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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
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Ben: This was an interesting mix of Mark Waid’s Empire and a dark Marvel U until the Countdown garbage showed up.
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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.
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Kurt: I’d like to announce an opening as my unpaid joke writer on Comicscape.
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Ben:This is the opposite of
Kurt: Ladies and gentlemen, Ben is slowing in his old age! Seriously, this was a really good run.
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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?
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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.
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Kurt: Wow, the newuniversal books have been all over the place.
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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.
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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
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Ben:Future Logan hangs out with blind Hawkeye and totally rocks.
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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.
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Kurt: Ben’s kids? All right, I’m outta here.


Showing items 1 - 10 of 36
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JoshGordon 8/27/2008 1:08:02 AM
Jeff Robinov doesn't have a clue. It's like saying "Gee, Titanic is the highest grossing movie of all time, let's make more movies with ships that sink". It's not the ship sinking that makes it good. Why don't execs get it? Darker doesn't equal better. It works for Batman. Batman has always been a dark character. It's about staying true to the character and spirit of the source material. It's about good writing, good characters, good acting, good direction. It doesn't matter if your making a period drama or a comic book movie. The Dark Knight is a phenomenon. Everything came together for that one. It isn't a fricking formula. Jeez. How do these guys get these jobs and how do I get one? I wanna be a studio president!
Flint521466 8/27/2008 1:36:17 AM
You see GREAT movies like Iron Man, TDK, and Hellboy 2 and you think maybe these studio heads finally get it. And then you read statements like this and realize that these clowns wouldn't have a clue if it sat on their face and farted.
redhairs99 8/27/2008 2:53:37 AM
A Dark Superman...hmmm...Wasn't Superman Returns' version of Superman pretty dark? I mean, Singer did make Supes into an absentee father/creepy, peeping-tom stalker with a messiah complex. Sounds dark to me.
DarthDuck 8/27/2008 5:32:02 AM
Glad to see I'm not alone on this. This is completely stupid. The only good idea is individual movies leading to a large group movie. But even that's not original. And darker is not better. Batman should be dark. Superman should not. Allow more comic creators and industry people to get involved and take it out of brain-less studio executives hands. Sigh, if only it were that simple....
evilbeagle 8/27/2008 5:50:20 AM
That's funny redhairs. Anyway, this article definitely speaks to the fact that many studio execs are just retards. If they follow through on their 'dark' plan, they will only continue to create and release trash ala Superman Returns. Just respect the source material and work to make GOOD movies. There are a lot of movies on the summer list that made 2-3 hundred million worldwide without being dark!!!! Wait a minute...I have a plot for the Superman Reboot. Superman returns to earth and is distraught that Lois is banging someone else. So he begins snorting coke and banging hookers with a master plan of fathering an army of super-offspring. With this offspring he plans to take over the world and show Lois what a stupid bitch she is. Then Supes gets put in rehab and forms a bond with Lyndsey Lohan and her lesbian friend while they Karaoke to Amy Whinehouse. After 28 days of detox Supes leaves with a clear head and has to stand against his now teenage army of super-evil-offspring (this will allow WB to cast as many young attractive TV actors as they want) They have a super bloody, dark battle in which we see Superman rip their limbs from their bodies and fry them with his heat vision. They will be no match for him since they are only half-breeds. Also, many of the super-offspring will be topless or fully naked since they are hot and evil (and it will help to achieve a darker rating). In the end Superman will stake an American flag at the top of a mountain of bloody body parts and carcasses of all his now-dead super-evil-offspring and reclaim his place as the greatest superhero ever. Maybe I like this dark movement...
AMiSHPiRATE 8/27/2008 5:50:46 AM
Sinking ships, lazer swords, burning southern cities, and bats will make for one gangbusters movie. --- Hey, remember when executives spout buzz words and all of a sudden greatness happens? No? Right, because it's talented filmmakers that make great movies, not buzz words. With the right talent and aligned stars, a superman war epic or a superman roadtrip movie could both go over gangbusters with the public. Seriously, if any corporate execs troll trashy sites like Mania, get to work on a superman/batman buddy comedy roadtrip movie. Bruce & Clark go to White Castle.
CaptainJackSpareribs 8/27/2008 6:05:20 AM
Robinov is not a very smart man. He's the kind of dude who approved Batman and Robin. Just because one film worked (Batman Forever) doesn't mean that another one with MORE of the stuff from the previous will work (Batman and Robin). Returns was great IMHO. I liked where Singer was going with it. Granted there were some weird plot devices in there, (son, excessive-land-owner-Luthor, etc) they had already established something and now they're crapping on that because it didn't open big. I'll say what i've said on other boards... It was WB's fault for approving the script for Returns. All the elements that made people not like it WERE IN THE FREKIN SCRIPT!...YOU READ THE PART ABOUT THE SON!...ABOUT REAL ESTATE LEX!......MELANCHOLY/STALKER SUPERMAN!...NOW YOUR ANGRY ABOUT THE NUMBERS?!? Doesn't make sense.
CaptainJackSpareribs 8/27/2008 6:05:42 AM
Robinov is not a very smart man. He's the kind of dude who approved Batman and Robin. Just because one film worked (Batman Forever) doesn't mean that another one with MORE of the stuff from the previous will work (Batman and Robin). Returns was great IMHO. I liked where Singer was going with it. Granted there were some weird plot devices in there, (son, excessive-land-owner-Luthor, etc) they had already established something and now they're crapping on that because it didn't open big. I'll say what i've said on other boards... It was WB's fault for approving the script for Returns. All the elements that made people not like it WERE IN THE FREKIN SCRIPT!...YOU READ THE PART ABOUT THE SON!...ABOUT REAL ESTATE LEX!......MELANCHOLY/STALKER SUPERMAN!...NOW YOUR ANGRY ABOUT THE NUMBERS?!? Doesn't make sense.
TheStormrider 8/27/2008 6:35:39 AM
Well, I have to say that the corporate thinking is pretty common. See its not their intentions, its their approach that is all fucked up. Yes, you need a darker movie. People just dont want smurfs anymore. The problem is really that they say 'ok, darker superman. check'. But in reality they need to sit down and say 'this movie needs to have dark undertones'. Thats when someone opens up their mouth and says 'Hmm wont work for superman himself what else you got?' Well, can we make the villain dark? Can we make metropolis darker? Can we tie it in with dark reality? Thats when they say 'ok, lets make superman boyish, and simplistically pure, and the villian insidious and dark. To the point where superman is helpless because he cant confront the darkness with the kind of darkness it needs. Eseencially, doing exactly opposite of the Dark Knight, REALLY setting up a sequel. Setting the characters (as they are already) so far apart on the spectrum, they have no choice but to collide morally. Now, what does this mean for superman. Lets see a list of the blahze ways the ALWAYS make the villain an equal. 1. The villains from crypton! *yawn* 2. Superman is weakened by cryptonite! *snore* 3. Superman fears for his secret identity. *shutter* 4. Villain goes after the loved ones! *shakes head* 5. Villian STEALS XXXXXXXX and uses it on XXXXXXX. Ok so the above are so cliche, you dont knwo what to do, but they are part of the plots used by all the major movie success' this year. So whats the answer? The answer is you sit and watch a basketball game. Or a UFC match. Because when you do that, you say 'Wow, this guys unstoppable. Unless you had a guy that could xxxxxxx. You would have to fight him lik exxxxxxxx to beat him. Then create a character that actually gives superman some kind of a fit. But lets face it. Superman is boring. He doesnt know kung fu. He doesnt do any matrix moves. He flies. And he punches. And not good, tactical punches. im talking roundhouses. Superman is stuck in limbo. So unless you have a villain that makes supes have to suck it up and bring his 'skillset' into the year 2000, you might as well base the next movie on his son kicking ass in rocket football. The bottom line is, to make a successfull superman, its going to have to be a coming of age movie. A movie where superman starts out the pinnacle of justice, rightness, and properness, and have him realize that the old guard is no more, and make him go gorilla. Make him learn some bad ass fighting moves for a reason, realize that hes going to have to stop being the protector of rightness and become the punisher of wrongness. The walking of that line, will make for a good film. Go on either side and your screwing the pooch.
hanso 8/27/2008 6:56:45 AM
Dark doesn't mean fuckin Batman! It probably means more real and relatable. Heck even Marvel gonna go a darker route if they make Tony Stark battle alcoholism. Nobody bitching about that. You guys read "dark" and get scared. Chill out, wait to see what happens. DC isn't completely retarded. Sure they see the sucess of TDK and obviously want to follow on those footsteps. What's wrong with that anyway? TDK fuckin owned. If they gonnna try to emulate someone might as well be the best. Best player in the NBA right now, Kobe Bryant. Who does he play like? His Airness, greatest ever. Nothing wrong with WB shooting for TDK status. Besides they said they'll go as dark as the character will allow them to go. <BR itxtvisited="1" /><BR itxtvisited="1" />On the Superman front, they could bring in red kryptonite to the Superman world and make Supes act differently than what he's always been seen on screen. <BR itxtvisited="1" />Singer fucked up Superman when he decided to follow Donner. They had to reboot cause the kid was fucking terrible idea and with Lex being portrayed the way he has been, there's no damn LexCorp.<BR itxtvisited="1" />By rebooting you take care of those 2 things right off the bat and can hopefully cast someone in the Lois Lane role that's worth it. I don't think a reboot will mean another origin film though, so I'm not worried about that.<BR itxtvisited="1" />Now, the character they really need to turn darker is not Superman but Lex Luthor if he's going to be back(and he has to be but not as a main guy) and any other villain they bring into the mix.<BR itxtvisited="1" />The other thing they need is put more action into the film, SR was a fuckin bore, and make Superman do super things. Stopping a bank robbery & catching a guy falling off a building aren't super. Superman can do that shit in his sleep. They need to put him in some actual danger maybe throw a damn punch. Did Superman punch anyone in SR? '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." That's exactly what GL will be if the script rumors are true.
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