Batman V Superman and the Quest for Internal Plot Consistency

This is NOT a movie review, but it does contain spoilers. So read at your own risk.


So we went to see Batman V Superman on Friday. There were a lot of things wrong with the movie. There were also a lot of things I liked. But the thing I want to discuss right now is the conclusion of the final fight scene involving the movie’s version of Doomsday.

Speculative fiction lives and dies on the ability of the reader or viewer to suspend belief. Often, novice writers of speculative fiction will simply shout, “Well, it’s FANTASY. It doesn’t have to be believable.” But this statement misses the root point. Speculative fiction is not expected to be believable by the standards of the real world that we live in. But it must be believable by the standards that the author actually sets. This is what we refer to as internal consistency. When you introduce fantastical elements into a story, those elements must meet the expectations of the reader by remaining consistent with the rules you set up in your setting.

And Batman V Superman is a shining example of how to completely ignore your own internal plot points and destroy the viewer’s ability to suspend belief.

SECOND SPOILER ALERT. If you are still reading, it is your fault if the ending is ruined for you.

Earlier in the film, it is clearly established that Kryptonite is perhaps the only thing on the planet that can hurt Kryptonian. We are given a brief, pseudo-scientific explanation of this by Lex Luthor while he is pitching his diabolical plot to members of the Senate. Later, Batman gets his hands on Luthor’s stash of Kyptonite and uses it in his fight with Superman.

This fight sets up just how devastating the effects of Kryptonite actually are. A single smoke grenade made of Kryptonite gas almost knocks Superman unconscious. Just being in the presence of a spear made of the material weakens him to the point that within seconds he passes out and almost drowns. In short, it only takes a small amount of Kryptonite and a short exposure time to render Superman incapacitated.

Meanwhile, the movie also sets up Wonder Woman as a uniquely qualified warrior with the skills needed to help fight Doomsday. When informed that Doomsday is of alien biology, she simply responds that she has fought aliens before. During the fight, she holds her own as well as Superman, taking significant hits and getting right back up. At one point, she holds Doomsday in place with her golden lasso so Batman can hit him with one of his Kryptonite gas grenades.

Of course, it is also clearly established that the only thing that will be able to kill Doomsday is the very same spear Batman originally made to kill Superman. However, there is no way Superman can finish the job, as just being in the vicinity of the spear knocks him out and renders him helpless. Fortunately, Wonder Woman is there and we now have an actual reason why she was introduced into this film, because as an Amazon warrior highly trained in melee weapons and almost as strong as Superman, she can easily get the spear and use it to finish off Doomsday!

"Good job with the Kryptonite grenade, Bruce. Clark, throw me the spear and stand back.  I'll...Clark?"
“Good job with the Kryptonite grenade, Bruce. Clark, throw me the spear and stand back. I’ll…Clark?”

Except this isn’t what happens. And this is why the movie ultimately failed. IF they had given Wonder Woman the spear and had her finish off Doomsday, that would have been internally consistent with everything we were introduced to in the film. It also would have justified the introduction of the character into the plot.

Instead, we are given the most internally INCONSISTENT moment possible in order to present a contrived faux-emotional moment of self-sacrifice. After muttering some of the worst “romantic” dialogue since Anakin declared his love to Padme, Superman PICKS UP THE SPEAR that only minutes ago knocked him unconscious in a matter of seconds, FLIES across the battlefield, drives the spear into Doomsday’s chest, and HOLDS IT IN PLACE for a ridiculously long period of time before Doomsday blows up (and, “killing” Superman in the least believable death scene ever in the process).

The writers desperately wanted their “hero” to be the one to save the day, and internal consistency be damned. Despite having spent a good third of the movie hinting at or point-blank explaining the ramifications of Superman being exposed to Kryptonite, the writers ignored their own ground rules for their “heroic” sacrifice ending. Despite introducing a character with almost the same strength as Superman and the melee skills to perform the task, they simply ignored her presence to have the ending they wanted.

A great many other plot holes in the film could have been forgiven if the conclusion had followed the logical path set forth by the movie’s own internal rules. Instead, the writers threw internal consistency out the window for a single forced moment, rending much of the movie pointless and creating even more plot holes and logical fallacies.

Readers and moviegoers are willing to suspend belief and ignore a lot of plot holes so long as they get a satisfying ending. Where Batman V Superman failed is that it set up a satisfying ending that would have been internally consistent with the rules the writers set up, but then ignored everything they had introduced earlier in the movie to do something else.