Man of Steel may not have been the Superman movie reboot that every fan hoped for, but Warner Bros. quickly moved to make the most of their grounded, somber, and tragic hero. We now know that means introducing a brand new take on the Dark Knight in Batman V Superman, with a full-blown Justice League universe created as a direct result.
But for those who actually did enjoy Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, or felt that it established a strong foundation for sequels, the sudden injection of Batman, Wonder Woman and other DC heroes seemed to make one thing perfectly clear: Batman V Superman is most certainly not a sequel to Man of Steel. Now star Henry Cavill seems to agree - but doesn't see it replacing Superman's own story.
Sure, the movie may be introducing Superman's greatest enemy in Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), and the first trailer for Batman V Superman looked to not only acknowledge the themes and events of Man of Steel, but deliver on the story potential of the previous film. Even so, the increased emphasis on Ben Affleck's version of Bruce Wayne was hard to miss.
So when MTV got the chance to ask Cavill if he had seen more of the film - and whether it was still accurate to call the story "a Superman sequel" - the actor confirmed what many fans have come to accept:
"I've only seen a little bit of ADR stuff, but that's it, and that wasn't even in color... I'm hoping to see it some time this year, for a friends and family screening or something. But I really know nothing about what the finished product looks like.
"I wouldn't call this a Superman sequel. This is Batman vs. Superman, so it's a separate entity altogether. It's introducing the Batman character, and expanding upon this universe, which was kicked off by Man of Steel. It's an introduction to the character, and ultimately an introduction to Justice League."
Obviously Cavill's words can be taken as a negative, and seen as 'proof' that the Man of Steel's film franchise was hijacked to either a) return the more bankable Batman to the big screen, or b) fast-track a Justice League universe as an answer to Marvel.
Yet Cavill doesn't seem regretful, simply stating that Batman V Superman will introduce a new Batman, and act as a prologue to the announced Justice League two-part team up.
Again, that requires movie and comic fans wrap their minds around the idea that Marvel's approach to solo and group superhero movies isn't the only one possible. That is, a number of origin stories followed by a team up, followed by another round of solo stories, followed by a team up, and so on. Since Cavill also says Dawn of Justice will be expanding on the universe established with Man of Steel, the definition of a "sequel" likely needs to be adjusted, as well.
It's worth clarifying: Cavill takes exception not to the idea of Batman V Superman being a sequel to Man of Steel, but "a Superman sequel." His choice of words could simply mean that the story is not Superman's alone (another point made clear by the first trailer), but, just as he claims, a "separate entity" - an exploration of the moral differences between Bruce Wayne and Kal-El of Krypton (...and Wonder Woman?).
Fans may have forgotten the rush of rumors before, during, and after Man of Steel's release, as Snyder and writer David S. Goyer openly discussed what would need to happen in Man of Steel 2 - the Batman/Superman showdown unannounced at that time. Those exact themes seem to be forming Dawn of Justice's story, with Snyder admitting that once Batman was suggested for Superman's next outing, it was hard to head anywhere else.
The proceeding changes to WB's plan took place behind closed doors, but it's possible Snyder and Goyer's plan of introducing Batman was just the opportunity Warner Bros. was seeking to turn his new movie universe into a shared one. Noted comic book writer/director/super-fan Kevin Smith described the budding Justice League plan as such, long before Warner Bros. made their official film schedule known:
"From what I understand now, it’s no longer like, ‘This is Superman 2.’ They’re not doing these things. They’re doing like, ‘Here’s Man of Steel. Here’s Batman/Superman: Dawn of Justice.’ The next one is not like a sequel to one of the characters. They’re just going to keep building their universe for about five or six movies. But all of them, it’s supposed to tell one massive story, which is all Justice League oriented."
That proposed plan may still bother those wishing to see these heroes get their very own movies - although solo films for both Batman and Superman are also planned - but there are more optimistic ways of looking at a 'sequel-less' shared universe narrative.
If Batman V Superman is making Man of Steel and the upcoming solo movies (Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash, Aquaman) into chapters in one massive Justice League story, does it make the resulting shared universe more, or less satisfying?
Would Marvel fans have preferred that Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier not split their heroes apart to encounter clouded hints of what lay years down the line, but make it their top priority to move the universe's story forward? Especially if it meant more than one hero appearing in each installment (as is now confirmed to be the case with Captain America 3). That may prove to be the case when Avengers: Infinity War arrives, but if DC follows that structure from the start, is it really doing their characters a disservice?
That's for every fan to debate and decide for themselves, but Cavill has said he looks forward to playing Superman for many years to come - we're certain that an adventure focused solely on his alien heritage and superpowers will come sooner rather than later. What do you think of his description of Batman V Superman and the coming Justice League universe? Are you happy to see a different path taken, or still long for a Man of Steel direct sequel?
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.