EDITORIAL: TONE; The Key Thing That Could Make The DCCU Better Than The MCU.

EDITORIAL: TONE; The Key Thing That Could Make The DCCU Better Than The MCU.

The tone of a film is one of the key things in making it enjoyable. Imagine The Smurf’s 2 with the tone of Man of Steel? Kids don’t want to see Papa Smurf snap Gargamel’s neck! In this editorial I discuss how the DC Cinematic Universe can use tone to their advantage.

Hello all CBM.com readers! Thank you all for deciding to read this editorial. Make sure to share your thoughts in the comment section!


Tone is a literary compound of composition, which encompasses the attitudes toward the subject and toward the audience implied in a literary work. Tone may be formal, informal, intimate, solemn, somber, playful, serious, ironic, condescending, or many other possible attitudes. Each piece of literature has at least one theme, or central question about a topic and how the theme is approached within the work is known as the tone.

(Thanks Wikipedia!)

Now apply that definition to film. Tone is one of the many ways a Director can make the Theme of the movie more observable. If you are trying to make a kids movie and you decide for the color scheme to be very dark, to use a lot of shaky camera movements, and to use a high level of vocabulary in the script it wouldn’t seem like a kid’s movie.

Imagine The Smurfs 2 with the same tone as Man of Steel. Those two things don’t fit together and should never go together. Okay, maybe for a spoof video on YouTube, but not in the cinema. It would be pretty funny to see Papa Smurf SNAP Gargamel’s neck.

It is often brought up, and sometimes complained about, that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is filled with comedy, which plays along with the light tone it has. It seems like they decided to move in a darker direction with Thor: The Dark World, but the movie was still filled with comedy which took away from the tone. That was one of the biggest complaints among fans with Thor TDW. Not only was it unbalanced, but there were jokes at inappropriate times which take you out of the movie.

There can be a balance. Some of the best darker toned movies have comedy in them, but it adds to the movie instead of subtracting. This is one of the complaints people had with Man of Steel. It had very few moments that brightened it up making it feel a little dreary. A movie needs to have its bright moments or it gets very boring and dull. A movie I feel had a great balance was Star Trek: Into Darkness. This movie is dark, as the title suggest, but also has moments that will make you laugh that don’t take away from the movie.

Things that can affect the tone in movies are Dialogue, Color Scheme, and Music.

Dialogue can affect the movie in many ways. When the dialogue is written with simple words and the actor/actress over acts when delivering it, it may seem a little more childish which brightens up the tone substantially. But if the screenwriter uses words at a higher vocabulary level and the actor/actress preforms it naturally the tone isn’t brightened; and depending on what they’re saying, it could make it darker.

Color Scheme
The color scheme of a movie can completely change the tone of the movie. Brighter color schemes suggest the movie will be playful, fun, and good will win. While if the color scheme is dark it suggest the movie will be serious, sad and you won’t know if the protagonist will beat the antagonist. That doesn’t mean that when the color scheme is dark there can’t be bright moments. That doesn’t mean when the color scheme is bright there won’t be dark moments. The color scheme sets the general tone for the movie. An example of a comic book movie franchise with a brighter color scheme is the original Spider-Man series. It’s fun to watch and bright for the most part, but has dark moments like when Uncle Ben, Norman Osborn, and Harry Osborn die. For example:

Music is an integral part of a movie. It makes and breaks the film. The right type of soundtrack, with the right type of movie always turns out good. The big thing is playing the right song at the right moment. They don’t play love songs when aliens land on earth. Except The Host maybe (I didn’t see it). They don’t play creepy horror music as two people in love are about to kiss!

Even the key of a song plays a role. Usually songs in a minor key are more creepy or suspenseful. Songs like the theme from Jaws and it’s sequels. Songs in a major key are more happy or joyful. An example of this would be the main theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark and the other Indiana Jones films. Even reworking these themes into the opposite key (major to minor and vice versa) can change their tone. Which are you most scared of!

Indiana Jones Theme Major

Indiana Jones Theme Minor (a little bit scarier)

Jaws Theme Minor

Jaws Theme Major (a little bit nicer)

How Can This Affect the DC Cinematic Universe?

Well, as I mentioned above, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for having a lighter tone then most other comic book movie’s. This sets it apart from others. Movies like X-Men First Class and Kick Ass 1 & 2 have followed Marvel with lighter tones, but still have dark themes; while DC movies are still stuck in the dark ages. Who can blame them! The Dark Knight Trilogy made $2,461,707,558 at the box office worldwide!

I don’t think that the DC Cinematic Universe should have the tone of the MCU. That would make them look even more like the Marvel Studios knock offs. Instead every movie starring a different solo character should have a different tone. This would not only differentiate it from the MCU, but make each film so much better and lose the…repetitive quality the MCU films have.

They’d feel more like movies than comic book movies. The next solo Superman film could be the best Sci-Fi film of the year. The next Batman film could be the best crime/action movie of the year. The next Aquaman or Wonder Woman film could be the best fantasy movie of the year. They have the potential to raise the bar so much higher than where it is now. Each hero has a different tone which speaks to them. Which tones should go with which heroes?


The next solo Superman film should lighten it up. I’m a big fan of MOS and didn’t have nearly as many complaints as others, but I do agree that it could’ve been lighter. Although Smallville wasn’t that great, it did have a good tone for a Superman movie. The tone changed based on the situation and the villain, which does nothing but add to a movie. The untitled Superman/Batman 2015 film can keep the tone of MOS since Batman is in it, but should lighten up the color scheme a bit and add a few more bright moments to keep it entertaining.

If Sin City is a 1 and The Incredibles is a 10, Superman movies should be a 7


A Batman film should be super dark yet not realistic (I have nothing against realism; I just want to differentiate it from the Nolan films). A hyper reality film that's the darkest a PG-13 film could be. Good examples of the tone I’m looking for are the animated films Batman: Gotham Knights, The Dark Knight Returns, and The Dark Knight Returns Part 2. These films had the perfect tone for a Batman movie. None of them are very bright, but aren’t so dark that they cross the line of PG-13 into R territory. With a character like Batman, R should NEVER be the rating, due to the fact that the main reasons these movies are made is to make money. Little boys that play with Batman toys and have Batman backpacks can’t go see the Batman film, losing an entire demographic..

If Sin City is a 1 and The Incredibles is a 10, Batman movies should be a 2.5

Wonder Woman

A Wonder Woman film’s tone should be somewhere in the middle. Wonder Woman isn’t seen as a particularly light character, but not a dark one either. I think that Themyscira and the real world should have two different looks and feels. Themyscira is basically a whole other world which could explain why it would look and feel so different to the audience. Themyscira should feel like 300 or Clash of the Titans in the sense that, you’re in one of the stories you read in history class. When she enters our world with Steve Trevor, I’d like there to be a Skyfall or Bourne Identity vibe. Steve Trevor has almost been established as a secret agent in the comics now, which is why the Skyfall/Bourne Identity feel would fit this movie. I’d love to see the transition from ancient times to our times.

If Sin City is a 1 and The Incredibles is a 10, Wonder Woman movies should be a 5


Flash has always been seen as a lighter character. Whether you like Barry or Wally you can agree that they both are the jokesters of the group. Some more than others
(*cough*Wally*cough*) . A Flash movie would probably be the most family friendly movie of the DCCU. He doesn’t have very menacing or dark villains and he’s very much like Spider-Man in the sense that he jokes with his opponents and uses his brain to solve problems. The tone of a Flash movie should almost be at a Speed Racer level. Speed Racer is a fun movie that’s bright, exciting, fast paced, and special effects heavy. Here’s a clip from Speed Racer.

A Flash movie should take the over the top from Speed Racer, dumb it down a bit and then apply it to Flash and his rouges gallery. Imagine the world around them should be grounded and relatable to us, but then juxtaposed with over the top heroes and villains. I’d love to see a huge fast paced battle between Flash and (the new 52 version of) Captain Cold or Reverse Flash! That would be epic!

If Sin City is a 1 andThe Incredibles is a 10, Flash movies should be an 8


I believe that an Aquaman movie should be somewhere in the middle, but leaning towards Dark. Aquaman is a true badass, but is seen as a joke to the public and some comic book fans. Geoff Johns made him a badass in the new 52 and that’s the Aquaman we need to show in the movies. The new 52 books aren’t very light and I feel that the movies should be adaptions of the new 52 comics when it comes to Aquaman. When the shark launched out of the water and CHOMPED the Parademon in Justice League (shown above) we were all thinking “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAW Sh*t!!!”.

I feel that a darker tone would make audiences take Aquaman more seriously. A lot of times when a movie is lighter the film makers fall into the trap of “campiness”. This is something that should never touch Aquaman in the DCCU because he’s already seen as such a joke. The feel of shows like Spartacus and Game of Thrones should be felt here. The beauty of movies like Avatar and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy should be seen here. These things put together would make an incredible movie that would change everyone’s view on Aquaman for the better.

If Sin City is a 1 and The Incredibles is a 10, Aquaman movies should be a 4.5

Green Lantern

Green Lantern is not a very good film. One of the many problems it had was that Hal Jordan was sort of a douche that never stopped joking. That’s fine for Hal Jordan pre Green Lantern, but after he gets the ring he becomes much more of a serious character. An example of a character that’s like him is Captain Kirk in the J. J. Abrams Star Trek movies. He started off as a cocky, smart@$$, rookie; but he developed into a great Captain of the U.S.S Enterprise. This is exactly how Hal Jordan should be portrayed in GL movies.

Star Trek (2009) is a perfect example of what the tone should be for a GL movie. No matter what GL I in the starring role it should feel like a modern day Star Wars, original trilogy of course. Despite, Hal becoming more serious he’s still a jokester at times and should provide some comic relief in the film. The movie should be a bright, fast paced, space opera with Green Lanterns.

If Sin City is a 1 and The Incredibles is a 10, Green Lantern movies should be a 7


I added up all the numbers I gave to each character and then divided that by six, the number of characters I used above, and I got 5.6666666666666666666666666666667. I rounded that up to 6 and that is the number I’m giving a Justice League movie.

I averaged it out so I could find the perfect balance between all the movies and the number makes sense. It’s right in the middle letting elements of Darkness and Light in, and is a suitable number for any CBM team up movie. I’d give Avengers an 8 so it still is not exactly like Avengers, but isn’t the exact opposite at a 3. Justice League: Origin, the first JL arc in the new 52, is the exact tone I’m looking for. It has its dark moments and it’s light ones, making for an amazing movie that could blow out the Avengers!

So in conclusion, I feel that tone is the key thing that could set the DC Cinematic Universe from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and could possibly make it better. These are my hopes and dreams and I would like to hear yours. What do you want for the DCCU? Do you agree or disagree and why? Thank you again for reading this editorial and I hope to see you in the comment section!

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GliderMan - 1/3/2014, 9:41 AM
"Not only was it unbalanced, but there were jokes at inappropriate times which take you out of the movie."
No, no, no. That only made Thor: The Dark World more enjoyable for me. Like really, people cry cuz they laugh too much? What the [frick]?

But I mean I see what you're saying.
Green Lantern should have been a bit more serious.
Man of Steel shouldn't have been anywhere near that dark.
TheWolverine08 - 1/3/2014, 10:55 AM
This is definitely going to rustle some jimmies!
charlie2094 - 1/3/2014, 10:59 AM
Really nice write up! Not sure I'd say this would make the DCCU "Better" than the MCU, just different and better if a darker tone is what you prefer

Agree with a lot of what you said, though I would prefer Green Lantern to be a bit more in the middle, many of the best stories are more dramatic ones like the Sinestro Corps War, but shouldn't take itself too seriously, Hal should still crack the odd joke. Do agree about Thor, I like comedy as much as anyone else, but it was completely out of place AT TIMES, the Malekith/Thor fight would've been far better served not having Darcy crack one-liners everyone second

Whilst I loved Man of Steel, it was too serious. It was like they set out to do the complete opposite of what people remembered Superman being liked, light and funny. He should remain grounded (a must for any superhero film) but should definitely lighten up, have some jokes at the Clark Kent disguise, the Lois-Clark relationship etc

Again, nice write-up, definitely important that the MCU and DCCU have their own distinguishable tones, hopefully it does lighten up a bit for the MOS sequel, need the odd bit of comedy, like Dark Knight
HurricaneXavier - 1/3/2014, 10:59 AM
I really wish you guys could just enjoy all the great movies and other CBM related stuff we get to enjoy without turning it into DC vs Marvel always.

Kind of dumb and pathetic.
Alphadog - 1/3/2014, 10:59 AM
If they made an Aquaman movie as dark as Game of thrones (I haven't seen it so I'm only speculating based on what i read and what I was told by people I know) then it would make The Dark Knight look like The Incredibles. The Dark knight movies are dramatic that's all. There's nothing in there that would get an average 10 years old scared.
Nick56 - 1/3/2014, 11:06 AM
I don't think "dark" is the right word to describe MOS - it certainly describes Batman but I'd say what makes MOS appear darker is its more grounded tone and realistic treatment of character psychology and effects of a Superman like figure on the world. I certainly think Superman should be lightened a tad but MOS should never have been a super light movie given the subject matter at hand.

I enjoy both Marvel and DC films - both have made mistakes and both have had successes. To me a good superhero movie should be grounded (doesn't mean hyper-realistic), should be emotional, should explore the characters psyche (like MOS and Wolverine), and should ultimately have an epic soundtrack and great visuals.
DEVLIN712 - 1/3/2014, 11:08 AM
Brenttoo - 1/3/2014, 11:11 AM
I agree with many points here, and not just a little; I agree a lot. I've been saying for years that ensemble movies are destined to do exponentially better when their team members' solo films are treated as the individual genres that they deserve. As you said, Superman = sci-fi, Batman = crime drama, etc.

Having differences in tone among team members allows for more entertainment as they contrast in cooperation with members of different tones. Sounds obvious, but its an essential key element and its what really truly provokes interest; more so than cgi and explosions.

The only angle I'd argue is the contant goal of apparently "winning" this imaginary race or battle or whatever with Marvel. Not only will it never be officially "won" by one side or the other, and not only does the sense of competition not help either side; but in truth it does harm to both.

The two should not be identical; I wholeheartedly agree. But they should therefore contrast and compliment each other, not attempt to "beat" one another.
Liverpool4life - 1/3/2014, 11:18 AM
I think this is a very subjective rating scale. I'd give the Avengers a 6/10 for tone. To each his own.
Nomis - 1/3/2014, 11:26 AM
The tone of the movie should be catered to the personification of the main hero and that lore that has been the focal mainstay of the comics.

But that don't mean they can't touch on certain aspect in the course of the movie that goes opposite if what have been presented in the books for years, otherwise the movie will get predictable.
JacksonVegaIII - 1/3/2014, 11:26 AM
Just make it darker, more stylised, more violent and more adult orientated somewhere between Nolans and Burtons Batman movies and Ill be more than happy.
GuardianAngel - 1/3/2014, 11:32 AM
While I disagree with what each film's tone should be, I agree with that being a huge factor in making the DCCU.
Jobin - 1/3/2014, 11:34 AM
jimmies photo: Space Jimmies 6bbeb2cd.jpg
GliderMan - 1/3/2014, 11:35 AM
The Wolverine = Perfect superhero movie.
monsterswin - 1/3/2014, 11:44 AM
MOS is such a joyless affair, and Superman needs some of that to work otherwise he is just like everyone else. The Jim Aparo/Neal Adams days of Bats are more where I would like to see him. A nice balance between the 2 while still keeping some of the comic book sensibilities. As far as JLA goes though? Bats needs to be the Grant Morrison Bats from those classic JLA issues. Wonder Woman middle ground sounds about right, but please don;t lose the majesty of the character. Flash definitely needs a lighter tone as do parts of GL. Aquaman could be great and it would be be one of WB's few chances to get their "oars in the water" first and beat Namor to the screen. MM is a character I would LOVE to see on screen and if the JLA ends up being the original 7 AND is finally a WELL DONE WB's CBM.......I will finally put the Avengers to rest. If it's not though.........same old WB's.
monsterswin - 1/3/2014, 11:45 AM
PS - Batman HAS worked fine in sci fi BTW. Hugo Strange anyone?
McNyagano - 1/3/2014, 11:46 AM
Oh boy.....

BritishMonkey - 1/3/2014, 11:55 AM
Very well put.
Spidey10 - 1/3/2014, 12:01 PM
Editorial is on point...after reading and then re reading just to be on the safe side everything there is plausible and agreeable..
McNyagano - 1/3/2014, 12:07 PM
Great article btw and you make some excellent points. I just felt that MOS was very gray and bland. The colour palette was very unnecessary imo, they were trying to hard to emulate the tone and look of TDK trilogy and it didn't work. The movie also took itself way too seriously for a Superman movie, the titular character who's suppose to be a symbol of hope. It was just too depressing at times. Great write-up though.

MexicanSexyman - 1/3/2014, 12:14 PM
@monsterswin, just because MOS didn't have jokes flying at you every 10 seconds, it doesn't mean that it was joyless.

I think people over exaggerate the comedy aspect of Marvel Studio's films. While some of the comdey doesn't belong in certain parts of the movies, the movies are good.
Spidey10 - 1/3/2014, 12:23 PM
@Mexican Superman

It was joyless because Clark was a joyless character for much of the movie...hes brooding for a majority of the movie and even as a kid its almost kind of depressing...the movie depicts Clarks childhood as if he never had a xmas it seems....its nothing but him sad or crying or running away its horrible...i cant imagine thats how his entire upbringing was like but you get my point...he doesnt really begin to be somewhat upbeat until the end of the movie...the next film will determine what direction the studio decides to move in
TayDee - 1/3/2014, 12:31 PM
They have to make a non Batman/Superman movie first to even truly compete.
HulkOnion - 1/3/2014, 12:32 PM
okay... But i thought people wanted DC to be a little lighter...
Maestro - 1/3/2014, 12:33 PM
I understand your opinions, and slightly agree. However tone shouldnt an overarching thing that affects every movie. Solos should evoke the essence of the character. Restricting yourself tonally might not be the best decision. This is what man of steel suffered from. But regardless, I'm definitely excited to see what dc cones up with in 2015.
Spidey10 - 1/3/2014, 12:57 PM
@Batmaniac i agree with you on the what if it really happened part and i did watch Zack Snyders interview where he mentioned that was the theme of this movie and outside of the Krypton portion of the story earlier on the Superman mytho is actually a very joyful story earlier on...cleary not shown in the movie as they wanted to skip that..a child from the stars raised by a family that couldnt have children...i mean what is more joyful than that...and until supervillains appear per se everything was actually ok in Clarks world....i agree with not throwing useless jokes for no reason or levity when there doesnt need to be any but MOS at times was trying a bit too hard to be serious when it wasnt necessary in my opionion and the let them die speech...i mean come on who tells that to a child when hes trying to do the right thing especially when we all know what the end game is (He becomes Superman)..clearly they wanted this clark to be a loner which he grew up to be but it just seemded a bit much for a Superman story
Spidey10 - 1/3/2014, 1:04 PM

Agreed especially with that line up you have there
Spidey10 - 1/3/2014, 1:05 PM
Will Mongul get a movie and how would they do War World that would be a crazy movie if done well
CrimsonFlash - 1/3/2014, 1:09 PM
Tone can make it different not better. I was just as entertained with Iron man as I was The dark knight.
Spidey10 - 1/3/2014, 1:18 PM
@Batmaniac well i get what your saying and the problem with that is it sacrifices the character that people know and love...in the comics or source material Clark didnt manifest his powers until alot later on then what they did in this movie...he always knew he was different but it didnt take off as quickly like it did in MOS...and when he did your right it was a huge culture shock to him so in that regard i agree however thats what the beauty of him being raised by Ma and Pa kent they helped him accept himself to the point to where it wasnt as bad as an experience as it couldve been...thats what makes them so significant in the early part of his story...thats lost here because Clark is an upbeat optimistic sometimes to a fault guy and in this movie thats not the case...if you want to use the analogy of the darker and more serious tones arent what people want to see i dont agree with that because Dark Knight made so much money as a franchise...i just think if its done correctly anything can generate revenue..the only reason Batman Begins didnt do well is because people didnt know what to expect...thats the reality of it....but once people saw the movie they ran in droves to see the sequel because they were pleased with what was presented previously...darker doesn always mean better just a different way of telling a story
Spidey10 - 1/3/2014, 1:21 PM
@ Duke if they ever do a War World movie with Supes Bats and Wonder Woman and GL that all they need i mean you can have everyone else too but those 4 in War World the world would literally stop spinning lol seriously
Enphlieuwince - 1/3/2014, 1:24 PM
Decents points, but, I don't see how this makes it better than Marvel's big screen efforts.

Man of Steel did seem overly dismal for a Superman film. Like others have said, it failed to show us the good memories that shaped Clark into the moral pillar of his world. It seem like the attempt to ground the film in realism, gave way to a motif of fear. Under the circumstances, I could understand that why his father feared for the life of his adopted son, but, it didn't give us a sense of why he would work so hard to protect a world that feared him, against his upbringing.

Good arty though. I like the humor you infused in there.
Enphlieuwince - 1/3/2014, 1:26 PM
MarkV - 1/3/2014, 1:27 PM
I appreciate all the hard work that went into this article. I feel Marvel has started to use humor as a crutch.
Spidey10 - 1/3/2014, 1:33 PM
@ Duke yea i didnt mind the destruction in MOS just more disappointed in the character development of the movie....i think Supes deserved better and I think Cavill did the best with what he was given and Lois suffered the most she was horribly written...she was nothing more than a prob in the entire movie and she deserves better than that as well
Spidey10 - 1/3/2014, 1:35 PM
@Duke but going forward with no origin ties i expect it to be crazy and the next movie Im calling it is a Justice LEague movie people are gonna def be pissed with the amount of destruction SUPES BATS GL AND WONDER WOMAN bring if they have to come out who could they be fighting lol
kong - 1/3/2014, 1:38 PM

Like I said, light movies can have dark moments.
Spidey10 - 1/3/2014, 1:45 PM
@Duke its funny everyone is excited about the heroes being added i see it totally different...if they are adding all of these heroes something bad is def going to happen lol who are they fighting..theres only a handful of villains that require that much firepower...people should be more excited about the villain that were going to get
ChanchoMcGrady - 1/3/2014, 1:49 PM
This is a very good editorial. I agree with some points, and disagree with others, but regardless, it is clearly well-thought out. Good job.

However, the color scheme point is something that I find myself taking opposition to. You see, I feel that entertainment arts are stuck in the "dark colors means dark content, light colors means light content." I think it can be the other way around if you want. I'm having trouble thinking of dark-colored movies that are lighthearted, but I'm sure there are some. Kick-Ass is a pretty colorful movie, yet has a lot of dark themes (though admittedly is still fairly lighthearted in its approach). I think Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us are prime examples of this concept. They are both beautiful games with dark themes. Infinite seems to focus on a sharp color contrast for it's beauty, while TLOU has a beautiful realism about it, without being dreary. I really like it when stories do that. That being said, this is not a recipe for all movies or games (e.g. I still think Batman should have a fairly dark color scheme). But just for the point as a whole, I don't fully agree.
kong - 1/3/2014, 1:53 PM
In general it is a light movie with dark moments to drive the plot forward. In the Avengers we had Coulsons "death". In The Amazing Spider-Man there is the deaths of Uncle Ben and Captain Stacy. Light movies have dark moments all the time. It moves along the plot and keeps us on the edge of our seats.
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