Monday 20 April 2015

Batman v Superman v Frank Miller

The Batman v Superman trailer, then...

No, just no. Dismal and dark and “Can you bleed? You will.”, oh dear. Its not like I was expecting anything else, this is DC Warner we're talking about, but there was the slightest glimmer of hope in my mind that Chris Nolan's departure might have changed things a little.

Nope. The closest thing to levity in this trailer was the fact that Ben Affleck seems to be wearing the Batman costume from The Lego Movie...

And all of this because The Dark Knight Returns is, for some bloody reason, still the touchstone for writing Batman. Can we just get over this, please? It isn't that The Dark Knight Returns is bad, as such, though it isn't to my tastes. Rather, its that it has this horrible gravity in the minds of Warner Bros. where it seems to be seen as the “real” Batman from which all other interpretations are just deviations unworthy of discussion. And of course the most flashy component of the Frank Miller Batman is his apparent total philosophical opposition to Superman instead of their being friends who disagree on methods, which is the far more common interpretation in the source material.

It's not like I'm hoping for the Adam West interpretation to make a comeback but I was hoping for some sign of influence from, say, Batman: The Animated Series where Batman was dark and grim but functionally human and capable of smiling.

But everyone likes Frank Miller because his version of Batman appeals to that oh so Nineties desire to make comics dark and mature, which in the minds of far too many are the same thing and... can we just get over it? The culture war here is kind of won and we nerds don't need our nerd media to pretend at maturity to pursue a vague sense of cultural acceptance because we have the cultural acceptance already.

What's truly baffling about this all is DC are actively trying to imitate Marvel's interlinked film continuity without imitating the things that made people want to watch the individual films. Marvel's films, whilst often having dark themes and subplots, are always pitched as fun films. People go to see the fun films and like them so much that they'll invest the time and money to follow them as a serial. DC are just offering the serial without the fun.

Maybe the logic is that DC doesn't want to “just” imitate Marvel and this dark, washed out aesthetic is an attempt to be different. Or maybe, as SallyP pointed out to me in comments when I talking about “sinking” Marvel Studios last week, DC Warner are just plain embarrassed by the fact that they're making films about superheroes. I know it sounds strange when you first say it but it makes sense to me, after all why inject grimdark into Superman of all characters except to lessen the embarrassment of something as “immature” as a wish fulfillment figure in red pants?

Even in this they could learn lessons from Marvel. Marvel don't usually make “superhero” films, really. Captain America was a straight war film that happened to feature a superhero, the Iron Man films were techno thrillers, The Winter Soldier was a conspiracy thriller and so on.

Its sad to think, though, that DC are embarrassed by their own properties especially considering there's no need to be. They own some of the most recognisable superheroes on the planet and, unlike Marvel, they own all their own film rights but they only really do Batman because Batman can be done grim and dark and “adult”. Marvel is at peace with its silliness and the artefacts of its past. Marvel will make a film with a talking raccoon and his talking tree sidekick or aliens who are really the Norse gods, they even did Captain America with a total lack of irony.

DC, meanwhile, have such trouble with getting an angle on Superman that they've had to bring Batman (and several other characters) into the second film to save the series. Its sad, really. 

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