Thursday night, March 24 marked the first public screenings of Warner Brothers/DC Entertainment’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before its official release on the following day. The hotly anticipated film from director Zack Snyder is scheduled to launch the company’s connected series of films that are supposed to be similar in scope to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the film hasn’t arrived without controversy, as it’s trailers implied a dark tone similar to its 2013 predecessor Man of Steel. One of the longest-running debates coming out of that film was the comic book canonicity of Superman’s actions. Does Dawn of Justice run into the same adaptation issues? Let’s find out.
WARNING: Massive Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice SPOILERS follow. Read at your own risk.
Going into the film’s release, many thought that it’s story would take cues from The Dark Knight Returns, mainly due to Ben Affleck’s portrayal of an older Bruce Wayne, Batman’s heavily marketed armored suit variant and the very fact that the titular characters were fighting each other to begin with. While those elements are present in the film and are certainly reminiscent of Frank Miller’s classic graphic novel, the film’s overall aesthetic wasn’t. Instead, the closest book that the film can be said to emulate is Geoff Johns’ Justice League from the early New 52 era, where concepts including a Batman who’d been operating for years in secret before super heroes emerge, a Superman whose distrusted by many humans and a Wonder Woman who inherently abhors man’s world due to past events (which will be explored in the upcoming Wonder Woman film) were all used. It’s also worth noting that Johns’ version of Justice League initially formed to combat an invasion from Darkseid, an event implied in the film through Batman’s nightmares to be on the horizon in the DC Cinematic Universe.
Other characters who are scheduled to appear in the upcoming Justice League film made cameo appearances that seemed to be in line with their usual comic book incarnations. These include Jason Mamoa’s long-haired bearded Aquaman reminiscent of the character’s 1990s incarnation, and two appearances from Ezra Miller’s Flash, including one implied to be from the future who brings a warning that again hints at Darkseid.
For the most part, the film’s story itself doesn’t adapt a specific story-arc, though it does synthesize elements from numerous previous stories including works by John Byrne and Marv Wolfman. However, the film’s climax surprisingly becomes an almost direct adaptation of one of the most famous DC storyline’s of all time; Dan Jurgen’s Death of Superman. During a battle with the film’s version of Doomsday (itself more a version of Byrne’s Bizzaro clone concept than the original Doomsday character), Superman sacrifices himself to defeat the villain. From there, the last 10 minutes of the film closely mimic the Funeral for a Friend portion of the aforementioned Death of Superman saga. Scenes such as Lois Lane clutching Superman’s dead body and his state funeral being juxtaposed with Clark Kent‘s small Kansas service were taken almost beat for beat from Jurgens’ story. The film’s final shot of Superman’s casket stirring implies that the character will be coming back to life, much as he did during the 1992 comic.
While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn’t closely adapt any one specific comic book story, it takes elements of many and conceals them into one tale that finally brings DC’s trinity of characters to the big screen and lays the groundwork for the upcoming Justice League.