Debating ‘Dawn of Justice’ and the Future of the DC Movie Universe

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This year’s Comic Con marked one year since the announcement of Batman vs. Superman. Since then, they’ve given it a surname (Dawn of Justice), casted Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons), Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and possibly Aquaman (rumored to be Jason Momoa). There have also been rumors galore concerning the script, controversy from one of it’s writers, David S. Goyer and just a lot of noise, period. Oz Longworth and William Evans both have strong opinions on these things, so as you can imagine, it was probably time for them to talk it out.

William:
We’ve had a year of Batman vs Superman news now and my optimism that things are going to get better is looking like Miss Sealy when she was sharpening the straight razor. Between the script rumor of the Amazons actually being ancient Kryptonians (that had to be publicly dispelled), the aspect of Affleck playing with the kiddies when it comes to casting, trying to arrange the cameo of every Justice League member or just everything possible with Gal Gadot including a jeans twerking video and controversial Facebook posts, I just don’t know how this doesn’t look like the Hindenburg. So please Oz, our DC man on the ground, tell me why I should still look forward to the now aptly titled Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Oz:
Honestly, I’d mostly been in the “neutral” gear about this for quite some time. I didn’t lose my shit about Ben Affleck taking over the Bat-mantle for Christian Bale. I was “meh” about Gal Gadot playing Wonder Woman. Jesse Eisenberg didn’t really move the needle in any real direction for me. However, as I’ve watched more of the drastic reaction to every single press leak, I’m becoming more and more of the mind that this is a movie that HAS to happen one way or another. If for no other reason, fandom needs the catharsis at this point. I mean, think about it. Batman and Superman joining forces is an event that people have wanted to see pretty much since superhero films congealed into their own genre. And now, since last year’s Comic Con when the announcement went out that comics’ greatest bromance was hitting the big screen, it seems like DC has been on one long press junket. We’re at the point of no return where geekdom is so polarized, whether you think it’s going to pull DC out of the cinematic fire or pull their plans for the next five years down around their collective head….you just need to know.

William:
I don’t disagree with that. But it’s also like saying here’s this amazing sandwich you can try, but its made with Kale. I don’t like Kale but since they promote Kale on TV, my favorite website and sent me free samples for the last year, I guess when this sandwich hits the street level, I might as well devour that muthafucka with some Nestea because I’m too invested. Essentially, here’s my biggest beef with all of this: Putting the crown on Zach Snyder’s head. I know, a lot of fanboys want to LeBron jersey me after the first betrayal for saying that, but he’s not Christopher Nolan. I think we can all agree on that. The problem is, he’s trying to Nolan this universe without the same sensibilities, nuance or grounded approach. The last one isn’t a fault, I mean, for Christ’s sake, this is the true DCU with flying people and golden lassos, but it makes a difference because there was no levity in Man of Steel at all. The movie with a man that can blow a house down or hear someone sneeze on the other side of the planet was the most serious movie of the year. I like Henry Cavill as Clark well enough and I don’t blame him for not having Robert Downey, Jr’s comedic timing, but even the Dark Knight Trilogy had characters that could deliver a clever one-liner once in a while. It may not be fair to project that onto the DCU movies that are forthcoming based on one film, but seeing these promo photos don’t dissuade it either.

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Is there any color in that Wonder Woman armor? Forget the Xena Warrior comparison /criticism, it looks like her armor was forged in the Phantom Zone. Do they have a color wheel on Themyscira? My point being is it became really cool to be really dark and moody and depressing with Nolan’s Trilogy, but I’m not sure the same tone works for these characters to be so deathly serious and joyless and humorless.

Oz:
To be fair, there wasn’t a great deal of humor in Man of Steel because, well….that particular take on the origin would have come across glib and silly with too many gags involved. However, it’s already been said plenty by Snyder and the studio that he has no intention of continuing Nolan’s Dark Knight vision of Batman. And I expect that there will be a degree of levity to cut the tension between these two. I mean, any storyteller would be a fool to not take advantage of the endless opportunities for back and forth jabs between these two out of costume. And I’m not so sure that Snyder’s getting the crown just yet. I mean, there’s a big list of movies from DC on the horizon between now and 2018 (assuming they can make good on that proposed schedule). As of now, we are literally only ONE movie into their cinematic universe and there’s still no confirmation about who’s actually directing Justice League or the rest of films allegedly in the pipeline. There’s still plenty of room for the studio to pick up their own “Joss Whedon” (because DC wants to be Marvel badly) and let him expand on Snyder’s foundation the way Whedon did after Jon Favreau broke the ice with Iron Man. As for the costumes, they’re superheroes. Most moviegoers see these characters as personalities, sure, but also akin to living action figures. With that in mind, while costuming is very important, there’s nothing saying that as the universe expands, the outfits won’t be changed and tweaked over time. Marvel has played with Iron Man’s costume since their “cineverse” began and it’s looking to go the same way with Captain America. Hell, even Hawkeye’s getting new duds in Age of Ultron.

William:
But Zack Snyder has been confirmed to direct Justice League. My point being there isn’t a lot of precedent for Snyder putting together well paced and balanced films unless weird 20 minute sex scenes between costumed heroes in the cockpit of a ship is your thing. And again, I’m not looking for humor, but a break from despair and the world collapsing would be welcome. But I dunno, maybe Sucker Punch was hilarious…intentionally…I wouldn’t know. And this is a David S. Goyer problem as much as a Snyder one, but…I’m tired.

I agree that DC wants to be Marvel so bad, but the one place they should’ve emulated Marvel is what they directly went away from and that’s in the casting. You and I have talked before about discovering unknowns and how Christopher Reeves came to be Superman, but I still don’t see the logic in trying to create stars with iconic characters. If you are going to go for relatively unknowns, then shouldn’t they be able to point towards something with some pedigree for these people? We both agree that Henry Cavill is fine as Superman. But he ain’t Downey as Stark. He ain’t Evans as Rodgers. I mean he’s not Bale as Wayne. I think at some point, he’s going to have to do more than look the part and speak with confidence. And Cavill is the best case scenario of their casting. I know its popular to bang on Bat-Fleck, but I actually don’t think he will be a bad Bruce. I just think he’ll be an uninteresting Bruce. You’ve seen that Bruce Wayne before, he’s a beardless Tony Mendez from Argo. That Bruce is Doug McRay from the Town without the Boston accent. And a Bruce that’s older than everybody except Pennyworth. Just a weird jumping on point for a new franchise. UNLESS, they have such low expectations for the acting of his fellow actors that he’s supposed to anchor the crew. Either way the choice is as weird as it was almost a year ago, but now he’s surrounded by unknown people 15 years younger than him.

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Oz:
First off, yeah, I’m willing to admit that Sucker Punch isn’t the best movie. Hell, I didn’t make it past the first 30 minutes. But is that and Watchmen (which was decent for 4 hours of material crammed into a 2 hour movie) really the prime representation of his work? Does anyone remember a little movie called 300?

And the idea from jump was to go with an older Batman although I can see where Affleck, despite being older than most of the cast so far, doesn’t exactly give off the vibe many of us had pictured (I would have gone with Josh Brolin, personally….even though it would have been weird considering he’s fresh off of a divorce with Ma Kent). I’m willing to admit that Cavill doesn’t quite carry the same flagship icon vibe that Downey or Evans does, but I’d be willing to put him toe to toe with Chris Hemsworth. I mean, they both have the same ability to marry the heartthrob vibe with a degree of gravitas necessary to play gods. Man of Steel was sort of restricting in allowing him to stretch his legs, but I honestly think the possibilities with this film allow for us to see some fun in Clark Kent balancing a dual life and a Bruce Wayne that actually has some fun with his “public” persona. In fact, I’m going to say the thing that nobody wants to hear and say he could easily invoke some of what we saw in Daredevil. I could certainly see that Daredevil grafted onto that Batman. I mean, that’s what Marvel (Fox, really) was shooting for in the first place: they’re own Batman. By the way, there was nothing really wrong with his performance in particular although the movie itself was flawed.

William:
Here’s the thing about 300: It’s a really enjoyable movie. Stylized action is top notch. I even own the HD-DVD of it. THE HD-DVD BRUH. That shit is a collector’s item now. I’ve also watched it from start to finish like twice. Maybe. I break that movie out when I feel like showing off my home entertainment system to people, which puts it in the same category as I Am Legend and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in the Evans household. But if you can summarize for me in thrilling fashion what the non-combat portions of 300 are, I’m all ears. Point being, if we want Superman to bash his head through a wall for 3 hours, then Snyder was absolutely the right hire. And I agree that Cavill is probably Hemsworth equal…but Hemsworth is like third on the Marvel depth chart right now. At best. That’s like saying you can win the Eastern Conference with Chris Bosh as your best player.

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Ok, ok. I’ve popped the trunk on the DC movie-verse enough, so let’s get down to a realistic outlook. I don’t think Dawn of Justice will be the worst comic book movie ever made or anything like that, but I don’t think it will be very good either. I think there will be some cool over the top action scenes where I’m sure Gotham will be completely destroyed by the end of it in some way, but I think the character studies we’ve been spoiled with from some of the Marvel films and the Dark Knight Trilogy will be sorely lacking. And I think the acting will be less than inspiring. It is well documented how I felt about Man of Steel (and, might I add, most film critics didn’t care for it either), but I don’t see how this will be much better than that movie, just this time, it will be overcrowded like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was. I think if you really enjoyed Man of Steel, then there isn’t much that could be done for you to not enjoy Dawn of Justice. I gave Man of Steel a C+, I’d be surprised if this ends up being better than a C. So Oz, you got the last word on this: on a scale of Batman and Robin to Captain America: Winter Soldier, where do you honestly think Dawn of Justice will fall at?

Oz:
Truthfully, I don’t think we’re going to get Batman and Robin level ridiculousness out of this movie. And I’m not exactly #TeamDawnOfJustice about it either. There are definitely some issues they’re going to have to address, but I think the non stop, year long coverage of this movie has worked against it worst than any casting or creative choices the studio could come up with. Affleck probably won’t turn out to give the flagship gold standard performance DC needs, but I DO think it’ll end up being better than the one they deserve. For better or worse, in attempting to establish baseline expectations for a cinematic universe that will directly compete with Marvel, it’s the point of no return. DC can’t afford to suck anymore. In the age of the internet driven Fanboy Hype Machine, the worst thing a comic based movie could be is “just okay.” With that in mind I’m going to say I’m predicting a B-, giving it Thor level production quality with uber divisive Man of Steel level reaction.

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