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Wednesday, September 03, 2014 

It's not possible DC's films would have a "no jokes" policy, but they still have problems

Several days ago, HitFix wrote that WB supposedly imposed a policy against humor in their DC adaptions. I doubt they really intend to do that, and Forbes doesn't think so either:
The report assumes Warner is reactionary enough that they’ve been scared off of any humor in their superhero films, due primarily to the singular box office failure of the Green Lantern film. This assumes Warner didn’t notice that Batman, their most successful superhero franchise of all time, even at his most serious and grim still included several one-liners and jokes in every single film. There was even minor slapstick and other physical humor along with the joke lines in Batman’s movies, including the Christopher Nolan films. Meanwhile, Man of Steel had some one-liners, puns, and joke reactions of its own. (HitFix’s article attempts to acknowledge the existence of some humor in the Nolan Batman films and Superman’s recent reboot, but it then discounts them as irrelevant and “not funny,” to diminish their otherwise obvious significance to the historical record that undermines any concerns about a “no jokes” policy in the first place.)
WB probably forgot Jonah Hex wasn't a funny film by any stretch (except when you take it's horrible scripting into account), and no matter how serious it was, it failed anyway. As for the GL movie, whatever humor it had was very extremely poor, and the part where Ryan Reynolds turned a falling helicopter into a racecar on a track was a pointless special effects showoff.
Warner has had a lot more success than failure when it comes to superhero films that include bits of humor. And quite frankly, in the two instances where the studio made humor-filled superhero movies that failed — Green Lantern and Batman & Robin — the failure wasn’t due to the inclusion of jokes, it was because most audiences simply didn’t think the films were very good [...]
Exactly. I could guess the reason WB supposedly panics about humor for comic movies is because they think the campy parodies in the late 60s Batman TV series - something they didn't even film, since it was several years before they bought the rights to DC - has haunted them ever since, and they don't have the confidence to produce something far more serious that still manages to be perceptive. But that's unlikely to be the case, badly as they handle their properties nevertheless.

However, even if there's no lack of humor in their movie adaptions, there is a problem with lack of humor back in DC's modern comics, or, failed attempts to be funny. Geoff Johns' work in the past decade has various examples of either lacking charm and humor, or, when he does try to be funny, it crashes to earth with a deafening thud. There's also the problem with Batman's portrayal as a control freak, rarely ever smiling since the turn of the century.

But back to the film issue, Forbes brings up an interesting point I'd thought of myself, why sites like HitFix wrote such a downer: because they're hoping it causes controversy for the sake of it:
Regardless, that’s not the conversation the HitFix article started, and that’s not really the conversation fans seem to be having. Unfortunately, the typical trend — which has become stereotypical at this sad point — is for fans to overreact and assume the worst, and when an article presents absolutes like “no jokes” the fans tend to be even more absolute and extreme in their reactions. Not everyone is overstating things or reacting with alarm, of course, and those cooler heads deserve praise for not falling victim to yet another case of hyperbole in entertainment press giving way to hyperbole in fan reactions. Still, it’s undeniable that the norm is overreaction, and by framing this as a “Will Marvel beat DC??” situation, HitFix has intentionally stoked the flames of multiple fan flip-outs simultaneously.

Fans should learn to recognize when they’re having their chains yanked… except, I’ve come to realize a great number of fans actually enjoy being baited into this sort of thing, it’s fun for them and ultimately many of them don’t even care if the rumors are true or not. It’s a chance to put on their team shirt and rally the troops to scream at the other side, to get worked up and excited or angry, and to participate in the grand modern tradition of seeing everybody else pay attention to what the fan community is saying and doing in response to the latest gossip — I’m writing this article about it despite complaining about it, after all, so mission accomplished in that regard, I have to admit.
That's just what I'd been pondering for some time - some of the less rational audience remaining think it's fun to be mad, and no matter how galling they find a step, they'll continue to buy the damaged goods anyway, even if the milk is already sour. That's just what went wrong with Green Lantern in the 90s: no doubt there was a portion who continued to buy it long after Emerald Twilight, and it made no difference how pretentious the writing was, they must've only cared about the retail value. Those who complain about how the movies are handled could easily be the same crowd that legitimizes superhero comics with graphic gore and bad leftist politics. This mentality probably dates back to the mid-80s when Secret Wars was published, and one of the reasons for its being was to show Spider-Man all but trouncing the X-Men, just to start a rivalry between Spider-fans and X-fans. And it later manifested itself in the form of Civil War, with the MSM making it all sound like everybody was choosing sides, but never commenting on the quality of the scriptwriting. So not only are mindless addicts turning themselves into willing pawns in a nutty effort to make them look idiotic, they're furthering an already embarrassing image that makes the audience look like fruitcakes fit for a mental institution. I've long figured some of these nuts are the same people who tolerated Identity Crisis, Avengers: Disassembled, and all stories built from them. And long before that, maybe even the Clone Saga. But it's not fun, and truly, it takes away from real entertainment value.

Besides, the movies aren't what real fans should worry about. It's the comics they should. Yet it occurs to me the people complaining about the movies are the very ones who don't care much about the comics, and if they do, they're not voting with their wallets. They're the ones ensuring bad quality continues till the day DC and Marvel go out of business.

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I doubt if DC has an official, across-the-board, "no jokes" policy, but it does seem that their movie adaptations have usually imitated the comic books' grimdark style, while Marvel movies have been allowed a lighter tone. (Of course, there are probably exceptions to both rules.) And Marvel has generally had more success than DC with movie adaptations.

Grimdark seems to be what most comic book fans (people who buy comics on a regular basis) want, but they are a relatively small group. Movies have to appeal to a much broader audience, including mature adults who can't take something like Batman or Spider-Man (or Rocket Raccoon) seriously. That does not mean that the movie has to be campy or stupid, but it can't pretend to be Great Art, either.

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