When Batman and Superman throw down, who comes out on top? The answer is irrelevant in the face of the most important question of all: how do we label the damn fight? Appearing at Justice Con over the weekend, director Zack Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio discussed alternate titles for 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
As corny as the final name is, it could've been worse — a whole lot worse.
"There was back and forth that I had with the studio," Snyder said, recounting a "crazy negotiation" that involved super minute details like the styling of the word "versus" (believe it or not, there was an alleged debate between the use of "v" or "vs"). "I was like, 'Guys, can't we just do something like Son of Sun and Knight of Night? Or something that's a little bit more poetic?' And they were like, 'Absolutely not.'"
He did concede that the ultimate decision to go with a single "v" ended up making the movie's abbreviation "really easy" to recognize. "When someone goes, 'Yeah, but BvS needs blah, blah, blah.' And you're like, 'Ok, I'm with you now. I know what you're talking about,'" he added.
Terrio added his two cents, stating that he was originally in favor of "something really simple like 'Batman and Superman.' Or something, as Zack was saying, in the vein of Man of Steel. It feels more like it's a progression from Man of Steel."
Watch the full Justice Con panel below:
There was even talk of making the film's connection to Justice League more overt. "For a while we talked about ... titling it 'Justice League:' and then something after that to suggest that this movie was gonna be the beginning of the Justice League, even though it didn't really look like it," the screenwriter continued. "'Justice League: Foundations' or 'Justice League: Rising. I'm just extemporaneously trying to think of titles that we battered back and forth."
At the time, though, Justice League wasn't officially green-lit. "They were still sketchy with us about it," Snyder said. "Once we said, 'This is how we wanna do it' and knew that there would be a cliffhanger at the end, and that this movie would lead to a Justice League movie. I think they felt like [titling this] 'Justice League' was aggressive in this window, even though we thought being aggressive was the right way to go."
The discussions surrounding the title turned out to be the least of Dawn of Justice's worries. Despite a box office draw of almost $900 million worldwide, the crossover film bombed with critics and many audience members, who did not enjoy Snyder's moody and nihilistic approach to the characters. The audience backlash prompted a swing of the tonal pendulum as Warner Bros. extensively reshot and re-edited Suicide Squad and Justice League to make them lighter and funnier (in the vein of the MCU).
In the end, however, Snyder was willing to lose the title battle if he could win the war on his vision.
"The truth is...we kind of stole that from the studio in some ways," he admitted about BvS. "It wasn't 100 percent the movie they wanted to make ... BvS is a 'take it apart' movie and Justice League is a 'put it back together' movie. In retrospect, I do agree with Chris. I wish that we'd fought them harder, but I felt like I was sneaking one by them with BvS. When they said, 'Ok, but we just want to call it Batman v Superman.' And I go, 'The movie that we're talking about making?' And they're like, 'Yeah.' I'm like, 'Yeah! In that case, that's fine! As long as it's not another movie. 'We don't like the title and the movie' is more problematic."