After Deadpool's sort-of-but-not-really surprising box office smash, there's been an unsurprising cry from the masses of superhero fans to give, well, pretty much every damn spandex covered meta-human their own adult aimed, mature themed movie. Because, you know, it's not like making mature superhero films has ever brought in anything less than all of the money. In what Warner Bros. would have us believe is completely unrelated news, when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice comes to blu-ray and DVD, there will be a special sort-of directors cut of the film which is R-Rated. Or, if you're not American (and thus superior by default) whatever your equivalent to the rating above 12 or whatever.
Someone think of the children!
You know, I think we underestimate how many kids watch movies. I reckon that a massive chunk of Disney/Marvel's success is founded on the fact that all of their films try to craft stories interesting enough and characters engaging enough for parents to like, while keeping a light enough tone and having fun light shows that make sure children don't lose interest. I also don't think we give kids enough credit, with "childish" being bandied around like a dirty word all of the time. Just look at the way so many people talk about something like the hulkbuster existing to sell toys. Now, I'm not denying that toys are a contributing factor in many kids movies, but take How To Train Your Dragon as an example. Yes, it's constantly introducing newer, cooler and bigger dragons, and part of that is definitely down to how many toys the series ships due to two massively successful movies and a couple of solid TV shows.
On the other hand however, I love seeing the imagination put into all of these new designs, even if the reason it's being put in is to ship more and more merchandise. As a child, who the hell cares what that reason is? Someone just made a lightsaber with two mini lightsabers on it, a hulk sized Iron-Man suit, and there's a mountain-sized dragon who breathes ice! I don't care what you say, those are simply both inherently cool ideas, and both are cool to see on-screen, especially if you're under ten years old.
It's for reasons like these that I'm not quite sure what to think of all this pushing for Wolverine to be a more mature film. On one hand, the fact that we couldn't see blood isn't what made the past two Wolverine films bad, that was poor filmmaking. That being said though, as a more mature fan of superheroes, there is something about no-holds-barred takes on my favourite characters that appeal to me. But most of those characters were all created specifically for children, each one teaching them new things about the world, life, and even themselves. Look at how Superman shows that what makes a true hero isn't the "super", but in fact the "man". How Batman shows everyone how to take one of the most traumatic and heartbraking tragedies conceivable and turn it into something special, something beautiful. How Wonder Woman gives young girls a strong and upstanding role-model in a world that gives them so little. How Captain Marvel/Shazam teaches them how incredible childhood is, and that they do some things better than all those powerful adults making every call.
That said, there is a time and a place for something darker, more grounded, and more mature. Watchmen is a comic and film that performs an incredibly gripping and interesting deconstruction of the entire superhero idea, showing how it and a gritty, mature reality blend together only to yield pain and destruction. There's also The Dark Knight Returns, an unforgivingly brutal warning about transposing Batman and Superman into a more grounded world only led to war between the two building blocks of the industry. In both of these examples, the adult themes are utilised to showcase that the boyish enthusiasm and childish logic are inseparable from the medium, in fact forming the life-blood of what makes superheroes tick.
Looking at you, DCEU...
They were warnings. Warnings we have failed to heed. In fact, Batman v Superman: Dawn of the Subtitle is basing itself loosely off of The Dark Knight Returns. Trying, in essence, to establish a grittier universe for the DC universe via a satire of that very idea, clearly misunderstanding what the story in question stands for. It's for this reason that I'm against it. To me, it's a betrayal of these characters to try and sell your definitive movie versions of them as anything that is inaccessible to kids. Yes, you can deal with adult themes and real world issues, but to do that you have to strip away the true beauty of these characters and the worlds they inhabit. Take Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight as an example. It's an absolutely incredible film, but when I look at it, I don't see Batman, I see Batman being used to make a thematic point.
That's fine, Nolan was clearly using a unique take on the mythology to tell a story. That's why it never made sense for Superman to be introduced into that universe: it wasn't Gotham, and thus Superman couldn't be Superman. Batman v Superman however, is the beginning of a whole interconnected world which will include an amazonian warrior princess, a man who runs at the speed of light, a Fish-Man-Human Hybrid who is the king of Atlantis, a kid who turns into Superman by saying a word, Robocop, and a space cop who can create anything he imagines via a will-powered ring. I don't see how you can sell me on a grounded version of any of this, because that's like trying to make a cake without sugar. You can probably do it, and if your skilled enough, do it well, but why the hell would you want to?
Look, Deadpool is such a vulgar and bloody character that it was impossible to separate him from such things in an adaptation. Similarly, it's impossible to separate Superman from his straight-faced boy scout attitude, Spider-man from his being a dork, and Batman from his inherent goodness. So why is this new DC universe trying to? Batman is being turned into a villain, and Superman is getting closer and closer to the anti-hero line, what with all his brooding. Perhaps Batman v Superman is about Batman beating up Superman for stealing his shtick.
I'm not saying this universe can't take itself seriously, by all means supply us with something different from those other guys at Marvel. But I don't understand why we turn Batman into such a dark character, or why we don't respect Superman any more, despite him being one of the greatest icons of pop-culture. Superheroes need tweaking for cinema, that much is certain. But this idea that we're entitled to our own dark, mature, and edgy versions of the character purely by the fact that we're adults now is absurd. If that's what you truly want, then you don't understand your own fandom. Superheroes are for kids, just like lollipops, action figures, and happy meals. If you like those things though, stop asking them to change.
Superheroes are, in general, built upon a rock formed of a childish mentality. To remove that rock, it requires you to build a new foundation, which can be done, but upon achieving it, there remains no real reason to continue under the guise of it being a superhero film. There are exceptions of course, like Deadpool himself, but in the end I see it as a betrayal of this medium to try and make it grounded. All it does is tether our imaginations to an arbitrarily fixed point, like tying an eagle to the ground, you're just limiting the potential.
If you want more stuff like this, then be sure to check out the my website, Fixing Hollywood where it came from because no-one's here to stop me plugging my own crap so why should I put a plug in my plugging? Anyway, whatever you do next, stay classy and be sure to enjoy your life.