Sometimes the most impactful stories are the ones that make audiences find the good in their own darkness. Zack Snyder’s Batman and the oldest known epic, Gilgamesh, both have that in common, and the upcoming Flash movie could be what restores the Syder Cut back into cannon and Batman back on the path of The Heroes Journey that Zack intended.
Snyder’s writing and visual storytelling combined with the writing of Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer create a lot of parallels between the mythic Gilgamesh and the modern mythology of The Dark Knight. With the future of the DCEU Batman up in the air so far, some fans have wondered if the epic will foreshadow what will happen to the vigilante in the future.
There is a reversal in visuals in the Snyderverse (as expertly shown side by side on the YouTube channel, Reel Analysis). Bruce calls the light above that bats are carrying him to in his dream, “a beautiful lie,” a theme (including musically) that permeates the DCEU. Lex Luthor often wears white and even remarks how the demons and angels in his father’s painting are on the wrong side.
This has led some to draw comparisons between the pre-Christian epic of Gilgamesh, where demons can come from Heaven, a king can act like an animal, and an animal can teach a king to be more civilized. It may have been commonplace for the time, but today it would be the opposite of what someone would expect.
Sometimes heroes start out as villains. Bruce’s past trauma, mixed with the events he endured during the climax of Man of Steel, causes Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman to become a Dark Knight that has no problem killing or giving criminals an essential death sentence by branding them.
Likewise, Gilgamesh begins his story as a tyrannical king who is cruel to his subjects and forces prima nocta. Both are clearly painted in the light of being cruel, especially when Alfred points it out to Bruce.
As shown on Reel Analysis, these films have a more complicated world than the traditional ‘Good vs. Evil.’ For instance, wrath tempered with love motivated Batman to team up with Superman to fight Doomsday (the same way it did for Gilgamesh, who teamed up with Enkidu to fight the Demon Bull from Heaven).
Using faith or the divine, it seems that humankind can temper the primal forces within the self to use opposing forces to accomplish goals.
Commonly mistaken for comic canon, the movie sees Batman branding his victims and Krypton sending Superman to Earth. They fight, discover a respect for one another, become friends, and then team up to fight evil together.
This was similar to the epic, for when King Gilgamesh became too cruel, the gods sent a wildman to Earth to match his strength, and they soon become best friends and go off to fight a demon in the forest together. Snyder, of course, reverses the imagery with the former tyrant being the one with the horns holding the spear. Enemies becoming friends is a common story arc, but there are a lot more parallels here that spur on even more common plot points of both Batman and Gilgamesh.
Bruce dreams of an apocalyptic world where roles are reversed, and Clark is the tyrant. He is then visited by a future Barry Allen warning him about something which seems unclear, and that is then passed off as a dream.
Similar to the epic, Gilgamesh is seen to have foreboding dreams which seem to spell out certain doom along his path and much is unclear about them. What is clear is that something bad is going to happen in both cases and that it does with Gilgamesh. However, only time will tell if everyone needs to worry about The Flash’s warning since it clearly signals that there is a bad outcome in the future.
It’s not just parallels between the heroes that the viewers would able to see, there have also been some between the villains of the tales too. For instance, some have been able to draw comparisons between Lex and Ishtar’s stories as they get revenge in the same manner.
Like Ishtar, Lex offers to partner with Bruce, but after being refused, continues to weave war and use his own life blood to create Superman’s Doomsday. There are just too many parallels for this to be a coincidence, which might further convince audiences that the DCEU was going to continue to follow this tale.
Doomsday was a horned creature made by Lex Luthor after Batman refused not only to partner with him with his R and D projects but because he also refused to kill Superman. Luthor created this abomination from his own blood, the body of a Zod, and the forbidden technology of Krypton (a world in the heavens).
This was similar to the Demon Bull, which was a horned creature sent down from Heaven by Ishtar when she was scorned by Gilgamesh. Snyder did say that the Jesus imagery was intended for Superman (via CNN), but the fact that a horned demon made from the heavens is what results in the death of a beloved friend, is too much to ignore that this was also an allegory for the ancient epic.
After a long battle with Doomsday, Bruce’s new friend, Clark, dies, leaving him wracked with guilt, grief, and a hard perspective of his own mortality and the need for a legacy to continue to save the world.
Enkidu also dies after the battle with the Demon Bull from Heaven, leaving Gilgamesh to cry and mourn for days, fearfully pondering his own mortality and beginning another chapter of his life. Both are what cause the next chapter of an epic journey in their lives to find a cure for their own deaths.
The death of Superman spurs Bruce to search the world for metahumans, build a team, and find a means to conquer mortality (and his own guilt) so that Superman can live again.
After Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh’s realization of death becomes much starker, and he is compelled to go on a journey to find a means to become immortal and take his place among the godly pantheon. Both journeys have the potential for missteps which could have dire consequences. Gilgamesh inevitably fails in finding immortality, and Bruce’s dreams foretell a failing with even more consequences.
Joseph Campbell, a comparative mythologist, found that many great epics have a similar set of relateable events he called the monomyth or The Heroes Journey. Many modern storytellers use this cultural transcending pattern so much that even the propmakers for Wonder Woman put a quote from Campbell onto her sword. Both Batman and Gilgamesh go through these stages that other heroes like Perseus, Hercules, and even Luke Skywalker do.
It is through these stages that lessons are taught on how to use seemingly opposing forces to team up and temper the dark desires inside us to accomplish goals of greatness and give us the freedom to live a good life. Sometimes the most impactful stories are the ones that make audiences find the good in their own darkness.