Superman has had a troubled experience on the big screen. While the first two Christopher Reeve movies were successful and pretty good, it’s been a questionable ride since then (the 1980’s), with movies ranging from terrible to meh. Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace are mostly unmentionable amongst fans; Superman Returns was also a fairly disappointing sequel, and while Man of Steel was successful enough to kickstart the new DC Universe, it probably wasn’t as much of a cultural hit as Warner Bros. would have hoped.
The Big Blue Boy Scout will be seen on film next year in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which looks great), and while it’s mostly a way to set up other members of the Justice League it continues to develop the themes present in that first movie; is Superman a god, and should we treat him as such? Should he be held accountable for the Battle of Metropolis? In that sense, it seems like a straight sequel. Or so we thought.
Heroic Hollywood are reporting that WB actually want less Superman in the movie – but more Batman. A month or so ago we heard that executives saw a rough cut of the film and loved it, particularly praising Batfleck, going so far as to fast-track a trilogy of new solo movies rather than just the one. This sounds crazy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if El Mayimbe is overblowing this a little bit, but there’s actually a fair amount of evidence to support it.
As I talked about at the beginning of the article, Superman hasn’t had the best box office history. There was even a rumour that a proper Man of Steel 2 has been put on “permanent hold”. Alongside that, Henry Cavill played the lead in Guy Ritchie’s remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which has been an unfortunate box office bomb – it’s his best movie in a long time. That isn’t too promising for Cavill, or to the ears of WB execs. Coupled with the unfavourable reviews for his first movie, they may have drawn the conclusion that audiences aren’t too interested in seeing a lot of Superman (or Henry Cavill) on the big screen.
In comparison, Ben Affleck is incredibly hot right now. He’s an Oscar-winning director with a famous name and a slew of recent hit movies that he either made or starred in; Argo, Gone Girl, The Town – not to mention Chris Terrio, who wrote Argo, was brought into write the scripts for Batman v Superman and Justice League, which has been constantly praised by the stars of the movie. He’s directing a solo Batman flick for 2018 and co-writing it with Geoff Johns, and like I said, there’s rumours they’re so happy with him they want him to make an extra two films for the character. Aside from Affleck, Batman himself is also just a bankable star. You only need to look at the billions generated from The Dark Knight Trilogy which molded him into even more of a cultural icon; then there was his role as a main character in The LEGO Movie and his upcoming spin-off, aptly titled The LEGO Batman Movie. You can also add the success of the Arkham video games and all the toys, comics, animated shows etc that revolve around Batman. He’s a guaranteed success. Superman isn’t.
On the other hand, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense for them to be demanding potentially heavy edits and costly reshoots (if there isn’t a lot of cut-but-usable material) if they loved the first cut. We’re still six months away, but that kind of meddling could be damaging to it. And while it’s true that neither Superman nor Cavill may be as sure a hit as they would like, that can hardly be blamed on the character or the actor. He wasn’t the sole selling point of Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Superman’s recent media output hasn’t exactly been great; if his sequel (possibly directed by George Miller) got the same attention, care and talent attached as Batman’s sequels did, as well as some well-made tie-in games like the Arkham series, then he would be a success. The trouble is, none of that has happened, and they can’t really determine whether the guy is box office poison until they have some more evidence.
While bumping up Batsy’s screen-time makes a lot of sense from a financial perspective and sounds like something they would want, I have a feeling it may not end up happening – or if it does, then it won’t be too noticeable. Let’s not worry too much, eh?
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice punches its way into theaters March 25th, 2016.