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Tuesday, June 12, 2018 

A focus on villains is not a good substitute for heroes

The Hollywood Reporter says Warner Brothers and DC are planning film projects spotlighting villains, including one about the Joker, and the comics aren't immune to a supervillain spotlight either:
There’s a rise in villainy that is taking hold of the DC Universe — a rise that’s occurring in the comics and its in cinematic counterparts. This week saw two major developments on the dark side of DC. The first was the news of a Joker solo movie starring Jared Leto, who would reprise his role from Suicide Squad (2016). This news comes after the already-revealed Joker movie, directed by Todd Phillips and produced by Martin Scorsese, which will explore the character’s origin outside of the continuity the shared universe of films Warner Bros. has been building since Man of Steel (2013).

The second of the week’s developments came in the pages of Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung’s Justice League No. 1 which not only successfully relaunches the series, but officially introduces the supervillain supergroup, the Legion of Doom, into modern comic continuity. While these two developments are divided by medium, they do showcase an increased awareness in the popularity of bad guys as protagonists, and may point to a potential for synchronicity between DC’s comic and film divisions. It’s easy to make the argument that two Joker movies is overkill, in fact it’s easy to argue that one Joker solo movie is one too many. But perhaps Scott Snyder’s Justice League and the post-credit scene of last year’s Justice League movie may point the way towards a more interesting corner of the DC Universe to explore — one that doesn’t just rely on the popularity of Batman.
Well it shouldn't rely on spotlighting villains either. Such a direction risks sensationalism and even sympathizing with evil. And the spotlights Geoff Johns gave to at least a few villains in the Flash when he was writing it were downright tasteless, particularly Heatwave's and Mirror Master's.

All that aside, what's this about villains being popular in a literal sense, or worse, more so than their hero counterparts? I find that objectionable, and in fact, it is. Villains certainly aren't meant to be cherished, if what they do is repulsive and inhumane, and their suggestions they make a great source for starring vehicles is just the kind of propaganda we don't need.
While Suicide Squad was presented as a film about the “bad guys,” most of them ended up on the antihero side of things. A Legion of Doom movie gives Warner Bros. the potential to really delve into what makes these villains tick when separated from the heroic counterparts, and sets up for an inevitable Justice League v Legion of Doom film. And while comparing DC’s films to Marvel’s is often a meaningless exercise, the comparisons will be made anyway. Warner Bros. tapping into the potential of the Legion of Doom allows them to do something Marvel hasn’t gotten to yet: presenting its own super-villain team, the Masters of Evil. With the Legion of Doom already set to become the talk of comic shops this year, and Warner Bros. building a sturdy cabal of villains within the DC Extended Universe, it’s time for these elements to come together and showcase the greatest potential of DC’s characters, beyond simply Batman spinoffs. It’s time for DC’s villains, all of them, to have their night.
I think they already have, and it's not amusing in the least. Putting Sinestro in a good guy's role, as happened several years ago, was preposterous enough as it is. What the Hollywood Reporter's trying to encourage here won't do any favors for the DCU, and in fact, it'll only make it worse after the failures of Batman vs. Superman and Justice League. Besides, as they themselves hint, Suicide Squad was about villains - or former ones - in the service of good as part of a probationary program. That's why it could work better in its own way. But a whole reel starring a villain whose dealings could be downright disgusting is not what I view as a masterpiece, and I think the Hollywood Reporter would do better to argue WB should concentrate on writing better screenplays for heroes and not think spotlighting a villain alone equals a good movie. There have been stories toplining the villains already, and few of them are in very good taste. Bettering their approach to heroes is what should matter.

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