Laughter has been banned from DC movies

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Batman vs Superman Ben Affleck Costume 1000x665 Laughter has been banned from DC movies

Veteran showbiz writer Drew McWeeny rocked the world of superhero movies this week with his claim that he’s heard many times that humor is superhero films is being given the side eye at Warner Bros. :

“No jokes.”

Last week was about the fifth time I’ve heard that there is a mandate at Warner Bros. regarding any of the DC superhero films in development, and it’s very simple and direct and to the point.

“No jokes.”

It would seem like a crazy rule to set for an entire series of films. How can you know what the tone is for every story you’ll be telling in a series before you’ve even started telling it? The thing is, DC has taken a few stabs at establishing this larger universe on film, and they’ve gotten smacked down for everything that hasn’t had Batman in it. “Man Of Steel” made money, and I’m certainly not the only person to like the film. I may be one of its more ardent defenders, but I’m not alone. I think you’d have a far harder time finding someone to defend “Green Lantern,” the studio’s other big attempt at launching one of the core Justice League characters with a film franchise of his own.

It seems that the failure of Green Lantern is being blamed on the fact it tried to be funny. Apparently the fact that it had a weak plot, an unintentionally risible villain that looked like an angry space octopus, a journeyman director and a central conflict for the hero that was barely a conflict at all had NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH IT FLOPPING.

And the merry peals of laughter you can overhear from any screening of Guardians of the Galaxy are in spite of, not a source of, the film’s success.

Now, I can understand that being all grim and gritty is sort of a trademark for WB superhero movies, because Batman and grim and gritty and Batman is successful. Never mind that the Tim Burton Batman and the original Superman had lots of laughs. And that people like to laugh. People also like to wallow in suffering and have serious debates about saving the world. Being Terribly Solemn and Grim is also a handy way to distinguish DC superhero movies from Marvel superhero movies, which are full of banter and frivolity and Robert Downey Jr. picking on his robot friend.

If one were uncharitable, one could point out that being Very Very Serious is sometimes a mask to hide insecurity and uncertainty. One could also point out that Studio Executives say the darndest things, and years later people write books about this stuff and everyone is appalled that people making kazillions of dollars every year could say such silly things.

Personally, I’m not really looking forward to 17 movies set in a dark brooding world where laughter is forbidden. *cough*Man of Steel*cough* But I also think the human need to release through the healing power of laughter will sneak in here and there to this gritty landscape. Because that’s what humans do. Plus, Batman, it takes 43 muscles to frown and only 2 to smile! At some point that frown is going to turn upside down….I can feel it.

And hopefully, unlike with Green Lantern, the biggest laughs will be intentional and not at the expense of an angry space octopus.

 

Comments

  1. …plus, comedy is hard. I have a feeling WBs’ biggest fear is being campy but don’t realize it’s not the same thing. The humor is what’s helped Marvel’s films be fun summer “popcorn” movies — which usually have a broader mass appeal. But they still have heart.

  2. Personally, I’m not really looking forward to 17 movies set in a dark brooding world where laughter is forbidden.

    I don’t think you have to worry about it. If they really try to make 17 movies about people who wear their underwear outside their clothes without putting any humor into them at all, they won’t get to 17 movies.

  3. george says:

    I have no enthusiasm for the upcoming DC movies. I got my fill of dark, grim and humorless from MAN OF STEEL and the Christopher Nolan Bat-flicks.

    Going dark may not be the best approach. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY had a light tone and plenty of humor and was a hit. Meanwhile, SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR is one of the year’s biggest flops.

  4. george says:

    I have no enthusiasm for the upcoming DC movies. I got my fill of dark, grim and humorless from MAN OF STEEL and the Christopher Nolan Bat-flicks.

    Going dark may not be the best approach. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY had a light tone and plenty of humor and was a hit. Meanwhile, SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR is one of the year’s biggest flops.

  5. Bryan L says:

    “they won’t get to 17 movies”

    I think that sums it up pretty accurately. Even among my own admittedly limited focus group, there’s no interest in any more WB movies. I managed to convince my family to go see MAN OF STEEL and they won’t be falling for that again. If I see Batman/Superman or whatever it’s called, I’m on my own. And I don’t have much desire to see it at all, despite having friends involved in its production.

    On the other hand, if I suggested that we go see Guardians of the Galaxy again, I’d be trampled in the rush to the car. So yeah, Warner Bros., grim and gritty is the way to go.

  6. Bryan L says:

    “they won’t get to 17 movies”

    I think that sums it up pretty accurately. Even among my own admittedly limited focus group, there’s no interest in any more WB movies. I managed to convince my family to go see MAN OF STEEL and they won’t be falling for that again. If I see Batman/Superman or whatever it’s called, I’m on my own. And I don’t have much desire to see it at all, despite having friends involved in its production.

    On the other hand, if I suggested that we go see Guardians of the Galaxy again, I’d be trampled in the rush to the car. So yeah, Warner Bros., grim and gritty is the way to go.

  7. Why so serious?

  8. Johnathan Black says:

    If true, that’s an unfortunate development. I really enjoyed Captain America: The Winter Soldier and thought that stuck a nice balance between seriousness and humor. WB/DC could benefit from using the tone of CA:TWS as a starting point and moderating from there.

  9. I’ve seen so much dark and depressing stuff in superhero movies, I’m reluctant to see another one. People tell me Guardians is good, but I’m still smarting from the last 3 or 4 comic-based stinkers I’ve seen.
    Dark and depressing? I’ll skip it, thanks.

  10. I honestly thought Warner Bros were better followers than this. After all, it’s obvious that they’re turning (what would have been) the next Superman movie into a (sort of) Justice League feature in response to the success of the Avengers film. When I saw that GotG was going to include plenty of humor, and looked really good from the previews, I predicted that if it did good box office, Warner would stumble all over themselves to fast-track a wacky Doom Patrol film, or send the Aquaman script out to have some BWAHA added to it. But they’re doubling down on the grim-n-gritty? Disappointing.

  11. Johnny Memeonic says:

    DC’s been like this for their heroes in just about every medium. The videogame Injustice is just as ridiculously grim as the New 52 and the Man of Steel. I guess they think adopting this attitude will differentiate them from Marvel and have people take their characters more seriously.

    It’s a case of overcompensation even though DC’s roster is admittedly more goofy and campy than Marvel’s. I can’t even imagine how bad a grim and serious Shazam fill will be. It’ll be unwatchable.

  12. Policies can always change, especially if WB’s trying to play a long game with some sort of shared movie-verse.

  13. Grim or frivolous; I just want a damn Wonder Woman movie already! Sheesh!

  14. Andrew L. says:

    The strangest statements come out of the DCE/WB offices. This makes me worry for the SHAZAM movie.

    There’s humor and then there’s humor. Being funny was not a problem with GREEN LANTERN. Trying to be funny and failing…that’s different.

  15. On Green Lantern’s “journeyman director”:

    Martin Campbell’s been directing for decades. He directed Goldeneye, Casino Royale, and the surprisingly good (and fun!) Mask of Zorro. (And checking on imdb, I see he also did a couple of episodes of Homicide, including the brilliant “Three Men and Adena.”) The director’s skill and experience weren’t problems. His feel for the material? Possibly.

    I would be more likely to put the blame on the weak plot, the space octopus, the CGI costumes, the hamfisted family drama, and that “emotional spectrum” crap that apparently plays well in the small pond of the direct market but falls absolutely flat whenever some poor actor has to speak it out loud.

    They made a movie for the people who buy Geoff Johns Green Lantern comics. They forgot just how few of those people there actually are.

  16. There will be plenty of time to laugh when these movies show up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 2.0.

  17. Ireland says:

    This news is so funny.

  18. Dan Ahn says:

    Yeah…

    …This, right after Guardians of the Galaxy’s madcap humor helped it become the biggest movie the year.

    …And when you think back and realize that THE JOKER was the selling point of the biggest DC movie ever.

    Ridiculous. These people have no idea what they’re doing.

  19. For me, the word “humorless” is a pejorative.

    When I think back on forceful dramas –things like “The Wire” or “Breaking Bad” or “The Sopranos”– it’s often the laugh out loud funny moments that are the most memorable.

  20. solo500 says:

    My greatest concern would be the Ambush Bug & Plastic Man properties.

  21. solo500 says:

    My greatest concern would be the Ambush Bug & Plastic Man properties.

  22. Nicholas Sinisi says:

    Banning humor from these movies – IF true – speaks to the extreme nervousness and uncertainty WB has – whereas Marvel Studios made a completely unconventional film like GOTG that has become the biggest film of the year. Nervousness and uncertainly does not good movies make, to coin a phrase…

  23. A wonder woman movie would be greeeaaatt!!!

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  1. […] one more thing. If you’re going to make a Shazam movie—a Shazam Movie WITH THE ROCK IN IT—good luck not having any humor in it, Warner […]

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