batman branding lex luthor

Zack Snyder’s 2016 superhero film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was, famously, pretty dark. But according to writer Chris Terrio, the studio’s original draft was way darker: Ben Affleck’s Batman brands criminals in both versions, but Warner Bros.’ original draft actually ended with Batman branding Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg).

In a new interview, Terrio defends his scripts for both Batman v Superman and Justice League, specifically saying that the theatrical cut of Justice League “doesn’t represent [his] work” and that he wanted to take his name off the movie after he saw Joss Whedon’s rewrites.

After Man of Steel came out in 2013, David Goyer (Batman Begins, Man of Steel) was hired to write the script for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. He eventually left the project due to scheduling conflicts, and Terrio was brought in to help with the tone of Affleck’s Batman character. Now, in a fascinating interview with Vanity Fair, Terrio is pushing back against the narrative that he’s the one who made the film as dark and gritty as it is.

“The studio seemed to take this position after BvS that my writing was too dark and that this was their problem,” Terrio told the outlet. “But what they didn’t mention was that, for example, in the draft of the Batman/Superman script that W.B. had developed—[which was] the draft I was handed when I joined the project—Batman was not only branding criminals with a bat brand, he also ended the movie by branding Lex Luthor. That ending was a point over which I explicitly went to the mat with the studio again and again. I argued that Batman cannot end the movie continuing this behavior, which amounted to torture, because then the movie was endorsing what he did.”

The entire interview is absolutely worth reading, but I wanted to highlight one more section which illustrates just how much WB was struggling to create a cohesive narrative behind the scenes. Terrio says “there was never any thought to how the world was constructed before they issued this edict” about the order of releases for the DC movies. “They said, ‘Conform to this schedule.'”

“The Wonder Woman script wasn’t even finished when I wrote Justice League,” Terrio explained. “So I had no basis to write Wonder Woman other than Batman/Superman. Themyscira didn’t even exist. I was never shown anything on the page for it. I didn’t know whether people could talk underwater. That was a thing that I had to ask, because I didn’t know if I could do underwater scenes with Aquaman and Atlanteans. It was all just from scratch because there had been no [solo] character films. So Justice League needed to establish three of the characters; it had to create a long game mythology for the DC Universe. It had to resurrect Superman because he was dead at the end of the last movie. I just don’t know how you could do all that in under two hours [as the studio mandated]. Maybe the 2017 release proved that you couldn’t.”

You can read the full interview here.

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