Byrogbngp, writer at
I love cinema! I have a special affinity for the science fiction, fantasy, and superhero genres.

(Addendum: It looks like the speculation about the following scenes being a dream might be correct, if the following interpretation of the desert garbed Batman toy being named "Knightmare Batman" is accurate: see here.)

I know speculation about the stange desert scenes featuring the "Superman Soldiers" in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) has been covered in several articles here, but I inadvertently deleted a number of comment thread replies about our speculations over those puzzling scenes. So just for the sake of consolidating my thoughts as I've responded to various articles about it I'll share an article of my own.

We'll obviously have to wait to see the movie to find out for sure: but my best guess is that the desert sequence featured in both the teaser and the full length trailer is a dream.

From the teaser we first saw Superman inside a sand filled bunker with soldiers eerily reminiscent of the Nazi SS bearing patches of Superman's family insignia on their shoulders. They are kneeling in fealty before Superman.

And in the full length trailer we see Superman striding past them with a commanding presence, as his stern visage passes into shadow.

In the full length trailer the "Superman soldiers" are seen ruthlessly executing people who appear to be captives/innocents.

Soooo... it's safe to say, I think, that this is categorically not something that Superman (at least the one we know) would ever condone. Superman has a crew of storm trooper-like soldiers that executes people? No way!

That fact forms the first item of evidence in support of the dream speculation.

The second item in support of the speculation is what we see of Batman there. The Caped Crusader is presumably in the desert outside the same bunker, and he's wearing desert gear over his Batsuit. Although cool looking it seems a bit strange.

And then Batman proceeds to kill one of the Supe-troops by twisting his neck! I don't think it is even ambiguous. Batman is at least trying kill the soldier (and it's Batman we're talking about, so let's assume he succeeds). As we well know, in both comic and film canon Batman has a moral code not to kill.

The desert sequence is therefore tinged with a kind of surrealism. To me it feels dream-like. If so, it would be a nightmare, presumably.

If we accept the premise that it is a dream, then whose dream is it? And what might it all mean?

My best guess is that it is a dream that Batman has. (Alternatively, it could be Superman's dream. But I think Batman is the far more likely candidate.)

Let's inspect the foundation within the story for such a dream. Please bear with me, because we're going to pour over Batman's apparent conscious motivations first before returning to the dream:

The teaser trailer cues us that after the final battle between Superman and General Zod, which wrought such carnage and cost thousands of lives, Superman has become an extremely controversial global figure. Some fear and reject him (as Jonathan Kent had anticipated in Man of Steel) as a "false god."

And in the full length trailer this is shown further. In fact we see that there is organized political sentiment against him stemming from his role in the devastation of much of Metropolis.

By the same token, a worshipful cult seems also to have arisen around Superman. In the teaser trailer one speaker's voice connects Superman with the world's longings for a "savior," cautioning how poorly that has typically worked out in world history.

Again, as the teaser clearly reveals Superman as a polarizing figure. (To flip George W. Bush's famous line he's a 'divider not a uniter'.)

The teaser opens chock-full of lines expressing the public's ambivalence. But the sentiments seem to weigh toward anxiety that, as Holly Hunter's U.S. senator character reminds us with an old aphorism, "Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Also, we know from interviews with Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck and the full length BvS trailer that one of Bruce Wayne's buildings was destroyed during Superman's battle with Zod. (Check out this wonderful video that edits together the corresponding Man of Steel scene with the opening scene of the full length trailer:)

Someone out there is taunting Bruce Wayne/Batman about it, evidently trying to psyche him out.

Maybe it's the Joker? Lex Luthor? The Joker in cahoots with Luthor? Jason Todd aka Red Hood? The theories abound.

Anyway, the point is that Batman is clearly pissed about the death of his employees. But moreover he is even more deeply concerned about the risk of Superman becoming an alien overlord of our planet due to his god-like superpowers. As Bruce Wayne tells us in the BvS full length trailer in an apparent conversation with Alfred, he believes Superman's potential for evil poses too great a risk for the world (it seems most likely in reference to Superman):

20 years in Gotham. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?... He has the power to wipe out the entire human race! ... and we have to destroy him.

Ever the voice of reason, Alfred will respond that "He is not our enemy!"

But if such a reassurance would be enough to persuade Batman, the film wouldn't be titled "Batman v Superman." In keeping with inspiration from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, this is an older Bruce Wayne/Batman who as Ben Affleck tells us is more world-weary. And as we see in various expressions in both the teaser and full length trailer he is propelled by a kind of seething anger that has twisted him. Batman is angry, grim, and singularly determined. He is a man with a mission.

And of course when we see Batman throw down with Superman he looks to be going all-in, presumably even if it means his own death.

There is also reason to believe that despite the fact that Batman traditionally outsmarts his opponents, in this story Lex Luthor might actually gain the upper-hand on him by manipulating Batman into taking on Superman. Luthor's taunt in the full length trailer "black and blue... god versus man... night and day..." appears to be a reference to skillfully pitting the two superheroes against one another. This Luthor is a Silicon Valley evil nerd wunderkind scientist who is also a kind of Shakespearean "dissembler," a Machiavellian genius manipulator who charms politicians and the military.

It certainly seems that Luthor plays a role in ginning up public distrust toward Superman, based on his conversation with U.S. Senator Finch played by Holly Hunter. And maybe Luthor also has a hand in psychologically maneuvering Batman to take on Superman if Lex is involved in some way with the note that Batman receives, blaming Bruce for allowing his own family die.

As we know, Batman suffered the trauma of having felt powerless to prevent his parents' death, for which he has compensated by becoming the Batman.

As a crime-fighter Batman also apparently was unable to prevent the death of Robin at the hands of the Joker, which surely haunts him.

So Bruce's loss of his employees during Superman's battle with Zod must tweak that core vulnerability within him: his sense of both helplessness and rage about those losses.

In any event, we have more or less covered Batman's conscious experience of why he is going after Superman. I'm going to assume that Batman, the World's Greatest Detective, has some insight into the effects of the trauma of witnessing his parents' death and his rage at a feeling of helplessness that Alfred describes.

Now back to the desert dream. There is an aspect of Batman's helplessness/rage that he may be out of touch with. And that is how much the Superman he fears symbolizes the darker qualities within Batman himself that he is unable to accept. This is a speculation based on a speculation, obviously... but I think it is significant that Batman snaps someone's neck in the dream. Because as we know, both Superman and Batman share the same moral code to at all costs try to avoid killing. It is at that point presumably well known by the world that Superman killed General Zod by breaking his neck.

Thus, in this dream Batman and Superman are merged together through both their no-kill rule and breaking that rule.

If all this is correct, the dream about Superman is really a dream about Batman himself. And in this sense it truly is a nightmare. Through the image of Superman in command of fascist soldiers, the dream seems to present a vision of what Batman fears Superman could become, i.e., a tyrant, an abuser of power. But is it possible that that is something that Batman has been denying about himself as a powerful vigilante, and the tremendous rage that drives him?

The issue of avoiding killing is central to both Batman's and Superman's characters. Superman has his own reasons for the no-kill rule that we will set to the side for now. But for Batman, the moral code to never, ever kill is arguably a reaction formation. Bruce's own parents were murdered as he looked helplessly on as a child. Apparently due to guilt from it being so helpless about it, he became a vigilante who avoids killing at all costs so that he will never become like his enemies. However, it does not take a great stretch of the imagination to suppose that Batman has been repressing his own urges to satisfy his vengeance by killing the wicked ever since his parents died.

In both the teaser and full length trailer we see a scene in which the Batplane fires upon human targets and apparently kills them. Could it be that this more world-weary and jaded Batman has..."relaxed"... the no-kill rule?

In fearing what Superman may become, Batman is wrestling with ambivalence about what he himself is really and truly all about. We can easily imagine that Bruce has at some level asked himself whether it is true that, as Clark Kent warns Perry White in the BvS trailer, "This 'Bat-vigilante''s like a one-man reign of terror"?

Bruce himself states to Alfred in commenting on the condition of Gotham, "How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?" The comment may in part refer to Harvey Dent. But perhaps the statement also reflects doubts that have festered in Batman about himself as well.

I doubt that Batman has 'snapped' because of all this internal pressure. Nor that he is unstable. But if what I'm conjecturing here is correct, my guess is that he will be driven by it with an extraordinary and singular force.

And again, we don't know the extent of Luthor's involvement in manipulating all this, if in fact Lex is indeed somehow ultimately acting as a puppet-master for the conflict, pulling strings unseen. (At one point Lex apparently has Superman kneeling before him in submission and the control he exerts to make that happen is unknown.) Lex Luthor's role is a big wild card in the hypothesis here.

Of course we will have to wait and see if these speculations are borne out. They may not be. The desert dream sequence may reflect something else entirely. My speculations here about what makes Bruce/Batman tick may be dead wrong; or even if worthy of consideration those features may not show up prominently in the film.

But if the speculations here are more or less accurate, in my humble opinion this film will indeed give us what Snyder, Affleck, and Warner Brothers Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara have all said BvS promises regarding DC's superheroes:

Snyder: “They truly are purer archetypes… They’re literally Biblical. If you get the DC characters right, they can be important, they can be about us.”

Affleck: “There are the Greek myths and these are the American myths. The American myths are these superheroes.”

Affleck: “[The DC approach to its Cinematic Universe]… is more mythic, it is more grand in that way, and it is a little more realistic."

Tsujihara: "The worlds of DC are very different… They’re steeped in realism, and they’re a little bit edgier than Marvel’s movies."

In my opinion there is a wonderfully satisfying balance of the imaginary and real in such an approach. By moving the superhero world a little bit more than we are accustomed to into what it might actually look like if it took place in the real world, and making the characters a bit more humanly complex—and through all that exploring enduring mythic themes—we can enjoy something akin to an experience of serious literature along with the exhilarating action, adventure, and escapism that the genre provides.

Maybe I'm being overly hopeful with that. But, at least to me, it looks as though Snyder has the wherewithal to give us that. (And I've no doubt Affleck will as well when he directs the next Batman standalone). In sum, these are the new mythic heroes for American culture. This is something like our Hector versus Achilles. So let's do justice to them as such in our stories about them.

I would add this view applies equally to Man of Steel. And if you enjoyed this article you may like this one about MoS as well:

in which the film Man of Steel is examined as basically inseparable from [Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice](tag:711870), and it is argued that MoS becomes an even better film when appreciated as the foundation for BvS. (In my opinion, analyzing MoS as a stand-alone film is like trying to do the same for the Fellowship of the Ring!)

Anyway, there it is. Sorry if I went on a bit too long. Please let me know what you think! Obviously, this is one of many possible interpretations and guesswork. I look forward to hearing yours!


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