“I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome.”—Nietzsche
We’re only a couple weeks away from the movie I have been waiting for: Dawn of Justice (you’ll notice I refuse to use the more sophomoric title that was clearly the brain child of an idiot studio executive *
This film is the extension of the brain child of producer Christopher Nolan and director Zach Snyder. Christopher Nolan uses classic literature as the backdrop for all of his movies (Batman Begins is The Aeneid, Prestige–Faust, Dark Knight–Othello, Inception–Theseus in the Labyrinth, Dark Knight Rises–A Tale of Two Cities, Interstellar–Odyssey). Snyder has a long habit of tacking on heavy philosophy as well (the speeches in 300 are better than any of the action, is not what you’d call shallow, and even his worst film Sucker Punch was clearly trying to be something more than pointless action—it failed miserably—but there was a clear attempt, I have no idea exactly what he was attempting but he was trying to do something more there.)
And together they went in a slightly different direction with Man of Steel; they went in a slightly different direction by not pulling from literature, but philosophy and made the whole movie a critique of Plato’s Republic (no really, Krypton is set up exactly like the Republic, castes, children raised to fit predetermined lives and are not raised by parents, they even go as far as to show you Clark reading The Republic in one scene for anyone who didn’t already get it) with Zod as the logical end result of Plato’s terrible philosophy.
Now Nolan is probably not going to be involved in the entire DC universe, but he did help Snyder chart the entire universe for the first round of films…and with charting the plots I am really hoping against hope that he outlined the themes of all the movies and they all deal with the same philosophical grounds that Man of Steel did.
I expect to see Suicide Squad tear Foucault a new one, Wonder Woman glorify 2nd Wave Feminism while destroying 3rd Wave Feminism, Justice League Part 1 to destroy Kant and Part 2 to glorify Aristotle (this is pure speculation)…but I am fairly certain that Dawn of Justice will tear the abhorrent beliefs of Friedrich Nietzsche (laughingly called philosophy) to shreds.
What do I mean?
Well first let’s go through a crash course of Nietzsche’s insanity. Now Nietzsche is very quotable, because he put nothing in context, and you can probably find a line to justify anything but traditional religion. Some of it even sounds quite profound (again when taken out of context) but when you take it as a whole it’s a poor and rambling attempt to justify sociopathic behavior. It’s hard to deal with a man who claims at one moment to love self-reflection and then decry reason and rationality as a perversion of humanity the next. Once you’ve actively denied logic, it becomes impossible to challenge you because like a child your interlocutor just says that they don’t care about that, facts and reason aren’t relevant, they have something better, who the hell knows what that is (it’s like arguing with a Trump supporter). Nietzsche’s ethics are just as bad, hyping the Übermensch:
I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?… All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to overman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape… The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth… Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss … what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.—Thus Spoke Zarathustra
While the nature of this overman, like most things in Nietzsche, hard to nail down because Friedrich was committed to an asylum a couple decades later than he should have been, it is clear that the übermensch is not bound by the slave-morality of “good and evil,” to be something superior to the common people, making his own values, free of all traces of empathy, and above the rabble, to do with them and the world as he pleases.
With as abhorrent a vision as this, it is no shock that Nietzsche’s ideas were so easily used by the Nazis (even though he personally did not support such nationalist views while he was alive), and was the subject of condemnation in an early comic which portrayed one of the overmen as a cruel dictator worthy of all the scorn ethical people would put on what Nietzsche viewed as an ideal. That comic was of course “The Reign of the Superman” by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Who quickly realized that the way to truly destroy the values of Nietzsche wasn’t to show how a fascist example of the master race in all its abhorrence, but to show the superiority of ethics in a Superman who was above the maxim that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
And this is why Nietzsche had to be the target of this addition to the Superman franchise, because the entire comic began as an attack on Nietzschian values.
So how will this play out in the film.
“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”—Nietzsche
“That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.”—Alfred Pennyworth
Possibly the only part of Nietzsche that will not be lambasted is the oft quoted warning about staring into the abyss as this is pretty much where Batman is clearly going to begin this film. His hopeless view that Superman can’t be trusted because “twenty years in Gotham, Alfred—We’ve seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?”
This man has been fighting for so long he doesn’t believe any one beside himself and Alfred are on the side of good. He sees the worst in everyone. Granted after Dent, Todd, Quinn, and who knows who else is in this universe, he’s seen a lot of people fall to their worst side. He has fought monsters so long that as Alfred warns it “turns good men cruel.”
So if this movie is a refutation of Nietzsche why make one of the most hyped points of trailers the point where Nietzsche is correct? Because it was a tip of the hat to let us know which philosophy they would be dealing with…and because as we all know for all his fighting Bruce isn’t a monster—not now, not ever. And this movie will show that the good can survive the staring contest with the abyss. (Which will probably be also mirrored in Clark’s doubts about his mission that we get hints of.
“In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments.”—Nietzsche
“This means something. It’s all some people have. It’s all that gives them hope.”—Lois Lane
Nietzsche was a real downer of a person. And for all his claims to hate nihilism, his ideas were more or less nihilistic.
Now certainly the first movie Man of Steel the concept of hope was dealt with over and over. But we’re going to return to this in this movie and see that, like Nietzsche, people like Luthor find the idea of spreading hope to be a dangerous one…probably because it ruins their ability to control. And we will almost certainly see that the idea of hope is what is going to take Batman out of the abyss and back toward the character out to give people a symbol that we saw in the last time Nolan had his hands on the character.
“God is Dead”—Nietzsche
“If Man won’t kill God, the Devil will do it.”—Lex Luthor
Nietzsche, Luthor, Zod, and Darkseid (whom we are getting hints of) all believe themselves to be above others, above any concept, laws and judges unto themselves. They don’t need Gods to give purpose to existence, they just find their own glorification of power to be the purpose.
But our heroes will show, maybe not in terms of divinity, but a higher concept is still needed to offer a course and goal for humanity…otherwise it wouldn’t be called Dawn of Justice.
“Who can attain to anything great if he does not feel in himself the force and will to inflict great pain? The ability to suffer is a small matter: in that line, weak women and even slaves often attain masterliness. But not to perish from internal distress and doubt when one inflicts great suffering and hears the cry of it — that is great, that belongs to greatness.”—Nietzsche
“What have you done?”—Superman
If this Nietzsche quote isn’t an actual recipe for how to create Doomsday I don’t know what is. And when that monster (I’ll admit I too hope what we saw in the trailer wasn’t the final CGI vision of the monster) is destroyed by DC trinity, it will go a long way to show this glorification of infliction of pain is flawed.
“What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.”—Nietzsche
With all the discussion from Luthor and corrupt Senators (at least I assume she’s corrupt as she’s with Luthor a lot) about power and it’s use, one can’t help but hear a disunion of the will to power coming into this movie somewhere. And while I think he championing of the Aristotelian virtues is still a couple movies away, I get the feeling that this film will deal with how power is only a tool to be used for virtue or vice and is in itself not the central point of life or ethics.
“When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexually.”
“I don’t think you’ve ever known a woman like me.”–Wonder Woman
And I can’t help but point out that if you read Nietzsche you may find claims of his anti-Semitism are not as simple as pop culture would have you believe…but his unspeakable misogyny more than makes up for any perceived points by not being a complete Nazi returning Friedrich and his ideas to the category of “complete waste of space and volume.”
And what, to point out the obvious, what better way to put the final nail in the coffin of Nietzsche’s ideas, than to show how wrong his hatred of women as “the weaker sex” with not only a version of Lois Lane who is finally able to figure out who Superman is, but the most bad ass super-heroine in existence.
Granted all of this is based off what we know of Nolan, Snyder, and the few hints from the trailers…but this is what you should go in looking for, as this director and producer have no intention of showing anything so mundane as a overpowered beatdown.
*But still somehow lacked the joy of any of these options.