Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is one of the most polarising superhero movies in recent memory – but love it or hate it, a sequel is on the way! Arriving in 2016, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will (as its title suggests) see Superman go head-to-head with his fellow costumed crimefighter Batman in a titanic showdown destined to shake multiplexes across the world. What else could Batman v Superman have in store for us? Read on to find out!
5. The cast (including Ben Affleck) will be great
This one seems simple enough, given the acting chops of the majority of the cast, including Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Jessie Eisenberg and Ben Affleck. However, those last two names (particularly Affleck) have caused ripples of fan discontent since the moment they were announced. Many have questioned whether Eisenberg is old enough and intimidating enough to play Superman’s archvillain Lex Luthor, and after Affleck’s underwhelming performance in the near-universally reviled Daredevil, fans aren’t thrilled to see him suiting up as one of comics’ biggest icons.
Nevertheless, I’m confident that Eisenberg will give us an interesting take on Luthor. I think he’ll serve up a twisted wunderkind who runs a corporation built around his own technical genius, like an evil version of the Mark Zuckerberg role he played in The Social Network. And heck, if the Social Network proved anything, it’s that Eisenberg is more than capable of playing a character who is brilliant, insecure, venomous and willing to go to extreme lengths for self-validation; in short, he’s perfect for the Luthor role.
Then there’s Affleck. It seems unfair to rule him out based solely on a performance from over a decade ago. There were probably more factors involved with his admittedly sub-par turn in Daredevil, and more importantly, the guy is on fire lately. I’m not just talking about his work behind the camera (although seriously, three classic films in a row!) – he’s experiencing a purple patch acting-wise, too. From great work done in his own films The Town and Argo, to his most recent performance in Gone Girl, Affleck has reminded the world that he is indeed a talented actor, and I’m positive he’ll defy the naysayers with fine work as Batman.
This means that the only big question mark hanging over the cast hovers over the comparatively inexperienced Gal Gadot, who steps into Wonder Woman’s battle-heels. Certainly, Gadot has the athleticism required for the part, so here’s hoping her dramatic skills are up the task, too. There was also some initial outcry that, athletic or not, Gadot was too slight to convincingly play a powerhouse like Wonder Woman, this was put to bed after the first promotional still of her in costume was released last year (debate still rages over the quality of that costume, of course…).
4. Prepare to be on a first name basis with Wonder Woman
This one seems a bit of a given to me, once you take into account the “realistic” sensibility director Zack Snyder brought to Man of Steel. I just can’t see Snyder – who made a Superman movie where hardly anyone says the name “Superman” – going with a (delightfully) silly name like Wonder Woman.
Instead, you can expect Gadot to go by Wonder Woman’s real name, Diana, in Batman v Superman. There’s precedent for this in the comics, too; it’s in keeping with a trend started by 1980s books like Saga of the Swamp Thing and The Dark Knight Returns, where DC superheroes all referred to each other by their first names (trust me, it was a lot more ground-breaking than it sounds).
3. It’s going to rain (a lot) in Gotham
If Batman v Superman‘s early promo stills are anything to go by, the majority of scenes set in Gotham City will take place during inclement weather. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily; it could help make the locale distinctive (like the gothic architecture popularised by Tim Burton’s Batman) and, provided it’s not too excessive, it could make for some striking visuals.
That said, if every scene takes place in a perpetual downpour, things could soon veer into unintentional parody. So, fingers crossed Snyder shows some restraint (not always his strong suit). Either way, I think it’s safe to say that if you’re going to Gotham City next year, be sure to bring a brollie.
2. Cameos by other superheroes will negatively impact on the narrative
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that after Marvel Studios (and later Disney) made a fortune on The Avengers and its tie-in films, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros decided they wanted in on the potential cash cow that is the shared cinematic universe.
The first indication of just how keen Warner/DC were to get a Justice League film off the ground was the news that the Man of Steel sequel would co-star Batman (freshly rebooted after the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy). Wonder Woman’s involvement was revealed shortly after, followed by the full four-year schedule of DC Universe films – which included Justice League Part One slated for 2017.
By scheduling Justice League Part One for 2017, Warner/DC are basically giving themselves one year and two films (the other 2016 release is Suicide Squad) to set up as many Justice League heroes and build as cohesive a shared universe as they possibly can. Given this tight schedule, the news that Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg will make cameo appearances in Batman v Superman hardly comes as a shock. With the film’s less than subtle Dawn of Justice subtitle and several actors cast in unspecified roles, all signs point to even more superhero (and villain) cameos, and what was originally a Man of Steel sequel has transitioned into the big screen equivalent of a backdoor pilot for Justice League.
The main problem with this approach is that by attempting to emulate Marvel Studios’ successes, DC and Warners seem to be ignoring their mistakes. You only have to look at the mixed critical and fan reaction to Iron Man 2 – a movie that lost sight of its lead characters and narrative by focusing on characters and plot lines related to upcoming releases – for an example of what happens when you try to cram too much extraneous content into a franchise film.
In Batman v Superman, Snyder already has to manage the difficult balancing act of making a sequel that further develops the characters and story of Man of Steel while also reintroducing Batman and his world. Adding additional characters like Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Cyborg seems like a recipe for disaster. I hope I’m wrong, however, my sinking feeling is that the story and character development in Batman v Superman will suffer due to the sheer volume of characters and plot elements vying for screen time.
1. Zack Snyder will take the wrong ideas from The Dark Knight Returns
This is a controversial prediction, partly because it involves criticising Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns – one of the two most influential and beloved superhero comic books of the modern era. And look, The Dark Knight Returns is great and I love it, but there are issues with drawing too heavily from it if you’re going to make a movie about Superman and Batman in the prime of their careers (yes, Batfleck is supposed to be a slightly older Dark Knight, but he’s hardly retirement age, either.
The main problem is DKR‘s characterisations of Batman and Superman, which don’t really apply to their youthful selves. Take Batman; in DKR, after decades of internal conflict, Bruce Wayne’s psyche is fully subsumed by the Batman persona. He’s no longer a man doing something crazy to stay sane, but a man who has given in to that craziness and lost all sense of a life outside his crusade. This was bold, exciting characterisation for an alternate version of Batman, however, it’s not really a sustainable characterisation for any other incarnation of the character.
Then there’s the Superman of DKR. Miller presented us with a Man of Tomorrow who had gone from champion of the oppressed to champion of the establishment; a demi-god demoted to a lackey of the US government by his humility and respect for authority. Not only would this characterisation not fit with the decidedly anti-authoritarian, 30-something Superman of Man of Steel, it doesn’t even really jibe with any other depiction of Superman, period.
And that’s because Miller’s characterisation of Superman in DKR is totally off. Now, I’m not suggesting that Miller at the peak of his creative powers was anything less than an insanely talented writer, nor that this portrayal of Superman as a stooge happened by mistake. Quite the opposite – with DKR, Miller was telling the story of Batman as an uncompromising champion of justice, larger than any political ideology or social order, so he needed Batman to face down a figure who could embody compromise and compliance. When viewed through a particularly cynical and reductive lens, who better for this role than eternal boy scout Superman?
It certainly seems to make sense, except it flies directly in the face of everything Superman stands for. In his truest form, Superman embodies all the same core, heroic qualities used as Batman, just expressed in different ways. Superman might be a nice guy, but he’s not a pushover; if you tried to prevent him from fighting the good fight on terms he agreed with (or told him to do the same to someone else, as is the case in DKR), his friendliness would dry up pretty quick. To characterise him otherwise is to make him less likeable as a result (which was quite probably part of Miller’s plan, given he was positioning Superman as an antagonist to root against!).
So, if Snyder does try to force his Superman and Batman to match up to their DKR incarnations, he’ll end up with two very unappealing versions of both these characters. On the plus side, Snyder has also acknowledged that his Superman is a different character to the one who appears in DKR, a this level of awareness gives me hope that both the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight will be brought to life in satisfactory fashion when Batman v Superman arrives in cinemas in March 2016!