Two huge pieces of news come out of a Wall Street Journal chat with Warner Bros’ Jeff Robinov:

The studio is rebooting Superman, ignoring Superman Returns


All DC characters will now be going the dark and brooding direction, thanks to the success of The Dark Knight.

Let’s take that second, mind-boggling bit of info first: Like the recent Batman sequel — which has become the highest-grossing film of the year thus far — Mr. Robinov wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as “The Dark Knight.” Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.’ DC properties. “We’re going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it,” he says. That goes for the company’s Superman franchise as well.

Ugh. The Flash doesn’t need to go dark. Neither does Superman, Green Lantern or most of the DC characters. It’s like Robinov doesn’t realize that the Marvel movies are less dark and still make bank. It’s like Robinov thinks it’s the darkness that propelled The Dark Knight to be the current #2 grossing film of all time.

What’s funny is that the Marvel characters, when they were introduced, were the ‘darker’ alternative to the DC characters! The Marvel characters had real world problems and were examined from a more realistic point of view. Robinov expects four more DC movies in the next three years, including Batman 3 (no word on Nolan’s involvement), a rebooted Superman and two unnamed other heroes, with The Flash, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern being the characters with the most current development heat.

Meanwhile, Robinov is essentially writing off Superman Returns. “‘Superman’ didn’t quite work as a film in the way that we wanted it to,” says Mr. Robinov. “It didn’t position the character the way he needed to be positioned.” “Had ‘Superman’ worked in 2006, we would have had a movie for Christmas of this year or 2009,” he adds. “But now the plan is just to reintroduce Superman without regard to a Batman and Superman movie at all.”

It’s important to note that what he’s talking about in the final sentence when he says “a Batman and Superman movie” is the long-talked about (and apparently still discussed at Warner Bros) Batman vs Superman film. Still, he’s talking about ‘reintroducing’ Superman, a phrase that can only mean backing away from what Singer did and starting essentially fresh. The best recent example must be The Incredible Hulk, although that film cost more than and made about the same as Ang Lee’s Hulk. Is there simply a Hulk ceiling, or does this mean that audiences aren’t ready to forget an unsatisfying first installment?

In the article Christopher Nolan gives a lot of credit for The Dark Knight‘s darkness to Rovinov, so good for him, but I don’t really understand why he would think that all his superhero movies need to move in that direction. It’s especially daffy when you think about the rest of DC’s heroes – who operate in more science fiction/supernatural worlds than Batman – being saddled with the oppressive ‘reality’ that made Batman Begins so intellectually unsatisfying and more than once threatened to capsize The Dark Knight. The Flash doesn’t need to live in a real world, and he shouldn’t be forced into a situation where the examination of his dark side is the basis for a movie.

I wait with grave concern to see what Warner Bros comes up with for its comic book franchises.