Thursday, April 7, 2016

Batman v Superman: Filling In the Purported Plot Holes

Some people have been claiming that their enjoyment of Batman v Superman was hindered by what they perceived to be plot holes. While some recent blockbusters have had many, many plot holes, I'm pleased to say that BvS is not one of them.

I'm going to run through the 9 purported plot holes from Looper. Although I do not doubt that the Looper author was confused by these things, I do not think they hold up as real plot holes. (So a fair criticism would be that BvS was difficult to follow, but an unfair criticism would be to say that it didn't make sense.)

Here is an audio version of the text below.

Lex ran tests on Zod's body but then tried to secure possession of Zod's body. Wait, didn't he already have access to the body? This is not a contradiction. A plausible explanation is that Lex's scientists had temporary access to Zod's body but that the body was still in the government's possession. What Lex was negotiating for was more access or a greater extent of access to the corpse. Ultimately, Lex ends up getting the entire corpse to use for his own purposes in the scout ship.

Lex had no way to perfectly time Martha's kidnapping with the moment Batman turned on the bat-signal. First of all, this is not a plot hole. It is just two events that (may have) happened in close chronological proximity to one another and some people thought it was unlikely for them to happen like that. But unlikely things happen all the time in movies and they don't fit my definition of plot hole, which is a logical inconsistency or physically impossible event (within the laws of the movie). If, however, you insist that this is too coincidental, then I would say that Lex could have easily had a team in-the-ready to kidnap Martha and also some sort of intell on Batman's movements (he knows his identity, after all) and when he saw that the fight was going down, he ordered the kidnapping. Also, remember scenes that are edited in close proximity do not necessarily happen in that same timeframe.

We never see how Lex figured out Superman and Batman's secret identities. It is implied that Lex knew the identities right from the beginning of the movie, and the filmmakers have recently confirmed as much. It is a fact that they didn't show him finding out in the movie, but this is not a plot hole. It's just something that happened off screen. We do see that Lex has been gathering all kinds of information on meta-humans, and it is definitely possible to discover the identities of Superman and Batman if someone is sufficiently dedicated and resourced. Lois was able to track down Clark, and Batman has been in action for 20 years, so I'm sure he's left some clues behind as to his identity. This was just a creative choice to have a Lex Luthor who already knew the identities, and it fits with the motif of Lex as a character who tries to gain power through knowledge, as he states in his library speech.

The U.S. Capitol is bombed and this plot is just dropped for the end of the movie. I disagree. We see in the Daily Planet and in the news reports that the bombing is getting a lot of attention. At first, a lot of blame is directed toward Superman, but reports are also released that Wallace was the bomber and Superman was the victim, not the perpetrator. But consistent with the divided perceptions that constantly follow Superman, as they would in reality, Superman is still viewed as at least indirectly to blame by many. The bombing has several important repercussions in the movie. It is the cause of Superman's temporary exile as he considers how he can fit into a society that does not seem willing to accept him. It is a catalyst for Bruce's final decision to go through with his plan to take out Superman. And we see the resolution of this plot line during Superman's funeral, when humanity is universally mourning for him and he is getting an honorable burial with governmental trimmings. You can't make it much clearer that he's been cleared of wrongdoing in the bombing of the U.S. Capitol than by giving him an honorable military burial.

Batman placed a tracker on the Kryptonite truck but then he tried to capture the truck with the batmobile. This is not a plot hole. Batman has a Plan A and a Plan B, much like Lex Luthor, another intelligent and crafty billionaire. Batman hopes to acquire the kryptonite during the batmobile chase, but if this were to fail, as it eventually does, he wanted to have the tracker in place so that he still had a chance to locate where it was taken.

What is Lex's plan when he releases Doomsday? In fact, the Looper article says that the audience has no clue about Lex's plans at all. As I said at the beginning, maybe Looper couldn't follow Lex's motivations, but many of us could. This is not a plot hole. Doomsday is Lex's Plan B, in case Batman fails to kill Superman. Granted, it's a high-risk Plan B, but this just shows Lex's madness and his psychosis in playing god when he creates life. Some analyses of Lex have shown that he represents misotheism, and so he ultimately wants to destroy god at any cost, even Doomsday. An alternative explanation is that Lex may have mistakenly assumed that he could control Doomsday because Doomsday was made partially from Lex's DNA. I wouldn't put it past this version of Lex to think that he was invincible. Or maybe Lex did have a way of stopping Doomsday such as some additional Kryptonite or from something that he had learned or could use from the scout ship, but we just weren't shown this information.

Superman can hear Lois whenever she's in trouble but he can't hear that his mother is being held across the harbor. This is not a plot hole but a misunderstanding of Superman's powers. First of all, in the comics Superman is often portrayed as being able to hear all sounds at all times, even across the globe. But Superman in this movie universe is significantly powered down. He has super-hearing and x-ray vision but he's not omniscient. He can hear Lois in trouble because he probably keys in to her. In other words, his hearing and his sight are very effective when he's focusing it in on a specific target, but he can't just hear or see anything he wants out of nowhere. Also, when Lois is drowning, she's banging on the rubble. Martha, on the other hand, is bound and gagged.

Batman is 100% committed to taking down Superman but then he completely reverses course just because Superman's mother's name is Martha. I've been dumbfounded by how many people online have only perceived the "Martha" scene at a very surface level. It would take an entire article to explain how many layers there are to Batman's psychological journey, and how the "Martha" scene perfectly represents his awakening, which is a key feature of revenge tragedies, but to put it briefly -- Batman does not reverse course because of the name "Martha." Batman has been going down a dark psychological path for years, and since the arrival of Superman he has been unhealthily focusing all of his hatred and energies on Superman, but it's not because he actually hates Superman, it's because Bruce is unable to deal with his failures and his feelings of powerlessness. The "Martha" moment is just the wake-up call where he starts to realize Superman's humanity and that the issue has actually been with himself, not Superman. The "Martha" moment causes Batman to pause just long enough for Lois to come in, and the care that Lois shows to Superman further awakens Bruce from the deranged mindset he's been in for two years. He realizes that he himself has been turning bad, just in the way he was accusing Superman of eventually doing, and he realizes that Lex has been manipulating him into this confrontation. He also realizes that he was just about to become the person who killed Martha's son, the very event he'd been trying to avenge for his entire career as Batman. There's all of this and more that the movie sets up and that comes to a head in the "Martha" scene. If you literally watched the movie and missed all of this, I don't know what else to say.

Why would Batman lure Doomsday to Gotham and the Kryptonite spear instead of (A) going to get the Kryptonite spear and then bring the spear to Doomsday, or (B) leaving the batwing and having Alfred pilot it to retrieve the spear. Both of the alternative plans that Looper suggests are inferior to Batman's plan in the movie. (A) would require Batman leaving Doomsday totally unattended and who knows what damage Doomsday would cause if given this opportunity. It's very likely that he would go to Metropolis or to a populated area of Gotham instead of the unpopulated area where Batman tried to lure him in the movie version. (B) would almost surely result in Batman being killed, and the Looper writer doesn't explain how Alfred, operating the batwing remotely, would actually be able to retrieve the Kryptonite spear. Sure, Batman has a lot of gadgets, but I don't think any of them would allow a hovering batwing to reach underwater and grab a Kryptonite spear.

Overall, I think what we've learned here is that the problem was with the viewer, not the movie, in these cases.

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