Chris Terrio on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Speaking to Wall Street Journal, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice co-screenwriter Chris Terrio revealed his thought process in writing the DC Extended Universe story world, and how it establishes Justice League Part One:

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Speaking to Wall Street JournalBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice co-screenwriter Chris Terrio revealed his thought process in writing the DC Extended Universe story world, and how it establishes Justice League Part One:

The first movie I ever saw was Superman II. I almost drowned in a pool at age four playing Aquaman. I went away from comics for most of my life. But I stayed on top of super-hero movies. The ones that intrigued me the most were the Nolan films. They were ways of asking interesting questions in a genre form. We stand on the shoulders of those films in a way. Nolan helped establish a space in which super-hero movies can be taken more seriously. We thought a lot about those films, to a point where I had to stop watching The Dark Knight because I found I was rewriting it. It’s impossible to know everything in the DC universe, but I threw myself into it and tried to learn as much as possible and I found such intelligence in so many of the comics. Obviously Frank Miller is a well-known and respected writer who influences this film very directly. Also writers like Grant Morrison, who asks difficult philosophical questions in an extremely smart way. I tried to take in as much as I could while also keeping a little bit of an outsider’s eye. It’s almost archetypal. In Batman’s origin, the primary thing I was thinking about is the fact he falls. It’s the primary metaphor for Western literature: There was a moment before and then everything fell. That brings up questions of Superman. I began to think Batman and Superman occupy different parts of the mythic imagination. In superhero stories, Batman is Pluto, god of the underworld, and Superman is Apollo, god of the sky. That began to be really interesting to me — that their conflict is not just due to manipulation, but their very existence. In the end, there’s a common humanity which I think is discovered at a certain moment in the film. After Man of Steel, I didn’t want to have this moment where you say, “Batman exists in this world, we forgot to tell you.” We’re saying, “No he’s been here the whole time.” With Diana Prince, I thought it would be better if we met her as a civilian first and involved her in the plot in a way that felt like a thriller. She’s a mysterious woman interested in the same things Bruce Wayne is. The fun of it is if you don’t immediately reveal her in superhero guise, you get to revel in the moment when she finally does reveal herself. If you bring in a character in a kinetic way, then you accept the reality more easily.  I initially thought I wasn’t the guy to do Justice League and went off to work on something else. But the first day I went to the set, I saw Jesse in a scene with Holly Hunter and I really did feel like I was watching some strange, great performance in an independent film. At that moment, I thought, “I’m not done with this yet. I want to go back and keep telling the story.” Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a bit of [a] Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back or The Lord of the Rings: The two Towers or any similar middle film in a trilogy. The middle film tends to be the darkest one. I do think from Man of Steel through Justice League it is one saga really. I expect Justice League will be tonally not quite as dark as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. From that point of view, I felt compelled to go back and try to lift us and myself into a different tonal place because I think when you write a darker film, sometimes you want to redeem it all a bit.  I have written Justice League Part One, but I won’t necessarily write Justice League Part Two. This has been the most rigorous intellectual exercise I’ve had in my writing life. For Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I wanted to really dig into everything from ideas about American power to the structure of revenge tragedies to the huge canon of DC Comics to Amazon mythology. For Justice League Part One, I could be reading in the same day about red- and blueshifts in physics, Diodorus of Sicily and his account of the war between Amazons and Atlanteans, or deep-sea biology and what kind of life plausibly might be in the Mariana Trench. If you told me the most rigorous dramaturgical and intellectual product of my life would be superhero movies, I would say you were crazy. But I do think fans deserve that. I felt I owed the fan base all of my body and soul for two years because anything less wouldn’t have been appreciating the opportunity I had.

Author: the Purple Prose Mage

I'm not Batman, but I wish that I were.

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