How The Dark Knight Returns Influenced Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman

Batman vs Superman in The Dark Knight Returns Comic


Fans are counting down the minutes until Batman V Superman collides with theaters this Friday. And in anticipation of the upcoming release, the film’s cast and crew are making the rounds to drum up excitement for opening weekend. Director Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) has been more than outspoken about his upcoming launch pad for DC’s extended film universe, enlightening fans as to the decision-makers in DC/Warner Bros., the feasibility of crossovers between DC’s film and television worlds, and of course his influences going into Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

One of the most significant influences to Snyder’s vision for Batman V Superman was the spate of gritty comics which DC produced in the mid-80s. His love of DC’s darker side is no secret, since he’s already directed 2009’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s 300. Snyder indicated that one comic has a clear influence on Batman V Superman, Miller’s classic Caped Crusader update, The Dark Knight Returns.

In an interview with BlackTree TV (watch above), Snyder explored how Miller’s grim modernization altered his personal take on what had previously been a relatively lighthearted superhero. He says the Dark Knight Returns changed the way he thought about superheroes in general, and molded his understanding of the power comics could have. Snyder elaborates:

“When I read that comic book series, you know, in ‘86 I was floored by it because I felt like it promised me something. It challenged…my fundamental notions about Batman. It sort of inspired me to reconnect with Batman the character and comic book in general.”

Dark Knight Returns and Batman v Superman comparisons

The onset of The Dark Knight Returns had a major impact on the comic book world. As one of the biggest comic books marketed more to adults than children, it expanded comic book audiences and brought a darker feel to a market traditionally seen as juvenile. Of course its gloomier tone has often been misinterpreted as an endorsement of violence for violence’s sake, which is a misinterpretation of creator Millers satirical intent. But the book has clearly colored the upcoming DCEU, including the darker edged Man of Steel which rebooted the franchise. Snyder explains how Miller’s oeuvre also inspired his aesthetic:

“I sort of wanted to homage the comic book [The Dark Knight Returns] in this movie as much as possible was to say thank you to Frank [Miller] for sort of giving me back Batman in a way that I could understand as modern…Even though we don’t follow that story, necessarily, the imagery that I chose to try to emulate in the movie was a way of me saying ‘thank you Frank’ for making my aesthetic.”

The darker direction of Batman and the entire DCEU has been a subject of hot debate since Man of Steel restarted the franchise. Despite the positive advanced reviews of Batman V Superman, there are bound to be fans that, although they enjoy Batman V Superman, still aren’t as fond of its grimmer feel. Snyder has responded to critics by saying his film will be relatively accurate to the comics. But with a reported R-rated version on the way, some fans are concerned even the theatrical version of the film won’t have as broad an appeal as intended.

But Snyder is a consummate comic book director. His previous films, grayer edges included, have managed to snag casual viewers and comic book devotees alike. What makes Batman V Superman intriguing isn’t just the meeting of two superhero titans or the inception of the Justice League, but the exploration of that thin line that divides heroism and villainy.

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.

Source: BlackTree TV

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