- Written by Lupe Rodriguez Haas
It's no secret Warner Bros. is struggling with their movie adaptations of the DC Comic properties except for the stand out hit WONDER WOMAN. So what are they doing wrong? The answer is simple. Overexposure!
All you have to do is look at the history of movies based on DC characters. There are seven stand alone Batman movies and six Superman solo outings. On television, Clark Kent came through the small screen with the George Reeves’ black and white series, four seasons of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and 10 seasons of teenage-angst man of steel in Smallville. Currently on Gotham, Bruce Wayne is transforming into the caped crusader. And let’s not forget the Saturday morning cartoon versions.
The reason Marvel has had tremendous success with their Marvel Cinematic Universe lies behind the novelty of the characters. While Iron Man, Captain America, Ant-Man and others were known in the comic book world and the rest of us had some familiarity with the characters, there were no big screen versions. The fun nature of the superheroes also contributed to the success of the Marvel franchises.
However, Warner Bros. has a history of beating a dead horse until the innards stink up the movie screen. Since the dawn of the Batman and Superman movie iterations, the movie studio kept pushing bad movies until the public had enough. The Tim Burton movies, BATMAN (1989) and BATMAN RETURNS (1992), were a great start to the cinematic universe but then Michael Keaton and Tim Burton moved on and Warner Bros. moved forward with BATMAN FOREVER (1995) with Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne in a much lighter tone and colors. That movie was bearable but then came Joel Schumacher’s unwatchable BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997) now with George Clooney in the cowl. Schumacher gave the caped crusaders nipples for crying out loud. That is the only movie I have ever walked out of in my life. It was utter ridiculousness. The franchise was dead.
Eight years later, Christopher Nolan resurrected the dark knight into an absolutely exciting reboot with Christian Bale that erased the bad memories of the last few Batman movies. Both Bale and Nolan knew when to bail from the franchise after THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012). The dust hadn’t even settled when WB announced a new Batman with Ben Affleck in 2013. That is way too soon. How can you top Nolan’s vision? And the answer is you can’t as proven with the disappointment of the two JUSTICE LEAGUE movies.
Superman went through a similar fate with the original films. SUPERMAN (1978) and SUPERMAN II (1980) were awesome but then it took a horrible turn with SUPERMAN III (1983) and SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987). Bryan Singer then took a stab at the son of Krypton with SUPERMAN RETURNS in 2006, and it didn’t leap across tall buildings but fell flat on its face.
Then came Zack Synder with his vision of Superman with the MAN OF STEEL starring Henry Cavill. It was a totally different take on the caped superhero which polarized audiences. Not a good start.
Are you seeing the pattern yet? Been there. Done that. Move on.
Now in the works is a stand alone Batman movie with director Matt Reeves who did a phenomenal job directing last year’s WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. He’s a fantastic director but he’s got a huge task. Ben Affleck is apparently mulling over returning in the solo movie, but the rumor is is Matt Reeves's will go with a young version of Bruce Wayne and the Dark Knight, but we're already seeing that on television with "Gotham." The only place Batman can go is down. It's time to retire live action Batman.
Even Marvel knows their superheroes will tire out, and are in the process of retiring them with AVENGERS 4: INFINITY WAR 2, and bringing in a whole new crop of super fighters.
Perhaps the DCEU should take a page from Marvel and focus on lesser known DC characters. WONDER WOMAN was a hit partly because of the novelty of it. There’s not much to live up to. Luckily Patty Jenkins gave it the touch it needed that sets it apart from the JUSTICE LEAGUE movies.
The only way Batman should live on is in the LEGO universe for at least another decade. Will Arnett’s LEGO Batman is hilarious and so much fun. Or perhaps a Justice League LEGO movie is a better idea. We need a good laugh.
So as far as the live action, put Batman on ice along with Superman at the Fortress of Solitude.
WB may have much better success with their stand alone movies with AQUAMAN, DEATHSTROKE, BATGIRL, and David F. Sandberg's SHAZAM. The Avenger-style DC universe is not working and perhaps in a decade or so, another JUSTICE LEAGUE may be appropriate, but now is not the time.