It would be presumptuous and reactionary to say "Superman vs. Batman" is doomed. But I don't think I'm far off base saying things could be better. First, a significant amount of fans and critics were disappointed by "The Man of Steel". For as much as us fans like to complain, it wasn't too significant to stop "Man of Steel" from dominating at the box office. But then the announcement of Ben Affleck as the next Batman angered, well, a significant part of the Internet. It's hard not to see "Superman Returns" scenario unfolding - where Warner Bros counted on the name recognition of the character to translate into enough box office momentum to overcome a bloated budget (it wasn't). But this movie is still two years away, and a lot can change in that amount of time. Here are the steps I think DC and Warner Bros. should take to make sure the first big-screen bout between Batman and Superman isn't wasted.
3. Stop Mentioning "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" - When Zach Snyder unveiled "Superman vs. Batman" at Comic Con, he did so by having Henry Lennix read from Frank Miller's classic, "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns". For those that don't know, "The Dark Knight Returns" is a classic and gritty story about an older Batman returning to the saddle (quite literally) and fighting a new gang in Gotham, the Joker, and ultimately, a government-sponsored Superman. The all-out fight between Batman and Superman is one of the most memorable in comics.
But it also has absolutely nothing to do with "Man of Steel". The Superman in "The Dark Knight Returns" is a government tool of Ronald Regan. He is the complete opposite of Henry Cavill's younger, more human Superman. And as I said before, the story is very grim. I thought "Man of Steel" was dark enough. I don't think fans want to a darker "Superman vs. Batman". There are other, better stories about Superman and Batman's partnership. How about the first arc of "Batman/Superman", "Public Enemies" by Jeph Leob and Ed McGuinness? Or "World's Finest", the two-part episode of "Superman: The Anmated Series", by Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, Steve Gerber and Rich Fogel? This is the source material Snyder and Goyer should be looking at and promoting - ones which trace the roots of Batman and Superman's partnership, however bumpy, instead of just focusing on two heroes hammering the snot of each other.
2. Go Viral - No matter what you think about "Amazing Spider-Man 2", you have admit - Marc Webb knows how to run a Twitter feed. We're still nine months away from "Amazing Spider-Man 2". We haven't even seen a trailer, and yet we've seen Electro, the Rhino, a hint of the Sinister Six and possibly other story details. Webb isn't the only one captivating the social media buzz - Bryan Singer is also debuting plenty of sneak peaks for his upcoming "X-Men: Days of the Future's Past". While it's too early to tell if these Tweets will actually translate into ticket sales, it does give fans a deeper look into still-in-production projects - and it's exactly what "Superman vs. Batman" needs.
At this point, fans (along with most of the Internet) aren't happy with the casting. One cool picture of the new Batmobile probably isn't going to win them over - but you'll be surprised what will happen to the Bat-approval ratings given time. Of course, this presumes Warner Bros is just as forthcoming with access as its competitors, Sony and Fox, have been with their comic book projects. It's an easy sell - Zach Snyder is an a popular Internet personality, and people have long been interested in what the acclaimed directors has to say. Tweets about Snyder and David Goyer's creative process combined with production notes and concept art could go a long way to soothing the angry fandom over the course of two years.
1. Expand the Writing Team. Speaking of David Goyer, I think the "Man of Steel" scribe does his best work on a team. I first read his work when he wrote the comic book "JSA" with Geoff Johns and James Robinson. He also co-wrote "The Dark Knight" with Jonathan and Christopher Nolan. He even wrote "Man of Steel" with Christopher Nolan's help. There's nothing wrong with being a team player, but I just feel he needs, you know, a team. Give him one or two more writers to either flesh out the story or the script. David Goyer would still be the boss, and would have final call on how the script went.
If Warner Bros. really wants this comic to go toe-to-toe with "Avengers: Age of Ultron" in 2015, I think they need a writer of Joss Whedon-esque standards on the script to boost excitement. There are plenty of possibilities. Max Landis gave us a fresh take on superpowers in "Chronicle" and is very opinionated on all things Superman. There's also Goyer's previous co-writer Geoff Johns, who is writing two "Justice League" books for DC Comics, where he also acts as Chief Creative Officer. I would even say Ben Affleck would be more popular in the writing room than in the Batsuit, since he co-wrote "The Town", "Gone Baby Gone" and "Good Will Hunting". (And if he's not available, there's always his pal Kevin Smith.)
For a story as big as this, I really think they need multiple writers tackling the clash of perspectives between Superman and Batman. Having just one or two additional writers will ensure both characters are fresh, likable and well-rounded and no character is saddled with the "bad good guy" role too much. If Warner Bros. wants a success here, they need audiences rooting for both of these guys, whether their capes are red or black.
(That's it for this rant. Check out a new Blue Yonder next week.)