If you like sad Batman, just wait for the sad Justice League. Not all superhero movies are created equal. Warner Bros has been struggling to build a shared DC cinematic universe to rival Marvel's. In 2011, Green Lantern failed to launch a new franchise and in the following year The Dark Knight Rises closed out Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Warner Bros. re-started everything again with the release of Man of Steel in 2013, which gave DC's superhero movies a darker tone than what was established in The Dark Knight trilogy. With Zack Snyder at the helm for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and The Justice League, a new era in the superhero genre will begin (again) and it's looking like it might be darker and grimmer than what came before it.
There's a recent report from HitFix's Drew McWeeny that suggests that Warner Bros. has a "no jokes" policy when it comes to DC superhero movies. McWeeny speculates that this might have arisen after the disappointment of Green Lantern and the success of Man of Steel. To Warner Bros, audiences seem to want a more serious tone when it comes to Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. A darker and bleaker outlook on today's cinema reflects what's going on in the world today and to Warner Bros, their heroes need to also reflect that notion rather than to quip their way out of trouble. McWeeny writes:
"Last week was about the fifth time I've heard that there is a mandate at Warner Bros. regarding any of the DC superhero films in development, and it's very simple and direct and to the point.
I'm sorry, but movies need jokes, especially serious ones. Throwing in clever humorous lines goes a long way to lighten a mood during a serious situation or to re-invest an audiences to the film's human conflict. If an entire movie is loaded with dread, darkness, and grimness, then how can you expect an audience to connect with its story and characters on a human level, especially when they're superheroes. Humor humanizes characters and makes deadly and farcical situations real. Do DC movies have to be serious to be taken seriously?
While Marvel movies are loaded with wall-to-wall jokes and humor, DC doesn't have to follow suit, but Warner Bros. should think to include one or two jokes in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and The Justice League. I mean, at its core, they are fantasy movies and shouldn't be treated as Schindler's List or 12 Years a Slave, which did have some moments of levity. Could you really watch and enjoy a super serious Aquaman or Shazam movie? Are all of DC superheroes reluctant and brooding figures who only long to be normal humans?
Tone goes a long way to establish a film's pace and quality and it seems like Man of Steel's dreary and bleak tone will be featured throughout the DC Cinematic Universe. Marvel mastered tone through playing with genre, as each movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe fits into a certain movie genre. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the spy thriller, while Guardians of the Galaxy is the space opera. Will all of the DC movies look and feel the same in that respect? Will they stick to one very serious genre with absolutely no humor or fun?
While making a dark and somber blockbuster can work (look at The Dark Knight trilogy and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), it's unclear if that kind of blockbuster success can be sustained for 10 movies over the course of five years like Warner Bros is planning to do with DC superhero movies. It's one of the reasons why I don't marathon through Lars von Trier or Michael Haneke movies. While I love both directors, who wants to feel that bad while you're watch movie after movie. It's going to be interesting to see whether or not DC movies will have this "no jokes" policy, but it seems that Warner Bros. is trying to do everything in its power not to be exactly like Marvel Studios. Even if it means delivering multiple humorless and joyless movies year after year. I mean, just imagine The Joker without jokes. The Clown Prince of Crime just seems less fun without humor.
Maybe it's just a matter of establishing a tone through the franchise. This "No Jokes" policy might not be taken as literally as you think and no applies to DC's general look and feel. Just look at the above images of Batman and Superman. You can clearly see that both superheroes are brooding, while in a backdrop that is more grim and dark than anything you'll find in any other superhero movie. In the long run, this might prove to be a good thing for DC superhero movies and show audiences that there is an alternative to Marvel's fun and thrilling comic book movies.
What do you think? Do you like a darker and bleaker edge to superhero movies?