Let me start by saying that this post is not intended to be a rant against Batfleck. I’m actually on board with the idea of Ben as Batman, so his fitness to be the new Dark Knight Detective is not what the headline of this article is implying. Instead, as the rumors continue to swirl about the Man of Steel sequel (I refuse to call it Batman vs. Superman because that’s just a dumb title — though these are even dumber), I keep feeling less and less inclined to be happy with the movie. It’s not the sequel we deserve, but it’s the one we’re getting right now. And this from someone who actually
really sort of liked Man of Steel.
Of course, all of the leaks and rumors that are currently flooding the tubes right now could all turn out to be massively wrong. But there was one report that surfaced last week that really made me reevaluate just what DC and Warner Bros. are trying to accomplish with this new, shared cinematic universe.
The internet exploded last Saturday when Daniel Alter, a WB-affiliated producer — though not associated with Man of Steel in any way — sent out the following tweet:
Immediately, speculation pointed to elements from Kingdom Come, the seminal series by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, being used in the sequel. If you are unfamiliar with Kingdom Come, it was essentially a story about the end of the DC Universe. For the relevant Batman bits, Bruce Wayne is a senior citizen, but still maintains control over the streets of Gotham via an army of Bat-bots.
Ever since the Affleck announcement, we’ve all known that the Batman being introduced in the sequel was going to be an older, more experienced hero. Which makes sense considering Affleck, at 41, is eleven years Henry Cavill’s senior. Still, it did seem like an odd choice to launch a DC Cinematic Universe with a pre-existing Batman when the main reason DC/WB wanted to differentiate their Dark Knight franchise from the Man of Steel one was so that Cavill’s Superman could be “the first superhero.”
We’re implying there are other superheroes in this world. But I don’t know that they’ve come forward yet. The idea is that Superman is the first one. There might be people helping people, but not in costumes, and that Superman comes forward and announces himself to the world. In him announcing himself, he’s the one that changes things.
Fast forward a month later, and you have Harry Lennix (General Swanwick from Man of Steel) quoting Frank Miller at San Diego Comic-Con, implying that Superman is actually not the first hero in this world.
Not to mention the fact that Dark Knight Returns — like Kingdom Come — is yet another story about the end of Batman. Something is not computing.
All throughout the production of The Dark Knight Rises, which coincided with pre-production on Man of Steel, Christopher Nolan was adamant in stating that this Superman and this Batman occupied completely different universes. According to Nolan, a character like Superman — an alien with godlike superpowers — could not possibly exist in the realistic world of The Dark Knight. Therefore, the Batman franchise that began with Batman Begins in 2005 was definitively put on the shelf after 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, never to be played with again.
And honestly, I was fine with that decision. Like most fanboys and moviegoers, I was head over heels about The Dark Knight trilogy, particularly those first two in the series (the more time and distance between me and Rises, the less I like that final chapter). My brother has already pointed to the major flaws in Nolan’s characterization of Batman. Similarly, there is a growing contingent of fans who don’t look back on Nolan’s trilogy very fondly either. And while I don’t share these sentiments, the idea of a fresh take on Batman was welcome by me.
But the more I think about it, the more I see that drawing a distinction between the Dark Knight trilogy and the DC Cinematic Universe being established in Man of Steel is ill-conceived, especially in light of all the latest revelations coming out of the sequel’s production.
Part of the thrill of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in seeing disparate individual franchises find ways to connect into a larger whole. The solo Iron Man and Captain America films are allowed to exist on their own, yet they still feel a part of a larger, inter-connected universe. If the plan for the DC Cinematic Universe had always intended for an older, retired Batman, then why not allow that Batman be the one whose back story and world had already been built up and established over seven years and three films?
Again, we need to take each of the rumors about the sequel with a grain of salt until an official spokesman from WB confirms or denies their legitimacy. But if there is any truth to these rumors, utilizing Bale and company makes a lot more sense than starting from scratch in Gotham.
The main reason is that Man of Steel, though it was directed by Zack Snyder, was definitely of the aesthetic of a Christopher Nolan film (save for all the disaster porn; that was all Snyder). Everything about the movie felt like it already existed in the Dark Knight milieu. I mean, just look at the title fonts on the posters for crying out loud.
Not to mention, by combining Man of Steel and The Dark Knight, you can utilize Hans Zimmer’s scores for each hero to the fullest extent. Why make Zimmer create an all-new, all-different Batman theme when the one he already created is perfectly fine?
In conceiving the story for Man of Steel, Nolan and David Goyer — also a screenwriter on the Dark Knight films — took pains to firmly ground Clark Kent in the same kind of “realism” that permeated the DK universe. This is why I don’t buy their argument that Superman could not exist in Nolan-Batman’s world. Since they essentially made Man of Steel into a first contact/alien invasion film, Superman shouldn’t realistically exist in that world either. The whole first half of the movie was all about how the world would react if it found out an alien lived among them. By that logic, there is nothing that would preclude Kal-El from showing up in the real world of Nolan’s Gotham either.
There has also been talk about the possible inclusion of Nightwing, and Alter’s tweet references the “falling out” between Dick and Bruce. And with the Wonder Woman rumors, the Man of Steel sequel will have its hands full introducing so many new characters. Again, the advantage of retaining the characters from the Dark Knight trilogy is not having to reintroduce anyone from the Bat mythos because they would have all been firmly established. Even if they approach the relationship between Ben Affleck’s Batman and not-Adam Driver’s Nightwing/Robin as a pre-existing thing, the movie will still have to use up precious running time explaining who these characters are in this universe. That work has already been done, and the ending of The Dark Knight Rises still allows the makers of Man of Steel 2 the ability to tackle a strained relationship between Bruce and John Blake.
So here’s how I’d set up a Man of Steel sequel as a bridge to The Dark Knight trilogy’s universe. All of this can be accomplished in a 20-minute prologue similar to the Krypton sequence in the first Man of Steel. Spoilers will follow (but I guess it’s too late for that warning.)
- After the events of Rises, Bruce has seemingly retired to live out the “clean slate” with Selina.
- While these lovebirds are gallivanting across the European continent, Bruce is still keeping tabs on Blake as he tries to fill the Batman’s shoes.
- Crime and lawlessness are at an all time high as Gotham is essentially a post-apocalyptic wasteland thanks to Bane and Talia.
- Blake has decided not to don the mantle of the Bat, but has taken on the identity of Nightwing to protect the city.
- Unfortunately for Blake, he’s in way over his head. Having never properly trained to be a vigilante superhero, Nightwing is having a hard time keeping Gotham under control.
- Since Batman eradicated all organized crime two movies ago, the crime Nightwing encounters is more decentralized and harder to tamp down.
- Also, the “freaks” — folks like Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Man-Bat, etc. — are all coming out of the woodwork. Perhaps as a result of the radioactive fallout from the bomb?
- Upon seeing his fair city fall to worse ruin than even during the No Man’s Land of Bane’s reign of terror, Bruce returns to Gotham to help train his protege. For real this time.
- The problem is that the return of Bruce royally pisses off Blake. You see, for the last year or so, Nightwing was operating under the pretense that Bruce was dead.
- Now that he knows Bruce was alive the whole time (and left him alone to fend for himself in a post-nuclear-Gotham), he’s none too happy about it, and leaves the Cave.
- Though the two are estranged, Blake continues to prowl the streets as Nightwing because Bruce is reluctant to put the suit back on.
- Since his previous Batsuits have all been destroyed, Bruce is fashioning a new one (to resemble the rumored Lee Bermejo-like design, natch) when all of the power in the Batcave goes out, and Zod’s message is played over the Bat-computer.
- Pan down to the cowl in Bruce’s hand, then cut to Metropolis after Superman’s battle with Zod.
- Night has fallen over the rubble of downtown Metropolis, and whose silhouette do we see surveying the damage?
Come on WB, you know this would be a so much better way to set up the DC Cinematic Universe!