With yesterday’s release of the Jesse Eisenberg publicity still as supervillain Lex Luthor, Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) is generating a lot of hype. What we know so far is that Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, and Laurence Fishburne are reprising their roles from Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013), and Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons are respectively replacing Christian Bale and Sir Michael Caine from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. Obviously, Batman v Superman will serve as a sequel to Man of Steel and take place in that same universe whilst rebooting the Batman movies, which, themselves, are a reboot of Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Batman film series, with The Dark Knight Rises (2012) barely even three years old.
This Is What Hollywood Has Become
When I first heard that Ben Affleck was going to be Bruce Wayne instead of Christian Bale, I was outraged. Even though I enjoy Affleck in David Fincher’s Gone Girl (2014), one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen, Christian Bale is the only Batman for me, and this is coming from someone who grew up on Mr. Mom as Batman – oh, wait, I’m sorry, I mean Michael Keaton. I’m not as big on superheroes and comic books as I was when I was younger, but Batman is still my favorite hero (thanks in no small part to Robin in Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans (2003-2006)), The Dark Knight (2008) is still one of my favorite films, and Ben Affleck has a lot of work to do to impress me.
Jared Leto As A Post-Heath Ledger Joker? Forget About It
As much as I love Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy (well, the first two, at least) and James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), I prefer DC over Marvel, if I had to choose between the two (sorry, not sorry, Cinema Sins). I saw Kenneth Branagh’s Thor (2011) and the only thing I liked about it was Queen Natalie Portman’s bit part, and I refused to see Jon Favreau’s Iron Man (2008) after Time named it above The Dark Knight as the greatest superhero movie ever made, so, no Avengers for me, either. Batman v Superman has DC going for it, Jesse Eisenberg is an unexpected but interesting choice for Lex Luthor, and Ben Affleck stands a chance as Bruce Wayne, but… Zack Snyder?
Christopher Nolan made Batman all dark and edgy, so Warner Brothers Pictures had to make Superman all dark and edgy, too, with Nolan himself producing Snyder’s Man of Steel. You can take the campiness out of Batman because he’s already “dark” and “edgy,” a millionaire by day and a vigilante by night, but it’s harder to take the campiness out of a superpowered extraterrestrial in a blue and red suit – you risk taking the fun out of it, too. That’s where Sony’s post-Christopher Nolan The Amazing Spider-Man reboot failed, with Spider-Man already getting ANOTHER DAMN REBOOT.
Nolan took even the most ridiculous element of Batman’s mythology – the fact that he’s a man dressed up as a bat who fights crime – and he made it more “realistic,” with Bruce Wayne adapting his “bat” alter ego as a martial-artistic way for him to exploit a childhood fear and thus incite fear in the hearts of Gotham’s criminals. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Caped Crusader was listed as the greatest superhero of all time in 2012, after Nolan was through with him. However, Man of Steel disappoints with that same formula because it reduces Superman from a “hero” to… an “antihero,” to put it mildly.
Hell, even Christian Bale’s raspy Batman found a way to save lives without killing his enemies, and he doesn’t even have proper “superpowers.”
Not to mention that Man of Steel is overlong and overly pretentious, taking itself so seriously that it shoves down the audience’s throat a Christ-like image of Henry Cavill’s Superman floating through space in an exhaustingly long take. I preferred Bryan Singer’s much-reviled Superman Returns (2006) to this, and neither of them compare to the Christopher Reeves classic, Richard Donner’s Superman (1978). One would believe that Superman is impossible to mess up on film, a flamboyant and cinematic character.
One Would Be Wrong
All of that being said, as a Batman and Superman purist, I’m extremely nervous about Batman v Superman. I’m nervous for Queen Amy Adams, who deserves better than mediocrity. I’m nervous for Batman, who’s counting on this movie’s success to safeguard a legacy that Christopher Nolan had to salvage after Joel Schumacher’s holocaustic Batman & Robin (1997).
Most of all, I’m nervous because I had no idea Jesse Eisenberg was playing Lex Luthor – I never would’ve even guessed it – but he looks thoroughly badass in his studio photo, and his acting persona will benefit the role greatly; that makes me nervous because it might just make me go out and see Batman v Superman, after all, and buy into the shameless commercialism of a film industry that treats moviegoers like they don’t have brains enough to remember after five years that Tobey Maguire is Peter Parker.
Hopefully there’s a Teen Titans movie in store for the future. Now, that’s something we should all get behind.