Yesterday, sites reported on their recent set visits of Justice League and many of these writers indicated how similar it feels to Marvel now. This got me thinking whether this really is the right move. Also, does Warner Bros. even understand that humor is not the only reason why Marvel films succeed? It’s about character, not humor.
This happens all the time. Every time a movie is successful Hollywood attempts to dissect the reason it connected to audiences. Most of the time, studios miss the entire point of why such a thing happens. The Dark Knight trilogy is no exception to the rule. It’s very clear that DC and Warner Bros. didn’t understand why Christopher Nolan’s films were such a success. Sure The Dark Knight was bleak, dark, and dreary, but that doesn’t mean humor was completely absent from the films.
A good director and storyteller will understand that a sense of levity helps a dark film become something special. Christopher Nolan understood this while making his Batman trilogy. Sure the Joker was terrifying, and at some points even chilling, but what about the times he made us laugh.
When the Joker performed his magic trick in The Dark Knight, the scene was dark but it also allowed the audience to laugh at the Joker’s twisted nature. It gave the audience a reason to chuckle while also building the Joker’s character.
Another example comes in Batman Begins when Ra’s Al Ghul is training Bruce Wayne. In this sequence, Bruce Wayne thinks he has the upper hand against his master. Then Ra’s points out that he is not defeated and that he sacrificed his footing for a killing stroke. Ra’s then breaks the ice from under his feet and Bruce drops amusingly into the water below.
I won’t revisit every humorous scene from the Dark Knight trilogy because chances are, if you read the site, you have most likely seen every film. The point I’m trying to make is that after Christopher Nolan left Batman, Warner Bros. thought they had to maintain the same dark tone in both Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman. Even though Man of Steel brought some humor for the audience, the latter missed the entire point.
You can make a dark film and still allow the audiences to laugh. A film can be bleak and still have lighter moments that make the viewer smile. When the Joker tells Batman, “You complete me!”… Didn’t that moment give us a reason to laugh as well as build character? Did that make the film any less dark?
Now, instead of understanding what works, they are throwing everything out the window and going towards a lighter tone. What worries me is that Warner Bros. is going to change the tone so dramatically that it won’t fit what came before. Instead of trying to keep the same tone and understanding what works when making a film dark or gritty. The comedic elements in The Dark Knight built character, and created multiple dimensions within those characters, it wasn’t humor for the sake of making things lighter.
Warner Bros. needs to understand that it is not about changing the tone, but more about character. Batman v. Superman could have worked if characters were executed in a satisfying way. Superman did not smile once the entire film and I can name a handful of sequences where Bruce Wayne smiled in the Nolan trilogy. Going the Marvel route doesn’t have to be a solution. Make a dark film, just understand the heart of these characters and the rest will follow.
Regardless of how anyone feels, Justice League is coming and let’s hope it’s not one big joke fest. And if it does bring the laughs, then let it be for the sake of adding character depth and not an attempt at being a Marvel ripoff.
Justice League will release on November 17th,2017!
[Image via Warner Bros.]