Warner Brothers came soooooooo close to solving their comic book movie credibility problem. And they still have a chance to get it right, with one phone call.
This week Marvel announced Joss Whedon would be writing and directing Avengers II and developing a television series about Marvel characters leading up to that film. Geeks across the globe squealed in delight.
In a move that seemed by many to be timed to deflect attention away from the Whedon announcement, Warner Brothers, which owns DC Comics, was reported as wanting Ben Affleck to direct their Justice League film.
It has been reported already that Affleck has already or is going to pass.
This Affleck flirtation actually sets up an intriguing opportunity for Warner Brothers to select the one man who might actually be able to compete with for pop culture coolness:
…wait for it ….
Hey, stop laughing.
Seriously, think about what Kevin Smith could bring to the DC movie franchise table:
1) popularity with a huge portion of the summer blockbuster demographic,
2) experience as a big budget director (okay, some experience),
3) a sense of humor (I love Christopher Nolan, but humor wasn’t big on his agenda),
And most importantly,
4) a lifetime love and encyclopedic knowledge of comics and why they work.
Some will say Smith has no experience with huge budget films. I love Joss Whedon, but until The Avengers neither did he. Yes, Whedon had action experience from his years on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly/em>, Serenity, and Dollhouse, but none of them had a budget anywhere near The Avengers. Whedon, adapted, worked his ass off, and proved to Hollywood what his cult of worshippers already knew.
Smith has a similar, but not identical history. Sure, he doesn’t have years of action directing like Whedon, but he does have over 20 years of cult following for popular, enduring films that continue to find new followers, especially with the college crowd.
Jay and Silent Bob are iconic characters that have flourished in film, comics, and on the college circuit.
Looking for other reason to take Smith seriously? His “Secret Stash” comic book stores tie him in more closely to the comic community, as does his cable show and podcast Comic Book Men.
Again like Whedon, he also has deep roots in the comic book industry via his career as a very popular comic book writer, including successful runs on both Marvel and DC titles. Add to this practical experience working on comic and/or action flicks including Daredevil, Live Free or Die Hard, and Cop Out in addition to his own directing career, and Smith’s resume shows him as having much to offer.
Some will say Kevin Smith was criticized for Cop Out because he reportedly smoked too much pot on that project. For this, Smith wouldn’t just give up pot, he’d give up food, water, and air. Why? Because Kevin Smith knows what an opportunity this would be. Better still, he’s dreamed it his whole life. He knows how special these films can be.
With the very notable exception of Nolan’s classic Batman trilogy, what DC project was ever both very successful and taken seriously? None. Why? Because the execs at Warner Brothers have never really “gotten” comics. They are sitting on a gold mine they never demonstrated they understand, have spent 70-something years looking down on, and have no clue how to approach.
Kevin Smith does.
Let me type that again.
Kevin. Smith. Does.
Ever read a bootleg of his Superman Lives script? Perfect calling card for this argument, because Smith nails the characters, the action, the DC world. Look it up.
Warner Brothers shouldn’t just offer Kevin Smith Justice League, they should make him a key member of DC Films (okay, first They should form and finance a Warner Brothers subsidiary called DC Films, then hire Smith to run it). Ask him to put a team together that “got” DC Comics, DC heroes, and could actually make cool pop culture films. Include DC’s top writer Geoff Johns, and the animated series guys, including Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. That team, much like the Marvel Films creative development team that includes Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada, etc., would create projects to rival Marvel’s output.
If Warner Brothers did this, every one would luxuriate in a win-win situation; cool Marvel films and cool DC films! Some of us would get second jobs to afford multiple viewings of all the classic films that would pour forth as Smith’s team tried to out cool Whedon’s team and vice versa.
It would be geek nirvana.
Only problem is, Warner Brothers doesn’t get it. They will look at Smith’s financial track record, forget he was mostly an independent filmmaker without huge blockbuster budgets, and they’ll sneer, or they will look at Cop Out, and forget that wasn’t Smith’s script, and he didn’t have free reign to really go for it from the starting line, and they’ll sneer.
Warner Brothers will sneer like they sneered at Whedon’s script for Wonder Woman (and look how well that worked out for them), and they won’t give an intriguing choice a chance.
Unless, a lot of us make a lot of noise…..
Christopher Ryan is author of City of Woe, available on Kindle and Nook, and in print. For more info, click here.