Category Archives: The Dark Knight

DC comics film slate: I’ll believe it when I see them

justice league alex ross

Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.

Hollywood reporter Nikki Finke recently scooped the rest of the entertainment press with a list purporting to detail Warner Bros. and DC’s plans for big-screen superhero movies in the near future.

Here’s the list:

• May 2016 – Batman v Superman

• July 2016 – Shazam

• Xmas 2016 – Sandman

• May 2017 – Justice League

• July 2017 – Wonder Woman

• Xmas 2017 – Flash and Green Lantern team-up

• May 2018 – Man Of Steel 2

Nope. Not happening.

I mean, in many ways, I wish it would. As satisfying as Marvel’s big-screen universe is, I’d like to see DC comics heroes – the most accessible and familiar heroes in the world, in many ways – finally achieve lift off on screen.

Last year’s “Man of Steel” had so many things wrong with it, and with writer David Goyer and others behind the scenes who are plainly ashamed of superhero names, colorful costumes, origins and storylines, I don’t have much hope for future movies in the series.

And in particular I doubt that the studio can pull this off.

Lookit: WB and DC have only just gotten rolling on “BvsS.” How quickly can they turn around “Shazam,” which is supposed to follow the May 2016 release of “BvsS” by a couple of months?

And if they haven’t been able to figure out a big-screen “Wonder Woman” or “Green Lantern,” how can they pull off an oddity like “Sandman?”

Not to mention the whole “seven movies released within two years” thing. That’s a feat that I’m not sure even Marvel, with its assembly-line methods, could pull off.

I’ll go see whatever DC movies get released in the coming years, no doubt. But I’m afraid I’ll find them as lacking as “Green Lantern” and “Man of Steel.”

And I sure don’t think we’ll see one every few months.

Goyer’s comments shame DC, ‘Superman v Batman’

batman v superman dawn of justice

It gets a bit silly, all the outrage on the Internet.

But then again, people keep saying stupid things.

No matter if they’re fanboys acting like assholes on the topic of female fans or they’re … well, I don’t know how to describe “Man of Steel” screenwriter David S. Goyer, who was all over the web today for really stupid comments he made in a recent interview.

You see, today was supposed to be DC’s big day, announcing the title of that “Man of Steel” sequel coming out – maybe – in a couple of years. It’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” a title so stupid it immediately inspired exactly the opposite reaction that DC must have wanted.

Not only doesn’t the title – really, it’s just too stupid for me to write again – make anyone think that Warner Bros. and DC have their shit together in their efforts to be more like Marvel and create a big-screen universe.

It sounds obvious, even desperate and grasping. I’ve seen it lampooned today as a courtroom drama and Lifetime movie.

Compare that reaction to the Comic Con reveal of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Fandamonium.

Anyway, Warners and DC might have only just begun regretting their title decision when Goyer, who as writer of most of DC’s very uneven efforts to bring its iconic superheroes to life, was widely quoted for some boneheaded remarks he made in a recent Scriptnotes podcast.

First, Goyer insulted the longtime Marvel hero She-Hulk – who, admittedly, does have a silly name – by noting that she was clearly superhero porn and served only as someone to have sex with the Hulk.

I wonder, did Goyer know before today that the characters of Hulk and She-Hulk were cousins? I’m assuming he does now.

Then Goyer went on to say an incredibly stupid thing that shows just how tone-deaf he is.

In talking about Martian Manhunter, a long-established character made popular on the “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” animated series a few years ago, Goyer made fun of the character and asked how many people had heard of him.

Of course, most of those in attendance had. Probably surprised by this, Goyer then said:

“How many people that raised their hands have ever been laid?”

Really?

In one utterance, Goyer shows his ignorance about Martian Manhunter – a major character from the ONLY truly successful iteration of DC characters in the past decade – and also insults comic book movie fans.

You know, the people who pay to see his movies.

Ross Lincoln summed up Goyer’s attitude nicely on his “The Escapist” blog: Goyer and his partners at Warner Bros. are ashamed they’re making superhero movies.

Think about it. Nolan’s Batman movies, which had some strong points, dwindled to awkward absurdity through Goyer’s scripts. “Man of Steel” was awful. Hell, it couldn’t even see fit to actually call its hero Superman.

It’s sad, really, that three quarters of a century of great characters and stories are squandered in such hands.

 

‘Gotham’ – Batman doesn’t live here … er, yet

COMMISSIONER_GORDON_dc_animated_universe

The announcement that DC/Warner Bros. would produce a “Gotham” TV series, about the fabled comic book city pre-Batman that would focus on not-yet-Commissioner James Gordon, has prompted a lot of talk online.

There was some excitement and some concern. We’ve seen this kind of thing – a TV series that exists in the shadows of comic book superheroes – before. (Entertainment Weekly called it “superhero adjacent,” which was pretty nifty.)

As a matter of fact, we’re seeing it right now. Marvel’s “Agents of SHIELD” debuted to good ratings two nights ago and would appear to be on its way to being a hit if the Joss Whedon-created series can sustain interest in a show about the spies who corral and help out superhumans.

batman year one gordon batman

But “Gotham” – which might take a few cues from comic books like “Batman: Year One” and “Gotham Central” – looks likely to focus on Gordon and the cops in the grittiest Gotham City precincts  … and, as the producers said, the origins of Batman’s rogues gallery of super villains. So we might see early versions of the Riddler, Mr. Freeze … even the Joker?

A couple of thoughts come to mind:

And it was certainly interesting that the series is for Fox instead of the CW, where “Arrow” lives now and “The Flash” is coming.

Warners must have been under substantial pressure to get another DC-inspired TV series on the air. Especially one that looks like “SHIELD.”

It’s cheaper to do a series about the humans who must deal with superheroes than to do a series about superheroes. But – as online commentators pointed out in recent weeks – it might just frustrate viewers if you made a practice of saying, “Iron Man just flew off” or “Batman was just here.” So it’s good idea to set it in the days before Batman arrives.

But … by making a prequel, you eliminate all suspense that integral characters like Gordon will be killed off, ala “The Walking Dead.” The producers of “Gotham” can never realistically have Jim Gordon in personal mortal jeopardy. I blame George Lucas for this prequel stuff.

A decade ago, “Birds of Prey” gave us Batman-adjacent characters and a Bruce Wayne who was, at least once, on the other end of the phone line with Alfred. “Gotham” will have to tread a fine line between hinting at Batman and teasing us with Batman.

Don’t make “Smallville’s” mistakes. Having said, “No tights, no flights,” the producers of the Clark Kent series did a slightly better than average job depicting the run-up to Superman. But they should have paid off 10 seasons of viewers’ patience in the final episode with full-on Superman instead of a coy peek-a-boo.

There’s great potential for great Big Bads and great storylines. Even if “Gotham” runs multiple years, it could fill every season with psychopaths and sociopaths and stalwart defenders of Gotham and those who want to pillage it. Arkham Asylum stories alone could come into play every few weeks. Not to mention the satisfaction of watching Jim Gordon grow into the character we’ve seen in the comics, TV shows and Chris Nolan movies.

If “Gotham” can pull this off, we might not miss Batman in the series. We might even be happy if his arrival takes years and years.

Comic book movie blunders: ‘Fantastic Four’

fantastic four cast

It must be hard for some younger comic book movie fans to imagine what it was like in the dark years.

Since 2008, moviegoing fans have been treated to summertime releases of really top-notch versions of their favorite comic book superheroes. I’m counting from the release of “Iron Man” and I’m really talking about the other Marvel-produced films, including “The Incredible Hulk,” “Captain America” and “Thor,” all capped off with “The Avengers” this past summer.

I’m not counting the DC comics movies in part because they’re been wildly inconsistent, with some highlights like “The Dark Night” but more lows such as the stillborn “Green Lantern.”

Yes, back in the dark years, before not only serious-minded comic book adaptations but before adequate special effects and talented directors like Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon, fans were treated to the likes of “The Fantastic Four.”

I’m not even talking about the 2005 Tim Story movie. I’m talking about the 1994 “Fantastic Four,” directed by Oley Sasson (yeah, I know, right?) and produced by legendary cheapie producer Roger Corman.

Even if you’re old enough, you didn’t see “Fantastic Four” in theaters. Legendarily made in about a minute to extend the production company’s rights to film the comic book, the movie reflects its (maybe, possibly) million-dollar budget and the crude effects that the available money could buy.

fantastic four mr. fantastic

The proof of the skimping on effects? Johnny Storm finally fires up as the Human Torch in the final battle of the movie. Prior to that, most of his fire-starting is relegated to sneezes and the like. Sheesh.

I came across a bootleg DVD of the movie at a comic book convention a few years back. It’s a staple of the dealer’s room at every con, along with the truly awful “Justice League” TV pilot and 1960s DC comics cartoons.

The movie traces the familiar origin of the FF: Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm and Sue Storm go into space, get bombarded by cosmic rays and gain superpowers, becoming Mr. Fantastic, The Thing, The Human Torch and The Invisible Woman.

Along the way, there are run-ins with Dr. Doom and, inexplicably, a hobo/jewel thief/leader of a band of crooks. It’s the most inexplicable villain since Christopher Walken in Tim Burton “Batman” sequel.

If you haven’t seen the movie, you should take any opportunity to do so. Expect the cheap special effects to be improved by the grainy, multi-generations-removed-from-the-original copy you’ll find.

Some observations:

john byrne ff costumes

At least the movie had the courage of its costumes, with the four wearing the light blue and white FF outfits popularized during the John Byrne era on the comic.

Our heroes don’t get their powers until about half-way through the movie. When Sam Raimi does this, it’s character development. Here it was just delaying the inevitable expensive effects scenes.

Somebody told actor Joseph Culp, who plays ultimate villain Dr. Doom, thought he had to be especially expressive since the audience wouldn’t see his face. So he makes BIG HAND GESTURES throughout the movie. The highlight is when he draws, in the air in front of him, the number 12 as he says it.

One bit player in the movie went on to cult stardom. Mercedes McNab, who played airhead-turned-vampire Harmony on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” played young Sue Storm in an early scene in the movie.

fantastic four thing

Even though the later, big-budget “Fantastic Four” movies were better, the Corman-produced “FF” movie got one thing right: The Thing should be bigger than the other members of the FF. I love Michael Chiklis but as Ben Grimm and The Thing in the later movies, he wasn’t quite big enough.

My favorite movies of 2012

avengers assembled

Here’s another “let’s pretend it’s the end of the year instead of a couple of days into the new year” recap of what I enjoyed in pop culture in 2012.

This time, movies.

For more than a decade, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, I reviewed movies as part of my job. I saw a movie or two or three every week. Considering I was a lifelong movie fan, it was cool to be paid (even minimally) to review them.

Reviewing movies for a living meant going to see movies even if you didn’t feel like it and – goes without saying – movies that you had no interest in seeing. I still haven’t fully recovered from “My Dinner with Andre.”

All this is by way of saying that I don’t see nearly as many movies in theaters nowadays. When I do see a movie, I’m pretty likely to really want to see it and have a good idea of how much I’ll like it.

So here’s a look at a few favorite movies – and why they were favorites – for 2012.

For me, no pop culture movie of 2012 topped “The Avengers.” Joss Whedon’s very-nearly-perfect big-screen version of Marvel’s ultimate superhero team was the culmination of four years of Marvel solo superhero movies that kicked off with “Iron Man.”

I don’t have to tell you that Whedon’s “Avengers” worked and worked beyond the expectations of most fans, expectations that have been building since the early 1960s but seemed pretty unlikely during the dark days of lame “Captain America” TV movies with Cap sporting a motorcycle helmet. And now, on to Marvel’s big-screen phase two!

“Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” were, in ways different than “The Avengers,” good treatments of their durable comic book characters. “Dark Knight” had a fairly lame villain but still thrilled with its dark vision. “Spider-Man” promised something it didn’t deliver – a mysterious reworking of Peter Parker’s origin – but it didn’t matter. The characters and performances really swung.

“Chronicle” was a dark and unsettling take on the kind of superhero/super villain fodder that sprang from “The X-Men” stories. Bonus: The director is remaking “Fantastic Four.”

Outside the realm of superhero stories, another movie with Whedon’s imprint, “Cabin in the Woods,” was very nearly as good as “The Avengers.” “Cabin” was a first-rate thriller with a great, twisty plot.

Backlash to the absurd title or not, “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” was a competent version of a really very good fantasy novel.

Likewise, “The Hunger Games” was a good approximation of a really good book. I’m looking forward to the sequels.

And I guess we’re back in the realm of superheroes for “Skyfall,” but the latest James Bond action picture was one of the best in the series. It felt like a reboot, in some ways, and has me looking forward to the next adventure of 007.

 

 

 

‘Arrow’ offers good take on comics hero

Yes, I rolled my eyes a bit when I heard that CW’s new series about the DC Comics character Green Arrow was called “Arrow.” It’s another instance of the “we’re ashamed this is based on a comic book” mentality, I thought.

“Smallville” instead of “Superboy,” “Mercy Reef” instead of “Aquaman,” and, frankly, the preponderance of “dark” in modern-day Batman movie titles. And yes, I know Batman’s called “The Dark Knight.” And Superman is “The Man of Steel.” I’m not going to be convinced that there isn’t some embarrassment at work there.

The producers constantly emphasizing that “Arrow” was a gritty, realistic world without superpowered heroes was another red flag, it seemed.

So I didn’t watch the first few weeks of “Arrow.”

But after catching up with it, I’m actually finding myself enjoying the series.

If you’re not familiar with Green Arrow the comic book character, he’s a mix of Batman and Robin Hood and he’s been a staple of the DC universe for decades. Oliver Queen is a billionaire orphan, like Bruce Wayne, who turns his thirst for revenge into nighttime vigilante work. He’s got a quiver of trick arrows that’s not unlike Batman’s utility belt and he prowls the dark alleys of Star City, protecting the innocent.

There have been two high-profile depictions of old Ollie in recent years. One was the sarcastic, liberal-leaning conscience of the “Justice League Unlimited” animated series.

The other was in live action. Justin Hartley played a good Oliver Queen/Green Arrow in “Smallville.” He was that show’s Batman substitute when Bruce Wayne couldn’t be deployed by the producers and Oliver became virtually the second lead of the show.

When the CW decided to follow “Smallville” with a Green Arrow series, a lot of people assumed the role would be filled by Hartley. But the network cast Stephen Arnell in the role and while he’s apparently become famous for his abs – he could bounce an arrow off his stomach for a three-corner trick shot – he’s actually pretty good in the role of a rich playboy/obsessed crimefighter.

The series follows Oliver Queen, back in Star (for some reason here called Starling) City after being shipwrecked for five years. In flashbacks – one of which intriguingly included a glimpse of the two-tone mask of DC villain Deathstroke – we see Oliver’s time on the island after his father, rich industrialist Robert Queen, killed another shipwreck survivor and himself so that callow young Oliver might live.

In modern-day scenes, Oliver has a list of bad guys who are taking a bite out of the city. In each episode, he confronts them, threatens them if they don’t change their ways and contribute to society, and then clashes with them when they ignore his warning.

Oliver, unlike Bruce Wayne, isn’t opposed to killing when forced to. It makes the edgy hero even edgier.

The show’s supporting cast does a good job of backing Arnell. Characters are a mix of those created for the show and others like Black Canary herself, Dinah Laurel Lance, GA’s longtime main squeeze. This Dinah is pretty quick with her fists and feet, but we’ve yet to see if she becomes the fishnets-wearing superhero.

They’re sprinkling the show with mystery and mythology and, best of all, other DC characters, including Deadshot the assassin and, in an upcoming episode, Huntress, the superhero previously seen in the “Birds of Prey” series. In that series she was the version of the character who was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. The character here won’t have that genealogy, however.

I’ve watched the first three episodes of “Arrow” so far and I’m enjoying the show’s dark, gritty tone. Arnell is good, the other characters are at least not too annoying and the action scenes are fine.

I’ll stick with “Arrow,” even though he’s lost the colorful part of his name.

 

 

‘Justice League’ movie set for 2015: What we want to know

DC Comics won a round – maybe the final round – in the long-running legal battle over rights to the Superman character just yesterday, and today’s L.A. Times says DC/Warner Bros. is planning to release a “Justice League” movie in 2015.

Interesting timing there, DC. It just so happens that the “Avengers” sequel comes out in the summer of 2015.

For years now, DC has been unable to get its rich comic book catalogue onto the big screen in any successful manner besides Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” movies. Although Nolan is overseeing “Man of Steel” for next summer, he and his grim and gritty Batman weren’t a likely fit for a “Justice League” movie.

In other words, it seemed like DC/Warners/Nolan were as ashamed of colorful characters and tights as 20th Century Fox was back when they put the “X-Men” in black leather rather than blue and yellow.

The Times article indicates that DC will not try to introduce its “Justice League” heroes in solo big-screen adventures before teaming them up.

Here are some questions we’ll be interested in seeing answered sometime:

Will Henry Cavill, set to star in “Man of Steel” next year, return as Superman in “Justice League?” Or is Cavill one and done before his movie even comes out?

Will Joseph Gordon-Levitt play Robin John Blake as Batman in “Justice League?” Or will DC ensure that Bruce Wayne is the Batman we’ll see in the team-up movie? And we know that won’t be Christian Bale.

Will they find a “realistic” actress to play Wonder Woman? Or will the Amazon Princess be played by a five-foot-tall, 100-pounder?

Will Ryan Reynolds return as Green Lantern? It seems unlikely. How about making GL the GL that kids know, John Stewart?

Which “other” Leaguers will make the cut? We have to have the Flash. How about Aquaman? One of the Hawks? Cyborg, who’s part of the current comic book lineup?

Will DC’s apparent intention to introduce the characters in the team-up movie – a probably necessary reversal of Marvel’s strategy of introducing the future “Avengers” in solo movies – work?

And can we please, please, please avoid mini-origin stories for each JL member?