Or, “The DC Movie Machine 4”
Or, “A Good Description of WB/DC Right Now”
So what spawned this rant was an infographic from ComicsAlliance outlining the tentative schedule of superhero movie releases until 2020. I’ve been thinking about it, and after seeing the Honest Trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, and my friend D imparting some wisdom about the schedule, I managed to form some (mostly) coherent thoughts.
First of all, let me say that I don’t particularly dislike the DC Universe. I have a great love for many of the characters, comics, and adaptations. Second, let me say I don’t believe Marvel Studios turns out the bestest movies ever. I am going to have to see/hear some very good reviews of the upcoming Captain America: Civil War before I pay any hard-earned cash for a movie that is presumably predicated on one of the most detested, badly thought-out, and badly written Marvel events ever. Thirdly, I am also really not impressed with Fox or Sony these days either. Fox’s superhero marketing strategy appears to be, “Hey, you like Wolverine, don’t you? Because we’ve got Wolverine!” And Sony’s strategy is, er, yeah, I have no idea what they were really going for except, “Don’t let the rights to Spider-man revert!” Mission accomplished, Sony.
So why do I pick on WB/DC so much? Well, it’s obvious they’re trying to mimic the Marvel movie model and managing to mangle it so much I don’t even know what to say. I’m also still peeved about the New 52 and while I have heard some books were good, I really hate the reboot many main characters received. WB/DC also seems to be ignoring the fans and throwing out stuff they think we’re supposed to like. And, of course, they are trying soooo hard to not be Marvel. Mission accomplished, WB/DC. But seriously, the direction they seem to have to taken is “Hey, you like Batman, don’t you? Because we’ll make everyone into Batman.” The dark and edgy turn isn’t necessarily anything the fans want; it’s all about what WB/DC thinks will separate them from Marvel Studios.
How does this come around to Suicide Squad? Well, I’ll get to that. So I noticed that while there is no release date, “Justice League: Dark” still appears to be a viable project. But Batman is always dark, Superman has been sadly rebooted into Man of Steel, and Wonder Woman is the New 52 warrior born of lies and betrayal who eventually becomes the Goddess of War, so isn’t “Justice League” already “Justice League: Dark?” Especially since the upcoming “Batman v. Superman” is supposed to be based on the world of, “The Dark Knight Returns?” It’s all about being totally dark and edgy even when it doesn’t make sense.
So to Suicide Squad. Marvel Studios just made a metric ton of money on Guardians of the Galaxy, which is based on the current incarnation of one of the lesser known and frankly weirder comics Marvel produces. From an outside perspective, this movie was something of a risk, especially because it didn’t seem to have any obvious tie to the MCU. But Marvel put out a team movie that introduced the setting and characters and was a rollicking good time for all (except Ronan). Now, granted, I’m not hip to all the latest trends, so the first I heard of a “Suicide Squad” movie was that infographic. It’s set for release in barely two years and as far as I can tell, some of the key casting choices (like Amanda Waller) haven’t even been made yet. So here’s what I think happened in WB/DC Studios after “Guardians” raked in so much money:
Executive 1: Wow, who would have thought a movie about a talking raccoon and a giant tree would make so much money? Especially since no one had ever really heard of these guys?
Executive 2: Actually, Marvel did a lot of marketing for this movie because they knew the characters were somewhat obscure. Their free comic book was about Rocket Raccoon! Ours, um, wasn’t about any movies.
E1: Whatever; “Guardians” made money. Can make a movie like that?
E2: No. We have no talking anthropomorphic animal characters or mobile flora characters. Such a thing would be silly, and as you know, we have strict “no humor” policy for all our movies.
E1: Yeah, I forgot about that. Well, do we have any unknown, niche teams to slap up on the screen?
E2: Quite a few, actually.
E1: What’s the darkest and edgiest?
E2: Um, well, there’s the Suicide Squad…
E1: That’s a great name! We’ll keep that. So what’s their thing?
E2: It’s a group of former criminals forced to do government black ops suicide missions or they’ll be killed by these bombs implanted in their bodies.
E1: Whoa, that’s perfect! That’s just perfect! Is that in the New 52?
E1: Alright, then slap that that thing up on the screen! I want to see it in less than three years!
E2: What? Less than three years to develop, shoot, edit, and finish a movie like this is crazy!
E1: What, do they all have a bunch of flashy superpowers that will require a lot of CGI?
E2: Well, no, not really…
E1: Then what’s the problem?
E2: There’s no world-building to lead up to this. All our other movies are already in the works.
E1: I don’t understand.
E2: Chekhov’s Gun, sir. You can’t just spring Checkmate and the whole history of these criminals and Amanda Waller into one movie with no lead-up. Especially not Checkmate.
E1: But “Guardians” did it!
E2: No, that movie introduced a whole bunch of characters that were seemingly disconnected from the main story. A Suicide Squad would be absolutely connected with the rest of the world we’re trying to build in the cinematic universe.
E1: But “Captain America 2” just sprung that whole, “HYDRA infiltrated SHIELD” thing with no build-up, not even in their TV show!
E2: That’s true, but that was also a big flaw in the movie which was overcome by otherwise excellent pacing, characters, acting, dialogue, and action.
E1: Then there’s no problem! If Marvel can do it, so can we! Make Suicide Squad happen and make it super-fast!
I may be cynical, but I don’t feel I’m wholly wrong. Again, I see WB/DC as trying to duplicate a successful movie without beginning to understand why that movie was successful. I’m not saying a Suicide Squad movie is necessarily a bad idea (although I am so very tired of the relentless darkness of WB/DC’s universe that I wish Green Lantern had been more successful), but that throwing it together in under three years without any appropriate build-up in the prior movies (or roughly shoehorned into the prior movies) is a bad idea. There are a lot of characters to juggle and on such an abbreviated production schedule, I’m afraid the movie will be pretty abbreviated as well. Admittedly “Guardians” didn’t go very in-depth to any character’s back story except Star-lord (and not at all into Groot as far as I recall), but the movie provided enough back story to understand the characters and their motivations. Based on WB/DC’s track record, I don’t think they’ll manage as well as Marvel.
How WB/DC continues to screw this up is baffling. That’s why I think the title is an apt description of the company right now – are they trying to commit financial suicide with these movies?