Zack Snyder, continuing the saga he began with Man Of Steel in 2013. Also relevantly, he directed DC / Warner’s epic Watchmen in 2009 (from the famous Alan Moore graphic novel), and adapted Frank Miller’s 300 for the screen in 2006. Post BvS he’ll be carrying on to both Justice League movies. He's overseeing the entire DC shared movie universe too, producing Wonder Woman and Aquaman, and exec-producing Suicide Squad and The Flash.
Chris Terrio, screenwriter of Ben Affleck’s Argo. Terrio was attached to BvS before Affleck donned Batman’s iconic cowl, and his work on the film – a fresh, provocative pair of eyes with no background in comics or comic-book movies - was a key deciding factor in Affleck taking the job.
Co-credit goes to the ubiquitous David S. Goyer, who, in direct contrast to Terrio, has written one or two comic-book movies in the past. Man Of Steel, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and the Blade trilogy are among them. His developing future projects include The Sandman, based on the graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman.
Fearing the consequences of leaving a god-like superbeing unchecked, formidable Gotham City vigilante Batman faces off against Superman, while America debates what kind of heroes it really wants or needs. With the two sides at loggerheads, a new threat arises in the form of supervillain Doomsday, created by Lex Luthor, a young multi-millionaire businessman fixated on destroying Superman. Batman and Superman are forced to set aside their differences and, along with Wonder Woman, tackle the new threat together. The seeds of the Justice League are sown…
March 25, 2016. Suicide Squad, in which Affleck’s Batman will also make an appearance, arrives just over four months later on August 5.
Batman V Superman initially shared a release date on May 6 with Captain America: Civil War. It would've been a fascinating face-off, but we'll never know how it would have played out. Warners blinked first and moved BvS ahead to its current March slot.
Ben Affleck is Bruce Wayne / Batman
Having previously starred in Daredevil to mixed results, online fandom was fast to heap opprobrium on Snyder’s first choice for his new Bruce Wayne; unconnected to Christopher Nolan’s recent trilogy with Christian Bale. Understandably trepidatious about playing another superhero, Affleck says he was swayed by the screenplay and by his conversations with his director. "And, quite frankly, I thought there was probably not going to be another chance to play a role like this," Affleck told us. "It’s hard to find a new angle. I’ve had the chance to do something really fresh with the character."
This is a sadder, wiser and grizzlier Batman, already decades established in Gotham with his classic villains safely locked up in Arkham (for the time being, until Suicide Squad). We may not quite dodge the origin story though, since Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan are in the cast as Bruce's deceased parents Thomas and Martha Wayne.
Weary and greying, looking to pack it all in, the Bat is lured from his cave by what he sees as the threat of Superman, the alien being who wrought devastation on Metropolis on what’s been dubbed in-universe the "Black Zero" event. "What you didn’t see at the end of (Man Of Steel) was the effect that had on the whole world," says Affleck. "It’s an acknowledgment that with violence and destruction there is real human cost. What do you do with that?" Many employees of Wayne Enterprises were collateral damage of the Superman-Zod battle, giving Batman a personal investment in the events as well as a political one.
The Bat-suits we’ve seen so far are both direct lifts from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns: a primarily grey cloth affair, and some heavy duty armour for fighting Superman. Where Michael Keaton whispered and Christian Bale roared, Affleck’s Bat-voice is digitally altered by the cowl.
Wayne Manor, as glimpsed in the trailers, has suffered a catastrophic fire at some point and is now just a shell. Jeremy Irons mentioned a new lakeside dwelling.
Henry Cavill is Clark Kent / Superman
As, of course, he was in Man Of Steel. Finally breaking the Christopher Reeve mould – Brandon Routh was playing Reeve as much as he was playing Clark Kent in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns – we last saw Cavill’s chiselled Kal-El not quite yet knowing where he fitted on Earth; he only put on Clark Kent’s glasses for the first time in Man Of Steel’s final minutes. This time out he’s still far from being accepted as the representative of truth, justice and the American way, following the devastation of Black Zero. "We see the reaction of Lex Luthor and Batman and the whole world to this godlike being," Affleck explained to Empire. And it’s not a hugely encouraging one, as the US Government scramble to ascertain whether or not the Kryptonian represents a dire threat to national security. "Can we really assume he’ll never turn on us?" asks Snyder.
A solo Superman sequel to Man Of Steel is conspicuous by its absence in DC/Warner’s Justice League shared universe roster, leading to speculation that the studio still don’t quite know how to handle the Man Of Tomorrow. Snyder says that the Bat-scenario for Man Of Steel 2 was merely a question of "Who can Superman fight next?" Where is there the possibility of any sort of high-stakes conflict for the most powerful being on Earth, post-Zod? Batman, rather than another super-being, seemed an intriguing prospect.
Gal Gadot is Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
A character with tortuous continuity, BvS has taken its cue from DC’s rebooting New 52 comics and gone with Wonder Woman’s origin as Princess Diana of Themiscira – AKA Diana Prince when in civilian guise - the demigoddess daughter of Zeus. She’s over 5000 years old, heals quickly, can jump to heights where she’s almost flying and can hit really hard. Gadot has also confirmed that she gets some business with a lasso (the comics’ Wonder Woman wields the Lasso Of Truth). A recent toy catalogue has revealed that her day-job is "antiquities dealer".
Like Batman, she’s pulled back into events having been quiet for a while. “She’s seen it all,” Gadot told us, “she has seen what humans can do, so it was very hard for her to come back and fight.” She wears leather armour with a desaturated hint of stars-and-stripes colours, rather than the more iconic star-spangled leotard made famous by Linda Carter on ‘70s television.
Former model and dancer Gadot, currently best known for playing Gisele in the Fast & Furious franchise, was another controversial casting choice, mostly for slavering fanboy reasons to do with her slender body shape. Gadot underwent seven months of physical, martial arts and sword training before even setting foot on set. She says she now holds her entire body "in a different way". Early reports have hinted that her screen-time in BvS is more extensive than most have assumed. Some early commentators are even saying she "steals the movie". Her solo Wonder Woman movie is currently shooting in London and Italy, with Patty Jenkins directing. That film is out in June, 2017.
Jesse Eisenberg is Lex Luthor
Snyder’s vision of a modern-day Lex Luthor – previously played with cartoonish villainy by Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey – is essentially Mark Zuckerberg. The casting of Jesse Eisenberg then, who played Zuckerberg in David Fincher’s The Social Network, is particularly apt. "Just from a pop-cultural point of view you can’t pretend that movie doesn’t exist," Synder told us. "Because he has played Zuckerberg, Jesse represents a very contemporary sort of business model. In the sort of post-dotcom world where fortunes can be made from your basement, it is hard not to imagine Jesse-as-Lex being as powerful as he is."
For his own part, Eisenberg himself is keen to separate the two characters, Zuckerberg and Luthor, for fear of being seen to be repeating himself. His take on Luther is that, as a public face, he’s charming and witty, using "wordplay and clever allusions to other stories and other myths". But his private face is essentially about "rage: he is the guy who won’t sleep to get something done." Eisenberg told us the role "was written in a way I would say dovetails with my skills; it was written with a real psychological underpinning; it was written with a kind of humour that I knew I could do, and with a dramatic intensity that I enjoy."
Jeremy Irons is Alfred Pennyworth
Michael Gough played him as a doddery, twinkly old retainer. Michael Caine played him as a less doddery retainer with a military background. Sean Pertwee is currently playing him on television as a not-at-all doddery ex-SAS man. Irons’ version sounds to be somewhere between the latter two. He has some sort of significant – action-packed? – past and a particular set of special-ops skills, and will, according to Irons, be more "hands on" than we’ve seen on film previously. "He’s a man who can actually do anything he has to," Irons told us. Affleck says Irons is also a more humorous Alfred than hitherto: "There’s a lot of wit. Bruce Wayne is such a serious guy; it’s nice to have a foil."
Holly Hunter is Senator Finch
We don't know much about Finch yet, aside from the fact that she's leading the Senate committee that holds Superman responsible for Black Zero. Trailers have also shown her visiting Lex Luthor at home, suggesting she may be in cahoots with him, or in his pocket.
Doomsday has an involved back-story in the comics, but the short way to introduce him is to say that he's the prehistoric Kryptonian supervillain who pummelled Superman to "death" in front of the Daily Planet building in 1992's mega-event comics series The Death Of Superman. But it was okay; Superman got better, eventually. In that sense he's kind of to Superman what Bane is to Batman: the most famous villain to have ever properly taken him down.
In the film, he's the unstoppable force that causes Batman and Superman to set aside their differences and, along with Wonder Woman, team up in the cause of facing a common threat. How he otherwise comes to be a part of the narrative in the first place remains to be seen, but we might speculate that he's the result of Lex Luthor experimenting with Kryptonite and the trailer-glimpsed corpse of General Zod, with knowledge garnered from the databanks of Zod's crashed ship.
Returning cast from Man Of Steel
Amy Adams is back as Lois Lane, now co-habiting with Clark Kent, and with Lex Luthor firmly in her journalistic sights. Adams told us she doesn't get much interaction with Gadot's Wonder Woman because Lois is "too busy sleuthing".
Laurence Fishburne is also back as Daily Planet editor Perry White, with Diane Lane reprising her role as Martha Kent, and Harry Lennix, Christina Wren and Michael Shannon all making repeat appearances as, respectively, General Swanwick, Major Farris and General Zod.
The DC Shared Universe begins here
Along with Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, Batman V Superman will also, to a lesser, probably cameo-centric extent, introduce further members of the eventual Justice League. Dawn Of Justice, remember. Jason Momoa is playing Aquaman, Ray Fisher is Cyborg, and Ezra Miller will play the Barry Allen incarnation of The Flash. Justice League - Part 1 begins shooting in April for a release on November 17, 2017. A solo Cyborg movie and a Green Lantern reboot are currently pencilled in for 2020.
Long seen as on the back foot in comparison to Marvel where the movies are concerned, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice finally kicks off an interconnected DC screen franchise. Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy was self-contained, while Martin Campbell's Green Lantern misfired in part because of a lack of a coherent agenda. That latter problem is now finally in hand, with a DC/Warner "brain trust" comprised largely of Zack and Deborah Snyder, Charles Roven, Jon Berg and Geoff Johns, now meticulously overseeing the bigger picture.
Roven says their system is also determinedly filmmaker-driven, with the current director roster of David Ayer (Suicide Squad), James Wan (Aquaman) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) all given ample opportunity to have their voices heard and to play fully in the DC "sandbox". That sounds a bit like a deliberate swipe at Marvel/Disney, where reports have often revealed directors being steamrollered by Marvel's own brain trust headed by Kevin Feige.
Much of what we’ve seen so far in terms of trailers and stills and design work deliberately recalls Frank Miller’s seminal ‘80s graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns – a key "moment" in comics history along with Watchmen, where the medium determinedly grew up. While it’s clearly an important touchstone, however, we shouldn’t quite go so far as to see BvS as an adaptation. Rather, the elements that are relevant have been lifted from the pages of the comic, while others – especially Miller’s portrayal of Superman as a CIA stooge for President Reagan – have been left aside. For Miller, Superman was almost a villain, with Batman a clear (albeit morally ambiguous) hero. To an extent, in BvS, this dynamic has been reversed.
Filming and locations
The Director of Photography is Larry Fong, replacing Man Of Steel’s Amir Mokri (a Michael Bay favourite who’s worked on the Transformers and Bad Boys films). Fong has Snyder previous, having shot 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch.
A bit of preliminary filming took place at East Los Angeles College in October 2013, for a football game between Gotham City University and Metropolis State University. Principal photography with the main cast then kicked off the following May, taking in Chicago, Yorkville, Detroit and New Mexico. The latter was a hasty replacement for Morocco following the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
Snyder and Fong are proponents of film over digital, and have shot some sequences of Batman V Superman with IMAX cameras - painted black for the occasion, naturally.
The score will be a collaboration between Hans Zimmer (above) and Tom Holkenborg, AKA Junkie XL. Dodging the challenge of having to come up with and differentiate a new Bat-theme from the one he gave all three Christopher Nolan films, Zimmer has said, broadly, he'll concentrate on continuing his Man Of Steel Superman work, while Batman will be Holkenborg's job.
There will be an R-rated Blu-ray cut
Possibly in the wake of Deadpool's potentially game-changing R-rated success, it was announced in February, 2016 that Batman V Superman would get a harder, R-rated "ultimate" cut for Blu-ray. The theatrical release will still be the superhero-standard PG-13. Translating that to UK ratings, that almost certainly means a 12A in the cinema and a 15 for the Blu-ray.
Jena Malone's character will be in this version but has been cut from the theatrical release. Her role is currently still unknown. Rumours pegged her as Carrie Kelley, The Dark Knight Returns' Robin, but a recent Warner Bros. marketing survey appears to have revealed that she's Barbara Gordon. Snyder has specifically said she isn't Batgirl. But he hasn't said she isn't Barbara's other, later alter-ego, Oracle.
Hard to say at this stage whether this is more relevant to BvS or Suicide Squad, but there's an intriguing fan theory out there about The Joker, as played in the latter by Jared Leto. Batman V Superman's trailers have given us a glimpse of a former Robin's armour in the Batcave, and the eagle-eyed have noted that the bullet holes at its shoulders correspond with the scars on Leto's. Is this incarnation of The Joker a crazed ex-Robin?
There's also been studio talk of yet another big villain that hasn't been revealed yet. This is almost certainly Darkseid, ruling tyrant of the planet Apokolips (no, really) who, we'd guess, will be teased towards the end of the film, Marvel/Thanos-style, as the big bad for Justice League.