What if Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ends up being The Amazing Spider-Man 2?
The idea crossed my mind this morning. I’d be lying if I told you the realization made me feel good. If you have been paying any attention to the development of Zack Snyder’s pending Batman v Superman, you know that the current party line is that Warner Bros. might be concerned about how the movie will be received. Drew McWeeny, an esteemed columnist and reporter over at HitFix, started this conversation when he said that those he has spoken to who have seen Zack Snyder’s superhero team-up movie don’t think it will be the springboard into the future DC features that the studio wanted it to be. As McWeeny put it, "They’re going to need to rebuild again, they’re going to need to win people over, they’re going to need to lay some different groundwork."
As a die-hard fan of Spider-Man, that rhetoric sounded all too familiar.
Much like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Marc Webb’s 2014 sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was supposed to be the beginning of a much larger story. It was building off of a successful franchise launch that, despite making money, divided a fan base with its creative decisions. (Similar to how Man of Steel continues to divide Superman purists.) And through a series of cooks in the kitchen, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 also was tasked with laying multiple threads that were supposed to play out in a series of Spider-Man movies for years to come. We’d get answers to Peter’s parents in The Amazing Spider-Man 3. We’d get a super-villain adventure in a Sinister Six movie. We’d get a solo Aunt May movie. (Still my favorite, ridiculous rumor.)
Ask me how many of those movies panned out.
I’m on record as being one of the few who actually enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man 2, mainly because it finally delivered the heartbreaking "Death of Gwen Stacy" storyline, a pivotal narrative in the development of Peter Parker. Yet even I can recognize the staggering amount off world building that was forced on that single movie, causing the central plot to buckle under the weight of expectation. The team behind The Amazing Spider-Man 2 -- from Marc Webb and producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach to the suits at Sony – was so intent on setting up the next few movies that they forgot to make THIS particular movie great first.
We don’t know yet if the same situation will befall Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but the signs are starting to indicate that this is possible. The subtitle alone, Dawn of Justice, indicates the significance of this movie to the future of the DC Extended Universe. And, of course, Warner Bros. has already dated cinematic chapters for Wonder Woman (June 3, 2017); The Flash (March 23, 2018); Aquaman (July 27, 2018); Shazam (April 5, 2019); two Justice League movies; Cyborg (April 3, 2020); and Green Lantern Corps (June 19, 2020).
But what if Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn’t please fans? What if it’s the DC equivalent of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and its big ideas and attempts at world building fall flat? In his report, McWeeny talks about Warner Bros. possibly moving up Ben Affleck’s solo Batman to take the place of a planned Justice League movie, and that could be an option that the studio explores, if need be. But it’s a reactionary move, not a move being made because it’s the smart decision, or the right decision.
So much of the expanded DC Cinematic Universe appears to have been an answer to the series of films Marvel has built, starting with Iron Man and extending through two Phases of blockbusters. Whether they admit to it or not, Warner Bros. seemed to be looking over at Disney and thinking, "We want what they have." Instead, they should have been looking over at Sony, and asking, "What went wrong over there, and how can we avoid a similar mistake?"