The Problem with DC Movies

“Once you crack the script, everything else follows.” — Ridley Scott, writer/producer/director of TV & film

If you have read many of my TV and movie reviews here over the years, you’ve probably noticed my frustration with… well, a lot of things. But, one refrain is that I’m not sure who to blame for a disappointing show: the writer(s) for a poorly developed story and/or character(s), the actor(s) for not doing a good job in the role(s), or the director for failing to elicit good performances or to realize the best vision for the material (or some such thing). Or, perhaps a combination?

Another issue has to do with proper casting. For instance, I had serious doubts about Daniel Craig as James Bond, as well as Ben Affleck playing Batman. But, in the end, I was pleasantly surprised on both counts. Just don’t get me started on Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan…. A related issue is when beloved characters are “tweaked” too much, imho, from the source material and/or the writer(s) demonstrate that they really don’t understand the character or his/her appeal.

A few weeks back, someone (“LKJSlain”) in one of the pop-culture Facebook groups I frequent posted some insightful observations of her own on this subject. I believe the original subject matter was the now-confirmed casting of Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman reboot. (I have been reminded that he is much more than just “that guy from Twilight“, so I am cautiously optimistic.) LKJSlain shared her thoughts not just on Pattinson but on DC-based movies in general and on Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. She was nice enough to let me share the post with my readers….

*cracks knuckles*

Okay…

Here are my general thoughts (like anyone cared)… BY AND LARGE most people have absolutely despised the newer DC movies. NOW- there are some people who really enjoyed them, sure, and movies like Wonder Woman (minus the villain, which wasn’t terrible, but was WEIRD) and Shazam (which, IMO was MOSTLY incredible, minus a bump or two and an odd occasional problem with pacing) but the other films (Suicide Squad, Aquaman, BatmanVSSuperman, Man of Steel-) were not “necessarily” TERRIBLE but they had some really weird glaring errors that not only miffed the fans, but caused a lot of people who love the comic book genre and superhero / comic book films to just be left scratching their heads… – “Why did they go THIS direction?” “Why did THIS happen?” “WHAT THE HECK Batman wouldn’t DO that…” “Superman is acting strange…” “Mus…tache…” etc…

This combination of what I will call “oddities” makes for some really BIZARRE movies… I have my opinions about WHY (And a youtuber who I love named TheCosmonautVarietyHour has an EXCELLENT video that represents everything that I’d say here- it’s a 25 min -plus- long video that’s called “The Problem with DC’S Heroes” – watch it, it explains the problem perfectly, I can’t post it here because he cusses a lot…)

But here’s the deal… The problems are not the actors… the PROBLEMS are the movies themselves…

RobPat might be INCREDIBLE portraying Batman, [but] it’s not going to matter if the Batman he portrays is written terribly and leaves the audience with a sense of confusion / head scratching more than, “Heck yes, that’s the Batman that I know and love!”

I’ll use the JOKER movie as an example.

Joaquin Phoenix can act. HE … CAN… ACT… But do you know what I DON’T want to see? A movie that makes me feel EMPATHETIC towards the Joker… -_- (again, these are the things that are WELL explained in the video I mentioned above…) As a writer, it always miffs me SO MUCH with these movies because I always feel (pardon my hubris) that I could have written a BETTER Joker story.

TO ME this movie “JOKER” is CRYING for the audience to “feel sorry” for and thus “understand” the Joker… I DON’T WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE JOKER! That’s why he’s such an awesome character, he’s one of the few villains that encompasses and represents TOTAL chaos, anarchy, and a sense of “WHY?” It makes for a GREAT villain, and part of the greatness of that villain IS the mystery. If you REMOVE the mystery, it’s not the same character and after that, the audience will ALWAYS say, “Oh, well…his horrible past…” etc… -_- NO!

(SIDENOTEDONTGETMEWRONGIMSTILLGOINGTOSEETHISMOVIEBECAUSEILOVEHIMAND
ITHINKTHEMOVIEITSELFMIGHTBEOKAYANDITLLDEFINITELYBEINTERESTINGIFNOTHINGELSE
OKAY…)

My point being- one of the reasons that people roll their eyes with these choices is NOT the actors themselves, but trying to picture THESE actors in the modern DC films… *cringe*…

Regarding her initial comments, I can’t comment re Aquaman or Shazam!, since I haven’t seen them, yet. As for the rest, yeah, I’m pretty much in agreement. In regards to Phoenix as Joker, I mentioned in another post that I would (eventually) check out that film. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was a bit “iffy” on it, but I think LKJSlain comes pretty close. I am perhaps more accepting of some origin for the character. But, the never-fully-answered question of “How did this guy get so screwed up?!” is indeed part of the appeal. We certainly don’t want a sob-story to make us empathize (sympathize?) with the Joker. He is the embodiment of chaotic evil, a capricious homicidal maniac with a clown fetish, and Batman’s arch-est of archenemies. That’s all.

Bottom line is that, while Phoenix will no doubt give a marvelous performance, this is not the Joker we’ve been looking for. (Nor is that Jared Leto version from Suicide Squad.) It’s like DC / Warner Bros don’t even understand their own characters, and they have only themselves to blame for their cinematic failures.

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Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2019: Special Comics Edition, Part 2 of 2

“SHAZAM!” — Billy Batson, who then transforms into Captain Marvel

Continuing from last week’s Part 1, we have four Silver and Golden Age superheroes celebrating notable anniversaries this year. Is one of them a favorite of yours?

Showcase #22

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) (1959): 60 years

Hal Jordan was not the first ‘Green Lantern’ of Earth — that honor goes to ‘Alan Scott’ — and several Green Lanterns have been introduced since. But, Jordan became the Green Lantern of the Silver Age of Comics when he debuted in Showcase #22 from DC Comics. The character went on to become a perennial favorite, especially for those who grew up on DC comics in the 1960s-90s. Created by John Broome and Gil Kane and based on the likeness of Paul Newman, Jordan may have temporarily adopted a couple other important aliases along the way (e.g., Parallax, the Spectre), but he has survived death, cancellation, and several retcons and rebirths to remain a beloved and influential character in the DC Multiverse.

Hal Jordan has either co-starred or made appearances in many animated series and films, as well as in multiple video games. The Jordan Green Lantern has also headlined a live-action film and is set to co-star in 2020’s Green Lantern Corps live-action reboot. Of course, merchandise based on the character runs from action figures and maquettes to power rings and lunch boxes. The character has ranked quite well in IGN’s lists, too: #7 in 2011’s “Top 100 Comic Book Heroes” and #4 in 2013’s “Top 25 Heroes of DC Comics”.

Marvel Mystery Comics #4

Namor, the Sub-Mariner (1939): 80 years

Prince Namor of Atlantis, the Sub-Mariner, was created by Bill Everett for Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1 (1939) — a planned black-n-white giveaway for movie theaters. When the promotion fell through, Everett introduced the public to his new creation in Timely/Marvel’s first regular color comic book, Marvel [Mystery] Comics #1, later that year. (See pic of Namor’s first cover appearance.) Of course, like many characters, he had to weather wars (real and fictional), economic downturns, amnesia, cancellations, etc. Despite the character’s arrogance, aggression, mercurial temper, and fluctuating loyalties, he has maintained a respectable fan-following after all this time. In addition to guest-appearances and co-starring in other books, he has starred in several miniseries and at least five regular comics series — in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960/70s, 1990s, 2011.

“The Avenging Son” has had two aborted TV series (in the 1950s & 1970s) and an on-again/off-again live-action film project (1990s-2000s). The character has appeared in several animated series and video games, as well. Namor has been ranked by Wizard as the 88th greatest comic book character. IGN ranked Namor as the 77th greatest comic book hero of all time and 14th in their list of “The Top 50 Avengers”. For something a little different, ComicsAlliance ranked him #16 on their list of the “50 Sexiest Male Characters in Comics” (2013).

Whiz Comics #2

Captain Marvel / Shazam (1939): 80 years

Long before Marvel’s ‘Carol Danvers’ took the monicker Captain Marvel (or was even conceived of), there was another “Captain Marvel”. In Whiz Comics #2 (cover date Feb. 1940; release date Dec. 1939), Fawcett Comics published the first appearance of the original Captain Marvel character, alter ego of young orphan ‘Billy Batson’. Much to the delight of Fawcett and creators Bill Parker and C.C. Beck, the character was an instant hit and outsold all other superheroes during the 1940s — even Superman himself. In the early 1950s, National Comics Publications (owner of Superman) sued Fawcett for copyright infringement and won, forcing Fawcett to stop publishing Captain Marvel-related comics. In the 1970s, National (now known as DC Comics) licensed the rights to the character and bought them completely in 1991. There have also been trademark conflicts with Marvel Comics (for obvious reasons), resulting in at least one version of the character to be renamed “Shazam!”. But, let’s not get started on the retcons, reboots, and relaunches….

The Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel has the distinction of being “the first comic book superhero to be adapted into film, in a 1941 Republic Pictures serial, Adventures of Captain Marvel“. There was a brief radio serial in 1943. The character has been featured in a 1970s live action TV series and a 1980s animated TV series. There have been animated films, appearances on other animated series, and various video games. And, of course, 2019’s Shazam! live-action film (which I have yet to see) was a big hit. The “Big Red Cheese” was ranked as the 55th greatest comic book character of all time by Wizard; the 50th greatest comic book hero of all time by IGN; and UGO Networks ranked him as one of the top heroes of entertainment.

Detective Comics #27

(The) Batman (1939): 80 years

One of the most valuable and sought after comic books — well, by those with big bucks, anyway — is Detective Comics #27, the debut of the Batman! (Or, “Bat-Man”, as he was originally named.) Bruce Wayne’s alter ego got his own self-titled, regular series the following year, and creator Bob Kane (with Bill Finger) continued to refine the character. There have been a number of “interpretations” of the character over the decades — from the gun-wielding, pulp-style vigilante in those earliest years; to the more light-hearted, even campy version of the 1950s-60s; to the grim-n-gritty “Dark Knight” of the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond — and there have been a number of revamps and relaunches. But, through it all, the Caped Crusader’s popularity and iconic imagery continue to rival even that of his friend and colleague Superman.

There have been times when there were four regular Batman comics published each month, along with various related series, miniseries, and one-shots. Merchandising has produced untold numbers of Batman-themed clothes, toys, and collectibles. Over the decades, there have been Batman comic strips, books, radio dramas, a stage show, two movie serials (the second co-starring ‘Robin’), live-action TV series, animated TV series (including the multiple-Emmy Award-winning Batman: The Animated Series), live-action films (including a couple that won Academy Awards), animated films, and video games (including Batman: Arkham City (2011), which holds a Metacritic ranking of 94%). This doesn’t include guest appearances and co-starring roles in other shows, films, serials, comics, etc. And, of course, Batman continues to rank at or near the top of various superhero lists by Wizard, IGN, Entertainment Weekly, et al. (He is in my book, too!)

I’m sure some of you noticed a few names missing that I could have included in this list — e.g., Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) (1959), Teen Titans (1964), Guardians of the Galaxy (1st version) (1969), Alpha Flight (1979), TMNT (1984), Robin (Tim Drake) (1989). But, not only did I need to limit myself for time and space reasons, I also had to leave some “fresh” ones for when I do this list again in 2024, right? 🙂

L8r…

Fan-Cast: Joker

“I killed you! You’re dead! Dead! Dead! Well, just have to kill him again, that’s all. Kill the little birdie. Yes, yes. First things first, though. Things to do. Places to go. People to kill…” — Joker, upon seeing the new Robin for first time

Speaking of “things to do”, it’s about time I take a stab at fan-casting Batman’s rather “differently sane” archenemy, the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker. Dontchathink? Of course, I’m not sure there’s anyone out there that’s just “perfect” for the role, but… I do have a few talented gents for you to check out. I’ll get to them after we get in the mood with a little character review…

(The) Joker

Various tales have been told of the Joker’s origins, including his real name and how he became “the Joker” we all love to fear. But, no one really knows the truth, and Joker doesn’t appear to be sure himself. Was he a mild-mannered, wannabe stand-up comic? A low-rent hitman/enforcer? Leader of the “Red Hood” gang? Something entirely different? DC has apparently decided to keep it nebulous. But, a recurring piece of the story is that he somehow fell — did the neophyte Batman push him? — into a vat of mysterious chemicals that turned his skin white, hair green, and mind seriously addled. The unnatural (and near-constant) grin on his face may also be the result of the chemical bath and/or there may have been some knife-play involved.

Ever since then, Joker has become one of the most dangerous and infamous criminals in Gotham City. Over the years, he has operated solo or paired with Harley Quinn, run criminal gangs, and partnered with other supervillains (either to fight mobsters or superheroes). He has been known to rob banks, blackmail & extort, poison people en masse, blow stuff up, sell arms to terrorists, attempt genocide, commit various individual murders (either personally or via proxy), etc. (For a time, he was the Iranian Ambassador to the U.S., thereby giving him diplomatic immunity.) Many of his crimes are connected to his obsession with Batman and a desire to cause him pain, either by attacking innocents for no (other) reason or by hurting those Joker knows (or suspects) that Batman cares about. (For example, shooting Barbara Gordon and beating/killing Jason Todd.) He has been caught by Batman and his associates several times and sent to prison or (usually) Arkham Asylum, but he always ends up escaping, often with the help of one or more accomplice(s).

Joker may not look very formidable, and some of his rants might make one write him off as merely a loon. But, he actually possesses a brilliant mind, with training in chemistry and engineering. These skills have aided him in making poisons — his trademark being “Joker Venom”, which gives its victims a rictus grin (like his) before they laugh themselves to death — and bombs and other gadgetry (e.g., the lethally-charged “Joy Buzzer”). Despite (or perhaps because of) his madness, he has an indomitable will and an incredible resistance to pain and toxins. Surprisingly, he is also a moderately skilled hand-to-hand combatant; his speed, agility, and chaotic style have even allowed him to fend off Batman for awhile. He is also a master of disguise and an escapologist. Some have speculated that his seeming ability to frequently cheat death is the result of an altered physiology.

Joker’s personality is what you might call “complex”, though that would be an understatement. As would “unpredictable”. His insanity makes him quite mercurial at times, while at others he can, for example, go undercover (in disguise, of course) and play the roles for days on end. He finds murder, serious injury (even to himself), and just about any other sort of violence and disorder to be funny. This, combined with his capricious nature, makes it dangerous to be around him, even for his henchmen and other companions. He can be alternately cruel and sadistic one moment, then forgiving and tender (as with Harley Quinn). He may or may not kill someone just upon a whim. When he does, he may take joy in it or he might barely give it another thought. His immediate motives change all the time, but his primary goals are to cause chaos, wreak havoc, and to destroy Batman. In short, he is a homicidal maniac… with a few twists.

Almost all artistic renditions of the Joker show him to be a slender, even wiry, guy with a narrow-ish face — maybe an unusually long nose and chin, too. (Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in the 1989 movie is a notable departure.) DC’s wiki lists him at 6’5″, 192 lbs., though he doesn’t seem to always be drawn quite so tall. Various stories located at different points in the Bat-timeline would make Joker — who I’d say is roughly 10-20 years older than Batman — anywhere from his mid-30s to 50s. There are also the aforementioned bleached-white skin, green hair, ghastly grin, and an affinity for (often garishly colored) suits. Purple seems to be a favorite. Lest there be any doubt, yes, I want a classic look for my live-action Joker.

My preference would be to cast someone 40ish and over 6 feet tall, but I decided to open up the parameters a bit for this one. So, who did I consider but pass up? Some are familiar names, while others are lesser-known. The oldest ones were Willem Dafoe (5’9″,b.1955) and Hugo Weaving (6’2″,b.1960), both great actors who have played Marvel supervillains (Green Goblin and Red Skull, respectively), but I felt they were too old. Billy Baldwin (6’2″,b.1963) and Crispin Glover (5’10”,b.1964) are interesting choices and in their mid-50s, but ultimately I thought they were a tad too old and not quite right for the part. The next bunch, ranging from mid-40s to early-50s, included Vince Cassel (6’1.5″,b.1966) (suggested on a Will’s War video), Jack Plotnick (5’11”,b.1968), Jason Clarke (6’1″,b.1969), Matthew Lillard (6’4″,b.1970), and Adrien Brody (6’1″,b.1973) — all talented folks.

The last, youngest group of candidates that I liked but ended up ruling out of my finalists for various reasons were Shawn Reaves (?,b.1978), James Ransone (5’9″,b.1979), Jason Segel (6’4″,b.1980), Tom Hiddleston (6’2″,b.1981), Finn Wittrock (5’9″,b.1984), and Niko Nicotera (5’9″?,?). I still think those first two could be cool Jokers, but I had to limit myself. Now, from youngest to oldest, my Top 5 are…

Eddie Redmayne

Eddie Redmayne (6’0.5″,b.1982) has mostly done historical period pieces, including Black Death. He was also in Jupiter Ascending and was a voice-actor for Thomas & Friends: Sodor’s Legend of the Lost Treasure. But, genre fans will know him best from the Fantastic Beasts films. He has a slender build and an interesting face, somewhat reminiscent of Willem Dafoe’s, that might lend itself well to the Joker. (Clearly, he’s not afraid to make a statement with his choice of menswear, either.)

Gustaf Skarsgard

A member of the talented Skarsgård acting family, Gustaf Skarsgård (6’4″,b.1980) can be seen as a regular on “Vikings”. Prior to that, he was in many Scandinavian productions, including “Snapphanar”, the “Arn” movies and series, Iskariot, Kon-Tiki, The Wizard’s Daughter. He appeared in several episodes of “Westworld”, and he’ll be in the upcoming “Cursed” fantasy series based on Arthurian legend. From what I understand, his ‘Floki’ character from “Vikings” is a bit… off. If he can amp that up to full-blown, amoral psycho, he might make a great Joker! (He’ll need a green hairpiece, though.)

 

Blake Ritson

I only came across Blake Ritson (5’10”,b.1978) recently, when he played ‘Brainiac / Voice of Rao’ in the “Krypton” series. As it turns out, he has done a lot of video game voice work (e.g., Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Xenoblade Chronicles, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward). Ritson also appeared in “Red Cap”, RocknRolla, Dead Man Running, “Da Vinci’s Demons”, et al. He has the right build and a longish, tapered nose. I’d love to see him in Joker makeup!

Troy Baker and his alter ego

Troy Baker (6’3″,b.1976) is an uber-talented and popular voice actor, best known for voicing… the Joker. (Mark Hamill is slightly more popular for that particular character, though.) He has also done a ton of characters for video games and animated movies. Too many to list. The question is really whether or not he has the acting chops. He has, in fact, done a couple movies, including playing a whack-job in Striking Range. Plus, he’s done stage-acting and motion-capture for video games. I’m not the only one who thinks Baker should play the role in live-action. He knows the character and has the voice/mannerisms nailed down. He’d be awesome!

Bodhi Elfman

The first person I ever thought of for the ‘Joker’ role was Bodhi Elfman (5’9″,b.1969). He has the face/nose and even a smile that can go rather… maniacal. True, he’s on the short side and turns 50 this year, but as long as he’s relatively fit, I think he could turn out a terrific ‘Joker’ performance. He has played a homicidal killer at least once before, as recurring foe ‘Mr. Scratch’ on “Criminal Minds”. He was also in Mercury Rising, Godzilla (1998), Armageddon, Gone in 60 Seconds, “Freedom”, “Touch”, et al. (Incidentally, his co-star on “Touch” was the pre-teen David Mazouz, who now plays teenage ‘Bruce Wayne’ on “Gotham”.)

 

There ya go, ladies and gents. Have we found our live-action Joker? Lemmeknow…

P.S. I probably wouldn’t have chosen Joaquin Phoenix (5’8″,b.1974) for the part, but he is the one we’ll see next on screen in this year’s Joker movie. Phoenix is talented, though, so I’m curious how his and writer/director Todd Phillips’ version will turn out.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2019.

Artist Appreciation Day: Greg Horn

About 18 months ago, I did my first “Artist Appreciation Day” post on Alex Ross. I’m long overdue to post another, so I’m gonna squeeze one in before 2017 closes out, OK?

I can’t quite remember the first piece of Greg Horn’s that I saw, but it was very early on when he hit the “big time” doing covers for Marvel Comics. I think it was probably one of his Elektra covers (see below). His clean lines, rich colors, often intense expressions (on his characters, not him), and, of course, gorgeous women have all made him a fan-favorite cover artist for many years. He does work outside of comics, too, so you might recognize his trademark style in advertising, magazines, novels, board and video games, etc.

Here are a few (mostly comics-oriented) pieces that showcase Horn’s talent. (I kept it PG-rated.) Since he is probably most known for his Marvel work, I’ll start there…

Elektra

She-Hulk

Three Avengers

The Power (and Snarl) of Galactus

Skrull reveals from Secret Invasion

Spider-Man

Wolverine

Ms. Marvel

 

Here’s a fun “Movie Opener” he did for Wizard Magazine a few years ago…

 

Now for some DC love…

DC’s triumvirate

Bat w/ cape and ‘scrapers

Joker & Harley, everyone’s fave homicidal clowns

 

And a few miscellaneous…

Legolas for PSM

Ghost Wars for HIP

Lebron James for ESPN Gamezone

 

If you want to see more of Horn’s digital paintings, start with his website. (Fair warning, though: The design is terrible, and a few of the links don’t work.) Of course, you can also throw his name into your search engine and see what comes up.

In case I don’t put up a separate post, let me wish you a “Happy New Year!”, and I’ll see you all on the other side….

Goodbye, Ol’ Chum!

He wasn’t the first on-screen Batman, nor the richest, nor the muscley-est, nor many other things. But, Adam West was perhaps the “funnest” and certainly the most inspirational for my generation. Of course, his show was well into syndication by the time I was old enough to watch. But, campy as it was, it was a favorite of this young superhero/comics fan. From all accounts, he was a really nice guy and fun to work with, too.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the memories, Caped Crusader!

 

 

 

Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series, part 1 of 2

I think you will agree…

Sometimes, the music in a TV series can make a good series great or a great series even better. (Or, even a bad series tolerable.) This is especially true with the opening theme, which sets the mood for what the audience is about to watch. In fact, beyond the opening and closing credits, you might only ever notice any real music during transitional shots. But, those few times can make all the difference.

In this post and the next, I want to focus on the theme music from some of my favorite shows — from stuff already in syndication during my early childhood to new stuff currently airing. My first criterion was, of course, that the series had to fall under the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure banner that this blog is about. The theme couldn’t be taken from a movie (e.g., “The Highlander” series borrowed Queen’s “Princes of the Universe” from the original movie). And, the theme had to be — to my mind, at least — particularly catchy or otherwise memorable.

How many of these can you remember before playing the video clips? I have likely left out some of your favorites, but you’ll probably agree that these are among the best of genre theme songs. Moving in chronological order…

1) The Lone Ranger (1949-1957)

2) Peter Gunn (1958-1961)

3) Star Trek: TOS (1966-1969)

4) Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)

5) Batman (1966-1968)

6) Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980)

7) The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978)

8) Wonder Woman (1975-1979)

9) The Bionic Woman (1976-1978)

10) Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)

That was fun! Did I get to your faves, yet? I hear you humming something….

Stay tuned until next week, when we continue the nostalgia trip into the 1980s and beyond!

P.S.  Just for the record, #s 1 & 2 were before my time, and #s 3 thru 6 I only ever saw in re-runs. I’m not that old!

Bits-n-Pieces II

To be honest, I wasn’t able to focus on a regular post this week. So, as I’ve done on a couple past occasions, I’m going to make relatively brief comments on a handful of recent genre announcements & developments….

Small Screen

star-trek-discovery-1920Item #1: A few things have developed re the upcoming ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ series since I last blogged about it in August, but even then I didn’t comment on everything we knew. For example, producer Bryan Fuller had said that the show’s primary protagonist will be a female Lt. Commander (a la Majel Barrett’s “Number One” in the original TOS pilot). There will be more “diversity” in the ship’s crew, particularly in terms of one or more LGBT characters. I’m not thrilled about this, though I’m not surprised for a number of reasons — e.g., the “progressive” nature of the franchise, Hollywood’s push for LGBT characters, Fuller is a part of that community, etc. He also indicated that they will push the Star Trek boundaries by possibly having a bit of nudity and more profanity. I’m not thrilled with this, either. I guess they can get away with it, since it won’t be on network TV; but, it also flies in the face of one “rule” Paramount/CBS has always had about keeping all Star Trek productions — including fan-made — “family friendly”. If they do proceed with this, I hope it is quite limited. Fortunately, Fuller did say,

“Star Trek’s not necessarily a universe where I want to hear a lot of profanity, either.”

In September, it was announced that STDisc’s debut was being pushed from January to May 2017. I had mixed feelings about this, but I’m not mad; if they need the extra time to make a great show, they should take it. Then Variety broke the story that Fuller had stepped down as showrunner, due to scheduling conflicts. Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts (and Alex Kurtzman?) stepped up as co-showrunners, while Fuller remained as executive producer. This caused a lot of hubbub re the show’s direction, but Fuller remains the chief architect.

“Fuller has penned the first two scripts for “Discovery” and has hammered out the broader story arc and mythology for the new “Trek” realm.” — Variety

Given his intentions, I obviously have mixed feelings about this. (I like his idea of making it less episodic and having a multi-episode story arc, and I’m intrigued with the concept of making the ship’s captain merely a supporting player.) It was also indicated that Romulans may be the primary villains in the series, and that would seem to work for the era in which it will be taking place (i.e., 10 years prior to ST:TOS).

Item #2: Just a couple days ago, Marvel announced that it is teaming up with Disney|ABC Television Group and IMAX to develop a “Marvel’s The Inhumans” TV series. It will actually debut the first two episodes in IMAX theaters in September 2017. (That’s fast!) Not only is IMAX co-financing the project, but the IMAX cameras/tech will provide enhanced imagery and visual effects. Cool! Oh,… after the debut in theaters, the full 8 episodes will show on ABC starting in the Fall, “with additional exclusive content that can only be seen on the network.” Very cool!

1173129-inhumansThis show will not be connected to “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (This likely also means there will not be an Inhumans movie connected to the MCU.) So, the “inhuman” characters we have seen in the S.H.I.E.L.D. series will not be involved in this one. In fact, the new show will be centered on the Inhumans’ Royal Family that fans know from the comics and animated series (see pic).

I was always a fan of the Inhumans, with their unique society and ties to the Fantastic Four and X-Men (and the Kree race, of course). I look forward to seeing the city of Attilan and its odd denizens. If they do this right, I will be a very happy camper! (I feel a multi-part fan-casting coming on….)

Item #3: Another very recent announcement came from HBO — namely, there are official talks with author/creator George R.R. Martin about a “Game of Thrones” prequel show to follow the fan-favorite series. No details, as yet. As per HBO programming president Casey Bloys,

“[I]t’s still kind of preliminary ongoing talks. There are [time periods within GoT history] we are exploring, but I wouldn’t point to any one and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’”

Big Screen

Item #4: OK, part of this has been known for a few months, but stick with me…. For quite awhile, there was some question about whether or not we would see a new Batman solo movie or a proper sequel to Man of Steel. Now, the answer to both is “Yes!” Actually, it was back in Spring of this year (2016) that we found out Ben Affleck would be co-writing (with DC Entertainment CCO Geoff Johns) and starring in a Batman solo movie. Affleck was determined to complete a script he was happy with before he would begin filming. He also said he wanted to create an original story, borrowing familiar things from the comics, and that he wants to showcase Batman’s detective skills. (Amen to that!)

In the Summer it was confirmed that Affleck would be directing, and the tentative title is “The Batman”. More recently, Joe Manganiello signed on to play Deathstroke — presumably the main villain. The film is currently scheduled for release in Oct. 2018.

As for the Man of Steel 2, in August 2015 we got conflicting reports that George Miller would be directing and that the film was on “permanent hold”. But, a year later TheWrap announced that a Man of Steel sequel was finally in active development at Warner Bros. and “a top priority for the studio”. Henry Cavill’s agent, Dany Garcia, confirmed this in an interview with Newsweek in September, saying:

“[Cavill and I have] been in a five-month period of time where he’s re-strategizing, acquiring property [for his production company Promethean], he’s filming [Justice League] now, he’s in development for the Superman standalone… he’s beginning to expand that world.”

Man of Steel 2 likely won’t arrive in theaters until late 2019.

I have to say, I am psyched for both of these. Yes, I know: “It’s Batfleck!”… “Man of Steel and DvJ were too dark!”… “They changed too much stuff.”… yada, yada. I have already explained in previous posts that I share some of these concerns and also why I’m OK with other aspects. My hope is that the respective creative teams will respect the fans’ input and address those “problems” in the new films. For example, I am fine with a darker, more violent and cynical Batman at this stage in his career. But, I want the Superman film to have a more positive, brighter tone, both visually and thematically speaking.

negasonic-teenage-warhead-ego-the-living-planetItem #5: Only a couple days ago, it was reported that Marvel and Fox had worked out a “backroom deal” to trade characters. Well, not “trade” exactly, and this actually happened a couple years ago….

You may or may not remember — I always get this stuff confused — that 20th Century Fox owns the cinematic rights to all things X-Men related (including Deadpool), among other things, while Marvel Studios owns the cinematic rights to Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers. While developing Deadpool, the writers decided they really wanted the Negasonic Teenage Warhead character — or, at least, a differently-powered character with that name — but Marvel owned it. Marvel agreed to it but on the condition that they get to use Ego, the Living Planet, (owned by Fox) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Thus, the deal was struck.

This is big, because it shows that these two studios, who don’t always get along, can negotiate agreements to trade/loan characters to each other. All it takes is a mutually beneficial trade, and (hopefully) everybody — including the fans — wins. I hope this is a sign of things to come, so that other beloved characters can show up cross-studios, as it were.

Item #6: Finally, speaking of Deadpool… You probably already know that a sequel is already in pre-production and scheduled for a March 2, 2018, release. (Of course, first they need to replace the now-departed director, Tim Miller.) It is rumored to co-star Rich Sands as Nathan Summers / Cable. But, the studio is so confident in the franchise that it has already greenlit Deadpool 3. This one is rumored to include some version of the mutant team known as X-Force. (No idea what this means for Jeff Wadlow’s planned X-Force movie. Could be a jumping off point, I suppose.) Could be great news for Deadpool and X-Force fans!

Fin.

Notes on *Batman v Superman*

rsz_batman-v-superman-minYep, I finally watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Never got a chance to at the theaters.) In fact, I saw the 3-hour, Ultimate Edition. I’m not sure what parts were added that were not in the theatrical release, but I do remember reading that a couple extra scenes helped make certain things clearer to audiences who saw both. In any case, I figured I’d make some notes of a few of my thoughts, observations, and wishes — no in-depth analysis — and share them with you. Maybe you’ll agree with me, maybe you’ll think I’m too picky or not nearly critical enough. (Let me know in the comments.)

I think I’ll start with the villains, for a change….

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

Main Characters

Luthor: I was *very* disappointed. I hated him. Not like “He was such a great villain! I love to hate him!” More like, “What the *#%@! did they do to Lex Luthor?!” The Luthor I expect and want to see is an impeccably-dressed, arrogant businessman/scientist with megalomaniacal tendencies, exhibiting a cool malevolence punctuated by occasional fits of rage at “the alien”! What we got was a faux-slacker/manchild — clearly amoral, slightly nutty, and a bit stuck on himself — who’s trying to outdo Daddy’s legacy. (At least, they finally shaved his head.) Then there are those wild rantings at the very end. It’s like they wanted him to be part-Joker. Pitiful.

Doomsday: This version of Doomsday is more typical of film adaptations — part original concept from the comics, part “new ideas” that some writer thought would make it better. Well, it was OK, and I even understand why they tweaked his origins. But,… for one thing, he was too dang big — like 15 feet tall or more. (DC wiki has the original at 8’10”.) And, his head/face looked like, well, some have compared it to a turtle (TMNT?) or a cave troll (LOTR). Then there was the lack of boney protuberances (at least, at first) and the new, weird powers (e.g., energy absorption, electrokinesis, heat blasts). Just not necessary. I would have preferred something closer to the juggernaut bonehead from the comics — a cross between the Hulk and a T-800 Terminator, going on a rampage through downtown Metropolis. Sigh! C’est la guerre!

Batman: Despite previous misgivings, I thought Affleck did a decent job as 40-something Wayne/Batman. Not perfect, no, but good enough that I look forward to a Batman solo flick, possibly as early as Nov. 2018. He looked pretty beefed up, though he could use a little more mass and definition. I seem to recall some people complaining that this Batman was too violent, especially using guns (on his vehicles). But, I have no problem with that, especially given the frustrated, angry, and jaded mindset of the character at this point in his career. (Strangely reflected in relatively new hero, Superman, btw.) His hand-to-hand combat scenes were exactly as I thought they should be, with a brutality comparable to those in Netflix’s “Daredevil” series. On the other hand, a few more “graceful” martial arts moves would be nice to see. (See “More Bat-stuff” below.)

Superman: Cavill’s acting was fine, but I’m torn about the way Kent/Supes was written. I’m not saying he isn’t a complex guy. But, there’s too much personal angst for my taste. I know I’m not the only one complaining about DC’s current handling of their flagship character, so I hope they inject more joy and humor in subsequent films. (Once he resurrects/recovers, that is.)

luthor-doomsday-how-did-he-do-itWhat was the deal with Clark talking with “Jonathan” up on that mountain? Are we supposed to assume he was hallucinating due to thin air? (Not likely, since he operates just fine flying at high speeds and/or at high altitudes.) There was also the (typical) inconsistency with the kryptonite. For example, Superman couldn’t even get the spear to the surface of the water before he passed out, yet a couple minutes later (and after being separated from it for less than that), he picked it up, flew straight at Doomsday, impaling him, and had enough strength to keep it there. I realize he was supposed to be extremely determined, desperate, perhaps on a bit of adrenaline, etc., but….

Wonder Woman: This character was, I have to say, a delightful surprise. As the mysterious Diana Prince (about whom nothing is told), she is not just an exotic beauty but a strong, confident, independent woman. Just as she should be. As the Amazon warrior who shows up for the ending battle, she was AWESOME! (Superman and Batman obviously would have lost without her.) I was already looking forward to her WWI-era solo movie in 2017, but now I am *highly* anticipating it! (Note: I didn’t even mind that her costume wasn’t very colorful, but I think the blues and reds will be more vivid in her own movie, which might be considered a prequel to this one.)

Alfred: I was willing to keep an open mind re Jeremy Irons as Alfred. I will say that his acting was terrific, as expected. But, the character just… wasn’t… Alfred. Sure, there was occasion where he did or said what Alfred might have. But, most of the time, he neither looked nor acted like the Alfred we know & love from the comics. (Of course, neither does the one in “Gotham”.) While I do appreciate it when Alfred occasionally speaks up, when he thinks his employer needs a piece of his mind, I didn’t feel that this version of Alfred exhibited the appropriate deference to “Master Bruce”. Nor did he do much butlering or acting as chauffeur/manservant.

Lois Lane: Hmmm, what to say about (this) Lois…? She’s a plucky, feisty, stubborn, brave-yet-vulnerable, investigative journalist. And yet… she doesn’t feel right to me. It’s not just the fact that they’ve kept Adams’ red hair instead of going with Lois’ traditional brunette locks. (Though, no surprise, that does bug me.) I can’t quite put my finger on it, but she hasn’t quite captured the essence of the character… or something. Actually, I blame the writers at least as much as the actress. Still, I guess she’s better than Kate Bosworth’s version (2006). I do like the fact that they established Clark and Lois as a serious couple, though, and their mutual love and concern are evident.

Misc. supporting cast: It was good to get some continuity with the Perry White and Jenny characters at the Daily Planet, as well as Gen. Swanwick and Maj. Farris from the Army. However, I much prefer Perry when he is less hard-nosed and more of a friend to Clark and Lois. (Maybe he’ll mellow come sequel-time?) Not sure what to think of Jenna Malone’s “Jenet Klyburn”. (Totally new character? Stand-in for Oracle?) There wasn’t much to her. Scoot McNairy and Holly Hunter as Wallace Keefe and Sen. Finch, respectively, seemed to have promise, but there just wasn’t enough to flesh them out prior to their demise. (And why the heck was Finch stammering so much at the end, there?) As for Martha Kent, I wanted to like her, but some of the things she said seemed rather out of character from how she has been portrayed elsewhere. (Plus, she hardly looks old enough to be Clark’s mother.) Just sayin’…

Other

batman-v-superman-dc-trinity-wonder-womanPlot: I’m not going to analyze the plot much. It was OK but, as usual, had its problems. I already mentioned the dark tone, though that can work when done well. I am unclear about if Bruce’s post-apocalyptic dream is supposed to be prophetic, and I’m not sure if the Flash thing was a dream or an actual encounter. (Nor did I understand everything Flash said, so that’s frustrating.) Maybe things will become clearer in the Justice League movies? I did, however, enjoy the revelation of Luthor’s intel re the other metas. Cameos by Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman were great, too!

I just don’t understand why Superman was so lax about his public reputation. I’m sure he noticed the mercs at the guerrilla camp in Nairomi, and he could easily have mentioned their presence just prior to his arrival. Was he apathetic, ignorant (which would be difficult for a reporter/globe-spanning adventurer), or just naive?

I had been under the impression from some early reports that Luthor would try to enlist Wayne’s help in turning the public against Superman. But, I don’t remember that happening in the movie. At least, there weren’t any such meetings at one or the other’s home or office. (I presume, however, that the mysterious messages sent to Wayne, which turned out to be from Luthor, were an attempt to rile him up against Supes.) On the contrary, Luthor ended up coercing Superman to eliminate his Batman “problem”. (Though, as we know, things didn’t go quite as Luthor planned.)

Btw, I thought the action scenes were pretty darn good overall! I already mentioned Batman’s fights against criminals. As expected, he held his own against an overly self-assured Superman, and he later managed to stay alive long enough to maneuver Doomsday to where WW could “capture” him with her lasso. (I hope Superman learns some battle tactics from his two new friends.) Again, I was rather impressed with Wonder Woman. That whole final battle was a lot of fun!

Music: The music was the usual “heroic”, orchestral stuff. I guess. I really didn’t take note of much of it, except… The more edgy stuff that played during the battle with Doomsday was terrific, in that I thought it somehow enhanced the heroic mood of the battle. Great choice!

More Bat-stuff: I thought the Batwing looked great. Having Alfred operate it remotely was a nice touch, too. As for the Batmobile, I understand the “urban warfare” rationale for its look in this movie and the Nolan/Bale trilogy. Still, I hope Batfleck opts for a sleeker version in the next film. I would also like to see him renovate and move back into Wayne Manor. The lakeside place is nice, but it just doesn’t feel right. (I mean, how does Alfred keep busy w/o dusting and puttering around the mansion? 😉 ) Also, I liked the “normal” costume, but the armored version was pretty good, too, and fairly true to the Frank Miller-inspired original. I hope the solo film has a few more gadgets from the trusty utility-belt.

F/X: Looked great to me!

Final Judgment

There was a lot of good stuff in this movie (e.g., Batman, Wonder Woman, battle music), but there was a good bit of disappointing and smh/facepalm stuff (e.g., Luthor, Doomsday, confusing “visions”, moody/apathetic Superman), too. It just didn’t live up to the hype, let alone the hopes and expectations of loyal, long-time fans. I’d like to give it a ‘B’ for effort alone, but a ‘B-‘ is probably being generous.

Recasting in “Gotham”

“It wasn’t Hell; only fools and drama queens throw that word around about a place like Gotham. It was worse, in a way, because it was manmade. There wasn’t any timeless malevolence behind it all, it was just… what human beings can descend to when they let themselves forget they can be heroes.”  — Chris Dee, Cattitude

With “Gotham” scheduled to return on Sep. 19, 2016, we are getting a few details about the upcoming season. Possibly one of the most significant is the re-casting of the “Ivy” character.

I never did understand why they named the character “Ivy Pepper”, when the comic version is “Pamela Isley”. This assumes, of course, that Miss Pepper is the TV version of the girl who becomes supervillain “Poison Ivy”. The strong affinity for plant-life and horticulture has already been established, and, although she has only appeared a handful of times, everything points to her eventual evolution into the unpredictable, ecologically-minded, leafy-garbed, redheaded Bat-villain we are familiar with from the comics. On the other hand, the “Gotham” versions of characters often go in quite different directions from their comic book counterparts.

Maggie Geha as "Ivy"

Maggie Geha as “Ivy”

But, now we have learned that the 14-year-old Clare Foley has been replaced by the 28-year-old Maggie Geha. (Great casting, btw!) Apparently, “Ivy” is set to be artificially aged — well, her body, anyway, ‘cuz you can’t implant life experiences or emotional maturation — to look like she is in her late teens to early twenties. While the character didn’t have a large role in previous seasons, I hope she gets a little more to do in Season 3. It would be nice to see the character fleshed out a bit more. (Hah, that was punny!) But, I also hope they are able to keep continuity with the way Ivy acted before, as well as give a believable portrayal of a slightly-odd, orphaned, 14-year-old girl dealing psychologically and physically with her sudden transformation into a beautiful adult woman. That will take just the right combination of writing, directing, and (obviously) acting. Here’s hopin’….

Some fans have also begun to wonder about the “Bruce Wayne” character. When considering the future of the show, is 15-year-old David Mazouz able to continue portraying the young man who will become the Batman? As Moviepilot’s Kerry Cepero noted,

“To become Batman, there needs to be a physical change as well. David looks so young and is built the same way, and eventually he will have to start looking like a young man able to bear the mantle of the bat. Which begs the question: Can he do it? Will it happen in an acceptable television timeline for the show?”

If they intend to have Bruce evolve into the Batman on the show, there are a few ways to go about this.

1) They could keep Mazouz on in the character and hope he grows into it. An intensive workout routine and appropriate diet would be in order, though, to get the slender Mazouz in shape. (Problem: He may not get any taller than his current 5’7″.) This, of course, assumes that the series will remain on the air long enough for this to be an issue.

2) They could recast the part beginning with Season 4, which would have a roughly 16-year-old Bruce beginning his physical training in earnest and perhaps toying with ideas about how he might influence the city for the better — both via Wayne Industries and through some more… personal, extracurricular activities. The new actor shouldn’t be too buff to start but should have the right look nonetheless. He could be in his 20s, too. (Cepero suggests Tyler Posey from “Teen Wolf”. I’m not familiar with him, but he looks like a good choice.)

3) Beginning with Season 4 or 5, they could time-jump the series by 5 or 10 years. This would give them the opportunity to cast an older “Bruce” who has gone through much or all of his advanced training and education. He could then begin his Bat-exploits. It would probably also mean re-casting Selina (who is about the same age as Bruce), and I would hate to see young Camren Bicondova go. In some ways, it would be like starting a new series, since many people and things in Gotham City would have changed in the intervening years. This could be good or bad.

Gotham-TitlePersonally, I’m not a huge fan of David Mazouz. He’s done an OK job, I guess. But, I never felt he was a good casting choice, either in appearance or demeanor. That said, I don’t think he should be recast for two reasons. First, if they are at all faithful to the source material in regards to Bruce’s general education and extensive, specialized training, most of it happens over a roughly 10 year period — spanning from his mid- to late-teens to his mid- to late-20s — and not in Gotham City. He essentially becomes a world traveler, which would not work for this show.

Second, the series is not “Young Batman”, it’s “Gotham”. The emphasis has been and should remain not just on Bruce (and Alfred) but on the cops, criminals, future villains, and others that live in the city of Gotham. It is the early evolution of the city that will become so twisted as to require a Dark Knight to emerge to protect it from itself. Introducing a nascent Batman would take away the focus. (However, I think I have mentioned before that I would have preferred a series that followed young Bruce through his training, as he mastered various skills and learned life-lessons. Perhaps a sequel to “Gotham” should be pursued…?)

So, in the end, I don’t think “Bruce Wayne” should ever become the Batman on the “Gotham” series, and Mazouz should stay on for however long the series lasts, which probably won’t be more than another couple seasons.