Close friends, co-workers and more are contacting me about the major announcement at SDCC regarding a Superman – Batman movie. I can’t help to roll my eyes as this has been in development since 2001 and has struck me as a bad idea from the get go. That’s not to say that I don’t think a good batman/Superman (or Superman/Batman movie is possible, I just don’t trust the WB to pull it off.
Look at the animated Batman series, the Superman cartoon and the Batman/Superman movie and you will see a series of sophisticated character-driven tales paying homage to decades of comic books and more with plenty of action and the eventual development into the Justice League followed by a full blown animated DC Universe.
Look at Man of Steel and you can practically hear the screeching of gears as Zack Snyder struggles to modernize Superman into a harder, grittier hero more akin to Chris Nolan’s Batman.
This makes the meeting of Superman and Batman a moot point. Granted, this movie will likely require a new version of Batman, but the fun of having these characters meet is routed in their differences. As they are so dark and moody, this could be the most un-colorful comic book movie since the Dolph Lundgren Punisher flick… and that’s just weird.
After Batman and Robin, Warner Bros was at a crossroads with several opportunities avaiulable to them from Batman Triumphant to Batman Beyond with Paul Dini, Neal Stephenson and Boaz Yakin all on board to adapt the cartoon of a possible future Batman for the big screen and Darren Aronofsky’s Batman Year One. In addition, there was the double-hitter of bad ideas, a Batman/Superman movie.
Why bad, you may ask? Check out the trail of tears regarding this monster compiled over on the Wikipedia:
Warner Bros. abandoned J. J. Abrams‘ script for Superman: Flyby, which had been greenlighted with McG to direct. When McG dropped out in favor of Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,Warner Bros. approached Wolfgang Petersen to direct Superman: Flyby, however, in August 2001, Andrew Kevin Walker pitched Warner Bros. an idea titled Batman vs Superman, attaching Petersen as director. Superman: Flyby was put on hold, and Akiva Goldsman was hired to rewrite Walker’s Batman vs. Superman.
Goldsman’s draft, dated June 21, 2002, had Bruce Wayne going through a mental breakdown after his five-year retirement from crime fighting. Dick Grayson, Alfred Pennyworth andCommissioner Gordon are all dead, but Bruce’s depressed emotions become resolved with fiancée Elizabeth Miller. Meanwhile, Clark Kent is struggling because of a recent divorce with Lois Lane. Clark and Bruce are close friends, and Clark is Bruce’s best man. After the Joker kills Elizabeth on the honeymoon, Bruce plots a revenge scheme, while Clark tries to hold him back. In return, Bruce blames Clark for her death, and the two go against one another. Part of the script took place in Smallville, where Clark goes into exile with Lana Lang. However, Lex Luthor is held to be responsible for the entire plot of Batman and Superman destroying each other. The two decide to team up and stop Luthor.
Christian Bale and Josh Hartnett had turned down the roles of Batman and Superman. Bale, who was also approached to play Batman in the unmade Batman: Year One, would eventually portray the same role in Batman Begins. Principal photography was to start in early 2003, with plans for a five-six-month shoot. The release date was set for mid-2004. Within a month of Warner Bros. greenlighting Batman vs. Superman, Petersen left in favor of Troy (2004). Warner Bros. decided to move forward on Superman: Flyby and on a Batman reboot. A fictional billboard for the film could be seen in the background of the 2007 Warner Bros. film I Am Legend. Petersen and Bryan Singer are interested in directing the project sometime in the future, with Bale as Batman.
As you can tell, this news has prompted a rant, so be prepared.
I would like to point out that I adore the Nolan Batman trilogy as it modernizes the concept of a costumed vigilante and uses the myth of Batman to tell a story of the modern world’s decline. It’s a more of a brilliant set of movies on its own than it is a great Batman story and I applaud that. If a director can utilize a concept to tell an important story (much like Alan Moore did with Watchmen), that should be applauded.
But the stumbling block for me is that Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is being misinterpreted as how the DC Universe of heroes should be presented to a modern audience.
Very few details are available right now, but I just cannot muster up any excitement about this as anything that builds off of Man of Steel has a sharp uphill climb or a piercing downfall. I haven’t seen anything, so my judgement is based on a continuation of the look and feel of The Dark Knight Trilogy and Man of Steel. I envision a bloodied, armor-torn Batman surrounded by ash and debris with a CGi Darkseid gloating over him, holding a limp Superman who looks like a side of tenderized beef.
When we could have this-
I thought it was the fact that I am now a parent with a son who would love to see his heroes on screen that makes my frustration with these grimly violent films so palpable, but I am hearing similar stories from single childless friends. There is potential here to make a family-friendly action-drama that knocks it out of the park with mind-blowing visuals, iconic characters and a story that honors these modern mythological characters rather than cutting them down, brutalizing them into ‘our world’ where hope is buried in a sea of skulls and the Batmobile is no longer a technological marvel but instead a military assault vehicle.
You could say that the Tim Burton Batman movie began this trend toward grittier more grounded heroes, but at least his movies had a weird sense of style and cartoon-ish madness to them. What spun out of this was a Batman who killed, and a deadbeat dad Superman who broke the neck of his opponents and struggled to maintain anonymity from the public that he should have been protecting, thus assuring that they suffer for his inaction.
And these are two of the more colorful and popularized comic book characters known all over the world. Not so much today. Are we, as a culture, so cynical that we cannot conceive of a world where real heroes are possible?