Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why So Serious? (Literally)

According to HitFix, Warner Bros. requires DC Entertainment to make all of their upcoming DC Cinematic Universe films super-serious with… "No jokes"…

No joke

Drew McWeeny reports that he's heard the "no jokes" mantra five times now, and that this new, ludicrous rule has possibly been set all because of... Green Lantern.

As many of you may know, Green Lantern was definitely more lighthearted and jokey than Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy and DC Cinematic Universe kick-off Man of Steel. The movie was also a massive critical and commercial misfire… But it's not because of the humor in it, it tanked because it was a bad movie that audiences did not like. A rushed, over budgeted one at that! Ahhhh, executive wisdom at its finest.

The move is also a half-hearted attempt to differentiate DC's films from Marvel's. I'm all for DC movies not being like Marvel's, because imitator movies aren't fun. (Looking at you, Amazing Spider-Man 2.) But, if you're going to be different from Marvel, be passionate about it! Instead of applying a simple, close-minded "no jokes" rule to the upcoming 9 films, why not really think of what the tones of these films will be like and how they'll be different. How will humor be worked into these stories, and how will the senses of humor differ from Marvel's? How will the adventures differ from Marvel's, and so on. Not that hard to do, WB…

Wait a minute, why is Warner Bros. calling the shots? Marvel's succeeding because Disney sits back and just rolls in the dough, WB executives need to do the same. Hands… Off! Let Zack Snyder, Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer, whoever is writing/directing the future films… Let them do the work, let them decide what direction they want to go in with the DC Cinematic Universe.

Suddenly, it all makes sense now…

Sure, I lay a lot of Man of Steel's script problems at David S. Goyer's feet, but I'm now betting that WB executives simply had Snyder and Goyer copy the Nolan formula. Hence the desaturated color scheme, the doom-and-gloom tone, the depressing score, the lack of humor, the lack of an escapist fun-at-the-movies feel that Snyder's film so desperately needed.

Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is its own unique entity. It was always meant to be standalone, separated from other comic book films and series. It was also never intended to be part of a shared universe… Man of Steel kicked the DCCU off to such a disappointing start because it looked backwards, trying to replicate those fantastic Nolan films so much. The funny thing is, it completely ignored one major thing that made Nolan's trilogy work. Not the darkness, not the themes, not the seriousness… The humanity. The very core that I feel made that whole trilogy the great trilogy that it was.

Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises have heavy moments, are generally serious in tone, and can be heart wrenching at times. At the same time, they have characters with personalities, they have quite a few humorous moments, the tones in each film adapt to different scenes showcasing different emotions. An action-packed moment is very thrilling, while a tragic one is somber. A simple scene is not upbeat nor downbeat, there are some genuinely "edge of your seat" moments in those films… Those are "fun" movies.

Fun movies are movies that you enjoy watching. For some reason, though, a lot of people seem to think that fun = "Adam West Batman camp". How come we equate fun to just that when there are many forms of fun? Nolan's films are fun because the characters are great, the stories are engaging, thus they have you on the edge of your seat! If you're on the edge of your seat, thrilled and intrigued by a movie, you are having fun!

Man of Steel chases the Nolan lightning, but forgets the core that makes Nolan's movies resonate. It's not because there's no humor or jokes in the movie. There are some, but they are so odd and out of place thanks to the tone. It's because the characters are uninteresting and wooden, the story is mostly exposition, pointless action and seriousness, you can't follow it. It's like being friends with a very serious person who barely cracks a smile; you go on a 3-hour hike or something and all he/she does is lecture you in a monotone voice on the meaning of life instead of adding a bit of variety to the conversation.

I don't think Man of Steel should not have been serious, I'm all for seriousness when it's done right. I'm not against Man of Steel taking a Nolan approach, I'm not against it for attempting to be "darker" than previous Superman entries. I'm against Man of Steel for not having a good time. I'm against it because it sacrifices humanity and enjoyment for the edginess, edge for edge's sake. That way, it makes it dark in name only, it's never truly dark. I'm against its use of ridiculously washed out colors and an overall somber mood that even plagues the more action-packed sequences. City battles, distant planets, spaceships, farmlands… Why did that all have to be accompanied with such a bleak color scheme and mood? Funny thing is, the Batman films' color schemes aren't even that desaturated! Or even that muted!

Then of course, there's the whole response to Marvel's movies. Marvel's movies don't work just because of the comedy, they work because they use comedy in the right places in each of their films. But Marvel's movies also work because they have good stories, they try on different genres, they have great characters, and because of that the films are intriguing and have humanity. That clicks with audiences and fans alike. Green Lantern had the humor alright, but it didn't have what Marvel Studios' films had. It was executive meddled to death, the script was hacked up. That's why it bombed, Marvel's movies do well because of the reasons I just listed. Also, news flash… There are many different kinds of humor you can use in superhero movies! Nolan's Batfilms have some really funny moments, they really do, but they're unique. They work within the context of the stories! DC films need to find their style instead of copying Nolan and leaving out the humanity that makes his films so good. If some blogger like myself can figure that out, then a bunch of suits can too.

I was hoping Chris Terrio would breathe humanity into the DC Cinematic Universe with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, that he would add the heart that Man of Steel was missing. I was hoping he'd write a script that would intrigue you, where the characters all have personalities and aren't just cardboard mopers spewing exposition. I guess, if WB's rules are true, that this won't be the case. It'll be Man of Steel all over again. Justice League, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Shazam… All humorless and dour. Do we really want that??

The report almost reads like an April Fool's Day prank or an article on The Onion, except it isn't April Fool's, it apparently is not a joke, and the news didn't come from The Onion…

There goes any shred of excitement I had for the DC Cinematic Universe, once again. As far as I'm concerned, Marvel Studios has it down pat and Fox is turning the X-Men ship in the right direction. DC, call me when WB drops the "serious" schtick, and Sony, call me when Avi Arad and his cronies back off of the Amazing Spider-Man films.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh. And to think I was beginning to get excited for these films. Who knows, maybe they won't see this through, or at least I hope they don't. I'm not too keen on a humorless, gloomy DC Cinematic Universe. Heck, even the Dark Knight trilogy had some funny bits here and there! *sigh* Curse you WB execs.