After Zack Snyder’s shock announcement in Hall H at Comic-Con on Saturday that the next Superman film would also be a Batman film, there are some big questions to be answered. As Snyder himself said, the project is in the very early stages and is a long way from being written, but we thought we’d mimic the discussions no doubt taking place right now at Warners and over at David Goyer’s house and address some of the dilemmas this film has to figure out…
Both the text that Harry Lennix (Man Of Steel’s General Swanwick) read out at Comic-Con and the titles that Warner Bros has just trademarked suggest that this is a “versus” film rather than a World’s Finest team-up – at least to begin with. While we doubt that the finale will see Batman standing over Superman’s corpse or vice versa, we do expect the two to find themselves at loggerheads for at least part of the running time. The quote that Snyder used came from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns: Snyder was quick to make clear that he wasn’t adapting that comic per se, but don’t be surprised if this shares something of the same tone and sees a similar Batman and Superman battle.
Snyder’s introduction called Batman’s arrival “a single element that will be in the film that I could help you out with”, which makes it sound like it’s a small part of a Man Of Steel sequel. But Goyer’s discussion of titles later that day, and the titles registered by Warners (SupermanVsBatman.com, BatmanVsSuperman.com, and BatmanVsSupermanMovie.com), makes it appear a more even-handed affair or even a Bat-heavy one – which is certainly what the fans are hoping for.
If a new actor is cast as Batman (keep reading for discussion of that) he’ll need a little time to get established onscreen even before the two intersect, so that would necessarily make it a fairly even time-split between the two. Then again, we imagine that the only way to get Bale to reprise his Batman would be to give him a meaty role, so either way we’re probably looking at plenty of Batman.
Generally speaking, superheroes fight each other because of a misunderstanding (usually engineered by a Big Bad) or because one is under the control of something evil. However, the better stories tend to involve a genuine clash of ideologies. Superman is closer to the government, with Batman a wanted vigilante, so the government might send the Man Of Steel to bring down the Dark Knight. Then again, this universe’s Big Blue Boy Scout is not exactly besties with the authorities, so that avenue seems unlikely to pan out.
The filmmakers could establish a grudge match between Batman and Superman for the devastation to Metropolis in Man Of Steel: maybe Alfred was back and on holiday there when it all went south? Or they could get in one another's way when chasing down a villain of some sort, although that seems like a bad reason to start throwing punches. Perhaps Bruce Wayne could just refuse Clark Kent an exclusive interview, setting them on an inevitable course for WAR. Hopefully, however, after a mid-movie battle the two will team up to take down the real threat.
We need someone who can put Superman and Batman at one another’s throats before providing them with a reason to team up. In other words, we need a Machiavellian schemer who poses a big enough threat to require their combined efforts, and therefore probably someone from Superman’s high-powered rogues’ gallery rather than Batman’s.
Even then, it sounds to us more like a Brainiac than a Lex Luthor; Luthor might be sufficiently sneaky but he’s not sufficiently scary. Darkseid tends to be, er, direct in his attacks on Superman, while someone like Mxyzptlk is just too weird. Metallo is on the more obscure side but brings a nice technological touch that reflects Batman nicely – and he has Kryptonite, which would be useful in any Batman-Superman face-off. But if we were guessing, Brainiac and some sort of tech-army is probably the solution.
Ah, the multi-million dollar question, given that Cavill is returning as Superman. Christian Bale seemed to put his Bat-days behind him after The Dark Knight Rises, and certainly appears reluctant to play the role for anyone but Christopher Nolan. But Nolan is still an executive-producer on the film and Goyer’s once again scripting, so perhaps Bale could be sweet-talked into it. But the studio press release said "The new Batman is yet to be cast", but that doesn't necessarily rule out previous Batmans, since no one has been cast for this film (although it strongly suggests Bale won't return).
If not, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was set up as a successor onscreen so that might be a way in – but then the film has the dual task of establishing his John Blake as the new Batman as well as building Clark Kent’s career at the Daily Planet. The alternative to all that set-up would be to recast Batman but pretend, essentially, that it’s the same character as before, and then the casting’s wide open. Would Ryan Gosling do it? Might Jake Gyllenhaal fit the role? Should it be a Luke Evans in a sort of Immortals reunion? Your suggestions please!
Despite all logic and reason, the general fanboy feeling is that Batman would be victorious. Their argument seems to be “He’s sneaky, he’d find Superman’s weak point”, because while Superman has a genius-level intellect and is probably (at least) as smart as Batman, the Dark Knight is generally considered to be tactically and strategically more gifted. Narrative laws also support this: Superman’s so overwhelmingly powerful that if he won he’d look like a bully.
The way that The Dark Knight Returns deals with their fight is interesting: Superman is tasked by the US government to bring Batman down. Weakened by recent contact with a nuclear blast and a Kryptonite-tipped arrow fired by Green Arrow, Superman falls to Batman (who’s employs a super-tough exo-skeleton for the job) and Batman delivers that great kiss-off line. This is representative of all the many reasons fans give to say why Batman would win: use of technology, enlisting allies, timing his move so Superman is weakest, strategy in general.
But on some level, we can’t help thinking, Superman is probably letting Batman win because he’s a nicer guy.
Who do you think would win in a fight?
Gotham? Metropolis? Worldwide? Superman has always been more of a globe-trotter, while Batman tends to stick close to home in his self-appointed mission to rid Gotham of crime. But then again, in his team-ups and Justice League work Batman has travelled much further afield so we don’t have to stick to his home ground.
In terms of getting the two together, it helps that both are investigators. Certainly it would be easy for Superman, in his guise as reporter Clark Kent, to pitch up to Gotham to cover a story and encounter Batman there, but we could just as easily see the World’s Greatest Detective turn up in Metropolis to see what all the fuss is about this alien dude who nearly got us all killed. And of course a new Big Bad could easily draw out both.
The Hollywood Reporter has sources claiming that this is the first step in a new DC Universe, with a Flash film due in 2016 and a Justice League movie tentatively planned for 2017. That would make sense; if you can figure out a way to get Superman and Batman working together, you’ve immediately got the least-similar characters in the Justice League set up and co-operating and can slot the others in around them.
Flash is a nice second step as well; he’s not quite as godlike as the rest and has a bit more humour than either of the World’s Finest, so he makes a good stepping-stone to a wider team. And by 2017 maybe they’ll finally have figured out how to make Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter work as well onscreen as they do in the comics.