With many years and no more ties to the franchise pending, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice screenwriter Chris Terrio has begun to spill the beans about some of the behind-the-scenes drama that plagued the 2016 film and its 2017 sequel, Justice League. Speaking in a very candid interview with Vanity Fair, Terrio spoke up about how many of the criticisms leveled at the film and his work on the screenplay were rooted in the version of the movie that was being developed before he signed on to work on it (when Man of Steel's David Goyer was writing). The "Africa" sequence was one such moment that was criticized, a scene wherein Superman saves Lois from a warlord only for the citizens of the village to suffer further because of his intervention.
"I’m the one who had been saying that we can’t make a joke out of Superman raining hell upon Black African Muslim characters in the desert, as Lois promises that Superman is not going to go easy on them because they punched her," Terrio said of a time he pushed back against the original draft. "But somehow I’m the person with the dark sensibility? I wanted to say, 'I’ve been saving you from yourselves! I’ve been working with the director to bring a voice of conscience and sanity to the almost perversely dark film you’ve been developing for years, but I’m the problem here?'"
Noting how he worked to soften the scene, Terrio added: "I removed the punch [of Lois], for one thing. Just think about the optics of that. I was able to add material to the film and asked the movie to grapple with what that [battle] meant, so that it didn’t seem like a casual scene of Superman intervening in this way without reckoning with the consequences of intervention. I placed that in context of a moral question."
Terrio further elaborated on how the original draft of the script was even darker than anything he contributed, saying that the Batman branding criminals motif was something he was originally going to continue doing even through the end of the film, branding Lex Luthor even after Superman has died and his arc has been completed.
"The studio seemed to take this position after BvS that my writing was too dark and that this was their problem," Terrio added. "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."
As we know, in the end, Terrio seemingly won that fight as Batman holds his brand to Luthor but ends up leaving it into the wall rather than his face.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Ultimate Edition and Zack Snyder's Justice League are both now streaming on HBO Max.