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Superhero movies are serious business.
There was a time when going to the movies to see men in colorful spandex fight even stranger men in colorful spandex was considered a
weirdo childish thing to do. But thanks to the work of such budget-eating, golden goose titles like The Avengers and The X-Men series, the comic book movie is now one of cinema’s highest-grossing genres.
Marvel’s had a monopoly on this genre for ages now, reigning as the King of the hill over the whimpering remains of Superman Returns and Green Lantern. But DC hopes to change that with their new Expanded Universe (to add to the insane amount they already have) that starts with Man of Steel. Their new pet project, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, is going to carry them into other blockbuster titles, mainly Justice League and Suicide Squad.
This task is anything but easy. While the hype for the movie is high, and while cinemablend.com is projecting it to be Hollywood’s most expensive movie, it doesn’t erase a series of very real, very difficult challenges ahead of it. The good news is that each of these pitfalls are not killing blows, and competent writing can solve all of them:
The Man of Base-Breaking
Despite the speculation and fantasies of fans and enemies alike, BVS is not a sequel to Man of Steel. Another CinemaBlend article claims that it’s just using the same universe. It quotes actor Henry Cavill, playing Superman in both movies, as calling BVS “a separate entity altogether” and that “it’s introducing the Batman character, and expanding upon this universe, which was kicked off by Man of Steel.” In short, this isn’t about expanding upon Superman’s story, but rather ripening this setting for future films.
Fantastic as it is, this still presents a problem: Man of Steel split Superman’s fanbase right down the middle. There is a real heated rivalry between fans and critics of Man of Steel, a loud, vicious one. The critics call the film a confused mess that horribly misrepresents Superman’s core character. The other side argues that the film doesn’t deserve all this negative feedback and that its message and visuals make up for its flaws. One writer even accused the critics of being hypocrites when you compare Man of Steel to other superhero films.
Like the movie or not, there’s no denying that Man of Steel has baggage to be handled. If DC is going to use that movie as the base of their new expanded universe, they need to be on their toes. If they don’t handle this with care and precision in their writing, they’ll face the same situation the second time around.
Why you no Dark Knight?
At the end of the Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan bowed out gracefully. Christian Bale gets to pursue other projects, the story gets its conclusion, and all is well, But, given how the film is DC’s biggest money maker in the movie world, it seems odd that they didn’t put Bale back on board for BVS. After all, if he made them all the money, wouldn’t they want to make more money with the same guy?
Yes, as it turns out, but that won’t be happening. Zack Snyder actually considered Bale for the role while developing the movie, but he was never approached. Fans even speculated that Ben Affleck wasn’t actually going to play Batman and that Bale would be on board. But Bale has made it clear that the Nolan-Verse version doesn’t belong in this version, and that “it was appropriate to leave at the right time “ (Screenrant.com). Considering that Nolan wanted his trilogy to be a stand alone part of the DC movie-verse, it makes sense.
BVS won’t be able to ride any coattails here. While leaving off the smash hit will open the door to explore new ideas, it also leaves the film open and vulnerable. It’s starting from scratch when it comes to Batman, and Batman’s fanbase isn’t known to be forgiving when it comes to poor adaptations.
POW! The Audience Is Now Apathetic.
One of my favorite series is Death Battle, a web series by Screw Attack. Every episode takes fan favorite characters from videogames, comics, anime, and other forms of media, and puts them in an all out death match. Hosts Wiz and Boomstick calculate and speculate who would walk away the winner, and the audience gets to watch an animated blood bath.
This is what will draw most people to BVS. After all, Batman and Superman have been rivals long before this movie ever existed, and people enjoy the idea of two icons going one on one (Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator for examples). But Death Battle is, at best, a five minute fight. This is a full length motion picture. All the plot in the world can’t save a movie if it’s 40 minutes of people punching each other. At some point, your audience will be bored.
Thankfully, this one looks like it’ll have a fix for that. The real villain here is Lex Luthor, played by, of all people, Jesse Eisenberg. While I have my doubts about Eisenberg’s ability to pull off the imposing force that is Luthor, he’s promised that his portrayal will be worth the watch. If he succeeds, and we have a compelling plot next to the awesome, expensive fight scenes, then we’re home free.
So where does that leave DC v. Marvel?
The pressure is on for Dawn of Justice. Whatever portrayal we see March 25th is going to be following us for Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, and Justice League. Considering how angry fans are at DC’s reboot of its comic universe, and the massive split of Man of Steel, this could be DC’s chance to catch up to the Marvel Cinemaverse, or an expensive way to fall on your sword.
Either way, DC has a lot to catch up to. With Marvel breaking box office records several times now, and planning sequels to their biggest blockbusters, DC is going to need to think big, expensive, and creative.
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