The men of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice may not please eunuchy fanboys but anyone old enough to experience morning wood will appreciate it. Taking that comic book novelty where superheroes temporarily become rivals, Batman/Bruce Wayne (played by Ben Affleck) mistakenly blames the recent destruction of Metropolis and nearby Gotham City during an invasion of aliens on the mid-battle appearance of Superman (played by Henry Cavill). The antagonism between these specimen (Affleck follows Cavill’s already muscled-up example) is based on both men’s confused urge to do good. Each orphan’s personal torment and heroic ambition amounts to a passion. Grindr might match them, yet they’re initially mismatched which means that when they finally meet—and fight—it’s equivalent to a hate fuck.
That’s because director Zack Snyder’s movies are adult comic books—“adult” as in the old label “For Mature Audiences Only.” He goes against the juvenile vicarious pleasure of comic book surrogate crime-fighters to something deeper. Snyder’s Batman with his five o’clock shadow, supersedes the morose hero of Christopher Nolan’s gloomy The Dark Knight trilogy, just as his Superman (also Clark Kent) junks the jovial Superman of the Christopher Reeve movies and Brandon Routh in Bryan Singer’s adolescent fantasy. Thanks to Cavill, Snyder’s Superman/Kent looks to be in perpetual tumescence.
Snyder, who made the live-action antiquity layout 300, and produced 300: Rise of an Empire, can’t help but sexualize his superheroes. Yet it’s worth noting that this is part of his very grown-up interest in how characters act out their private drives. The personal is political for Snyder which means that although Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent clash, due to misreading each other’s citizenship, they share a testosterone bromance.
They look good together because Affleck’s puffy-chin adult petulance (recalling his role as TV’s Superman George Reeves in Hollywoodland) may be the moodiest performance he’s ever given while Cavill’s virility (so chiseled it may well be from another world—the world of Sean Connery knock-offs) fits him to yin-yang completeness. Their confrontations disprove the delusion that men cannot make love face-to-face, the same way men fight. (Gay political pundit Andrew Sullivan makes a cameo appearance protesting “Every act is a political act!”)
Ignore all that Internet nonsense against Affleck’s casting; he’s a warmer presence than Christian Bale’s stoic Batman who, at best, seemed a selfish lover. Check The Brothers Grimsby where Sacha Baron Cohen jokingly referred to the henchman played by Scott Adkins as “Ukrainian Ben Affleck;” it certified a hotness type. And smoldering Cavill wears the Superman uniform like a second skin. Costumer Michael Wilkinson’s brocade Superman suit is successful fetish gear—textured fabric with sequin octagonals invite you to touch that thin line between drag queen and stud. Male intimacy in this film gives new meaning to the old phrase “iron fist in a velvet glove.”
If fanboys don’t cream to Batman’s dream sequence (“It took me to the lie, a beautiful lie” Wayne says), grown-up gay men surely will. In his dream, Batman wears a leathery mask, hiding his identity, while he is taunted by wasplike creatures and forced to acknowledge Superman’s equivalent virility. This goes beyond Guy Ritchie’s boy-boy teasing in last year’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (which co-starred Cavill). It is the most surreal dominance-submission dream in Hollywood history. But Batman v Superman is also a political allegory, using masculine sex appeal to examine America’s current political confusion. Zack Snyder’s comic book avatars are not for children.