Man of Steel: ground zero for the DC Comics universe

Warner's plans for a new Avengers-style blockbuster are too hasty – the studio need time to establish their new superheroes

All is well in the Warner Bros camp this week. Or at least, it should be. Man of Steel debuted in cinemas to a gargantuan box office haul and critics have generally been impressed by director Zack Snyder and writer David S Goyer's radical reinvention of Superman. So why is it that the studio's plans for its future DC Comics output – specifically a Justice League movie featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman alongside assorted lesser spandex-sporting titans – seem as mired in muddle as they ever did?

Goyer, the man currently charged with planning Warner's answer to The Avengers, has at least cleared up the small matter of Batman's future in the new, post-Man of Steel DC universe. In an interview with HeyUGuys website, he revealed that Bruce Wayne is around – eagle-eyed filmgoers may have noted the Wayne Enterprises logo on a satellite near the end of the movie – but this is an all-new Dark Knight with no connection to Christopher Nolan's version of the character.

"It would be disingenuous to say Warner Bros doesn't hope that this would be the starting point for a shared universe," said Goyer. "And Zack has said that Bruce Wayne exists in this universe. It would be a different Bruce Wayne from Chris's [Nolan] Dark Knight trilogy, and it would be disingenuous to say that Zack and I haven't had various conversations on set, around 'what if' and 'moving forward'."

Goyer also said he hoped to move forward with Warner on plans for "Batman and Superman", adding: "Then, maybe, we can move on to Wonder Woman, and The Flash, and characters like that." In an interview with Empire, the screenwriter described Man of Steel as "ground zero for a greater DC universe". He added: "This is a shared universe so we're saying yes, Lex Luthor exists in this world, Bruce Wayne exists in this world. We mentioned STAR Labs and so the intention is, if the film is well-received, this would be the starting point for introducing other characters and, ultimately, obviously Warner Brothers hopes there will be a Justice League film and perhaps you might start seeing other characters appearing in each other's films. I think in some ways they're interested in going perhaps the opposite direction that Marvel has done, which may be to do a group film and then spin off."

Despite the success of Man of Steel, this seems like trying to leap tall buildings before you can walk. If a more fanciful take on Batman is required to help the caped crusader make sense in Snyder's bonkers universe of dragon-riding Kryptonians and "world engines", why not give this new version at least one movie to bed in before he suddenly pops up in Justice League? If Marvel can make a success of a Thor movie, with all its preposterous fantasy leanings, why is Warner running scared at the prospect of a solo Wonder Woman film, or even a better take on Green Lantern?

What's also strange is that rumours prior to Man of Steel entering production hinted that Nolan would be taking on the "godfather" role that Joss Whedon and Kevin Feige are currently sharing at Marvel. Yet everything I've read recently about the British film-maker's involvement in Man of Steel and its sequels suggests he is singularly uninterested in helping set up a DC universe that is leaning further and further away from the more realistic world he invented with the Dark Knight trilogy. Nolan appeared to give Warner a route from his movies into future films when he anointed Joseph Gordon Levitt's Robin as a potential new Batman at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, but the studio do not seem to be going down that road at all. The film-maker will apparently be less involved in Man of Steel 2 than in the original, so what place is there for him after that?

Warner desperately needs a Whedon or Feige figure to oversee its universe. It would be a great pity if the next Superman film failed to capitalise on its currency with filmgoers by hurtling blindly into a Justice League movie that tested the bounds of credibility (even more than the outlandish Man of Steel scene where Lois Lane inexplicably turns up in exactly the right place to grin at Supes, despite the fact that he's just returned from battling Zod in space.)

It's also worth pointing out that Justice League needs a little levity if it is to avoid supreme dullness. I enjoyed Man of Steel, but the movie largely eschewed the charm and warmth of the Christopher Reeve movies for an approach that was sleek, stylish, yet sometimes overly po-faced and intense. Snyder's mastery of the visuals and Hans Zimmer's mindblowing score helped paper over quite a few nasty cracks.

Likewise, the new Batman, even without Nolan in charge, is unlikely to be resurrected as a wise-cracking funnyman, so there's a genuine risk that a Justice League movie might be too dour an affair unless the studio manages to breathe some vivacity into some of the lesser-known characters. Asking Goyer et al to do that in only a few hours of screen time seems a massive ask.

The studio should hold its horses on Justice League and give us a decent run of movies featuring the new Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and yes, even Aquaman and the Flash. Otherwise, they're going to need a creative team with genuine superpowers to pull this one off.


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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