*Note: this article was originally published the week of the film's release, but was recently amended to advance formatting.
Well fans, the big day is upon us. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice premieres this week.
Now throughout the production process, this film has appeared controversial at every turn, so before it comes out I’d like to offer my final thoughts on some of the debated topics.
It seems that every new casting choice has been met with some degree of controversy.
Marvel’s Jaime Alexander was a fan favorite for the Wonder Woman role, and fans were upset when the role ultimately went to Gal Gadot.
Now for the record, Alexander’s status in the Marvel Universe is likely the reason she was not considered for the role, whether out of contract issues or concern that she might be too recognizable as the Marvel character to be taken seriously as Wonder Woman. On the one hand, she already had the action experience that would have allowed her to easily slip into the Wonder Woman role; on the other hand if she had been cast, it could have been seen as her playing the same character, which could have cheapened both roles as well as Alexander’s career.
Critics of Gadot’s casting were upset that she didn’t have the Wonder Woman figure, completely forgetting CGI and the vigorous training some actors go through to buff up for action roles.
When the first official image of her was released, I thought she looked great. In the images that have been released of her since, in the movie and in the released footage from next year's Wonder Woman film, I think she looks fantastic and I look forward to seeing her on screen.
The choice to cast Ben Affleck as Batman could arguably be considered one of the most controversial casting choices in cinematic history.
The news was immediately met with a firestorm of outrage from fans. Some fans started petitions demanding his removal from the role, and like in a lot of things, the memes went flying.
Many people who criticized his casting referenced his disastrous role in Daredevil.
Affleck once remarked that Daredevil had inoculated himself from playing another superhero, and when Snyder approached him, he was reluctant, feeling he didn’t fit the traditional mold. But when Snyder showed him the concept, Affleck was excited.
Now Ben Affleck has made successful movies since Daredevil. He is a very accomplished actor, and I trust him enough that I don’t think he would have taken the role if he didn’t think he could do a good job.
The advantage to a masked superhero character is that the man under the mask can be anyone. The images of him in costume look ripped from the comics. The influence of the Dark Knight Returns graphic novel is very clear. The footage of him is hardcore.
So I’m confident Affleck can do a good job as Batman. What I’m not so sure about is whether he can be a good Bruce Wayne. Instead of being Affleck playing the dual role of Batman and Bruce Wayne, I’m concerned that his A-list status will outshine the character, where it looks more like if Batman’s secret identity was Ben Affleck.
Now as far as casting choices are concerned, the one I personally am still having trouble with is Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Even with the trailers, I still feel Eisenberg is too small and baby-faced for the long-time nemesis of the Man of Steel. I feel Luthor has consistently been and should continue to be a towering figure able to look Superman in the eye, and this guy seems intimidated by Clark Kent!
After seeing him in the trailers I think he’s a little too jovial, and rather than exert confidence, he seems to be trying desperately to measure up to the giants around him. Now if the producers are trying to build up a Napoleon complex with the character, I guess I can understand it, but for now I am not convinced.
WHY NOT BALE?
With regards to the casting of Batman, for people who still think they should have used Christian Bale, here is why that would have been a bad idea.
Bale’s Batman got his rear handed to him by a watered down incarnation of Bane that upset some fans of the comics. The concept of Batman fighting Superman is still mindboggling to people I talk to who are unfamiliar with their bouts throughout comic book history; to use Bale’s Batman, would have been worse.
The Dark Knight trilogy was brought to a satisfying conclusion; his story was finished with Batman faking his death and going into retirement while the “Robin” character appears poised to take on the mantle. Before anyone says, “Batman could come back to life like characters do all the time,” remember: at the end of that movie, Bruce Wayne also faked his death. His assets were gone and his mansion was donated to the orphanage. Bringing back Bale’s Batman would have left too many complicated questions that would have ruined the character and possibly the movie. It would have also forced the producers to honor an existing cannon instead of taking the character in their own direction. In a similar manner as when DC announced the television and film universes would remain separate, a move that I personally applauded as it allowed for the opportunity for us to see more frequent and varied interpretations of the characters.
Bale himself admitted that he wanted to play Batman again after Dark Knight Rises, but he stated that his Batman did not belong in another film. And to those who might say that Bale could have played him in a reboot, “easier said than done!” Justin Hartley was not considered for Arrow because they did not want Arrow to be seen as a spin-off of Smallville, and Gerard Christopher was rejected from consideration for Lois and Clark when they realized he had starred in Superboy.
TO MARVEL OR NOT TO MARVEL
One of the big criticisms I’ve heard is that DC is not following the “Marvel Route” setting up each character with their own movie before the big Justice League movie. As more character castings were revealed, people began crying “They’re moving too fast! The movie’s too crowded!”
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman have all been around for about 75 years now. Superman and Batman have had more live action theatrical and television exposure than any other single character, and the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series remains iconic to this day. These characters are as ingrained into mainstream culture as they are into the comic book medium. Most people, even those who make every effort to avoid the genre, could probably tell you the basic origins for these characters. I think we can safely move forward without having to start with an origin story for each character. Man of Steel is an exception because Superman is the first and foremost DC character and the movie set the tone of the new universe.
But as an example to the “Marvel-way”ists, there are two main reasons why moving straight to a Batman origin story would not have been good: 1; it would have had to compete with the legacy of the Christian Bale films still fresh on people’s minds, with people crossing the new Batman with the old one, instead of having a chance to see him do something the character has never done before on screen. 2- it would have had to be a flashback, as you could not start the Batman origin story with what happened in Man of Steel.
Even with Wonder Woman coming out next year as a flashback, the events of Man of Steel were so earth-shattering, so fiercely debated, that the immediate sequel must address them.
Before Marvel Studios was founded, the idea of a Hollywood film crossing over the major characters seemed unlikely and previous attempts to do it never made it past the drawing board. Now that Marvel studios has proven it can be done, DC is ready to leap forward. And they feel as I do that their characters are strong enough and sufficiently known as to move forward with the team-up now.
Another thing to keep in mind, the Avengers in this universe were formed in preparation for an Earth-threatening crisis, which would further explain needing origin films. The Justice League in this universe as in many other incarnations will likely come together in response to an Earth-threatening crisis.
Marvel started out with a plan, with a story in mind, and a way to build up each story in a way that fed into the eventual Avengers movie. DC has their own plan, to bring the characters together now and branch off from there.
How many people who saw the first Avengers movie never saw the previous films? Do you really expect me to believe that anyone was standing outside the movie theater going, “You know I’d love to see that movie, but I understand there’s five other movies I have to go buy the DVDs for before I can see this one!”? In fact, I challenge you all, go back and re-watch Avengers, and as you do, pretend you’ve never seen any other Marvel film and then ask yourself how lost you really are. As an example for me personally: normally I cannot come in in the middle of a story because I’d be lost, but there was one notable exception. I came in on James Cameron’s Avatar about halfway through when it aired on television, and within minutes I was hooked. A better example would be, I saw Shanghai Knights before I saw it’s prequel Shanghai Noon, and I wasn’t lost in that!
The fact of the matter is, as popular as the superhero genre may be, superhero movies cannot survive at the box office on nerds alone. While the concept of a shared cinematic universe is very cool, each film still needs to be made enjoyable to the broadest base of people who may or may not have seen the movies that came before. The 2012 Avengers film made more than 1.5 billion dollars worldwide. I promise you, it would not have made that much if enjoyment of the movie depended on the knowledge of every intimate detail of the preceding Marvel films.
To all the haters who say DC is just playing catchup with Marvel, you’re right! Since Marvel has been so successful, DC has been under pressure to get with it. But to those same people I ask, “Is that going to stop you from seeing the movie?” We have spent so much time arguing about how quick or slow DC should be going that we have been neglecting the most exciting detail about this movie: we are finally getting these characters together in a live-action Hollywood production, when just a few years ago that seemed unlikely!
A blog post I saw several months ago raised the point, if DC went the Marvel way and succeeded, they would be accused of ripping off Marvel. So in the end, they have to be allowed to go their own route.
THE TRAILERS RUINED THE MOVIE
I supposed the final big controversy is that the trailers have supposedly ruined the movie.
The trailers have been criticized for revealing too much of the movie. One of the big spoilers is that the heroes will combine to fight Doomsday.
I personally don’t see the big deal. I don’t consider the movie ruined for me. Anyone with a passing knowledge of superhero history could draw the whole basic plot of the movie just from the title. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; Batman and Superman are going to fight until a big crisis draws them together which leads to the formation of the Justice League”.
As pointed out by Rob Tornoe of Newsworks, the trailer was made “to appeal to the broadest audience”. Personally, I can understand the need to reveal a little more information, as I’m still hearing from people who (apparently not knowing superhero history) ask me the question “Why would Batman and Superman be fighting against each other?”
Besides, it’s not like it’s the first time a major plot detail had been spoiled by the trailer. Everyone who saw the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 knew that Gwen Stacy was going to die.
And for anyone who felt spoiled by the revelation that Doomsday would appear; was that really much of a spoiler? In Man of Steel, Superman beat the Kryptonians pretty much by himself; destroyed half of Metropolis in the process, but he still did it. So after Man of Steel, what threat could you have that would be more than Superman could handle, requiring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman and possibly the rest of the heroes that will form the Justice League to come together? Face it, there aren’t that many options.
Alien invasion? Too predictable, too repetitive!
Darkseid? That would be too much too soon. And I guarantee you, if they had put Darkseid in the movie, people would be crying “Look at Marvel: They’re taking three Avengers movie before they bring in Thanos!”
For me, what it boils down to is this: if you hated Man of Steel, I doubt that anything they do in the sequel will make you like it better. If you loved Man of Steel, trust that the same people involved know what they’re doing.