by J.M. McNab
A lot of movies are filmed here in Toronto– from this year’s Pacific Rim, to the Oscar-Winning documentary about Richard Gere’s inability to sing, Chicago. Still, I can think of no movie I am more excited to welcome here than the new Batman/Superman movie. The only super-hero movies shot in Toronto in recent years have been the disappointing non-Ang Lee Hulk movie, and the admittedly fun Kick-Ass. But to have my childhood heroes Batman and Superman come to town is a pretty big deal, although is does raise one important question: where does the movie take place? Metropolis or Gotham City?
The Dark Knight took a more realistic approach to Gotham City, shooting in Chicago, and eventually Pittsburgh for The Dark Knight Rises, the Adam West Batman series was shot in Los Angeles, and I believe Batman Returns was filmed in a snow-globe inside of Tim Burton’s brain. Conversely, Metropolis has been less distinctively identified on screen– in the Christopher Reeve movies, they make no effort to distinguish Metropolis from New York, even featuring the World Trade towers on the poster for Superman II. Superman Returns made an attempt to portray Metropolis, specifically the Daily Planet offices, as a stylized art deco location, calling back to Superman’s 1930s roots. The TV series Lois and Clark tried the same thing, albeit with a lot more neon because, you know, it was the early ’90s. More recently, in Man of Steel, Metropolis is envisioned as a smoldering pile of corpses and rubble… *cough*
Metropolis and Gotham City have always been twisted reflections of each other, and of their respective characters– Metropolis a bright, gleaming testament to the successes of Western modernity, and Gotham a monument to urban decay. One is mostly seen in the day, the other, at night.
So which city will Toronto be? If the movie takes place in Metropolis, that would be fitting– Superman co-creator and artist Joe Shuster based his vision of Metropolis on Toronto, his home town. According to Shuster: “Cleveland was not nearly as metropolitan as Toronto was, and it was not as big or as beautiful. Whatever buildings I saw in Toronto remained in my mind and came out in the form of Metropolis… As I realized later on, Toronto is a much more beautiful city than Cleveland ever was…” Even The Daily Planet was originally called “The Daily Star” named after The Toronto Star, where Shuster worked as a paperboy.
On the other hand, Toronto’s changed a lot since the ’30s, and today it may more closely resemble Gotham City. Recently, the Toronto Police fatally shot an eighteen-year-old offender armed only with a knife nine times. Nine times! That sounds like something Commissioner Gordon would take issue with, and then one of the cops would be all like, “Lighten up Gordon!” and then they’d all laugh at him. Or take Toronto’s Mayor, Rob Ford, who allegedly was videotaped smoking crack. He would be a great Gotham mayor! Someone to make The Penguin look like more of a viable Mayoral candidate.
Of course, Toronto’s seedy underbelly or its history with Superman are probably not on the filmmakers’ radar, they’re making this movie in Toronto for the same reason everyone does: it’s cheap! It’ll probably all be green-screened anyway…
UPDATE: Despite numerous reports (like here, here or here) it now appears Batman vs. Superman will be shot in Detroit. The move was made after the casting of Batman, presumably because Detroit will be standing-in for Boston where Batman will live in the new movie.