NOTE: The following post contains Major Spoilers for Batman V Superman
One of the most-anticipated superhero films to ever hit theaters, Batman V Superman opened to a critical pounding and a divisive response from DC fans. Where some comic book adaptations are near-universally panned, there was something about Dawn of Justice that certain viewers really enjoyed - and a lot that simply did not connect with others. In our own Batman V Superman review, we stated the movie often prioritized shared universe setup over developing a standalone story and layered characters - that is to say: there were a lot of intriguing DC Universe elements director Zack Snyder introduced but the film was so packed, it was hard to follow the filmmaker's thematic and dramatic through-lines.
Still, between interviews with the cast and crew, along with feedback from viewers who viewed Dawn of Justice more than once, one thing became apparent: Batman V Superman was about the cost of being a superhero. It was a story about the price that heroes pay, both physical and emotional, to do what they believe is right - even if they are, sometimes, wrong or acting with clouded judgment. Hopefully, the upcoming Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice "Ultimate Cut" will provide more time between DC universe building for Snyder to make his point but, even if the extended home release doesn't do much to reframe Batman V Superman, Warner Bros. is positioning their 2017 team-up movie, Justice League to be a more optimistic film that reflects the "purpose of being a hero" (rather than toll it takes).
While visiting the set of Justice League, we sat down with the director and his producing partner, Deborah Snyder, to discuss what fans can expect from the shared-universe team movie. Responding to how the filmmakers are finding the right tonal balance after Batman V Superman, Deborah Snyder made it clear that if Dawn of Justice was about the struggles of being a superhero, Justice League is about the purpose and honor behind superhero acts.
Read her comment in full below:
I think it's about the purpose of being a hero. And I think that Superman's death really did like have such a strong effect on Batman. And I think he really regains faith in humanity and everything that's good. Because here's this alien that just gave his life really for us. And I think this really changes who Batman is. And he also feels a responsibility to honor him because he didn't really feel like he did it when they were living. So I think you are seeing the elevation of these heroes in this one.
While some fans and industry insiders have suggested that DC should aim for a "lighter" tone, Deborah Snyder's comment comes across as less knee-jerk damage control and more a genuine evolution of the story they set out to tell - one that will, likely, also result in a Justice League movie that is more "fun" than Batman V Superman.
After all, superhero films (and their comic book source material) are power fantasies - in which viewers and readers get to escape their day-to-day lives, relishing in the adventures of superhuman heroes who take down bad guys and make the world a safer place.
When saving the day isn't, ultimately, enjoyable to watch (even in the face of adversity and personal sacrifice), much less live, there's sure to be a lot of viewers who feel as though a key piece of the recipe is missing. This isn't to say that all superhero movies need to be light-hearted or comical but Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman didn't become three of the most popular characters in pop culture history because they ultimately got the job done and put bad guys down, the heroes are also popular because their creators delivered a blend of human struggle, entertaining wish-fullfilmment, and personal responsibility.
While it's unclear, for now, how big a role Superman will play in the first Justice League movie, given his fate at the end of Batman V Superman, we do know that Justice League is about a team of heroes coming together for various individual reasons (albeit united in protecting humanity). Essentially, these are heroes that can now see beyond their personal sacrifices - and understand that, thanks to their powers, they can make a difference. Just as Man of Steel's destruction set the stage for a "dark" Batman V Superman story, Superman's sacrifice at the end of Batman V Superman has set the stage for a new team of heroes to step up and accept the call to serve a greater purpose - such as fighting-off a family of extra-terrestrial New Gods like Steppenwolf and Darkseid (not to mention an army of parademons).
Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020.