Comic Con At Home have have been something of a failure, but there were still some good snippets to take away from it. After his Superman revelations, writer David S. Goyer had some stories to tell about Batman too. Particularly the decision to skip an origin story.
Remember back in the 1990s when suddenly everyone and everything needed an origin story? Every single character trait had to be explained, every personality glitch related to some childhood trauma somehow. Personally I blame that Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade opening scene from a few years before. That got everything from the chin scar to the fear of snakes into one sequence. They started this!
It was always especially bad in superhero movies. There you had not just the heroes but this wide array of villains in their rogues gallery. All had to be explained. So it was a refreshing change when The Dark Knight came along that the creative team decided to do something very different.
Heath Ledger’s Joker is hinted at in the final scene in Batman Begins and then just arrives, fully formed, at the very start of The Dark Knight. No origin, no backstory, just a series of contradictory yarns told by the character throughout the movie.
He’s a better character for it. We also don’t waste any running time trying to excuse him, he’s a more dangerous foe without a sympathetic origin excuse. It is certainly more effective than Tim Burton’s far too neat link with the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents.
This approach made the studio very nervous, apparently. It is already known in the industry that Warner Bros. have been notorious for interfering in their superhero properties. Many comments have been made about the failure of the DCEU largely sitting at their door with their inability to stop tinkering. Their interference is rumored to over-rules creatives at every turn.
Speaking at Comic-Con At Home Goyer explained their approach as writers and how this made the studio worry:
“I do remember when we were talking about, ‘Well what if the Joker doesn’t really have an origin story?’. Even after the success of Batman Begins that was considered a very controversial thing and we got a lot of push-back. People were worried.
There were a lot more eyes, both in terms of the world and the studio on that film than there were on Batman Begins. And it’s harder to take risks and it’s harder to subvert expectations in success because people want to protect against failure or they want you to do what you did the first time, but just a little bit different.
One of the scariest things to tell most film executives or even TV executives after having had success in something is, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to do that again. We’re going to do something different’.”
Let us hope Matt Reeves is free to do his thing and they have learned their lessons from the wreckage of the DCEU.