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Tag: DC

Editorials

DC FanDome Shows Us many Exciting Films We Can Look Forward To!

August 30, 2020
DC FanDome

Sadly, there are no Comic Cons these days but there are still many ways in which comic fans can connect with each other and with directors, actors, and film crews. One of those was DC FanDome, a 24-hour event during we’ve got a glimpse of what the future will bring when it comes to the DC Superheroes. Now that we’ve all woken up from our comic coma, it’s time for us to share some new teasers and exciting releases.

Batman is more alive than ever

Due to the ongoing situation, the filming of The Batman had to come to a halt but that didn’t stop director Matthew Reeves from sharing the first look of his upcoming movie. We didn’t only get to see the first official poster but also a glimpse of Robert Pattinson in the Batsuit. While there was only 25% of the movie filmed before lockdown, the team also already provided us with a trailer. After looking at this action-packed, black-red, and compelling footage, we can hardly wait to see what’s up next! The filming of The Batman is expected to be resumed very soon and the movie itself is set to be released in the UK on the 1st of October 2021.

Ok, yes technically this news was announced right before the start of the online event but hey, it’s Batman news that no one saw coming. After portraying Bruce Wayne in movies such as Justice League and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck is putting on the Batsuit again. No, it’s not about his performance in Justice League: The Snyder Cut. No, we’re talking about Affleck’s appearance in The Flash from director Andy Muschietti. Apart from Affleck, only two other members of the cast are confirmed so far. One of them is Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash and Michael Keaton as… Batman/Bruce Wayne. Yes, both Affleck and Keaton are starring as Batman in one movie. Pretty sure that George Clooney and Christian Bale are eagerly waiting by their phone. There’s no confirmed release date yet, apart from 2022.

Wonder Woman is ready to light up our screens again!

It was in June 2017 that we say Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in Patty Jenkins’ same-named movie and now the wait is (normally) almost over as we can expect the sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, on the 2nd of October. We’ve already seen thrilling footage, don’t get us started on that trailer feature the OMD remix, and during the DC FanDome, another trailer was released.

One in which we see Kristen Wiig’s villain Cheetah for the very first time. After starting as Barbara Minerva, Wiggs appears to transform into a human-cheetah hybrid when battling it out against Gadot’s character. Their battle dominates the new trailer which also suggests that the Wonder Woman: Year One graphic novel was the inspiration for this movie. Just as in the previous trailers, we see Steve Trevor having to deal with the ’80s fashion and technology. Check it out for yourself!

Justice League: The Snyder Cut is living up to its expectations

We’ve already mentioned the Justice League: The Snyder Cut and saying that people are expecting a lot of this movie is a massive understatement. Director Zack Snyder confirmed in May that his version of Justice League will see the light of day (Hallelujah!) and later on it was announced that the 4-hour long film will be released on HBO Max next year. Apart from making sure that every character gets more screen time, Snyder will probably also go for a score by Tom Holkenborg, who was replaced by Danny Elfman for the theatrical cut. There will also be some changes in the colours that are used and the aspect ratio as they will use the “1.66:1 aspect ratio”, known as the European Widescreen.

Welcome to the Squad!

We also got a first look of James Gunn his The Suicide Squad and based on the extended behind-the-scenes look that Gunn revealed himself, we’re up for a star-studded superhero movie! Many of the 2016 Suicide Squad film castmembers will return such as Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Joel Kinnaman (Rick Flag), and Jai Courtney (Captain Boomerang) but there is also a bunch load of new names added to the impressive bill. Those include the likes of Idris Elba (Bloodsport), Alice Braga (Sul Soria), Nathan Fillion (T.D.K.), John Cena (Peacemaker), and Peter Capaldi (Thinker). Gunn’s brother Sean will also appear as Weasel. If everything goes according to plan, the movie will be released on the 6th of August 2021.

What’s next for DC FanDome?

When announcing the DC FanDome, it was nail-biting time for everyone involved because it was and is still a one-of-a-kind event. It seems that the gamble paid off for Warnes Bros. According to Variety, the DC FanDome event generated 22 million views across 220 countries, and because of that organisers are thinking about creating similar online events, alongside physical ones of course. It seems that filmmakers, comic books, and movie lovers will be united in more ways than before!

Also Read: Marvel VS DC: The Bitter Divide

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Editorials

The Snyder Cut Saga

November 25, 2019
Justice League - Snyder Cut

On November 17th 2017, Justice League arrived in cinemas everywhere. After several missteps, the DCEU was finally going to rival the MCU. Then people saw it.

Reviews were mixed, with the film currently sitting at a 6.4 on IMDb. After director Zack Snyder stepped down due to a family tragedy, Joss Whedon finished the film. Despite reassurances that the film would not be affected, the result was a Frankenstein of a film. Tonal shifts, deleted scenes, bad CGI and the infamous moustache removal. The final product did not live up to the hype. But then whispers of another cut began to emerge- The Snyder Cut

So what’s so special about it?

Snyder’s cut of the film included the villain Darkseid, amongst other characters that were cut from the theatrical release (WB, 2017)

Snyder’s original plan for the film was part of a five long film arc. Starting with “Man of Steel”. However he was forced to edit much of part 2 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, most of this was eventually restored in the “Ultimate Cut”. Parts 3, 4 and 5 would have been a Justice League trilogy (with standalone movies for each character appearing in between). His cut of the film would have felt much more like part of that universe, with the “Knightmare” scene becoming a key plot point, and the heroes actively working to stop it.

Regarding the heroes, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg was supposed to be a much bigger role. Jason Momoa’s version of Aquaman was largely created by him and Snyder, and the original film was supposed to introduce a lot of the mythology surrounding him before his own film. Snyder frequently posts images and teases from his version on his Vero and Twitter accounts.

Why is this such a big deal?

The Snyder Cut reportedly featured Cyborg in a much bigger role, exploring his origin and relationship to the Mother Boxes featured in the film (Snyder, Vero, 2019)

The theatrical cut of Justice League disappointed almost everyone. In an effort to please everyone, they pleased no one. While Snyder’s films often get mixed reviews, he does have a dedicated fanbase, as do DC comics and their heroes.

The Release the Snyder Cut movement started shortly after the film was released, and has gained a massive following. Several big names in the business have given their support, including Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Gal Gadot. Even Ben Affleck has joined the chorus, despite no longer being Batman.

The Snyder Cut movement has been all over the internet since it began, especially anything related to DC films and although they have developed a reputation for being entitled and mean, that isn’t always true. For San Diego Comic Con 2019, the movement set up a crowdfunding page and bought billboards around the convention center. The additional funds went to a suicide prevention charity, in honour of Zack Snyder’s daughter and the reason he stepped away from the project.

Is it finished?

The fan movement bought ad space around the area for SDCC 2019, despite WB not actually attending (Twitter, 2019)

This one is a little trickier, as there are a lot of mixed reports. Snyder himself claims that “it’s done“. Reports say that principal photography was completed, with some VFX work still in progress, which is more likely. However several people, like Jason Momoa, have seen it, so it is at least viewable, albeit likely with several effects shots not finished.

The problem is whether the film is in a suitable state. Unfinished edits are nothing new, as test screenings often have unfinished VFX or audio. If the cut were to be released, it could potentially look something like the “alternate universe” cut of Into the Spider-Verse, with unfinished scenes and storyboards with sound slotted in. The problem with this is how much unfinished footage would be added. Of course, it is entirely possible that WB or Snyder could spend the extra time and money to complete it. But is it worth it?

Is the Snyder Cut good?

That can’t really be answered until we see it. Of course, all art is subjective. Snyder’s films, especially Batman V Superman, are rather divisive. The Snyder Cut would likely be similar in tone to that film, as well as picking up plot threads. However, Directors Cut’s are often seen as improvements over the theatrical releases. Snyder himself has several Director’s Cuts, with the aforementioned Ultimate Cut of Batman V Superman adding in 30 minutes of cut material, and his Directors Cut of Watchmen. The Snyder Cut is presumed to be around 214 minutes (about 3 and a half hours) long. So it likely depends on how you feel about his previous film.

Will we ever see it?

Never say never. Director’s Cuts are popular. And although the DCEU has moved away from the original plan, there is still clearly a big demand for this version. All cards seem to be in WB’s hands, and some suspect a release on HBO Max. The 2 year anniversary of Justice League gave the movement a big resurgence, so it seems like they won’t stop until it’s released.

Also Read: Joke’s On You: A History Of Batman’s Arch-Nemesis On The Big Screen

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Editorials

Batman & Joker: The Future of the DCEU

October 22, 2019
Batman Vs Joker

Joker has been a big success commercially and for the most part critically, but what does this Joker mean for the DCEU?

Warning – major spoilers for Joker below

Not A Superhero Film

Joker is many things. In my opinion, it is a great film, an intense film, a controversial film but it’s hardly a superhero film at all. There is very little of the comic book about it – no superpowers, no gadgets and absolutely no heroes. Joker has far more in common with Taxi Driver than The Dark Knight and that film is evoked often. The titular character is Arthur Fleck, a man who is struggling to survive in Gotham City. He lives with his mother who is in poor health, he works a poorly-paid job where his colleagues laugh at him when he rarely tries to reach out to anyone it does not go well. Arthur also has very serious mental health problems for which he sees a court-appointed therapist as well as taking lots of medication. At the beginning of the film, Arthur seems to be trying to stay on a positive path but that is proving increasingly difficult.

Joker without his makeup (source: indiewire.com)

The “origins” of Joker are the grim, horrible circumstances of what such a person, in reality, might have. While still cinematic Gotham is a seedy, dirty, city, a million miles from the Gotham of the Bale or Affleck films. If we were still in the Affleck-Batman world there could be no way of integrating these two characters or these two universes (the same would be true of the Nolan films). Not a successful way of doing it anyway, but they may well have tried. And while the Robert Pattison Batman is an unknown quality it would be hard to imagine a Batman that would work with this Joker. The instant the batmobile made an appearance would cause some terrible schism of the comic book universe where such a vehicle could happen and the brutal and dirty universe where such a thing is plainly ridiculous and impossible.

Jared Leto as the Joker (source: reddit.com)

Too Many Jokers

But some of you might say well we have a perfectly good Joker right here…well, a Joker anyway, in the shape of Jared Leto from Suicide Squad. I was quite forgiving of this incarnation of the Joker, yes, it was bad, but trying to follow the iconic performances of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger was going to be damn-near impossible. Leto’s IMDb page still has an Untitled Joker film in the works but such was the rancour directed at his portrayal I doubt we’ll see him reprise the role. I have heard some people suggest that Joaquin Phoenix’s character is not the Joker but rather perhaps an inspiration for him, with that being said could both Leto and Phoenix’s Joker appear in the same film? I can’t see how this would work, already comparisons between the two different portrayals have not been kind to Leto and putting him in scenes with Phoenix would only make it worse.

A Billionaire Playboy

An interesting facet of Joker that I had not at all anticipated was the anti-wealth aspect. When Fleck kills three stockbrokers many of the citizens of Gotham see someone striking back against the greedy upper class. Thomas Wayne is shown as an unsympathetic character, harbouring his own prejudices against the poor and his murder was motivated less for material gain than as a political killing. What type of figure would Bruce Wayne be in this world? There has been a meme going around for years that said if Bruce Wayne really wanted to help Gotham he would use his vast wealth in more orthodox ways. Would we get a Batman who delighted in attacking the less fortunate who had resorted to crime because of their circumstances rather than criminal insanity? Those denied essential services, with no opportunities to improve their lot, that would hardly seem heroic.

The glamorous Gotham of Christopher Nolan (source: polygon.com)

I still think of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy as the pinnacle of superhero films, a genius director, a fantastic cast and the money to make it happen. For me, and many people, Batman Vs Superman was an outright disaster and I was so disillusioned I didn’t even bother with Justice League, but undeniably it has a different feel to Nolan’s films. So coming up with a whole new distinct world might be difficult, especially so as I hope Joker is quarantined and kept safe from any other DC films. Joker is a brilliant film and should be allowed to be that and not just the first part of another story.

The Next Villain

As we now know Robert Pattison is taking over the role of Batman and very recent news seems to suggest the villain will be The Riddler (played by Paul Dano) so it may be that the DCEU lets the character of the Joker rest a little while. However, I’m sure they will return to the character, after all, he is best-known and most iconic Batman villain.

Also Read: Joke’s On You: The History of Batman’s Arch-Nemesis

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Editorials

Joke’s On You: The History of Batman’s Arch-Nemesis On the Big Screen

October 2, 2019

The Joker is Batman’s most iconic villain. While many of his other villains are more physically imposing, none have left quite an impact like the Joker. The villain is so iconic, that he’s even getting his own standalone movie. The new film is completely separate from all other continuity and even earning Oscar buzz, but also it’s fair of backlash.

With the film in cinemas soon, now seems like the perfect time to take a look at the Joker, some of the iconic performances, why it’s such a great role, and whether audiences should be worried about going to see it in cinemas…

“Wait ’til they get a load of me”

Cesar Romero famously refused to shave his iconic moustache for the role (Credit: ABC/20th Century Television, 1966-68)

The Joker first appeared in 1940 in the first issue of “Batman” (who finally got his own book after starting in “Detective Comics”). Initially intended to be a one-off villain who was killed off at the end of the story, a panel showing his survival was added at the last minute. The Joker would return several times, with his own unique brand of chaos changing from serial killer to prankster and a hybrid of both as the years went by. The first live-action incarnation came alongside the campy Adam West Batman (1966-68) played by Cesar Romero. He was tied for most popular villains on the show appearing in 22 episodes, as well as the feature-length movie.

Jack Nicholson initially turned down the role but changed his mind when he found out Robin Williams had been offered the part. (Credit: WB, DC, 1989)

The next time Joker appeared in live-action, it was in 1989’s Batman played by Jack Nicholson, starring opposite Micheal Keaton’s Caped Crusader. He wouldn’t appear again in a film until 2008, despite the Batman franchise being hugely successful in the 90’s before Batman and Robin put it on ice (Mr Freeze pun intended). However, the character lived on in comics and animated series, with Mark Hamill being the definitive voice for many fans.

“You wanna know how I got these scars?”

Heath Ledger redefined the Joker in “The Dark Knight” (Legendary, Credit: WB 2008)

In 2008, Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight which was met with huge disapproval from fans (some things never change). Despite this, production continued resulting in the iconic performance that makes The Dark Knight the phenomenon that it is. Ledger went to extreme lengths to get into the mindset of the character, locking himself in his hotel room, keeping a journal in character, and directing the hostage videos seen in the film. His best-known role, it would also tragically be his last, as he was found dead in his room a few months after completing filming (He was part way through his final film, which had to use clever recasting for some scenes). His untimely death sent shockwaves throughout the world and helped his Joker transcend just the one film. He posthumously won a (well deserved) Oscar for the role, helping the film transform comic book movies as well as the Oscars.

However, not all the effects of The Dark Knight were positive. Ledger’s death meant the character did not appear in The Dark Knight Rises. At a midnight showing of the film, a gunman opened fire on the audience claiming he was the Joker and was inspired by the character, which was an unfortunate addition to Ledger’s legacy.

Jared Leto immersed himself in the role by sending “gifts” to his castmates, including bullets and a dead pig. (Credit: WB/ DC, 2016)

The next film the Joker appeared in was 2016’s Suicide Squad played by Jared Leto. Naturally, he had some big shoes to fill and Leto responded by taking the method acting up to 11. Leto lived the character resulting in some quite disturbing set stories. After so much build-up, audiences were disappointed to find out he had barely 15 minutes of screentime. This film was the first to feature his relationship with Harley Quinn, an abusive relationship in the comics.

“Madness is a lot like gravity, all it takes is a little push”

Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a failed comedian who slowly becomes unhinged. (Credit: WB/DC, 2019)

Joaquin Phoenix is the next person to play the Joker and, if early screenings are any indication, gives a phenomenal performance as the character. However, some feel that, by making him the protagonist and sympathetic, it reinforces ideas about toxic masculinity and violence that have led to real-life crimes like the shooting (the cinema it took place in will not show the new film) and some authorities preparing for copycats.

It is hard to say if people are right to be worried about such things until the film is released. While it is likely that this is an overreaction, some people are understandably worried. These fears could impact its opening weekend, but it seems unfair to blame Phoenix, who could still be on track for an Oscar.

Also Read: Holy Fan Films, Batman

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Editorials

Superhero Standoff: Superheros vs Art

May 17, 2019

Superhero movies are everywhere, and likely will be everywhere for the foreseeable future. With everyone and their mum seeing “Avengers: Endgame” it seems like superheroes have something to offer every viewer, but that doesn’t mean they’re always loved.

J Jonah Jameson isn’t the only one trying put Spider-Man down, as despite the genre’s overwhelming success (Endgame earned over $1 Billion in its opening weekend) it is often neglected upon awards season. With powerful enemies like James Cameron against them, can our heroes ever get the respect they deserve?

“For your consideration..”

Black Panther
“Black Panther” won several Oscars and was nominated for Best Picture (Disney/Marvel, 2018)

To be clear, superhero films have been nominated and won in some cases. Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar for his Joker in “The Dark Knight”. “Black Panther” won in three categories as well as being nominated for best picture. Even Spider-Man 2 won for Special Effects. But many big names in Hollywood still seem to dismiss them.

Comic book movies are regularly nominated in several technical categories, with “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse” winning “Best Animation” at the 2019 Oscars, for its unique animation style. But it is rare they win any of the “big awards” such as best actor/picture. There are several calls for Robert Downey Jr to earn an Oscar, for his portrayal of Iron Man.

And regardless of whether he does or not, it’s hard to argue that the character is ingrained in pop culture, with Downey Jr a massive part of that. It’s no secret that the character was a B-Lister before 2008, but now everyone knows Iron Man. Joe Russo (co-director of Avengers: Endgame) thinks he deserves it for the way he’s motivated pop culture, and that “there’s a prejudice against popular cinema”.

Great Power, Great Responsibility

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes don’t just deal with super villains (Marvel Comics, 2019)

This superhero snobbery doesn’t just apply to movies, comic books are often considered childish, and, true, Batman punching someone with a large “Kapow” bubble might not be the most complex thing to follow. But some of them delve into real-world issues. Iron Man famously had a storyline where he dealt with alcoholism. While the films didn’t follow this, “Iron Man 3” features him dealing with PTSD.

This isn’t the only time the MCU deals with mental health. Captain America shows several symptoms of depression. A big part of Thor’s arc in “Avengers: Endgame” deals with coming to terms with his failure and if he is still worthy. The Avengers might be superheroes, but they’re still flawed, like the rest of us.

But they also tackle social issues, the “Captain America” films deal with him adapting to the modern world after living in WW2. “The Winter Soldier” deals with the idea of a surveillance state. While in “Civil War” he battles against Iron Man about whether the Avengers should be ruled by politicians.

This isn’t just Marvel either. “Man of Steel” is rammed with political themes, from, climate change on Krypton to Superman being an immigrant. Films allow us to explore different themes, and superheroes are no different

Origin Stories

Swap out the Stark suit for wings, and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is basically the story of Icarus (Sony 2017)

Superhero stories are the Greek myths of our time. With each generation of filmmakers wanting to retell the story with a more modern perspective. “Shazam” for instance, features a young Billy who has grown up with Superman and co, so he and his friend are aware of all the tropes, as people today are. A huge part of the “Deadpool” films’ appeal is its fourth wall breaking antics and how it pokes fun at superhero cliches (like the “superhero landing“)

This self-awareness could be a sign the genre is becoming stale, with the dreaded “superhero fatigue” setting in and Spielberg himself saying they will “go the way of the western”. While that may be true, it is far more likely the genre will simply evolve, as it always has done. Superhero films are arguably an evolution of 80’s action classic’s like “Rambo” and “Robocop”. While they may not have powers, they still perform superhuman feats, like surviving explosions, big dramatic leaps, stopping villains taking over the world.

And Superhero films have evolved, with the release of “The Avengers” it seems like every studio has been trying to launch its own franchise. From DC to the failed “Dark Universe”, it seems like every studio has been trying to follow in their footsteps, with mixed results. The “Marvel Cinematic Universe” now encompasses 22 films, as well as several TV shows (and counting). It’s hard to think that what started as a huge gamble for a company on the verge of bankruptcy, is now the behemoth it is.

In the 1970’s “Jaws” created the summer blockbuster. In 2012, “The Avengers” created the “cinematic universe” and superhero films will likely continue to push new boundaries with special effects, like the latest de-aging, storytelling (“Endgame” is the end of a 22 film long storyline), and more. Films like “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel are helping to prove that girls are just as good as boys, inspiring young girls as well as bringing in huge bank.

Superhero stories might seem silly on the surface, but whether in comic book or movie form, should not be dismissed as “just for kids” because they are so much more than that.

Reviews

Review: Shazam!

April 4, 2019
Shazam Movie Screenshot

Comic book characters have been a staple of big Hollywood films for nearly twenty years now. But recently we have seen a growth in obscure and niche (by mainstream standards) comic book properties being used as inspirations for big box office hits. Guardians of the Galaxy, Aquaman and Captain Marvel have all scored big, using obscurer comic figures that many fans never thought would get their time to shine.

And now DC is trying their luck again, with the live-action feature debut of Shazam. But can the hero who was once considered more popular than Superman hit a home run with his first film outing?

The story

The wizard, Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) is growing old and is searching for an heir to his powers, to protect the world from the seven avatars of sin. After searching for years, he finally chooses young orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel). Billy is then granted the ability to turn from a teenager into a superpowered adult (Zachary Levi) by saying the word, “Shazam”. But Billy has no interest in being a hero.

Having been abandoned by his mother as a child, Billy has spent most of his life moving from foster home to foster home while looking for her. So naturally, he has a cynical streak that makes him ill-suited for his powers. But when Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) a man rejected by the wizard years before, comes to claim Billy’s powers, Billy must prove he is worthy of them by fighting to protect the innocent and his foster family from Thaddeus’ wrath.

What did I like?

After several years of DC movies being unduly grim and gritty, it’s nice to see them becoming more fun. Although Shazam has dark moments, they feel appropriate. Because the story is about a troubled teenager coming to grips with the world around him. Ultimately though this movie is about family and childish power fantasy, and the script achieves that with gusto.

The empowerment side of the story works well. Billy, of course, begins using his powers to do childish things. Which is very entertaining. But slowly he realises that he must grow up and become responsible or he will become like Thaddeus. Turning the film into a coming of age tale where Billy learns that strength comes from those around you. Time is also dedicated to giving visibility to a spectrum of genders, sexualities and abilities. Before paying them off in an empowering way that many will find satisfying. Coupled with this the movie is incredibly funny, with Pop culture references and over the top childish wackiness ensuring a laugh from most audiences. Some may find the family side of the story clichéd, but it does add another level of emotional investment to the story.

I also really enjoyed the performances. Zachary Levi is of course the standout. Playing a child in an adult’s body can easily become creepy or aggravating. But when watching Levi his energy, enthusiasm, and sincerity capture your attention. He is a joy to watch as he channels his inner child and he easily carries the entire movie. Mark Strong also does good work as Thaddeus. Some may see Thaddeus as just another generic villain but the occasional moment where Strong lets the mask slip revealing something more childlike underneath really does work as a good foil for Levi. And many of the supporting cast also get their time to shine. Special mention goes to Cooper Andrews as Billy’s warm foster father. And Jack Grazer as Freddy whose comedic timing never fails to get a laugh.

What did I not like?

But while I like most of what the film is doing, it’s sometimes a rough ride getting there. On the technical side, the CG used to create the avatars of sin and the action scenes never looks convincing or original. It’s all designs and feats we’ve seen done elsewhere. Thankfully the film does not rely too much on these but when it does it becomes too unreal and generic to engage. Which does become a problem in the third act.

As well as this, the films occasional overreliance on humour undermines the attempt at eliciting emotion from the family storyline. With pathos sacrificed for a joke. And when so much of the film relies on humour there is the risk of alienating the audience if they are not engaged by the jokes. Which did happen a few times with the audience I saw the film with.

Lastly, the film does occasionally slip into the same pitfalls as many other DCEU movies. Some of the acting feels forced and unnatural, particularly Thaddeus’ family and the bully characters. There are also segments that could have been tweaked to make a better impression on the audience. For example, the fight between Billy and the bullies, which doesn’t happen simply because they are hurting Freddy, but because they insult him not having parents which Billy takes personally which makes him seem more selfish than he needs to be. And of course, DC can still think of no other way to end a film than by having a big fight with indiscriminate CGI bad guys. Which is especially disappointing here because the character focused conflict between Billy and Thaddeus is way more interesting than the generic avatars of sin.  

Verdict  

Shazam! is a mixed bag. It is brought down by unconvincing CG villains as well as an occasional overreliance on humour to the detriment of other parts of the narrative. The lack of attention to minor details in the story and occasionally bad acting also drags the film down. But it still feels like a breath of fresh air among modern superhero movies. It is an almost perfect example of what the genre is meant to be, wish fulfilment for little kids. Buoyed by fun performances, a fantastic sense of humour and a script that nicely treads the line between sincere and goofy.

It is impossible not to have a good time with Shazam!. It isn’t a genre redefining masterpiece nor is it an exceptional film, but it’s a damn good version of what it’s trying to be.

Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Shazam! is in UK cinema on from Friday 5th April.

Shazam! (Official Trailer)
Editorials

Who Will Be The Next Batman?

February 18, 2019

With the news that Ben Affleck will no longer be playing Batman who will take on perhaps the most coveted superhero role in all of Hollywood?

Affleck calls time on Batman

There have been rumours about Ben Affleck quitting as Batman almost since he got the part. Many fans were against his initial casting although lots did come round to his performance. Behind the scenes problems on the Justice League film and a new director being brought in (despite talk of Affleck directing the next one) have been fuelling the rumours for a long time. The new director, Matt Reeves, has stated that the next film will be a noir Batman film and with this new direction it’s not surprising there will be a new Caped Crusader if for no other reason then a new director will like a blank slate.

Justice League (https://images.dawn.com)

Where will this new Batman film fit in with DCEU? Batman was one of the crucial members of Justice League, will he be so in the future? He is arguably the most interesting of all DC characters and making him part of a team is difficult. Since Tim Burton’s Batman films, the character of Batman has been very dark, a loner and certainly to many people, not a hero. It’s said the new film will feature a lot of Batman being a detective which seems a departure from Affleck’s Batman whose gadgets and strengths were dialled up to eleven so he could compete with incredibly powerful characters like Superman. So will the huge Batsuit from Batman Vs Superman and the almost psychotic level of violence be replaced by a deerstalker hat and a magnifying glass? We’ll just have to wait and see what Matt Reeves has in store for us.

The front runners

But who will play this “detective” Batman? First things first, the role of Batman has been somewhat of a poisoned chalice and really the only actor to walk away with their career intact and reputation enhanced was Christian Bale (we’ll have to see how Affleck handles it). That said two names seem to be coming up a lot are Robert Pattinson and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Robert Pattinson (dailytimes.com)

Pattinson has worked hard to not just be “that guy from Twilight” taking parts in heavyweight dramas and odd indie films like Cosmopolis, Rover and The Lost City of Z. And while he has shown himself to be an actor with depth and range the “Twilight” label is hard to shake. Of course, being the co-star of a huge franchise with millions of fans might be seen as a good thing.

Jake Gyllenhaal (yahoo.com)

Gyllenhaal is an immensely talented actor who recently seems to be more interested in taking on peculiar roles and very intense characters and actually seems to be moving away from the classic leading actor trajectory his career seemed to be on at first. Still, these days playing Batman and being a serious actor are not mutually exclusive and a new take on the character could interest someone like Gyllenhaal.

My Contenders

Personally, between Pattinson and Gyllenhaal I would prefer the latter but if I were Matt Reeves there would be two options – Oscar Isaac and Michael B. Jordan. Both actors are extremely talented and very popular right now, Isaacs is one of the central characters in the new Star Wars films and Michael B. Jordan is coming off a hugely successful run of films like Creed and more importantly Black Panther. In my opinion Jordan was the best thing in Black Panther, in fact, so much so that it was to the detriment of the movie overall. Jordan was so charismatic as Erik Killmonger (and in many ways very sympathetic) that I think it was actually harmed the film – he was a bad guy who you liked more than than the hero. Casting Isaac or Jordan would be doing something new with the Bruce Wayne/Batman character and perhaps give a new spin on their history and what they’re trying to achieve.

My dream pick for Batman…

Those two actors are my sensible choices, people I think would do well, be successful and make the fans happy. I do, however, have a dream Batman film which would essentially be a movie of The Dark Knight Returns – one of the essential Batman comic book stories. Ideas from this story have been used in The Dark Knight Rises and Batman Vs Superman but it is definitely deserving of a complete adaptation. In this story, Batman has been retired for years and struggling to deal with this life so eventually comes out of retirement. An older actor would be needed to play this part and I think Jon Hamm would be perfect. Best known as Don Draper in Mad Men, Hamm is a brilliant actor who could play the “old money” Bruce Wayne and has the all important strong jawline to be Batman.

Jon Hamm (newyorker.com)

These days playing a superhero is your ticket to Hollywood superstardom. Chris Pratt went from the lovably goofy Andy in Parks and Recreation to megastar just by appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy. Competition will be fierce and I’m sure dozens of actors are hassling their agents, desperate to demonstrate their gravelly Batman voice for Matt Reeves..

Editorials

Marvel vs DC: The Bitter Divide

November 8, 2018

I recently rewatched Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy and I consider this to be the high watermark of superhero films. My opinion is The Dark Knight is the best of the trilogy by a clear margin which I know is hardly controversial. The car chase scene of the Joker trying to get to Harvey Dent might be the best action scene in all of cinema. Batman Begins is the first superhero film where they really explained the origins of a superhero in a satisfying way. The Dark Knight Rises had an almost impossible job following The Dark Knight but is still an amazing film and added Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to a superhero franchise.

The Dark Knight (IMDb)

 

Divided Society

 

This leads me to what may be the most important and bitter divide in society today: Marvel Vs DC. On average Marvel films are better but the high point is Nolan’s work (which technically doesn’t belong to DC’s Extended Universe). It is certainly true that each has their own style. Marvel adopting a more fun and light-hearted take whereas just about every review of DC films uses the words “gritty” and “dark”.

Both have competed in making their own universes – Avengers: Infinity War has around thirty characters that could be called “superheroes” and just trying to keep track of them makes me dizzy. Again, of the two I think Marvel has been more successful in managing their own universe. The DC Justice League films have been widely panned by critics so much so that conspiracy theories exist that critics are all on Disney’s payroll. Rotten Tomatoes critic score for the first Avengers film is 92% compared to Justice League’s dire 40%. Personally, I not a big fan of interconnected universes as I think it becomes very convoluted and the weight of all the characters and storylines is crushing but admittedly seeing all the characters together can be really fun.

 

Successes

 

DC’s big success has been Wonder Woman; a film so good that I put aside my vendetta against Chris Pine. Gal Gadot is sensational as Diana who took one of the least plausible superhero origins and made the film work. Wonder Woman was not just good as a superhero film but dealt with the tragedy of the First World War surprisingly well (even touching on a character dealing with PTSD), the horror of war, even the inevitability of humankind’s own destructive tendencies. These are big things for any film to deal with. Diana’s charge across No Man’s Lead was an unforgettable scene and I cannot praise it enough.

Wonder Woman (IMDb)

Marvel’s high point for me is probably Guardians of the Galaxy Vol I. My knowledge of comic-books is not very deep and I had never heard of this before the film and I remember watching the trailer for the first time thinking “this is going to be a disaster”. It has a talking racoon. And a talking tree. And a professional wrestler playing one of the main parts. I thought not even Chris Pratt’s innate and irresistible likeability could save it. And what happened? Rocket and Groot are amazing characters and despite a limited vocabulary, Groot is surprisingly emotional. Dave Batista, the professional wrestler, was hilarious. I think Guardians of the Galaxy’s strength was in its emotional side, Peter/Star Lord has an amazing journey from scared child to well…a guardian of the galaxy. Perhaps this gives away my age but how can you not be charmed by a film that centres around lovingly put together mixtape?

Guardians of the Galaxy (IMDb)

Failures

 

So, those are the high-points, what are the disasters? Personally, I don’t think Marvel has really made a bad film, not all of them are great but all the ones I’ve seen I’ve enjoyed. The same cannot be said for DC. Man of Steel is that most frustrating of films in that parts of it are great but it ended in the obligatory but increasingly dull city smashing. Batman Vs Superman failed completely despite using whole sections from the fantastic graphic novel and animated film The Dark Knight Returns (which if you want to see a proper fight between Superman and Batman watch this).

But the award surely goes to the Suicide Squad. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was the film’s only redeeming feature but even then DC did not get a good handle on the admittedly very problematic Harley Quinn-Joker relationship. What every superhero film needs is a good villain, it’s perhaps more important than a good hero. I can’t tell you the name of the villain in Suicide Squad or even what they were trying to achieve or what they wanted. Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the poorer Marvel films but I remember Red Skull and what he was trying to do. Why is The Dark Knight so great? A huge part of that is Heath Ledger’s performance.

Suicide Squad (IMDb)

 

So In Conclusion…

 

Overall I think I have divided loyalties between DC and Marvel but I know what both could do better. First, too many films come down to the bad guy wants to destroy the whole world, so obviously they’re bad and anyone fighting them is good. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a great film in part because it was actually about something – order versus freedom, there were discussions about how far you can go to protect people and the bad guys could put their case forward. Secondly, the tone of the film should match the character and not the branding of the whole universe. The TV show Daredevil is one of the very few dark Marvel properties and benefits from that enormously; DC should be able to make fun films and Marvel can make dark films. Marvel next has the very promising looking “dark” and “gritty” Captain Marvel and DC has the very light-hearted Shazam so maybe they have already taken my advice.