Wednesday, January 4, 2017

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Scenes 62-63

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Scenes 62 (Batman's warehouse rescue) and 63 (Lois throwing the Kryptonite spear in the water) of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, directed by Zack Snyder.


  • "Every time we say goodbye" Knyazev
  • Batman shooting the men outside
  • The batwing design
  • An amazing Batman fight scene
  • Connections to the Knightmare scene and to The Dark Knight Returns
  • Is this the resolution to Bruce's powerless arc?
  • Why did Lois throw the kryptonite spear in the water?
  • Parallels between BvS and Excalibur
Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco

Stan Kube video:

<Transcript of the episode>
Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. This podcast features my analysis with Alessandro Maniscalco of the Warner Brothers films that are part of the ever-growing Justice League Universe.

In this episode, we are focusing on scenes 62 and 63 in Batman v Superman, directed by Zack Snyder. These are the scenes after the Batman-Superman fight where Batman is now going to go and rescue Martha Kent at the warehouse, and we are also going to see Lois try to dispose of the kryptonite spear. Alessandro has also prepared some special content that will be including in this episode, where he talks about the level of violence that Batman exhibits and also about some of the connections between BvS and the movie Excalibur.

In our last BvS episode, we covered the conversation between Batman, Superman, and Lois. Lois informed them that Lex was doing something at the scout ship and Batman was able to convince Superman to trust him with rescuing Martha so that Superman could go to take care of the scout ship. As we explained in that episode, this decision point represented Batman stepping back from his ledge of vengeance and starting to work toward the good again, having the opportunity to save a mother rather than to become a cold-blooded murderer, and in that same moment Superman took an important step toward putting faith back in mankind, even in this man that is Batman who had been one of the people who was persecuting him.

We mentioned in our last episode that Batman was helping Superman up off the ground after the fight, but Alex Schepers, who is @AlexSchepers2 on twitter, also noticed another detail, which is that Batman held out his hand to help Superman up, just like Pete Ross did in Man of Steel. In both cases, it was a former bully who came around and recognized the inherent goodness in Clark, and would become his friend instead of enemy.

Anyway, picking up from that post-fight scene, we now have Batman in the batwing making his way over to the warehouse in Gotham City where Knyazev and the others are holding Martha Kent. We have already seen Martha in her hostage space a few times, so we have a clear sense of the danger she’s in. This danger is made a bit more personal right at the beginning of Scene 62 when Knyazev leans down toward Martha and says, “I’m afraid this is goodbye. And every time we say goodbye, you die a little.” This is almost the exact line from the song that was playing over the subway station radio when Kynazev abducted Lois. I didn’t notice this connection until my third viewing, and I’m still not sure that I’ve exactly unpacked the meaning of the connection, or maybe it was just a little easter egg. But the song is “Every time we say goodbye” by Cole Porter and the idea of the song is that a person has a lot of joy when they are with their beloved but has basically an equal amount of sadness when they are separated. So this seems to me to apply the most directly to Clark and his mother, who have been forcibly separated and Martha Kent is the one on screen during the reference to the song lyrics. It could also be a bit of foreshadowing, because Knyazev tried to be threatening and he changed the lyrics to “you die a little,” speaking to Martha, when actually the song goes, “I die a little.” And in a few minutes we see that it actually is Kynazev who dies instead of Martha, so his little lyric rewrite was inappropriate.

Right as he finishes that line, the sound and lights of the batwing approach outside the window and Knyazev looks up, so this is some nice connective tissue from the previous scene where the batwing was leaving with the same sounds and lights and Lois was the one in the building looking out at it. It also seems as though Batman is using the batwing’s hovering capabilities to inspect the situation, and maybe to confirm Martha’s exact location before he pulls away and begins his siege on the warehouse overall. This would be in line with Batman’s character, of gathering information and being strategic about his approach rather than just barging in without a sense of his surroundings or the situation.

We then cut outside the warehouse and we get the establishing shot with the batwing in the foreground and we can see that whole part of the city in the background, with the port visible and we get a lot of coverage of the warehouse itself to give a clear sense of setting, the setting in which Batman will do his work. We are about to get a legitimately great action scene, and part of any great scene is a memorable setting that aligns with the action and the emotional feel of the scene.

The men outside have two large guns mounted in the back of trucks and also some automatic rifles that they use while standing between vehicles. It is important to notice that those men open fire on the batwing first. It is only after he is taking fire that Batman starts warming up his plane’s machine gun and he then returns fire. So this encounter is clearly a case of self defense for Batman, which means it is not accurate to call Batman a murderer based on this scene. Now, the men on the ground were very likely killed in the blast, so Batman probably is a killer, but not a murderer. We will be sharing much more later about Batman’s level of violence in this scene, but I think one reason that this particularly moment outside the warehouse rubbed some audience members the wrong way is because we do get close-ups on Batman’s face both while he is shooting and then also afterward when he’s surveying the destruction. Those shots of Batman make it more personal and make us have to more fully confront the possibility of Batman using guns and Batman killing --- and this is uncomfortable terrain for many fans.

The batwing then circles back around and Batman asks Alfred to take over the controls using a drone mode. What I really like about this moment is that it gives a sense that Batman and Alfred have been on many, many missions before. It’s part of establishing that long history of Batman that exists even before the events of BvS. It’s also a cool way to incorporate a few more Batman gadgets and technological capabilities from the batcave. And then, as always with Alfred, we get some dry humor as Alfred says that there are two dozen hostiles on the third floor, so “why don’t I drop you off on the second.” This gives some information to the audience about  what Batman will be going up against, but it also shows how much confidence Alfred has in Batman being able to handle even that many threats.

The batwing then hovers down right next to the second floor, preparing for Batman’s entrance into the warehouse. And by the way, this is a good spot to mention a couple things about the batwing itself. The batwing or bat plane has vertical takeoff and landing (or VTOL) capabilities. In the art of the film book, concept artist Ed Natividad said that they didn’t want to just make the bat plane in the shape of a bat symbol as you might have expected, but instead they used the negative space between the wings to form the outline of a bat. Also, in an interview with Business Insider, Zack Snyder said that, in the movie universe, the Batwing originally had a seat for Robin but after Robin’s death, Batman converted that seat into an additional gun bay. Zack said this conversion was emblematic of Bruce’s failure to cope with Robin’s death and it represented Batman becoming more violent.

Now, that leads us to Batman’s entrance into what many people have called the best Batman fight scene in any live-action movie. We have a good setting for the scene, we have a good set-up in terms of the emotional stakes for Batman, we have also had a good set-up with Knyazev and Batman’s interactions earlier in the movie, and now we get a truly epic arrival into the scene by Batman. We see Alfred and Batman expertly timing up their movements to help Batman launch toward the building, and then we cut to a camera shot inside the building, looking up at the window. Our eyes get a moment to orient and then we see an awesome bat silhouette right before Batman breaks through the glass and covers up the camera with his cape. I truly love that bat silhouette because not only does it seem like it could’ve come from a comic book, where the Batman iconography is always used so brilliantly, but it was also cool how realistically they set up the silhouette. The bright lights from the batwing really would backlight Batman like that and his cape realistically could fly out as he jumps, forming the wings of the silhouette. It just strikes me as a perfectly executed visual moment to mark the beginning of this scene, which really is Batman in his element, taking on a task that is his bread and butter. Later, when we’re dealing with Doomsday, that’s more of a moment for Superman and Wonder Woman, but here, rescuing a hostage from some human mercenaries in a warehouse, this is all Batman.
Next, we go inside and see the perspective of those mercenaries. They have obviously heard the batwing and the shooting outside, so they know he’s coming and they have their guns up at the ready, but they don’t know from where to expect him. Knyazev sends in another guy to join the group, which is funny because there were already like 20 guys in there. But we can see that they’re scared of Batman, and this fear is just as much a tool in Batman’s toolbelt as anything else. The music also enhances the fear and tension as the filmmakers build up the energy for this scene. The creepy atonal music with something like distorted, gradually rising pitches is very similar to what we heard earlier in the Knightmare vision scene. That scene involved a tension build-up before Batman went into an elaborate fight scene, which is what we have here, as well.

Here in the warehouse, the men end up focusing their attention on a double door and the music comes to a sudden halt, there’s a brief moment of silence and then the floor bursts open and Batman grapples up into the rafters. Because of the surprise and the commotion, many of the men didn’t actually see where Batman went and some are now looking or shooting down through the hole in the floor. We had seen all the rifles that these men had, so they were outnumbering and outgunning Batman going into the fight, but very wisely the first thing Batman does is attach magnetic blasts to the guns to take them out of commission. This evens the playing field for him substantially. It’s also another cool and effective gadget, but like we’ve said before, I like it that he just uses it when it’s needed rather than doing the James Bond thing where he and Alfred talk about each of their new gadgets and then each one in turn gets used throughout the course of the movie. I like that kind of thing for Bond, but I like this approach better for Batman.

This now takes us into the main fight sequence. We aren’t going to go through every move and countermove, because it’s really a scene that is best analyzed visually, or it can just be enjoyed for its kinetic energy and intensity rather than being dissected. But it really is a well designed and executed fight scene, so we’ll say a few things about it. First, before BvS was released, the fight choreographer Guillermo Grispo stirred up a little bit of controversy when he said that he loved the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy but that, with BvS, they were going to take it up a notch with regard to the fight scenes. And even though I loved the Dark Knight Trilogy, I have to give it up to Grispo that he succeeded in stepping up the fight scenes. Not only is the choreography and stunt work excellent, but it is also shot in a brilliant way where you can really see and follow what’s happening and where people are in space. They actually came up with smart ways for Batman to believably handle multiple enemies at once -- he used a guy’s gun to fire in a circle above people’s heads so they hit the ground and ducked for cover, he had the great moment in the middle of four guys where they were actually attacking him simultaneously rather than just waiting and going one at a time, and he would also kick some guys while either being held or dealing with someone else with his upper body.

They also did a good job of putting in some creative and memorable moments in the fight, going above and beyond just generic punching and tackling. For example, they had the great part where Batman used his grappling gun to pull a guy toward himself and then punch him away. He had also used his grappling gun earlier, I think, to stab a guy and use him as a counterweight as Batman descended from the rafters. The jumping tackle was cool when he slammed the guy down on the crate, and the editing was really good there to capture the motion and the continuity even as they cut from a rear angle to a front angle. Another memorable moment was the wide arcing lift and slam, which again was shot with the camera in just the right place and edited to really capture the momentum and energy.

He uses a batarang in the fight, which is a very Batman-like thing to do, and they also paced the fight well. For example, right after the batarang throw, they let the scene breathe for a moment as Batman stares down the guy with the grenade. We get a good look at his face, which makes it even more effective when he crawls in terror after the grenade after Batman’s kick of the guy hanging from the rafters. The grenade blast then triggers a rise in intensity and a swell in the music with the famous Batman chords as the fight goes into overdrive.

I like how the Batsuit looks in this scene and how it is able to move really well throughout the punches, blocks, and full-body maneuvers. I also like a visual callback when Batman fires his grappling gun into a crate and then whips it forward to hit a guy in the face. This reminded me of the earlier batmobile chase scene when he used a grappling wire there to drag and then launch a car forward. It is a cool choreography echo but it also shows that Batman has a sort of arsenal of tactics and he employs them both in hand-to-hand combat and in vehicular combat.

There are a few guys still with pistols, but we see that several parts of Batman’s suit are bulletproof. At least his gauntlets are and his cowl, which is probably aided by the curvature so that a bullet is unlikely to have a directly perpendicular impact angle on the cowl. But they shoot away his grappling gun, so it’s directly hand-to-hand combat the rest of the way. Batman breaks some bones and then gets taken down onto the ground and blocks some knife blows. Right at this moment, when Batman had taken out most of the guys and shown himself to be partially bulletproof and able to take on knife attacks, I remember watching the scene and thinking that they might be making Batman too invincible. But then right on cue, the filmmakers brought Batman down to Earth by having him double-teamed and stabbed in the shoulder. The stab looked and sounded viscerally authentic and the groan from Batman was very convincing. But even the stab didn’t stop Batman, and he takes out the final guys and has a moment that I especially love when he jumps back up onto his feet and turns toward the guys who had stabbed him. Really good stuff there by who I presume is the stuntman, Rich Cetrone. Just throughout this whole scene, I can’t say enough about how fluid the choreography was and yet how realistic and impactful all the hits were. You have to almost appreciate it like a performance piece, like you would a dance routine or an acrobatic performance, and again, it makes me thankful that Zack Snyder knows how to shoot it so that you can get the full appreciation for the physicality and choreography, because it’s easy with complex fight scenes like this to make them too shaky or with too many jumbled close-ups that make you sort of feel the energy but not really see the fight.

And by the way, a lot of the credit for how amazing this scene turned out has to go to the editor, David Brenner. A lot of people criticized what they called the “editing” of BvS, but most of those people were actually talking about the sequencing of scenes, not the actual editing. As we can see in this scene with the actual editing, the shots are all pieced together really well, keeping the flow of motion while also giving the scene its ebbs and flows in terms of pacing. There are dozens and dozens of cuts in this scene and that is where the expertise of an editor comes into play, it’s not just in making the cut from one scene to the next.

Anyway, the rescue scene isn’t complete yet until Batman actually rescues Martha. So we cut back into the side room where she is being held and we see a guy with a gun who is visibly terrified of what he’s hearing from the other room, and he looks over at Knyazev for reassurance. Knyazev also seems somewhat unsettled but he gives a slight nod of encouragement. We also see Martha Kent, still tied to the chair but now a sort of mixture of anxiety and excitement that someone might actually be making it through to save her. By this point it should also be obvious to everyone watching the movie that Lex’s men had orders to not kill Martha until he said so, or possibly if they had seen Superman coming to rescue her. But since neither of those were the case, they were not supposed to kill Martha yet because she was Lex’s leverage over Superman. So instead they were supposed to take out whoever it was, in this case Batman, even at the expense of their own lives because Martha was more valuable to Lex than each of them.

Moving on in the scene, we cut back to the first guy and he’s against the wall, usually a safe strategic place to be, and he’s aiming his gun at the doorway. The camera rotates around him, putting the wall into center frame right as Batman bursts through and takes control of the guy’s rifle. As many people have pointed out, this moment is a direct adaptation of a scene from The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. I also think it is a nice callback to the beginning of this scene itself when the men were expecting Batman through the door and he came up through the floor. Now the guy was expecting him through the door again, but he came through the wall.

Batman aims the gun at Kynazev and we get a continued homage to The Dark Knight Returns. Instead of a mutant with a baby, it’s Knyazev with his flamethrower trained on Martha. He tells Batman to drop the gun or he’ll kill Martha. Then he says, “Believe me, I’ll do it.” We cut to Batman’s face so we can see how he’s going to react to this threat. He pauses for a beat, then says the line from The Dark Knight Returns, “I believe you,” and pulls the trigger to puncture the flamethrower tank. If I’m not mistaken, The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel had him saying “I believe you” after he pulled the trigger, but I think it works better in the movie where he is saying it as the reasoning behind why he is going to pull the trigger.

We then get a final moment of action as Batman swoops in with his cape around Martha as the tank explodes and presumably kills Knyazev. But again, as with the grenade, notice that Batman was following Zack Snyder’s blueprint of only being indirectly responsible for the death and the bad guy himself actually dies by his own hand. Batman didn’t shoot Knyazev but instead shot the tank and it was Knyazev’s own flame that ignited it.

We get a wide shot of the explosion from outside the warehouse and then we see the iconic Bat cowl in front of the orange flame. This is clearly the end of the threat in the scene and the filmmakers then cap it off by allowing us to release our tension through a moment of levity. Batman says he’s a friend of Martha’s son, and she has a great line, saying she figured because of “the cape.” It’s a funny interaction and it fits with the moment because Martha heard all the commotion and then saw this guy come through the wall to save her, protecting her with the cape, and she literally doesn’t know who he is. But she must be feeling utter relief after fearing for her life throughout the night. It is also good to see her smile after having been tied up and scared for several scenes. And in general, I like it when the filmmakers fit in humor at the right moments, for example, to set up a tender moment or to release a tense moment as they did here. I personally prefer this approach rather than stringing humor throughout every scene or in the middle of action sequences.

So this scene was a great way to feature Batman’s skills and capabilities, and it is rewarding to see him finally putting all his powers to good use rather than toward trying to find Kryptonite or take down Superman. Throughout the entire movie, Batman had been questioning the beautiful lie of being Batman and whether he had accomplished anything with his efforts. But this rescue shows all his training and capabilities and toughness are worth it. He’s not powerless, even if there are some things that have to be left to Superman (such as Doomsday).

So this scene is an important step forward in his character arc with respect to powerlessness and getting himself out of his vengeful funk. It is also, of course, an important scene in the sense that he finally gets to save a parent. It is a pay-off going all the way back to the opening scene with the Waynes’ murder and a pay-off of the scene just before this when Bruce promised that Martha wouldn’t die tonight.

Here are some relevant quotes from Zack Snyder and Diane Lane themselves. Snyder was interviewed by Mark Hughes for and Snyder said the following about Batman and Superman: “You know, they’re both born and live in a world where someone can care about them and mourn them, and they can love their mother. And that’s the cool thing, you know we spend so much time with the Martha-Clark relationship that I think it kind of pays off there. You realize, oh, we needed that as viewers, so we could get to a moment with Batman where that moment with Martha resonates. Because we’ve lived on with Clark’s relationship with his mother, so that moment is like, “Wow, that’s ringing for me and I feel it.”
When we were shooting the title sequence, that whole idea about, “Do we really need to see the death of the Waynes again,” is a big thing to take a shot at again. But you realize you need it, because it actually pays off. And I really wanted to do it all the way.” -
So Snyder is pointing out that this moment with Batman saving Martha Kent is a culmination of Clark and Martha’s relationship going back through Man of Steel and also a pay-off for the Wayne murder scene at the beginning, which kicked off Bruce’s arc.
Diane Lane in the special features to BvS also commented on this scene, affirming much of what we have said in this episode and past episodes: “Superman and Batman certainly entered the superhero business from opposite roads, yet they have similar histories. There’s the loss of your original family, so they’re both orphans. And I don’t think Batman sees Superman as human until he realizes that he has mother. And I think, when Batman makes the decision to rescue Martha, Superman’s mother, in a way he’s redeeming his own sense of powerlessness he had when he could not save his own mother.”

Overall, we can look at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a redemption story for Bruce. But some critics of the film say that Batman wasn’t redeemed because he was still brutal in this warehouse rescue scene, especially in the extended cut. But it’s important to realize that the redemption of Batman started with the Martha moment but it didn’t finish there. He is still brutal and doesn’t fully recover from the depths of his rage and powerlessness until he witnesses Superman’s sacrifice, and we get the full evidence of his redemption and his restoration of hope and purpose in the final narration. The final step in his character arc will be deciding to form the Justice League and make a positive change in the world, instead of just trying to fight his inner demons.

One of our loyal listeners, Michael Schinke (Shhhinkey) from YouTube, interpreted Bruce’s arc in a similar way but he phrased it differently, so we wanted to share his take on it: “...The Martha rescue isn't just the resolution of [Batman’s] character arc in this film. It’s the resolution of his ENTIRE arc. Can it not be said that setting up the film with the Wayne's murder was necessary because you need to see the beginning to understand the end? Bruce Wayne creates Batman to deal with the fact that he was powerless to save his parents, with a specific focus on his mother in this movie. Superman gives Bruce a second chance to save Martha and we pretty much agree that this act is Batman’s redemption in the movie. But seeing as how it's his opportunity to do the one thing he was never able to do, and he accomplishes it, does that not conclude his life’s journey? He finally gets to save Martha; mission accomplished. It opens up the character to have a different outlook in the next film and allows him space to create a Batman that isn't driven by his trauma but by a quest to do what's right. Not for his usual selfish reasons but for something greater.” Thanks, Michael.

Okay, because Batman’s violence and brutality has been a big point of contention and controversy around BvS, here is Alessandro to share some additional thoughts on that topic:

Here Batman has the opportunity to shoot Knyazev in the head and kill him but instead shoots the tank on his back to give him a chance to live even though it’s a risk to himself and Martha.  Snyder chose specifically not to have Batman shoot Knyazev dead although many on his team encouraged him to, specifically with the argument of keeping it true to The Dark Knight Returns.  There is much controversy over Snyder’s use of excessive force in the movie and much debate as to whether or not Batman does kill in the comic that inspired Snyder.  Some argue Batman doesn’t kill.  Others have made a compelling argument that Batman actually kills Joker in the end.  Perhaps he really has gone over the edge and is just lying to himself.  Afterall Joker’s speech bubbles change to match Batman’s inner monologue.  And Batman says he can already hear them calling him a killer.  Then there’s the obvious “Krack” written out when Batman twists Joker’s neck.  And of course there’s the obvious point that even if Joker wasn’t dead at that point, Batman’s excessive force brought him right up to death’s door and Joker was going to likely die anyway given how easily he snapped his own neck.

In the hostage scene portrayed in the movie, it’s naive to think that no one would come to the conclusion that Batman killed the mutant in the comic given the blood splatter, bullet hole, and fall of the mutant.  One argument that has been made against the Batman killing the mutant is that murder was not listed by the commissioner as part of the arrest warrant.  However this fails as proof in that it doesn’t consider that the mutant was killed by another mutant’s gun, same as how the mutant on the previous page was killed.  Therefore it doesn’t implicate Batman to the murder.  And given Snyder’s own conclusion that Batman does kill the mutant, he chose instead not to have Batman perform a headshot which is further indication that Batman doesn’t kill in this movie.  

It’s also naive to think that criminals haven’t died in the course of Batman’s escapades in the comics, even if they don’t show it in comic frame.  That is not to say that Batman goes around killing people, so you can rest assured his no kill policy remains intact, but Batman can’t possibly ensure that every interaction he has with a criminal will end without someone dying, especially when criminals are using lethal force.  Even the page preceding the questionable headshot frame in the Dark Knight Returns shows one of the mutants gunning down another mutant for fear of the Batman thinking he is shooting at the caped crusader.  While this isn’t murder, Batman is of course responsible for that mutant’s death as a result of his scare tactic methods and use of the element of surprise.  Nolan’s Batman even says to Rahs Al Ghul that he wont kill him, but he doesn't have to save him either.  Meanwhile it’s a direct result of Batman’s actions that are causing the train to crash in that scene.

This warehouse fight scene is a great example of Batman being Batman with the possibility of thugs dying but not in contrast to Batman’s no kill policy.  An example that has been brought up in discussions of Batman killing in this movie is when he throws a crate at one thug and he hits his head against the wall leaving a blood splatter.  Contrary to the blood splatter found in the debated headshot frame of the Dark Knight Returns comic, the matter of lethal force is questionable in this scenario.  We do not know the mass or the acceleration of the crate to determine the force in which it hit the thug as opposed to a bullet shot from a gun.  Furthermore the mere throwing of the crate was not with intent to kill, nor could he have specifically targeted the thug’s head with the massive object.  You also have to consider Batman’s ability to fling the crate when determining the weight of the crate and how much impact it would actually have.  Ultimately Batman saw this as the best way to attack a distant enemy before the enemy could have the chance to shoot at him, and it also acted as a form of cover.

The point is that Batman, any Batman, cannot control what criminals do.  He can only act and react in the optimal way given the circumstances.  But that can’t possibly always entail a %100 survival rate.  It is an illusion that people and audiences have created for themselves and is ultimately one of the underlying themes of this movie.  Doing good sometimes has negative consequences.  And it is actually the BvS naysayers that are assuming Batman kills in the movie.  This is a visual medium.  If Snyder had intended to portray Batman as a killer, he would have shown us the dead bodies to represent that.  And there wouldn’t be such emphasis placed on the bat brand being a “death sentence”.  Snyder has also stated that Batman doesn’t kill directly in the movie but takes a rather kill by proxy approach similar to how Christian Bale let Rahs Al Ghul die in the train, and how Batman allowed one of the mutants to be gunned down by the other mutant.  

Let us also not forget the roots of the character Batman.  People have chosen to cling to the current comic iteration of the character, but Batman’s origins had him kill people plenty.  And although he has adapted a no kill policy following the Comic Code’s origins, on the big screen, which in itself is an elseworld story, there is nothing to predicate his return to killing, especially to emphasize Batman has lost his way.  For those incessantly opposed to Batman killing, in the end the murder of Bruce’s parents has inspired him to protect the innocent and refrain from being like Joe Chill, a murderer.  So while his no-kill policy insists he not murder anyone, eggs are bound to be broken in his fight against crime.  Even Superman can’t prevent that.

On a similar note, not necessarily about killing, but just about Batman’s brutality in this fight scene -- breaking several limbs and hitting some of the guys extremely hard -- I just think that this is part of what we have to accept if we want a realistic take on these characters. I, for one, really like the realistic approach, putting them in a world that is quite similar to our own rather than a watered-down or fanciful world. And for Batman to realistically take on a group of about two dozen hostiles, he is going to have to put them out of commission throughout the fight. He has to whittle the opposition numbers down to zero because it would not be possible to keep up a fight where all two dozen of them are still standing all the way through. This means some bones are going to need to get broken, I’m sorry to say. And yes, even some may die indirectly from the actions of Batman, such as with the one goon who blew himself up with the grenade and Knyazev who burned himself when he fired up his flamethrower.

Alright, moving on from Batman’s violence to Lois Lane’s scene where she wants to be rid of something that caused violence against her partner, we go to the short Scene 63 where Lois throws the Kryptonite spear into the flooded lower levels of the abandoned train station. We just have a couple quick points about this scene. First, there’s an overhead shot where we can see an Angel above Lois and on the right side of the screen. Production designer Patrick Tatopoulos actually put a sculpture of six angels in that set, which he wanted to include as a way to connect again to the motif of angels and demons that goes through the entire movie. Here, Lois is trying to be a guardian angel for Clark by getting rid of something that is harmful to him, keeping it out of the hands of dangerous people. There is also the continued mixing of the angels and demons motif with the up/down motif because she is trying to do something good but it has taken her down to the bottom of Wayne Station and she’s throwing the spear further down into the water.

The second thing we want to say here is about people who have criticized this scene. They say Lois’s actions don’t make any sense here or when she goes back to get the spear. But throwing the spear in the water not only makes literary sense, once you see the connections to the King Arthur legend and the movie Excalibur, which we’ll talk about at the end of the episode, but this also makes sense from a straight-up character motivation perspective. Lois threw the spear down into the water because it was hurting Superman and there was no way she was going to give it to the authorities because she doesn’t trust the authorities and she’s afraid they would just use it as leverage over Superman. So that also means she can’t just leave with the spear, because she would be picked up and the spear would be confiscated. So she has to dispose of it somehow inside the station. Thus, in the moment, an abandoned and flooded basement probably seemed like as good a spot as any. Her actions later also make sense, because in Scene 63, she doesn’t yet know about Doomsday. But later, when she sees Doomsday emerge from the scout ship, Lois draws the same conclusion that Batman and Superman did --- that the spear might hurt Doomsday because Doomsday is Kryptonian. So of course she goes back to get it. She didn't know she would get trapped in the water, obviously. The concrete crashed down on top of her, not by her choice. We suppose maybe some people need all of this spelled out with dialogue, but we don’t think it’s too much to ask the audience to think logically along with Lois. And they do include shots of her thinking and making decisions both here and later when she decides to go back to get the spear. So we’re supposed to figure out that she’s making rational decisions.

End of Episode:

Alright, so that’s our analysis of the warehouse rescue and Lois’s disposal of the Kryptonite spear. As we said at the beginning, the warehouse rescue is a really amazing scene that we just can’t do justice in an audio format, but I think a lot people already appreciate the scene even without our analysis, so hopefully our work here is sufficient.

Comparisons to Excalibur

The last thing we want to share in this episode are some thoughts about the parallels between BvS and Excalibur. From before BvS was even released, people were noticing the reference to Excalibur, a 1981 film written and directed by John Boorman, and then once BvS came out, people started drawing parallels between the two stories and the way they were shot. We mentioned these parallels on our early episodes, but recently Nick Begovich from YouTube encouraged us to take a deeper look because there’s lots of good stuff there. So Alessandro is going to share his thoughts having watched Excalibur and thought about it with respect to BvS. Bear in mind that these are not just coincidences -- Chris Terrio majored in British literature and Zack Snyder explicitly mentioned Excalibur ( as one of the films that he drew on in his direction of BvS.

It is no coincidence that Zack Snyder chose to highlight the film Excalibur in the theater marquis at the commencement of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  The two films share a fair amount of themes,situations, and parallels.  Though it’s not a retelling of the story, Batman V Superman borrows heavily from Excalibur to tell its own thought provoking opera.     

The opening scene of the film Excalibur is one of fiery death and destruction introducing us to Uther Pendragon, father to King Arthur, the knight who ultimately draws and wields Excalibur and pursues a useless quest for the Holy Grail.  Indeed the beginning of Batman v Superman is similarly dire as we are introduced to Thomas and Martha Wayne, parents to Bruce, the dark knight who ultimately creates and wields the Kryptonite spear in a useless quest of his own.  As part of the opening to Batman v Superman we also see the fiery death and destruction in Metropolis due to Superman’s battle with General Zod.

Following these scenes of murder and mayhem is our first look at Kryptonite, found at the bottom of the Indian Ocean near the wreckage of the world engine.  It is carried by children, a symbol of innocence, from beneath the water’s surface to a surrogate of Lex’s who has come in search of the Kryptonite with the intention of supplying it to the Dark Knight for the benefit of humanity.  Because in Lex’s mind humanity is better off without Superman.  Excalibur sees the rise of the mighty sword Excalibur, with its green glow reminiscent of Kryptonite, from beneath the water’s surface by the hand of the benevolent Lady of the Lake.  It is sought after by Merlin with the ultimate intention of supplying it to the knight and future king Arthur for the benefit of Man.

Lex and Merlin are counterparts to each other in these two movies.  Morgan Le Fey, by extension, also represents a counterpart to Lex given that Merlin’s teachings are passed on to her, and she replaces Merlin as the magical medium in the movie in the final third.  We can identify the correlation between Lex and Merlin by considering their motivations and world views.  

Merlin, a man who manipulates and orchestrates things to his own end for what he believes is for the greater good originally draws Excalibur from the lake and gives it to Uther and ultimately used by Arthur.  Lex, a man who manipulates and orchestrates things to his own end for what he believes is the greater good originally finds the Kryptonite from the ocean and gives it to Batman and ultimately used by Superman.  Merlin is motivated to eliminate evil from the world of Man and bring a time of peace and prosperity using King Arthur as his conduit.  Although, he recognizes that there is no good without evil.  His comment to Arthur that evil is found in the unlikeliest of places rings true to the blindside that both Arthur and Batman experience.  Lex is motivated to eliminate the unnatural threat to humanity that is Superman and the metahumans.  He wants people to understand their wickedness and purge the world of them.  Just as Merlin had mistakenly thought that Arthur’s father Uther would be the one to bring upon peace and prosperity, Lex too mistakenly thinks that Batman will be the conduit to deliver his redemption to the world.  Just as Merlin recognizes the balance of power, so does Lex, although his balance comes in taking the place of Superman and the metahumans as humanity’s savior and god, just as Morgan wishes to do in her grab for Arthur’s throne.

Merlin uses sorcery akin to alchemy citing chemicals to Morgan in the description of magics.  Lex too uses chemicals in his creation of metals and weaponry.  Their respective use of magic and science have similar means and uses.  They are both specializations that must be studied and practiced, and both have great potential beyond the means of normal men.  Before modern man’s understanding of science, it was thought to be a mystic art.  Our lack of understanding of the supernatural and various other forces of nature is equally vexing and mystical to us now.  Therefore it is appropriate that these two characters, in their similar roles and motivations, share each side of the same coin with respect to their professions: Merlin as a sorcerer and Lex as a scientist.  A mad one I might add, which is where Morgan’s role fits in.

Morgan Le Fey too, as an extension of Merlin, shares this relationship with Lex which goes even further.  Using her magics, Morgan attempts to steal Arthur’s throne which she believes was unlawfully taken and given to him as a result of supernatural means.  There is truth to her reasoning.  Uther, posing as her father with the help of Merlin’s magic, seduced her mother, Igraine, who gives birth to Arthur.  The means by which she attempts to take back the throne are abominable using her magical prowess and her own DNA as well as that of her enemy to create Mordred in order to destroy Arthur and take his place as the people’s ruler.  Lex’s own means of eliminating and replacing Superman include the act of playing god to replace a god by using his scientific prowess and his own DNA as well as that of his enemy to create the abomination Doomsday in order to destroy Superman and take his place as the people’s savior after he was able to put Superman’s morality into question.  Lex too felt Superman was unjustly praised and viewed as a god and savior, for in Lex’s eyes Superman was anything but those things.  

Lex and Merlin’s perspective and perception of God also share similarities in the two movies.  Lex’s questioning of God harkens back to Merlin’s advice to Arthur that “The gods of once are gone forever.  It’s a time for men.”  Using our glimpse of the Justice League movie from the trailer, and our knowledge of DC mythos, we can consider its correlation to the “Old Gods” of First World, the Greek Gods of Wonder Woman and Aquaman, and the Earth Gods of the various religions.  We can then think about how Superman and the metahumans are viewed as godly beings among us, and how they are replacing the gods that existed before as the world’s saviors and devastators.  Lex for one believes in humanity and does feel that it is a time for men.  This is inherent in his motivation to destroy Superman and the metahumans.  There are signs of Lex’s belief in Man throughout the movie, including his faith in Batman as a man and the attempts at rallying humanity against the metahumans.  And more notably is Lex’s warning to Batman about the coming of Darkseid which harkens back to Merlin’s warning that “The one God comes to drive out the many Gods.”  It’s inescapable to see a connection to Darkseid conquering Earth and driving out the metahumans.
    Superman is perceived as pure and good, so it would be natural to then associate him with King Arthur.  And although he does have a role in relation to Arthur within the context of this movie, there is a greater parallel between Arthur and Batman.  Both orphans, they each assume the moniker of knight and wield a mystical weapon with a greenish glow.  They are both manipulated by someone pursuing their own interests, and they both pursue useless quests that unravel them: to rid the world of a threat that has yet to manifest itself.  Arthur intends to do this by finding the Holy Grail, and Batman intends to do this by killing Superman.  Batman’s insertion of the Kryptonite spear into the floor of Wayne Station and eventual drawing of the spear to use against Superman parallels Arthur’s own attempt at drawing Excalibur from the stone which requires him to re-insert it and re-draw it from the stone.  

Given that Batman’s role leading up to his confrontation with Superman seems to correlate with King Arthur, we can then conclude that Superman’s role would be that of Sir Lancelot.  Lancelot is supposed to be this pure and good knight sent by the Lady of the Lake to aid Arthur.  If we view the Lady of the Lake as the origin of both Lancelot and Excalibur, then we can consider her the planet Krypton from where both Superman and the Kryptonite originated.  Lancelot’s love for Guinevere is Superman’s love for Lois.  Since Lois is Superman’s connection to mankind, she is a representation of humanity.  Just as Arthur sees Lancelot as a source of betrayal and of harm to his kingdom, Batman sees Superman’s potential betrayal and source of harm to the world.  Once they are discovered, we see Lancelot leave Guinevere as he questions himself and his purpose.  Similarly Superman leaves Lois to go to the arctic where he too questions himself and his purpose.

When Batman and Superman finally do battle, Superman insists that if he wanted it the battle would be over already, and that Batman should stand down.  This is the same attitude Lancelot takes to Arthur.  But like Arthur, Batman continues his rampage on Superman until finally he gains the upper hand by using the Kryptonite and the spear.  Batman cuts Superman’s indestructible skin and we see him bleed for the first time.  And just as Merlin says to Arthur, Batman “broke what could not be broken.”  Arthur responds to Merlin, "My pride and rage broke Excalibur.  This excellent knight who fought with fairness and grace was meant to win.  I used Excalibur to change that verdict."  Arthur’s words describe perfectly Batman’s encounter with Superman.

When Arthur realizes what he has done, he tosses Excalibur aside and into the nearby water.  With the help of Lois, Batman too is able to see the error in his ways and tosses the spear aside.  And the spear too finds its way to water, though by the hands of Lois.  At the end of Excalibur Arthur instructs Percival to "find a pool of calm water.” and “Throw the sword into it."  From water it came, to water it returned, just like the Kryptonite Spear.

However this is not the only scene in Excalibur with connections to the climax of Batman and Superman’s battle.  Arthur finds Lancelot and Guinevere lying naked in the forest together.  He is about to impale Lancelot, but seeing him there helpless, and reminded of his love for Guinevere as she lay beside him, Arthur stops himself from killing him for the good of Guinevere and his own soul.  Batman, as he held the spear above Superman, saw him helpless and stripped of all his armor, now a mere mortal.  And there beside him was Lois, the representation of humanity.  Batman finally sees that Superman is not a threat, but a hero, and for the good of humanity refrains from killing him.

The culmination of this battle marks the conclusion of Batman’s role as Arthur and Superman’s role as Lancelot within the movie Batman v Superman.  At this point there is a role reversal between the two.  As Lancelot says to Arthur, "It is the old wound my king.  It has never healed."  Batman has never healed from the emotional wounds of his parents' deaths.  Lancelot had faced an inner struggle with himself.  He fought the armor he wears inside his dream, which caused him to stab himself while he slept.  Batman too struggled with himself facing the armor he wears, the bat identity, in his dreams.  But just as Lancelot’s stab wound acted as a reminder and spurred him to seek out redemption, Batman’s old emotional wounds from his parents’ murder acted as a reminder to him and spurred him too to seek out redemption.  Now Batman, just as Lancelot, seeks out redemption.  He vows to help Superman just as Lancelot vowed to serve Arthur.

With the conflict of Arthur and Lancelot out of the way comes the rising threat of Mordred.  Now that Batman and Superman’s rivalry has been quashed, we see the rising threat of Lex Luthor take form.  Morgan tells Mordred, “No weapon forged by man will harm you while you wear this armor.”  By the same token, no human weapons can harm Doomsday.  Only Excalibur is able to finally be used to kill Mordred, just as only the Kryptonite Spear is able to finally be used to kill Doomsday.  So we see a new need for the Kryptonite Spear.  And just as the Lady of the Lake promptly returned Excalibur to Arthur after he threw it into the water following his confrontation with Lancelot, Lois promptly goes to retrieve the spear from the water after having just thrown it in.  In the film Excalibur it is Guinevere who reunites Arthur with Excalibur just before his final confrontation with Mordred, so it’s only appropriate that it is Lois that reunites Superman with the Kryptonite Spear just before his final confrontation with Doomsday.
Before Arthur and Mordred’s showdown, we see Morgan Le Fey killed by her own creation, Mordred.  He sees her in her true form, not the majestic being she thought herself to be.  With the birth of Doomsday, Lex sees his creation fully realized.  Just as Morgan is unable to control Mordred who disobeys and kills her, Lex finds himself unable to control Doomsday who, seeing Lex as a weak little creature before him, unleashes a punch that would likely have killed him.  Through Superman’s good nature, he saves the villain vowed to destroy him.

As the threat of Doomsday elevates, there is a rising need for reinforcements.  And with it enters Wonder Woman’s role.  Just as Percival takes on the quest for the Holy Grail on his own, so does Wonder Woman embark on her own quest to recover her photograph.  Similarly the two abandon their quests after seemingly coming so close to their goal.  Upon abandoning his quest, Percival attempts to save Lancelot.  We discover later that he was successful when Lancelot appears in battle against Mordred.  And as Percival was successful, Wonder Woman also successfully saves Batman from Doomsday’s heat vision blast who then aids in the battle against the monster.  Both Wonder Woman and Percival seek to provide aid to the protagonist following the apparent failure of their quests, although with the help of Batman, Wonder Woman is able to resolve her mission.  Percival aims to help Arthur and does so resulting in Arthur embracing his kingship and vowing to protect his kingdom from Mordred.  Superman looks up and sees Wonder Woman and Batman fighting this impossible monster.  He too is inspired, to embrace his humanity and protect his world.

In their final confrontation, Mordred impales Arthur with his spear.  Arthur pulls himself further into the spear to get closer to Mordred so he can stab him with Excalibur and kill him.  In the same manner, Doomsday impales Superman with one of his spikes and Superman pulls himself further into it to plunge the Kryptonite Spear through Doomsday.  In the end Superman dies, and Batman realizes the extent of Superman’s goodness.  His words echo the sentiments that Lancelot says to Arthur after he apologizes to him.  “You are what is best in men.”  Because as Bruce says, men are still good.

Excalibur is a masterpiece in its own right.  Arthurian Legend remains a timeless story.  Zack Snyder does an impeccable job at adapting its motifs into the master work that is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  There is still more to find, and more to perceive, because just like any good art it can be dissected and interpreted with always new things to find.

So that’s our analysis. Thanks for listening. And if you love these parallels and connections between Batman v Superman and other works of art, or you just enjoy seeing the visual elements that go into good filmmaking, you should also check out Stan Kube’s new video on YouTube: it documents some great visual allegories, including some that we’ve covered on this show but also many others that we didn’t catch or that don’t work well in an audio format. But the YouTube video shows it nicely. We’ll put a link in the show notes:


  1. This is a long long long rambling of delusions. The movie sucked , Batman was a serial-killer, suck it up.

    1. "The movie sucked." That's your opinion... definitely not ours. And not the opinion of the majority who saw it, as indicated by above average scores on public user ratings or the scientific Cinemascore metric (B).

      "Batman was a serial-killer." I concede that it is very likely several people died at the hands of Batman. But to say "serial killer" is missing two important points. First, most of the killings are in self defense (i.e., not murder, which is implied in the "serial killer" moniker) and the director said the intention was for the death to be indirectly caused by Batman, not direct (e.g., he shoots Knyazev's flamethrower tank, not Knyazev himself, thus he dies by his own instrument of death, not Batman's).

      Second, the death has to be viewed through the prism of his character arc. This story is about a Batman broken after 20 years of futile efforts, feeling powerless, and so he goes off the deep end and in desperation breaks his old rules. But that's all to set up his redemption by the end, saved by the very being who he thought was a threat that he had to annihilate.