[UPDATE: At a BAFTA party, Henry Cavill said that Batman V Superman WON'T be split into two movies.]
By now, it's likely that most fans following the development (and secrecy) of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice have heard the latest bit of gossip surrounding Zack Snyder and WB's universe-launching blockbuster. For those who haven't allow us to sum up the bombshell: the studio has decided to divide the project into not one, but TWO films: Part 1: Enter the Knight and Part 2: Dawn of Justice, hitting theaters just five months apart.
Unfortunately, the only source for the rumor is a single image which popped up online, and was soon caught by AICN. Depicting the two titles and release dates (October 23, 2015 and March 25, 2016) and little else, several readers connected the dots and assumed that this surprise announcement was intended to be revealed when the first trailer dropped ahead of Jupiter Ascending, as previously rumored.
The lack of any source or further context has surrounded the story in grains of salt, with many outright dismissing the notion as unlikely, impossible, or simply a transparent 'cash-grab' on the part of Warner Bros.. Where other franchises like The Avengers: Infinity War is being split into two parts and even Justice League following DC's team-up, the fact that Dawn of Justice wasn't planned to be a two-part story (as far as we know) makes it appear a case of stretching one film across two, and doubling the profits.
But with so little information to go on, it's worth discussing the chances or reasoning behind such a move. While there may be no truth to the rumor, it's hard to resist considering whether the split is even possible.
1) Enter the Knight
If news had dropped following Man of Steel that instead of any type of sequel, audiences would next get a Batman film relegating Superman to the background, fans would have accused Warner Bros. of bailing on the new Superman entirely. Add the fact that it would be Ben Affleck (Argo, Gone Girl) under the cowl, and even more doubt would have saturated the online conversation.
In truth, Affleck's casting was enough to turn many against the film, the studio, and the actor when word first dropped (despite our best attempts to explain why the casting made a great deal of sense). But that was before anyone knew what role the Dark Knight would take, how he would differ from the previous version, and, frankly... how cool his new suit would look.
With the passage of time, those questions have been answered (for the most part). At this point, comic book fans are at least curious to see this version of the Dark Knight in action; with a suit torn from the pages of the comics and a Batmobile combining those imagined by Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton, they are clearly the audience being courted by Snyder. Even Affleck has had a chance to convince some skeptics with a captivating performance in David Fincher's Gone Girl - his first major role since his announced casting.
So how would audiences respond to an announcement today that Affleck's work has proven impressive enough to warrant some extra focus? The most recent rumors claim a large chunk of the plot is devoted to Bruce Wayne, and while splitting the film into two halves may seem like an extreme solution (though the first trailer has been described as "Batman-heavy" by some), there could be enough material to fill the running time(s).
2) The Release Dates
Such a move, however unlikely, could allow room for the much-bandied-about League members: Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) or even The Flash (Ezra Miller). When Dawn of Justice was given the initial release date of July 17, 2015, it was assumed that the other Justice League cast members simply couldn't be signed in time to appear; relegated to brief cameos possibly shot after principal photography, if anything.
That means that enough of the film actually could have been ready to hit this July's original date. If that were the case, then giving the now-attached cast larger roles in the second film (and a true 'dawn' of the League) would follow. It's a long shot, but there remains more than a year to complete the visual effects needed, so not downright impossible.
If true, Part 1: Enter the Knight will introduce the new Batman five months earlier than expected. If devoted to the Wayne side of the character - not the visual effects-heavy Batman portions - then an early release might - might - be plausible.
That's the conclusion arrived at by some, while others speculate that the showdown between Batman and Superman teased at Comic-Con would be most likely for Part 1's climax, before giving way to Dawn of Justice's larger threat. That threat has been rumored to include everything from Doomsday to Brainiac - neither of which would be easily hurried, but could potentially be teased in Enter the Knight.
But therein lies the problem: if cheap, the confrontation between Bats and Supes wouldn't be the kind of action-packed climax guaranteed to bring audiences back months later. Could Snyder and WB feel that a film devoted to establishing their universe's Dark Knight on a character level, not going toe-to-toe with Superman, would be worthwhile legwork ahead of Part 2's original finale? Or successful with mass audiences?
Since that's pure speculation for the fans to debate (before Warner Bros. chooses to shoot down the rumor, if it proves false), it may be more worthwhile to discuss the principle of such a plan. While one would hope that neither Snyder nor WB would willingly choose to water down a foundational piece of their film universe for the sake of two paydays, the commercial appeal is obvious.
Given the criticism the studio has received for arguably doing exactly that with Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, one would also hope that all involved have learned their lesson (the goal is to profit on established brands, not diminish their staying power). But some could argue that if they've done it once, Warner Bros. would be most likely to do it again (despite the trilogy's third entry sporting the lowest opening numbers).
In the end, the likelihood, motivations, or what this says about WB's fan relationship will depend on existing opinions. Those who accused the studio of rushing an on-screen Justice League will see this as yet another cash-grab, taking greed to a new level: not just taking a shortcut to a team-up, but trying to make two from one.
Those who are eagerly awaiting DC's film universe, on the other hand, may be pleased to hear there could be enough footage to offer two looks at DC's biggest heroes, believing that more is better until proven wrong (after all, who would turn down TWO Guardians of the Galaxy films instead of one, arriving months earlier than originally planned?).
For now, it's best to assume the release is going according to plan. We'll keep you updated if and when official comment arrives, but let us know what you think of the chances of this change in plans - and how you would react - in the comments below.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice arrives on March 25th, 2016.