There’s a concept that is being bandied about in the Film Industry that is not only tone deaf to reality, but also damaging to the intellectual properties that they apply them to. I’m of course talking about the need for Directors and Studios to take light hearted comic book properties and needlessly turn them dark and gritty. 2 movie trailers were released over the weekend for prominent comic book franchises, Batman vs. Superman and the Fantastic Four (a reboot of the reboot of the Roger Corman film, yup, I went there). Both of them were so dark and edgy that I felt the need to adjust the contrast on my screen in the hopes of enjoying them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an “everything is rainbow and puppy dogs” kind of guy that requires all of my movies to be bright, colorful and happy, but let’s face it: not everything lends itself to darker tones. In the case of the Fantastic Four, it feels like an outright betrayal. Let’s look at a modern Fantastic Four cover from December 2014:
Foreboding and sinister, is it not? It looks as if it were happening in an ultra-violent backdrop, such as one might find in the comic books Batman and Sin City, except wait… no it doesn’t. And why should it? The Fantastic Four, at its core, is a book about family and working as a team to overcome adversity. It isn’t about angst or brooding, it’s about having fun. Open the pages of an F.F. Comic and you are introduced to broad and colorful characters, landscapes, and universes. So how did we end up with this:
Bereft of any fun, color or foreshadowing that the Fantastic Four are about to become a family. No blue costumes, the majority of the shots are dark, even the outdoor shots have a lens filter that makes them appear darker. The lack of color just takes the life out of the whole trailer. I feel dead inside just watching it. It makes me feel like I need to re-watch the 2005 film just as a pallet cleanser. You, know the F.F. film with Captain America, Nancy Callahan, Dr. Henry Morgan and that dude from the Shield.
The Batman vs. Superman trailer is more of the same but worse. Now, I could almost give this trailer a pass if it weren’t for the fact that Superman is in it. I get that Batman is a darker book, with Gotham City being represented as a corrupt and crime ridden place. Gotham has always been depicted as gothic and noir. But it all comes back to Superman, again a character that comes from a long legacy of family friendly, colorful books. Such as Action Comics #17 from the new 52 recent reset to the DC Universe:
Again, note the lack of darkness and foreboding. He’s set in front nothing more than white negative space, just about the brightest backdrop you can give a hero! Back to the Batman vs. Superman trailer. I expect some darkness, to cover the Batman side of the equation – that’s how Bruce Wayne rolls, but where’s the counterbalance? Clark Kent, aka Superman, should be drenched in the light, as a beacon of hope and safety. Even in the potential darkness of Gotham, Kal El should be seen as a bringer of the light not always draped in shadows, tacky cgi backdrops (we’re all thinking it), and lens filters so deep that they feel heavier than any down tuned heavy metal guitar. See for yourself:
So dark, so impossibly dark, so utterly joyless and pathetically boringly dark. I would have hoped that Zack Snider would have branched out from his fascination from the doom and the gloom, but after killing/destroying half of Metropolis in the Man of Steel, I guess not. One can only hope that Batman vs. Superman ends similarly, with them killing/destroying half of Gotham this time, except this time, during the big emotional finale, Superman won’t snap Batman’s neck, he’ll embrace his favorite Bat-buddy in a big ol’ sloppy kiss. At least it would make more sense than the rest of the movie.
Do these trailers indicate that the tone will make them bad movies? Not necessarily. They will likely be marginally entertaining films, and they will find an audience that enjoys them. Will I be among those that enjoy them? Time will tell. If I had an ironclad prediction to make on the content of these two films it would be this: they will be subpar representations of their respective franchises at best, and at worst they will be absolute travesties to the fan boys and girls who love them the most.
In closing I present this, the trailer for Marvel’s Ant Man. It is bright, fun, energetic, and feels like a proper comic book movie. Will it be great? Who knows? The Ant Man franchise is a gamble at best, but then again so was the Guardians of the Galaxy, and that turned out very well for Marvel. All I know for sure is that I will likely see Ant Man in the theater, because the trailer feels like a comic book movie I want to see, even if it’s not the most popular (or known at all) comic book franchise I could go see.
Plus, the model train bit at the end is worth the price of admission. I will definitely go see this, if only just for the shrinking to fight in absurd places shenanigans.