I’m a genre fan. I love the medium because it encompasses everything I care about. Whether it be movies, TV shows, or comic books, these days those three mediums are connected. So when a comic book movie arrives that combines two of the greatest literary superheroes of all time, I should be ecstatic, right? Well, why aren’t I? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice should be everything this genre fan needs for a trip to the movies. This is the very same genre fan that saw Christopher Reeve fly across the screen in 1978, and the same guy who was wide awake at midnight on June 23rd, 1989 to see Michael Keaton become Batman. Sure, the dream of Keaton and Reeve squaring off will never happen. Life tends to get in the way of such great things, but, finally, these characters will now meet on the big screen. Yet here were are, mere days away “from the greatest gladiator match in history” and I all I can think of is Spider-Man back in the hands Marvel. Batman v Superman is doomed and was from the start. Let me tell you why.
Warner Bros. could have done this years ago!
Warner Bros. bought DC Comics back in 1969. This means for the past 47 years, they have been trying to make this work. I’ll grant you that they were trying to get all their stars to align, but let’s look at where they misstepped. Warner Bros. had numerous animated versions of the DC characters on the small screen for years. Their biggest live-action success had been Wonder Woman, which launched in 1975 and ran until 1979 featuring Lynda Carter. When Wonder Woman wrapped, Carter was all of 28 years of age. In 1978, Christopher Reeve burst onto the scene as Superman. There was enough script and footage to make two Superman films, but a third, with Carter leaping off the small screen to the big one, should have been a no-brainer. Instead, in 1983, we get the debacle of Superman III. The reasons this Superman/Wonder Woman movie never came to pass could be too many to count. All that really matters is you had both characters in the public consciousness and owned by the same studio, and nothing happened.
In 1989, Tim Burton’s Batman launched a new era of superhero films. Tim Burton was also directly tied to the sequel, which might have kept any pairing of The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight from happening. It was just two years prior, in 1987, that Cannon Films and Warner Bros. released Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. To be fair, even Reeve thought he was getting too old for Superman, but the public still believed that that man could fly. Imagine a story where Superman takes on this new hero who doesn’t play by his rules. Again, Reeve was getting up there in years, but Burton had the faith of the studio for a Bat Sequel. So, why not then and there, Warner Bros.?
In 2005, Christopher Nolan re-imagined Batman for a new era and delivered a new trilogy. It would only be one year later that Warner Bros. would return to the Donner/ Reeve Superman storyline with Superman Returns. It is really just Superman 2.5, but the end of that film re-establishes the character back on the big screen. Did Warner Bros., again, put too much creative control in the director of this new Batman, and ignore the pairing of its two greatest characters?
It doesn’t stop there. George Miller, the director who just relaunched his Mad Max saga, was also attached to direct his own Batman v Superman, but it too fell to the wayside. All for reasons, again, too numerous to count. Should we mention Wolfgang Petersen’s Batman v Superman film, as well?
How much will it all cost?
It seems like an odd question to ask, but if you take into consideration the stops and starts of both Miller’s and Petersen’s Batman v Superman films, Zack Snyder’s was in the red before a single word was typed on a keyboard. Now you’ll ask, “Why should the cost of those two films (pre-production) even matter to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?” Remember that other Superman film with Tim Burton attached to direct and star Nicholas Cage? Did Warner Bros. roll those pre-production dollars into the cost of Superman Returns? If not, why does Superman Returns have two budgets of $209,000,000 and $270,000,000 (see IMDB)? Superman Returns never broke even. It comes close (final tally: $200,069,408), but where did that other 61 million come from?The flip side to all the dollars being spent is that Warner Bros. might not care if Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice makes a profit, let alone be a good film. They are so invested with its great showdown, an introduction to the Justice League characters, and launching the Wonder Woman’s franchise, that they just need the film to exist in the public consciousness. That is not a good sign for fans of these characters who want a good, if not great, movie. Why the rush then? Well, if you are asking, then you really do live in a bubble.
Playing Catch Up!
Batman v Superman should have happened two, if not three, years ago. Man of Steel debuted in 2013 and The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. We had Christian Bale as Batman, but he wasn’t interested in reprising his role for the film that would be Batman v Superman. Henry Cavill took over the role of Superman, but pretty much sat around and waited for a new Dark Knight to be cast. All the while, Marvel and Disney kept adding more fans to their corner. In the three years that it took Warner Bros. to bring Superman and Batman together, based off of pre-existing properties, Marvel gave its fans two Avengers films, a third Iron Man, a Captain America sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Ant-Man. That is only mentioning the Disney/ Marvel projects. Remember, 20th Century Fox still has the rights to the Fantastic Four (one film), and the X-Men (two films, counting a solo Wolverine). Warner Bros. needs to start their giant superhero tent pole film after ignoring the possibilities, starting and re-starting multiple Superman and Batman franchises while Disney is kicking their ass.
Title Fight Cancelled!
Warner Bros. originally announced that they would release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on May 6th, 2016. This would have put the film in direct competition with Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. Can you imagine the press around such an event? Marvel vs. DC with its great heroes battling it out and the box office declaring the winner. I think it would have come down to a blow by blow count with box office numbers flooding in by the hour. Never before would IMAX and 3D tickets matter more. Imagine what the fans might have done to spur this on, with superhero showdowns in the parking lot, and hashtags with #TeamMarvel and #TeamDC. Perhaps they would even have gone more than twice in the same day and only saw the 3D version because it would matter more for the tickets sales. We’ll never know because Warner Bros. balked at the chance to have this happen. Now, they’ll slip into a holiday weekend and hope that people will choose their film instead of family time and church. Marvel just sits on their May 6th opening weekend, with no competition from anyone or anything.
One Point for DC and Warner Bros. Well, not Really.
Warner Bros. and DC Comics are doing one thing that Marvel has not done yet, taking their two greatest properties and pitting them against each other. Well, they are beating Marvel by a few weeks as Captain America: Civil War will feature #TeamIronMan vs #TeamCap. What Marvel has going for it is that fans are truly invested in Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America. This means something to the fans. Outside of a few die-hards that like the characters of Batman and Superman, Henry Cavil is not Christopher Reeve and his actions in Man of Steel did not really endear him to the average moviegoer. Batman is Ben Affleck. Yes, the man who was once Daredevil is now The Dark Knight. We know nothing about his Batman, except that he has Ben Affleck’s chin.
Bring on the Suicide Squad!
Marvel and Disney have heroes battling it out against arch-rivals and alien overlords for years now. What we don’t have is a film comprised of villains. Warner Bros. and DC Comics is taking a slew of second and third tier characters for a movie where villains are forced to be heroes to save the world. As films and stories go, I’m more interested in this than seeing heroes duke it out. It is refreshing and unique and after the next three months of watching my favorite characters pummel each other, I’ll be ready for a change of pace.
Marvel won the battle and it doesn’t matter how good or bad Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is. Captain America: Civil War is a story with years of character development and relationships that matter. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film that has and not been in the works for the past 47 years and is hoping that our nostalgia for its characters, not the actors portraying them, is enough to make us forget what Marvel has accomplished. On May 6th, I will see the culmination of years worth of work brought to life with characters I truly care about in Captain America: Civil War. On March 25th, I go to see the train wreck that I know Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is going to be.