31st March, 2011: Thrilling heroics

There’s been some buzz the last couple of days over DC’s film and television efforts. I’ll talk about the Wonder Woman TV pilot later this week, but the big news yesterday was that DC are going to reboot the Batman film franchise following the third Christopher Nolan film in 2012, and that they have a Justice League superteam film in development for 2013.

As a fan of DC, I’ve always been a little disappointed that they haven’t quite seemed to get their films right – Superman was sort-of rebooted with Superman Returns, and while that film was well received at the time, some people don’t like it (although I’ve never quite understood the complaints that Superman is being a creepy stalker) and the momentum floundered. Batman has been a huge success, of course, with the closing installment of Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, due next year. After that, Batman is due for a reboot (with Nolan producing), alongside Superman.

Marvel, meanwhile, have stormed ahead with a series of (mostly) successful and (mostly) entertaining films, leading up to The Avengers in 2012, directed by Joss Whedon and co-written by Whedon and Zak Penn. I don’t read Marvel comics (I have enough trouble getting my head around DC continuity without diving into another universe!), but Marvel superhero films are just superb. This year we have no fewer than three – Thor, Captain America, and X-Men: First Class. Marvel are winning on films, hands-down.

Reaction to the news of a Batman reboot was a little mixed – my Twitter feed seemed split between thinking it was either great news, or an insult to everyone involved. However, the reboot is essential for the forthcoming Justice League film, scheduled for release in 2013. As great as the Nolan Batman films are, to me they have never felt like they are part of the larger DC Universe. Indeed, Nolan himself has said that there are no other superheroes in his Batman universe. If Batman is going to be part of the Justice League, then that’s a problem.

There’s also a problem of logistics and casting. It’s been said that superhero team-up films are impossible because all of the stars of the individual superhero films that have come before will require equal billing, equal screen time and equal salaries in the team film. Marvel seems to have solved this problem with careful planning, creating a cohesive and satisfying film universe that will culminate in The Avengers.

DC haven’t managed this, for a number of reasons. A few years ago a Justice League film was proposed, but it was stated that Brandon Routh (then appearing in Superman Returns) and Christian Bale (just starting out in Batman Begins) would not appear. I didn’t much like the sound of this, and thankfully those plans were shelved. With Marvel’s Avengers masterplan being rolled out, this is clearly no longer an option.

Caught on the back foot, DC seem to be doing a “reverse-Marvel” – start with a team film, and then spin-off individual hero films afterwards. I think that’s a good idea, as the Justice League would be a large draw just based on Superman and Batman appearing together for the first time on film. The team film would allow DC to showcase other, lesser-known heroes, creating an audience appetite to see them on their own solo adventures. DC have tried to get a variety of films off the ground over the years – Green Arrow (in a bizarre, prison-break concept called Super Max), The Flash and Wonder Woman spring to mind. Hopefully the Justice League film will be just the starting point, and hopefully the rebooted Superman and Batman films (one of which will at least be out before the team film) will, like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, be part of a single film continuity.

The first test for DC will be Green Lantern, due for release in June this year. I’m a big Green Lantern fan and think it is the strongest of DC’s current books, but I’m in two minds about the trailer. Half of it looks great, half of it looks… not so. Although the film is still in post-production, I’ve heard that it very much feels more like a Marvel superhero film – ie, big, loud, colourful, fun and clever – which to me is a very good thing. Hopefully it’ll be successful and, if they use the Hal Jordan Green Lantern in the Justice League project, Ryan Reynolds will return to reprise the role. Continuity, again.

An exciting couple of years lie ahead for superhero fanatics!

And for a quick writing update – good times yesterday, for a number of reasons. Another 2k day on Hang Wire, and I also completed some writing-related business, the results of which I’ll be able to share shortly.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,037
Words total: 63,182/100,000 (63%)
Total words for 2011: 93,162

  • Don’t you think people are going to get tired of reboots and watching the origin story over and over again, no matter how re-imagined? I cringe at the idea of watching another Spiderman film where we have to establish who Peter Parker is and I would rather get on with all the cool possibilities of filming that universe.


    Zephyr — a superhero webcomic in prose

  • Yes, I agree completely, but I don’t think a reboot needs to be a total restart from scratch. Look at the Tim Burton Batman movies – there is some origin stuff woven into the first film, but as part of the narrative (screwing up the Joker’s history in the process, but hey-ho, Tim Burton claimed never to have read a Batman comic in his life).

    I also don’t think the origin recap at the beginning of the Edward Norton Hulk film was a good idea – I knew it was coming as part of the opening titles, but I just found it confusing.

    There’s nothing wrong with jumping into the story. My own superhero novel, Seven Wonders, features seven superheroes and two supervillains, and there’s not an origin story in sight. It’s probably easier in print because you can seed background material throughout the story, but still – let’s just jump in and get to the action!

  • Why… why are they re-doing Batman again? I’ve loved Nolan’s take on the Dark Knight, and have been impressed by the constant quality. Beyond that, I don’t see what they can do to take it elsewhere. Make it campy again (hello Tim Burton & Adam West), make it more ‘comicy’ like most Marvel products?

    I think this trilogy has been a real staple in bridging the superhero-reality line, it’s a pity they can’t just create a new hero, start a new universe… you know, be imaginative and leave an overly beaten horse alone a bit.

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