It was in 2013 that director Zack Snyder revealed Man of Steel would not be directly followed by Man of Steel 2, but rather Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (though the 'dawn' and 'justice' bits weren't there at first). Almost three years later and we're only weeks away from Batman V Superman's theatrical release, which means we're only weeks away from the discussion being set almost entirely around the upcoming Justice League film.
Excitement for Batman V Superman is at a fever pitch, but it's hard to ignore how divisive the film has been among its core demographic -- comic book fans. There are those that are big fans of Snyder's darker, edgier interpretation of the DC Universe and those who wish it was tonally more optimistic, brighter, and cheerier. Most fans probably fall somewhere between the two viewpoints, but there's no denying much has been made of Batman V Superman's tone and the tone of the DCEU in general.
Given that the only film we've all actually seen from the DCEU is Man of Steel, it perhaps makes sense why tone has become such a touchy subject -- the handling of Superman's characterization, and to a larger extent, the tenor of the whole movie was a real point of contention for Superman fans. But that doesn't necessarily mean it'll be the same with BvS, or any other film within the DCEU for that matter. Only a few months after Snyder's Hall H announcement, Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio came on to rewrite the script and it's since earned all sorts of praise. Jeremy Irons called it a blockbuster written from the heart and Ben Affleck refuted claims he himself did any on-set rewriting, saying there was no need.
Terrio is also writing Justice League Part One, but even though the response to his BvS script was very positive, that hadn't been the initial plan. As Terrio explains in an recent interview with the WSJ, he had originally planned to move on to other projects after BvS:
"I initially thought I wasn’t the guy to do “Justice League” and went off to work on something else. But the first day I went to the set, I saw Jesse [Eisenberg] in a scene with Holly Hunter and I really did feel like I was watching some strange, great performance in an independent film.
At that moment, I thought, “I’m not done with this yet. I want to go back and keep telling the story.” “Batman v Superman” is a bit of an “Empire Strikes Back” or “Two Towers” or any similar middle film in a trilogy. The middle film tends to be the darkest one. I do think from “Man of Steel” through “Justice League,” it is one saga really.
I expect “Justice League” will be tonally not quite as dark as “Batman v Superman.” From that point of view, I felt compelled to go back and try to lift us and myself into a different tonal place because I think when you write a darker film, sometimes you want to redeem it all a bit."
If it wasn't already clear -- what with a title like Batman VERSUS Superman -- Terrio confirms BvS will be a darker film than Man of Steel tonally. But he also recognizes the need for Justice League to elevate the DCEU to a more optimistic level. (Perhaps even one where their heroes smile every once and a while.) It's also interesting to hear Terrio describe the three films as a saga, suggesting that upon completion the three (well, four really) films might form something of a trilogy similar to Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. If that's true, then the birth of the DCEU could very well be a journey out of the dark and into the light, where its characters learn to become a better kind of hero over the course of the saga. That would surely put the bleakness of Man of Steel and (potentially) BvS into a different perspective.
Since Terrio is firmly putting his mark on the DCEU with Batman V Superman and later Justice League Part One, it may seem strange he might not be the screenwriter who'll wrap it all up with Justice League Part Two. Again, while speaking to WSJ, Terrio explains:
"I have written “Justice League Part One,” but I won’t necessarily write “Part Two.” This has been the most rigorous intellectual exercise I’ve had in my writing life. For “Batman v Superman,” I wanted to really dig into everything from ideas about American power to the structure of revenge tragedies to the huge canon of DC Comics to Amazon mythology. For “Justice League,” I could be reading in the same day about red- and blueshifts in physics, Diodorus of Sicily and his account of the war between Amazons and Atlanteans, or deep-sea biology and what kind of life plausibly might be in the Mariana Trench.
If you told me the most rigorous dramaturgical and intellectual product of my life would be superhero movies, I would say you were crazy. But I do think fans deserve that. I felt I owed the fan base all of my body and soul for two years because anything less wouldn’t have been appreciating the opportunity I had."
No one can say Terrio hasn't done his homework, though opinion will undoubtedly vary over how well he uses the research. Still, it's easy to appreciate Terrio's sentiment that fans deserve to see these characters treated seriously and it's certainly interesting to learn he pulled influence from a variety of sources, not just DC Comics lore. Physics, first person accounts of ancient history, and research into marine biology sound like the foundation for a superhero movie unlike any other. But those elements are for when the whole team shows up in Justice League; first comes Batman V Superman, where hopefully Terrio included a glimpse of the light at the end of this very dark and gritty tunnel.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25th, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23rd, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17th, 2017; The Flash on March 16th, 2018; Aquaman on July 27th, 2018; Shazam on April 5th, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14th, 2019; Cyborg on April 3rd, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19th, 2020.