Before the current superhero boom there was a great, underrated superhero farce: Mystery Men. Not quite a spoof, Mystery Men came out maybe four years too early. It should have been huge, but it was too ahead of its time.
One of the great character in Mystery Men is The Sphinx, the team leader who gives nuggets of wisdom like
He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions.
When you care what is outside, what is inside cares for you.
To learn my teachings, I must first teach you how to learn.
I bring up The Sphinx because in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Greg Silverman, the WB exec who is in charge of the DC movies, says this about their plans:
The filmmakers who are tackling these properties are making great movies about superheroes; they aren't making superhero movies.
The Sphinx would be proud.
I don't think that particular quote means anyting, unless Warner Bros is planning on making Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice* the courtroom drama we have all joked it will be. Let me give you a surprise glimpse at the future: it's a superhero movie after all. It ends with a big brawl and everything.
Anyway, Silverman has other stuff to say about the DC movies that are a little less Sphinxian, but no more full of meaning. Like:
We have a great strategy for the DC films, which is to take these beloved characters and put them in the hands of master filmmakers and make sure they all coordinate with each other. You'll see the difference when you see Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, Justice League and all the things that we are working on.
I mean, all due respect but the filmmaker line-up so far is Zack Snyder, David Ayer and Patty Jenkins. I'm on board for all of them, but to say they're 'master filmmakers?' They're not resurrecting Kubrick here, or getting the Dardennes involved. But then again WB is the studio that saddled Snyder - a director whose work I really like and who I think has pure cinema in his veins - with the 'visionary' label.
As for whether or not BvS is too grimdark, Silverman assures us there is humor as well as philosophy:
There is intensity and a seriousness of purpose to some of these characters. The filmmakers who are tackling these properties are making great movies about superheroes; they aren't making superhero movies. And when you are trying to make a good movie, you tackle interesting philosophies and character development. There's also humor, which is an important part.
This is how WB is positioning their films against Marvel - as the movies with philosophy and character development. I'm sure I've written about this before, but it's fascinating to see this be the meme today when the exact opposite was the case in the Silver Age, when Marvel invented having philosophy and character development in superhero comics. I actually think the Marvel movies have philosophy and character development as well, but I'm a recognized Marvel shill, so what do I know?
I don't know what to make of Silverman's quotes on the DC movies. He also says some stunning stuff about Wonder Woman, addressing the very unusual way that WB had writers face off in a death match to write the script.
Treating writers well is a massive priority at this studio. I'd be very shocked if writers weren't treated with respect and grace.
I hate to shock you, Silverman, but...
Anyway, these are the latest words from a WB exec. They always sound different from what Kevin Feige has to say simply because Silverman and WB CEO Kevin Tsujihara are shepherding a whole studio's worth of diverse content - they aren't laser-focused on these DC films in the way that Feige is focused on Marvel. This, by the way, is part of the reason why Warner Bros so badly needs a DC Movie Godfather, a guy who can give great quotes and who can speak in a language the fans will recognize and with authority on the characters and the lore. WB needs to stop having these execs saying these things, making these announcements. They need a cheerleader who will give the proper perspective and who will give quotes that are still meaningless (half of what Feige says is fluff) but will sound right.
* he offers no defense for this title in the interview