For better or worse, Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has kicked off the DC Cinematic Universe, which, by our count, has 11 movies planned through 2020. Despite the negative critical response, it’s a very important step toward a larger plan, laying the groundwork for solo films and epic teams-up, starting with the Justice League Part One in 2017.
While we’ve already reviewed the movie, we wanted to dive a little deeper into some of the film’s bigger questions. Who is Darkseid? What was up with Batman’s nightmare? What is Lex Luthor rambling on about? Plenty of hints were packed into Batman v Superman’s 151-minute runtime, so let’s get to it.
If you were confused by some of the imagery and characters who appeared in the movie, we’re here to fill you in. Spoilers to follow.
Was that Robin?
Early on in the movie, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) strolls through his lakeside Batcave and stops to contemplate a suit encased in glass. At first glance, it looks like any old tattered suit, something Bruce might have worn early on in his crimefighting career. But look closer, and it becomes clear it’s a suit once worn by Robin.
Why’s this important? Well, it explains some of Batman’s history. When we first meet Snyder’s version of the Dark Knight, he’s road weary and hardened, with nearly 20 years of history under his belt. (And judging by his extreme anger toward Superman, along with his willingness to kill, he might be suffering from a severe case of PTSD, but that’s a conversation for another day.)
In this scene, Robin’s suit coupled with Bruce’s silence, reveals a pivotal moment in Batman’s history—one that’s had a lasting impact on his psyche. It’s likely why he’s so distrusting of Superman; it’s a powerful moment, adding complexity to the character without telling the audience what happened.
In the comics, Jim Starlin’s “A Death in the Family” remains one of DC’s darkest story arcs, and it looks like that’s the source material Snyder is pulling from by showing Robin’s suit. Keeping it on constant display is a visible (and morbid) reminder—not only that one of Batman’s apprentices died but as a direct result of his actions.
We don’t know if Snyder will ever expand on Batman’s history but there’s a good chance we’ll learn more in Affleck’s upcoming solo movie. Either audiences will get a prequel that shows Batman’s career as a vigilante crimefighter or Snyder will expand on the character’s past in next year’s Justice League.
What’s up with Batman’s Knightmare?
Batman’s troubled history might also contribute to the Knightmare he has early on in the movie. While trying to decrypt data he stole from Lex Luthor, Bruce Wayne has a wild dream (vision?) about a post-apocalyptic world ruled be Superman.
We don’t have much context for this scene, but we understand that Earth has been turned into a scorched wasteland, with very few signs of humanity left. There’s a huge Omega symbol burned into the landscape and volcanoes erupting in the distance. Batman, who is in full militia mode, hardly reacts, suggesting things have been this way for a while.
We soon find out Batman is searching for the last remnants of Kryptonite, a mineral he needs to destroy Superman. But during his search, he’s betrayed by a group of mercenaries and quickly captured by a swarm of parademons, an alien race who fight for Darkseid (more on him later).
After his capture, we cut to an underground bunker being guarded by soldiers. Batman and a few others are chained up in what looks like the beginning of a violent torture scene waiting to happen.
But it’s worse than that. After doing his best “superhero landing,” Superman wastes no time getting to the point, using his laser vision to incinerate two soldiers on either side of Batman. He then unmasks the Dark Knight, and I don’t remember exactly what he says, but it’s something to the effect that Lois Lane was his everything, but Batman took that away from him. Yikes.
This sequence seems to suggest Bruce has some nascent clairvoyance, not only hinting that Darkseid is coming but confirming his suspicions of Superman being capable of wiping out humanity to be true. Now, the audience hasn’t seen Superman show any evil tendencies, but Bruce’s distrust of the alien becomes reinforced by what happens in the dream.
Confounding his doubts of Superman’s altruism is a sudden visit by the Flash, who vaguely talks about Lois Lane and how she’s the “key” to the future. “You were right,” the Flash shouts. Right about what?
So who is Darkseid?
Have you been keeping up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Darkseid is essentially DC’s version of Thanos (although Darkseid burst onto the scene first), an ultra powerful and tyrannical alien intent on ruling all life. I mean, Darkseid is from a planet called Apokolips for crying out loud. If you thought Doomsday was dangerous, you haven’t seen nothing yet. Not only does Darkseid have super strength and speed, but he can project Omega beams and manipulate energy, making him an incredible threat to life across the universe.
Darkseid is hinted at a number of times throughout Batman v Superman, notably by the Omega symbol spotted in Batman’s Knightmare; it’s essentially his calling card, and it’s emblazoned in the landscape for all to see. But that isn’t the only time Snyder points to the villain’s imminent arrival. He’s constantly referred to by Lex Luthor, too, although never by name. It isn’t clear how Luthor would even know Darkseid exists though his knowledge could have come from his time inside the Kryptonian ship.
Later on in the film, Luthor menacingly says to Batman, “He’s hungry, and he’s coming.” We never find out who “he” is but Snyder gives us a not-so-subtle hint when the film cuts to a painting hanging in Lex Luthor’s home. The picture is heavy with symbolism, showing the battle between heaven and hell. What’s peculiar, however, is that the painting has been purposely turned upside down, which is in reference to an earlier conversation between Luthor and Senator Finch about the devil descending from the sky.
The audience is led to believe that whatever creature Luthor is referring to is pure evil, existing only to oppose the Justice League.
What about the ending?
Here’s where the film is up to some interpretation. At the end of the movie, Superman is killed by Doomsday—something that happens in the comics. Not exactly surprising given Doomsday exists simply to destroy Superman, and Luthor even says as much right as the humanoid creature is born in the Kryptonian ship.
But will Superman stay dead? Zack Snyder has already explained that his decision to kill Superman was made so Batman would be the one to seek out the other metahumans.
Here’s what he had to say about his reasoning behind Superman’s death:
One of the big things I wanted to make sure of was that as we went into Justice League, Bruce Wayne was the one who was gathering the Justice League. I thought it was really important to have Bruce Wayne be the samurai who goes and finds the other samurai, that to me was important. And with Superman around it’s kinda hard, because Superman’s Superman so it’s kinda hard for Bruce to be like, ‘Yeah I wanna put a Justice League together.’ It’s like, ‘Okay, but Superman should be doing that. You’re just a guy. You’re a cool guy, don’t get me wrong, but you’re just a guy.’
I don’t think anyone is under any illusions that Superman won’t be in Justice League Part One, it’s just a matter of how Snyder will handle his return. The character has long been treated as a religious figure, and this symbolism will again come to the forefront once Superman rises from the dead. You know, like Jesus. If people weren’t afraid of him before, who knows how they’ll respond when they realize he’s virtually unkillable.
What state of mind will he be in once he returns? And how will Lois Lane respond when he does? If Batman’s Knightmare is to have any actual meaning, perhaps Superman will return as an evil version of himself—maybe the DC cinematic universe’s take on Bizarro. What if Darkseid’s existence has something to do with Superman’s return? That scenario is probably very unlikely, however, because it doesn’t fit in with Superman’s constant portrayal as a deity.
When Justice League Part One hits theaters next November, will it pick up immediately following Batman v Superman? Or will there be a time break, similar to what we saw from the end of Man of Steel to Batman v Superman?
Contrary to popular opinion, I enjoyed Batman v Superman. That’s not to say it wasn’t without its problems, but I’m looking forward to what’s to come. Later this year we’ll see Suicide Squad, followed by Wonder Woman next summer. Neither of these will relate all that much to the events of Batman v Superman though they might reference things that show up down the road. And then, on Nov. 17, 2017, Justice League Part One will finally provide us with answers as to how this whole thing is going to shake out.