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.