Friday, March 3, 2017

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Trinity Fight

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on scenes 69-71 of Batman v Superman. This includes the formation of the Trinity, Lois retrieving the spear, and the battle with Doomsday.

  • Why that Wonder Woman arrival was so great
  • Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
  • Wonder Woman's musical theme
  • Why Lois knows to retrieve the spear
  • "I thought she was with you" explained
  • Superman and Wonder Woman teamwork (with music)
  • Batman's survival and evasion skills
  • Lois and Superman saving each other
Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco
Man of Steel Answers, Suicide Squadcast
@JLUPodcast on Twitter

DC All Access interview with Tina Guo
DC All Access interview with Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL

<Transcript of the episode>

Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. This podcast is a place to appreciate and dig into the depth and meaning of the Warner Brothers films that are part of the Academy-Award Winning Justice League Universe. In this particular episode on Batman v Superman, Alessandro and I are going to share our analysis of the main Trinity fight scene with Doomsday. We will start with the arrival of Wonder Woman, we’ll cover the collaborative fighting between Wonder Woman and Superman, we’ll see Lois going back for the Kryptonite spear, and we will end with some great Batman grappling gun action.

So let’s get right into it. We left off right at probably the most exhilarating moment of the movie -- a blur just landed to intercept Doomsday’s heat blast before it hit an exposed Batman. This is a moment where all of the elements of moviemaking come together to great effectiveness. We have the performance of the actors, embodying the characters and bringing personal intensity to the situation; the visual effects showing the force and power of the blast but then having it deflected away in a bright light and doing it so that we can tell exactly what’s happening and yet we can’t see at all who’s doing it; the editing, showing Batman prepare, Doomsday firing up, then cutting us right inside the blast and then pulling out back out in reverse order, showing Doomsday power down before revealing Wonder Woman; the sequencing that we talked about last time, giving a bit of a misdirect with the possibility of it being a healed Superman instead of Wonder Woman; of course the directing, with the camera placed just right, first looking over Doomsday’s shoulder and allowing us to situate all three subjects in relation to one another, but also giving us the close-ups to soak in the moment with the characters, and Snyder even personally made sure Gal Gadot had her arms positioned just right for the bracelet deflection; there’s the sound design with the silence coming in to set up the moment and then with the blast there’s the added pulsing to emphasize the energy and make it feel like it’s moving through us; and of course there’s the music, which we’ll talk about more in a minute.

But then there’s also things that came prior to this moment that give it extra meaning and resonance. There were all the set-up scenes between Diana and Bruce where Bruce had this cockiness around her but she completely rose above it and outdid Bruce at every turn -- retrieving his data leash before he could, driving away before he could catch her, showing him up in conversation, and returning the data to his glove box before he even knew what was happening. Now she comes in to show him up once more, but in a friendly, life-saving way, not a competitive way. And it’s a nice payoff to the earlier line where Bruce accuses her of being a babe in the woods, but now here she is directly saving his life. There is also the backdrop to the moment that extends even beyond the movie itself. There’s this long history of the character of Wonder Woman and people who know and love that history will have a swell of recognition and joy when they see the arms crossed and the bracelets. There’s also the fact that we’ve seen time and time again a man coming in to save women, not only in superhero stories but also in action movies and Westerns and lots of other media, and now this moment in BvS has a powerful reversal of that trope. And it’s a very fitting first appearance for Wonder Woman, we’ve seen Diana before but not Wonder Woman, and it’s perfect to see her as such a strong and commanding presence.

So that’s a quick bit of analysis about some of the mechanics and meaning that make the moment so great, but probably the best thing to do with this moment is just to sit back and watch it and feel the energy, not fully dissect it. Sorry. I know with my two sons, 3 and 4 years old, I don’t need to explain any of this to them and they completely adore this moment. It’s very cool to see them get excited and start jumping around after Wonder Woman drops in. And when we play with our action figures, it’s awesome because whenever Doomsday comes into the mix, one of the boys will go get Wonder Woman because Batman by himself can’t take on Doomsday, we need Wonder Woman. (By the way, if you’re checking up on my parenting, when I have them watch this part of BvS I always make sure to talk over Batman’s swear word. And I always stop the movie before Superman gets impaled in the chest.)

My kids also know when we listen to the Wonder Woman theme music that it represents her saving Batman’s life. So let’s talk about how great this theme is for Wonder Woman and also how great it is as the musical accompaniment for the Trinity battle with Doomsday.

So first, with regard to Wonder Woman, Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL said that they really wanted to find a musician who could capture the energy of Wonder Woman and be a lead instrument for the theme. They found that person in Tina Guo, a Chinese American cellist who plays the electric cello for BvS and had played with Hans Zimmer before on Inception and Kung Fu Panda 2. She has her own albums too, the most recent of which was Grammy nominated, and you can see her interviewed by DC All Access on YouTube. We’ll put a link in the show notes.

DC All Access also interviewed Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL ( and Zimmer said that he wanted a banshee sound that was still feminine and that he knew Tina really brought an aggressive approach to the cello that could match the Wonder Woman character. I also think the particular theme they created works well as a complement and matching set with Superman’s theme. As we’ve mentioned before, Superman has a part of his theme that involves an octave interval and then a 7th that goes back up to the octave. The octave is a perfect interval, but the interval kind of decays before it goes back up to the perfect octave. And with Wonder Woman, it’s similar but different. Her theme traces up an E-minor triad to the perfect fifth interval, the root E up to the B. But then it drifts down to a diminished fifth interval, riffing on the B-flat before it goes back up to the B natural. So again, it’s built around a perfect interval, this time the perfect fifth instead of the perfect octave, and again it drifts down a half step before going back up to the perfect interval.

You, of course, know what Wonder Woman’s theme sounds like, but in just a few moments, we’ll play the Superman theme for you so you can hear his octave and 7th and see how it fits over top of the Wonder Woman beat. And really, I should say that what we’re referring to here is kind of like Superman’s secondary theme --- not his main theme with the sparse piano. That’s a great one too, especially for Clark Kent, but it’s the one that goes down to the 7th that is used in the Trinity battle and that pairs really nicely with Wonder Woman’s.

By the way, I think another thing that makes the music so effective here is that we heard some subtle versions of it before. We got a muffled version of it over the photograph, so that set it up, and we heard the beat again with the Justice League video clips, and now we get to hear it in full force and all its glory.

The Wonder Woman music has that lead electric cello but the other main element is of course the drum beat that is reminiscent of war drums and is very fitting for Amazons, who are a warrior culture. And we said that Wonder Woman’s theme is not only great for herself, it’s great as a backdrop for the Trinity fight. The reason for that is because of the rhythm and the time signature, which gives it a truly driving beat that matches Wonder Woman’s tendency to lunge forward headfirst into battle. The track “Is she with you?” is written with a repetitive drum beat that works in syncopation over a 7/4 time signature. So what this means is that there are actually only 7 beats per measure instead of the more typical 4 or 8 beats per measure. In essence, it’s one beat less than we expect. We are very accustomed to hearing 4/4 time or 4 beats every measure, but instead, what the Wonder Woman theme gives us is basically 7 beats per measure or 4 plus 3 beats per measure. The phrase starts out with what seems like a normal 4-beat measure but then instead of continuing with another 4 beat measure, the next part is only 3 beats and then it starts the pattern over again. So it’s 4 plus 3 instead of the normal 4 plus 4. And the fact that this music is 7/4 means that every phrase is a bit shorter than we are used to and so the next downbeat comes just a little bit earlier than we expect. And this happens every time… each big downbeat feels like it jumps the gun, it arrives just a fraction of a second early. The result of this is a piece of music that always feels like it is leaning forward and it is driving us onward rather than sitting back and relaxing into the typical 4 beats every measure.

If you’ll pardon my vocal abilities, I can try to demonstrate how crucial of a decision this was for the composers. Say they had kept the same war drums and the same repetitive pounding on the root E pitch, but they had put it in the standard time signature. It would’ve sounded a bit like this: (dum dum dum da-dum dum dum (8) .. dum dum dum da-dum dum dum (8) dum.) Not bad, it still has a syncopated groove, but now it is sitting back rather than leaning forward, and leaning forward matches the character of Wonder Woman and it also gives more excitement and pulls the audience into the fight sequence more effectively.

[Clip of main rhythm of Is She With You?]

So basically, I think it was brilliant to trim off a beat, pushing the music perpetually forward. A bit later, we’ll also talk about how Zimmer combined the Wonder Woman and Superman music, but for now let’s follow the action forward in the scene a bit. Doomsday’s blast subsides and we see Wonder Woman’s gauntlets still glowing with energy, and she’s breathing hard, having not only raced to get there in time but also having to absorb that blast and hold her arms in place against an amazing force. I also thought it was a great touch that they showed Wonder Woman lowering her arms and then immediately cut to Batman lowering his arms, with the implication being that his tech, which was great for blocking knife attacks, would’ve been completely useless against the heat vision. He’s lucky Wonder Woman was there.

They stay on Batman for a brief moment so that we can see his reaction to the woman standing in front of him, and he is awed just like we are. Then they cut back to Wonder Woman, who is gritting her teeth and taking a big breath to slam her gauntlets together. This creates her own blast, but one that’s of a purer, whiter energy than Doomsday’s.

We also get to hear the first of Wonder Woman’s battle cries, which personally I thought all sounded great. It’s really hard to do grunts and yells and screams that don’t sound fake or forced, but assuming Gadot did her own battle cries, I think this was a great skill she brought to the role.

This gauntlet shockwave sends Doomsday sliding back, and Doomsday looks up and he is sort of sizing up this new threat in front of him. Then we see Wonder Woman again, who looks off screen at what is Superman flying back into the fight.

But before Superman’s arrival, we wanted to comment a bit on Wonder Woman’s physique. There was some backlash when Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman because people said the Wonder Woman character was supposed to be more muscular and bigger-chested than Gal was at the time, with her coming from a modeling background. Of course, many comic book characters, including Wonder Woman, are drawn in unrealistic, kind of hyper-muscular ways and so it is not fair to hold anyone to those standards. But there are two issues at play here with Gadot’s casting -- the musculature and the breast size. With regard to muscle, it’s true she started with quite a bit less muscle mass than Wonder Woman in the comics, but she did work for months on a fitness regimen that helped her to add some bulk to her thin frame, similar to how Cavill and Affleck also have to workout rigorously in preparation for their roles. For Gadot, this did bring some added muscle tone which is good, we think, as she is representing a fierce and capable warrior. And by the way, I think it is cool that Gadot actually served in this Israeli military in the past. That experience gives her some legitimacy with regard to being a warrior princess and may be a good foundation for her work in the World War 1 setting in her solo film.

Now with regard to breast size, things actually went so far as Gal Gadot being asked about it in an interview on Good Evening with Guy Pines, an Israeli entertainment show. Pines said that Wonder Woman is traditionally big breasted, and so is that going to change in the movie universe? To this, Gadot responded that she is representing Wonder Woman in the new world.  (quote) “Breasts anyone can buy for 9,000 shekels and everything is fine. By the way, Wonder Woman is amazonian, and historically accurate amazonian women actually had only one breast. So, if I’d really go by the book…it’d be problematic.” (end quote) What she was referring to there was a historian from the 2nd Century who talked about the right breast being cut off or burned out when women were young, to allow for superior motion and agility with the right arm, and that part of the Amazonian lore has been often repeated since. It probably wasn’t true, though, and may have just been inspired by the fact that the Greek word Amazos means “breastless.” Anyway, the primary stories of the Amazons come from Greek Mythology, but there are similar stories and legends in lots of different cultures, so there are some people who think there may have been a real female-dominated society that was the basis for the various legends. We don’t have time to get into all of that, but we can just say that we think Gadot gave a great performance and her breast size shouldn’t really matter at all in that regard. And also, it’s nice to hear that Gadot prepared for the role by not only looking at Wonder Woman comics and the old Wonder Woman TV show, but also by exploring some of the myths about the Amazonian culture.

In Scene 69, we also get our first look at the Wonder Woman costume, designed by Michael Wilkinson. Wilkinson said that he and Zack Snyder wanted it to connect all the way back 3000 years. So the design was influenced by Greek culture and gladiator-style armor, with leather and weapons that are aged. I think this works really well for an old-school type warrior, and I like the skirt that they made rather than the bathing suit underwear that is more common in the past. They still incorporated the eagle W shape on the chest and they very subtly brought in a dark red on the torso. I think they improved even further upon the costume for the Wonder Woman standalone, and I know Gadot said they made it a bit more comfortable to wear, not cutting into her ribs so much, but it started from a really good place in BvS. I honestly think all of the costumes are really well designed and we’ll see them come together in just a moment.

So Wonder Woman looks up in the sky, but it’s not a bird or a plane, it’s Superman, recovered from the nuclear blast and coming back in for his patented flying punch. He launches Doomsday into some storage silos, setting off more explosions to add to the fiery backdrop for the Trinity fight.

We cut to Lois, who is still over by the abandoned Wayne train station, and she sees Superman’s return, which is good news, but she is also putting the pieces together about Doomsday and the Kryptonite spear. They show Lois thinking and then she starts running back for the spear. Now believe it or not, even this moment with Lois went over some people’s heads. They complained that it made no sense for Lois to go back for the spear, it was just a contrivance to set it up so that Superman had to go in and save her later. But to us it seems very clear. You just have to follow Lois’s line of thinking and put two and two together even though it’s not spelled out in her dialogue. She makes the same connection that Batman made earlier --- that Doomsday seems to be Kryptonian, so a Kryptonite weapon is probably their best chance against him. Lois is the only one right now who knows where the Kryptonite spear is, so she realizes she has to go and try to retrieve it.

Listener L B from YouTube had this to say: (and it’s a long quote, but there are several good ideas well laid out) “She used what she knew to come to the conclusion that having the spear on-hand may be useful. She definitely didn't know anything for certain, but it's not unreasonable to have wanted to retrieve it. What she knew was: 1. There had been strange activity at the crashed Kryptonian ship. She didn't know what, but she knew people were really worrying by the time she left Metropolis to go to Gotham to intervene in the Batman/Superman fight. 2. She green glowing spear that Batman was about to kill Superman with seemed to weaken him, plus he had a fresh cut on his face that almost certainly came from said spear. So she knew the spear could hurt Superman. 3. After seeing the nuclear explosion in the sky, she would have known there was something really serious happening. Given that she knew the crashed Kryptonian Scout Ship had been behaving strangely she would have assumed that whatever was it was almost certainly had something to with that activity and Lex. She knew from her investigations, and from meeting him, that Lex wanted Superman dead. Hence whatever was happening would likely have had something to do with hurting, slowing down or killing Superman. 4. She saw and heard the explosion caused by Superman barging Doomsday into the explosive tanks. She didn't directly see Doomsday, but she heard a monstrous screaming. This is where she puts the pieces together, and you can see that as she stops and thinks about things: "Lex Luthor wants Superman dead. The scout ship was acting strangely. A massive explosion in the sky and another smaller one on the ground suggest Superman is fighting something. Given this, it's likely from the scout ship, perhaps another Kryptonian like Zod, though it doesn't sound like a regular Kryptonian. Given the size of the explosions, this thing that Superman is fighting is very powerful. If that's so, he may want an advantage, and I know that the green spear hurt Superman who is Kryptonian, so it might hurt the Kryptonian thing he is fighting too." She wouldn't have known any of this for certain, but I think it forms a solid enough hypothesis to go and get the spear so it's at least easily accessible if Batman or Superman come looking for it.” (end quote) Thanks, L B.

I personally like it that Lois quickly figured out that the Kryptonite spear would probably be needed to kill Doomsday, just like I appreciate how she uncovered Lex’s plot and how she figured out Clark’s identity in Man of Steel. But there is one small thing here in scene 69 that I personally did not like. I thought it was a mistake that they had Lois trip and fall down as she ran back into the train station. I know they probably felt like they should have her trip to add energy and action to the shot, so that there’s an overall sense of danger, but I don’t think that is a good enough reason to make Lois look like somewhat of a clutz. I think they could’ve just had her run into the building and then cut away like normal. I should say, though, that Alessandro was okay with this choice because the terrain was uneven and it is realistic for someone to trip in this case. I just didn’t think it was necessary.

We cut from Lois back to Wonder Woman as she is about to say her line, “Why did you bring him back to the city?” Another tiny little critique here is that this cut is a bit jarring because we don’t see who Wonder Woman is talking to. From the line we can infer that it must be Bruce, but we don’t actually get an establishing shot or a two-shot to make it clear who she’s looking at and who is in the scene with her, and actually the last thing we saw was her looking at Superman, not at Batman. A more traditional cut would’ve been to come in with a wider two-shot so that you can see Wonder Woman and Batman in relation to one another and then she delivers her line.

That is a very tiny, easily forgivable critique that I have. But other people have a bigger critique, which we think is completely unfounded. People still complain about Batman bringing Doomsday back to the city where he causes destruction around the port and the surrounding area, but Batman already explained in the last scene why he wanted to bring him to the port and now Wonder Woman explicitly asks the question right here in the movie. And Batman answers it, he says the port is abandoned, so people are not in danger, and better yet, there’s a weapon here that might kill Doomsday. This should no longer be a point of criticism.

Right as Batman explains to Wonder Woman that there’s a weapon here, we cut back to Lois who is now walking down the stairs to retrieve that exact weapon. She wades into the water and starts looking around for where the spear ended up, and they give us a shot from her point-of-view looking around in the water, then a shot up from the water. And overall, these shots let us know that Lois is on the case but it’s not going to be easy to retrieve the spear. Remember that she disposed of it on purpose to be somewhat hard to reach. Also, if you heard Alessandro in one of our previous episodes talk about the connections between BvS and Excalibur, you’ll remember that Lois is directly linked with the Lady of the Lake who retrieves Excalibur for King Arthur.

We cut back to the battleground as Batman jumps down from the Batwing and Superman lands out of the sky, joining Batman and Wonder Woman. By throwing Doomsday into the storage silos, he has bought them a few moments to form up as the Trinity. Right away Superman asks Batman if he found the spear. This shows that actually all three of them -- Batman, Lois, and Superman -- connected the dots and realized that the Kryptonite spear may be the key to defeating Doomsday. I also like Superman’s look on his face when he delivers the line, because he’s basically saying, like, “You remember the spear you almost killed me with? Do you have it handy now that there’s actually a real threat?” Batman is probably a bit defensive at this, and responds, “I’ve been a little busy.” As with the “Oh sh**” line we talked about in the last episode, this is a funny bit of humor that is funny largely because it is coming from Batman. And it’s delivered during a break in the action, not during the actual fighting itself, so it doesn’t undercut the stakes of the fight. It is also especially funny because Batman thinks he was busy eluding Doomsday in the Batwing, but over that same timeframe, Superman was literally healing from a nuclear explosion that hit him in the face. But you don’t hear Superman complaining about it or trying to engage in one-upsmanship.

And Wonder Woman totally cuts through all of the male ego that permeates the movie. She gets right down to business, stating that Doomsday seems to feed on energy. Superman responds, referencing its Kryptonian origins saying, “This thing is from another world. My world.” This continues the throughline of Superman seeking his world and his place in the world. With this line, Superman is identifying himself as Kryptonian and is a bit disheartened to see yet another monster of Kryptonian heritage -- first General Zod, who threatened to wipe out the entire human race, and now Doomsday, who was based on Kryptonian records and brought to life by Kryptonian technology.

And by the way, at this same time that Superman is referring to Doomsday’s Kryptonian heritage, we see Batman load the final round of Kryptonite gas into his grenade launcher. This is a clear reminder to the audience which will pay off right at the end when Doomsday is killed.

We then get a shot from behind the Trinity where we see their capes and silhouettes as they look out toward the fire, awaiting Doomsday’s return. Batman takes position to Wonder Woman’s left and Superman walks around to her right. So we know their exact positioning in space, setting us up for the epic Trinity shot that is ultimately coming from the front.

But first, we get a close-up on Wonder Woman as she responds to Superman. She’s undeterred, pulling her sword and saying, “I’ve killed things from other worlds before.” This is a great line that not only makes us intrigued about Wonder Woman’s own backstory and what things she has faced in the past, but it also shows how badass she is in this moment, not afraid at all and ready to get down to business. And remember, everyone knows how powerful Superman is and he just said that Doomsday is from the same world as himself, so reading between the lines, Wonder Woman is basically saying that she thinks she could take down Superman, too. She’s not afraid even of things from Krypton. We’ve talked before about how often she showed up Bruce Wayne and Batman, but here she is positioning herself solidly in the front of the Trinity and saying that yeah, she can even take on Kryptonians.

Now again, because we are in the lull before the final climax of action, the filmmakers put in another little moment of levity. Wonder Woman just delivered her BA line, and in reaction, Superman turns to Batman and asks, “Is she with you?” Remember, this is the first time Superman or Clark is directly meeting Diana or Wonder Woman. So he is intrigued by this person who isn’t intimidated by Kryptonians and he is wondering if Batman knows her or is working with her. Batman looks back at Superman, a bit surprised, and says, “I thought she was with you.” It’s a funny exchange that helps to invite the audience to put a smile on our face as we get the big Trinity shot with the camera slowly tracking in. An epicly great shot that doesn’t require any analysis!

But going back to Batman’s line, and his genuine look of surprise when Superman asked about Wonder Woman, some people have suggested that Batman should know Wonder Woman already because he had been communicating with Diana Prince throughout the movie and he saw the photo from World War 1 which shows that Diana is also a warrior of some sort who wears that costume. But this is missing the point of Batman’s line, “I thought she was with you.” The point isn’t supposed to be about Batman not recognizing her at all. That is a misreading of the line to interpret it as, “I have no clue who this woman is.” The better interpretation of this line is that, even knowing Diana Prince was Wonder Woman, Batman had assumed she was a Kryptonian, or at the very least that she and Superman had already known each other. When she showed up and then Superman showed up too just a moment later, Batman had probably been thinking that the two were working together in some capacity. Bruce’s misconception even ties in somewhat with Lex’s plan to use Batman to kill the metahumans. Lex probably invited Diana to his fundraiser and allowed Bruce to see the metahuman files.  By lumping these metahumans in the same category as Superman, they would’ve become the next targets for Batman’s fears.  In this way, Lex might have been using Batman to eliminate all metahumans. But anyway, Batman surely recognized Wonder Woman but the reason he says, “I thought she was with you?” is because he was surprised that Superman didn’t already know her and he was surprised that Superman thought Wonder Woman was with Batman. The hard-core Batman fans might not like it that Batman made even a single faulty deduction, but it’s reasonable that Batman connected Wonder Woman and Superman in his mind. So the line makes sense, and the humor of the moment also helps to further accentuate Wonder Woman’s arrival in the scene.

Trinity Battle

So we get the instant classic Trinity shot with the camera slowly pushing in, and the musical theme comes back in with a bit more reverb on it as Wonder Woman stands confidently in the front, just as she was the most confident and fearsome warrior in the World War 1 photo. Wonder Woman has also been described by Geoff Johns as the best fighter in the Justice League Universe, and she apparently has the most experience with foes of this caliber, so that plus her confidence makes it fitting that she’s at the front.

They stare down Doomsday, who has recovered from the explosions that Superman pushed him into, and now he has enough energy to release another one of his boosh effect blasts. Right after he releases it, we go to a really wide shot looking down at his solar flare, and this is a shot that is similar to what we’ve seen before, but then we cut to a new perspective actually inside the flare. Batman has to hide and duck under a big concrete block but Superman and Wonder Woman are able to stand their ground. Wonder Woman uses her shield this time which makes sense because it’s a full solar flare this time instead of just Doomsday’s heat face, and she had time to ready her shield whereas the first time she just barely had time to land and raise her gauntlets. The energy washes over Superman and Wonder Woman as they slide backward and huge pieces of debris blow past and this view inside the solar flare gives a really cool sense of energy. Then we see the flare expanding outward even farther and it crumbles some of the abandoned buildings. How did Batman survive if Doomsday’s blast is powerful enough to topple buildings? Well, from our view inside we could see that it was basically like a strong wind blowing outward from Doomsday, plus lots of electrical charges firing off like lightning. An abandoned and decaying building with broad vertical walls would take a huge amount of that force and the structural integrity was not enough to withstand it. But Batman was under a thick concrete block that was slanted in a way that the windlike forces would be diverted up and over him. So it’s very plausible that the flare would whip over him while vertical walls that are hit directly would be leveled.

Inside one of those crumbling buildings, we see Lois right where we had left her, wading in the water. The ceiling above her starts to break apart and she dives in the water. We get a great shot looking up at Lois where Amy Adams shows that she’s such a good actor she can even emote and give a compelling reaction when she’s underwater. Then we quickly see two important things --- one, Lois is trapped from above, and two, a pretty big piece of stone or concrete is laying directly on the Kryptonite spear, so there’s no way Lois or any other human is going to be able to recover it at this point.

And speaking of the destruction of these buildings, yes, it is a lot of destruction. But the entire area is abandoned, which is why Batman wanted to bring Doomsday here. And we can also contrast Doomsday with General Zod. Zod was a calculated thinker and wanted to bring death and destruction, so Superman couldn’t avoid all the collateral damage and casualties in Man of Steel. But Doomsday is focused on the Trinity and does not have a larger, purposeful goal of killing all humans. He’s operating more on instinct and so we get Doomsday’s typical path of destruction around him but it’s not like Man of Steel where Zod and Faora were pledging to make it their mission to kill millions of people.

Leaving Lois in danger, we cut back out to the fight and see the great shot from Trailer 2 of Wonder Woman behind her glowing shield. She lowers the shield and with her hair blowing in the wind around her tiara she looks like an epic Wonder Woman, ready for battle. We cut from a one-shot of her to a straight-on shot of Doomsday, and he looks less like a cave troll now and more like the Doomsday from the comics, especially the more recent comics since the New 52 relaunch.

Now, we’ve said several times before that every great movie needs to have some truly amazing and powerful scenes, and they also need some visually compelling and memorable moments. BvS has both of those, and right here we get one of the unique moments with Wonder Woman leaping forward at Doomsday and the camera zooms after her, moving through the fire and wreckage. It’s another awesome battle cry and it’s also a great character moment because we see that she is willing to throw herself directly at a huge, other-worldly monster. It also gives us information about her power set as she doesn’t seem able to fly but she has super-human leaping ability and clearly super-human strength and durability. And even before BvS came out, one of the producers, I think Chuck Roven, confirmed that Wonder Woman was going to have great leaping ability instead of full flight powers. Some Wonder Woman fans may have been disappointed that she doesn’t fly in this incarnation, but I think it was a good choice because it separates her power set from Superman a little bit while still allowing her to move around and be a threat from great distances. I also think that it fits with their more realistic approach to the characters, because Wonder Woman is still an Earth-based superhero and physically it would be hard to explain how she has flight powers without being an extraterrestrial like Superman or Zod. The other reason I am okay with them turning her flight power into leaping ability is that it leaves the door open for some sort of new take on the invisible jet. If she could fly anywhere she wanted, then a jet seems kind of redundant.

So going into the fight. Doomsday leaps straight at Wonder Woman, too, and then Superman charges forward. Again, this is why it’s great to have the music in 7/4 time, thrusting us into the fight. I also like how Wonder Woman and Superman, even without training together, naturally do some combination moves. Wonder Woman slices at Doomsday’s leg, hitting him low, and then Superman comes down from above and hits him up high.

There are lots of great fight moments here, and we can’t cover them all, but it is choreographed really well with one move flowing into the next and them always keeping a good sense of energy and impact. We do want to say two things here, though. First, it’s important to note that Wonder Woman’s sword causes Doomsday’s skin to glow red when she strikes. We think this is the Sword of Athena and given its powers, this is probably the first introduction to magic in the Justice League movie universe. And even though it’s a first for us seeing it, her battle-worn costume and the fact that she seems to have fighting experience and is enjoying it like it is something from her past gives us a sense of history.

The second thing we wanted to point out here is the music. This is one of the spots where Hans Zimmer layered together Superman’s theme over top of Wonder Woman’s drum beat, representing the fact that they were fighting together as a duo.

[Music clip of Man of Steel and then Is She With You? showing Superman’s theme together with Wonder Woman’s.]

After Batman looks on, giving us a human perspective onto this super-powered battle, we see Doomsday blast Wonder Woman back, and then we cut again over to check in on Lois. The music drops down in volume but keeps its intensity and tempo as we see Lois swimming up toward the surface but trapped by some concrete slabs. Now we want to point out that this predicament was not Lois’s fault. She’s not in danger because she was reckless or silly, she’s in danger because she was doing her part to try to recover the spear which will be needed to stop Doomsday. Just like way back in the African incident, she wasn’t in danger because of “O, poor Lois,” she was in danger because she has a dangerous job as a journalist and she was doing her job fearlessly.

Anyway, we do see that she is truly in danger and we get a sense of claustrophobia because the shot is from underwater, so we the audience also feel trapped. Normally, the sense of danger would be undermined because this is a superhero movie and so of course the hero is going to save her. But the first time we’re watching this, the Knightmare vision planted a little seed of doubt in our mind. Superman seemed to have turned evil because Lois was taken from him, and then the Flash said that Lois Lane is the key, so maybe Lois Lane actually could die, and this would be heartbreaking for Superman. And for people who were familiar with the Injustice video game or comic book series, this possibility of losing Lois was also at least in the back of your mind. After all, Superman is busy with Doomsday and if Lois dies, Superman might blame Batman because she was trying to retrieve the weapon that Batman created and it was Batman who lured Doomsday over near where Lois was.

Lois has nothing else to do but start pounding on the concrete, and we cut right to Superman, the person who she is calling out for. Superman flies toward the screen and fires up his heat vision. There’s a brief moment where Superman looks a little bit CGIed to me, but that is immediately swept away by this amazingly epic heat vision showdown where Superman and Doomsday are positioned to use the entirety of the widescreen format. This is a jaw-dropping shot and I love Superman’s body positioning and his cape as he is floating there, locked in the fight. This really seems like an image that would be a full double-page spread in a comic book. And what makes it even better than a comic book is the music, which reaches a crescendo with a full choir and drums turned up to eleven.

Doomsday eventually overpowers Superman which indicates that he is actually stronger than Superman, and it makes sense since Doomsday has the full heat face instead of just heat vision. But what seems like a temporary setback for Superman ends up turning into a lucky event because it clears Superman away from the battle long enough to hear Lois’s pounding. Remember that Lois is still at the last place where Superman left her, and there’s not supposed to be anyone else around them, so this sound is something he could key in on with his super hearing. And just as Lois is going to lose consciousness, Superman flies in and pulls her from the water.

We get another tender moment between them in typical fashion, which is with knowing looks and care but not a lot of words. Without saying anything, Superman knows what she was looking for and admires her fearlessness in trying to do what she can to help. He then dives in himself to retrieve the spear, because he’s the only one strong enough to do so.

Batman grappling

With Superman over in the train station, Doomsday’s attention shifts to Batman. Batman pulls out his grappling gun and grapples to the side just in time, and this move is great to see in live action, like it’s pulled straight out of the comics or the animated series. Doomsday just misses him and then we get the great homage to the famous cover of The Dark Knight Returns. A beautiful frame with the blue lightning that not only connects to Frank Miller’s art but also contrasts well with the orange heat vision that comes in next.

Batman grapples again but this time he couldn’t aim as carefully and he slams against another building and lands on a fire escape platform. He gathers himself and pulls out a lead-lined smoke bomb, probably just like the one he used with Superman. As will happen later with the Kryptonite grenade and the spear, it is good to see all the preparation and technology that he had back in the training montage actually be used productively against Doomsday instead of just in a misguided way against Superman. It shows that there is still a great value in Batman, as long as he is in a healthy mental state.

Now, many people have teased Batman for just running away from Doomsday instead of fighting him like Superman and Wonder Woman, but it makes total sense in this realistic world that a human would run away from a Kryptonian monster, and really we should be giving Batman a lot of credit for even being able to do what he does -- to successfully survive a solar flare and to elude Doomsday and get away in one piece. Furthermore, seeing Batman have to run away and wait for a later opportunity is a big reason why I was okay with Batman winning the earlier fight against Superman. Superman may have lost to Batman, but Superman is the one you need when you’re going up against Doomsday, while Batman has to run and hide. And I think the filmmakers did a great job of giving these really solid action beats to Batman even though he can’t actually go toe-to-toe with Doomsday, and it is a nice connection to the rich history of Batman’s gadgets.

Not only is it realistic, but it is also very important from a story perspective to have Batman looking on during the Doomsday fight and not able to do much (except run away). First of all, like I just talked about, this is an olive branch for the Superman fans who had to see Superman get beaten by Batman. Second, Batman is known for his diligent study and preparation but he did not have any opportunity to learn about this opponent and prepare to face him. So we can see Batman doing a good job improvising and reacting, but it’s a contrast to how long and hard he prepared for the Superman fight. And third, Batman’s character arc comes full circle when he is forced to look on at a fight that is clearly beyond his capabilities. At the Black Zero Event at the start of the movie, he was faced with powers well beyond him and he felt powerless and went into a negative spiral of revenge and feelings of failure. Now he is facing a similar situation but he is in a much healthier place psychologically, having just broken out of his tunnel vision. He watches the fight, avoids Doomsday’s blasts, and waits for his opportunities to contribute. He lured Doomsday to the port where the spear was located, and when the time is right, he will fire the Kryptonite grenade to weaken Doomsday and allow Superman to come in for the kill.

Overall, we see Batman dealing with and adapting within the realm of his powers and abilities, rather than just feeling powerless and angry.

So we end with a shot of Doomsday’s back as he looks around for Batman, and we cut right into a shot of Lois’s back as she looks down in the water for Superman. She pulls him out of the water where he’s been weakened by the Kryptonite, and this is a callback to Miss Teschmacher in the original 1978 Superman. With Lois pulling Superman out a few moments after Superman had pulled Lois out, some people, like Jon Schnepp, criticized this as “double beat” -- and double beat is movie lingo for a beat or an event in a movie that has already happened before in the movie, and usually you’re supposed to avoid them so that everything feels unique and natural rather than like it was being written. But in this case in BvS we think it was very purposeful that they had Superman saving Lois and then Lois saving Superman. It represents the fact that they are in a reciprocal relationship. Just as Superman has saved Lois several times in this movie, she has also been saving him by not only protecting his reputation and discovering the true cause behind the controversies, Lex Luthor, but Lois also saved Superman by showing him love and giving him a grounded connection, which was what he needed to continue forward in the incredibly difficult task of being Superman.

After Lois pulls Superman out of the water, because she knows Kryptonite’s effect on Superman from earlier, she tosses the spear away and asks if he is all right. She also gives him a gentle kiss on the cheek and Superman takes this opportunity to check in on the battle. He sees Doomsday overpowering Wonder Woman who gets knocked away like a rag doll. We see that Wonder Woman is actually enjoying the challenge, which is a cool moment that reveals a bit about the Wonder Woman character -- and I believe that touch about adding the smile as Wonder Woman picks herself was actually Gal Gadot’s idea. Wonder Woman then actually has a good moment with her sword where she blocks Doomsday’s attack and then slices off his arm, but before she can stab him in the face he blasts her away with his heat vision, and the attack just causes another power surge and he regenerates a new bone spike. Seeing Doomsday regenerate Superman realizes the three of them are little match against Doomsday and knows that taking Doomsday by surprise with the Kryptonite spear is their only shot.

End of Episode:

That’s our analysis. In the next episode, we will take on the big moment of Superman’s farewell to Lois and his ultimate sacrifice in taking down Doomsday.

Remember that we want to hear from you as we prepare our Batman v Superman anniversary episode. Please record a 1 to 2 minute audio clip about why you personally love BvS and send it to ottensam AT att DOT net. Or if you don’t want to go the audio route, you can also write up your thoughts and just send them by email to ottensam AT att DOT net and we will read them in the episode. We are asking for your contributions by March 15th.

And as always, thanks so much for listening, and thanks to the podcasts that inspired us, Man of Steel Answers and the Suicide Squadcast. You can follow us on twitter @JLUPodcast and, if you are looking for a way to get your Man of Steel fix, because we’ve mostly been focusing on BvS, you can check out another podcast, the DC Cinematic Minute because they are currently making their way through Man of Steel and talking about it minute by minute. Alessandro or myself might actually be doing a guest spot on their show soon, but you can already check them out if you’re interested.

Thanks again for listening.

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