- Corrections and Omissions for last episode
- Bruce and Diana honoring Superman
- "Men are still good"
- Forming the Justice League
- Bruce's indicators of redemption
- Diana's history and building anticipation for Wonder Woman
- Bruce's opening narration and closing narration
- Lex Luthor in Belle Reve
- Wizard of Oz-pokolips
- Two perspectives on Lex's mental state
- Bruce's clear path forward
Was it a good call to show Superman's soil rising?
Man of Steel Answers, Suicide Squadcast
@JLU Podcast on Twitter
But anyway, this episode is going to finish up the theatrical cut of the film. We will cover the graveside scenes in Smallville and the confrontation between Batman and Lex Luthor. We will also talk about the final shot and whether it was the right move for the filmmakers to tip their hand that Superman would be rising from the dead.
Before getting into those final scenes, however, we want to revisit a few things from the last episode. First of all, I need to correct an error and just take full blame for it. For Scene 74, I mistakenly described the Superman funeral as being in Metropolis rather than the correct location of Washington DC, and specifically, the bridge leading up to Arlington national cemetery. The mistake came from a weird sequence of events in the middle of the night when I was getting ready to record. Ahead of time, Alessandro and I had written it correctly as being in Washington DC, but then I think I was influenced by rereading the Funeral for a Friend comic book that day, which has the funeral procession take place in Metropolis, I believe, and I had also rewatched the theatrical cut of BvS, not the extended cut, and I noticed that they never gave a definitive establishing shot with the DC skyline or the rows and rows of white tombstones. I see now that there is one quick shot where you can just make out some blurry white tombstones in the back, but obviously it’s easy to miss. So anyway, in the middle of the night when I do my recording, I doubted myself for a bit and thought maybe it was like a fictional analog to Arlington that is set in Metropolis. And I even checked to make sure that military funerals like Superman’s can happen in other cities, which they can. So in the middle of the night, I erroneously switched over to Metropolis -- though I did say in that episode that Larry Fong based on the funeral on JFK’s, which is true and was at Arlington, and I did say in the last episode that I wasn’t sure about the location. But now I am sure that it is actually meant to be Washington DC and the real Arlington cemetery for Superman’s funeral, so I apologize for the mistake, and I hope that you just knew better than to listen to me on those parts anyway.
The other quick things we wanted to mention from last episode are that Lois Lane actually did write the cover story about the Death of Superman, even though she didn’t write the interior stories, so that is a big thing for Lois and it connects to the comics. Thanks to eagle-eyed Rebecca Johnson for catching that one.
We forgot to point out a connection between Lex getting his head shaved and the TV show Smallville. As our listener Matthew Rocca pointed out, Smallville featured an episode where Lionel Luthor had his long flowing hair shaved off when he got incarcerated at the end of Season 3. So that’s a nice link for Smallville fans. And finally, we didn’t really do justice to Perry White’s moment in the last episode. Trent Osborne helped us stop to think about how his moment with the newspaper resolved his mini-character arc. Perry had mocked Clark and his old-fashioned values throughout the movie, but here in the end, Perry shows some profound respect and admiration for Clark and we can imagine him now being inspired by Clark and by Superman to rededicate himself to journalism that matters. Just as Superman's death redeems Batman and the world, Clark's death redeems Perry and the daily planet. It adds further meaning to both Superman and Clark Kent dying.
Alright, let’s get into what we are calling Scene 75, which is everything that takes place in the Smallville cemetery around Clark’s grave. We just cut away from the Superman funeral in Arlington and now we come back to a wide shot where we see the aftermath of Clark’s funeral procession. The horsedrawn wagon is just pulling away and they’ve already lowered the casket into the grave. Lois is now the only one left standing there, so the other friends and Smallville residents have already left, and it makes sense that Martha would go with them while Lois stays behind because she doesn’t have any real connections to the Smallville community other than having interviewed a few of them a couple years ago.
In the background of the shot, we see Bruce Wayne, who seems to have stayed back as an observer but not a participant in the ceremony, even though we find out in the extended cut that he financed it anonymously. We also see Diana walking up toward Bruce. They showed this scene with two complementary perspectives -- first with Lois in the foreground and Bruce and Diana in the background, and then with Bruce in the foreground and Lois in the background. Throughout these first few shots they maintain focus on one character and the background and secondary characters are slightly out of focus. I think this gives it a mood that fits with the grieving feel of the scene and also draws our attention to the character in focus, helping us to block out the rest and fixate on their emotions. That focal length is also used to great effect at the very end when Lois holds out her hand and the engagement ring is in focus but her face is blurred. It really brings poignancy to that shot. And then on the final shot of the whole movie, only the middle of the pile of dirt is in focus, while the nearside and the far side of the coffin are out of focus. It draws our attention and our anticipation of the soil rising.
But back to the beginning of the scene, Lois grabs some soil as Diana arrives next to Bruce. It’s significant that Diana and Bruce are at the Smallville funeral for Clark, rather than the Washington funeral for Superman that would’ve been a much closer trip for them to make and would’ve been a more popular place for a social figure like Bruce Wayne. In the end, however, they recognized who Clark truly was and that his heart was pure. Thus their condolences are for the real person, amidst the others who knew and loved him, not with the masses who were mourning the public symbol.
Bruce remarks on those masses and the public display in Washington. “All the circuses back east are burying an empty box.” So Bruce and Diana know that the Superman coffin is empty but this implies that the general public thinks Superman is there in Arlington. This is both similar to and different than the Death of Superman storyline in the comics. Back in that story, Lois eventually opens Superman’s coffin inside the monument and discovers it’s empty, but in that case it was because the Eradicator took his body to regenerate it. In the movie, it’s empty just because some powers that be, most likely involving Bruce, Lois, and Diana and possibly Swanwick wanted to honor him and his final resting place.
Bruce using the word “circuses” makes us think of a couple things. First of all, circuses are associated with clowns and Batman not only has a dark history with clowns, such as losing Robin, but he also referred specifically to Superman as being dressed like a clown earlier in the movie. Now he respects Superman but his ire has shifted from Superman to those who are honoring him inadequately or inappropriately. Bruce may also just have a bit of a complex with regard to funerals because he’s had experiences with them from a very early age, and so maybe he’s quick to deride them like he is doing with the funeral activities back in Washington.
The circuses line also calls back to the media circuses and the public outcry and prejudice that has been shown throughout the film. The funeral for Superman is now just one more media and public circus. And again, you could say that they are just all jumping onto the next bandwagon, again without knowing the full story, like the media and the public have been doing all along. I think this final media circus is given a different perspective, however, in a few moments when we actually get to go through the crowd and see that this time it’s different than the protests and the clickbait headlines. This time, with the sacrifice and death of Superman, we see real people with genuine emotional reactions to Superman’s death and his inspirational actions. So more on that when we get to it.
But right now, Bruce calls it a circus and then Diana is more forgiving and understanding. She says basically that they don’t know any better, so don’t hold it against them. “They don’t know how to honor him, except as a soldier.” This also makes us wonder how much experience Diana has with soldiers and maybe honoring fallen soldiers. We saw the photo of her with soldiers in World War 1, so her line starts to build a little bit of intrigue about whether there will be some friends of hers who perish in the Wonder Woman solo film. And it might also be that she knows there is no perfect way to honor a soldier or a warrior, with the Amazonians being a warrior culture, but you can’t blame people for trying to honor the fallen in the best way people know how.
Our listener, Casper Richter from YouTube, had a few thoughts to share on this line from Diana: Casper wrote, “Clark saved her and the world from the monster and was much more than just a warrior. He loved a human woman, loved his human adoptive mother and was also visited at his funeral of Lana Lang, who proved his respect, tenderness, understanding and love for people, especially women. (Something the amazon thought men could not do.) He was betrayed by the people, Batman, Lex and the world, but also chose his mother's life rather than his own in the fight against Batman. ... Superman never called himself a god, but tried to help the world. His example speaks against most god’s lifestyle - and the amazons and Atlanteans -- because they did not meet with the people and they did not try to help most of the world. … Diana realizes that she has lost Clark and therefore the man who could have been a true friend to her. … I think even Queen Hippolyta would be proud of Clark, and see him as more than just a man or a warrior. Maybe even as a warrior brother, or worthy 'son' of their community who do not usually trust men. Maybe Superman even gave the Amazon and Atlantic people more faith in people because he is the most powerful of both races, but only wanted to be human. I wish there could be a scene between Clark and Hippolyta one day. Because Clark can offer hope, not only for humans but also for the Amazon.” So thanks, Casper, for those thoughts on Diana and Clark.
After Diana talks about how the people are trying to honor Superman, Bruce opens up about his own decision to honor him. “I’ve failed him in life. I won’t fail him in death.” This is how he’ll honor Superman’s memory. And if we think about how emotionally guarded Bruce tends to be, this is really a big step for him to admit his failure during Superman’s life. That admission is the first of many indications in this scene that Bruce has made a profound character change. The failure in life we take to mean specifically that Batman made efforts for months to try to kill Superman, rather than dealing with actual threats or being more productive with his time and energy. But the failure is also more generally that Bruce did not uphold the ideal that Superman attempted to inspire. Instead, Batman had been propagating moreso the ideals and goals of Lex Luthor. But now that Superman has died, Bruce intends to follow through on the promise of doing good and protecting his brother (as in the brotherhood of man). Ironically, he still intends to seek out the other metahumans as Lex had hoped he would, but now he will be recruiting their aid rather than trying to kill them, and now he is willing to ask Diana for help rather than trying to shoulder all the burdens himself.
And thinking back through our past analysis, recall that we talked a lot about how Bruce was struggling to deal with his powerlessness, his sense of failure. Well, now we see that Bruce is still dealing with a little bit of a sense of failure (“I failed him in life”) but he is now dealing with it and accepting it in a much more healthy way. The bigger point is not to totally avoid failure, because that’s impossible, and it’s not to ignore your failure, because that’s self-delusion. The point is to recognize failures and then deal with them productively. And that’s what Bruce is going to start doing now.
Bruce says, “Help me find the others like you.” So this connects back to the Justice League files that both he and Diana shared. Diana responds, “Perhaps they don’t want to be found.” This is a reasonable thought given the fact that they haven’t come out of hiding up to this point. And seeing the way the world had ostracized Superman, they may have been wise to avoid the attention. Diana herself did not want to involve herself in the world of Man again, trying to keep her existence a secret by figuring out who had possession of her photo. But things have now changed -- Doomsday showed the possibility of new threats, and that’s what pulled Wonder Woman back into the mix. Plus, of course, Superman’s death serves as an inspiration that cuts through the controversy that had surrounded him before now. He has carved forward a path for other meta-humans to take up a public role in the world.
The other thing that has changed is something that Bruce knows about and others will soon find out about --- that with Superman gone, the Earth is vulnerable to new threats. We’ll get more on that in a minute with Lex’s scene, but Bruce knows that it is now likely that the meta-humans will want to be found, and they will have to fight. Bruce then says, “We have to stand together.” This is another clear indication of a shift for Bruce from the earlier parts of the movie because he had been working entirely alone, not even letting Alfred in on his true intentions until he had to, but now Bruce is willing to work together, and he is placing Batman together with the outsiders rather than being cynical of them. He had been standing in opposition to Superman and now he wants to stand together. It’s a great and simple and meaningful line.
So we’re getting more indications of Bruce’s character arc resolution, and there are still more to come before the end of the movie. He’s also setting up the first pieces of his next mission, to recruit and lead what will become the Justice League. And when Batman puts his mind to something, saying that he won’t fail in this, you can basically bet money on it. That’s part of the character of Batman, and we actually saw that determination on full display here in BvS, it’s just that his determination was pointed in a harmful direction. In Justice League, we’ll get to see that same dedication and perseverance focused in a more production direction, for example, trying to convince a pretty tough Arthur Curry that he should join up.
And this exchange also shows one aspect of why it was smart to kill of Superman here. We talked in the Death of Superman episode that it made sense for Superman’s arc, even if people didn’t expect it based on preconceived notions of how the death is supposed to work and when it is supposed to happen. But here we see that it also makes sense as a simultaneous inspiration for the league’s formation and a power vacuum that provides the necessity for the league.
So Superman’s death in some ways is different from the comics, but it makes sense for what they are doing with the DCEU. And there are also connections, of course, between the death in BvS and the death in the comics. With respect to Batman, Superman’s death inspires him here, but it also inspired him in the comics. In Justice League America #70, Dan Jurgens wrote the following dialogue for Batman as he mourned Superman’s death: “Superman knew the odds and knew the game might end this way. When someone close to you dies, all you can do is use that death as a force for good. Superman deserves that.” So he’s clearly talking about not only the death of his parents, inspiring him to do good as Batman, but also the death of Superman, inspiring him to rededicate himself and take up the reins that Superman has left.
Back to BvS, Bruce says that they will need to stand together. Diana turns her head away from him and pauses before she shares the bit about her personal history. During that pause, she might be thinking about whether this is the right time or the right person to whom she should share a bit of her secret. But he has already learned about her, having seen the photograph, and I think she also decides that maybe by sharing her experiences she can connect with and ultimately help Bruce deal with what he’s dealing with.
Diana then has this great line that immediately got me intrigued about her solo movie, and my excitement has only grown in the meantime. “100 years ago I walked away from mankind. From a century of horrors. Man made a world where standing together is impossible.” I love how Bruce looks away right at the word “horrors,” because it’s hard for him to hear it, especially because he had been part of some of those horrors, but it is the hard truth. And Diana’s line about man making a world where it’s impossible to stand together applies to both mankind and to the metahumans; she’s still skeptical about the metahumans standing together in the light --- not necessarily because of the metahumans, but perhaps because of the way that humanity would respond to them or treat them. So we love how this line plants seeds for both Wonder Woman and Justice League, and we’ll be able to follow up on these things in just a matter of months. We already know what the century of horrors refers to, which is our own troubled history from World War 1 to World War 2 to the Cold War, famines, ethnic cleansings, and the racism and oppression and terrorism that is still ongoing. We know all that , but we will soon be able to see why exactly she walked away from mankind 100 years ago.
Bruce then goes into a closing narration that is the complement to the opening narration about things falling and his beautiful lie. Here he hits a much more optimistic note, “Men are still good.” This is his counterclaim to Diana’s skepticism. Bruce acknowledges the flaws and the ugliness, because he’s seen it up close and even seen it in himself. “We fight. We kill. We betray one another.” Lex did these things multiple times but Bruce himself also did them, betraying Superman and, yes, even killing. But now he articulates his newfound hope. “But we can rebuild. We can do better. We will. We have to.” Batman has been fully redeemed. He has become a messenger for good. This redemption is very clear when you compare the opening narration to this closing narration. At the beginning, he had talked about diamond absolutes, but now he is talking about doing better, which implies that change is possible and it can be change for the better. And he himself has lived through a change, so he’s lived it -- it’s not just words. At the beginning he said that things fall and what falls is fallen. That is, it’s irredeemable. But now he says, “We can rebuild.” In other words, things don’t have to stay fallen, they can be picked back up. Again, these are not just words, this was his personal character arc. And so metaphorically his redemption is his return to the light, so the beautiful lie at the end of the opening scene is no longer a lie. At the beginning of the movie, he was visually rising up to the light but in looking back on it, he thought that his efforts and his time as Batman were worthless and its value was just a lie he had told himself. But now he has actually found the real light and a real purpose for his career as Batman going forward. He has made his way through the cynicism of his opening narration and survived, coming out the other side.
And of course Superman and his selfless sacrifice played a big role in that redemption. Thus we have the pairing of the Metropolis memorial along with Bruce’s narration. We have a wide shot soaring in over heroes park in Metropolis and we see a big crowd gathered with candles. So it’s not only Bruce who has been inspired to do better, but the public as well, who are now unified in their mourning of Superman, a potent contrast to the protest scenes from earlier in the movie. Instead of the anti-alien signs and the loud anger of the crowds, we now have people quietly holding flames, little beacons of light, and showing genuine emotion and sympathy for Superman.
Our listener @slerer3 also wrote about this contrast between the crowds from the Senate hearing to those at the Superman memorial, where they fully recognize him for the hero he was. We’ll put a link to his review in the show notes. (https://slerer3film.wordpress.com/2016/09/17/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-review-analysis/)
This notion of Superman’s inspiration spreading throughout the people is reinforced by the new monument. As David pointed out on our Podomatic site, the change in the public response to Superman was also represented in the official monuments themselves. Instead of “False God” graffiti, we have the phrase borrowed from the architect Christopher Wren. “If you seek his monument look around you.” This is a very fitting because he wasn’t a god and wasn’t trying to be a god. It’s about all the people who are inspired by Superman, they are the ones with the real power to change the world. And it’s not that they all hated Superman before, it’s that they were divided before and now they are unified.
The physical monument is no longer standing. But for those who wish to see the monument, merely look at the world that exists because of Superman’s heroism. And look at the people around you who are inspired by him. There is no need for a statue to remind us to do good. It is within all of us to do good. That’s why the filmmakers made a change from the comics. In the comics, there is a big statue of Superman erected in Metropolis after he dies. But in the movie universe, the statue of Superman was erected before he dies, representing kind of the misplaced adoration. That statue is defaced and then destroyed. But it makes way for the true monument, the people who take up the cause of Superman -- selflessness, quiet strength, and instinct and courage to help others.
If you think about this message together with Bruce’s redemptive words, it’s hard for me to believe that people still don’t see the hope and optimism in this movie. Yes, it goes through dark moments and lots of conflict, but it’s for a reason -- it’s to make this ending that much more meaningful, and to set up Justice League as a film that can continue the momentum established here at the end of BvS.
Hcourageous on tumblr feels the same way as us -- that the hope in BvS is really clear in the end. She says that this final narration from Bruce is some of the most inspiring stuff in movie history. She also writes about how we actually need hope like this in today’s world, with refugees who have nowhere to turn, protests around the world, and people living in fear. But men are still good. We can rebuild. We can do better. That’s hopeful. Hcourageous goes on to say that hope is hard and painful and sometimes it takes grim determination. it’s the will to believe at your lowest. And it’s hard. That’s what Batman v Superman seeks to show us. Clark brings back hope and dies a hero because goodness will always require sacrifice. Justice has a cost. That’s the way of the world. But it’s still worth it. That’s hope.
On the technical side of things, I also just want to mention that I like the camera motion here in Metropolis. It’s very smooth and there’s a continuous push toward the monument itself, first with the helicopter shot moving in and then by pulling back through the crowd, moving toward the object of their attention. And then the smooth motions ends with the camera pushing in on the S-shield, and the way it’s framed we actually see all the flowers around it first, and then we see the shield and finally the message written underneath. A very effective moment visually. And the music is great, as usual. They bring in the orchestral version of the Clark Kent theme, with the perfect fifth and perfect fourth intervals. It’s the same notes as the ones played on the piano earlier during the Smallville funeral, but now it has a richness in tone and instrumentation fitting for this outpouring of support.
Before we move on from the monument, we can point out another difference from the comics and that is the phrase that accompanies Superman’s memorial. In the comics back in 1992 and 1993, they had a similar S-shield memorial but it was accompanied by a different phrase. It said “Here lies Earth’s greatest hero.” I personally like the BvS version better because it casts the meaning out amongst all of us, rather than just making it about Superman himself.
And now, before we move on from Scene 75 altogether, we want to share a few thoughts from other people. @charlesonthemov says that he drew connections across three important lines in the the movie. First, there’s Bruce’s questions, “How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?” Then there is Superman’s answer in the middle of the movie, when Lex is still winning. Superman says, “No one stays good in this world.” This is a low point and a point of pessimism because it seems that the world corrupts everyone. But then, after the resolution of the film and Superman’s inspirational sacrifice, we get the revised answer to Bruce’s question. Bruce answers it himself and says, “Men are still good.” So @charlesonthemov pointed out that this line encapsulates both Bruce and Clark’s arcs.
Mark Hughes, the writer for Forbes.com, brought up a similar idea when he wrote about BvS making the point that either the cynical world will change you or you will change the cynical world. The end of the movie supplies a clear answer to this -- Superman has changed the cynical world into one with more hope. Bruce and Diana personify this but it really is the world at large that is affected.
Oh, and I guess Alessandro and I actually have a few more thoughts ourselves, too. The line, “Men are still good,” also shows a reversal of the taunts that Batman used against Superman during their fight. Back then, Batman told Superman that he was not a man, and that only men are brave. But now, having seen Superman’s ultimate sacrifice, Bruce recognizes that it took great courage for Superman to do that. Superman was brave. And Bruce also now fully recognizes Superman’s humanity. His connections to Martha and Lois, and his mortality. So this is high praise for Bruce to refer to Superman as a man, and it shows that Bruce’s eyes are now open wide.
The line is also important for Wonder Woman. She is from a female civilization that sees a lot of the evils of men. Diana called the last Century a century of horrors, referring primarily to the world of men. But Bruce is telling Wonder Woman that men are still good. Superman has become the beacon of hope that he was set up to become in Man of Steel, and it’s not just that Superman set a good example, it’s that Superman loves humanity and has fought to save it twice now. The fact that Superman sees the good in humanity enough to die for it, Bruce is pointing out to Wonder Woman that she should believe in the value of mankind, as well.
Okay, now we can push into the final scene, Lex in Belle Reve, before we return to the cemetery for the final images of the movie. To set up Lex’s Scene 76, we have Bruce and Diana, who had been facing Clark’s grave while they were talking about Superman and the state of the world, but then Diana turns and squares up to Bruce. Now they’re ready to talk about their future and the formation of the Justice League.
“The others like me. Why did you say they’ll have to fight?” Diana is very perceptive and this is a question that we’re all probably curious about. Bruce pauses, and then coyly says, “Just a feeling.” Of course, it’s more than just a feeling, and we’re about to see why. The Knightmare scene and the warning from the Flash may still be lingering on his mind, because that’s a hard thing to forget, even with Superman out of the picture, but the more direct evidence Bruce has about what’s coming is from Lex. This takes us to the flashback of Batman and Lex in the prison cell.
I think it’s great that the filmmakers included a scene with Batman and Lex here, because Batman is known to be the world’s greatest detective, so he had to have closure by coming face to face with the man who had played him. Normally, someone wouldn’t be able to manipulate and pull one over on Batman, but it did happen in this story, though only because Bruce was in a damaged mental state.
And by the way, we have not analyzed the “Communion” scene in detail, but it does show that Lex was using the scout ship to learn about and communicate with other worlds, very similar to how Lex in Superman: Birthright tried to communicate with other worlds while Superman was fending off his fake Kryptonian assault.
But getting into this scene, we see Lex at the end of a hallway in Belle Reve, in his own cell. He has the prisoner number 16-TK421, which is reference to Star Wars, the stormtrooper TK421 from A New Hope who had Han and Luke in custody. Taking this plus the playful images sent between Snyder and JJ Abrams, it’s pretty clear that Snyder is a Star Wars fan. Now later, in the Ultimate Edition, Lex’s number was changed to AC23-1940, a reference to Action Comics #23, which was released in 1940 and featured the first appearance of Lex.
There are two prison guards and one tells Lex to move to the back of the cell and face the wall. Like with the haircut scene, it’s great to see Lex in forced compliance because you just know it is eating him up inside. The lights start to flicker and we get several quick cuts, so the filmmakers are editing in a flickering way just like the lights. And all of a sudden the guards are gone and the Batman is there in the cell with Lex. The lights have shifted to red, as if they’re on the emergency electric system or something like that, and all of it works together visually to give us a classic Batman silhouette, which is a hallmark of the character. He has great moments like this all the time in the comic books, and here in BvS it really shows off the great batsuit they designed for this movie.
A natural question is what happened to the prison guards and how did Batman get in? Well, the prison guards were probably willingly working with Batman because Lex is the most hated man in the country at the moment, or maybe they were just paid off. Either way, Batman uses them to make a patented dramatic entrance and to get the access to Lex that he wants.
After Lex turns around and shows some surprise and fear at being in a cell alone with Batman, Batman steps forward and makes his threat. “Whatever you do, wherever you go, I will be watching you.” This line is basically a blend of lyrics from Richard Marx and The Police, but when Batman says it, it’s sounds awesome and intimidating. And he’s talking to a guy who will presumably be in prison for a long time, but he’s referring to him doing things and going places, so it’s not only a general threat from Batman but it also shows that Batman is suspicious Lex may try to operate from within prison or he may somehow get out of prison, either because of a legal defense paid for from his millions of dollars or by some sort of escape. Obviously, the prison won’t hold Batman out and he wants to make it clear that whether Lex stays in there or someone escapes, Batman will be on him.
The approach shot is framed and blocked exactly like the shot in the warehouse fight when Batman comes up to the guy who stabbed him. So we are subconsciously reminded of Batman’s violence back then and it makes us think that he may do something similar to Lex. Then he pulls out his red hot bat brand, so we have a connection all the way back to Scene 7 with Batman’s first appearance in the movie.
By this time, however, Lex has recollected his composure and tries to regain the upper hand in the confrontation. He smirks and says, “But the bell’s already been rung. And they’ve heard it.” This is Batman’s first clue that there is a bigger threat coming. He was certainly already curious about what else Lex managed to do in the scout ship, and now Lex is claiming to have communicated with some unknown enemy. Lex continues, “Out in the dark. Among the stars.” This indicates that the threat is coming from space, so Batman is probably wondering whether it is more Kryptonians or some other type alien. This reference to space is a great echo of a line from Man of Steel. In Man of Steel, Jor-El is holding his infant son, just born, and says, “Out there among the stars, he will live.” Now, after Superman has just died, Lex says, “Out in the dark, among the stars, the god is dead.” Just one of the many, many ways that Man of Steel and Batman v Superman form, in my opinion, the most cohesive pair of movies ever made. And I’m hoping they are the first two films in a great trilogy.
But anyway, the keen listeners will notice that Lex’s line wasn’t just, among the stars, the god is dead. He said, “Ding, dong, the god is dead.” This is yet another Wizard of Oz reference. It’s a rephrasing of the line, ding dong the witch is dead, but in this case, it’s a son of a witch, according to Lex. The earlier references to Oz had been mentioning emerald city when he was talking about the kryptonite, and Perry had talked about Clark clicking his heels together and going back to Kansas.
Batman is none too happy with Lex’s continued arrogance and threats, and Batman winds up and punches forward with the brand. But in the next shot we see that he didn’t actually hit or brand Lex, he branded the wall over his shoulder. So this gives us even one more indication of Batman having pulled himself out of his vengeful spiral. It is ironic, however, that earlier in the movie, Bruce’s rationalization to himself was that Superman was a threat to the world, but now it’s actually the absence of Superman that becomes a threat to the world.
Batman makes a patented exit, where he just disappears while Lex is looking away. The lights turn back on and the cell doors close and Lex yells into the empty hallway, continuing with his bell metaphor and he now identifies the alien threat more specifically. He says the bell cannot be unrung, then he says, “He’s hungry. He’s found us, and he’s coming.” So having seen parademons earlier and also Steppenwolf in the extended cut, we can definitely interpret this to be someone from Apokolips, a hellish planet from the Fourth World in DC Comics, known for its big fire pits like the ones in the Knightmare scene. The big man on Apokolips is of course Darkseid, who was created years before Thanos in the Marvel universe. But Lex might also be referring to Steppenwolf, Darkseid’s uncle and military leader who Lex talked to and who will be the antagonist in the Justice League film. Either way, it’s not good for Earth.
Lex presses his face against the bars and we can see his clammy hands in the harsh lighting. Not a pretty look for him. Now, Alessandro and I have some different interpretations of Lex’s mindset here. To Alessandro, he sees Lex as being genuinely afraid of the forthcoming threat from Apokolips and he is acting crazy for the benefit of his insanity plea. In the extended cut, Batman specifically references Lex’s mental state and says that he can use it to get him transferred to Arkham Asylum, which we can all agree freaks Lex out. And by the way, that extended cut scene also has the great wordplay by Lex, slipping in “Wayne Manor” when he says that civilization is on the wane, manners out the window.
But overall, Alessandro sees Lex as concerned for humanity and wishing that mankind had stood together against meta-humans and against alien threats. I see it a bit differently. I interpret Lex here as being a mixture of defiant and legitimately crazed, not play-acting for the guards. I think he has lost it a bit because he never actually came to terms with his feelings of powerlessness and he doesn’t know how to lose, so his mental state actually breaks down in the face of Superman’s martyrdom that reversed Lex’s ultimate goal. I also see Lex as actually kind of thrilled that the aliens from Apokolips are coming, like he’s yelling after Batman and everyone else, “You’ll see. Just wait and you’ll see.” This aligns with the notion that Lex created Doomsday and also summoned Apokolips because they represent evil versions of power, the antithesis to Superman or any other benevolent version of god.
So it’s kind of cool here that whichever version of Lex you trace in this movie, it is possible to see this scene in a way that makes sense.
Another thing that Alessandro thought about in this scene is that we can infer some sort of desire on Lex’s part to survive. Given that Lex has been deemed too mentally unstable to stand trial and that happened in such a short time (the time it takes to arrange a funeral), it had to have been his idea to have a competency evaluation, meaning he planned to be deemed insane to avoid the death penalty or risk being killed in prison. And then if you consider the rumors that Lex breaks out of Arkham in Justice League, you have to wonder why he would have allowed himself to be caught in the first place. Alessandro’s answer is that he didn’t allow himself, he just didn’t think he would get caught. He is a cocky individual, after all. Another answer, though, is that he was caught because he didn’t really care any more. He had no more plans to execute after creating Doomsday and contacting Steppenwolf. If it does turn out to be the case that he escapes Arkham in Justice League, then that might mean he has found something new to care about or a new plan to enact. We’ll have to wait and see.
So the camera pulls away and Lex continues on, “ding ding ding ding ding.” A very memorable final shot for this movie’s villain. And his voice is almost disturbingly musical and fits well with the arpeggiating strings playing the Luthor theme. The dings also sound a lot like ping, ping, ping which is the sound that motherboxes make in the comic books. Motherboxes are advanced technology from Apokolips, and we saw one earlier in the movie with the creation of Cyborg. So this dinging pinging is not only a deranged play on the ding dong line from the Wizard of Oz but also a link forward to Justice League.
After Belle Reve, we cut to the painting in Lex’s mansion of the angels and demons, but now it has been turned upside down (or rather, right-side up in Lex’s eyes). It shows that demons come from the sky, and that may be in fact what we see withe parademons and other arrivals from Apokolips. And by the way, the FBI investigating his residence was exactly what was explained in the Lex Luthor Daily Planet article from last episode.
While we’re back here in Lex’s father’s study, we wanted to mention that Ashraf Al-Anam Alvi thought it was brilliant to bring in an East German history for Lex Luthor in this movie. The name Luthor was already implicitly German in origin, so Ashraf figured Siegel and Shuster, who were Jewish, may have been thinking of a German villain when they created the character back in 1940. So Luthor has a German connection, created in a time when the Nazis were in power, and Superman had Jewish connections as a sort of Moses character and with the name Kal-El, with El a Hebrew suffix meaning God. So Superman was positioned as a sort of messiah figure and someone who could stand up to the oppressive Germans.
We cut out of this scene on a camera flash and see Bruce Wayne walking away from camera.
@_TOYPAJ_ on twitter passed along an observation from someone else about Bruce walking through fields. Earlier in the movie, we see him several times walking through fields where the tall grass is in his way and he has to step through it (e.g., going to Mausoleum, and going to Wayne Manor before the Batman-Superman fight). But now at the end of the movie, he is redeemed and has a new purpose, and this is represented visually by him walking through a clear, defined path in the field. He has his path forward, as was clear in his conversation with Diana. Imperious Lex interpreted this shot similarly. He viewed it as Bruce literally leaving behind the cemetery, and walking toward the light.
Then we cut back to Lois, still quietly at the gravesite. She has the soil that we saw her grab earlier in the scene. She holds out the soil and we see the engagement ring. This carries lots of meaning and reminders about their relationship, but as has consistently been the case between her and Clark, there is no need for a big monologue where she describes exactly how she felt about him or what he meant to her. It is all unspoken and yet still very profound between them.
She drops the soil. And this might be another Jewish connection, linking up with the heritage of Siegel and Shuster. Throwing dirt onto the coffin is a Jewish funeral tradition. It also perfectly sets up the scene of dirt rising from the coffin.
The quiet piano notes return and we get a wide shot as Lois walks away. The sky is cloudy and there seems to be an autumn chill in the air, which is fitting. Then we cut back inside the grave and the camera pushes in slightly, with a narrow band of focus right on the soil. Then there are a few seconds of a pause before the music starts to swell and we see a few pieces of dirt rise off the coffin just as it cuts to black. It’s a great moment and it made me think right away of the dust and pebbles that rise up around Superman’s fist when he’s preparing to fly.
As we said in a previous episode, Snyder has confirmed that, yes, Superman is dead, but he can rise again because his cells don’t degenerate like human’s. This moment with the soil, we think was really brilliant to include. Snyder and company are treating the audience with respect rather than thinking they can trick us into believing Superman will remain dead. There was no way to hide Superman’s involvement in Justice League, so it’s better to just embrace right away the idea that he will have a rebirth. Instead of banking on the surprise of Superman’s return, they can build excitement over the question of how he will return. And the fact that he can regenerate does NOT take away from Superman’s sacrifice. Superman did not know that he would survive his final blow with Doomsday. Superman sacrificed himself, knowing full well that it could be his death, even if it turns out to not be his permanent death.
Some people have said they can hear a subtle heartbeat right when the soil rises up. I can’t hear it for sure, but I really like the idea of there being a heartbeat because this would be a clear tribute to The Dark Knight Returns. In that book it was Bruce in the grave and Clark hears his heartbeat, thus realizing that Bruce wasn’t really dead. Here, they’ve reversed the roles and it is Clark who is not going to stay dead in the grave. You just can’t keep a good hero down.
So that is our analysis of Scenes 75 and 76 and the end of our scene-by-scene analysis of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In our opinion, it’s a great movie that we both love immensely. It has taken us this long to try to document why we love it so much and to appreciate all the creative and artistic efforts that went into it. But we’re actually not done yet. We have a special surprise episode coming out very soon, and we also have the big anniversary episode that we will release on March 25th. That one will feature lots of other people’s voices, too, and it will be a big lovefest in honor of this masterpiece of a movie.
So look for a couple more episodes from us in the very near future. And also, looking ahead to next week and the week after, you can hear Alessandro and I as guests on the DCEU Cinematic Minute podcast. We will be joining Mark and Nate to talk about Man of Steel, so look for the DCEU Cinematic minute on your podcast catcher and on twitter @DCEUMinute. dceuminute.toooldmedia.com
Thanks for listening, and if you’ve been with us all the way from Scene 1 of BvS, a special thank you for your consistent support. As always, I want to thank the inspirations for this podcast -- Man of Steel Answers and the Suicide Squadcast. What a great time to be a DC fan!