OK, we’re finally catching up with this near-exhausting week. Last weekend at Comic-Con, director Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. unveiled a huge bombshell. Nope, not a “Man Of Steel” sequel or a “Justice League” movie. Instead they unexpectedly went laterally and announced an untitled “Superman and Batman” film (perhaps much to the lament of pure Superman fans who are probably still reeling from the fact that the masked crimefighter just hijacked a second “Man Of Steel” right out from under them).
So now that the dust has sort of settled on this announcement, what can you expect from a Superman and Batman film? Well, there’s obviously several ways the studio and filmmakers could slice it and you don’t need to be a total super drilled-in comics dorks to figure out the possible avenues they could take (though if you want some specific examples, here’s many from Vulture). There’s of course, the very early, kiddie-friendly “World’s Finest” series (what many have been calling the movie colloquially so far) that essentially is Superman and Batman holding hands and fighting crime. And there are obviously, more modern, contemporary versions that are much more grounded and realistic (and there are undoubtedly countless other stories were the two heroes teamed-up or fought against one another).
But really, you need look no further than the simple few clues given out by Snyder and WB to at least figure out the base of what they’re working with. The press release not only said the duo would “face off,” but Snyder asked “Man Of Steel” actor Henry Lennix (the army general) to read a key from a line from Frank Miller’s 1986 touchstone graphic novel, “The Dark Knight Returns” (“it is the thing that will help tell that story,” Snyder said about the quote, maybe not quite so eloquently).
Batman: “I want you to remember, Clark, in all the years to come, in all your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you.”
The quote (which came from a moment when Batman did defeat Superman) was meant as a tease, as a flavor of what’s to come, but it points in all the right directions. Now we don’t have a crystal ball, nor do we have access to Snyder and Goyer’s thoughts, but given the small snippets of evidence, we think we have six logical and cogent elements you can likely expect in the aforementioned move. Read on and see what you think.
1. The Film Will Not Be Based On Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”
OK, it admittedly may have died down by now, but earlier in the week there was some confusion out there and it’s nitpicky, but it seems to stem from this headline which said this new Superman and Batman movie would be inspired by Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns.” That unfortunately, for some (who didn’t actually read the story), translated into “based on,” which won’t be the case. To keep a long story short, Miller’s seminal “The Dark Knight Returns” is set in an alternative future universe where Batman is a retired, 60-something-year-old Bruce Wayne who is a recluse no longer fighting crime (yes, some vague themes were very loosely appropriated here by Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises”). When he returns as Batman, he’s a political liability, Gotham police hunt him down, a mutant army is terrorizing the city and Superman on the other hand, has become a tool for the American government to fight off the Russians and any other axis of evils that oppose the U.S.
That’s neat texture, but you’re not going to see Batman as an old man, nor Superman as shill of the government in this next movie fighting the Russians (“The Dark Knight Returns” is slightly dated with its Cold-War/WWIII politics). After all, “Man Of Steel” ended with Superman destroying a drone that was following him and warning the mistrustful government that he wasn’t their enemy (still) and they should relax and recognize he’ll help. But on his own terms.
The next “Superman and Batman” movie—which would have been “Man Of Steel 2” had they not decided to add Batman—will see the story pick up where “Man Of Steel” left off. And so the point of having the quote read in the first place? Well, Miller’s story is landmark because it’s the first Superman and Batman tale where the two characters were not allies and bffs. Their at-odds dynamic became canon for comics, so it’s a pretty obvious indication that instead of being pals off the bat (pardon the pun), Superman and Batman will be, if not enemies, adversaries.
2. There Definitely Will Be Friction And Antagonism Between Batman And Superman
Snyder and Goyer will beg, borrow and steal from several and multiple comic sources, just like any smart screenwriters would (and just as Nolan, Whedon and every successful comic book filmmaker has wisely done). It’s not like Superman and Batman haven’t come to blows several times in different comic books (one storyline has Batman’s fiancee dying and Bruce Wayne blaming it on Supes for example), but the key element they’ll be drawing from, teased in the quote, is their contrasting ideologies. In most of the recent contemporary storylines (“Infinite Crisis” being a good example), Batman is more of a vigilante with a more ruthless, any means necessary methodology. Whereas in comparison, Superman is much more squeaky clean in his moral code (though he gets his hands dirty too). They are essentially the opposite sides of the same coin; the same endgame goal: stopping crime and injustice, but with vastly different, even antithetical means.
3. They’ll Be Using The Death Of Zod As An Element To Exploit Emotionally
What’s interesting about this already textured and fraught-with-possibility ying and yang dynamic aside from being a kind of classic storytelling dichotomy, is that Superman already broke his own unwritten moral code at the end of “Man Of Steel” by killing General Zod (Michael Shannon). The move was deeply controversial, dividing fans who stressed that Superman “doesn’t kill,” full stop. But it was a rather brilliant move on the part of the writers because it gives Superman, a character with not a ton of inner conflict, some more demons to struggle with in the sequel (though admittedly, Goyer and Nolan’s story gave Kal-El a great deal of identity crisis and conflict). Goyer has already suggested the ramifications of that act would be explored in the sequel and now that the sequel is a Batman/Superman movie, you can bet your sweet ass that’s going to be a leveraging point of conflict between Batman and Superman.
It’s pretty easy to see a first act where reports of a “Batman” come on to Clark Kent’s radar and then he begins to investigate it as Superman. Imagine a scenario where Batman throws a criminal off a roof only to be saved by Superman. Henry Cavill castigates Batman for attempting to kill someone and Batman counters by revealing he knew Superman was there the entire time and he wanted to see what he would do. And at the same time pointing out the hypocrisy of not having any qualms of killing his fellow alien brethren Zod, much to Superman’s bristling. Not that we have designs on writing this thing, but doesn’t a sequence like that sound like it’s full of conflict possibilities? You can rest assured the filmmakers of this film know this too. There’s been numerous storylines in the comics where Batman has essentially said to Superman, “Why don’t you go fuck off and fight crime elsewhere and I’ll do my thing here in Gotham?” and its easy to conceive of a scene where the fundamentals of that scenario transpire in this new upcoming movie.
4. They Could Easily Borrow Selective Elements From Nolan’s Series
Now imagine that same scenario, but before it begins, Lois Lane comes in with a news report that says the presumed-dead Bruce Wayne has returned to Gotham. Turns out he’s been in the Bhutanese Himalayas all these years. Instantly the audience thinks of “Batman Begins” and all the training Bruce did under the League Of Shadows. Let’s face it, the Batman/Bruce Wayne origin story has been told fairly recently, and they’re not going to tackle it in this movies, so this would be an easy way to quickly dispense with it all. This presupposes we know all we need to about how Batman became Batman and we can get straight into the good stuff.
5. Christian Bale’s Batman Doesn’t Fit With This “Man Of Steel” World
Christian Bale won’t be returning as Batman in this tale. It’s as simple as that. While WB probably would love to have him for financial/box-office reasons, the actor’s already stated he’s way done with the character now that Christopher Nolan is done with the series. Furthermore if you want to exploit the at-odds dichotomy of Superman and Batman, you don’t use the Batman presented in Nolan’s films (again, selective elements). Bale’s Batman doesn’t kill either, something the Joker taunts and makes fun of too. He does have a moral code and part of the fun of “The Dark Knight” middle movie is the Joker trying to see if he can get Batman to break it, trying to remind him that they are much more similar than he would like to think. Sure, Batman does some immoral things with the weird sonar spying thing (also seemingly inspired by "Infinite Crisis"; Batman spies on other superheroes with a satellite), but he’s still far genteel compared to the Batman in recent comics. No, for a Superman and Batman movie you want a more cynical, darker, less-hopeful Batman. The Batman who believes in Gotham and its citizens, who’s always championing the good that will rise up in these people? That’s not the Batman you want to face off against Superman. And hence, that’s why one of the reasons you don’t have Christian Bale in this film. And for good measure, we've run down a few different ways they could take the character.
6. A World That Builds Towards Justice League: Don’t Expect Batman And Superman To Simply Just Fight Each Other
We could totally be wrong, but “The Wolverine” reminds us once again: the requisite compromises of superhero films dictate that you cannot mess with things too much (yes, Nolan did, but he’s the outlier). Sure, Batman and Superman will face off against each other, but there’s a plan in place and we know what it is: building towards a “Justice League” movie that’s mooted for a 2017 release (a “Flash” film might come in 2016). So what the likely reads to us is Batman and Superman, by the end of the movie, at least joining forces to fight a common enemy (take your pick on who; that’s another complicated story). If you want to build a bridge to “The Justice League” you’re going to have to have them on the same side and that likely means fighting a mutual foe.
Though to be fair, Batman may not really fit into the “Justice League.” Could you imagine Batman standing next to the Martian Manhunter in a movie? One direction filmmakers could go in is Batman essentially quitting the League before he even really joins (in the comics, Batman quit several times) and then you’ve got a superhero team more like “The Avengers” that doesn’t need a tonal odd man out like Batman. He could quit and spin-off into his own movies. But something tells us WB seeing what Marvel accomplished don’t want that. They’ll want their brightest and best standing stand by side in a movie that also hits the billion dollar mark. And if that’s the case, the mutual antagonism is only going to go so far. At some point they’ll have to team up to vanquish foes. Even if at the end of the day they can’t really tolerate one another. Maybe Wonder Woman will be the buffer...
Obviously, this is just our take on things and there are many other routes they could go, but we wouldn't be surprised if this was the road they take. For more on this topic, here's 5 Kinds of Batmans (Batmen?) The Filmmakers Could Go With & 5 Actors Who Could Play Them. Otherwise, sound off below with your thoughts.