On Saturday, Warner Bros. and DC Comics took the stage in San Diego at Comic-Con and fired a shot heard 'round the world, setting the stage for a perfect storm at multiplexes everywhere in the summer of 2015.
The Disney Co., owners of both Lucasfilm Ltd. and Marvel Studios, had already laid claim to that summer with a one-two punch of “Star Wars: Episode VII” and “Avengers 2” (officially “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”), both flagship films of billion-dollar franchises.
The success of DC's Superman reboot, “Man of Steel” ($630 million worldwide so far), this summer had left fans speculating as to where Warner Bros. and DC would go next. Rush into production with a “Justice League” movie that would team-up DC's revered stable of superheroes in an attempt to go head-to-head with Marvel's “Avengers” at the box office? Advance the revamped Superman franchise with a straight-on sequel, while laying the groundwork for an eventual “Justice League” film? Reboot Batman, perhaps in the guise of his future incarnation in “Batman Beyond?”
Instead, Warner Bros. and DC made the most ambitious decision possible.
Rather than start over so soon with a “new” cinematic Batman, when the enormously popular “Dark Knight Trilogy” from Christopher Nolan remains so fresh in audience's minds, and rather than proceeding with a simple sequel to “Man of Steel,” they greenlit the most daring, and the most logical, approach: A one-two counterpunch in the form of a single movie.
Combine the successfully reimagined “Man of Steel,” with the already established “Dark Knight.” Call it “Man of Steel II: The Dark Knight Returns!” (Okay, that's NOT the official title. It's just what I would call it.)
“Man of Steel” director Zack Snyder, who announced the upcoming film at Comic-Con and who will direct the new movie, said that while it will not be a direct adaptation of Frank Miller's ground-breaking 1986 graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns,” the new film will be “inspired by it.” Which is great news, considering that “Returns” features one of the greatest Batman-Superman confrontations of all-time.
Of course, as actor Christian Bale has repeatedly stated that he will not reprise the role, Batman/Bruce Wayne will be recast for the new film. But given that “Dark Knight” director and “Man of Steel” producer Nolan will be an executive producer for “Batman-Superman,” it seems likely that his version of the character will remain more or less intact.
I call this a daring decision because combining the godlike “beacon of hope,” Superman, with Gotham City's dangerously human grim protector, Batman, in a single film while maintaining the “real-world” sensibility that both Nolan and Snyder established in their films will be no easy feat.
How can a non-super-powered rich guy in an armored bat suit keep up with, let alone stand up to, a being of almost unlimited power in any believable way? Will it be possible to maintain any sense of reality when these characters confront each other on screen?
In the comics, the relationship between the two heroes has been mined for decades as the source of some of the best stories DC has published. But can the optimistic, all-powerful big blue boy scout and the ruthless, somewhat twisted caped crusader really coexist in a world outside of carefully constructed comic book pages?
Looks as though we're going to find out.
From a movie-business standpoint, this is easily the most logical decision. In any analysis of the public's continuing enthusiasm for superhero movies, it would seem that the only thing better than another “Batman” movie or a new “Superman” film would be a “Superman-Batman” picture.
Furthermore, if such a movie succeeds, the core of an eventual “Justice League” film will have been firmly established. The remaining heroes of the League — The Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, etc. — could be introduced in such a tentpole film and spun off later into solo outings. (I seriously doubt that Warner Bros. and DC are going to spend the rest of the decade introducing all of these characters in their own films before producing the League film that fans have been clamoring for!)
Batman and Superman are, without a doubt, DC and Warner Bros.' two greatest properties. A “Superman-Batman” movie, if done well, would appear to be an “event” film of such magnitude as to provide Warner Bros. with enough box-office strength to climb into the ring in the summer of 2015, and go toe-to-toe with both “Star Wars,” and “The Avengers.”
I can't wait!