Lori Anderson: Dark Knight or Man of Steel?

Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. Picture: Complimentary
Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. Picture: Complimentary
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As two superheroes ride to the rescue of the film industry, Lori Anderson tries to decide which one to woo

Spiderman once asked me for my phone number. He wove a web of scintillating arachnid romance, could he sweep me off my feet with cocktails and dinner or a picnic on the beach? All the while the Green Goblin looked on and listened in to our exchange. No I wasn’t dreaming or tripping, I was standing in Universal Studios in Los Angeles when I was accosted by this particular dynamic duo who, instead of swinging from buildings, their usual mode of transport, were instead trundling by in a motorised golf cart. I’ll admit I was tempted to say yes; after all, it’s not every day a girl can say she has a hot date with Spidey.

“What did Spiderman want?” asked my husband when he finally reappeared. “A date.” I tried to supress my glee but the words quietly squeaked out of me like processed cheese from a tube. Who doesn’t like a photographer in a catsuit? Superman, that’s who. Roving reporters and snappers usually argue like cats and dogs, one always blames the other for missing a scoop. Yet ever since I passed up on the chance to date a superhero, I’ve pondered who would be the most entertaining suitor from this pantheon of latter-day gods. Clearly I’m not alone.

Recently at Comic-Con in San Diego, that nirvana for comic geeks, where Amazonian women stalk the corridors in thigh-length PVC boots with what little remains of their dignity protected by a few bandoliers and a ray gun, it was announced that a new movie will be released in summer 2015, starring both Batman and Superman. Screenwriter David S Goyer announced at a panel celebrating the 75th anniversary of Krypton’s most famous son: “We don’t know what we’re going to call it yet – Superman Versus Batman or Batman Versus Superman – but those two guys on screen, that’s happening”.

The fevered anticipation at the prospect of these iconic characters clashing on the big screen triggered a meltdown online among fanboys, but it also got me thinking about which would make the better date: Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne, Superman or Batman? Although one is an alien from the distant and now dead planet Krypton, both are orphans who grew up to hide their identity and fight crime in stretchy lycra. One spends his days as a reporter banging out copy for the Daily Planet, while the other is the billionaire playboy behind Wayne Enterprises.

What can Superman offer? Travel would be super-swift with no need to pass through security, but I can only imagine what my hair would be like at the other end. And one must admit it would be rather embarrassing at parties, with him standing there clad in tights, cape and a T-shirt emblazoned with a giant logo, the letter “S”. Unless he regularly forgets his superhero code name, it’s a bit much. On the other hand Batman strides around in a black Kevlar suit with doberman pinscher ears, and his logo is so rock ’n’ roll – a bat. If Superman’s fashion brand is Versace, then Batman’s is more Tom Ford.

It’s not just today’s women who see a man in a latex bodysuit as the 21st century equivalent of a knight in shining armour, the entire Hollywood studio system seems to have donned wimples and bricked themselves up in towers of debt from which only sundry “insert Super, Bat, Iron etc” men can rescue them. Warner Brothers’s decision to put two of their super-eggs in one basket is a bold attempt to emulate the success of Avengers Assemble, the movie equivalent of the Famous Five, though instead of schoolchildren foiling criminals before their Easter hols come to an end and the lashings of ginger beer run dry, it was a handful of superheroes saving the planet, yet again. Cinema-goers around the world rejoiced and the movie earned almost £1 billion at the global box office. Then this summer along came Iron Man 3, which made almost £800 million.

In comparison, blockbuster movies that haven’t reached the multiplex clad in the superhero’s traditional cape and pants combo have wilted under the public’s indifferent gaze. In the past six weeks, a host of new films have slumped at the box office. Less than two months ago Steven Spielberg suggested a crisis was looming, and so it appears to have come to pass. The Lone Ranger may have had an elasticated mask, but he lacked the lycra-clad legs of a superhero and so stumbled, with projected losses for Disney of almost £100m. Pacific Rim, in which robots the size of tower blocks battle giant lizards, has also been washed down the plughole, along with White House Down (I love a “president in peril” movie, but the trailer made even me want to pass) and RIPD, in which Jeff Bridges shoots ghosts.

Who else will a studio turn to in their hour of need but a pair of superheroes? This is not the first time Warner Brothers have thought about uniting the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel. Back in 1997, Wolfgang Peterson, who directed Das Boot and Troy, developed a movie to star Batman and Superman, at a time when both characters’ movie careers were moribund, but the project was shelved after executives developed cold feet amid fears that if unsuccessful, the film had the potential to single-handedly kill off not one but two lucrative franchises.

What few details have emerged include the news that Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, will be returning, and it would be intriguing to see if she finds herself torn between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel, between the psychologically scarred orphan with a vengeance for justice and a penchant for breaking bones and the high-flying epitome of truth, justice and the American way. I know which way I’d go, and sadly Superman would be the recipient of my “Dear John” letter. Besides, doesn’t every girl love a bad-boy billionaire on a motorbike?