Late last week, a report broke on Den of Geek about how an early screening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice earned a standing ovation from a group of executives at Warner Bros. No clues yet as to whether or not director Zack Snyder dropped a mic when it was all over. If he didn’t, he should have.
While there is nothing inherently special about a movie studio hyping up it’s own project, I for one am glad that we got this type of news. We could have heard about re-shoots and last-minute script alterations. I cannot imagine the pressure to get this one right, which is why any good news is music to my fan boy ears.
If the DC Extended Universe is to survive past its second film (the first being 2013’s Man of Steel), Batman v Superman absolutely has to deliver. It will have to meet and surpass the visual standard set in Man of Steel, which shouldn’t be a problem. More importantly, it must offer up a compelling story and strong performances that leave audiences wanting for more.
According to the report, Warner Bros. was so impressed with Ben Affleck’s portrayal as Batman that they have pushed back his next two films. Apparently, they want to give him a standalone trilogy that will become the new backbone of their budding DC universe.
If you’ve watched the Comic-Con trailer as many times as I have, you’re natural reaction to the above news was to nod your head and say “well duh!” If you’re skeptical about the new DCEU, you’re probably assuming that they’re putting too many eggs in one basket too early on.
Before you join the skeptics’ camp and write this off, there are three things to keep in mind.
The Film Isn’t Even Finished
There are still several months to go until the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is released into theaters, which means that the film shown to the bigwigs at Warner Bros. was a rough cut. A few minor scenes may still be added or removed, and a great deal of the visual effects may not be completed.
Rough cuts of movies can be rather hard on audiences, especially if they film in question relies heavily on computer-generated imagery. That means that a good chunk of the powerful reaction that this film elicited came from the performances and the story. It’s rare an unfinished product can be so moving. Rare, and extremely promising!
One bad performance can sink a flick like a stone, even if it’s a minor character. It’s a solid bet that the cast delivered a performance worthy of all that applause.
We can also assume that the movie may have achieved both of its immediate goals. The first would obviously be to present a compelling story. The second is to set up the rest of the DCEU.
Ben Affleck Steals the Show
According to the reports, the top brass over at Warner Bros. were beyond impressed with Ben Affleck’s portrayal as the Dark Knight in Batman v Superman. Apparently, executives are now calling him the “definitive Batman.” (Sorry Christian Bale, we still love you!)
From the first images of Ben Affleck donning that Frank Miller-inspired suit to the release of the full length Comic-Con trailer, it was obvious that the actor was approaching this project with the same reverence as director Zack Snyder.
Over the years, we have seen takes on the Caped Crusader that ranged from grounded to downright cartoonish. (I’m looking at you, Clooney!) The more grounded the take, the more successful the film. While each version that we have seen brought to the big screen has drawn upon certain elements of what makes the character so beloved, none of them have given us the Batman that we all love to see in the pages of our favorite graphic novels.
Given Affleck’s bona fide geek credentials, Snyder’s anal-retentive attention to detail, and what we’ve seen from the trailers so far, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that this version of Mr. Wayne may just be the truest one ever to be brought to life on the big screen.
The DCEU is Taking Shape
Up until now, all we have had to go on are the list of titles that Warner Bros. released last year. Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Suicide Squad, and Shazam are all on the way. What we didn’t know was whether or not it would be Batman, Superman, or someone else tying it all together.
If the rumors pertaining to Affleck being offered three separate stand-alone Batman films are true, it’s safe to assume that they’ve chosen Batman to be their central character. Just as Iron Man led Marvel’s Phase One and Captain America took the lead for Phase Two, it appears that Warner Bros. has enough faith in Ben Affleck’s portrayal to rest the first few years of their new DC Extended Universe on his shoulders.
Affleck could be portraying this older, war-weary Batman for a decade or more. While Superman, Wonder Woman and others will naturally play pivotal roles as the characters build up to fighting alongside one another as members of the Justice League, it is now apparent that Bruce Wayne will be the central figure, a role he often plays in the comics.
If you’re one of those who are worried about the prospect of Batman monopolizing everything, it may be a bit premature. The stand-alone movies could be released years apart from each other, and there is no reason to believe that other superheroes won’t be making guest appearances. We would also be fools to believe that there won’t be a second stand-alone Superman movie.
We’ve still got several months until we get the next two installments in this budding movie universe, not to mention a number of years until we get the films already on the schedule. It is still early days, but that doesn’t mean what happened at the Warner Bros. screening wasn’t significant. When studios see something that they believe to be cause for alarm, they don’t stand up and applaud. They stick their meddlesome fingers into things, often making them worse in the process. (Cough cough, Fantastic Four! Cough!)
I for one am going to take this as a positive sign that all of us who believed in the casting of Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and others were not simply in a state of blind fan boy devotion. I also am grounded enough to remember that Batman v Superman could still stink on ice. All the hype could be for nothing. Still, the fact that they did not order three months of re-shoots, or cancel Affleck’s initial solo Batman movie tells me that we may just get the cohesive extended universe that we deserve after all.
Sigh…Is it 2016 yet?