Friday, July 11, 2008

Let's Hope It's For Real This Time

DC announces that they’re going to step up movie production.

How did this not happen the first time, back in 2003? Warner Brothers owns DC Comics, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to that DC Comics own the most diverse fictional universe out there. Marvel is having success with their superhero movies, sure. In the ten years since Blade was released, Marvel has put out seventeen movies using their superhero characters. In the same time, DC has released five movies using their characters (and I’m counting Constantine).

But if DC gets their act together, they could put out so much more. In the DC Universe, even putting aside the familiar Justice League characters, there are masterpieces of a wide variety of genres just waiting – just begging – to be put on film. Now, it would be impossible to tie all of these together into a coherent universe in the movies (although the Justice League could and should be interconnected quite easily), but let’s take a look at just a few of DC’s more off-beat in-universe properties. There are only examples. There’s a lot more where these came from.

Comedy – Super Buddies. I would have said Justice League International, but that would probably confuse people. Anyway, I think a Super Buddies movie could be good, as long as it acknowledged that the characters all used to be a lot more prominent than they are at the time of the movie. A story about a bunch of upstart joke superheroes would just be Mystery Men again, but one about has-beens trying to stage a comeback could be comedy gold.

Action – Suicide Squad. This is a comic book where the government employs super-powered criminals to carry out jobs that can’t be accomplished through honest means. The cast varied throughout the series, so there are dozens of great characters to choose from. No matter who the characters are, though, the concept is a guaranteed winner.

Fantasy – Sandman. Hollywood has already adapted one of Neil Gaiman’s novels, so why not his epic masterpiece? Obviously, it would be impossible to do a completely faithful adaptation in the space of a movie. But with an approach based around The Endless as a family, I think it could be really terrific.

Horror – The Spectre. It might not be a typical slasher film, but the Vengeance of God going around punishing sinners in outrageously grisly ways is a pretty creepy idea, I say.

Procedural – Gotham Central. Imagine it – a picture about a mystery in Gotham City and the police who solve it. It would be, on the surface, a typical cop movie, but it could also introduce fantasy elements easily, as it’s set in Gotham City, a city everyone knows to be completely fictional and full of weird stuff. Also, a Batman movie without a high-cost Batman - it’s like printing money!

Science Fiction – Metal Men. It’s about a guy who builds himself a surrogate family of robots and may or may not be crazy! That’s awesome!

War – Enemy Ace. This could be a great character piece and a fun action movie. On the one hand, you have the examination of what went through the mind of a German fighter pilot in WWI. On the other, you have all kinds of exciting mid-air fights. Clint Eastwood scored an Oscar nomination a couple years ago by looking at WWII from the Japanese perspective, so why not WWI from the point-of-view of a German?

Western – Jonah Hex. There’s talk that this is in development, and for good reason. With a good script, director and cast; the scarred, amoral bounty hunter has the potential to be one of the great western heroes of all time. He’s serious about his work, but he’s got a dark sense of humor. He doesn’t relish using his gun, but he doesn’t hesitate to do so when he has to. He’s ugly, but women throw themselves at him all the time. It’s been years since we’ve seen a great new Western hero, and he’d the perfect front man for a comeback.

In addition to all of these, DC could use their characters to tell the kinds of movie stories that Marvel can’t – those that depend heavily on legacy. The public has seen enough origin stories in superhero movies that this is the ideal time for a second-generation hero onscreen. James Robinson’s Starman – where a young hipster reluctantly goes into the family business – or The Flash (volume two) – in which a former sidekick rises to fill the role of his dead mentor – would be perfect choices.

There’s a whole universe out there, Warner Brothers. Get to it.

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