Welcome to entry 3 of Fighting Superhero Fatigue. Today we’ll discuss varying tone in superhero movies. This one is kinda related to Simon Pegg’s comments.
These characters have many stories that have a wide range of events all over the tonal spectrum. So, let’s act like it. These characters have existed for decades. Consequently, there is no reason to keep digging from the same exact tonal well. There is a very specific reason for this. Success breeds imitation.
The Chris Nolan Effect
Chris Nolan deserves all the blame for DC’s current tonal stagnation. His dark and gritty approach to his Batman trilogy was so successful that copying was inevitable. We are 3 movies into the DCEU and each of the three has massive dark overtones. Even the colorful Suicide Squad couldn’t get away from the dark overtones. DC doesn’t have to be inherently dark. It was a perfect storm for Nolan. The biggest reason that it was appropriate is because 99% of that trilogy took place in Gotham.
However, with this new universe that hasn’t been the case. Regardless of that, they put a huge focus on making everything from the tone to the visuals dark and grim. Remember, we want entertainment and escapism. That would be easier to achieve with a varying tone. Now Marvel has tried for the most part to avoid being so dark. That leads me to my next point.
Too Many Jokes
There are too many jokes in Marvel movies. It doesn’t actually bother me that much. But, I see where people are coming from when they say it. For those who think Disney ruins Marvel because everything is too kid friendly, you couldn’t be more wrong. Providing levity is a great plot device when used properly. Again, I don’t personally have an issue with it. However, The MCU has Iron Man, Starlord, Ant-Man, and Spiderman as the main comic relief. That should be good enough. Instead, basically everyone makes jokes all the time. Consequently, it messes up the balance. The way the MCU is set up, they wanted to have comic relief for every movie. That’s cool until the team-ups happen.
Take Civil War for instance. Tony Stark has long been established in universe as a wise guy. Hawkeye was a plot device at first in the Avengers, then they expanded his funny side. Falcon was comic relief in Captain America: Winter Soldier. So when you get to Civil War, you have those three, Spiderman and Ant-man already established as “funny guys”. That doesn’t really leave room in some people’s eyes for one-liners from everyone else.
Varying tone is likely the most subjective fix for superhero fatigue. The question of if they even need to be fixed would conjure a hot debate. I lean toward fixing them. After all, variety is the spice of life. I can’t believe I just said that. Clearly I need to stop writing.
Be sure to check out other entries in the series, the preamble, and origin stories. Also, make sure to come back next week when we’ll discuss the villain problem.