Friday, March 25, 2016
Superman vs. Batman, and Baseball vs. Football
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has been released on Good Friday. Because it wouldn't be a bad Superman movie without a Jesus reference.
And it wouldn't be a bad Batman movie without somebody having a stupid voice. In this case, as in the 1966 film version of the TV show, it's Batman himself.
Having Ben Affleck play a superhero is like having Mike Piazza play any position. And having Zack Snyder direct a movie is like having Axl Rose sing lead for your band: It's going to be loud, and it could end with a riot.
Having Zack Snyder direct was a mistake. Casting Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman was another. I don't blame Henry Cavill: He didn't mess up Clark Kent/Superman. Like the actors in J.J. Abrams' bastard version of Star Trek, he does all right with the character as he was written.
Another mistake was giving Batman top billing over Superman. Who's kidding who?
They're pandering to Batman's fans. They're louder. They are not more numerous. (See also: Arsenal fans, subsection #WengerOut.)
And let's get something straight: Batman can't beat Superman. There is no way in hell that it could ever happen.
Batfans who want their guy to beat Superman always cite the fight scene in Frank Miller's graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. And, I have to admit, the Superman in that story (not the one we know, as things have changed tremendously from canon -- and that story is not canon) is a bit of a jerk, who deserved to be taught a lesson.
But here's how that scene would have played out, if Miller understood Superman:
Batman fires a laser cannon at Superman. Superman is knocked back, but gets up, and says, "Bruce, is that the best you can do?"
Batman zaps Superman with millions of volts of electricity. (Ripped off from an early Fantastic Four story where The Thing did it to The Hulk, after The Hulk shoved him down a manhole.) Superman is surprised, but says, "Seriously? I just survived a nuke, Bruce."
Green Arrow launches his arrow containing Kryptonite dust. Superman's super-hearing picks up the sound. His telescopic vision sees the arrow, and his X-ray vision sees what's inside. He gets out of the way, the arrow lands harmlessly, and he blows the Kryptonite dust out of the way.
Batman is screwed. His ace in the hole is completely wasted, and he has no weapons left except his mind and his hand-to-hand combat abilities. Both of which are completely wasted on a Kryptonian.
Batfans believe "Batman" always wins. Why?
Top 5 Reasons Batman's Fans Think He Would Beat Superman:
5. He's smarter.
4. He's smarter.
3. He's smarter.
2. He's smarter.
1. Because he's "the goddamn Batman," that's why.
Except Batman isn't smarter than Superman. The yellow sun of the Earth, compared with the red sun of Krypton, makes Superman's brain a supercomputer, the likes of which no Batman or Batcomputer can match.
You want to know what would happen if they tried to solve the same crime? Batman would sit on a rooftop, waiting for the bad guys to show up. Except they wouldn't, because Superman has used his super-senses to track them down, and has already taken them to jail.
You want to know what would happen if they played each other in chess? Batman would be ready to pull all kinds of maneuvers, except that, in the time it took Batman to set up the board, Superman read a dozen books on chess strategy, and knows every move Batman can make.
It's no contest. And even if Batman were smarter than Superman, which he isn't, he still wouldn't win a fight.
Top 5 Reasons Batman Can't Beat Superman
5. No Element of Surprise. A big part of Batman's schtick is sneaking up on his opponents. You can't sneak up on someone with super-speed. Speaking of which...
4. Speed. Batman's martial arts expertise is useless against Superman's quickness. And his invulnerability.
3. Strength. Another reason Batman's martial arts expertise is useless against Superman.
2. Attack From a Distance. Batarang? Heat vision, super breath, flying in at super-speed.
1. No Ace in the Hole. Superman faces a guy named Kryptonite Man, plus he has Metallo to fight, and he still finds a way to win, so it's pretty safe to say Batman's Kryptonite ring only has the power that the writers give it, so it's not a guaranteed KO.
People give Batman so much credit for being smart or crafty -- as if he has a choice otherwise. If he had Superman's powers, he wouldn't even need to be crafty. Which is why Superman isn't shown as being as crafty or smart as Batman. It's not that he isn't, it's just he hardly ever needs to be.
Batman's fans also say he's more relatable than Superman. As Stephen King put it, "Batman was just a guy. A rich guy, sure. A strong guy, yeah. A smart guy, you bet. But he couldn't fly. He couldn't see through walls. If you shoot him, he could die."
Who's really more relatable? The billionaire who buys all that equipment and training to be the ultimate fighter? Or... the guy who grew up on a farm without gobs of money, who has to make do on a reporter's salary, and fights crime not out of a pathological need to avenge his parents, but because his parents told him that helping people was the right thing to do?
Lots of comic book characters, with considerably less ability than Superman, and considerably less money and stuff than Batman, fight crime, because they believe it's the right thing to do.
Who's more relatable? The guy whose closest relationships are with an old man who's his surrogate father, and a teenage boy to whom he is a surrogate father, and who sabotages every relationship he has with women? Or the guy who, in spite of his immense power, tries to live as normal a life as possible when he's not doing super stuff, and has a decent relationship with Lois Lane?
In recent rewrites, the S on Superman's chest doesn't represent the letter S that begins his nom de masque, it's his Kryptonian family crest, his language's symbol for hope.
There's the difference. Batman represents our chance to overcome fear -- which is a pretty good thing to represent. But Superman represents hope.
But Batman's movies are more popular. True... but the character isn't. His fans are just louder. So, trying to appeal to teenage boys, and to college boys that refuse to become men, Zack Snyder and the rest of the guys behind DC's "New 52" and their Cinematic Universe have made Superman dark and disturbed, more like Batman.
And I'm not happy that they Xena-ed up Wonder Woman's costume and messed with her origin story, either. Gal Gadot might be worthy to take the torch from Lynda Carter (who has expressed her approval for Gadot's performance), but this movie does Princess Diana of Themiscyra no favors.
If I want to see a Batman story, I'll read or watch a Batman story. When I see Superman, I want to see a man acting in the name of hope. We watch Batman to watch him kick ass; we watch Superman to watch him "fight a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way."
It's why football is called more popular in this country than baseball... except football fills a stadium with 60,000 people once a week, while baseball does 30,000 people six times a week.
That's right: To borrow George Carlin's descriptions, baseball, the "19th Century pastoral game," really is still, always has been, and probably always will be, more popular than football, the "20th Century technological struggle."
As I said in my post about the Top 10 Myths About the 1960s, the Jets' win in Super Bowl III was a great moment, but it was a specific moment in time; the Mets' run to the World Series later that year was a great moment for all time.
People still remember where they were when, depending on their age, Willie Mays made The Catch, the Brooklyn Dodgers finally won the World Series, Don Larsen pitched the World Series perfect game, Roger Maris hit Number 61, the Mets pulled off the Miracle, Hank Aaron hit Number 715, Reggie Jackson hit 3 home runs to clinch the World Series, Bill Buckner made his error, Mark McGwire hit Number 62, Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza had their incident, Barry Bonds hit Number 71 and Number 756, Hideki Matsui took Pedro Martinez deep, and legendary home runs were hit by Bobby Thomson, Bill Mazeroski, Carlton Fisk, Chris Chambliss, Bucky Dent, Kirk Gibson, Joe Carter, Jim Leyritz and Aaron Boone.
Are you old enough to remember the 1950s? If so, do you remember where you were when Johnny Unitas handed off to Alan Ameche? Are you old enough to remember the 1960s? If so, do you remember where you were when Bart Starr's sneak won the Ice Bowl and Joe Namath walked off the field waving the We're Number 1 finger? Are you old enough to remember the 1970s? If so, do you remember where you were when Franco Harris made the Immaculate Reception? Are you old enough to remember the 1980s? If so, do you remember where you were when Dwight Clark made the NFL version of The Catch?
You can debate whether Aaron or Bonds for a career, or Maris or Bonds for a season, is "The Home Run King." But whichever side you take, you know the numbers: 61 and 73; 755 and 762. Peyton Manning just retired as the all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes. Do you know those numbers by heart? Who scored the most touchdowns in NFL history? Whose record did he break?
The fact that you have to think about it, never mind look it up, shows that football doesn't have the same kind of hold on us that baseball does.
Football fans prefer their sport because it's loud and dangerous. These are the same people who prefer motorcycles to minivans. Sure, motorcycles can be fun, and who was cooler than The Fonz? But you can't take a family on a motorcycle. And while you can enjoy the scenery, you can't hear yourself think about it.
Baseball fans prefer their sport because it's communal. Football is tribal, but baseball is communal. How many times do Giant fans compare the Super Bowl XLII winners with the Super Bowl XXI winners, and them with the NFL Champions of 1956 and 1934? But come baseball season, they're Yankee Fans, and they're not only willing, but able to properly debate 1927, 1936, 1941, 1956, 1961, 1978, 1998 and 2009.
You tell a football fan that Sam Huff was a better linebacker for the Giants than Lawrence Taylor before L.T. was even born, and they'll wonder what you're smoking. (Not what L.T. is smoking.) But you ask a Yankee Fan whether Whitey Ford or Mariano Rivera is the greatest pitcher in the team's history, and he not only has to think about it, but he enjoys the thought.
Batman fanboys prefer him because he kicks butt. But Superman saves and inspires the world without breaking a sweat.
Heck, in the Tobey Maguire movies, even Spider-Man inspired ordinary New Yorkers to stand up for themselves in the face of evil. When has Batman ever done that?
The Dark Knight, with its Batman wannabes taking on bad guys and suffering for it, showed what happened when guys who only saw the surface tried to "be Batman." But you don't need powers or a costume to fulfill Superman's ideals.
After all, at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, Christian Bale's Batman says, "A hero can be anyone."
And, in so doing, that Batman makes Superman's point for him.
Batman can beat all kinds of bad guys.
But Batman can't beat Superman.
And these new guys aren't going to beat Chris Reeve, Michael Keaton and Lynda Carter. Or even George Reeves, Adam West and Cathy Lee Crosby.