Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice pits two of the world’s most beloved superheroes against each other in a super-powered battle royal that has already divided fans worldwide — not just in terms of which hero will come out on top, but whether or not dark storylines of heroes fighting heroes (also the subject of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War) should really be the future direction of the genre, which already faced steep criticism for what some felt was an unnecessarily grim finale to Dawn’s predecessor, Man of Steel.
But one person who doesn’t want heroes (or fans!) to stop slugging it out is Zack Snyder. The blockbuster director has taken to Twitter with a special video message, encouraging fans to declare their allegiance via hashtags and emojis to either #Batman or #Superman along with the additonal tag “#WhoWillWin?”
The hashtag campaign, which calls to mind the infamous “Whose Side Are You On?” Internet promotions for the original Civil War comics, is the latest volley of marketing for the big-budget DC Comics epic; which aims to make up for Man of Steel’s mixed reception and launch a cohesive DC Cinematic Universe of inter-connected films. But Snyder’s call for declarations of hashtag/emoji-based loyalty marks the first time fans have actively been encouraged to root for one character over the other as part of the official marketing.
“Versus” crossovers have been a part of Hollywood moviemaking ever since the Universal Monsters franchise invented such things with Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman in 1943, but most franchise-crossing smackdowns have historically been arranged where both characters are (at least nominally) villains; such as Freddy vs. Jason and King Kong vs. Godzilla (which is apparently being prepped to happen again.) By contrast, Batman V Superman will mark the first occasion in a long time where two ostensible good guys have come to blows on movie screens, although the characters have been positioned as rivals and even enemies multiple times in the comics — most notably in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
While whipping fans into a frenzy over defending the honor of their favorite superhero is a time-tested marketing strategy for comics (where heroes battle each other almost as frequently as they team up), it remains to be seen whether the continued emphasis on scraps between good guys will translate to box-office success for the nascent DC Cinematic Universe. Though fans have called for the Justice League and its adjacent characters to unify onscreen in the fashion of The Avengers for many years, the franchise has struggled to connect with a broad audience in the wake of unexpectedly negative reactions to Man of Steel.
On the other hand, many fans are reacting to promotions for the even darker-themed Suicide Squad (an Avengers-style team-up involving DC Comics villains) much more positively; and others have begun to call-out a hint of hypocrisy amid all of the “too dark?” hand-wringing. After all, why isn’t Marvel being similarly called-out for telling the same basic type of story in Captain America: Civil War?
One thing is for certain: Whether you throw your allegiance behind #Batman or #Superman, you won’t have to wait much longer to find out who emerges victorious.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman – June 23rd, 2017; Justice League – November 17th, 2017; The Flash – March 23rd, 2018; Aquaman – July 27th, 2018; Shazam – April 5th, 2019; Justice League 2 – June 14th, 2019; Cyborg – April 3rd, 2020; Green Lantern – June 19th, 2020.