LexCorp Tower, a staple of DC Comics since the mid-1980s, is typically portrayed as the headquarters of LexCorp, the technology and/or financial company run by Lex Luthor, perennial Superman villain. It has become a mainstay of modern Superman stories, and was introduced in the filmic DC Extended Universe in Man of Steel (dir. Zack Snyder, 2013), with its role expanded in the amazingly-titled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder, 2016). While the building itself only serves as the location for a couple of set-pieces in the latter film, the tower serves as a bridge between the two films and provides a window into the narrative tension and ultimately the revisionist narrative that Batman v Superman attempts to weave from the problematic ending of Man of Steel.
The third act of Man of Steel is almost entirely devoted to a climactic and multi-part battle over and through Metropolis. Refered to as the Black Zero Event, the battle begins when General Zod and his exiled crew of Kryptonians begin using a terraforming ship, the Black Zero, hovering abover the Metropolis skyline, to drive gravity waves through the earth in sequence with another ship in the Indian Ocean.
Superman and our human heroes—Lois Lane, Colonel Hardy, and Dr. Hamilton—attempt to stop both ships at the same time as Metropolis is pounded from the center. This leaves our ground-level protagonists, led by Perry White, to witness the inital collapses, resulting in imagery pulled directly from 9/11.
The Black Zero is defeated, but General Zod is not done, crashing his own ship through the skyline. Superman speeds back to Metropolis to confront him, in an exagerated and costly fight literally through the city, echoing the flying fight between Neo and Agent Smith in The Matrix Revolutions (dirs. The Wachoswkis, 2003). After punching their way through a number of non-descript office buildings—more on this below—their fight takes to the sky.
However, they pause near the spire of an under-construction tower, adorned with signage reading “The future home of LexCorp.”
Before punching their way through the sky and a variety of presumably still-occupied buildings.
Their fight then leaves the atmosphere, where Zod throws a satellite at Superman, which re-enters as a set of flaming debris, streaking back into the city, and directly in front of the LexCorp buiding (on the right, below).
So, at the end of Man of Steel, much of Metropolis has been brutalized by the fight, with seeming hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, but the current and future LexCorp towers are apparently still standing (if the under-construction tower falls, the film doesn’t focus on it). Snyder went on to defend the tone and impact of the sequence, calling it “mythological” in scale, and screenwriter David S. Goyer explained its inclusion at length:
One of the things we were hoping to depict is that Superman is not a god. We say he’s a god-like figure but he’s not omnipotent. Even in the comic books he cannot save everyone. I think people die [in Metropolis]. Clearly hundreds if not thousands of people have died while the gravity machines are going off. There were probably even people who died in Smallville.
When you’re dealing with a threat like this, there will be collateral damage. This is something that hadn’t been depicted in comic book films is what it would be like if these powerful figures did clash, if The Hulk and Thor fought, people would probably die. Particularly in this case where Zod and the Kryptonians really don’t care if people die. I think people died and I’m sure that upsets some people.
Retconning the past
The follow up to Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens with a set-piece revisiting the destruction of Metropolis from the perspective of Bruce Wayne, racing into the city as the calamity occurs above, introducing new elements that change the fundamental meaning an impact of Man of Steel’s ending. But even before the film begins, the narrative was being retconned.
The awesomely-titled prequel comic book Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Lex Luthor (DC, January 2016) opens with the ruins of LexCorp Tower, with Lex Luthor reflecting:
Lex goes on over the next pages:
A perfect marriage of architecture and technology. The biggest, grandest, most highly advances structure in Metropolis. But after the alien attack…I had to tear up those plans. And I’m glad. Because now, in the hour of Metropolis’s greatest need, when other companies are cutting their losses and running scared… …I have the opportunity—no, the privilege—of rebuilding LexCorp Tower to be the finest skyscraper in the world! To me, Metropolis isn’t a disaster area, or a financial risk. It’s my home. I believe in Metropolis. And I beleive its future—our future—is brighter than ever.
So, now a single LexCorp Tower has been destroyed by the “alien attack” (ie, the two Kryptonians, Superman and Zod), and rebuilding it is integral to Luthor’s image—at least what he puts forward to the people of Metropolis. When we see the still-being-completed LexCorp Tower, it features an asymmetrical peak, with a helipad a few storeis below a spire behind the LexCorp logo:
Later, we see these aspects in various distance shots, and when Superman confronts Luthor mid-way through the film.
After quite an amount of plot development—one could easily say too much—the tower reappears when General-Zod’s-corpse-turned-villain-Doomsday jumps to its spire and drops to the sign and then the tower’s helipad.
Before releasing a blast of energy, bringing down the tower’s spire:
Interestingly, though Luthor and LexCorp (including a production facility) feature prominently in the plot, the tower itself is mostly shrouded in darkness, lit from below in the few scenes in which it appears
Luckily, the talented production artist, Christian Lorentz Scheurer, has made some of his art for the film available:
Locating Metropolis (and Gotham City)
Batman v Superman also expands and connects the Superman and Batman mythos, establishing that—though it never came up in Man of Steel—Metropolis and Gotham City are in fact sister cities, separated by a bay. This is established by some dialogue early on, and made evident when the Bat-signal is lit above Gotham, during the scene in which Superman confronts Luthor in Metropolis.
What we did is, I created this thing called the District of Metropolis, which is a mythical sort of… The problem was is that it happened because legal wanted a state. Legal was like, “What state is Metropolis in?” Legal called me and said it. I was like, “I don’t know. I don’t want to say.” They were like, “You have to say because there’s a Metropolis, Illinois and you could be sued and blah, blah, blah.” I was like, “Okay.” So we created this thing called the District of Metropolis and Metropolis is inside of it. We’re kind of setting it near, it’s sort of an east coast city, but it’s like, right there in Chesapeake Bay, you know? It’s kind of those islands. You could imagine if one of those had been a city had been built on one of those. That’s kinda where we put it.
Putting Metropolis somewhere on the map, like these islands in the Chesapeake Bay:
Though it is also something of an infinite city, skyscrapers occupying much of the frame everytime its shown:
And with the relation between the cities pinned down by the military command:
An Aside: LexCorp Tower in the Comics
LexCorp Tower is most frequently portrayed in the comics as a pair of towers with a shared base, anchoring Metropolis. And, I would argue, had already appeared on screen in Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen (2009), as Adrian Veidt’s tower.
Wayne Financial, Metropolis
Wayne Enterprises, in various iterations, is itself a staple of DC Comics. Since the 1970s, it has appeared in a variety of forms, helmed by Bruce Wayne. Above, I noted that in the Man of Steel fight, Zod tosses Superman into a non-descript office building. As they fight inside, Zod uses his heat vision for the first time, cutting through the walls an floor, bringing the building down (note that it falls across the frame from left to right as Superman flies out).
Batman v Superman asserts (via retcon) that this building is Wayne Financial, and that Bruce Wayne’s employees there were mostly killed, invoking even more direct 9/11 imagery. The prespective characters see Superman hurled into their building, and can only pray as the building begins to collapse.
Bruce Wayne almost makes it to Wayne Financial in time, but arrives to the see the building fall from the reverse angle, then rushes into the smoke and debris.
Leaving Bruce Wayne staring up at the Superman/Zod fight in impotent rage, establishing his motivation and dark turn in the film.
Thus, by retconning a second building, Snyder and Goyer establish a new logic under which the entire DC Extended Universe will (problematically) operate.
Fans, being what they are, there is of course a cut of the end of Man of Steel and the opening of Batman v Superman spliced together: