Batman v Superman: Fears, Doubts, and a Lot of Optimism

movie justice league
We try to find optimism amongst our fears for Batman V Superman.

I'm worried about Batman v Superman just as much as anyone else is. My hype has been halved from what it was after the first couple of teasers were released. I'll defend Eisenberg as Luthor all day. I'll defend Zack Snyder all day. I'll defend the casting choices. I'll even defend what seems to be way too damn much happening in the film to end up coherent. I'll defend all of that, but don't mistake that for blind optimism.

My biggest fears are not that there is too much going on or that Eisenberg is a supposed horrible miscasting or Ben Affleck won't be seen as anyone besides Ben Affleck. One real fear of mine is that Wonder Woman is going to have to show the men who's boss and Batman and Superman will be presented as meat heads in Halloween costumes after she struts on scene. "Durr, what would we do without these boobs around, Superman?" "I dunno, Batman, we'd probably constantly trip over our justice penises and huge muscles!" Unfortunately, I don't think these exact words will be exchanged, though.

batman v superman
"Come on! Vogue!"

These three characters together are called "The Trinity" for many reasons, but just two of those are that they are the most iconic DC heroes and equally necessary components to their unified brand of justice. I really don't want to see a movie written by a grown man overtly showing off a teenage boy's grasp of feminism and turn this into Wonder Woman having to fend off men staring at her butt and proving she can actually lift a sword. I hope their sexual identity isn't ever a thing, and they're feared and treated equally as the godlike warriors each of them are. While I've used extreme examples, do I really think that Chris Terrio would write something that bad? No, not necessarily. I've also only seen one movie he has written, that being Argo, which was damn good, but I fear a Warner exec won't be able to help himself and force this kind of garbage into the script.

On the other hand, Chris Terrio was handpicked by Affleck who also directed and starred in Argo, which won them both Oscars: Terrio for best writing, and Affleck for best picture. Hopefully, this means that Warner will have stayed out of their way and let an Oscar-winning team write the best film possible, while a demonstrably knowledgeable DC fan like Zack Snyder has high respect for the characters and the universe. 

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Many may argue that Zack Snyder isn't a very good director in the first place, regardless of who wrote the script, and that he's all flash and no soul. Let's say that's objectively true. After all, I wasn't a fan of Sucker Punch, and some consider this proof that Snyder is a hack. Even if I didn't enjoy it myself, I can't deny it—and most of his films—look spectacular and feel massive. Even the biggest Snyder haters I would hope could at least give the man credit for his eye for composition, contrast, and powerfully kinetic action. Say what you will about him and his films, but I don't think you can deny that Man of Steel and 300 are films that exhibit terrific comic book energy and action that you can almost feel hit you in the chest. Not only that, but films like 300 and Watchmen have some stunning composition and color that you could hang on a wall. Now, Watchmen wouldn't necessarily categorize as an action film, but Snyder's feel for power in fight sequences is just as strong as his other offerings and continues to demonstrate his grasp for adapting comic page to screen like no other director.

"It's the Valley of the Jolly -- Ho, ho, ho -- Blue Giant!"

Strap in for a few paragraphs because I'm about to go into some DC history. Don't worry, it all comes full circle.

Perhaps many don't know this, but one of the executive producers of not only BvS, but the continued DC extended universe is Geoff Johns, the man responsible for some of the best blockbusters in DC comic universe. Johns is a writer from The Movie Sleuth's hometown of Detroit, who originally wanted to be a film maker, but had to settle for being one of the most respected comic writers of our time. Bummer, dude. He is best known for resurrecting Green Lantern from one of the most controversial series of comics in DC's history. When DC was busy killing Superman, this spun off an event that triggered Hal to have a psychotic break and murder many key heroes in the Green Lantern universe, going on to become one of the most powerful villains in DC history. Fans hated this as they saw a beloved hero spun out of control for no good reason other than shock value and bringing attention to the industry.

This all happened back in 1994, but Geoff Johns came onto the Green Lantern scene twenty years later to pen Green Lantern: Rebirth, which spawned an epic decade long series of ingenious power cleansing that turned the previous canon on its head and returned Green Lantern to the iconic status it once had. During this ten-year epic, he didn't just carve his own niche in the Green Lantern universe, he blew it up to become so massive, so detailed, so complex, and so diverse that in breadth it rivals even the biggest names in sci-fi such as Star Wars and Star Trek and it all came from his own mind. Green Lantern, though created in the 40s by Mart Dellon, is now just as much Geoff Johns' brainchild, or dare I say more so, than anyone's. Because of his success with Green Lantern, he was given a much deserved free reign of influencing or resurrecting nearly every major DC comic hero as we know them today including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Aquaman just to name a few. This is one of the guys at the top of the DC film food chain.

"Geoff Johns, 
the greatest Green Lantern."

In our roster, we have Geoff Johns, DC's comic book frontman, Zack Snyder a man, who if nothing else, at least can faithfully adapt the comic book feel and look, and Chris Terrio, an Oscar-winning writer who helped Ben Affleck win best picture for Argo. This is a dream team here.

Needless to say, that doesn't automatically make this film a guaranteed win. I wish it did. There's always someone higher up who's eyeing the market and making hasty, baseless executive decisions on fleeting trends rather than honest film making. It's obvious I'm trying my best to be optimistic and saying all the signs point to success, but there's always that idiot that holds the trump card and will want this dumbed down for the general audience because these rich execs don't see us as people, but brainless wallets to sift their grubby fingers through. I feel David S. Goyer is a lapdog on a short leash of these exact types of business men and he wrote the original draft for Batman v Superman. He also wrote Man of Steel and the biggest failing of that film, in my opinion, is the writing. Goyer is a good idea man, but his execution is awful. He loves to over-explain elements of his films that should be obvious to any viewer who is older than four, yet on the flip-side he quickly glosses over important details in hopes that the same four year olds are too glassy-eyed with wonder to notice he front loads many of his bigger ideas with contrivances just so he can get them on screen faster. It's an ignore-the-man-behind-the-curtain mentality that I'm not too positive will have been completely ironed out of Batman v Superman and this could lead to some stilted pacing, uneven tone, and ridiculous plotting.

A cramped, overstuffed BvS is a fear of that a lot of people bring up. We have Batman seeking vengeance against Superman because of the destruction caused in Man of Steel. We have Lex Luthor possibly stoking those flames. It appears like we are getting a few glimpses of Bruce Wayne's parents... again. We have Wonder Woman. We have Doomsday. We also have Aquaman and potentially Cyborg somewhere in there and the  "dawn" of the Justice League. Sure, this sounds like a lot. I don't think it does—and I'll come back to this—but let's say for the sake of argument that maybe I forgot something or it indeed suffers from Spider-man 3 syndrome and there is just way too much going on. Zack Snyder has always proven a more effective director when he's juggling a bigger cast and building a wider fictional universe.

Take Watchmen for example. It's a film that does not solely follow a single character. It balances six unique characters all of whom have their own subplots, all of which have multiple intersections with each other, all of which have equal screen time, and all of which have equal effect on the overall story arc. These characters all star against the backdrop of the Cold War and Nixon's reign, flashbacks to Vietnam and other decades, a noir murder mystery as the central plot, a love triangle, a few scenes on Mars, the origin of a few of these characters, and all interweaving through a fusion of genres in a multi-layered, dense script. At 162 minutes, the theatrical cut of Watchmen is only 11 minutes longer than Batman v Superman's 151 and I'm betting that it's likely crammed in a lot more content while still feeling well-paced. Granted, I'm highly biased here because I consider Watchmen the best comic book film ever made, but even those that didn't enjoy the film I don't think ever said that it was over-stuffed. Maybe boring, too dark, too faithful, not faithful enough, not enough action, unrelatable, and too dire or grim to be fun, but I've never heard anyone say they felt it was crushed under its own weight.

If anyone can spin a lot of plates in a comic book movie, I've never seen it done better than Snyder did for Watchmen and I'll bet it's a far more complex film than BvS is. Keep in mind, we don't need to see a new origin for Superman or Batman. This will afford a lot more breathing room in itself. Their motivations are already clear if you've seen Man of Steel and the trailers already establish this pretty well. So, this is another element not completely necessary to embellish further. We already know their stories and while it's true that Bruce Wayne's past plays a role in this new universe, we don't know how much of that is his parent's death or how deep that really goes. I'd imagine Snyder and the rest of the production team are aware that audiences know Batman's story by now, regardless. This retelling (if it even is one) likely touches on Robin as well in order to tie in Joker, and supports Bruce's experience with death which turns him into the more bitter, hardened version of Batman we see in this new film, which I feel is integral for this universe going forward. Rumor has it that the multi-verse in Flashpoint might be coming, lending to the idea of Thomas Wayne becoming Batman. After all, why cast someone like Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Thomas Wayne if he's just going to be killed in a flashback? Either way, I think it's obvious we're not getting another origin story here, but his past will be touched on in order to triangulate a platform for Suicide Squad and his motivation for current events. We don't even need to see the origin for Wonder Woman or Aquaman yet, in fact, we almost assuredly know we aren't getting an origin story for either of them, or any of the remaining Justice League members in BvS because their solo films are already locked and yet to come. 

"I'll be back."

As for the rest of the plot, having a villain or two isn't a straw that will break the camel's back. All big superhero films have quarrels between their main characters, a major villain, and maybe some smaller ones. Avengers saw all of the heroes at each other's throats, with Hulk fighting Thor, Black Widow fighting evil Hawkeye, and Iron Man and Cap bickering with each other. All of this while Loki is assembling an army of faceless gray robo-demons to throw into buildings for later. Mirror this with Batman fighting Superman, Wonder Woman doing whatever she's doing, and Luthor likely creating Doomsday to throw into buildings later and given their core Hollywood comic blockbuster formulas, they're very similar as far as content package goes. Joss Whedon juggled just as much in Avengers, but I never heard anyone say before its release that it looked like it was overstuffed. It was nothing but fanboy orgasms all over comic-con floors and message boards. Whedon didn't even have the big budget/big cast comic film experience like Snyder did going in either. Before Avengers, Whedon managed a big cast of characters in a few TV series, but he also had the luxury of telling their stories across multiple episodes for several seasons. Synder had to do it in 162 minutes. I think it's reasonable to expect that Snyder can balance this pretty well.

Now, is Doomsday too much, though? Again, I don't think so. For several reasons, which I think should be obvious to comic book fans, but maybe not everyone else. Doomsday, for those comic fans who have lived under a rock, plays a major role in the Superman universe.

24-year-old spoiler alert incoming!

Doomsday kills Superman in comic book canon. Whoa! You don't say? During this story, we also see the seeds planted for Hal Jordan's psychotic break which I touched on earlier. I'm not saying everything that happens in the Death of Superman book is going to happen in this film, but Doomsday is a big deal. If you think that he will be introduced and eliminated from this universe in one movie, or that Cavill's Superman will be killed in only his second film out, I'd argue that you likely never read a comic book in your life, or you're being incredibly short-sighted. Doomsday will play an important part, but it won't be a large role... yet. Like Luthor, he will be carried over for another film later, maybe Justice League, creating even more space for other characters and plots in Batman v Superman to fill out comfortably. DC seems to be trying to do everything Marvel isn't, and killing off their coolest villains in a single movie doesn't seem like it's in the best interest of audiences, Zack Snyder, Chris Terrio, or the current Justice League mastermind, Geoff Johns. They're just not going to follow that trend. They're keeping these villains around and milking them for every dollar they'll bring to the theaters.

Doomsday is a reason for Wonder Woman to show up in this film and a sound scripting decision for The Trinity to join together against something that's bigger than all of them. I mean, did we really think Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman were going to join forces against a rich kid with weird hair and a bad attitude? It would be a little silly if Wonder Woman's role in the film was to show up for a royal rumble and they all shake hands at the end because they're all impressed with each other's mad skills. "Hey, guys, we're all, like, so super powered and stuff! Let's form a team of gods because some rich kid is a big jerk!" Lex Luthor at this current stage is not nearly the threat that Doomsday definitely could be to The Trinity, and considering other villains they could have introduced, Doomsday was likely narrowed down as the best "side" villain at this time. Darkseid is far too major of a character, so is Brainiac, Metallo, and Mongul, and I think Bizarro is too weird for audiences right now. Doomsday is just big enough, just scary enough, but just dumb enough, and familiar enough for common audiences. His inclusion might also set up his pseudo-immortality and he can evolve in the background of a few films until he is used to kill Superman. He also acts as solid foreshadowing or even misdirection for the future of the Superman film series. Does this really mean they're going to kill off Superman? Then when? How? Will the Justice League join together to fight him in later films? How will Doomsday come back? Are they using his evolution powers to "learn" to defeat the Justice League and change his appearance? Is this even his final form? Doomsday is perfect to introduce in this film because it sets up for so much potential over the course of the series!

Luthor before the accident in "Birthright,"
and curiously similar 

to Eisenberg's portrayal.
Let me take a relevant step to the side for a moment while I'm thinking about it. According to canon, and contrary to the surface-level understanding of Lex Luthor that seems to be spreading around the web, his comic origin sees him start off almost precisely like what Eisenberg is in the film. He is a smarmy, long-haired, arrogant geek with daddy issues who loses his hair after failing to account for the dangers of an insane invention he created. It overloads, destroying his house, frying young Lex (and his hair), and killing his father. This happens in Mark Waid's book, Birthright, and is considered one of the best, if not the best Superman origin story. It shocks me that fanboys aren't taking this into account. Did you honestly forget about one of the best Superman novels ever written? I understand that not everyone reads all of these books and most audiences are used to Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey, but, guys, this is how Lex Luthor started. I hate to break it to you, but this is exactly what he was like before he became the bald, intimidating villain we all know.

jesse eisenberg
Luthor post-accident and bald.

Needless to say, it's heavily insinuated that Lex Luthor is responsible for the creation of Doomsday, something goes wrong, and he loses his hair after throwing the switch, so to speak. Hell, maybe it's a wig? And due to his continued experiments, trying to get whatever it is he's doing right, he's lost his hair months or years ago trying to hide his work?  Is this all starting to make a little more sense?

So, no, I don't think Batman v Superman is trying to do too much. Sure, I get it, people are worried, that's fine. I'm worried, too, but I think a lot of this pessimism is misplaced or ill informed. Personally, I don't see a reason to think that it will be hard to follow, unfaithful, or too crowded. Snyder has demonstrated he can handle himself in these situations and other films have done it as well, but for some reason we're crying foul now? I sincerely don't understand this complaint. In Guardians of the Galaxy, we get Starlord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, Drax, that's just the good guys and we get a little bit of history for each of them. We also get three villains in Ronan as well as Nebula, and a little bit of Thanos again. We also get The Collector and Yondu as important neutral characters. In the background we have the Nova Corps and ultimately a major battle involving all of these characters at the end! No one said this was too crowded and 99% of this cast, story, and settings were never introduced to mass audiences prior, but Batman v Superman, mostly involving characters we already know in settings we've seen a hundred times before is too crowded? This sounds insane to me.

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Even with all of this said, I'm still worried that it could turn out immensely cheesy with eye-rolling dialog from someone who has no experience writing these characters, and tonally inconsistent due to hopping from one bad writer to a potentially great one. Even given my defense of Eisenberg as Luthor, no matter how faithful he is to the origin story, he could end up being far too annoying to tolerate. After all, he seems to just be playing himself again, origin story intact or not, and I'm not sure that I can handle him for that long. Worst of all, it might be played far too safe by Warner Bros. I fear they'll end up shooting themselves in the foot because they were too scared to go as big and as fantastical as these characters need to in order to be taken seriously. All will be revealed soon, though. I want to be proven wrong so bad, but otherwise thinking the story will boil over with too many characters or plot lines is being overdramatic at worst, and unrealistic at best. Regardless of who is right, the movie is set to stomp March box office records and the wild theories of fans like myself or the rest of the keyboard smashing comic elite won't matter because this is going to be a money printing machine. At least I hope so because I don't want to be dead before I get an amazing Justice League movie. I've been waiting my whole life for this.

- J.G. Barnes