Perhaps one of the best superhero movies ever produced is an animated film called ‘The Dark Knight Returns’. It is an adaption of the Frank Miller graphic novel and gives the audience a rich and unique take on both Batman and Superman. It is not cluttered with back story or origins. It simply starts with old Batman, you know who he is, and Superman, again, you know him, they don’t feel the need to explain it.
Batman has been retired for at least 10 years and, in the wake of his retirement, crime in Gotham is at an all time high. There are new gangs and cults taking over the streets and there is no end in sight. Finally, Batman returns, and despite being quite old, he manages to get control. But there is consistent chicken and the egg debate that runs through most of the movie, about whether Batman is a force for good or if he inspires a crazier type of evil. The movie is in two parts, and the first part mostly shows Batman winning the war, but ends with a teaser that the most ardent of the caped crusaders rouges was about to return.
The Joker arrives in part 2. In this movie he is the pure embodiment of evil mixed perfectly with crazy. The battle in part two between him and Batman is epic. While this action is happening in Gotham, the President of the United States has commissioned Superman to put a stop the Dark Knight. After Batman defeats the Joker, he must battle Superman.
This movie is really rich and layered in its thematic story telling, wrestling with good and evil and presenting a case that it is rarely as simple as those two positions. Good guys can do bad things, and vice versa. Batman and Superman, as well as the Joker and even Green Arrow, are well fleshed out characters, with complicated and conflicted motivations that have you wondering at times who to root for. All of that combines to make a first class adaption of an excellent graphic novel.
So enter Batman V Superman. It has been reported that, while there will be many differences, The Dark Knight Returns is one source of inspiration for the new film. The original teasers for BvS seemed to indicate it might be that type of dark and dystopian take on the DC Universe, but the story lines don’t really match up. First of all, we are dealing with an old Batman, but a young Superman. The emotion from the DKR is rooted in the long-standing relationship between Batman and Superman and the conflict they both feel being pitted against each other. In the movie, we are going to see a two ‘heroes’ who don’t know each other start at a place where they don’t like each other, and apparently based on assumptions from the latest trailer, they are going to come together at the end. It’s a flip on the story but one that in my opinion is a little less interesting. It is more compelling to see life long allies suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of an ideological battle that they didn’t choose to fight than it is to see a standard linear progression from misunderstanding to friendship.
So basically, I think Civil War is going to be better… but I digress…
Something the Dark Knight Returns does extremely well is it emphasizes Batman’s intelligence and creativity, as well has putting forth a Superman that is the most powerful person on earth, but yet not completely and totally invulnerable. Not every version of Superman is invincible, and in this case it makes the story better. The titular character from Man Of Steel is so powerful he can level an entire city without messing up his hair.
I suppose that I am getting to my point as I meander through this post. Even though I grew up predominately reading X-Men comics, Batman has always been one of my favorite characters of all time. But what makes Batman so awesome is not his gadgets and his ability to throw (and take) a punch. What makes Batman so cool is he is always, with out exception, the smartest person in the room. The worlds greatest detective! It is in this characteristic that I believe BvS will rise or fall. The story can be as formulaic as the trailer suggests, and the character inclusions can be overwhelming, but if Zach Snyder has found a way to make an aged, smart, clever Batman that can be the intellectual center of the forming Justice League, then I might just be in on this whole DCU. If, however, him and Superman just punch each other for 2 hours, well, then Civil War it is.
What do you think about the impending DCU? Are you excited or do you think it is going to be disappointing? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!