Saturday, August 17, 2013

Brainstorm: Could OPRAH Save The DC Universe?

Hear me out on this one, folks.

By tonight, the movie news of the weekend will be that "Lee Daniel's The Butler" (a not particularly good but well-intended film) will be the boxoffice champ of the weekend - probably by more so than will even be initially reported because the film press tends to ignore Sunday, a day on which "black films" almost always over-perform. Fairly or not, much like for Daniels' "Precious" a lot of the credit for that is going to be laid on the presence of media omni-figure Oprah Winfrey. For whatever reason, the fact of this made something "click" in my head:

Warner Bros. should cut whatever check would need to be cut to get Oprah to turn up in "Batman vs. Superman" as Amanda Waller.

Technically, Waller started out as a government-affiliated bad guy in mid-80s comics, but the character has evolved over time (before being ruined, along with everything else, by The New 52), thanks in part to memorable turns by CCH Pounder in the DC Animated Universe shows, into a kind of morally-ambiguous counterpart to Nick Fury (movie version); a human official unafraid to try and "manage" the presence of superhuman beings on Earth by whatever means necessary. Angela Bassett played a version of the character in "Green Lantern," but nobody cares about anything that happened in or around "Green Lantern."

Here's the thing: WB wants very badly to imitate the profitable shared-universe that Disney/Marvel have going on, but they clearly have no plan or idea how to get there - the latest gossip is that they're willing to give Christian Bale one of the biggest paydays in history to do ONE more appearance for "Batman vs. Superman," which would means they're right back to re-casting Batman for "Justice League." A character like this - who can easily turn up in multiple related films for a memorable cameo - is a good way to at least start getting there; and it'd fit with the residual Nolanized downer vibe that WB is still insisting on for "their version" to be an alternately friendly or villainous buzzkill.

The main thing that's always made Waller unique is, frankly, that she's a middle-aged, plus-sized black woman; a character type that practically doesn't exist in mainstream comics, to say nothing of holding a position of substantial power. If that's the character your casting, why wouldn't you make an offer to the actual most powerful/influential middle-aged plus-sized black woman on the planet who also happens to be a not-terrible actress? And who is really, really well-suited to the part?

Yes, you'd get a tidal-wave of reflexive fanboy hate right off the bat. College Humor etc. would have spoof material for weeks ("You get a Batmobile! You get a Batmobile!"), the whole shebang. But it would dissipate if/when they see her being good in the first SDCC sizzle-reel - besides, they're still gonna go see it. The benefit you get - namely the immediate attention of several huge audience segments that normally couldn't give less of a shit about these movies: She shows up in the trailer, even for a moment? Suddenly your on a ton of radars you weren't before. There's a whole nation of moms out there with superhero-junkie kids who would flip for the idea of Oprah turning up to essentially tell Batman to finish his vegetables and clean his goddamn room, for starters.

Also... let's face it, she's one of the best self-promoters on the planet and there's no way you don't benefit from that: DCU movies would likely have prime booking and promotion on her TV network and affiliated shows, an even bigger segment of the press is paying attention, and the only possible downside would be if she somehow proved unable to convincingly portray a character that could be summarized as "You, but a hardass and wearing a suit."

Would it be a risk? A little bit, yeah. But a better investment (with much better potential payoff) than dropping $50 Million for another 150 minutes of "BWHEREIZZET?? BWHERSTHATREGGAR!!!???"