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Batfleck will be great (and five other Batman V Superman predictions)

Welcome to the second new feature to debut this month (the other can be found here) – Crystal Ball, where we use creator interviews, currently available content and all other existing information to help us peer into the mists of the future and make predictions about what will come to pass (in pop culture, at least)!

In other words, I’m asking you to join me as I indulge in the internet’s favourite pass time: using basic promotional scraps and incomplete footage to draw wild (and often erroneous) conclusions about a film/book/comic/whatever that is months away from release.

I figure it’ll be good fun to look back at these predictions after the fact and laugh at how wrong I got it (that said, in instances where I’m right, expect gloating of the most insufferable variety).

In this first instalment, I’m going to make turn my powers of clairvoyance towards one of the most controversial listings on the 2016 cinematic calendar – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice!

5. The cast (including Ben Affleck) will be great

Sometimes the haters even get to Batman…

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 throughout the interwebs since the moment they were announced.

There have been questions over whether Eisenberg is old enough and intimidating enough to play Superman’s archvillain Lex Luthor, and after Affleck’s performance in the near-universally reviled Daredevil, fans have been vocal in their displeasure that he has been handed the hallowed bat-cowl.

I’m fairly comfortable that Eisenberg will give us an interesting take on Luthor: a twisted wunderkind who runs a corporation built around his own technical genius, like an evil Steve Jobs. 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.

As to Affleck, it seems a little unfair to rule him out solely based on a performance from over a decade ago. For starters, there were probably more factors involved with his admittedly sub-par turn as Matt Murdock (including direction and script quality),but more importantly, people seem to be ignoring that Affleck is on fire lately.

I’m not just talking about his work behind the camera (although seriously, three classic films in a row), but 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 been reminding the world that he is indeed a talented actor, and I’m pretty positive he’ll defy the naysayers with fine work as Batman.

The only big question mark hanging over the cast so far as I can see is the one over the head of the comparatively inexperienced Gal Gadot, who steps into Wonder Woman’s battle-heels. Gadot has been plying her trade for the last eight years, and although I can’t say I’m that familiar with her big screen work (I don’t think I’ve watched an entry in The Fast & The Furious franchise all the way through, and I barely remember Knight & Day), I’m optimistic that she’ll be able to handle the dramatic side of things.

As to whether or not she fits the bill physically, while there was initially some outcry that Gadot was too slight to convincingly play a powerhouse like Wonder Woman, I think this was mostly put to bed after she looked just about right in the first promotional still of her in costume released last year (debate still rages over the quality of that costume, of course…).

After that, it’s not too hard to divine that the members of the cast reprising their roles from Man of Steel will do well; I might have had issues with that film (boy, did I have issues), but the cast was not one of them. Cavill and Adams are likely to continue to do good work as Superman and Lois (although I’d like to see the relationship between their characters properly developed), and Lane and Fishburne are old pros and seem unlikely to falter as Martha Kent and Perry White, respectively.

Oh, and before I forget: Jeremy Irons will almost certainly rock as Alfred, because Jeremy Irons rocks at most things.

4. Prepare to be on a first name basis with Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman
You can be sure they won’t call her Princess Diana

This one seems a bit of a given to me, once the so-called “realistic” sensibility director Zack Snyder brought to Man of Steel is taken into account. I just can’t see Snyder, who seemed eager to play down the name of Clark Kent’s alter ego, going with a (delightfully) silly name like Wonder Woman, especially given how keen he (and DC and Warners) seem to be on grounding the new franchise with a self-concious sense of seriousness.

I think it’s much more likely Gadot will be going by Wonder Woman’s real name, Diana, in keeping with a trend started in the comics of the 1980s in books like 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 groundbreaking than it sounds).

Snyder has already gone on record to say that the film will draw inspiration from The Dark Knight Returns(more on that later), so I think the odds of this forecast coming to pass are about the same as those of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west tomorrow (that said, you should also expect an exquisitely contrived line of dialogue about Diana being “a wonderful woman” or something in that vein).

3. It’s going to rain in Gotham (a lot)

Gotham: world’s largest exporter of rain since 1939

This isn’t really much of a foretelling, but I’m pretty certain that the majority of scenes set in Gotham City will take place during inclement weather.

I’m basing my prediction here on what I’ve heard on the internet grapevine, the descriptions I’ve read of the preview footage screened at Comic-Con and the first moody promo image released last year of Superman standing on a Gotham rooftop while it buckets down.

I don’t see this as a bad thing necessarily; it could help make the locale distinctive (like the gothic architecture popularised by Tim Burton’s Batman or the red skies used in Batman: The Animated Series) 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

Tony Stark and Nick Fury
Iron Man 2: A Cautionary Tale

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that after Marvel Studios (and later Disney) made a motza (the technical term) on The Avengers and its lead-in films, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros decided they wanted in on the potential cash cow that is the shared cinematic universe.

In order to make it to this promised land, both parties realised they needed to establish feature film versions of at least some of the characters associated with the Justice League (DC’s equivalent of the Avengers) in order to minimise the amount of set-up needed to introduce new characters in a team-up movie.

What’s more, they would need to do it fairly quickly, if they wanted to compete with Marvel Studios, who showed no signs of slowing down post-The Avengers.

The first indication of just how keen they were to get a Justice League film off the ground was the announcement that the Man of Steel sequel would co-star Batman (freshly rebooted after the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy).

This was given even greater credence once Wonder Woman’s involvement was revealed, and the final confirmation came when the full four year schedule of DC Universe films was released late last year, which included Justice League Part One slated for 2017.

By scheduling Justice League Part One for 2017, DC and Warners 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 would be making cameo appearances in Batman v Superman hardly came as a surprise. 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 DC and Warners turning what was originally a Man of Steel sequel into the big screen equivalent of a backdoor pilot for Justice League.

The main problem with this approach is that in attempting to emulate Marvel’s successes, DC and Warners seem to be ignoring their mistakes. One only has to look at the mixed critical and fan reaction to Iron Man 2, the first and only time that Marvel moved the focus of one of their movies away from its lead characters and narrative in order to better develop 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 whilst also reintroducing Batman and his world; adding additional characters like Aquaman and the Atom, not to mention Wonder Woman (who deserved to be launched in her own film, bit I digress…) seems like a recipe for disaster.

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m pretty certain 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

The Dark Knight Returns
Sometimes symbolism hurts…

This prediction is bound to be a controversial one, as it partly involves criticising Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which is one of the two most influential and beloved superhero comic books of the modern era (the other is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen).

Look, The Dark Knight Returns is great and I love it, but there are issues with drawing inspiration from it too heavily 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 than we’re used to, but he’s not exactly middle aged).

The main problem here stems from the characterisations of Batman and Superman that appear in the The Dark Knight Returns (DKR, for short), which don’t really apply to their youthful selves.

Let’s first consider Batman. In DKR, after decades of internal conflict, Bruce Wayne’s psyche is finally fully subsumed by the Batman persona. He’s no longer a man doing something crazy to stay sane, but a man who has finally given in to that craziness and lost all sense of a life outside his crusade.

This was a bold and exciting bit of storytelling by Miller, but as we’ve learned from the last 29 years of comics pros (including Miller himself) trying to use this version of the character in adventures set earlier than his twilight years, it’s not really a sustainable characterisation for any other incarnation of Batman. If Snyder isn’t careful, he’ll end up with a bleak, humourless character on his hands, which could grow tiresome over the course of one film, not to mention the others to follow.

With regards to the portrayal of Superman in DKR, Miller presented a Man of Tomorrow who had gone from champion of the oppressed to champion of the establishment; Miller’s Superman has been transformed into a lackey of the U.S. 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.

Here’s where my criticism of DKR comes into play, because it’s where I argue the following: Miller’s characterisation of Superman in DKR is totally off.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Miller at the peak of his powers (as he was in the 80s) is 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; for this story to work on a symbolic level, Miller knew Batman needed 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 that it flies directly in the face of everything Superman stands for. In his truest form, Superman embodies all the qualities used above to describe Batman, they are 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 as anything less 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 basically, what I’m saying here is that if Snyder does try to force his Superman and Batman to match up to their DKR incarnations, it’s almost certain that he will end up with two very unappealing versions of both these characters.

Fortunately, there’s a good chance I could be wrong about this one. Snyder has made it clear that he won’t be trying to directly recreate DKR on screen, but rather be inspired by aspects of it.

Better still, he has also acknowledged that his Superman is a different character to the one who appears in DKR, a level of awareness which 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!

There you have it – my predictions for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

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