This story contains plenty of plot spoilers so please stop reading now if you haven’t seen Batman v Superman.
Proving more powerful than some cringe-worthy reviews (sorry, Sad Affleck!), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is toppling box-office records and should be dominating the cineplex for the coming weeks. But that doesn’t mean it makes complete sense. After all, director Zack Snyder is already putting together a massive three-hour cut that will include tons of footage cut from the film, suggesting several plot points were truncated in the theatrical version. Here are some of the biggest questions raised by the film and our best attempts to answer them based on our knowledge of the comic-book source material and the upcoming films in the DC movie universe.
Who/what destroyed stately Wayne Mansion?
Whether it be in the movies (see: Batman Begins) or the comics, the Wayne manse has a knack for getting destroyed. Team Snyder hasn’t explicitly explained why the house is in ruins at the beginning of BvS, but considering the fate of Robin (see below) and the increasing violence employed by the Dark Knight (Ben Affleck) against criminals (also below), we can imagine that it was one of his archnemeses who laid waste to chez Wayne. The Joker perhaps? At various points in DC Comics, the mansion was destroyed by Bane, Two-Face and even an earthquake.
Some fans have postulated that the place might have been collateral damage in the Battle of Metropolis between Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod, or that Bruce Wayne simply let the ancient home fall into disrepair and prefers the modernist sensibilities of his Mies van der Rohe-esque lakeside retreat.
There’s a possibility that some of the backstory will be fleshed out in the three-hour, R-rated version of BvS that Snyder will release on home video.
What happened to Robin?
The Joker has been a grinning thorn in Batman’s paw for over 70 years now in the comic-book realm. But the moment where the Dark Knight came closest to unfurling his claws and slashing his nemesis to ribbons occurred in 1988, when the Clown Prince of Crime straight-up murdered the Bat’s Boy Wonder, Robin, beating the teenager to a pulp with a crowbar and then blowing him to smithereens with a bomb. (For those keeping track, this wasn’t the O.G. Robin, Dick Grayson, but rather the first of his many successors, Jason Todd.)
Conceived as an early experiment in fan interaction — readers could dial a 900 number deciding whether Robin would survive or perish — the Death in the Family story arc gained instant notoriety and the company swore off repeating the stunt again. At the same time, sales went through the roof, so the gimmick had its intended effect.
That’s a long prelude to explaining the tattered remains of a Robin costume that’s glimpsed in the Batcave in Batman v. Superman. References to the Joker — who will be re-introduced in Suicide Squad, now looking a lot like Jared Leto — are strewn throughout the film, most blatantly in the message that’s emblazoned in yellow spray paint on the young hero’s outfit: “Hahah, Joke’s on You, Batman.” Clearly, there’s a Joker-orchestrated Death in the Family-esque situation in this Batman’s past, which still haunts his mind and likely drove him into retirement… much as it did in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, where Jason’s costume lies in state in the Batcave.
Bruce Wayne pays respects to Robin in animated version of ‘Dark Knight Returns’ (Warner Bros.)
We’ll likely have to wait for the potentially Affleck-directed solo Batman adventure that Warner Bros. has teased to get the full story. But Snyder’s longer R-rated director’s cut may also provide more hints, especially since it will restore a deleted storyline involving Jena Malone, who was rumored to be playing Robin at one point.
Did Batman always torture bad guys and use heavily armed vehicles?
For most of his 75 years of crimefighting, Batman has eschewed firearms. Sure, he’d use smoke bombs or flash grenades, but not a weapon with lethal force. But there have been exceptions. In his earliest Detective Comics days, when the writers were just beginning to flesh out the character and before his no-gun-rule was codified in the DC bible, the Caped Crusader regularly carried pistols and would occasionally shoot down a bad guy. But that was a bad look for a hero whose raison d’être is the cold-blooded murder of his parents by a gunman, and with rare exception, he stopped using guns in canonical comics, as well as cartoons, TV series, and films. However, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight loaded up his vehicles with all kinds of firepower — something embraced by Snyder in BvS. Which isn’t surprising, considering the director infamously flouted the “Superman Doesn’t Kill” rule in Man of Steel.
Likewise, Bats doesn’t typically go around branding bad guys with a Batarang like he does in BvS. But there have been some instances in the comics, notably Frank Miller’s game-changing Dark Knight Returns — a big influence on Snyder’s film — where the conscience-lacking Caped Crusader, embittered by years of dealing with Gotham’s worst, brutally beats his adversaries.
For his part, Snyder deflects the criticism, telling Yahoo Movies that “in Star Wars [The Force Awakens] they destroy five planets with billions of people on them…. Did you ever see that they did that, on YouTube, a compilation of people that Batman kills in the last, in the series of movies since the last Chris Nolan movie,” he continues. “And there’s like 43. Some crazy number, because it’s just, you don’t think about it.”
Who is Cyborg?
Originally introduced in 1980, the man-machine hybrid Victor Stone a.k.a. Cyborg, has mostly been affiliated with DC’s teenage supergroup, the Teen Titans. But he got promoted to Justice League status in 2011 when DC launched its rebooted “New 52” universe. Dawn of Justice similarly skips his Teen Titans tryout, with Lex Luthor’s meta-human files grouping him alongside established Leaguers like Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash.
‘Cyborg’ concept art (Warner Bros./DC)
The offspring of two scientists employed by the research giant S.T.A.R. Labs, young Vic is often used as their guinea pig. Too often, because he ends up rebelling against his parents and pursuing brawny, rather than brainy, activities like football (could he be the player Clark Kent is assigned to cover in BvS?) and minor misdemeanors.
‘Cyborg’ concept art (Warner Bros./DC)
But it’s also his parents’ science know-how that saves Vic’s life when he becomes the inadvertent victim of an inter-dimensional monster attack that leaves him missing more than a few vital body parts. Papa Stone (played in BvS by character actor Joe Morton, whose history with the DC Universe includes a brief stint on the “Young Superman” TV series Smallville) acts quickly to save his son’s life with some highly experimental robotic prosthetics. But Vic doesn’t appreciate being transformed into a kind of high-tech Frankenstein’s monster, and while he eventually adjusts to his cyborg side, the shock of his transformation still weighs heavily on his mind. At least all that angst will help him fit in alongside Affleck’s super-aggro Batman
What’s the deal with that 1918 Wonder Woman photograph?
Taking a page out of Marvel’s first Captain American movie, the long-awaited Wonder Woman feature will be a period piece set during a major 20th century conflict: in this case World War I, rather than WWII. That era is alluded to in the black-and-white photograph that Diana is trying to retrieve from Lex Luthor’s archives, which indicates that she’s much older than her runway-ready appearance suggests. The snapshot also gives us a first look at some of the associates we can expect to see in her solo adventure, most notably Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the American soldier who proves himself worthy of the Amazon warrior’s respect… and love.
Pine and Gadot in ‘Wonder Woman’ (Warner Bros.)
Originally slated to be directed by Michelle MacLaren, Wonder Woman started shooting last fall with Patty Jenkins at the helm, and the first footage was teased in a Kevin Smith-hosted television special that aired on The CW earlier this year. That trailer gave us a glimpse of Gal Gadot — the Dawn of Justice star viewers are most excited to see — in action (and also in disguise) behind enemy lines in early 20th century Europe, her destination after leaving the seclusion of idyllic isle Themyscira where she lives alongside her fellow Amazons. That formative adventure apparently endowed her with the same distrust for the cruelties of men, as well as the desire to see justice done, that she expresses in BvS. Look for the photograph to come to life in June 2017.
Who is the extraterrestrial threat that Lex Luthor refers to?
No comic book movie universe is complete without an alien warlord bent on galactic domination. Thus, Marvel has Thanos — a looming threat since the first Avengers movie — and DC has Darkseid, a snarling tyrant who is always seeking to conquer new worlds beyond his home planet of Apokolips.
Darkseid vs. the Justice League (DC)
Created by comics legend Jack Kirby as part of his “Fourth World” branch of the DC Universe, Darkseid’s vast array of powers, ranging from super strength to eye-generated Omega Beams, makes him a one-man Legion of Doom. And he wants nothing more than to turn Earth into a subdivision of the apocalyptic Apokolips — a horrifying vision that Batman witnesses firsthand in Dawn of Justice’s action-packed (if befuddling) dream sequence.
Darkseid’s arrival is imminent, but it won’t be immediate. First, the Justice League has to actually assemble, with Batman and Wonder Woman tracking down the other three meta-humans they’ve learned about through Lex Luthor’s files. That will happen next year in the first of two Justice League features that Zack Snyder is scheduled to start shooting in April. And even then, Darkseid may take his sweet time, instead letting Brainiac — another formidable alien opponent who is rumored to be the villain of Justice League Part 1 — soften them up before he unleashes his killing blow in Part 2, dated for 2019. Our suggestion for a subtitle? Apokolips Now, of course.
Is Superman really dead?
The short answer: No.
The longer answer: Seriously?! Even if you didn’t see the soil moving off the top of his casket at the final moment of the film, do you really think DC is finally trying to build a Marvel-rivaling interconnected universe without arguably its most iconic character? No way. While a large portion of BvS owes to the aforementioned Dark Knight Returns comic, the final third of the film borrows many plot points from the Death of Superman storyline. In that classic 1992 arc, Doomsday arrives on Earth and engages Superman in an epic mano a monstruo battle that wipes out huge swaths of Metropolis and ends with both combatants dead.
Doomsday and Superman fight to the ‘death’ (DC)
Or at least comic-book dead. Eventually Superman returns (following a long convalescence in the Fortress of Solitude and a convoluted plot that involves four other characters laying claim to the cape) as does Doomsday.
‘Justice League’ concept art (Warner Bros./DC)
Since DC and Warners have already announced Superman as being a character in the Justice League films — including in the recently released concept art — and Cavill confirming to Yahoo Movies that he’ll begin shooting it next month, not to mention a stand-alone sequel at some point in the future, we’d bet the Kent farm on Superman not staying dead for long.
Watch Zack Snyder defend Batman’s violent ways: