WonderCon 2017: Warner Brothers Panel, by Tyler Smith

1 Apr

Much of the Warner Brothers presentation here at WonderCon was exactly what one would expect. A moderator whose forced enthusiasm for all the films being discussed was borderline nauseating, an excited and forgiving audience, and clips and trailers of varying quality. I tend not to enjoy these large panels, because they are so focused on publicity. I don’t blame them; that’s what they’re meant to be. I just don’t have a great deal of patience for them.

Nonetheless, some of the footage screened was interesting, and perhaps even enlightening. As one might expect, the bulk of the panel was devoted to Warner Brothers’ various DC properties. We watched the Justice League trailer that was released recently. Upon watching it – for the second time now – my mind first wanders to DC fans’ responses to the general criticism that DC is trying, and failing, to emulate the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Defenders are quick to say that we should stop holding up DC to the standard set by Marvel, because they’re ultimately apples and oranges, with Marvel trying to be light and bouncy and DC somber and grim.

I can absolutely understand that line of thinking, but upon watching the Justice League trailer, I certainly noticed a lot of quips and banter going on. Perhaps these are only fleeting in the actual film, but, from a marketing standpoint, Warner Brothers certainly appears to be trying to emulate the Marvel tone. It certainly couldn’t hurt, as these films really don’t seem to be learning much from past criticism of them. Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman were both dour and operatic, but in a way that seemed self-serious and forced. To lighten them up, even a little, would be a marked improvement. This can be easily accomplished by adding characters that have a different outlook than we’ve seen so far. With Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, it appears that things could be a bit different in this film. If Warner Brothers does that, it will be hard to know if it was a purely organic decision, or an indication that they’re finally starting to comprehend past problems. I personally don’t require that every superhero movie have an Avengers sensibility, but I at least ask that they understand their own.

We were shown new footage from Patty Jenkins’ upcoming Wonder Woman film, which many suggest could start to set the DC universe on the right path. It is feasible, as Jenkins is a competent director and the scenes that I saw had a nice visual style to them, with a drab, gray 1910s London contrasted with Wonder Woman’s bright, sunny homeland. Something like this takes the established visual motifs of the DC universe and utilizes them effectively to separate Wonder Woman from the people around her.

We were shown a couple of fight scenes, one effective and urgent and the other clearly propped up through editing and the trademark Zack Snyder ramp-up style. The excitement that I felt over the first scene dissipated quickly when I saw the clumsy, overly-rehearsed fight choreography of the second. It just didn’t feel dangerous, which is exactly as it should feel, as Wonder Woman is fighting a roomful of German soldiers.

Overall, I’m intrigued by Wonder Woman; maybe even a bit optimistic. However, as has been shown by the last several DC movies – including the abysmal Suicide Squad – Warner Brothers has a history of taking solid properties and creating complete misfires. No matter how much optimism I may have, I cannot stress enough just how cautious it is.

What was a surprise was the panel on Annabelle: Creation, which featured the director, David F. Sandberg, who had previously directed Lights Out. We were treated to a suspenseful scene in which our protagonist, a young girl with a bad leg, encounters the Annabelle doll, only to immediately find that something is very wrong with it. This scene is clever and creepy, showing more than a little awareness of past horror tropes, like squeaking floorboards and a creaky door. Sandberg’s use of shadows and silence – quite literally the absence of light and sound – is very effective. I’d heard awful things about the first Annabelle and, honestly, not great things about Lights Out. But, if this scene is any indication of the type of director that Sandberg is, I think I may have to take a look at his work.

As stated, it was a pretty standard panel, but, with the glut of superhero movies saturating the market every Spring and Summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if the crowd – generous as it was to the entire panel – was a bit more intrigued with the intimate horror film than the gargantuan blockbusters. I certainly know I was.

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