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.

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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…?