Tuesday, July 26, 2016

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Scenes 43-45

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Batman v Superman, scenes 43-45, which involve Lex discovering that the Kryptonite was stolen, Lois and Superman talking on the DC balcony, and Lex accessing the Kryptonian scout ship.

  • Connections and inferences from the LexCorp desctruction
  • Lex's reaction the batarang
  • Superman's crisis of confidence and loss of faith
  • Lois and the symbol of hope
  • The scout ship command key
  • Lex as Lucifer
  • Non-glorified violence
Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco
Man of Steel Answers, Suicide Squadcast, DCU_Club subreddit

<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 DC Films that are part of the Justice League Universe.

In this episode, we quickly run through our main observations from scenes 43, 44 and 45. These are the scenes immediately following the Capitol bombing and they involve the three main characters’ next steps. We see that Batman has taken action and stolen the Kryptonite from LexCorp, we see Superman talking to Lois and grappling with what happened at the Capitol, and we see Lex accessing the scout ship.

So let’s start with Scene 43 at the LexCorp Research Park. There’s a nice scene transition as we go right from Bruce’s determination to the results of his action as Batman. We also move from the Capitol destruction in Scene 42 to the LexCorp destruction and the wounded being loaded into ambulances at LexCorp. It’s important to notice that Bruce was enraged by the carnage at the Capitol but he doesn’t seem to see or care about the carnage that he himself leaves in Batman’s wake.

We see Lex enter on his motorcycle. He follows the path of destruction which contains bullet shells, which imply that Lex's security were trying to kill Batman but Batman was able to evade serious harm. The fact that people were being carried out on stretchers, not in body bags, has the implication that even though these guards were shooting to kill, Batman wasn't out to kill them.  This helps to give insight on Batman's rules of conduct -- that he won't kill civilians, only hard criminals who, quote, deserve it.

The Extended Cut gives a little bit more of a glimpse of Batman’s operation here, and that footage has a nice homage to Batman: The Animated Series and it also links Batman to the other Justice League members because they all appear in the movie on security footage or research footage.

Lex examines all the damage as he heads to the lab where the Kryptonite was being kept, only to discover it is missing. In an echo of a prior scene where Lex looks into the glass at the Kryptonite, he now sees the batarang, which tells us, and Lex, that Batman has taken it. Our interpretation of Eisenberg’s performance is that he forms the subtlest smile with the corners of his mouth and his eyes when he sees the batarang, indicating he was not only expecting Batman to steal it, but that he intended Batman to have the Kryptonite. The fact that the damage to the Kryptonite casing indicates an outward blast suggests that the Batarang was manually placed rather than thrown inward. This tells us that Batman was leaving a message to Lex. He wanted Lex to know he took the Kryptonite. Why would he want him to know? It could be that Batman plans on returning it, although that seems unlikely, or it could be a warning that Batman will be coming after Lex or that Lex shouldn’t try to intervene or get the Kryptonite back.

In terms of the plot, we now know that Batman has heightened anger and vengeance toward Superman and now he also has a means for taking Superman down, so it’s a very effective way of giving us the rising action and building toward the Batman-Superman fight. As an audience, we are led to ask ourselves what Batman is going to do with the Kryptonite, and we are also wondering what Lex is going to do now that he doesn’t have the Kryptonite any longer, yet seems happy about it.

Scene 44: Lois on the Balcony

Moving on to Scene 44, we see Lois trying to call Superman but not getting through, which explains why she is not always able to reach him at other points in the movie when it would be convenient for Lois to give Superman an important message. There are some reporters on the TV saying that Wallace Keefe was behind the Capitol bombing, and the reports do not connect it to Lex or Superman. But as we explained before, the goal of the Capitol bombing was not to kill Superman or pin the bombing on him… it was to show that Superman is not all powerful in terms of stopping every tragedy, and also to show that violence and casualties follow him wherever he goes. The newscaster goes on to say that sources say Keefe concealed the bomb inside his wheelchair and that Superman was in the room and “obviously failed to stop him”.  This helps to clue us in on the world’s negative reaction to Superman.  If he is godly and omnipotent, why didn’t he stop the bomb?  And if he is godly and omnipotent, does that mean that he didn’t stop the bomb because he was complicit in the bombing?

Lois then sees Superman out on the balcony. And here in Washington DC, the filmmakers framed this scene with the Washington monument in the background. We have already mentioned before that aspects of this movie are representative of American power -- connecting to the American Way portion of Superman’s truth, justice, and the American way. Chris Terrio confirmed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that Superman allows them to explore ideas of American military power and America as the world’s super power -- how should America use that power in the world and to whom should they be accountable? -- and once you see this scene, it becomes almost impossible to miss those overtones.

I also recently interacted with Bobby Havens on YouTube about how this movie can be seen by some as a critique of the capitalistic values of America. Bruce and Lex are both successful capitalists and they see themselves as very virtuous and on the side of humanity but really they are both somewhat mad and blind to the damage they themselves are causing. Critics of the objectivism that undergirds capitalism would say that capitalism has some of the same flaws as these characters.

Lois goes out to the balcony and this is where Superman reveals some of his inner thoughts to Lois and to the audience. We hear Superman’s self doubt and his sense of segregation when he refers to Krypton as his world. Superman verbalizes the question of his existence. We can see from this that the bombing has not only cracked Bruce Wayne, but has cracked Superman as well. This doubt is what pushes Superman to go into solitude in the mountains to find himself.

Lois starts to tell Superman that Lex is behind the bombing when she says “Clark, there are people behind this.”  But it didn’t matter to Superman who was behind the bombing. What is central to him is that he failed to stop it. And he doubts himself because he feels he should have seen the bomb and fears that he wasn’t looking or paying attention. Although we learned in the Extended Cut that even if he had looked, the lead lining would have prevented him from seeing the bomb. The bigger point here is that Superman is not only doubting himself but doubting his faith in humanity. He wasn’t looking for the bomb because he is idealistic and wants to believe in the inherent good of humanity. It didn’t occur to him that the Senate hearing would be a site of violence. But the fact that the bombing did happen is making him rethink his faith in humanity --- maybe there is inherent evil in humanity, maybe Batman is right to be cynical and untrusting.

Superman says that all this time he’s been living his life how his father saw it, righting wrongs for a ghost. Of course both his fathers have passed away, so with this line we don’t know if he’s referring to Jonathan or Jor-El. There is also a correlation to the father, God, the son, Jesus, and the holy ghost.  Here Superman as the Jesus figure is attempting to absolve and right the wrongs of Man, for his father as the God figure, in the case of Jor-El being from the heavens above, i.e. another planet sort of akin to a heavenly body.

“Superman was never real. Just a dream of a farmer from Kansas.”  This now is obviously a reference to Jonathan, but in a way it also applies to himself because Clark was also a farmer from Kansas. He shared in the dream with his father. Not only recently as Superman, but when he was a child with a red towel around his neck in the final scenes of Man of Steel.

Some critics of the movie have wrongly said that this line about Jonathan having a dream for Clark to be Superman is a contradiction with Jonathan’s protectionism in Man of Steel. But remember that it wasn’t that Jonathan never wanted Clark to reveal himself and do public deeds, but he wanted Clark to wait until the right time because Jonathan knew it would be a big moment for everyone when it happened. In Man of Steel, Jonathan explicitly talked about Clark standing proud before mankind. It wasn’t only Jor-El who had those sorts of dreams for Clark, it was just that Jonathan was more realistic about what humanity’s reactions would be.

Back to the scene, Lois tells Superman that that farmer’s dream is the only thing that some people have. That it gives people hope. One meaning behind this is that for all the bad that may come from Superman, the good outweighs that bad, and the goodness of Superman spreads out beyond Superman’s specific actions because he inspires others. And the mere existence of Superman represents the existence of Good in the world, and that humanity should not give up.  Of course this is contrary to Lex’s views of Superman, that Superman’s existence is bad for the world. But this also touches on the idea of faith in god. Whatever the religion, the symbol of a god is something that can give people hope, especially in dark times.

Lois puts her hand on Superman’s chest and says, “This means something.”  This clearly seems to refer to the S symbol, which is a nice connection back to Man of Steel when Lois said it was just an S -- she’s come a long way with Superman since that time -- but Lois’s gesture could also be referring to his heart. In interviews, Amy Adams has said that Superman’s real super power is his soul and his inherent goodness. So here, Lois might be also emphasizing that what’s inside Superman, who he really is, is what matters… not how the public wrongly sees him.

Clark responds in relation to the S symbol by saying, “It did on my world.  My world doesn’t exist anymore.”  Superman distances himself from humanity with that statement, justifying Batman’s fears even more. It also sets up the importance of him later telling Lois that he accepts this world, and that she is his world.

This scene also connects back to Lois and Clark’s arc from Scene 6, when Lois said, “I don’t know if you can love me and be you.” They are continuing to struggle with how to balance this all within the complexities, pressures, and violence of the world, and Superman is going to need to come to terms with himself before he can be there as an emotional partner for Lois. We see in this scene, and in the great final shot of Lois, that Lois cares deeply about Clark and Superman, and for Superman, @lexaluthor from twitter phrased it very well when he said that Clark’s love of Lois is precisely how he is finally able to be Superman. So loving her and being himself are not oppositional, they are the key. I guess you could say that “she’s the key.”

Scene 45: Lex Accesses the Scout Ship (1:15:30 -- )

Alright, Scene 45, Lex puts on Zod’s fingertips, with some highly effective, harsh lighting to make the creepiness stand out, and he accesses the previously unexplored parts of the scout ship. As Man of Steel Answers pointed out in “Understanding Lex Luthor,” Lex needed the Committee on Superman to be taken out so that he had loosened oversight on his scout ship activities.

As a refresher on Man of Steel, this is the scout ship that was on Earth for tens of thousands of years and it contains the Genesis Chamber. In Man of Steel, Zod took over the ship using a command key. That is presumably the same command key that is still in the ship’s console in BvS.

In Man of Steel the ship attacked Clark and Lois because they were not identified as having control of the ship. However Lex uses Zod’s fingerprints to identify himself as Zod in order to gain access. We see the security robot hover behind the door and withdraw from attacking. Using Zod’s fingerprints, Lex is posing as a Kryptonian. He is a deceiver to people on Earth and now a deceiver to Kryptonian technology.

Throughout Batman v Superman there are allusions to Lex representing Lucifer. In the book of Isaiah, Chapter 14, there are the following verses in reference to Lucifer: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!  You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High”.  Essentially Lucifer is saying that he will take over and be god, which is one way of viewing what Lex attempts to do in killing Superman and creating Doomsday. Lex also referred to Lucifer with the painting in his father’s room.

The name Lucifer is translated from the Hebrew word “helel” referring to Lucifer as “morning star”. The sun is the morning star which rises at dawn. The movie happens to have the sub-title Dawn of Justice. When considering Lex’s role as Lucifer, we can further make the correlation to Egyptian religion in which Lucifer poses as Ra Incarnate, the Sun God of Egypt, who deceives Heru. Heru, or Horus in Greek, literally means “Worshipper of the Sun God”.  He was a farmer and a man of the Bedari tribe in the Egyptian Delta. If Lex is Lucifer, then Heru is Clark.  We know Superman gets his powers from the Sun, a worshipper of the Sun if you will.  Lex’s reference to God being tribal, mentioning Horus the Egyptian God of the Sky, and his association of Clark Jo as a god, further links to this Egyptian story.  And in entering the scout ship Lex is posing as Zod, similar to how Lucifer posed as Ra, to get the best of Superman who in this case is Heru.

Inside the Genesis Chamber Lex finds the command key sticking out of place. He pulls it out and examines it before reinserting it. This essentially reboots the ship’s operating system and allows him to take full command for himself just as Clark and Zod both did in Man of Steel when they pressed the command key into the console.

I laughed the first time I saw this scene when Lex’s voice cracked after he was offered control of the ship. “Yes I would.” This was like a dream come true and whereas before Lex has been like a kid playing with people like toys or pawns, now he is like a kid in a candy store.

The AI tells Lex that the Kryptonian archive contains knowledge from a hundred thousand different worlds.  What’s interesting is that the AI uses the world “knowledge” rather than other words like “data” or “information”.  As we know, Lex craves knowledge because he views it as power.  Lex’s response, “Good.  Teach me,” indicates that is exactly what he has come for, knowledge. Given that the Senate has rejected the notion of killing Superman, Lex needs a new plan to kill him in case Batman fails to do so. So he turns to the knowledge contained within the scout ship in hopes of finding an alternate means of killing Superman.

This is where the scene ends, and so we don’t know exactly what Lex learns or asks about from the scout ship knowledge banks. We can only infer later what he might have learned. Some pretty safe guesses are that he asked about ways of killing Superman and about other beings  who are even more powerful than Superman, such as Darkseid from Apokolips,. Lex would be especially interested in powerful beings who happen to be evil, because this would support his worldview that power is never innocent.

End of Episode:

Okay, that’s it for Scenes 43, 44, and 45. We’re going to try to keep this pace and release as many episodes as we can before Suicide Squad.

One quick thing that we forgot to mention last episode for the Capitol bombing. We’ve mentioned before how BvS invites us to feel uncomfortable with violence and to actually react negatively to it, as we should, rather than glorifying it as movies often do. This relationship with violence comes into play many times, but a big one was the Capitol bombing. We are supposed to be frustrated that the bomb went off before Superman could speak. We are supposed to feel bad that Mercy Graves and Senator Finch and Wallace Keefe are killed and their character arcs are not allowed to continue. We are supposed to not only be surprised by the bombing in a physical sense but we are also supposed to be angry at the violence for getting in the way of story and character development, because this is what violence does in the real world… and it is right that we should be deeply opposed to the violence.

Anyway, thanks for listening. We really appreciate the support and all the great listeners we have. Our next episode should be coming very soon and it involves Bruce’s fight preparation, Lex preparing Doomsday, and a quick stop into the Daily Planet.

Check out the Suicide Squadcast and Man of Steel Answers, and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment