Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon

IMG_1107.JPGI think it’s kind of neat that two individuals who did not make a name for themselves in comics have been centrally responsible for the rise of comic book movies in film of late and think a little background on both writers might go a long way toward showing us where both DC and Marvel will be going over the next few years.

Christopher Nolan first made a name for himself with Memento, a psychological thriller in which the main character has no short-term memory. Nolan did a beautiful job of demonstrating his confusion by mixing up the order of the movie. He followed that up with the Batman trilogy in which he probably delivered the deepest, most real portrayal of one of the most interesting comic book characters. In there somewhere he made Inception, a movie about dreams that puts Dreamscape to shame. And now he has come up with Interstellar, something that promises to have a depth of humanity that is rarely managed in the popular media as it explores several central issues about being human.

Nolan’s characters aren’t generally funny but they are engaging. It is rare that one finds a writer or director who can make anything without using some comedy to break up the more dramatic scenes. Yet he manages, and he does it well. In writing Man of Steel he again worked the same wonder. It frightens me when I realize that Batman vs. Superman will not have the benefit of his input (at least officially), especially when I consider that the introduction of so many heroes to the DC film universe all at once is a massive undertaking and will in many ways be more difficult than the four films in which he did participate.

Joss Whedon first came to the public’s eye with Buffy the movie, which was campy but fun. Through the series of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse he managed to write stories in the best tradition of Science Fiction/Fantasy while touching on themes like Feminism, the ills of capitalism, the immorality of government, and teenage angst. His material never got boring, though. Whedon wrote characters with their own languages who were different and developing. Most important, he could make the audience laugh. When Buffy stops in the middle of a fight to make some harsh comment about fashion or the irony of the situation you can relate to it. When you see Malcolm Reynolds sitting on a rock, naked but with a genuine smile on his lips, your jaw drops but you get it. When he did Avengers I was delighted, that he is taking an active part in the Marvel universe is reassuring. For as long as he is involved it will be taken care of.

That’s not to say that DC will not be worth watching over the next few years. I have hope for the movies and I am enjoying their current run of t.v. shows. It’s just that they are more uncertain is all.

About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well;
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9 Responses to Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon

  1. Loki says:

    Nice post! And I agree, DC is very up in the air. I read an article that hypothesised that DC have been stalling with their movie universe because they desperately wanted Nolan involved, and he’s been saying no time and time again. I think him godfathering “Man of Steel” and then bowing out was the final compromise, and now they’re giving Snyder the role of creative oversight they had hoped to give Nolan.

    Their slate looks decent enough, albeit very predictable. The only left field entry is “Suicide Squad” — and naturally, that’s the one I’m the most excited about as well. Or, ok, “Batman vs Superman” has me a bit excited, too. The rest, I’ll stay positive, but I don’t have the confidence I do with Marvel. Heck, I wasn’t all that whelmed one way or the other by “Man of Steel” either, so, they have yet to fully convince. But “Suicide Squad” and (to a lesser extent) “Aquaman” do hint that they’re not just doing the obvious “here are our biggest characters” origin stories that the rest of the slate would seem. So fingers crossed.

    Marvel, even after Whedon departs — his admittedly vague interviews give me the impression he’s planning to leave the films after Avengers 2, and do his own non-Marvel stuff plus taking a more active part in “Agents of SHIELD” — I have more confidence in. With a bit of luck they’ll get Whedon to keep on script-doctoring their films when needed — unlike Nolan he’s a huge comic enthusiast and has done writing stints for Marvel even before he joined the MCU — but even if they don’t, their slate is very exciting in its own right. DC rebooting Green Lantern and making a Flash movie seemingly unrelated to their TV show doesn’t excactly make me psyched, even though I’m sure I’ll see both when they come. Marvel, on the other hand, are bringing out characters never before seen in live action, left and right. And even without Whedon, that should be good. Not to mention that “Iron Man 1” is still among their best offerings, which was made before Whedon came on board.

    • Cian Beirdd says:

      I suppose bottom line is that Marvel started out more interesting so Whedon had more to work with? I suppose Batman presented a huge challenge, but many of the other DC characters just are not interesting in their own right.

      • Loki says:

        I don’t know, it’s what you make of it. I agree a lot of the DC roster lends itself to more over-the-top archetypes than the Marvel characters do, but you can work with that or you can adjust it for a film. DC have plenty of complex, interesting characters (the Question, Harvey Bullock, Black Adam, Martha Kent), even if they maybe don’t always hog the spotlight as much as their more Gods Among Us style of heroes. And a good writer should be able to make even those more interesting. You can focus on Superman’s humanity and make a film about him where the internal struggles make up for his outwards overpowered characteristics, or you can focus on his otherness and make a film where you primarily follow others reacting to him — like Lex Luthor, for instance. Or Lois Lane.

        In any case, Marvel did launch the best known of what they had left in house first as well – Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Cap. They didn’t do anything as bold as Suicide Squad in their first handful of films. So I’ll remain cautiously hopeful. Who knows what’ll happen. If they’re great, nothing’d please me more.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Me neither, and those are some “marvel”ous ideas, but very bold. Here in the U.S. it’s the action and the quips that are getting the attention, this is 1980s style heroes in better plots and with super-powered bodies. Take away the action and give it too much depth or psychology and I’m afraid you would drive away the audiences. Let’s hope DC can do something good. They must have something in mind because Suicide Squad seems all wrong if they are just trying to imitate Marvel.

      • Loki says:

        Exactly. Green Lantern = Guardians of the Galaxy, Aquaman and Wonder Woman = Thor, Justice Leauge = Avengers. And Flash isn’t exactly far outside of the box either. But “Suicide Squad” is entirely different, which gives me hope that the rest of the slate might be more inventive than it at first lets on, too.

        Also, the recent rumours (just rumous, though, I think) that it will have Lex Luthor, Harley Quinn AND the Joker in it are … ambitious. I’d never have imagined they’d introduce their Joker in a non-Batman film, but the more I think of it, the more I like it. Their movie universe Batman has been established to be an older, experienced Batman, so why not have Joker be an existing thing in this world as well? And no better way to showcase that than by having his first appearance be, er, bat-less.

        I think the focus on action and quips (as opposed to character and plot) is a somewhat artificial one. If that were true, people wouldn’t still think the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” was the best of the series, that “Iron Man 1” is distinctly better than “Iron Man 2”, that the two Matrix sequels were let-downs, that “Phantom Menance” was weaker than “A New Hope”, etc, etc. The action and the quips matter, of course, especially in this kind of popcorn-oriented genre, but people want some measure of substance as well. Loki got all the quips in “Thor the Dark World”, but that’s not why his parts of the film are almost universally seen as the better ones — it’s because the conflict of the two brothers has substance and holds audience interest, whereas the cardboard thin exposition of the Dark Elves that were supposed to be the main villains leave you less than invested with what’s going on in the film. The movies that stay popular over the years — the movies that lets studios build giant franchises on top of them — are almost always the ones with a bit more depth or intricacy to them.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        And I thought the first Pirates was more popular because it was fresh, the first Ironman better because it is a less obfuscated plot, and the first Star Wars is better because of the impression it made back then. You are right, of course, that there are other elements that have made your choices better and why they have staying power, but I think the American audience is pretty simple in what it likes. Chris Farley, James Belushi, etc., etc.

      • Loki says:

        You might well be right — I’ve never even been to the US, so I shouldn’t go far in speculating as to the tastes of those who live there. But I feel like recent popularity crazes in the realm of fiction TV and film tend towards more complicated fare — like Breaking Bad and House of Cards, or The Dark Knight and Inception. Even light, action-focused films like Marvel’s seem to do better when they have an overarching plot and shared continuity to add some (perceived) depth and complexity.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        What I have been noticing is that we have been getting both lately, and a class of moviemakers who can do that. I can’t honestly explain Breaking Bad but like you I am delighted to see it take off.

      • Loki says:

        Aye, it’s a great trend. 🙂

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