Kids, this one has been a long time coming. To say I’m excited about seeing Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman together on the big screen is a supreme understatement. See, it’s rare that I get excited. In fact, I’ve often joked that, for me, excitement looks like your average person’s meh.
But I’ll admit that I’m genuinely excited. When I let myself, I kind of geek out about this thing. Like, I tense up and, if I’m not careful, I actually let a smile flash across my face. You have to be quick if you want to see it. It’s easily missed.
Anyway, when I say this is a long time coming, I mean that the hope of something like this was planted in my head all the way back in 1995. It was then when a 15-year-old version of myself watched Batman Forever for the first time in a dark movie theater. I picked up on what was probably meant to be a throwaway line delivered by Val Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne. In the scene, an adult Dick Grayson (portrayed by then 25-year-old Chris O’Donnell) was dropped off at stately Wayne Manor by the police after his family was killed by Two Face. Maybe Dick was meant to be an adult in this alternate DC cinematic universe, but I digress. As soon as the police leave, Dick decides he’s going to take off on his own. At which point Bruce asks where he plans to go since “the circus must be halfway to Metropolis by now.”
To me, that was the first glimpse into the possibility of Batman’s world being much larger than simply Gotham City. Remember, up to this point, we had really only seen Christopher Reeve’s Superman franchise followed by the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman movies. Batman Forever was intended to be a direct sequel to Batman Returns, but was clearly going for a much different tone than what had come before. I’m sure that, if the internet had been as big a thing then as it is now, speculation would have abounded as to what the mention of Metropolis could mean for the possibility of expanding DC’s properties on the big screen. Could they have been thinking about rebooting Superman?
I guess the idea of the franchise reboot didn’t really become active in pop culture vocabulary until the 2000’s. But Warner Bros. was looking to reinvigorate Superman for the big screen. There were a lot of attempts throughout the 90s and even the early 2000s, the most infamous being the Tim Burton/Kevin Smith/Nicholas Cage collaboration known as Superman Lives. It was meant to adapt the “Death of Superman” storyline from the comics. Or, at least, very loosely adapt. Really, I don’t know the whole story and I don’t really want to know. I’m just glad it never happened. But, the fact that millions upon millions of dollars were spent on pre-production resulted in us not having a new Superman film until 2006 when Bryan Singer gave us Superman Returns. I’ll admit, it wasn’t great. But I have to believe it was better than having Nicholas Cage fighting giant spiders while polar bears guarded his Fortress of Solitude. True story.
But that was a tangent that I never meant to go on. I got another tease of a larger DC Universe when George Clooney played Batman in the abysmal Batman & Robin. Make no mistake, this may be one of the worst movies ever made. But during the opening credits, as Robin claims he wants his own car, Batman snarkily states, “This is why Superman works alone.” Superman! Batman knew that Superman existed! That meant there must be a Justice League out there fighting the bad guys, right?
A lot has happened since Batman & Robin killed the Batman franchise. When Superman Lives and the various other versions of Superman possibilities died, the idea of having the two heroes in one movie together was kicked around. But it didn’t happen. Batman was finally rebooted when Christopher Nolan stepped in with Batman Begins, giving us a fantastic trilogy and a gritty and realistic tone that would not really allow for super-powered beings to exist. In the world that Nolan built for his Batman, a Superman just would not make much sense. So there went the hopes of having the larger DC Universe, right?
As successful as the Dark Knight trilogy was, DC had some pretty big misses throughout that time as well. I’m hesitant to mention them because I feel like naming these movies gives them power. But there was Catwoman, in which we all asked what Academy Award winner Halle Berry was thinking. There was Superman Returns, which was great from a nostalgic standpoint, but didn’t carry any substance beyond that. And Green Lantern was just a mess. While Marvel seemed to be able to just write their own checks at the box office, DC just couldn’t make their heroes fly.
This brings us to 2013. Christopher Nolan was done with his Batman story. DC and Warner Brothers were still determined to find a way to make Superman relevant for a movie-going audience. They also, I’m sure, wanted to find some way to clone a piece of Marvel’s dominance at the box office. Man of Steel is what they gave us. Without actually mentioning Lex Luthor or Bruce Wayne, we caught glimpses of each of their companies’ logos. Once again, this gave me hope that a larger world was out there.
And then, news broke of a sequel that would feature Batman and Superman going toe to toe. I’d gotten my hopes up about possible movies before and, with the internet being what it is these days, “news” stories are a dime a dozen. But with the momentum and buzz that Man of Steel had been able to generate, I knew that Warner Bros. would not back down from this one. And then news broke that DC wanted this to be the real start to their own cinematic universe. Not only would we see Batman and Superman, which was obvious from the working title, but Wonder Woman would also make an appearance. And then they started announcing who had been cast to be Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg, paving the way for a Justice League film as well as their own individual movies. Let the geek out begin.
Kids, I’m excited. And if you managed to make it all the way through this blog post and the sheer volume of all I’ve written about this stuff, you should be able to pick that up. Thursday night at 9:30, I will be sitting comfortably in a darkened movie theater as I watch something I’ve been waiting for 21 years to see.