For years, fans have clamored to see iconic superheroes Batman and Superman share the stage on the big screen. The characters have a long history of crossovers in both comic books and animated TV shows/movies, but Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice marks the first time that both characters will appear together in a live action format. It’s a move that could change usher in a new paradigm for Warner Bro. Pictures and DC's shared cinematic universe.
Though the lid is still firmly in place on plot specifics, BvS co-stars Jesse Eisenberg (American Ultra) and Jeremy Irons (The Borgias) recently dropped a few hints about what to expect when Ben Affleck’s (Argo) Batman and Henry Cavill’s (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) Superman face off in next year’s Zack Snyder directed crossover.
While promoting his new film, High-Rise, at the 2015 TIFF, Irons spoke with the Toronto Sun regarding his take on Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Irons comes into the role with some big shoes to fill. Most recently, the character was portrayed by Michael Caine in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy (following Michael Gough's time playing the role in Batman movies of the 1980s and '90s), but one of this seems to phase Irons:
“[Zack] Snyder…wanted to create a completely different Alfred. So I felt I didn’t have to carry any baggage from previous ones. It’s sort of a reincarnation if you’d like. I had a feeling I was creating my own Alfred, more of a man who can actually do anything if he has to.”
New directions are the bread and butter of the DC Extended Universe, which kicked off with Man of Steel in 2013. Previous onscreen iterations of the Alfred character have been somewhat tame, but in Batman comics Alfred has been known to get his hands dirty when the situation calls for it. Sean Pertwee's Alfred - on the Gotham TV series - is more of a military man, but his military experience wasn't even that essential to Caine's more active Alfred (save for when he knocked out one Ra’s al-Ghul’s henchmen in Batman Begins).
The short of it: going by what Iron said, Batman V Superman could be the first time Alfred is a proper man of action, on the big screen.
Eisenberg, meanwhile, went a bit deeper in his interview with The Observer, getting right to the heart of his take on Superman villain Lex Luthor in Batman V Superman. Like Alfred, Luthor is a character who has been portrayed by multiple lauded actors in the past (Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey), but the reputable history of those before him doesn't seem to bother Eisenberg:
“In a lot of ways Luthor is more of a stretch than any character you would do in an independent movie, which is normally the place you stretch. So in that way it was not at all compromised. If anything it was the best, most advantageous role I’ve ever been given.”
Eisenberg went on to discuss the tone and themes of Batman V Superman, offering additional praise for the serious and thoughtful approach taken by the film's Oscar-winning screenwriter, Chris Terrio (Argo):
“Now people expect the tone to be more realistic just because we live in a world where the average audience member has a sense of psychological motivations. How can one man—Superman—have so much power? These are the kind of things that we talk about when we think about authoritarian states…they’re addressing geopolitics in this movie and not in a way that’s pretentious or esoteric. Terrio cleverly ties in these really exciting superhero elements with these really sophisticated, philosophical themes in a much smarter, different way.”
Man of Steel, of course, explored the more human aspects of Superman, which Snyder recently hinted would be furthered by BvS. However, Superman’s presence on our planet has never really be explored as a potential negative in film before. While we all know and love the character as a champion for truth, justice, and the American way, there can be no denying that Kal-El could be seen as a threat to both peace and humanity. Given the wanton destruction seen in Man of Steel’s climactic battle, it’s no wonder why many, Batman included, would view Superman in a poor light.
It’s an interesting angle to take, and it only furthers recent questions regarding who, exactly, we’re supposed to be rooting for. No matter who walks away the clear victor after the smoke clears, the hope is that it's the moviegoing public that ultimately wins.
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.