Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Detective Comics Can't Sleuth Its Way Back On Top?

In the summer of 2008, I looked forward to both Iron Man and The Dark Knight with rapt anticipation. Iron Man was a good-sized hit, Dark Knight was super-sized. I preferred the simpler, more cohesive story of Iron Man, and Robert Downey's charismatic Tony Stark certainly eclipsed the more reduced role that Christian Bale was forced to take behind Heath Ledger's jaw-dropping Joker. But Ledger's Joker defined cinema in 2008, and made Jack Nicholson look like Caesar Romero.

But still ... it delights me when a comic book movie can capture both critical and financial success: these films (as well as Hancock, Incredible Hulk, and Hellboy 2) did both last year. It was one of those "it's good to be a geek" years. Ledger quite rightly won the Oscar for best supporting actor, but the Academy (surprise surprise) snubbed Dark Knight with the best picture and best director categories - not even nominating the film in either. (Though TDK did get 8 noms all told, and Downey Jr's nomination for Tropic Thunder had at least as much to do with Iron Man as with Tropic Thunder.)

So it is with sadness in my heart that I read that Batman 3 might not happen at all. It baffles me that a sequel to the second-most successful film _of all time_ is not being hot-lined.

The DC movie war machine is floundering (with a sequel to Superman Returns off the books, nothing for a Wonder Woman film but idle speculation, and Green Lantern shedding light only with fan-made trailers). Detective Comics can't sleuth its way back to the top of the movie heap.

By contrast, the Avengers franchise, which Iron Man kicked off, is plugging along with a momentum it can barely contain. Kenneth Branagh is waxing Nordic on Thor. Samuel L. Jackson, who appeared as Nick Fury for just 15 seconds in Iron Man, has been signed to a NINE PICTURE DEAL with Marvel, and director John Favreau is already appearing on late night TV shows to talk about Iron Man 2 and Tweeting like it's going out of style (which as a Facebook snob, alas, I can say Tweeting has not yet done).

What will turn this around? DC has historically flown circles around Marvel when it comes to multi-media adaptions of its material. Compare, for example, the legacy of the 1960s Batman TV with the legacy of the 1960s Spider-man show. Compare, for further example, the success of the Superman film franchise in the 1970s and 80s, and the Batman franchise of the 1980s and 90s, with Marvel's ... not having any film franchise of note until X-men in 2000.

With a hit like TDK, that made Spider-man wet his tights, how can DC now now drob the web ball?

Riddle me that, Boy Wonder.


Anonymous said...

Marvel is just proving that it's, once again, The House of Ideas. Excelsior, Marvel Zombies!

Kate said...

Isn't it always a good year to be a geek?


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