The Biggest Puzzle Facing Superman vs Batman
Once Zack Snyder came out and announced that the Man of Steel sequel would introduce Batman, it instantly became the most anticipated and talked about movie of 2015. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still excited for Avengers: Age of Ultron but this is Joss Whedon’s second go around with a ensemble super hero flick, we kinda know what to expect. But with Superman vs Batman, we all know this is the launching pad for a Justice League live-action movie. Then Ben Affleck was cast as Batman and the frenzy over the movie just went up even more. Now it seems like every time someone close to the movie farts, there’s news. Now making the rounds are the rumors that Wonder Woman and maybe even Nightwing will be in the movie. I haven’t been reporting any of these rumors for a few reasons. First off, as we move forward with this site, I want to stop reporting these kinds of rumors. Not only do they almost never turn out to be true, but they also generate a feeding frenzy and level of expectations for movies that are almost never warranted or obtainable. I think movies in 2013 were really hurt by this. Iron Man 3 got the brunt of it. I fell victim to it myself. I was so amped up after Avengers every piece of news on Iron Man 3 I followed and read. I watched every trailer and saw all the TV spots. After seeing the movie, I liked it, but I was disappointed that most of what I thought was going to happen didn’t happen. After re-watching it on Bluray, with all those expectations gone, I realized its actually a really good movie. It just never stood a chance with my expectations. And I’m seeing it now with Superman vs Batman (Sidebar: I really hope they change that name to Man of Steel 2: World’s Finest or something other than “vs”, I’ll explain later). At this rate, there’s almost no way for that movie to live up to the expectations and rumors. Hell, some folks have already written the movie off and it’s still almost 2 years away from coming out. That’s absurd.
Another reason I don’t report those rumors anymore is that I just don’t believe them. The way some sites report these rumors it’s clear they’re only after link bait and not actually giving us solid information. I’ve even seen sites say “CONFIRMED” in the title of their posts only to later on say “well, our source says its being negotiated”. It’s borderline unethical and even worse, a lot of these rumors don’t even past the smell test. Look, just because a few women’s names have popped up for testing to be cast for the movie, doesn’t mean they’re being cast as Wonder Woman. It just means they might have a role in the movie. Maybe they’re being cast as Vicki Vale? See, that’s the thing with these rumors. Most times when you dig under the surface they’re just hopeful speculation and nothing solid at all. Could it happen? Maybe but speculating over piece of information we get for a movie almost 2 years away from debuting is just…sad.
But there’s a bigger reason why I don’t believe these rumors about Wonder Woman being in Superman vs Batman. That reason is that I think DC/WB has a much larger problem facing them with putting together the Justice League and Superman vs Batman is their testing ground. Actually, “problem” is such a negative word. It’s not really a problem, more of an interesting puzzle that needs to be solved. What’s that puzzle?
Yes, the one thing no one really talks about with comic book movies. And for good reasons. Even in the comic books, power levels of heroes and villains vary so often its complex and confusing and most often times WILDLY INCONSISTENT. Don’t go onto a comic book nerd forum and try to talk about who is or isn’t an Omega Level mutant unless you have a whole bottle of Tylenol and a day to kill. Rod from the Black Guy Who Tips was talking about this the other day on Twitter with Marvel’s inconsistency with Wolverine and his power levels. Wolverine will be in 5 different books and in each one he has a different power level with his healing factor. Hell, even in the movies. I’m pretty sure some ninja from The Hand watched X-Men Origins: Wolverine and said “Why didn’t I think of that?” when they said to kill Wolverine they just need to cut off his head. Of course then there’s the time Ultimate Hulk ripped Ultimate Wolverine in half and Ultimate Wolverine just crawled 4 miles to his legs….and still lived. *straight face*. Yeah…so consistent power levels is actually a pretty big deal. We let it slide in comics most times but in live action movies? Nope. Relatively consistent power levels is one of the things Joss Whedon’s Avengers did pretty well. Thor was strong even without Mjolnir. He went toe to toe with Hulk and crushed Iron Man’s gauntlets with his bare hands. In the final fight, Whedon choreographed the fight by power levels as well. Thor & Hulk taking out the big Leviathans and Captain with Hawkeye/Black Widow dealing with foot soldiers. And even then there were things that were tricky. Black Widow grabbing onto a speeding Chitauri soldier’s vehicle and not having her arms torn off? Questionable but we’ll allow it.
The problem DC faces is, the core members of the Justice League are ridiculously powered. They’re basically god level powers…………………and then there’s Batman. Look, I love reading the comics and I love taking Batman’s side in “Batman beats Superman hands down” fanboy arguments. But I know for a fact that saying that is ridiculous. I know I know “Batman is really smart and is a great strategist”. Okay. Great. Let’s take our fanboy (and girl) hats off of a minute and really think about this. I watch MMA fights all the time. I see the “smart, older strategic” fighter against “Younger, athletically gifted opponent” fights all the time. Sometimes the older guy wins…most times though? Most time they get the ever living shit kicked out of them. Because that’s the reality. I know what you’re thinking. “Kriss, this is absurd, it’s easy to do.” And I agree, it should be easy. The easy thing to do is to just say “it’s a movie we don’t care.” But we also live in a time when Bruce Wayne just showing back up in Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises is considered a “plot hole”. Where people complained that Superman didn’t save enough people while in a battle with Zod. People actually calculated the death toll in that fight. I’m telling you right now…PEOPLE WILL COMPLAIN ABOUT THIS. And the people making this movie are well aware of that. I know this is the real reason some of the people didn’t like Man of Steel. We finally got a real Superman. One that isn’t lame. If this was the Donner Superman or even Singer Superman…this is easy. Those characters were kinda lame and corny and I could see Batman knocking one of them out. But this new Man of Steel Superman? Not only can he show real emotion and get angry but…he’s really really powerful. Even outside of the “snapping Zod’s neck” thing (one-time deal and doesn’t even factor into the equation to me). My favorite scene in Man of Steel is when Superman is punching Zod in the face while yelling “YOU THINK YOU CAN THREATEN MY MOM???” That’s a scary Superman right there. Now think about all the times Batman has “beaten” Superman. Truth is almost every single one of those times Superman wasn’t really trying to fight Batman or Batman had a ton of help & prep (A nuclear bomb and Green Arrow with a Kryptonite arrow for The Dark Knight Returns for example). Even then, a lot of those times just don’t make any sense. That famous picture of Batman knocking Superman out with a Kryptonite ring? Come on. First off, MoS Superman took out the World Engine while essentially being exposed to Kryptonite. That tiny ass Kryptonite ring isn’t doing shit to MoS Superman. But even if I let you have that one. We saw that Faora/Superman fight. How does Batman even land a punch on this MoS Superman? Man of Steel finally showed Superman in a live action film with the appropriate power baseline. Those previous examples of Batman taking on Superman wouldn’t pass the believability test. These are things we allow in comic books and cartoons but in live action? No way people let it slide. Because they don’t make any sense.
But let’s move beyond just a one-on-one with Superman vs Batman because I don’t believe the conflict between the two of them will even be that big of a deal. That’s why I hate the title Superman vs Batman. We already know they won’t be at odds for long (I doubt they even come to blows to be honest) and quite frankly that’s more boring to me than them teaming up. And that’s the real issue. See the interesting puzzle isn’t how you have Batman fighting Superman, because that’s just stupid. The puzzle is, when they team up, how do you make the threat they team up against balanced enough for both of them? MoS Superman flew to India, took out the World Engine…THEN FLEW BACK to Metropolis, took down Zod’s ship then fought Zod. What’s Batman gonna do? Who is Batman fighting during all this? Faora threw Superman into a bank vault. Superman needs villains that can physically challenge him like that but then you also have to write Batman in a way that you explain how he’s not getting thrown into a bank vault (or how he survives if he does). Batman can be smart and strategic all he wants, but when someone moves fast enough and strong enough to take on Superman, how do you believably have Batman standing his ground? And that’s why I think this movie is a testing ground because what happens when you add in the rest of the Justice League? What about Flash? They’ve powered that character so far to the extreme that I don’t understand how every Justice League comic with him last more than 2 pages. Page 1 shows Batman saying “We need to go do this” and Page 2 is the Flash with coffee & doughnuts for the rest of the Justice League saying “Done…what’s next?” And don’t get me started on Wonder Woman. They write her correctly and she’s basically the female version of Superman if Superman was raised to be a warrior instead of a Kansas farm boy. You think Faora was a problem…Wonder Woman would just be disgusting. Superman, Flash & Wonder Woman alone could take on just about any threat. Problem is, Batman is arguably the most popular Justice League member. So how do you make him, a mere human, relevant in a fight. And before you say “Well he’s the floor General” remember, John Stockton was an awesome floor general but the Utah Jazz and fundamental basketball didn’t really excite anyone. Batman kicks ass. Yes he’s smart and strategic but he’s also a badass. That’s what people want to see. Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow saving civilians in Avengers worked because, well, no one really cares about those characters to be honest. But will audiences accept seeing Batman relegated to saving people from buildings while Superman (or the rest of the Justice League) do all the heavy lifting? I doubt it. He has to be an active part of the fight because of his popularity.
To solve this puzzle, I think the filmmakers are going to have to do something similar to what is done in the comics, cartoons and video games but the trick will be finding some form of plausible explanations. And what do they do in those forms of media? Well first, they make Batman’s utility belt as powerful as Green Lantern’s ring. The power of a Green Lantern ring is basically only limited by the willpower of the person with the ring. That’s essentially what writers do when it comes to Batman’s utility belt and gadget collection. Batman’s utility belt has basically become “Whatever he can come up with”. If Batman can think it, he can make it. I remember the 1960’s Batman where Adam West’s batman pulled out the shark repellent. Or when Cloony’s Batman pulled out the “Bat Credit Card”. We laugh at that and think “how terrible” but think about it but that’s literally what Batman does. Batman’s girlfriend never needs to take her purse because chances are, if she needs something, Batman has something in his utility belt. Now, I’m fine with that kind of Batman. Hell, that’s actually what happens in all three Arkham games. Difference is, this is live-action and the audience is going to have a harder time suspending their belief that literally anything that is needed, Batman has a gadget for. But being a high-tech MacGyver isn’t the only thing that the audience has to be convinced of. The other thing is that Batman, while just a human, is essentially written to be a metahuman whenever it suits the current writer’s need. Batman get super human strength, agility and stamina that goes unexplained whenever its convenient. One of my favorite things to do in the Arkham City game was to interrogate The Riddler’s informants on the roof and have Batman hold them over the side by the neck with his outstretched arm. Physically impossible but…who cares right? To pull off some of these physical feats, Bruce Wayne would be walking around Wayne Enterprises looking like a World’s Strongest Man competitor. But that’s not all. Batman also has super human intelligence, being a master engineer, chemist, biologist, computer hacker and whatever else he needs to be at that moment. “With enough time Batman can come up with a strategy and beat anyone” really is the Game Genie code of comics. It makes for great entertainment in the comics and cartoons but again, how many people in the ultra-critical society we live in now, be okay with this in a live-action movie with no plausible explanation? Considering people still bitch about how Bruce got back into Gotham, I know it will be a problem. You can claim all you want that they ‘establish’ a baseline in the comics but they really don’t. The logic is literally “He’s the Goddamn Batman…he can do it.” For the record, I’m okay with that excuse. “Because he’s Batman” has always been a legit answer to me. But I’m also well aware that as soon as you put a live human being in the Batsuit, right or wrong, there is an expectation of a certain level of realism. People want the fantasy elements but they also want it to be believable. It’s a balancing act.
Now I’m not saying it can’t be done. It most certainly can and I have faith that they will. I’m just saying it’s probably the biggest issue Goyer and Snyder are facing right now. Adding in Wonder Woman, Nightwing and other characters would only complicate that issue. People couldn’t handle the level of destruction in Man of Steel because it was so realistic looking. We finally got to see a full powered Superman and truth is…I think it scared some people. They nitpicked it to death. So with that in mind, “How do you pull off Batman, a mere human, fighting alongside a team of super humans…and make it work” is an interesting puzzle. This is why Chris Nolan said his Batman couldn’t be used in this kind of world. He got it. He understood that the fantasy elements of putting Batman fighting along side metahumans is actually complicated in live action. Doing Batman solo in a movie is different than putting Batman in a universe where there’s guy (and woman) who can fly with super strength & super speed and another one who is so fast he can literally phase through objects and go back in time. We’ve actually never seen that Batman yet in live action because…well, it’s complicated. I’m looking forward to seeing how they deal with this issue because as of right now it seems like everyone is focused on the superficial things and rumors. Me? I’m just excited to see how they solve this puzzle and how this is going to be a different character from anything we’ve seen before. Can’t wait to see what they come up with.