In the wake of the Avengers, Marvel Studios ambitious shared universe crossover film, other studios jumped at the idea of trying to copy Marvel’s formula.
Enter Warner Bros. They had just finished their ultra-successful Dark Knight trilogy, just released their new Man of Steel the next year as well. At the Comic-Con following MoS, director Zack Snyder revealed an image that shocked the world.
Fans were thrilled that a film crossover between Batman and Superman would finally be happening. Then came rumors of script problems and delays. It was said Snyder needed time to fully realize his vision. That vision was a dark, bleak take on the Justice League. A vision that did not win over fans or critics. Ultimately Batman v Superman would be the first cracks of a crumbling shared DC Cinematic Universe.
After the failure of Justice League, Snyder was shown the door and director Joss Whedon was brought in to try and Marvel-ize a film universe that tried to reimagine the DC Universe as a bright hopeful world. A stark contrast from Snyder’s Dark Knight inspired previous film that not only did not gel, it also made little to no sense.
Since then Snyder has taken to his social media of choice, Vero, to release news and images of his DC ideas that might have been. This is when it was revealed how absolutely WRONG his take on the DCU was. Snyder wanted to incorporate a storyline from the bleak DC game Injustice.
The big hook of the Injustice universe is that after the death of Lois Lane, Superman has turned evil. Kal-El sets up a totalitarian regime on Earth in the name of safety, but he really just controls it with an iron fist. Injustice isn’t the only Elseworld in DC history that has an evil Superman. However, it has become one of the most popular. According to Zack Snyder, he planned to adapt the story into the DCEU.
The Knightmare sequence of Batman v Superman, where Bruce Wayne imagines a world controlled by a vicious Superman, has plenty of its own imagery. Yet Superman’s role in it does feel reminiscent of Injustice, from Superman’s overlord status to the armed soldiers that obey him. On Vero, where Zack Snyder seems to forever be revealing details about the DCEU, the director said that the homage was intentional. A fan asked Snyder directly if he meant to pay tribute to Injustice and if there was an arc planned for the Knightmare sequence beyond Batman v Superman. Snyder replied simply, “Oh yes.”
Snyder’s big plan was presumably to turn Superman evil? But it doesn’t stop there. Despite saying Dark Knight was only an inspiration for BvS, the Robin costume that Bruce has on display in the Batcave of the film was supposed to have been worn by Dick Grayson. Meaning the Robin Joker & Harley (mentioned in the Suicide Squad film) killed was Grayson and not Jason Todd (The Robin who died in the Dark Knight Returns timeline). Snyder said he had planned to introduce Carrie Kelley as the new Robin. The main problem of this whole planning is that Snyder appeared to not have a grasp on the story of the Dark Knight Returns at all and it showed in his films.
Dark Knight Returns was supposed to be the final encounter between Batman and Superman, not their first. It meant something in the comics when these two friends with years of history finally came to blows. In the film BvS, the impact was not there because the characters were meeting for the first time. Not to mention the story was further diluted by cramming in a tease for Justice League.
Now we know WB was completely at fault for meddling with the film. They clearly wanted a Marvel-like shared universe while Zack Snyder wanted a dark and gritty Dark Knight Returns kind of film.
The end result was a collapsing franchise. Snyder had an endgame that Jay Oliva, who directed the two-part animated feature film Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and who provided storyboard art on Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Wonder Woman (among many others), says that filmmaker Zack Snyder‘s original five-film plan for the DC Universe would have resolved the character arcs set up in Justice League in a final film, the title of which was never revealed.
When Justice League was announced, the plan was that Snyder would direct a follow-up — at that time the working titles were just Justice League Part One and Part Two. That Snyder had specific plans for a fifth film was only recently revealed, but it sounds like that final chapter would have been key to shaping DC’s heroes, who by the time Justice League came out had mostly not appeared in character-defining solo movies.
“It would resolve everyone’s arc,” Oliva tweeted in response to a fan question. “Superman most of all because this series started with him in [Man of Steel].”
According to Oliva, Man of Steel was meant to be the first of a five-part story, and a direct sequel was never part of the immediate plans. He has gone into more detail on social media and even sparred with other filmmakers who disagreed with his take.
Now that Snyder is gone DC and WB seem committed to focusing more on stand-alone feature films and less on Avenger-sized crossovers. Next up on WB’s slate is Aquaman, Shazam, and Wonder Woman 1984. All three films were praised for their lighter more fun tone at this year’s Comic-Con.