Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice isn't just the epic first meeting of Batman and Superman on the big screen - oh no, it's so much more than that. The upcoming film from Man of Steel director Zack Snyder will use the clash of DC Comics' biggest icons to launch an expansive comic book movie universe - one that Warner Bros. hopes can rival the unbridled success of Marvel Studios and their Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But aside from being the bridge to a larger DC Extended Universe on the big screen, Batman V Superman has a bunch of interesting and novel ideas that it's working with as a standalone film. From the story premise, to the actors in the cast, to the characters and connections to future DC Comics movies, this is Everything Interesting to Know About Batman V Superman.
[NOTE: This article is for CASUAL MOVIEGOERS hoping to learn more about Batman V Superman. If you're a HARDCORE FAN, you probably know all this.]
It's Not a 'Man of Steel' Sequel
Zack Snyder's Superman reboot film Man of Steel remains one of the most divisive films of recent memory, but even its detractors have been hoping that the Superman film franchise gets a second chance to shine in a hopefully much-improved Man of Steel 2. However, even though Man of Steel stars Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne (among others) are all coming back for Batman V Superman, under the same director (Zack Snyder), Batman v Superman is NOT in fact Man of Steel 2. A proper Superman solo film sequel is still supposed to happen before 2020, though currently there are only rumors about an exact release date, or who would direct.
Why It's Interesting: Superman fans have been crying foul about the fact that Superman isn't getting to be the focus of his own followup film. Batman V Superman certainly builds on the foundation that Man of Steel laid down, and director Zack Snyder has framed it as a sort of thematic sequel, but there is looming question as to whether it's Batman or Superman who gets the most focus in the story. No matter what the case turns out to be, it's interesting to see this approach being taken by Warner Bros. / DC Comics, and makes one wonder if those divisive Man of Steel reactions undermined confidence in Henry Cavill Superman's ability to fly solo. Batman is the big bread-winner for WB/DC, so adding him into the mix (with a huge star like Affleck playing him) is an instant boost to the box office.
It's Based on a Famous Comic Book
Batman movie have always drawn certain story elements from the comic books, but Batman v Superman is borrowing its thematic arc and tone from one of the most famous Batman stories there is. That story is "The Dark Knight Returns" by writer/author/filmmaker Frank Miller, whose work has been the inspiration for several esteemed comic book movies, including 300 and Batman Begins. "Dark Knight Returns" miniseries was released in 1986, and basically chronicles a story where a middle-aged Bruce Wayne re-dons the Batman suit after years in retirement, in order to free Gotham City from darker threats than it's ever faced. When Batman's activities anger those in power, the president deputizes Superman to bring The Dark Knight in, using any means necessary.
Why It's Interesting: A lot of comic book fans have been waiting decades to see "The Dark Knight Returns" onscreen. A two-part animated feature version of the story was released between 2012 and 2013, to generally strong reviews; but The Dark Knight Returns animated movie also proved that some of Frank Miller's Cold War-era themes and narrative devices seem rather silly in modern day context. In that sense, it's interesting that Batman v Superman refitting the outdated elements of Miller's story for this modern continuation of Man of Steel, could be as close (and good) as we get to seeing Dark Knight Returns as a live-action film. Hopefully, audiences will come away understanding why the story is such a classic and enduring piece of Batman (and Superman) lore.
We've Never Seen This Version of Batman Onscreen
Batman has appeared in eight live-action films, but none of them have explored the character like Batman V Superman will. In this movie, Batman has already been established as an active crimefighter - a violent boogeyman who used to prowl Gotham City battling mobsters and supervillains - but has since retired. Trailers and interviews have revealed the possibility that the loss of a partner (and/or other close friends) may have motivated Batman to retire from active duty. However, when Superman and General Zod had a super-powered battle in neighboring Metropolis, the fallout of that event lured an aging Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) back into the Batman suit, determined to do something about the metahuman threat Superman presents.
Why It's Interesting: Seeing an aged Bruce Wayne return to active crimefighting as Batman is interesting in and of itself - which is why that very story (Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns miniseries) will have been an enduring chapter of Batman lore for thirty years when Dawn of Justice hits theaters. It's an understatement to say that casting Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman was a controversial choice at first, but early buzz says he may be the best part of the movie, and that his version of Batman may become the new definitive portrayal of the character. If that happens, it will be very interesting to hear what "BatAffleck's" many detractors have to say.
The Script was Written by an Oscar Winner
There are a number of people still under the misconception that the script for Batman v Superman is being handled by the same team who brought us Batman's Dark Knight Trilogy and the Superman reboot, Man of Steel. However, that creative team (Chris and Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer) left the DC/WB sandbox after Man of Steel, leaving Batman v Superman in the creative hands of director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and Oscar-winning screenwriter, Chris Terrio (Argo).
Why It's Interesting: With the studio's decision to bring in Terrio for a redo of an earlier script by David S. Goyer, it's clear that DC/WB is looking to create a new tier of cinematic experience in their superhero universe. There's no ignoring the approach that's being taken compared with what Marvel is doing; WB wants their DC universe to be cinematic art more than comic book fun, the latter being something that Goyer is known for, while the former seems to require a hand like Terrio's. What's interesting is not the question of whether or not Terrio can deliver a higher caliber of film, but rather can DC's lineup of superheroes truly be presented as such serious mythological figures, without the whole thing coming off as unintentionally kitschy. So far, the trailers for Batman v Superman seem to evidence both sides of that question: a bit of epicness, wrapped around some unintentional kitsch ("The Red Capes are coming!").
It Will Be Wonder Woman's Movie Debut
It's crazy when you really think about the fact that since her creation in 1941, Wonder Woman has never been featured in a movie. Just stop and think about the sheer amount of characters that have been mined from popular literature or other forms of media for the purposes of movie adaptation, and it seems even more berserk that Batman v Superman serves as Wonder Woman's official big screen debut. Rumors have suggested a modern comic book origin for the character's movie counterpart; she's allegedly an immortal who has existed through many key eras of history, and is supposedly investigating a government conspiracy to track down metahumans.
Why It's Interesting: The extensive hesitation to adapt Wonder Woman, specifically, for the movie screen makes it all the more interesting to see what Zack Snyder and Co. ultimately went with. However, the most interesting thing about this Batman V Superman movie version of Wonder Woman is the woman portraying her. Gal Gadot had a small supporting role in several of the Fast and Furious movies, but she's still largely a mystery to US audiences. The Israeli actress is not just a former model, she was also an athletic trainer and soldier in the Israeli army. Pretty impressive resume for a Wonder Woman actress.
It Will Introduce a New Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor is familiar to Superman movie fans thanks to portrayals by big-screen icons like Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey; while on the small screen, DC Comics fans swear by names like Smallville actor Michael Rosenbaum, or the booming voice of Clancy Brown, the actor who made the animated version of Luthor a standout. In any of those portrayals, Lex was basically the Lex Luthor people are familiar with (ego maniacal genius, bald, rich industrialist) - but in Batman V Superman, Lex is getting an update for the 21st Century, and actor Jesse Eisenberg is the one who is going to be bringing him to life.
Why It's Interesting: Director Zack Snyder and his script writers have boldly attempted to re-frame the concept of the Lex Luthor character for the context of a modern age. That means that a billionaire industrialist is now a billionaire whiz-kid tech genius, who looks and behaves as you might expect a twenty-something Silicon Valley geek to look and behave (sneakers, motorcycle, hipster style, etc.) It's not a change that many longtime comic book fans are happy about - the collective worry being that instead of the iconic and enduring villain from the comic book page, we're instead going to get something more akin to Eisenberg's version of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network. Superman and Batman vs. a scrawny, sardonic computer geek? It's a concept that director Zack Snyder definitely has to earn in this film.
There Will Likely Be More Than One Villain
Batman will be taking on Superman, and Lex Luthor will be scheme on the sidelines, but this film also has Wonder Woman in the mix, as well as some pretty epic set pieces that will feature epic levels of devastation again (cue the Man of Steel) complaints. In that sense, people are expecting there to be some kind of bigger threat besides a superhero misunderstanding or battle of wits with a nerdy tech kid (Luthor) - meaning that there is expected to be some kind of secondary villain, one that will be a formidable physical threat to characters like Wonder Woman and Superman.
Why It's Interesting: There have been tons of rumors about which DC comics villain could possibly be appearing as a secondary villain in Batman v Superman, but the most popular one points to Lex Luthor using the corpse of Kryptonian conquerer General Zod (played by Michael Shannon in Man of Steel) to create some kind of superpowered creature that could take on the trio of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. "Doomsday," the iconic monster from the '90s "Death of Superman" story arc is the most popular contender, with some kind of Superman and/or Zod clone (Bizarro?) being the next bit guess. Either way, the most interesting thing about this 2nd villain theory would be seeing how a character as grounded as Batman works onscreen in a big superpowered battle alongside fantastical characters like Superman and Wonder Woman. Will it be the beginning of a strong Justice League, or will it stretch audiences' sense of plausibility too far (especially in the wake of Nolan-era Batman films)?
The Supporting Characters Will Be Different
Both Batman and Superman have lore so iconic and well known that even the supporting characters in their respective worlds are famous. Man of Steel caught a lot of flack for its changes to Superman's supporting players, such as a black Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), red-head Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and a "Jenny" character in place of the traditional Jimmy Olsen. Batman V Superman will continue that overhaul, with Jeremy Irons playing a more combat-ready Alfred, and actors like Scott McNairy (Argo) and Jenna Malone (Hunger Games: Catching Fire) rumored to be playing tweaked versions of characters like Jimmy Olsen and Barbara Gordon, respectively. While that's all RUMOR, given the changes that Zack Snyder and Co. have already made to DC Comics lore, it wouldn't be surprising if rumor proved true.
Why It's Interesting: The changes that Snyder made to the Man of Steel supporting players weren't singled out as the worst things about the film (with the exception being the debate over the new Lois Lane), so it's going to be interesting to not only see how other familiar Batman/Superman supporting cast get altered, but how those new depictions fit together and play off one another, when these two characters' worlds collide.
It Will Open Up a Bigger DC Universe
Marvel Studios changed the movie business in a big way when they release individual superhero movies whose light connective tissue eventually converged in the milestone event of an Avengers movie team-up. Since Marvel made that bold shift (and has reaped big success from it ever since), the eyes of everyone from comic book fans to big studio executives have been on Warner Bros. and its DC Comics properties. Unlike Marvel, DC never sold its characters to multiple studios - WB owns every character the publisher has - meaning that launching a unified movie universe should arguably be easier than Marvel's splintered library; and yet, DC/WB has struggled to get a shared superhero universe off the ground. So while Marvel is breaking into Phase 3 of its universe (with more ambitious plans than ever), DC/WB will just be cracking open their superhero library with Batman v Superman. However, the studio's strategy for building a superhero universe will be much different.
Why It's Interesting: WB/DC will be relying a lot more on the iconic status of its major characters (Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, The Joker, etc.), and will be thinking a lot more laterally (vs. linearly) than Marvel. DC/WB's other big 2016 film, Suicide Squad, will hit theaters a few months after Batman v Superman, but the two films will build pieces of a shared mythology (namely a new Batman & Joker history) that will cross-connect both films, without necessarily requiring viewership of both films. The details are still vague, but all signs point to DC's filmmakers drawing from a pre-established core mythos that will permeate through each film, while still allowing for stylistic and cinematic distinction. It will be VERY interesting to see how that level of design and pre-planning works in comparison to Marvel, whose penchant for creative dictation, on-the-fly revisions and last-minute planning is now well established.
There Will Be Teases for the Justice League Movie
The movie is called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for a distinct (marketing) reason: to promote DC/WB's upcoming superhero team-up event films, Justice League - Parts 1 & 2, which will both be directed by Zack Snyder. As such, Batman v Superman will be laying down a preamble to the full Justice League movie, and it's expected that some iconic DC superheroes will cameo in the film. Rumored to be appear are Game of Thrones star Jason Mamoa as Aquaman and Perks of Being a Wallflower star Ezra Miller as The Flash - with stage actor Ray Fisher confirmed to at least appear in his civilian form, before he later becomes the tech-spliced hero known as Cyborg (possibly as a result of what happens in BvS). Those three new heroes, plus the primary trio of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, pretty much form the Justice League - with only a new Green Lantern actor yet to be announced.
Why It's Interesting: The way that DC/WB is going about this is interesting in that it's a very different approach than what Marvel did. Instead of multiple solo films for each Justice League character, we are going from one Superman origin film to multi-hero team-up (BvS) with an even bigger team-up to follow (Justice League) and even a bad guy team-up film (Suicide Squad) before we ever get to a lineup of solo character films. DC is counting on the event films to sell the individual characters, rather than letting the characters sell the event films like Marvel did. It's going to be VERY interesting to see if audiences respond as well (if not better) to DC's reverse approach.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squadon 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.
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