How The Wizard of Oz Ruined Batman v Superman
(Here is a breakdown in case you missed our video of this theory)
Batman v Superman is The Wizard of Oz, excluding the manufactured confrontation between Bats and Supes. What’s more, BvS’ worst scenes (the Martha moment and Superman’s death) came from The Wizard of Oz’s story line.
The similarities between Superman and Dorothy go well beyond the red footwear. The two are a pair of hayseed orphans raised by Kansas farmers. Both fell from the stars to an alien world. Both became responsible for confronting the evils of their new world. Not to mention Dorothy’s greatest wish is to fly (albeit just over a rainbow).
Of course the Superman-Dorothy similarities would exist in any one of his outings. So it would be fair to assume Darkseid’s parademons aren’t flying monkeys, Lex’s use of a cheap timer wasn’t a nod to the witch’s hour glass, and Lex’s claim that Superman’s mother is witch was just odd and out of place writing. However when the writers of any movie choose to include 3 overt references to another film right in the dialogue then they are inviting comparison.
1. Lex says Emerald City when he finds receives the kryptonite
2. Perry White remarks that it’s like Clark clicks his heels 3 times and goes back to Kansas when he can’t find him
3. Lex parodies the line Ding Dong the witch is dead at the end
So we needn’t bother pretending the similarities could be accidental or that this is somehow a reach. Clearly the writers tipped us off at what was coming. And with that in mind, let’s jump straight into it.
Dorothy’s first and truest friend – and most fragile - is the scarecrow. Superman’s scarecrow would have to be Lois Lane. While Lois is by no means brainless, like the scarecrow she is guided almost entirely by emotion in her relationship with the protagonist. This is especially clear near the end of the movie when she inserts herself in battles that she has no business being a part of.
Next comes the heartless tin man. There is no question that cold calculating Batman is this heartless friend. Batman’s metal suit is just a doubling down of the point.
That leaves Wonder Woman to fill the role of the cowardly lion. While she may seem a poor choice for a coward in a classic sense, like the lion she actively avoids confrontations despite her amazing strength and natural fighting prowess.
Taking MOS into account the order of introduction of the 4 core characters is the same in both the DC Cinematic Universe and in the Wizard of Oz.
Lex Luther is the man behind the curtain – figuratively and literally. He is clearly the one pulling all the strings and engineering the conflicts from behind the curtain placed over Zod’s world engine.
Martha Kent is Auntie Em. Both farmers from Kansas are the parental figure the life of our orphan hero. And it is Ma’ Kent’s link to Auntie Em that is responsible for the Martha moment between Batman and Superman.
Zod is the Wicked Witches of the East. Like Dorothy and the Wicked Witch, Superman and Zod come to the new world from the same place. And like in The Wizard of Oz Zod’s death heralds Superman’s arrival in Oz (which is the world once it has the knowledge of Superman’s existence).
Doomsday is the Wicked Witch of the West, and while he is not quite Zod’s sister like in The Wizard of Oz, the two are pretty closely related.
If the similarities ended with just the characters then we could perhaps chalk this all up to chance and the use and reuse of natural archetypes that pop up in fiction. But it doesn’t stop here.
At the end of the second act of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, having travelled to the Emerald City, is denied access to the Wizard. At this point all of her hope is lost and she laments that she’ll never get to see her dying Auntie Em again. The wizard’s doorman hears this and has a complete change in heart because he, like Dorothy, had an Auntie Em once too.
This is the origin for the low point of BvS - the Martha moment - where Batman, like the doorman has an incredible change of heart because he had a Mom Martha once too. And just like in The Wizard of Oz this critical moment occurs right at the end of the second act in Batman v Superman. It was soft writing for 1939 kids movie. It was much worse in the context of BvS.
In the third act when Dorothy and her friends confront the Wicked Witch, it is the scarecrow’s life that is threatened when the witch lights him on fire. Dorothy races for a bucket of water to douse the flames and in so doing discovers the witch’s weakness when some of the water is accidentally splashed on the witch. It is only by good fortune that Dorothy’s efforts to save the scarecrow that yielded this secret from the water.
In BvS it is Lois Lane, our scarecrow, who was placed in mortal danger when Doomsday damages the building in which Lois is attempting to retrieve the kryptonite spear that she had nonchalantly discarded in some shallow water (to setup a Wizard of Oz pay off). Superman sensing Lois is in danger races to the water to save her, and it is in the water that he discovers the one thing that can defeat Doomsday, the spear. So in both cases it is Dorothy/Superman’s efforts to save Lois/scarecrow from the witch/Doomsday that leads our protagonist to the water, and from the water comes the antagonist’s demise.
With the witch killed and Oz now safe Dorothy’s leaves her friends and the land of Oz. This brings us right to Superman’s death, or his departure from Oz. It was rushed. In The Wizard of Oz we wanted Dorothy to leave. In Batman v Superman it came from out of left field. Superman’s death should have been the crescendo of the DC cinematic universe after years of setup, not an afterthought in the introductory film. Why did he need to die? Batman and Wonder Woman were still in the fight against Doomsday. It hadn’t even reached the point of lost-cause. So why kill him off? Sadly, I am forced to conclude that it was just to match the story arc set by The Wizard of Oz.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out one last similarity. In the middle of the second act the witch tried to put Dorothy to sleep, only in BvS it wasn’t the witch but the director, and the target wasn’t Dorothy, but the audience.