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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last Updated: August 28, 2014