- Superman in the upper atmosphere
- Was firing the nuke the right decision?
- High altitude nuclear detonations
- Swanwick and Farris personal connections to Superman
- Emaciated Superman, Doomsday evolves
- Batwing and Doomsday
- Batman's "Oh sh**" moment
- Invitation for the March 25th BvS episode
Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco
Follow us @JLUPodcast on Twitter
Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. In this podcast, Alessandro Maniscalco and I share our analysis of the DC Films that are part of Warner Brothers’ Justice League Universe. Right now, we are focusing on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as we head toward the one-year anniversary of its release. We have a little special something planned for the anniversary on March 25th and we want you to be a part of it, so be sure to stay tuned for an announcement at the end of this episode.
The main content of this episode, though, is going to be our analysis of scenes 67 and 68 in BvS which is the U.S. president’s decision to hit Doomsday with a nuclear missile and also Batman’s decision to try to lure Doomsday to the Kryptonite spear. We left off last episode with Superman flying Doomsday straight up into the upper atmosphere. At first he is pushing Doomsday in the middle of the back and he flies him above the cloudline. Later, Doomsday is able to fight back and he twists and lands a solid punch on Superman, but Superman has fully developed flight skills and is able to regroup quickly and flies back up and punches Doomsday even further out toward space. He punches him multiple times and then ends up grabbing Doomsday by the head to continue trying to fly him further up, so this is not an easy task but Supes is managing to get it done.
By the way, this is the third time we’ve seen Superman out in the upper atmosphere. The first time was back in Man of Steel during the joyous first flight scene that ends with him doing a flyby as an homage to the original Superman movie. Then later in Man of Steel he and Zod have their fight out in the thermosphere for awhile, around the satellites before they crash back down to Metropolis. So it was established early on that Superman’s flight abilities extend into the upper atmosphere but since then it has not really been a pleasant place for him to be, he ends up there when he’s locked in life-or-death battles with supervillains.
But I really like the look and feel of how they shot this first flight upward. Instead of shooting from below with Superman taking Doomsday up and away from camera, they shoot from the side and track upward with them so that we can see the detail of the characters, which is important because we will need to connect with Superman emotionally both when he’s hit with the nuke and later when he recovers in the sunlight. And by shooting it from the side and tracking up with them we also get to experience as an audience the atmosphere thinning out and turning into near space.
Of course, the most important thing in Scene 67 is not actually Superman, it is actually the decision made by the President as he talks to Secretary Swanwick back at the Pentagon. Just as Superman heads upward with Doomsday, we cut inside the Pentagon where they are monitoring the situation and have Superman and Doomsday plotted on a map of the city and the atmosphere above. Farris says that they’ve cleared the city and Swanwick projects forward by saying that Superman is taking it into space.
With Superman taking Doomsday out of the stratosphere and into the thermosphere, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs immediately says, “We can go straight to key red.” From this, we can infer that the Chairman and probably others too had already been thinking about using nuclear weapons on Doomsday, probably right after they saw how ineffective conventional weapons were, but those first considerations of nukes probably ended with the idea that they couldn’t do it so long as Doomsday was still in Metropolis where there would be hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.
And now, the main drawback to using a nuke has just been removed by Superman flying him up hundreds of miles, so of course they’re going to think about the nukes again with the Chairman being the main character calling for it explicitly.
And speaking of the chairman, I think there might be slight little Justice League Universe discontinuity here, but maybe someone can check me on this. In BvS, this character is listed as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and he is played by Greg Violand. But in Suicide Squad, there is also a character listed as the Chairman, and I assumed that was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but he was played by Aidan Devine. So it would have been cool to have the same actor in both roles, but that’s not what we got. And in may not actually be a discontinuity because it is technically possible that the Chairman was replaced between the time of BvS and the time of Suicide Squad. Unlikely, but possible.
Anyway, the Chairman says they can go to key red, which means a nuclear strike. And Alessandro noticed that the color red also has a special meaning in Superman lore because a red sun weakens Superman, and indeed that is what’s going to happen eventually with the nuclear strike.
Swanwick reacts forcefully to the idea of a nuclear strike though, saying, “Not yet, are you crazy?” Pretty bold calling the Chairman crazy, but it’s an intense situation and they need to be able to speak their minds frankly, which is what they’re doing. And Swanwick is not actually taking a stance against nukes entirely, he just says, “Not yet,” because Superman is still there with Doomdsay.
The Chairman responds, “They’re high enough that we can nuke them without casualties.” Importantly, the filmmakers actually cut off of the Chairman in the middle of his line. They cut to Farris so that we can see her face as the Chairman is saying “casualties.” And Farris looks right over at Swanwick with concern on her face. This is why it was important that Farris and Swanwick were both present in these scenes because they actually have a personal relationship with Superman from Man of Steel. So it is very different for them than it is with the other military leaders or the president. These personal connections and implicit dynamics are really great for linking Man of Steel and Batman v Superman together and also great for giving a fairly straightforward scene more of an emotional punch. We are going to see those emotions again later even without lines as Farris and Swanwick get reaction shots as the nuke is flying up, and again later after the blast. Moreover, the personal connections speak to one of the main themes of the movie. In particular, it shows that people who actually know Superman personally are not swayed by the media and the false narratives like the masses are. Swanwick, Farris, Lois, and Martha, these characters are inoculated against Lex’s efforts to defame Superman and they aren’t so easily swept up in the public protests and angry sentiments. This idea also speaks to our real world, where media and alternative media outlets or rich billionaires can paint refugees as dangerous killers, or immigrants as criminals, or Muslims as terrorists, or trans people as perverts, but those narratives don’t work at all on people who actually have personal relationships with refugees, immigrants, Muslims, or trans people.
So that’s why Swanwick sticks up for Superman and does his job advising the president by leaning toward the phone and saying, “One casualty, Mr. President. Superman.” At this point, it’s up to the president. After a brief pause, the president makes his call, saying “God have mercy on us all.”
Just like back in Wayne tower with Jack, we have an explicit appeal to God right before a moment of destruction. And in this movie, Superman is often symbolically associated with God, so if we think about this substitution here, the president is asking for God’s mercy but we can think about Superman’s mercy -- the public has basically been hoping that Superman would remain merciful, and if mankind nukes Superman but he survives, they are really going to have to hope that he stays merciful rather than being angry that they nuked him. And of course, as we’ll see later, Superman doesn’t hold a grudge even for a moment -- he doesn’t mind that they nuked him along with Doomsday, and after Superman recovers, he immediately goes back down to keep trying to help, with no animosity toward mankind or the president. Superman is truly merciful and selfless.
And by the way, the voice of the president is played by Patrick Wilson. He will next be in Aquaman as Orm, Aquaman’s brother, and Wilson also worked with Snyder before in Watchmen.
So the president calls for the nuclear strike, and I like how after his order we immediately cut to frantic action, because the president’s word is decisive. Soldiers run through as an alarm sounds, and they turn their synchronized keys as we see Farris make the sign of the catholic cross, again a prayer by humans calling out to God when things are going beyond their control, and we get an intense shot of Swanwick as he looks on.
The president gives the final order to fire and then we get another shot of the map of the city with the radar displaying the layers above the skyline. These layers and the larger and larger spheres of the atmosphere that we’ve been talking about reminded us of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Alessandro talked about The Divine Comedy back in our episode on scenes 55 through 58. And Dante wrote about Heaven as being made up of concentric spheres. Here, in the heavens above Earth, the outer atmosphere, we are going to get a link between Dante’s Heaven and Dante’s Inferno as Doomsday will fall from the Heavens back down to a fiery Earth. This might also connect to Paradise Lost and Satan’s fall from the Heavens.
The shot of the map also works as a transitional tool as it preps us to cut back outside the Pentagon. We see the nuclear missile being launched and roaring upward through the clouds. Now, critics of the movie have said it was stupid to launch the nuclear missile because Superman seemed to have it under control. They should’ve just let Superman continue into space without interfering. But there are a couple of problems with this critique. One problem is that people are making unfounded assumptions about Superman, and another problem is that people are unfairly evaluating the president’s decision.
First of all, audience members may be relying on information from previous versions of Superman that we do not know still apply to this version of Superman. Yes, previous incarnations of Superman have flown all through space, no problem, so it seems like Superman should be able to take Doomsday all the way out as far as he wants and throw him into deep space or something like that. But we don’t actually know if this version of Superman can fly into deep space. We’ve only seen him in the lower parts of the thermosphere, and definitely not beyond the exosphere. He may not be able to survive out where there’s no oxygen left at all, and it’s also very possible that his flight powers wouldn’t work out in space. In the Justice League movie Universe, Superman’s flight powers seem to operate by manipulating gravity in the space right around him, but if he’s in deep space then the Earth’s gravitational pull would be very weak and maybe that would inhibit his flight powers. Or maybe he needs objects or at least air molecules around his body to push against as he’s flying. In the thermosphere he would still have some air molecules, but he wouldn’t any longer beyond that. In the movie, when we see him flying and pushing Doomsday even further out, he is still in near space or the upper atmosphere, not out in deep space where he would have to go to actually send Doomsday safely away from Earth. Now, I’m not saying this Superman definitely CANNOT fly in deep space, I’m just saying that we don’t know if he can. If in fact he CAN fly in deep space, then even in that case, we can’t be sure how he would dispose of Doomsday because Doomsday may also be able to eventually learn to fly out there, and so he could return to Earth as a threat. Thus, if the president thinks he has a way to kill Doomsday, that seems like a much more definitive solution than hoping Superman can fly in deep space and hoping that Doomsday can’t.
The critics of the nuclear strike also aren’t judging the president fairly. The question is not, was firing the nuke the perfect thing to do? The question is, was that a realistic thing for people to do in that position? Is it plausible that the president and the military would fire the nuclear warhead? I think it is very plausible, because for them they’re thinking the nuclear warhead is their one ace in the hole to defeat Doomsday, the thing that’s within their control. And when they see the chance to use it, they jump on it. Maybe this was the wrong decision, but it is a realistic one because they will want to do something rather than just sitting back and hoping for the best.
This is similar to Superman later with the Kryptonite spear. Sure, one option with the spear would be to throw it to Wonder Woman, but we don’t know if that would have turned out well and it would be hard for someone like Superman who is a man of action to defer the most crucial action to someone else rather than trying to do it himself. It’s plausible that Superman would wield the spear, even if it’s not the perfect or only course of action.
Back to the nuke, though, the only reason the government would NOT fire the nuke would be if they knew with certainty that Superman had Doomsday under control. But how could the government know that Superman had Doomsday under control? And the fact is he didn’t, because ultimately Superman needed the Kryptonite to kill Doomsday. In addition, there was still the open question of trusting Superman given the political storm surrounding him along with the uncertainty of his complicitness in a couple of attacks. Keep in mind too that the government was getting their information from CNN which showed Doomsday coming from the Kryptonian scout ship. This too could have caused doubt as to Superman’s role in unleashing the beast. While government may not want to believe Superman is guilty, he is still an illegal alien that can’t be controlled, and the priority of the government is the safety of its citizens. Given current events and the overall climate of fear about outsiders, the President’s actions in Batman v Superman aren’t farfetched at all.
Also on this topic, we can think about other possibilities of stopping Doomsday if Superman wasn’t able to or if the nukes didn’t work. One BvS fan, Superbro over on the Man of Steel Answers site, wondered what would’ve happened if they couldn’t actually stop Doomsday here. What would’ve been Lex’s plan? Superbro said that maybe Lex would’ve recruited the Justice League himself and formed them together to stop Doomsday and then Lex would try to become the head of the league, so long as Superman was dead and people hadn’t figured out that he was behind all the events of BvS.
But Doc from Man of Steel Answers disagreed with that idea about Lex. He said that Lex didn’t actually care to stop Doomsday, nor Darkseid after that, because Lex would’ve felt he had already proved his philosophical point about the ugliness and brutality of godlike beings.
Now, Alessandro and Doc don’t exactly see eye to eye on this. Alessandro’s position is that Lex thought he could control Doomsday and that Lex didn’t find out about Darkseid until after Doomsday was unleashed. Alessandro thinks there’s still a connection to the prior versions of Lex Luthor who cares about humanity and who is trying to stick up for humanity against the intrusion of the meta-humans. He wants to be humanity’s hero and proving his philosophical point is not really about god and power so much as it is about turning the public against super-powered beings.
As for me, I can see both interpretations, and they both have supporting evidence in the movie, but looking strictly at BvS and not prior versions of Lex, I probably side a little bit more toward Doc’s position. I didn’t actually see any genuine care and concern for humanity on the part of Lex. I think anything that kind of looked like care for humanity was just a false front. I also didn’t see any clear evidence that Lex intended to ride in as the hero to save the day, like he has done in some past stories. What I saw the most from Lex was that he cannot stand hero worship or someone like his father or like Superman or like god who is held up in great esteem by the public. Lex’s worldview requires him to tear down anyone like that, tear them down both physically and in the eyes of the public. In the early scenes with the Senators, he is trying to assess the exact standing of Superman in the eyes of the government and he is also trying to see who might be his allies in tearing down Superman’s reputation. Lex finds that Senator Finch is definitely not an ally in this effort because she sees through him, but he does find Wallace and Bruce who have some anger and hatred that Lex can use.
With respect to Doomsday, I think Doomsday was Lex’s chance to play god -- which is probably part of why Lex hates god, because Lex isn’t god -- and he played god in a way that emphasized that power cannot be innocent. He created a monster that would cause people to appropriately recoil in horror, as he thought they should be from Superman and god, too. In terms of controlling Doomsday, I tend to go with the theatrical version as my main version where there doesn’t seem to be any explicit indication that Lex thinks he will control Doomsday. “Blood of my blood” is more of a religious reference and the idea of Lex as creator, not an indication that he will control Doomsday’s behavior.
But anyway, the government doesn’t know anything about how Lex created Doomsday or what Lex’s ultimate plans are, so in terms of them thinking about stopping Doomsday, a nuclear strike is a plausible option and if that didn’t work, they probably at that point would have figured out what Lex was doing in the scout ship and would have interrogated him or compelled him to try to help find a way to stop Doomsday. If, like we have speculated, Lex actually did keep at least a little bit of Kryptonite for himself, then maybe they could’ve tried to use that to defeat Doomsday.
In terms of the actual events of the movie, though, the nuclear missile sails upward and then separates from its initial booster, firing forward with a secondary booster toward Superman and Doomsday. Doomsday has put up a bit of a fight against Superman, but Superman is much more agile in the air and is able to punch Doomsday farther upward and then grabs him by the head as he tries to continue their flight up and away from the planet.
Superman notices the missile coming toward him and must figure out right away what it all means. He doesn’t seem to ever show disgust or frustration with the government for firing the nuke. He just takes it in stride and actually does what he can to force Doomsday right into the nuke. Now, I don’t think enough credit has been given to Superman for this action in BvS. This is really a sacrifice just as much as his later sacrifice at the end of the movie. Superman did not actually know if he could survive a nuclear blast, and yet he still threw himself right into it to make sure it hit Doomsday. If you’re thinking, yes, Superman CAN survive a nuclear explosion, then you’re either guilty of hindsight bias -- you’re thinking that he DID survive the nuclear blast, but that’s different than knowing beforehand that he was going to survive it. Or you are assuming too much about what Superman knows. There is actually no way that Superman would’ve known ahead of time that he can survive a nuclear attack. He never could’ve tested something to that level. And even though he knows he’s bulletproof and able to withstand drone strikes and that kind of stuff, it’s a whole different story to talk about a nuclear attack.
So Superman does this incredibly selfless act of throwing himself and Doomsday into the nuke. The music building up to this moment is really poignant -- a slowed down and richly orchestrated version of the Superman flight theme, alternating between a full octave interval and a 7th, which is just a half step below, and the choir is a nice touch adding to the drama of the moment. And I also love the sound of the roar reverberating into the distance as the missile hits Doomsday and we cut away back down to the Earth’s surface. There is the huge spherical blast and glow of the upper atmosphere nuclear explosion. These kinds of nuclear detonations have actually been conducted by the United States back in the 1960s. They were called the Fishbowl Events and interestingly the nukes were delivered into space by missiles called Thor missiles. One of the nukes was detonated 250 miles above the planet, so right about in the middle of the thermosphere at the same altitude as the International Space Station. Because the atmosphere is so thin up there, it didn’t produce the typical mushroom cloud. Instead, it produced a huge glowing spherical lightshow with auroras. Actually, I don’t need to describe it because it looked very much like what they show in Batman v Superman. The biggest test was called Starfish Prime and it looks like that one was used as a direct visual inspiration for the BvS team.
We see Batman looking up at it. He says, “Oh God.” So again, we get the constant religious overtones and the linkage between god and Superman. Batman is reacting not only to the explosion but now he also has concern for Superman as an individual who he has recently come to appreciate. Like Swanwick and Farris, now we can count Batman amongst the people who actually have some understanding and personal interactions with Superman. And of course we also get a reaction shot from Lois, who has the closest and deepest relationship with Superman. She may very well think at this point that Superman is dead.
And if you stop for a moment to think about Lois, she really goes through an emotional roller coaster during this one night. She isn’t sure where Superman is, she figures out Lex’s scheme, but then she is almost killed, then she is thrilled because Superman is back, then she is worried because Superman has to go fight Batman, then she sees Superman defeated and about to be killed. She is able to get there in time to save him, but then he has to go try to stop Lex. Then she thinks right here that he might be killed by the nuclear explosion, then she will be happy to see that he isn’t killed and they have a quiet moment together as they get the spear, but then after all of that he actually will go off to sacrifice himself to defeat Doomsday, and she will end up cradling his dead body. If you have even one empathetic bone in your body, you have to really feel for Lois in these last sequences in the movie.
Here in Scene 67, Lois not only sees the nuclear explosion but she also sees something crashing back down to Earth, but we can’t quite tell what it is. We cut back into the Pentagon where Major Farris helps answer that question. She says that Projectile 1 has landed on Stryker’s island. The Air Force signals officer comments that Stryker’s island is uninhabited. So this is probably the one where Warner Brothers went too far in compensating for the backlash against Man of Steel. Earlier, Anderson Cooper said the workday was over and the area around Doomsday was basically empty, and Batman says that the Gotham port is abandoned, but I don’t think we needed the third explicit comment about a lack of civilian casualties.
Now, that’s my opinion, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe without this one, people would’ve still found a way to criticize the movie for too much destruction. It might have been a sort of damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of situation for Warner Brothers. I personally don’t think it was a problem to have this quick line, but I just don’t think it was necessary either.
Speaking of Stryker’s island, this is a location that is based on the comic book universe. Stryker’s island is an island prison near Metropolis, kind of like Riker’s Island is for New York. It is often used to house Superman villains, but in this movie universe, it’s just an uninhabited island.
Next, we see Projectile 2 disappear from the monitor and Farris says that Projectile 2 has “no apparent re-entry.” The president asks what they mean by Projectile 2 and Swanwick has to turn back toward the phone, just like he did trying to appeal for Superman’s life, but this time he is breaking the news that Projectile 2 was Superman.
And I personally love this next little moment of acting from Harry Lennix as Swanwick. He lowers his head at the thought of having lost Superman, but then an officer off screen says “Sir” and I just love how Lennix plays off that in a truly reactive way, with his eyebrows lifting first and sort of pulling his head up with them. And he’s looking over and you can just see that he is hoping for a moment that they’ve gotten a new read on Projectile 2. Maybe Superman is still alive. I am impressed how Lennix could capture those subtle emotions and that shift in just a quick shot like that, and an inferior actor would have given away with their body language the fact that they were expecting the next line, like you can see that they were preparing to look up once the guy said “Sir.” But with Lennix, every time I watch it, it seems like he is truly going downward into a bowed head moment of silence and then he is truly surprised and reacts to the “Sir” by looking up. I really appreciate small moments of masterful acting like that.
So anyway, we end up finding out that Projectile 1 is moving and so Doomsday is still alive.Our listener, Angelo, had a few thoughts about rebirth and falling back to Earth: (quote) “BvS even seems to allude to biblical truths about afterlife in general. Zod was a villain in MoS and in the afterlife is born as a deformed demonic being by way of Doomsday, and Superman dies too, so in Justice league I'm certain there will be some reference to him coming back reborn truly as he was but perhaps even changed and more powerful. Plus (there’s) the scene in MoS where Clark and Zod fall to earth, but in BvS instead of falling back to earth Only Doomsday crashes and Clark stays in space or (in) heaven as it were, and regenerates. A lot of clever almost eschatological foreshadowing by Zack.” Thanks, Angelo. It is a nice connection back to Man of Steel and possibly forward to Justice League.
And now that we’ve really seen Doomsday’s fall, Alessandro wanted to mention a couple more things about Paradise Lost by Milton. Doomsday’s fall from the heavens alludes to Paradise Lost in which Satan falls from God’s grace and is banished to Hell. This also harkens back to Gustave Dore’s illustration for Paradise Lost which shares similarities with and likely inspired the painting in Lex’s house. When discussing the painting Lex says that devil’s come from the sky. In the long term that was probably a foreshadowing of Darkseid, but in BvS itself it also foreshadowed this moment of Doomsday falling from above.
Having been hit by a nuke, Doomsday is now ready for his next stage of development. The camera moves smoothly around him as bones burst out of his back and as he looks at his own body as bones pop out of his arms too and he punches the ground getting a gauge on his new strength. Gravity also seems to be affected near Doomsday because we can see large rocks floating around him, like a bigger version of the dust that rises when Superman takes off for flight. Then Doomsday erupts into another energy blast, this time with a big blast of heat vision, or more like heat face. This shows the audience that Doomsday has grown more powerful. And the solar flare blast goes up into space and the camera goes with it, bringing us back up to check on Superman.
We first see his hand and wrist, accentuated against the horizon, and right away we can see that something is wrong. It looks very skinny and sickly. The camera continues panning and we get this ghostly gray version of Superman, with his suit still intact but his body obviously in really bad shape. It is a really striking image, and the light hitting him on just one side of the face, with shadows under his eyes, really emphasizes the moment. This is a clear homage to The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel where Superman also gets hit by a nuclear missile, although in that case it was a Russian missile. But the art in The Dark Knight Returns also has some really striking panels of an emaciated Superman who eventually recovers. There is also a malnourished and emaciated Superman in the Flashpoint story by Geoff Johns, but in that case it’s from him being locked up away from the sun rather than from a nuclear explosion.
Now, we do want to emphasize that Superman sacrificed himself for humanity two separate times in this movie, but what we mean by that is he was willing to die and he put his life at risk two times. We do not mean that he actually died twice. In fact, he only died once --- at the end of the movie. Right here with the nuke he was damaged and weakened but not actually killed. And you don’t have to take our word for it. Zack Snyder himself actually explained in an interview after the movie was released that Superman didn’t die from the nuke, he was just severely injured. But Snyder says Superman does actually die at the end of the movie… it’s just that his cells don’t degenerate, and that’s why he’ll be able to come back.
So hopefully this clears up some misconceptions. Some people think Superman died both times and he is just able to come back from the dead both times, and other people think that Superman never actually died in either case, he just gets close to dying both times but can recover. These are actually both wrong -- he did NOT die from the nuke, but he DOES die when he’s weakened by Kryptonite and Doomsday stabs him through the chest. In the first case, he simply recovers, as shown on screen, and in the second case, he dies and will be reborn somehow in Justice League. Now for the people who think Superman never dies, we just want to say that yes, Superman can die. He’s not immortal. For example, if you rip his head off or pull his torso apart, he’s not going to survive because he needs his organs to function just like we do. The thing is, for Superman, it’s very hard to pull his head off or puncture his skin or break his bones. But it is possible. And of course, Kryptonite makes it easier to do, and as Emil Hamilton explains in The Death and Life of Superman story, Superman’s body is like a solar battery that collects energy from the sun. So as Superman exerts this energy without being recharged he will eventually be drained and become killable.
But as far as the Pentagon knows, Doomsday now seems to be unkillable. He just survived a nuclear strike, which was the most powerful weapon that the Pentagon had at its disposal. And not only are the attacks ineffective, but they actually seem to make Doomsday “more powerful,” as Swanwick says. This is the sort of conundrum that also happens in the comics with the Superman villain Parasite, who can absorb the powers of those who try to fight it. Parasite was featured in Geoff John’s Superman: Secret Origin, a graphic novel which has had some clear influence on the Justice League Universe.
As things are getting pretty bleak in the Pentagon, Swanwick is feeling like he may have lost Superman and not actually made any gains in fighting Doomsday and the President actually then calls him by his first name, Calvin, which emphasizes how desperate the leaders feel at the moment. Swanwick calls him “unkillable,” which is a perfect moment to cut to Batman. Batman as a character is known for finding some way or coming up with some plan to do the impossible. Batman is flying over to Stryker’s Island to assess the situation with Doomsday. He sees him still alive amongst the destruction of the island, and now Doomsday uses his heat face in a much more controlled way. He tracks and almost hits the batwing as Batman ducks below a hill just in time.
This brings us into Scene 66 where we get to see the payoff of the batwing vehicle. It wasn’t really crucial earlier in the warehouse scene, but they showed it to us there as a setup for this scene where Batman needed it to be able to lure Doomsday over to Gotham. Batman talks to Alfred which allows us to hear the last little bits of exposition that are needed before the big Trinity showdown with Doomsday. Batman puts it together that a Kryptonian monster will probably be affected by Kryptonite in the same way as a Kryptonian and so the Kryptonite spear will be the key to defeating Doomsday. All the preparation Bruce had done earlier in the montage, and all of his dark journey toward revenge and trying to do something that matter may actually get to be put to good use after all. This may actually be a thing that he can do that will matter.
Alfred is well aware of Bruce’s entire emotional journey and he shows a little bit of frustration when he says that Kryptonian weapons might kill Doomsday, “if you had any left.” This is basically a little jab or a told-you-so type of comment from Alfred because Alfred had tried to talk Bruce out of using the Kryptonite against Superman, but Bruce wasn’t listening back then. And now that there is an actual threat from a real enemy, Alfred is wishing that they had all of their Kryptonite resources available. Batman says that he does have one round of the Kryptonite gas, which is a clear reminder to the audience to be on the lookout for that round at the climax of the battle. But the main thing will be the Kryptonite spear, which is of course the main answer to the question of how to defeat Doomsday.
And by the way, I really love the map that Alfred is looking at in this scene. It shows Batman’s actual flight trajectory and it seems to match up perfectly with what we see with the Batwing, and it also maps the altitude and the cities of Metropolis and Gotham so that we can see how everything fits together, with Stryker’s island in the middle. Very cool detail.
Batman then says that he’s going to get Doomsday to chase him back over to the port of Gotham where the spear is. Some people have said that Batman should’ve just left Doomsday where he was and gotten the spear by himself, but there is no reason to assume that Doomsday would just stay there on the island. We saw before that Doomsday’s attention is easily grabbed, like with the helicopters, and he can jump really great distances, so if he was left alone, it is possible that he would go and attack an actual populated area of one of the cities. But by bringing Doomsday along, Batman feels like he is maintaining responsibility over Doomsday and he is also bringing him to an abandoned port rather than a populated area.
We see another Batwing strafing run, like we did outside the warehouse, and he does get Doomsday to jump after him, firing another heat face blast as he does. The light from Doomsday’s heat face is used for a match cut with the rising sun up in space. As our eyes adjust to the light, we start to see the silhouette of Superman with his arms out wide and his cape flowing in space. Then we cut to the front of Superman and we get this beautifully epic shot of Superman healing in the sunlight. The camera pushes in as he gradually heals and his chest fills out. The music uses the choir again to emphasize the moment when his red eyes open. It is a truly remarkable and memorable visual moment.
This is also the perfect place to sequence Superman’s recovery because we see Superman heal and then we see Batman in trouble, so we are thinking that Superman is the one who will arrive just in time to save the day. But it turns out to actually be Wonder Woman! That little misdirect is one of the many things that makes Wonder Woman’s appearance so effective.
But before we get there, we have a few shots where we see Doomsday completing his leap and still firing his heat face at Batman. He actually wings it right at the end and Batman is rocked inside his cockpit and crashes up against a brick building. Even before the Batwing comes to rest, Batman is already trying to unbuckle his harness and get out of there. But Doomsday slides down the side of a building and slides up to Batman. The music cuts out as Batman looks up and realizes he can’t really get out of this. He delivers a swear that you’re allowed to get away with in a PG-13 movie as long as you don’t have too many of them, and I think this line from Batman works as a humorous line for a few reasons. First, it is a line that happens at the end of Batman’s fight with Doomsday, not in the middle of a fight. Second, we as the audience know that Batman is not actually going to die, so it is not making light of an actual life-or-death situation. And third, it is funny because Batman has been in his angry and vengeful funk for basically the whole movie and it humanizes him and shows a bit of a soft underbelly that he would swear just like the rest of us if he were about to get blasted in the face. If he had had a bunch of funny one-liners before this, it would be watered down. But instead, this is one of his only ones and it ends up really emphasizing the moment. And after the fact, it may have been good for him to have this near-death experience because it might have helped him to reevaluate his choices and rededicate himself at the end of the movie.
So anyway, he puts up his arms and grits his teeth, and Doomsday fires another blast straight at him but we see a blur drop down from the sky just in time.
End of Episode:
So that is our analysis, and we now have Wonder Woman’s arrival into the final fight so we will continue that momentum into our next episode. And speaking of Wonder Woman, I was rewatching BvS in its entirety recently and it really hit me this time just how great that photo from 1918 was. Wonder Woman’s posture and facial expression is just fantastic in that photo, and the way they positioned everyone else around her really emphasizes that she actually is the toughest one in the group. Even amidst hardened soldiers, she really looks the toughest and like the others will defer to her. And in this viewing of the movie, it just really hit home how truly exceptional it is to have a war photo of active soldiers with a woman standing right in the middle. It’s a role that, in movies and in reality, we just have not allowed women to hold, not because they can’t but because society has sidelined them. It is so great to have Wonder Woman stepping up and taking that central role. And I’m also glad that Warner Brothers has continued in the spirit of that first photo by featuring Wonder Woman in the center of many other formations since then, and it’s also great that they’ve included her fully in the merchandising. It all comes together to get me really excited for the Wonder Woman movie this summer.
Alright, so before we close we want to make an announcement about our special episode on March 25th. We are planning to complete our BvS scene-by-scene analysis before March 25th so that on the 25th we can do a retrospective episode that looks back over the film overall. And we want to invite you, the listeners, to look back over the film with us. So what we are asking is for you to identify one of the main things that you love about Batman v Superman and to record a short audio clip describing what you love about it. Maybe it’s a particular scene that you think is really great, or a certain character, or something about the creators, or anything at all really --- but please try to key in on something specific that you love about BvS. We don’t really want to hear your list of 15 things you love about it, but we would love to hear from 15 of you about one main thing that you love about it.
If you are able to audio record yourself, that would be great. And please include your name in the clip. In terms of length, short and sweet is totally fine but you can also go for like 1 to 2 minutes if your love requires a bit of explanation. But try to aim for less than 2 minutes so that we can include multiple people. And please send your audio files to me at my personal email address, ottensam AT att DOT net. If you’d rather not record actual audio, that’s okay --- you can also send a written email message to ottensam AT att DOT net and we will still try to include you. But we are hoping for some audio files so that you can be heard in your own voice.