How DC tore up Marvel's rule-book with "Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice"

The Justice League and The Avengers were cinematically formed in two very different ways

In order to fully understand and appreciate how we've arrived at Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, we have to go back to the dawn of how DC and Warner Bros set up their respective universes.

First up was Superman, which hadn't had a movie entry since 1987's Superman IV: Quest For Peace. The early 90's almost saw the arrival of Superman V with Christoper Reeve set to reprise the role, but Cannon Films - the producers of the Superman series - closed due to bankruptcy.

In 1993, Superman Reborn went into pre-production, involving a plot that saw Superman dying, his life-force jumping into Lois Lane, who gives virgin birth to a child who grows to be 21 years old in just 3 weeks. Unsurprisingly, the movie never made it passed the script stages.

Superman Lives began to percolate around 1996, with Kevin Smith (Clerks) writing the script. Initially offered to Robert Rodriguez, who passed to direct The Faculty, the movie then went to Tim Burton, who offered the lead role to Nicolas Cage. Filming was set to begin in 1998, but a studio ordered rewrite by Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler) dropped the budget from $190 million to $100 million, and the constant delays lead to Burton dropping out to direct Sleepy Hollow. An entire documentary was made - The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened? - out of the collapsed movie.

Another rewrite of the script was offered to directors such as Michael Bay (Transformers), Brett Ratner (Rush Hour), Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) and Oliver Stone (JFK), and when Nicolas Cage eventually dropped out in 2000, the lead role was reportedly offered to Will Smith, who turned it down over concerns about ethnicity.

Next up, Warner Bros decided to focus on two separate projects almost side-by-side. First up was Superman: Flyby, written by JJ Abrams (The Force Awakens), which was originally offered to Brett Ratner (Rush Hour), before eventually handed over to McG (Charlie's Angels). Warners wanted to film in Australia due to tax breaks, but McG suffered a fear of flying, and dropped out of the project to direct Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle instead.

The other project was, in fact, Batman V Superman. The script had been written by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en) and was to be directed by Wolfgang Peterson (Troy), and he had initially approached Christian Bale for Batman (more on that later), before Josh Hartnett was then offered a $100 million, three-picture deal. Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin) was then brought in for a rewrite, but eventually it was decided to focus on individual Batman and Superman movies. Goldsman went on to write I Am Legend, and in the background of the ruined Times Square, is a massive poster for the failed project.

I Am Legend

Meanwhile, on the Bruce Wayne side of movie developments, things weren't going that much smoother. Batman & Robin was released in 1997, and Warner Bros offered that movie's director Joel Schumacher the job of the sequel, Batman Triumphant, which would see Clooney return in the title role, facing off against Nicolas Cage as The Scarecrow. Then Batman & Robin was released, and the rest of history...

The future-set Batman Beyond was in the works next, to be directed by Boaz Yakin (Remember The Titans), but the project was dropped almost the second it was revealed that Darren Aranofsky (Black Swan) was working on Batman: Year One. Aranofsky offered the role to Christian Bale, but Warners eventually decided to drop the project in favour of Peterson's Batman V Superman, which you'll remember, was then dropped in favour of an individual, standalone Batman movie...

In 2005, we finally got Batman Begins, and director Christopher Nolan managed to turn his Dark Knight Trilogy into a modern benchmark for comic book movie adaptations, something that Bryan Singer (X-Men) couldn't do with Superman Returns in 2006. Alongside, there was a Justice League: Dark in the works, to be directed by George Miller (Mad Max Fury Road), and Armie Hammer set to play Superman (who would eventually go on star with Henry Cavill in The Man From UNCLE), but then a series of failed tax breaks, the writer's strike and the huge success of The Dark Knight, Warner Bros eventually shelved that project, too.

After the huge success of his Batman trilogy, Warners brought Christopher Nolan on board to oversee the Superman redux, and with Zack Snyder (300) put in the director's chair, Henry Cavill put in the cloak, we finally got Man Of Steel in 2013. It netted $668 million at the box office, a healthy $277 million more than Superman Returns had made just seven years earlier, and the plans were set in place for Warners to head into the Justice League.

With the arrival of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, there was some bemoaning that Warners weren't following Marvel's blueprint of individual superheroes getting their movies before teaming up. But if anything has been learned, it's that there is no hard and fast rule in terms of comic-book movies.

In 2000, a huge amount of superheroes arrived on the screen all at once, but nobody complained that Wolverine, Magneto or Mystique didn't get their own individual movies, we just got The X-Men, and it was great. Then we did get individual X-Men movies, and they weren't great. In 2011, the director of GoldenEye teamed up with Warner Bros for their next sure-fire superhero hit, and we were delivered the floptastic Green Lantern. A couple of years later, Ryan Reynolds returned to the genre with the adult-skewed Deadpool, which is now one of the most profitable movies of the 2016 so far.

Back in 2008, when Marvel kicked off their Avengers initiative with Iron Man, they had the uphill battle of introducing the world to superheroes and villains that most people hadn't heard of. Hulk and Captain America, yes. Thor, maybe. But Black Widow? Loki? Nick Fury? Not a chance. But everyone already knows Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, so with Dawn Of Justice, Warners doesn't need to tell us who they are. They just have to make a good movie. We'll know soon enough if they've pulled it off.

With two Justice League movies, a Wonder Woman movie, Aquaman, Cyborg, The Flash and more getting their own movies between now and 2020, it looks like Warner Brothers has faith in their future, and that this Dawn is going to be pretty bright.