An Obsessive ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ Comic-Con Trailer Deconstruction

Warner Bros.

San Diego Comic-Con — the yearly comic-book convention that a few years ago morphed into the world’s longest press junket — wrapped up yesterday, and it might have been the least star-studded edition since Hollywood decided to pander to genre fans full time. A handful of movie studios skipped the festivities, leaving Hall H to less-anticipated films and a whole lot of television. The floor was quite literally ceded to the “plucky upstarts” at Warner Bros./DC Comics, eager to make a good 12th impression on a gleefully skeptical moviegoing public.

A three-minute-and-39-second trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the centerpiece of Warner Bros.’ geek goodwill tour.1 It follows a special IMAX release of the teaser trailer that had Internet contrarians sharpening their knives. Was this new footage successful in rehabilitating the image of this gigantic film? Let’s find out through the magic of screenshots, shall we?

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We are reminded early on that Superman is none too popular with the public after destroying a large portion of downtown Metropolis. This is a reasonable response to a traumatic event. One wonders why the good people of Tokyo gradually came to love Godzilla after the 500th time he crushed their favorite ramen place on his way to putting Mothra in a headlock.

You can see on the right of the frame a pretty blatant attempt — “GOD HATES ALIENS” — to equate Superman’s struggle for acceptance with gay rights. While I am always pleased when popular entertainment takes up the cause of equality and alludes to real-world issues, unlike your garden-variety homophobic asshole, the anti-Superman contingent in this film actually has a point. Superman can melt a skyscraper with his laser eyes if he wants to.

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Kal-El enters what appears to be a congressional subcommittee on extraterrestrial war crimes. I am getting serious Superman IV flashbacks and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. I really hope there’s a wacky scene in which Superman has to go through a metal detector and can’t figure out how to pin a visitor’s badge onto his uniform.

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Bruce Wayne just happened to be in Metropolis when Superman and Zod murdered a bunch of people. I really love this idea, actually. It immediately makes Batman’s antipathy toward Superman more visceral and justifiable. It deflates the common gripe in stories that have two heroes square off: “This would be over if they had a brief chat and realized this was all a misunderstanding between like-minded individuals in latex jumpsuits.”

Superman can protest that he’s “here to help” all he wants, but it’s just as easy for Batman to remind him that he probably murdered a bunch of people by flying into a building at the speed of sound. This is a much better justification for these two characters fighting than a simple mistake or Mr. Mxyzptlk putting some wacky spell on Superman. Philosophically, they don’t agree, and what better way to solve a philosophical disagreement than with robot armor and explosions?

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The big star of this trailer is Ben Affleck’s righteous-anger face. “You made this kid cry, you jerk! When I was a kid, a bad man made me cry by killing my freakin’ parents.”

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The wrecked Wayne Financial sign indicates that not only is Bruce upset at the catastrophic loss of life that occurred at the end of Man of Steel, but that he’s also lost a bunch of money because of extreme property damage. I assume he has insurance, though.

So far, this trailer really has me jazzed about this movie. I have a high tolerance for heady meditations on the ethics of superpowered beings in the world, but your mileage may vary. No matter how you feel about this new footage, you have to admit it does a spectacular job of establishing that the style of this film will be much, much different from the Nolan Batman movies, or even Man of Steel. I’m totally in!

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Aww, shit.

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What was I saying? Sorry, I blacked out for a second.

Anyway, it looks like Wayne Manor has been abandoned, a nice little inversion of the character arc for Bruce in the Nolan movies. In that trilogy, his obsession with the past led him to rebuild a destroyed Wayne Manor “brick by brick” and then retreat into that warm cocoon of nostalgia after the death of Rachel Dawes. Here, it appears that the death of another character (we’ll get to that later) pushes Bruce to abandon his birthright, his legacy, and the mantle of Batman completely.

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This looks to be a much bigger Batcave than the one we got in The Dark Knight Rises. That puny little cave almost seemed to be a reaction to the baroque, design-heavy lairs of the Burton and Schumacher films. This looks like it borrows a lot from the classic James Bond set designs of Ken Adam. Of course, if there’s no dinosaur or giant penny, Zack Snyder can FOH for all I care. Eight movies2 and no dinosaur and giant penny. Unacceptable.

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Here’s the first implication that the Joker plays a role in this story. This could easily be mind games from Lex Luthor, but the red crazy-person writing screams “Clown Prince of Crime.”

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Yet again, Affleck pulls out the “Bruce Wayne Thizz Face.”

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Bruce does CrossFit to get back in shape after a long absence from the crime-fighting game. If this movie were made in the early ’90s, would he have done step aerobics? Jazzercise?

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I would not blame you if you thought Amy Adams was not in this movie. She is in this movie. I have the screenshots to prove it.

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Humans in need have taken to drawing Superman logos on the roofs of their homes to get the Man of Steel’s attention. I guess the intense flooding, the arm-waving, and the bloodcurdling cries for help weren’t enough. Notice that the house in the background has no Superman logo on it. I guess he’ll fly away without them, assuming they’ve “got this.”

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Diane Lane is back as Martha Kent, whose bit of advice for her adopted son is to not stress so much about humanity because he doesn’t owe them anything. I mean, technically, he owes them billions of dollars worth of property damage. Technically.

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This is Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, an eccentric little goblin prone to highfalutin monologues and shirts with loud, busy prints. I have to assume he’s not going to have that hair for very long.

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Michael Shannon returns as Dead Zod. One wonders why Superman didn’t give him a proper burial, or at the very least, burn his corpse so nefarious characters couldn’t use a strand of his hair to clone him with the aid of a nuclear bomb.

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Why is Batman retired when this movie starts? Because the Joker killed Robin. The suit above clearly has an “R” logo on the right side. Bonus points to this movie for killing Robin, a brave act that lesser filmmakers were too afraid to go through with. Minus points for it likely happening offscreen.

No, I don’t like Robin.

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Jeffrey Dean Morgan (the Comedian from Snyder’s Watchmen) plays Thomas Wayne, the doomed father of Batman. This should be a very helpful scene for everyone in the audience who isn’t aware that Batman’s parents are dead.

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Amy Adams. She’s in this movie. Get used to seeing her look up at things with a mix of wonder and fear for most of her time in the film. I’d like to imagine that after Snyder called cut on this scene, she jumped up and started screaming, “That’s why they got me here! That’s why I’m in here!” and then ran back to her trailer.

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Wonder Woman makes her live-action motion picture debut by punching something and generating a force field or energy wave of some kind. Gal Gadot looks great and tough and cool in her costume. No complaints from me.

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The most intriguing element of this trailer is this scene of an undercover Batman infiltrating what looks like a military compound crawling with soldiers bearing Superman logos on their uniforms. We see these same soldiers bowing to Superman in this trailer and the previous teaser. My buddy Jared Moskowitz — a comedian and Batman scholar — helpfully pointed out that this outfit is heavily inspired by Batman’s costume from JSA: The Liberty Files, an Elseworlds3 story from 2000.

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Snyder made a point of not including Kryptonite in Man of Steel, but it’s back in this movie and Lex has got his hands on it. A general story is starting to form for this outside of “heroes punch each other.”

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Uh-oh, somebody Frank Miller’d all over this movie! Is Franky Baby getting a codirector credit on this, too?

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The trailer ends with a faceoff between Batman and Superman on top of the Batmobile, but more significantly, with a bit of Lex Luthor dialogue that borders on camp. “The red capes are coming, the red capes are coming,” is a line that I would assume is meant to be threatening, but instead feels a bit silly coming from Mark Zucker-Beck. The Superman film series has never had a truly menacing, intimidating Lex Luthor. Instead, we’ve had Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey playing charming con men whose primary purpose in the narrative is comic relief. Sure, Spacey had a couple of moments of pure villainy in Superman Returns, but it was all too brief for a movie that felt four hours long. The teases of Eisenberg as Luthor don’t lend much credence to the rumors of him being a tattooed “street tough.” They announce quite the opposite, actually.

With every reveal, every teaser, and every bit of gossip, this movie becomes more and more intriguing. There’s something about the bombastic, operatic quality of this trailer that appeals to me. It’s the sort of unashamed mythmaking that is absent from the Marvel films. I’m ready for a new flavor of popcorn, so to speak.

And yet there remains the ever-present hint that there’s too much in this movie. This is less a piece of cinema and more the beginning segments of a Rube Goldberg machine that prints money. It has the chance to be a magnificent spectacle, but it could just as easily collapse underneath the weight of expectation.

Filed Under: Movies, Superman, batman v. superman: dawn of justice, Batman, Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg, Lex Luthor, DC Comics, Comic-Con, Man of Steel

Dave Schilling is a general editor at Grantland.

Archive @ dave_schilling