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Hey, DC, Every Big Screen Hero Doesn’t Need to Be Dark

Nick Nadel’s Tuesday column examines the increasingly busy intersection between comic books and the movies.

It should surprise absolutely no one that Warner Bros. has decided to ape Marvel’s success by rolling out several tentpole films over the next few years featuring solo DC Comics characters. (All leading to a Justice League movie, much like Marvel’s Avengers plans.) The Dark Knight‘s colossal success was a wake-up call, but instead of following its lead and assembling strong creative teams first, Warners is taking the knee-jerk approach and making all their heroes moody and violent. Warner’s president, Jeff Robinov, claims the films will “go dark to the extent that the characters allow it.” Thing is, Jeff, not every hero in the DC stable is Batman. In fact, compared to Marvel’s angsty bunch, most of them are downright cheery. Let’s take a look at which DC Comics characters would benefit, or suffer, from going dark.

The Flash
Flash has been bandied about for years, with everyone from David Goyer to the director of Night at the Museum
attached to the character. Casting-wise, Ryan Reynolds has been
lobbying, and he could still be in the mix now that the Justice League
film has imploded.
Should he go dark? No. Warners
already tried to turn the Scarlet Speedster into Batman with the
short-lived CBS TV series, in which Central City looked suspiciously
like Gotham. (The rousing Danny Elfman theme was basically an outtake
from his Batman
score.) With villains like Captain Cold and Mirror Master, it’s hard to
go too dark with the Flash. The comics have toughened up in recent
years, but Barry Allen (or Wally West) on the big screen should be more
Iron Man, less Dark Knight.

The proposed reboot seems to be headed in a darker direction. Will we finally see “The Death of Superman” on the big screen?

Should he go dark?
Yes, but to a point. With or without Singer, Warners will push for a
violent, action-heavy film. But the studio would be wise to play up the
one major element Singer missed in his $300 million Richard Donner
homage: Fun. Where was the witty Clark and Lois banter? (Who knew Tony
Stark and Pepper Potts had better onscreen chemistry?) What about the
crazy scifi side of Superman — giant robots, alien attacks, magical
imps — recently brought to the forefront in Grant Morrison’s brilliant
All Star Superman series? Give Superman gravity, but let’s not lose the bounce and color from the comics.

Wonder Woman
Fanboys are still weeping over Joss Whedon’s adaptation petering out. A
script set during World War II stirred interest, but ultimately Warners decided to start from scratch.

Should she go dark? Not at all. DC diminished Wonder Woman in
the eyes of many fans by playing up her warrior side. Gail Simone’s
recent run has taken the character back to basics, and the upcoming
direct-to-DVD animated film
seems to be heading in the right direction. Let’s see some widescreen
Amazon battles — but keep the tone light with comedy, romance, and a
strong character-building story.

Green Arrow
The left-wing archer wasn’t getting much love from Hollywood until the studio decided to shoehorn him into Super Max, a script about a hero getting tossed into a superpowered prison. Now called Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max (can’t wait to see that one fit on a marquee), it’ll hit theaters one of these days.

Should he go dark? Yes, but not in prison. Warner Bros. is
missing a huge opportunity by not developing a straightforward Green
Arrow film. Ollie Queen is a rich and complex character, one of the few
mainstream superheroes with a political conscious. He deserves better
than playing second fiddle to a high-concept prison break movie, even
one with a bevy of DC supervillains. (And I’m gonna call “too soon” on that Joker cameo. Wouldn’t he be in Arkham? Nerd rage growing…) 

Aquaman finally earned some respect after James Cameron turned him into a blockbuster action hero. Oh, wait, that was on Entourage. But, seriously, chances are Warners is developing something for him.

Should he go dark?
By the beard of Poseidon, no. DC tried to make Aquaman relevant during
the grim and gritty ’90s by having him grow out his hair and lose his
hand to piranhas or some nonsense. The day we get Aquaman waving his
harpoon fist around on the big screen is the day the comic book movie
genre officially ends. The only way Aquaman could ever work onscreen is
by going meta and making him fully aware of his loser status. No amount
of brooding can hide the fact that the guy spends most of his time
gabbing with sea horses.

When not writing, Nick
Nadel is in line at the comic book store alongside the other geeks, er,
fans of speculative fiction. His most prized possession is a 1960s
Batman comic wherein
the Dynamic Duo are trapped inside a fortune cookie factory. He lives
in Brooklyn and updates his aptly named website ( with comedy writing and videos.

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