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Superman vs Batman: The Potential of Rebooting the Bat

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It was always going to be a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’ when it came to the rebooting of Batman. Seemingly the tradition of the costumed hero, the superhero reboot isn’t a new practice by any stretch, and with the upcoming intention to release a Justice League feature in 2017- the Bat was never going to stray far from our screens for long.

If you’re a fan, then mark 2015 as the year of the caped crusader. This years Comic Con saw ‘Man of Steel’ director Zack Snyder take to the Warner Bros. panel to announce the next step in bringing the DC cinematic universe to life. Come 2015, Henry Cavill’s Superman will be making his return, only now with a newly faced Batman ready to share the screen.

At Comic Con, there were tears of triumph. Across the internet? The Superman/Batman face off is a revelation that has the superhero fan divided.

For some, the announcement follows rumoured studio disappointment in ‘Man of Steel’, a film that grossed well but apparently not to its expectations. Combined with mixed reviews, Batman seems like a sure fire addition to secure a successful follow up. If anything’s better than bringing one comic giant into cinema, it’s two.

For others, with Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy unforgettable and fresh on their minds, it’s a reboot too soon. Nolan’s adaptation, with a string of Academy Award nominations and securing various spots on ‘highest grossing’ film lists, isn’t a series that’s going to let itself be replaced easily- if at all. Indisputably, Nolan is the father of the modern superhero flick. His grittier, realistic take on the caped crusader has been borrowed and adapted for countless films of its kind. Notably, ‘Man of Steel’, with its sweeping orchestra and lingering shots of the brooding hero is obviously a film inspired by Nolan’s recipe. And right there is one of the main problems with rebooting the Bat.

It was always going to be difficult to distance a fresh adaptation of Batman from Nolan’s triumph. What strengthens that difficulty is the fact that by following the same formula for ‘Man of Steel’, Snyder has almost replicated the tone of Nolan’s cinema. If one were to put Cavill’s Superman and Bale’s Batman on the same screen, it wouldn’t seem completely unrealistic that they could coexist. Where Nolan differentiated himself from past Batman movies in the pursuit of his darker series, Snyder, in establishing that same sense of darkness, threatens to create a new Batman with a whole host of similarities to the one before. He can’t pull a Tim Burton, creating a highly stylised and gothic inspired Gotham City. He’s created the modern Metropolis and will have to adopt the modern Gotham City- already expertly visualised by his predecessor. Given the fact that Nolan has credits both on ‘Man of Steel’ and the upcoming ‘SuperBat’ flick, there’s a lot of cause for concern.

With any luck, Snyder and writer David S. Goyer have enough sense to distance themselves from Nolan’s Batman’s characterisation, and instead make a point to start clean. Whilst Nolan created a successful Bat, there’s more to the character that can easily be explored. In now having a Batman exist in a world where the super powered have been realised; Snyder and Goyle have the opportunity to truly tap into the essence of Batman’s character- the theme of the strength of human capability. The character exists in the comic in a world of super powered foes and allies, and yet rather than struggle to hold his own instead remains one of the fiercest and most dangerous heroes of them all. Lacking the super charged abilities of others, Batman relies on his intellect to outwit his opponents. We were never able to gain the true sense of that aspect of the character with Nolan (although arguably tread near to it with the introduction of Bane). His Batman faced off against very real human terror, but was never challenged by the likes of Superman, the threat of truly inhuman terror.

The reboot will mark the first time Batman has ever crossed paths with another DC comic hero on screen, and if it was going to anyone- it was going to be Superman. The two heroes are undoubtedly fierce oppositions in terms of ethic. Batman has always existed as the anti-hero, a character not above utilising fear, intimidation and torture to meet his needs, whilst against him Superman has always provided a morally correct and trusting counterpart. It’s a promising interaction, one that only teases to be even more so with the expectant plans to release a Justice League movie in 2017. Not only will this Batman have Superman to deal with, but also the greats of DC comics’ pantheon of heroes.

Now outside of Nolan’s universe, the world beyond solely Batman is ripe for the picking. Only ever afforded a glimpse of the Bat Family at the conclusion of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake teased as Robin), now there’s no reason not to utilise them. Whilst Robin may be an ill fitting addition to the gritty universe Warner Bros. looks to create, Nightwing is a more than appropriate choice for a side-kick like figure. Traditionally an older Dick Grayson, adding Nightwing to any future developments would also enable a chance to delve into another aspect of Batman’s character- as Bruce Wayne the father figure. Beyond Nightwing is the promising heroine Batwoman, otherwise known as Kate Kane. In a genre disappointingly lacking a firm female figure as more than a side character, Batwoman has the potential to be a fantastic representation of the female hero (and a far easier character to adapt than Wonder Woman).

Disappointingly, there wasn’t much indication that a Batman existed in the same universe as Superman in ‘Man of Steel’, at least much more past a few glimpses (such as the Wayne Enterprises satellite). By contrast, competitor Marvel has always excelled at creating links between their characters, and the upcoming Batman/Superman project may have benefited from a clear link between the two heroes. It could have been a news report, or a newspaper clipping heralding a vigilante in Gotham City- just something to establish the fact Batman unmistakably exists.

With the prospect of rebooting the Bat, there are some very real concerns about the movies handling, however due to Nolan’s influence on the character; it seems that many people are overlooking the potential a reboot offers. With the right man behind the mask (anyone who can inject a bit of life into Cavill’s uncharismatic portrayal of Superman), and a decent bit of writing to back him up, 2015 could be a exceptionally exciting year for the superhero enthusiast if done right- and only if we’re willing to put Nolan’s trilogy to the back of our minds.

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