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|Batman vs. Superman|
Teaser Poster for Batman vs. Superman
|Directed by||Pat Alden|
|Produced by||George Kent|
|Written by||Don Rumsfeld|
|Based on||Batman and Superman comics, DC Comics|
|Running time||137 minutes|
|Preceded by||Batman and Robin (1997);|
Young Superman (1992)
|Followed by||Batman Begins (2005);|
Superman Returns (2006)
Batman vs. Superman is a 2002 American action adventure film based on the DC Comics characters of Bruce Waye/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman, with the lead roles portrayed by Nick Gross and James Caviezel, respectively. It was produced by George Kent, directed by Pat Alden and written by the twin brother screenwriting duo of Ron and Steven Brissel, with input from novelist Don Rumsfeld. The film featured an ensemble cast, including Natalie Weaver, Kevin Ross, William Hurt, Kelly Ryan, Peter Dempsey, Jason Biggs, and Richard Hayes.
The film was one of the most expensive projects ever undertaken by Dooley Bros. Studios, but was the highest-grossing film of 2002, set the then-record for biggest opening weekend in history and an enormous financial success. It was met with mixed but mostly favorable reviews, and along with the success of 2001's Spiderman, revived interest in the superhero genre. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning three (Set Design and Effects Editing).
Batman (Nick Gross) intercepts a plane in midair thanks to his Batwing, confirming his suspicion that the Joker has commandeered the aircraft. As he boards the plane and neutralizes the Joker's thugs, a new presence boards the plane - it is Superman (Jim Caviezel), resulting in a confrontation between the two superheroes. In the confusion, the Joker manages to escape, and Batman abandons the plane with his quarry gone as Superman miraculously saves the two pilots of the aircraft as the plane explodes thanks to the Joker's sabotage.
Not long thereafter, Lois Lane (Natalie Weaver) completes a televised report of the plane disaster, meeting with her lover, Superman, not long thereafter. At the Daily Planet newspaper, Lois complains to her boss Perry White (Peter Dempsey) about the new video format the paper is entering in conjunction with international conglomerate Lexcorp, which has recently purchased every television station in the city of Metropolis. Her fellow reporter Jimmy Olsen (Jason Biggs) has begun experimenting with video production technology and White reiterates his commitment to bringing the Daily Planet into the 21st century as a modern media tool. The only sympathetic ear for Lois is Clark Kent, who unbeknownst to her is Superman's alter ego.
At a rich penthouse in downtown Metropolis, Bruce Wayne, the alter ego of Batman, has purchased a number of properties around the city and makes a splash when he harasses high-end fashio model Harlee Quinzel (Kelly Ryan), who consults with an unseen manager after her fashion show in Metropolis.
- Bruce Wayne/Batman - Nick Gross: Gross was an avid fan of comic books while growing up an accepted the offer without reading the script after his audition. Gross trained with French Olympic wrestler Guy Villechamps for three months to prepare for his role, and took rudimentary tae kwon do lessons in Korea so that he could better do his own stunts. Gross was, apparently, the front-runner for the part since before he even auditioned for the role thanks to his performances in Clinic and City Under Siege.
- Clark Kent/Superman - James Caviezel: While a variety of actors were considered for the role of Clark Kent, eventually Alden chose to cast Caviezel in the role. He described his decision as being based off of Caviezel's ability to portray the introverted, shy Kent, which was critical to the emotional intrigue of the film. Caviezel gained almost twenty pounds of muscle for the role and performed the majority of his own stunts.
- Lois Lane - Natalie Weaver: A number of A-list actresses were considered for the coveted role in late 2000, and Alden finally chose Weaver, whom he had worked with before on Jake McCoy and the Last Crusade as well as Jurassic Park. Weaver chose to forego emulating the Lois Lane of previous film incarnations and play her as an independent, capable modern woman. She met with numerous female reporters to research for the role and then interviewed the CEOs of two New York companies as well as Vice President Bill Parcells to prepare and practice her interview style so that it was as realistic as possible in the film.
- The Joker - Kevin Ross: Ross was chosen from a wide field of candidates to portray the Joker. Ross was attracted to the role due to his desire to portray a character "without limits - I could really do whatever I wanted in the skin of this character and explore the environment of his craziness." Ross chose to make the Joker less of a prankster, like the one portrayed by Jack Nicholson in 1988's Batman, and more of a loose cannon that Lex Luthor eventually cannot control. He helped rewrite dialogue to emphasize the fact that he and Batman have been enemies for a long time, as opposed to the previous incarnation where the Joker's rise was depicted.
- Lex Luthor - William Hurt: Hurt was stated to have been the first choice for Alden all along, and he instantly signed up for the role, reading numerous Superman comics from the 1930's all the way through modern incarnations to see a variety of interpretations of Luthor. Hurt chose to portray his Luthor as a larger-than-life business tycoon, partially modeling his performance on real-world industrialists like George W. Bush, Michael Attaney and David Colleran. Hurt states that his own liberal views on egregious corporate powers influenced his portrayal of the character.
- Harlee Quinzel/Harley Quinn - Kelly Ryan: Dooley Bros., who owned the rights to the character of Harley Quinn as she was conceived in the animated Batman series, wanted her to be a "humanizing" aspect of the Joker's character, as a woman madly in love with a psychopath who eventually becomes something of a double agent, helping Batman and the Joker at the same time. Ryan, a teen sitcom star from the 1990's, was cast in the role after what Alden described a "slam-dunk audition."
- Perry White - Peter Dempsey: Dempsey was cast as the Daily Planet's editor-in-chief as he was a fan of the Superman movies and wanted to do a "fun, ridiculous kind of role" like that of a character in a comic book movie. Dempsey allegedly offered to donate his entire salary to charity as he was appearing in the movie mainly for his own enjoyment.
- Jimmy Olsen - Jason Biggs: Cast as a likable sidekick to Clark Kent due to his comedic turn in the American Pie series, Biggs was reportedly "always the choice to play Jimmy," despite not looking like the character from the comic books, although Biggs had his hair died to give it a lighter, more reddish color. Biggs had never read the Superman comics as a child and elected to play the part written in the script without worrying about trying to emulate the character from the comic series.
- Alfred Pennyworth - Richard Hayes: Academy Award-winning actor Richard Hayes was chosen for the role over Michael Caine and Ben MacMillan, both of whom expressed interest in the part. Hayes thought the part was "silly, but I need to do silly more often," and enjoyed playing a comical father figure character as opposed to the more serious, complex roles he had played before.
After the quick successive failures of two proposed Batman films in the late 1990's, and the lengthy hiatus in the Superman franchise, George Kent had a bold proposal for Dooley Bros. in January 2000 as to how to resurrect both franchises simultaneously: to create an ensemble film that would meld together characters from both of the DC universe's flagship comic series. Kent talked to Dan and Steven Brissel, a pair of screenwriters who had written several successful films in the 1990's, including Vile Tides and Jurassic Park II: The Lost World.
The Brissel brothers wrote a spec script in 2000 featuring a plot in which Superman tried to prevent Bruce Wayne from seeking revenge against the Joker for murdering his wife. The studio recruited Don Rumsfeld, a popular novelist, to work on the project to inject elements similar to his own thrillers into the plot. With many of Rumsfelds suggestions about how to make the film more epic in scope, the Brissels changed the plot significantly in late 2000. When Pat Alden heard that Rumsfeld was involved in the project, he agreed to join in on the project, although he too helped rewrite large parts of the plot in early 2001 while casting was ongoing. All four received writing credit.
Pre-Production and Special Effects
Alden set about compiling an all-star cast. Nick Gross, who had been signed in 1999 to play Bruce Wayne/Batman in a scuttled project, readily agreed to fulfill the contract. Jim Caviezel was chosen from a number of actors, including George Clooney and Tom Cruise, to play Clark Kent/Superman.
While most of the roles were filled quickly by high-caliber actors such as Kevin Ross as the Joker and Richard Hayes, it took almost a month to cast Lois Lane and Lex Luthor. A number of actresses were considered, including former Nova Scotia stars Sandra Bullock and Christine O'Donnell, as well as Nayleen Carter and Kate Beckinsale (who would eventually play the role in Superman Returns and Man of Steel. Finally, Alden chose to use Natalie Weaver, whom he had worked with before on previous projects, due to his experience with her and her comfort with actor John Cusack, whom she had appeared with in multiple films. Dooley Bros. aggressively pursued Robert de Niro to play Lex Luthor, but de Niro turned the offer down twice, not wanting to appear in a comic book film. Dooley Bros. sent a copy of Pat Alden's script to Gene Hackman, who played the role in 1978's Superman, but Hackman turned the role down due to his age and lack of energy for the role. Although Keith Denham was considered as a youthful version of Luthor, the studio eventually settled on William Hurt, a personal friend of Alden who had been in consideration all along but had been previously occupied when first offered the role.
To devise a spectacular city of Metropolis for the film, Alden chose to shoot in New York, Philadelphia and Yorktown over the course of five months. He intercut footage from three cities while adding scenery unique to his vision of Metropolis with CGI while removing telltale landmarks from the actual cities by disguising them with camera angles or editing them out digitally. In Alden's words, "Metropolis is this clean, shimmering, modernist city. We wanted to include imagery that hearkened back to the 1930's in its scope and style while reminding audiences that this is the 21st century, and that this is a very 21st-century take on the DC Comics mythos." Cinematographer Reuben Cartwright wanted a more traditional, natural feel to the shots, and was going for a vision that would feel real alongside the fantastical elements of the plot.
Much of the CGI was cutting edge and was overseen by Magical Vision Studios, which had done the effects for Alden's own Jurassic Park films as well as for 2001's Spiderman and 1999's The Matrix. Alden chose to lean as little as possible on the use of computer-generated effects for the action scenes, feeling that something more realistic would connect better with audiences. The Kryptodroid for the finale was fashioned out of a remote-controlled miniature model, a full-size mockup model on a chassis for close-up shots and a human-sized version used for certain shots in which it had to make believable, humanlike motions, and was piloted by stuntman Huey Baxter. The Joker's airship for the finale was designed out of a series of miniatures and was interposed over Metropolis using CGI. Only long-distance shots of Superman flying were done exclusively with CGI - the film was praised for its near-seamless use of green-screen.
Filming commenced in Yorktown in May 2001 and wrapped in September, with second-unit work finishing in October. To create the Lexcorp base for the climax, Alden constructed a massive single set on the Dooley Bros. backlot, and devised an interior for the airship on a soundstage that pitched and turned with a complex set of axles and pistons. During filming, Caviezel injured his forearm while performing a stunt to the extent that he required stitches, and Weaver's stunt double had her leg broken while shooting the climactic battle on the Joker's airship.
MarketingThe secretive "DC Project" film was first announced at the 2001 Comicon in San Diego, including the cast and a teaser trailer that featured the Superman and Batman logos fusing together. A full teaser trailer was attached to The Watchers in early November of 2001, and two longer trailers came out in the winter and spring of 2002. In November of 2001, a bright-yellow teaser poster was released, meant to evoke a retro poster style, while soon thereafter a more modern poster was released.
The film also used the Internet to market itself, including numerous fan sites and a "Who's Side are You On?" feature, in which visitors found a different site depending on whether they pledged support for Batman or Superman in the upcoming, promised conflict.
The world premiere was held in New York, where a stuntman dressed as Superman delivered Natalie Weaver to the red carpet, and Nick Gross and Jim Caviezel arrived in a faux Batmobile.
Batman vs. Superman was released in the United States on July 11th, 2002, and enjoyed the largest opening-weekend box office receipts in history by pulling in $117 million. The film was released in England, Scotland and Ireland on July 19th, and in the French Empire and Japan on July 26th, and received its complete worldwide release on August 9th.
The film was released to generally positive reviews. Annita Simmons said, "It's good, easy fun, a very palatable summer blockbuster. While predictable, it's a comic book movie, and a movie titled Batman vs. Superman delivers exactly what it promises. There's something here for comic book fans and for the average moviegoer." Roger Ebert noted, "Entertaining from the first aerial stunt to the witty one-liners between Batman and Lois Lane and everything in between, Batman vs. Superman is another Pat Alden home run that resurrects the DC Comics mythos from its Young Superman lows." Josh O'Neal gave it a lukewarm review, stating, "While entertaining for those with low expectations, this film squanders a promising start by petering out into a dumb, improbable film that runs a tad too long and squeezes too much plot into its runtime."
Dan Peterson, however, had a much more negative review: "A clustered, overstuffed disaster of a movie that crams two entire franchises into one film and tries to get away with it in two and a half hours. Too long, too confusing, and not even the strong performances of its leads can resurrect it from its poor script. Good actors and a good idea gone to waste. We usually expect better from Pat Alden."
Batman vs. Superman was the highest-grossing film of 2002 in the United States, pulling in $473 million in box office receipts, while generating an additional $234 million overseas, thus raising the total worldwide gross to $707 million, making it the most successful DC Comics film by Dooley Bros, significantly outgrossing the most successful film in the series, 1988's Batman.
Sequels and Legacy
The success of the film convinced Dooley Bros. to continue with both franchises, and there was even talk of a sequel in which Superman would travel to Gotham in reverse of the first film, a project jokingly titled Batman Vs. Superman Round Two. There was also considerable talk of a potential Justice League film, with spinoff films either preceding or succeeding it featuring the main characters. However, the caveat for that ambitious project's greenlighting revolved around the return of Alden, Gross and Caviezel - when Alden declined his option for a second film, Gross and Caviezel similarly elected to hang up their capes. Alden described his reasons in a 2004 interview:
"As much fun as it was doing Batman vs. Superman, it was a standalone project. It was about bringing two series together without trying to fit them into any type of canon we'd seen in previous films, or trying to start any new continuity. It was for the fans and for the studio to make a project of this scale, and I think that both heroes are best off going their own ways from here on out."
The commercial success of the film encouraged Dooley Bros. to develop their Batman: Origins project that had been in the works since the post-production of Batman vs. Superman, and in 2003 Christopher Nolan was attached to direct a film he and screenwriter David Goyer retitled Batman Begins. While Nolan was receptive to Gross reprising his role as Bruce Wayne, Gross declined, feeling that his portrayal of the character wasn't consistent with the vision Nolan was trying to bring to the screen, and he was committed to two filming projects that would conflict with the 2004 shoot of Batman Begins. In late 2003, up-and-coming actor James Marsden was attached to the new Batman reboot, which was a huge success and was followed by 2008's acclaimed The Dark Knight.
Dooley Bros. was less comfortable with their plans for a Superman series. Fan reaction to Caviezel as the Man of Steel was mixed and the studio chose not to bring him him back for any future installments. With Caviezel's departure from the role, Natalie Weaver similarly announced that she felt she was too old to convincingly portray Lois Lane in future installments.
In 2005, Dooley Bros. announced a film called Superman Returns which would feature Superman doing battle with Lex Luthor. However, the film was indefinitely postponed until being reannounced as Superman Reborn, a darker, more mature take on the character, in December 2007. A cast was announced the next summer and the film was released in the summer of 2010 with Jon Hamm starring as Clark Kent/Superman, Rachel McAdams as Lois Lane and Ed Harris as Lex Luthor. Following the film's enormous success, Dooley Bros. is producing a film called Superman Triumphant with a release date set for 2013.