As the screenwriter behind the “Blade” trilogy, “The Dark Knight” series, and the upcoming “Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice,” not only has David S. Goyer watched the superhero genre become a blockbuster industry, he’s also been more than familiar with the slings and arrows from fans. Chatting recently with Nerdist, the screenwriter shared some fascinating thoughts on the genesis of “Batman Begins,” how studios are approaching sequels in today’s franchise climate, and addresses, once again, the rationale for Superman killing General Zod in “Man Of Steel.”
As Ben Affleck gears up to wear the cowl next, it’s hard to fathom that it was just over a decade ago when Warner Bros. were seriously worried about the DC Comics property. Goyer admits that at first, there were not many people who were optimistic that he and Christopher Nolan could bring the character to the big screen. “We got lucky in that ‘Batman and Robin’ had not done well,” the writer admits. “And there had been a lot of who people who had attempted to do Batman films in the interim. Mark Protosevich had written another one, and there was going to be an R-rated [Darren] Aronofsky one, and Boaz Yakin was going to do ‘Batman Beyond,’ and [Andrew] Kevin Walker did a ‘Batman [and] Superman, there were all these stillborn things that had not happened in the intervening period. So by time Chris and I came along they knew they had to do something radical. And they were kind of desperate. I just remember when I got the job, everyone was saying, both online and amongst my friends, ‘Oh, that’ll never get made.’ “
Certainly, the approach worked like gangbusters, reinvigorating the character for the modern era and changing the landscape of the genre. However, as comic book movies have proven to be more successful, the formula has become one everyone around Hollywood is chasing, and Goyer believes moviegoers are attuned to when they are being sold a package, rather than a movie.
“I think [audiences] are savvy to do the idea that, ‘Oh, this isn’t a film, this is a piece of commerce now, in this ongoing franchise.’ If you go to the studios now, everyone wants story universes because they’ve seen what Marvel or what Lucasfilm has done,” he said. “Not to say that what Marvel and Lucasfilm have done isn’t amazing, but all the other studios want to do the exact same thing. And so you’ve got, whether they’re successful or not, all these different studios saying, ‘How do we keep up with our own elite universe?’ Now it’s not just enough to say, ‘Oh, I hope this is a three movie franchise,’ it’s ‘Oh, I hope this is a nine movie…’ — it’s a ten year plan.”
“You’ve got all these projects — and I won’t name them — that are going out there that’s like, ‘This is going to be the first in a projected eight movie thing.’ And you’re like, ‘How about starting with just making a good movie?’ “ he added, continuing: “There have been a lot of good sequels, and it’s really hard to do a third film. It’s incredibly hard to do it the third time out, especially if you’re not designing them to be one long story. In the Batman films, we weren’t. When we finished ‘The Dark Knight,’ we didn’t say, ‘We’ve set these seeds to do x, y and z.’ We had no idea what we were going to do. Chris always felt like, each movie has to have its own integrity, and if you have a great idea, use it, and don’t think about a sequel. And if you do that really well, it becomes harder to do a sequel. But at the same time, if you’re trying to do a presumptive trilogy, I think audiences are starting to catch on to this, and be a little weary of it.”
The other part of the superhero movie equation has been making sure the fans are pleased, and Goyer faced a certain amount of heat for Superman breaking his (unwritten) rule from the source material, and snapping the neck of General Zod in “Man Of Steel.” He has defended his position before, as has director Zack Snyder, and once again he lays out the case for why it worked.
“The way I work, the way Chris works, is you do what’s right for the story. That exists entirely separately from what fans should or shouldn’t think of that character. You have to do what’s right for the story. In that instance, this was a Superman who had only been Superman for like, a week. He wasn’t Superman as we think of him in the DC Comics…or even in a world that conceived of Superman existing,” Goyer said. “He’d only flown for the first time a few days before that. He’d never fought anyone that had super powers before. And so he’s going up against a guy who’s not only super-powered, but has been training since birth to use those super powers, who exists as a superhuman killing machine, who has stated, ‘I will never stop until I destroy all of humanity.’ “
“If you take Superman out of it, what’s the right way to tell that story?” he continued. “I think the right way to tell that story is if you take this powered alien who says, ‘You can have your race back, but you have to kill your adopted race,’ the moral, horrible situation to be in is to actually be forced to kill, not wanting to, the only other person from your race. Take Superman aside, I think that’s the right way to tell that story.”
Frankly, it’s a wise approach, in my opinion. You do what’s right for the character as interpreted in that story and go from there. For me, it creates a much more interesting vision, rather than blindly sticking to what was been seen through DC Comics history (though Goyer does point out that even in the comics, Superman has killed General Zod) or by adhering to “tradition.” Thoughts? Let us know below and check out the full talk.