Wednesday, October 5, 2016

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Gladiator Match

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Scene 59 of Batman v Superman, the big gladiator match between Batman and Superman.

  • The physical and visual setting of the fight
  • Falling motif and above/below motif
  • Superman trying to talk to Batman
  • Batman's traps and the bat signal
  • Batman on the edge
  • BvS and its positioning of violence (Pulpklatura)
  • Comments from listeners - Michael, Sofia, Casper
  • Fear and bravery
  • The Dark Knight Returns connections
  • Batman's true motivations in the fight
Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco
Man of Steel Answers, Suicide Squadcast
Follow @JLUPodcast on twitter

<Transcript of the episode>
Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam and my partner in DC Films analysis is Alessandro Maniscalco. You can now follow the podcast itself on twitter at JLUPodcast. So please follow JLUPodcast, and of course you’re still welcome to follow me @ottensam and Alessandro @raveryn.

Sorry for the delay on this episode -- I’ve been really swamped at work for the last couple weeks, and we also had some family visitors and a child’s birthday, so it was hard to find the time and energy to put in the late nights when I usually do this podcast. Anyway, we have now made it to the big moment in Batman v Superman -- the actual showdown between Batman and Superman. In this episode and the next, which we’re going to try to release on a very short turnaround, we’re going to cover the fight, the “Martha” moment, and as we go along, we’ll deal with some of the criticisms that have been leveled against this scene. After the Capitol scene, this is the chronologically the next most impactful scene in the movie, and I think it’s very hard to love the movie if you don’t love this scene. And I think there are many people who didn’t like the “Martha” moment and this tainted their appreciation of the film overall. Luckily for us, we thought the Batman-Superman fight was handled really well and we’ll explain why we thought “Martha” was a unique, creative way to find a resolution to the fight and it also made perfect sense with respect to Bruce’s personal arc in the movie.

Now, getting into the scene, the conflict between Batman and Superman had been gradually building since Scene 2 with the Battle of Metropolis seen from Bruce’s perspective. We’ve seen a detailed development of Bruce’s psychological state of mind, influenced by some significant but subtle prodding from Lex, and Lex also helped stir up Clark’s qualms with Batman, and then there was the final move of kidnapping Martha Kent, so that rising tension between Batman and Superman has reached its peak.

Of course the instigation of the fight was most directly Martha’s kidnapping, but there is also Batman’s igniting of the bat signal. Back during the batmobile chase, it was made very clear by Superman that the bat signal would be like a thrown gauntlet. And we also saw Lex and Lois earlier looking off in the distance toward Gotham, so the stage for this fight was very thoroughly set by the filmmakers. And of course it was very thoroughly set by Batman in the movie. We saw him doing all of his preparations with the spear and getting the lay of the land, playing through in his mind the ways that the fight might go. This is a common part of Batman’s character in the comics -- his thorough preparation and foresight.

Superman is in a more agitated state, and we’ll see him improvising and having to make snap decisions rather than having it all planned out. That contrast itself adds another layer of entertainment value to watching this gladiator match play out.

We can also take stock of the two other main characters off in the wings -- Lex and Lois. Lex has flown off in his helicopter, going back to the scout ship to oversee his ace in the hole, Doomsday. And Lex is giddy because he thinks he has laid the perfect trap, where Superman loses even if he wins. Lois, meanwhile, is on her way toward the fight, continuing her tireless efforts to protect the man she loves. As the fight is going on, we should know in the back of our minds that Lois will be arriving any minute, and so it makes perfect sense that she runs in when she does. We get that important payoff to the setup of her requesting the Daily Planet chopper.


So the setting is Gotham, because this fight is really about Batman coming to terms with his issues of powerlessness that he’s projected onto Superman. This fight is on Batman’s terrain and it is ultimately going to be most impact to his character. The fictional location for this fight was Wayne Station, an abandoned train station in Gotham. The real location was Michigan Central Station in Detroit.

In terms of setting, we also get the rain falling on the scene, which is a typical movie trope but is more effective here because rain taps into the falling motif that has been with Bruce throughout this whole movie -- we’ve covered the falling motif in many episodes of this podcast. Another motif that recurs here is the above/below motif. Superman, representing God, is in the sky, and Batman, representing man, is on the ground. Furthermore, Superman with his higher moral ground is above Batman who has lost his moral compass. This frame is also taken right from The Dark Knight Returns. Lightning flashes with a roar of thunder, a call back to Zeus’ thunderbolt from Lex’s speech. Then, Superman lowers himself to Batman’s level, humbling himself.

Before we get any further, we also need to say how awesome it is that Zack Snyder and company brought to life the glowing Batman eyes. Comic-book fans know this visual look well, but it hasn’t been seen like this in live action before. And with regard to Batman’s mech suit overall, Zack Snyder explained that the idea behind it is that it’s more of a bear suit, keeping Batman alive rather than being something that can take down Superman.

First phase of the fight:

Now that we’ve covered the setting, we can get into the first sequences of action. And at the onset, we need to say that the filmmakers did a great job both conceptualizing and executing this fight. They identified several different tactics that are realistic for Batman to employ, and then they planned them out in a way that made sense in terms of ratcheting up the pressure on Superman and thus building momentum throughout the scene. All of the effects looked really good and the blows all seemed realistic -- watching it in theaters, I was amazed at how much I could really feel the hits, and that not only makes it look good but it made me empathize that much more with the characters. It’s definitely better fight execution than many other superhero films I’ve seen.

The filmmakers also found good moments to work in some brief but iconic lines delivered between the characters. Zack Snyder said that he wanted to avoid too much talking in this scene, because it might pull you out of the movie when you start to realize that it’s two men in costumes talking to each other. But they get some great lines and they make every word count, as is Terrio’s style. The first line is Batman’s, “Well, here I am.” Batman presents himself as bait to draw Superman closer.  He is also showing Superman that he is disregarding Superman’s earlier threat about burying the Bat.

In response, Superman is not aggressive at all. He pleads to Batman, saying “please”.  He is further humbling himself.  Superman also calls Batman Bruce, letting him know that he in fact knows who he is.  But Bruce does not yet know that Superman is Clark Kent.  Next, Superman admits he was wrong, continuing to lower himself. What is Superman wrong about? He’s probably saying that he was wrong about the way he threatened Batman at the batmobile, because that was their last direct interaction. It could also be a more general admission, like, “I’ve handled some things wrong as Superman and I’m sorry about how things have turned out, like the Capitol bombing or the Wayne Financial building.” Overall, it doesn’t really matter what specifically Superman is apologizing for -- what’s important is that he is admitting wrongdoing at all, because that’s how you start a reconciliation, by humbling yourself and taking responsibility. It’s very hard to stay mad at someone when they’re admitting that they’ve made a mistake. But Batman still has his tunnel vision, as we’ll talk about in a second, so this tactic doesn’t work on him. Batman is going forward with his plan.

Superman then tells Batman that he has to listen to him. Superman recognizes that Batman is ready to fight him, both in his appearance (the armor and the goading) and by what Lex had told him. There is an urgency for him, with Martha in danger, so he beckons for Batman to hear him out rather than fight. He even begins to explain the situation stating “Lex wants us to…” Meanwhile Batman is not paying attention, focusing more on luring Superman closer so he walks backwards. We see Batman’s feet moving back, and Superman’s feet moving forward. This is of course to get Superman to step on Batman’s first trap.

I think it was really clever that they had Superman say the line, “you need to listen to me,” and then that is followed up by Batman’s first attack being sonic cannons. Batman is not listening to Superman, and now Superman’s ears are being blasted.

Now, why isn’t Batman listening to Superman? One of the main complaints about this scene is that Superman should’ve done more to talk to Batman and tell him what the situation was with Lex and Martha Kent. For example, Superman could fly just out of range of Batman’s traps and tell him that Lex has taken his mother. The critics then say that, if Superman explained it fully, Batman would definitely give up his vendetta and join Superman to take down Lex.

But there are multiple problems with this criticism. First, Superman doesn’t know Batman has been preparing for this fight for years and doesn’t know the extent of Batman’s revenge madness toward him. We the audience know this in spades, but Superman would only have a little hint of it just from the batmobile interaction. In other words, Superman doesn’t know how much danger he is in right now. Second, Superman is trying to talk to Batman and doesn’t know about the traps. He still tries to talk to Batman until after the second trap, and at that point, Superman is understandably irritated and then figures he needs to knock a little sense into Batman, and then he can try to talk to him again later, up on the rooftop. Remember Superman still doesn’t think he is in any real danger. So it’s only in hindsight that we realize he needed to try to talk it all the way through with Batman at the beginning, before the Kryptonite grenades. Superman, in the moment, still thinks he’ll have more opportunities to try to reason with Batman. After the Kryptonite, though, it becomes a whole different ballgame because Superman realizes he is in real danger, and then the thought crosses his mind that maybe he’ll have to kill this brutal vigilante to save his mother.

Some other points to consider are that, as we learned in the extended cut, Clark was told by the dead inmate’s girlfriend that someone like Batman only understands punches. This stuck with him when he fought Batman. And after saying “you don’t understand” and Batman responding that he does understand, Superman can see that Batman doesn’t want to understand anything other than his existing perspective.

Also, in the source material, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman’s inner monologue states that he is unable to hear Superman clearly through the thick padding of his helmet. This could be the case here as well and Batman responding to Superman saying “you don’t understand” could just have been him reading Superman’s lips or picking up that particular sentence since he was so close to him when Superman said that. But other than that, Batman doesn’t really talk in response to things Superman says.

So those are some reasons why Superman didn’t do more explaining at the beginning of the fight and why he eventually got drawn more into the fight rather than diplomacy. But more important, Superman’s actions all become a moot point once you think about Batman’s side of things. Batman is not going to listen to Superman, no matter what he says, because Batman knows Superman is good now -- Batman’s whole deal is that he has convinced himself he has to take out Superman for the future, before Superman turns bad. Superman saying, “I’m a good guy, Lex is the villain,” does nothing to counterargue Batman’s position that Superman is too dangerous to exist. So not only is Batman not going to believe Superman because Batman is an untrusting sort of person, especially of Superman at this point, but even if Batman believed Superman’s story about Lex, that doesn’t change Batman’s calculation of what he needs to do. Something else is going to have to cut through Batman’s tunnel vision, and it’s definitely not going to be just Superman explaining something to him face to face.

So to sum this up, because it’s an important point, Batman has convinced himself that Superman is too dangerous to exist -- remember his 1% doctrine. It doesn’t matter that Superman has been a pretty decent guy thus far, Alfred even said as much. What matters to Bruce, according to what he has rationalized about the situation, is that Superman might turn bad in the future. And Bruce has also seen that terrible things follow in Superman’s wake, like the Capitol bombing, even if it’s not Superman’s direct fault. So if Superman comes in and says that Lex is the real villain, that does not contradict any of Bruce’s premises. Superman explaining that he’s a good guy would only contradict the premises of someone who thought Superman was already evil, but that’s not Bruce’s position. A natural question is, what would contradict Batman’s premises? Well, you could try to prove that Superman will never turn evil or never be corrupted, but that can’t be proven because it’s a claim about forever into the future. And in fact, we know that Superman can be corrupted because Lex has done so by using Martha Kent as leverage. So Bruce is right that Superman might become a threat in the future. But importantly, another way to contradict Bruce’s rationalization is to show that Superman is not too powerful to exist, that he has limits and vulnerabilities. And indeed, this fact about Superman is what Batman unwittingly proves himself when he defeats Superman and scrapes his cheek with the spear. This just shows how masterfully written the fight was -- Batman has a chance to see Superman’s vulnerabilities and humanity at the same moment that Bruce is confronted with his own fixation on his parents’ death, the moment of powerlessness that he has not yet come to terms with. It’s the combination of those two insights that allow Bruce to break out of his tunnel vision that has plagued him throughout the whole movie.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s continue on with the scene. The sonic emitters are intended to overload Superman’s super hearing which both stun and disorient him.  Batman might even be hoping to target his middle ear in hopes of affecting Superman’s balance during their fight. Batman smiles when he sees how Superman reacts to it.  If the movie stays true to the comic, and given Alfred’s earlier comment about how the layers of armor affect the sound, then like we said before, it could be that Batman can’t hear very well, if at all, through his helmet, so the sound won’t be harming him as much as Superman and it may be his attempt at trying to even the playing field with regard to hearing.

Superman uses the sewer lid below him to destroy the emitters.  The two approach each other, Superman with rising frustration and Batman now ready to start fighting having disoriented Superman. Batman goes toward Superman this time, and Superman is still trying to reason with him, but Batman’s combative, “I understand” gets a rise out of Superman. Superman reacts by shoving Batman back, not in a way meant to hurt him seriously but just in a way to shut him up and try to put him in his place. Superman probably hopes that this will help Batman realize it is a futile fight given Superman’s superior strength. It’s like in The Dark Knight Returns where there was the inner monologue, “Bruce--this is idiotic.  You’re just bone and meat--like all the rest.”

Batman groans in pain, realizing first hand just how powerful Superman actually is. He gets time to pick himself up, though, when the guns are activated. He probably activated them himself because if they were motion activated, Batman could have been in the fray himself. Superman is bombarded with bullets which Batman knows will not hurt him but they at least slow him down. Superman gets even more irritated now, and he rises back up, returning to his godly form, no longer humbling himself before Batman, and rains fire down on the guns, destroying them.

Next, without trying to talk to Batman this time, Superman just grabs him and propels him up through the abandoned building. Then he throws Batman through the bat signal and right to the edge of the rooftop. The destruction of the bat signal makes good on Superman’s promise to bury it if the light is ever ignited again, but more importantly this destruction of the signal represents that Batman the heroic figure has been destroyed by the dark path of vengeance he’s been on. And then we get an even more potent symbolic image -- Bruce as Batman literally dangling on the edge of a precipice. This shot of Batman on the edge was very purposeful as it involves a big flourish with the camera starting low and moving up through the rain. It stands out because we get an intuitive sense that neither a cameraman nor a camera dolly could physically execute the shot. Why did they choose to include such a potent shot at this moment? I think it’s to mark the idea that we’ve been harping on throughout our analysis -- that Bruce has been moving ever and ever closer to the edge of a psychological cliff. His vengeance and his failure to cope with feeling powerless has brought him right to the edge, and if he goes through with his desire to kill Superman, he will have lost himself over the edge.

Going back to Superman, he says very forcefully that he doesn’t want to kill Batman.  In fact he’s doing everything he can to avoid it. We can infer that after killing Zod, he wants to refrain from killing whenever possible. But as we saw with Zod, Superman is willing to kill if given no other choice. The fact of the ending of Man of Steel makes it even more intriguing for us to see how this fight is going to play out, especially because the filmmakers chose to have Bruce be a killer here, which might make it easier for Superman to rationalize to himself that killing Batman is an acceptable course of action. However, if Batman will listen to reason, then Superman has hope that they can work together. Either way, Superman must confront Batman and can’t run away from this or Martha will die.

This line from Superman, that if he wanted it, Batman would be dead already. This is one of two olive branches thrown to the Superman fans, like myself, who were initially disappointed that Superman lost the fight to Batman. In this case, the filmmakers acknowledged that Superman could’ve easily won if they were fighting straight up and both wanted the other dead. This is what several of the actors and filmmakers were referencing when they said that Batman would use the fact that Superman is a good guy as an advantage against him -- Batman only has a chance because Superman does not come into the fight just burning everything down with his heat vision. The other olive branch, I think, is later in the movie when Batman is running away from Doomsday and it’s clearly Superman who is the more powerful hero in that moment. So yes, Batman wins this fight, but Superman is the one who ultimately takes down Doomsday.

At this point, we can pause and talk about this fight overall that is about to happen. As we’ve mentioned before, Pulpklatura on tumblr makes a really good point that Batman v Superman treats violence differently than typical action movies. Instead of the movie inviting the audience to root for the violence and be thrilled with the big blows, BvS makes us sort of frustrated that it has to happen. We ask ourselves things like the critics do above, such as, Couldn’t Superman have done something to avoid this fight? Shouldn’t Batman be able to see that Superman’s a good guy and doesn’t deserve to get killed like this? BvS actually has us sort of rooting against the fight. The fight is still there, of course, and it is part of the entertainment value of the film -- and in fact the marketing may have over-emphasized the Batman-Superman fight itself -- but there’s a case to be made that Batman v Superman is not only a commentary on the media’s role in leading the public to prejudgment and groupthink but it is also a commentary on the glorification of violence in action movies themselves. One of our listeners, Michael Schinke on YouTube, made the keen observation that the movie is actually playing out its themes so strongly that it even makes the audience feel powerless, just like all the main characters are trying to deal with powerlessness in their own ways. We, the audience, are powerless to alter this confrontation between two heroes who should be partners.

Another listener, Sofia Gouveia from YouTube, also made some nice observations about the fight itself. She said, “The fight between Bats and Supes was not a real fight. It was a charade.” Sofia basically said that, to be a real fight the contenders have to be on the same page, but Batman and Superman aren’t.  “Bats wanted to kill and fight Supes but Supes never wanted to kill or fight Bats.” So because of this disconnect, “Bats could never be a [true] winner.” In the end, “Batman was physically spared and psychologically rescued by Superman.”

Continuing on, we’re now up on the rooftop and Batman throws a smoke bomb as a distraction for him to gain the element of surprise. Superman at this point has lost line of sight with Batman. Rather than waste time using his x-ray vision which has to be activated and not a passive power, and given that the smoke itself might be laced with lead, Superman does the more immediate reaction of swooping in in order to close their distance, especially given that Superman still thinks Batman is no real threat.  However, he is surprised to find no one on the other side of the cloud and immediately uses his super hearing to detect Batman. This of course causes him to turn and see Batman, who shoots his first Kryptonite grenade. With respect to these grenades, it has recently made the rounds on social media that the grenade casing was made of lead --  but that’s old news because it was in the Art of the Film book right when the movie was released.

First Kryptonite Grenade:

Some people didn’t like that Batman was using guns in this fight because Batman is often opposed to guns because one was used to kill his parents. But Batman has very frequently used projectile launchers of various types, and anyway, Batman shooting a gun here again represents that he is going over the edge and has sort of lost touch with what it was that made Batman heroic. Because of his tunnel vision, Batman does not yet realize that he has lost his way or that he is coming ever closer to being a Joe Chill rather than a hero. As Casper Richter from YouTube pointed out, Batman was created by a desperate man with a gun, shooting an innocent. Now Batman is just a desperate man with a gun, shooting against the innocent.

Superman, thinking nothing of the grenade, catches it with his fast reflexes. This works against him, though, as if Batman had anticipated Superman’s move, because the cloud of Kryptonite gas sprays right in front of him. This occurs similarly to The Dark Knight Returns in which Green Arrow shoots a Kryptonite arrow at Superman, allowing Batman to get the upper hand in the fight.  Superman in the movie doesn’t know what Kryptonite is at this point.  He breathes in particles of the radioactive material and he falls down to his knees in pain as he starts choking.

Now we get another set of concise lines from Batman. “Breathe in. That’s fear.” Fear has always been Batman’s tool, but we talked back in Scene 7 about how it’s a dangerous and corrupting tool. In this instance, Batman may think that Superman has never experienced fear before, which shows Batman’s lack of understanding of Superman because even though he’s physically impervious, there are many other kinds of fear besides the fear of physical harm. For example, Superman has been very fearful of Lois’s safety, back in Africa, and for Martha’s safety. Inflicting fear on Superman also connects to ideas of mortality, and Batman trying to dethrone Superman from his godlike position, thus reasserting Bruce’s own masculinity and power. Ironically, this also humanizes Superman, which is exactly what Bruce needs to see to eventually overcome his mania. Batman  says that Superman is not brave, because bravery is defined as overcoming fear and until now Batman is thinking Superman never felt fear.

We get the big right cross that Superman throws at Batman and we get the great shot of Batman blocking the blow. Cavill does some great acting here as he suddenly realizes that his power has left him.  He is having to learn in the moment what is happening with this Kryptonite, whereas Batman has had months to study and prepare for this. Cavill now brings out the fear that Batman was talking about.  However, rather than Batman’s thought that Superman will now feel fear as a result of being mortal, Superman’s true fear is that he will be unable to save his mother. Batman then says, “Men are brave.” Implying Superman is not a man. These lines allude to The Dark Knight Returns in which Batman tells Superman, “It’s way past time you learned what it means to be a Man.”

These lines from Batman are also important because they come at the first moment in the fight when Batman really has the upper hand. So this is a moment where Batman reveals a bit of his true motivations. Notice that he doesn’t say, “You’re too dangerous to be left alive,” because as we’ve argued for months now, that 1% doctrine is not Bruce’s real motivation, it’s just his rationalization. His real motivation is exactly what is revealed by these lines. “Men are brave.” He is trying desperately to reassert his own value above and beyond Superman’s, to reestablish a dominance and a sense of power that was taken from him when his parents died, and again when Robin died, and then most potently when Superman arrived and toppled Wayne Financial in Man of Steel. Bruce has felt emasculated and powerless and he hasn’t been able to come to terms with that in a healthy way at all. It has made him angry and violent and vengeful. We keep harping on this point because without understanding it, you cannot understand the moment of realization that will happen in a few minutes in the “Martha” scene. If you think Batman’s real motivation is to take out the threat that Superman poses, then it will seem nonsensical that Batman is able to come around in the “Martha” scene.

Anyway, the fear and taunting from Batman cause Superman to react violently, throwing several punches.  Even though Batman is hindered by the weight of his armor, he still proves he is the superior fighter when evenly matched. The physicality of the fight here on the rooftop is impressive, and we get a shot of his boots that makes it that much more impactful when he jumps on Superman, crashing through the skylight. Also, when Batman jumps up above Superman, this represents Batman trying to place himself above Superman but it ultimately starts the motion of Batman taking Superman down to the lower floor. Instead of Batman rising above, he really ends up taking Superman down, with down in the above/below motif representing the direction of flawed morality. This becomes even clearer later when Batman throws an unconscious Superman down to the bottom floor of the train station. As Batman brings Superman down, this also represents Superman losing his elevated sense of morality as puts Superman in position where he may be able to come to terms with the possibility of killing Batman to save himself and his mother.

The music, which had been subdued in the first part of this scene, is now fully pumping with a variation on the Batman theme, and Batman continues his onslaught all the while giving Superman time to circulate the Kryptonite out of his system.  Batman of course could not know how long the Kryptonite would last, so he is taken by surprise when Superman gathers the energy to block his kick and throw him through the wall.  Both take a moment to recover, but the two quickly rush at each other as Superman realizes every moment that passes is a moment closer to Martha dying. And Batman realizes that every moment that passes is a moment closer to Superman regaining his full strength. Speaking of Superman regaining his full strength, Batman’s punches gradually losing strength against Superman’s jaw was a great shot by Zack Snyder and like nothing else I’ve seen before in a movie. It got a great reaction every time I saw it in theaters and it’s one of those visuals that is memorable -- and a movie isn’t a great movie unless it has a few memorable moments like that.

Superman then regains the upper hand, a Man of Steel musical cue comes in, and Superman hovers above Batman just before crashing him through the floor. He then tosses him aside to put distance between them so that he can collect himself, not thinking that Batman has more Kryptonite. This is where you can see the hole in the wall in the shape of Ontario, Canada, which Clay Enos and Zack Snyder confirmed on Twitter was meant as an homage to Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman. Before that confirmation, some people had speculated that the shape was that of Moby Dick, representing Bruce Wayne and his ill-fated quest to take out the white whale that is Superman.

As Batman groans in pain on the floor, Superman realizes he is nearing full strength again.  He slowly clenches his fist, and in this crucial moment he might even be preparing himself, through inner struggle, to take Batman’s life. It’s possible that he has decided he must put an end to this and he is going to try to land one final blow to Batman. It isn’t until now that he has decided to kill Batman, which explains why he hasn’t used the full scope of his powers before now.

As he runs at Batman he lets out a roar of anger at Bruce for forcing him into having to kill him, and at himself for doing that which he is sworn against.  He jumps up ready to hit Batman with all his strength, to finally kill him, not realizing Batman still has more Kryptonite grenades.  Because of Superman’s inner moral struggle and Superman having to gather up his strength, Batman had enough time to prepare another round in his grenade launcher. This shot saves his life as Superman is once again rendered weak. Superman’s momentum, however, still manages to cause quite a wallop which would have surely killed Batman if not for the reinforced helmet and the fact that Superman was probably not at 100%.

Now, some critics of the movie have said Superman should not have run at Batman here, he should have just blasted him with his heat vision. But it’s not the right question to ask, Did Superman do the perfect thing in all instances? The right question is, Is it plausible that Superman, in that situation, would’ve done what he did? And yes, it’s very plausible that a frustrated Superman in a brutal fight where he’s weakened for the first time would get mad and just want to tackle Batman to end the fight. Also, he may not have had a clear line of sight and it was established in Man of Steel that heat vision hurts and uses a lot of energy.  He may have gotten the kryptonite out of his system and recovered, but without sunlight he is not at 100%.

Superman unconscious:

Next, Batman grabs a nearby sink and smashes Superman over the back of the head with it. There is some humor to be derived here because Batman is throwing everything he’s got at Superman, including the kitchen sink.  This knocks Superman unconscious, and Batman picks him up. The moment when Batman grabs Superman’s hair is really poignant, like I can almost feel it on my own scalp, and him carrying an unconscious Superman foreshadows him lowering Superman’s dead body at the end of the movie. Batman then carries Superman to the stairwell, passing a sign that reads “Who watches the watchmen?” in latin. This could be simply an easter egg, but it certainly evokes commentary on Batman policing Superman, but there’s no one to police Batman.

Batman throws Superman down the stairwell to the ground floor.  This is the above/below motif that we mentioned earlier, and with his super powers removed, the Superman becomes just the man. God has fallen and been brought down to man’s level. Here we see the fall of man in which Clark has lost his innocence after trying to kill Batman, which was prefaced by Superman telling Lois “no one stays good in this world”.  Batman repels down to meet Superman.  Here is the final setting of their battle, and it’s exactly where Batman was leading the fight -- the place where he prepared the “Spear of Longinus” to kill God in the form of man; to use the kryptonite spear to kill a mortal Superman.

This is also where we start to get the really clear parallels to Excalibur, with the spear representing the sword in the stone, and this fight representing Arthur and Lancelot’s antagonism toward one another before they reconciled.

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