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 People wearing colorful spandex with capes and masks and with outdated themes.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.
With the fall TV season approaching, I’ve been checking in on a few shows that I watch regularly for some status updates. And there’s a heck of a lot happening around one of my personal favourites, Smallville.
Cast changes are nothing new to the show. Pete Ross and both Kent parents have departed from the show, as have bit players like Lana’s high school boyfriend Whitney Fordman and the original town sheriff (whose name escapes me). But as the show enters its eighth (and likely final) season, there are massive changes on the horizon. Kara (aka Supergirl), Lex Luthor and Lana Lang will not be returning as regulars for the final season. Add in the fact that Lionel Luthor left the show during Season 7 and you have a seriously depleted cast. We are essentially left with Clark, Chloe, Lois and Jimmy Olsen as the only truly remaining core characters.
I won’t miss Supergirl; I don’t feel she added much depth to the show, and the actress didn’t seem to be able to do much with the character. And Lana’s character ran her course, she was due to leave. But losing Lex… you can’t have Yin without Yang. His departure will ultimately affect the show even more than the departure of developers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. Which brings up another point, they had always insisted on “no tights, no flights” for Clark Kent. This may change now that they are off the show, which could be good or bad.
Season 8 will also feature some other interesting twists. Smallville featured a one-off “Justice League” created from a collection of super heroes introduced at various points in the show’s history; Green Arrow, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. Apparently, this Justice League (likely consisting of Arrow, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter) will become more formal, especially now that Green Arrow is a regular on the series. As a comic fan, I can honestly say this intrigues me. I love the idea of a live-action Justice League show… but I don’t know if I like it at the expense of the Smallville series I have watched regularly over the past seven years. It will be interesting to see how this affects the series.
Finally, there was another piece of news that I didn’t quite know how to react to; Doomsday is coming to Smallville. The very same Doomsday that killed Superman back in the early 1990s (in the comics). Ironically, Doomsday came about because the Lois & Clark series scuttled DC’s original plans to have the comic Superman and Lois get married. However, plans were changed when ABC wanted the on-screen version to get married first. So DC regrouped and ended up doing the Death of Superman storyline, which single-handedly reworked much of 1990s DC mythology (which I won’t go into here). Anyhow, this Doomsday character will apparently have an alter-ego who is an “easy-going paramedic”. This sounds a little like an evil version of the Incredible Hulk… which makes me cringe in anticipation of an on-screen Doomsday that might almost be as bad as the film version of Bane from Batman & Robin.
There are plenty of changes coming; Smallville might be barely recognizable compared to even the most recent season. Will I like it? I have no idea. Will I be entertained? I sincerely hope so. But more importantly… will I watch? Oh hell yeah.