Hello all and welcome to the weekly column. This time around I’d like to discuss plans to have the two biggest DC Comics superheroes finally meet on the big screen. In just a few short years, Superman and Batman will be battling it out in a movie theater near you, working their way through a story that will be based at least in part of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. But will Supes and Bats being at each other’s throats right from the get-go deliver the “team up” film fans want to see?
The Numbers – Big Superhero Flicks
This is usually the section of the column in which I bring out some box office tallies to demonstrate the dollars associated with film properties. Not sure if there’s really a need to delve into specifics here though, as we all know that Marvel and DC flicks typically mean big bucks these days. Misfires still happen (Green Lantern, we’re looking at you) and sometimes movies don’t live up to economic expectations (Man of Steel did good, but I’m sure Warner and DC were hoping for better), but The Avengers, various standalone Marvel films and Dark KnightThe Dark Knight trilogy have proven that the right approach to comic book films yields critical and financial success.
That, of course, is what the powers that be are eager to team Superman and Batman up on the big screen. It solves the problem of where exactly to go next with a standalone Batman story, get the notoriety of bringing the two icons together for the first time ever in the current cinema era, and can lay the groundwork to the inevitable Justice League film. Seems like a pretty solid plan all around, and even a mountain of poor advance word of mouth wouldn’t be enough to dull the box office take; based on everything just cited, most people that are interested are going to see this, no matter what. So the question remains: is the source of inspiration the correct route for Warner and Snyder to take?
The Inspiration – The Dark Knight Returns
If you’re a visitor of Renegade Cinema, you are likely familiar with Frank Miller’s seminal work which shows Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to don the cowl once again and face off against the Mutant Gang and Superman himself. Not sure what side of the fence you, the reader, may land on, but I personally love this work…in the context of its own universe. And that may be a bit of a problem given the world that Man of Steel and, to a lesser extent, The Dark Knight films have established on film.
Even though The Dark Knight Returns is a fantastic graphic novel, why base the Superman – Batman film on it at all? In the source material there are decades of work and animosity between the two that comes to a head when Bruce decides he can no longer continue to watch Gotham’s descent into oblivion. An uneasy truce forced by retirement is nullified by the return of Batman to the streets of Gotham, and Superman is dispatched to rein in the vigilante.
Great story in comic book form. But are we really going to be able to believe that after Man of Steel, Superman is going to be a willing arm of the United States government? That’s probably the biggest problem I see with this scenario. I mean, the guy took down a drone at the end of the movie because he wanted his home address to remain private. More time would need to pass (and maybe, in terms of DC film universe time, it will) before I could even begin to buy into this scenario. And the more I consider it, the more I think there needs to be some kind of impetus for Supes to visit Gotham and questions Batman’s actions and motives. Or is he simply out for a midnight flight and notices something amiss in the way Batman deals out justice? That’s another hard one to swallow because, just like Supes himself, Batman has a pretty rigid “no kill” rule set in place. Sure, in Returns Bats has recruited both mutants and the Sons of Batman to the call of justice, making Gotham the safest city in like forever, but why would Superman have a huge problem with that?
Other than this glaring point, I think the rest of the plan can work if Snyder and company choose to more or less follow The Dark Knight Returns blueprint. When I first read the news I wasn’t a big fan of the two being enemies/frenemies; I thought seeing them team up for the greater good was a better way to go. But if Batman and Superman work through some of what will turn out to be minor differences in crime-fighting philosophies, a begrudging respect will emerge that does a great job of setting the stage for the Justice League movie. Think about it: big fight ends in a sort of stalemate and then BOOM! in pops Darkseid or some other threat that needs opposition not just in these two giants but other League recruits as well. DC is always going to be a little late to the game when it comes to emulating the success of Marvel’s movie phases, but they’ve still got all the ammo they need to bring in just as much in ticket sales — and tell some great stories to boot.