Spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Batman, seen here standing triumphantly over a defeated Superman
Martha, Martha, Martha!
Probably the most viciously mocked moment in comic book movie history, the infamous Martha Scene from Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has been the butt of many jokes and memes that pervade the internet even until this very day.
That being the case, before we are assailed by a barrage of negative feedback from diehard fans of this film, we would like to point out that we do not intend to poke fun at the scene, but instead, would like to provide an unbiased analysis as to why this scene played out the way that it did.
To quickly recap, Batman, clutching the Kryptonite Spear, has a weakened and defeated Superman lying at his feet. The Dark Knight raises the weapon, high above his head, ready to impale the helpless Kryptonian, only for the latter to exclaim weakly, “You’re letting him...kill...Martha!
What follows is Superman’s repeated pleas for Batman to save Martha, which confuses The Caped Crusader, leading him to persistently reply, “Why did you say that name!”, each time with increased ferocity until Lois Lane gets between the two warring heroes and reveals that Martha is Superman’s mom, prompting Batman to forego killing the Kryptonian ashamedly.
Now that we are up to speed on the scene in question, why did Superman call his adoptive mother by her name? And why was Batman visibly befuddled upon hearing the name?
The answer to the first question is simple, yet it is one that failed to register in general moviegoers’ minds; Superman’s mother is not Martha. Clark Kent’s mother is Martha.
To give the answer greater context, Superman, even at death’s door, was concealing his identity from Batman, who up until that point, never knew that Superman had a human upbringing, and therefore a human adoptive mother named Martha. This is proven throughout the course of the film, as Bruce Wayne/Batman always referred to Superman as an alien. Superman, however, knew that Batman’s true identity was Bruce Wayne, as the Kryptonian has X-ray vision at his disposal.
Moving on, the answer to the second question is not as simple as the first. To understand Batman’s confusion at hearing the name, Martha is not merely because that was the name given to his own mother; rather, it signified the moment in which the persona of the Batman was born, the day his parents were gunned down in the alleyway.
For the longest time, the Batman we see in the film’s first two acts is not the version of The Caped Crusader that we know and love, but a broken, corrupted shadow of his once former self. This can be attributed to some sort of tragedy or series of tragedies having occurred that inevitably turned him into the monster that he is, such as the death of his sidekick, Robin, and the destruction of Wayne Manor.
Even Alfred, his most trusted confidant, remarks, “That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage. The feeling of powerlessness—that turns good men, cruel”.
It is this powerlessness that indeed turned Batman into the heartless, rage-filled creature that we see in the first two-thirds of the movie, the same powerlessness that made him resort to the use of guns, not to maim, but to kill, thereby breaking his golden rule.
Hence, hearing his mother’s name being uttered by the one being he perceived to be his enemy sent shockwaves through his mind, reminding him of why he became the crime fighter that he did, and then contrasted that with who he had become: he had failed Martha, he had failed his parents.
It is this revelation that later gives way to Batman making Superman a promise, saying, “Martha won’t die tonight,” symbolizing his renewed purpose of saving the innocent Martha Kent and also saving himself, by honoring the memory of his mother, Martha Wayne; the mother he had failed to save all those years ago.
Want more DC Comics content? Check out our other related articles, or pick up one of our expertly crafted DC Comics pewter figurines now.