There were some major hits in the comic movie arena this summer. Iron Man and The Incredible hulk were home runs and The Dark Knight was the biggest grand slam of them all. These movies once again have shown the special marriage between comic books and movies is here to stay. However, this something something special has happened. The superhero movies have grown and the basic mold has been broken. People now know and expect something more complex and sophisticated out of a movie. The linear approach and simplicity of a movie like Ghost Rider will not be accepted.
DC and WB are scratching their heads pondering real hard where to go from where they are to be where Marvel is. Their idea clearly is to set multiple platforms and capitalize with one big team up movie(s). However, DC is faced with more decisions and obstacles than Marvel. One of them being how to present the characters to an audience of today without looking unrealistically out of place with its contemporaries.
That is a big problem. The characters and their nature are stuck in a different time. DC comics has not grown with the times. The comments watchmen director Zach Snyder has made are true. The audience is more sophisticated these days and you CANNOT sell them something that is too earnest or unrealistic because they simply wont buy into it. That is if, of course, getting the general public(i.e. people who are not fans of the character) to even consider checking out your movie is what you are looking for. Unfortunately that is what most of the DC catalogue is sitting at: Filling an archetype. People wearing colorful spandex with capes and masks and with outdated themes. It may have worked for Linda Carter in the 70s but it would just look straight up ridiculous in a modern movie. The common audience wont take it seriously and it is that realism and reflection of the times that DC lacks in most of its core characters and has to modify to have a successful run in Hollywood.
Comic books are a part of popular culture which reflects itself in this form, and its themes and characters have evolved with the times for people to identify with them. Golden Age stuff has historical significance and importance but compared to what it is now it just doesn’t fit. DC has not updated their characters with the times and now were having a huge problem with Superman and its difficulty to have the audience relate to the current incarnation/presentation of the character. Superman returns was basically a repeat of a 1979 CLASSIC, and this day it didn’t go over too well even with the core FANS because its been done and ,well, it was just silly. People simply didn’t care and take the use of this presentation of the character as one of the weak points of the latest superman movie that’s left a bad taste on movie goers. Note how trying to do the same thing again to please and not alienate the fans ended up upsetting the fans, losing out on repeat viewings and interest of the general public, and not meeting expectations in the box office. Established movie franchises like James Bond have had to adapt with the times to keep filling the seats, and clearly it is working for them. Pierce Brosnan shooting from his invisible car holding a martini was not going to work forever and had to upgrade. That is what has to be done, of course, if setting up multimillion dollar franchises is what WB is down with.
A movie is not made for audiences in the past 70 years. Its made for an audience of TODAY. The reason the Dark knight was successful was because the character was presented in a modern setting with modern themes and situations in a manner that was realistic enough for the audience to suspend their disbelief and take interest all while still maintaining the essence of the character. There was a reason for Batman to wear a riot gear armor and not spandex with underoos. It was necessary for you to see that it made sense. Of course there are characters like Batman and maybe even superman that must maintain their cape and cowl, but the presentation of most the characters has to be modified and upgraded for these times and someone as imersed in this like Mark Millar will tell you the same. It is possible that the new wave of movies does this for the comics instead of the other way around but certainly DC has to catch up with the times.
I understand fans wishes to respect the history of the character, and certainly the essense of the character has to remain, but if you want to make money and keep people interested you cannot deliver a character that is out of setting with how sofisticated and non-naive the audience is. Not if you want to cash in big at the BO. When people are faced with something too surreal or not well done they wont enjoy the movie but will spend their time critizicing or making sense of it in their minds instead of watching it. The movie of course has to be fun, and has to be well written, etc, but if DC wants to pull this off succesfully in the same way marvel is doing it the characters have to be treated with a sense of common sensibility and realism that the characters currently do not have. Not to mention it has to be done in the same degree so that they can all be in the crossover movie.
The powers that be over at WB are putting their collective minds together according to the Hollywood Reporter
In the course of the past couple of weeks, Warner Bros. Pictures Group president Jeff Robinov and Warner Bros. Pictures president Kevin McCormick have been meeting with DC Comics executives as well some of DC’s top talents, like Jim Lee, to discuss a new direction for film adaptations.
There is no doubt in my mind that the WB suits are looking at what Marvel has been able to pull of this year: An organized attack to generate buzz by creating a Marvel movie universe. The hype and multiple movie possibilities are endless. It is a wise strategy and all it takes is a little bit of planning and a few teasers here and there. Marvel is pointing towards an Avengers movie in 2011 or so with all the characters being individual franchises themselves.
DC has simply not been aggressive at making movies out of their properties. I believe that the reason things are the way they are is because Marvel, even though they started much later, has had a much quicker and steep learning curve. Not to mention that they had to go their own way and branch out to be Marvel Studios to be able to have as much artistic freedom so that the end product is not a complete travesty that falls out of its real target market. Now Marvel Studios has a certain freedom that DC Comics doesn’t have. DC is a subsidiary of WB and we all know some suits that don’t care about the material are the ones that make the decisions and judge everything based on “the bottom line”. Lets hope this changes.
Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were excellent movie adaptations. Marvel has finally been able to put together a reliable formula for a movie based on comic books and they wont be stopping any time soon. So while they are cashing in by planning and using what they have learned so far, DC had to look at this and say: “Shit, we have to go for it too”. Not all is bad in DC land though, they hold the biggest ace of them all: The Dark Knight. A movie that will more than likely redefine the way comic book movies are approached in terms of content.
What DC should do: Then Exactly what Marvel is doing. Create an identical production studio for DC comics and let someone with both Comics and Movie production experience run things. Get individual properties out of their core characters. Green Lantern, Wonder Woman(I can see this movie making a lot of cash), Flash need to get going quickly. However, they have follow Marvel’s formula as well: Recognizable talented lead and supporting actors/actresses, a talented director with a passion for the character, and the screenplay has to be somewhat loyal to source material to the point that the characters essence is there. No one wants to really see a batman in the 70s with a black Alfred (are you listening Aronofsky?). Once that is done, reboot superman and bring batman in to have a massive Justice League Cross over.
All I know is that it is fun seeing all of these movies being made about the stuff I read about so much as a kid. There are a few that are bound to suck here and there but, hey, the more the merrier.