With the sequel to Warner Brothers’ Superman reboot Man Of Steel mere weeks away from entering principal photography, further details of the project have started to leak out, giving us a fuller picture of what’s been going on behind the scenes of the project and what we’re likely to see on-screen come July 2015.
Join us, then, as we delve a little deeper into the forthcoming Batman Vs Superman, to look at the starry line-up who have either confirmed or rumoured to be playing its heroes and villains, and whether the success of the film could spawn a wave of spin-off DC Universe movies.
NOLAN NO MORE
Since the film’s announcement at the San Diego Comic-Con back in July, it’s become increasingly clear that any connection director-producer Christopher Nolan may have retained with the expanding cinematic DC Universe will be in name only. But it wasn’t always like this.
Back in 2010, when the Man Of Steel project was first mooted, such an idea was unthinkable with the studio keen to push the filmmaker’s involvement as producer and co-writer at every available opportunity.
However, in Hollywood terms, three years is close to an eternity, and after Man Of Steel’s strong $662 million worldwide box-office haul the Nolan connection has been deemed inessential to the future success of the franchise.
Despite the effusive – yet in retrospect, somewhat evasive – tone of July’s initial press release, Nolan and wife/fellow producer Emma Thomas have been conspicuous by their absence from any subsequent statements relating to the film.
While Nolan is undoubtedly busy shooting his upcoming science-fiction movie, Interstellar, there remains a lingering suspicion that his distance from the project may have something to do with the studio’s rather brutal public ousting of former studio head – and early Nolan champion – Jeff Robinov.
Whether this seeming distance is temporary or if it signals a longer term loosening of the ties between the studio and its most successful director remains to be seen. However, one thing does seem certain: Nolan’s future plans clearly don’t contain any serious future involvement with the icons of DC Comics.
TO THE ZACK CAVE
Despite coming onto Man Of Steel off the back of a trio of significant box-office disappointments, director Zack Snyder is clearly now a man on the up-and-up. While his influence on the development of Man Of Steel was limited to shaping a pre-existing script, this time out Snyder is right at the heart of the project, co-authoring the story with screenwriter David S Goyer and having a significant say over how the broader DC Universe will be brought to life.
Unlike Chris Nolan, Snyder is someone very much immersed in comic books and fantasy material, and is a self-declared fan of the work of artists such as Frank Miller, Jim Lee and Frank Frazetta. This influence was especially clear when it came to the visualisation of the world of Krypton in Man Of Steel, as well as the costuming of Superman himself, which had clear nods to those artists in its muscularity and tone.
Working with his regular costume designer Michael Wilkinson once again, the experience of the first MOS film, coupled with costuming an entire universe of characters for his visually sumptuous Watchmen adaptation, will no doubt stand Snyder in good stead not only for the tricky task of translating Wonder Woman to the big screen, but also reimagining Batman’s iconic threads.
Early word claims that Snyder and his team have gone in a direction that eschews the default black, rubberised body armour, which has been the standard setting for the various movie Bat-suits since its maiden big-screen appearance back in 1989. Speaking on a recent podcast, director and long time Bat-fan Kevin Smith claimed to have been shown a picture of the new Bat-suit, which he said clearly evoked the work of DC co-publisher Lee.
Never exactly understated in his aesthetic choices, Snyder’s visual style was arguably the biggest success story of Man Of Steel, so it’s undoubtedly the case that – whatever its potential narrative shortcomings – this sequel will showcase the DC characters and their world in similarly striking fashion.
THE CAST TAKES SHAPE
In amongst all the talk of Ben Affleck’s casting, it seems to have been forgotten that this is still ostensibly a Superman movie. As a result, confirmed to return alongside Henry Cavill will be Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White, and Diane Lane as Superman’s adopted mother Martha Kent is also slated to reappear.
In addition to these returnees and the aforementioned Affleck, it’s also been confirmed that Israeli actress Gal Gadot has been charged with bringing Wonder Woman to life for her first ever big screen appearance.
Less clear is whether any supporting players from either the Batman or Wonder Woman continuities will makes appearances. Certainly early rumours and industry chatter had pegged Timothy Dalton as a contender to play Wayne’s faithful butler, Alfred Pennyworth, while Girls star Adam Driver has been publicly linked with the role of Dick Grayson/Nightwing, Batman’s former sidekick.
As for the film’s villains, rumours have circulated that both Jason Momoa (Game Of Thrones) and Callan Mulvey (300: Rise Of An Empire) have been lined up to fill two as-yet-unannounced villain roles, which rumours have suggested could be either Metallo or Doomsday.
However, the most exciting rumour is the recent Variety story claiming that Snyder has offered the role of Lex Luthor to Joaquin Phoenix.
Certainly the appearance of Luthor has been teased since the first film, and more recently director Snyder hinted at the character’s appearance during an online Q&A to promote the home video release of Man Of Steel.
While nothing is confirmed as yet, the thought of Phoenix – currently one of Hollywood’s finest character actors – going toe-to-toe with both the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight is a truly exciting prospect. Here’s hoping it comes to pass…
AND THEN THERE’S BEN…
Despite all the recent news and rumours, by far the biggest story surrounding this film is still the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. Seemingly chosen to play an older and more ‘seasoned’ version of DC’s most popular character, the choice of 42-year-old Affleck has not only set the media ablaze, but more importantly shifted the creative balance of power within the film.
With screenwriter David Goyer busy on several other projects, Chris Terrio, the writer of Affleck’s Oscar winning film Argo, has been hired to polish the script before it enters production. While the structure and plot of the film are no doubt already fixed, what Terrio brings is exactly the sort of awards-level sparkle that makes the film just that tiny bit more attractive to top-tier talent such as Phoenix.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Terrio is there because Affleck wants him to be, but this begs the question of how far ranging Affleck’s influence will be in shaping any future big screen appearances by the caped crusader. How heavily will Batman be featured in the mooted Justice League film? Will Affleck take over a potential solo Batman franchise? And how will his stint in the Batcave affect or dovetail around Affleck’s other filmmaking commitments as both an actor and a director?
It’s hard to imagine that Warner Bros’ aren’t ecstatic with the almost constant chatter about this movie, as the studio has spent more than a decade struggling to generate interest in their various mooted DCU projects. However, by using their two biggest assets, allied to a strong creative team and some bold, headline grabbing choices, they’ve finally gotten the attention they craved, and given themselves a real shot at unlocking the vast potential of the broader DC Comics library on the silver screen.
However, we shouldn’t be complacent about the success of the project and, despite the huge commercial potential the film undoubtedly has, the biggest problem it faces is one of coming to the part just a little too late.
Superman has had two different big screen incarnations since 2006, the acclaimed Nolan Batman series is still fresh in audiences’ minds, and that’s before we even consider the onslaught of other superhero movies that Marvel and others have unleashed over the past five years.
No less a figure than David S Goyer voiced his own fears at a recent BAFTA lecture when he said: “….there’s definitely a self fulfilling prophecy that seems to be playing itself out in Hollywood, a sense of the snake eating its own tail. My own Batman film was a reboot from one that had been released eight years prior, and I’ve just written another script in which we’re rebooting Batman yet again, only a few years after The Dark Knight.“
It’d take a brave man to bet against Batman Vs Superman (or whatever it ends up being called) becoming a huge success, but there are definite questions marks in the air. Is Henry Cavill’s Superman a defined enough screen presence with only one film under his belt? Will audiences ever really buy Ben Affleck as Batman? And have the studio waited far too long to establish the DC brand as a true rival to the Marvel juggernaut?
In roughly eighteen months we’ll know the answer.
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