Years after the idea of a Batman V Superman movie was teased in I Am Legend, Dawn of Justice is almost here. The Face-off/team-up maintains a high spot among 2016’s most anticipated films – thanks to the titular heroes sharing the big screen for the first time, ever, in a live-action blockbuster movie. When rumors began to surface in 2013 that Warner Bros. intended to follow-up Man of Steel, and jump-start their DC movie universe, with a battle between Batman and Superman, most fans were reluctant to get excited – unconvinced the studio would actually be ambitious enough, let alone successful in their effort, to bring the heroes together in a single film so quickly.
However, as we’ve learned more about Batman V Superman, it’s become increasingly clear that Dawn of Justice is a response to the world established in Man of Steel – a place where a super-powered alien saved the day but, at the same time, was the very reason so many innocent lives were lost. Director Zack Snyder has been clear that a Batman V Superman team-up wasn’t always the plan for his Man of Steel sequel; yet, as the filmmakers began exploring ideas, Dawn of Justice became the most logical (and exciting) option to pursue. Fans weren’t the only ones relieved to hear that Batman V Superman would pay-off the world-changing devastation seen in Man of Steel – as Superman himself, Henry Cavill, promises the upcoming film will shed new light on “issues” that viewers might have with his Kryptonian hero.
Speaking with Cineplex, Cavill reflected on the “mixed” response to Man of Steel (read our Man of Steel review), suggesting that Batman V Superman will, as we’ve heard before, continue the story established in Zack Snyder’s divisive 2013 film – taking full ownership of the established story:
“The reception of my first Superman movie, from what I’ve read, was fairly mixed. Everyone I’ve spoken to enjoyed the movie, but [not] unlike if you’re going to meet a stranger in the street, they’re not going to badmouth you to your face. There’s no intentional move, I don’t think, in Batman V Superman to address any issues that people had with Man of Steel. It’s just a continuation of that storyline and they continue to develop that world and introduce new characters.”
Cavill brings a level head to what has become a heated debate – given that fans spent the last two years debating if Superman was complicit in the destruction of Metropolis (as well as Smallville) and/or whether the extraterrestrial hero should have killed Zod. Instead of debating those “issues” individually, Cavill focuses on the fact that questions of superhero moral responsibility won’t be ignored in Dawn of Justice – which, as the actor asserts, is a continuation of the established world and plot, explored through the introduction of new characters who, like the audience, might not approve of Kal-El’s choices thus far.
Since the DC Movie Universe is using Batman V Superman, and Man of Steel before it, as a launching pad, cynics might argue that Cavill is being naive to think that Dawn of Justice wasn’t an “intentional move” to both address Man of Steel criticism and find a means to introduce a host of key Justice League characters; yet, it’s hard to judge until viewers have seen the final product. It is easy to view Batman V Superman as a hasty attempt to catch up with the mega-successful Marvel Cinematic Universe but, as indicated, Snyder and other Warner Bros. executives have previously claimed the Dawn of Justice storyline is a natural blending of the Man of Steel story and long-running DC comic mythology – specifically the complicated partnership (and competing ideologies) between Superman and Batman.
The idea of the Dark Knight fighting the Man of Steel could sound like a marketing gimmick to some but, just like Captain America and Iron Man have been forced to work-out their disagreements on the battlefield before, Batman has always been weary of Superman’s power – fearful of the destruction Kal-El could unleash should he ever turn against humanity. To that end, the Dawn of Justice story is primed to continue the Man of Steel story (without sweeping its challenging moments under the rug) as well as bring an authentic dynamic between Batman and Superman (not to mention Wonder Woman) for the big screen.
Cavill says as much in the second part of his interview when he suggests that some moviegoers believe superhero movies are just “pop culture” fluff; instead, the actor maintains that comic book adaptations are an opportunity to explore human drama through heightened “vehicles”:
“I think maybe people may look down on some popular-culture stuff, but they’re actually very complicated and interesting characters. Superman especially, he’s just wonderfully rich and one of those things, for me, that’s just enjoyable to play. There’s so far you can go with it; if you really, really delve deep into the character, there’s so much you can do. It’s just about exploring it within the vehicles and finding what you want to do. He’s going to have some very interesting character development in this one.”
How exactly Superman will develop during the Dawn of Justice story should be especially interesting – given that much of the marketing appears to revolve around Batman’s distrust of Superman and a general turn toward cruel vigilantism. Conversely, much of the Batman V Superman marketing appears to show the Man of Steel holding back (example: “Stay down. If I wanted it, you’d be dead already.“), so what does the Kryptonian need to learn this round?
We know that Superman has been policing the world, a fact that initially gives Batman reason to fear Kal-El will become a fascist oppressor – and a threat to individual freedom. It’s too early to tell, especially considering how little context is offered in the film’s trailers, but it’s sounding as though Superman’s arc will challenge the Kryptonian to learn when he needs to intervene (read: when Kryptonian-hybrid monsters are running amok) and when to let humanity solve their own conflicts.
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.