Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has problems. Many problems. But beneath all of those problems, I still think that the core of the movie — the conflict between Batman and Superman — is something that can and should definitely be explored. That core can be salvaged from the wreckage that is Batman v Superman. This is how I would fix the movie.
1. Change the title to Batman vs. Superman.
This is the easiest thing to change: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a clunky title. Using a “v” instead of “vs” is just silly and the subtitle “Dawn of Justice” is just there to indicate to viewers that this movie includes prequel elements to Justice League. However, I guarantee you, anyone interested in seeing Justice League will go to see Batman vs Superman even without the subtitle.
2. Make this a movie about Batman and Superman and their differences.
One of the main problems of the film is that it concentrates way too much on Bruce Wayne/Batman to the detriment of Clark Kent/Superman. We get a lot of scenes with Batman in the Batcave, at a party, driving towards destruction, in a dream, etc. We get some scenes with Superman saving people, but not enough.
The scenes where Superman is saving people are also problematic in that Superman seems to be above everyone. For someone who is having trouble connecting to people, it seems like he should be trying to talk to those he saves more. More smiling, less brooding. As it comes off, Superman vs Batman isn’t so much “Day vs Night” as it is “Night vs Slightly Darker Night.” For Superman to really be a beacon of hope, he needs to be seen not just by those in the movie, but by the audience as someone who you would want to be saved by.
3. Replace the Senate Hearing with the Army.
The Senate Hearings subplot is by far the most boring part of the movie and it goes nowhere. It also makes no sense: the hearings are because some village in Africa was massacred by the government because there were warlords who were scared by Superman into...doing something. But...how is that Superman’s fault? Superman doesn’t control the governments of foreign nations. Apparently, the reason was that Superman’s mere presence caused the warlords to panic or something — and in the Ultimate Edition DVD, this will be explained a lot more — but honestly, it still doesn’t make any sense.
So get rid of it. Instead of the Senate, make Holly Hunter a General in the US Army looking for a deterrent against Superman. This is why she interacts with Lex Luthor. This is how Lex Luthor gets access to the Kryptonian ship (which has been moved outside of the city like it should have been).
4. Remove all dream sequences and flashbacks.
The dream sequences brought the movie to a screeching halt and they added nothing to the plot or characters. And flashing back to the murder of the Waynes is just redundant: everyone already knows Batman’s origin, there’s no need to rehash it over and over again.
5. Structure the movie around the big fight.
For a movie titled Batman v Superman, it takes a long time for Batman and Superman to, you know, fight. And that fight is, well, kind of underwhelming. Instead of doing that, I would start the movie with them fighting and then flash back to how they met. I know in media res is kind of cliche these days, but it would help ground the story of these two characters if we kept showing these two characters.
The fight between the two would also take a different approach. Batman would steal the Kryptonite from the government, but also steal their research on the “Metallo” project, hence how he was able to build the Batmech. Metallo would be Lex’s project, bringing Luthor into the plot as well. And the fight between Batman and Superman should not just be evenly matched at this point, but it should end with both of them laying battered on the ground, trying to stand and fight.
6. The reason for their fight should be simple...
When Joss Whedon made The Avengers, he said that everyone wants to see these heroes fight one another, but there should be a good reason for them to do so. Usually, those reasons fall into two categories: “mind control” and “misunderstanding.” The Avengers actually has examples of both: Hawkeye fights Black Widow because he is mind controlled, but Thor and Iron Man fight because of a misunderstanding (and because both of them are hot-headed and impulsive).
Conflict, however, should always come down to a difference in personality: Captain America and Iron Man come into conflict because their personalities are diametrically opposed. Steve Rogers is quiet, subdued, not prone to take credit or glory, while Tony Stark is a glory-hound, bombastic, someone who plays their own theme song while flying in for a rescue.
That’s what the conflict between Superman and Batman should be about. Superman believes that Batman’s methods are too extreme, Batman thinks Superman is either hopelessly naive or a dangerous alien spy. And he can’t take the risk of either one: someone who can cause that much damage needs to be contained.
And thus the trap is set. And unlike the movie, there’s no need for Superman’s mother to be kidnapped to incite the fight. Superman wants Batman to stop his crusade; Batman wants to make sure that Superman isn’t a threat.
7. ...but then they should get to know each other.
When Batman finally stops the fight (due to the silly “Martha?” reveal), he and Superman go from mortal enemies to best bros in five seconds flat. All it takes is Lois telling him that, hey, they both have moms named Martha!
Fuck that shit. No “Martha” in this version — instead, Batman sees the resilience of Superman and Superman sees the bravery of Batman and Superman decides to stop fighting. He literally surrenders and tells Batman, “If you think I am a danger to this world, to my home, then kill me.” Batman, of course, doesn’t kill him. Instead, he decides what he should really do is get to know him. Probably, you know, talk to him before declaring him an enemy.
Oh and also talk to that woman he met at that party who appeared to be a hundred years old.
8. Lois Lane should be a badass.
Lois Lane was kind of a badass in Man of Steel. It was one of the few things I enjoyed. She was a great journalist and it showed — she figured out Superman’s identity all on her own. So in the third act, when Lex kidnaps her, she shouldn’t be a damsel in distress; she should kick ass and rescue herself.
Of course, then it turns out that the place she was taken to was the Kryptonian ship (outside the city) where Lex has been building a “magic bullet” for the Army now that they lost their Metallo project. A bullet named Doomsday.
9. The final battle goes a bit differently.
Lex is communicating with an alien presence and lets Doomsday loose because of it. Lois calls Clark and tells him and he, Bruce, and Diana all arrive at the Kryptonian ship just in time to encounter Doomsday.
Batman, obviously, is way out of his league. But he has skills the others don’t, so while they fight Doomsday, he tracks down Lex and interrogates him about how to stop the monster. Lex smiles through bloody teeth and says, “They wanted to destroy an indestructible being. Without the Kryptonite, how would you do that? What’s the one thing a cell can’t fight against? Itself!” Doomsday is a clone of Superman, Batman tells the others as he retrieves the Kryptonite heart from his Batmech and hands it to Diana to kill Doomsday. However, in order to get close, Superman has to restrain him. Eventually, he just grabs the Kryptonite and stabs Doomsday with it as Doomsday stabs him, killing them both.
10. Leave the Justice League teases for the post-credits scene.
There’s a reason that most MCU post-credit stingers are teasers for other movies: because if those teasers were included in the movie proper, they would grind the movie to a halt. In this one case, then, DC should definitely take a page from the MCU.
All of these changes, I feel, would make the movie much better. No more pacing problems, no more character problems, and the movie ends in the same place.