Sunday, July 31, 2016

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Scenes 46-48

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Batman v Superman, scenes 46-48, which is Bruce's training montage, Lex preparing Zod's body in the genesis chamber, and Lois in the Daily Planet worrying about where Clark went.

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 Warner Brothers films that are part of the Justice League Universe.

This episode focuses on Scenes 46, 47, and 48 of Batman v Superman. These are a few more minor scenes that come in between the Capitol tragedy and the Batman-Superman fight. We’re going to cover Bruce’s training for the fight, Lex preparing Zod’s body in the genesis chamber, and a quick scene at the Daily Planet where Clark is missing and the Superman animosity is rising. As we mentioned with the Capitol bombing, all of this action was propelled into motion by that tragedy, and so all of these scenes are logical consequences of that event. For Bruce, he immediately secured the Kryptonite, in brutal fashion as is his method these days, and now we get Scene 46, a training montage for Bruce that serves as a nice complement to the rescue montage that Superman had back in Scene 23. For Superman, the feats that he was performing were not especially challenging for him but in that montage we saw that he was grappling with everyone debating and critiquing him and everything he does. For Batman, this will definitely be a physical test and he needs to work hard to prepare his body and his resources. All the physical shots that they included in this scene, especially the down-to-earth training techniques such as with the rope, tire, chains, and sledgehammer emphasize the earthliness and human limitations of Bruce, as a contrast to the alien powers of Superman.

In addition to his physical training, Bruce also prepares the Kryptonite. The information about its structural integrity, properties, and how to weaponize it were taken from the files he hacked from Lex --- files that Lex may very well have wanted hacked. He uses a large laser to carve the chunk of Kryptonite into the head of the spear. In the special features on the blu-ray, you can hear them talking about how they they really built that laser. Not a working laser, but it was a real prop and a really heavy one, at that.

As you can probably tell by my analysis up to this point, I tend to give my primary attention to character arcs, literary themes, and some filmmaking techniques, and so the in-universe physics and technology are not always my main focus. But luckily, Doc from the Man of Steel Answers podcast is really great about that kind of stuff. He did some very cool episodes about the Kryptonian technology in Man of Steel and he’s also done an episode about the Kryptonite in Batman v Superman. I encourage you to check out that episode where he thoroughly explains why a spear made a lot more sense than making a Kryptonite bullet or sword. In short, the Kryptonite probably can’t be fashioned into bullets and may not be lethal to Superman at that size, even though in some comics a tiny sliver of Kryptonite can bring Superman down. Also, the shaft on the spear is also essential to its effectiveness. And even without all those details, it seems odd to me for an audience member to presume, on very limited information, that they know better than Bruce Wayne about how to effectively use the Kryptonite.

But thinking more about the literary connections to the spear, we can make a mental note for later that this spear will have some parallels with the sword in the stone from the King Arthur legend. Also, Luis Ramos from YouTube pointed out that, given the analogies between Superman and Jesus Christ, we can also make a mental note to think about the spear of longinus or the holy lance that pierced the side of Jesus while he was on the cross.

This scene also sets up the canisters that can deliver Kryptonite in gaseous form. We see three canisters, specifically, and eventually we will see two used on Superman and one used as Batman’s contribution to the Doomsday fight.

Overall, the training montage looked great and had a visceral energy. It made good use of the beautiful and practically-built batcave set. The music also comes in nicely over the montage. And then it toned down while Bruce took a breather and opened up the Meta-human folder from Lex’s files. This allowed the music to come back in over the Wonder Woman footage, which is where we get the first real taste of the Wonder Woman theme. Yes, there was also a variation on the Wonder Woman theme during Lex’s party scene, but it wasn’t really recognizable at the time because we hadn’t heard it in full yet. In scene 46 here, the theme starts with just the drums and the bass notes, and the cello doesn’t come in until a few measures later.

People have drawn comparisons between the Wonder Woman theme and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” riff. That’s a good comparison because both songs make significant use of the tritone interval, that is, a diminished fifth or augmented fourth. For Wonder Woman, the bass notes are throbbing on the root of E and the cello rises up to B, which is a perfect fifth from E, before coming down and emphasizing the B-flat, which is the tritone. This interval builds a lot of energy because our ear is waiting for it to go back up and restore the perfect fifth, which it does at the end of the riff. Even better than the use of the tritone, I think, is the time signature and rhythmic bass line, which gives a strong sense of momentum and sort of leans forward. I’ll say more about that when the theme rocks in during Wonder Woman’s big entrance in the Doomsday fight.

Bruce sees some security camera footage and photographs of Diana from Paris and other locations, showing that Lex has been tapping into private cameras and employing a facial recognition software that is activated by certain faces that he’s interested in, such as Diana’s or Barry’s, and when the faces are recognized, the videos are automatically pulled for Lex to review and store. So this tells us a bit about Lex’s intelligence gathering operations, but it also gives us some insight into Bruce because his clear curiosity about Diana builds upon the intrigue and subtle attraction that was established at the party scene and at the museum.

The big moment here, of course, is Bruce seeing the old picture of Diana in Belgium, 1918. She’s with her castmates from the Wonder Woman film that is coming in June 2017 and which just released an amazing trailer. One very cool thing about that photo is that it was actually staged in front of a real World War 1 location, and it’s based on a real photo from the time. Twitter user @_TRonVin_ posted a very cool comparison that we will link to in the show notes.

Now, I should say that there were also some other folders of Meta-human files besides Wonder Woman. There were Cyborg, Flash, and Aquaman folders, too. Zack Snyder described in an interview with the Empire podcast that he thought it made sense that Lex would be obsessed and gather info on all of the meta-humans, and Snyder also thought it was more fitting for someone else, like Lex, to come up with the superhero names because, in a realistic world, they aren’t the kinds of names that someone would give themselves.

Even before I heard this interview with Snyder, I had also assumed that Lex created those logos. But Alessandro has some different thoughts, and he makes some good points about Lex probably not designing the logos from scratch but basing them on aspects of the meta-humans’ costume designs.

Here are some of Alessandro’s thoughts on Scene 46, including the meta-human files.

[RECORDED] The scene introduces the fact that Bruce is preparing for battle by interlacing various scenes of him doing exercises and preparing the Kryptonite.  We see data from the files Bruce stole from Lex showing details about the Kryptonite.  This clearly gives Bruce knowledge of its properties and insight on how he can use it.  

We witness the significant amount of power necessary to chisel away at the Kryptonite and the resulting lack of precision.  This, along with the line about this being the first sample of Kryptonite big enough to mean anything, shows that making Kryptonite bullets, among other proposed ideas by people, are unrealistic and their effectiveness is questionable given the brief contact time upon hitting Superman.  The resulting dust from cutting away at the xenomineral is used to create smoke grenades.

After the spearhead is completed we get our first solid look at the file structure of the data stolen from Lex’s servers.  Firstly, we see the first folder in the root directory is called “SAT_REL” which in tech lingo would mean Satellite Relay.  This tells us that Lex must have a relay satellite in space collecting data from orbiting satellites.  It would be natural that a company like LexCorp which deals in military grade technology would have such a satellite.  But what’s important about this is that it keys us into one of the ways in which Lex is monitoring the metahumans, including Superman and Batman.  And it also provides a way in which Lex can be tapping into government satellite feeds.

There is also a folder labeled “META_HUMANS” in capital letters which draws attention to it, presumably with the intent of having Bruce see it and realize there are more like Superman out there.  Lex specifically avoided revealing specifics about the Metahumans to the Senators but is allowing Bruce to view these files.  Given what we know about Lex’s belief that Superman and his kind should not exist, and Bruce’s aligned view, showing Bruce these files must indicate Lex’s desire for Batman to hunt down and eliminate these other metahumans.  This would also justify Lex’s invitation to Diana Prince to the fundraiser event which allowed Bruce to witness firsthand that these beings are among us.

Clearly Lex did not anticipate Bruce and Diana communicating with each other as they have, but it’s not something he could have predicted, and we’ve already seen one instance where plans don’t go exactly as Lex intended them to.

This is also our first look at the Justice League character insignias.  People have questioned the inclusion of the Justice League characters calling it unnecessary and arbitrary adding nothing to the movie other than a fast and ineffective way to set up Justice League.  However their inclusion works perfectly in a streamlined story which began in Man of Steel and is threaded throughout Batman v Superman.  The fact that humans are questioning the existence of superpowered beings via Superman, who had existed among us for 33 years without being noticed, makes the inclusion of these other metahumans quite relevant.  But more so it ties into Lex’s motivations and plans.  This is the direction Lex is headed in.  Lex is opposed to the existence of these godly beings and he intends to rid the world of them starting with Superman.  And by giving Bruce Wayne these files we see Lex is trying to include him in his hunt.  He’s already offered to work together with Bruce at the fundraiser.  This motivation makes the existence and reveal of the future Justice League members absolutely pertinent to the story.

People have also questioned the existence and origin of their names and insignias.  Although this analysis would fit better in the episode in which Diana watches the surveillance footage, since this is the first time we see the files it’s worth addressing now.

We are able to gather some insight into their names and insignias from the newly revealed footage of the Justice League movie.  We see that before Bruce even meets Barry Allen for the first time Barry already has a Flash suit.  We also see his electricity is blue which means the surveillance files titled “red streak” in Batman v Superman must be as a result of his suit.  This indicates he has already been operating as the Flash, whether openly or secretly, and therefore already uses the lightning bolt insignia and Flash nom de plume.  

Wonder Woman’s name and insignia are a given based on the photo of her.  She has been around as Wonder Woman for some time made even more evident from her movie trailer.  

The Aquaman footage comes from the US Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) ALPHA 1 and ALPHA 2, as part of a Department of Defense underwater exploration.  Given what we see at the end of Man of Steel of Superman destroying one of the Department of Defense’s drones which is attempting to monitor him, it’s clear that Lex was not the only one being paranoid.  The DOD has clearly been investigating if there are others like Superman in the world independently of Lex which Lex has piggybacked off of.  The DOD has given Aquaman his moniker and chosen a symbol based on this and the symbols on his body and costume.

Finally, as for Cyborg, before the motherbox even attaches itself to Victor Stone it’s clear from the footage labeled “Trial Test v. 102 prototype A1B - Alpha that Silas Stone is working at S.T.A.R. Labs to save his son’s life by restoring function due to the integration of some artificial component or technology that relies on some sort of feedback.  This of course is the very definition of a Cyborg.  So it’s obvious that S.T.A.R. Labs created the insignia for Cyborg as part of their prototype project.  Silas Stone calls the motherbox US Gov object 61982 which tells us that the DOD must have found it and requested the aid of S.T.A.R. Labs to research the motherbox which just so happened to attach itself to Victor.

So Lex did not in fact name the metahumans or give them logos as many have assumed.
The fact that the US government is aware of these metahumans but the Senators don't’ know about it mean they are classified information as labeled on the feeds.[/RECORDED]

Scene 47: Lex Prepares Doomsday (1:19:30 -- )

Now, in Scene 46 we saw Bruce training and preparing, and because of the montage, it’s not exactly clear how much time has passed but it’s certainly more than a day or so. During this time, Lex’s preparation was to be learning and gathering even more information, this time not from security camera footage but from the scout ship records. During Lex’s sessions with the scout ship, Man of Steel Answers posits -- plausibly, I think -- that one of Lex’s first questions would be “What is strong enough to defeat Superman?” So he’s probably learned this, plus a lot more between Scene 45 and Scene 47.

Damien DeRego from YouTube noticed that Lex’s clothes when he accessed the genesis chamber in Scene 45 were the same as when he first entered the scout ship in Scene 13, but then the clothes are different here in Scene 47 when he brings in Zod’s body. This implies that the chronology of Lex’s actions are a little bit misleading as presented in the film. First of all, Lex’s entry to the scout ship was shown right during his Jolly Rancher interaction with Senator Barrows, when obviously it had to’ve happened later. But how much later is the question? Did the entry to the ship happen pretty soon after the meeting with Senator Barrows? If so, then Lex has had quite a long time to process the information from the scout ship, and maybe he just had to wait until after the Senate bombing to be able to bring Zod’s corpse in. Or did Lex’s entry into the genesis chamber happen pretty close to the moment here in Scene 47 when he brings in Zod’s corpse? The close proximity of Scene 45 and Scene 47 would suggest that the access to the genesis chamber was relatively close in time to him bringing in Zod’s body. But then this would also mean that Lex waited an awfully long time after the meeting with Senator Barrows before he entered the scout ship at all.

Anyway, the main thing that Damien DeRego’s clothing observation tells us is that when Lex accessed the scout ship, he actually went right ahead into the genesis chamber because he was wearing the exact same clothes for both of those events. For me, it’s not too important to untangle all of this because, as I said, I’m primarily focused on the broad character arcs and the deeper themes being explored, not the specific details of events that are fictional anyway. But if you have a way to bring clarity to this, please leave it in the comments for those who’d like to see it.

Lex lowers the body, which has a head based on Michael Shannon of course but a body that is not based on Michael Shannon, into the fluid of the genesis chamber. The ship’s computer identifies General Zod and says he is from Kandor. Kandor is a city on the planet Krypton and it has a long history in the comic books. For example, it often gets shrunk and bottled by Brainiac, and in some continuities this allowed the citizens of Kandor to escape Krypton’s destruction.

Lex then slices his hand and adds his blood to the genesis chamber. Some critics have asked why Lex added his blood. The question just means that we don’t explicitly know why the blood was needed, but it doesn’t prove that the blood was not needed. Like with the Kryptonite spear, it’s odd to me that when there’s a gap of information, people presume to know more than the characters in the actual movie who have access to more information than us. We don’t know the formula for cooking up Doomsday. But Lex does, so why would we presume he was wrong about the formula and we’re right? The more reasonable course of action would be to presume Lex knows better than us what is needed to make Doomsday. Either his blood is needed for the formula, or Lex chose to add it in to leave his genetic mark on Doomsday. And as we’ll talk about later when Doomsday is born, there is evidence that Lex thought he’d be able to control Doomsday, perhaps because of this blood donation.

But it’s most likely the case that the blood was necessary. It was only after the blood was added that the computer said, “advising, action forbidden….none will ever again give life to a deformity so hateful to cited memory, the desecration without name.” This suggests that it was only after the blood was present that the action of creating Doomsday was ready to proceed. asks: “13.) How does Lex gain such a quick understanding of the Kryptonian Matrix and how does he know that mixing his blood will result in Doomsday?
“The answer is actually found on a Man of Steel blu-ray extra and the “Planet Krypton” documentary which features the US government decoding a cache of encrypted Black Zero transmissions which contain the line, “Beware Bertron's curse, for he is named Doomsday.” In the comics, Bertron was an alien scientist who wanted to create the ultimate lifeform.  He went about this mission by abandoning an artificially created infant in the most hazardous and deadly locations on Krypton, where he naturally perished rather quickly.  However, Bertron would repeat this process many times, over decades, making a new test subject from the leftover genetic material, simultaneously improving the physical weaknesses that brought about its predecessor's demise.  It would seem that a similar  event has occurred in the DC Extended Universe based on the encoded data on the Black Zero and the warning the scout ship gives to Lex in Dawn of Justice that the Kryptonian Law Council have expressly forbade crossbreeding. This would indicate that a Doomsday abomination has been created before.  Perhaps the true Doomsday is somewhere out in space and he’ll make his way to earth in Justice League Part One? Zack Snyder has already stated that Doomsday’s mythology will be further explored, possibly in Justice League. “Well, you have Doomsday, right? He doesn’t just crawl out of the ground. He has his own mythology, right? So that has to be explored…

So obviously Krypton tried something like this before (thus the ban) and Charles, one of our listeners, pointed out that maybe this original version of Doomsday on Krypton was like the one from the comic books, and the one in BvS created by Lex is just a copy.

Now, backing up a second, as he was adding the blood, Lex said: “You flew too close to the sun. Now look at you.” This is a reference to the story of Icarus who flew too close to the sun and melted his wings. The story usually represents failure because of over-confidence, so this is a reference to Zod’s failure in Man of Steel. Lex refers to Zod’s failure in sort of a regretful tone, which makes sense because if Lex’s overarching worldview is that god is not good and that the powerful are never innocent. Zod, of course, embodies Lex’s worldview and so if Zod had won in Man of Steel, it already would’ve proved Lex’s point and he wouldn’t have this threat of a Superman who is trying to be a good and idealistic figure.

Lex’s creation of Doomsday is also a reference to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus where Victor Frankenstein is compared to Prometheus who Lex so eloquently referenced in his speech at the fundraiser.  Lex views himself as Prometheus choosing the side of humanity and Superman as Zeus trying to stop him with the unfair advantage of his own, quote, thunderbolt, that is, his superpowers. So rather than fashioning humans out of clay, Lex is fashioning a Kryptonian deformity out of Zod’s corpse and his own DNA.

Another one of our listeners, Casper Richter on YouTube, has some great insights into this scene with Lex and Zod’s corpse. Casper points out that Lex probably wants to see a part of himself in the being that destroys Superman, and this is one of Lex’s most vulnerable moments, when he is almost weeping as he says, “You flew too close to the sun.”

Casper also drew some more nuanced connections to the Icarus story. He pointed out that Icarus was also a son to Daedalus and that Daedalus warned Icarus about not flying too low or too high, so Icarus not only failed himself but he specifically failed his father. Like the young Icarus, Lex may have felt like a failure in his father's eyes and hates himself for it, or he channels that feeling of failure into either justified or unjustified hatred of Lex Senior.

To close out Scene 47, the ship’s computer warns Lex that creating Doomsday is forbidden. But this warning was not a security firewall that Lex had to hack through or give access clearance for. It was a disclaimer like a pop-up window saying “Are you sure you want to proceed?” And so Lex could just click “OK.”

In Man of Steel, K’Lex similarly warned Jor-El that “breaching the Genesis Chamber is a Class B crime punishable…” and Jor-El responded in a similar fashion to Lex saying, “No one cares anymore K’Lex.  The world is about to come to an end.”  That scene in Man of Steel sets precedence for Lex’s scene dismissing the warning about Doomsday’s creation being against the council’s laws.

It seems possible that Lex was going to blame the Kryptonians for Doomsday like he blames them for an attack on Metropolis in Superman: Birthright.  We already know Superman: Birthright is an inspiration for the movie in its modernization of the Superman story.  The comic is even referenced in the featurette “The Empire of Lex Luthor” found in the bonus materials of the blu-ray.  In the comic Lex unleashes an army dressed as Kryptonians in Metropolis killing people and destroying the city.  He then plans to be the force that stops the Kryptonian army.  In BvS we have a creature coming from the Kryptonian ship where people are already assuming Superman is, given that Perry tells Lois Superman is probably already there.  Lex could easily argue Doomsday was incubating for the past two years and was part of Zod’s plan.  Had Superman killed Batman, then Batman wouldn’t have been around to alert the authorities of Lex’s criminal activity and Superman would have been killed by Doomsday leaving no one to attest to Lex’s crime.  Had Batman killed Superman, Batman wouldn’t know about Lex creating Doomsday.  In either scenario, if one of the heroes had died, Lex could have claimed Doomsday was a Kryptonian fail safe of some sort and worked with the government to kill it since he possesses the knowledge of how to do so.

Note that Lex may not have known about Apokolips and Darkseid yet.  If he had known about them he probably wouldn’t have tried to kill Superman because of Superman’s defensive potential, unless Lex thought he could strike a deal or something with Darkseid. Thus, it’s possible that it isn’t until after Lex unleashes Doomsday that he learns about Steppenwolf, specifically during the communion scene of the extended cut.  And although many may argue he put all his cards on the table and was willing to die for his cause, that doesn’t fit with his character usually being a survivor at any costs.  We’re able to piece together from the movie and from bonus materials that Lex believed he could control Doomsday, and that he feared this greater threat coming in the darkness.

Scene 47 closes with a nice visual design of Zod’s corpse being whisked away in the genesis chamber.

Scene 48: Daily Planet Concerns (1:20:50 -- )

Lastly, we have Scene 48 which is a very quick scene in the Daily Planet. We see Jenny reading over either an article or some copy where there are questions about Superman. The main point is that people know Superman didn’t directly cause the Capitol bombing, but they are questioning whether he knew about it and was complicit in the tragedy. This continues the pattern of Superman having to face the unintended consequences of things that he’s not even directly responsible for. He’s a lightning rod of controversy. He is always judged, whether he does something, doesn’t do something, doesn’t do enough, etc?

The other thing in this short scene is that Perry notices Clark is missing, and we see that Lois is very worried. A final voice from the media asks how Superman can disappear when society needs him. This continues the strong presence of the media in BvS, and Zack Snyder in movie’s special features talked about the media as being purposefully included as one of the major characters in the movie. We also see that the anti-Superman protests have increased to include burning him in effigy. This question of where Superman is and the kinds of protests he’s dealing with sets us up for the transition right to him on the mountain.

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