Rumour: Warner Bros want their DC superhero movies to have "no jokes"

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Ever since Warner Bros and DC have tried to go toe to shared universe toe with main rival Marvel, they have been playing catch up. While Marvel was busy planning and successfully executing an ambitious, industry changing business plan for the last few years, DC fanboys had to gnash their teeth as everything from WB not containing the words “Christopher Nolan” and “Batman” ended up an embarrassment.

But with reasonable success of Man of Steel setting up the upcoming Batman v Superman and Justice League, which will in turn spin-off into a big, interlocking superhero roster of their own, DC are finally poised to step up their game in a big way. And they’re taking this very seriously. No, I mean that literally.

According to an article written by Drew McWeeny over on HitFix, there have been rumblings from no less than five different sources that the suits over on the Warner Bros lot has issued a simple, two-word mandate to all the filmmakers involved with bringing this upcoming slate of DC their properties to life: “No jokes”.

Huh?

As Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s latest offering and currently the biggest film in America for 2014, would attest, a few jokes can certainly go a hell of a long way to winning over audiences; when people are having a really good time, laughing their butts off, they tend to overlook the smaller niggles. This jocular approach is one that has worked gangbusters for Marvel, and even for their movies with a more serious tone, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, they’ve always found a way to sneak in a well-timed punchline or two to break up the tension.

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But according to what HitFix is hearing, there will no sneaking in of any jokes, gags or punchlines whatsoever. While I have done my own fair share of defending when it comes to some of the criticisms levelled at Man of Steel, there is no way you can deny that the film has an opressively glum tone. This is apparently what WB want for all their movies going forward.

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This is not just a horrible idea because a never-ending barrage of po-faced, glum heroes and heroines would quickly attain a level of depression that borders on the suicidal, but by issuing such an edict they are also creatively muzzling any prospective filmmakers who would have worked with them. The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy are the gigantic successes that they are because Marvel allowed the unique flavor of Joss Whedon and James Gunn to come shining through. That won’t happen with WB\DC’s movies.

So why do it? The first reason that comes to mind is simple: To be different. Marvel’s Phase structure, where a series of standalone movies build up to a multi-character crossover pic, is a proven, wildly successful template, and yet WB\DC is taking the almost exact, far more perilous route with their lineup. And it almost feels that they’re doing this intentionally, despite the glaring pitfalls, just so as to not be seen to be copying Marvel.

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So if Marvel’s movies are all about fast talking heroes and punchy one-liners, then WB/DC’s offerings are going to be self-serious and dramatic.

HitFix offers up another explanation for this gag gag-order: Whereas Marvel comics have always tended to treat their heroes as more men-on-the-street, with the type of personal and social quirks and problems that plague us regular Joes, DC has always elevated most of their heroes to the mythological. These aren’t socially awkward science geeks in brightly coloured spandex, these are modern-day (and sometimes ancient) gods who watch over us from their pedestals in the sky (literally, in the case of the Justice League and their satellite Watchtower), and WB\DC may want to maintain that dramatic reverence in their movies as well.

Whatever the reason though, I think it’s a horrible idea if true. While there is certainly nothing wrong with a serious, intense blockbuster (please see: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), nobody likes a grouch. Especially not one based on a guy dressed as a giant flying rodent or another who spends his time in a blue onesie and red booties.

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Last Updated: August 28, 2014

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions – but very little sleep – I’ve been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

  • Admiral Chief Assassin

    Why so serious indeed

  • Stupid ass idea.

  • Weanerdog

    Chris Nolan’s Batman – serious as hell and a success. Man of Steel I have yet to watch but also seems decent and was by all accounts quite glum so it seems that Serious, dark, depressing and gloom is what is currently working for them.

    • Mike

      Yes, but only for certain heroes. Batman and even Superman I can understand, but I don’t want to watch a serious Flash movie. At least the CW Flash looks like it will be good and with jokes.

      • Weanerdog

        I think that it is a stupid idea, because as you say it needs to related to the material. I was just offering up why I think they said what they said (assuming the rumour is true). I believe that this may work for Batman v Superman I really believe that they need some form of banter in JLA unless they make it a proper adult movie like Watchmen, which I doubt.

  • Matthew Holliday

    Im fine with the no gags for the majority.
    i cant stand it when comedy is added just because…

    a bit concerned with the bold “NO FUNNIES” rule though, if it was brought in when its needed, Id be fine: flash, green arrow, derpishly akward Wonder Womans first experience with an ice cream and supes teasing the bat that he cant fly.

  • When I think about the best DC film to date, without a doubt it’s the Dark Knight and a large part of that is due to the Joker.

    It wasn’t as comedic or light hearted as the Marvel films, but it had its funny moments and it was over the top. Big thing was not taking itself too seriously. I mean, it’s a serious and clever film, but it was insane.

    Something I disliked from the Dark Knight Rises was, among other things, how serious it tried to be… When the whole film is about a ‘normal’ guy fighting crime dressed as a bat, it can’t possibly be all dark only. Even if the good guy is deep, his enemies are to a degree eccentric! Bane for example, should have been this hulking/drug-junkie. Instead he was just some strong guy who was also maybe smart… where’s the personality!? Where’s the realness of the character? I felt DC tried to make it too dark and serious and thus dropped the aspects that make Bane who he is.

    With Man of Steel, although its arguably the best Superman we’ve had this generation, it was all explosions and again dropping Superman like qualities… Superman always finds a better way, that’s what makes him so super and above other heroes. By dropping that, you’re making him just some God hero that kills… at least Man of Steel had some light humor to offset the high action/drama.

    And now they say they want to make more gritty, less funny, films… I get they want to be different and I get the grittiness to a degree and it can work, but then at least stick true to who the heroes are. It can’t all be doom and gloom… what world are they saving?!

    Not one I want to live in…

    • cookiemonster

      Agreed whole heartedly. …I don’t want doom and gloom…I want escapism

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