It goes without saying Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight has been arguably the greatest Batman film ever made, and has been a beacon of the potential for the comic book to be the foundation of strong, compelling narratives and equally rivetting and driven characters.
The dark, brooding nature of the Dark Knight trilogy, and the likes of Watchmen, Sin City and Man Of Steel, has been somewhat the signature predominantly scrawled by DC Comics. Well you can understand why, at least for the likes of Watchmen and The Dark Knight; they are pretty dark stories. Parents killed by a gunman, a sociopath decides to commit genocide to save the world… no way to put a clappy-happy spin on that.
But nevertheless, X-Men director Matthew Vaughn went on record during a magazine interview with Variety as to say that the age of the dark comic films is “dead”.
People want fun and escapism at the moment. Look at the success of Guardians of the Galaxy. I think Nolan kick-started a very dark, bleak style of superhero escapism, and I think people have had enough of it.
Vaughn also commended Marvel for being able to revamp older, lesser-known titles into mainstream hits. That’s your Big Hero 6‘s and Guardian Of The Galaxy‘s. Which is great. We are very familiar with Disney’s / Marvel’s ‘formula’. But I think Vaughn’s broad statement casually dismisses various facts.
Marvel, for one (apart from say the Marvel Knights like Daredevil and The Punisher) is pretty lighthearted. Spider-Man swings from buildings like Tarzan and has a wise-cracking personage while apprehending criminals. So Spidey’s representation on film for the most part will be ‘fun’. In the same way, the thing that had Superman fans a bit bummed-out with Snyder’s Superman was not so much the collateral damage as it was the unnecessary, ill-timed romance and smiles or blasé responses to mass loss of life. Essentially, moving Superman more away from his ‘fun’ side. But we digress…
Another thing Vaughn fails mentioning is fans familiarity with the comic books in question. The films from Marvel’s canon he champions are based on obscure titles that many don’t know and only few remember. This gives them much leeway to take characters, tweak backstories, change settings and apply the ol’ Marvel/Disney one-two punch up to the ol’ script. Where was Everwraithe in Big Hero 6? Yeah, that was the bad guy in the original comic made up of the dead souls of Japanese people who died in Hiroshima. Pretty dark, huh? You didn’t see him in the cute awesome animation, did you? Or how about Guardians of The Galaxy. Didn’t that comic series hit its peak in the 70’s?
DC Comics have been putting out their heavy hitters while Marvel has been digging in the proverbial crates. Why? Because when it comes to film, you don’t want to be backed into a proverbial corner trying to keep exceedingly true to the source material and to fans expectations. Expectations bolstered by solid years of comic narrative and character knowledge.
Another point: Hero teams adds dynamism to the comic book film and more varied personalities help keep fans expectant and satisfied at the same time.Way easier than building up dynamism with one character. Marvel understands this, which is the reason why Avengers‘ Hulk sequences are better and more fulfilling than every Hulk film Marvel has spewed out. And that’s why Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class did well, and why Kingsman: The Secret Service may also do well. Bloody good fun…
So, when Vaughn says the dark comic film is “dead”, he obviously says this with some malice and casual disdain. Because if he took the time to look at Marvel’s roster, he’d maybe want to advise Marvel to cancel the Daredevil Netflix series if fans don’t want to see anything ‘dark’.
Guardians Of the Galaxy was great. The Dark Knight was great. How “dark” or “light” a comic film goes is really based on the subject matters touched on and spread across decades worth of comic panels. So when you have 75 years worth of Detective Comics to consider in the creation of a Batman film, staying true to its core becomes somewhat priority. As opposed to, of course, choosing an obscure title to build a comic book film on, or deciding to make a dark film light to fit some arbitrary fan quota pushed by the execs. Dark, light… I don’t care. All we want as fans is thoughtful, believable, compelling narrative. That’s it.
DC Comics’ Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice may place a dark, brooding cloud over many of DC Comics upcoming titular releases, but the likes of The Flash, Suicide Squad and Shazam! will have narratives stocked full of laughs and humour. And this is the key difference between Marvel and DC Comics‘ roster; DC has more potential for variety. But hey, the next few years will tell which Comic Publisher films will come out victorious.
What do you think? Was Vaughn’s statement justified, or do fans just like what they like, jovial or serious?