of the Hitchcockian thrills present in Hollywood’s foundations to a story pitting two protagonists against one another, unfolding within a villain’s conspiracy in order to create the first live-action Hitchcockian superhero thriller featuring branded, culturally established characters. By displacing its protagonists from their inherently justified positions, it creates a critical moral ambiguity that directly deconstructs the assumptions at the heart of Western society’s two most archetypal superheroes. The film’s implications lie in ambiguous themes and techniques that experiment with commercial art to challenge a mass audience to critically engage with society’s assumptions. Reflecting on democracy in a polarized world of manipulated media and xenophobia, it is a nuanced exploration of the complex concept of justice, and is thus a film worth critical consideration. In this essay, the themes and techniques of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and The Birds (1963) will be analyzed, as well as how they, along with a crucial element of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), are utilized in the original theatrical cut of Batman v Superman.

Comments

This published version is made available on Dickinson Scholar with the permission of the publisher. For more information on the published version, visit Mise-en-scène's Website.

© 2018. This publication is made available under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/

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