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OP-ED: The ‘DC Universe’ on film



'Batman v Superman'

Unless you have been living under a rock since the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, you will have heard that summer 2015 will be the season of ‘Batman Vs. Superman’ or is that ‘Superman vs. Batman’?

The news was broken to a packed hall by director Zack Snyder and ‘Man of Steel’ co-star Harry Lennix with the news immediately going world-wide and the sounds of elated fan boys being heard across the state.

We’re a year away from this film going into production and two years from it’s potential release but already the blogosphere is alive with the casting rumours, plot ideas and logo mash-ups.

The easiest place to look for potential story ideas is Frank Miller’s seminal story of ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ that was also recently adapted into a two-part DTV movie to massive acclaim. Snyder chose to introduce his future plans (via Lennix) with a quote from this very story but chances are that these are not the versions of Batman and Superman that you will be seeing on your local IMAX in 2015.

‘Returns’ paints a brilliant picture of an aging Bruce and Clark and one of the reasons that the story has become such a cult favourite is the brilliant interplay between the two but I don’t think that fans should expect to see any of the story directly adapted for the screen here.

The news has broken this week that Snyder is looking to Frank Miller for inspiration in crafting the story – take this with a pinch of salt though – which I think is a clever move because his stories have influenced the friendship between these characters for every writer that has written for them since. However if this film is to exist as a sequel to ‘Man of Steel’, a re-introduction to Batman and an introduction to Snyder’s Justice League universe, then the characters we need to see have to exude far less maturity than those depicted in ‘Returns’.

The DC film universe is still only in its infancy. Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ franchise may still be in the zeitgeist but if the universe of ‘Man of Steel’ is to officially be separate then we have to date only spent 143 minutes in this world and I don’t think Snyder or Warner Bros. are going to be prepared to make that kind of creative leap right now.

The purpose of this film is going to cement to the viewing public that Snyder’s (not to forget David Goyer) incarnation of Superman is able to hold his own on screen against a juggernaut like Batman. Yes Batman has had his dark days on screen (around 1997 perhaps?) but he is riding the wave of Christopher Nolan and is currently considered box office gold. Superman has been absent from the big screen for much of the last few decades barring the minor box office success of Bryan Singer’s ‘Superman Returns’ and Warner Bros. are feeling the pressure to bring these two characters to a level pegging.

Looking to the future there’s undoubtedly a huge amount of pressure on both DC Comics and Warner Bros. to repeat the success that Marvel have had with Disney in launching ‘The Avengers’ via their ‘Phase 1’ movies.  Not only is ‘Avengers’ (I’m not calling it ‘Avengers Assemble’) one of the most successful movies ever at the worldwide box office, but Warner can’t be seen to follow the exact same path leading up to the big group movie.

Marvel cleverly gave each character their own movie as an introduction whilst placing threads that would eventually pull together to form the first ‘Avengers’ movie.

What DC now needs to do is find it’s own spin on this setup and this is why I think we are seeing a team up movie rather than a Superman franchise followed by a new Batman franchise etc.

DC are also reaping the massive benefits of Arrow becoming a hit series on The CW network. As Marvel attempt to conquer the TV platform with their ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ series this season, DC already have a proven track record in this field. With the inclusion of The Flash in season 2 at some point there is hopefully going to be a merging of the platforms.

DC/Warner Bros. have found a creative partner in Synder who, with Goyer at his side, is setting himself up to finally be the man to bring the Justice League to the big screen in a credible and significant fashion.

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