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Comicscape: Warner Bros. Takes DC to the Movies
Studio President Wants More, Darker Adaptations
By Kurt Amacker
August 27, 2008
Warner Bros. Prez Jeff Robinov stands in in front of DC's Justice League.
© Mania.Com/Josh Gordon
Warner Brothers wants to take its DC adaptation to a darker place. After the phenomenal success of The Dark Knight, Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov wants to get more DC movies in theaters. Over at the Wall Street Journal, Robinov describes his vision for the future of DC films. It includes four features in theaters by 2011. Those include another Batman sequel, a Superman reboot, and two others. Robinov also wants some of the films to build towards an ensemble film, in the same vein as the forthcoming Avengers from Marvel Studios. He didn’t say what film, but there are only a handful of logical choices. And, perhaps most significantly, he states in the article, “We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it," which includes Superman.
It’s wise of Warner Bros. to step up its game with DC. Marvel has arrangements with a number of studios, so it can—for good or ill—crank out movies with relative ease compared to Warner Bros.’ ability with DC. But, as Robinov also points out in the article, superhero movies make huge amounts of cash and sell merchandise by the truckload. It seems like an obvious move to make more. Granted, more doesn’t always mean better. Marvel’s films have regained their footing after its studio began releasing its own pictures. The quality of the publisher’s adaptations took a remarkable nosedive in late 2004 with Blade: Trinity and hardly improved until this year’s stellar pairing of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. But, it’s certainly preferable for Warner Bros. to at least try a more active schedule to see if it works out. According to the Journal article, though, the output won’t quite equal that of Marvel’s, which seems to release two or three features a year. But, it’s good that Warner Bros. has realized the potential for superhero films and joined the game.
As for the upcoming films, a Batman sequel seems obvious enough. Any fan should look forward to more of Nolan’s take on the Caped Crusader, so there’s no argument to be found there. And, an ensemble film buttressed by single-character films is also a fine idea, as evidenced by the anticipation for the upcoming Avengers film. But, rebooting Superman again seems unnecessary. Conventional wisdom seems to have aligned against Bryan Singer’s 2006 film Superman Returns, which positioned itself as a loose third sequel to the first two films in the franchise—those directed by Richard Donner and Richard Lester, respectively. This reviewer enjoyed the film, as did a number of other critics. The film clocks in at 77% over at Rotten Tomatoes, and grossed over $391 million internationally. Admittedly, with a price tag of $270 million, that hardly constitutes an overwhelming success. But, it’s not an abject failure either, and like most superheroes, the character has limitless potential for sequels. However, Robinov remarks that the film didn’t work for Warner Bros. and doesn’t merit a follow-up. As with Batman Begins, The Incredible Hulk, and the upcoming Punisher: War Zone, the studio seems more interested in relaunching the character, rather than creating a sequel to an underperforming film. A reboot stood as one of many ideas floated during the long development process that led to Superman Returns. Regardless of the middling success of that film, Richard Donner already filmed the character’s origin beautifully. Perhaps the studio doesn’t care to follow up on the couple of plot threads left open by the last film. But, most viewers know Superman’s origin well enough. It seems like it would be easy enough to continue the series and write around the elements left open by Singer’s film, such as Superman’s son.
To say the least, the darker part of Robinov’s vision will trouble many fans. The company president’s vision sounds like an all-too-typical studio mindset—one thing made money, so do another just like it. In this case, The Dark Knight has profited handsomely, and Warner Bros. understandably wants to duplicate that success. Robinov even wants a bleaker Superman. Far be it from this reviewer to complain about darker material, but sometimes it’s appropriate and other times it’s not. Batman should be a frightening glimpse into the pitch-black depths of an antihero’s psyche. That approach has served the character well in the comics and on screen. But, it simply won’t work for every hero in the DC pantheon. A Superman movie should make the viewer feel good. It should reassure everyone that some men possess such purity of heart and nobleness of intentions as to sacrifice all else for the betterment of others. A Green Lantern film should feel like a rollicking space opera that takes the viewer on a planet-hopping adventure to unseen corners of the galaxy. A Wonder Woman film should be an adventurous look at the contrast between Greek mythology and the modern world. None of these films need the noir-Gothic tone of Batman Begins or its sequel. To be clear, a darker vision of any of these characters could be a fine film in its own right. But, to alter the tone of a well-regarded character toys with fan expectations and could lead to consequences at the box office. George Lucas tried it was the Star Wars prequel trilogy by taking—at lease the first two—in a more juvenile direction. Sam Raimi tried it with Spider-Man 3 by “going darker.” Innumerable film series have “lightened up” with more humor. In those cases, the results were less than successful—and some would say, disastrous. Warner Bros. should consider their characters and how best to present them, and not how to make them as much like The Dark Knight as possible.
Now that Warner Bros. plans to push the pedal on DC adaptations, fans should have a lot to look forward to at the theaters over the next few years. Let’s just hope that the studio’s desire to duplicate the success of The Dark Knight doesn’t lead to unnecessary rehashes of that film.
The Spinner Rack
By Ben Johnson and Kurt Amacker
DARK HORSE COMICS
Achewood The Great Outdoor Fight HC $14.95
Ben:What a load of crap! All the best fights happen in bars.
Appleseed TP Vol 03 Scales Of Prometheus 3rd Ed $14.95
Barb Wire Omnibus TP Vol 01 $24.95
Ben:You know how Kurt and I occasionally beg for someone to buy them an omnibus collection? Keep your money.
Kurt: Because Ben already bought this!
Emily The Strange II Alone Issue #4 $3.50
Kurt: Emily Strange: a comic about a character that began as a t-shirt. Just saying.
Fear Agent TP Vol 04 Hatchet Job $14.95
Star Wars Knights O/T Old Republic TP Vol 04 Daze Of Hate KN $18.95
Star Wars Legacy #27 $2.99
Star Wars Rebellion #16 Vector Part 8 (Of 12) $2.99
All Star Superman TP Vol 01 $12.99
Ben:The first issue dates back to the time of the pyramids.
Ambush Bug Year None #2 (Of 6) $2.99
Americas Best Comics Primer TP $4.99
Ben: Paint right over your old comics and draw your own.
Apothecarius Argentum Vol 06 $9.99
Batman Gotham After Midnight #4 (Of 12) $2.99
Blue Beetle #30 $2.99
Brave And The Bold HC Vol 02 The Book Of Destiny $24.99
Cartoon Network Block Party #48 $2.25
Catwoman #82 $2.99
Countdown Lord Havok And The Extremists TP $17.99
Ben: This was an interesting mix of Mark Waid’s Empire and a dark Marvel U until the Countdown garbage showed up.
DC Universe Last Will And Testament #1 $3.99
Ben:I know editorial direction has been suspect, but has it really come to this?
DMZ #34 (MR) $2.99
Dokkoida Vol 03 $9.99
Family Dynamic #1 (Of 3) $2.25
Ben:At the Johnson house this consists between the time I get home and the time I lock my kids in the basement. My best time is 45 seconds.
Final Crisis Rogues Revenge #2 (Of 3) $3.99
Final Crisis Superman Beyond #1 (Of 2) $4.50
Jack Of Fables #25 (MR) $2.99
JLA Deluxe Edition HC Vol 01 $29.99
Kurt: The first collection of Grant Morrison’s run. If you were going to buy me that Barb Wire Omnibus, get this for me instead.
Justice Society Of America #18 $2.99
Legion Of Super Heroes #45 $2.99
Lost Boys Reign Of Frogs #4 (Of 4) (MR) $3.50
Ben:The only good thing I can say about this is that it is over.
Kurt: A few people seem surprised that Lost Boys 2: The Tribe—that soon-to-be-classic straight to DVD romp—is an awful, terrible film. Look, I know I’m supposed to be like Captain Vampire or something, but let’s get this straight: Lost Boys wasn’t that good. Seriously, I watch it like every five years to see if I can finally appreciate it, and it’s yet to happen. It has some cool moments and it inspired a great song by the 69 Eyes, but it’s really kind of bad. This miniseries didn’t make the case any better.
Madame Xanadu #3 (MR) $2.99
Metal Men HC $24.99
Northlanders #9 (MR) $2.99
Reign In Hell #2 (Of 8) $3.50
Kurt: I already do.
Secret History The Authority Hawksmoor #6 (Of 6) $2.99
Suicide Squad From The Ashes TP $19.99
Superman #679 $2.99
Supernatural Rising Son #5 (Of 6) $2.99
Teen Titans #62 $2.99
Ben:Remember when this re-launched and was so good you couldn’t wait for the next issue? Neither do I.
Teen Titans Year One #6 (Of 6) $2.99
Trinity #13 $2.99
Venus In Love Vol 04 $9.99
Ben:Totally rhymes with Penis.
Wildcats Worlds End #2 $2.99
Ben:I always knew it would end this way.
Kurt: Dear Goth, I can’t imagine what you’re insinuating.
Astounding Wolf Man TP 01 (Res) $14.99
Brit #8 $2.99
Guerillas #1 (Of 9) $5.99
Madame Mirage #3 WWTX Var Cvr $10.00
New World Order Dawn Of A New Day TP $16.99
Proof #11 (MR) $2.99
Strange Embrace HC Vol 01 (MR) $34.99
Surreal Adventures Of Edgar Allan Poo Gn Vol 02 $12.99
Ben:This might be the dumbest title ever. Is it manga?
Kurt: No, and it’s by one of the guys that did Cemetery Blues. It’s supposed to be pretty good, believe it or not.
Vix #2 (Of 3) $3.50
Witchblade TP Vol 05 (C: 0-0-2) $17.99
Amazing Spider-Man #569 NWD $2.99
Ben:I hate to admit this, but I bought the last issue and it was totally awesome.
Kurt: I’d like to announce an opening as my unpaid joke writer on Comicscape.
Angel Revelations #4 (Of 5) $3.99
Avengers Initiative #16 SI $2.99
Black Panther #40 SI $2.99
Daredevil #110 $2.99
Daredevil By Bendis Omnibus HC Vol 1 $99.99
Ben:This is the opposite of
Kurt: Ladies and gentlemen, Ben is slowing in his old age! Seriously, this was a really good run.
Fantastic Four True Story #2 (Of 4) $2.99
Fantastic Four Visionaries Walt Simonson TP Vol 02 $14.99
Ghost Rider Annual #2 Mercy $3.99
Ben:I’d pray for mercy if I only did this once a year.
Kurt: Ben, if I told you that you couldn’t make anymore sh-t jokes, would you even be able to do The Spinner Rack?
Haunt Of Horror Lovecraft #3 (Of 3) (MR) $3.99
Immortal Iron Fist #18 $2.99
Kick Ass #4 (MR) $2.99
Ben:This Wednesday is officially dubbed Super Awesome Day.
Kurt: Actually, you’re right (for once). There’s some good stuff coming out this week.
Marvel Adventures Avengers #27 $2.99
Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #39 $2.99
Marvel Adventures Iron Man TP Vol 03 Digest $7.99
Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #2 $2.99
Marvel Comics Presents #12 $3.99
Marvel Your Universe Saga Pi
Mighty Avengers #17 SI $2.99
MMW Golden Age Marvel Comics HC Vol 03 $59.99
MMW Golden Age Marvel Comics HC Vol 03 Var Ed Vol 102 $59.99
New Avengers #44 SI $2.99
New Exiles #10 $2.99
New Warriors #15 SI $2.99
New Warriors TP Vol 02 Thrashed $19.99
Newuniversal Conqueror $3.99
Kurt: Wow, the newuniversal books have been all over the place.
Nova #16 SI $2.99
Off HB Marvel Univ A To Z Prem HC Vol 04 $24.99
Runaways 3 #1 $2.99
Ben:Is this… on time?
Kurt: It’s written by Terry Moore of Strangers in Paradise. It is also not written by Joss Whedon, who wrote an amazing but very, very late arc on this series. He also made fun of the Punisher, which just makes me question his commitment to F—king Awesome Stuff.
Secret Invasion Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Of 3) SI $2.99
She-Hulk 2 #32 SI $2.99
She-Hulk TP Vol 06 Jaded $14.99
Skaar Son Of Hulk #3 $2.99
Thunderbolts #123 SI $2.99
Kurt: Okay, Warren Ellis is gone, and unfortunately, so am I. I’ve got to cut down on my monthly intake here just a bit.
Ultimate Iron Man II #5 (Of 5) $2.99
Ultimate Spider-Man #125 $2.99
Ultimate X-Men #97 $2.99
Wolverine #68 $2.99
Ben:Future Logan hangs out with blind Hawkeye and totally rocks.
Wolverine First Class #6 $2.99
X-Force #6 DWS $2.99
Ben:In this issue of Punisher, I mean X-Force, someone dies.
Kurt: I vote to include Frank Castle in the lineup of X-Force. Maybe we can bring the Foolkiller in to really crank up the bloodshed.
X-Men Legacy #215 MD $2.99
X-Men Legacy Prem HC Vol 01 Divided He Stands $19.99
X-Men TP Vol 03 Complete Onslaught Epic $29.99
Young Inhumans TP $19.99
Kurt: Ben’s kids? All right, I’m outta here.