Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice - PART 2 - Discussion & Analysis

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By Adam David Collings. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

We're back for part 2 of our discussion on Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. We pick up right where we left off, with Superman surrounded by flames.

There's definately a lot to talk about in this movie, which is why I split it into two parts. Let's dig deep into this fascinating movie.

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Transcript

Lex is conspicuously absent from his seat in the hearing. Finch finds a little message he left behind for her, referencing an earlier conversation. And then the wheelchair explodes, taking out the senate building.

And Superman is distraught as he stands there, surrounded but unharmed by the flames that kill the vulnerable humans around him.

At that same moment, Bruce sees the final message from Wallace. “You let your family Die.”

This of course, is referencing his employees. It seems this guy not only blames superman, but he blames Bruce as well, for not protecting his workers from an alien invasion. That’s pretty unreasonable.

But these words really set Bruce off. His family DID die. He watched his parents be gunned down.

At this point in the story, we’re faced with a question. Did Lex hide the bomb in the wheelchair without the knowledge of Wallace, who sat in it, or was Wallace a willing martyr?

This now, is the moment when the movie starts to get dark. Until now, it really hasn’t been.

Superman is Helping bring survivors out of the building. It’s not much, but it’s all he can do.

This explosion wasn’t his fault, but he can’t help but blame himself. He knows that someone is using him, everything he stands for, to hurt people. And that brakes him.

Now here’s the one moment that does make me a little uncomfortable in the movie.

Superman leaves.

Are there still survivors in the building? The movie doesn’t really say at this point. If there are, and he’s abandoning them because he can’t handle the pain of this moment, then he’s being very un-Superman.

But I have to believe that he’s already got all the survivors out that he can.

Although a news report in a later shot seems to suggest there may still be survivors.

If there’s one thing in this movie that I’d change, it would be this.

I’d say that may have gone a step too far in actually having Superman abandon the suffering like this.

But it shows the turmoil he’s in. I would suggest that right now he’s feeling like his help is not wanted. That it may even be inappropriate for him to be there.

Haven’t you ever felt that? When someone is upset because of something you’ve done. You want to walk away because you feel like you’re the last person they’d want to comfort them. And yet, you’re wrong. They don’t want you to walk away.

I know I’ve been in that situation. So I think I understand what they were trying to portray here.

Having the final push he needed, Bruce steals the Kryptonite from Lex. He’s gonna do it. He’s gonna kill Superman.

In true Batman tradition, he begins to plan. He readies the Kryptonite, and he strengthens his body. He’ll never be as strong as Superman, of course, but he needs every edge he can get.

Superman is doubting himself. He’s doubting everything. He’s been living the life he believed his father wanted him to live. Saving people for a ghost. How arrogant to have thought he was here to do good, like some biblical prophet. A man with a destiny. How could he have thought so highly of himself.

He says Superman was never real. He didn’t see the bomb because he wasn’t looking for it.

Superman has come face to face with his fallibility. But worse than that, he’s come face to face with the consequences of his fallibility. He has such power, that when he makes a mistake, the consequences are huge.

He can’t do that anymore. He can’t be that.

People criticise this movie, saying that Superman spends the whole film brooding, but that’s supposed to be Batman’s thing.

But, this is the first or maybe two scenes in the film that Superman has actually brooded, if you really want to call it that.

Personally, I’d call it taking a good long look at himself, which is exactly what the dictates of story-structure demand, by the way.

No, up until now, Superman has been the idealistic reporter. The complete opposite of Batman.

Given all he’s going through, you can forgive the guy for losing his faith and his hope.

But Lois reminds him that the symbol he wears on his chest means hope. That hope is real for a lot of people. Clark acknowledges that it stood for hope on Krypton, but he’s not convinced it does here. Not anymore. But we’ll come back to this.

Now Lex puts the next step of his plan into motion. This isn’t exactly a backup plan B. It’s just another part of the complex web he’s weaving. He puts Zod’s body into the Genesis chamber, he learns that Zod was from the city of Kandor.

Lex blends his own DNA with Zod’s to create a monstrosity once known, and outlawed, on Krypton.

Now we get a little tease for the future of the DC extended Universe. Bruce looks at the meta-human research from the hard drive he stole from Lex.

There he learns of Wonder Woman, who apparently hasn’t aged since 1918. I love how we see this photo which depicts a scene from the Wonder Woman movie, which hasn’t even come out yet. It was really cool.

Lois finds proof that Wallace didn’t know he was going to die. He’d bought groceries. The wheelchair was made from the same metal as the bullet. And it was lined with lead so Superman couldn’t see the bomb. It’s all becoming even more apparent that Lex is manipulating the entire situation from the background.

The world had accepted Superman, but Lex couldn’t handle that, so he’s been pushing his pieces around the board to heighten the natural fear people had of Superman’s power. Fears they had mostly put to rest. But he’s been waking them up again.

So we get a nice little scene where Clark sees his dead father. He’s come to the top of a mountain, is it Everest? He needs advice, but he’s got nobody to go to. Both his father figures are dead. So his subconscious, his imagination, re-creates his dad, Jonathan Kent, the man who raised him, the man who made him what he is. Desperately hoping for some words of wisdom.

Jonathan tells a story, Probably one he told Clark in the past, that he’s now remembering, of a time he worked hard to save his dad’s farm, only to realise his actions had doomed the neighbour’s farm. It was an unexpected consequence from his actions which had been nothing but good-intentioned. It’s a story Clark can relate to. Jonathan also explains how Martha helped him see there is good in this world.

See, there’s a lot of positivity weaved into this movie. I don’t deny that it’s dark, although it’s nowhere near as dark as some people like to make out.

But personally, I find, as others have said before, that the light shines brightest in the dark.

A story needs both. If you don’t see the darkness in a story, then you don’t get to see the triumph of light.

Some have referred to this movie as Grimdark. I strongly disagree. I think a much better descriptor of the genre of this film is, as I first heard E Stephen Burnett of Speculative Faith say, is Nobledark. Because ultimately, this movie shows the triumph of nobility over darkness.

Alfred tries to talk Bruce out of his suicidal plan. You can’t win, not against Superman.

Bruce notes that he’s older now, that his father ever was. That must be an unsettling realisation. Bruce has spent 20 years stopping criminals. But as he says, they’re like weeds. You pull one out and another takes its place. Bruce is looking for something more. He’s searching for purpose. He wants to make a lasting difference in this world. I guess you could say he’s having something of a mid-life crisis, but as Batman, he does everything bigger and more intense.

As he sees it, ridding the world of Superman may be the one thing he ever does that matters. In his own way, he’s wanting to save the world.

Lex pushes Lois off a building to get Superman’s attention.

It’s time to put the final stage of his plan into motion.

And this is where we begin to understand what this is all about. Why Lex is doing this.

As a child, Lex was abused by his father. Nobody intervened. No Superman. Not God.

Lex has come to the conclusion that if God is all powerful then he can’t be all good, and if he’s all good, he can’t be all powerful.

You see, this is the age-old question of suffering and evil. A question that philosophers and theologians have been debating for centuries. Millennia. In fact, when Superman appears, Lex says outright, this is about the problem of evil in the world.

Lex likens Superman to God, the God he feels failed to help him as a child.

Lex can’t abide the idea of a heroic Superman because of his perceptions of God. Superman cannot be good, given his power. And he wants the world to see that. He wants to expose Superman as the fraud he believes him to be.

This whole thing is because of Lex’s theological beliefs.

Of course, Superman is not God. He is neither all powerful, nor all good.

Superman has unimaginable powers, when compared to a human, but those powers have limits. Superman cannot shape the entire world to his will. He couldn’t save the people in that senate building. And he’s not all good, either. He may not be human, but he’s still a man.

A man with all the frailties, and flaws that come with the package.

Lex confirms that the red notes were not from Wallace. They were from him.

Lex has spent two years setting this up, pushing Bruce bit by bit until he goes over the edge.

Lex never intended to use that Kryptonite himself. He’s not gonna get his hands dirty like that. And frankly, he doesn’t have what it takes to defeat Superman in battle. Lex isn’t a fighter. He’s a manipulator. He wanted Bruce to use the Kryptonite. He wants Bruce to try to kill Superman.

But ultimately, he wants Superman to kill Bruce. He wants Superman to be exposed as a killer.

Either way, Lex wins. Either Superman is shown to be good, or powerful, but not both.

And now he reveals that he’s kidnapped Clark’s mother.

If Clark doesn’t kill Batman, Martha will die.

Clarke and Bruce have very opposing philosophies, but it’s taken all this manipulation to make Superman and Batman fight.

I think this movie makes it all very believable.

So just when Clark thought he had worked through his issues, He says those words which critics of this film love to quote. “Nobody stays good in this world.”

And that’s how he is honestly feeling at the moment. It doesn’t mean he is right.

But he says outright to Lois, his primary intention here is to convince Batman to help him. He’s not going there to kill.

He wants to find another way out of this.

He’s been in this situation before. In the last movie, he was forced to kill Zod And that broke him.. He’s in a similar situation here now. He doesn’t want to have to kill again. He’s determined to find another way. Once again he’s in the position of having to choose between taking a life, or letting the innocent die. This time it’s not all the people of the world, it’s his mother, who he loves.

You see, in his desperation, his words say that nobody stays good, and yet, his actions tell a different story. His actions show that he is still looking for another way.

And yet, he can’t let his mother die.

Meanwhile, Dianna finds an email from Bruce. He cracked the data, which she hasn’t been able to do.

She sees the photo, that meant so much to her. She hasn’t seen that photo in almost a century.

But he’s got more for her. We see information about other metahumans.

The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg.

This was all setup for Justice League, and it was a fun tease.

In true Superman form, he starts by talking. “Bruce, I was wrong. Lex is--”

But Bruce isn’t interested in talk. He never gives Superman the chance to explain.

Clarke gives an effective demonstration of his power before saying “If I wanted it, you’d be dead already.” See, it’s hard to even call this a real battle. Because Superman doesn’t really fight Batman. He’s certainly not trying to kill him.

But this is when Bruce employs the Kryptonite in gaseous form.

Superman feels fear for the first time when he realises his strength is gone.

Bruce makes a good point when he says Superman isn’t brave. He isn’t. He’s never had to be. Men like Bruce are brave, because they can be hurt.

The fight between them is a very small piece of the movie.

If this film had a failing, I’m convinced that failing was bad marketing. Possibly even the wrong title.

I think a lot of people came into this movie with the wrong expectations. I think a lot of them were expecting a popcorn superhero battle. You know, the age old question, who would win in a fight. It’s a very geeky question, but ultimately pointless.

So they came in for popcorn, but were served a nice steak dinner. And then they complained that the steak dinner wasn’t very good popcorn.

I remember going into the cinema to see this movie. There were posters saying “Who will win.” They even had stickers, with Batman and Superman logos you could put on the poster, to predict who you thought would win.

That’s not the point. That’s not what this movie is about.

As long as they’re fighting, they’re both losing.

So Bruce finally has Superman at his mercy. He pulls out the pre-prepared Kryptonite spear.

He’s gonna use it to kill superman.

He stands over him, with the deadly weapon.

And says what I already discussed. “You were never a god.

This is Clark’s last chance. So he forces out the words. “You’re letting him kill Martha.”

And while he doesn’t know it, those are the words that are gonna really speak to Bruce.

Ok.

This is the most ridiculed moment in this movie. And quite unfairly in my opinion.

Bruce wants to know what Clark means.

Did Clark know that Bruce’s mother was also called martha? Maybe. Perhaps that’s why he says Martha, rather than “My mother.”

Bruce’s whole life has been defined by the death of Martha Wayne. But Bruce couldn’t save Martha. Martha was taken from him.

Lois arrives just in time to explain that Martha is Clark’s mother’s name.

Now, they don’t suddenly become friends because their mothers have the same name, as the memes suggest.

Bruce realises a bunch of things at this moment.

First of all, this humanised Superman in his eyes. Superman has a mother. But Bruce had already acknowledged Superman’s parents earlier in the battle.

But it raises an important question. Why is Superman talking about his mother? Now, at the moment of his impending death. Why ask Bruce to save Martha?

He realises at this moment that there’s more going on. He realises that they’re both being manipulated. Manipulated by Lex Luthor.

Superman is only here because he’s being coerced.

If he kills Superman, then he becomes the thug from that ally. He kills Martha.

And that cannot be.

Martha cannot die. Not again. Bruce won’t be that guy.

He thought he was saving the world from a monster, but now he realises that he’s just the pawn of the monster. The real monster.

Bruce won’t kill martha and he sure as hell won’t do Lex Luthor’s dirty work.

That’s why he drops the spear.

It makes sense. It’s dramatic. It’s emotional. It’s powerful. Dare I say, it’s beautiful.

And that music, we get a reprise of the music from the opening credits, where we saw the Waynes killed.

I’ll say it again. Hans Zimmer and JunkieXL are absolute masters of their craft.

Something is happening at the Kryptonian scout ship. Superman is needed, but his mother needs him too.

And that’s when Bruce says those beautiful words. “I give you a promise, Martha won’t die tonight.”

This is Bruce’s chance to finally put his demons to rest. Tonight he saves Martha.

Superman makes the decision to trust Bruce to save his mother, and goes off to do what only he can.

What follows is a truly epic battle as Batman takes out Luthor’s thugs to save Martha.

It’s a wonderful action movie sequence. Some have criticised Batman for killing in this scene. I’m fine with it. We’ve established this is a battle-hardened Batman who has lost any idealism he may have once had. He’s here to save Martha. Nobody is gonna stand in his way. Tonight, he’s a soldier. He’ll go through anyone that stands in his way.

And Batman HAS killed before in multiple media.

I mentioned in my Man of Steel podcast, that in the 1989 movie, Batman murdered a minor thug while cracking a joke.

I really like the moment when Bruce finally arrives and saves Martha.

And then we get yet another joke.

“It’s ok, I’m a friend of your son’s.”

“I figured. The cape.”

This was a nice little chuckle-worthy moment.

This movie DOES have humour in it.

So this is the next stage of Lex’s plan.

After Superman had been discredited as a killer, he still needs to be taken out. Doomsday was there to actually kill him.

But it makes me wonder, what was Lex’s plan for deal with Doomsday if Batman had been victorious?

So let’s talk about Doomsday. He’s pretty creepy I might have preferred if he looked a little more like he did in the comics, with the spies sticking out of him, but I do like his appearance. He looks suitably hellish, .

But what really makes Doomsday scary and effective as a villain? It’s not what he looks like.

Doomsday brings out our deepest fears because he killed Superman in the comics.

If even Superman can die, then what can possibly save us?

But surely they weren’t going to do that in this movie. What a waste of doomsday to bring him in now as a last minute threat.

I think that’s what a lot of us were thinking.

Dianna sees what’s happening and sets off to help.

So does Bruce.

The president is willing to let Superman die as an innocent casualty if it means killing doomsday, but the nuke doesn’t do the job.

Doomsday falls back to earth and continues his rampage, with no Superman to stop him.

Enter Batman and Wonder Woman.

The nuke seems to have made Doomsday even more powerful. And now he’s starting to look more like he did in the comics.

Of course, Superman’s not dead either.

He just needs to be recharged by the rays of Earth’s sun.

We don’t see a lot of Wonder Woman in this movie, but what we do see is pretty darn awesome.

Her introduction as she saved Bruce from a blast of doomsday’s heat vision is fantastic.

And yet again the movie gives Lois a chance to make a significant contribution to saving the day as she tries to retrieve the kryptonite spear.

There’s another humorous moment when Superman asks, about Wonder Woman, “is she with you?”

And Batman replies “I thought she was with you.

So then, as the music that will become the new wonder woman theme plays, we see them standing together for the first time, the trinity of DC comics. It’s such a wonderful moment.

The battle that ensues is a feast for the senses.

Bruce and Dianna are fighting a losing battle against this thing. They’re trying to keep it busy, but they can’t kill it, although Dianna does some significant damage,but it just grows back stronger.

As soon as Clark says “I love you,” to Lois, we know what’s coming, and so does she.

It’s a very emotional moment. She cries out as he flies off, grabbing the kryptonite spear.

Every second he holds it, he weakens.

Superman is the only one who can get close enough to stab Doomsday with the spear, but in his weakened state, he is vulnerable, and doomsday stabs him through the chest, symbolically, through the symbol that represents hope. So has doomsday destroyed our hope by taking Superman from us?

This is the moment that Superman redeems himself. Superman had said earlier, that nobody stays good. Superman has proven himself wrong. He resolved the situation with Bruce without bloodshed, and now, he makes the ultimate sacrifice. He gives his life to save the world. Superman proved himself wrong. And he proved Lex wronth.

I’m watching this in that cinema, and thinking, I can’t believe it. They’re really going there. They’re going to have Doomsday kill Superman! They’re actually doing it.

Despite what those critics said, I think this movie is dripping with hope and nobility.

I saw this movie opening night in Australia. It was Good Friday.

That made this moment all the more poignant. On a day that I had been remembering the sacrificial death of Jesus, I watched the sacrificial death of Superman.

It impacted me in a powerful way. It moved me deeply.

We get that quick image of Steppenwolf. It’s a little confusing. Is it meant to be a hologram? I mean, he’s not actually there in the scout ship, right?

Lex is captured. And he has his head shaved in jail, giving us a more classic Lex Luthor look (but let’s not forget, early versions of Lex weren’t bald, they had orange hair, just like the lex in this movie)

So we see two funerales.

A state funeral for Superman (clearly with no body).

And a small funeral for Clark. I think it’s fitting that the body is in Smallville, with his family.

It’s nice to see the minister from Man of Steel performing the ceremony. No doubt the local pastor in Smallville. Martha probably attended his church.

We also see Pete Ross there.

And this is a very emotional moment, as Lois sees the engagement ring Clark had intended to give her, and would have, had he not died. I got choked up when I first saw this.

Bruce is a changed man. He’s been truly impacted by Superman’s example and his sacrifice.

When he says “Men are still good”, it pays off that moment when Superman said “Nobody stays good.” Bruce has finally found his purpose.

This last moment in the movie is filled with optimism and hope.

And when you see the Superman logo with the words “If you seek his monument, look around you” it shows how Superman has inspired the words, and it proves that Superman’s symbol still stands for hope. It always will now. No, Doomsday hasn’t robbed us of our hope. That symbol stands stronger than ever before.

Bruce knows there’s more danger coming from out there in the universe. He knows this from questioning Lex, who says “The bell’s already been rung, and they’re heard it.” Lex has sent some kind of message.

And so he asks Dianna to help him find the other meta-humans. They’re going to need to come together and fight, if they hope to save earth from whatever is coming, now that Superman is no more.

This of course, is setting up Justice League.

And that very last shot as the dirt begins to move, on Clarks coffin, gives us hope, that Superman may rise again.

One of the biggest issues some people have with these two films is the portrayal of Superman with flaws. It’s one of the few criticisms I give any credence to, even though I disagree with it.

I have a theory as to why this bothers some people, but not others.

And to explain it, I need to talk about Star Trek.

Let me quote Jeri Taylor, one of the writers on TNG and Voyager. In this quote from the book Star Trek The Next Generation - The Continuing Voyager by Judith and Garfield reeves-Stevens, she is speculating on the reason for the appeal of Star Trek.

“We don’t have them anymore. We have lost the traditional arenas of heroes. We don’t have gods and legends and myth anymore. We have lost sports figures as heroes--they have been proven all too human and vulnerable. We have lost politicians. We have lost movie stars. We’ve even lost royalty, who have feet of clay also. So, there doesn’t seem to be those icons, now, that are the role models, larger-than-life people who are better than we are, who are heroic, who stand for something. I think that what Gene gave us in Star Trek characters is these larger-than-life people who are committed to an ethical and moral way of life, who are not afraid to go into the wilderness and to confront the feats and terrors of the demons and dragons that are out there, who have a moral principle and a moral centre, and who will not stray from that, no matter what. Star Trek presents godlike figures for us to admire and emulate. And I think that is a need that people have deep inside them that is not being satisfied otherwise today.”

I think this also explains why Superman is popular to many people. They’re looking to him to fill that same need. That’s why some fans want to keep Superman on that pedestal, and not let him have any flaws.

But, I haven’t lost my god. I’m a Christian. I still believe. I have Jesus to fill that need deep inside me. I don’t look to fiction to fill that need.

So I prefer flawed characters in my fiction. I still want heroes with that moral centre, but I don’t expect them to be perfect. Because none of us are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all atheists hate this movie, and all people of faith like it.

But we all come to stories for different reasons. Not every story is going to satisfy every person’s reasons.

And that’s okay.

I’ve never been under any illusion that this movie is for everyone.

But I’m one of the people who loved it. For me, it worked. I was in the target audience.

And I for one, was very glad that Warner Bros chose to make this niche movie for people like me, rather than water it down and produce something with mass appeal.

Of course, as we’ll see, as we continue through these movies, that wouldn’t continue to be their approach.

But that’s another story.

You can go a lot deeper into this movie than I have in this podcast episode. If you’re interested in going further down the rabbit hole, I’d like to recommend another podcast. It’s called Batman V Superman By The Minute. This podcast will spend an entire episode talking about 1 minute of the movie. It’s pretty full on. But now that I’ve recorded my thoughts, I intend to go through and binge their episodes. Should keep me busy for a while. I invite you check them out.

Next time, I plan to talk about Suicide Squad. That should be a shorter episode.

Catch you then.

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