Thursday, May 22, 2014

About that Batman/Superman Movie Title


As you almost certainly know by now, the sequel to Man of Steel is going to be called Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

As a general rule of thumb, I make fun of stupid things, particularly when they're done by WB and are focused around a DC comics property. But, in this case, I feel like everyone's mocking the title. I'm pretty sure I've seen a dozen different images and articles focused on the fact it sounds like a court case, and half as many playing up dish-detergent puns with the subtitle.

It's not that I think Warner Bros doesn't deserve the grief: clearly, they do. It's just... I think the internet has it covered. I thought instead I'd take a minute, look at the title and artwork, and try to figure out what they were thinking.

The most bizarre aspect of the title is the "V" in place of the more traditional "Vs." There are a few possibilities: that they felt "vs" was too indicative of wrestling matches or fighting games, or that someone was under the impression any amount of minimalism was preferable.

I don't think either of those are right, though: I think the real reason is embedded in the image. Both the bottom of Batman and Superman's symbols can be described as including the letter "v." The picture released with the name plays this up, dropping the "v" directly beneath the points of the Batman and Superman symbols.

This creates an interesting situation. You could actually argue that, ignoring the subtitle, the entire title is embedded in the image itself. In fact, you could do what DC comics did several years ago when they published a series called Superman/Batman.

You can tell at a glance the film borrowed the concept, though they've replaced that Bat-symbol with one lifted from Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns". Regardless, the comic series used the overlaid symbols as the title itself. There's no additional text, because none is needed: the iconography is sufficient.

I suspect that was originally the plan for Batman V Superman. In other words, the symbol would have been the title, it would have been read as "Batman Versus Superman," and in rare occasions where it had to written out, it would appear as "Batman V Superman." But for all intents and purposes - movie posters, trailers, print ads, etc. - I suspect the words weren't meant to appear at all.

Enter the committee. Apparently, someone with influence at Warner Bros. thought they needed a subtitle. This, of course, completely destroys the entire point of building the title around a symbol in the first place. It certainly renders the "v" meaningless, because it can't stand on its own. The title must now be written out as "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice", since anything else would imply the movie was simply called "Dawn of Justice."

My guess is that "Rise of the Justice League" and "Rise of Justice" were discussed at length. But "Rise of" is a little played out, so it's not too surprising they tried to find something with similar connotations but slightly different wording. And I'd be surprised if Warner Bros. wasn't still anxious about the name "Justice League" - they've always been a little embarrassed by their properties.

Thus we end up with "Dawn of Justice." It makes sense as a compromise, just as it sounds utterly idiotic when spoken aloud.

Overall, it feels like a situation where there were some interesting ideas that got warped into a convoluted title. Of course, it doesn't really matter: a title doesn't directly impact the quality of a movie. My real worry is that we're seeing the movie in a microcosm: that every level of the production will be bogged down by compromises and executive mismanagement.

Yup. That sounds like Warner Bros.

Either way, I'm sure I'll be there opening day for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Assuming, of course, they don't change the title. They've still got plenty of time to do so.

Hell, they even have time to fire David Goyer and get a new writer, if they want to.

1 comment:

Cupid Beltran said...

This has literally been the best thing I've read on this website ever. And thanks for proving my argument on why it makes sense.