Hard to believe that the summer movie season is winding down. It seems like AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON was just opening a few weeks back, but it actually opened May 1. That’s when the summer movies “officially” start these days, even though the summer solstice isn’t until June 20. The last big tent pole pictures still to open are FANTASTIC FOUR on August 7 and THE MAN FROM U.N.CL.E on August 14. The buzz on the Marvel superhero movie isn’t very good. In fact, the foursome doesn't sound to be too fearsome as it's not being screened early for critics. That usually means the movie's a dog. (Fitting for the waning dog days of summer?)
It would behoove both Marvel as well as those making DC comics into movies, to step back a bit and take a look at what they’re doing. This will be the third time Hollywood has botched the fearsome foursome. And while AGE OF ULTRON made a ton of dough, in hindsight it wasn’t one of the best efforts that Marvel’s put forward. (Truly, wasn’t Eva from EX MACHINA a ten times more interesting robot than Ultron?)
With that in mind, here are five suggestions to Marvel and DC as they intend to clog every summer for the next decade with more and more of their properties - five ways that should make their movies must-sees because of their content, not just their marketing budgets.
MAKE US LAUGH MORE
ANT-MAN has earned 123 million at the USA box office in just three weeks, and it was a breath of fresh air because it didn’t take itself so seriously. Not every superhero movie has to be dark outside of the Dark Knight. Historically, some of the best superhero movies have been ones with strong comedy throughout. SUPERMAN (1978), SPIDER-MAN (2002) and IRON MAN (2008) immediately spring to mind. And while Seth Rogan didn’t exactly buoy THE GREEN HORNET, Paul Rudd added a light touch and charm to his role as ANT MAN, the tiniest of heroes in costume. It would behoove Marvel and DC to put such talents in their leads.
GIVE PAUL DINI & BRUCE TIMM A BIG SCREEN SHOT
We’ll see if the young and punk SUICIDE SQUAD delivers beyond its intriguing trailer, but it pains many fans of DC’s biggest film icon to know that the men who created Harley Quinn (the Joker's girlfriend) didn’t get first crack at her on the big screen. Creative geniuses Dini and Timm made her up whole red, white and black cloth for their BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES back in the 90’s. She's become so popular that Harley has her own comic book line. So why not give Dini and Timm a shot at her? Over the last 20 years, they've made one amazing Emmy-winning Batman animated series after another, and stellar versions of Superman and the Justice League too. Don't they deserve a shot, together or separate? At least hire one of them to put Harley, Catwoman and Poison Ivy in their own big screen, live-action movie together. After all, their track record at DC is far greater than Zack Snyder’s, and he's been entrusted with both the Batman and Superman franchises for the better part of the coming decade. He should just produce, and hire them to write and direct some of the slated DC films.
MAKE NON-HERO COMIC BOOK MOVIES & SHOWS
Marvel just made a deal with Netflix to produce six new series. DAREDEVIL is amazing, and DC has succeeded on the smaller screen too with ARROW, THE FLASH and GOTHAM. But do they all have to be their properties? Do they all have to be superhero movies? Why can’t these two titans bring other great comic books to the screens? Look at Disney. That brand now owns the Muppets, ABC, has their hands all over STAR WARS, and yes, they own Marvel. So, couldn’t Marvel (Disney) do movies and shows made of other great titles not in the Marvel family? Say, something like SAGA from Image? And what's going on with Y: THE LAST MAN from Vertigo Comics? Could Marvel help them get that baby done properly? Disney should use its clout to raise all the comic book boats in the water through Marvel. And that way, comic book superhero movies wouldn’t be wearing out the audience with things all in the same vein. There'd be more comic book variety. And there would be less cannibalization too.
GIVE THE GIRLS A GO
It should not have to be said, but it’s outrageous that a WONDER WOMAN franchise has taken forever to get going on the big screen, and is dependent on her trial run as a supporting player in the upcoming BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN movie. It’s also incredibly sexist that BLACK WIDOW hasn’t been given her own movie after the success of the AVENGERS movies and the proven critical and box office track record of Scarlett Johansson. So happy to see that CBS is picking up the SUPERGIRL franchise for TV this fall, but there are so many other great female comic book titles throughout the comic book universe that should be done, particularly in the DC and Marvel orbit. Batgirl, Zatanna, Black Canary, and many other individual characters should’ve had their own franchises on either the big or small screen years ago. And how about groups of female comic book heroines like those from Danger Girl (pictured above) or Runaways Girls? Heck, the way J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell wrote and drew Danger Girl is a storyboarded script all but ready to shoot. What’s taking so long, Hollywood? Have you learned nothing from the successes of Bella, Katniss and Tris Prior?
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Why does every superhero movie have to be live-action? There aren’t some that could be animated, even animated in a way that doesn’t have that Pixar gleam? Something edgier, darker, more adult? Speaking of adults, why can’t some superhero movies be rated R? Do they all have to be family audience accessible? (SIN CITY wasn't, and it was terrific!)
If Marvel and DC are planning on slates of films for the next decade, and they are, hopefully they’re seriously considering mixing up the formula more. Any genre or sub-genre needs something new, something fresh, something that gets a viewer to see anew. Another X-Men movie with Wolverine at the center of it? Perhaps. Hugh Jackman is wonderful. But there are so many other X-Men out there that Marvel hasn’t introduced into that franchise yet. It would behoove them to start there. And quickly expand the Marvel universe from here on out. Same with DC.
And if they think that audiences will always line up for them no matter what, those studios should study some film history. Disaster movies seemed unstoppable in the 1970’s until the likes of the god-awful THE SWARM and WHEN TIME RAN OUT shut that genre down. Same when too many crappy movies starring Jason Voorhees damaged the name of horror by the 1990’s. Marvel will likely have to deal immediately with the fallout that will apparently surround the release of FANTASTIC FOUR this weekend. They can start by opening up their minds to what truly would be fantastic.