FAQ: Batman v Superman

The super confusing new Superman movie, explained.

Batman v Superman.
Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Spoilers ahead. And explanations.

Regardless of whether you liked Batman v Superman (and despite being a comics fan, Slate’s reviewer did not), you’re likely to leave the theater scratching your head over a few questions. Some of them—such as “Why did it need so many dream sequences?” and “Why did Superman have an imaginary conversation with his dead father on the top of a mountain?” and “Why did Lex Luthor recite the first paragraph of Lolita?”—might be unanswerable. But others can be explained, especially if you know a little about the DC comics. Below, we do our best to demystify some of the movie’s most baffling moments.

Let’s start at the end. Why did the dirt start rising off Superman’s coffin? I assume it means Superman is alive, because this is a superhero movie, and superheroes never stay dead for long. But why zero-gravity soil, specifically?

Probably because, in these new Superman movies, the particles around Superman tend to levitate right before he takes flight. Here’s an example of the same effect in Man of Steel:

There are plenty of other reasons to believe that Superman won’t remain dead for long. For starters, actor Henry Cavill is listed as one of the leads in each of the upcoming Justice League movies, and he’s already been featured in at least one promotional image. The movie also isn’t shy about comparing Superman to God or Jesus, which would make a resurrection (perhaps after three days?) thematically appropriate. And finally, this wouldn’t be the first time Superman died in a mutually fatal collision with Doomsday only to rise again: The exact same thing happened in the famous Death of Superman storyline in the comics.

justice league.

DC Comics

What was all that “the bell cannot be unrung” stuff? Who is Luthor even talking about?

Luthor is almost certainly talking about Darkseid, the big bad of DC Comics, who is sometimes compared to Marvel’s Thanos (aka the lavender-colored baddie from the Avengers movies’ postcredits sequences). The full quote includes Luthor making reference to how “the bell has already been rung out in the dark among the gods,” which suggests that he is talking about the DC Comics’ New Gods—a race Darkseid is a part of—who come to Earth from a pair of far-away planets. The movie also includes other allusions to Darkseid, including the Omega symbol (Darkseid’s calling card) in Batman’s nightmare, which we’ll discuss in greater detail below.

Who was that dude in Batman’s dream? What was he even talking about? And was that a dream or a vision from another dimension, anyway?

This has been a bit of a head-scratcher for even hard-core comics nerds, but most DC fans seem to think he was the Flash, whom we meet later on in the movie. The Flash is often depicted as being able to use his superspeed to travel through time, which might explain how he could deliver a warning from the future. Or—in keeping with the foreshadowing about the New Gods—could it be Orion, son and enemy of Darkseid, appearing through a boom tube? Regardless, while this scene isn’t incorporated very well into the rest of the movie, it seems like it was deliberately left a mystery, to be solved in later DC films.

That still doesn’t explain the dream within the dream. Who were all those dragonfly-looking guys?

The dragonfly-looking guys are Darkseid’s “parademons” (are you beginning to notice a theme?), the minions from his home planet that are usually depicted as having a similar insectoid appearance. As with the other dream, it seems unclear whether this is a nightmare, a premonition, or a vision from a parallel universe.

At the beginning of the movie, it seems like Batman is very mad at Superman because, by destroying that building with his laser eyes, he accidentally killed “Jack.” Who was Jack, and is there any reason we should care about him?

Not really. Jack, whose last name appears to be O’Dwyer, according to the movie’s credits, is a new character in Batman v Superman. He’s an employee of Bruce Wayne’s, but otherwise there doesn’t seem to be any reason we’re supposed to care about him, particularly. Of course, he’s not the only one to die in Superman’s battle with Zod, so Batman has some other reasons to be angry, too.

What is “the metahuman thesis,” and can you briefly explain who each of those other superheroes were?

In the DC universe, metahuman is the preferred term for superhumans, just as they’re often called mutants in the Marvel universe. In this case, Luthor has discovered the existence of the metahumans who will team up with Batman and (presumably) Superman to form the Justice League. They are:

  • Wonder Woman: the Amazon warrior princess whom we meet in this movie, played by Israeli actress and former model Gal Gadot.
  • Cyborg: a cyborg, infused by his father with machine parts that give him superhuman strength, intelligence, and more. In this movie, he’s played by theater actor Ray Fisher.
  • The Flash: The Flash is named after his superhuman speed. In Batman v Superman, he is played by We Need to Talk About Kevin star Ezra Miller.
  • Aquaman: The Atlantean king of the seas, played here by Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa.

Is seduction really as simple as giving a lady a pretty flower?

Maybe if you’re Superman?

I was too dispirited to stick around through the credits. Is there a postcredits scene that redeems everything that comes before?