Since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice won't be out for another 6 months, we fans are left with the fun pastime of fitting various puzzle pieces from its beguiling trailers, photos, and hints from interviews with Zack Snyder, Henry Cavill, and Ben Affleck. All we can do is speculate for now.
One central question we might ask is exactly how and why will Batman develop such intense anger, distrust, and contempt for Superman?
Says Bruce Wayne in the second BvS trailer:
He has the power to wipe out the entire human race... and we have to destroy him.
How does Batman arrive at such powerful negative feelings toward someone who should be regarded a hero?
Wouldn't Batman See the Big Picture?
In a recent Total Film Magazine interview with Henry Cavill, Henry explains Batman's antagonism towards Superman as follows:
What happens there is one of Bruce’s buildings gets destroyed and he’s trying to save all the people inside the building and he can’t. So he is this angry person who fears what Superman may do. Why are they just going to trust this super-powered alien? What if he does decide to turn against us?
Ben Affleck also alluded to this in the same Total Film interview, making similar comments about Batman's motivations for viewing Superman as a threat:
He’s [Batman] found himself in a place of harboring a tremendous amount of rage for Superman. So it’s how he got there, and what that’s done to him, and what that’s done to people around him like Alfred, who are, I think, very scared and worried for him. It’s something that’s interesting and new.
This echoes earlier statements by Affleck in a July interview with Entertainment Weekly:
One of the things I liked was Zack’s idea of showing accountability and the consequences of violence and seeing that there are real people in those buildings. And in fact, one of those buildings was Bruce Wayne’s building so he knew people who died in that Black Zero event.
BvS reportedly takes place two years after the Black Zero event in Man of Steel. The monument commemorating the tragic event that gets vandalized with the spray painted grafiti "false god" on Superman's statue features around a dozen marble columns engraved with the names of the roughly 5000 people that were killed by it. The first teaser trailer for BvS gives us a good view of the monument.
Right out of the gate, I'm going to interject here that if destruction of the Wayne Tower and deaths resulting from it is the main factor driving Batman's animus towards Superman, there's a very strong chance that I will be disappointed by that. Yes, it does depend on how well such motivations are developed in the film. But simply as a central motivation to begin with here's why I would find this disappointing:
The appearance of an extra-terrestrial race on Earth, and their attempted annihilation of the human species and terraforming of our planet--and the discovery of an extra-terrestrial god-like being living among us--is, far and away, the most dramatic event in the history of human civilization. The spectacle was witnessed world-wide.
Let us also not overlook that Superman allied with the U.S. military to literally save the entire planet that day by destroying the Kryptonian World Engine and sending the hostile alien invaders into a black hole. That would be common knowledge two years after the fact.
There would be endless discussion and obsessive review of it on television (which we do get a flavor for in the first BvS teaser trailer with narrated comments by Charlie Rose, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, et al.). Bruce Wayne has had plenty of time to review and sort out what happened there! Even in Batman's reported semi-retirement as a crime fighter in BvS it is next to impossible to imagine him not studying this.
Now, What About Wayne Tower?
We know that Batman will be strongly affected by the loss of employees in one of his buildings during the Black Zero event.
And someone who seems to know that Bruce is the Batman will taunt Bruce Wayne about failing to protect his employees during the Black Zero event. (Perhaps the Joker? Time will tell.)
I don't think we know whether that the fight between Zod and Superman during which Zod unleashed his heat vision took place in the Wayne Financial building itself, or an adjacent building that toppled into it. If the fight was within the Wayne Financial building, I can't imagine that Bruce wouldn't have had surveillance cameras in his own building that uploaded in real time to some sort of cloud storage to be able to view the fight between Zod and Superman that collapsed his building.
But even if not, it just seems unlikely to me that Bruce will assume that Superman somehow behaved recklessly in such a way that it resulted in the deaths of people close to him. Superman stopped Zod from destroying all of humankind. It just doesn't make sense for Bruce to fail to see the big picture here. He is the World's Greatest Detective.
Therefore, I remain hopeful that there is going to be something much more substantial driving Batman's anger, distrust, and fear of Superman in BvS. The following is my set of best guesses about what other factors could be affecting Batman in relation to Superman to regard him so negatively.
Lex Luthor's Motivations in Painting Superman as a Threat to Humanity
It seems that in BvS Lex Luthor will stir up fears, doubts, and concerns about additional possible future alien invasions, and trusting an alien (who is a member of the race that tried to destroy us) to be Earth's protector. That shouldn't be terribly hard to do for the masses. Presumably, Lex will at least split the society down the middle on it.
Why will Lex do this? I suspect that the reason will mainly be for Luthor to justify getting his hands on Kryptonian weapons technology and Zod's corpse for DNA research. He will probably argue to Senator Finch that humankind needs to develop our own reverse-engineered technology from the Kryptonian artifacts that the military has as a safeguard against Superman should he ever pose a threat to humanity. And more specifically that he is the one that should be working on that due to his genius and scientific research resources and capabilities.
(Note: It is a big question as to what happens after the Black Zero event to the Kryptonian scout ship that crashed in Metropolis. But Kryptonian technology is heavily based in biological engineering, and per the associated comic book prequel for MoS (discussed here at manofsteelanswers.com), Kypton's scouts ships are literally able to self-heal. My guess is that Superman will have retrieved it, that is has repaired itself, and that Superman uses it now as his Fortress of Solitude. The military would of course beg Superman to share Kryptonian technology with them, which hopefully Supes has the wisdom to avoid doing. However, it is possible that the military could have its hands on the shuttle ship that Zod used to travel from the Black Zero to the scout ship that Superman took possession of.)
A huge wild card is whatever is going on with a scene in the second trailer of Superman (angrily) bowing in apparent submission to Lex. One possible explanation: Humberto Gonzalez (I know, I know) has floated a rumor that Lex will kidnap his adoptive mother Martha Kent. But in my view for Superman to be manipulated into serving Lex on that account would be flat-out lame. (Superman has at this point been serving humanity as a superhero for two years. He should act according to principle and not be manipulated as such emotionally.) Another theory I have read is that Lex somehow mind-controls Superman into performing evil deeds, and that this could be reflected in the desert scenes in the trailer of the evil "Superman soldiers" (who are shown gunning down captives). Some rumors of this type linked the mind-control to Braniac, but Snyder seems to have confirmed that Brainiac won't be featured in BvS.
It does seem likely that Lex may ultimately be masterminding the conflict between Batman and Superman, for he boastfully taunts in the second trailer,
Black and blue... god versus man... night and day...
I admit that Superman's submission to Lex in the trailer scene must reflect a key plot element; but it is one that I simply don't have enough information yet to feel confident to speculate about.
In any event, I do however suspect that Lex will also have an even more personal covert agenda which I will elaborate my speculations about in the section "How Might Amanda Waller Fit In Between Batman and Superman?" further below.
Anyway, just how a genius detective like Batman comes to adopt the public's anti-Superman sentiments that Lex presumably masterminds... or at least a similarly antagonistic one... is the big question. I'm thinking that Batman's distrust of Superman must come from his own research into Superman, Luthor, and Waller.
Will Superman Develop a Working Relationship With the Government?
We don't know yet just what Superman's relationship will be with the U.S. military in BvS. At the end of MoS Superman destroys a military drone that has been following him as a clear message that he won't tolerate the military's efforts to discover "where he hangs his cape." However Superman also offers a kind of olive branch message that if the military is willing to work with him on his own terms, then the two of them can continue working together to protect the planet.
Really, in such a case the only sensible thing the military can do is to work with Superman ostensibly on his terms, even if their secret intent is to use that collaboration to continue to try to spy on him. In any event, I won't be surprised to see some sort of working relationship between the two at the start of BvS. However strained it might be.
Henry Cavill has noted in an interview that Superman's vulnerabilities in BvS will form around struggling with the moral choices that he makes:
People think Kryptonite can beat him (Superman). No. The only thing that can really beat Superman is Superman. His own noggin messing with him. His own moral choices. When you have that to start with, the storytelling can really delve into something rich.
In Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (some of which clearly serves as source material for BvS) Superman is at times in communication with the U.S. president and is willing to provide help at his request when indicated. The president recruits Superman to reign in Batman after Gotham falls into anarchy in the wake of an EMP blast from a Soviet missile that Superman redirects into the desert southwest. When Superman confronts Batman and the battle ensues, it is clear that Batman views Superman as a kind of sellout.
Perhaps then in BvS Batman's concern will be similar. If contempt is attached to it, it may stem mostly from Batman's perception of how naive Superman is by allowing himself be manipulated by the government.
How Might Amanda Waller Fit In Between Batman and Superman?
And this leads me to the speculation that perhaps Amanda Waller will play a role in BvS. In this article I speculate as to whether Amanda Waller will be attempting to surveil Batman. According to one rumor (okay, it's from Umberto Gonzalez--but this one seems pretty plausible) this will be the case. And not surprisingly, Batman is reportedly hardly pleased about it.
So in putting two and two together, it occurred to me that Batman might associate Superman's alliance with the government (if there is one) with Amanda Waller. If Batman has figured out what Amanda Waller is up to in Suicide Squad, for example, then he is probably aware also of Waller's belief that the appearance of Superman may have been the catalyst for meta-humans to begin behaving less covertly. Says Waller to a group of military commanders:
Maybe Superman was some kind of beacon for them creep back from the shadows...
It is plausible to me that Batman could therefore come to fear that Waller may manage to control and weaponize Superman.
In the same vein, there is a reasonable speculation that Lex Luthor will will convince the military that he should gain access to Zod's corpse for genetic cloning experimentation. (To reiterate, in MoS Snyder established that Kryptonians were hugely advanced with genetic engineering and biological technologies, which the military will obviously want to develop and weaponize.)
Some have speculated that Lex will create Doomsday from Zod's corpse. But Snyder has said that Lex will in fact not attempt to create Doomsday specifically from Zod's corpse. (Also, fellow MP creator Re'al Dunbar notes in this article that a 3D artist for BvS let slip that Doomsday does not appear in the film.)
However... we do now know of a brilliant Easter egg in MoS which shows a momentary but unmistakable closeup of an inverted Superman insignia reflected on Zod's eyeball--which is the symbol used for Bizarro. (Kudos to whoever spotted this first, it as an amazing find.)
So my guess is that in BvS Lex will follow the New 52 story-line and attempt to create an army of Supermen--a plot which which ultimately fails as envisioned but does result in Bizarro (literally, he is named specimen B-0 or "B Zero" in the New 52). And Bizarro... who I would imagine would be presented as a much more horrific and truly monstrous creation than in the Silver and Bronze Age comics... could conceivably pose a massive threat to humanity in his own right.
If Batman becomes aware that Lex Luthor is attempting to create an army of Supermen from Zod's corpse, then the same risk applies regarding Superman. As proposed, let us say that Lex may have failed to successfully clone Zod--at least according to what he wants. (Bizarro being a failure for the original goal but still a powerful, if unpredictable and perhaps difficult to control, weapon.) He could yet succeed with the aim of creating his own personal higher functioning army of Krytponian warriors by using Superman! And as mentioned, there may also be the association of Superman working with the military again at that point. Especially if Batman sees Superman as still very green and naive, Superman would be at high risk to be cloned by Luthor in association with Waller's less-than-noble use of meta-humans. That would be something that Batman cannot abide.
In any event, perhaps Batman envisions a very troubling matrix developing between Superman, Waller, and Luthor (i.e., the latter representing the sinister underbelly of the military/government). Given that it seems Zack Snyder is using a 'what would this look like in the real world if superheroes actually inhabited our world?' approach, then I can easily imagine Batman being very concerned by the threats that the military industrial complex potentially poses to the world. This concern may become a cornerstone principle for establishing the Justice League.
In the article, Batman v Superman Trailer: Is the "Superman Soldiers" Desert Scene a Dream? One Possible Interpretation, I explore a possibly deeper level of psychological motivation for Batman's fear of the dark, ominous figure that Superman has the potential to become: it represents what disquiets Batman most about his own self. And that is the potential to become a savage, remorseless, and brutal killer no different than the criminals he fights. Over the years it must have been extraordinarily difficult for Batman to avoid crossing the line into becoming like his enemies simply in order to survive the threats he continually faces in his war on crime. This older Batman has reportedly retired or semi-retired; and there is a rumor (a hint, basically) that in BvS he uses drones to selectively go after certain criminal targets from the safety of the Batcave. In any case, perhaps Batman has (mostly) withdrawn from crime-fighting not only because of the deeply entrenched governmental corruption in Gotham (see 2:00 of the second trailer), but also because of a lack of faith in what he is doing. And we have more recently learned from the fun promotional mock Lex Luthor interview published in Fortune Magazine that Wayne Enterprises has "shied away from military contracts in the last decade." Bruce Wayne has spent a lifetime bankrolling his own secret private crusade as the Batman by designing weapons technologies for the U.S. military! Who better than Batman to grasp the threat that the military poses in general, but especially now that Uncle Sam has embarked on the project of weaponizing meta-humans!
But Hasn't the Military's Efforts to Control and Weaponize Meta-human Abilities Been Overused in Superhero Films?
Yes! And how. We usually see it in the form of top secret 'Men in Black'-like government agencies or the government (military) contracting research by the corporate sector. In the DC Comics Amanda Waller formed The Agency, and there is also Project Cadmus. The plot device has been used time and time again in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with plotlines for Captain Marvel, the Avengers, X-Men, the Hulk movies, and Spider-Man. It is a superhero film trope. It seems that filmmakers can never go to the well too often with this genre convention (also in science fiction, e.g., the Alien series).
But to be fair, given that Zack Snyder seems to be taking an approach of 'what would this look like if it took place in the real world' for his DCEU films (see Warner Brother's CEO Kevin Tsujihara's general comments also to that effect here), the military's interest in meta-human abilities would be a stone cold certainty. Consequently, if you're going to adopt a more realistic approach to this sort of subject matter it would arguably be remiss not to include it. In fact it would be a central theme. The filmmaking challenge then becomes how to make it novel, surprising, and engrossing.
Superman Taking an Active Role to Set Limits on Batman?
And finally, we know from the second BvS trailer that Clark Kent is (at least professionally as a reporter) no fan of Batman. Says Clark:
This "Bat-vigilante"'s like a one-man reign of terror.
Also per the trailer, Clark evidently fails to convince Perry White to run an exposé on Batman.
Zack Snyder says the following about the animosity between Batman and Superman in BvS:
... So their relationship is very contentious. What Superman sees as Batman’s limits, Batman sees as Superman trying to control him, acting like an absolute dictator.
The best sense I can make of that statement is essentially that Superman will be 'setting limits' on Batman's vigilantism in BvS. Naturally, this older, more cynical, jaded, and burnt-out Batman (modeled in great part after Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns) will resent that.
Will Superman be doing this strictly on his own? Maybe. But he might also be acting in collaboration with the government. If it is the latter, I would imagine Batman would tend to perceive Superman as a government tool--and ultimately an enormously dangerous one if successfully manipulated. Batman has seen nothing but how corrupt government is at the municipal level of a city modeled after real life's Chicago. At the federal level Batman may have deduced that the tendency towards governmental corruption is exponentially worse ("absolute power corrupts absolutely," as the saying goes). I will not be surprised then if, given
1) Batman's state-of-the-art surveillance technologies and Bruce Wayne's insider role as provider of technology to the military,
2) Batman's knowledge of Amanda Waller's program (if that rumor is true), and
3) plus whatever Batman learns of Lex Luthor (with Diana Prince's help?)
that Batman may have developed an exceedingly dark assessment of the military-industrial complex.
In any case, if most of this whole line of speculation is more or less accurate then perhaps what drives Batman is more a fear of what Superman has the potential to become if he is successfully exploited by Amanda Waller than Superman being a 'bad person', or that Bruce is angry at him for the Black Zero event.
Anyway, please let me know what you think!
Addendum 12/17/15: Hmm, my theory seems to be on track! Haven't updated this in a while but this article, a fictional interview with Lex Luthor by a DC character, Daily Planet reporter Ron Troupe, seems to fit nicely with everything set forth above.
Addendum 12/18/15: Here is an updated synopsis of the theory:
- Lex knows that Superman is Clark Kent and Batman is Bruce Wayne because he's allied with Amanda Waller. That is, Lex has been contracted by the military to reverse-engineer Krytponian tech, and he has met with Amanda who is overseeing that military project.
- Waller and Batman have both been mutually spying on one another for some time. That is how Bruce knows Superman is Clark Kent. Batman has had at least one run-in with Amanda Waller, and knows about A.R.G.U.S. and regards it as a threat.
- Waller is behind the government asking Superman to "set limits" on Batman's vigilantism. She wants the two of them to fight in order to shut Batman down from snooping on A.R.G.U.S.--and maybe even end up getting himself killed by Superman.
- Amanda will try to use Lex as such. But Lex is a genius so he will outsmart her in return, i.e., he'll ultimately be using her instead. Rather than just being used by Waller to achieve the neutralization of Batman, Lex will upset Waller's apple cart by using Kryptonian bio-tech to try to create his own personal army of super-soldiers (versus simply doing the R&D for the military to develop their own versions); and in order to do that he needs an unstoppable creature such as Doomsday to stop Superman.
- Lex rationalizes to himself that he is a hero in doing this. He's grandiose and believes that only he is smart enough to be trusted with Kryptonian tech. He is protecting humanity by retaining sole control of Kryptonian tech. He doesn't trust the government with it any more than Batman does. But that mistrust more fueled by his own narcissism than altruistic.
- The wild card that Lex doesn't expect, and can't overcome, will be Wonder Woman.
- Note: Prior to the party scene (in the full length trailer released in December), Superman will have paid a visit to Batman in the scene in which he rips the doors off the Batmobile. In that scene Superman will be having a "friendly chat" with Batman "asking" him to stop his vigilantism. In the party scene superhero identities are known by all three parties. It is however the first time Bruce and Clark have met in their alter-egos.