We’re a little late to the party with this one, what with our day jobs and commitments and congenital drinking problems, but Batman Vs. Superman has an official title and promo image. The promo image is at the top left. The title is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
And then the Internet blew up.
Seriously: people I have known for years and respect have taken to Twitter to complain about almost every aspect of the title. One guy complained that Superman didn’t have top billing. Another guy bitched that they were using a “v” instead of a “vs.” or a full-on “versus.” I’ve seen gags revolving around “Tony Orlando of Justice.” Chris Hardwick’s Comedy Central show @Midnight started a hashtag, #BetterBatmanSuperman, implying that Joe Blow from Falmouth could come up with a better title.
And maybe they could. Because honestly, it’s not that great a title. But it’s not the worst title in the world, either.
Okay, let’s start with Batman getting top billing in what many people are calling, “Superman’s own movie franchise!” Let’s start with this: Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy made roughly 1.17 billion dollars. Man of Steel made $291 million, surpassing only Batman Begins on an individual per-movie profit basis. From a nutcutting, moneymaking, Q-Rating standpoint, of course Batman’s gonna get top billing. To do otherwise would be like giving Rick Rossovich above-the-title billing on Top Gun. It might make sense under some equation, but not under any that involves making any money.
Second, this is not Superman’s movie franchise. Not anymore. Whether you agree with what Warner Bros. is doing, or how they’re going about it, this is now a DC shared universe line of pictures. We already know that Zack Snyder is signed to do a Justice League movie after Batman V Superman, and we already know that Wonder Woman and Cyborg at least are gonna appear in Batman V Superman, so to pretend that this is some great affront to Superman’s character is naive.
It would be nice to have DC proceed the way that Marvel did, in building a single movie line at a time in moving toward Avengers… but keep in mind that that was a fucking accident. If I remember right (and of course, writing in a hurry, I can’t find anything to back it up, so I very well could be remembering it wrong), the original post-credits scene in Iron Man was a last-minute addition written by Brian Michael Bendis as fan service to show Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury like he appeared in The Ultimates, and that was it. Everyone was kinda surprised that fandom had such a strong reaction to it, and Marvel Studios had just enough time to react to that by throwing together a post-credits sequence with Robert Downey Jr. for The Incredible Hulk (being produced independently and released just a couple of months later), which got the ball rolling toward Avengers.
That ship’s sailed for DC. The Nolan Dark Knight trilogy was well underway and run as an independent before Iron Man was a glint in anyone’s eye. Green Lantern had a shot at kicking off a shared universe, but it tanked hard. DC was even out of the prime time TV business; Smallville went off the air a year before Avengers opened and made a billion fucking dollars. So there is no real organic way to spin up a shared DC cinematic universe the way Marvel did. No one wants a full Batman movie reboot so soon after Nolan’s killer trilogy, so if you want a Justice League? You almost need to build it by force.
Now, with that said, is “Batman V Superman” the best possible title? Probably not, but I’m not sure exactly what else they could have done. They could have gone with The Dark Knight Vs. The Man of Steel, which would have been a better title, but a bad idea for a couple of reasons. The first being that, for movies, the phrase “The Dark Knight” implies a characterization and a style that Zack Snyder simply cannot cash.
Secondly, part of how I defend Man of Steel as being better than most comic fans give it credit for is because of the title. Every time someone shrieks that “Superman wouldn’t kill Zod!” I reply by asserting that that wasn’t Superman. I go into my opinion about the characterization and the story in my original review of the flick, but I can buy Clark resorting to killing because he wasn’t Superman yet; Man of Steel is about Clark Kent learning how to be Superman, and what that means for him. And one of the biggest indicators, to me, that that is a correct interpretation is that the movie isn’t called Superman. So to stick with that title would imply that Superman would still be a killer who wouldn’t try to save Metropolis, and I think that the events of Man of Steel were meant to turn this green kid away from those kind of action and into Superman.
As for the Dawn of Justice part? Well yeah, that kinda blows. But it could have been worse. It could have been Cry for Justice.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on May 6, 2016.
(via Comics Alliance)