Last month saw the world premiere of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the latest chapter in Warner Bros.’ ever-expanding superhero franchise. The film’s director, Zack Snyder, took the opportunity to share some details about the film’s extensive and successful research process, emphasizing the fact that although the film is set in the present day, a lot of its inspiration came from the 1960s and early ’70s.
While we knew that Batman v Superman was heavily inspired by the 1960s and early ’70s, little else was revealed about the movie’s research process. But given that the film is such a major event for Warner Bros, it’s no surprise that the studio went to such great lengths to ensure that every aspect — from the costumes to the sets — matched the feel of that iconic era.
Let’s start with costumes. For years, the costumes for Warner Bros. films have largely been a source of fan debate, with costumers frequently pointing out that the movies’ wardrobes did not reflect the styles of the 1960s. While some elements, such as the addition of a hood in the character’s iconic mask, were incorporated, the general look of the costumes was more akin to that of the 30s and 40s.
The debate actually started long before the production of Batman v Superman. In 2012, Christian Bale, who portrays Batman in the film, noted that the costumes for his character were based on the classic 40s look and were “not meant to be like the ’70s fashion or anything. They were just trying to keep it simple and stylish.”
But even with Bale’s clarification, fans continued to debate the issue, arguing that there was no way to ‘simplify’ the ‘70s fashion and that the costumes looked very fake. And as someone who has spent much of his life in ‘70s costumes (in real life and on screen), I have to agree: While the costumes look extremely authentic, I can’t help but feel that, for the most part, they were borrowed from a previous era.
Another area of contention has been the iconic Batman hood. Traditionally a part of Batman’s costume, the hood was one of the elements that most clearly didn’t make it to screen in the ‘70s. For years, comic book fans have argued that the inclusion of a hood was a clear indication that director Zack Snyder and cinematographer Chris Ferro were seeking to inject a ‘noir’ vibe into the film. However, the filmmakers have repeatedly stated that the hood was a necessary piece of the costume and that they didn’t want to take it off.
But even with the hood, the costume still didn’t look like it belonged to the 60s. Christian Bale, who again plays Batman in the movie, stated that the filmmakers were “really going for a Noir vibe” and that they were “trying to strip back the superhero element as much as possible, and put [Bale] in a different setting and time period.” But it’s clear that the creators of Batman were not exactly embracing the essence of noir – at least not entirely. While it’s a completely different story with a different perspective, I can’t help but think of the classic Humphrey Bogart line: “When a man’s got a gun at your head, you’ll do anything to keep your own head.”
Ultimately, it seems clear that the creators of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were looking to evoke the styles of that era, but only partially. And whether or not they meant to, they have certainly succeeded in creating a unique and memorable product that will no doubt spur on future costume designs as well as movie ideas.
Speaking of future designs and ideas, let’s discuss the fact that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is set in the present day but is, in fact, inspired by the ‘60s and early ‘70s. One of the major plot points of the film is that Lex Luthor, who is played by the ever-underrated Jesse Eisenberg, invents a ‘sonic belt’ that allows him to hear and speak to people. As a result of this invention, Superman is forced to retire and Bruce Wayne relives his glory days as Batman.
While it was great to see Batman and Superman facing off against each other for a second time in film with their own solo films preceding the epic clash, none of us wanted to see the characters stuck in time, particularly when they could be living their best lives in the present day. For years, fans have called for the return of the DC Universe to its ‘roots’ and have frequently pointed out that none of the films in this universe have ever really seemed to fit into the wider continuity of what came before.
And it’s true that none of these films really feel like they belong together. But somehow, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, they all fit perfectly. I think this is because the costume, setting, and music all feel like they belong together. This is the result of a successful blending of influences that makes for a truly memorable film experience. While many comic book fans are still trying to figure out where to start in a series of films about Bruce Wayne’s adventures as Batman, I think we can all agree that, whatever may come next, it will be worth it.