Note: This post discusses a very early scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Spoilers about that scene follow.
When director Zack Snyder began to establish the DC Comics movie universe with 2013’s Man of Steel, comic-book purists blanched at his vision of a Superman who would not only kill if necessary, but would also allow thousands of innocent people to die while fighting a supervillain. Snyder’s follow-up, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is no less brutal: The first few scenes of the film are filled with casualties, from Bruce Wayne’s parents (gunned down, once more, in slow motion) to the Metropolis citizens who perished during Superman’s climactic Man of Steel battle, replayed here from Bruce Wayne’s man-on-the-street perspective.
Still, the film’s most startling death is one that goes by in a flash, and if you aren’t paying close attention, you’ll miss why it’s so provocative.
Not long after Bruce Wayne’s grim introduction, we catch up with Man of Steel’s Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who has traveled to Africa to interview a suspected terrorist. She’s accompanied by a photographer (played by The OC’s Michael Cassidy), but while Lois is busy peppering the terrorist with questions, a henchman confiscates the shutterbug’s camera, exposes the roll of film, and finds a tracking device hidden deep inside the camera. That surprise prompts another reveal — the photographer admits that he’s actually a CIA agent using Lois’s trip to gather secret intel — and, quickly, the entire encounter goes south: The terrorist becomes enraged, Lois is taken hostage, and the photographer-cum-secret-agent is executed with a point-blank gunshot to the head.
That’s about it for Cassidy’s character, who’s never identified by name … until the closing credits, when eagle-eyed audience members may notice that the character is Jimmy Olsen.
Yes, that Jimmy Olsen, the classic Superman character with the can-do attitude who works as a photographer at the Daily Planet and tags along with Lois and Clark Kent on their adventures.
Zack Snyder shot him in the head.
This may not be the first time that Snyder has toyed with the character, but it’s definitely the darkest. Rumors flew during the production of Man of Steel that actress Rebecca Buller would be playing a gender-flipped Jenny Olsen — and indeed, Buller has admitted that “there was an evolution of what they wanted my character to be” — but in the final cut, at least, the character was named Jenny Jurwich. The version of Jimmy that we briefly see in Batman v Superman is somewhat more in line with the character’s traditional depiction … well, at least until he reveals himself to be a secret agent and is brutally gunned down in front of Lois. That’s not the sort of thing you usually find in a Superman comic, but in Zack Snyder’s dark DC universe, it’s a casualty so commonplace that most moviegoers won’t even realize it happened.