It seems sentient computer programs aren’t the only ones capable of falling in love with Joaquin Phoenix. Warner Bros seems to have done the same, and the studio is trying to woo the Her actor in the same manner most eleven year-old boys do: by letting him play with its newest Batman action figure. Yes, WB wants Phoenix for a role in Batman vs. Superman.
But like everything else related to WB’s first attempt at mishmashing its DC Comics properties into a single film, much of the deal is unclear and/or shrouded in several layers of secrecy. First off, Phoenix hasn’t actually been offered the role. According to Variety, WB simply “wants” the actor for a part in their superhero epic, meaning that no deals have been made, or even attempted. Variety notes some hesitation on both sides, regarding Phoenix’s desire for a big-budget role. He’s not exactly a Hollywood blockbuster guy, after all, and he’s been on a strict diet of independent films ever since 2005’s Walk the Line. With that in mind, would he even want a part in a billion-dollar superhero mashup?
Actually, it sounds like he would. According to the good folks at /Film (who’ve found something from the good folks at LA Weekly), Phoenix recently mentioned the possibility of another big-budget role, stating “I love comedies and I love action movies.” So this prickliness people are anticipating might not really exist.
So if (hypothetically) WB was to offer Phoenix the part, and if (hypothetically) Phoenix was to accept, who would he play? The answer is as vague as always. Here’s one slight clue- WB has “always wanted someone who would be a slam dunk” for Batman vs. Superman’s villain, and a big, prestigious name like Phoenix’s would be Michael Jordan in Space Jam levels of sheer dunkability. Other actors that have been circling BvS roles recently, like Jason Momoa and Callan Mulvey, don’t exactly have the same level of name recognition that Phoenix does. But no one really knows for sure.
The vagueness in Phoenix’s involvement is sure to create headaches, so here’s another piece of Batman vs. Superman news that’s absolutely indisputable: Argo writer Chris Terrio has been brought on to the project to rewrite the script. Although it’s not been mentioned how much of a rewrite Terrio will be doing, there are no rumors here. No possible speculation. Feels good, doesn’t it?
These two bits of news might mean great things for the the upcoming slugfest of Messrs. Kent and Wayne, and great news is something Batman vs. Superman desperately needs. The movie’s last big story- the addition of Wonder Woman- didn’t bring many good tidings. Yes, Wonder Woman will finally be appearing in a Hollywood film that’s not The Lego Movie, but as previously stated, Gal Gadot’s track record is less than terrific, and Zack Snyder’s is much worse. And the cramming of another hero into a film that already has a Batman to introduce smacks of WB trying to rush its way into an Avengers-style Justice League. Sony is already pushing in that direction with Venom and The Sinister Six, while Fox is doing the same with X-Men and The Fantastic Four. What we don’t need right now is one more studio just trying to copy off Marvel’s notes. By injecting a dash of prestige (via Phoenix and Terrio) into Batman vs. Superman, WB may be shying away from the game plan everyone else is taking.
When looking back on the pairing of WB and DC, the one thing that inevitably springs to mind is Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films. By no small stretch, they’re the biggest financial and critical successes that the studio has with a comic book film in some time, and even though Nolan won’t be returning to the DC fold anytime soon, his imprint lives on. When we think of the modern Batman film, we think of The Dark Knight. We think of a comic book film with more thematic depth than most (surveillance, anarchy, the symbolic meaning of heroism) and filled with a higher caliber of actor than something like Blade or Spider-Man. It’s a 180 flip from something like The Avengers; one’s Heat with superheroes, the other is Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a different group of capes. Both pulled in over a billion dollars at the box office, but only one had any real clout come Oscar season. By pairing Terrio and Affleck once more, Batman vs. Superman now bears more than a passing resemblance to Argo, a pic that just won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Add in Phoenix and you’re starting to see a project with serious “serious movie” credibility.
Batman vs. Superman still has its own issues to work out, and the inclusion of Terrio (and maybe Phoenix) won’t solve everything. It may not make up for the excess superheroes. It may not make up for the lack of Nolan in a franchise that still seems like it’s trying to be so very Nolan-like. But it might just mean that WB is willing to stick with what worked before- instead of what worked for Marvel.