Does Warner Bros. Have a No Humor Mandate for DC Films?


 “Why so serious?” The Joker should have asked that of Warner Bros. because, according to Hitfix, Warner Bros. has issued a mandate of “No jokes!” in all their DC super hero films. If this is true, it sets a limiting style and tone on all future projects related to adaptations of popular comic book hero.


Hitflix says that this decree is a result of two things: the enormous success of the Dark Knight, and the disastrous box office of the joke-filled Green Lantern.  This twofold lesson has apparently motivated DC to spread the “No jokes” rule across their entire cinematic universe.  (The new Shazam movie is apparently going to have a sense of humor, but that one is being done by New Line, not Warner Bros.)


If it’s true, is this a wise decision? On one hand, you have to give Warner credit for resisting the urge to copy their rivals, despite the fact that Marvel has had such success using humor in their films. Look what humor did for the Avengers. In fact, the Guardians of the Galaxy is very nearly an out-and-out comedy, and a profitable one.  So you have to admire Warner’s firm determination to do things their own way.  And there is some rationale to it. After all, the grim-and-gritty thing worked extremely well for the three Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman films. And the humor thing didn’t work out so well for the Green Lantern.  Hence, someone in Warner has apparently said, “Let’s cut out the jokes from now on, okay.”


However, if true, this strategy might not be the wisest thing they could do. Now, I can hear some people reading this and saying, “You idiot! The Dark Knight is the greatest movie ever made. Of course they should keep copying it.” Okay, that’s fine, but the problem is…not ever DC character is Batman, and so not every character fits into the same mold. Could you image a Plastic Man movie done without any humor? Take the Man of Steel, for instance. It was not exactly a failure, but it did underperform and got very mixed reviews.  Zack Snyder himself has blamed the underwhelming performance of Man of Steel on nostalgic memories of the classic Christopher Reeves film. He may be right, but if people have such fond memories of the tongue-in-cheek Reeves version, there may be a reason for that. Maybe people like their Superman with less angst and more smiles.


Another problem with the logic of this rule (if true) has to do with the Green Lantern. The failure of the Green Lantern was not that it had jokes; the problem was that the movie was a joke. It was badly written, and the humor was just not funny.  The lesson from GL isn’t “stay away from jokes”, the lesson is “Don’t waste good characters in bad movies.”


Again, I hear someone out there saying, “You moron! It’s realism! We like realism in our movies; so get over it!” Well, I have to refute the argument that reality is all angst, anguish and dark grittiness. At least, mine isn’t. I hear lots of jokes and see lots of funny things all the time, so I can’t accept the “DC is more realistic because it’s darker” argument.  Man of Steel was dark, but was it more realistic than Captain America: the Winter Soldier?


What is all comes down to(if the rumor is true) is that DC/Warner has gotten raked over the coals for any superhero cinematic project they’ve done that doesn’t have the Batmobile and Alfred the Butler in it. So there’s a sense of safety in going back to the well where the water is plentiful.  Batman has been very, very good to Warner Bros. (DC seems to be so worried about Superman’s film future that they decided to team him up with Batman before risking another solo film.) However, the black magic of Batman isn’t transferrable to every other DC character and Warner Bros. should take the handcuffs off the creative talent and let them do the kind of movie they think will work the best, not just the kind of movie that Christopher Nolan would make.


Again, this directive is just a rumor, and we only have Hitflix’s word for it. Hopefully, it’s not true, because if it is, the joke may ultimately be on us.