The wait is finally over. After close to three years of nail-biting anticipation, we finally get to watch Batman and Superman come face to face on the big screen in what promises to be the ultimate superhero match-up. And, judging by the trailers, it’s going to be epic.
Ben Affleck, who fans dismissed as being incapable of playing the caped crusader, looks to be quite a menacing adversary to Henry Cavill’s Superman. His suit alone lends him some serious Bat-cred!
At this moment, no one is more excited than director Zack Snyder.
“Did you guys see the movie? What did you think?” he excitedly asks the six Asian journalists seated with him at the Park Hyatt Beijing in China two weeks ago.
Beijing was the first stop on the Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice world tour, just a fortnight before its opening.
Unfortunately, the Asian media didn’t get to watch the movie in its entirety, only a few never-been-seen-before footages (including an extended version of a fight sequence which we saw in 3D), introduced by Snyder himself.
The clips were awe-inspiring; production-wise it is definitely reflective of the US$250mil (RM1bil) budget (however, rumour has it that budget was bloated to RM1.6bil).
“Did you enjoy it?” he asks again. And before anyone could respond, he continues: “Wasn’t it exciting?”
Snyder is happy like a proud parent boasting about his (outstanding, let’s hope) child.
“Making this movie has been a labour of love and I couldn’t be happier (with the outcome). It has been an amazing journey and as a director, I’ve been blessed to have these two amazing actors with me.
“I have always been an avid fan of comic books and of both these characters and it was a dream of mine to make a movie with both characters. I guess, I manipulated the ‘powers that be’ to make this happen for me,” the director confesses, grinning rather cheekily.
Let’s not forget that the movie is also a lead-up to the upcoming Justice League where we will get to see the DC extended universe come out to play.
As such, it introduces us to some new characters (also making their big screen debut) – Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) .
The final cut of this movie is just over two-and-a-half hours long but the director’s cut has another 30 minutes of footage, largely with these new characters setting the stage for the next movie. Sadly, Snyder had to edit it out to keep the focus on the titled characters.
The clash between Batman and Superman, Snyder explains, is inevitable.
“They have common ground but their approach to doing good is so different. Even their morality is different.
“So I knew right off the bat that the two would not get along. Who would win? Theoretically, Superman because, you know, he is an alien and he can do anything while Batman … he’s a mere mortal.
“But in the movie, you will see how things are evened out and they are somehow on equal footing. It’s a question of grit, determination and the ability to survive,” says the director who talks a mile a minute almost without stopping to breathe.
NEXT PAGE: Zack Snyder the director
Snyder, 50, made his directorial debut in 2004 with Dawn Of The Dead. The movie was a success both at the box office as well as with the critics but his work since then – 300, Watchmen (both also comic adaptations) and Sucker Punch – have been polarising.
Snyder has a distinct style which movie-goers tend to either love or hate.
Man Of Steel (2013) wasn’t a favourite with fans, many of whom couldn’t embrace the pained and tortured hero that Snyder framed. Even though British actor Cavill looked very much the part, his Clark Kent was serious rather than comical and fans weren’t sold.
Cavill is quick to defend his character.
“The baseline of the character remains the same whether in the comic books or in the movies. But the world has changed (since Richard Donner’s original Superman) and so has popular culture and opinions. This Superman, I think, is catered to a more modern audience,” Cavill, 32, says in his crisp British accent.
In a recent interview with comicbookmovie.com, the actor said that although comparisons with Christoper Reeve’s “clumsy” Clark Kent were inevitable, it would be inaccurate and impossible to recreate that same version of the character in today’s movie.
“My Clark Kent is trying to be as small and invisible as possible and if you are awkward and spilling things constantly, people are going to notice you. It’s not the best way to go unseen,” the handsome star surmises.
Superheroes of the times
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is set in a deeply wounded Metropolis that is still struggling to get back on its feet 18 months after the brutal brawl between Superman and General Zod (Michael Shannon).
In neighbouring Gotham, Batman is restless and angry. He sees Superman as a threat to humankind more than a saviour and is determined to take him down.
Snyder’s Batman is an older, tired, world-weary hero – characteristics which not only serve as the perfect foil for Superman but also makes him different from Christopher Nolan’s Batman (played by Christian Bale).
“I had a very clear vision of the Batman I wanted in my movie. Crusty, weary and in his 40s. A Batman who has been at it for ages and who is tired. And I wanted him to be big. He had to be big,” explains Snyder, acknowledging the influence of Frank Miller’s classic comic The Dark Knight Returns.
His vision led him to Affleck who didn’t initially jump at the idea – presumably because he realised he had big shoes to fill and maybe even because it wasn’t his first time at the rodeo; he’d donned a superhero suit before as Daredevil (2003) which didn’t fare so well.
But Snyder was convinced – not merely because Affleck, at a towering 1.93m fits his vision of a big hero. To the director, Affleck was an actor with enough gravitas to carry the role. And so he persisted and won him over with his pitch.
“I was really flattered … well, until I heard his pitch about wanting an older, broken down Batman and then I wasn’t so sure I should be flattered,” jokes Affleck, 43.
“But, no, I was extremely pleased. For an actor, it is quite an honour especially considering the actors who have played Batman before and how special they are and how special that character is.
“I knew that it was a huge burden I was taking on and I took it very seriously. I saw it as a challenge, to try and make it special … different from what’s come before but something the fans will enjoy. Hopefully, audiences like the nuances that I added to the character,” he shares.
An added motivation, he admits, was getting to play a character which his three children would not just appreciate but be thrilled about.
“My (four-year-old) son is thrilled. He thinks I am Batman and it’s great to share that with him. He thinks that I’m going to the Batcave when I leave the house and I’m just dreading the day he finds out the truth,” he says, flashing a winsome smile.
Known for his action sequences, Snyder admits that his favourite scene to shoot was the fight sequence between the titular characters.
It was a massive undertaking and Snyder made it all the more challenging by insisting that the scenes were shot with 3D cameras.
“It was harder to do and the cameras were fussy but it was fun and exciting and it looks awesome,” he says.
He also made it harder for the actors as it was shot in the rain.
“It looks amazing, but it was intense and laborious to shoot.
“It was shot in the rain, we were soaking wet, the costumes were heavy and the cape kept sagging. At times, we were totally falling apart,” says Affleck shaking his head recalling the experience.
Filming took about 140 days and prior to the shoot, the actors had to get themselves superhero-ready – training to get in shape took about a year!
“When I found out I would be playing Batman against Henry, I knew I was in serious trouble and that I had to get myself in shape. But then I figured that he has to be in better shape because he’s an alien while I’m just a man,” jokes Affleck.
Even though it’s been more than a year since filming wrapped up, the two actors still look incredibly ripped.
“I’m not currently in Superman shape,” Cavill quickly points out in case we’re sizing him up. “But don’t believe a word Ben said. He was in incredibly good shape and when you’re against someone who looks like that … it forced me to keep up the gym routine.”
Though central to the movie, Snyder is quick to point out that Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is much more than “just an action movie”. It is, at the crux, a drama.
“Even though the scale of the movie is massive and the fight between the two is immense, it’s actually a very intimate movie that is about these two characters getting along or rather not getting along,” he explains.
The tension between the two characters, Snyder mentions, is all very real and relatable.
“There is no ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’ between the two of them. And that is very real, isn’t it? That is just how the world works, we don’t have clear cut good guys or bad guys at all.
“Audiences, I think, are tired of seeing superheroes fighting villains because, you know the bad guy will die in the end.
“This is inherently more interesting because neither one is necessarily wrong. We can connect with both heroes.
“We can see both sides of the conflict and so it becomes very personal,” says Snyder.
For the actual baddie Lex Luthor, Snyder went out of the box again, casting Jesse Eisenberg in the role.
“I love Jesse’s Lex. In the clips he is just so campy but as the story unfolds, we realise that it’s all a play and it’s amazing how he brings everything together,” teases Snyder.
The characters in the movie, he says, speak a lot about us and our present-day world.
“It’s about power and the modern world. Chris (Terrio, Oscar-winning writer for Argo) and I talked about these metaphors a lot when we were crafting the story… we talked about police brutality, utilitarianism and all these ideas of power and violence we live with,” he says.
Most of all he hopes that Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice will appeal to audiences simply because it’s “a good movie”.
“Whether or not you are a comic book fan or a fan of the characters from past movies or if just want to be entertained, I hope people love this movie,” concludes Snyder.