Sometimes it’s worthwhile to make something out of nothing – and this is one of those occasions.
During a special event in NYC honoring Hugh Jackman (who deserves to be honored because who doesn’t like Hugh Jackman?) a reporter managed to get a non-response from Dark Knight Trilogy director Christopher Nolan – one which actually merits some discussion. Again, this is non-news – but it’s non-news we thought would be prime material for a good ol’ geek discussion. Read on if you’re game.
Movieline reporter Frank Digiacomo asked Nolan point-blank if the upcoming Superman film Man of Steel (watch the trailer) would feature a Batman cameo in any form – including an appearance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character John Blake who – SPOILER ALERT! – we last saw take on the mantle of Batman during the closing moments of The Dark Knight Rises.
Nolan’s actual response to the inquiry was, “I can’t talk about that. You know that,” but Digiacomo makes subjective note of the director’s facial expression, which he describes as an “enormous Cheshire-Cat grin.” He also noted Nolan’s tone as “cheerily” when he brushed off the question.
Take all that how you will, but it raises a more interesting question: will the filmmakers (or at least the studio, Warner Bros.) try to fit an appearance by Batman into Man of Steel? And, somewhat more importantly, should they?
THERE’S MOTIVE (AND OPPORTUNITY)
Christopher Nolan is a producer (and story writer) on Man of Steel in addition to being the architect of the Dark Knight franchise, and Warner Bros. has a Justice League film to launch in 2015. These reasons alone are compelling enough to warrant using Man of Steel as a Justice League launch-pad. And who better than with Batman, their most iconic and successful movie character?
With the studio pushing to merge the DC characters into one universe, and Nolan’s hand in both franchises, there is motive and opportunity to give fans lethal doses of geek-glee from seeing The World’s Finest onscreen together in Man of Steel.
IT’S WORKED BEFORE
Marvel successfully used an appearance by Samuel L. Jackson after the credits of the first Iron Man to let fans know, officially, that a shared movie universe was now a reality. Jackson’s lines were brief, but when he name-dropped that “Avenger Initiative” we were off on a five-year journey to that big Avengers movie – and Marvel Studios has been reaping the success (and profits) ever since.
That’s all to say: DC/Warner Bros. could easily (so easily) give Justice League a major PR boost if they just have Superman and Batman appear in the same frame of film together. So again: why wouldn’t they?
THE GAME HAS CHANGED
The most obvious monkey-wrench in this whole crossover design would be creative vision: Nolan got to make his own vision of Batman, and Snyder could arguably want the same for Man of Steel (as will a fair portion of fans, I suspect). But as the header would imply: the game has changed.
Marvel showed the industry the billion-dollar possibilities of something like The Avengers – and all the brand-loyalty, merchandising and licensing still that comes with it. More to the point: expectations amongst moviegoers is now different. People have been successfully transitioned into a system of movie making in which they are, upfront, investing themselves in multiple film properties, following cinematic storylines a chapter at a time… as a comic book fan would do.
With that kind of precedence, it’s unlikely that Zack Snyder’s creative wishes will override the larger plans of the studio (especially when he’s yet to prove that he can successfully relaunch the Superman franchise). So if WB isn’t planning this kind of a cameo showstopper, and Superman is all we get, it would be an indication that they A) don’t understand the audience for these films, and B) haven’t yet caught on to how this game is now played.
CONTINUITY IS EASIER
Look, the reality is that the wider moviegoing audience is NOT made up of comic book geeks – it’s not even necessarily made up of movie geeks. Words like “reboot” can easily confuse the general masses when it’s used in the context of an upcoming film – let alone when it applies to re-launching an established cinematic character in a new cinematic universe.
In the minds of most moviegoers, Christian Bale is Batman – or at least was Batman until he handed off the reigns to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Detective John Blake, at the end of Dark Knight Rises. One monumental hurdle facing the Justice League film universe is how to incorporate Batman; do they go with a new actor, who has to sell audiences on a new version of the Dark Knight? Or do they incorporate Nolan’s version into Justice League?
Nolan has said he’s done with the character, and franchise star Christian Bale has said he’s done if Nolan is done. That leaves John Blake (and JGL) – which is why recent rumors of the studio angling to bring Blake into the Justice League fold aren’t at all surprising.
From a business standpoint, using the momentum of The Dark Knight Trilogy to sell a shared movie universe is not just practical – it’s smart. Fans will go crazy seeing Batman and Superman onscreen; they’ll go even crazier if they see the Batman they already know, sharing the screen with the Superman they’ve just gotten to know while watching Man of Steel.
SHOULD BATMAN APPEAR IN MAN OF STEEL?
I’m going to go ahead and say… yep. Definitely. As evidenced by our Screen Rant Podcast regarding Justice League, our staff is as split as the rest of the Web over whether or not DC leading with a team-up film first is a good idea. I believe it can work, and one way to make it work right out of the gate is by making this move.
You don’t even have to answer all the looming questions about what Batman we’re getting (Nolanverse or not?) – or who is playing him (Bale? Levitt? New guy?). You just need Batman -somebody just wearing the costume onscreen next to Superman – and the goal is accomplished. Of course, a Man of Steel cameo would also be a hell of a way to debut the next actor taking on the role…
I’ve made my case – share your feelings on the matter by voting in the poll below:
Man of Steel will be in theaters on June 14, 2013.
Justice League will be in theaters some time in 2015.