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How They Finally Created a Shared DC Universe in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

How They Finally Created a Shared DC Universe in 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'

How could Batman possibly fight Superman? At last week’s press conference for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” director Zack Snyder and stars Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill all agreed that on the surface it’s a ridiculous notion, despite comic book precedence (most notably in Frank Miller’s 1986 landmark “The Dark Knight Returns”). However, coming to terms with the philosophical and psychological ramifications of a shared DC universe not only paved the way for the historic showdown between these two iconic superheroes, but also set the stage for the “Justice League” movie (which arrives November 12, 2017).

“I was obsessed with the trinity – Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman – and really wanted to see [them] in a single moment,” admitted Snyder, who was greatly influenced by “The Dark Knight Returns,” in which Superman battles an embittered Batman, which became his template. “Those conversations led to the ‘Dawn of Justice’ subheading and we could have conversations about The Justice League and how the DC universe could evolve from this. It’s a difficult notion at [Warner Bros.], which is filmmaker-driven and [works] project by project.”

This meant growing pains for Warner Bros. There had to be the creation of a DC universe bible, of course, but also the flexibility to accommodate different directorial styles (Patty Jenkins helms “Wonder Woman, due June 23, 2017). Snyder described this new Justice League expansion as “a great big, fun, sandbox and we’re all gonna play nice in it.”

READ MORE: How ‘Man of Steel’ Makes Every Other Superhero Movie Look Like an Indie

But first Snyder had to wrap himself around “Batman v Superman” from a philosophical point of view: “I wanted the human first in this God/human relationship,” he explained. Fortunately, the director also had the complex “Watchmen” experience to draw on in exploring the darkness and the light and the gray area in between, collateral damage and the fear of absolute power in a terrorist-dominated world.

For Affleck, Snyder’s description of both Bruce Wayne and Batman wearing disguises as dangerous night-time rituals resonated with the actor’s debut as Gotham’s oldest caped crusader. “I like the idea that both Bruce Wayne and Batman were really fucked up, unhealthy people,” said Affleck, whose first important comic book experience was “The Dark Knight Returns” as a youth growing up in Boston.
“Will versus strength is one of the reasons why this has resonated since the FDR administration with audiences regardless of the way the country’s changed and pop culture’s changed,” added Affleck. “Because on the one hand you have a guy who’s powerful and exciting and can do things we’ve all wished we could do. But he’s also still a human being and struggling with his own vulnerabilities and fragilities and accomplishes things by force of will.”

Speaking of will versus strength, Superman must complete his rite of passage, which includes giving up the ghost of Krypton and understanding the needs of humanity. Therein lies the common denominator in this God/human relationship.

“He’s become this Superman and after discovering he was Kal-El in the first movie and now he’s facing off against this second guy and it’s a tough outing for him because it’s against a psychological enemy as opposed to a physical enemy, as Zod [Michael Shannon] was. And we see him make mistakes and grow from those mistakes and learn from them,” Cavill suggested.

And that’s where the women come in: Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Martha Kent (Diane Lane), Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Not surprisingly, they are more mature and self-aware than both Batman and Superman.

“It was lovely to have a character who was in the midst of the mayhem of this story and bring some sense and sensibility to the proceedings,” said Hunter. “And dealing with a character as combustible and complicated and emotional as Lex [Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg as a volatile nerd]. “Staying incredibly open and curious to his point of view and then, as knowledge accumulates, to arrive at a decision that I thought was rational and reasonable.”

READ MORE: Here’s the Problem With ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (Review)

Last but not least, we finally get a glimpse of Wonder Woman, the warrior princess of the Amazons: Mysterious, beautiful, smart and badass, with her own arsenal of weapons, including the Lasso of Truth and a pair of indestructible bracelets. Best of all, she puts Batman in his place by proclaiming that little boys have to learn to share.
“I’m so happy to be the one who’s gonna tell the Wonder Woman story,” said Israeli-born Gadot. “It’s so important for girls and boys to have a strong superhero female to look up to. The more the merrier.”

But before tackling the “Justice League,” which also introduces Aquaman (“Game of Thrones'”Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Snyder had to get the tone right in “Batman v Superman.”  

The director concluded that it’s a tricky combination of construction and deconstruction. “And it is self-reflective in some subtle ways. When you have icons and mythology of this magnitude, you have to [have this] in order for the movie to resonate on any kind of second level.”

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” opens on Friday, March 25.

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