Monday, December 17, 2018

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Justice League Scene 17

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Scene 17 (Diana and Vic chatting on the batcomputer) of Justice League.

  • Diana tries to "dig up" Victor Stone
  • Intersections in the Justice Leaguers stories
  • STAR Labs footage of Silas and Victor Stone, comparison to BvS
  • Victor's text and images on the batcomputer
  • "Are you Victor Stone?"
  • Diana and Alfred
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Contributors: @ottensam @raveryn @derbykid @JLUPodN @wondersyd

Bonus Content and forthcoming Man of Steel analysis:

<Transcript below>
Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. This podcast focuses on detailed analysis of the Warner Brothers films that involve the DC Justice League characters, and the cinematic universe that is commonly referred to as the DCEU. The analysis here was written by myself with Alessandro Maniscalco, Rebecca Johnson, Nick Begovich, and Sydney. You can find us individually on Twitter and you can follow the show @JLUPodcast.

In this short episode, I’m going to cover Scene 17 of Justice League, which is Diana and Alfred chatting with Victor Stone on the batcomputer, and it’s a quick scene that sets up the next scene, when Diana will meet Vic face-to-face.

Back in Scene 15, Diana talked to Bruce next to the lake and they both agreed to help recruit some new members to their league. That led to Bruce meeting Barry Allen in the previous scene, and then the next logical scene is Diana, who is trying to track down and make contact with Victor Stone.

One thing I forgot to mention in our discussion of Scene 15 is that Bruce uses a particular phrase when he asks Diana to pursue Vic -- he says that he thought she could try to “dig” him up. Phrasing it this way, the digging him up reminds us of burial, which works well in that scene because we just saw the human’s mother box being buried, and now it has been unearthed and in fact that mother box is the same one that reformed Victor. We should also mention that the human’s mother box is the one that is addressed in the bonus scene of the Wonder Woman film, when Etta Candy gets the Oddfellows together to go recover it. But the digging up line doesn’t just refer to the mother box, it more directly refers to Vic himself. And it makes us think about Vic as a character who has had a near-death experience. He basically should have died in the accident that claimed his ilmbs, but it is only through his father’s intervention with the mother box that Vic is still alive, in some form or another. So just as Alfred said, Vic was deceased, and now Bruce and Diana are digging him up.

In that regard, of basically being dead and now having a second-chance at life, in a new form and with new powers, Cyborg has this in common with Superman. They are both reborn in a sense, and their relationships with death and life are a theme in the movie that pays off at the end when they both voice their commitment to life and their newfound joy in living.

The fact that Cyborg and Superman have this common goes back to what Nick was saying in our last episode about the Justice League characters having an interesting series of overlaps. Here is a quick rundown of some of those overlaps, but I’m sure there are more:
  • Cyborg and Superman both had experiences with death and also rebirth with new powers.
  • Superman and Aquaman both have an origin that gives them meta-human powers but they grew up with mankind and so have a tension in terms of choosing between two civilizations.
  • Aquaman and Wonder Woman both have one absent parent, and that parent is the one who is primarily responsible for their super powers.
  • Aquaman and Wonder Woman both come from royal lineages.
  • Superman and Cyborg both have extra-terrestrial elements to their origins.
  • Cyborg and the Flash both got their powers through accidents, rather than being born with them.
  • The Flash and Batman both had parents die when they were young.
  • Superman and Batman both have a mother named Martha.
  • Batman and Aquaman both have a father named Thomas.

Like I said, there are probably others, so if you think of one, tweet the show at @JLUPodcast.

Alright, so going into Scene 17, we get an establishing shot where we see Diana in the batcave looking at the batcomputer. As cut in closer, we see that she’s opening up some files from a STAR Labs database. There are a bunch of STAR Labs employees listed on the side, including Ryan Choi by the way -- known to DC comics fans as the Atom, and who did actually film a scene for Justice League but it was cut. Anyway, Diana goes into the Silas Stone file and if you look closely, you can see that Silas was born on May 2nd, 1957, in Metropolis.

The footage that Diana watches is sort of reminiscent of Cyborg’s origin scene in Batman v Superman, but there are some important differences. Back in BvS, Vic was only an upper torso with his shoulders, a portion of his right arm, and his head. And he was attached to a sort of rotating life support table, with cables going into him and medical monitors and devices trying to keep him alive, but Silas acknowledged that the outcome was going to be death. Also, that table was designed by the filmmakers in such a way that it gave off the strong impression of a sort of human-sized computer circuit board, which is fitting in terms of Cyborg’s character as a blend of human and computer. That blend was shown visually in the short BvS clip.

In this Justice League scene, however, Vic is strapped to a normal type of padded table like you would find in an examination room. The table has been positioned nearly vertically and Vic’s body basically fills the whole table, which is very different than the large technological table from BvS where Vic was just one small part in the corner. Speaking of Vic, in this new scene he is a full torso, a full right arm, a head, and possibly even part of his legs, though it’s hard to tell exactly where the mecha-tronic parts start. But it’s definitely a lot more of his human body intact than there was in BvS. So how is this possible? The simplest explanation, and probably the most likely one, is that the filmmakers in Justice League just didn’t worry too much about continuity with BvS or they wanted to shift Cyborg’s origin slightly, so they changed the Cyborg origin footage rather than matching it up with BvS or just using the actual footage from BvS. I personally think it would’ve been nice to see the exact same footage from BvS again in this scene because we would’ve just had the convenience store photo with Barry Allen in the previous scene, and then the STAR Labs footage with Victor Stone here -- serving as a nice payoff to those cameos in BvS.

Although the filmmakers most likely changed it deliberately or through carelessness, is there any possible way that we could resolve the discrepancy in story? Well, there are basically two possibilities to consider -- either this footage that Diana is watching was taken before the BvS footage, or after the BvS footage. If this is before the BvS footage, then what we are seeing is earlier attempts of Silas Stone trying to stabilize and save his son. The mechanical legs and arm that we see here must be Earth-based technologies that he is trying to use to complete Vic’s body after the accident, because Silas has not yet activated the mother box. And it must also be the case that sometime later, Vic loses his lower torso and most of his right arm. This doesn’t seem very plausible -- because it does not make sense that Silas would fashion fancy prosthetic limbs for Vic before Vic is fully stabilized in terms of his recovery from the accident. It also seems highly unlikely that Vic, after this footage, would have to have his arm amputated and his lower torso removed. It’s not impossible, but it just doesn’t seem like a likely sequence of events. Rather, it seems much more likely that the full loss of body parts would’ve taken place during or immediately after the accident.

So to us, it doesn’t seem very likely that this footage in Justice League occurred prior to the footage in BvS. But could this footage be after what we saw in BvS? Well, if this is what happened later, then that means the mechanical legs and left arm that we see here are actually Apokoliptian in origin. The mother box is already in action reforming Cyborg and so Silas has moved Vic from the fancy circuitboard medical table to a more traditional, low-tech medical table. It’s strange, however, that Vic’s right arm and his lower torso look perfectly human. Because in this scenario, those parts of his body must have been re-formed by the mother box. He also has what appears to be his full head and neck, which is kind of odd because eventually as Cyborg he seems to just have a portion of his face and head on top of a mecha-tronic neck. Now, I must acknowledge that in the modern comic books, Cyborg’s tech-based body actually does have the capability of forming into human tissue and human skin, so in the comics, he can transform into basically a normal looking human and walk around the streets of Detroit, for example, and then he can change back into full Cyborg mode. But that capability is never shown in the Justice League film, and in fact the opposite is shown because Vic can only wear a hoodie to hide himself. So what we’re seeing is almost definitely his real head, arm, and torso, and not an Apokoliptian recreation of parts of his body. He also ends up later with nearly all of his body as the mecha-tronic Cyborg, so it would be really weird to think that BvS was first, where he only had a human upper torso and head, and then this clip was next, where he has a full torso, right arm, and head, but then the third part of the sequence reverses course and ends up with only a face and internal organs that are human.

So taken altogether, it seems very unlikely that this footage occurs after what we saw in BvS. And if you’re keeping track, that means it doesn’t really work to place it before or after the clip in BvS, which means it just doesn’t work well at all with what was already established. If I had to pick one, I guess I would say that this is before the BvS footage, and for some reason, something went wrong with what Silas was trying to do using conventional technologies and Silas had to amputate more of Vic’s body until the point where he eventually got desperate and activated the mother box / change engine. But it is not a very elegant sequence of events for Cyborg’s origin, and it seems like it would’ve been just a lot cleaner to have inserted the BvS footage back into this scene. And that also would’ve provided an opportunity for Diana to comment on the fact that she’s seen this footage before, or maybe even in the lakeside scene she could’ve mentioned explicitly to Bruce that they’ve both seen videos of potential recruits, from Lex Luthor’s meta-human files.

By the way, a minor discrepancy that I have heard some people complain about here is that the camera angle is different between the BvS clip and the clip that Diana is watching here. I don’t think that’s necessarily a fair criticism. We know from BvS that Silas can move and adjust the camera that was used in the lab. And it’s also completely reasonable that there would be many different video clips in Silas’s STAR Labs records, because he seemed to be documenting multiple phases of his work. So this could just be a clip from a different day, and the camera happened to be in a different location. It could also be a different room, and not necessarily the “Lab 3” from the BvS footage, but it could still be part of Silas’s records. One thing that is slightly annoying, though, is that the color palette is so strong in the BvS clip, with its oranges and browns, punctuated by lightning at the end, but the new clip has lighting that is just very bland and uninteresting, and no strong use of colors at all.

But anyway, moving on in the scene, the computer screens start to flicker and Alfred walks in, explaining that the program always gets twitchy with this footage. This will connect in a couple minutes to what Victor says about the footage of parademons always getting corrupted. Then the screens go black, and text begins to appear. It starts with “Diana Prince,” which is important because it shows that whoever is on the other end knows who he’s talking to, knows who’s on the computer at the moment. This shows an active connection and an ability to infiltrate what is supposed to be a fairly secure bat-server. (Although, yes, Diana herself also showed a keen ability to get through Bruce’s security.)

Next, the computer screen reads, “Why is Bruce Wayne looking for me?” So this puts together Cyborg’s information about Bruce Wayne being Batman and how he overhead Alfred and Bruce talking about Victor Stone, and also what he overhead at the lake -- that Bruce Wayne is trying to find Victor Stone and recruit him for something.

Diana responds to being called out by name and says, “You know who we are.” And the computer responds, “And I know who you ALSO are.” Then there’s a display of Batman on the left, pointing a grappling gun, and Wonder Woman on the right, having busted through a doorway. Now, these images actually look like screenshots from the films -- Batman seems to be a screenshot from the Doomsday fight in BvS, and Wonder Woman seems to be a screenshot from the Old Bailey rescue scene from earlier in Justice League. These are somewhat odd choices, because they are more like images that we, the audience, would recognize, rather than images that Cyborg would’ve been able to grab from security cameras or news footage or something in-story.

So that’s a bit of an odd choice, but it goes by very quickly, and so many people in the audience probably don’t even think about it. And it is a nice way to show that Cyborg is a couple steps ahead of them, even though they are supposed to be the ones looking for him. This is also a nice link back to Scene 13, where we saw Cyborg reviewing footage in his apartment and discovering Batman, and now Diana is reviewing footage, learning about Cyborg.

Now, the next line I think is a great one. Cyborg has just revealed that he knows who Diana and Bruce are, and then Diana asks him, “Are you Victor Stone?” She’s turning it around to him, to confirm his identity. But it’s a really good line, especially for the early part of Cyborg’s story arc, because that is really the main question for this character -- is he Victor Stone? He has been transformed into Cyborg, he is integrating with an alien power and is continually evolving new powers, but through all of that, does he still remain his human self? That is his key question. Right now, he is isolating himself and basically abandoning his old life, so he is just a Cyborg, staying in the shadows. His father isn’t helping matters much thus far, more interested in the technological side of him than really empathizing and reconnecting with his son, Victor. But Diana is the right person for this situation, and in the next scene, she’ll start to open up a new connection to Victor Stone, allowing him to come into his own as Cyborg but also as Victor Stone.

After Diana asks if he is Victor Stone, the response is, “I was.” So this confirms Cyborg’s current mental state. He does not really feel like Victor Stone, at the moment. He is still mourning the death of his old self, and he hasn’t come to terms with his situation yet. Diana says she wants to talk to him, and he says, “You are.” He is stating that this digital form of communication is sufficient, but she rejects that. She says face-to-face, which is crucial and which will lead to the next scene. She also has a nice little tag, saying that she’s old fashioned that way, which is cute because she is really, really old. And even though she’s been in Man’s World throughout the entirety of the rise of the digital age, she probably still carries with her the norms of how she grew up, when communication was face-to-face and very personal. That or she just knows that, to reach out and make a real connection with Cyborg, to eventually recruit him onto the team, she needs to see him in person. So it’s a wise move.

In response, Cyborg asks, “Why should I trust you?” A fair question, because although he knows their secret identities, and thus probably knows that she is a heroic person, he doesn’t know her motivations right now. He doesn’t know the reason for her interest in him -- perhaps she is going to try to take him down because of his powers and his alien technology. But Diana says that if she was going to attack him, she would’ve done it by the lake. So she reveals that she knew he was eavesdropping on her and Bruce, and she allowed him to do it. This is a reasonable olive branch. And it also shows that Diana’s attentiveness and powers of observation are fairly keen -- presumably even moreso than Bruce’s, which continues her one-upsmanship of him from BvS.

Cyborg is convinced and he shares a map with her, marking a spot where they can rendezvous. Alfred, who previously teased Bruce about setting up a date between him and Diana, now quips about Diana having a date with Cyborg. “About time somebody around here did.” So, for me personally, I don’t mind some humor in this scene, because there’s no threat or dramatic weight that’s being undercut by it. So that’s fine. And Alfred is a good character for dry humor like this. But I still don’t love this line. I get that he wants to continue teasing Bruce about his lack of a love life, but I don’t like the allusion toward Diana and Victor dating because they are just starting down a very platonic, and important personal friendship. We don’t need to cloud that up at all with any sexual tension, even sarcastically.

But this is a minor blip in an otherwise fairly solid little scene. And Diana and Victor’s connection will continue to grow in the next scene on the city street.

End of Episode

That’s our analysis of Scene 17. We will post one more episode on Justice League very soon and then shift our attention to Aquaman for awhile. In fact, we already have some early, spoilerfree reactions to the Aquaman early screening. If you’re curious about Alessandro’s opinion on his first viewing, head over to to check it out, and Sydney will be sharing her first reaction this week, as well.

This week, on our main podcast feed, we will also be sharing a preparatory episode focused on Aquaman -- what are we looking for and what questions are we asking heading into the film. Then our full Aquaman analysis will begin the week after it opens. And by the way, next week will also mark the beginning of our Man of Steel scene-by-scene analysis on Patreon, so again, check us out and become a supporter at to join in the Man of Steel fun.

And as usual, thank you so much for listening.

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