Ever since the release of Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman, DC has been attempting to replicate Marvel's cinematic success in creating its own interconnected superhero universe. While the DCEU has struggled to find its footing with numerous behind-the-scenes issues along the way, nine films have been released so far within this main timeline.
With how far DC has come in film over the last eight years, it's easy to forget that Man of Steel initially started off as a standalone film with little suggestion that it may one day expand into something bigger. The biggest nod to a wider world came in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to Wayne Enterprises, leading many fans to speculate another Batman film wasn't far away.
At the time of Snyder's film hitting theaters, it had been under a year since Christopher Nolan concluded his critically-acclaimed Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan ended his time with the Caped Crusader with a happy and romantic ending for Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne, setting up Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Robin Blake to become Gotham's next protector.
While many fans speculated at the time that a return for Bale's Batman was on the horizon, that obviously proved not to be the case as Ben Affleck took up the legendary cape and cowl.
However, it seems that wasn't always the plan as Zack Snyder has confirmed that he considered connecting his take on the DC universe to Nolan's trilogy.
MAN OF STEEL WAS ALMOST SET IN NOLAN'S DARK KNIGHT UNIVERSE
In a recent appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, director Zack Snyder revealed that he considered placing Man of Steel in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight universe.
When asked if he considered connecting his Superman film to Nolan's trilogy, Snyder revealed that it “was not 100% off the table.” and they did “talk about it a little bit:”
“It was not 100% off the table. We did talk about it a little bit. The whole thing is that I think that it's difficult, and it would have been interesting.”
The Man of Steel director went on to explain that if they chose to tie in with Nolan's franchise, then “the Batman in [the] movie would've probably been Joseph [Gordon-Levitt]” who was teased to take over the mantle in The Dark Knight Rises:
“If we had done that, the Batman in this movie would've probably been Joseph [Gordon-Levitt] which could've been cool.”
Additionally, the former DC filmmaker revealed a big reason why they opted against the connection was that he liked how Nolan's trilogy stands on its own and “doesn't get muddied by these other projects:”
“I like that his thing doesn't get muddied by these other projects. I'm glad I didn't f*** with it because it's a pretty nice trilogy and I enjoy it”
WAS A NEW DC UNIVERSE THE RIGHT OR WRONG DECISION?
While plenty of time has now passed since the ending of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, at the time of Man of Steel's release, many fans were still hungry to see more from that world. The Oscar-nominated director's decision to end his series on a cliffhanger proved to be a controversial one; the story of Gotham was left open to continue with Gordon-Levitt teased to take up a heroic mantle of his own.
However, given Bale's time as The Dark Knight was clearly at an end with the conclusion of Nolan's involvement, opting to reboot the character may have been the right decision for the DCEU. Given the ongoing franchise was DC's first attempt to assemble the Justice League in live-action, Bruce Wayne had to naturally be an important part of that team.
Assuming Snyder's Batman would have been John Blake in this scenario, many fans likely would have been dissatisfied with Wayne's from the first live-action Justice League, unless, of course, Bale's return could've been negotiated.
Nonetheless, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy stands on its own as arguably one of the best pieces of comic book cinema ever released with a solid conclusion to Bruce Wayne's arc. Had DC opted to return to the universe, many would have seen the move as a cash grab by Warner Bros. to capitalize on the trilogy's success instead of as a legitimate creative decision.
Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck are both set to return as Batman in next year's The Flash while Robert Pattinson will debut as the caped crusader in The Batman. The appearance of three Batman actors in just one year makes it clear that a return to The Dark Knight universe may not be totally out of the question, especially as DC begins to introduce its live-action multiverse in cinema.