The release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was not the celebratory team-up many had hoped, but rather a divisive mess of a movie. It was fun in places, beautiful shot in others, but overall, it could not make-up for the weak, misconstrued script that was the foundation for the film. Many of the film’s issues stem from the script; the editing is woeful, jumping around without any cause or effect, while Synder’s shot decisions are often clunky. For example, there are few establishing shots, with action unraveling on screen without any real explanation, or motivation. The Batmobile, which is a beautiful design, does not get the hero shot it deserves. Same goes the Batwing. Conversely, the shots of Superman being as moody and dark as Batman do not build the juxtaposition with the other titular character the film desperately needs.
As an aside, I do not blame Zach Snyder. I generally enjoy his work, especially Watchmen. Auteur theory often always sees the director receive the strongest criticism, but he had seven executive producers, three co-producers, two producers, his wife Deborah and Charles Roven, and an associate producer in Bruce Moriarty (who is also the first AD). Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer share the writing credits, with the former rewriting the original script by the latter. This may be where the issues lie. Goyer is no stranger to the superhero genre, having written the Blade trilogy, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Man of Steel, as well as developing TV series like Constantine. Yet his work is strongest when he has a strong guide, such as Nolan, and weakest when left alone (see Blade: Trinity). We will never know what stage Goyer’s script was at when Terrio took over, but given the sheer oddities within the script, from the antagonist’s wishy-washy motivations, to the main characters acting to fit the plot, in which there are many, many holes. I will not go into detail on them all, but Jon Negroni has made a sizable list on his blog, which is worth reading.
So this retrospective rewrite is looking to right many of the wrongs Negroni lists, while working within the same restrictions Goyer and Terrio had:
- That the film takes place after Man of Steel
- That it has to establish, or hint at, the Justice League and Suicide Squad
- That it uses, or gives nods, to classic DC storylines.
The last one is quite contentious, because what Batman v Superman tries to do, and ultimately fails in doing, is mash up two classic comics; Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, and The Death of Superman by Dan Jurgens. What it needed was to take inspiration from these books, while saying something about our modern age.
I won’t entertain the Knightmare sequence ripped off from the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game. It has no place in this film. It is so out of place that editor David Brenner just shoves it into the film so it seems like a dream sequence, or a forewarning from the future, only it make no sense in either context.
Generally, I enjoyed Batman’s story line here. It worked. Batman had an arc of growth. No-one else did. Many of the plot holes revolve around Superman; for example, why is Superman blamed for the African incident? Why can he not see the bomb in the Capitol building? What is his thinking and motivations for confronting Batman but letting criminals escape? Why, when he approaches Batman, does he not explain the situation, instead of fighting him?
Their fight ends with Superman saying his mother’s name, Martha, which happens to be Bruce Wayne’s deceased mother’s name. Then suddenly they are friends. This just does not work. I had never spotted before that the two characters had this in common, and I imagine when one of the creative’s involved discovered this, it was an idea that they could not get rid of, despite the fact that it does not work. It’s something they would find out while bonding maybe – “Oh, your mother’s name is Martha too?” – but to have it be the reason Batman does not kill Superman, but not only that, lose all his animosity towards him and join him, is a very weak climax to their battle.
Motivation is the key word in this rewrite, because it seems to be missing for much of the story, or at the very least, is murky and not explained visually. This holds especially true for the villain, in this case, Lex Luthor. So many of his actions are unexplainable, bent to fit an ill-conceived plot. Luthor here is a Mark Zuckerberg-esque character, which is presumably why they hired Jesse Eisenberg. Here he comes off as annoying, irritating, childish, and we never know why he wants to pit them against one another, how he knows who they both are in real life, what he hopes to accomplish with the Capitol bomb, how he bypasses the security on the alien ship, how he hopes to control Doomsday, how he knows how to create Doomsday… the list goes on. My favourite Lex Luthor was Michael Rosenbaum’s interpretation on Smallville. He was smart, obsessed, single-minded, but also, heroic. He was crafted to augment or reflect certain qualities and emotions of Clark, and that is what BvS is lacking; a clear line that pits these two against one another.
So, the main areas of change would be:
- Focusing on Batman and Superman, their different philosophies, through visual cues, eg night and day
- Rewriting the main antagonist to be less annoying, more driven, with his goals clear to the audience
- A more coherent plot, where events have a knock-on effect in the following scenes
- Introducing the other Justice League characters in a way that is not an email attachment.
The last one really, really annoyed me. Not only was it very lazy screenwriting, but whoever LexCorp hired to investigate these guys had the time to create fucking symbols for them, symbols that I imagine we will see in the future films, when it would have made more sense to give them code names.
Batman VS Superman – ALTERNATIVE STORYLINE
Black screen: noises of a battle – screams, explosions, far off, dulled.
Batman (VO): Everyone on Earth remembers where they were the day ‘Superman’ was given that title. The day we found out Gods walk among us…
OPEN ON: Bruce Wayne, older, a business man, conducting a meeting at one of his offices in Metropolis. The meeting is paused, as the executives stare out at the Kryptonian World Machine hovering over the city.
It attacks, starts blasting the ground. Bruce orders an evacuation, slips into his office and dons the Batsuit. Lucius Fox is with him, arguing, it’s been years since he put the suit on. Bruce doesn’t listen, tells him to get to safety. Fox says he will help him, and the office changes into an operational command.
Batman takes to the streets of Metropolis in the Batmobile, blasting debris out of the way so people can escape. He watches as Superman and Zod fight in the skies above, taking down his building, with Lucius still inside (the character who dies at the start of BvS is called Jack, but we have no idea who he is or what he means to Bruce. Audiences know who Lucius Fox is, and we establish he is close to Batman, so losing him gives him motivation to hate Superman from Day One).
The alien ship crashes, taking out the Batmobile. Batman struggles to do anything; here is useless, and cannot help, and it gets to him. People’s screams bring him back to focus. Several people are trapped under the wreckage of his building. He uses his grappling hook to get them out. One of them, a Wayne Enterprises employee named Wallace Keefe, has had his legs damaged.
The city survives, barely. Batman looks out over the ashes, enveloped by smoke, angry, afraid.
CUT TO: Lucius’ funeral. Bruce Wayne carries the same feelings, with brief flashbacks to his parents funerals and their deaths (there would be no dream bat sequence). Alfred brings him back to the here and now. “Are you okay, sir?”
“Yes,” he replies. “We’ve got work to do.”
CUT TO: Metropolis, lying in ruins, a time-lapse showing the reconstruction efforts, building a park where the World Engine hit the worst. In the time-lapse we see Superman flitting through the skies, aiding the efforts to rebuild the city he now calls his home. A statue is erected in the park, and unveiled two years after the attack on Metropolis. It is unveiled by Lex Luthor, a businessman eyeing a senate seat, and Metropolis’ most famous son, until Superman arrived. Lex and Superman shake hands as the statue is revealed, Lex trying to build a relationship with Superman, hoping it will further his career. Lois is covering the event with Jimmy Olsen, who notes Clark’s absence. Lois makes excuses for him.
Superman flies away to see to an emergency. Watching in the audience is Wallace Keefe, now in a wheelchair, a hi-tech one provided by Wayne Enterprises (the logo emblazoned on the side). He watches Superman fly way, watches him with rage. As the crowds disperse, he rolls his wheelchair up to the statue, and attempts to deface it, but is stopped by Mercy Graves. She says her employer paid good money for the statue, and that he would like a word with him. She pushes his wheelchair to a waiting car, that Lex is sitting inside. Wallace feels useless, is getting money from Wayne Enterprises for being injured, but he cannot rebuild his life. He has no purpose. Lex asks if he would like a job.
CUT TO: Batcave, Bruce training, being ridiculed by Alfred for training too hard, saying he is not young. Bruce eyes the Robin costume riddled with bullets, a testament to his past life, how he failed. He won’t fail again. Bruce says they need to be ready. Alfred questions whether this Superman should be his focus. Bruce says they still know very little about him, what he can do, where does he go, although they have learned that he cannot see through lead (because of an incident where he could not see behind a lead-lined wall at a Lex Corp building). Alfred suggests he don a different suit and take a different approach, indicating the upcoming Pulitzer awards, where Lois Lane is up for a prize after a series on Superman.
CUT TO: Pulitzer prize ceremony. Lois wins for her series of interviews with the man of steel. Clark is there to support her, but has to run off to deal with an emergency.
At the after party held at Luthor Towers, Lois is tackled by a Senator Finch, a staunch Republican who has made it her mission to hold Superman to account for what happened two years ago. She introduces her to Wallace Keefe. Lex Luthor interrupts, defending Superman and pretending not to know Wallace. Finch accuses Lex of trying to win support for a senate run on the back of superman. She says there are no seats to run on. He says not yet.
Also at the party is Bruce Wayne, who appears with a young model half his age. He acts drunk, questioning Lois about who Superman is, his motives. Clark comes back to save her from him. She has not realised Bruce has put a bug in her bag.
Bruce spots Diana Prince, an exotic looking woman, who sneaks off into another private room. He follows her, only for her to trap him, ask why he is following her. He pretends he wanted to hit on her. She unfastens a lasso that is part of the design of her dress, and ties it around him. Bruce finds he is compelled to tell the truth. She tells him she is looking for an artifact that was stolen from her a long time ago, a shield, and she believes Luthor has it. They are interrupted by Luthor, and Diana kisses Bruce, to make out like they have escaped the party for a private embrace. She makes her excuses and leaves.
Lex pours Bruce a drink, saying they should work together on applications for the recovered alien tech. Luthor knows Wayne enterprises has government contracts. Bruce says all the alien tech is under military jurisdiction. Lex says only on this hemisphere.
CUT TO: South Indian Ocean, the wreckage of the second world engine. Brave divers explore the wreckage, trying to recover some technology. They find a large slab of kryptonite, and a downed drone robot. As they are bringing them back to the surface, they are attacked by a being armed with a trident (Aquaman). They flee with their haul, refusing to go back to the wreckage when they speak to their employer – Mercy Graves.
CUT TO: Lois and Clark in their shared apartment. Clark returns as Superman, exhausted after stopping a major incident. Lois sits him down, saying that he needs to slow down, that he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he will break if he keeps doing so. She says what happened was not his fault. Clark reveals he is thinking about appearing in front of the senate committee. He has something akin to survivor’s guilt, he should have stopped Zod sooner, should have been able to prevent all the deaths and destruction the Kryptonians caused. She says he cannot be everywhere at once. Another emergency means he has to run out.
All of this is overheard by Bruce Wayne in the Batcave. He and Alfred start looking into Clark Kent, as well as the mysterious woman at the party.
CUT TO: Lex Luthor, eyeing the items Mercy has retrieved for him (please note, the plot about customs and visas has been removed, because it’s ridiculous to think Lex Luthor does not have ways and means around this). He has employed Dr. Emmett Vale, an scientist with a background in alien technology and linguistics, to try and get the drone operational. Meanwhile, the Kryptonite is studied, giving off a unique radiation that is not harmful to humans. Lex wonders if it harmful to Kryptonians.
Meanwhile – Night: Batman is following Clark Kent, watching him, but Clark has noticed, and confronts him as Superman. However, Clark cannot see Batman’s face, as his mask is lined with lead. Batman wants Superman to know he has limits, restrictions, that he knows who he is, and he can get to him. Superman asks why he hates him. Batman says because he is not a man, he needs to be accountable. Superman says he is right, that he is going to appear at the senate hearing.
Batman disappears without another word. Superman aims to follow, but hears Lois calling him back.
CUT TO: Superman appearing at the Capitol building, with Senator Finch wheeling out Wallace Keefe. Lex Luthor is there to wish him luck, but has to leave on business elsewhere. However, Superman is disorientated as he takes the stand, as Lex has planted Kryptonite inside it. His x-ray vision fails him, his super-hearing hears everything, and then only the sound of a digital clock. He scans the room, and sees the bomb hidden under Wallace’s Wayne Enterprises wheelchair. He tries to get to him, but he is too weak.
ACT ONE TP: The Capitol building explodes. Superman lies in the rubble, bleeding, shocked. He sees the green glow of the Kryptonite, and throws it away. He gets up as security staff, police, medical staff come in, with him as the only survivor. Driven by his guilt, and aware he is vulnerable, he flies away.
Bruce Wayne watches on TV, sees Lex Luthor condemn Superman, saying he thought he was a friend, but clearly not, showing that he will defy the courts.
Clark gets to Lois apartment, she takes care of him, but he has already started to heal. He says it was unlike anything he felt before.
Batman explodes into the apartment, trying to take down Superman, but he has recovered and defeats him. Batman swears he will hunt him down. Lois tries to tell him that he was set-up, but because Lois is threatened, Clark takes him down, pummelling him. This is caught on camera.
MEANWHILE: With the new threat, Luthor approaches General Swanwick to get access to the crashed alien ship, believing he will be able to help them come up with a way to stop Superman. Swanwick did not think Superman capable of such a thing, and so agrees to let Luthor have access. The ship is being held in an underground facility in the mountains far from Metropolis.
Superman escapes to the fortress of Solitude, while Bruce Wayne, bruised and battered, haunts the burnt out ruins of Wayne Manor. In the Fortress of Solitude, Jor-El appears as the AI hologram. Superman asks him what he should do. Jor-El says he must show this world who he is, that he must conquer all adversity, to be their beacon, their hope. In Wayne Manor, Bruce recalls one of the few memories he has of his father, giving him a moral lesson that Bruce had forgotten, essentially do not let other people tell you what to think or do.
Meanwhile: Lex and Vale have managed to reprogram the drone from the crashed ship, and use it to interact with the ship, managing to restore some power, and access the archives. The ship is able to locate a Kryptonian life sign on Earth, and it is in Smallville. They find the address is the Kent Farm. Luthor realises Clark Kent is Superman.
Clark returns home to Smallville, hoping to speak to his mom, but he finds Lois there too. She makes sure he is okay, and says they need to clear his name, but that their relationship is done, that she cannot keep going through this. She loves him, but the world needs him more than she does. She says she will do an interview with him to clear his name.
Bruce starts investigating the bomb, and discovers the source of the blast was Wallace’s wheelchair, as Lois’ interview with Superman airs. However, the government demand Superman turn himself in. Bruce discovers Wallace had recently been employed by Lex Corp.
Bruce sets up a meeting at the Lex Corp building, but is surprised to see Diana Prince there, undercover as an employee. He takes her aside and she reveals that LexCorp is tracking people with special abilities, shows a video of a man moving at super speed, in the flash of an eye. Bruce helps her recover her shield, but they are ambushed by security staff, and captured.
Bruce and Diana are held until Lex Luthor arrives, where he questions her about how old she is, showing a picture dating back to the first world war. Bruce accuses Lex of being behind the bombing. Lex denies it, but does point out that now there is a senate seat to fill, he might run for it, whereas Bruce will be in jail for industrial espionage. Bruce says that’s unlikely. Using his watch, he has been controlling the Batmobile, which blows a hole in the floor, allowing them to escape. Lex escapes in a helicopter.
Bruce and Diana part ways, Diana thanking him for the help, anmd says she hopes to return the favour, but she must go back to her people. Bruce now needs to take down Lex Luthor, but he will need Superman’s help.
Clark decides to turn himself in to Swanwick, and is taken to the alien ship base. Clark is horrified to discover that they have frozen Zod’s body to conduct experiments on it. Swanwick asks if he can blame them, that their lack of understanding causing fear about what he can do. Superman says men do bad things all the time, as Lex arrives back. Lex has more of the Kryptonite, and they use it to weaken Superman and keep him prisoner. Lex also weaponises it in the forms of weapons, bullets and knives.
Meanwhile, in Smallville, Martha Kent is woken by a noise in her house. She creeps downstairs and sees a figure dressed like Batman, who attacks her.
Bruce approaches Lois Lane back in Metropolis. She reveals that Clark turned himself in to the authorities. As Batman, he takes the Batwing and launches an offensive into the army base, rescuing Superman. Lex uses the opportunity to ask Swanwick for Zod’s body. Swanwick refuses. Lex kills him, and blames it on the Batman.
They go back to Smallville, only to find Martha kidnapped, apparently by the Batman. They fight in the cornfields of Smallville in the pouring rain, Clark angry and confused. Bruce tries to make him see reason, that why would he rescue him and kidnap his mother. Clark says to have power over him, control. Bruce says it is Lex Luthor, he’s behind this. Clark gives Batman a hand up, and says they need to go back and destroy the space ship, to stop them having access to that technology. Before they can do that, the military have tracked them down, and attack. Lex has customised their weapons with Kryptonite, which hurt Superman. Eventually they escape, but barely.
Lex uses the information found in the archives to revive Zod’s body and create Doomsday, planning to use it to kill Superman. He is revealed to be holding Martha Kent hostage.
Batman and Superman go back to Gotham, Alfred surprised by Superman’s presence. They try and come up with a plan. Clark calls Lois, and tells her to get somewhere safe, that they know who he is.
Lex brings Doomsday to life, teaching him to kill Superman. However, the creature is uncontrollable, and escapes, making its way to Metropolis. Superman returns to the alien ship and saves Martha with Batman’s help. Superman interrogates Luthor, asks what he did. He said he created something that can beat a Superman. Batman takes some of the Kryptonite weapons, saying they may need them to take the creature down.
Batman and Superman head to Metropolis to take down Doomsday, Superman saving Lois and Jimmy, who are reporting on the incident. They lead him to the World Engine Peace Park so they do not cause any destruction. However, he is unstoppable. Wonder Woman appears, and helps them battle it, but all three of them are still not able to take it down. Batman tries to kill it with the Kryptonite blade, but he cannot get closed, and is beaten to an inch of his life. Superman takes the knife, even though it weakens him. With Wonder Woman distracting it, Superman plunges the knife into the beast’s heart, but not before it skewers him with a bone lance. Both die under the ruins of the statue. Lois runs to him as he tells her he loves her.
In the aftermath, Lex Luthor is arrested and imprisoned, and the statue is rebuilt.
A small funeral takes place in Smallville. Bruce and Diana leave Lois alone, staring at the open grave as she throws in a handful of dirt. Martha helps her away, mourning Clark together.
Bruce Wayne (VO): Everyone on Earth remembers where they were the day Superman died, when hope for a better tomorrow died. But hope… hope lives on.
The dirt on the coffin swirls around, like Superman does when he flies.