Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Are 'Zootopia' and 'Batman V Superman' the same movie? Sort of, yeah.

Officer Judy Hopps and Superman: which one is which?

Okay, hear me out on this. Over Easter weekend, while visiting with my family, I got to catch up on two recent movie blockbusters: Disney's Zootopia and Warner Bros' Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. For the record, I basically liked both of them. Zootopia is an extremely cute, attractively animated family film with a good message about tolerance and the dangers of stereotyping. It's a little preachy and on-the-nose for my taste, but it's still enjoyable. Dawn Of Justice is drawn-out and dour with too limited a color palate and too noisy a sound design, but the critics calling it an unmitigated disaster are exaggerating. I wasn't bored by it. It's perfectly fine. I'd never want to sit through it again, but it'll do. Both Zootopia and Dawn are worth your time. But what I noticed is that there are a lot of parallels between these two seemingly dissimilar films. Like what? Well...


Specifically, Officer Judy Hopps from Zootopia is a lot like Clark Kent from Dawn Of Justice. They both grew up on remote, bucolic farms with kindly parents who wanted to shield them from the evils of the world. They both knew from an early age that they were very special, and they both moved to the big city to make a difference when they grew up. Once there, they took on new titles and uniforms in their respective roles as crime fighters. And they both did make a difference, but they also both ended up unintentionally doing a lot of damage and hurting many people in the process. Both get some negative publicity. During the course of their respective movies, both Judy and Clark go back home to the farm when they begin to doubt themselves. And both are ultimately drawn back into the fray by an innate sense of duty. At the end of Zootopia, Judy is figuratively reborn as a police officer after tendering her badge. At the end of Dawn Of Justice, Clark is (pretty much) literally reborn after being killed by Doomsday.

Now we get into other parallels. Zootopia's Nick Wilde, a conman, has some things in common with Batman/Bruce Wayne. They both let traumatic childhood incident shapes their entire lives. As adults, they have forged identities based on perceptions they made about the world when they were kids. For Bruce, it was watching his parents murdered in front of his eyes. For Nick, it was being beaten up by a scout troop. Both Bruce and Nick are world-weary and cynical, operating in the shadows, too cool for school. Clark Kent and Judy Hopps, on the other hand, are naive, goody-two-shoes types. So Clark and Bruce start out as enemies, mistrusting each other, before uniting for a common cause. And the same happens to Judy and Nick.

As for those respective "common causes," there are similarities here, too. In Zootopia, a power-hungry assistant mayor injects some animals with a chemical that causes them to revert to a savage, violent state. She uses this to capitalize on the public's fear of predators. In Dawn Of Justice ,Lex Luthor wants to exploit the public's fear of aliens like Superman, so he frames the superhero for some murders and then, at the end, uses Kryptonian DNA (or something like that) to create a giant rampaging monster called Doomsday. To my mind, Doomsday acted a lot like the chemically-affected animals in Zootopia, killing and destroying indiscriminately. And the assistant mayor's elaborate, well-funded, and complicated plan is a lot like what Luthor did. In both cases, they were acting on genuine hatred for a particular group (predators/Kryptonians), and they were trying to sway the public's minds by rigging reality. Both films play out as potent allegories about xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, or whatever prejudices you choose to examine.

Maybe I'm just connecting all these dots because I saw Dawn Of Justice and Zootopia practically back to back, but I couldn't quite shake that feeling of deja vu after I left the cineplex.