The late Roger Ebert, in his review of a comic adaptation, referred to comic books from which it sprung as “Holy Writ,” and spoke at some length about the responses received from comic fans about how certain plot-holes were explained in the original stories.  Ebert’s question (and it is a good one) concerned whether or not it should be a prerequisite that one read the source material in order for the film to make sense.  Take the example of Iron Man 3 and the plot points surrounding F. Murray Abraham’s Mandarin:  Without spoileration, the big reveal of the character is much more interesting if you’re familiar with the comic incarnation, and WITHOUT that grounding in how dangerous the Mandarin is supposed to have been, the conflict between hero and villain seems as thin as Mandarin’s gauzy blouse.  Given that the latest high-profile project from DC Movie-town has referenced the iconic Superman/Batman fight from ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, a sequence which was the upshot of 40 years of tales with the characters as friendly rivals, there may be another such tale on the way, which begs a query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) has to admit to being worried about what ‘Age Of Ultron’ might herald, now that you mention it, asking: Would it be a bad idea for the first Batman/Superman film to be a Batman VS. Superman film?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. August 1, 2013 at 11:56 am — Reply

    I enjoyed the animated Dark Knight Returns a great deal, and it’s one of my favorite comics ever. I really don’t want to see them do that story in live action. I’d be ok with Bats v Sups a little when they first meet up, but I don’t want that to be the focus. I want Batman AND Superman. They have a great dynamic when written well.

  2. Oldcomicfan
    August 1, 2013 at 1:54 pm — Reply

    Wait, we’re complaining about a movie that doesn’t exist yet? How about we wait until it’s actually made before we rip into it? That said, most of the old World’s Finest team-up stories were crap. Until the recent Superman/Batman graphic novels were printed, I would have said that the two heroes did not belong in the same sandbox. But since the best of those novels have already been filmed as animated features, why not do some variation on the Dark Knight returns?

    • August 1, 2013 at 6:56 pm — Reply

      Yes, “Why not do some variation on the Dark Knight Returns?” is in fact the QOTD, well spotted. Would you like to play along and answer it, now?

      We’re asking questions about a movie that doesn’t exist yet, and given that you just tarred fifty years of comic book stories with a single brush, I find your stance to be more than a little bit disingenuous.

      • Oldcomicfan
        August 1, 2013 at 11:07 pm — Reply

        To be frank, since you didn’t grow up being forced to endure the Batman fare spewed out in the 50s and 60s, I find YOUR reply rather disingenuous, my friend. By the end of the sixties, I could no longer tolerate the stories DC was turning out in the Batman books but I returned to Batman when they jettisoned Short Pants Robin, the Giant Penny, Bat Mite, and all the sci-fi silliness and finally turned the Smiling Technicolor Cheerful Goof Batman back into the Brooding Dark Avenging Batman.

        I liked The Dark Knight Returns because, in spite of the flaws in the story – making Supes a Dupe, etc., it revitalized the Batman mythos, explored the motivations of the characters deeper than had ever been explored before, and took them in new directions. It’s amazing to look back and remember how DC execs said, at the time, that DKR was not part of the Batman continuity, no, no, never – and now look at how much of it has entered the Batman mainstream! I seriously doubt we would have gotten a Batman the Animated Series if there hadn’t been Frank Miller’s DKR.

        For myself, I will wait for the movie to come out before I condemn it or praise it for borrowing from the Dark Knight Returns. One single line quoted at a convention is hardly a movie script, when all is said and done.

        I have a similar problem with all the folks who are complaining about Peter Jackson adding a female elf to the Hobbit movies – when the movie hasn’t been released yet and all we’ve seen are a few teasers in a trailer. What’s the point of getting worked up into a lather about it now?

        • August 2, 2013 at 8:24 am — Reply

          Just because the books predate me doesn’t mean I haven’t read them, sir. World’s Finest was the home of the Super-Sons saga, y’see, and my collection is vomplete from #125 or so forward to the end.

          You can say you don’t like ’em all you want, but saying that they’re all crap because they don’t fit the tone you want your Batman story to have is hyperbolic to the point of absurdity, and makes it very hard to take you seriously.

  3. Ron
    August 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm — Reply

    Yes, it would be. I would expect that there would be friction between the two characters during the course of the movie since that’s what puts the bodies in the seats, but I would hope for nothing more than that. What I would want is for them to face a foe that would require them to both use their different skill sets to defeat him. That way, you can compare and contrast both characters to each other and, presumably, set up how they will work together in the eventual Justice League movie.

  4. Ron
    August 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm — Reply

    Btw, that’s not F. Murray Abraham as the Mandarin but Ben Kingsley.

  5. Gary
    August 1, 2013 at 2:09 pm — Reply

    I second that there needs to be some personality friction between the two, but not any fighty fighty. Recall that the fighty at the end of TDKR required quite the setup — nuclear wareheads, synthetic kryptonite, and an Oliver Queen cameo, among other things — for it to work. Without it Supes just puts his fist through Batty’s head. Honestly, I have a hard time envisioning all that setup in a live action movie with my suspension of disbelief still intact.

    It does make me wonder though — since the typical movie Superman is so overpowered relative to the typical movie Batman, how will they be able to team up without Superman carrying the load? Will Superman have more flaws or Batman more strengths? Distinct yet parallel story-lines so there isn’t much interaction? Perhaps that’s a different MSQOTD though.

  6. August 1, 2013 at 2:12 pm — Reply

    I think that the way to go about it should be the way the avengers movie did it.

    “I see you are a super-person, so am I, only i am greater than you, now we must do battle for five minutes before we realise there is a bigger threat!”

    Anyway, i imagine it would be hard to stretch a superman vs. batman movie into around 2hours. Can’t take that long for batman to whip out a kryptonite ring, which is what it’s gonna end out with anyway.

  7. August 1, 2013 at 3:21 pm — Reply

    They really shouldn’t base the new movie on the dynamic between Superman and Batman in TDKR. First, without a lot of set up, having a conflict between them be the central focus of the movie won’t work — they’re both the good guy, why would they fight? Second, if the fight is the focus of the movie, then no matter how good the set up, at least one of them is the villain, and while Nolan has shown he can do movies with two main villains (The Prestige), we’re talking Superman and Batman. Yes, the good guys fought in The Avengers, but that was just a measuring contest on the way to the main event. Third, unless Batman is packing kryptonite long range projectiles, there’s no way Batman wins. Not if they want to have a shred of realism, which is Nolan’s thing.

    Yes, I know Nolan’s not directing, but he is involved, so his influence will be felt.

    Frankly, if they want to base anything in this movie on preexisting material, the three parter from Superman: The Animated Series would be a much better choice than TDKR. They were both the good guy but there was believable tension between the two, and they even threw in a clever little bit involving a quasi-love triangle involving Lois Lane –actually, a love-pentagon, given that Lois was attracted to Bruce Wayne and Superman, didn’t seem fond of Batman, and was indifferent to Clark Kent. That’s the sort of little touch that would help make a 2 hour plus movie more endurable.

  8. August 1, 2013 at 7:19 pm — Reply

    A TDKR battle would be a bad move. As of MAN OF STEEL, the public doesn’t know who Superman is, only that his antics decimated Smallville and Metropolis. We don’t know the take on Batman for this movie, but if he’s a known good guy that makes Superman more of a villain in the public’s eye; if Batman is a mystery, the public sees two weird dudes duking it out – either way superheroes are tarnished as far as the public is concerned – not a good setup for a JL film

  9. Luis Dantas
    August 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm — Reply

    Yes, of course it would be a bad idea.

    Heck, doing a movie with the two at this point in time is a bad idea, unless they are willing to retcon their recent characterizations already.

  10. Oldcomicfan
    August 1, 2013 at 11:25 pm — Reply

    I can see how it might work, with Batman going after a Superman who had slain Zod and allowed the decimation of much of two cities – only to learn that he was mistaken and forming an alliance. And they could hardly have the two be at loggerheads and then follow it up with a JLA movie where they are best buddies. And I’d hate to see them base an entire movie on the tired old cliche where two heroes who encounter each other and then beat each other senseless for no apparent reason only to patch up their differences to take out an all-powerful villain. It’s been done to death, quite frankly.

    And, to be honest, the problem with all those old Brave and Bold team-up stories was that they had to practically lobotomize Superman in order to give Batman something to do in the stories since Bats couldn’t match Supes in the physical department. Nothing sums up the problems with Superman/Batman team ups so well as the scene in Dark Knight Returns when Batman is battling Bruno, Superman idiotically blunders into the scene, and Batman complains “You’ve cost me hours!”

    Quite frankly, the two belong in two different worlds, and trying to mix them often gives unsatisfactory results. It’s not like getting chocolate in your peanut butter, it’s more like getting peanut butter and Lima beans in your pizza. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the modern Batman/Superman graphic novels have been so consistently good, given the history of rather silly team-up books from earlier eras.

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