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Tuesday April 16th 2024

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice | 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice location: Aragon, Lawrence Avenue, Northside, Chicago
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice location: Bruce Wayne's parents are murdered outside the cinema: The Aragon, Lawrence Avenue, Northside, Chicago

Zack Snyder has the awkward task of blending Christopher Nolan’s gritty realistic Batman series with the fantasy superpowers of Kal El’s alien as the set-up for DC’s Justice League series.

The production was based at Michigan Motion Picture Studios, 1999 Centerpoint Parkway in Pontiac, about 12 miles north of Detroit, which had already hosted films including Oz, The Great And Powerful and Transformers films.

The studio was once the old General Motors plant, and the GM Building was dressed with a giant LexCorp logo to become the HQ of Lex Luthor. An enormous Superman statue for 'Heroes Park' was also constructed on the backlot here.

Most of the practical locations were found in Detroit itself, with some Chicago added to the mix – though there’s no simple Detroit/Chicago Metropolis/Gotham City breakdown.

The film opens in Bruce Wayne’s grim, corrupt ‘Gotham’ with yet another re-enactment of the murder of young Wayne’s parents.

There's no Devil dancing in the pale moonlight nor a bat-infested opera this time around. True to the comic source, the family has been watching The Sword Of Zorro (along with John Boorman’s 1981 Excalibur, according to the marquee).

The cinema is the old Aragon Ballroom, 1106 West Lawrence Avenue, Chicago. Built in 1925, this Spanish-Moorish fantasia once naturally hosted the big bands such as Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington – not to mention performances by Frank Sinatra – before an inevitable decline during the Sixties, when it became a boxing venue, skating rink and a disco. It’s since found a new lease of life as a Latin and rock venue.

The interior of the Aragon became a nightclub for Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, with Johnny Depp as John Dillinger.

In this universe, Metropolis is just across the bay from Gotham. Superman’s world is introduced – with the portentous surtitle ‘Mankind is introduced to the Superman’ – as Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) witnesses the attack of General Zod’s Black Zero craft on Metropolis which climaxed Man Of Steel, from the heart of Detroit.

Bruce Wayne's Jeep Renegade emerges from the Cobo Centre onto West Larned Street, turning left onto John Conyers Jr Boulevard to avoid a massive fireball in front of the Detroit Fire Department HQ, 250 West Larned Street at Washington Boulevard. If you saw robo-fight movie Real Steel, you may recognise the Fire Department building as ‘Tallet’s Gym’, owned by Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly), where Charlie works on his new robot, Noisy Boy.

The clouds of destruction force Wayne to turn right into Congress Street, from where he phones Wayne Enterprises exec O'Dwyer and orders him to evacuate the 'Wayne Finance Building' sharpish.

Following a swift right into Griswold Street, Wayne negotiates the little alley between Mr Pita and the Penobscot Building (seen in 8 Mile with Eminem) coming out on West Congress Street, opposite the UPS store (there’s no worn Dr Pepper mural there, so I assume that’s a little bit of product placement).

Roaring along West Congress, he suddenly arrives at the junction of Fort and Shelby, where Wayne sees Zod’s craft hovering above the city.

Getting out of the car, he runs past the Comerica Bank Building, and is immediately back alongside the Penobscot, where a few skyscrapers have been added digitally, including a highrise several blocks west which serves as the ‘Wayne Finance Building’. As the tower collapses Wayne sprints along Congress into the thick clouds of smoke...

…to emerge in Corktown, quite a few blocks west. The heaps of rubble are a huge outdoor set built along Sixth Street, filling the two blocks between Porter and Howard. Among these empty lots, the World Trade Centre Detroit, 1200 Sixth Street, provides the entrance to the ‘Wayne Building’, where he finds employee Wallace Keefe (Scoot McNairy) with his legs crushed beneath a collapsed girder.

Eighteen months after this prologue, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) finds herself at the mercy of a band of in 'Nairomi, Africa', when the man of Steel appears, as he tends to do, to deliver her from danger. The rescue goes horribly wrong and ensuing carnage is unfairly blamed on Superman – but there's something suspicious about the whole set-up.

The 'African' sequence was meant to be filmed in Morocco but the scare engendered by the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa meant that the sequence ended up being filmed on a set built in Deming, New Mexico.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice filming location: Wayne County Building, 600 Randolph Street, Detroit
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice location: the senate hearing into the 'Nairomi' disaster: Wayne County Building, Randolph Street, Detroit

There’s a hearing into the debacle, chaired by Senator Finch (Holly Hunter), held in the old Wayne County Building, 600 Randolph Street, downtown Detroit. This former administrative centre was where Clarence (Christian Slater) married Alabama (Patricia Arquette) in Tony Scott’s Quentin Tarantino-scripted True Romance.

For the briefest moment it's over to the West Coast for the 'Metropolis vs Gotham City' football match, being watched on TV by the cops, which was filmed at Weingart Stadium, of East Los Angeles College, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez Monterey Park. No stranger to the screen, the ground became the 'University of Alabama's football stadium where Forrest (Tom Hanks) demonstrates his running ability in Forrest Gump.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice location: Ransom Gillis House, Alfred Street, Brush Park, Detroit
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice location: the dilapidated house full of imprisoned women: Ransom Gillis House, Alfred Street, Brush Park, Detroit | Photograph: Wikimedia / Elisa.rolle

Their enjoyment of the match is cut short by a call-out to the basement of a grimly dilapidated house full of imprisoned women along with their captor, who’s not only been immobilised but branded with the Bat sign.

This house is the Ransom Gillis House, 205 Alfred Street in the Brush Park district of Midtown Detroit. Built in 1878, the structure stood unoccupied since the mid-1960s, until being radically renovated for an eight-part television special that aired on HGTV.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice location: Aragon, Lawrence Avenue, Northside, Chicago
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice location: Bruce Wayne's parents are murdered outside the cinema: The Aragon, Lawrence Avenue, Northside, Chicago | Photograph: Wikimedia / Mike Russell

The 'Nairomi' operation begins to unravel when Lois Lane’s journalistic curiosity is aroused by the discovery of a suspicious bullet revealing a link to LexCorp. Her apartment block is the Wright-Kay Building, 1500 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, which is now home to the first John Varvatos menswear store in the Midwest.

Meanwhile, back at the Batcave (there’s a phrase I haven’t written in a long time), Bruce Wayne and Alfred (Jeremy Irons) are following a trail of clues that will ultimately lead to the same source.

Which is, of course, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, allowed to have much more fun chewing the scenery than the tortured, po-faced goodies), and his glitzy LexCorp HQ (the GM Building), where he reveals his plan to weaponise a newly-discovered nodule of Kryptonite in the interests of ‘planetary security’.

His demands also include access to the crashed alien ship and the bodily remains of General Zod, which doesn’t bode well.

The twin plot strands continue as the now disabled Wallace Keefe vandalises a giant statue of Superman in ‘Heroes Park’.

The interior of the Daily Planet office, where Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) hassles Clark Kent to rustle up more sports stories, was built in the studio, but the exterior is 111 East Wacker Drive overlooking the Chicago River in Chicago – which was the hi-rise office block where the Joker (Heath Ledger) crashed the charity do in The Dark Knight.

Back in Detroit, the Masonic Temple, 500 Temple Street, sees double duty. Its kitchens hosts the underground bareknuckle fight at which Bruce Wayne contrives to clone the mobile of Anatoli (Callan Mulvey). Later, the lobby of its Jack White Theatre provides the entrance to the hotel of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot). The theatre is named in honour of the White Stripes' Detroit frontman who was instrumental in saving the historic building.

Back at his lakeside home, Bruce Wayne discovers that Anatoli is in regular contact with Luthor while Alfred reveals that he’s conveniently been invited to the ‘Metropolitan Library Benefit’ at Luthor’s home.

Wayne's glass-walled house was built for the production by the private lake on Camp Metamora, the 350-acre disused Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan camp, which stood on Caley Road in Metamora Township, about 50 miles north of Detroit. The house was designed in the style of Mies van der Rohe, cheekily hinting that Bruce's wealthy father could have commissioned the building from the famous architect himself.

The Wayne family crypt, and the ruins of ‘Wayne Manor’ by the way, are Orion Oaks County Park, 2301 Clarkston Road in Orion Charter Township, about 30 miles north of Detroit.

Wayne trades up the jeep for an Aston Martin DB to attend the bash at Luthor’s home, ‘1835 Park Ridge Lane, Park Ridge DM’. Not only do Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne get their historic first meeting here, there's also the introduction of another DC character, Diana Prince, who has her own agenda and makes off with Wayne’s stolen data.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice filming location: Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East Circle Drive, East Lansing
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice location: the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East Circle Drive, East Lansing | Photograph: Wikimedia / Andrew Martin

Luthor's modernist stainless steel and glass house is the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, 547 East Circle Drive, East Lansing on the campus of Michigan State University, designed by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid.

At another society bash, as Diana Prince being shown the Sword of Alexander, she's confronted by Bruce Wayne wanting his device back. No, there is no Sword of Alexander in Detroit, the museum is the main branch of Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Avenue. Intentional tribute or not, the music playing is Waltz No.2 from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Suite for Variety Orchestra, used as the main theme throughout Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.

The police department, where Clark Kent investigates what happened to the man with the Bat branding arrested in the ramshackle house, is the historic former Detroit Police Headquarters at 1300 Beaubien Street.

References to the mysterious ‘White Portuguese’ lead Batman to the docks when he realises that this is the name of a ship. He watches as Kryptonite is unloaded at the Nicholson Terminal and Dock Company on the Detroit River. This isn't a sly reference to the 1989 Joker – it happens to be a real company.

The first uneasy face-to-face meeting between Batman and Superman, in character, with the poor Batmobile suffering some serious damage, is at the Russell Industrial Center, 1600 Clay Street, Detroit. Now repurposed as artists’ studios and shops, the complex was also glimpsed as the ‘Mexican’ factory from which Superman rescues the young girl from a fire.

The scenes in 'Washington DC' were faked, with the Capitol buildings being added digitally. So the bridge, alongside which Lois Lane meets the Secretary, is not one of the Potomac crossings, but the MacArthur Bridge, linking the city to Belle Isle in the Detroit River. The disused zoo on Belle Isle supplied another location for Real Steel.

To lure Batman into a showdown, Martha Wayne (Diane Lane) is abducted from outside ‘Ralli’s’, the little diner where she works. This is Hygrade Deli, 3640 Michigan Avenue, Southwest Detroit.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice filming location: Michigan Central Station, Michigan Avenue, Detroit
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice location: the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: Michigan Central Station, Michigan Avenue, Detroit | Photograph: Wikimedia / Albert Duce

The scene is set for "The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world." The Kryptonite-assisted punch up takes place in the disused Michigan Central Station, 2198 Michigan Avenue, the grand old rail terminal just west of downtown Detroit.

Built in 1913, the once beautiful building was abandoned and vandalised over the years. The good news is that it was bought by Ford in 2018 and is currently being renovated.

It's seen its share of action, though, with Michael Bay having filmed part of Transformers, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Island here.

• Many thanks to Allegra Chisholm for help with this section.