NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Batman v Superman
After nearly three years worth of build-up (including a delay of almost a year at one point) Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has finally premiered in theaters and the reaction... probably isn't making Warner Bros. very happy. Early preview audiences showered the film in enthusiastic social media quotes, but once critics got a look at it the film's buzz began to fall faster than your average Metropolis skyscraper in the previous film (it should be said that our review of the film landed somewhere in the middle, but our reviewer still liked it.) The first wave of reviews were almost uniformly toxic, and while that doesn't necessarily mean that all audiences will agree with the critics, even those who end up enjoying it are still likely to walk away scratching their heads over one moment or another.
With that in mind, here are the ten biggest moments likely to have audiences from the haters to the lovers to the in-betweeners scratching their heads on the way home from the theater. Oh, and it should go without saying, most of these are big-time SPOILERS.
Batman is all about preparation. In fact, in the comics a near-psychotic obsession with planning for every contingency is practically his super-power - or, at least, the preferred fig leaf for writers looking to explain how Bruce Wayne holds his own against even B-level super threats when his primary area of his strength is having a super trust fund. So when it's time to show us how Batman prepares for a fight with Superman, what parts of that famous prep-work do we get to see? The making of his Superman-proof powered-armor? The logic behind turning almost his entire supply of kryptonite into a huge spear as opposed to maybe a sword or some batarangs?
Nope! But he does make sure to show us a super-ripped Ben Affleck throwing around a gigantic rubber tire and beating the crap out of it with a sledgehammer, crossfit-style. Sure, guess it makes since Batman would follow all the trendiest workout fads, but that's pretty specific (plus, it doesn't look to be one of the Batmobile tires, so does he have it there just for this?,) and leaves us to wonder: If they'd made this in the late-90s, would we have seen Bruce Wayne doing Tae-Bo?
The whole point of Batman V Superman, we're told, is to finally see what happens when the guy with all the powers fights the guy with all the gadgets. But we don't exactly get an answer to that question - partly because what each combatant can and can't do to the other in a given moment keeps changing from shot to shot. For example, at one point Batman gets the better of Superman by detonating a smoke-bomb and running behind his back. Superman, who can see through walls, is somehow outwitted by making the air slightly murkier than it was a moment prior.
Granted, Batman keeps spraying Superman with blasts of magic kryptonite gas that take his powers away for a minute or two (which also means that the fight scene they named the movie after is mostly two guys of about the same strength level in a regular old fist-fight). But we see Superman dash through the smoke at super-speed, meaning he's got all or at least a lot of his abilities back. Did his eyes somehow take longer to come back online than his lower extremities? Maybe, but if so that's some mighty plot-convenient kryptonite.
A huge amount of the plot driving the film rests on Lex Luthor discovering kryptonite on Earth. And while irradiated Kryptonian minerals have always found fairly convoluted means of arriving on Earth in the original comics and various adaptations, Batman V Superman's version is doozy: Remember The World Engine, the second of the big alien ships General Zod used to attempt terraforming Earth at the end of Man of Steel? An alien weapon of unthinkable power bound to be as fascinating and terrifying to humanity as the Kryptonians themselves?
Well, the wreckage of it is still just sitting there in the Indian Ocean. Unguarded. Waiting for a pair of kids to swim out and pull some kryptonite out of the scraps. That seems like a pretty big oversight. Maybe this world doesn't need a Justice League so much as a super clean-up crew?
Setting aside that it's not entirely clear in the film what it is Lex Luthor and LexCorp actually do - his actual plan is so elaborate it feels like something Dr. Evil might come up with. Short version: Lex stages a series of Superman-adjacent tragedies around the world to make Batman want to kill him, kidnaps Martha Kent (and almost kills Lois Lane) and threatens to burn her as a witch unless Superman fights Batman - thus taking out one or potentially both heroes. But he also uses Kryptonian technology to turn General Zod's corpse into Doomsday... who's powerful enough to kill both heroes on his own, so why exactly does he bother with the big chess game in the first place?
He also changes his mind from scene to scene as to what he's so mad about in the first place. At first he's paranoid about aliens among us, but later implies it's all about his abusive father. Then he changes gears again and explains that he's an atheist and wants to kill Superman because he regards him as a god. But at the very end, he has yet another excuse for his actions: He knows that some unnamed alien menace is headed for Earth and it's driven him bonkers! Okay, fine, we're setting up the pins for Justice League... but when did he find this out? And how?
According the pre-release hype, Batman is out for Super-blood in this movie for ideological reasons and because he's furious about what happened to Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel. But the actual movie has a much more immediate rationale for Bruce Wayne's strange (even for Bruce Wayne) behavior: He had a bad dream.
Specifically, he dreams of himself leading a post-apocalyptic rebellion against an evil dictator version of Superman who appears to have destroyed/conquered the world for unspecified reasons.
The sequence mainly seems to exist to drop fan-service visual-clues about Darkseid being the villain of some future DC movie (likely Justice League) in the form a giant "omega" symbol carved into the ground, Parademon soldiers and the presence of Apokolipsian fire-pits in wide shots; so it's possible that we're meant to take this as a "prophetic vision." Except that we've had zero buildup that Darkseid is even a thing before, so how is Batman already dreaming about it? Seeing the future isn't usually one of his powers. It's a cool-looking sequence, but it feels more like something that should be a post-credits gag, not the thing driving one of the main character's motivations.
During the big final battle with Doomsday, everyone gets a chance to contribute some measure of heroism to the monster's ultimate defeat. Even Lois Lane, who dives into a pool of water to retrieve Batman's discarded kryptonite spear: The weapon he made to kill Superman and now the only hope of bringing down Doomsday. Her selfless actions nearly cost her life, as she comes close to drowning before Superman swoops in to rescue her. Not a bad idea for a scene, but there's just one problem:
The spear is only in the pool in the first place because Lois dropped it there moments earlier, presumably to keep it from hurting Superman.
Why would she do that? Superman only just found out kryptonite exists a minute ago, so there's no way Lois can know what it does - let alone that it'll also hurt Doomsday. Sure, she wants to help, but maybe next time just point it out and let the guy who can't drown handle this one?
People like to joke about the Marvel Cinematic Universe shoves teasers for their other movies into each new release, but compared to the approach Batman V Superman takes to worldbuilding they're a marvel (sorry) of understatement. Whereas The Avengers tend to limit their "wider universe" references to background details, random asides in dialogue or cameos that fit organically into the story (or they just stick it after the credits where there's no more movie to interrupt); director Zack Snyder evidently prefers to be less subtle about it.
During the buildup to one of the most action-packed parts of the movie, Batman gifts Wonder Woman with an email of some LexCorp files they'd both been (independently) trying to hack. She gets what she wanted (a photo from 1918 proving she's an immortal) but also more: A set of video files documenting the existence of three more "metahumans": The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman.
Well, that's certainly one way to announce a franchise: Pause the movie so one of the stars can walk us through Warner Bros' Summer Blockbuster power-point presentation; to the extent that Luthor appears to have already assigned the Justice Leaguers-to-be their nicknames and branding logos - how considerate of him!
We're not making this one up.
Part of Lex Luthor's overly-complicated plan to trick Batman and Superman into fighting each other involves getting a Senator (played by Holly Hunter) heading a committee conducting an investigation into a Superman-related massacre at an African warlord's compound to grant him a license to import kryptonite to the U.S. When she refuses, shutting him down with a Southern-fried metaphor on the lines of "Don't piss in a jar and tell me it's granny's peach tea," he instead detonates a bomb in the Senate chamber and frames an injured anti-Superman activist (and former Wayne employee) as a suicide bomber to further enrage Batman. In order to build tension before the explosion, Hunter's character is shown growing gradually suspicious of a mason jar of liquid that's been placed where her water glass should be - the camera pulling tight on her increasingly horrified expression as she realizes that, yes, Lex Luthor has left a jar of his urine for her as a reference to her put-down in order to scare her just before she blows up.
An entire scene. In a multimillion dollar Hollywood superhero movie. That's meant to be tense and subsequently tragic and horrifying. Is constructed around Lex Luthor leaving a jar of his pee on a desk as an in-joke. And people said Gene Hackman's version was too goofy!
Here's how the big title fight in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice wraps up: With Superman temporarily depowered and knocked on his back, Batman plants a metal boot on his enemy's throat and prepares to deliver the killing blow with a kryptonite spear. But then, just as he's ready to finish him off, The Dark Knight's hand is stayed by a shocking revelation and overcome him with a surprise wave of empathy; finally realizing that he and Superman are not so different and, just maybe, could be on the same side. What information could possibly have triggered this?
Superman's mother is named Martha - just like Batman's was.
Mrs. Kent and Mrs. Wayne coincidentally sharing a first name is a perennial superhero trivia question, but Dawn of Justice is the first time it's been used as a personal connection so intense that it overcomes an entire preceding film's worth of mutual loathing. In fact, the film finds this information so important that it breaks all known logic of human conversation in order to get it spoken: Who, when drawing their last breath with only moments to convey important information to a would-be executioner (and total stranger), would use their parent's first name as opposed to "My mother!" or "Luthor's hostage!"? Sure, it's sort of funny to see Batman momentarily completely confused, but at such a big dramatic moment?
Did any other moments have you baffled about this movie? Let us know in the comments!