It didn’t take long for the caped heroes to regain favor in movieland. In 2005, Batman Begins introduced a refreshingly realistic take on the character after the extravagance of the Schumacher films. In Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan sought to portray how such a complex and troubled person as Bruce Wayne would actually be in the real world. Christian Bale proved to be a near perfect fit for the role, imbuing the character with a moody aloofness while still retaining elements of the charismatic playboy persona typical of the young billionaire archetype. The film was a success critically and commercially, ensuring the continuation of the series.
Around the same time, DC was priming Superman to be reintroduced to moviegoers with 2006’s Superman Returns. Unfortunately, the film underwhelmed and only served to set the character back. The decision to make the film a continuation of the Reeve’s led series of the seventies was an interesting one to say the least and the over-the-top, cartoon feel of the movie was at odds with the grounded presentation of the new Batman series. Ultimately, Superman Returns amounted to an odd one-shot that really did connect more to the original series of films than anything relevant at its time.
Luckily for DC, Batman was about to reach new heights with 2008’s The Dark Knight. The second in a planned trilogy for “the Nolanverse”, the film turned the series “what if it was real” lens to the franchise’s most famous villain, The Joker. Actor Heath Ledger gave a haunting performance as the character for which he won an Academy Award. Tragically, the recognition was posthumous as Ledger died of a drug overdose in the months leading up to the film’s premiere. The Dark Knight was (and remains) the most successful DC adaptation ever and is able to count itself among the exclusive company of films to gross more than one billion at the box office worldwide. The conclusion of what is now known as The Dark Knight Trilogy, 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, can also lay claim to the one billion box office benchmark, although bloated expectations and the fallout of Ledger’s absence took a toll on the film’s popularity and critical reception.
When it was announced that Superman would be rebooted, rumors began to swirl about the possibility of a crossover movie with Batman to begin a Justice League cinematic universe that would compete with Marvel’s burgeoning field of Avengers films. Hopes were high that Bale would return as Batman, establishing a continuity with The Dark Knight Trilogy. However, by the time Man of Steel released in 2013, with a young British actor named Henry Cavill as Superman, it was clear that this would be the beginning of a new lineage of DC films.
The stage is now set for a DC Cinematic Universe to establish the immortal characters of The Justice League for a new generation. Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice picks up where Man of Steel left off and introduces Ben Affleck as a grizzled and tested Batman. As the subtitle implies, the confrontation between the two poster boys of DC Comics is only a prelude to the formation of The Justice League, as the film also prominently features Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. As history has shown, however this series of films is received, Batman and Superman will persevere inexorably through time. For now though, for the first time ever, bragging rights are unmistakably and inexcusably on the line - everyone’s watching!
Posted by Terry Pierson, Programming Technician