The summer blockbuster season is coming to a close, with Lee Daniels’ The Butler sweeping the box office in consecutive weekends. So while we all pine for the next season of superhero sequels (but please, no more Wolverine), and the winter slate of Oscar hopefuls, there is mind-melting news out of the DC universe. As you have surely heard, Ben Affleck was cast as the next Batman in the Man of Steel sequel.
What else have we learned since the rejuvenation of the Superman brand in Man of Steel and the close of the Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan partnership in the Dark Knight Trilogy?
– The Man of Steel team is back
Director Zack Snyder was best known for films based on popular graphic novels, 300 and Watchmen, prior to his Superman success. He is returning for Batman vs. Superman, as is primary screenwriter David S. Goyer who was also heavily involved in the storyline for the Dark Knight Trilogy. And lest we forget–Christopher Nolan is slated as executive-producer and story co-writer yet again, along with a consistent Nolan partner, Emma Thomas.
Prior to Man of Steel, Snyder was best known for directing highly entertaining and visually stimulating movies with two hugely profitable films–300 and Dawn of the Dead, and two disappointing showings, relative to budget, in Sucker Punch and Watchmen. Dazzling with action and effects is Snyder’s modus operandi, along with directing remakes or films with an original source material. In each of his “nerd porn” projects, outside Dawn of the Dead, one could argue your “mainstream” audience may have been unfamiliar with the basis for the films. For example, 300 had every demographic of teenager infatuated with King Leonidas’ story, but the vast majority were unaware of the 5 graphic novels on which it was based.
Yet Superman is an American cultural icon, the pressure was on for Snyder to do what Nolan did to Batman–bring a franchise and a character back from the depths of despair.
The 1990s nearly destroyed the Batman franchise, with the Joel Schumacher directed Batman Forever (featuring Val Kilmer as Batman), followed by the epic disaster of my childhood that was Batman & Robin. Even more campy and absurd than Adam West’s Batman, this movie was filled with more puns, unnecessary supporting characters, and Arnold Schwarzenegger than any movie ever. Even Kentucky’s own leading ladies man’ George Clooney was ashamed to call himself this Batman.
Batman & Robin, Mr. Freeze, and Batgirl Pop-Tarts–undeniably the only good thing to come from Joel Schumacher’s Batman. I consumed my weight in Mr. Freeze Pop-Tarts as a 7-year old.
While the first decade of the 21st century had its share of terrible comicbook movies—Catwoman, Elektra, Daredevil, and both Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider movies, Christopher Nolan is largely responsible for bringing respectability to the subgenre in 2005. With Batman Begins, Nolan demonstrated it was in fact possible to maintain a semblance of realism, logical plot points, and real character development with the action and visual effects of a big-budget comic movie.
Though not sharing the critical success of Batman Begins or Dark Knight, the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises in the 2000s were also enormous box office draws, making it the decade of superhero movies. The 2010s look to bring us even more.
A fairly successful balance was struck with the combination of Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan in this summer’s Man of Steel. Many critics and comic book aficionados were on the fence about the movie, largely due to its dark tone better suited to the recent Batman franchise than Superman; the somewhat dour tone should likely be ascribed to Goyer and Nolan, rather than Snyder.
Regardless, Man of Steel was a vital step in the right direction for the Superman franchise. The dichotomy of Snyder vs. Nolan/Goyer, brought the character back to life, proving that the disappointing Superman Returns and the abysmal Superman films of the 80s didn’t spell doom for the profitability of Superman.
– The business behind the release
The Comic-Con announcement by Zack Snyder and Harry Lennix (aka General Swanwick) that there would not only be a sequel, but that Man of Steel 2 would feature Superman and Batman, caught many by surprise.
The Man of Steel sequel was already slated for summer of 2015, along with the potential Justice League film to follow in 2017. But the Batman news was an unexpected twist, and I would argue, a bit of a rushed decision.
Warner Bros. and DC are feeling the pressure to compete with the laundry list of Marvel movies coming out in the next three years: Thor: The Dark World (November 2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 2014), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2014), X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (August 2014), The Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 2015), and Ant-Man (November 2015).
The respective Marvel characters are owned by three different production companies:
Sony subsidiary, Columbia Pictures:
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
20th Century Fox:
X-Men: Days of Future Past – Going to fangirl over Jennifer Lawrence, don’t mind me.
Disney subsidiary, Marvel Studios:
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ant-Man – My mother said she’s most excited for Ant-Man. I doubt Ant-Man is most excited for Ant-Man.
There is a point to all of this listing. Warner Bros. is going through the summer of 2014 with no superhero franchise set to release, meaning it will undoubtedly get crushed during the most profitable season of the year. WB’s next year and a half hinge on the success of its non-franchise films, along with the second and third Hobbit installments. Also, the profitability of Warner Bros.’ big-budget Godzilla movie–slated for May of 2014–is precarious, as it will have to compete with the second X-Men prequel and Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Warner Brothers and DC are clearly in desperate need of not only a big-budget box office winner, but a sure thing that will cut an even larger profit than this year’s Man of Steel.
So why combine Superman with Batman, and why do it without further developing Henry Cavill’s Superman? Franchise sequels are very successful in foreign markets, which often account for 55 or more percent of the gross for these films. Quality isn’t necessarily important, just brand recognition, some flash and pizazz. In the case of Fast & Furious 6, 69.7% of its gross earnings were from foreign markets.
Money talks, and releasing a movie with the two most recognizable superheroes in the world is the only way Warner Brothers and DC could possibly compete with the Marvel and Disney stranglehold on the profitable genre.
So is Batman vs. Superman going to suffer in quality due to the rush to put the two into one film by July 17, 2015? My answer is probably yes–this movie seems a bit forced.
[It] comes out in summer of 2015,” David Goyer said at Comic-Con. “We’re actually not sure whether the title is ‘Superman vs. Batman’ or ‘Batman vs. Superman’ but yes, it’s that rematch, that combination, the two guys onscreen and that’s happening.”
While the business side of big-budget filmmaking is far more nuanced than what I could describe, this business has a profound effect upon we the consumers, and the finished product.
– The Affleck casting
There are those special moments in life where a piece of pop culture news “breaks the internet.” Late Thursday night was one of those occasions, with the announcement that Ben Affleck had been cast to play Batman, and for multiple appearances. It is an issue that has polarized the Twitter-sphere, regarding the news of “Batfleck.”
Executive producer Emma Thomas is quoted as saying, “Whilst our Dark Knight trilogy is complete, we have every confidence that Zack’s fresh interpretation will take the character in a new and exciting direction.” That direction–Batfleck.
So from Thursday night to the following day, the top trending topics were devoted to mocking Ben Affleck’s selection as Gotham’s new protector, largely due to his role in the 2003 Daredevil. Seeing the film at Winchester’s own Skyvue Drive-In, couldn’t even save this movie and Affleck’s stumbling performance as the blind superhero. Daredevil uses his now enhanced senses to fight against Bullseye, basically Colin Farrell with a bullseye brand on his head, as well as a mob boss played by John Coffey (actual name- Michael Clarke Duncan).
Other than the fact Affleck met his wife, Jennifer Garner on the set, and the movie managed to be surprisingly profitable due to a fairly small budget of $78 million, it is difficult to glean anything positive from Daredevil. The film is an absolute mess–watching the trailer makes me uncomfortable.
While Affleck was far from heroic in the role, had it been the other candidates, Matt Damon or Edward Norton, neither could have saved this movie from sucking.
Really looking forward to seeing Affleck bring the depth and gravitas to Batman that he brought to Daredevil and Gigli.
— Wil Wheaton (@wilw) August 23, 2013
So Ben Affleck was cast as a superhero in a major motion picture, and it didn’t go so well. Oh, also he was in Gigli. #NeverForget
David Hasselhoff is an excellent orator.
The backlash has been real and kept Twitter buzzing; within the first hour, 96,088 tweets were sent about Ben Affleck as Batman, with a total of 509,922 in the first twelve hours. Seventy-one percent of the chatter was negative, with the last 29% being split between those who were positive or had mixed feelings.
The front page of Reddit also quickly responded to the news of Affleck’s casting with the above photoshopped image of close friend, Matt Damon in a Robin costume. There is no official word that a Robin–Damon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or otherwise, will be cast.
Yet in the past, the selection of many actors in Batman films has been lambasted by we, the fickle people of the Internet. Michael Keaton’s casting in the 1989 Tim Burton, Batman, was also met with scorn. Yes Beetlejuice was Batman, twice, and did a far better job than George Clooney.
And the public reaction to Heath Ledger’s casting as the Joker? Not favorable.
The discussion since the initial Affleck-gate has begun to turn in his favor, with writers from independent blogs and Entertainment Weekly, to Forbes and the Wall Street Journal defending the decision. Affleck’s box office draw, award-winning performances (BAFTAs, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, etc.), in addition to the insight gained directing two WB films—Argo and The Town, as well as Gone Baby Gone are all cited as reasons to believe he can be a good Batman.
Also being a two-time Oscar winner, one for Screen-Writing (Good Will Hunting) and then for Best Picture (Argo), should give the guy some credibility.
Director Zack Snyder believes:
“(Affleck) has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne,” said Snyder. “I can’t wait to work with him.”
Unbeknownst to many, Ben Affleck was offered a director’s role for the Justice League movie several years ago, so he’s in the “Batman” loop, so to speak. Affleck is also considered a knowledgeable comic fan and will respect the source material.
Maybe it’s innter Butters who’s jealous of his recent success, because although I enjoy many of Affleck’s movies and see logic behind his casting, I still feel skeptical of an Affleck Batman.
But there’s no doubt that Affleck has come very far from his Jennifer Lopez, Gigli days. Whatever role Affleck takes in decision-making for Batman vs. Superman will likely be a blessing to the direction of the movie.
It’s likely that the Internet has overreacted to “Batfleck” and although fans will miss Christian Bale, his strained vocal cords need a rest from three Batman movies.
And it’s Batman AND Superman. In one movie. Few can resist that.
– Plot rumors
Photoshop is a nerd’s best friend.
One other casting rumor that’s bouncing around is that Bryan Cranston is being considered for Lex Luthor, Superman’s nemesis and that Mark Strong could reprise his role from The Green Lantern, playing Sinestro in the film.
It is also rumored that Detroit has been scouted as the filming location, the Gotham City, for the movie; if following the dark, Nolan model for this film is the plan, then Detroit sounds like just the place.
On to plot!
People who know more about comics than me have theorized that Superman and Batman will not be “teaming up,” as Henry Cavill had hoped, but that, in line with the potential title of Batman vs. Superman, the two will be at odds with one another.
Director Zack Snyder chose a quote from Dark Knight Returns, a 1986 Batman comic series which revolved around Batman beating Superman, for the initial announcement of the movie.
The quote read:
“I want you to remember, Clark…in all the years to come…in your most private moments…I want you to remember…my hand…at your throat…I want…you to remember…the one man who beat you.”
In addition, the Warner Brothers’ press release quoted Zack Snyder as saying, “Let’s face, it, it’s beyond mythological to have Superman and our new Batman facing off…”
The enmity between Batman and Superman looks to be the direction Snyder and Co. will be taking with the movie. While it’s still a bit hazy if this movie will be truly calleda sequel to Man of Steel, (it still is as of now), it will follow chronologically in the DC Universe.
We will also see a new Superman.
David Goyer reiterated this when discussing Man of Steel, “He’s not Superman fully-formed in this film; he becomes that in the next film and he will have to deal with the repercussions of that in the next film.”
Zod’s death and the destruction of Metropolis will likely be addressed in the upcoming movie.
How will Batman fit into all this? I have no idea, maybe he doesn’t like that Superman isn’t afraid to kill? Or he finds Superman’s methods reckless?
Or maybe Superman somehow turned Gotham City into Detroit. That’d be enough to put Batman’s hand at your throat.
In the end, Superman’s mantra is hope, and Batman shares the sentiment of inspiring change. Hopefully both heroes can work out their differences. There’s no Justice League without them.