The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world has finally happened. Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice landed, with much brooding and ominous fanfare, into the world’s cinemas last weekend, and promptly made more money than a Wayne Enterprises fundraiser. Reactions have been polarising, but everyone, it seems, has questions. Naturally, we went straight to director Zack Snyder and producers Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder for answers. Here’s what we learned.
WARNING: this article contains huge spoilers for Batman v Superman from the start.
1. Lex Luthor knew Batman and Superman’s secret identities almost from the start
Secret identities are not quite the key currency they were in the comics, as Zack Snyder admits – “the notion that they are anonymous because they wear a mask is slightly passé” – but nonetheless, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor has his superheroes pegged. By the time Bruce (Ben Affleck) and Clark (Henry Cavill) first meet, at Lex’s swanky fundraiser, he’s already figured it out.
We wanted to make sure it was very clear that this was different from any Batman we've ever seen.
“I think Lex knows who Bruce is at the party,” says Deborah Snyder. “He sends him that invitation because he wants this confrontation to come to a head.” Fellow producer Charles Roven agrees, noting that “once you realise Lex set Superman up with the fight in the desert, then you have to assume that he has done everything with the foreknowledge of who these players are. That what makes him the ultimate puppet master.”
Zack Snyder also observed that Clark Kent’s ingenious disguise – namely, a single pair of thick-rimmed glasses – could be straightforwardly deciphered. “I felt like him figuring out that Clark Kent is Superman would be fairly easy for Lex Luthor.”
2. The Justice League get their superhero names from Lex
When Batman and Wonder Woman learn of the ‘metahumans’ – the DC term for superhumans – it’s via a Flash drive (ahem) pilfered from LexCorp. Jesse Eisenberg’s villain has done all the research for them, and in the process, inadvertently christened them with their superhero alter egos.
“I know that's sacrilege, but I kind of love it,” says Zack Snyder. “When you think about it, Wonder Woman would not have gotten her name from anyone other than someone who was trying to file her somewhere. You can imagine it as a naming convention. Flash feels like the same thing. Aquaman and Cyborg also. It's not like they went down a giant rabbit hole with the naming convention...”
3. There are metahumans we haven’t even seen yet
Lex has clearly done his homework. As seen on both Batman and Wonder Woman’s screens, the files on metahumans are extensive and numerous; Deborah Snyder teases the possibility that there are many more we are yet to meet. “[Lex] has been doing a lot of research on all of them. Maybe there's files on people that we don't even know yet...” Since there are over 10,000 superheroes that exist in the original DC comics, expect to see at least a handful of them make it to the big screen in the foreseeable future.
4. Jimmy Olsen's death is designed to set the tone
Jimmy Olsen - yes, that Jimmy Olsen, Daily Planet photojournalist Jimmy Olsen – makes the briefest of appearances in the film, whether or not you realised. He is in fact the photographer/CIA agent in the Nairomi sequence, quickly dispatched by Lex’s terrorists, and never named.
In the extended ‘Ultimate Edition’, coming to Blu-ray, he calls himself by name – part of a much larger scene that had to be cut for time. Snyder wanted to include (and kill off) the character from the beginning. "I wanted to do the death of Jimmy Olsen as a way of preparing yourself for the world that you were going to enter," he explains.
5. Too much dialogue in the superhero costumes gets a bit silly
Zack Snyder was always aiming for a Batman/Superman showdown akin to the famous De Niro/Pacino restaurant scene in Michael Mann’s Heat. “That was my mantra,” he says. “I kept saying: ‘we need the Heat scene, we need the Heat scene’. But I came to the conclusion that they couldn't really talk in their suits with any credibility. We had to get them back in their civvies.” The scene where Clark and Bruce meet at Lex’s party, dressed in non-superhero clothes, was thus conceived.
It was, says Snyder, an issue of tone - marrying the dark approach of DC’s burgeoning cinematic universe with its somewhat camper comic origins. “When they're in their super-suits, it was impossible [to get the Heat scene]. We tried it. It was just one of those things. If there are more than four or five lines, you start to notice – wait, these are two guys dressed up! One guy's dressed up like a bat and the other one has a big red ‘S’ on his chest, and it reads super serious...”
6. The dream sequence offers a Darkseid future...
Of all the dream sequences in the movie, it’s the one in the mystical desert which has gotten most tongues wagging. First revealed exclusively by Empire, it appears to depict the omega symbol of DC uber-villain Darkseid in a nightmarish future.
Snyder and his producers are naturally coy on this count, but the director will admit that “it's okay to look at the extended dream sequence as an impressionistic view of a possible future.” The strange winged demons which attack Batman with machine guns, incidentally, are the Parademons, Darkseid’s alien minions.
7. ...and it sounds like Darkseid is looking for the Anti-Life Equation
Remaining as reticent as he could manage, Zack Snyder addressed a potential Darkseid appearance. “I mean, maybe he exists out in the universe somewhere, looking for something... something that's against life? I don't know.” Snyder wasn’t nodding and winking as he said this, but he might as well have been – he’s heavily teasing the Anti-Life Equation here. In the DC world, the Equation is a formula which allows control of all living beings in the universe – one that could prove quite handy indeed to megalomaniacal supervillains.
8. The filmmakers wanted a Batman that was clearly not Christian Bale
Once it became clear that Christian Bale would not be applying the bat-eyeshadow for a fourth time, the filmmakers were at pains to distinguish their Bruce Wayne from the Nolan canon. “[We didn’t want] people to say, ‘Oh, is this a continuation of Christian Bale?’”, explains Roven. "We wanted to make sure it was very clear that this was different from any Batman we've ever seen.”
As a result, he’s grittier, grumpier, and older than other screen Batmans. He's a world-weary contrast with Superman's idealism, too. “It’s the juxtaposition of [Superman] against a guy who’s really burnt out, and as a result of that burn out he's maybe even gone over the edge.”
9. Batman’s mech armour was built to fight bears
For the big title fight, Batman suits up in some heavy-duty anti-Kryptonian mech armour, which Zack Snyder compares to the suits worn by bear trappers. “In my mind, the mech suit is really just there to preserve him long enough for him to stay alive. It's not doing anything. It's like a bear suit. We were joking that's probably why it was designed – that it was designed because a bear got out of the Gotham Zoo, and he had to track it down. He made that suit so he wouldn't be mauled to death.”
10. Superman’s death was decided early on
At the end of the film, Superman fulfils the storyline of DC’s The Death Of Superman series from 1992 and pops his Kryptonian clogs. That was a decision that came early in development, according to Zack Snyder. “Yeah, it was pretty much almost right away. When we knew we were going to do a Justice League movie, I said, ‘We have to kill Superman, because Bruce Wayne has to be the one that puts the Justice League together, and with Superman around it's going to be difficult’.”
With the Man of Steel now six feet under, it opens things up for Bruce Wayne to get his organisational hat on and fill the vacuum left with new metahumans. “I just felt like it would be a cleaner, interesting world to have Bruce in his panic have to kind of figure out how to put this team together,” Snyder explains.
11. Is Superman dead? Probably not, let’s be honest
“I mean, Kryptonian cells would probably not be decaying,” Snyder says. “Just saying.”
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is now in cinemas. For the full interviews with Zack Snyder, Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder, listen to the Empire Podcast Spoiler Special.
Want to learn more about the DC Universe? Read our guide to Suicide Squad.