We're quite the spoiled audience nowadays. Back as recently as ten years ago, it was a huge question mark of whether or not a comic book movie would get a sequel. Nowadays, unless you're a "Fantastic Four" movie, you're pretty either guaranteed a sequel or appearance in another related film. Marvel was the studio that pioneered the whole shared universe thing, and while DC may be late to the game on that front, we can't forget the fact that they had mammoth success with the "Dark Knight Trilogy"--perhaps for the first time, giving the genre the respect it deserves in film snob circles.
One of the men responsible for that is writer David S. Goyer, a man with more comic book properties in his filmography than anyone needs in a lifetime. From the "Blade" franchise in the late-90s to the upcoming "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," Goyer is a man who has seen the genre evolve over the past couple decades. As such, he remembers the time when "Batman Begins" was considered a risky proposition.
In an interview on the Nerdist Podcast, he talked about the mindset of the industry back then.
"We got lucky in that ‘Batman and Robin’ had not done well, and there had been a lot of who people who had attempted to do Batman films in the interim. Mark Protosevich had written another one, and there was going to be an R-rated [Darren] Aronofsky one, and Boaz Yakin was going to do ‘Batman Beyond,’ and [Andrew] Kevin Walker did a ‘Batman [and] Superman. There were all these stillborn things that had not happened in the intervening period. So by time Chris [Nolan] and I came along they knew they had to do something radical. And they were kind of desperate. I just remember when I got the job, everyone was saying, both online and amongst my friends, ‘Oh, that’ll never get made.’"
It's a very interesting thought. While fans look back on "Batman and Robin" with some serious hatred, one could say that Joel Schumacher saved the Batman franchise. If it had been a better take on a campy film, who knows how much longer that trend would have been run out from DC and Warner Bros. Though of course, coming off the heels of such a bad flick definitely had its drawbacks.
“We knew that we were coming in from a deficit. There was negative connotation with the character, so we had to get past that, much less it even being a good movie. We were aware that it had to be radically different, but that said, it wasn’t the guiding principle. I don’t think you can create something just as a reaction to something. The guiding principle was, ‘What if we play it straight?’ And then reverse engineer it down to everything, the utility belt, the Batmobile…the previous Batmobiles that had been in the [Tim] Burton films, that was not a practical car. You could barely turn a corner. So we just said, ‘What if it’s real?’"
We all know how that story plays out. "The Dark Knight Trilogy" went on to be one of the most successful superhero franchises of all time. But times have changed a great deal since "Batman Begins," and having a single superhero in a movie just doesn't seem to cut it anymore. No longer can a movie just be a great movie. It also needs to plant seeds for future installments, potential spinoffs, and perhaps most importantly, team-ups.
"Now it’s not just enough to say, ‘Oh, I hope this is a three movie franchise,’ it’s ‘Oh, I hope this is a nine movie…’ — it’s a ten year plan.”
While this is great for fans, it does have its downsides. With big tentpole films now being treated more and more like television properties, it's harder to focus on the vision for a single film.
“You’ve got all these projects — and I won’t name them — that are going out there that’s like, ‘This is going to be the first in a projected eight movie thing.’ And you’re like, ‘How about starting with just making a good movie?’
"There have been a lot of good sequels, and it’s really hard to do a third film. It’s incredibly hard to do it the third time out, especially if you’re not designing them to be one long story. In the Batman films, we weren’t. When we finished ‘The Dark Knight,’ we didn’t say, ‘We’ve set these seeds to do x, y and z.’ We had no idea what we were going to do. Chris always felt like each movie has to have its own integrity, and if you have a great idea, use it, and don’t think about a sequel. And if you do that really well, it becomes harder to do a sequel. But at the same time, if you’re trying to do a presumptive trilogy, I think audiences are starting to catch on to this, and be a little wary of it.”
Perhaps it's because of that mindset that sequels and spinoff films are able to remain solid. Marvel is twelve films into their franchise, and there are no signs of quality drop yet. Sure, audiences are becoming more savvy to the tropes, but one wouldn't call them bad movies by any stretch of the imagination. If you're judicial about how you use your resources, it allows for gradual development in story, rather than a proverbial shooting of the wad each time the superhero suits up in a movie. No longer are studios trying to "top" the previous film. Instead, they are trying to offer a unique experience that the audience can latch onto.
Lastly, one can't seem to talk to Goyer without at the very least bringing up "Man of Steel," a film that seems to divide fans right down the movie. We here at Latino-Review aren't immune to that controversy. While I had my own issues with the movie, I think it had tremendous elements, namely in the characterization of Superman himself. Others on this site tend to think the film is garbage, but we'll not get into that debate here. At the end of the day, one of the main contentions hardcore Superman fans have is the killing of General Zod at the film's climax.
Some argue it to be completely out of character, but Goyer doesn't agree.
“The way I work, the way Chris works, is you do what’s right for the story. That exists entirely separately from what fans should or shouldn’t think of that character. You have to do what’s right for the story. In that instance, this was a Superman who had only been Superman for like, a week. He wasn’t Superman as we think of him in the DC Comics...or even in a world that conceived of Superman existing. He’d only flown for the first time a few days before that. He’d never fought anyone that had super powers before. And so he’s going up against a guy who’s not only super-powered, but has been training since birth to use those super powers, who exists as a superhuman killing machine, who has stated, ‘I will never stop until I destroy all of humanity.’
"If you take Superman out of it, what’s the right way to tell that story?" he continued. "I think the right way to tell that story is if you take this powered alien who says, ‘You can have your race back, but you have to kill your adopted race,’ the moral, horrible situation to be in is to actually be forced to kill, not wanting to, the only other person from your race. Take Superman aside, I think that’s the right way to tell that story."
Goyer's latest film, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," is set to hit theaters on March 25, 2016.