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Thursday, March 31, 2011

On Reboots and Why Warner/DC Should Not Try to Copy Marvel.

            Earlier this week it was confirmed in the LA Times that THE DARK KNIGHT RISES will be the final chapter in Nolan’s adaptation of the Batman story. I can understand why many fans are very displeased with this decision; Nolan’s vision of Batman is so epic we all want more of it. However there are a few advantages to this. First and foremost, The Dark Knight was so overwhelmingly awesome that there is no way any subsequent sequel will ever meet expectations. It might still be really good, but it won’t be The Dark Knight. Secondly it is the first time a definitive end has been announced for any superhero helmed by a single director, so it is going to be very interesting seeing some closure. Yes, Raimi’s Spiderman had an ending and he helmed all three. But, lets face it, those were not Raimi films in the same sense the Dark Knight is a Nolan film and there had been talks of making a fourth fifth and sixth installment with or without Raimi afterwards. Ultimately Marvel chose to reboot the Spiderman franchise so it can tie it to its new Avengers assembly of movies. Warner/DC has announced its intentions to reboot the Batman franchise after The Dark Knight Rises so it can tie it in to a series of films that will lead to a Justice League movie in a few years. Monkey see monkey do.

            Many of you are probably thinking; this is a terrible idea. And it is.

            The problem lays with the Justice League itself and the DC mythos. DC superheroes were the first generation of their kind; they are the archetype of what later developed into the superhero genre and they haven’t changed much since their creation. Besides Batman, they are all emblems of perfection. Nowadays it is impossible to take Superman seriously as character (there is non) or Wonder Woman as a person.

            The reason it works for Marvel is because their stories are first and foremost coming of age narratives tied to the superhero conventions. This is most clear in Spiderman, who is in high school when he acquires his powers, and even more so in the X Men, who’s powers develop during puberty along with many other bodily changes we all suffer. Furthermore The Avengers are not an idealistic bunch they stand for whatever the American Army stands for. Meanwhile the Justice League stands for the same idea that Miss Universe does, a very broad and naïve definition of “world peace”. The reason Nolan’s Batman worked was because he stripped Batman off everything DC and Justice-Leaguey about him. However, I cannot imagine any version of Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman, the Martian Man Hunter or any other Justice Leaguer that could be adapted in a remotely similar way. They are just so goofy.
Plus Marvel has Samuel L Jackson, Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson in their team. 

            And there is another problem with this idea: market saturation. For Marvel’s Avenger assembly to work we will need two of their superhero movies coming out every year, so far this has been more or less the case, and every superhero comes in a trilogy package of three or four movies. If DC follows, we end up with two extra superhero movies a year. Can a summer really take five movies with basically the same plot formula? Movie going has already fallen significantly in the last few years, studios have been able to maintain profits by upping ticket prices and charging even more for 3D. Yes, the summer is a lucrative season for the film industry and it is generally packed with numerous formulaic blockbusters. But having two superhero movies, one or two Sci Fi’s (generally one is an original concept and another is based of a toy franchise), a James Bond or similar spy movie, a fantasy adventure (generally covered by that years Harry Potter) and a couple of animated films by Pixar or Dreamworks is very different than having five superhero movies. Ultimately audiences will realize that if you have seen one you have seen them all, except for the rare gem like The Dark Knight.

            Sadly, thanks to this strategy such gems are in the danger of extinction. In the end they will all end up lost within a countless series of reboots that it is going to be hard to tell, which of the twenty seven Batman movies was the cool one. 

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