So I thought I’d have a rant today, as much as one can calling themselves a stoic. It’s a story of Warner Bros. and the turbulent relationship with DC Comics.
I’ve written to no end about this in long paragraphs to friends and in essays for university on the failing of what has been the development of superhero stories from 1992 to present day. It was in 1992 that on the issue of risk, Tim Burton was told that his third Batman film following Batman Returns was not happening due to the dark nature of the film which reflecting poorly in merchandise sales. The executives felt that it was a risk and so effectively fired him from the project. In doing so, Danny Elfman left as did the leading man, Michael Keaton. This had a knock on effect for the following films where the toys were designed before the films and subsequently flair and spirit and joy was sucked from each project with the finale of Batman & Robin havig George Clooney apologising to this day.
Then we move on to the failed Superman film of 2005 which would have been directed by Tim Burton in a revival with Nicholas Cage as the man of steel. Sadly, this was cut and in its place, Superman Returns, a film that the hero, Brandon Routh spend much of his career running away from until the recent Infinite Crisis crossover specials in the CW superhero shoes. Now, those programs, I’d say sum up the philosophy of Warner Bros. with its acquisitions with the CW Universe as it’s so-called being effectively The Vampire Diaries in domino masks. The vampire stories worked didn’t they? The love twists and miscommunications leading to the majority of the conflict and story rather than actual creative storytelling driving the converging plot lines.
But then, it happened again in 2013 with Man of Steel. Seeing the success of the uniquely individual Dark Knight Trilogy – finally a win for Warner, it was to be emulated in its darkness and compared to those films, even with Hans Zimmer returning for the music. This film missed the mark with many fans and movie goers not because it was a bad film, but because it was playing it safe with its concepts, leaning heavily on what worked before and what came before instead of evolving into its own thing and being true to itself. While Henry Cavill did his best, the character fell flat.
So came Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film so heavily dictated by cost cutting and executive decisions that a good 50 minutes was cut from the film leading it to have to be re-released. The reasoning: the original cut was a lower age rating than the director’s cut, meaning that it would be less of a risk and have a wider audience. Secondly, it was a long film so only so much money could be generated from showings per day.
I will stop here, as the Justice League and subsequent films debacle will go on forever but to cut that long story short: once again it needed a re-release to be finally free, to be finally whole in its self. Even the new The Suicide Squad was another soft-reboot, required to have creative licence, depth, imagination and heart.
In fact, it could be said that the best films from DC are the animated, with Warner not taking risks on their costs and storytelling as the market is much more niche and predictable. So what does this tell us? Z, you ask, what the fuck has this little trip down movie history lane got to do with stoicism?
The point is, you do not have the luxury of soft reboots to fix mistakes when you realize that by not taking a risk you have trapped yourself in your own choices. You, like executives, curtail your own efforts of leading a whole experience, uniquely yours because you feared lack of pay off. Sure, perhaps Tim Burton’s Batman 3 may have been terrible, but was what we got any better (not mentioning the silver lining of Elliot Goldenthal’s music)? In 6 years time, George Clooney would have spent 30 years apologising for that film.
So what I’m saying it, using this reality of cinema history as an allegory: your life has no reboot as far as you are aware so take every opportunity and live wholly not locked in the box of what-ifs. Take the leap and if you fall, your life will be marked for your bravery not cowardice and to quote perhaps the only successful Batman live-action franchise of this side of 2000:
“Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” – Alfred Pennyworth, Batman Begins
Unlike DC Comics, you can’t bank on a multiversal cosmic event featuring a scarlet speedster to fix and undo all the mistakes you made and take all those opportunities and risks you regret not taking. For Hollywood executives, the cause of their fear is a loss of money.
The only question is, what is yours?