Man of Steel was just another run of the mill, mediocre superhero movie until the moment Superman (Henry Cavill) breaks Zod’s (Michael Shannon) neck and lets out a loud cry, the camera closing in on his face. That was when my indifference turned to scorn.
The Dark Knight features a similar scenario, but where Zack Snyder failed, Christopher Nolan succeeds.
The scene in question occurs halfway during the picture. The Joker (Heath Ledger) stands in the middle of the street as Batman (Christian Bale) approaches on his bat cycle.
“Hit me! Hit me!”, the Joker dares.
If Batman accepts the challenge, the Joker will be no more. Murders will cease and Gotham will return to peace. This is exactly what Batman has been fighting for since the start of the movie.
When he’s just a few meters away from the clown, Batman lets out a cry not unlike the one Superman would emit many years later. He swerves his bike and crashes into a truck.
The Joker lives.
The reason I mention Superman is because his film tried to explore the morality a superhero lives by. Since they do not operate under the same set of rules us mortals do, they must therefore guide themselves by a superior or inferior moral code. Revenge, justice and ethics are themes both these films attempt to give an answer to.
When Superman kills Zod, the audience should feel his pain. Here is a super man who, for the greater good, had to break his “no kill” rule and kill. Superman cries because once he goes over the line, there is no telling what comes next.
But the actual scene feels so forced and out of place with what came before, that it’s laughably bad. I did not care about his plight.
But the Batman scene is the opposite. You can actually feel the caped crusader’s frustrations at the various dilemmas the Joker poses him. You can feel the sense of chaos that comes over his life. It is like he wishes he had never donned the cape in the first place. And when he makes the final sacrifice, you feel for him. Because there is no coming back from that.