The new trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice premiered on Wednesday night during Jimmy Kimmel Live. The timing for the trailer drop makes some sense–with the new Star Wars nearly upon us, the perpetual motion hype machine that causes our enthusiasm for the movie we’re about to see to wane because we’re suddenly all pumped for the next thing needs something new to feast on, after all. Putting Batman and Superman in a movie together and making them punch each other is an idea whose time has more than come–even prior to the post-Iron Man superhero glut, “Batman and Superman fight each other before teaming up to take on the real bad guys” would have sold a zillion dollars worth of tickets.
Based on what we see in the trailer, though, we know a lot more about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice than just “Batman and Superman fight” now. For example, we know that Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent and Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne can mean-mug the heck out of each other at a cocktail party. We know that the themes of the movie include “Batman is a crypto-fascist trampling on the civil liberties of the criminals of Gotham by burning bat-shaped brands (!) into their flesh after he apprehends them,” “the Superman-as-Christ-metaphor is really overt this time out, y’all,” and “Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a total twerp of a super villain.” We know that there’s a weird scene where Superman flies into some cool costume fetish party where he has guys dressed like SWAT team troops kneel before him, and where he keeps Batman in a stylishly long trench coat suspended by a kinky hook hanging from the ceiling. We know that after an interminable-even-in-a-three-minute-trailer fight sequence between Batman and Superman that features a lot of explosions, the two resolve whatever misunderstanding has made them enemies, and they come together to join forces and fight the real villain.
We also now know that the real villain is apparently Doomsday, the character created in the early ’90s specifically to kill Superman off for a short-lived sales stunt. We know that as they fight Doomsday, Ben Affleck makes an all-time great confused face from within Batman’s mask when Wonder Woman shows up out of the blue, revealing what we can only assume is the film’s climax in the trailer four months before the film hits theaters. We know, if the stiff dialogue and leaden symbolism captured in the trailer are any indication, the title Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice may actually not be pretentious enough.
Of course, there are things to like about the trailer, too. Batman and Superman are in it! And they punch each other a lot, which will be fun to watch. It hints at scenes that are not fully explored here (why is Batman wearing a long coat and hanging from his arms in Superman’s fetish party?), and suggests that the final fight between Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Doomsday will be spectacle worth beholding.
But more than that, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice appears utterly uninterested in aping the Marvel formula, which is certainly on-point for the properties involved. Dating back to the early ’60s, Marvel has always been the company telling superhero stories for the hip kids–whether it was the psychedelic-inspired art of Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko or the anti-establishment tale of the on-the-run-from-the-man Incredible Hulk, or the line-wide reboot of Marvel Now! (which updated Marvel Comics to better reflect Marvel’s film franchises)–while DC told square stories for a square audience. So while Marvel’s movies have all been centered around charming, relentlessly watchable, good-humored heroes like Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, the various Chrises, and Paul Rudd, Warner/DC’s take on their characters include anti-charisma actors like Cavill and Affleck, instead giving us a heaping dose of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor looking like the only guy having any fun out there–because even fifty years later, Marvel’s mission is to make you identify with the hero, while DC’s appears to be to get you looking up in the sky to see if it’s a bird, a plane, or a massive CGI explosion raining down destruction on a whole heap of extras. There’s almost certainly an audience for both, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice definitely appears to be aimed squarely at the latter.