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The Superman and Batman film is going to be awesome / the worst!

The Superman and Batman film is going to be awesome / the worst!

So we know that Superman and Batman will finally get that movie together that everyone (someone?) was demanding. We have a current actor for Superman, and he did a pretty good job in Man of Steel, but there is no one under contract to play Batman. That’s not a terrible thing, I was getting a little tired of Bale’s gravelly growl as the world’s greatest detective, and with a little bit of distance one can really see how uneven the latest Batman trilogy really was, outside of The Dark Knight.

So let’s talk about the good news aspect of this first: We have the original stories of both characters pretty much handled, which means that we won’t be punished with hours of exposition explaining things that we already know. Although, this is assuming that they’re not going to reboot Batman one more time. The script should be able to just jump into things without having to laboriously re-explain how these two men came to be, and we can focus on what, them fighting? Or working together?

What’s interesting is that Man of Steel never introduced kryptonite, and Batman doesn’t really stand much of a chance without it. The comics often pit these two heroes against each other, and Batman comes out ahead due to better equipment, planning, and smarts. That only works if Bruce is able to harness Kryptonite in his weaponry, as Superman’s weakness to magic would look even sillier on the screen. How would you even show that, anyway? It would be possible to show Batman wearing some kind of powered armor, something that also happens in the comics, but it would be hard to take that route and not invite comparisons to the Iron Man films, which have gone on to become giant blockbusters.

It’s not enough to do this, you have to do it in a way that sets the series apart from Marvel’s unstoppable machine, and that’s the trick. Andrew, you’re not as into superheroes as I am, so I want to know your thoughts on this: As somewhat of an outsider to this fandom, is this exciting? How would you like to see it done?

Andrew's thoughts

This strikes me as a sideshow. A gold mine that's going to collapse on the miners. Of course they would make this movie, because that's how movie executives think these days. “We've got two successful things! Let's mash them together to make a third successful thing consisting solely of successful things!”

I don't have much of an imagination when it comes to the movies. I'm consistently amazed by how well film creators are able to make things work that I never would have expected. Batman, for instance, is a series that I probably wouldn't have believed could be done well in film before Nolan came along. 

Superman, on the other hand, is a series that I think is pretty well proven to not work too well in film. There was some artistic success with the early films, but the modern films? Not so much.

To me, the best Superman stories are always the ones that are way out there. Like Superman For Tomorrow which had like… elementals and stuff. It was rad. But you could never do it on screen. All-Star Superman is great too, but it's a super campy style of comic book that only works because it's a comic book. To me, that's what makes Superman special, he really only works well in a comic book setting.

Similarly, the fusion of two comic book worlds works in a comic book, but I am supremely skeptical that it can work on the silver screen. So you ask if this is exciting to me, and I have to say that it isn't. It stinks of a cash-in, and it feels like a project forced into existence without understanding the strengths and capabilities of the mediums.

I will say that I'm curious. At the very least it's something new, and by necessity it will have to be very different from either of the established properties.

What I'd like to know from you though is why you think people are so instantly excited by this. You might have seen the video of people losing their shit at the Comic Con panel where this was announced. The latest Superman movie wasn't too good, and Nolan is done with Batman. So…what's the allure here?

Ben's reservations

You kind of nailed it when you called this a sideshow. The Avengers film worked well because the groundwork was laid well in advance, and there was an ambitious plan and firm hands working behind the scenes to make it work.

It also had Joss Whedon going for it, and that's a guy who knows how to write amazing people in extraordinary circumstances in a way that makes them still seem human and interesting. If you look at the talent Marvel brings to these films, including Shane Black and Jon Favreau… I just don't see anyone who can handle this level of spectacle as well on the DC side.

I think this whole push to make Superman more human, and violent, and gritty, and all those bullshit things that made Man of Steel feel like a misguided product from the 90s just makes the character boring. You can do neat things with him, and the idea that you can't is more of a failure of imagination than a hard and fast rule. Make him a symbol of something that can make people better, instead of putting him in impossible situations where he has to become worse.

I think Scott Kurtz said that Superman works well when we strive to be more like him, and his stories are inspiring. Instead modern Superman films want him to be more like us, and that's just lazy. It's like giving up. I know that some people really disagree with my take on this though, and I'm guessing they're running for the comments already to call me all sorts of names or claim I just don't get it.

But when you slam these two characters together like this, it feels like a stunt, not a movie. None of the names involved get me excited about it. It's like Frankenstein vs. the Mummy: they're both kind of diminished by the whole thing, and there doesn't seem to be a strong creative reason to do it, at least from the admittedly limited information we've been given. 

But to answer your question, people get excited because they have nothing to lose. If the movie sucks, it sucks. We still have the comics and the good movies out there. If it's great, well, wouldn't that be something else? So what elements do you think the movie has to have for it to really create something special?

Andrew's hopes

Honestly, I think it needs to be pretty otherworldly, existing in neither of the established universes for these characters. If they try to mash these characters together within the Nolan-ified “realistic” universe it'll go pretty poorly.

The last thing I would want to see is Christian Bale and Henry Cavill parking the Batmobile in the Fortress of Solitude garage. Build a new universe from the ground up with actors who were meant to be there and a director who wants to bring a unique vision to the fold and I think you'll get something interesting. Otherwise the best you can hope for is blockbuster shlock.

I'm not saying that's going to happen or that it's likely at all, but that's what I think would make it special. I think it should be used as an opportunity to launch a new franchise, but in all likelihood it'll be used to leech off the existing ones.

But to be optimistic for a moment, I will say that I'm rooting for the film even if I don't have high hopes. Sure, it's yet another in an achingly long line of superhero flicks that have come to dominate the list of summer blockbusters, but at least within that genre it's something we haven't seen before.

The monologue delivered at the SDCC conference seemed to suggest that Supes and The Bat will be at odds, and there could be some great Marvel Civil War-styled moral ambiguity at play. It'd be fun if we started seeing #TeamBatman hashtags pop up all over in the lead up to the debut.

What do you think will actually happen with this movie though?

Ben's predictions

I like the idea of continuing the theme of Man of Steel, this idea that Superman brought more violence to the planet than he's fixing. It would be great if Batman just straight up saw this guy as an alien invader and had to take him out. The film versions of Batman rarely play up the idea of the world's greatest detective though, or really let us witness his crazy amount of planning and insight that allows him to take down Clark in the comics.

I have a feeling we're going to see something pretty formulaic, where another city is going to fall, and there's going to be a super villain involved at some point. If that's the case, there will be three major characters, which can kind of suck the air out of a film. If the film only had Batman and Superman as the two superheroes, with no other fantastic elements, I think that could be badass.

But the reality is that the budget is going to be gigantic, which means they're going to need to create a movie that appeals to the widest possible demographic, and will go over well overseas. I can't really think of an interesting way to do this combination under those constraints and have it be anything other than a purely commercial, by-the-numbers plot. I didn't cheer when I heard this news, I groaned.