Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice won’t just bring DC Comics’ two biggest superheroes to the big screen in one movie for the first time – it also will be a launchpad for a new movie version of Batman, following the massive success of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. That new Batman is played by Ben Affleck, and will be a somewhat new angle on the character; in Dawn of Justice, Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is older and semi-retired from active duty as The Batman.
A lot of hardcore comic book fans have been excited by this new movie version of Batman, nothing how the Affleck’s bulky build and two featured costumes in the film (a short-eared fabric suit and armored suit) all invoke the spirit of Frank Miller’s iconic Batman story, “The Dark Knight Returns.” But with Superman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor and the beginnings of a movie Justice League also in the mix, Batman v Superman will definitely be a different animal than “Dark Knight Returns,” and Zack Snyder recently spoke about his inspiration for the Batman we will see in the film.
While attending an event dedicated to Batman creator Bob Kane at the Guinness World Record Museum, Snyder talked about creating Affleck’s Batman costume with Batman v Superman costume designer Michael Wilkinson – and the influence of Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” on that process (via CBR):
…you discussed during the ceremony the development process of finding your take on the Batman costume. I’d like to hear some more insight into what that process was like for you — did you come in with a very strong idea, and how much did it evolve along that way?
I think that’s it. I had a really strong idea about what I wanted to do — I really wanted to do sort of a fabric-based Batman; not what’s become the more normal, armored Batman. That’s how we evolved it.
A lot of has been said of the Frank Miller influence on the film — “Dark Knight Returns” has an older Batman, in conflict with Superman — how much of that do you see in the final product? And were there any other specific creators that were an influence on you?
There are so many great artists who have drawn Batman. So many great comics that have been created — it’s countless. I was talking to Frank about it: “Dark Knight Returns” was such a big influence on me, that I wanted to to honor him through imagery in the movie. You could still make “Dark Knight Returns” into a movie, if you want. That’s what I’m saying, as far as how much we used and how much we didn’t use. The visual elements, there are some that I homage, but I don’t think the movie [is an adaptation].
But the influence is there.
Definitely the influence.
It was Snyder himself who first invited the “Dark Knight Returns” comparisons; the director made the debut announcement about Batman v Superman‘s production at Comic-Con 2013, where he had Man of Steel actor Henry Lennix (General Swanwick) read the following Batman quote from “Dark Knight Returns”:
“I want you to remember Clark, in all the years to come. In all your private moments. In all the years to come, my hand at your throat. I want you to remember, the one man who beat you.”
Of course, pretty much every superhero movie on either the DC or Marvel side has taken elements of famous comic book storylines and remixed them into the plot of a feature film – often recombining them with other famous comic book storylines the character was featured in. Coincidentally enough, Nolan’s first and last Batman films (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises) borrowed Miller’s ideas, drawing from comic book stories like “Batman: Year One” and, of course, “Dark Knight Returns.”
That’s all to say: If Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio (Argo) have found a way to distill the core essence of that famous Batman vs. Superman conflict from Miller’s conflict into the many moving parts of the Dawn of Justice story – Batman fans (and casual viewers) may be all the better for it. If you’re going to borrow, might as well borrow from the best.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23rd, 2017; Justice League on November 17th, 2017; The Flash on March 23rd, 2018; Aquaman on July 27th, 2018; Shazam on April 5th, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14th, 2019; Cyborg on April 3rd, 2020; Green Lantern Corps on June 19th, 2020. Untitled Batman and Superman solo films will be coming at dates TBD.