Why a Superman/Batman movie is a bad idea

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I know I’m probably in the minority, but when I first saw the logo for Superman/Batman, my first thought was “Oh no!” It’s not unusual for a studio to announce a sequel to a financially viable property like Superman, particularly at an event like SDCC. However, the fact that this team-up film is being treated as a sequel to Man of Steel smacks of bandwagon-hopping. This is the kind of trend that will ultimately saturate the market and kill the superhero genre. I’m not saying that the demise of the superhero genre rests entirely on the shoulders of the unfilmed Superman/Batman movie, but I am saying that this movie is an ill-conceived attempt by Warner Brothers to keep up with Marvel.

The problem is that Man of Steel premiered just last month, and while not perfect, performed well enough to warrant a sequel. From a storytelling perspective, the follow-up to Man of Steel isn’t just a chance to make more money; it’s an opportunity to develop some characters. Let’s face it, the best part of Man of Steel was the few character moments; Ma Kent talking to her son through the door, Zod and Jor-El discussing their ideological differences. These moments are great little pieces of development that were unfortunately cast aside in favor of giant action sequences. It’s as if Snyder left nothing for the sequel, quite possibly because he thought they might not get one.  Go big or go home seems to be the mantra for things like this, but this treatment of the characters left many fans asking things like, “Did everyone have to die?” It appears that audiences who bemoaned Bryan Singer’s thoughtful take in Superman Returns, have had their wish granted.

Superman and his supporting cast deserve to be developed beyond juggernaut and cannon fodder. Lois Lane should have the opportunity to do more than get saved by the man of steel. Amy Adams should be given more to do and her relationship with Clark should be allowed to grow. Perry White should be allowed to expand as a three dimensional character, becoming the surrogate father that Clark desperately needs*. Superman’s story should be expanded and told without distraction and as long as the bat symbol looms high in the sky, the focus will be split between the two most recognizable heroes ever created, much to the detriment of telling a compelling story.

In the comic book world, writers have several issues of print to develop character and story; splitting time between cast members across several different titles. Comic book storylines can be told over a series of weeks and even years, circling back to secondary characters or plot lines and bringing about new, and never ending revelations. With a feature film, you get two hours. Two. Hours. In that two hours, you must introduce the characters, desires and conflict and end with a satisfying resolution. This exercise is difficult enough to do with one main character, but to mix the cinematic worlds of Gotham and Metropolis, giving everyone their due, is a herculean task. It took Marvel five films to lay the groundwork for The Avengers. While that film handles the giant cast rather well, there were still short cuts and characters who got sidelined.

Not to mention the difficulties of reintroducing Bruce Wayne/Batman as a character. With the Nolan Batman films still fresh in everybody’s mind, whomever they cast will have big shoes to fill. They will have to differentiate the character from his previous iterations, which is a risk that may not sit well with audiences. We liked Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, we were given three solo films to watch him develop. Henry Cavill’s Superman will not be afforded the same courtesy, and the bat-shaped distraction will derail whatever good things were built in Man of Steel in favor of the cash-powered gravy train that is a Justice League movie.

They want a sure thing, and instead of taking the time to develop an interesting solo follow up, Warner Brothers seems to be hedging their bets by following trends. It’s a shame too, because as imperfect as Man of Steel was, I was interested to see where they might take the character. For good or bad, I wanted to see Henry Cavill’s Superman develop as a hero in the world that Snyder and company had set up. I was hoping that that they would be a counterpoint to Marvel and get back to basics; stick with a solid solo series featuring compelling characters. I was interested; now I’m just disappointed. It appears that Warner Brothers has made their Batcave, and now they have to lie in it.

 

*Maybe then we could get a decent explanation as to how Clark Kent, a man without any journalism training or press credentials, landed a F***ing job at the world’s leading newspaper…ahem…

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Robert Walker
Robert Walker 152 posts

Rob Walker is a writer and filmmaker in Colorado, and is creator of the comedy web series Victorian Cut-out Theatre. He loves horror films and comic books (American Vampire, Jonah Hex, The Flash, Planetary). Rob has been a Sherlockian since the age of ten, is a Dark Tower junky and believes that Indiana Jones is the greatest cinematic hero ever created. You can follow him on twitter at: @timidwerewolf and see his other writings and videos at robwalkerfilms.com