Considering that we're now fully living in the world of comic book movie sequels - phase two of the Marvel cinematic universe having successfully kicked off with Iron Man 3, with Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers 2 all on the way - now is a good time to take a look at such sequels and what they promise, particularly with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy having drawn to a close.
Whether you like them or not, Nolan's films have had an undeniably powerful influence on the public perception of what comic book movies can be, given their distinctive tone and aesthetic. Some might argue that making comic book movies as dark, gritty and down-to-earth as possible is always the best way to go, and this seems to be particularly true of sequels, where attempts to make the next installment in a franchise "darker" has become almost as commonplace as the promise to "raise the stakes."
There are plenty of arguments that could be made both for and against the particular approach that Nolan took to interpreting the Batman mythos for the big screen, but variety is the spice of life and if all comic book movies were dark, gritty and realistic then we'd probably all be praying for a ray of silliness. The box office success of last year's biggest hit The Avengers seems to be indicative of a demand for a slightly more light-hearted approach, and in an interview with Metro, director Joss Whedon has promised that he isn't planning to 'go Nolan' with The Avengers 2:
"Nolan has this thing and of it he is the master; I do not have Nolan's thing. [I'm] Tony Stark desperately trying to be Steve Rogers. I can’t stop making jokes. In my vernacular there are two gold standards for sequels: 'The Godfather Part II' and 'The Empire Strikes Back'. They are darker films but they are not suddenly pretentious and losing the mission. The joy of the thing is important: the exaltation, the nobility, the humor and the humanity. But you do need to bleed with these people a little bit or you won’t want to spend another day with them."
Of course, The Avengers wasn't without its dark moments (we won't name them here, out of respect to the three people on the planet who haven't seen it yet), but it's not the sort of movie that could be described as "dark" in a broad sense. When asked about the possibility of directing The Avengers 3, however, Whedon warns that the strain would probably cause him to take things down a very dark path:
"The idea of doing this three times just staggers the imagination. I'm not that young. But then, I hadn't really intended to do a second one. In the third one, I really am going to kill everyone."
While some might argue that creating a sequel is always more difficult than making the first film in a series, because of the certain stigma associated with bad movie sequels and the challenge of keeping the franchise fresh, Whedon says in an interview RTÉ Ten that conceiving The Avengers 2 has actually been comparatively easier, since the groundwork of the shared universe has already been established:
"It was harder the first time. We had to bring everybody together, we had to convince people that they could all be in the same movie. That's done, and so now it's just pure storytelling... We will see some new faces in 'Avengers 2', and they will be from the Marvel universe."
Whedon also suggests in the interview that some of the new faces will be female characters, due to his passion for making movies and TV shows about strong women. With that in mind, he was asked whether there was any possibility that his Wonder Woman script, which fell into development hell several years ago and never returned, might still see the light of day:
"I've not been asked back, and at present I don't think there's really an opportunity there. I don't want to dash your hopes, but it's not looking great. I have come up with a very original character of my own called Wondrous Gal ... She's a Flamazon."
It looks like Joss Whedon is fully embedded in the Marvel camp, though J.J. Abrams' assignment to direct both Star Trek and Star Wars Episode VII has shown that it's not impossible for a director to straddle two rival franchises. Whedon has expressed his passion for the DC universe in the past, though he also said in an interview with DigitalSpy that DC characters are harder to translate to the big screen because "they are so far above us and their powers are so amorphous."
Do you favor Nolan's comic book movie style, or Whedon's? Alternatively, are you just happy that they both exist?
The Avengers 2 is out in theaters on May 1st, 2015