Scheduled for release on May 6, 2016, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" will be the second film in the DC Cinematic Universe. In response to the success of Marvel's recent movies, the film will attempt to build on previous properties and also establish the same kind of shared world for future titles. While details about the story remain slim, casting details and rumors have given fans an idea of what to expect.
First, "Batman v Superman" breaks new ground in DC Comics filmmaking by placing two of the company's biggest icons into a single film universe. While the heroes often collaborate in comics and animation, Warner Brothers has kept previous film versions of the heroes safely separated. This is in part due to their differences, with Superman serving as a family-friendly, squeaky clean hero while Batman is much more in tune with his dark side. The 2013 film "Man of Steel" was an attempt to bridge the gap between the two, bringing Superman into a more realistic world where Batman would seem at home.
The film also bears the significant task of rebooting one of these two properties. While "Batman v Superman" will continue the story of Henry Cavill's "Man of Steel," it will present an entirely new version of Batman. This will be the third major film version of the character, the others being the campy 1980s and 1990s films and the darker Christopher Nolan series. This new version of Batman will be an older and more established Bruce Wayne, allowing the character to fit more naturally into his role as Superman's mentor.
Many of Batman and Superman's supporting cast will make appearances as well. Amy Adams will return as Lois Lane. Additionally, Diane Lane will return as Martha Kent, and Laurence Fishburne will reprise his role as Perry White. The filmmakers have cast Jeremy Irons as Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred Pennyworth, filling the role most recently filled by Michael Caine. At least one villain has also been cast, with Jesse Eisenberg portraying a new version of Lex Luthor in the film.
In addition to building on these two heroes, "Batman v Superman" is an attempt to expand the scope of the DC Comics cinematic world. Inspired by Marvel's success in universe building, the filmmakers are for the first time reaching out and bringing additional heroes into the universe. Much in the same way the CW Green Arrow drama introduced a spinoff starring the Flash, "Batman v Superman" will serve as a vehicle to introduce Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman may headline her own film as well as take a major role in future crossover titles.
Director Zack Snyder has dropped some hints about the possible story direction of the film. He has said that he plans to take inspiration from "The Dark Knight Returns," a dark-future comic series featuring an aged Bruce Wayne pitted against his former friend and ally in a world gone terribly wrong. Conflicts between the two characters have been common comic fodder over the years, with writers pitting the skill, experience and ruthlessness of Batman against the sheer power of Superman.
Unfortunately, more specific details of the plot are difficult to find, and many of the rumors that do exist have proven to be elaborate hoaxes. It's likely that at least one major Batman villain will make an appearance, but so far no confirmed details have escaped production. Popular rumors suggest the return of the Joker, but given the memorable performance and death of Heath Ledger in 2008, it's unlikely the filmmakers will be in a great hurry to return to the character. Other leaks have suggested the presence of the minor Batman villain Zsasz, a serial killer haunting Gotham City.
Comic fans have spent the last decade watching Marvel earn box office success after success while DC Comics properties have struggled to find a place on the screen. Hopefully, this retooling of the DC universe will allow Warner Brothers to craft the same kind of success for their heroes, providing another rich universe to explore in film and television. In any case, the next few years should be exciting ones for comic book fans as more and more of their heroes come to life.