"Everything's amazing and nobody's happy." -Louis C.K.
Superhero and comic book characters are at a height in pop culture. We’re getting to see some amazingly fun, exciting, and well-crafted stories staring characters in costumes and studios are tripping over themselves to get more of these stories on the big and small screen. And yet, nobody's happy.
Sony Pictures Entertainment has done such a mediocre job of managing arguably the most lucrative superhero character of all (Spiderman) that they decided to literally get out of their own way and team up with their competitors. 20th Century Fox seems to be shifting the character-rich X-Men film franchise from "Wolverine and Friends" to "Mystique and Friends". But Warner Brothers might be the studio with the most cynicism and distrust directed at it.
Marvel Studios took Hollywood to school after successfully establishing a unified slate of films that existed in the same universe together. Warner Brothers/DC Comics -- as is the rest of Hollywood -- is still playing catch-up. In order to differentiate their films from Marvel Studios, Warner Brothers has adapted a more “serious” and brooding tone with their films and characters (I call this The Dark Knight trilogy effect), as well as introducing most their characters upfront at once and then providing each with their own solo film. This “Bizzaro Marvel” approach was met with a lot of skepticism, especially after the release of the first film in the DC universe, Man of Steel.
There aren’t many films of recent memory that invoke such a polarized response in the nerd cul-de-sac as Man of Steel. Look, I enjoyed it. It’s not without flaws (pacing and dialogue being the worst ones), but the film introduced Supes in a way I found interesting. It gave me enough to pique my curiosity in this alternate superhero universe and how these characters fit into it. And I'm encouraged by the addition of a better writer (Chris Terrio) to the production team of the sequel. I didn't get into the “but Superman wouldn’t do that!” arguments that uppity nerds got into because I believe the characterization of Superman in the DC cinematic universe thus far doesn’t deny him the ability to develop traits from his more traditional configurations. I also don't think that Superman, or any other fictional character, should be immune from creative liberties, if Warner Brothers happens to choose to exercise that option.
Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why comic book (and film) fans might not be so forgiving as I. Zach Snyder’s filmography has always screamed style over substance and there’s a very real worry that introducing so many heroes simultaneously (I think we’re up to possibly 5 heroes in Batman V Superman) will be too much for a coherent plot to handle. Hell, I’ve often expressed my criticisms with how 20th Century Fox has handled the X-Men franchise, so I’m no stranger to nerd rage. But Fox has had seven films. I can’t get myself to panic over the DC universe just yet with only ONE film to their name. All I see are the beginnings of a movie universe that hasn’t reached its potential yet, but still has time to.
Whether they’ve earned it or not, DC and Warner Brothers have the benefit of the doubt from me. Batman V Superman might end up being an abject failure. It might end up being amazing and a really unique foundation for the rest of the DC universe. Or it might end up being middle-of-the-road and a source of nerd debate for years. Until then, I’m just going to try to enjoy how amazing everything is.