A Twist is Not a Lie
With Batman v Superman still several months away it’s no surprise outlandish fan theories are coming out of the woodwork. One particularly out-there theory comes from moviepilot.com. The general thesis is that a huge Batman V Superman plot twist will reveal that Ben Affleck is secretly not Bruce Wayne (and is instead comic book villain Slade Wilson, known also as Deathstroke) and that Batman V Superman is secretly a continuation of The Nolanverse (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and TDKR).
The crux of my argument against this theory is the simple notion that a plot twist is not the same as a lie. Much of the speculation and analysis surrounding this film is rooted in a fear of the unknown. Essentially, everybody loved Christopher Nolan’s Batman so how could there possibly be a new Batman in a new film?
(For an argument on why MoviePilot’s Batman theory might be correct, check over here.)
The Nolanverse Is Over.
The article’s theory hinges on a claim that Christopher Nolan, a producer on Batman V Superman and Man of Steel (the film to which BvS is technically a sequel), has never stated that Man of Steel (and therefore it’s sequel) are not a part of the Dark Knight universe. While this would lend a great deal of credence to the theory’s claims, Nolan has absolutely confirmed these new films have nothing to do with his batman trilogy.
For me, The Dark Knight Rises is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol.
Nolan had Warner Brothers’ confidence with his success with the Dark Knight films so they asked him to produce their new films, which lead some to wonder whether his universe would live on. But he has stated often that Man of Steel and Batman v Superman are Zack Snyder’s films, not his. Plus, after Batman v Superman, Nolan will no longer have any part in the DC Cinematic Universe.
Zack Snyder has also stated multiple times that BvS will feature a new distinctive Batman. “We’re bringing Batman into the universe that now this Superman lives in” (July 17, 2015). When both of the top people on the film seem to only ever express how different Batman v Superman will be from the Nolan Dark Knight’s world, it’s hard to believe there is some conspiracy theory hidden behind their statements.
The trailer tells the truth.
During the extended trailer there is a sequence when Perry White and Clark Kent are talking about Batman. Perry is the head of the Daily Planet, the most successful journalism organization in the DC universe. The two men talk about the Batman like he is new to the world and they have never heard of him until he came to Metropolis from Gotham. The events of The Dark Knight Rises include Gotham becoming a No Man’s Land when taken over by terrorists.
If BvS were a part of the Nolan verse, like the theory claims, Perry White (and Clark Kent) would be well aware of this event and therefore how Batman saved Gotham. The implication of the conversation is, again that Ben Affleck’s Batman is establishing an entirely new Bruce Wayne to the universe.
You don’t hire a major actor to play a fake out role.
The theory argues that no one in the trailer for the film ever refers to Ben Affleck’s character as Bruce Wayne. I can tell you that is absolutely true, and it means absolutely nothing. There is no reason the trailer for a Batman movie needs to tell us the Batman character is Bruce Wayne. In fact, it would almost fit the argument more if they did call him Bruce Wayne because the article is claiming the entirety of the promotion is one big set up to a lie.
Either way, Ben Affleck is billed as Bruce Wayne in all official sources such as IMDB, and all press releases on the matter. Furthermore, it has long since been announced that Ben Affleck will be the star of a new Batman film, but more recent news claims that Warner Brothers wants Affleck for a new trilogy. Whether it becomes one new film or three, it seems odd that the new Batman movie would sign Deathstroke as the lead character even if he were “pretending” to be Batman.
I’ll indulge the speculation for a second and say that even if Affleck’s Batman isn’t Bruce Wayne, the fact that he would be Slade Wilson is entirely unlikely. There are numerous other contenders for the cape and cowl that would make a more logical new Batman. Dick Grayson was Batman’s first Robin and the man who took up the mantle of Batman when Bruce died in the comics. Not only is Dick a very well-liked Batman in the canon, this is the only “approved” replacement Batman ever had. Jean-Paul Valley was the other main (and initially approved) fill-in for Bruce, but never quite fit the bill for being the hero Bruce was.
Admittedly, neither of these characters properly fit the theory the same way Deathstroke does, but would make much more sense to star in stand-alone Batman films. Making the only logical assumption that Ben Affleck is certainly just Bruce Wayne.
How does Superman factor in?
The production of Batman v Superman originated as a sequel to Man of Steel. While this is no longer how it’s being treated, this fact still paves the way for how it was developed. Superman himself, Henry Cavill explained, “This is Batman versus Superman. It’s a separate entity altogether. It’s introducing the Batman character and expanding upon the universe, which was kicked off by Man of Steel.” The idea behind Batman V Superman has always been to introduce Batman (and Wonder Woman) into Superman’s universe.
The argument that Ben Affleck is playing Slade Wilson implies a great deal of complicated (and frankly convoluted) plot surrounding only Batman. Even if Batman is the more prominent figure in the film, it still seems like too much of the run time to spend setting up a new Batman and then revealing Christian Bale is still the real Batman, all the while Superman is supposed to be a part of roughly half the film.
The argument spends some time explaining a theory about Superman clones being the instigating force of the film. This comes from mostly nowhere simply to fill in the blanks the theory left. The clone theory doesn’t preclude or prove Deathstroke as a part of the film. It is essentially a non-sequitur to make sense of the other non-sequiturs the theory relies on.
Influence from a different Dark Knight
The article insists that the bulky, armor-less style of the Batman costume in the film is directly referencing a certain comic book cover in which Slade is dressed as Batman.
But it’s clear that Zack Snyder and the production team took inspiration from somewhere else. Snyder has left no uncertainty that the overall look of the Batman character will be based around Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
Nothing here is definitive.
The theories are all supported not by facts or figures from the film (or at least the trailer), but rather by what has existed in the comics and animated universe. Slade was, of course, the major antagonist in the Teen Titans TV series, which seems to have been the bulk of the argument for him to be important enough to be in BvS.
But the thing is, the animated universe has never been too terribly connected to the film universe, and more importantly, the comics have rarely been more than inspiration for the film canon. Comics (and animated DC properties) are much more outlandish than any of DC’s films have been.
Warner Brothers has clearly had a sense to keep the films much more widely appealing than the comics ever have been. The theory that Ben Affleck is Deathstroke fits perfectly with how events unfold in DC comics, but it seems highly unlikely that a tent pole film would feature the same kind of ridiculous bate and switch tactics.
There is one point I will (partially) concede.
An example was made that the same logo for Wayne Enterprises used in The Dark Knight was used in Man of Steel. This is a tangible link between the two universes, there is no argument there. But Zack Snyder confirms that the piece is simply a reference and a passing of the torch of sorts from one film canon to the next. Ultimately, it’s clear that this isn’t so much a sign of nefarious plot twists and more the politics of Hollywood.
Ben Affleck is going to be a great Batman.
Overall, it really feels like speculation about Batman V Superman is mostly in fear that new means worse. People liked Christian Bale, so Ben Affleck can’t possibly be a worthy successor (this theory implies no one would really be an acceptable successor). This film is in the hands of a new team, and no matter what your thoughts on Man of Steel were, we have to respect the creative talents of this new group of artists.
It is also clear that DC Entertainment is trying to compete with the Marvel Studios model by having an overwhelmingly interconnected film canon (the DC Extended Universe). They have officially stated that Man of Steel is the beginning of that new universe and that Batman is being added to the world next.
Based on the dialogue surrounding the film from its actors and director, the entire point of Batman V Superman is to officially establish this new universe with new and unique ideas as far as the film canon is concerned.