“Does DC Have a Chris Nolan Problem?”S

Don’t worry, I’m not getting into another Man of Steel tirade in this week’s “Postal Apocalypse” — now I’m getting into a tirade about whether the entire DC universe is safe in Christopher Nolan’s hands. It’s marginally different! Plus Defiance, future sports, vampire cyborgs, and more!


Nolan No More?

Eric W.:

Post-apocalyptic Postman Rob,

After seeing the abomination of a Superman movie Man of Steel turned out to be, I started thinking about this... Does DC have a Chris Nolan problem?

Obviously, from a financial standpoint they don't, he's behind films that have raised what, a billion or two dollars, but on a deeper level, I'm not so sure.

This man has given us a Batman who turns out to be a compulsive quitter of all things, and now, with the help of Zach Snyder, has given us a muddled, hollow Superman who doesn't seem to care about collateral damage, acts rashly and flat out executes his enemies.

At first I wondered if he didn't understand the characters, but I'm more convinced at this point that he just really doesn't like them, or comics in general. I feel like he has ideas about movies he wants to make, but can only get them green-lit if he wraps them around a known property, so instead of getting a real Batman or Superman story we get "Nolan and Snyder's Poorly Thought Out Sci-fi Schlockfest" hastily retitled "Man of Steel".

I feel like that's the big difference between the Marvel and DC cinematic universes. Say what you will about Joss Whedon, but the man really seems to love comics, and the characters in them, and it shows in the products hitting theaters. Nolan, on the other hands, seems more like he resents the properties he is adapting, and that too is coming across.

What do you think, is it as simple as all that, or am I laying blame in the wrong place here?

I think you’re exactly right when you say “DC has a Chris Nolan” problem (Zack Snyder is his own issue, which Charlie Jane covers perfectly here). Chris Nolan’s Batman films have made a ton of money, and everyone else who tried to make DC superhero movies has failed, so it makes sense that WB/DC would put him in charge of their DC cinematic universe. But — in my opinion — what they fail to realize is that Nolan’s “vision” only works for Batman. Nolan likes gritty, realistic films, even if they have fantastic elements in them, like The Prestige and Inception. This works well for the non-superpowered Batman, who is the most realistic character of the DC universe, but it's a disaster for everybody else.

Superman? Wonder Woman? Green Lantern? The Flash? All of these characters are fantastic by their very nature, and whether Nolan thinks they should all be dark, tortured, gritty, and “realistic” — or Warner Bros. wants to follow the exact same pattern that made Nolan’s Batman movies hits — I don’t think it works for practically any other DC character, and I think we have the entire ‘90s comics industry as proof.

When you try to do a serious, “What would it really be like if Superman was real?” then yeah, you get a story like Man of Steel where the superheroics take a back seat to people worrying about the first alien on Earth and how human society will react. That’s the Nolan-ized version of Superman, and I didn’t care for it (as you may have noticed). I think it fundamentally missed the character of Superman in two ways: 1) he’s not supposed to be lost and tortured, and 2) while he’s superhuman, the emphasis is always on the human. He’s adopted, but he’s one of us, thanks to the Kents. It’s people like Lex Luthor who are supposed to see him as an alien.

But enough about Man of Steel. I think Nolan’s take is even less compatible with a story about an Amazon coming to the world of men, a cocky pilot joining the space police, or even a guy accidentally getting the power to run at mach speeds. And do we all want to see them as troubled and tortured as Batman and Superman have been? I don’t. Maybe mass audiences will keep paying to see it, but I think they aren’t doing DC or its characters any favors.

What makes DC Comics special is its love of the fantastic, that its characters are larger than life. Marvel has the “realistic” “woe-is-me” heroes we can relate to, DC has the heroes that are practically mythic, who defy our imagination, who astound us. I think Nolan’s vision is the exact opposite of that, and maybe DC/WB will make bank, but they’re bringing their heroes down when they should be letting them soar.


“Does DC Have a Chris Nolan Problem?”

Face the Music

Tonyc:

Consider this - the rock band Disaster Area claims to be the loudest rock band in the universe, so loud that the audience must listen from the safe distance of thirty seven miles away in a well-built concrete bunker.

However, as Nigel Tufnel points out - you're rocking out, amps turned all the way up to ten on your guitar, and you need that little bit extra edge to go over the top. Where can you go from there? Where?

So my question is this - which is the louder rock band: Disaster Area or Spinal Tap?

Look. However loud Hitchhiker’s Guide's Disaster Area can get, even if they could shatter whole planets with their music, they’re playing with their amps on 10, Spinal Tap’s amps go to 11. That’s just science, man.


“Does DC Have a Chris Nolan Problem?”

Blood and Chrome

Young W.:

I've been wondering, what would happen if an organic Terminator, like Arnold's T-800, got bitten by a vampire? Can the organic parts of the cyborg become undead? I understand that body would have all the same weaknesses so as soon as it stepped into sunlight, the flesh would simply burn off and you'd be left with a normal T-800 endoskeleton... but if it adhered to the standard weaknesses and only went out at night, would it become an even more powerful killing machine?

[UPDATE: I messed up, see "ADDENDUM TO THE MAILBAG" in the comments below, please!]

Well, a Terminator isn’t actually a cyborg, because as you’ve noted a cyborg has organic parts. A Terminator is all robot with a fake skin (apparently made of rubber, at least in the early films) on it so it can use the time travel doohickey that sends humans back in the past. The Terminator is an android, which is a robot built to look like a human (please ignore the times they’re called “cyborgs” in the movies, that’s just James Cameron misunderstanding the lingo like Lucas misunderstood “parsecs” in Star Wars). If a vampire bit a Terminator, all he’d have is a dental bill.

Now, someone like Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell is a cyborg. Her soft, fleshy human bits are augmented with all sorts of robot parts, so your question stands. As far as I know, anyone that still has blood flowing their veins should be able to be bitten, sucked, and then transformed into a vampire, with all organic parts getting vampirized. Because the brain continues working after someone becomes a vampire, and most cyborg accessorizes and brain upgrades will be based on neural networks and so forth, I don’t know why these would stop working just because the rest of the owner died.

But would they be unstoppable? Not quite. If their skin was still regular human skin, it would be susceptible to bursting into flames in the sun… although perhaps they could get it replaced with a plastic simualcrum, kind of like the Terminator’s rubber skin, or even just covered with a lacquer that shuts out the sun’s harmful, vampire-immolating effects. Moreover, I’m pretty sure vampires wouldn’t be able to switch out their heart for an artificial heart; what with the demonic magic involved, I’m guessing any attempt to remove the heart from the body would kill the vampire outright. But they could shield it, implanting internal armor to prevent staking.

But even that wouldn’t make them unstoppable. The minute we have cyborg vampires wandering the streets with fake skin and impenetrable hearts is the minute we hire some whiz kid to hack their brains and shut those fuckers down.


“Does DC Have a Chris Nolan Problem?”

Come Together

Evan B.:

Would something like the Votan Alliance in Defiance really work? I have a hard time imagining 10 different sets of aliens all agreeing on enough things to do anything. Especially these aliens, who seem to hate each other more than they dislike humans.

Good question! For those who don’t know, SyFy’s Defiance is marginally about a collective of 10 alien species (called the Votan, collectively) whose home system was self-destructing, then fled to Earth and tried to take it from humanity, prompting a long war which destroyed cellphones, TVs, our ability to make cars and concrete, all of their spaceships and their ability to make new alien tech, and so on and so forth. Now everybody lives on Earth in a kind of uneasy truce.

I think what you’re seeing on the show is mostly Castithans (the pale aliens like Datak Tarr) feeling superior to the Irathients (the Native American-Klingon aliens like Irisa). The other species don’t appear to have feelings about each other or the humans, and get along fine (with the exception of the Volge, the one alien species that the rest of Votan tried to leave behind but who followed them to Earth so the showrunners could have a few big-ass battle scenes in the pilot). But the Castithans don’t have a holy war against the Irathients, they’re just kind of… racists. It doesn’t stop them from living together, they’re just kind of shitty about it. Which doesn’t preclude people from at least pretending to try to work together; see the U.S. Congress for more details.

As for reality, I don’t see why it’s impossible that if there are aliens out there that two or more of them might meet each other before they meet us. And together, they could pool their collective knowledge into realizing humans are insane and should be left the fuck alone.


“Does DC Have a Chris Nolan Problem?”S

Sports Talk

Dev M.:

What will be the first “future” sports? Running Man? Rollerball?

Here’s how it’s gonna go.

• A contestant snaps on a contest show like American Idol and kills a competitor live, on-screen. Ratings go through the roof.

• A TV network, desperate for ratings (so probably NBC) ignores morality and creates a dangerous version of a show like Wipeout or Ninja Warrior with the potential for contestants to die; contestants have to sign a waiver before playing. Every time someone dies, again, the ratings go through the roof.

• An even more desperate network (which will still probably be NBC, somehow) goes ahead and makes a Smash TV-like program, the first of the outright deadly game shows.

• This is followed by an officially licensed version of The Running Man.

• NASCAR immediately becomes Death Race, because they only people watch NASCAR anyways is in hopes of watching racers crash and die. Death Race becomes the biggest “sport”/event in North America.

• NBC hires the “I’d Buy That for a Dollar” guy from Robocop to be its new president.


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Emailpostman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!