Batman v Superman is 2 hours and 33 minutes of film where a substantial portion of the U.S. population blames Superman for the destruction caused by General Zod’s attempt to wipe out all life on Earth. A United States Senator goes so far in a committee hearing to proclaim that Superman was responsible for a Wayne Enterprises employee who lost his legs during the Battle for Earth against Zod.
There are multiple problems with the finger pointing at Superman. First, Congress is not a Court. Congress has every right to conduct an investigation, hold hearings, and even hold someone in contempt for refusing to answer questions, and pass a law. However, a Congressional committee is not a court of law. The issue of whether there is any liability is to be determined in a court.
Superman had zero duty to rescue the Earth from General Zod. None. As a matter of law, there is no general common law duty to rescue someone unless there is a “special relationship.” Rhodes v. Illinois Cent. Gulf R.R., 172 Ill. 2d 213, 232-233 (Ill. 1996). A person who could rescue a small child, but does not, could be savagely attacked on social media with hash tags as a “ruthless monster,” but that person would have no liability for the child’s death. Wicker v. Harmony Corp., 784 So.2d 660, at *665 (La. App., 2001). Society does encourage people to help others with “Good Samaritan” laws, which have the “broad goal” to “prompt aid by people under no duty to act, who otherwise might be dissuaded by the prospect of ordinary tort liability.” Miglino v Bally Total Fitness of Greater N.Y., Inc., 20 N.Y.3d 342, 348 (N.Y.2013).
A duty to rescue can be created between individuals by 1) statutes; 2) contractual relationships; or 3) impliedly by virtue of the relationship between the tortfeasor and a third party. Bobo v. State, 346 Md. 706, 715, 697 A.2d 1371 (1997).
Superman did not have a duty to rescue the Earth from General Zod under any statute, contractual relationship, or through his relationship of being on Earth. Moreover, the US Military did not draft Clark Kent, so Superman had no obligation to place himself in danger in confronting Zod.
Superman volunteered his services to the US Government, first to surrender himself to Zod, and then to aid the military in the defense of Earth. When a “volunteer who, having no initial duty to do so, undertakes to come to the aid of another . . . is under a duty to exercise due care in performance and is liable if (a) his failure to exercise such care increases the risk of such harm, or (b) the harm is suffered because of the other’s reliance upon the undertaking.” Foremost Dairies v. Cal. (1986) 190 Cal.App.3d 361, 365, citing Williams v. State of California (1983) 34 Cal.3d 18, 23.
General Zod planned to terraform Earth into a new Krypton. The massive environmental change would have been an extinction level event for all human life on Earth. Zod’s plan was stopped by the US military on a suicide mission in Metropolis and Superman in the Indian Ocean.
Blaming Superman is the complete allegory of blaming immigrants for crimes committed by their native countries. Holding Superman responsible for Zod is like holding Albert Einstein responsible for Adolph Hitler. It is simply wrong.
Superman engaged Zod in mortal combat after the destruction of the Kryptonian warship. Zod’s personal promise to butcher humanity resulted in a slugfest that toppled buildings. Current law does not have situations were thousands are killed by the acts of two individuals engaged in a fight to the death for all life on the planet. Looking at every step of the fight, it would be difficult to state that Superman failed to exercise reasonable care that increased the risk of such harm.
Some might argue that Superman should have forced General Zod away from a populated area for their battle. While that is a fair argument, it is easier said then done if there is a super-powered alien hell-bent to kill people. The fight between the two Kryptonians was a fusion of the Battle of Britain with the street-to-street fighting of Mogadishu. Avoiding non-combatant casualties only works when both parties want to avoid collateral damage. Zod was not of that mindset.
Batman arguing Superman was too dangerous to live would be like saying Einstein was too smart to live, thus a danger to all human life because he might invent a weapon, thus needed to die. This is faulty logic and someone as intelligent as Bruce Wayne should not engage in one-dimensional thinking. It would have made more sense for Batman to act like he did in The New Frontier in confronting Martian Manhunter for the first time.
Batman v Superman had serious flaws in its treatment of class DC characters. The execution of Jimmy Olsen as a CIA operative in the opening act was offensive. A character who has been the loyal friend, comic relief, and someone for children to identify with for 75 years, should not, in the director’s words, be shot in the head “for fun.”
It does make sense that Superman would have guilt over the deaths of thousands of people from Man of Steel. By way of comparison, Superman II did not have Christopher Reeve’s Superman go into therapy after killing Zod in the Fortress of Solitude (nor did Lois Lane show any remorse after decking Ursa and watching the Kryptonian plummet to her off-camera demise). There was also no sulking for the extensive property damage to Washington, DC, the death of the astronauts on the Moon, or anyone else harmed by Zod. Instead Superman helped repair the White House, apologized for being away, and made a vow to the President, “I will not let you down again.”
Superman has been the symbol of hope since the character was first created. Superman is the classic immigrant story of someone who comes to the United States to escape certain death, who in turn saves America from dangerous threats. We have war memorials by the thousands dedicated to such people who lacked any super powers.
Warner Brothers needs to take a lesson from the successful TV shows with DC heroes. Both Supergirl and The Flash are popular adaptations of the characters that have avoided neck-snapping decisions, peppered with executions and terrorism.
All that being said, Ben Affleck did a great job as Batman. He is a geek who loves the character. The creative missteps of the film belong to the director Zack Synder, not Affleck.
Wonder Woman was awesome. Gal Gadot was fantastic portraying Diana Prince as the warrior who made the right decision to fight for others, who also enjoyed a good fight. Looking forward to seeing Gal Gadot in her own film.