Director Zack Snyder recently tweeted an official production photo of Ben Affleck in costume as Batman standing next to the Batmobile. Given the amount of Internet bile stirred up by the casting of Affleck as the next incarnation of the Dark Knight, one would expect that this pic would gin up a new round of hate.
Except people didn’t hate it. In fact, over at fan website AintItCool News, the top-rated comment on the subject would have been considered heresy a week before.
“Something just occurred to me,” the commenter said. “What if this flick is good?”
Conventional geek wisdom has been that the upcoming “Man of Steel” sequel, which will feature Affleck’s Batman facing off against Henry Cavill’s Superman, will be a disaster. But this tweeted picture got a lot of things right. Batman looks like he stepped right out of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” comic, and his car looks like a grounded, real-world version of the Batmobile from the first Tim Burton movie. The iconography suggests the possibility that Snyder might actually know what he’s doing this time around.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to still be wary. The biggest problem with superhero movies is that they try to cover too much ground and cram too many characters into every sequel. Filmmakers don’t seem to have the discipline to keep things simple.
The problem began back in 1992, when the producers of “Batman Returns” decided that the only way to follow up Jack Nicholson’s Joker star turn in the first Batman movie was to put the Caped Crusader up against two bad guys instead of one. Since then, too many other movies have fallen prey to the same temptation, which is the reason why the next couple of Batman movies were awful. The same can be said for “Spider-Man 3” and the current “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” both of which are way too busy to have the kind of emotional impact they would have had if each villain and storyline had been thoroughly explored in their own movie.
But this isn’t always the case. The first two X-Men movies juggled the introduction of a dozen or so heroes and villains and managed to maintain enough clarity for the audience to care about what was happening. And, of course, there’s “The Avengers,” although each of the heroes in that film had a movie of their own before they got together.
Many point to “The Avengers” as the model for how these things ought to be done. If DC were to follow Marvel’s lead, Superman would get another movie all to himself, and Affleck’s Batman would get one, too, and so would the rest of DC’s heroes before bringing them all together for a Justice League film.
But does it have to be that way?
Many don’t remember that before 2008, Iron Man was essentially a nobody to the public at large. But then a strong script and Robert Downey Jr.’s performance seared Tony Stark into the collective pop cultural consciousness. The Armored Avenger is now the centerpiece of the Marvel cinematic universe.
Iron Man needed that kind of introduction. Batman doesn’t.
We already know his back story, which means that dropping him into Superman’s world unannounced might not be a problem. That means there’s the possibility that Batman vs. Superman might actually be good.
But given the fact that Snyder is cramming Wonder Woman, Cyborg and possibly Aquaman into the movie, there’s plenty of precedent for it not being good. I still think the movie is likely to collapse under its own weight.
But isn’t it nice to know there’s the possibility that I’m wrong?
Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.