Why So Serious? Warner Bros. Rules Out Funny Superhero Movies

Years back, there was a real divide between DC and Marvel. DC was the stoic old guard, Marvel the young upstart. Despite the fact that the '60s saw some incredibly wacky characters grace the pages of DC comics, the conception amongst comics fans, especially when modern comics fandom came of age in the '80s and '90s, was still that DC was the "serious" house and Marvel the playground.

While it's not a hard-and-fast rule, that characterization has been carried forward into the films produced by DC and Warner Bros., and those from Marvel Studios. Inspired by Christopher Nolan's films (which were inspired by the wave of '80s comics that included Frank Miller's vision of Batman), DC's films are monochromatic and relatively grim. Zack Snyder isn't the guy one turns to for "fun." Marvel's movies are colorful and unabashedly fun.

Now a report says there's an actual "no jokes in DC movies" mandate at Warner Bros., which could enforce the differences between DC and Marvel movies in a set manner. (Update: While two sources support the "no jokes" argument, Seth Rogen says otherwise.)

Drew McWeeney at HitFix has an interesting statement:

Last week was about the fifth time I've heard that there is a mandate at Warner Bros. regarding any of the DC superhero films in development, and it's very simple and direct and to the point.

"No jokes."

Devin Faraci at BAD says he's heard the same thing, that Warner Bros. is taking a hardline approach to the DC superhero films being serious.

But a source who may well know a lot more than either Drew or Devin has a different take on the situation:

Drew's take is that this could be more a reaction to Green Lantern than anything else, with that film standing as a failure that Warner Bros. can't quite pin down. Green Lantern was (or tried to be) funny, and that's problem enough. Ergo, WB doesn't want funny hero movies. Sure, there will be flashes of humor in the films — Nolan's Batman movies have the occasional laugh — but DC won't be making a film like Guardians of the Galaxy any time soon.

That's too bad, because comedy wasn't Green Lantern's problem. A frankenstein script and general lack of direction was the issue. That's an internal WB thing, not a problem related to jokes. What we're seeing from DC so far suggests that there is still a lack of internal vision for these films.

Marvel can do Guardians in part because there is a central guiding principle that gives the films shape as an overall unit. That gives Marvel confidence. WB and DC aren't showing the same confidence. It's difficult at this point to even think that WB can pull off Justice League in the same way Marvel succeeded with The Avengers. (A movie which, by the way, is very funny.) Avoiding funny movies is the wrong solution to a real problem.

[One totally tangential point: fear of humor is also, I think, something that was a big problem for Edge of Tomorrow. Had WB marketed that film to represent it as something with flashes of very effective humor, that movie might have been a greater success.]