Superman and the Question of Diversity

As many of you probably remember from news reports last week, Henry Cavill was supposedly out as Superman — i.e., would not be playing ‘The Big Blue Boy Scout’ in the DCEU anymore. This stemmed from an initial report from The Hollywood Reporter, and several other publications took their cue from THR. The reasons given for the decision ranged from Warner Brothers wanting to focus on the new, big-screen Supergirl… to possible conflicts with Cavill’s leading role in Netflix’s “The Witcher”… to contract disputes and power plays, etc. Thus, the original focus of this week’s post was going to be my thoughts on what a big mistake this was, how they could still improve the franchise, etc.

However, it appears that THR jumped the gun on this report, though perhaps they could be forgiven, since it may be that either WB or Cavill’s reps “leaked” the rumor as a negotiation ploy. (For what it’s worth, TMZ called it “an invented conflict.”) Regardless, it wasn’t long before Dany Garcia — Cavill’s manager and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s business partner and ex-wife — tweeted that “the cape is still in his closet.” Warner Bros. followed with their own statement:

“While no decisions have been made regarding any upcoming Superman films, we’ve always had great respect for and a great relationship with Henry Cavill, and that remains unchanged.”

So,… no guarantees re future Superman films (or other appearances) at this time, but Cavill’s not out, yet. I haven’t seen any updates to this so far, which tells me that negotiations are still ongoing. We shall see….

When all this was still up in the air and we thought Cavill had most likely been given the boot already, there were rumors and speculations about who might be on deck to take his place. There were some rather unusual suggestions, I have to say. Remember how some people were pushing for an Asian actor to star in Netflix’s “Iron Fist”, or how many are calling for Idris Elba to be the next James Bond? Well, now there are suggestions of Black (Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba), Asian (Henry Golding), and Latino (Oscar Isaac) replacements for Superman, among others. Sigh! All fine actors, but c’mon! Should we have a Black Tarzan next? (No, that wouldn’t work, ‘cuz his being white was part of what made the character an outsider in Africa. Besides, that whole “Ape Man” thing would be seen as racist….) Or, how about an Asian Sherlock Holmes? Would that make sense, especially given the era and locales in which the character operated? (Less of an issue for a modern-day take, I suppose. Still…)

Maybe it just doesn’t matter when the icon in question is White. But, remember the accusations of “whitewashing” when Scarlett Johansson was cast as the lead in the live adaptation of Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell? (Of course, the original comic was ambiguous re her ethnicity and showed the ‘ghost’ in various shells. But, it was generally assumed that she was Japanese, and the live film confirmed this, despite her being played by a Caucasian woman.) Or, what about the similar outcry when the upcoming Hellboy reboot originally cast Ed Skrein as the Daimio character, who is clearly Asian in the comic? (Note: Skrein bowed out, and Daniel Dae Kim was given the role.) Now, these aren’t exactly “iconic” characters, but the point is that fans generally prefer that a character’s race/ethnicity be retained when the source material is adapted.

If someone does a remake of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon but casts a White or Latino in the lead, do you think there would be outrage? You betcha! Or, what about a Native American actor as the central character for a Shaft reboot? (I mean, you could even have a lame bow-and-arrow joke about the name “Shaft”.) Yeah, I don’t think that would go over so well in the ‘hood or, you know, with anyone who understands anything about the character. Can you imagine if Marvel had cast a non-Black actor to star as Black Panther?!

My response to this “out-of-the-box creative thinking” to make Superman anything other than a White, heterosexual male? Seriously, just stop it. This forced “diversity” — because Whites have too many cool heroes, or non-Whites can’t relate, or something — is incredibly annoying and just stupid. And don’t cry “racist!” if anyone dares to object, ‘cuz that just won’t fly. This isn’t about race so much as it is staying true to the characters as written, especially when there are many years of canon behind them and most especially when there are specific things about them being a certain race or ethnicity that are integral to the character.

Now, I’m all for heroes (and villains) of various races/ethnicities, as long as they are created as such, well-conceived, and beyond silly stereotypes. Also, as far as Superman goes, I actually like the idea of non-White versions in alternate universes / parallel dimensions. In fact, we’ve seen them in the comics. I would love to see a well-written film plot wherein “our” Superman meets up with a non-White doppelganger, perhaps joining forces to battle a threat to both realities. But, the “primary” Superman should remain Caucasian in appearance. I see no good reason to change the race of a decades-old icon just because… “diversity”.

When Cavill does get replaced as Superman, I truly hope that non-PC, common sense prevails and they are able to re-cast with someone of similar … yes, “iconic” … appearance.

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…And, Man, Are My Arms Tired!

I have been out of town for the past week on vacation, and I just flew back yesterday afternoon. So, I haven’t had much time to research/write a normal, weekly post. That said, I wanted to stay (almost) on schedule and managed to put together a short one.

“When Ethan Hunt Said ‘No’ to Superman”

As you may know, Henry Cavill plays a CIA agent in the hours-from-being-released Mission: Impossible – Fallout. There is a scene in which his character (‘August Walker’) and Tom Cruise’s (‘Ethan Hunt’) HALO jump out of a C-17 military transport plane. As Cruise and anyone he works with will remind us, he is highly-trained — hundreds of hours of his own time learning various skills — and does as many of his own stunts as he can. (Still, production on the film was delayed after Cruise broke his ankle jumping between buildings.) So, of course, he jumped out of the plane.

Cavill thought his training for this and other roles was sufficient to do the same, but star/producer Cruise put the kibosh on that idea.

“The day came and I was begging Tom: ‘I’m wearing a parachute, I’ve got some wind tunnel (training), surely I can just jump?’ And he said, ‘Henry, I know exactly how you feel. I get it, you’ve done every single stunt in the movie so far, but this one I can’t let you do. It needs specific training.'”

When he realized how dangerous and complex the stunt was, Cavill relented: “I was like ‘OK, fine, I’ll sit this one out, Mr. Cruise,'” he laughed.

Cavill has said for years that he would love to play another superspy, James Bond, a role he was actually considered for a few years back. Meantime, he has played Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., though that version of the character was actually a high-end thief who gets betrayed by a woman and blackmailed into working for the C.I.A. But, Cavill still has his eye on the Bond role. When asked (on “The Rich Eisen Show”) about the possibility of him succeeding Daniel Craig after his final Bond film (currently just “Bond 25” (2019)), Cavill said,

“That would be a lot of fun! We’ll see. I mean, if the opportunity comes my way, then I will definitely jump at it. But,… that’s up to them [i.e., probably producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson], not to me.”

I didn’t include Cavill in my fan-casting for 007, but I agree, he’d make a great one!

Superpowers and the Second Amendment

Once again, this week I’d like to look at some material from the book The Law of Superheroes by lawyers James Daily and Ryan Davidson. We have already examined some Fifth Amendment issues and some Eighth Amendment issues in the world(s) of comics. Next up, it only makes sense to address where the Second Amendment might have something to say about the use of superpowers….

Although some superheroes and villains have powers that are harmless or at least not directly harmful to others (e.g., invulnerability, superintelligence), many have abilities that have no or only limited uses apart from harm (e.g., Superman’s heat vision, Havok’s plasma blasts). Although the government may be limited in its ability to discriminate on the basis of mutant status or innate superpowers, could the federal government or the states regulate superpowers as weapons without running afoul of the Second Amendment?

The Supreme Court has relatively recently addressed the Second Amendment in two cases: DC v. Heller*1* and McDonald v. City of Chicago.*2* The first case dealt with the District of Columbia’s ability to regulate firearms, and (broadly speaking) the second case applied the same limits to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment. In particular, Heller held that the District of Columbia’s ban on possession of usable handguns in the home violated the Second Amendment. From those decisions we can get a sense of how a comic book universe court might address the issue of superpowers as arms.

The Scope of the Second Amendment

First, let us begin with the text of the amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”*3* This is a notoriously difficult sentence to interpret, but here is how the Court defined the individual terms.

“[T]he people” refers to people individually, not collectively, and not only to the subset of the people that could be a part of the militia.*4* “Arms” refers broadly to “weapons of offence, or armour of defence” and “any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another,” and it is not limited to weapons in existence in the eighteenth century.*5* Interestingly, this suggests that defensive powers may also be protected by the Second Amendment, but for the sake of brevity we will only consider offensive powers as those are the kind most likely to be regulated.

“To keep and bear arms” means “to have weapons” and to “wear, bear, or carry… upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose… of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.”*6* Taken together, the Second Amendment guarantees “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” but the right does not extend to any and all confrontations — there are limits.*7*

The Court first addressed limitations established by past precedents: “the Second Amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms (though only arms that ‘have some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulate militia’).”*8* Further, “the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.”*9*

Beyond that, there are lawful limits on concealed weapons as well as “prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”*10* Perhaps most importantly for our purposes, there is a valid, historical limitation on “dangerous and unusual weapons.”*11*

With the scope of the right established, let us now turn to whether the government could regulate superpowers under the Second Amendment.

Regulating Superpowers as Weapons

We may start with the presumption that a superpower may be possessed and used for lawful purposes such as self-defense. The question is whether a given power fits into any of the exceptions that limit the Second Amendment right.

The Human Torch

“Concealed Weapons”
First, many superpowers could be considered “concealed weapons.” Before the Human Torch shouts “flame on!” and activates his power, he appears to be an ordinary person. Could the government require a kind of Scarlet Letter to identify those with concealed superpowers? The answer is a qualified yes. The Constitution would not tolerate requiring innately superpowered individuals to identify themselves continuously. That would seem to violate the constitutional right to privacy and the limited right to anonymity. Furthermore, simply keeping concealed weapons is allowed (e.g., a hidden gun safe in a home). The real objection is to concealed weapons borne on the person in public.

Thus, the calculus changes when a superhero sets out to bear his or her powers against others in public (e.g., goes out to fight crime). Luckily, many superheroes already identify themselves with costumes or visible displays of power (e.g., Superman, the Human Torch). Beyond that, most states offer concealed carry permits to the public, usually after a thorough background check and safety & marksmanship training. It may well be that the Constitution requires that if a state will grant a concealed carry permit for a firearm then it must do the same for an otherwise lawful superpower.

“Typically Possessed by Law-Abiding Citizens for Lawful Purposes”
Whether this limitation encompasses a given superpower may depend on the number of superpowered individuals in a given universe and the balance of lawful superheroes to unlawful supervillains. If superpowered individuals are relatively common, which seems to be the case in the Marvel Universe, for example, and superpowered individuals are generally law-abiding and use their powers for lawful purposes, then superpowers would seem to be protected by the Second Amendment. If, on the other hand, superpowers are very unusual or if they are typically used unlawfully, then the government may be able to regulate such powers more extensively.

In most comic book universes powers are both relatively common and normally used for good, suggesting that they do not fall under this exception. However, if certain kinds of powers are more commonly associated with law breaking, then perhaps those powers in particular may be regulated, though in our experience powers of all kinds seem evenly distributed between heroes and villains.

“Dangerous and Unusual Weapons”
Here we come to the catchall. Superpowers are certainly unusual in an historical sense,*12* and they are unusual in the sense that in most comic book universes superpowered individuals are a minority. But perhaps it is the nature of the power that counts. If a superpowered individual is approximately as powerful as a normal individual with a handgun (though perhaps one with unlimited ammunition), is that really so unusual?

Wherever the line is drawn, it seems clear that at least some superpowers would qualify as dangerous or unusual weapons (e.g., Cyclops’s optic blasts, Havok’s plasma blasts). These are well beyond the power of weapons allowed even by permit, and their nature is unlike any weapon typically owned by individuals or even the police and military.

Havok vs. Cyclops

The Nature and Scope of Regulation

Given that some powers are likely to fall outside the protection of the Second Amendment, how could the government regulate them? We’ve already discussed the issue of concealed powers, but what about powers that fall into the other two exceptions?

The government would take a page from the way it regulates mundane firearms. First, all possessors of potentially harmful powers could be subject to a background check if they did not have the powers from birth. If they failed the background check, they could be forbidden to use the power (although use in self-defense might still be allowed by the Constitution). A registration scheme would be likely, subject to the limits discussed in reference to the Keene Act.

Second, exceptional powers could be subject to a permitting system including more thorough background checks and training requirements. Some powers could be expressly prohibited outside police or military use.

Third, superpowered individuals who have committed crimes — with or without using their powers — may be forbidden from using them or even be required to have their powers deactivated, if possible, in keeping with the Eighth Amendment issues discussed earlier. Following the decision in United States v. Comstock*13* it may even be permissible to indefinitely detain a superpowered criminal after his or her prison sentence was completed if it was not otherwise possible to prevent future criminal acts.

What about uncontrolled powers, for which merely forbidding the use isn’t enough? This probably falls outside the scope of the Second Amendment and is closer to the law of involuntary commitment. If a superpowered individual is a danger to himself or others, then he could be required to undergo de-powering treatment or be incarcerated for the individual’s protection and the protection of society.

There may be an alternative to incarceration or de-powering. In the real world, specialized drug courts offer treatment and rehabilitation rather than punishment for nonviolent offenders. “Super courts” could work with institutions like the Xavier Institute, which aims to teach mutants to control their powers and use them safely.

Thus, the Supreme Court’s current view of the Second Amendment, though politically contentious, would give superpowered individuals significant protection to keep and use their powers largely free from government regulation or interference, with some important limitations.


*1* 554 U.S. 570 (2008)

*2* 561 U.S. 3025, 130 S. Ct. 3020 (2010).

*3* U.S. Const., amend. II.

*4* Heller, 554 U.S. at 581.

*5* Id. at 582.

*6* Id. at 584 (quoting Muscarello v. United States, 524 U.S. 125 (1998) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting)).

*7* Id. at 591-96.

*8* Id. at 595 (quoting United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 178 (1939).

*9* Id. at 625.

*10* Id. at 627.

*11* Id.

*12* Not counting the Marvel Earth-311 continuity, in which superpowers appeared in the Elizabethan era. Neal Gaiman, Marvel: 1602 (2006).

*13* 560 U.S. (2010), 130 S. Ct. 1949.

There ya go! I feel a little better about using my superpowers in public, now. 🙂

P.S. As much as I’d love to discuss Second Amendment rights in general, I strive to keep real-world, political controversy out of this blog for the most part. So, if you comment below, please keep this in mind. Thanks!

Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2018, part 3 of 3

“What folly is it in me to write trash nobody will read. All my many pages — future waste of paper — surely I am a fool.” — Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, in her journal (1825)

Final installment, this week, for the list I began a couple months ago. Unforunately, we missed a couple great anniversaries last year — namely, Bram Stoker’s original Dracula (1897) and the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes in print (1887). However, we still have some oldies to celebrate. First off, though…

Superman (1938, 1978): 80 & 40 years

It is difficult to overstate the popularity and impact that the superpowered hero known as ‘Superman’, created by high-schoolers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, has had since his debut in Action Comics #1 back in May (cover-dated June) 1938. Tales of the Kryptonian, Kal-El, and his alter-ego on Earth, farmboy/journalist Clark Kent, have abounded for 80 years. Comic books & strips, novels, radio, TV (live-action and animated), movies, video games, even a Broadway musical, and tons of related merchandise — the character, along with his allies/colleagues and enemies, has become one of the biggest pop-culture icons in the world. He ranks first on IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Heroes; he was named the ‘greatest comic book character’ by Empire magazine; and various Superman works and/or their creators have received numerous industry awards. The character, his popularity, and his symbolism (American, messianic, etc.) have been analyzed by everyone from literary critics to philosophers & theologians.

Of course, over those eight decades, Superman has been portrayed on-screen (and on-air) by many actors. Bud Collyer was the voice of Superman/Kent for the radio serials and Fleischer cartoons in the 1940s. With the jump to movie serials, Kirk Alyn assumed the role, followed by George Reeves, who continued into the first TV series. There have been and are others. But, arguably the most-beloved actor to portray the Man of Steel was Christopher Reeve, who starred in probably the two most popular Superman movies: Richard Donner’s Superman (1978) and Richard Lester’s (w/ Donner) Superman II (1980, but released 1981). Thus, we have our second anniversary, i.e., 40 years since the debut of the Reeve/Donner ‘Superman’. Most fans would agree that Reeve’s portrayal was the best. When you add screenwriting by Mario Puzo (and others); co-stars including Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Glenn Ford, Terence Stamp (and others); and terrific set designs, cinematography, and musical compositions by John Williams (that theme music still gives me goosebumps); it’s no wonder that these two films are so popular and, perhaps, iconic in themselves.

King Kong (1933): 85 years

Yup. It has been 85 years since the giant, quasi-gorilla first showed his ugly mug in theaters. Kong was the brainchild of aviator/adventurer and American filmmaker Merian C. Cooper (who the ‘Carl Denham’ character was based on). Inspired by a book he had as a child about the adventures of explorer Paul Du Chaillu in Africa, as well as an encounter with baboons as an adult, Cooper eventually developed and produced his “giant terror gorilla picture”. Cooper even came up with the iconic ending first, in which Kong climbs a NYC skyscraper with the leading lady (literally) in hand, fights off warplanes, and falls to his death(?), with Denham uttering the memorable pronouncement, “It was beauty killed the beast.” Novelization of the film was actually published a few months before the film was released.

Despite his aggressive behavior, Kong’s solitary life and tragic death, along with certain anthropomorphic traits, endeared him to movie audiences. The big ape went on to star or co-star in several sequel and remake films, animated series, novels, e-books, comic books, and video games over the years. (There was even an Australian musical adaptation back in 2013, and there’s an upcoming Broadway musical planned for later this year.) I, for one, remember thinking it was scary-cool when I first saw the original movie as a kid. The Toho version of Kong (which fought Godzilla and other giant creatures) was dopey-looking, but the one from the 1976 remake was scary-cooler! (I need to watch those again….) The latest version, though, is the biggest and baddest!

The War of the Worlds (1898, 1938, 1953, 1988): 120, 80, 65, & 30 years

With this one, we break the centennial mark! As was common practice back then, the tale was first serialized in magazine format (in the UK & US in 1897), but the completed The War of the Worlds was first published in hardcover in 1898. Its author, of course, was one of the fathers of science fiction, H.G. Wells, who had already found fame as a futurist writer with The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), and The Invisible Man (1897) — all now considered genre classics. An avid follower of Charles Darwin, his works (which included other genres) often reflected a distinctly Darwinian worldview. With its plot of a Martian invasion, this particular novel…

“…has been variously interpreted as a commentary on evolutionary theory, British imperialism, and generally Victorian superstitions, fears and prejudices. At the time of publication, it was classified as a scientific romance…. The War of the Worlds has been both popular (having never been out of print) and influential, spawning half a dozen feature films, radio dramas, a record album, various comic book adaptations, a television series, and sequels or parallel stories by other authors. It has even influenced the work of scientists, notably Robert H. Goddard, who, inspired by the book, invented both the liquid fuelled rocket and multistage rocket, which resulted in the Apollo 11 Moon landing 71 years later.” (Wikipedia)

Three of those adaptations are particularly noteworthy. (Well, to me, anyway.) Of course, 1938 was the year that Orson Welles perpetrated his infamous radio dramatization. As per Wikipedia,

“The first two-thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a news bulletin and is often described as having led to outrage and panic by some listeners who had believed the events described in the program were real. However, later critics point out that the supposed panic seems to have been exaggerated by newspapers of the time seeking to discredit radio as a source of information.”

The first on-screen treatment came in 1953, when Gene Barry and Ann Robinson starred in a pretty good film adaptation of The War of the Worlds. But, the one I remember best is the live-action TV series (1988), which was a sequel of sorts to the 1953 movie. The premise was that the Martians had not all died in the 1950s, and the survivors had gone into hiding/hibernation after their defeat. Adrian Paul and Philip Akin were in it (and would both later star in “Highlander” (1993)), but the stars I remember were Jared Martin and Richard Chavez. And, to this day, my brother and I can elicit a chuckle one from the other by mimicking the Martians’ guttural oath, “To life immortal!”

Around the World in Eighty Days (1873): 145 years

It is only fitting that French writer Jules Verne, another “father of science fiction”, has an entry in this list. The idea of traveling around the world was popular in those days, and others before and after would publish both fictional and non-fictional accounts. But, Verne’s was clearly the most popular and longest lasting. More adventure novel than sci-fi/fantasy, it followed British gentleman Phileas Fogg and his new French valet, Jean Passepartout, in their exploits as they attempted to win a bet to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. What happens next involves several colorful characters, dangerous encounters and near-misses, a bit of romance, and a *lot* of time spent on trains and steamships (and a few other things). (Note: The hot-air balloon from the 1956 movie was never used in Verne’s novel.) I haven’t read or watched the story myself, but it sounds like an Indiana Jones adventure, but very different. 😉

At the time it was written, things were very difficult both for France and for Verne personally. But, the writer was intrigued with recent technological breakthroughs and excited about exploring them in his new book. As noted by Wikipedia,

“Rather than any futurism, [Verne’s most popular work] remains a memorable portrait of the British Empire “on which the sun never sets” shortly before its peak, drawn by an outsider. It is interesting to note that, until 2006, no critical editions were written…. However, Verne’s works began receiving more serious reviews in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with new translations appearing.”

There have been many films (live and animated), cartoon series, theatrical adaptations (yes, including musicals), and radio productions. In fact, the first radio adaptation starred Orson Welles (as Fogg) and began the week before he did The War of the Worlds.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818): 200 years

Two hundred years! Holy cow!

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was a mere 20 years old when the first volume of her novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously on Jan. 1, 1818. Quite an accomplishment! Even at such a young age, Shelley had already lived a life full of tragedy and scandal, which figured into her famous tale. According to English professor Karen Karbeiner:

“[T]he novel is her only work to remain in print since its first publication…. From the start, we have been eager to help the monster live off of the page, to interpret the tale for ourselves. Within five years, the first of what would eventually be more than ninety dramatizations of Frankenstein appeared onstage….

Frankenstein is a nineteenth-century literary classic, but it is also fully engaged in many of the most profound philosophical, psychological, social, and spiritual questions of modern existence…. By combining never-before-combined ingredients from her diverse reading, Shelley broke from established tradition and even concocted a new literary recipe known today as science fiction.”

Just as an aside, Victor Frankenstein’s monster (aka “creature”, “daemon”, “wretch”, etc.) does not have the familiar flat-top skull, greenish skin, or electrode bolts protruding from its neck, as seen in the Universal films starring Boris Karloff. It is also quite emotional, sensitive even, and teaches itself to read and speak quite eloquently.

I finally decided to read the novel myself and am working my way through it now. (Technically, I am reading the 1831 revised edition.) The pre-Victorian writing style is a bit wordy but elegant in its own way. I guess you might say that speech moved at a slower pace than it does today, as is true for most things. But, if you like historic period pieces or fantasies that take place in ancient Europe or other lands, you might enjoy the rhythms and picturesque style. But, I have to warn you, it is a tragic tale, and not just for the creature.

I hope you enjoyed this series, dear readers. Maybe, like me, you’ll be inspired to pick up an “old” classic and give it a try.

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.

Headline Miscellany

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen several announcements in genre news that I thought were worth commenting briefly on. You may have seen them already, but please indulge me while I give my two cents’ worth (or less) on each. Give your own in the comments, too, if you feel led….

TV/Netflix News

nbc-the-a-team-keyartA-Team:  I thought the movie version from a few years ago was just OK and only liked half of the casting choices. If they want to bring it back to TV, I guess that’s cool… as long as they stay faithful to the original. Sounds like they’re going to make at least one of the main characters female. As long as it isn’t B.A., I guess I can deal with that… maybe. Btw, I started fan-casting for an A-Team reboot long ago, so I’ll have to share those ideas in the coming months.

Iron Fist and Moon Knight:  If the rumor is true about “Iron Fist” getting scrapped (or, at least, postponed), that would be disappointing but not entirely surprising, given the problems with casting and developing a workable concept for the series. (I wonder if they’ve considered bringing in some Hong Kong talent….) It would be a shame not to see the other half of “Power Man and Iron Fist”/”Heroes for Hire” in the Defenders. On the other hand, the possible replacement with Moon Knight works for me. Not clear if MK would be part of the Defenders, but he has been in at least one version of the team in the comics. Regardless, I’ve already expressed my desire to see an MK series, so how could I say “no”?

X-Men:  Well, not X-Men, exactly, but it looks as if not one but two new shows are being developed involving some of Marvel’s not-so-Merry Mutants. The first is “Legion”, named after the illegitimate son of Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller, who happens to be off his nut (i.e., crazy) and incredibly powerful. The second will be a look at “The Hellfire Club” as it existed in the 1960s. Not sure how I feel about “Legion”, especially when there are, imho, several better options. But, a look at the clandestine mutant elitists know as “The Hellfire Club” could prove quite intriguing, and setting it in the 60s is an interesting twist.

TV/Movie News

(Teen) Titans and Birds of Prey(?):  It’s about time we heard something about this. We got a little news in May and then September that the “Titans” TV show is still in development at TNT. Now, we may be getting a Teen Titans movie, too! I was never a huge Titans fan, but I do like several of the characters, so this could be pretty cool. The quoted line that led to the speculation about a Birds of Prey movie, too, is not that clear to me. I read it as referring to the Teen Titans movie possibly having an “all female cast”. But, if they do it right, I am totally in favor of a big-screen Birds of Prey, as long as the connection to Batman and other heroes is there.

Movie News

Xenomorph (H.R. Giger)

Xenomorph (H.R. Giger)

Aliens and Prometheus:  The first part of this is that Scott is now insisting that his Prometheus 2 be scheduled to shoot before Alien 5, which is probably fine, since Blomkamp is still refining his story and script. (Downside, ofc, is that this may delay Alien 5 another year.) A few weeks later, Scott announced that his film will now be titled, Alien: Paradise Lost. This strengthens — or, at least, confirms — its connection to the Alien films. Uncharacteristically, Scott even hinted at “connections with Ripley”, the return (or would that be the debut?) of the classic xenomorph, and big plans for the android David’s severed head. Scott is 77, which may factor into his reasons for this accelerated pace. For me and the rest of the fans, I think it’s a good thing.

Superman:  A bit of bad news, this one. Rumor has it that the much-anticipated Man of Steel 2 is on indefinite hold. Truth be told, though, it’s all a bit sketchy, with nothing definitive coming from the studio or reliable sources. Far as I could tell, we never had any projected dates for production or release, anyway. Still, this is a bit disappointing, and I hope everything comes together in the near future. I’d really like to see Henry Cavill’s Supes in solo action, with focus on him and his classic foes, while he’s still in his 30s.

Men in Black:  I don’t know about this…. MiB is due to return with another trilogy (could be great!) but without Will Smith (could spell disaster). So much of the success of the first trilogy was the characters played by Smith and Jones and their odd-couple chemistry on screen. This makes me dubious of another trilogy’s success without either star. But, who knows? There may be another perfect pair ready to be cast that could — along with clever stories/scripts and F/X — give the franchise three more blockbusters.

Indiana Jones:  According to Spielberg, “I’ll probably do an Indy 5 with Harrison.” This confirms what both (Spielberg protege and current Lucasfilm president) Kathleen Kennedy and producer Frank Marshall have hinted at earlier this year, though there is no script and it will probably be awhile. Of course, if they want to have Ford, 73, actively involved, they better get a move on! One possibility is to have an elderly, possibly ailing, Indy (played by Ford) bookend the movie, as he relates a tale of his younger years to his (grand)children. Not sure how I feel about Chris Pratt (suggested by some) playing that younger version of Indiana Jones, but casting will be crucial to capture that same, lovable, swashbuckling swagger.

Die Hard:  Not sure how I feel about this. I thought the last installment was fun, yet it lacked a little something. Making a prequel could be a great idea, or it could really suck. Willis’ unique presence — the attitude (inc. the ever-present smirk) and delivery of great one-liners — is what made this franchise so popular. Without him, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. Casting the young John McClane is key, along with a great script and director, of course. (Just as it will be for any Star Wars prequel featuring a young Han Solo, or the Indiana Jones prequel mentioned above.) If it doesn’t all come together, they should just let the franchise rest in peace.

UPDATE, 10/22/2015:  Of course, this came out the day after I published this post….

Krypton:  “It takes place 200 years before Man of Steel.… [W]e’ll learn about the politics of the world. We’ll learn about the culture, the art, all the different guilds… a lot of different locations… some of the other moons, which is kind of cool.” That all sounds cool to me. Lots of opportunity to expand on what we “know” about Krypton and its peoples. I’m sure the creators are having a lot of fun mapping it all out. Now, how about an estimated release date…?