After the announcement that Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment had delayed Zack Snyder's (currently untitled) Batman vs. Superman movie into 2016, film and comic book lovers spent the following three months wondering if the studio would be forced to reschedule the release date (yet again). Long before Warner Bros. moved Batman vs. Superman from July 17, 2015 to May 6, 2016, Marvel had already scheduled an unannounced Phase 3 movie for the same May 6th date - meaning that the rival production houses are now locked in a "who will blink first?" game of blockbuster chicken.
Following the success of Captain America 2, along with leaked insider info, Marvel came out and announced that their Batman vs. Superman competitor was actually Captain America 3 - while also making it clear they have no intention of moving. As a result, fans and journos began a (heated) debate over who would come out on top should the two projects actually go head-to-head the same box office weekend.
Certainly, the possibility of a DC/Marvel double-header is fun to think about but, if we're being realistic, isn't likely to actually happen. While fan boys and fan girls love the notion of a comic book movie brawl, the actual filmmakers and studios behind each project, the ones bankrolling these multi-year productions with triple-digit million dollar budgets, simply do not view the situation with a black and white "us vs. them" mentality.
Speaking with Forbes, Snyder touched on the subject of DC vs. Marvel competitiveness, asserting that suggestion of a feud between the two comic book studios is significantly overblown:
Look, I’m a fan of the Marvel movies… and the thing that’s awesome is, we make a different movie. We have a different product than them, although they both exist in sort of the superhero world, which is great. I think that those are the opportunities. That’s what you get at the movies, you get a chance to go to all these different worlds. And I’m as interested in going to the Marvel Universe as anybody. So, I personally don’t think that there’s any, from my point of view, we definitely don’t have any animosity or anything of that nature. We’re all in this big business together, and we hope people are interested in the adventures that we put up on screen. And I do believe it’s infectious, and the next weekend you’re like, “You know what? Let’s go do that again, that was awesome. We saw a cool movie, maybe we’ll get another cool movie."
No doubt, just because Snyder enjoys Marvel movies and takes inspiration from select ideas doesn't mean he wouldn't be excited if Batman vs. Superman makes more money than The Avengers: Age of Ultron - but that doesn't mean that he, or Warner Bros. would ever consider sacrificing potential box office sales for their own film simply to deal a blow to Marvel's May 2016 movie. As Snyder suggests, superhero films are more popular than ever because films like The Avengers and The Dark Knight both elevated interest in the larger genre - making it increasingly probable that casual film fans will show up the next time a superhero hits the big screen.
Without a doubt, comic book die-hards would brave the lines and commit a weekend to both films - but, with limited 3D (not to mention possible IMAX) theater screens available, launching both movies the same weekend will hurt potential box office returns for both studios (costing them potential millions in lost revenue). One would lose out more than the other, depending on which movie ultimately receives the most pre-release buzz and positive reviews, but it'd be a lose-lose nonetheless. Instead, Snyder and DC (as well as Marvel) can only focus on making their next superhero installment the best it can be - so that, whether Marvel leads summer 2016 with Captain America 3 or DC leads with Batman vs. Superman, audiences will still be eager to return to the theater for, as Snyder puts it, "a chance to go to all these different worlds."
Not every comic book appeals to every comic book fan and, as more and more superhero movies hit the big screen, it is inevitable that not every quality film adaptation will appeal to every cinema fan either Marvel or DC die-hards might have an allegiance to one side or the other but a lot of longtime comic book (and movie) lovers simply want to see quality cinema - and Snyder is right, just like DC and Marvel have approached making comic books differently over the last half-century, their respective studios are taking slightly different approaches to bringing those same characters to the big screen. There's plenty of room for both sides to flourish and wow audiences.
Aside from kind words toward the competition, there are plenty of DC fans who couldn't care less about competition with Marvel - because they're too busy calling for Warner Bros. to give Snyder the boot - after the director's controversial (but successful) Man of Steel reboot and casting of Ben Affleck as the new Batman.
Speaking about the pressures and challenges of bring Superman into the "real world," Snyder discussed the topics that surprised him most in the Man of Steel backlash - most notably that, for many fans, who Superman is and how he should be depicted was established by the Christopher Reeve movies, not seventy-five years of comic book source material:
I think with Superman we have this opportunity to place this icon within the sort of real world we live in. And I think that, honestly, the thing I was surprised about in response to Superman was how everyone clings to the Christopher Reeve version of Superman, you know? How tightly they cling to those ideas, not really the comic book version but more the movie version… If you really analyze the comic book version of Superman, he’s killed, he’s done all the things– I guess the rules that people associate with Superman in the movie world are not the rules that really apply to him in the comic book world, because those rules are different. He’s done all the things and more that we’ve shown him doing, right? It’s just funny to see people really taking it personally… because I made him real, you know, I made him feel, or made consequences [in] the world. I felt like, it was the same thing in Watchmen. We really wanted to show it wasn’t just like they thought, like the PG-13 version where everyone just gets up and they’re fine. I really wanted to show the violence is real, people get killed or get hurt, and it’s not fun or funny. And I guess for me, it was like I wanted a hero in Superman that was a real hero and sort of reflected the world we live in now.
Understandably, some Superman fans will take offense to Snyder's comments but he's coming from the place of a filmmaker attempting to balance a God-like character with human drama and emotional impact - while "[reflecting] the world we live in now." Much like we've seen comic books, even the most iconic superheroes can be changed and re-imagined as the world evolves around them (including Superman). Yet, few of these changes are ever permanent - especially in Hollywood. We're talking about an industry that dropped The Amazing Spider-Man reboot on us only five short years after Spider-Man 3.
If Snyder's Man of Steel turns out to be an abomination that ruins the Superman franchise, expect Warner Bros. to be the first ones to take the property back to the drawing board or, at the very least, bring on a new filmmaker to help drastically change the character's trajectory. That said, for all of its controversy (and explosions), Man of Steel made one thing clear, clearer than it may ever have been before, it's not easy being Superman - especially in this day and age.
Love it or hate this version, it'll be exciting to see how Snyder approaches the Man of Steel in Batman vs. Superman. Now that Superman has gone toe-to-toe with another super-powered Kryptonian, how will the character fair in a face-off with the World's Greatest Detective - and what else can Snyder reflect about our world in the high-profile meet-up?
Batman vs. Superman hits theaters on May 6th, 2016.
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