Martin Deer shares some concerns about the Man of Steel franchise now that Warner Bros. plans to throw The Dark Knight into the mix for a Batman / Superman movie…
As announced at Comic-Con this month, the first on-screen appearance of both Batman and Superman together will be taking place in 2015 – and I’m not sure this is the best move for Superman, Batman nor the wider DCU.
Firstly, let’s address why this movie is happening: Man of Steel “failed”. Despite being a reboot intended to get Superman-on-film moving again and making an impressive $635 million worldwide thus far -not to mention making its budget back in sponsorship deals alone – Man of Steel has basically been considered to have under performed at the box office. Let that sink in for a second.
With the negative critical reaction and the box office numbers not sitting quite where Warner Bros. would have liked (one has to presume they rather unrealistically were expecting close to a billion dollars), there has undeniably it seems been a knee jerk reaction to add what works – namely Batman – in a franchise they no longer trust.
From the moment it was announced that Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer were working on a Superman reboot titled Man of Steel, the words coming out of everyone’s mouth was; it’s its own thing, Man of Steel exists in its own world, there are no other heroes. The vision for Superman was a series of stories based purely on Superman – this is well documented. Last year Chris Nolan walked away from helping Warner Bros. on their DC projects and his involvement with future Man of Steel films was uncertain, with speculation that Nolan had no interest in team-up films and thus was stepping away. A few months before Man of Steel was released the line everyone was using when it came to a larger DCU on film changed from declaring Man of Steel to be its own thing and suddenly became “other heroes could exist in this world”. They were leaving the door open but yet there was still no plan. Fast forward to the last few days and the plan it seems has been very hastily and shoddily put together – just add Batman.
None of this gets me excited. I understand why people are, but, there’s too many issues this raises. This just isn’t being done ‘right’. It’s a quick fix, a money grab, a “we don’t know what the hell to do” move. There’s no title, there’s no story – they haven’t even written it yet. We were told David S. Goyer was working on writing a sequel months ago but now the plan has changed. If the alarm bells aren’t ringing, see a doctor.
There’s no confidence from anyone at Warner Bros. in their DC properties and so they are simply turning to what they know works. But slapping Batman in to a film with Superman is not a guaranteed hit – just as Man of Steel wasn’t the guaranteed billion bucks WB wanted. There has to be a build up to it, it has to be earned. This isn’t. Yes, the creative team involved are capable of great things but as much as I love Man of Steel that film has more issues than Rolling Stone magazine. Throwing in another huge character who will need time to be established can create a whole Batcave full of problems when there are issues that still need to be resolved from Man of Steel.
Which leads me to what really angers me about this move: Of all the comic books that feature Superman and Batman together, of all the quotes and Bat logos they could have used, what did Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. use to reveal this news? They used the logo and quote from THE comic book in which Batman’s superiority over Superman is established: The Dark Knight Returns. Frank Millar’s seminal Batman work in which Batman beat down the Man of Steel. Shortly after, Goyer gushed with joy as he revealed his love for that book. Goyer, the “Batman guy”. When Snyder should have been revealing news for Superman fans to get excited over we are instead getting quotes from Batman books to announce the Superman sequel. Once again, Superman is being sacrificed for the Bat.
Man of Steel has its issues and, whilst those issues don’t get a pass because of it, they perfectly set up a sequel. So many questions are raised and the door is open perfectly for Superman’s greatest nemesis, Lex Luthor, to enter the story and wage a personal war against Big Blue. The hope for Man of Steel 2 was always that Lex Luthor wouldn’t be the primary villain – we’ve seen enough of that – but he did need to be in the story. The hope was another of Superman’s heavy hitters would enter the fold and provide a physical threat, someone like Brainiac for instance. But how do you fit in two Superman villains now when adequate time must be given to Batman? How do you resolve certain complaints from Man of Steel that the background characters, mostly the Daily Planet crew, were not given adequate screen time to develop when you no longer have the time to delve in to them now that you have to give Batman his due screen time?
When we should be celebrating a sequel for Man of Steel many Superman fans are wondering just how much their hero is going to be short changed to service the Bat – and the bank balance of Warner Bros. executives. Since DC Comics rebooted back in September 2011 Superman has not been treat well. The several Superman titles have been a mess with bad characterisations, creative team changes and the sense of a lack of a real plan for the character. It seems now, that it is now bleeding over in to the film franchise too.
And make no mistake readers, if this team-up film isn’t a complete success (at least a billion dollars you’d have to assume), you can kiss goodbye to the hope that you’ll be seeing a DCU on film. Warner Bros. will close the door on that for a long time. There’s no confidence at the company when it comes to these properties. Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment recently stated that Wonder Woman is one of their top three priorities (presumably Batman and Superman are numero uno and deux, respectively.), and yet here we are living in a world where Marvel are making movies based on their C and D list characters and WB can’t even get their number 3 priority A-lister off the ground. Have some confidence, take your time to get it right, but get it done. Wonder Woman could be huge, it could be a flop, but you won’t know until you try – and it’s not like you’ve never made a bad movie before. And if you follow your own history and hire someone like Chris Nolan, someone who has a very specific vision and a passion for the character and let them do their thing, then at least you’ll be giving it the best chance you can – no meddling, no Green Lantern too many cooks in the kitchen scenario. Then market the hell out of it. But just try. Or let these properties go to someone who will.
Superman vs Batman (or whatever the title ends up being) is of course a film I want desperately to be good, and there’s nothing to do now but to get behind the filmmakers and hope that they knock it out of the park. All I can ask, nay hope for, is that Superman isn’t short changed and that this is done right. You’ve just got Superman off the ground, please don’t knock him down again Warner Bros.