One of the biggest stories to come out of the San Diego Comic-Con this year was a still image of actress Gal Gadot in her Wonder Woman costume. Last year at Comic-Con, Warner Bros. announced that they would be making a film wherein Batman meets Superman, but they hadn’t yet announced a title, a cast, and they certainly hadn’t hinted at a story. Over the course of the last year we have learned two details about this movie. It’s (admittedly goofy) title, and that Ben Affleck would play Batman.
I understand that studios – especially when dealing with gigantic big-budget productions like this – have to be cautious about what information they release to the press. Publicity, in the era of constantly immediate and rapidly disseminated information, has become something of a balancing act. Sure, you want to get the word out, but you don’t want to reveal too much detail, as you may risk overexposure; nothing could be worse for a movie than for its fans getting tired of it before it’s even completed.
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But I wonder if a few choice publicity stills of actors in costumes is enough to keep fans satisfied. What Warner Bros. has been doing is essentially ensuring us that this is indeed a real movie, and that they’re actually making it. Although, given how little we’ve seen, one could easily begin to foster some pretty convincing conspiracy theories that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a massive prank. If one were friends with famous people, or had the financial clout to hire them, one could easily gather a fake cast, have them put on some fake costumes, and punk the entire world into thinking that a blockbuster film were underway, when in fact it wasn’t. If Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was slated for release on April 1st, I would be even more suspicious.
An important question: What is the movie about? What is the story? How does Superman meet Batman? What will they team up to fight? Or will they only fight one another? A more important question: Why don’t fans get upset if they don’t know the story? Again, I understand that publicists are trying to retain the element of surprise. But wouldn’t it be more encouraging if we knew if the film was well-written? Well-directed? A few more words on the film’s tone would be nice.
I’m not asking for spoilers. I don’t need to know every single detail. But I want to know something. The costumes are nice and all, and may keep some of the more excitable fans satisfied, but I think we should all be more interested in this film as a movie.
I’m not naïve. I know that films can be re-worked during production, and certain story elements can be re-written, fleshed-out, and sometime outright abandoned in the middle of filming; despite the credits, there are always several – sometimes dozens – of screenwriters at work on a film of this size. Although this constant rejiggering is a universal truth of film production – especially in the big-budget echelons – studios like to mask this fact. They want the freedom to alter a film as they go along, but they want it to look like as few alterations as possible are being made; The studios would prefer you to think that they are forthright and confident in a final draft that had been approved a year before.
So even though all films operate this way, no publicist can get up in front of a crowd and say that Superman and Batman met in Gotham City on Christmas morning, chasing after the same bad guy, and then later renege. The entire story. “No, no: Now Superman meets Batman in Metropolis on Halloween! And Wonder Woman beats them both up!” Fans would cry foul, and begin to think that the filmmakers didn’t know what they were doing.
Here’s the bizarre truth of the matter: We want to know everything about a film’s production, especially when it comes to high-profile superhero releases… but we actually don’t want to know everything. We want the costumes, the basic story, the vision of the director, but we don’t want to know the actual, mundane, day-to-day workings of being on set. Anyone who has ever been to a movie set can attest to how dull the actual work can be. And it’s hard to get excited about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice if we begin to think of it as hundreds of people punching a clock and doing their day jobs.
The first fight between Superman and Batman (wherein Batman is easily thrown aside) causes other costumed vigilantes to announce their own presence in the world. To heck with origin stories, this is a world where most of the famed DC superheroes already exist, and are just not in the public eye yet. This fits in with the notion of an older Batman, as played by the 42-year-old Ben Affleck.
Wonder Woman, meanwhile, has been fighting in Brazil, and travels to Metropolis to fight alongside Batman, as she is also suspicious of Superman. Cyborg is an experimental soldier (I’m guessing) who is employed by the government, assigned to help Superman prove that he wants what’s best for everyone. Eventually, the four of them, after some fighting, learn to be friends, realizing that, while they all have different approaches to fighting crime, they all have the same goal: Justice and peace.
I encourage readers to return to this article once the film is released and see how accurate my speculative story is. I think the one speculative detail we can be sure of is that the DC superheroes are no longer going to have origin stories in their movies. I am grateful for this. After a decade of origins told and re-told, I think we know what superheroes are all about, and we can take their origin stories for granted. Do I need to know about Diana’s transition to an Amazon warrior? Not yet. She’ll have time to tell her story. For now, we can see what she looks like fully-formed. And isn’t that what we wait for in superhero movies anyway? To see them in the costume, fighting the established bad guy?
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, then, will cut through the extraneous treacle and get to the heart of the matter. Well-known characters wailing on one another.
Witney Seibold is a commentator at Nerdist, a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. You can read his weekly Trolling articles here on Crave, and follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.