No one can deny that the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman films was a stupendously successful and influential franchise. It set the standard for all the dark and somber comic book movies we’ve seen from DC/Warner Bros. since. The influence of Nolan was strong enough to turn Superman from the bright, light-hearted hero of the Christopher Reeves film Superman: the Movie into the angst-ridden protagonist played by Henry Cavill in Man of Steel. Man of Steel director Zack Snyder, who is setting the course for the new DC Cinematic Universe, is following the Nolan formula, and Warner Bros. was so happy with the profit the Nolan films made that they established the current No-Jokes edict. The basic philosophy is “Marvel does jokes; we do anguish.” (The only exception seems to be Shazam, but that’s being released by New Line cinema.)
But is the time for that over? Is enough angst enough? Is the pendulum swinging in the other direction? Matthew Vaughn thinks so. The director of X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass feels that fans are over all these grim comic book films.
Vaughn tells SFX magazine, “People want fun and escapism at the moment. Look at the success of Guardians of the Galaxy. I think Nolan kick-started a very dark, bleak style of superhero escapism, and I think people have had enough of it.” Vaughn’s upcoming comic book movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service, which is a tribute to the British spy films of the 1970s, looks like a light, fun romp.
Vaughn may have a valid point, considering the critical failure and box-office shortcomings of Man of Steel. The biggest grievance fans had about that film was the brooding hero and the dark tone. If it’s true that fans are done with the whole tormented hero genre, then it’s very bad news for DC/Warner which is planning to base their whole cinematic universe around a formula which may have passed its expiration date.
Is Vaughn right? Is it time for DC to rethink their ‘all-heroes-are-haunted-by-their-inner-demons’ approach and instead find the funny?