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So What Comes After “Man Of Steel”?

June 20, 2013

While Man of Steel is still in the ever fleeting public perception, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit a question that’s been on my mind since the moment I realized that Dark Knight Rises wasn’t going to be particularly great. It’s a very simple question, one that is definitely relevant given Man of Steel‘s box office returns in just the first five days.

So…

Where is all of this going?

I’m sure there was a massive meeting Monday morning at Warner Bros where they scrambled to answer that question, but I doubt they’ve been unable to come up with anything. After all, they haven’t been able to come up with an answer to that question for some time, and that’s been fairly obvious. In a way, I’m reminded of the varying quality of the Marvel movies put out by 20th Century Fox, except in this case… most of the movies have been bad to ok, with the exception of one really good one. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t get the impression that Warner Bros has any idea how to make use of all the characters they have the licenses too, and they have little interest in learning or trying to work with them.

After all, look at their latest foray.

Despite a decidedly mixed bag of reviews, Man of Steel has already made back its ridiculous production budget of $225,000,000. Furthermore, mixed reviews have never really been a movie killer anyway. The way the general public reacts to mixed reviews is simply, “your mileage may vary.” I’ve definitely found that true of Man of Steel, on social media platforms I’ve seen a lot of people embracing the concept that this movie had good and bad points, with only a few (and more importantly equal number) of people in the outlier positions. Worse, the people in the outlier positions instantly resort to ad hominem attacks against anyone who disagrees with them, which instantly shows you how valid their opinions really are, even in their own minds.

Of course, in this dreadfully modern age, making back your production budget doesn’t make you a hit. Just like Tomb Raider can sell six million copies and still be considered a flop, Green Lantern made ten million dollars over its production budget and will generally be viewed as a mistake for years to come. Especially since some sources have suggested that Green Lantern was supposed to be the start of something bigger for DC characters. Its failure was apparently a major pause for the studio.

So here comes Man of Steel with its mixed reviews but solid box office take. In some ways proving that the stable of DC characters is still viable. After all, if today’s audiences can connect to the “old fashioned sensibilities,” of Superman (a popular load of bunk), they’ll be able to suspend their disbelief for all of these other “ludicrous,” concepts that DC has lying around. Remember everybody, Thor is believable but The Flash would be so hard for most people to comprehend they’d shit their pants and stab their eyes out due to the sheer insanity it induced in their fragile minds.

Until box office returns prove otherwise anyway.

I have no doubt that Man of Steel, as a gods damned Superman movie, will have the box office returns to prove people will watch a superhero movie. Especially if those superheroes have big ideas behind them, and throw plenty of dudes through buildings. Lots of whiz-bang noises, and shouting is all a superhero movie really needs… amirite?

All of this really makes me come back to the main question: Where is all of this going?

I ask this because Dark Knight Rises while removing Bruce Wayne from the situation, does leave Joseph Gordonn-Levitt’s character to continue the torch of Batman. However, Man of Steel, despite its cutesy little epilogue that promises that a second movie would be more traditional, is a fairly closed narrative. Also, people who have seen the movie will know that it has a point near its end that sort of removes one of the classic complications for Superman stories. As I said when I wrote my review of Man Of Steel, it doesn’t leave itself a lot of places to go regardless of if you mean a larger superheroic world or just more Superman movies. Finally, while Green Lantern might have set up Sinestro, I assume that they want to steer as far clear of that movie as possible.

So… where is all this going?

The real problem, at least in my opinion, is that the problem with the DC film franchise is that they’ve always been based around, “We have this cool idea to do a thing. Let’s do this thing and only this thing.”

This was the very basis of Nolan’s first Batman film. The Nolans and Goyer had this cool concept for Batman as a character, and while the Marvel films were starting to raise the prominence of Superhero movies after the disasters of movies like Batman and Robin, the general feeling was: who gives a fuck? So they let those guys run with a cool idea, and here we are.

After Batman Begins proved that it could get some traction, Nolan and his team basically said, “So here’s our other really cool idea, it involves the Joker.” Thus we were given The Dark Knight and while it might have some weird problems or themes to it if you dig too deep, it’s ultimately a great film with a Joker performance that will be nigh-impossible to ever compete with. At the end of it, Nolan and his team were pretty much ready to walk away. They used up their best ideas, and I’m certain it was uncomfortable to return to those films after working so closely with Heath Ledger in one of his last roles.

Yet, Batman was now an item worth running with and movies only exist in trilogies now… for some reason. Thus they were forced to pick up some threads and work with other ideas they had kicked around to create The Dark Knight Rises. Well, we all know how I felt before and after that movie, and I think most people have come around to my line of thinking.

Anyway, now all of the DC movies have had this “let’s see if this cool idea sticks to the wall,” feel to them. Of course, when you do that, as we saw with films like Green Lantern and Jonah Hex, they’re probably not going to stick.

Man of Steel has though.

Worse, they did everything they could to make sure it did and still had no idea what to do if it succeeded. They put names behind it to create buzz. Just making a Superman movie was more than enough to make nerds on the internet argue over whether or not Superman deserves a movie or if he’s not too boring or if we should piss on Donner’s vision like that. Then they throw Snyder and Nolan into the mix, stirring the internet pot, and also drawing the attention of normal people. Follow this up with a massive media push where Superman is selling fucking razor blades, and you’re going to get people to go to this thing.

Now they’re left holding the bag though, because despite putting all of this effort into getting people to watch and like their movie, they really didn’t have much behind it beyond, “Hey, here’s a cool idea.”

So, where the hell is any of this going?!

The answer is… fuck if they know.

Do you have a cool idea?

To ask this question in a more constructive way, you can ask: Is it worth while to build the movie universe like Marvel did?

While I have stated that if done right, DC could just have a lot of stand alone films, I think the correct answer is: Yes, build the movie universe. First off, people are expecting it because of Marvel. Second, if you want to do a Justice League movie, you’re either going to confuse a lot of people by having that movie not connected to any of the other films, or you’re not going to be able to create a threat large enough to justify all these characters who have already saved the world several times. Granted, that’s always been a nagging problem amongst the Justice League, but if the plan had always been “Push comes to shove, we make a Justice League film,” you probably shouldn’t have started with the storyline you did in Man of Steel because clearly Superman can save the entirety of the human race on his own.

People might have gotten excited when they saw a Wayne Enterprise or Lexcorp logo but don’t buy into that, guys. That wasn’t world building, it was a reference masquerading as such. They want you to think they have a plan but they don’t. They had no plan set up for if this movie succeeded.

Iron Man could have sucked. It really could have. While that ending makes it feel like a sequel is inevitable, it has enough charm that it could have ended on its own and we’d have never seen another Marvel movie. Just like we can imagine that Superman just goes on to have some really nice wholesome adventures at the end of Man of Steel regardless of what comes next. What Iron Man did do though was leave open the door just enough, and insert just enough of a hint at the wider world, that when it did succeed, they knew exactly how to move everything.

Furthermore, the only way people were going to watch Iron Man 2 was with the promise that it was building toward something larger. The idea was that if I miss out on this film, I’ll be lost when the big team-up happens. That’s the benefit of the movie universe, it’s how you can get people to watch a movie that’s ok or even sub-par. On a more positive end of the spectrum, it allows you to make movies about characters you might love but that the general public doesn’t care about. I mean, after all, they’re finally moving forward with Ant-Man.

Ant-Man.

Warner Bros basically needs to get three or four movies into pre-production now. Whether they will interact with the new television shows they’re working on is something they need to decide on right this instant. Still, they just need to pick three or four characters, or even groups of characters (ie a Teen Titans movie would be a great way to do a lot of world and character building quickly), and pull in writers to get started. Rather than have these writers just huddled up in their own worlds and production companies, you move them all into some empty conference room with a high ranking editor from DC and say, “Build us a fucking world, you assholes!” You damn well make sure whoever you want grandfathering these projects is sitting in those meetings, whether it’s Nolan or Goyer or Snyder, you put them in there to make sure they’ll have input on tone and the connections between these characters. Whoever is going to work on Justice League will either need to be a solid director or be there from the get-go or preferably is both of those things.

Ultimately, Warner Bros and DC need to start answering questions instead of asking them. Instead of sitting around wondering what the movie-going public will like and seeing what sticks to the wall, they need to just go balls to the wall.

Do you think executives at Disney and Marvel were quivering in their chairs going, “What if people don’t like the Captain America movie?!” No, they just said, “Go make me a Captain America movie. If the dailies suck, you ramp down the production budget and funnel it into marketing. We’ll fix it in The Avengers. I swear if you fuck the Avengers because of Captain America, my loafer will go so far up your ass you’ll be coughing up shoe leather.”

People like superheroes, that’s why the whole comic book industry is still this thing. It’s why we literally have shops that cater solely to people who buy comic books. It’s why one of the most popular genres of film in the past ten years has been superheroes. As you can even see with Man of Steel, you don’t even need to make a particularly good superhero movie to make money. When you do make good superhero movies, as you saw with Dark Knight, you can make obscene amounts of cash, and even earn some critical acclaim.

It’s not about having one cool idea or having one visionary who is going to somehow magically do all the work for you. The key is to have a group of people working together to build a world that’s believable enough while still being full of endless wonder. Finally, you have to give them the chance to really do things right.

That’s all it takes.

I mean really… if most D&D groups can figure this out, why can’t a multibillion dollar company?

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From → Movies, Opinions

One Comment
  1. “I mean really… if most D&D groups can figure this out, why can’t a multibillion dollar company?”

    Because multibillion dollar companies are filled with withering quims/MBAs

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