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Is the DC Cinematic Universe Adopting a ‘No Jokes Policy?

Crisis on Infinite Nerdist Newses! Just kidding — our multiverse is holding strong, but what about the fate of the DC Cinematic Universe? Reports are coming out of HitFix and Badass Digest that Warner Bros. and DC Comics have a strict mandate for their superhero cinema: no jokes. Granted, we didn’t expect to see Batman trying out fifteen minutes of fresh material at Gotham’s equivalent of the Apollo, but surely there can be room for levity within the DC Cinematic Universe, right? Today, Jessica Chobot and the Nerdist News team try to find out the answer to that very question.

While it’s easy to pile on the DC Cinematic Universe’s perceived missteps and the increasingly jam-packed cast of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, it’s important to note that they have a distinctly different approach to both comics and films than Marvel does. It’s not necessarily worse, just different. It’s hard to argue with box office tallies, but it’s even harder to speak definitively about movies we haven’t seen yet. So, with that in mind, let’s hope that Warner Bros. aren’t confusing correlation with causation and treading water…

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And rather that they’ll be laughing their way to the Aqua Bank.

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Thanks for watching today’s show, folks. Be sure to emerge from your Fortress of Solitude tomorrow for another brand new episode, then let us know in the comments below your thoughts on this potential strategy for DC Comics-based films!

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22 comments

  • Here’s the thing. The roots of the DC Universe lay in the Golden Age of Comics, in Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #27, and All Comics #8/Sensation Comics #1.
    These are DARK, grounded, credible comic books.
    Superman is seen breaking into a governor’s mansion to save a man about to be executed from a crime he did no commit and, later, he is seen saving a woman from her abusive husband.
    The core premise of Batman is that when he was eight years old he saw a mugger shoot his parents dead in front of him.
    The concept of Wonder Woman is built on the premise of sexual submission.
    The perception people have about the DC characters as “Gods”, and lighthearted fare is a result of the Silver Age, which has relatively zero to do with the stories the characters were initially created to tell.
    Superman, for instance, was not created to tell stories about a super powerful alien who can shoot rainbows out of his fingers, but to tell stories about an alien who uses his powers as the champion of the oppressed to protect the weak from the strong.

    Batman is about the child who grew up to become a vigilante whose mission is to ensure that no other child experiences the same tragedy he went through – and in the event they do, to help them cope (i.e. Robin/Dick).

    Wonder Woman is about the spread of the message of peace in a war torn world. You can’t have war without tragedy, bloodshed, death, etc.
    What I THINK WB is trying to avoid is the use of puns, bad jokes, etc. The sort of thing that was prevalent in Batman & Robin (i.e. ice to meet you!).
    I for one am excited about these news and am looking forward to seeing what comes out of them. I like the DC characters grounded. That makes the fantasy stand out.
    Remember, the tagline of the first Donner Superman movie was “you will believe a man can fly”. In order for such a thing to be special, the world HAS to be real so that the fantasy, like a flying man, can stand out.

    Compare and contrast, for instance, the reaction of the cops to Superman in Donner’s movie to the reaction of the cops to Batman in Batman Forever/Batman & Robin. To the cops in Superman, Superman was unreal, fantastic, incredible, special.  To the cops in BF/B&R, Batman was run of the mill, standard fare. The problem there is that Batman became average not because the real world got used to him, but because the world as presented in those movies changed, it became more cartoony, and in doing so, Batman no longer stood out as special.

    By that same token, consider the little girl in Superman who runs into the house to tell her mom that a flying man took her cat down from the tree. The mother slapped the girl and accused her of lying. That’s because such a thing is irrational and impossible in the real world.
    Same goes for the captain of Air Force one. “Fly. Don’t look, just fly. We got… something. I ain’t saying what it is. Just… trust me.”

    I think – I HOPE — that is what WB is trying to recapture with this edict. That sense of verisimilitude that was present in Donner’s first movie.

    I’m sure we’ll see humor. I’m sure Steve Lombard will play a prank or two on Clark in Dawn of Justice and any subsequent Superman movies because that’s his schtick. What I’m sure we won’t see is more puns, more camp, more Silvery Agey stuff that treats the characters as Gods or caricatures. 

    • I have to disagree.  Yes Superman was a hero of the little guy, but he wasn’t dark, brooding, and humorless.  He was symbolic of hope.  If you read old Wonder Woman comics, they’re all BDSM jokes.  Golden Age Green Lantern was full of over the top theatrics.  Golden Age Flash was incredibly goofy.  They might have been darker stories than the Silver Age, but they were not completely devoid of humor.

      • Well, humor from Superman in the first four movies came from Clark more than from Superman. Clark was a caricature of a man and not a real person, which is the opposite in Man of Steel, wherein Clark is far more grounded, better developed, and more credible as a person.

         Other sources of humor in those movies were Otis, the slapstick in Superman II and III, and Gus Gorman/Richard Pryor. These are elements which, for DECADES, people have decried as the low points of the Superman movies that are not present in Man of Steel.

        Would you want things of that sort in future movies? Should there be slapstick? Should a comedian play the bad guy? If you removed those things from those movies, can you find other sources of humor in them?

        One of the best scenes in Superman II is when Superman stands on the pole outside Perry’s office and challenges Zod to a fight. “General, would you care to step outside?”.

        How does one define that?

        When he pleads with his mother to take away his powers so he can be with Lois. When he mourns the death of Pa. Those are dark, moody, brooding emotions.

        An overabundance of humor and joking around is what has killed WB’s movies based on DC comics in the past, like Superman III. Superman IV. Batman Forever. Batman & Robin, which tend to be more humorous than their far more successful contemporaries, like Superman: The Movie, Superman II, Batman (89), Batman Returns, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight.

  • You definitely need variety for super teams… or teams in general. Opposites attract. It almost pains me to keep throwing Avengers on the table, but it’s the perfect example of success—it’s that damn good. The characters were multifaceted. It had a good blend of action, story, and the humor was strategically placed. At the end of the day, it paid off. The best part about Avengers was that the characters were forced to mesh as a unit. You had serious soldiers and black ops agents mingling with billionaires, scientist, and myths. That’s variety. Guardians of the Galaxy had that in spades.    

    There’s no point in having Batman around if all the other members are dark and brooding. The WB needs to embrace DC’s weirdness and find the balance that’s been staring them in the face for over seven decades. 

  • Gritty dark and brooding is better than forced witticisms.  But tone aside.   It’s the story and the tie in to the audience need for a hero that matters.  The Green Lantern failed cause all of its characters were too campy and unbelievable.

  • People speculated that the reason that the Green Lantern didn’t work is because it was unrelatable story about space-faring superhero and because DC characters are supposed to be like gods. But Marvel has made multiple Thor movies and a Guardians of the Galaxy movie which involve space-faring and gods to varying degrees. So what remains is that all the unrealistic CGI and Green screen of the the lantern made the story unrelatable. Also, the horrible story must have had something to to do with it.

  • Eh,… not every movie has to be gold. I just love that they are creating movies featuring these timeless characters at all. I don’t care how bad it is, there is no way I’m not going to watch a Hulk movie, or an aqua man movie. Every superhero film is a magic show without strings! … (well unless you count spiderman):)

  • I think the dark tone works for batman, and although Man of Steel had a few moments (mostly visual jokes) where it was funny, I wish it had been a *bit* lighter. Also that the movie itself would have more colour *or* had Supes in more colour, making him stand out. It was so grey and bland.