Many would argue that Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy is responsible for the recent trend in DC Entertainment's films featuring darker, grittier takes on classic superheroes, but its origin in film arguably traces back all the way to Tim Burton's Batman in 1989. While it certainly wasn't quite as plausible as Nolan's take on the Caped Crusader, Burton's Batman was less fantastical than other on-screen depictions of the character, paving the way for most cinematic iterations of DC superheroes to come (not including Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever and Batman and Robin).
Continuing that spirit of attempting a more grounded narrative, Zack Snyder's 2013 Superman reboot -- Man of Steel -- depicted the superhero not as a boy scout, but as an actual alien. Many objected to this take on the icon, with the mass destruction caused by his all-out battle against General Zod being one of the major complaints. Like it or not, the follow-up to Man of Steel -- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice -- will explore some of the major themes set up by its predecessor, namely the general distrust of Superman in the aftermath of the destruction of Metropolis. And now, it seems as though the aim of Batman v Superman is to be even more grounded than Snyder's previous effort.
While speaking to We Got This Covered (via CBM), actor Scoot McNairy -- whose role in Batman v Superman has yet to be officially revealed -- said that compared to other superhero movies, Batman v Superman is the most grounded of all:
"This is the superhero film that is more grounded in reality than any of the other ones. It’s a comic book movie, yes, but it’s very, very grounded".
McNairy's comments regarding the tone of the film fit in with just about everything else we have heard regarding Batman v Superman. For one, CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment Kevin Tsujihara previously pointed out the grounded tone of the DC Extended Universe by comparing it to Marvel's movies, saying, "They’re steeped in realism, and they’re a little bit edgier than Marvel’s movies."
While some may oppose DC Entertainment taking a grounded and realistic approach for its entire Extended Universe, it may not be such a bad thing. For one, Marvel has cornered the market on making lighter superhero movies, and while Avengers: Age of Ultron may have been dark at times, it still featured all the quippy one-liners audiences have grown accustomed to with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This has worked very well for the House of Ideas thus far, considering that the original Avengers still remains among the highest-grossing movies of all time (Avengers: Age of Ultron is high up there as well).
DC, on the other hand, has yet to reach those numbers with its Extended Universe, with Man of Steel making around half of what The Avengers did at the worldwide box office. It should be clarified that the two are not directly comparable, as Man of Steel is a solo movie, while The Avengers is a team-up film that had been building steam for years ahead of its release. Even then, one of Marvel's most successful solo movies, Iron Man 3, made roughly $1.215 billion at the box office, while Man of Steel managed to gross around $668 million during its run.
That being said, Man of Steel is by no means a financial disappointment, and by all measures should be considered a success. It managed to turn around the Superman franchise and launch DC's very own cinematic universe with an overwhelmingly strong start. In order to keep that momentum going, it's important that DC differentiate itself from the rest of the superhero movies competing for fans' attention. Perhaps, as Tsujihara indicated before, the key to that is a different tone that is more realistic and less playful.
As proven by the success of The Dark Knight trilogy, audiences will respond such a tone when done right. However, it is also very easy to get that kind of tone wrong, which is why it's essential that Snyder and the rest of the crew behind Batman v Superman deliver. Based off of the most recent trailer for the film, it seems they may have done just that, although final judgement will remain reserved until audiences have the chance to see the film for themselves come next March.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23rd, 2017; Justice League on November 17th, 2017; The Flash on March 23rd, 2018; Aquaman on July 27th, 2018; Shazam on April 5th, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14th, 2019; Cyborg on April 3rd, 2020; Green Lantern Corps on June 19th, 2020. Untitled Batman and Superman solo films will be coming at dates TBD.