There’s no more palpable bromance in Hollywood right now than the one between Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. Their electricity is palpable and joyous, and the Jumanji co-stars seem to have endeavored to work together more as time has gone on. With one starring in DC League of Super-Pets as Krypto the Superdog and the other as Ace the Bat-Hound, it seemed like a nice way to kill an afternoon. I don’t want to do a full analysis of a movie about talking animals with the celebrity voices – I’m 30 years old, that’s not fair, but there’s this one thing, this one small thing about it –
Every time Krypto takes off, without fail, there’s a sonic boom sound effect. It’s a full, deep boom straight out of the recent Man of Steel series, it might be the exact same audio clip. This is a cute little G-rated thing about talking animals in DC merch meant for parents to kill a July afternoon with children born in the mid ‘10s, and it’s insistently using a sound effect from the most recent version of Superman, the one that was focused on grounding the character in the realism and horrifying 9/11 imagery that made The Dark Knight movies so successful.
I’m imagining sitting in this theater with a 5-year-old child, maybe a 10-year-old who still goes in for this type of cartoon. He was born in the summer of 2012, within a few weeks of The Dark Knight Rises’ release. He was less than a year old when Man of Steel hit theaters, and I still haven’t shown it to him – in the first place, it’s a terrible film, and I haven’t begun to explain what the 9/11 attacks meant, how different the world was before, or how cruel and irresponsible the imagery of Man of Steel really is. He’s still a toddler when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad come out, two very adult films, I’m not taking him to those.
He turns 5 in time for Justice League in November 2017, so maybe I take him to see that. Maybe he’s super into the MCU by this point, which has churned out a dozen movies that are still very child-friendly, and he recognizes superheroes in general and demands to go. I check it out first, it’s terrible but inoffensive enough, so I drop him off and stroll into another showing of Blade Runner 2049. My child gets to experience Superman on the big screen for the first time as a horrifying god-zombie with only two scenes, one where he almost kills all of the miserable heroes, and one where he does kill all of the horribly animated villains.
Why would he ever want to see Superman again?
Who is DC League of Super-Pets for? Who could it possibly be for? We’re incorporating effects from this continuity that was discarded for being too mature and miserable, well, who is the new continuity for?
What is my 10-year-old’s avenue to get into Superman? I grew up with the still-unmatched “Batman: The Animated Series” and the “Superman” and “Justice League” series that flowed from it, are those being re-run? Am I expected to take the initiative to show my child these things? I have no intention of bonding with a through media if I ever have one, even I don’t want to do that.
Warner Bros. just announced they were going to withhold an almost-complete Batgirl movie that would have brought back Michael Keaton and starred Brendan Fraser as the villain, and we’ll dig into that whole mess later this week – but one of the listed reasons is that the budget ballooned to $90 million because of COVID-19 era production restrictions. $90 million is the listed budget for DC League of Super-Pets, too. It’s underperforming pretty severely, opening at just $23 million, though this is the kind of movie that can count on moving a ton of lunchboxes to bring the bottom line up, but within the theater I’m wondering, who was supposed to turn up for this? Who decided on the target audience, who was in charge of orienting the movie toward that target audience?
Warner Bros. is going through an ownership change, so of course it’s changing direction as a business, but in as little as one sound effect in a talking animal movie with the celebrity voices, you can see it hasn’t had a direction for some time.