‘Superman & Batman’: Fan Service or Desperation?

By  · Published on July 22nd, 2013

It’s hard not to get excited for Batman and Superman teaming up. Even though, you know, Clark Kent would cave in Bruce Wayne’s face with one punch, there are definite strengths to a partnership, and the prospect of seeing both personalities breathing the same on-screen air is pretty damned awesome. It’s at least far more encouraging than seeing Warner Bros. try to copycat the Avengers model without putting time and care into an omnibus project. Plus, even though we’re still within the formulated cape craze, there’s a teaspoon of innovation in following Man of Steel with a team-up movie – shifting away from yet another origin story in favor for a little in spandexias res action.

At the same time, it’s easy to be nervous. Not just because of big-budget fatigue – considering Batman & Superman (or whatever they call it) will see theaters the same summer as Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Avatar 2, a potential Fantastic Four reboot, fifth installments of Mission: Impossible and Pirates of the Caribbean and Terminator, a new Jurassic Park, new Independence Day and I’m so, so tired of typing – but also because there’s the potential for Warners to overshoot here.

That’s an opinion shared by Anne Thompson, who is concerned that the mash-up property is a bad call specifically because of the studio handling it.

But Batman and Superman exist is distinct universes, as Goyer himself has said. Metropolis and Gotham are very different. It appears that Warners has opted to reboot Batman inside the Superman universe, en route to “Justice League.” This means casting a new Batman. It feels like WB is in a hurry, and slightly desperate. They aren’t taking the slow painstaking time to establish these characters inside a unified DC comic book world.

Not only has Tsujihara lost his experienced studio head, but he’s losing financing partner Legendary to Universal. Clearly, CEO Thomas Tull was ready to move on and grow and expand as an active creative producer in a way that his accustomed relationship with Warners didn’t allow. The studio wasn’t willing to let Tull expand Legendary’s horizons. Now he can.

But Tsujihara doesn’t have a strong single experienced executive running the studio. For now he’s relying production president Greg Silverman (who has a close relationship with Nolan, Snyder and Goyer) and marketing president Sue Kroll to run Warner Bros. and Toby Emmerich to run New Line Cinema. Remember Paramount’s Gail Berman? Universal’s Marc Shmuger and David Linde? Disney’s Rich Ross? They were all creative, smart and successful execs who were moved into leadership roles with huge learning curves. It helps to have someone who really knows what they are doing in charge, or you can wind up with a $200 million write-off like “John Carter.”

I disagree slightly here. Mostly because making Justice League in 2015 would have shown far more empty-headedness. However, I agree that Warners is acting a bit like a poker player running out of good cards.

Now here comes the third conflicting feeling. As a fan, I’m almost happy they’re going this route because I’ve seen what they can do with “minor” comic book characters, and that result was whatever Green Lantern was. Everyone involved with that must still be scratching their heads over how Marvel pulled off Iron Man.

On that front, Warners and DC have two of the biggest superhero celebrities, but they don’t quite know what to do with anyone that isn’t Batman or Superman. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing for Batman & Superman, a bad thing for the future of their DC properties or both.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.