An open letter from a DC fan
When I was 5, I’d patiently stare at the clock, diving through a plethora of cartoons like Dexter’s, Johnny Bravo, and Kids Next Door until Justice League aired. A beautiful and empowering theme song played at the start of each episode. You’d see the silhouettes of icons walking towards the camera. Behind them, a rising sun. The theme would hit a high note, and BOOM…..Superman breaks a wall and flies through. Batman throws a Batarang. Flash speeds by while Green Lantern shows off his ring. Wonder Woman deflects a few bullets with her braces and Martian Manhunter morphs into the fold. Hawkgirl soars above them all and they unite before the theme comes to an epic finish. Grown men still get a sugar rush watching this opening cinematic. I was obviously awe-struck.
I believe there is something inherently characteristic about DC comics that possibly, no other comics could match. These comics parallel our world. With DC, it’s all about powerful imagery, values, symbols, drawing moral lines and shades of grey to the idea of being a superhero. It’s not about good or bad, right or wrong but the very idea of instilling humanity to heroes. To get the human part right, before the superhuman. I’m not saying that Marvel doesn’t have this. I’ve been a huge fan of the X-Men and Spider-Man long before they were made into huge movie franchises. They brought in the idea of your super-powered teenagers having identity crises’ and adolescent problems. To struggle with the identity or mantle of a man or woman you wished to be when you grow up was beautifully essayed by these comics. But DC comics did it better. It brought in this sense of universality. The stories catered to everyone while empowering and inspiring all. The modern definition of a superhero began with DC comics.
You see, as a 5-year old, I had vision. I genuinely believed that when those heroes I idolized made it onto the big screen, the entire world would celebrate them. Alas! 14 years later, that wasn’t really the case. I’m not here to critique, analyze or pinpoint the flaws in the Justice League movie that came out a while ago. People studying cinema and possessing a fine flair for writing can do that better than I. I’m just a fan. All I’ll say is, Justice League failed to evoke any of the emotions or represent any of the ideals that DC comics stand for. Sure it was a fun movie. But mindless CG, over the top action, few quips and a forgettable villain can only take you so far. It’s a fun and fluffy movie. But it’s disposable. It’s not monumental. DC movies will always be under the shadow of millions of people like me having great expectations from them. Because as kids, we decided to wear towels as capes. We chose to revel and brood in the dark, all the while embracing it. We started to look at the sun and stars and feel empowered. This movie doesn’t deserve the hate or cynicism from so-called “critics” and it sure as hell doesn’t need to be defined by a score on Rotten Tomatoes. As a comic book fan, I hate the fact that these movies are mere box office collections for the studios and film-makers behind it. While it is important, it shouldn’t be the final deciding factor prior to making a solid script. You are in charge of creating stories that are the stuff of children’s dreams! That is amazing. But it’s also a responsibility. A vision of creating a Universe (or even possibly, a Multi-verse?) that you can re-tell and re-imagine provided you have a solid team, a brilliant script and beautifully told character arcs.
I liked Man Of Steel. I loved Wonder Woman and I really enjoyed BvS: Dawn of Justice. The latter though, to quote Henry Cavill himself, “is a ‘niche’ film.”. A specific type of audience can like it, despite the over-ambitious plot. And that’s the point I’m trying to hammer home here. On making films that everyone can really enjoy. A simple plan that Marvel has successfully capitalized on. I know so many people who’ve never picked up a comic book in their life who enjoy Marvel movies. It is possible to stick to the comics and make a film liked by everyone. Heck, it’s even possible to make an intricate plotline provided you back it up with sub-plots that mean something or add up to something. Invest in characters and a good story, and people will be invested in the film.
To WB and the heads of DC films, all I genuinely ask is to take a step back. It’s not a race. And even if it was, Marvel is leagues ahead. 2 minutes and 25 seconds of the Infinity War trailer can prove that. Just like Bruce Wayne climbs out of the pit in TDKR, be patient, take your time, hone your strengths and….rise!
Love from a forever DC fan,