Joker and Harley Quinn- Wish Fulfillment for The Twilight Crowd

As I scrolled through instagram this morning, I came across a post by another user who was upset that people kept arguing that the Harley Quinn and Joker relationship is meant to be a manipulative and abusive one. The user is aware that the relationship is depicted like that in the comics, but argues that the movies don’t portray that. In her mind, the relationship is a case of two people with psychological issues being there for one another. I have previously discussed how people who actually know about the comics are still treated as basement dwelling virgins, since people believe the source material for their beloved films shouldn’t matter. Today’s first post on @moviegrapevine was inspired by my reaction to this delusional user, and I figured I would expand my thoughts here.

In the comics, Harley is often depicted as heavily dependent on the Joker, and arguably experiencing true love. Meanwhile, The Joker sees her as a prized possession or a tool to be used as he pleases. Deleted scenes from Suicide Squad reveal a more abusive relationship. This article describes a scene that was cut (SPOILER ALERT)

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…. from Joker’s helicopter rescue of Harley. In the movie, they share a kiss and it is a sweet moment. In the deleted scene Joker verbally scolds her. There is also  leaked set footage of another scene where The Joker slaps Harley.

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These scenes were cut partly due to WB’s concerns about the film being too dark, especially following the backlash BatmanvSuperman received for its tone. This serves as yet another example of how the “make it fun” mentality can damage a film. We do not have the proper Harley and Joker relationship without the abuse. They are not meant to be an ideal couple. The Joker is unpredictable, selfish and violent. His treatment of Harley should reflect that. Yes, he comes back to recapture her at the end of the film, but that is like a real-life abusive husband buying his wife something shiny after he beats her; It only serves to continue the cycle of abuse. Of course, Harley Quinn puts up with his abuse to her issues with dependency, but I am sick of people arguing their relationship is supposed to be sweet and romantic in Suicide Squad.

The marketing for Suicide Squad focused heavily on Harley Quinn, which was perfectly fine with me since it is her big screen debut. However, the focus on Harley and the related girl power also served to attract the type of audience that would not normally see a comic book film. Instead of female comic book fans or general action film fans, we also attract the woman who would normally pass on this movie to read or watch Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight again. Wish fulfillment is a huge part of what makes these kinds of love stories so popular. Erika Leonard, better known as E.L James, admits that her writing was influenced by her own fantasies.

People flock to love stories to imagine themselves as the woman being chased after by the most popular guy in high school, or the woman hooking up with a millionaire. I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, and I refuse to. I understand the relationship portrayed there is not an ideal one, but from what I understand the BDSM is a consensual part of the relationship. Women can still fantasize about being taken in such a way by a millionaire. It is harder to fantasize about being used and abused by a psychotic clown. So when they are confronted with the truth that their “bae” is actually abusive, they deny it by any means necessary. It ruins the illusion of this sweet relationship with the hot prince of crime (yes, a lot of girls think this Joker is hot). Their real boyfriends are either non-existent or don’t fit their laundry list of ideal traits. e.g. bad boy persona, tattoos. Grow up and take your wish fulfillment elsewhere.

 

Arkham Knight

Hello everyone,

Aside from comics, tv, and movies I am also a gamer, which helps to bring more diversity to my geeky repertoire. I wouldn’t say that I spend most of my free time playing and I purposely try not to. However, I do enjoy playing a few hours a week. Some of my favourite series include Halo and the Arkham games. I completed the story mode of Halo 5 and before I delved into the online play, I decided to finally start Arkham Knight.

I played Arkham City when that first came out in 2011 and I have been hooked on the series since. Arkham Origins was somewhat forgettable but still an enjoyable game. I did also like the fact that it added online challenge modes, where you could actually compete in real-time with other players. The only online options for Arkham City allowed your score on challenges to be ranked with that of other players.

I am only about 10% of the way through the story so far, not to mention all of the riddle challenges and trophies. However, there was one aspect of the game that I love and hate at the same time. After looking up my issue online it seems like a lot of people feel the same way. Getting to drive the batmobile is a great new feature, at least in theory. It offers something new to the gameplay while also giving players access to Batman’s full arsenal. The design is amazing and while the controls take a big of getting used to, riding in the batmobile can be a great experience. The only problem is that the batmobile isn’t only a cool side feature, it is an essential part of gameplay for many levels so far. Whether it is riddler challenges or puzzles in the main story, the batmobile is crucial. At times, the action/adventure game becomes a racing game for long stretches at a time. If you don’t like racing games, that’s just too bad.

Gameplay with the batmobile can get repetitive at times since its combat offers more limited options than Batman’s. There are three main weapons/ tools and that’s about it, compared to the myriad combination of gadgets and fighting techniques that Batman offers. There are entire levels or checkpoints that involve the batmobile taking on unmanned tanks. These entire levels will be the same combo of dodging and shooting. Those who don’t like shooting games, probably won’t like these parts. Of course there is nothing wrong with the game incorporating elements from numerous genres, but it does represent a pretty fundamental shift from the previous three games, which all focused on stealth or combat modes. Those who have become accustomed to this by now could very well be thrown off completely by the change. There is one level where the batmobile has to take on tanks and a helicopter at the same time. You must then eliminated about seven hostiles while trying to dodge a barrage of missiles.

After failing for the fifth time, I looked up a walkthrough for this part online and the comments reveal the same level of frustration I had. One person even said that they returned the game since they couldn’t get past this part to enjoy the rest. Of course, I didn’t do that. I was able to beat the level after a few more tries, using some tips I found online. However, I think a big part of why people might be so frustrated or willing to quit is because of the change in playing style that they might not have anticipated. Although we might want variation in stories, certain genres of games have conventions that many people might want a game to follow. If Halo 5 introduced more puzzles, people might be thrown off by that.

I’m still enjoying the game and I look forward to playing more, but I can’t help but think the combat sequences with the batmobile will only get more repetitive as the game goes on.

Suicide Squad- Drowning in Bad Reviews

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Since the first official trailer was released back in January, Suicide Squad has been one of my most anticipated films of 2016. At this point, Rogue One and SQ hold the top spots.

Another highly anticipated film, BatmanvSuperman, was a disappointment, mainly due to the third act and the presence of Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor Jr. who was in desperate need of some Ritalin.

I gave the film a 6.5/10, and was surprised to learn that Rotten Tomatoes gave it less than 30%. I knew the reviews weren’t good going into the film, but I didn’t realize the reviews were that bad. I can agree with some of the criticisms levied at the film. I understand that the dream sequences were jarring and nonsensical for some, although they did have some comic references that delighted me. I understand that the conflict between batman and superman could have been better developed. I understand the Martha scene could have been executed better, even if the intention was laudable, Doomsday was terribly developed etc.

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Obviously, I can’t say the film was amazing. Ben Affleck was great, Gal Gadot gave a memorable silver screen debut for Wonder Woman etc., the film built off the much aligned destruction in Man of Steel…but the positives are weighed down. I am not a fanboy who rejects reason when defending a film. I understand that the film has its faults, but the hate levied against it seems vastly disproportionate to them. Mainly because a lot of criticism revolves around the film’s tone. This is of course not the only criticism, but it is one that pops up in numerous reviews.

I have previously discussed the ongoing belief that comic book films should be light-hearted and “fun”. I find this funny since the source material doesn’t always fit this criteria. The comic book version of Civil War was not full of witty banter and “fun”, but we get that in the film. I did love the movie and I do like many of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films, but the insistence on a “fun” tone is making the movies become stale to me. It is good to have tonal variety. DC will have more humour with films like Shazam and Aquaman, which will help to balance out the darker films. The Justice League Comic Con footage also shows us a lighter tone, but I hope that more jokes aren’t shoehorned in only to appeal to the horde that thought BvS was too “dark” “brooding” “depressing” etc.

No other genre of films will get panned solely for its tone. No one will say a biopic is bad because it’s depressing, but comic book films seem to be bound by a duty to make their audience laugh. People are used to this and expect this now due to the MCU. Some might be quick to say that the MCU’s films are light because they fit the characters. However, that is not always the case. Thor: Ragnarok, the third film in the Thor series, will revolve around Asgardian Doomsday. It would make sense for this film to be dark, at least relative to the previous films. However, a comedy writer was brought in to change the film specifically because they thought the original script was too dark. Again, he was brought in ONLY due to concerns about darkness, not character development, plot etc.

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The humour started with Robert Downey Jr. ad-libbing dialogue in Iron Man (2008), which became a template for the rest of the MCU, and it is now a recognized staple of the Marvel films. Now that Disney owns Marvel, you can bet that there is even more corporate pressure to keep everything light and family friendly. Of course, the Netflix shows are much darker and ones like Jessica Jones aren’t meant for children at all. However, these shows are much cheaper than a $150 million film, so there is less pressure to appeal to a wider audience. It seems like the execs are more willing to experiment with darker themes and tones when crafting a Netflix series. For the moment, any darker Marvel characters will either be watered down on film or available on Netflix. The funny thing is that these shows rarely get criticized for the tone the same way the films do. People don’t say they would be improved if they were more “fun”.

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Point being, Marvel has created a brand that is lighter and I believe people have a much harder time accepting anything else. Even Stephen Colbert has criticized DC for being too dark, referring to Suicide Squad as the “mopey avengers“. This is despite a marketing campaign that has continuously portrayed SQ as a lighter, more “fun” film than BvS. Colbert is not a film buff, or a huge comic fan. When it comes to his interest in these topics, he can be considered a member of the general public. He is a perfect example of how the mindset that DC is too dark has filtered through society. Kevin Fiege has explicitly stated that the MCU will never be dark, arguing that humour is in the “DNA of the movies”. There you have it, a commitment to sticking to the same tone for every single MCU film, despite the character or story arc being explored. It’s a restrictive policy but one that many people commend. They have adapted to expect this tone from their comic book films and they retroactively ascribe the “fun” to the source material.

Aside from the issue of expecting light-heartedness, it seems like people are much more forgiving of a film’s faults if it is light-hearted. I saw a tweet from someone today that was criticizing SQ directory, David Ayer, for his “snarky” response to the negative reviews. @4starfilms didn’t appreciate the response since he has plenty of things to criticize the film for. The funny part, @4starfilms hasn’t seen the film yet. I am not assuming that because it’s not out yet for general audiences yet. I asked him, and he told me he hasn’t seen it. All the criticisms he has for SQ? Solely based on reviews he has read. BvS taught me not to judge a film just by reviews, which was something I did for Fantastic Four (2015).  While @4Starfilsm bashes SQ based only off reviews, a recent review of the new Jason Bourne film also says that the film deserves a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes. Obviously he doesn’t truly believe that critics are always right. Seems like he was just eager to hate the film. It can be easy to jump on the bandwagon. @4Starfilms is also another person who thinks the tone was one of the main issues for BvS. Seeing a pattern here?

I’m seeing SQ this Saturday and I will reserve judgment until then. Who knows, it might suck, but I won’t bash it prematurely and I won’t say it sucks because of the tone.

 

 

 

Injustice: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Good morning everyone, have another blog post up on comicommand. Feel free to check it out there, but I’ve also copied it below. As I’ve mentioned before, comicommand is always looking for new writers so feel free to reach out for a chance to share any original comic-book related articles.

 

Posted on by

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

In 2013, NetherRealm Studios (best known for Mortal Kombat) released Injustice: Gods Among Us. In an alternate universe, The Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane and his unborn child. The Joker uses scarecrow’s fear toxin to make Superman think he sees Doomsday. Superman responds by pushing Doomsday into space, and it is too late by the time he killed a pregnant Lois Lane.  Superman kills The Joker and then establishes a new world order. Five years later, Batman summons the Justice League from the mainstream continuity in order to defeat his Superman.

The game also had a related comic book tie-in that details the five years leading up to the game. When I first heard about the series I thought it would be a cheap cash-in, but a friend recommended the comics and I was soon hooked. The comics are currently in year five, but the writing has been weaker since writer Tom Taylor left the project mid-way through year three. Taylor’s work is sorely missed and I want to take a look back at what made his work on the series so great, namely the characterization of Superman and Batman.

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Firstly, the writing itself was amazing.  Like The Walking Dead, I found that the artwork took a little getting used to, but it was this line that convinced me I should give the comic a chance: “Our world is now ruled by the iron fist of a Man of Steel.” Maybe it’s simple, but it’s also an eloquent way to introduce a version of Superman that is so far removed from the one we are used to.

The strength of the prequel hinged on the believability of Superman’s transformation into a murdering dictator, and Taylor’s work captures it well. I remember watching Batman: Under The Red Hood and hearing Batman say why he chooses not to kill The Joker. Batman knows that if he allows himself to kill just one person, even someone as despicable as The Joker, it becomes too easy to justify making the same decision for every other criminal: “If I go down that road, I’m never coming back.”

I never really understood Batman’s point at the time. I thought it would be easy to make an exception but I see the moral of the story play out with Superman. The Joker had been playing games with Batman for much longer, trying to get Batman to snap. Superman was “easy mode”.  While Superman has faced loss, it is implied that Batman may be mentally tougher. In the comics, Superman has lost his biological parents, his adoptive father, his cousin and an entire planet, but he does not have memories of those people to mourn. Meanwhile, Batman was a witness to his parent’s murder from a younger and highly impressionable age.

Taylor’s work also demonstrates how Superman doesn’t initially become a dictator due to the desire for power. Ultimately, he feels betrayed by Batman. He blames Batman for not killing The Joker earlier and even accuses Batman of loving The Joker. Superman feels as if his best friend cares about a psychopath more than him. Even when the two come to blows over Batman’s attempts to bring the regime down, Superman can’t bring himself to kill Batman, opting to paralyze him instead.

In this fight, we also see Superman resort to torture to get information out of Batman. This was always one of the biggest differences between the characters, and Batman is quick to point out how far Superman has fallen.

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Superman and Batman have always differed in their methods of crime fighting, with Batman being the morally grey figure who was open to torturing criminals. This conflict between the two characters also seems to imply that while Batman may embrace his anger and vengeful side more often, that is what prevented him from truly becoming like the criminals they fight against. Batman had his outlet for his issues, while Superman held himself to a higher standard that only made it easier for him to fall.

As the series progresses, we see that Wonder Woman is eager to step in to replace Lois Lane. She is a key figure that whispers in his ear and guides him to embrace his violent tendencies. Her ancient military background makes her more open to the idea of a dictatorship and her admiration for Superman, as a warrior and friend, makes her more likely to support him. Overtime, we see Superman’s unresolved grief for Lois, and his anger towards Batman transform him into a fearsome dictator.

Since leaving Injustice, Taylor has worked on Superior: Iron Man and several independent titles. The current state of the comics makes it clear that DC suffered a big loss, especially since Taylor could have also transitioned into working on other titles. Fortunately, the first two years of Injustice will always be there as a testament to his work.

 

Batman v Superman Review

Like Star Wars: Episode VII, this was another review where I had to seriously collect my thoughts before putting words to paper. Initially, BvS was my most anticipated comic book film of 2016. The teaser was tense, dramatic and set the film up perfectly. Then the second trailer came, showing more of Luthor and revealing doomsday. I know many people argue that the doomsday reveal wasn’t a spoiler since we knew there would be another villain in the film, but that is no excuse to give away the villain early. There are some reveals that are best saved for the film itself. The doomsday CGI looked sketchy and had me wondering how good the final fight would be.

Then the third trailer came along, showing more of Batfleck, especially the warehouse fight scene. This film became highly anticipated again, below Suicide Squad but above Captain America: Civil War. I saw it one day after its release and the news of the poor reviews was prevalent by then, but since I liked Man of Steel and knew how poorly reviewed that film was I didn’t let the negative reviews bother me. Even the editor of Rotten Tomatoes, was baffled by the poor reviews Man of Steel received and pleaded that it was a good film.

 

With all that said, I simply want to say that I did not let negative reviews of this film affect my perception of it: Especially since a lot of criticism revealed around the film being “too dark”. I have explained why this is simply factually incorrect and is a product of people simply being too used to Marvel films.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRKy226tmCk

 

I explained my argument about darkness in depth in that video but I will go over it again here. 2008 saw The Dark Knight become a critical hit, with its dark and serious tone that contributed to many critics seeing it as the pinnacle of comic book filmmaking. Since then it seems like there has been a huge backlash against darkness in comic book films. With the exception of The Dark Knight Rises, most of the critically revered comic book films that followed were marvel studio properties. Marvel began to establish a dynasty; starting off small with Iron Man and cementing a solid reputation by the time The Avengers (2012) came out. Before I come across as a DC fanboy I want to say that I love both universes and the prospect of a shared universe in the Marvel films made me feel like a kid again.

 

However, as time has gone on I have also noticed a pervasive similarity among the Marvel films: A light tone, with plenty of humour. There is nothing wrong with a light tone or humour. Some Marvel films handled it well, with the best examples being the Captain America films and Guardians of the Galaxy. However, some handle it poorly, with the Thor films being the best example. Loki brings good humour to the stories but then we also get Kat Dennings’s and Natalie Portman’s contributions.
When a comedy writer was brought in to lighten the tone of Thor 3: Ragnarok, it became obvious that the insistence on humour could be a problem sometimes. Marvel studios president Kevin Fiege argued that they didn’t want the film differing too much in tone from the other marvel properties. Therein lies the problem. Ragnarok is a doomsday story; it should be darker than the other properties. The real reason it needs to stay light is so that it stays appealing to Marvel’s audience of kids and families.

 

In the comics, some character stories will have lighter issues than others. The same character may even fluctuate between darker and lighter stories. Good writers are able to handle these tonal shifts and make them feel natural. A great example was the Justice League animated series, which balanced different character personalities, villains and storylines in expert fashion. That is what Marvel studios should strive for as well, instead of trying to turn every character into a comedian who spouts one-liners every five minutes. If every Marvel or DC film had the same tone I think the properties would get stale.

 

Obviously Marvel has darker properties, like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. However, those are Netflix shows, which are cheaper than Hollywood films and target a more mature, niche audience. Marvel can take more risks with the tone since they don’t have to worry as much about scaring away families and kids. If Thor 3 gets rewrites for being too dark, there is no way Marvel would give us the same R-Rated version of The Punisher in a big screen adaptation. The Netflix shows do help to add variety to Marvel’s offerings but I wish we could see a darker property like Blade back on the big screen instead of having to either settle for a Netflix show, or a Disney-fied version of the character on the big screen.

 

Another example of the disneyfication is the character of Tony Stark in Civil War. At the very end of the trailer he calls Spider-Man “underoos” before Spider-Man swings into the mcu for the first time. I do not mean to nitpick or bash the movie for one line. The line is fine. What I want to say is, that line would seem very out of character for the version of Tony Stark we see in the Civil War comics. The comics version of Tony Stark (in these specific comics) is much more quiet and introspective. He does not spout a single one-liner throughout the story arc and might come across as “too dark” “brooding” etc. for people who get their idea of the character from Marvel’s films. That simply illustrates my point about the “Disneyfication” of characters and how audiences can get too used to seeing these versions of the characters and then compare all other adaptations to the same tone. Hence all the talk of MOS and Bvs being “too dark”. Marvel has had time to stamp itself onto the public consciousness, setting themselves up as the benchmark that all other comic book films will be compared to. Everything is relative, and if people are used to Marvel’s tone then obviously a film like Bvs will come across as too dark. That is why I did not pay attention to criticisms of the film being too dark and that is why I don’t personally agree. As soon as someone criticizes Bvs for its “dark” tone it makes it clear that they have very little knowledge of the characters and are simply brainwashed by Marvel’s films.

 

Review
The Good

 

Firstly, Batfleck was awesome. I was on the fence about his casting, but he killed the role as Bruce Wayne and Batman. The suit was the best we’ve seen on the big screen so far in terms of its aesthetics and functionality. The batman voice is created by a microphone in the cowl and is the best one we’ve heard yet.

 

This version of Bruce Wayne is an older Batman who routinely suffers from nightmares and is pessimistic about human nature and his significance in the fight against crime, which factors heavily into his conflict with Superman. The nightmare scene in the film may cause confusion for viewers who are not familiar with the character of Darkseid and the injustice comics. Although the references to these characters and storylines were a treat for me, I can see why they would be confusing for other viewers.

 

Jeremy Irons was great as Alfred, which was expected since he was the only casting decision I had no reservations about. I wish we could have seen more of his Alfred, but that is probably an indicator of his success with the role. This version of Alfred has a more hands-on role in Batman’s crusade but is also a figure that makes it clear he would rather see Wayne hang up the suit permanently.

 

Henry Cavill exceeds his performance in the first film (which was decent) with his portrayal of a Superman who is now the center of controversy and criticism from the public, the media and the government. More than ever, he questions his role in the world and his doubts have led some viewers to consider him “too moody” “too dark” etc. However, I think the character’s outlook fits the story and the events he goes through. However, I do hope that in the next installments, we start to see more of the optimism people typically associate with the character. Superman is not a lighter character than Batman because bad things never happen to him, he is lighter because of his attitude about human nature and the future.

 

Gal Gadot was a pleasant surprise as Wonder Woman and leaves me more excited for the solo film, although carrying a solo film is obviously a much bigger task. Aside from a line or two that seemed wooden, I thought Gadot had great screen presence and brought amazing strength and appeal to the character.

 

I have heard some people say that the set up for the Justice League could have used more than one film, and I can agree with that. All the news of cameos had me worried the film would be far too packed. Ultimately, the cameos were worked in well.

 

Minor Spoiler

 

The cameos are archived footage that Luthor has been collecting on metahumans. In total, the clips are less than five minutes but give us our first glimpse of some of the Justice League. I thought this was a great way to introduce the characters that took little screen time and also did not come across as too tacked on. There is some criticism that the cameos were too short, or seemed like the type of footage you would get on a dvd extra. Yet some of these same people also complain that the film tried to do too much. BvS simply can’t win sometimes.

 

The Bad

 

When Jesse Eisenberg was cast as Luthor, many hopeful fans said that he would surprise us with a great performance, just like Heath Ledger did as the joker. People forgot tat Ledger was an exception to the rule. Eisenberg proves that a questionable casting decision does not work out well. Batfleck impressed but it seems like we asked for too much with Eisenberg.

 

The version of Luthor we see here is Lex Luthor’s son, which just begs the question of why we don’t get Lex instead. The character could have been interesting. The writing implied that he did not have a good relationship with his father but is still trying to fill his father’s shoes. The writing itself was actually pretty good, in terms of dialogue at least. The issue is Eisenberg’s acting. In terms of Luthor’s behaviour and mannerisms it seems like Snyder was aiming for a character like Jake Gyllenhaal’s in Nightcrawler.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18ZDiRsbEZA

 

Instead we get a hyperactive spaz who brings a level of campiness to the movie whenever he is on screen. Since Luthor has a decent chunk of screen time and sets up the third act conflict his presence greatly contributed to the 6.5/10.

 

Speaking of the third act, the trailers showed that Doomsday would be the villain for a final fight with The Trinity (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman). This fight was also one of the weaker parts of the film for me. It had great elements, such as Wonder Woman and her contribution. However, it also had spotty CGI. Doomsday does not look any better than the footage we saw from the trailer and the CGI detracts from the tension and enjoyment of the fight. The Batman warehouse fight (partly shown in the third trailer) was far more enjoyable and memorable in my opinion.

 

Overall, the film sets up the Justice League pretty well but I do not want to give it extra points just for that. A movie ultimately needs to stand on its own. Of course, a film can hint at events to come but there also needs to be a solid foundation that makes the film enjoyable as a solo piece. BvS is not amazing, but it is also not the cinematic abomination that many people label it as.

 

Spoilers

 

The Martha Scene

 

This scene has already spawned heated criticism and memes. I just want to add a quick note on why I actually liked it and that all the criticism seems to miss the point of the scene. Batman does not spare Superman’s life because “Your mom has the same name! Besties!” Although people like to rant about how movies spoon-feed them too much, this seems like a case where people need to be spoon-fed. The scene isn’t about Superman’s mom having the same name. It is about a terrifying god-like figure (in Batman’s eyes) being reduced to a man that wants to save his mom. The common desire to protect their families is what makes Batman spare Superman’s life. If you can’t understand that scene, then I think that is your problem and not the film’s.