The Vacous ‘Batman vs. Superman’ Still Asks an Important Question: Who Is the Best at Punching?

by George Will

As my regular readers well know, I am no film critic. It has not been my business, nor my pleasure of late, to suffer through the torturous, multicultural pablum that the liberal entertainment industry feels is fit for our society to consume.

But it seems as though the press has reached a rare consensus on one film, the consicely-titled Batman vs. Superman. It has apparently become trendy to write and read terrible reviews of the super-hero vehicle, much like “planking,” “break” dancing, and “Goatee” beards were a few short years ago. After seeing my good friend and fellow conservative John Podhoretz tear into the piece with his trademark wit, I decided that my own status as a ne’er bien faire in the punditry world might make for a similarly devastating sendup.

But shockingly, the film I saw was not the mind-numbing bore that others had led me to believe it would be. It could be my unfashionable intellectualism talking, but it seems to me the world could benefit from further consideration of this perplexing question: who is the best at punching?

Granted, Batman vs. Superman is no Birth of a Nation. Star talent Ben Affleck is more wooden than the divider separating mine and my wife’s bed, and the plot was confusing enough to confound the Dutch graphic artist MC Escher. Snyder’s decision to incorporate Wonder Woman only perpetuated the silly notion that women with exposed shoulders should be considered role models.

But if you give it the benefit of the doubt, the themes with which Snyder wrestles are worth our attention. So much of the knuckle-dragging spectacle man creates for his own entertainment seeks to merely discover who is good at punching, or at most, really good at punching. By pitting these powerful super-heroes against one another, though, Snyder challenges us to imagine two men who are so exceedingly good and strong at punching that they could punch anybody in the whole world, even a big wrestler or a football player. These two great men then engage in a superlative tête-à-tête to determine who is — and conversely, who is not — the best puncher ever.

At first, I had to scoff at the fundamental question posed by this ostensibly epic brouhaha, believing its answer to be so plain that I wondered if it had been asked facetiously: Superman is obviously stronger than Batman. Superman can fly so fast that he goes all the way around the world in one day, and he shoots hot lasers out of his eyes, while Batman has little more than a stupid dumb belt. Yes, Batman is brave enough to fight scary clowns, and yes, he has a butler who does whatever he wants, even if it’s past bedtime but he still wants candy. But how would any of this make Batman punch better than a super strong alien from outer space?

Without spoiling anything, I must admit that Batman’s wile and ingenuity end up making him a very formidable opponent. What we often forget in such brutal, physical contests as these is that one must be as cunning as they are strapping. One must leverage the art of stealth to confuse one’s enemies, making them much easier to punch in the face. Superman would be a heady challenge for any man, to say the least, but none can say that Batman did not face the challenge like a man, and then thump that challenge really hard with his fist.

Some will protest that it is not altogether obvious that Batman and Superman are the two greatest punchers to begin with. It is true that plausible alternatives exist: the Hulk has big green hands that he frequently uses to smash walls and beat up the bad guys. Not only that, but Hulk can kick and stomp and jump, and go “GRAAH” so loud that it makes people run away because they’re scared.

However, it seems just as necessary to point out that this is a universe of Snyder’s making, and from Hulk’s absence we must conclude either that he does not exist in it, or that he is so utterly useless at punching stuff as to be unworthy of mention. As critics, we must accept the basic conditions of a story set before us by the artist before watching them smack the heck out of each other with their big powerful hands.

While it certainly does not finally answer the question of who is best at punching in the whole universe, I hope that Batman vs. Superman will do much to inspire further conversation on this crucial subject. Higher education today has been foiled by weak-minded feminism and feeble multiculturalism. It is a sad fact that Hollywood must step in to fill in the gaps left by academia’s ivory tower, but it is no small relief to know that young men in this country are still being taught the intrinsic moral value of punching good.

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