In what could be the biggest cinematic battle since King Kong wrestled Godzilla in 1962's "Kingukongu tai Gojira," the Caped Crusader will square off against the Man of Steel in "Batman vs. Superman."
"[It's] never happened before," said Wolfgang Petersen, who plans to direct (or is that referee?) the movie. "You had it in some of the comic books, but never on the big screen. They're so different. ... It sets up great material for drama."
Petersen's no stranger to drama, as the German-born director helmed "Air Force One" and "In the Line of Fire." He's now working on a story by "Seven" scribe Andrew Kevin Walker that pits the two iconic heroes against each other during a time of crisis. And though Petersen is reluctant to spill many secrets, he has promised that "Batman vs. Superman" will contain villains, lots of action and absolutely no Robin.
"I cannot tell you what really gets them together. I can say that much of [the conflict] is because of the different philosophies that they represent," the director said. "Superman represents sort of everything clear and bright and noble. He represents our hopes and ideals. Batman, on the other hand, represents the dark and obsessive and vengeful side.
"The plot is structured in a way that these two very different sides basically of the same coin have to clash at some point because they handle situations totally differently. ... For a large portion of the thing they are at each other's throats. But then, of course, because they are both crime fighters, they join forces again and fight evil."
Petersen, who has yet to cast anyone, said he wants serious actors and not action stars to assume the title roles.
"We have a script that really very, very much concentrates on the characters," he said. "It's really material for two great actors."
Though he mentioned Matt Damon in an interview with Variety, Petersen said he only cited the "Bourne Identity" star as an example of what he's talking about "Someone where we so far did not really think of as a big action hero [who] turned out be a great actor who can also do great action. ... He's one of these kind of guys, but there's a lot of these guys out there."
And a lot of guys, including Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney, have previously portrayed Batman on the big screen. Christopher Reeve, of course, played Superman in four well-known films. Petersen said "Batman vs. Superman" will steer clear of the conventions laid down in each film series, though he admitted some degree of influence from the DC Comics series "World's Finest."
"I love [the Batman and Superman films] very, very much," Petersen said. "Especially in both cases the first two. I saw them over and over again. ... ['Batman vs. Superman'] is part of the lore of the Superman films and the Superman comics and the same with Batman, but it's also different. First of all, the dynamics are different because if they are in one movie together it changes a lot of things and it gives you a new perspective on superheroes. ... You have also the look and feel of Metropolis, the bright golden city, and the feel of Gotham, which is a shadowy, sinister city, in the same movie. This is Superman/Batman of the time after September 11th, also. It takes place in today or tomorrow's world."
"Batman vs. Superman" has long been one of many projects involving the two titans in development at Warner Bros., which owns the rights to all of DC Comics' heroes. The "Superman Lives" project, which had Tim Burton ("Batman"), Nicolas Cage and Kevin Smith ("Clerks") all attached at various times, has long been dormant. But a spokesperson for Darren Aronofsky ("Requiem for a Dream") has confirmed the filmmaker's plans to make "Batman: Year One." There is also a "Catwoman" flick in the works with Ashley Judd in the lead role, and there's talk of a live-action movie based on the "Batman Beyond" cartoon (see "Sequel Mania The Other Attack Of The Clones").
Although those movies as well as other comic-inspired flicks like "Daredevil" (see "Affleck, Garner Open Up About 'Daredevil' ") and "The Punisher" (see "Punisher Is Next Comic Hero Headed For Big Screen") have received a boost in the buzz department thanks to the $400 million box office success of "Spider-Man," Petersen said "Batman vs. Superman" will be very different from Tobey Maguire's record-breaking blockbuster.
" 'Spider-Man' has a very sweet and light touch to it and is very romantic with Kirsten Dunst and Tobey," Petersen said. "Ours will be more dramatic. What 'Spider-Man' did quite good was the swinging Spider-Man through New York. Our thing, with Superman flying, will be an unbelievable, amazing new experience that you've never, ever seen before, because it's a long time ago with the 'Superman' films."
Petersen is eyeing a 2004 release for "Batman vs. Superman."