image from a comic book, found by Google search
Okay, I meant to do this sooner, but I didn’t want to argue over spoilers, so much like the last time I talked about this movie, I’m only going to use the information available in online reviews and trailers.
We have to start somewhere, and we have to make a decision at the basest of levels – is this a Batman movie, or is this a Superman movie? No, it can’t be both, anymore than having half a turkey club and half a cheeseburger is going to be as satisfying (and not as gluttonous) as having a whole. Now, we already have a Superman movie, so we could continue a Superman series, but, we also have to be aware that this is a whole universe of films, so maybe it’s time we introduce a new character, the same way we pivoted from Iron Man to Captain America to Thor. We’re going to start by making this movie a Batman movie.
From that decision we have to figure out how we’re going to connect backwards to the Superman experience we’ve already had. The two easiest options are a post-credits scene, Marvel-style, or set up Superman within this film as another character, but that runs the risk of bloating and slowing the momentum down. A trickier, but more interesting idea would be to tell these two stories in parallel, even though one has already been seen. So let’s set this Batman movie during Man of Steel.
Let’s go one step more, and set it in and out of Metropolis, so we can use the existing world and expand it with Gotham. This also sets up a nice duality that you see in the comics, that Gotham and Metropolis are two sides of the same coin – big city, one lit in sun with the hope Superman represents, one cast in shadows, with the vengeance Batman represents. In fact, we can use this light vs dark interplay throughout the story. We can visually describe this in cinematography, we can use this as scene building tools, we can thematically approach this in dialogue. We won’t go so far as to beat a dead horse by putting this as words in a title, but we can use a graphic and its lighting instead.
In our Batman movie, we can either tread the familiar ground of Batman origin, or we can assume our audience is smart enough to know what’s up, and just take us straight to Batman, the same way Burton and the later Nolan films did. Because this is Batman, we can use the breadth of the rogue’s gallery available to us, so long as we can tie to Metropolis, because we want to mesh these two stories together without fusing them into one. Let’s take a pretty mid-level Batman villain, Firefly, because he’s got a very visual gimmick – fire – and go from there.
We can even go so far with our fanbase to say that this movie will be part of what later develops into a Justice League, and we can start laying groundwork for that by also saying this film will develop a Legion of Doom as well. That way, we’ve built a power scale to future films and we ask our audience to pay a little more attention, even before we call quiet on the set.
With all that out of the way, I now present my rewrite of Batman vs Superman, which is now basically an untitled Batman film.
We open on Gotham City, a long shot as we sail through buildings, past cars, past the gothic architecture, maybe it’s raining. We see the scale of the buildings, these long steel and glass teeth from an ever-hungry maw. All we hear is rain, hard, stormy, but not that cliche thunder and lighting, just soaking rain.
Then we hear the ga-chick of something fired, and cable unspooling. We see a shadow, a mess of wet black streak up from the bottom of the frame to the top.
This is BATMAN. He’s out in his city, these buildings and these shadows are more his home than any stately manor. He’s wet, bloody, and smiling. Hanging from a lamppost a few stories below are three criminals (let’s make them a man and two women), all bound and unconscious, a car is smashed against the lamppost, the steam escaping the radiator. We get a quick insert shot of the car’s contents – guns and money – before going to back to Batman running to the edge of the roof and diving off, before we hear the ga-chick again.
A graphic in the lower third: Beginning. The screen goes to black as we hear police sirens approach.
We transition out of the black to the polished black of a boardroom table, so polished we can see BRUCE WAYNE (yes, I’m going with Affleck) in it, as he gives a presentation to some suited people. He’s talking about expanding Wayne Enterprises into Metropolis, how he sees the potential in Wayne-Tech reaching new cities, and in a final slide, to the stars (this image can be re-used in the Justice League as the Watchtower).
They’re very surprised by the whole tenor of the presentation, and express doubts, particularly the parts where Wayne Enterprises looks to be expanding directly against LexCorp in Metropolis. Bruce dodges the question with a winning smile, and assures people it won’t be an issue.
We move forward in time, to the night, where Bruce-now-Batman is sitting in the Batcave talking with Alfred about the meeting earlier that day (we can button the two together with dialogue – maybe “Ambition is a hallmark of Wayne business”, and oh, we’ll keep Jeremy Irons as Alfred). They banter, and establish to the audience their relationship.
They get interrupted by reports of a building explosion in the Narrows. So off in the Batmobile we go, with Alfred in Affleck’s ear giving situation details. We reach the building as the first fire trucks are cordoning off the area, and Batman grapnels his way inside via an alley.
The building is hot. Flames, heat, smoke, a bad scene all around. Even with a gas mask, it’s tough going. Batman searches the area, narrowly avoiding the firearm, and comes across the arsonist making good their escape. He tails FIREFLY through the building, but is cut off from pursuit by a floor collapsing. The floor collapse drops the Dark Knight square into the middle of a pack of firefighters, injuring one, and sending the rest into a “Holy shit!” panic. Thinking quick, Batman grapnels away. He’s outside and across the street by the time the firefighters clear the building and the structure collapses. Four dead inside. One injured firefighter. Batman to blame.
It’s a sleepless night as we race back to the Batcave, the Batsuit covered in ash and smoke, singed in a few places. He’s not half out of the Batmobile when Alfred updates him on the wounded firefighter. Broken leg, possible severe spinal fracture. One more weight upon the Bat’s shoulders. He wants to get back in the car, but Alfred grabs his arm. “Some things are for Batman, some things are for Bruce Wayne.”
Batman, from the cave, makes some calls to have the Wayne Foundation pay for the firefighter’s medical bills as well as a stipend to cover the family’s expenses. He’s right back to Firefly’s trail, and tracks down the building schematics. The arson was deliberate, and carefully planned. The building hadn’t been occupied legally in some time. Fingers fly over keys. No police reports of vagrants in the area. Were they squatters? A pause. Alfred toggles a switch on the wall, and a replacement Batsuit is revealed. He’s used to this.
Back out now, Gotham’s in full evening swing, and so’s our hero. We find COMMISSIONER GORDON on the roof of the GCPD building, sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup. Batman stealths up behind him. Gordon doesn’t react, he just keeps sipping.
We get a conversation between the two men. It’s friendly but distant. The GCPD are out hunting for the Bat. The four bodies in the morgue weren’t vagrants, but local contractors, builders and a city planner. Batman tells Gordon he’ll need more coffee, Gordon starts to quip, but it’s cut off by a building explosion in the middle distance. Not the Narrows this time. The Industrial district.
Batman’s off the roof before Gordon, and we get a shot over Gordon’s shoulder of him barking orders to the cops as Batman sails across the city towards the explosion.
The site in question is a small chemical manufacturing facility, and the explosions are the holding tanks for run-off and by product. The Dark Knight reaches the tanks and sees silhouetted in fire our arsonist Firefly. This time he won’t get away. They do fight, and Batman takes slightly worse than he gives. His suit singes, his lip bleeds. It’s a close and dirty fight. We see the raw ferocity seep out. He’s enjoying this. He may be the world’s greatest fighter, but he’s not invulnerable. Which is how he wants it.
Take flaming fists out of the equation and Firefly is a chump in a suit. One good kick or batarang to the fuel hose, and Firefly’s just a fly. And flies get swatted. Which is what happens. Or it’s about to happen when there’s an explosion in the distance. And that makes no sense if the arsonist is currently getting beat down.
Batman stops punching the snot out of Firefly when the fireball lances into the sky.
“Gotham burns and screams and there’s more coming. You can’t stop us. These are your darkest nights.” says Firefly before Batman goes ferocious and nearly pulps Firefly’s face. He zipties the firebug to a water pipe and heads off to the next explosion site.
Alfred’s in his ear seconds after the Batmobile fires up.
“Sir, do you think it’s -”
“If it were, he would have made sure I see him.”
“I’m also getting reports of two bank robberies. One at First Capital and another at Gotham Savings. There’s no way you can be in three places at once. Should I call -”
“NO!” The answer is too harsh, too emotional. Too raw.
“No,” Batman says. “He’s got Bludhaven now, it’s fine. I’ll handle it.”
With the flick of a switch, Batman sends four small batdrones into the air, setting them to patrol and recon everything. Each drone is about the size of a shoebox, fitted with expensive tech and high end potential.
“When a drone finds something, send the info straight to Gordon. I’m going after the next explosion.” He mashes down on the accelerator and fire tongues out the rear of the car.
But it’s too late. By the time Batman has made his way across town, the fire has spread to the whole block. Ambulances, police, fire fighters, families all watch as building after building go up in oily smoke. He slams the steering wheel in frustration and narrowly avoids detection by a patrolling GCPD car.
We come back to the Batcave, large digital clock on the wall reads 5:17am, and Batman, cowlless but still suited yawns. He’s staring over aerial photos. The explosions and fires cut canyons into his city, but there seems to be no discernible pattern. The death toll, according to early reports is at 12. The damage is in the low millions, not counting the lawsuits and agony money. Alfred appears at Batman’s side, and offers a tray of food.
“Not a great night.”
“Not every one is going to be.”
Morning now as Bruce Wayne enters an elevator at Wayne Tower. A small woman hands him a schedule.
“You’ve got a 9:15, he’s already waiting.”
“I have a 9:15? I thought the meeting with the Koreans was at 10.”
“They canceled, you’ve got a 9:15.”
Coming off the elevator and down a hallway of famous Wayne portraits, the office door is already open and a bald man stands with his back to the entering Bruce.
“Mr. Luthor. What brings you across the bay?”
“Business, Bruce, may I call you Bruce.”
“May I call you Lex?”
“No. Bruce, I want to talk about this development mess. There’s going to be a world of trouble if you keep doing what you’re doing.”
Tight in on Bruce’s face, then cut to the Luthor’s.
“And what am I doing, Lex? I’m trying to do what’s best for Gotham. Thousands of jobs. New prosperity. You certainly can’t be opposed to that.”
“No one’s opposed to prosperity Bruce. Opportunities are legion.”
He tosses some papers onto Bruce’s large desk, we see a graphic overlay: Development.
The men talk about recent crime waves and tragedies. Vague allusions are made as to how each city is worth saving and how the sons of the city have a responsibility to legacy and the future alike. In the conversation, Luthor talks about the fires and the building collapse, giving details that Bruce heard only on the police scanner. Additionally, he references the sons and legacy from earlier, saying, “We have to be fireflies in the darkest night, don’t you agree?”
The conversations wraps, and Bruce is left staring at the sun kissed Gotham. Even now the shadows are long. He sits in an office chair and we wipe to him sitting in exactly the same pose, only now in the Batcave.
He’s looking at new pictures. Enlarged photos of building paperwork and the minutes of a meeting the city planner help before her death. All reference LexCorp in some way. He exits the cave and heads up to the main house, where Alfred is straightening books on a shelf.
“Alfred, have you ever thought about legacy?”
The old man sighs, and for the first time, we get a sense of his age.
“All the time. Yours and mine. It’s a funny thing. We build it every day whether we mean to or not, and we always misjudge it. We think we’ll be remembered for the little mistakes, or even some of our larger ones, but we’re just as much known for what goes right that we don’t recognize.”
The two men talk more, they finish the conversation seated as equals, a father and son, under the watchful eye of the Wayne portrait, the other father and son.
“I’m going to Metropolis for a few days.”
It’s here that we cut back into Man of Steel, as this is where we get the General Zod broadcast that sends Clark to Metropolis. Bruce’s plane lands just as the broadcast starts, and he carries his own bags off the jet and into a waiting car. We presume one of those bags has a Batsuit.
It’s night in Metropolis, and Batman is scaling buildings. He reconnoiters the area, and places a few bugs on phone lines. From his hotel room, he patches into the Batcave computer and establishes a link back to Alfred.
“Sir, that broadcast, what was it?”
“No idea. But I’ll be ready.”
The rest of the day is spent sifting through phone logs and various LexCorp data. Eventually the conclusion is reached that he’ll need to be in the LexCorp building during the day to get more information.
Word from back in Gotham is that the GCPD has secured and even stopped two more bombings, though one of the bank robberies remains unsolved. This comes as both relief and ill omen, something prickling the back of Bruce’s thoughts. He lays out a good suit and orders room service.
Come morning, we see the car pull up to LexCorp and Bruce Wayne enter. Over his shoulder, people begin to gasp as the TerraFormer from Man of Steel lowers itself into position. Bruce looks at it with a sense of wonder, then quickly moves past the crowds exiting the building.
He’s the only one going in as so many are going out, and he makes his way to the server room, where he sets up another relay with Alfred. They discuss the TerraFormers as well as the destruction in Smallville. Bruce queues a series of downloads and we watch a UI tracking bar tick up to 100%.
And that’s when Superman comes crashing through the building. Amid all the debris, the Man of Tomorrow rights himself, floating, and locks eyes with Bruce Wayne.
This is the moment. This is the first time we see them on screen together. There is a look of fear and awe and wonder in Bruce’s eyes, something we’ve never seen in a Batman before. No words are exchanged, and Bruce yanks off the relay, download incomplete, and starts to run, which is good, because Zod busts through the wall and the building starts to collapse.
Communication with Alfred resumes as the building falls. Pennyworth has been shouting this whole time.
“Alfred, we’re not alone.”
Days later, as the graphic in the lower third tells us, and we’re in the Batcave again. Half-suited, Bruce has a whole dossier worked up on Lex Luthor, and found a series of shell company moves routing $95000 to Ted Carson, a disgraced firefighter, ostensibly to take out several buildings in Gotham, though the reason isn’t clear.
Alfred enters and tosses the Daily Planet on the table. An article with a Clark Kent/Lois Lane byline greets us face up.
“Maybe you should talk to Miss Lane.”
He pulls the cowl up. Our closing shot is Batman silhouetted as we’d expect, wearing the same smile as he had on in our opening.
Credits, yada yada.
I’m pretty happy with this film being not quite a traditional arc structure, since it’s got to be such a foundational piece of a DC Universe. We can end here practically mid-action and whatever the next film, it could open pretty easily with Lois Lane, making her the conduit the same way Agent Coulson functioned in Marvel’s Phase 1.
The tricky element here is Luthor. If you set him up as the movie’s antagonist, it doesn’t make sense to use him later with a Legion of Doom/Justice League ensemble story. Treating him like Marvel’s Loki, could work, but then this rewrite would have to focus on Superman. This whole DC universe is an interesting space, moreseo than Marvel for me, because the DC universe has been so mismanaged (bordering on bungled). So maybe future blogposts will see me back rewriting things.
Let me know what you think. Are the rewrites interesting? Can you see some of the storycraft elements we talk about? What else would you like to see rewritten?
See you on Wednesday. Happy writing.