DC Movies: Taking the road well-traveled, except with characters people already care about
That was the original title of this post, which was supposed to be part of yesterday’s San Diego Comic Con coverage. But I cannot write one little paragraph about the possibilities and potential problems presented by a movie starring Superman and Batman. So this happened.
“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.”
I can’t even deny the power of that.
Being a Batman guy who was never fully on board with Superman, that is one of my favorite moments from comics (and yes – it is from a comic book, not a graphic novel). I still clearly recall the first time I read Dark Knight Returns and how much that blew my mind. “He did it,” I thought, “Batman and Green Arrow had Superman beat.”
When I first read it, I didn’t fully understand all of the ramifications of the scene or all that it truly meant. I didn’t get that it was just Bruce fucking with Clark one last time. I didn’t get that it was all a setup so that Bruce could fake his death. I was devastated when he “died”. Back then, with my relatively limited comic book experience, a death was powerful. Plus, I didn’t know anything about canon. I thought this was as legit and part of continuity (another word I didn’t know) as any other Batman comic book I read. As far as I was concerned, Joker was dead and Bruce’s career as Batman was over (I knew this was the future, but I thought it was The Future). There were so many little things I didn’t pick up on - I just appreciated that the Dark Knight had put the Boy Scout in his place.
As much as I love that moment, I am not sure that’s the moment you want for your big theatrical Superman/Batman team-up.
I promise you – I am not trying to be negative or poop on WB’s big news. I am as excited as anybody about the possibilities this announcement suggests, as well as the simple fact of the movie happening. As you all know, I really liked Man of Steel and am thrilled that not only is it continuing, but that it is now solidly confirmed as happening in a wider DC Universe. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is great and all, but you have no idea what the announcement of a real, live DC Movieverse does to my pants.
There is something about the universe(s) that DC Comics have created over the years that is so much more engrossing than Marvel’s. For me, I think it has to do with the fact that Marvel went with real cities rather than creating their own. All of my life I have pursued escapes from this world. Like many nerds, dorks, geeks, and what-have-you, I have never been all that comfortable here. I get by, but this place is kind of rotten for the most part. When I read Marvel comics and see Spidey swinging through New York, it’s just a reminder of this world. But when I read DC Comics and the action takes place in Gotham City and Metropolis and Opal City and Star City; well that’s just a whole different world. It’s a better escape. My suspension of disbelief works better when I don’t have to think about these heroes and villains operating in real places.
Nolan, Snyder, Goyer, and whomever else might be pulling the strings have decided to ground this new iteration of the DCU in reality more than it might otherwise have been. It isn’t my favorite choice, but they have shown that they can still accomplish the fantastic in this world. I feel very strongly that Man of Steel takes place in a different universe than Nolan’s Batman. Heck, I have observed using logic and reason that this is a different universe. And I think it is critical that they maintain that separation.
I don’t care how much the fans cry or get upset, but Christian Bale cannot be this Batman. The strict definitions that Goyer and Nolan set up in their trilogy do not allow for it. At the end of Dark Knight Rises we see a retired Bruce Wayne that came back from career-ending injuries only to be destroyed by Bane and then barely manage to survive one final… I want to say adventure, but that word implies a certain sense of fun and wonder. And there was nothing fun or wonderful about Dark Knight Rises. Bruce Wayne didn’t want to be Batman. And that simply is not a Batman I want to watch.
Sorry – I kind of went off on a tangent. You’d think I would get sick of criticizing Nolan’s movies one of these days.
My point is that Bale’s Bruce Wayne is too broken to be Man of Steel 2’s Batman. And whatever is going to happen in Man of Steel 2 can’t be from before DKR because Nolan-Batman’s career spanned no more than sixteen months before he gave up and quite for seven years.
Joseph Gordon Levitt’s “Robin” doesn’t work either because it has already been established that in the Nolan Bat-verse human beings have normal limitations. Like, barely even exaggerated. So his career can’t even last long enough for him to get experienced enough to take on Superman.
We need a new Batman in a new DCU where we can disregard concerns about how long a human could actually do what Batman does every night. I’m not saying he can’t get hurt and I’m not saying physical concerns won’t be there, but the audience doesn’t need to look at this Batman as someone that will break down over time. Human wear and tear is something that can simply go unaddressed. This is a superhero movie, not The Wrestler.
Also, they cannot change Batman’s origin so that Superman’s appearance is what inspires him to become Batman. That is an idea I have heard and it is dumb. An alternative might be that Superman’s appearance inspires Batman to become more of a public figure, along the lines of Batman, Inc. As a matter of fact, that could even be the whole story of the movie and a way around my big problem with the above quote setting the tone for the movie, which is this:
That quote suggests that Batman is going to make Superman his bitch, and while that’s okay with the entirety of DC Comics history as well as monthly ongoing stories to expand on it, it is not the tone you want to set for a narrative that is going to be fresh and updated every three years at best. I love Batman, but for the purpose of these movies you simply do not want to establish him as dominant over Superman. On top of that, at the point when that quote occurs Bruce and Cark had decades of relationship behind them. There was weight to that happening. Bruce came off as a crazy old man, but he had his reasons. And they were relatable.
In a two-and-a-half hour movie, Batman is going to seem like a dick for taking down Superman and Superman is going to look like a pussy. Without the context of their backstory the scene doesn’t work as well.
But maybe – and I’m just putting ideas out there now – the movie starts with Batman taking Superman down just to prove a point. This Batman has already been working in the shadows of Gotham for seven to ten years. He’s a few years older than Clark. He gives the new kid a good talking-to about collateral damage and murdering people in front of the whole world. He says, “We don’t do that.” Clark already knows this and has already decided he can never take another life, no matter the cost. Batman leaves, but before he does he tells Cark he’ll be watching.
Then we het the bulk of the movie, which is Superman doing what he does very much in the public eye. Not only redeeming himself for the destruction of Metropolis (which Lex Luthor is rebuilding), but creating a new sense of hope for the future around the world. As a matter of fact, Luthor and Superman could even be pals working together to rebuild Metropolis. Until Luthor turns on the alien. Now that could be a cool story. Maybe that’s even how Batman becomes involved again – Bruce Wayne is suspicious of Luthor and tries to warn Clark about his new buddy.
Like I said – there are tons of possibilities. Just as many bad ones as good. But I have faith. As much as I was afraid that Man of Steel would be too grounded in reality, I was proven wrong. It had its flaws, but overall it inspired the sense of wonder in me that I was hoping for. I believed a man could fly.
Speaking of wonder, I think WB has one more important character to start working on.
But that’s another post.