Chat Cave: A DC Team Movie

In 2008, Marvel Studios introduced Tony Stark to the big screen in “Iron Man.” 4 years, one sequel, and new Thor and Captain America franchises later, we are a week away from “The Avengers.” This is the first time a studio has created separate movies for each team member, leading into a full-fledged, comic book team movie. Will it work? More important, could it be done for a DC team? What would it take for a full-fledged Justice League movie? Retcon Punchers sound off.  Welcome to the Chat Cave.

Patrick: Oh, it’ll work. I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind that The Avengers is going to work. It’s release geniusly coincides with the weekend of Free Comic Book Day, so fans of the movie may find themselves wandering into their local comic shop. Once inside, they’ll inevitably stumble on Marvel’s big cross-over series: Avengers vs. X-men. We laugh at the corporate buzz-word “synergy,” but this is some impressive fucking synergy.

And while Disney/Marvel will make a killing, there is something unmistakably manufactured about the outcome. The Marvel Studio movies have all been fun, breezy, competent pieces of adventure filmmaking, but the movies seldom say anything. DC’s approach to live-action movies has always been to let a filmmaker tell the story they’re interested in telling. And they all bear the unmistakable mark of their directors. The various Batman movies look distinctly like the work Tim Burton, Joel Shoemaker, and Christopher Nolan; Superman Returns looks like Bryan Singer; Watchmen looks like Zack Snyder. It’s a gamble, and about half of these movies are bad, but each is the result of an individual’s vision.

So I’d say it’ll never happen for DC – certainly not for the Justice League. Interestingly, the ultra-crummy Green Lantern movie could easily be rolled into Green Lantern Corps series. They’re already making a sequel, why not also make a Sinestro movie? And a Kyle Rayner-as-Ion movie? The Green Lantern story is more in line with that adventure-for-adventure-sake mentality of the Marvel movies anyway.

Peter: I definitely agree that The Avengers is going to work. There is really no doubt in my mind. Marvel has really cornered the market at this point on comic book movies. With a handful of notable exceptions, they all have been really well done, and thought out, and very accessible to the general public. Oh, and they are fun to watch.

Now don’t hate me, but I don’t think that there is any franchise right now in DC live-action movies that could translate into a team movie. I haven’t really seen a DC movie of the caliber of the Marvel movies yet. And I am going to say this right now, Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise are not comic book movies. There I said it. They run more like intense dramas where the main character happens to be Batman. I just cannot see Christian Bale lining up next to other characters to play out a Justice League movie.

The other problem with DC movies, is that since the success of the Nolanverse, all the other movies want to try to emulate that to the point where they are sacrificing a lot of the character to make it happen, or they are just trying too hard. Green Lantern is the obvious example here. They wanted Hal to be just like Bruce, and experience loss and hardship and then rise from the ashes like a phoenix. But it really didn’t work. I think that the film portion of DC Entertainment needs to stop trying to make every other superhero movie into a Batman Begins or a Dark Knight, and start over from the root of the character. That’s what Marvel did, and it has been widely successful. Until DC realizes that not everyone can be Christian Bale’s Batman, they will continue to struggle in the film industry, let alone be able to put out a good team movie.

That being said, I have enjoyed DC’s animated features. Keep doing those.

Drew: Oh boy, I disagree with both Patrick’s characterization of Marvel’s films and Peter’s characterization of DC’s films.

Patrick, if you’re going to call Superman Returns a Singer-as-auteur film, then X-Men and X2 also qualify. The Spider-Man trilogy, likewise, is quite clearly a Sam Raimi joint (for better or worse). I’d even go so far as to say the Iron Man films have Jon Favreau’s fingerprints all over them — he just happens to have very commercial fingerprints. Sure, more recent entries into the Avengers franchise have been directed by hired guns (Kenneth Branagh, I’m looking at you), and other Marvel films are just plain bad, but I don’t think it’s fair to paint them all with the same brush.

Peter, I honestly don’t understand what you mean when you suggest that Nolan’s Batman movies aren’t comic book movies. They take the same kind of grounded, realistic approach to Batman as Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, which I hope we can all agree is a comic book. Batman is recognizably Batman, Gordon is Gordon, the Joker is Joker. I haven’t seen Green Lantern, but I could understand why trying to ape Nolan’s sense of reality wouldn’t work for a hero with a magic space-ring.

I do agree with Patrick that DC’s success with visionary directors will prevent them (at least for the foreseeable future) from trying the kind of studio oversight necessary to create a coherent team movie. And, I agree with Peter that the heroes depicted by those directors don’t make sense next to each other. I’d say this is simply an exaggeration of the fact that these heroes don’t really make sense next to each other anyway.

Shelby: I’m going to be lame and agree on bits and disagree on bits of everything you’ve all said. I do think the DC movies tend to be more obviously vehicles for their particular creator’s style, but I don’t think it’s quite as cut-and-dry as Patrick presented it. I think it has to do with Marvel Studios vs. Warner Brothers. Yeah, yeah, I get it, Marvel Studios > Marvel Entertainment > Walt Disney; just like DC Comics > Warner Brothers, but I think having it’s own studio devoted to just movie adaptations of their titles made the Marvel movies adopt a slightly more uniform approach.

So where does that leave us re: a Justice League movie? Well…I think it’s possible. I’m not going to go so far as to say the Nolan Batmans are not comic book movies (though I think Bale has a broad enough appeal to attract more non-comic book fans), but there’s no way Bale’s gravelly-ass Batman will work on a team. But Nolan is making a trilogy, here; this is the last one. I think we have an opportunity. If DC/Warner Bros can strike a balance between the dark and gritty of now and the ultra camp of movies in the pat (I’m looking at you, original Supeman movies), I think we could eventually see a Justice League movie. Do I think it will actually happen? Probably not. But that’s not going to stop me from casting My Perfect Justice League Movie in my head. So, is Michael Fassbender off the table because of the whole Magneto thing? I think he would make a DREAMY Barry Allen.

20 comments on “Chat Cave: A DC Team Movie

  1. Drew, there’s an important distinction to be made between movies with Marvel characters in them and Marvel Studio movies. The film rights to using the characters of the X-men and Spider-man aren’t owned by Disney, but by Fox and Columbia (respectively). That’s why new Spider-man and X-Men movies come out every couple years – if the film distribution rights holders DON’T make a film with those characters, then those rights revert to Marvel’s (and therefore Disney’s) control.

    So I totally agree that the Spider-man movies are 100% Sam Raimi and the first two X-men movies are totally Bryan Singer, but they’re not actually Marvel Studio movies (I’d also add Ang Lee’s Hunk to that list). It takes a cold, all-seeing — and all-owning — studio to make this sort of cross-over movie happen.

    • teehee “Hunk.” Freudian slip much?

      In all seriousness; fair enough. The Marvel studio films are typified by slicker production and more focus on super-heroics than the people behind the masks. I didn’t get much in the way of emotional connection out of the Iron Man movies or Thor (I never saw Captain America).

      It’s kind of funny, it should be legally easier for Warner Brothers to put together a superhero team-up, since they hold film rights to all of the characters. I maintain that I’m less interested in seeing that movie than I would just quality movies featuring these characters (or just continuing to read the comics in peace — no movies necessary).

      • I refuse to apologize for finding Eric Bana dreamy.

        I totally agree with the assessment that it should be easier for Warner Brothers to take the team-up movie. The fact that they’re not (because it’s creatively convoluted) is an admirable show of restraint.

  2. Maybe instead of a team movie, we could get some movies of members of the team. Though, we saw how well that worked out for Green Lantern (please note, I have NOT seen Green Lantern, because I could not bear to).

    But how does one make a Wonder Woman movie that is current and not laughably cheesy? That was one thing I thought Captain America did very well; it paid homage to the overly patriotic and cheesy roots of the character while still making a movie that can be enjoyed now.

    • I think Wonder Woman could really work as a sword-and-sandals epic mixed with a bit of fish-out-of-water antics. The biggest issue is her kind of ill-defined power set. She’d definitely be super strong and have bullet-proof bracelets and a lasso of truth, but can she fly? Does she have an invisible Jet? I can see the fight scenes being cheesy just because she’d need to end up fighting something that is, you know, spear-proof or something. Then again, if they just ported the story Azzarello is working on now, I think it would work awesomely.

      • I think I always knew that Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne had some similarities, and Captain America is an obvious analogue for Superman, but it had never occurred to me that Thor is the Wonder Woman of the Avengers. IT MAKES TOO MUCH SENSE.

    • I understand that, culturally, we’ve signed off on Fassbender, but I don’t totally love him. And especially for a Flash (be it Wally or Barry), he seems too hard, too cold. Flash is a friendly guy. Since the Spider-man campaign failed, what about Donald Glover for Flash?

      • What makes you think Donald Glover can run so fast? ‘Cause he’s black?

        In all seriousness, now I just want to see him in the Flash suit, which I KNOW Community can deliver. Er — at least Flash pajamas.

    • I base all my comic book reading choices on who has the sickest roller coasters, so no arguments from me.

      • Both Batman and Superman at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee Illinois are among my favorite roller coasters ever. BUT the Dark Knight ride at that same park is terrible.

  3. I know this is a few days late, but I really would like to hear a defense of Peter’s “Nolan’s Batman movies aren’t comic book movies” argument. It doesn’t have to be Peter, I just need someone to explain it to me. If they’re the same basic characters with the same basic motivations and relationships, why isn’t it a comic book movie? What would need to be different about them for them to qualify as comic book movies?

    • You really can’t go into any movie with costumed heroes without engaging a very specific kind of suspension of disbelief. I think the Chris Nolan Batman movies go out of their way to actually address the psychology of someone who would do this sort of thing. So I can see where there might be half an argument for it there.

      But that moderate-severe psychosis is building into the platonic form of Batman. Exploring why he would fight crime dressed as a bat is old hat for the character, even in the pages of comic books.

      Usually when I hear someone say they don’t count Dark Knight as comic book movie, I assume they just mean that it’s a very good movie with dynamic, compelling, believable characters that has actually has an interesting message. Usually, the highest praise I give comic book movies is that they’re fun or exciting, but Dark Knight hits on some pretty weighty themes — making it an great film experience (no qualifiers necessary).

      But again, that sells comics short. And that ain’t fair. PRIME EXAMPLE, Watchmen the graphic novel is a thousand times more thoughtful and meaningful than Watchmen the movie.

      • AH. I thought Peter was bashing TDK’s comic book credentials, but I’ve certainly heard the “It’s not a comic book movie” used as praise (when they really mean “it’s not like other comic book movies you’ve seen.”) Yeah, that does sell comics short. I’d actually say the reason so many comic book movies suck is because the movie component is so shitty. Movies do poorly by comics, not the other way around.

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