Ten years on, DC continues to learn the wrong lessons from ‘The Dark Knight.’
In an article about the 10-year anniversary of The Dark Knight, film critic Matt Singer writes of escalation. Specifically, the escalation of the dark and gritty tone that has plagued DC’s movies since the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Well, it apparently carries forth on the small screen, as well.
And if you thought the DC Extended Universe movies bordered on juvenile, then strap in for the first Titans trailer.
The trailer starts out with Raven, played by Teagan Croft, seeking out Brenton Thwaites’ Dick Grayson. We see glimpses of Grayson’s tragic past, including the death of his parents, before things take an angsty turn.
A shirtless Grayson scowls at an ‘R’ shaped Batarang (Robin-arang?) before angrily throwing it across the room. Then comes the scene everybody’s talking about. A group of criminals stands in a dark alley (as they do) before a mysterious cape-wearing figure drops down. “Where’s Batman?” one of them asks, presumably relieved to see the Boy Wonder instead. Robin sure shows them, as he guns several men down and stomps on another’s neck. You know, like a true hero.
Honestly, the scene is so poorly shot, lit, and edited that it’s pretty difficult to tell what’s actually going on. We then see Robin with blood around his mouth (did he eat them too?), as he says the already infamous line: “Fuck Batman.” This ain’t your granddaddy’s Robin, that’s for sure.
The rest of the trailer plays out in a fairly bland manner, displaying cheap-looking versions of each member of the Titans. Rife with cliché dialogue and lousy effects, the second half of the trailer is even less inspiring. Various shots of Raven could really be taken from any other supernatural-horror show and do very little to stand out.
Each Titans member then gets a moment of their own, with plenty more blood splatters along the way. Although the fact that the entire show appears to take place at night means that it’s not entirely clear who’s even doing the punching in any given shot.
This first trailer certainly makes a statement, at least offering those still on the fence a clear indication of the show’s intent. However bizarre that may be.
The future of DC Universe
Titans will be the first original series to premiere on DC Universe, the all-new streaming service from the comics company. When writing about the upcoming platform, I discussed the need for quality original content. Because while diehards will flock to the service, it’ll take more to get casual fans to put down money. And one of the ways to do this is to entice them with several must-watch shows that they can’t see anywhere else. After all, Netflix can get around having a fairly lackluster selection by boasting a handful of originals that are essential viewing.
Which makes it all the more baffling that this is the show chosen to roll out the new service. A fun look at the younger heroes of the DC universe could have been a home run. Especially as an antidote to the bleak tone of the movies. But by having this version of Titans lead the way, DC only looks to alienate those already skeptical of their output. And with the trailer already being derided all over the internet, many will now think twice before subscribing.
What’s even stranger is that they have a popular returning show on their lineup. The return of Young Justice is sure to delight fans of the previously canceled series. And would have been an ideal way to roll out DC Universe, getting fans onside from the get-go. By opening with a dour, try-hard series over a fan-favorite, DC has made a puzzling decision.
Learning the wrong lessons
The Dark Knight did a lot of good for superhero movies. In many ways, it legitimized the genre for audiences and proved that superheroes could even compete at the Oscars. But in the wake of the film’s success, DC appeared to have learned all of the wrong lessons. For a start, Superman was basically reimagined as Batman in Man of Steel. And then we got a taste of that universe’s actual Batman, a violent, hard-drinking lunatic.
DC’s strategy ever since, with some notable exceptions, has been to double down on the dark, grounded tone of The Dark Knight, in a misguided attempt to recapture the magic of that film. All while forgetting that what made the film so great is a stellar script and a director at the top of his game.
And now we arrive at Titans. The logical conclusion to DC’s constant game of trying to outdo The Dark Knight, and what looks to be an angst-ridden, nightmarish edge-fest of a show. In the 10 years since The Dark Knight‘s release, DC keeps making the same mistakes over and over. And the fact that this trailer came out on the week of the movie’s anniversary feels particularly poignant.