Producer Charles Roven discusses the long path from Batman Begins to Batman v Superman and the future of the new big screen DC Universe
For the first time since the characters were created more than 75 years ago, DC Comics‘ iconic Dark Knight and Man of Steel are about to clash on the big screen when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters this Friday. For producer Charles Roven, the showdown has been a long time coming. He started bringing the DC Universe to the big screen with Batman Begins in 2005 and remained one of the driving forces throughout Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. As he explains in the below interview with ComingSoon.net, Charles Roven’s work on Man of Steel meant the birth of a new DC cinematic continuity. Read on for Roven’s spoiler-free thoughts on how the new DC Comics films will coexist with the popular DC Comics television continuity and for the producer’s thoughts on why it’s important to set Batman v Superman apart from Nolan’s trilogy.
ComingSoon.net: You’ve been involved with the big screen DC Universe for some time now. What has been the biggest change for you came aboard a decade ago?
Charles Roven: Gosh, when I got involved with “Batman Begins,” we would talk very vaguely about how, if the movie is good, we’d make another one and what it would be. We knew we were ending the first one with the Joker tease, so it would probably be about the Joker. We never really got drilled down on the story, though. First of all, the Nolans and I are superstitious and we didn’t want to count our chickens. We just focused on making “Batman Begins” the best it could possibly be and then did the same with “The Dark Knight.” After “Man of Steel,” we started with “Batman v Superman” and we announced this whole slate of Justice League universe characters. The stories will, in some ways, be interactive. That’s a big change. To be thinking about not just the movie you’re making and making it the best it could possibly be, but to have some eye on the future about where these characters will go. In “Batman v Superman,” you’ve got two intense characters that are dominating. You’ve got one really great bad guy. But you’re also giving a taste of others. Wonder Woman being the most [featured], but there are tastes of other metahumans or superheroes. Now that I’m working on a number of them at the same time, it’s thrilling. It’s challenging. It’s exciting. And also sometimes, you know, you get your stomach in some knots.
CS: Do you find that the audience has changed? It feels like because we get a lot of superhero movies, the audience is better versed in some of the bigger-than-life comic book concepts.
Charles Roven: I think that, like anything, as long as you keep the stories engaging and have great characters and find a way to keep those characters fresh, people are going to be interested. They’re going to want to know more and they’re going to want to find out what’s next. Think of James Bond as an example. I can’t remember what Bond we’re on or even how many different Bonds there have been. But they found a way to keep it interesting and they found the right time to refresh it. But James Bond isn’t the only agent guy out there. There are always movies about agents whether it’s Jason Bourne or Jack Reacher or whatever. That genre is a very vibrant genre. The more successful movies, though, are the ones where the characters are interesting and relatable. We try to make movies that have scale and scope, but we also want you to A) have a great time and B) think about the movie when it’s over. We want the characters, even if they’re fantastic in many ways, to have something to say about the human condition. Those kinds of things. I think that that engages people more. We want to keep that high bar.
CS: How important is it for you blur the continuity lines? In that same James Bond sense, it wouldn’t take a lot to imagine that “Batman v Superman” takes place following “The Dark Knight Rises”.
Charles Roven: Do you think so? We really wanted to make a clear demarcation line. Chris [Nolan], Emma [Thomas] and I would talk about how, in his “Dark Knight” trilogy universe, there are no superheroes. Batman is not a superhero. He doesn’t have super powers. Chris would always say, “His super power is that he’s a billionaire. He’s got all this money.” I viewed it that Bruce Wayne was a man who took his human abilities, whether they were physical or mental, and pushed them to the absolute peak of the human condition. But he still wasn’t a superhero. Then the villains, whether it was Ra’s al Ghul or the Joker or Bane, they were also all human. They might be aberrant, messed up and diabolical, but they were human beings. When we started doing “Man of Steel,” Chris and Emma were producers on that one as well. They knew that they were opening up a whole different universe. Even though the fans sometimes talked about, “Maybe Joe [Gordon-Levitt] is going to be the Batman in ‘Batman versus Superman,'” we knew that was never going to be the case because it is a different universe. In the universe we created with “Man of Steel,” there are superheroes. There are aliens. There are metahumans. The character of Batman isn’t Christian Bale ten years later. He’s different. He’s come up a different way. His parents, even though they died outside a movie theater, didn’t die outside an Opera theater. We thought about those things. I was involved with both movies and “Dark Knight Rises” was three or four years from the time I started working on “Batman v Superman.” It made me feel better that I could go, “That was that and this is this.” It’s just going to a different place with the material and expanding it out.
CS: One of the advantages you have with DC characters is that they are so iconic. Odds are, everyone going into this film know quite a bit about Batman and Superman from the get go.
Charles Roven: You do. You have an idea of the what the origin is, but you can tell that origin in a number of different ways. As great as “Superman: The Movie” was — and it was great — you didn’t see anything like the Krypton that Zack Snyder created.
CS: That’s kind of the beauty of the DC Multiverse concept, right? That these things can all sort of co-exist in parallel worlds. There’s an ever-growing DC Universe on television now. Does that affect what you’re doing on the big screen?
Charles Roven: Television is interesting. It’s going to be interesting to see if you can have two characters in two different mediums have the same name, have many of the same attributes and still coexist harmoniously because they’re from two different universes. The Flash on the television show and the Flash in “Batman v Superman” don’t have anything to do with one another. They don’t exist in the same time, place, universe or even dimension.
CS: But it’s a nice thought that it all exists somewhere out there.
Charles Roven: I like that, too. There’s where I go back to what I said earlier. One of the great things about these superheroes and villains is that they are these great role fulfillment characters for us. Gosh, wouldn’t we want to be them? I guess it’s a trope, but it still works. There’s always a moment whether it’s Superman flying for the first time or Wonder Woman showing her powers for the first time. Batman getting into the batmobile the first time. You’re going to have those moments. They’re iconic but, if you give them a little bit of a twist or a turn, they’re still thrilling. Yet the characters are not just inspirational. In a certain way, they’re aspirational because they make you think about things you can do to make yourself better.
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