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Tag: superhero

Editorials

With Great Power Comes An Interesting Film

March 2, 2019

There are many films that show a realistic portrayal of life – people living ordinary lives going to work, raising families, just living and while I would argue that those stories can be incredibly interesting I can’t help but being more immediately drawn to less ordinary portrayals. Boyhood and Logan are both great films but one is about an almost unkillable mutant with a metal skeleton and claws and one about the life of a typical boy. One of those stories is instantly more appealing. But putting superpowers in your film is no guarantee of success and it’s a tricky business balancing a cool superpower with something that doesn’t seem ridiculous.

The very interesting Wolverine (inverse.com)

Most of these characters are going to be based on comic books and I want to say right now – many of these characters are brilliant in comic books but it’s just that not every comic book character will work well in a film.

Green Lantern

One of the biggest comic book superheroes is Green Lantern, seriously, he is a big deal yet the film was a critical and commercial failure. There were many reasons for this but we’re talking about superpowers. In brief, Green Lantern can create physical manifestation of anything he can imagine.

Green Lantern (pinterest.com)

On the surface that’s a remarkable superpower with unlimited potential but really was just a CGI mess – the ability to create anything? It’s just too much, too powerful, for powers to be interesting they have to have limits. One of the brilliant things about Logan was that it showed Wolverine wasn’t always going to come back from anything, his healing powers did have their limits. And it didn’t really explore the fantastical or just plain weird places it could go with such a power. As is demonstrated in scenes of Green Lantern when fights break out is this power really more useful than a gun?

The Superfluous X-Men

Part of the problem is once you’ve got more than a few characters, coming up with interesting powers becomes difficult. There are dozens of mutants in the X-Men films and it has it’s fair share of duds. There is Banshee who can scream in a weird way and also can use this to fly somehow. There’s Angel who has incredibly flimsy-looking insect style wings. There’s Quill who can make short spikes stick out of his body. I could go on.

The very cinematic Magneto (metalarcade.net)

Their powers don’t make a great deal of sense; they’re not useful, they’re not plausible and they certainly aren’t cinematic. I could watch Michael Fassbender using his powers for hours – simple to explain, looks good on film and it’s merits are obvious. That’s a superpower you want in a film. To be a mutant with a bad power feels like the cruellest blow of all – yes mutants are a maligned group in society who live in fear but at least Cyclops can shoot lasers out of his eyes.

Money, money, money

Not all superheroes have superpowers and not only is this not a problem it can make the superhero more interesting. There is a classic get out though – money. A fairly common device is the rich superhero (or indeed supervillain), the two most famous being Batman and Ironman. Apparently, there is nothing that can’t be done with enough money – you want to be stronger, faster, tougher? Buy it and don’t let aerodynamics, ballistics, kinetics or any other killjoy science tell you it doesn’t exist or isn’t possible.

Guess what? This sort of thing is expensive (wdsu.coom)

Obviously, you can achieve a lot with money but surely there are limits and finding a superhero who doesn’t have superpowers or money is hard. Kick-Ass is one of the few examples I can think of and Kick-Ass himself is hardly a successful superhero so it seems if you have no powers you better have some money.

The Man of Too Many Powers

So we come to the apex of ridiculous powers, a character that exceeds virtually all others in their powers making no sense whatsoever and ruining the plot of almost any story they become involved in. I am, of course, talking about Superman.

Superman’s powers are amazing and spectacular and therein lies the problem. Every day Superman fights crime and saves people…well, it’s hardly a challenge for him, is it? Superstrength, flight, x-ray vision, super-speed and there’s more…it must be so boring. When Batman fights a mugger with a gun he might die, with Superman it’s not even really a fight. Superman’s arch-nemesis Lex Luthor is a billionaire genius and is the underdog in that fight.

The boring, if impressive, Superman (mic.com)

Graphic novel and film classic Watchmen explored the ridiculousness of Superman further with Dr Manhattan standing in for the Man of Steel. The idea being that someone with so much power would inevitably become distant from the normal people around him and perhaps even stop caring. Dr Manhattan even manages to surpass Superman in powers – he can teleport, make multiple versions of himself, become gigantically big, survive on Mars, see the future and just for fun can literally explode people just by thinking about it. Oh and is essentially indestructible with no convenient kryptonite weakness. The clever twist in Watchmen is that the villain doesn’t attack him physically but psychologically, manipulating him into doing what he wants. Of course, Dr. Manhattan is meant to be ridiculously powerful, Superman just kept acquiring more powers in the comics to try and keep it interesting.

The best Superman film, in my opinion, is Superman II and why is that? It has villains who can stand up to the hero. The vast collection of powers they possess make for excellent fight scenes and that’s Superman’s saving grace – they look amazing. The much maligned Superman Returns has an amazing scene of Superman saving a plane and it is a stunning scene. Just watching Christopher Reeve, Brandon Ruth and Henry Cavill use their powers is worth the cinema ticket.

There are still decades of comic book heroes to go through yet but even so you can’t help but feel the well is running pretty dry on interesting superpowers. Captain Marvel is the next big one to be brought to the silver screen and we’ll have to see how her powers are handled. From the sounds of it she’s going to be another pretty powerful superhero, perhaps the most powerful in Marvel have yet brought to film, so will she be silly or spectacular?

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

2019: The Year for Superhero Horror?

December 28, 2018
Blade Trinity

A great run of films

2018 has been a monster year for superhero films, largely due to Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe with Avengers: Infinity War & Black Panther being the two highest grossing films in the world this year. With the release of the trailer for Avengers 4: End Game, audience appetite for the Marvel’s franchise shows no signs of slowing down.

Similarly, if you’re a fan of horror films the last few years have been something of a golden age: Get Out, A Quiet Place, IT, Hereditary, Halloween & Mandy are all part of a new generation of horror films that have seen critical success and have spearheaded a revival in the genre. A testament to this is horror films increasing their take at the U.K Box Offices, going from £50.8 Million in 2016 to £66.2 Million in 2017

2017’s Logan has served as the precursor what we could potentially see from grittier-darker toned superhero films. As the appetite for both superhero and horror films show no immediate signs of slowing down, surely it’s only a matter of time until we see these worlds merge, right?

New Mutants Delay

The New Mutants was one of our own selected Must See films of 2018. The X-Men spin-off sees five mutants escaping from a secret facility where they are being held captive. The release of the film was delayed by a year, as a result of reshoots and the Delay of X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The reshoots have reportedly allowed director, Josh Boone, to make the film “scarier”, with him even calling the film “a full-fledged horror film“. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the film can reach it’s potential.

The New Mutants (Trailer)

Enter BrightBurn

“What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?” – the synopsis of Brightburn reads like an “evil” Superman and certainly, that’s the direction the first trailer appears to be heading in. The film is directed by David Yarovesky (Guardians of the Galaxy) who has coined the phrase “Superhero Horror”, to describe the merging of the two. Brightburn will be released in May 2019.

Brightburn (Trailer)

History repeats

The idea of a popular superhero-horror franchise on the big screen isn’t exactly new. Marvel first saw success 20 years ago with the release of Blade in 1998, the film followed Blade (played by Wesley Snipes) who stars in the lead role as a vampire killer. Amassing an impressive $130 Million worldwide, a cult following and spawning two more successful sequels, the Blade trilogy has the honour of being Marvel’s first trilogy franchise and first live-action superhero film led by a black actor. Wesley Snipes has spoken openly about bringing Blade to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so perhaps a reboot isn’t too far-fetched.

Blade (1998)

Keeping on the theme of vampires, following the commercial success of the Spider-Man spin-off Venom, Sony has had its eye on the continued expansion of its own Spider-Man Universe (not part of Disney’s MCU) with Morbius, the Living Vampire. The lead antihero, Biochemist, Dr Michael Morbius, will be played by Jared Leto. In the comics, Morbius has pseudo-vampiric superhuman abilities and physical traits stemming from a failed biochemical experiment which was intended to cure his rare blood disorder. Although exact plot details of the feature film aren’t known at this stage, expect to hear more news soon. The film is currently at the pre-production stage, so will likely be released in 2020 at the earliest, however, with the release of edgier comic-book based films beforehand Sony will be keen to build off the momentum of other films.

One reboot which is definitely happening is Hellboy. However, based on the trailer it might not be as dark in tone as the original 2004 feature film starring Ron Perlman. Should the reboot prove successful it should film studios further incentive to work on developing more superhero – horror films.

Who wins?

Ultimately this could be a win-win situation for fans and the film studios. In order to maintain interest in comic book film adaptations in a post-Avengers; End Game world, it makes sense for the major studios to branch out and experiment with the genre to keep fans engaged. Increased attention in comic-book films also allows studios to take more risks in producing more niche titles, which may already have their own cult following among comic-book readers.

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.

Reviews

Review: Deadpool 2 [Spoiler Free]

October 4, 2018

This week’s review features the red-suited “Merc with a mouth” Deadpool as he embarks on another profanity-ridden adventure across your television screen.

Maximum effort.

Why now?

Deadpool 2 was released on DVD and Blu Ray in the UK towards the end of September.

In a nutshell

Wade Wilson has been fighting crime as the mercenary Deadpool for two years when a personal tragedy (hasn’t he had enough of those?) forces him to team up with some lesser-known members of the X-men to track down and rescue a young mutant barrelling down a dark path towards violence. His quest brings him face-to-face with Cable, a cybernetic super-soldier from the future who’s travelled back in time with some violence of his own on the agenda.

Who’s it for?

Not your granny, that’s for sure – as with its predecessor, Deadpool 2 is chock-full of gory violence, sexual innuendo and naughty words, and as such is R-rated.

Who’s in it?

Ryan Reynolds plays Deadpool in such a way that no-one else ever really could, much like Heath Ledger’s Joker. His charisma and comedic delivery keep the film ticking along at a steady pace as he bounces off every other character on screen (figuratively and often literally). The Deadpool movies wouldn’t be up to much without him playing the titular character.

Supporting Reynolds is Morena Baccarin as Vanessa (in a smaller but possibly more weighty role), the brilliant Josh Brolin (can’t not hear Thanos now, though), Julian Dennison (you’ll see), and a host of others returning to their roles from the previous film. There are a few wonderful cameos throughout as well, but I won’t spoil those for you.

The good stuff

This is another very funny, irreverent superhero film that constantly pokes fun at itself and its genre. If you like Ryan Reynolds and have a fairly good grasp of Marvel, you’ll find this hilarious. It’s also well-directed and has a surprisingly solid storyline.

The not so good stuff

Like the first Deadpool, the film frequently threatens to collapse under the weight of its toilet humour. I found myself wincing at times when yet another barrage of swear words spills out of Deadpool’s mouth when a less-profane line would have done the same job. There could also have been more Cable, but Brolin’s signed on for multiple films so he’ll be back soon enough. It also feels a little too long at almost two hours.

Best quote

Cable: I use a device to slide through time. The longer I travel, the harder it is to control. I got two charges: One to get me here, one to get me home.

Wade Wilson: [looks at the camera] Well, that’s just lazy writing.

The bottom line

If you’re a fan of the first Deadpool movie, you’ll like this one. It’s almost as good, and only falls short because it isn’t (and can’t be) as original as its predecessor. In all honesty, it wouldn’t be one I’d watch again in a hurry, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a solid flick that’s certainly worth a home viewing.

Again, though, just don’t watch it with your granny.

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