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