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.’”
Setting Batman v Superman up as the prequel, of sorts, to Justice League helped ease Warner Bros.’ qualms about killing off the Man of Steel, it appears. But this is a comic book adaptation after all, so obviously Superman’s going to come back. The question is how. Steve asked Snyder if they already know the circumstances of Superman’s return or if that decision has yet to be made:
“I’m gonna say this: the second you do the first part of it, the death and resurrection are the same thing in a weird way. You have to know. The reason I wanted to do it the way we did it is because I don’t want the audience completely off the hook with it. They still have to go like, ‘What the fuck? Are you kidding me?’. There’s a way to signal towards a more definitive resurrection concept, but I didn’t wanna do that because I want that to be real for them when they see it, I want the experience to be real and then the sort of need to be real later on. Suffice it to say there is a plan, but that’s gonna be—you need to wait and see.”
It’s unclear how far into Justice League we’ll have to wait to see Superman’s resurrection, but I’d be surprised if the character was left in the ground until the very end. That said, our preconceived notions of what the Justice League movie will entail have gone out the window after the ending of Batman v Superman, as the Justice League crew—at least for a little while—will be working without their most valuable asset.
Snyder went on to say that he wants to shoot “a bunch” of Justice League in IMAX but is still working out exactly how much of the film will be presented in that format. Indeed, for a movie that starts production on April 11th, we still know precious little about the film beyond the fact that Affleck, Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, and Ray Fisher are in it, as well as Amber Heard as Mera and presumably Henry Cavill’s Superman. We’ll have to wait for that film’s release on November 17, 2017 to see exactly how/if Superman comes back, but kudos to Snyder and Co. for keeping this major plot point under wraps for so long.
For more from Steve’s interviews with Snyder and the rest of the Batman v Superman cast and crew, click the links below.
- Exclusive: Zack Snyder Reveals ‘Batman v Superman’ Deleted Scenes Included on R-Rated “Ultimate Cut”
- These Two Batman Villains Came Close to Being in ‘Batman v Superman’
- ‘300’ Sequels Could Go Beyond Greece, Says Zack Snyder
- Zack Snyder Teases ‘Justice League’s Official Title and Production Schedule
- Zack Snyder Gives His Thoughts on ‘Watchmen’ Director’s Cut vs. Ultimate Cut