I saw an interesting article the other day on the Batman v. Superman film, which came out on Good Friday and which industry insiders are calling a failure, because it costs so much to make ($400 million, including marketing) and only grossed about $800 million in box office dollars (this is Gross, not net; so theater owners get a piece of this).
The article says that Warner Bros, having gotten burned by putting so much cash into one film, has decided it wants to make fewer films, rather than more. I know, you’ve got that “What you talking about Willis?” face, too. (If you’re not old enough to remember watching Different Strokes, find a YouTube clip, laugh and then come back to this article).
Frankly, that’s a bad place to be, and I hope those in publishing don’t start implementing the same lessons. Go big or go home may be a fun catchphrase, but as a business model, it tends not to work. We don’t put our eggs all in one basket. And certainly not in publishing, an industry that makes money by having lots of products to offer its readers.
I find the lesson they’re taking from the movie so strange, because I actually saw the movie and I think there are much better lessons to take from the film. Ones that can apply to self-publishers, traditional publishers or movie makers.
- Your story has to make sense on its face. When I heard about this film last year, my first reaction was, I don’t understand. To me, it didn’t make any sense. First off, Batman and Superman are both good guys (Yes, the bat has some aggression issues and is called the Dark Knight for a reason, but he’s basically anti bad guy, and about protecting hardworking honest citizens). So, for me, I was like, why would they be fighting. That sounds bad. I don’t want two good guys to fight each other. Second, it didn’t make sense to me, because of, ummm, physics. In what universe does this battle last any longer than it takes Superman’s laser vision to heat the Bat’s Kevlar to a temperature of crispy Bruce Wayne. Yes, Kryptonite is the answer. But, then we go back to the original question. Why? Interestingly, Marvel is doing its Captain America: Civil War, which pits good guys against good guys and I’m all in. Why? Because I’ve spent the last few years watching these guys build a rapport with each other. They basically get along, but have some differences in opinions. And now, those difference seem to have boiled over. My question is why? On its face, it makes sense. Tony Stark and Captain America have always differed on how to do things. Now, they’re about to rumble in the jungle, and I want all the gory details. Perhaps if they’d given us some Bat-Supes interaction earlier, we’d immediately say, that makes sense.
- Don’t bait and switch. If you haven’t seen the film, and don’t want spoilers, look away (SCROLL DOWN. NOW). But, essentially the film spends two hours trying to gin up reasons why these guys don’t like each other and want to fight (and they don’t do that great of a job with the reasons). And then, at the two-hour mark, Batman realizes he and Superman’s mothers are each named Martha and decides to drop the grudge. The bat literally takes his Kryptonite sword and drops it to the ground. They then team up with Wonder Woman for complete awesomeness. Are you kidding me? Batman and Superman team up is a movie I would watch on its face. You would have had to tell me nothing else. I love super heroes. I like seeing them work together. Let’s watch that. Yet, you bill it as a fight movie, and then they barely fight and instead decide to team up. That leaves a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.
- Do give fans the characters they love. If your project — be it a book, a movie, or a comic strip–is about characters the fans love, then give them the characters they love. They shouldn’t have huge personality shifts or do something out of character just for shock value or to gin up false angst. Batman and Superman work well together. They’re both dude who absolutely abhor bullies, and want to put them down before they hurt good people.
- Do team up. OK, We have two characters we love. They should team up. In fact, the
best part of Batman v. Superman was when the three of them teamed with Wonder Woman for some total kicka**ery at the end. It was awesome. And Wonder Woman is so amazing (I guess that’s why she’s an Amazon), that I will one hundred percent see her movie. I don’t even care what it’s about. Gal Gadot was the real deal as Wonder Woman. Teaming up works. If there are characters we love, let them join forces for the greater good. There’s no need to manufacture conflict within, when there’s so much external conflict. (Notice I said “manufacture conflict.” If there’s natural conflict/angst, that’s one thing. But stuff that has little justification and is just there to make it so character A & B have a reason to fight, is not good).
- Tease Me, Please. In addition to Wonder Woman, the thing that worked really well about the BvS was the teasers included. They teased three of their upcoming spin-off films, showing us The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg (being tinkered with by his father, played by Joe Morton of Scandal). The teasers they included were fairly short, but they were super exciting. I was like, I want to see those. When are they coming out. So, if you can, tease, tease, tease. Fans love it when you let them know more good stuff is coming their way.