Why a Superman Vs Batman movie is a really bad idea (even if I'm the only person who thinks so)

The biggest announcement from this year’s ComicCon was that Batman will feature in the sequel to this year’s Superman reboot Man Of Steel, currently touted for release in 2015. Whilst the whole world went into excitement overdrive, I did two things: firstly, I remembered that brief shot from I Am Legend where the Batman/Superman logo poster is seen displayed in the ruins of New York City, and felt satisfied at the level of useless film trivia I’ve now accumulated; and secondly, I sighed despondently at the prospect of the sons of Krypton and Gotham City being united on the big screen.

As everyone else will seemingly be on tenterhooks for the next two years until the film’s release, I will be sitting hoping and praying that Kal-El and Bruce Wayne’s next cinematic outing won’t be as awful as I imagine it will be. This isn’t just unfounded pessimism on my part, mind. After thinking the prospect through, there are five key reasons why I believe a Batman/Superman film is a very bad idea.

1. 'Versus' films are generally not very good

At the moment, the rumour mill is littered with reports that the film’s title may end up being either Superman Vs Batman or the wildly different Batman Vs Superman. Glancing back at recent cinematic history of films with 'Vs' in the title doesn’t make for particularly pretty reading. There are a couple of exceptions: Cockneys Vs Zombies was a fun low-budget romp, and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs The World was a genuine treat. But when you start considering offerings such as Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus, things start going downhill fairly quickly.

Look further into the realm of big budget blockbuster franchise crossovers - exactly what Super/Batman Vs Batman/Superman will be - and things get even worse. Freddy Vs Jason, anyone? How about Alien Vs Predator? Or maybe its sequel, Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem? Thought not.

Of course, this is all speculation, as the name of the Superman/Batman film hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, and likely won’t be for a good few months at least. But the point still stands: franchise crossovers have a decidedly dodgy past on the big screen.

2. It’s too soon after Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy

When Christopher Nolan picked up the Batman franchise in 2005, eight years after Joel Schumacher pummelled it into oblivion with Batman & Robin, he had what many saw as both an unenviable and impossible task in reinvigorating a character widely considered to be cinematically dead and buried. Batman Begins therefore stands as arguably the most important franchise reboot yet. Nolan took the untouchable and created a modern classic. With The Dark Knight following three years later receiving greater critical acclaim than Nolan’s first film, and The Dark Knight Rises rounding off the trilogy in convincing fashion last year, Nolan has taken the ashes of Schumacher’s Batman and expertly crafted as his phoenix the definitive incarnation of the character on the big screen.

The Batman we will see in Man Of Steel’s sequel will not be Nolan’s Batman. Straight away this gives all involved some pretty huge matt black rubber boots to fill. Moreover, it’ll only be three years since Christian Bale last donned the cape and cowl, meaning Nolan’s Batman will be distinctly fresh in the minds of most cinema-goers. Another reimagining of the character so soon after such a popular and successful incarnation is just asking for trouble.

3. Man Of Steel wasn’t that good

The main criticism of Superman as a character, especially when compared to other superheroes, is that he’s boring: his powers are seemingly unlimited, unless you happen to have a pocket full of kryptonite (literally of course, not the 1991 Spin Doctors album), and he’s purely and unequivocally on the side of good with an unwavering moral compass. He’s the 'Big Blue Boy Scout', as he has unfavourably been labelled in the past.

Man Of Steel was the opportunity for this perception of Superman to be challenged on the big screen. Director Zack Snyder made some brave, bold decisions in this regard - and deserves credit for that - but his film was far from perfect. As a reboot of the franchise, it felt as though Superman hadn’t made the impact many had predicted and hoped for. What the franchise needs is a second film to iron out as many of the imperfections as possible and strengthen several of the characters as presented by Snyder.

Doing this whilst also introducing a new version of such a big character in his own right as Batman is a monumental task even for the most accomplished director, and will unfortunately be beyond Snyder if Man Of Steel is anything to go by.

4. There’s no positive outcome to the film

Some very quick online research will tell you that Batman and Superman have met within the pages of DC publications a number of times. However, it’s clear from cinematic history that what happens in comic books and what happens when comic book characters make the transfer to the big screen are two quite distinct entities. Even if Superman and Batman end up on the same side (as is pretty much inevitable with word of a Justice League film on the horizon), they’ll undoubtedly end up facing off against each other, which has a high likelihood of resulting in cinematic suicide for at least one of the characters.

The way I see it there are three possible scenarios, each with their own failings. The first scenario is that Superman defeats Batman, which has the benefit of strengthening Snyder’s rebooted version of Superman, but starts the newest version of Batman off as weak and inferior.

Scenario number two: Batman defeats Superman, which is much worse than the first scenario. Whilst obviously solving the problem of making the new version of Batman seem robust, it creates the much more potent issue of making a largely unestablished version of Superman seem incredibly weak. I’ve got nothing against Batman (in fact I’d call myself a Batman fan) but in the end he is a human without any superpowers, just some bad-ass ninja training and a hell of a lot of money to pay for gadgets, batmobiles, etc. Superman is an alien being brimming with superpowers and supposedly immune to everything except that darn kryptonite as mentioned before. No matter how you spin it, non-superpowered human being Bruce Wayne defeating uber-superpowered extra-terrestrial Kal-El makes our Kryptonian boy look pretty lame.

Which brings us to the third scenario, where the two superheroes end up in some form of stalemate where neither clearly defeats the other. Whilst initially this may seem the best outcome, it may actually be the worst. Think about it: neither superhero out and out wins, making both seem at least somewhat weak. Stepping outside the realm of the DC universe and remembering that this is a story being told to entertain, a draw between Superman and Batman would also be incredibly tricky to craft into a satisfying superhero film plot. Thinking of any film with a satisfying stalemate conclusion is incredibly difficult. Narrow that down to just films in the superhero genre and it’s nigh-on impossible.

5. The fans want to see it

At the risk of the above statement making me sound like a big meanie, let me clarify. When I say 'fans', I’m not talking about the casual movie-goer. I’m talking about people who read and collect comic books, who know and revel in all the complexities of their favourite characters’ and their backstories. A Batman/Superman crossover film has been mooted every so often for a while now, and it’s a prospect many comic book fans have relished. But just because the fans want to see something, it doesn’t make it a good idea.

Remember 2006’s Snakes On A Plane? A film that developed a huge following online not only leading up to its release, but also during the development stages. The title was at one point early on changed to Pacific Air Flight 121 (admittedly much more boring), but was changed back due partly to star Samuel L Jackson’s preference, but also due to immense pressure from fans. Plot developments were changed, lines were inserted, all to bend to the whim of what the online fans said they wanted. Snakes On A Plane was touted before its release as potentially one of the most successful B-movie cult pictures of recent times, but ended up underwhelming both critics and at the box office. The huge buzz from fans largely failed to translate to a successful film.

A second example, this time within the realm of comic book adaptations, can be seen in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. Raimi was convinced to include Venom as an additional villain in his third Spidey film due to the character’s strong fan base. However, the film was criticised upon its release for having too many villains, with Venom in particular poorly received by comic book enthusiasts. The poor reception of both the character and the film in general of course led to the cancellation of Spider-Man 4, the departure of Raimi from the franchise and, for better or worse, the Amazing Spider-Man series rebooting things for Spidey in 2012 just ten years after Raimi’s first film.

Fan input therefore doesn’t have a positive record in the film industry, with the evidence clearly against a Batman/Superman crossover being a success just because fans want to see it.


I feel I should round this piece off with a note of positivity, as I potentially look like a bit of a party pooper in the DC cinematic universe. I’m a big fan of comic book films. I don’t read comic books, although I do enjoy looking at the background in print of characters I’ve largely enjoyed on screen. I’m also a fan of both Batman and Superman. I think both characters hold fascinating possibilities in terms of the stories and directions they can potentially be taken in.

That’s why a Superman/Batman cinematic franchise crossover worries me so much. The pitfalls are too great, and potentially unavoidable. I really, really hope that everything I’ve written here turns out to be completely wrong and that when the sequel to Man Of Steel is released in 2015 I’m blown away by it. But I certainly won’t be partaking in the immeasurable hype that will surely build up around the Superman/Batman film over the next two years for the reasons I’ve outlined. The potential for immense disappointment is just too great.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.


  1. I think you're right about this. I wary about this because I really love Christopher Nolan's trilogy though I'm very iffy about Zack Snyder. I won't see this unless Nolan is directly involved.

    1. Thanks for your comment, thevoid99. I'm a big fan of The Dark Knight Trilogy too, but I think even with direct involvement from Nolan this could go very wrong. In fact, if Nolan is involved it may even cause more problems if his influence makes the new version of Batman too similar to Christian Bale's take on the character.

  2. Excellent article. Personally for me the notion of an Alien in the universe painted by Nolan is too 'far-fetched'. Therefore taking your point that Nolan's Batman is so fresh in our minds, I believe the viewers will either be comparing new Batman vs Old, or worse yet how the new Batman vs Spiderman film fits with the Nolan Batman film...as in is it the same universe? If it is a new universe then it seems to kind of undermine the Nolan Batman especially if he is involved in the franchise. If it is the same...then again, the universe doesn't fit with Aliens.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Gurmit. I completely agree that introducing Superman into Nolan's Batman universe just wouldn't fit. I'm pretty sure it will be the other way round, with Man Of Steel starting things off for a new DC Cinematic Universe leading to a Justice League film in a similar way Marvel did leading to Avengers Assemble. Plus Bale has stated he won't be playing Batman again, which makes me think this will be a brand new cinematic Batman, and I agree with you that so soon after Nolan's trilogy any comparison can only result in negativity.

  3. PREACH. The minute I heard they were coming out with this movie I immediately cringed. There are too many chances being taken with short-term reboots these days. The studios seem so desperate to keep an audience in the theater that they're sacrificing quality for instant satisfaction. I also heard that they're coming out with a new Hulk movie. Third one in, what, ten years? Come on now...

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Annie. I agree that rebooting seems to be becoming a bit devil-may-care from some studios (The Amazing Spider-Man felt largely functional rather than bringing anything particularly different or distinct to the table compared to Raimi's films), and it's just too soon for yet another version of Batman especially after Nolan's version of the character rebuilt Batman so successfully.

      That said, I can understand Marvel wanting to capitalize on Ruffalo's popular recasting as The Hulk, especially after the Leterrier film with Edward Norton in the role was such a massive misstep in establishing the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'd like to see a new Hulk movie, although I haven't actually heard anything about one happening any time soon.

  4. Look 1st of all its not Superman vs Batman its Superman and Batman n the villan is mark strong as Lex luthor.. N i too think that its too soon as Nolans batman is tooo good to forget but they have to do the reboot soon. Frankly im happy DC isnt getting an independent movie for rebooting batman also.. Guys its all for Justice league n its far bettr than marvel stratergy coz captian america n thor were juz 'had to do' projects fir Avengers .. N as director of Iron man 3 changed it sucked!! So DC is using stratergy that villan is so powerful that Batman has to rise for hekping superman... Lex luthor will unite more villans n ultimately in 2017 will be Justice league... But dis all is juz prediction. Hope snyder will do bettr than 1st part in dis movie.. N ya he also met frank miller to know how to enter Batman wid superman. But seriously JL shud be directed by sebior director. I know xpecting Nolan is too much but still im xpecting. N thr are numbr of directors tht can do it.. So keeping fingers crossed.. N ya man of steel was visual xcellent lackd in script n lil bit direction.. But hey it was far bettr than iron man3.. So we are DC fans n hell ya its gonna work Cheers for DC Syncopy n WB :) :)

    1. Hi Yashraj, thanks for your response. The main thing I gleaned from what you wrote is that you're happy to see Batman in a Superman film rather than his own franchise so soon after Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. I see your point to an extent, but I also don't see why you think DC "have to do the reboot soon"? Apart from financial greed, what's the reason to rush? Why not establish Superman in his own franchise properly over at least one more film, learning from the mistakes made in Man Of Steel, before throwing another big name superhero into the mix.

      Much of the rest of what you say I think is more about personal opinion: you disliked Iron Man 3 and enjoyed Man Of Steel. I would say there's probably not much between them, but I would put IM3 over MOS as I enjoyed IM3 more overall. I would also disagree that Thor and Captain America were only made out of necessity to set up Avengers Assemble. But, as I say, these are just my opinions, which differ from yours.

      I'd also be interested to know where you get a lot of your information from - you seem to have some pretty good inside connections with DC!