Nick: We’ve touched on Spidey, X-Men and Marvel. Now, for the big bombshell of the weekend.
At the end of the Warner Brothers panel Saturday, Man of Steel director Zack Snyder made a surprise visit. He officially announced a Man of Steel follow-up, and said he could reveal only one piece of info about the project. He then had Harry Lennix, who played General Swanrick in MoS, come up to the stage and read the following passage:
“I want you to remember, Clark. In all the years to come. In all 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.”
With that quote from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns,” the logo from Man of Steel appeared on the screen, with a Bat logo soon appearing behind it. This has been perhaps the longest gestating film project in comic book movie history. It almost happened a couple of times and was even an inside joke in I Am Legend. Now, it’s finally happening — Batman and Superman in a movie together. Your thoughts when you heard the news?
Greg: I started hearing the rumors on Twitter (@gphillips8652) early Saturday morning, and my initial thoughts were a series of exclamation points followed by a childlike squeal of delight, though I have to admit a part of me is disappointed that we’re not getting a standalone Man of Steel sequel. Whatever your thoughts on that film (I loved it), I wanted to see more of that world and its supporting cast. Still, this is a project I never thought would happen, so I’m extremely excited to see how it comes together. It helps that Jeph Loeb’s “Superman/Batman” was one of my favorite comic book series.
Nick: Of course. How can it be anything other than that reaction? Look, there are tons of challenges facing this project, but as a comic fan, it’s nearly impossible not to get goosebumps when you first hear that it’s actually going to happen. I share some of your same concerns about needing to flesh out the Man of Steel side characters and deal with the fallout from the events of the first movie, but we’ve been sitting here screaming for DC and WB to just get their act together and give us SOMETHING, and now we’re getting it. I can’t wait.
Greg: Another positive to this announcement: they’re not rushing Justice League, which I’ve been concerned about ever since Avengers was so successful for Marvel.
Nick: That being said, there’s a long way to go between now and 2015 and tons of questions to be answered. Let’s start with the most obvious question. Is there any way in hell this could be a continuation of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy?
Greg: I’d certainly love for that to be the case, but I don’t think so. If it is, Nolan and company (including Christian Bale) are going to some rather extreme measures to mislead the fanbase. Plus The Dark Knight Rises seems to serve as such a perfect bow tied onto Nolan’s Batman story. But it would be a cool twist for sure.
Nick: You bring up the ending of TDKR. Would you be OK with reopening that door and tinkering with the ending those characters got?
Greg: Considering what a big fan I am of the John Blake character from TDKR, absolutely. Whether it meant Blake being Batman or an aged Bruce coming out of retirement to deal with this “alien menace” while leaving Blake to watch Gotham, I think it could be done. That said, I’m also more than fine with leaving TDKR as the story’s ending.
Todd: I think I’ll live if Bale truly is done with the character. The three Nolan/Bale Batman films, though not completely perfect, make up the finest superhero film trilogy to date. Since this is franchise/world-building stuff, they need to lock up somebody for a several-film deal, and like they did with Henry Cavill, I suppose they’ll likely recruit someone who’s mostly unknown to U.S. audiences.
Nick: For me, it’s really a no-lose scenario. The ending to TDKR was so perfect for me that I’m completely fine with that version of Bruce Wayne riding off into the sunset and ending his life in a happy place, something that’s never really been attempted before. However, IF they were to bring Bale back, I’m reasonably sure that they would only do it with the blessing and guidance of Chris Nolan, and there’s no filmmaker alive today that I have more faith and trust in than Chris Nolan. Plus, on the off chance that they brought Bale back and the movie was terrible, I could just view TDKR as the true ending to that story. In no way would a future failure tarnish past success. I’ve never been one of those “George Lucas ruined my childhood people” in regards to Star Wars, and as much as I hate Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it doesn’t prevent me from loving the hell out of those first three Indy movies. The same would apply here.
But, as we’ve said, the return of Nolan’s Batman is unlikely at best. The likely scenario is a rebooted, recast Batman making his debut in this movie. Greg, how would you handle the character so as to make sure that audiences know this isn’t Bale’s Batman? And do you have a dream candidate?
Greg: I’d take steps to differentiate the look, first of all. How to do that is above my pay grade, but something different … maybe some gray hues thrown in with all the black? I felt Bale played a very balanced Batman, so I’d either have this new Batman be even more aggressive and fearsome or a little cockier and more foolhardy. I’d probably have him a little more arrogant here, since he’d likely be a new hero, before settling into a quieter, more reserved Batman. I’d also emphasize the swashbuckling elements of Batman — martial arts, acrobatics and technology that make him SEEM supernatural.
Nick: Yeah, I think it’s time for a costume that isn’t all black, first of all. On the characterization side, I’m ready to see the ultra-paranoid Batman of the mid-‘90s to early 2000s make his debut. I’d honestly be fine if in the first hour of this movie, Batman did nothing but watch images of the events of Man of Steel and the early events of Man of Steel 2 from the Batcave. Less is more here. Build the anticipation so that the first time these two characters meet, it feels like a big deal.
Greg: I’d definitely love to see that take on the Dark Knight, particularly in advance of a potential Justice League flick. One last note on Batman: I don’t have a particular dream candidate in mind like I do for some other characters like Hal Jordan, but I’d love to see Michael Fassbender or Karl Urban get a crack at the character.
Nick: Oh, man. If I had to choose just one guy, I think I’d go with Urban as well. His voice just feels like a more paranoid Bruce to me.
What about the villain? Who’s the right guy to threaten the world’s finest?
Greg: I think they have to introduce Lex Luthor in this film. However, I don’t think he should be the “main bad guy” the heroes fight and conquer. He should be the guy pulling the strings, perhaps with a prominent Superman villain joining a prominent Batman villain to go after Supes and Bats — maybe Metallo and the Riddler working on Lex’s payroll. I’d love to see this set up President Lex in time for the next wave of movies.
Todd: Perhaps this will be the time to introduce Luthor as a master manipulator, though I’d really like to see a modern take on Brainiac. To keep the character from getting burnt out (and to further deify Ledger’s performance), The Joker still has to be off-limits for another five years or so. Perhaps it could be a plot with Clayface or Killer Croc as villains manipulated by Luthor/Braniac (though both seem like small threats after what we witnessed in Man of Steel). I could see them going cosmic and bringing in Darkseid as a threat behind everything as well.
Nick: I don’t know. I almost feel like it has to be Lex as the main baddie. He just works too well as a guy that can threaten both Batman and Superman in unique ways. I think they could do some Lexcorp vs Wayne Enterprises industrial espionage and warfare stuff, whille Lex himself tries to erode the public’s trust in Superman.
Greg: Lex has never been more effective, in my view, than during the President Lex phase, seen in the comics and (built toward) on Justice League Unlimited. I just don’t think you can blow through the Lex story in just one film. Give Bats and Supes somebody they can definitively beat, and then end the movie with Lex getting off scot-free and even building his public image.
Nick: I’m not saying they should introduce and write off Lex in one movie. I just think it would make sense for him to be the main baddie and have him escape in the end. The main problem with using one Batman villain and one Superman villain is making the Batman villain threatening to Superman and making the Superman villain not able to overpower Batman.
Which, of course, is one of the major challenges. How do you explain Bruce being able to hang with Superman, especially in the more realistic context of this universe?
Greg: Take the same approach Loeb and others took in the comics. Show that Batman actually has advantages over Superman. He is obviously smarter. Clark in Man of Steel is no idiot, clearly, but he also isn’t possessing of a Silver Age “super-intellect.” Batman is more mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with some threats than Superman. Someone like the Riddler could be a nightmare for Clark, who is so new to the public eye. Likewise, Batman obviously can’t do what Superman can, so it’s a way to illustrate why they need each other.
Nick: True. What about side characters? Do you treat this as a Superman movie first and foremost and put Lois Lane and Perry White firmly in the spotlight? Or do you introduce Batman side characters such as Alfred or Commissioner Gordon?
Greg: It has to focus on Superman’s supporting cast. Everybody knows Gordon, Alfred, etc. A new generation needs to get to know Lois, Perry, Jimmy (or Jenny), Steve Lombard, Cat Grant and whoever else they choose to incorporate. Perry, for instance, was barely a character in Man of Steel, and I’d love to see more of Amy Adams’ Lois. Maybe they could use Alfred as an off-screen character communicating with Bruce through the cowl, or in a brief scene at the cave.
Nick: I’m a bit torn on this one. I think that Superman’s supporting cast definitely deserves to be featured more heavily, especially since the cast was one of the highlights of MoS. However, it’s difficult to see Batman, especially if it’s a new Batman, without wondering what’s going on with Alfred, Gordon, Lucius Fox, etc. If there’s a new Batman, it would stand to reason that each of these characters would have new interpretations that audiences would be interested in seeing. Whatever direction they take, it has to be an open direction. What I mean by that is that if it is primarily a Superman movie, then promote it as such. I don’t want the trailers to sell it as Superman/Batman if it’s really going to be Man of Steel 2 with Batman in a mostly minor role. Be open with the fans. It’s the only way to avoid false expectations.
We’ve hit the major highlights of the 2013 San Diego Comic Con. Let’s close with a pair of short answer questions.
If you could only see ONE superhero/sci-fi/graphic novel movie in 2014, which one would it be?
Greg: X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Nick: Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Todd: If I could only see one comic-based film next year, it would have to be X-Men: Days of Future Past.
What about 2015?
Greg: Superman/Batman, but I’m stoked for Avengers 2.
Nick: God, this one is so hard. If you had asked me 48 hours ago, it would have been Star Wars: Episode VII. But I’m going to have to go with the untitled Superman/Batman project as well.
Todd: Superman/Batman and Avengers: Age of Ultron will be a battle for the ages, and though I loved the first Avengers, the unprecedented potential for the World’s Finest movie has me really looking forward to 2015.
Nick: Well, that wraps it up for us. Hope you all enjoyed it. Look for Todd with Weber Has Issues each and every Tuesday, while Greg and I drop new editions of Hard-Traveling Fanboys every Thursday on the Place to Be Nation.