To comics fans, the mere words “Dawn of Justice” signal that ultimately, Batman and Superman should work out their differences and — with the help of Wonder Woman — move a step closer to forming the Justice League (aka DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers assemblage).
Casual filmgoers, on the other hand, might not see all that. From friends to colleagues to even celebrities like HBO’s Bill Maher, the question keeps cropping up: “Why are they fighting again?”
If you fall into that latter category, here’s a five-point breakdown to help get you up to speed:
1. Superman simultaneously saved and destroyed a city.
2013’s “Man of Steel,” which introduced Henry Cavill’s Superman, is the Big Bang moment for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s attempt to build a connected cinematic universe of superheroes. And, well — it wasn’t pretty at the end. Superman saved the day, but in the process contributed to destroying a large swath of Metropolis. Superman’s battle with General Zod — a fellow Kryptonian who’s equal in strength — toppled buildings, with many lives being lost. Superman was heroic, but many citizens think that by his being an alien, he makes Earth a target. And one of the many people who thinks that? Batman.
2. Batman views Superman as a wild card.
Bruce Wayne (Batman’s alter ego) witnessed from ground level the destruction caused by Superman’s Zod battle — with blinding mists of debris even stirring strong echoes of 9/11. It looks as if one of Bruce’s “Wayne Enterprises” buildings in Metropolis was destroyed, possibly killing many of his employees.
This version of Batman (portrayed by Ben Affleck) has yet to meet Superman. He simply believes the Man of Steel contributed to the destruction of a city and thus should be viewed as a threat who should be taken down. Despite the fact that many consider Superman a hero, Batman believes that if there is even “a 1-percent possibility” that Superman could go rogue — well, that 1-percent is enough reason to eliminate him.
3. Superman views Batman as a vigilante who must be stopped.
Superman doesn’t agree with Batman’s crime fighting methods. As reporter Clark Kent, Superman tries to convince editor Perry White that the Daily Planet should investigate Batman and his methods. Perry tells Clark that it sounds as if he’s on a one-man crusade. When Clark interviews Bruce Wayne at a Lex Luthor-sponsored function, his first question is about Bruce’s thoughts on the Bat-vigilante running around Gotham City.
Later, as Superman, Clark rips the doors off the Batmobile and gives Batman his mercy-fueled warning, telling Batman that it’s time to put the Bat-suit away for good. If he doesn’t, Superman says he’ll be there to stop him…for good.
Obviously Batman doesn’t heed that warning.
4. “Batman v Superman” is based on a classic DC tale.
DC Comics’s “The Dark Knight Returns,” Miller’s hugely influential comics tale that recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, is a huge influence on “Batman v Superman.” In the story, Batman is older older and war-torn, and doesn’t have much time for super-people in capes telling him what to do. Many aspects of “Dark Knight Returns” were adapted as a template for “Batman v Superman,” including the gray-templed Batman becoming equipped with an armored suit that helps him begin to rival Superman’s strength.
5. Lex Luthor likes to pull strings.
Historically, Lex (now played by Jesse Eisenberg) has never been too fond of Superman. And now he has a plan to have the two heroes try to take each other out so he doesn’t have to. Surely Lex will devise motivations for Superman to engage in a life-threatening showdown with Batman. That is Lex’s idea of a beautiful new dawn.