Batman V Superman left some critics and fans disappointed, inspired antipathy in others, drew raves (or, at least, acceptance) from some, and probably earned a few shrugs from those who aren’t interested in internet firefights. Batman V Superman is a divider, not a uniter, is what I’m saying. But… and here’s the part where I’d usually write something like, “the one thing we can all agree on is that Ben Affleck’s Batman was superb,” but I’m not delusional and I don’t feel like lying to you today.
The fact is, Batfleck’s reception was as unevenly received as the rest of the film, but with a script from the star/filmmaker reportedly completed, the financial success of Dawn of Justice, and the character’s proven bankability, a solo Batman film is inevitable. And I think that’s just great. Full disclosure, I liked Batman V Superman, warts and all. And the best part, to me, was Affleck’s violent and scarred Batman. Not only did it help to power Dawn of Justice, but it also offers hope when it comes to said inevitable solo film. Here’s why.
There is a lot to sift through
As Dan Seitz mentioned on Tuesday, Dawn of Justice left a lot of lingering questions — specifically about Batman. Not to give too much away, but the events of Dawn of Justice launched Bruce Wayne/Batman in a very specific direction that doesn’t leave a ton of room for backstory — which is fine, the nature of team-up movies makes character development a secondary priority (if that). With the theoretical solo films, however, the question is: does Warner Bros. move forward in the timeline while telling Batman stories alongside this building mission, or do they go backward?
We’re all free to speculate, but the prequel route has obvious benefits. For one, it would erase the lingering “Why don’t his (super) friends show up to help him fight XYZ?” questions that come when watching one of the solo Marvel films. It also makes it easier to get at what makes this Batman tick beyond his anger with Superman over the events of Man of Steel and the loss of his parents. Whatever happened to Robin? Where was Commissioner Gordon? What about those “freaks dressed like clowns” that Bruce Wayne spoke of? All could be revealed if they jumped back, say, a decade, and allowed us a look at the cuts that caused the scars.
The big damn villains with world destruction or domination on their minds tend to work better in team-up films, but Batman’s rogues gallery is a bit more bent on misbehavior within the greater Gotham area. And that’s not a complaint. Those tussles are more grounded because of it and they’re perfect for a Batman solo adventure or three. (Or a show. Please make a Batman show.) If anything, the post-2005 history of comic book movies has been exclusively filled with iconic Bat-villain performances and a parade of boring power-mad industrialists and nearly unimaginable world eaters. So the world likely aches for a solo Batman film and a battle with some new take on The Riddler, Mr. Freeze, or even one more dance with the Joker.
The world’s greatest detective
Batman offers a combination of wits, resources, and throat punching that is unmatched in comic books and it was nice to see Bruce Wayne/Batman do some detective work to get to the bottom of things in Dawn of Justice. These sequences aren’t always the sexiest or most explode-y, but they speak to the soul of the character and a solo film might allow for more of those moments when Bruce/Bats has to sneak around looking for clues.
More about the throat punching…
The version of Batman that we see in Dawn of Justice is prone to branding people and slamming their heads into wood crates. There is next to no concern over the damage that he is doing to evildoers. Judge, jury, etc. He’s a character who is on the cusp of going too far and it’s thrilling to see him get to that point and then come on back.
To some, this Batman is unfamiliar and even upsetting, but Gotham City has an extreme problem with crime and extreme villains. You need an extreme hero who is going to break a few skulls to sell the danger. The only question is, can a solo film explain the origin of Batman’s rage without watering it down too much?
The broken Bat
Batman is greatly impacted by all of his battles and all that he has lost, and the end result is a colder man and a more cynical man who is driven by guilt, pain, and anger as much as he is by his sense of right and wrong. It is, in some ways, a transformation from the Batman most of us recognize from other films and media, but it makes perfect sense what with the place we find the character in and the world Snyder has created. If a solo film goes backwards, though, it’s going to be hard to present that same broken vision of the character, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be happy-go-lucky or unaffected by pain. Ben Affleck isn’t going to play a sprightly young Bruce Wayne coming into to his powers. There’s going to be some mileage on the man.
The Alfred/Bruce relationship
Jeremy Irons doesn’t play a father figure so much as an old friend. There’s more utility to this Alfred than we’ve seen, less emotion, and a drier wit. Bruce Wayne and Alfred play off each other very well because of this familiarity in Dawn of Justice, and that relationship should enhance a solo film, as well. It’s interesting to think about how the needed addition of other characters might impact things, though. Specifically if Robin is introduced.
The above represents the building blocks for a solo Batman film that have been put in place by Dawn of Justice. There are, of course, other elements from the film that will hopefully port over (his suit, a Batcave that is less gothic lair and more sleek, dope training montages) and a few that hopefully won’t (the clunky car and the dream sequences). If you don’t agree with these choices, take to the comment section and tell us what (if any) parts of Batman’s portrayal in Dawn of Justice should be repeated in the future.