The Power of One
On Friday I wrote about one of my favorite parts in the Justice League movie. Just One (see post here). Well, the whole of the weekend, I found myself thinking about those two words. And, wouldn’t you know it, I have more to say on the topic. I beg your indulgence, ahem, just one more time.
As I enjoyed Justice League so much, I spent the down time during the holiday weekend binging. I watched Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Wonder Woman in sequential order. In doing so, I was able to see a theme.
Woven throughout all three films, and then embroidered successfully into Justice League, is the understanding of the power of one individual to change the world.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. I mean, come on, right? We’re talking Wonder Woman and Superman, two of the most powerful beings on planet Earth. And then there’s Batman who slays with coolness and copious amounts of cash- not to mention a cerebral intellect that confounds the mind and excels at contingency plans. How are we ever to measure up to such potency?
And therein lies the beauty of the power of one. Don’t know what I’m driving at? Well, let’s take a look at the trinity of the Justice League, shall we?
Wonder Woman declares at the beginning of Justice League in response to a villain’s declaration I don’t believe it. Who are you? that she is a believer. A believer in what?
This question harkens back to Wonder Woman, where Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) is confronted by the logical villainy of Ares.
From Wonder Woman:
Ares: Look at this world. Mankind did this, not me. They are ugly, filled with hatred, weak… They deserve to burn.
Diana Prince: You’re wrong about them. They’re everything you say they are, but so much more… It’s not about deserve. It’s about what you believe, and I believe in love.
Why does Wonder Woman believe this?
She’s seen the worst of humanity. She knows that, in many ways, mankind deserves whatever evil befalls them. However, she’s seen something more, too. She’s seen that humanity is capable of love at a depth that has taught her where true strength truly comes from. Steve Trevor taught her this. From him, she saw true love in action and tasted first hand the greatness of it. Not only love for her, but love so strong and deep that he could willingly sacrifice his life to save not only his comrades in arms, but also the enemy who fought against him. So, even in the face of what mankind deserves, she believes there is still something worth fighting for.
After all, in Justice League, her comment regarding mankind sets the stage for why she’s even in the fight at all: They’re all Steve Trevors.
Now, consider Superman, this infinite being of supreme potency, in possession of power that is immeasurable to our ordinary minds. He’s entrusted to the care of two mortal parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent, who nurture and protect him. They don’t know the full capability of his power; they only know that they love him and want the best for him. Of course, they also know that their son Clarke (Superman) is here on earth because he has a unique purpose, a gift that will be an emblem, a beacon to all the world. They love him through the trials and the growing pains.
Who can forget the scene in Man of Steel when the young Clarke first experiences X-Ray vision and superhuman hearing? Locked in the janitor’s closet, Clarke is in full panic mode. He can hear the unkind things the other children are saying about him and their mean spiritedness coupled with the bewilderment of what he’s experiencing is overwhelming. But then his mother comes and with compassion and tenderness tries to coax him out of the closet.
From Man of Steel:
Young Clarke Kent: The world’s too big, mom.
Martha Kent: Then make it smaller.
This concept enables Superman to manage the vastness of his power. However, he takes this truth one step further, distilling his reason for questing after truth and justice into one person, the woman he loves: Lois Lane.
From Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice:
Superman: This is my world... (to Lois) You are my world.
Because Superman has distilled the essence of the world down to the love he feels for Lois, he is able to make the ultimate sacrifice and give his life to save the whole of humanity- the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s not just Lois or Martha or Batman who he dies to save, it’s also his arch nemesis Lex Luthor, too. Like Steve Trevor, Superman’s one selfless act of love saved the whole world.
And, because Batman so clearly witnesses that reasoning, his own life is forever changed. Batman has grappled with this idea of love. He’s tried to understand it. He’s even made contingency plans in case love is not the answer. Yet, at the core of his being, he wants to believe it. And, when he watches Superman, who lived this truth, die, his whole paradigm shifts.
From Justice League:
Batman: He was more human than I am. He lived in this world. He fell in love, had a job. The world needs Superman, and the team needs Clarke.
It’s Batman’s impetus that pushes to find the others like Wonder Woman and Superman and unite them for a force for good, or as King Arthur said in the musical Camelot, Might for Right. (Zack Snyder even makes a subtle allusion to the Arthurian legend with the whole Round Table bit in Justice League.)
Why does Wonder Woman have such profound belief in the greatness of mankind?
Because of just one man.
Why does Superman sacrifice himself to save the world from Doomsday?
Because of just one woman.
Why does Batman’s entire belief system shift to give him new purpose?
Because of just one man.
That is the power of one. It is not superhuman beings that impact these superheroes. It’s mere mortals whose hearts are filled with agape love. The best selling novelist Paulo Coelho eloquently defines agape:
What is the hope of Superman? What is the greatest of Wonder Woman? What is the driving force behind the Justice League?
Well, it’s the same as the banner over us all, isn’t it? (See post here.) Or, as Wonder Woman said,
Only love can save the world.
Thank you, Zack Snyder, for pursuing this vision and breathing life into it so superbly. Thank you to Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, and Ray Fisher for uniting behind that vision. It is greatly needed and sincerely appreciated.