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Batman v Superman: Dawn of an Outsider

Last year, I wrote a rather awkward review of Agent Carter‘s first season in the run-up to season two. It was awkward for the simple fact that Agent Carter is, so far, the sole Marvel TV show I’ve watched. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, and Jessica Jones have all eluded me, and I’m the assistant editor for this website! But ever since I’ve got that ugly truth off my chest, I feel more comfortable in showing my ignorance in certain corners of contemporary superhero culture, which means it’s time for another ugly truth.

I’ve never seen Man of Steel.

Shocking, I know, but stick with me folks! Even with this lack of preparation for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’m rather excited for this film. Not as much as Captain America: Civil War mind you, but maybe that’s for another article. I’m excited for this film because, when separated from the ever-bludgeoning arguments of superhero films and reboot culture, it looks like a sumptuous spectacle. It looks gnarly as hell, it’s got two clashing superheroes attempting to demolish each others ideology about saving the world, it’s got a female hero who lacks an objectified persona, but perhaps most of all, it’s a Batman film that shan’t be dragged down by being an origin story.

You don’t have to go far to find those complaining of DC’s attitude to introducing its cinematic characters. Batman, Wonder Woman, and more recently Cyborg and The Flash are all set to appear in this film, along with the debut entry in the Justice League two-parter arriving before we see each heroes individual films. It’s a complaint not without substance, but in the case of Batman, I’d argue there’s a larger picture that certain fans aren’t seeing.

Rather than simply introducing Batman as a character who’s already had his beginnings, DC have gone in almost the exact opposite route. Batman v Superman will give us an older, more grizzled Bruce Wayne. Ben Affleck revealed in an interview last year that this Bruce Wayne will be the grand old age of 45, and that director Zack Snyder had pitched to him an “older, more broken, kind of fucked up Batman”. It’s here that DC may have pulled their master stroke in developing Batman in this new cinematic endeavour, because this is perhaps a Batman the mass audience of the cinema have never seen before.

We, as cinema audiences, have been treated to definitive incarnations of Bruce Wayne since the late 1980s. Before Marvel grabbed the world by the scruff of its neck and blasted off into the skies with 2007’s Iron Man, the only people who really knew of Iron Man, as a character, were comic book fans. Compared to this, a far larger audience knew who Batman was. Even those who aren’t necessarily fans of the Caped Crusader can recount how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, in the same way they could recount how Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man. He is a character far more engrained in popular culture’s memory more-so than any Avenger, or at least before the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off.

DC appear to understand this, hence we’re not getting a story about how a fresh-faced multi-millionaire becomes Gotham’s hero – we’ve seen it all before! Cinema audiences have been fully aware of Batman as a character and his origins long before Tony Stark brought delighted us with his rock star attitude. If Batman v Superman spent its first half demanding audience to pay attention to how Bruce Wayne dons the Batsuit, it would be demeaning to cinema audiences.

I won’t pretend I’m as excited for Cyborg, The Flash or Aquaman as I am for Batman, but Wonder Woman’s role in this film has me somewhat intrigued. As an outsider of DC material, she’s hardly a character who has me begging to find out more about her. Lasso of truth? Invisible plane? Bruh?! However, in all the various forms of media I’ve read about her contribution to Batman v Superman, I’m becoming more and more interested. Comparisons to the MCU’s Black Widow will surely be endless once the film comes out, but Wonder Woman seems to be being promoted as more than a fighter, and something of a healer, a teacher, a peacemaker. On paper, it sounds a step-up from the action-orientated Natasha Romanoff, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Much like Man of Steel, I haven’t seen Ben Affleck‘s Daredevil, meaning that I’m going into this film with a cleaner slate than most. I can’t deny that the constant presence of superhero films nowadays is an exhausting affair, and given the choice I would almost certainly plump for something original rather than a comic book adaptation. But should we be critical of what we don’t have or be accepting for what we do have in terms of cinematic trends?

After all, Batman v Superman is giving us something we haven’t seen from either character’s cinematic endeavours, and it promises to be a superhero film not to be missed, regardless of its outcome. Additionally, unlike many other upcoming superhero films, Batman v Superman has both a set-up and an attitude that sets it apart from others. Zack Snyder himself was critical of Marvel’s Ant-Man as being nothing more than a “flavour of the week” affair, and whilst his comments may not be entirely sporting, they do ring somewhat true. Doctor Strange, Black Panther and the Inhumans are all characters relatively unknown to a mass cinema audience, unlike Batman and Superman.

Making a film out of both these characters and pairing them against each other gives DC a head start that Marvel never quite had when developing its MCU. It may have gotten their first in terms of building a cinematic universe, and such characters as Iron Man and Captain America are now characters firmly cemented in pop culture, but there’s no denying Marvel kick things off with a hell of a gamble. Batman v Superman has the power of drawing in both long-term comic book fans who have been waiting for such a film most of their lives and new audiences who aren’t overly familiar with either character, but are aware of them because of their cultural impact, as well as the conflict they face against each other.

Overall, whilst Batman v Superman will surely deliver on entertainment value, there’s a feeling that this film may collapse under its own context. As an individual film, away from such pretensions as cinematic universes and superhero movie trends, Batman v Superman seems to be promising us that it will indeed have staying power, and an attitude all of its own. That attitude comes from the one-two punch of our heroes’ inner and outer conflict, a clash of extreme ideologies balanced with (hopefully) being a solid piece of blockbuster entertainment. When considering such topics as cinematic universes and superhero movie trends, such individuality will be the deciding factor in its staying power.

Are you going to watch Batman v Superman as a newcomer to DC? Let us know in the comments section or send us a Tweet!

About the author

Fred McNamara