Over the weekend, we had the crazy rumour (one pretty much immediately quashed) that Batman v. Superman would be split into two films. It's not to be, but let's have a bit of a thought experiment - what if we did get the split movies? Honestly, I think it might have been better for DC's fledgling cinematic universe.
Look, I know, I know, before we get out internet pitchforks ready - movies suddenly becoming split two-parters is one of the most annoying trends of current Hollywood. Sometimes it works, but then others it means we get too much fluff, or two average movies instead of a single great one. But the more we've heard about Batman v. Superman, the tidbits that have come out of filming rather than the wacky rumours (and there's certainly been a whole hunk of those) just makes it seem like there's so much going on in this film that it's either going to be a completely over stuffed nightmare or a hojillion hours long. It's not just the growing feeling about there being too much going on into one movie that makes me think having two separate Batman v. Superman movies - one more Batman focused, one Superman focused - might have been a better idea.
First off, it would've let Warner Bros. have its cake and eat it and get a whole new Batman movie out of this. We're already seeing so much of Ben Affleck's new Batman in BvS - even his parents' murder - that it sort of feels like a Batman movie featuring Superman even now, but a standalone would've let WB get the Bat-mania out of their system. As I said when WB revealed their DC movie slate, making Batman the lynch pin of the DCU could be a big mistake. Yes, Bats is by far the most popular DC hero in the mainstream audience's eyes, but making him the focus at the expense of the rest of the Justice League feels like a missed opportunity, and sort of against the point of introducing a cinematic Justice League anyway. Poor Supes is getting his own name reduced to second running in his own sequel already, for god's sake! But a separate movie for the Dark Knight could've given Warner their moment of Batman-madness again, and given space for the other characters due to show up in BvS in a movie of their own. At that point, we would've gotten to know this new incarnation of Batman already, and in turn he could've been the sort of audience viewpoint - this human hero we've seen in action and how he came to be, thrust into the world of gods and legends like Superman. As it is - and obviously this comes with the caveat that we know so little about the movie outside of questions and speculation - it feels more like we're getting a Batman movie with Superman as an ancillary character. He feels like he's the focus already, so why not let him run off into his own film before being part of Superman's story? It would've made a lot of sense.
The perceived Bat-focus is a shame too because I feel like Henry Cavill's Superman needs more time to himself. I'm not going to completely vilify Man of Steel, but it definitely had issues in its approach to both of Kal-El's personas - but above all of those problems, it feels like we barely know this Superman. Giving him a bit more breathing room away from the spotlight on Batman showing up could've given us more time with him and his relationships with the rest of Man of Steel's cast, before he's cast into the wider world of heroes and the Justice League. More time to form, and solidify into his position before we get to the interesting part of Bruce/Batman coming in and challenging his approach and world view. Going from his solo movie straight into the team movie feels like going from 0 to 100 far too quickly (although counterpoint to that, it worked for several of Marvel's cinematic heroes already!) - now that the origin retelling is established and out of the way, this could've been a great opportunity to focus on Superman and solidify the character in a way that he could then go into the team-up in a much better place. Would splitting BvS have given us that? Not necessarily, as naturally Batman would've shown up in the second movie anyway - but it would've given the separate movie a little breathing room for Clark.
But above all, the one thing that got me exited when this rumour emerged was the potential to get a movie with (the potential for) more time for Wonder Woman in it.
If Superman feels like the second banana in his own sequel, then at the moment Wonder Woman feels like the most distant third wheel. Outside of Gal Gadot's casting and the costume reveal it feels like Wonder Woman's presence is barely a drop in the ocean of Bats/Supes mayhem planned for Batman v. Superman. Giving Batman his own movie to play around in, and a second to give over to more time with Clark, there could've been the opportunity to equally expand her role in the second half of the story so she feels more like an equal to the two titular stars. Plus, the idea of exploring Superman and Wonder Woman together as characters without having to give over focus to Batman could've yielded some interesting character stuff that we might simply not have time for in one big movie. Who knows what more time between her and Clark could've brought in a BvS duology? They're a natural partnership, especially as they share sort of similar 'stranger in a strange land' parallels - Clark being Kryptonian, Diana being an Amazon - in their backstory, and it would've been interesting to see more from them without necessarily having Bruce fully on the scene yet. Yes, she's getting a standalone movie to flesh her character out, but dammit 2017 is ages away, and Diana's introduction to the DCU should be bigger than being the third wheel in a movie.
Only time will tell if Batman v. Superman can pull off everything it wants to in a single sitting - but it'll be interesting to see the movie now with this quashed rumour at the back of my mind, wondering what might have been. We might look back on it in hindsight and be glad it was false but for now, it still feels like an idea that could've done the DCU's big kick off a little more justice than what we're getting. We'll have to wait and see how it all pans out next year.
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