the dark knight returns

There's also the matter of the way the announcement was made. Snyder feigned hemming and hawing about how much he was permitted to say about the next Superman movie for a bit, before summoning "Man of Steel" co-star Harry Lennix to the stage to read a passage of vintage comic dialogue that would help clarify things. Said passage (the reading of which climaxed with the reveal of the film's logo) turned out to be a pivotal moment from Frank Miller's seminal dark-future work The Dark Knight Returns," in which Batman dons an armored suit to fight a corrupt, government-aligned Superman to the death.

Interestingly, Returns is often cited (particularly by its author) as the work responsible for "breaking up" Batman and Superman. In the Gold and Silver Ages of comics (re: from the 30s to the 80s) they'd always been presented as friends, though to be fair the DC Heroes in general were always a happy gang of buddies in those days. Sure, you'd see heroes fight eachother, but always over a misunderstanding or the influence of mind control. "Returns" introduced the notion that these two characters, at least as they were understood by the increasingly-unhinged Frank Miller (whose opinion people still took seriously back then), would be too ideologically opposed to be anything other than grudging allies of necessity.

That interpretation of the characters became the DC Universe default for about two decades, and even though there's been an active attempt at getting them back into "best buds" mode in the 21st Century via the Batman/Superman series, the idea of them in perpetual opposition has been tough to wash off: When the two were first paired in a crossover of their respective 90s animated series - founding what would become the celebrated DC Animated Universe - they fought before becoming (uneasy) co-heroes.

Finally, there's the tone of the whole affair, or at least what we know of its component parts. The most recent run of Batman movies, which share a producer and writer with "Man of Steel" in Christopher Nolan, are relentlessly grim affairs, (par for the course for post-"Dark Knight Returns" Batman material) fixated on the idea that "real" superheroism is a life of pain to be escaped from. "Man of Steel" itself is the darkest vision of Superman ever to not feature clones of Hitler, a film utterly disinterested in any aspect of the character beyond his ability to wreak devastation on his surroundings. It's hard to imagine this version of Clark Kent, who's supposed to be the nicer of the two, wanting to make friends with Bruce Wayne (or anybody) just because they share an interest in crime-fighting.

So, not only is it not surprising that people assume it'll be "Batman VERSUS Superman," it's not even a bad guess. That will probably be the premise, or most of it: They'll meet, they won't get along, they'll fight (a lot, if "Man of Steel" was any indication) and then they'll put it aside to fight some mutual threat in the third act. Handshake, pithy remark, see you in two years for "Justice League."

I hope I'm wrong about that.

Not that I don't want to see the whole "who would win?" thing settled up onscreen, obviously that's part of the natural appeal of these productions. But am I looking forward to yet another movie that's more about tearing iconic good guys down (and what else but that would you call contriving a scenario for two heroes to be semi-justifiably at each other's throats?) rather than letting them fulfill their primary function of offering inspiration or even uplift? Can't say the prospect of that thrills me.

Maybe I'm jumping the gun here. Educated guessing or not, the damn thing has only just been announced. But what I know for certain is that nothing sounds more tiresome to me than Batman and Superman turning up in the same space mostly to be enemies. Again. And what I suspect for near-certain is that people have every reason in the world to expect that to be exactly what we get.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet. Recently, he wrote a book.

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