What Batman vs. Superman Could Get Right (And Wrong)

Last year when Man of Steel came out, I was reminded of the line uttered by Chastity (Gabrielle Union) in 10 Things I Hate About You: “I know you can be overwhelmed… and you can be underwhelmed… but can you ever just be ‘whelmed’?”  

I never thought I’d just be “whelmed” by a movie featuring Russell Crowe riding on a pterodactyl, Michael Shannon bouncing around in a cat suit, and Laurence Fishburne as a character named “Perry”. The adaptation could have been worse – thank God Snyder didn’t include his SLOOOOOW-MOOOOO PUUUUNCH effects – but it wasn’t something to get really jazzed about either.

And now there’s Batman vs. Superman in the pipeline, with the just-changed release date of May 6th, 2016. What better time to speculate on what it could get right and what it could get wrong two years ahead of time, like every other pop culture pundit?

Let’s start with the good:

The Casting of Lex Luthor: Joaquin Phoenix is the front runner, and I’m all for it. He’s the only man in Hollywood who would have a chance of beating Daniel Day-Lewis in an emoting contest, and this will be his first return to blockbusters since Gladiator. And whilst Gene Hackman was more than capable of creating a malevolent figure back in the day, I think this might be the first time we see a Lex Luthor who is presented as being genuinely unhinged. Have you ever seen Joaquin Phoenix in a role where he didn’t bring the crazy? I haven’t.

Chris Terrio: Chris Terrio adapted Argo, and he’s been brought on board to apply the finishing touches to the story by Messrs Goyer and Snyder. If Terrio can handle a screenplay about an international crisis / high-scale escape ruse, I’m sure he’s more than capable of sprucing up a super-hero story. (With Goyer, he’s got his work cut out for him, though. More about that later.)

The Delay in Production: I know we live in the age of instant gratification, etc., etc. (and being in my mid-twenties I hear this a lot), but really, how could you rush a film of this scale? Especially when we live in a time where sloppy writing and plot holes are seen as par-for-course with action blockbusters, Hollywood hoping the whizzbangs and big robots will distract us from the flat characters and deux ex machinas frequently utilised.

I know, I know, I’m starting to sound 54 rather than 24. But the thing that ‘whelmed’ me the most about Man of Steel was how the second half of the film didn’t match the first. The first half of the film was beautiful. The aesthetics put into the creation of Krypton were impressive, Clark’s childhood in Kansas and subsequent wandering of the Earth was moving, and the reveal of his origins and powers was exciting. Superman whizzing around, learning how to fly, with a great big grin across his face? How great was that?

And then it all went downhill. Superman became some sort of Jesus-lite figure, but he still decided to keep the fight with Zod’s minions within his hometown instead of trying to shift it to the surrounding fields, because why the hell not? It’s not like there’s civilians in the town, or anything. Then Supes decided to destroy the world engine in the ocean whilst Metropolis was being crushed into dust. He cried at having to kill Zod to save others but then thought nothing of hurling some sort of missile near an Army Jeep, missing it by only a few metres. In short, Superman goes from being a good guy who cares for the common man to a raging asshole in the space of approximately two and a half hours.

Hopefully this delay in production and Terrio taking the reins with the screenplay means that the film crew can address the complaints levelled against the first film, my own only some of many. Also, according to comicbookmovie.com, there are budgetary issues and the Justice League movie may be filmed back-to-back with Batman vs. Superman, and I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen. Calm down DC. Have a Kit Kat and think about making one great film and then consider the next one, instead of risking foisting two bombs on the public – because  then you’re going to have budgetary concerns.

And can Batman vs. Superman address the fact that Clark slept his way into a job at The Daily Planet? Because he did. He so did.

The Proposed Cliffhanger: As Marvel’s shtick is having a sneak peek of upcoming projects post-credits, DC have decided that they’ll do their own gimmick by leaving Batman vs. Superman on a cliffhanger, the story picking up in the Justice League film. Another reason to take it easy on churning out the JL film, because if there’s no waiting and angst associated with a cliffhanger, what’s the point?

Even though I couldn’t help but slip a few gripes into the ‘good’ things that could come out of Batman vs. Superman (sorry!), it is now time to move onto all the things that Batman vs. Superman could get wrong:

The Title: It goes without saying that the title stinks. We know who Superman is, we know who Batman is. Make it a bit less basic. Or at the very least, make it Superman vs. Batman. It’s the Ubermensch’s movie, after all.

Marketing Overkill: Did you know that Superman’s hair is now going to have the ‘S’ curl? Well, now you do. Isn’t that interesting? Surprise! It’s not.

Batman vs. Superman is in danger of doing what I now refer to as the ‘The Anchorman 2 Effect’. I got so sick of seeing Will Ferrell everywhere as his goofy alter-ego Ron Burgundy that when the actual film came out I decided I wouldn’t see that sucker for a million clams.

Getting red herrings and gossip about films ahead of schedule can be fun, as long as they have substance. Is there a chance they’ll include Aquaman or Metallo? Great! Lex Luthor may buy The Daily Planet? Interesting! Give us more of that, less talk about follicles.

Product Placement: Look, Superman is a hero, not a whore. I want to just relax and watch a super-hero film, not be shilled Sears. If there’s an IHOP in Batman vs. Superman, I’m going to take a blowtorch to the streets.

Keeping David S. Goyer as a Writer: Look, I have nothing against Mr Goyer personally. But when I think about his oeuvre of work, the guy is a B-grade writer. He’s a ‘B-hive’, if you will.

Sure, Blade and Blade II were pretty alright. Blade II was propped up by Del Toro’s direction, but Blade: Trinity was schlock. Dark City’s cult status owes more to Alex Proyas than it does to David S. Goyer. Other than that, Goyer’s biggest achievement has been the most recent Batman films, and let’s face it, he was given a shoulder-lift by the Nolan brothers. We’re comparing the guy who wrote Devil Dolls and Da Vinci’s Demons to the men who made Inception and Memento possible.

Goyer and Nolan wrote Man of Steel, to be fair, but still… whilst the beginning had the smudged fingerprints of Nolan all over it – and the hero being wary of authority figures – I wouldn’t put it past Goyer to be the one responsible for the carnage porn, considering his IMDB credits show a leaning towards killer dolls and shoot-‘em-up video games.

Zack Snyder will replace Christopher Nolan in screenplay writing credits this time around, and honestly, I don’t mind – I think he did an alright job on Watchmen, even though I know admitting something like that, as well as being a Nolan apologist, might fire up the comments section.

It’s up to Terrio from here on in to tidy up Goyer and Snyder’s story – and right now I’m praying to those poor souls who are going to have to work with Goyer on the upcoming Sandman flick.

DC are foaming at the bit, flogging themselves in order to keep up with Marvel in the super-hero flick race. But in the case of Batman vs. Superman, it would probably pay to be more pedantic than frantic. I welcome the delay – I want to see a terrific film in 2016 rather than one that just ‘whelms’ me in 2015. I want Superman to return to his ideals, and for his world to be one that’s engaging rather than one full of chk-chk-boom chicanery and product placements. (Kraft Glue – the only glue that’s going to patch up those plot holes!) I want Batman vs. Superman to be the film that Man of Steel was supposed to be.

Heck, I don’t even mind Batfleck. Get well soon, Batfleck!

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Amy Louise Maynard is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Adelaide. Her thesis is primarily focused on Australian comic book production. She graduated from the University of South Australia with a Bachelor of Arts: Honours in 2011. She has written for publications such as PopMatters and What Culture (a full list can be found at HERE). She is the Australian news correspondent for comicsforum.org. As well as Australian comics, Amy has also written an essay for the journal ASIATIC on Shakespeare being adapted into manga, and presented a paper at the 2nd Global Conference on Graphic Novels, hosted by Inter-Disciplinary.net, about the cultural capital of Batman graphic novels in the 1980s.

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  1. This was a lot of fun to read. And “I never thought I’d just be ‘whelmed” by a movie featuring Russell Crowe riding on a pterodactyl” had me laughing out loud.

  2. Ben Marton says:

    While I was determined to enjoy as much of ‘Man of Steel’ as I could (and there was a great deal of thunderous bombast to enjoy), I couldn’t help but be reminded of the waves of whiny whelmery that accompanied the aftermath of ‘Superman Returns’ (a beautiful, romantic character study and vastly superior in construction) at the keystrokes of the ‘he should be more bad@$$’ gallery. Hordes of entitled opinionauts rammed the pendulum in the other direction and we got the movie we (apparently) wanted; steroidal Peckinpah with that reliable ol’ Nolan Mope veneer. Now what do ‘we’ want next? To answer the age-old question; who’s better, who’s better, who’s best (sorry, Mr. Daltrey, but don’t worry; nobody whose opinion counts will get the reference), with Diana fresh off the catwalk peeking over shoulders. Yup. Not to worry; this is set to be The Sequel We All Want. Just like we want stuffed crust pizzas and shows about duck huntin’ families…

    The ‘Argo’ connection’s a glimmer, though.

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