Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has its share of hotly debated moments, but nothing tops the “Martha moment,” and even the film’s crew doesn’t understand the hate. While fans of the moment see it as a powerful scene that shakes a fallen Batman out of his rage, enabling him to see Superman’s humanity for the first time, others have turned the moment into a meme, comparing it to the moment in the movie Step Brothers when Dale and Brennan become best friends because after discovering their common interests.
Batman v Superman is hardly the first poorly reviewed superhero movie, but typically poorly received superhero movies fade into obscurity fairly quickly. Even a number of well-received superhero movies fall off the radar a year or two after release due to the saturated market, but BvS is still frequently talked about, and not just within its avid fan base. The movie is often brought up, particularly the Martha moment, by many people that disliked the film, keeping it in the zeitgeist as one of the most talked about superhero movies. Zack Snyder’s departure from Justice League and that movie’s ultimate financial and critical failure after reshoots certainly didn’t help matters.
Recently, cinematographer Larry Fong said he doesn’t get critics in reaction to some of the scathing reviews directed at Batman v Superman and other Zack Snyder movies get, and now Damon Caro, Batman v Superman’s stunt coordinator and second unit director voices a similar sentiment.
In an interview with Caro, Screen Rant inquired about his and other crew members expectations for the Martha scene and whether there was an inkling that it would be a hotly debated moment when it arrived in theaters:
“there was… zero conversation about “oh, people are going to have an issue with this or not understand it or think it’s silly.” It was – and it’s so funny, Zack and I had a conversation about that, I don’t know, a month ago, probably. That came up and I just said “I have never understood-” and I don’t listen to a lot of the haters, but I’ve heard the chatter of it a little bit, but I don’t understand what the disconnect was. What the problem is with how salient that line is and the connection between having the same mother’s name allows you to connect with someone you wanted to obliterate from the planet because you saw him as a threat to the human race. You saw him as a threat to humanity, then in that one moment, you realized he was an orphan and his mother’s… you saw him as you as you as a kid and you saw him in that light, so that enlightened you, that made you drop and see him now, not as the enemy, but as an ally. A fellow being who is trying to do the right thing, to reach justice. So no, crystal clear and very, like I said, it always made sense to me, so I’m perplexed by that one and I don’t know that I… I don’t have the answer to that one.”
Some people will doubtless see these comments as supporting a narrative of incompetence behind the movie’s script, but it’s important to distinguish that the translates well conceptually and on paper. Besides, while Snyder helped craft the story, the screenplay was written by Oscar winner Chris Terrio. As Caro says, the idea of Batman who’s lost his way identifying with Superman’s humanity and that moment cutting through his rage is a powerful concept. Maybe it’s the fact that audiences rejected Batman’s more violent arc from the start, undercutting the emotional payoff that comes from his redemption, or maybe it comes down to execution in the moment. It’s hard to discount the many audience members who saw no issue with it, but at the same time, there’s plenty of people it didn’t resonate with.
Snyder has discussed criticisms of him in the past and said he doesn’t change his point of view based on his critics, but he does evaluate whether or not the idea was communicated effectively. In the case of the Martha moment, that means he wouldn’t second-guess the scene as a concept, or even as the core of the movie, as it’s something that resonates strongly with him, but he may have evaluated whether or not he communicated the concept clearly.
At this point, only time will tell if people ever come around on the Martha moment. Opinions have started to soften on some of Snyder’s older work already, especially with movies like Watchmen. As the DCEU moves forward in a new direction, will Batman v Superman and the Martha moment also get their own re-evaluation? As long as it’s a hotly debated topic, opinions aren’t likely to see a huge shift, but the movie hit on a number of socially relevant themes that have only become hotter topics since its release, meaning the context in which the movie is viewed in is bound to change as time passes. Maybe the movie’s critics will never love the Martha moment, but perhaps they’ll at least come to appreciate it.
Edit: a previous version of this article credited Damon Caro as the assistant director. It has been updated to accurately reflect his role as second unit director.
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