In the wake of the success of Marvel’s latest entry into its film universe, Captain America: The Winter Solider, attention has shifted to the burgeoning DC Comics movie and television universe. With DC’s television show, Arrow, finding success and leading to a spin-off in the form of a Flash ongoing series, as well as the early years of young Bruce Wayne and Gotham city in the self-named show Gotham, the big questions now lay with the success of the DC movie universe.
The Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel screenwriter David S. Goyer has stated that, “It is too early for a cohesive DC film universe.” He has also taken a wait-and-see attitude as to whether television shows like Arrow exist in the same world as DC’s films. This has been a long-standing question since the debut of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, which is deeply embedded in the Marvel film universe. Marvel has chosen to release the third Captain America film on 5/6/16 – the same day DC comic’s Superman VS Batman is slated to be released. Superman VS Batman will be vitally important to the DC comics movie franchise, as the linchpin and launchpad of a viable DC Comics film universe. That being said, here are a few things DC needs to consider to make Superman VS Batman the success it must be.[divider]
The Return of the Bat
Superman VS Batman will be the return of Batman to film and also his first appearance in this new cinematic universe. The defining moment of the DC Comics shared universe will be the meeting between its title characters. This will not be the Batman of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and it shouldn’t be. The Batman of the previous films was grounded in reality and would have no place in a world with a Superman and Wonder Woman. Christian Bale’s Dark Knight’s tale had its end and a physically debilitated, retired for the second time Batman has no place mixing it up with an invulnerable flying man.
What about John Blake, inheritor of Bruce Wayne’s secrets? He has even less of a place. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of the everyman policeman brought a relatable, morally admirable hero to the trilogy but as a Batman in a DC shared universe the character of John Blake does not have the skill or gravitas to pull off an all new Batman; and again linking Nolan’s trilogy to a linked DC universe would undermine the believability of super powered heroes. It would be like Batman consulting on a CSI episode, it would drag you out of the fictional world and its established rules.
In the end it will be Ben Affleck’s portrayal of and the more superheroic take of Batman that will make or break the film. A Batman who is more of a James Bond of old would be necessary. A Dark Knight who uses his wits and tactical genius to get results rather than hanging criminals off a ledge. Which brings us to the inevitable conflict, both physical and moral, between Superman and Batman and the problems that brings up.[divider]
Batman is stronger than Superman
Easy fanboys, I am not trying to cause a riot. Believe me, I have had many a conversation that contained the following statement from me: “If Batman put on a kryptonite ring and punched Superman all you would get is a broken handed Batman!” What I mean is, Batman—when measured as a character, an icon, and a relatable hero—is stronger than Superman. His appeal is grounded in reality; he is the shadowy vigilante who trained both physically and mentally to become a crusader for justice. Superman was, prior to Man of Steel, a bright, outgoing, public figure who could lift oil tankers and visited sick kids in the hospital. Superman presents multiple problems in a modern film. With his massive power levels, finding a threat to challenge Superman is difficult and his morality may seem antiquated.
Superman VS Batman is being touted as a Man Of Steel movie sequel and Superman has a lot to prove. His rookie outing, in the context of the films story, was disastrous. The Superman of Man of Steel had not yet made his reputation as a hero and moral role model before his people threatened the Earth and caused mass destruction and loss of life. The Superman of the new films, despite his fighting for his adopted planet, would be looked on with fear in the wake of the events of Man Of Steel.
The Batman of the next film has been described by David S. Goyer as a seasoned vet, an older, experienced Batman. This kind of Batman would have very little tolerance for the rookie Superman of Man of Steel. A planner and perfectionist, Batman would see Superman as irresponsible and a danger. Man of Steel was light on building up Clark Kent/Superman as an individual we can root for. The optimism and kindness that is Superman’s counter to Batman’s darkness was scant in the film, limited to Henry Cavill crinkling his brows, looking boyishly passive and were all but erased by his murder of Zod in the film’s climax.
Superman’s optimism and faith in the better side of humanity is as much a part of his strength as his superpowers are, he needs a moral mission that is as viable as Batman’s. In an already crowed film Superman VS Batman must define the man of steel giving us a Superman who is as uncompromising in his vision of justice as Batman is in his.
Superman Is Stronger Than Batman
Ok fanboys, start a riot! In a physical conflict Superman would destroy Batman. In a physical conflict Superman would destroy most of his foes. In a film titled Superman VS Batman, this is a problem. I know the popular answer is that Batman will cheat, or come up with a way to out think and out plan superman, but in a movie that will feature Lex Luthor it risks being redundant. Also, just how satisfying would such a victory be? In the end Batman has no choice but to play to his strengths in order to make the VS part of the film title come alive. My guess is it will be Batman and not Lex who will introduce Kryptonite to the playing field.[divider]
The World’s Finest
We can assume the title characters will join forces; it’s a classic comic book trope to have the heroes misunderstand each other, fight, then team up against a common enemy. They did it in Avengers and I am betting they will do it in Superman VS Batman. In the Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America were, despite very different power levels, equals and a mutual respect grew very organically. It will be a tall order to present a new version of Batman and an under defined Superman who can make this journey in a film loaded with new characters. Common ground and a respect for what each person brings to the table will be the basis for any long-term (Justice League) team Superman and Batman will be a part of. Batman needs to see Superman as more than a tool or a means to and end; he needs to see him as a valued partner if not friend.[divider]
The Past Has Consequences
In his introductory film, Thor’s appearance on Earth and the destruction of a small desert town touched off a weapons race and quest for government controlled super-powered individuals. The Kryptonians in Man of Steel leveled a City, killed thousands and partially terraformed the Earth. Despite the shiny new Daily Planet shown at the end of Man of Steel, these events have got to be addressed. To dismiss it would be a disservice to the continuity of any DC film universe. In order for threats to have weight in the film actions must have consequences. Embracing the destruction of Man Of Steel is just what the next film must do. It’s an opportunity for storytelling.
A post-Kryptonian invasion world could be where Lex Luthor comes in; a young, genius weapons manufacturer would be needed. As would Bruce Wayne – his money and vision in this new world would have as much of a role to play as Batman would. A world with a shocked and fearful populace would be ripe for new villains but even more so for heroes who can meet such threats head on. The Avengers faced an invasion that caused death and destruction in their film and were seen as victorious heroes for stopping that threat. Man Of Steel left us with more tragic results for Superman. In the end of the film we see the military overtly does not trust Superman and while that may be true of the Avengers as well, they have the love of a grateful populace.
Much has been said of Superman’s decision to kill General Zod at the climax of Man Of Steel, but while it demonstrated a real world choice for Superman it also brought with it a feeling that this was not a victory we would cheer for. Superman VS Batman needs a win for both the characters in the context of the movie and for the continuing franchise of DC Comics films.