thoughts on duality in bvs
man, i love how at the end of bvs, superman is still a mystery to the general public.
“all those circuses back east for an empty box.”
“they don’t know how to honor him–except as a soldier.”
what the film seems to say is that superman and clark kent can be separate; they can be buried in two coffins, he can be his own person without worrying about the public defining him because they will always define him as something different. in the suicide squad trailer, we see that many officials still worry about deterrence against metahumans, despite clark’s ultimate sacrifice. the questions still exist, though there’s certainly a lot more goodwill toward superman than there’s ever been before. but clark has finally accepted that he can’t control that–and they can’t control him. he’ll always just do what feels right to him–as kal-el, as clark, not as Superman the Idol. it’s like he’s managed to bury both sides of himself that didn’t feel whole.
and that ultimate separation is what bvs is about–acknowledging that these characters are perceived as larger-than-life and often behave as uncontrollable gods, but they are themselves in a way that is often impossible for them to express. the movie doesn’t tell us about the dualities they’re dealing with. it shows us.
the two supermans are so distinct by the end that it’s impossible for the audience to mistake one for the other.
diana has lived as a mere mortal for hundreds of years, but bruce and the doomsday threat convince her to use her powers again. she is herself in battle, even if she still mourns the consequences of violence. she’s tried to give up the image of herself as a goddess, but she’s closed herself off too much from what she can do.
bruce has lived too long as a legend and dreads the return to humanity, to what’s supposed to be a normal life. but by the end of bvs, he’s let new people into his heart, and it reminds him of what he set out to do in the first place. he no longer fears his own vulnerability quite so much, so he can be bruce wayne in a way that doesn’t feel like he has to put on a mask to exist. he has people who care about him, and he can’t fail them.
(for some visual cues on the concepts of duality/separation, check the funerals that frame the narrative. there are two funerals at the end, one spare and desaturated in kansas, one loud and colorful and full in metropolis. pairs of horses pull the coffins, which we can link to the riderless horse we see in the fog after the metropolis destruction and the rearing, soldiered horse we see after the capitol bombing. those images are evocative and strange, and there’s no one way to read them, but i love the idea that they’re linked to death, powerlessness, and power, respectively–which all our characters are grappling with in more explicitly stated ways.)
the movie is really about how the trinity has to make a choice between humanity and power, with all the guilt that goes along with that, and then the movie asks if that’s even a choice they have to make. lex doesn’t think you can be powerful and good at the same time, and the trinity choose different versions of that–bruce wants power (to force the world to make sense), diana cedes her power so she can live with herself, and clark dies (Ultimate Human Act!) in the process of killing an unkillable demon (Ultimate Godlike Act!). he’s definitely managed to separate himself from the public’s view of him, but he’s also able to strike the right balance between his powers and his morals that bruce and diana struggle to do. but they all make it there in the end. they’re not simply behaving as mortals are supposed to, or as criminals/waynes are supposed to, or as saviors are supposed to. they’re just them, supporting one another, choosing to do good with the power they have, no matter how difficult or impossible that might seem.