Sunday, June 26, 2016

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Scenes 28 and 29

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Scenes 28 and 29 of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with Scene 28, by our measure, including the entire Knightmare sequence and Scene 29 the appearance by the Flash in the batcave. (By the way, we refer to it as the Knightmare sequence because of the Knightmare Batman toy, not because it is a nightmare or dream.)

  • Decryption
  • Responding to criticism of the Knightmare scene
  • Knightmare Batman costume
  • Desert setting and Apokolips
  • Connections to various comic books
  • Batman oner
  • Tyrannical Superman
  • The Flash's visit from the future

Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco

Man of Steel Answers, Suicide Squadcast, DCU_Club

<Transcript of the episode>

Welcome fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. In this podcast Alessandro Maniscalco and I share our scene-by-scene analysis of the films in the Justice League Universe.

This episode focuses on Batman v Superman and what we have decided to call two scenes rather than one or three -- we’re going to cover the Knightmare Batman sequence, which starts in the batcave, includes the desert fight scene, and also includes Batman’s hanging captivity with the tyrannical Superman. And then we’re also going to cover the scene with the Flash and Bruce in the batcave.

So Scene 28 begins by picking right up from Scene 27. Bruce now has his data drive with the hacked files from Lex. As Man of Steel Answers pointed out, it’s very likely that Lex intended for Bruce to steal these files because not only do they contain information on how to weaponize Kryptonite but they also show that there are other meta-humans out there and so Batman needs to take out Superman to also preempt the possible threats implied by those other powerful beings. If there’s even a 1% chance of Superman turning evil, then that chance is multiplied by 5 or 6 or 7 or more if there are many super-powered meta-humans.

Bruce brings the drive to the batcave where he has his decrypting technology that is powerful enough to break through even Lex’s data protections. It’s kind of funny that there is literally the word “decrypting” on the screen before Bruce falls asleep because Bruce and us, the audience, are about to see something that we’re going to have to decrypt and unpack.

Now, we don’t actually see Bruce nodding off but after the Knightmare sequence, we do see Bruce popping up off the desk like he had just woke up. That led many people in the audience to assume that the Knightmare desert sequence was all a dream. And then those same people say it’s a plot hole because you can’t gain new knowledge in a dream and so how did Bruce dream about Darkseid’s omega symbol and the parademons?

Two simple counterarguments to this. 1) Yes, people can dream about crazy desert landscapes and weird winged monsters. If Bruce had that dream, he would just think, “Whoa, there were these crazy flying monsters in my dream, but I think the bigger point of it all was that it would be really bad if Superman turned into a tyrant.” It’s only when we, the audience, bring in our outside perspective with the knowledge that Darkseid and the parademons are actual real things in the DC Universe, that’s when it seems to be a contradiction.

Which leads me to counterargument number 2: None of that dream stuff actually matters because this is not a dream. Alessandro and myself interpret the desert scene with tyrannical Superman is a vision of a possible future, and the vision was able to enter Bruce’s consciousness because of a rift in the space-time continuum. Where did the rift come from? Well, the Flash of course. As we’ll see in a few minutes, the Flash from the future is coming back to try to warn Bruce of something and in doing so, he created the conditions under which Bruce could have the vision.

And this isn’t just us making up an interpretation. Zack Snyder said the following in an Empire Magazine interview: “I think it’s okay to look at the extended dream sequence as an impressionistic view of a possible future, that’s… in the sequence, so I’m not like spoiling anything or making up anything that you didn’t see. So the connection with the Flash… part of that sequence, you can speculate if, whether or not Flash is coming from that reality or another one, but that’s the fun stuff to try and figure out exactly what Flash is saying to Bruce and what he means… we know, so… we’re not making it up.” endquote

Further evidence within the movie that this stuff is not a dream or a dream within a dream but a real occurrence is that the papers are flying off the desk around Bruce when he finally quote-unquote wakes up. They are flying because there was actually the Flash there showing up through a space-time boom tube or some other sort of time traveling technology.

Oh, and another quick thing before we even get into the desert sequence because we want to be able to enjoy it without detractors ruining it. Some critics of the movie have said that these scenes do not serve any purpose in the plot of BvS and were obviously just thrown in there to tease a future movie and to show an angry Superman taking out Batman.

Now while it’s true that Goyer and Terrio’s script did not originally include this scene and Zack Snyder was the main person who wanted to add it in, it is also true that these scenes definitely do connect to the plot of BvS. In seeing how bleak life is and how terrifying it would be to have a tyrannical Superman, it gives Bruce that much more conviction that he needs to go forward with his efforts to take out Superman. And the cryptic message from the Flash also seems to Bruce to be a warning about the danger of Superman. More on that when we get to it, but these scenes definitely make sense within  the arc of rising tension that we’re following with Bruce’s character.

Oh, and another thing that supports Zack Snyder’s idea about adding in this scene is that it’s actually been a long time since the movie has had an action sequence. Seriously, this is scene 28 by our count, and there hasn’t been a legitimate action sequence since scene 2 with the Black Zero Event. There were some moments of action in Africa but that wasn’t an action scene, at least not in the theatrical cut. And Scene 7 had Batman in it for a few seconds, but it wasn’t an action scene. There was some brief underground fighting and then there were the slow-motion Superman rescue scenes, but none of those qualify as an action scene in the sense of an action movie. So we’re 50 minutes into the movie and we’re just about to get our second action sequence. That’s why it’s ridiculous that we’ve actually seen some people complain that BvS is just a mindless action movie with visuals but no substance. I think those people are just mindlessly applying a critique that has been used in the past on other movies like the Transformers movies or typical low-brow action flicks. It really doesn’t apply here at all. The filmmakers have taken basically the first hour of this movie to set up and explore the character psychologies, to put those characters into a realistic and complex world very similar to our own, and to have subtle interplay between characters like Lex and Finch, Bruce and Diana, and Clark and Perry.

So if anything, the complaint would be that there has not been enough action in this movie. And that’s a fair complaint if what you were expecting or what you were wanting was wall-to-wall action. But it’s not really a critique of BvS on its own terms… it’s only a critique in terms of the movie not being the type of movie you wanted it to be. BvS is a rich character drama that finds its spots to put in great action scenes. But it does not follow the conventions of a typical action movie. So to criticize it based on action movie grounds is like criticizing a thriller for not having enough comedy.

Okay, one more preliminary comment and then I promise we’re going to go through the scene. We do think one fair complaint about this scene would be from people who were simply confused by what they saw. Many people in the general audience didn’t have any context for interpreting the omega symbol and didn’t know what a parademon was. They also probably didn’t know about the Injustice games or comics that involve Superman turning into a sort of dictator after losing Lois. And many people didn’t know that it was the Flash talking to Bruce through the time breach or boom tube. So for those people, it’s legitimate to complain and say that these scenes were confusing. And comic book readers can’t blame those people for not reading all the comics, like Crisis on Infinite Earths to know the significance of the Flash appearing from a white light with a warning, because only a very small minority of the movie-going audience are comic book readers. Probably like 300 to 400 thousand people out of millions, and the movies should be able to appeal to a broad range of fans, not just comic book fans.

That being said, hopefully people who were somewhat confused by these scenes would be open minded and not let it ruin the movie but would instead think, “That was weird. I wonder if it will connect to the Justice League movie.” And just be okay with the confusion, and at least see the connection to Bruce being more committed now to taking out Superman because of the danger of him turning evil.

Alright, enough preliminaries. Let’s get into the Knightmare sequence itself. And we’re not actually going to go through every single detail because there are lots of analyses of this scene that you can find online, and those analyses can provide visuals, too. So we’re just going to give some main observations.

First of all, Batman opens a door and steps out from underground. As @GeekPride5 on Twitter noticed (, you can see the burnt out Wayne Manor in the background, so he’s actually coming up out of the batcave. And the dried out desert that he’s looking over is the same bay that he earlier looked at from his lake house windows. It’s the bay between Metropolis and Gotham that has dried up.

We get to soak in the great color scheme of this scene, with oranges and browns that help bring across the dustiness and desolation. We also get to see Batman’s awesome desert outfit with his trench coat instead of his normal cape. Notably, Batman here is carrying a gun around his shoulder and he has some goggles on his forehead and cargo pants. Many people have pointed out similarities to the costume from the Gotham by Gaslight elseworld comic book, and while there are some slight connections, it is also somewhat Michael Wilkinson’s own creation of a Batman costume that fits in to a desert-type landscape and an underground guerrilla rebellion-type situation.

Out in the landscape, we also see volcanic explosions or fire pits. This is what Apokolips looks like, home of Darkseid. So either Darkseid has conquered Earth, with Superman as his sort of general or servant, or perhaps the giant Omega symbol on the ground, which is Darkseid’s insignia, is indicating the planet is now ready for invasion by Darkseid’s forces. The symbol has been used in that way in the comics.

Batman sees a truck driving across the dried out bay and that allows us to cut to the truck arriving and Batman approaching the truck. He asks, “Did you get it? The rock?” This of course refers to Kryptonite. So we have here a situation in a possible future where Batman is still trying to get his hands on a large enough piece of Kryptonite to use as a weapon against Superman, and perhaps back in the present timeline, if he could have gotten it earlier and used it, he could have prevented this whole apocalyptic situation. The man responds “Yeah, we got it.” So we presume that this man and the other men standing around must be part of the same group, a rebellion force against a tyrannical Superman. We then get a quick glimpse of a cloaked figure standing behind some men as Batman gets into the truck.

Inside the truck is a trunk marked LexCorp, which suggests that these men have stolen it from Lex. There’s a green hue which Batman assumes is the Kryptonite, luring him further into the trailer toward the trunk. We then see a UB1280 battery connected to two green bulbs and realize there is no kryptonite and realize Batman was tricked. The men immediately train their guns on Batman but don’t fire, which leads us to believe this group was looking to capture him, not kill him, probably because the dictator Superman wants to see him and do the killing in person. This capture order is also why Batman is able to do as well as he does later in the fight outside the trailer.

We now see clearly that the mysterious men are wearing helmets and Superman emblems on their shoulders. They are somehow affiliated with Superman, either working with Superman or in the name of Superman. These character designs are inspired by the Regime Soldiers as taken from the Injustice Comic. And this isn’t the first reference to the Injustice Comic. We saw Jimmy Olsen get shot earlier in the movie, which also occurred in those comics. Jimmy’s death in actual reality could be considered a sign that events are already beginning to unfold in the direction that leads to this vision, a sort of Injustice: Gods Among Us direction, which is why Flash needs to come back in time and warn Batman in order to stop events from continuing down that path.

Another graphic novel worth mentioning here is Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar. Although that story is very different because it’s an elseworld story where Superman lands in the Soviet Union, there are some similarities because Superman does become a tyrannical leader and Batman does try to lead a pretty unsuccessful rebellion. And that story also has Jimmy Olsen as a CIA agent, by the way.

Okay, the scene is about to take off because there is a beat of silence as the realization of betrayal comes over Batman, then the man with the trunk says, “I’m sorry.” This leads us to believe that some of Batman’s men were in on the betrayal, either willingly or more likely because they were coerced, but most of the rebels here with Batman were not aware of the betrayal and the fake Kryptonite. So it was not only Batman who was betrayed but all the other rebels, too, either because they didn’t know about the Superman soldier infiltration or because they knew about it but then were killed by those soldiers anyway.  These people being shot could possibly be Batman’s followers similar to the thugs he assembled in The Dark Knight Returns which would explain why Batman yells “Noooo” to the back of the truck.

When Batman yells “Noooo,” that marks the beginning of his massive oner, a single long shot that begins inside the truck and follows him outside and then rotates 360 degrees around him as he fights the Superman soldiers and the parademons start to fly by and join the fight. The oner goes all the way to the point where the parademon knocks Batman unconscious. Batman’s fighting in this shot was performed by Rich Cetrone (Affleck’s stuntman), and it contained over 100 moves. It’s the sort of thing that you don’t need to analyze, you can just enjoy it as a piece of performance art like dancing, with the choreography and the costumes and the setting all presenting a visual experience for the audience.

A few things we noticed, but like we said, you can find other analyses online that have images you can dissect. But not only do the parademons arrive but also more trucks of Superman’s Regime soldiers, implying Darkseid and Superman are working together. But is Superman willingly working with Darkseid or has he been coerced? Is Darkseid making Superman think Lois is dead or was Darkseid behind Lois’s actual death? Or did Lois’s death happen separately, and Darkseid just took advantage of Superman’s bereavement?

There is also some iconography and soldier costumes that evoke the dictatorship of the Third Reich in Germany. There is also a moment in the middle of the fight when Batman helps up one of his fellow rebels, possibly a woman. And another moment where Batman seems to kill a Regime soldier by breaking his neck, which of course reminds everyone of Zod’s death in Man of Steel.

Also here are some observations from listeners that we can all corroborate next week when we watch this scene again and replay it over and over:
  • StokaXXL on YouTube observed that the world engine terraforming sound from Man of Steel came back here in the sound mix for the Knightmare sequence, right at the beginning of the Knightmare, and the sound also was used when Bruce opened the mausoleum door in scene 17. In both of those, Bruce opens a door (metaphorically into unhappiness or doom).
  • And Damien DeRego on YouTube noticed that in the Knightmare scene, Batman is using the same type of pistol that killed his parents. And when he shoots the traitor, the scene is shot similarly to Scene 1 with his parents’ death.

Okay, so this part of the Knightmare sequence ends when Batman is held down and then knocked out by a parademon. Batman wakes chained up between two others. They appear to be members of the group that were working with him to get the Kryptonite. The music, which had been an eerie and kinetic theme with atmospheric and processed sounds and some Kubrick-esque choir vowels, has now totally cut out for this part in the bunker. The sound now is all about Batman’s breathing and fear, punctuated by Superman’s approach and then arrival.  Superman’s vertical landing is an echo of his arrival in the Africa scene to save Lois. However here, it’s Bruce being held instead of Lois, and instead of saving Lois, in this scene he has come to kill the person he blames for losing her.

The eerie music starts to swell back up and the regime soldiers bow to Superman showing respect as one would do to a ruler and just as they do in Injustice. The sand swirls forward and Superman walks straight toward camera which now goes back into focus. This shot puts us right in the position of Batman. Superman uses his heat vision to kill the two other men with ease and without a second thought, so if you haven’t yet picked up on the clues that Superman has become an evil tyrant in this possible future, it should be pretty clear now.

Superman pulls off Batman’s cowl. This metaphorically strips Bruce of his Batman identity, which marks the complete failure of his efforts as Batman, and this connects back to reality where he is having his sort of mid-life crisis about his efforts as Batman, and here in the possible future where he has failed to lead the rebellion against Superman. So Superman strips away the Bat and then puts his hand right through the heart of the man, killing Bruce as well. The way Superman kills Bruce is similar to what Superman does to the Joker in the Injustice comic book. In that story, the Joker was responsible for Lois’s death and here Superman blames Bruce for Lois’s death, though of course we don’t know the whole story of what happened to her.

Superman’s actual line is: “She was my world, and you took her from me.” So we’re just assuming that the “she” refers to Lois Lane, but I think it’s a pretty safe assumption given that he calls her his world later in the movie and there are multiple stories where Superman has negative reactions to losing or possibly losing Lois. And the repeated question of what is Superman’s world and what does it mean to him is obviously referenced here, but we’ll cover it more in later scenes when we have more time available.

Some people have suggested that maybe this wasn’t just a bereaved Superman who has turned cruel but instead Superman was being controlled by Darkseid. We tend to think that Superman has just lost it because of Lois’s death, especially if the manner of Lois’s death was especially brutal or somehow inadvertently involved Superman himself. For example, in Injustice, it’s not just Lois who dies but she was pregnant with Superman and her child. Given the engagement ring Lois receives at the end of the movie, it wouldn’t be far fetched to think that she might be pregnant in this alternate timeline before her death. That would give him a dangerous mix of grief, guilt, and anger. As for Darkseid, his ultimate desire is usually the anti-life equation, a scientific formula that would allow him to control the mind of any living thing, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he controls Superman, we just don’t have enough evidence to conclude that yet.

So Bruce is killed in the vision and then wakes up back in his batcave at the computer. Before we get into the Flash’s appearance, we just want to comment on Bruce’s psychology with respect to this vision. In this vision, which he thinks is a dream, he sees himself as an underdog fighting against an out-of-control power. In the vision, he is the christ-like martyr, hanging and awaiting his crucifixion between two other rebels like christ was between the two criminals on the crosses. But the irony is that Batman is actually the one turning away from the good through these middle parts of the movie, not Superman, and it is Batman’s power that needs to be checked before it is too late. And of course, later in the actual reality it will be Superman who makes the christ-like sacrifice, not Batman.

Okay, so going from Scene 28 to Scene 29, Bruce’s scream transitions us right to the sound of the Flash reaching out from a bright light trying to shout a message to Bruce. We mentioned how this is a reference to Crisis on Infinite Earths, but notably this same idea just occurred last month in the DC Rebirth special, where there was literally a scene with the Flash, Wally West in the case of Rebirth, trying to reach out from the speed force to send a message to Bruce in the batcave, but Bruce is confused and doesn’t know what to make of it.

Comic book fans are also very used to the idea of the Flash as a time traveler, and that has also been used in the Flash tv show on CW, too. It’s a common feature of the character. And like we said before, he could be time traveling using the speed force or it could be a sort of boom tube technology, which is connected to the mother boxes that come from Darkseid’s planet of Apokolips. If you aren’t familiar with mother boxes, it’s the thing that fuses itself to Vic Stone to create Cyborg. So maybe a future Cyborg is helping future Flash try to time travel back to talk to Bruce.

Okay, so some people didn’t recognize this was Ezra Miller as the Flash, and he does look older than in the security camera footage and his suit is different than a usual Flash suit, possibly because it’s a time-traveling version of his suit rather than the standard version. Some people also had trouble making out the Flash’s lines here. So here’s what we think he said:
“Bruce. Bruce, listen to me now. It’s Lois. Lois Lane. She’s the key. Am I too soon? I’m too soon. You’re right about him. You’ve always been right about him. Fear him. Find us. You have to find us.”

So these lines basically cover three main points: First, that Lois Lane is the key. To what? We don’t know. But this confirms what Superman said in the vision where he was blaming Batman for taking her from him. Second, Bruce was right to fear him. Who is the him? Bruce interprets it to mean Superman, but it’s not actually specified. Third, the Flash encourages Bruce to find us, probably referring to the Justice League members. Of course, by the end of the movie, Bruce realizes that he does need to gather these meta-humans to help protect the Earth because their best defense, Superman, is now gone.

The other key thing here with the Flash is that he realizes to himself that he’s “too soon.” This is how we know it’s a time travelling Flash and he meant to get a message to a more knowledgeable Bruce, but this Bruce is not yet aware of the other meta-humans and may not yet know the man that he is supposed to fear. It will be interesting to see how they follow this up in Justice League or beyond, maybe in the Flash movie or the second Justice League movie.

To prove that we’re not just making this all up, we do have some information from Jay Oliva, who was one of the storyboard artists for BvS and director of several DC Animated Originals. On the Hall of Justice podcast, Oliva said that Bruce would assume “him” refers to Superman but actually it refers to someone else in the future, because Flash was “too early.”

So overall, these two scenes are not meant to make total sense. They’re the kind of thing that will make BvS a great movie to rewatch down the road after Justice League and The Flash, just like Man of Steel has lots of new meaning now after seeing BvS. But these scenes do provide a big thrust for BvS itself, too. It gives us an action break before the batmobile chase that’s coming in Scene 34, and it also makes Batman now more determined to continue forward, because he is rationalizing to himself that he needs to kill Superman to remove even the chance of this type of future coming to pass. And after Bruce pulls himself out of this cynical psychology, these scenes are still important because they serve as part of a warning of what might be coming and so he needs to pull together the Justice League. The other piece that will spur on his need to rally the meta-humans is Lex Luthor’s cryptic warning at the very end.

Speaking of Lex, Scene 29 ends with Bruce finally breaking through Lex’s encryption. This allows him to see that the White Portuguese is actually a ship in the Port of Gotham. So previously Bruce knew the White Portuguese was something connected to the Kryptonite, but now he knows what it is, and where.

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