ByRoss Topham, writer at
Master of doing nothing and acting like I did something.
Ross Topham

Zack Snyder's [Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice](tag:711870) was designed to kick off the new DC Cinematic Universe, introducing Batman, Wonder Woman and the other members of the Justice League into the universe started in Man of Steel. But considering this was meant to be the start of the story, in many ways Dawn of Justice set itself several handicaps right out of the gate.

(Spoilers for Dawn of Justice to follow. Naturally.)

One of the major points is Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne/Batman, despite being one of the film's highlights. We find Wayne at a later end of his career, having already been Batman for many years by the time of the Battle of Metropolis. Long enough for Robin to have already been killed, supposedly by the Joker. Dawn of Justice bears some obvious influence by Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, which features an older and more grizzled Batman taking on Superman. Miller's tale is an alternate canon story told after decades of other Batman and Superman stories, which allows it the freedom to explore this idea.

But Dawn of Justice is Batman's first appearance in this universe. It's a tricky situation creatively, because audiences are already familiar with several iterations of Batman on-screen, including the recent Christopher Nolan trilogy. But this is a very different interpretation of the character, one who is more broken by the world and willing to kill (Seriously. At least a dozen henchmen deaths I counted.) There's an incredible story to be told here about how Batman got this way, but Dawn of Justice doesn't tell it. We know from the upcoming Suicide Squad that Batman has already fought many of his villains, including Harley Quinn, Killer Croc and the Joker himself.

It's a whole wealth of stories that the universe has now skipped over and puts the inevitable solo Batman movie in a tricky position. If they choose to tell a sequel to Dawn of Justice and Justice League, then we have a Batman who has already fought most of his enemies. There are still stories that can be told in this time period, but they are more limited. They will have to either assume the audience already knows enough about the characters or spend more time in the film providing exposition. They can go the route of the prequel, as they are doing with Wonder Woman. But why tell the prequel story after the main team-up movie, isn't it a bit late by then? Affleck does an amazing job as an older Batman, but how well would he play a younger one?

It also takes away from some of the potential fun of Suicide Squad, since it's removed the context of who these characters are in relation to the heroes. As it is to the general audience, right now they are just a bunch of bad guys. But when the squad made an appearance in Arrow's Season Two, a lot of the fun was seeing past villains we already met reappear, with already developed relationships to the heroes and each other. Suicide Squad will hopefully still be a lot of fun, but it's a shame it couldn't have come after a bit more build-up.

On the Superman side of things, Clark Kent is dead. Of course we know Superman is going to come back to life for Justice League because obviously. But Clark Kent was announced dead during Doomsday's rampage and they can't just undo that. He had a funeral and an obituary and everything. As I wrote in my previous article on what made Melissa Benoist's Supergirl such a great hero, a huge part of that was her human identity. For superheroes such as these Kryptonians, the human identity is what grounds them, helps them understand what it's like to be human. Without Clark Kent or Kara Danvers, they are just aliens, gods among us. Benoist's Kara is just as important a character as her Supergirl but Henry Cavill's Superman no longer has the potential for this duality.

A huge part of Snyder's Superman story has been how alien he is compared to us, but the public death of Clark means that story is essentially ground to a halt. There's no chance now of Superman being able to walk among us as anything other than an alien and that robs the character of something important. Admittedly they could bring back Clark somehow, perhaps having pretended to be dead or simply been missing. But that would be incredibly cheap and the audience deserves cleverer story-telling than that. Film #2 is far too early to kill off the main character and now there's a whole part of that story that can no longer be told.

While not preventing future films being able to continue to tell stories, by starting the Batman story so late and killing off Superman's human identity certainly restricts what they can do. If the goal is to start a cinematic universe, then your film should be doing the exact opposite of this.


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