Could the Hiring of Aaron Sorkin Combat the Stigma Around Marvel and DC Movies?

SorkinGetty Images

Word came down last week that Aaron Sorkin is planning to meet with both Marvel and DC about potentially working for one of them. Or both of them. Even though he has admittedly never in his life read a comic book, because, as he said, “it’s just that I’ve never been exposed to one,” since it seems that Sorkin, as I have always suspected, never actually had a childhood.

The interesting thing about these meetings is that the two companies are actually pitching him, rather than the other way around, which is how it usually works. So, rather than prepare something to propose to one of the comic giants about how he might take, develop and mold one of their great characters, he can listen to them explain to him why his particular style might work well in their respective worlds, despite the fact that he doesn’t appear to know the first thing about them.

There are two arguments about that. One being that, come on, do we really need another writer who knows nothing about these worlds to come in and try to tell a story set there? Marvel has been doing very well, thank you, with its roster of writers who know the ins and outs of their universe.

The other, of course, being that, yes, that’s exactly what we need, and look no further than the last several DCEU movies that have hit theaters.

So, okay, maybe that narrows things down a bit. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to see Batman and Robin in a good, old-fashioned walk-and-talk, discussing the best way to track down The Joker?

But all kidding aside, while Sorkin has his particular ticks that he uses over and over again — like how all his characters tend to talk exactly the same way and with the same rapid, machine-gun fire pace, the repetition of certain phrases, like “There it is!” or “You think?” or “Not for nothing,” or the way he employs long, grandiose, pretentious and didactic set speeches — there’s no questioning his skills as a screenwriter. Someone with his pedigree would be a welcome addition to the superhero movie canon, and would almost certainly bring a level of outside respect that the industry desperately seeks, box office successes notwithstanding.

The sad thing is, there really is a stigma about these movies not being for adults, or not having the quality needed to compete for major awards or to be considered among a given year’s important films, even though there really shouldn’t be. Recall a couple months ago, when I made what I thought was a convincing argument as to why Deadpool should have earned a Best Picture nod, and please anticipate the similar column I intend to write in January 2018, singing the praises of Logan.

Deadpool20th Century Fox

Recall, also, that Guardians of the Galaxy was nominated for a Writers Guild award in 2015, and while it didn’t get an Oscar nomination for Adapted Screenplay, it certainly could have. Likewise, both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Dr. Strange, just to name two, were considered among the best films of their respective years, getting great reviews to go along with their stupendous worldwide grosses. So it’s not like the quality isn’t there.

But the stigma certainly is, and hiring Sorkin does combat that, regardless of whether or not he and his style actually fit. I’m not sure that the next Captain America movie, for instance, needs an involved debate about the intricacies of democracy, or that the Man of Steel sequel should have an involved conversation about the nature of citizenship and how complicated and difficult it can be to exist in this country as a resident alien, but then again, I’m not the one making the decisions.

On the other hand, someone with Sorkin’s proclivities could turn out to be a welcome busting out of the proverbial box. For one thing, it would almost certainly solve the villain problem from which both companies suffer, since a lack of knowledge of the genre’s tropes might be downright freeing. As of now, even if you’re a fan of the movies that Marvel is putting out — as I most vociferously am — it’s tough not to notice that their villains aren’t the strongest and all tend to behave in exactly the same ways.

Bringing in someone without any preconceived notions could eliminate that, and also shake out some of the doldrums of the familiar three-act structure. Just look at what Shane Black did with Iron Man 3, which, like it or not (and, again, I very much did), was something of a welcome departure from the movies that preceded it. Sorkin can take a fresh look at an established character and bring a whole new, unvarnished perspective that might set them apart from the kinds of movies we’re used to.

Iron Man 3Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios

But I’m trying to think of a movie Sorkin wrote that had any real action in it, and I’m coming up empty, simply because the opening scene of The Social Network doesn’t really count. It’s sort of hard to do one of these things without a good deal of mayhem, because otherwise it might as well be a courtroom drama, and who needs costumes for that? Masks, I can see, sure, but costumes? That feels like overkill.

Not for nothing, but the action and the scope of these things is part of the fun. Also, an existential threat against our freedoms and way of life, or someone “just wanting to watch the world burn,” because lord knows we haven’t got enough of those around these days.

Ultimately, I think it’s hard not to believe this is a good thing. Anything to raise the status of these movies is a positive, and bringing in an Emmy and Oscar winner like Sorkin automatically does that. It also sends the message that everyone involved really is trying to spend the work and energy required in the scripting process, because even if it’s not always necessary, that reassurance tends to go a long way.

After all, if one of the Big Two can corral someone like Sorkin, it’s only a matter of time before they make a serious move for a Spielberg or a Scorsese, as well. Because that’d really legitimize the genre for even the snootiest of snobs.

You think?

Neil Turitz 2 is a filmmaker and journalist who has spent close to two decades working in and writing about Hollywood. Feel free to send him a tweet at @neilturitz. He’ll more than likely respond.

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