It’s no secret that Warner Bros. and DC Comics have more than a bit of work ahead of them to catch up with Marvel in terms of establishing a cohesive cinematic superhero universe. When Jon Favreau’s Iron Man hit theaters in May 2008, the world was awaiting the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight. Both, of course, were huge hits, but ol’ Shellhead’s film debut was the first in a series of movies that built up to the super-team mega-blockbuster, The Avengers, while the Batman sequel was part of a stand-alone—oh, I’ll just say it—”epic” with no connection to a larger superhero continuity.
And, really, super-powered folks would’ve been out of place in Nolan’s very grounded take on DC’s Caped Crusader.
Still, after seeing The Avengers in 2012, every comic book fan worth his or her weight in back issues had to be wondering, “Where’s my Justice League movie?” Meanwhile, Warner Bros. had announced Man of Steel, a Superman reboot to be directed by Zack Snyder, but it wasn’t clear if it would establish a connected DC Comics cinematic universe.
Then, suddenly, it was clear.
So, Man of Steel hit theaters in June 2013, and I loved it. More than just a little—from Henry Cavill’s earnest Clark Kent/Superman to Amy Adams’ gutsy Lois Lane to Michael Shannon’s driven General Zod to the gloriously otherworldly vision of Krypton. However, I’m not one of those people who can’t the faults in the things they love, and my big problem with Man of Steel was that it was little too dour. Outside of the scenes in which Superman perfected his flying early on and confronted the general with the satellite at the end, the rest of the film was a fairly somber affair.
All of the Marvel films had their fair share of lighter moments—as do many good comic book stories, so why no fun for Superman? Sure, he had to deal with an uber-patriotic group of superhuman who wanted to terraform Earth and make it suitable for Kryptonians—thereby wiping out humanity, but, for the love of Pete, he can fly and lift mountains over his head—surely there’s some fun to be had in that.
So, what does all this have to do with the price of eggs in Metropolis? Well, the road to Justice League is paved with good intentions and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zack Snyder’s follow-up to Man of Steel that will introduce Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and build a DC cinematic universe—all of which sounds good to me. However, I’m hoping that the online rumors of a Warner Bros. decree that there be no humor in the DC movies are false. How do you get folks like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman together and not have a bit of fun?
Like any good fan, I was overjoyed with the Comic-Con footage of a fiery-eyed Superman descending through the beam of the Bat-signal on a dark and stormy night to confront an armored Batman. Too, the first photo of Gal Gadot in full Wonder Woman regalia thrilled me to no end. No smiles, though. Perhaps those will come from Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Cyborg—each of whom may make a cameo appearance in Bats v. Supes. Still, Aquaman is an occasionally savage warrior-king and Cyborg’s origin story is fairly tragic, so I may have to depend on the Flash and Green Lantern to lighten the tone.
What I’m getting at is that I want Bats v. Supes to be awesome, and I think it will be; however, I hope it will also be fun. With any luck, Snyder has looked at Bruce Timm’s take on the team in the Justice League and Justice League United animated series. There, the Man of Steel, the Caped Crusader, and the Amazing Amazon were anything but stodgy, and that’s because the writing was lively and inventive. That’s the tone I want for Bats v. Supes and Justice League.
(Incidentally, anyone read Justice League: Origin by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee? There was more than one or two laugh-out-loud moments in that sprawling six-issue story!)
So. How am I feeling about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League and whatever else is to come down the DC blockbuster pike? Incredibly optimistic. I like Henry Cavill as Superman. I am happy with Ben Affleck as Batman. Gal Gadot looks like Wonder Woman to me. But I want to smile, not feel like I’ve watched a Bergman film with fight scenes and explosions.