Thursday, February 12, 2015

Actually Excited...

...about the upcoming film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Which is surprising for a number of reasons.

[apologies on the lack of starts up again for the boy on Monday, and like many parents of young children I have mixed emotions on the matter. Happy that I'll again have (more) time for myself; sad that my boy's growing up and I'll have less time with him. Haven't been writing, but I have been researching and designing. More on that later]

I'm sure I'm not alone in my general apathy towards superhero films these days. Once upon a time (not too long ago) it was a little different, but my desire to see absolutely every such film that hits the theater has faded with the ubiquitousness (is that a word?) of the genre. Since entering the 21st century, we've been fairly inundated with these super-suited theater releases...the last five years we've seen roughly half a dozen, comic-culled blockbusters annually. Probably more than are truly needed, considering the similarities inherent in most of them.

But this wasn't always the case. Take away made-for-TV films (I can still remember the final scene of 1979's Captain America II: Death Too Soon), and your films of "popular" comic book heroes was pretty darn limited prior to 2000. You had the Superman franchise which lasted from 1978 to 1983, and which was pretty much required viewing for every kid in America, right up there with the Rocky films and Star Wars.

The only game in town for 10+ years.
[O yes, I'm aware of the 1987 Superman IV, which I've never watched and, from what I understand, was a failure in every regard]

Then you have the Batman franchise started by Tim Burton in 1989 that lasted nearly a decade with a sequel being released every two to three years until it devolved into the same campy ridiculousness of its 1966 precursor...or so  I've read. I only ever saw the first one (which I remember thinking was pretty good, considering I wasn't a "Batman guy"), because my 90's film budget was going to either "darker" hero films (I enjoyed both The Crow and Darkman) or something indie or Tarentino-esque.

And that was pretty much all she wrote until X-Men appeared in 2000, by which time I was married and not nearly as dark and indie as I once was. X-Men was a hit and then Spider-Man in 2002 was an $800 million smash success that launched the entire Marvel film far as I'm concerned. Hell, it might have launched the whole "ubiquitous genre;" Lord knows we've been up to our eyeteeth in Marvel comic films ever since.

Meanwhile, it took DC nearly a decade to even get back into the game (Catwoman doesn't count)...and when they did, it was rebooting the venerable Batman franchise (again) with Nolan's semi-aptly named Batman Begins. I mean, at least the title told us we were going back to Bruce Wayne's (rebooted) origin story, even if it absolutely was not the beginning of Batman in theatrical release.

Isn't it a little sad, by the way, that the only franchises DC has really been willing to invest in are Batman and Superman? I've met so many comic aficionados over the years who insist that the DC universe is "sooooo much better" than what Marvel's got going on, and yet there's never been a Wonder Woman or Aquaman or Flash or Justice League on the big screen. Just Ye Old Caped Crusader and Ye Old Man of Steel.

But then, maybe DC is something of a mess when it comes to films. Green Lantern went into production in 1997, was released in 2011 (14 years!) and - due to "underperformance" - had all related projects (sequels, shared film universe a la Marvel) scrapped. Thank goodness everyone loves that Dark Knight cash cow, huh? The three Nolan Batman films combined to take in $2.4 billion in the theaters. All other DC films since 2004 (beginning with Catwoman)? Less than $2 billion...and that's for nine films including two Superman movies.

"Cash Cow"
By contrast, Iron Man 3 and The Avengers alone took in a combined $2.7 billion. And Marvel's got a whole slew of successful franchises going strong (Thor, Captain America, Wolverine, Young X-Men or whatever that one's called). It's pretty disgusting how Marvel's films have completely lapped DC's, when DC has (arguably) the most recognizable comic book characters on the planet. I know my introduction to comic book superheroes was through The Superfriends on Saturday mornings...and I watched plenty of Adam West Batman and George Reeves Superman reruns as a child (not to mention the iconic Linda Carter as Wonder Woman).

[and while I haven't seen them, I know there have been plenty of animated DC serials over the last couple decades featuring Batman, the Justice League, and the Teen are still growing up recognizing DC's stable of superheroes]

Too bad girls don't go to movies, huh?
I don't know what it is...maybe DC prefers to operate in the small-budget arena of television with all their live-action serials (Arrow and Gotham and Flash and whatnot). But Christopher Reeves made one helluva' a big screen impression, back in the day, and I think the success of Batman over the decades (regardless of the quality of the films) shows that there is money to be milked from folks...even those (like me) who are more "casual" fans of the DC universe. Hell, can I just get a damn Wonder Woman film to take my kids to? It's only been 70+ years since the character was created...

[yes, I'm aware that there is a Wonder Woman film in development with a scheduled release date of 2017. But of course, DC has to put out a Suicide Squad film first (2016) And being in development is no guarantee of being completed]

"Holy halibut, Batman!"
SO... Dawn of Justice. Yeah, I'd never heard about this project until today, and I'm pretty excited for it. Not because it's got "Superman" and "Batman" in the title, but because it's supposed to have appearances by Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg (though as an old geezer, I'm more interested in the portrayal of the first two than the old "Teen Titan" dude). I find the casting of all these characters to be very intriguing (Jason Momoa as the King of the Sea? Where's that solo film?). Especially the principals...I've had the opportunity to watch Man of Steel three or four times, and while I've dozed off every time, I do like Henry Cavill as Clark Kent.

Forget the costume. It's the jaw and the hair.
And I really, really, really dig the idea of Ben Affleck as Batman. Underwhelming as Daredevil was, I still enjoyed it a lot (probably helps that DD's one of my faves...though the same didn't save Ghost Rider for me), and Affleck's portrayal was a big part of the reason why. I'd like to see his Advil-crunching take on crime-fighting brought to the Dark Knight's the guy actually looks like Bruce Wayne for a change (at least, the way he always looked in my old Detective comics) and he's got that kind of cynicism about him that I think Bruce Wayne requires (even for a guy as idealistic as Bats, you have to be a damn cynic about the justice system to devote your life to becoming a masked vigilante...sorry). Keaton, Kilmer, and Clooney all have too much humor, Bale has too much...I don't know...drama? (I never believed him as a billionaire and he never had enough jaw).

Anyway, yeah. Looking forward to this one coming out. And I'm really hoping it's good.

[though I'm wondering why the hell Wonder Woman has a sword in the promo posters. Is she going to stab someone? Isn't she already "strong as Hercules?" Why does she need to stab people? Sigh...I guess I really am getting too old...]


  1. To be fair, Wondie does use Amazon weapons against mythical creatures and such, so even in the comics it's not weird these days to see her occasionally use shields, swords, lances and other weapons. Heck, she even used magic guns fairly recently.

    1. @ Bruno:

      I thought the "Amazon weapon" was a bow.
      ; )

  2. Shouldn't those millions be billions?

    Affleck's probably a good choice for Batman, but I don't like seeing the same person play different characters in superhero films, even if they're from different companies. Could maybe get away with it for smaller roles, but not leads

    You should give Batman Returns a shot. It can be a little goofy, but it's still an enjoyable film. Plus, Christopher Walken. Forever's not as good, but I still liked it. The Riddler was one of my favorite villains as a kid, so I was pretty excited when that one came out. You can probably skip Joel Schumacher's Bat-Nipples, though

  3. @ Prof Oats:

    Yes...just changed it.

    I would LIKE to see Batman Returns (that's the one with Danny DeVito, yes?). The death of video stores and lack of streaming options in Paraguay have conspired to make it difficult.

    1. Indeed, it is. I always forget not everyone's in the U.S. Are torrents not an option?

  4. I've seen DC's proposed production schedule for the next few years. While they're not going to be churning out as many movies as Marvel (and Sony owning Spider-Man rights and Fox owning X-Men/Fantastic Four rights means there can be a lot more Marvel movies than Warner Brothers can produce on their own), they do have a fair number of movies lined up. Of course, I think all of them will ride on the success or failure of Bats V Supes, since they're hoping to start up a shared cinematic universe simlar to Marvel's Avengers related flicks.

    It is a bit of "super hero overload" especially with so much TV in the works. Marvel has Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter going, plus the Netflix Daredevil/Luke Cage/Jessica Jones/Iron Fist shows coming soon, and I think I heard that DC/Warner are working on a Supergirl show as well, and maybe an ATOM spinoff of Arrow, and suggestions that Diggle, one of the Arrow cast, might become Green Lantern... It really does go on and on!

    1. @ Lord G:

      Yeah, it can really lead to "superhero fatigue." I say this as a person who has enjoyed the genre, well, for decades.

      Of course, when I walk into a comic book store these days, I'm generally overwhelmed to the point of apathy (the sheer number of rehashed/recycled and derivative titles). I suppose the film medium is simply catching up to the illustrated one.

  5. "Hell, can I just get a damn Wonder Woman film to take my kids to?"

    The problem is, it's very hard to find an actress with the proper combination of height, good looks, curves, and athleticism... who can still act. Nowadays every actress in Hollywood is an anoerexic with breast implants. No one will buy any of them as an Amazon. Lynda Carter was one in a million (even if her acting was maybe a little dodgy) and we won't see her like again. The underfed waif that Snyder cast is certainly no Lynda Carter.

    1. @ Shadow:

      Lucy Lawless would have seemed an ideal choice in her heyday (same height as Carter).

      But really, it feels like it doesn't need to be that hard considering what you can do with movie FX. Pro-actors have the time (and motivation) to beef up their bodies, "curves" can be added (see Jolie in Tomb Raider), height can be fixed (those hobbits aren't really that short), hair and eyes can be changed. There have been plenty of poor casting choices by both Marvel and DC over the years, but that alone isn't enough to sink a movie.

      This is really more a matter of "want to" as far I'm concerned. For whatever reason, WW has been allowed to languish on the sidelines or in "development hell" for decades, and I don't think it's been about casting.

    2. I think it's just as likely that they've struggled with bringing Wonder Woman to mass appeal. She's the quintessential "man in a woman's body" kind of character who lacks much in the way of mainstream appeal.

      She can't be too feminine, because the feminists who see her as in icon will hate it. She can't be too masculine because everyone who's not a radical feminist will find her unlikeable and unrealistic. She can't be too middle of the road, or she won't satisfy anyone.

      I think even in the comic book arena itself, they've struggled with what to do with Wonder Woman for years, and I suspect that's a strong part of the problem with bringing her to the big screen; it's just not clear exactly how they can cater to the character without simultaneously alienating mainstream audiences and having the film flop.

  6. @ Joshua:

    I hear what you're saying and perhaps I should just write a full-on WW post...not that it would do much good, of course. If I do, it should address your points.
    ; )