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Comic-Con: Warner Bros. Unveils ‘Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice’ (TRAILER)

Comic-Con: Warner Bros. Unveils 'Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice' (TRAILER)

It was a major power move when Warner Bros. put two of the biggest comic heroes of all time in one movie. You could almost hear them saying, “Take that, Marvel!” At Saturday’s Comic-Con panel the studio wowed Hall H with a dramatic three-panel display running down the sides of the massive space. And threw up all the DC titles in the works: “Justice League” 1 and 2, “Suicide Squad,” “The Flash,” “Cyborg,” and “Aquaman.”
Warner Bros. has been through many iterations of DC’s Batman at this point, from Tim Burton and Michael Keaton through Val Kilmer, George Clooney and finally, the winning Chris Nolan trilogy starring Christian Bale. Now Ben Affleck is taking on the role of an older Dark Knight (influenced by Frank Miller’s take on the character) who decides to get back into his Batgear in order to set his vigilante sights on too-powerful evil alien Superman. (See trailer below.)

While Diane Nelson is supervising the D.C. universe, she isn’t running the creative on the movies the way Marvel’s Kevin Feige does. (DC exec Geoff Johns, a comics geek, is working with Warners on the production side.) Marvel’s long-term strategy under Feige is so successful–carefully establishing major comic characters in one consistently high-quality movie after another that eventually yielded a unified world in which they could meet in “The Avengers” and its sequel “Ultron”– that even Sony pulled them into their new “Spider-Man” movies.

But Tsujihara doesn’t have a strong single experienced executive running the studio. For now he’s relying on production president Greg Silverman (who has a close relationship with Chris Nolan, Zack Snyder and David Goyer) and marketing president Sue Kroll to run Warner Bros. and Toby Emmerich to run New Line Cinema. 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.”

Warner motion pictures under Jeff Robinov–who understands the comics world quite well–never got its act together regarding D.C. Each project changed and evolved under different directors, from Burton to Nolan to Snyder. “Green Lantern” was a bust. (As Ryan Reynolds pointed out on the “Deadpool” panel, putting the guy in an animated green suit was a bad idea.) “Superman Returns” directed by Bryan Singer (who ran over schedule) was almost a home run, but was too expensive and riddled with crucial errors. WB abandoned Singer’s carefully constructed world and started over from scratch. Which took years.

And Snyder’s “Man of Steel,” which pushed the pendulum too far toward action, didn’t get it quite right either. But it did score $630 million worldwide. Now Robinov is gone to Sony, after chafing under Warners’ new studio chief Tsujihara, who used to run DC. He made this call, to lean on “Man of Steel” collaborators Snyder and writer Goyer again to unite Batman and Superman in a film, as they have in many comics. Affleck brought in “Argo” writer Chris Terrio, who concocted the story you see in the trailer, which played well at Comic-Con. Clearly they leaned on Affleck on this–although he said at the panel that he was amazed and impressed by some of Snyder’s camera set-ups. He’s coming back, in all likelihood, to direct his own version of the story with himself in the lead. That’s the movie I want to see.

I don’t entirely buy the premise of why these two superheroes–presumably both trying to fight for justice against evildoers–are trying to destroy each other. Because Batman and Superman exist in distinct universes, they’ve concocted side by side cities Metropolis and Gotham, which are very different; one is the San Francisco to the other’s more depressed Oakland. Superman is dealing with the fallout from all the collateral damage from his last fight through Metropolis. And Bruce Wayne’s headquarters was in his path.

It helps to give Superman a powerful antagonist, but Snyder admits this alien immortal can smash human Batman “like a pinata.” Batman has an enhanced suit, apparently, that protects him and “buys him some time,” Snyder said. The superheroes do fight each other in the DC comics, but this movie concoction is what the filmmakers wanted to see.

Henry Cavill is back as Superman/Clark Kent, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Laurence Fishburne as editor Perry White, while Superman universe villain Lex Luthor is Jesse Eisenberg, who deliciously intones “the red capes are coming.” On the Batman side, another senior Brit, Jeremy Irons, fills in as Alfred, replacing Michael Caine.

The most impressive new DC movie superhero is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, an Israeli actress who trained in the military and knows how to fight. Gadot was poised, articulate and stunningly beautiful on two Comic-Con panels, including EW’s annual “Women Who Kick Ass.” “Wonder Woman has the strength of a superhero,” she said, “and she’s sophisticated and loving and has emotional intelligence.” Please God.

So the Comic-Con unveiling marked the first peak at Tsujihara’s bold “Batman v. Superman” project. He wants to send a message to the town–especially Disney, with its mighty Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm labels– that Warners is still strong and powerful.

There’s only one way to do that. Make the right movie. The one that works for the fans. So far so good: this Comic-Con trailer beat out all the others as far as Social Media metrics go.

 

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