When Warner Brothers hired Tim Burton to direct the first Batman feature film in 1986, he had only directed a single motion picture for theatrical release, 1985’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, a whimsical low-budget vehicle for an off-beat stand-up comic. It was the work of a director who already had a singular visual style. Burton was capable of producing images that imprinted themselves upon the subconscious of the audience (as young Superadaptoid’s vivid memories of “Large Marge” can attest), so certainly he was well suited to work on a character who, in one of his earliest appearances, described himself as “a creature of the night, black, terrible….”
The next installment of “Universe Lost,” continuing a comparative look at Marvel and DC’s attempts to reach the big screen, will be up on Monday once it’s been edited and fact-checked. I expect “Universe Lost” to run a half-dozen or so entries (see Part 1 and Part 2), but I’ll also be interspersing some slightly off-topic posts along the way. This post is one of those, and I also hope it might inspire feedback from you, the reader.
While I’m examining the background and broader context of comic-to-film adaptations, Same Page Team is looking at the same movies one-by-one. Recommended.
By: Daniel Reynolds
It was inevitable for comics and movies to come together. That’s obvious now in 2015 with comic book-based film plans stretching on into the next decade. Studios want to invest in projects that guarantee a solid rate of return, and comic books are happy to provide both an endless stream of content and an audience. But, it was not always this way. There was a time when pursuing comic book brands as a means to financial success was a risky career move in film. (It’s risky today too–as the Fantastic Four can attest.) It was long believed that many of these stories just didn’t, or couldn’t, translate into film.
With the release of 1978’s Superman, and then…
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Since 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has succeeded in transforming little-known comic book characters into billion-dollar franchise tentpoles, Iron Man being the single clearest example of this. This success has prompted Marvel’s chief publishing rival, DC Comics, to capitalize on its corporate relationship with Warner Brothers to produce a film using two of DC’s much better-known properties, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which they hope will anchor a shared universe of super-heroes drawn from DC Comics titles.
Even the Star Wars franchise, now owned (like Marvel) by Disney, has been reformulated along Marvel lines: a central “spine” of Star Wars movies will run concurrently with “anthology” films spotlighting the secondary characters of the franchise. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is changing how films are conceived and marketed across the board.
In the upcoming 2016 Warner Brothers release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck will become the latest actor to play the role of Batman on the big screen. This comes not quite four years after The Dark Knight Rises, in which Christian Bale wrapped up his three-film portrayal of Gotham City’s resident vigilante.
What distinguishes Batman v Superman from prior Batman films is that it is both a reboot of the Batman film franchise, as well as a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, which was itself a reboot of the Superman franchise. Thus Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be the first time that Batman and Superman, without a doubt two of the most venerable and recognizable characters in popular fiction, have met on the big screen.
“You know why I like plants? Because they’re so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.”
— John Laroche (as played by Chris Cooper), Adaptation
In the movie Adaptation, Nicolas Cage’s screenwriter character has to figure out how to adapt a nonfiction book about flowers into a Hollywood movie. He has to somehow transform the story of a horticulturist’s passion for rare plants into something that a movie studio will want to spend millions of dollars on, in hopes that they can then make those millions back – and then some – because people will want to watch that story while eating popcorn in the dark.