NOTE: If you have not seen Batman v Superman, turn back now. The following article delves heavily into spoilers. Consider this your official warning.
Three years after it was first announced, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is now finally in theaters. While the film’s marketing seemed to give way much of the film in the lead-up to its release, there was one major plot point that remained shockingly under wraps throughout this entire time: they killed Superman. Warner Bros. had been wanting to tackle the famous Death of Superman comics story back in the 90s, throughout the development of the many cancelled Superman reboots, before eventually abandoning the idea in favor of Bryan Singer’s romantic sequel Superman Returns. But with Batman v Superman, director Zack Snyder and screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer made the bold decision to conclude the film with Superman’s definitive death, complete with two funerals.
How did this decision come about and how did the studio react? When Steve took part in the film’s press day, he posed these questions to Snyder, resulting in a fascinating spoiler-filled discussion about the Batman v Superman ending and its larger ramifications:
“It was pretty early, and [Christopher] Nolan and I had long conversation about it, a really great, sort of philosophical conversation about it. He was really cool because he played an amazing devil’s advocate about why not to do it, and then in the end was like, ‘No you’re right, it’s better to do it.’”
So while Nolan was only an executive producer on Batman v Superman, clearly he weighed in on one of the film’s most important story points. But what was Snyder’s reasoning for killing off Superman in the first place? It was two-fold, with one part having to do with his desire to have Batman lead the Justice League in the next film, Justice League:
“We had a version that we talked about where [Superman] just—this isn’t it, but where he got frozen and shot into space or something, so he’s kinda gone. Because 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 maybe 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.’”
So yes, the decision to have Batman lead the Justice League was one of the deciding factors in killing off Superman, and Snyder’s revelation also tells us that Ben Affleck’s Batman will likely be leading the Justice League ensemble when that film hits theaters next year.
But Justice League plans weren’t the only reason for killing off Superman. Snyder also wanted to bring Henry Cavill’s character to the ultimate point of embracing his humanity:
“I thought for the evolution of Superman’s character, there’s a crucible that he has to go through to really embrace his humanity or find what is the ultimate thing about being human? The ultimate thing you face is your mortality, and that’s a thing that I think is really cool about this.”
So Snyder wants to kill off one of the main characters in the DC Cinematic Universe saga in its second movie—how does Warner Bros. react?
“The studio was like, ‘What?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah but, how about I called the movie Dawn of Justice?’, and they’re like ‘Okay, okay, I like what you’re doing, I see what you’re doing.’”