The trailers for the upcoming DC flicks "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad" have been released. It's been a while since Superman last stomped over Metropolis, and despite me being a bit harder on it than in my review, that stems mainly from pacing and directorial issues than with the often heard criticism that it's too dark and misses all the fun. I'm still behind Nolan's and Snyder's dark version of the DC universe, and I'm glad that they doubled down on this in their upcoming two new movies. Of course, this being my blog and me, I will elaborate a bit on why this is.
So, let's first recap the major criticism many people haul at DC movies these days. Superman, they say, is a light character, a do-gooder who isn't meant to be dark. The new movies are no fun, but gloomy and despairing. DC, the major theme goes, should do what Marvel does and make superheroes fun again.
So, here's my biggest disagreement right from the start. DC is making a sound business and creative decision. Why, you ask? Because there is already someone who makes light-hearted action movies about superheroes really, really well, and that's Marvel. I mean, seriously, have you had a look on how many of those movies they made since 2008 and how many are still in the pipeline? While Marvel undoubtetly is enjoying a string of creative and economic success with its MCU, the fad has to end at some point. Why watch more of something that someone already does better? DC always only had a chance by trying something different. Look no further than Green Lantern to find the truth of that.
|Look at all the fun I'm having!|
Second, corny Superman rescuing crashing planes and kittens from trees is boring. Has everyone already forgotten the disaster that was "Superman Returns"? This was the attempt to recreate the old Donner movies, with all their corniness, polished for the 21st century. It didn't work. Like, at all. Superman is an allmighty being, and finding adversaries for him is always difficult, especially if you don't want to fall back on green-lit stones. Batman, on the other hand, doesn't have any superpowers at all and needs to be grounded, a feat that Nolan accomplished very well in his two movies. No, I still don't recognize "The Dark Knight Rises". That movie doesn't exist.
|Punch that sucker in the face!|
The idea behind "Man of Steel" was always the right one. Don't tell a story everyone and their mother knows from the beginning yet again, but give it a fresh angle and build on it from there. The main question the movie asked - what if Superman was real, what would it do to us - was and remains the right one, and it's the inherent problem of the movie that it fails to answer it. That doesn't discredit the idea, just the execution. And if the trailer is any indication, they are treading back thoroughly to this in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice", using the same problem so many viewers had (obliterating Metropolis in a fight between demigods) as the very basis of the conflict between Batman and Superman, and, on a larger level, between Superman and the world.
This idea is, at its core, brillant. It totally takes away the need for a super-villain, because Superman needs to be his own PR agent and to constrain himself, lest he loses the battle for his own image and is hated and expelled, the very outcome he and his parents feared from the beginning. Instead of superimposing a stupid alien invader or green rocks on us, we can watch Superman in a battle that is ultimately with himself, which is much more interesting and, yes, mature. These movies are no stuff for kids' entertaintment. They are never meant to be.
|Look, kids, it's Batman!|
Look no further for proof of this idea than the trailer for Suicide Squad. This sounds like yet another really, really good idea, a totally new take on the villains of Gotham, trying to ground them as well and in the process making them even scarier. In the trailer, Superman is invoked as the guy who started it all yet again, and like "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice", what we see of "Suicide Squad" so far has a decidedly Watchmen-y feel to it.
We really don't need a Marvel copy-cat. We need new ideas and new takes on the genre, or else it won't survive the inevitable loss of interest that will be coming. Here's to hoping that the final movies will be as good as the trailers promise.