Some background, before I dive on in: My boyfriend and I met by being total nerds together.
Our first conversation ever was about our favourite superheroes (his is Batman, and mine is Iron Man). He even brought me Lego Batman minifigs on our first date.
In our discussion about our favourite superheroes, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that villains came up as well. After all, what’s a hero without villains? Tony Stark might say “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist,” which would apply in some cases, but unfortunately, not today.
Anyway, Shane told me very quickly that his favourite villain was Carnage. I couldn’t think of what mine was.
At the time, we left it at that—but the conversation would resurface again much later on.
Talk about seeing the big picture
A few weeks ago, Shane and I were driving home when Southern Nights by Glen Campbell came on the radio. I can’t hear that song without thinking of Rocket Raccoon and a beautiful moonlit serenade, which got me started on my favourite reason for Guardians of the Galaxy’s popularity (aside from a script filled with witty goodies and an obsessive love of tiny Groot): its music.
That inevitably led to my somewhat unpopular opinion that if Suicide Squad had done a better job picking its own soundtrack, and not settling for relying on a less-nostalgic cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, it might not have fallen so short of its supposed mark of Marvel mimicry. That, however, is a rant for another day.
This is all to tell you that I found myself in a long-winded, down-the-rabbit-hole type of situation wherein we started a very opinionated talk about the villains of the Dark Knight trilogy.
A villainous affair
For the most part, we were on the same page about the Dark Knight villains. Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul was perfectly cool and catastrophic. Heath Ledger’s Joker was quintessentially quirky, and worthy of messing with anyone’s mind and sense of justice.
Where we differed, however, was on Tom Hardy’s Bane.
I had loved the character. I honestly think Tom Hardy is a great actor, and I had seen his rendition of what I perceived as Talia al Ghul’s bulldog as a good thing.
Shane, however, had been less impressed, and for good reason.
See, at the time, I had had no preconceived notions about any of the characters. They were all new to me. Shane, on the very opposite end of that little spectrum, had grown up with Batman and saw the film’s Bane as so far off-base that he hadn’t even recognized who the character was supposed to be until halfway through the movie.
The secret of comic book movie success
That got me thinking, and I believe the reason Marvel owns the big screen rather than DC doing the same has less to do with soundtrack choices than I thought. It’s all in how they treat their characters.
Marvel has stayed true to the spirits (if not always the exact backstories) of its characters. This keeps the characters relatable, familiar, and ultimately, popular. This is why Marvel can bring in smaller comic movies like Guardians; they’re still the same characters that even niche fans will recognize.
DC, on the other hand, treats its characters as much more fluid. It’s not afraid to rehash things as many times as it takes to get it right, but honestly, both the fans and the characters lose something of the original flavour by doing this.
I do think that trend changed a little for DC with the recent Wonder Woman movie, and I think it’ll be interesting to see if the new trend continues, especially with the new Justice League movie coming up quickly.