5 lessons DC could learn from Marvel, movie-wise
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Put on your super-senses, and listen...
For years, it seemed that we would never get a decent feature film based on any of the Marvel properties. Television movies, a handful of shelved films that were so bad that they can only be found in bootleg form at conventions or online, and the late eighties film The Punisher, which I’ve moaned about before. But technology caught up with filmmaking, and when X-Men and Spider-Man proved to be big box office draws, the comic book movie craze was reborn. However, it took DC a few years to get back on the horse since Joel Schumacher had nearly killed any film credit they had with his two Batman films, and since then, we’ve only had a handful of movies, including this year’s The Dark Knight Rises and next year’s Man of Steel, which hasn’t gone out of its way to instill any confidence in me that the film will be worth my time. Not everything that Marvel has done film-wise in the last decade and a half has been terrific, but they’ve taken some chances, and there have been some really great stories told on the big screen. And while I have enjoyed the DCAU direct-to-DVD films so far, I would like to see more live action superhero tales. If I may, I’d like to put forth my two cents, and maybe we can get the ball rolling on some more DC films.
5. Take a Chance on Lesser Known Characters
One of the best things about Batman Begins was the use of less well known villains from Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery. While we die-hard fans (and anyone who watched the animated series regularly) already knew Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow, most of the general public had no idea who they were. It was a bold decision, and it worked out well for them. But for some reason, DC hasn’t been keen on giving the B-card characters a chance to shine, outside of Jonah Hex and Green Lantern. As the Justice League animated series showed, there’s a vast universe of characters to pick from. Even if you just go forward with the proposed Justice League movie, you can bring in so many great heroes that haven’t had nearly enough of a chance to show what they’re capable of. And with the advances in CGI, you can finally make my dream of a Martian Manhunter movie a reality.
4. Movies Should Stand Alone
One of my biggest complaints with Green Lantern (and with a lot of genre films) is that it felt as though it existed for no other reason than to set up a sequel. They forced the Sinestro/Yellow Ring storyline in instead of allowing it flow naturally (although, at times, it felt as though there were three different movies going on at once in that film). Nolan’s Batman films felt as though they could be stand alone movies, even when there were elements added that could have been used for a possible sequel. Unfortunately, sequels are being planned before the first film is even in theatres. While the Avengers tie-in was tacked on to the ends of the recent Marvel Films releases, the films themselves were self-contained stories, even if certain elements and subplots looked forward. Obviously it’s in your best financial interest to build a franchise, but don’t let the movie suffer in order to make sure you have a story all ready to go for a possible continuance.
3. Make the Movies Fun
Remember after Iron Man 2 and The Dark Knight went head-to-head, and Robert Downey, Jr,. had his famous “Fuck DC” rant? I may not have agreed with everything he said, but he had a point. The movies should have a fun feel to them. Granted, Batman is a very serious character, and when too much levity is added, you get neon-colored fights and nipples on the suits. But for all of its shortcomings, Superman Returns remembered to keep some humor in the film, which looks like it may be missing in Man of Steel. While I’m not adverse to a grittier take on Superman, there has always been an air of fun to him. His relationships with Lois and Jimmy showed how human this alien really could be, and those fish-out-of-water moments that the first two Superman films had made for some great laughs, but not at expense of the character. It’s a nasty place out there in the real world, and sometimes, we need to be taken out of that.
2. Team Movies = More Possibilities
Marvel has had some great success with their superhero teams at the box office, between X-Men and Fantastic Four (while the first one was lacking, the second one was fairly decent). And they look to be setting up more ticket sales with The Avengers. While movies like this run the risk of adding too many characters to the broth – necessitating more development, some back story, screen time, and making the film too “busy” – it can also open up some wonderful chances to allow low-level heroes to shine, and you don’t need to bring every hero you have onboard. The various X-Men movies have done well with utilizing only a handful of heroes at a time, while others may come in to add to a scene or sequence. We’ve been promised a Justice League movie, and you could bring in some of those lesser known heroes, like Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Wonder Woman, Red Tornado, any of the other Green Lanterns (there have been four from Earth – I know, because I won a prize at the midnight showing of Green Lantern for knowing all of them), Huntress, Black Canary…seriously, the list goes on forever! And if the film is a success, you have characters to do solo movies, and if you play it right, you can use a few of the heroes’ sidekicks for a Teen Titans film. Just some food for thought.
1. Hire Your Fans!
Marvel has done pretty well with this as of late, bringing in writers and directors – and even actors – who are huge fans of the comics. Joss Whedon has long been a fan of the books (while a writer and story editor on Roseanne, Whedon added the comic book writing story line for David and Darlene), Kenneth Branagh was a Thor fan long before he directed the film, Nicholas Cage is a huge comic book fanatic and helped get Ghost Rider made, and many others were fans of the works before being brought on board. They bring with them the love of the medium, as well as a wealth of knowledge about the books and characters that the average Hollywood writer might not otherwise have. These people can help you out, and make a product that is more palatable for we geeks who have longed to see our heroes on the big screen, while still making films that will entertain the general movie attending public (not that we care about them, but we know that your profit sharing does). These five easy steps can go a long way to ensuring that you still have a place in the film market.
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