Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will mark the first time Batman and Superman have met as friends or enemies in a live-action feature film, but the two characters go back even further than that. In the early days of comics where the idea of a shared universe was still only beginning to take shape, the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel were crossing paths in books like World’s Finest and The Brave & The Bold; laying the groundwork for a DC Universe conception of superheroes that was less like a lineup and more like a mythic pantheon.
And according to Batman V Superman and Justice League screenwriter Chris Terrio, that’s exactly the angle he’s bringing to the big screen version of this classic pairing.
Terrio, who wrote the Academy Award winning feature film Argo for director and star Ben Affleck, came aboard the DC Cinematic Universe to rewrite David Goyer’s screenplay for Dawn of Justice after Affleck was tapped to become the new Batman. And while he no doubt brought his own unique conception of the characters to bear while fleshing out the narrative, he makes no bones about about drawing on that same mythic tradition, telling the Wall Street Journal:
“It’s almost archetypal. In Batman’s origin [the murder of his parents], the primary thing I was thinking about is the fact he falls. It’s the primary metaphor for Western literature: There was a moment before and then everything fell. That brings up questions of Superman.
“I began to think Batman and Superman occupy different parts of the mythic imagination. In superhero stories, Batman is Pluto, god of the underworld, and Superman is Apollo, god of the sky. That began to be really interesting to me — that their conflict is not just due to manipulation, but their very existence. In the end, there’s a common humanity which I think is discovered at a certain moment in the film.”
That emphasis on a mythic, larger-than-life vision of the DC pantheon is more than evident from the trailers, which feature the grim and determined warriors facing off in the dark, highly-stylized tableaus rendered by director Zack Snyder. But Terrio doesn’t believe that particular tone or tenor will be the defining aesthetic of the DC Universe’s unfolding story, explaining:
“Batman v Superman” is a bit of an Empire Strikes Back or Two Towers or any similar middle film in a trilogy. The middle film tends to be the darkest one. I do think from Man of Steel through Justice League, it is one saga really.”
These quotes and others from the interview (including an indication that he may not return to write the second part of Justice League) should do a lot to soothe the concerns of DC fans worried that the new films would be fundamentally disconnected from the classical understanding of the characters, as Terrio reveals himself to be both well-versed in the lore and a fan of the properties – at one point noting that he once nearly drowned as a child while playing Aquaman in a swimming pool. We won’t have to wait long to find out if his instincts paid off – Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters in less than two weeks.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25th, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23rd, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17th, 2017; The Flash on March 16th, 2018; Aquaman on July 27th, 2018; Shazam on April 5th, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14th, 2019; Cyborg on April 3rd, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19th, 2020.