The third trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is here, and, with it, a torrent of character analyses and narrative breakdowns. While there is a lot of new information for eager fans to wade through, there’s actually quite a bit more that hasn’t been definitely given away by the previews. In fact, for every answer that has been provided, there’s been at least one new question that has arisen - making a lot of room for speculation and storytelling possibilities.
There are just a handful of questions, however, that stand out above all the rest. Think of these as the most pressing items to be considered upon seeing the latest trailer - the ones that can potentially shape the entirety of the fledgling DC Extended Universe. Join us as we dive into Our Three Biggest Questions About Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
How will the title bout play out?
Director Zack Snyder has made no secret of his passion for Frank Miller’s seminal miniseries The Dark Knight Returns and its role as one of the main influences upon the film. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the title bout between the Dark Knight (Ben Affleck) and the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) – from Bruce Wayne’s battle suit to dialogue like “It’s time you learn what it means to be a man,” many elements have been lifted directly from the page.
Just how far this goes into forming the basis of the knock-down, drag-out brawl is unknown, however. The movie’s version is, by all accounts thus far, significantly longer than its comic book predecessor, and this by itself opens up a huge can of worms. The final confrontation with Superman was merely one point in a multi-step plan that Dark Knight Returns’ Bruce Wayne pursues. In fact, it was more of a ruse than anything else; after literally just a few moments of fighting, Bruce fakes his own death, thereby getting both the government and its superpowered lackey off his back and allowing him to get to the real work of liberating Gotham (and the rest of the country).
Indeed, there’s a great deal of logistical sense for the battle to not last very long at all, as – let’s face it – there’s just no way for a mere mortal to seriously pose a threat to a Kryptonian god. Despite Batman’s best efforts and meticulously laid-out plans, Clark loses his temper and breaks three of Bruce’s ribs just two minutes in. It was already a precarious balance to strike in the comics, when the fight was only a few pages long. It’s going to be a near-impossible feat to pull off convincingly on the big screen.
Let’s eschew generalities for specifics and see how Frank Miller managed to stick the tricky landing. Even before the fight starts, there are a whole host of factors curbing Superman’s strength and potency in The Dark Knight Returns: his general older age; the fact that he is forced to intercept and then dispose of a Soviet Union-launched nuclear warhead, with its resulting detonation nearly shredding him; and, finally, he is the target of a barrage of Batman-engineered booby traps when he arrives on the scene, starting with some heavy-duty anti-aircraft missiles before moving on to a massive tank shell and a formidable sonar blast.
While it looks like one or two of these elements will be carried over to the big screen – the Man of Steel is peppered with machine gun fire by the Batwing in the trailer, and Batman himself is seen brandishing a gun that may or may not be the sonic device he wields in the comic – Clark will still be in his prime. That’s a fundamental shift in the storytelling balance all by itself.
Then come the fisticuffs themselves. The armor that Batman wears is tapped into Gotham City’s power grid, and Bruce drains all of it to put a little extra oomph in his punches (not to mention unleashing an electric shock on his nemesis, just to help ensure the playing field is more level). His cables linking him to the grid, however, mean that he’s anchored to just the one spot – something that the filmmakers have obviously eschewed for their version of the fight. Does this mean that Batman has found an alternative power source for his battle suit, such as Kryptonite? Or do the scenes that we’ve seen thus far all take place after his initial powering up?
One thing is certain: for as much hat-tipping as Zack Snyder and company are doing to Dark Knight Returns, Dawn of Justice’s version of the fight is going to be considerably different.
Who’s pulling the heroes’ strings?
Frank Miller makes one thing clear throughout all of his Batman works: if left to their own devices, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent would have a lot of disdain for one another, but they wouldn’t (literally) be at each other’s throats. There’s an external factor shaping the dynamics of their relationship and ensuring that there’s no choice but to fight one another.
In the comics, the puppeteer pulling all the metahuman strings is the American government (made manifest by a farcical representation of President Ronald Regan in the original Dark Knight Returns), which has made all superheroics illegal and reined Superman in as its own private superweapon. With Batman reneging on the deal and once again taking up the cape and cowl, the Man of Steel is brought in as the superhero policeman he is, tasked with putting down Bruce Wayne once and for all.
In the film, it seems as if the newly rebooted Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is taking the place of the evil Reagan, if his little exchange with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is anything to go by: the “greatest gladiator match in the history of the world,” he gleefully dubs the superheroes’ fight, implying that he’s the one behind the development. If he truly is the culprit, this actually wouldn’t be all that much of a deviation from the source material. In Miller’s follow-up, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, it’s revealed that it’s actually Lex Luthor, in partnership with stalwart Superman villain Brainiac, who’s the real power behind the world-dominating, fascistic throne. Freeing Superman from his bondage to Luthor, and then taking down the big guy himself, forms the crux of Bruce’s plan and the sequel’s climax.
Either way, it’s a shrewd move to have an external factor involved in the hostilities between the two leads; having the two come to such vicious blows without some element of manipulation going on behind-the-scenes could potentially damage the characters’ integrities, which could in turn damage the sustainability of the DC Extended Universe as a whole.
What’s the story behind Wonder Woman?
One of the most 'wonderful' elements from the new trailer is how Wonder Woman just shows up in the middle of the fight against Doomsday, leaving both Superman and Batman confused as to who she is and how she got there.
Beyond the narrative aspects of this film, in particular, there is the wider consideration of what storytelling avenues this opens up for the rest of the shared cinematic universe - not least because Wonder Woman is already slated to appear in both of 2017’s DC releases, Wonder Woman and Justice League, Part I. Rumors had strongly suggested over the course of the past year or two that Diana Prince would make her first appearance in Batman v Superman already well established as a superhero, with her subsequent solo outing hopping back several decades in time to act as a sort of origin story. Just days before this latest trailer landed, Wonder Woman set photos proved the truth behind those rumors, revealing Diana and her supporting cast in period costumes.
What’s intriguing about this approach to the material is the sheer flexibility that it allows for all subsequent entries in the DCEU. Will Aquaman follow a similar tack, retroactively showing how Arthur Curry came to be the king of Atlantis? Or, conversely, might the spinoff films jump further along down the timeline, with the main Justice League entries then having to play catch-up? It’s certainly possible that the first solo Batman installment might play this card, particularly if it focuses on Red Hood and the return of the fallen Robin.
Excited by the possibilities that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice could generate? Worried that Warner Bros. might be trying to do too much, too soon? Sound off in the comments below.
If you’d like to learn even more about Frank Miller’s Dark Knight work and how it might influence the DCEU, be sure to check out our Complete Guide to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman – June 23rd, 2017; Justice League – November 17th, 2017; The Flash – March 23rd, 2018; Aquaman – July 27th, 2018; Shazam – April 5th, 2019; Justice League 2 – June 14th, 2019; Cyborg – April 3rd, 2020; Green Lantern – June 19th, 2020.