Justice League Trailer Thoughts

Geoff Johns was kind enough to share the new Justice League trailer with twitter this morning.

So let’s get this out of the way. I am not a Marvel v DC person. Obviously I realize there is competition between the two brand and their related movie studios. However,  I do not condone the childish mindset that I can only like the movies from one group. My favourite comic book films include DC and Marvel properties, ranging from The Dark Knight, X:Men DOFP to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

With that said, I am cautiously optimistic about Justice League. I love the characters, especially Batman, but BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad have left a bad taste in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong, both films had great pieces and great moments. Overall. they felt short. Both had weak villians and weak third acts, along with some other issues.

As I watched this trailer I forgot about that for a moment. There is still no sign of Superman but I’m sure we’ll see him in the film. I am glad this film didn’t reveal too much about the plot or reveal the villain yet. We know it will be Darkseid’s uncle, Steppenwolf, and we get some glimpses of parademons (presumably) in this trailer.

From what I understand, Cyborg’s armour is derived from alien technology in the newer comics. It looks like his armour comes from a motherbox, a teleportation device Darkseid’s forces use. This motherbox appears to be the gateway that allows the parademons to reach earth. If this is the case, Cyborg could have a central role in the film and I am hoping the script and the actor can deliver.

To start, there is a lot of CGI in this trailer. Obviously that has to be the case for the visuals this story needs. The Flash looks amazing so far and his scenes are some of my favourites from the trailer. However, this trailer reminds me of 300 with the amount of computer generated backgrounds and surroundings. The scene with Batman fighting a parademon sticks out in my mind as one of the worst offenders. Maybe I wouldn’t notice as much if some of the effects looked better. Hopefully the effects are cleaned up by the time the film begins. Cyborg looks better than he did in the comic-con footage so I am hoping there is still time to improve the visuals.

With that being said, the visuals weren’t my greatest concern going into the film. Steppenwolf will hopefully provide a better villain than Doomsday, Luthor or Enchantress. This should help to strengthen the third act but won’t necessarily be enough. If the third act is just a fight filled with poor special effects, that can also cause the audience to lose interest, like I did with the last fight in BvS.

I am also hoping the desire to add more “fun” doesn’t ruin the script entirely. Obviously some characters are more light-hearted than others. However, Barry Allen has pretty much been turned into Wally West in terms of their personalities. Meanwhile it looks like they are trying to turn Bruce Wayne into Tony Stark. Obviously Bruce Wayne has the carefree, obnoxious playboy persona but the real Bruce Wayne has a drier sense of humour than the one we’ve seen so far.

Okay, time to be more positive.

Aquaman is one of my favourite superheroes, and is severely underrated by the general audience and even some comic book readers. Jason Momoa, as well as the writers, look like they’ll remedy that. I am sure that Aquaman or Flash will end up being the breakout stars of this film and possibly even the franchise. My only worry is Momoa’s acting skill, which isn’t that great from what I have seen so far. That doesn’t detract from my man crush, but it does bring up a possible issue with the film. We’ll see how he does.

In general, the action looks pretty awesome. Looking past the issue of the CGI, it looks like we’ll see some creative and memorable action sequences. It was great to see our first glimpse of J.K Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, and hear a reference to Robin since Batman is “playing well with others” again.

I can’t deny my excitement at seeing my favourite superheroes on screen together and I hope Zack Snyder delivers a film that lives up to the hype.

 

The Rock Will Lead a Black Adam Solo Film

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As I discussed recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had a meeting with DC Entertainment to discuss the upcoming Shazam film slated for a 2019 release.  Years ago, The Rock was cast as Black Adam, the film’s villain. Little was heard about the project until The Rock’s meeting with DC, and today we have even bigger news.

Black Adam will get his own solo film, prior to the introduction of Captain Marvel (a.k.a Shazam) in a later film. Some people love this idea, I am not one of them.

I don’t believe that The Rock is a great actor, but he is still one of my favourites. His charisma is off the charts and Ballers shows that he is also developing as a more serious, dramatic actor. I follow his Instagram religiously and respect his work ethic above all else. With that said, this move comes across as one fuelled solely by Johnson’s star power. The official reason provided for the solo film is that Black Adam has a very interesting backstory that the film-makers want to have room to tell. Johnson also says that is the main reason he wanted to play Black Adam, as opposed to Captain Marvel (he was offered both parts).

However, that reason seems like a smoke screen used to rationalize a move made with star power in mind. Some people argue that it doesn’t make sense for Johnson to play a villain opposite another actor, instead of a lead. Maybe they would have a point if we weren’t living in the golden age of comic book films. Big name actors (measured by pedigree or box office power) have all had relatively small parts in comic book films, compared to relative new comers. Spoilers for The Winter Soldier: Chris Evans gets his Captain America franchise while Robert Redford plays a villain who gets killed off at the end of the film. Jamie Foxx played Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. No one said Scarlett Johansson’s star power warranted her getting a Black Widow solo film before The Avengers, and Black Widow’s backstory is also very interesting.

Black Adam may have a great backstory and he may be a great character, but he was a character created for a hero. The Joker is my favourite villain and while I love his origin in The Killing Joke, I wouldn’t want to see a Joker solo film before a Batman film. Part of what makes many villains so great is their interaction with the hero. The push and pull between different conceptions of right and wrong, the way that the characters provide foils for one another.

Additionally, The Rock emphasized that DC films would now be bringing more “optimism, hope and fun”. That does not fit with Black Adam’s backstory or his persona as a whole. If this will be a story about a slave rising to power, I hope the writers don’t throw in one-liners simply to add some “fun” in.

The Rock and DC Comics- Tonal Change

Two days ago, The Rock posted to Instagram about a meeting he had with DC Comics concerning the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The Rock was announced as a lead for the DCEU’s Shazam (yes, the hero is actually called Captain Marvel but due to copyright issues he is just Shazam at the moment) adaptation, playing the role of the villain Black Adam.

However, there has been little word on the project since then. Henry Cavill posted a picture of he and the Rock sharing a drink in late December, fueling speculation that The Rock would make an appearance in the next Superman solo film, especially since Cavill hinted at bright things for the future.

The Rock is one of the few stars who can engage audiences off charisma alone. He is not the greatest actor, but his work on Ballers shows that he is developing. I am excited to see that the project is coming together slowly but The Rock’s summary of the meeting leaves me slightly worried.

“Had a very cool and strategic meeting with the heads of DC about their entire universe. As a hard core DC fan, to get a real sense of the tonal shifts and developments coming in these future movies has me fired up. Something we, as DC fans have all been waiting for for a very long time.

Hope, optimism & FUN.

Even when talking about the the most ruthless villain/anti-hero of all time finally coming to life. Prepare yourselves DC Universe.”

I have discussed the obsession with making comic book films “fun” before and how this belief is founded on nonsensical assumptions.

“I am not anti-fun or anti-humour. I simply do not like it when the device is overused. While some Marvel films have juggled it well, such as The Winter Soldier (2014), the Thor series has been severely brought down by terrible and consistent one-liners imho. While Loki’s humour is handled well, Jane’s (Natalie Portman) and Darcy’s (Kat Dennings) end up being the Jar Jars of the franchise. My problem is not only the overuse of humour, but how Marvel has successfully conditioned people to believe that this humour is the mark of a good comic book movie. Nowadays, any film that lacks the same level of levity is deemed too “dark”, “gritty”, “depressing, “brooding” or “pretentious”. A lot of the criticism levied towards Man of Steel (MOS) before it was even released came from this misconception. The trailers were serious in tone, nothing about them screamed “dark” or “brooding”, but people were so used to Marvel’s marketing by this point. The MOS trailers did not have enough one-liners, enough levity in comparison to Marvel’s trailers, so people were thrown off. Everything is relative, and since the MOS trailers were found to be lacking in humour, they were immediately deemed too dark.

This brings up another issue I have with Marvel’s brainwashing. I often hear people throw around the word “dark” like it is an insult in itself. As if saying a film is dark is as bad as saying the acting was terrible, the writing was terrible etc. A film can be “dark” and also be good… While Marvel has darker material in some of its films, and has Netflix shows with much darker tones (Daredevil, Jessica Jones) it appears that Marvel’s status gives it more room to experiment than any other property has. Marvel’s trailers, films and tv shows can have darker tones without people complaining about them trying to “copy Christopher Nolan”, “not being fun” etc. While Marvel is allowed to experiment, change and adapt, DC is now forced to appeal to Marvel sensibilities in order to be less divisive among audiences.”

You don’t have to tell me that BatmanvSuperman (Bvs) of Suicide Squad (SS) had issues. The villains and third act for both films sucked. Some dialogue was weak, some acting was weak, Eisenberg was a terrible Luthor etc. I am not a DC “fanboy”. I don’t think that DC can do no wrong. I just hate the fact that people believe that the solution to these films is to make them more “fun”. Some of the things added to SS to make it more fun, actually made it worse, such as the overly abundant musical segways. The emphasis on adding more “fun” in could cause the writers, directors, studios etc. to overlook other issues, such as a weak villain or weak storytelling (which is not always tied to tone). Like this writer says, “‘Justice League’ Is Reportedly “A Mess” & That’s Fine, As Long As It’s a Fun Mess.” Words can not describe how much I detest this mentality. Sadly critics and audiences will probably love the film more for its tone even if everything else is terrible.

The Justice League trailer already had me worried that the studio is putting even more pressure on the directors and writers to lighten things up. Bruce Wayne seems completely out of character, and so does Barry Allen. Wally West (Allen’s nephew-in law) is the version of The Flash that is known for being comic-relief. Allen is a more serious character, but it seems like the writers have just changed Allen completely in order to get more room for humour. Wayne can be funny as well, but I find his humour is best when it is done similarly to the dry humour we’re familiar with from Alfred.

One of the best examples of Batman’s humour, in my opinion, comes from the animated film Superman/Batman Apocalypse. After a newly arrived Supergirl damages $50,000 worth of batcave equipment, Superman asks Batman to send him the bill.  Batman then says: “On a reporter’s salary, right.”

That kind of humour adds levity, without coming across as out of character. Unlike the “more or less” exchange in The Justice League. That is the issue I have with some of the “fun” people insist on, especially because people normally ask for fun because DC is dark relative to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). When there is an insistence on having “fun” in every scene it can just kill dramatic tension. As Jeremy Jahns said in his review of Doctor Strange, “Sometimes I want an epic moment instead of a funny one.”

 

 

 

Third Time The Charm for The Flash?

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The Flash (2018), starring Ezra Miller, was originally going to be directed by Seth Grahame-Smith. The Flash would have marked Smith’s directorial debut. Prior to his appointment as director, Smith served as a writer for the film adaptation of his novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Smith seemed like an odd choice at the time but I didn’t want to worry too much since unlikely or unknown directors have made great films previously. A great recent example are the Russo Brothers and their work with Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War.

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Smith later left the project due to unspecified creative differences in late April. Five months ago, director Rick Famuyiwa (Dope) signed on to direct. This also seemed like an odd choice, since Rick’s latest work was far removed in terms of genre and scale. However, I realized that Dope‘s tone could work very well for a Flash film. Although Barry Allen’s stories are not always light-hearted a character as people may think (e.g. Flashpoint Paradox) there is still a lot of room for humour in the series. Out of all the upcoming solo films, humour belongs in The Flash the most. The Flash was also one of my most anticipated solo films, after The Batman and Wonder Woman.

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Today, Famuyiwa also left the project due to creative differences. I am sure there are other directors out there who can step up to the plate and do a great job. Having two directors drop out is worrisome, but I am more worried about what this can indicate. BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad both suffered from changes made by Warner Bros. in post production. The uncut version of BatmanvSuperman is much more coherent, and Suicide Squad had its first hour drowned in pop songs to make it more light-hearted.

I am now worried that the creative differences in both cases were due to ideas Warner Bros insisted on; ones that will bring the final film down yet again.  I am more worried about this since the creative differences pop up months after a new director is attached. It appears WB may like their original pitch but have more grievances as more directorial decisions come to light. I respect Smith and Famuyiwa for sticking to their vision and not becoming corporate slaves who simply want to make a blockbuster film for the exposure and money. I can’t imagine how hard that decision must be.

Another troubling aspect is that The Flash is set for a March 2018 release date. 2016 is nearly over and a director is not even signed on yet. Smith’s script is still being used but filming will obviously come to a halt without a director. The film will likely need almost a year to film, plus post-production. It is likely the release date could be pushed back at this point.

Let’s hope the third director is the final one. Will the studio opt for another unknown director, an indie one, or will they try to get a bigger name? The problem is that a bigger name may wish to stay clear of a project that two directors have already left. Any director may take two directors leaving as a bad sign. Plenty of fans do and events like this are also an early Christmas present for Marvel fans trapped in the “Marvel V DC” mentality.

Let’s see what happens.

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The Killing Joke Review

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While DC is struggling to get critical approval with its live-action films, as the (partly) undeserved roasting of BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad demonstrate, they have an impressive record of success with their animated features. In my opinion, the quality of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies (DCUAOM) has declined in recent years with Justice League: War and Son of Batman. However, there have been some bright spots such as Gods and Monsters, Assault on Arkham and Batman vs. Robin. I was hoping that The Killing Joke would continue that trend. It isn’t a bad film, but as a whole, it does not measure up to some of the aforementioned bright spots.

As a spoiler- free summary, this story involves The Joker escaping from Arkham Asylum and kidnapping Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). There will be some relatively minor spoilers throughout this review. I haven’t read the graphic novel in years and I wanted to do so before seeing this film. However, I ended up rushing ahead and watching the film first. For that reason, I won’t be able to compare this film to the finer details of the comic.

I was told by friends that the film added a prelude that explained more of Barbara Gordon’s backstory, prior to her kidnapping. A little research online also showed that this section also resulted in most of the criticism for the film. I tried to ignore these critiques and form my own opinions so that I wouldn’t unfairly bash the film. I have to say that some of the criticism is justified.

The most valuable insights that come from this prelude are:

  • Barbara still views crime-fighting as a thrill, not an unhealthy obsession the way Batman does
  • Conflict over this issue is what led to Barbara ending her role as Batgirl

These two insights are valuable, but my issue is some of the execution. The Batgirl prelude centers around a single criminal, Paris Franz, who becomes obsessed with Batgirl. However, Franz’s obsession is more like a delusional and arrogant fanboy, as opposed to the twisted dependency we see with The Joker and Batman. Franz ends up being a very forgettable villain and the writing for his character is mainly what makes the prelude unwelcome.

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Another issue, is the infamous sex scene. Sorry if it is a spoiler but it is a part of the story that I can’t review this film without mentioning. If I simply said there is a sex scene, then it would still be pretty easy to figure out which characters I am referring to. Although I am not personally a fan of a Batman/Batgirl relationship, I know it exists in some of the comics. What annoys me most about the sex scene isn’t the fact that a relationship I like to think of as father-daughter is changed; I just hated the fact that it was precipitated by a slap-slap-kiss trope. I didn’t even know that this was a trope until a year ago, but seeing it time after time led me to believe that other people must have noticed how often it pops up in romantic situations. Two people are fighting; they often start pushing or come to blows. Then they suddenly stop, stare into each other’s eyes, and kiss. It is hack writing at its best.

With that said, the rest of The Killing Joke is much better. Firstly, we have a better villain. Mark Hamill plays The Prince of Crime, and also plays The Joker in flashbacks that reveal how he became The Joker. The graphic novel is famous partly for introducing a tragic Joker origin story and the transformation from Jack Napier to the Prince of Crime is one of the film’s most haunting.

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The Joker’s actions in this film make you hate him, but you also can’t deny his charisma and his skills as a wordsmith. I enjoyed John DiMaggio as The Joker in Under the Red Hood but it is great to have Hamill back for this role, alongside Kevin Conroy. One of my favourite parts of the film is a Batman monologue near the beginning. While Conroy is famous for portraying Batman’s menace, his ability to convey the character’s (often hidden) warmth was also a treat to watch.

Joker’s kidnapping of Barbara is the central crux of the story, and the scene is a tough one to watch. The animation, the music (or lack thereof) and the voice acting make it one of my favourite scenes among all the DC animated films. Hamill brings a blend of menace and humour to the role, while navigating his way through one of the most pivotal moments in Batman’s history.

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The kidnapping also represents a high-point in the film, which is followed by the final showdown between Batman and The Joker. From what I remember, the kidnapping of Commissioner Gordon was more enthralling in the graphic novel. Here, the voice acting from Gordon and Joker’s gang of freaks brought this section of the film down.

Overall, I enjoyed The Killing Joke. However, the faults I’ve mentioned prevent it from being among the top-tier of the DCUAOM films. As it stands, it is a decent entry that had a lot of potential.

 

 

 

 

Deathstroke

Hello everyone,

Maybe this blog post is a little late but I figure better late than never. Two days ago, Ben Affleck posted this video on twitter. From what we get, it appears to be legit footage of someone in a Deathstroke costume.

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It appears to be footage from one of the cameras a director would use to review a shot. Additionally, the footage coincides with reports that Deathstroke would be the primary villain in the solo Batman film slated for a 2018 or 2019 release. It is unlikely that the film has started filming yet but perhaps the Deathstroke footage could be test shots or maybe Deathstroke has a small part in other DC projects, like The Justice League.

My first exposure to Deathstroke was in Teen Titans, where the mercenary was re-imagined as a criminal mastermind. It has already been revealed that the solo Batman film will feature numerous villains and that it will partially takes place inside Arkham Asylum. If so, it is likely that Deathstroke could be the main villain in the same sense that The Winter Soldier was the main villain in Captain America: The Winter Soldier: While the Winter Soldier is the greatest physical threat, he is ultimately a henchman of the film’s real antagonist. Perhaps Lex Luthor or The Joker employs Deathstroke to take out Batman.

The glimpse of the costume we see does look impressive and BatmanvSuperman already demonstrated that the fight choreography for this version of Batman is much more fluid than what we saw from Christian Bale’s version. This will undoubtedly lead to some impressive combat between Batman and Deathstroke. This is not to say that hand-to-hand fight scenes guarantee a good movie, but it is something that I am excited about.

Aside from the fight choreography, I also enjoy the DCEU’s depiction of an older, more cynical Batman. In many ways, this version of Batman was saved by Superman: showing signs of hope and faith in humanity again. My only worry, which was stoked by the Justice League trailer, is that subsequent DCEU films are all watered down in terms of tone and seriousness to avoid being called too dark. Suicide Squad already suffered from this and I am hoping that one of the most promising DCEU films isn’t brought down by this mentality as well.

Suicide Squad Review- 6.5/10

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Before I began, don’t be discouraged by the number that I have to give. Suicide Squad has a lot of things to love, but it also has a list of things that I thought could have been much better. It is an entertaining film, but falls short of being a great one.

The film follows Task Force X, a group assembled by government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Task Force X is assembled to tackle dangerous missions, in return for reduced sentences. With bombs implanted in their necks, the group are nothing more than pawns who can be used and blamed for any government failures if need be.

Suicide Squad was one of my most anticipated films for this year and my most anticipated comic book film. We would get the first live-action, silver screen Harley Quinn and a new take on The Joker, one of my favourite fictional characters. Since so much of the film’s hype surrounded these two I figure I will start with them. Not only were they prominent in the marketing but they are also two of the film’s biggest highlights.

As a disclaimer, The Joker does not have that much screen time. I am not faulting the film for this since he is not a central part of the story. His screen time fits the grander narrative without overloading it. However, it appears many people felt misled by the marketing and see the short screen time as another fault of the film. A good portion of The Joker’s screen time comes from flashbacks, showing the transformation from Harleen Quinzel to Harley Quinn. These scenes are some of my favourite ones in the film. I can’t say whether I like this Joker as much as Heath Ledger’s but it is a tough comparison since I only have about twenty minutes to judge from this film. Additionally, this version of The Joker is much different.

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The tattoos and the grill aren’t explained here, but I hope they will be in future installments. Maybe there won’t be one cohesive explanation, maybe this version of The Joker is simply one that gets tattoos. While Heath Ledger’s was an anarchist who was willing to light a mountain of money on fire, this one appears to own a club as a revenue stream and a front for more illegitimate business. Brian Azzarello’s graphic novel Joker also had its main character involved in club management for revenue, so this change didn’t bother me. When it comes to this Joker’s appearance, you can either accept it or you can’t. If you can’t accept the look you’ll probably view the performance through a biased lens.

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From the limited screen time I did enjoy Leto’s take on the character. With the time we get, The Joker is more serious than some may be used to, but we have to realize that the Joker’s moments of pure insanity are best when they are balanced out with calmer ones. We get calm and we get mayhem. Deleted scenes will likely show more as well, there were about ten more minutes of Joker footage cut from the film from what I have heard.

Since The Joker’s plotline is intertwined with Harley Quinn in this film, we needed a strong Harley Quinn in order to strengthen the arc for both characters. Robbie delivered. Some people seemed worried that she didn’t have a Brooklyn accent but I can assure you she does. Also, she delivers much more than a Brooklyn accent. She is captivating, charismatic, funny while also displaying the violence and psychosis that makes her a villain. The Joker and Harley relationship has often been portrayed as one where Harley genuinely loves The Joker, while he often manipulates or abuses her. We get hints of that here and I look forward to seeing what the filmmakers do with the characters from this point on. While this film does still leave me excited for future DC films, it stands as a solo film better than the theatrical version of BatmanvSuperman does. Cameos and references to other DCEU characters are much more streamlined than some of the ones we had in BvS.

Aside from Harley, Will Smith is also great as Deadshot. People complained about a black actor getting the part, but as I’ve discussed before, people always defend whitewashing. If you don’t like white characters getting taken away, don’t just sit on the sidelines and tell me “It’s just a movie” when white actors portray minorities. Will Smith brings the same charisma and attitude from early roles like Men in Black and Independence Day, which may annoy some viewers. However, he still inhabits a new character well and doesn’t simply turn Deadshot into another role we’re used to.

Jay Hernandez is another memorable addition as El Diablo, who has one of the most interesting backstories in the film. Jai Courtney, who receives his fair share of hate online, also provides a great take on Captain Boomerang.

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Viola Davis is the reason I started watching How To Get Away With Murder and she is pretty good here as well. I loved how her character was written, embodying the Machiavellianism I remember from the Justice League television show.

Aside from these four, a lot of the other main characters are somewhat forgettable. I loved Joel Kinnaman in The Killing and House of Cards but he falls flat here for the most part. Katana is a cool character but has very little screen time. She is not a villain here, but is a bodyguard of sorts for Rick Flagg. Despite this association with the main group of the film, her and Killer Croc both have few lines. Most of their screen time comes in the final battle of the film. Speaking of Killer Croc, he was almost a caricature of a black person.

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Of course, Croc is mutated but the comics depict him as being a mutated black person. In this film we get a “black” character who calls Harley “shorty” and makes only one request from the prison guards, “BET”. Yeah, more pressing issues in the world but could not help notice.

Like X:Men Apocalypse, this film brings up the issue of how to introduce and handle multiple characters in a team film. Apocalypse struggled with developing The Four Horseman (with the exception of Magneto) and the younger versions of Jean, Jubilee and Nightcrawler. Suicide Squad struggles with Croc, Katana and its villain. Many people expected Enchantress to be the main villain. She is one of them, but there is another one introduced who is poorly developed and also sports the worst CGI in the film.

This ultimately makes the third act somewhat dull in comparison to what came before. The third act does have some highlights, mainly from El Diablo and The Joker. However, it left me underwhelmed the same way the third act in BatmanvSuperman did.

Suicide Squad also brings up the issue of forcing a film to be lighter or more “fun”. The company that edited the trailer was brought in to make the film less somber, and the film ends up bloated with songs, especially in the first hour. When I say songs I don’t just mean the score. A good chunk of the film ends up being a music video. There is a ten minute stretch where there are two different montages with two different songs. First, there is Eminem’s Without Me, and then The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. It honestly might have been less than ten minutes. This frequent song use continues for the most of the first half of the film, dying down to a reasonable level near the climax. It was entertaining at first, but became excessive pretty quick. My friend wondered if the film spent half its budget on song rights. I could not help but think that some scenes would have been better without music blaring over them.

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The use of purple Lamborghini was perfect though, that song is fire.

Coming from someone who loves musical interludes in films, I have to say that this work of post-production editing damaged the final product. The same thing happened with BatmanvSuperman. It seems like the studio needs to have more faith in its directors.

There is a lot to love in Suicide Squad, but also a lot that needed to be improved. Maybe I am a fanboy but I am still excited for Justice League. I only hope that it doesn’t have the same issues with post-production that BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad had.

The Old and The New

Hello everyone,

Below is my latest past for comicommand

 

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The popularity of Marvel and DC Comics almost leads to word association. Superhero comics are often tied to one of the two behemoths, since they are the oldest producers of superhero comics. However, it is this longevity that leads to one of the biggest issues of the big publishers. The plethora of comic book titles, events, authors and timelines for each character can make jumping in seem overwhelming for prospective readers. Not to mention relaunches such as the ultimate comics for Marvel, and rebirth for DC. These relaunches can serve the practical purpose of giving newcomers a fresh start, but that impact quickly fades once the new series reaches a certain point. In the case of the ultimate universe, catching up with sixteen years of comics is better than fifty, but can still be daunting. In the case of DC, I have heard great things about Rebirth, but it appears some of the most poignant moments I have heard of would not be as effective without some prior knowledge of certain story-lines. Entries on this site, such as the lists by the Commander, acknowledge this problem and are meant to provide recommendations for tackling the medium. However, the fact that lists like these are necessary attests to the issue.  Before readers get their pitchforks, I want to clarify that I am not trying to criticize the format of superhero comics or their rich history and diversity. I am only saying that, objectively, it does lead to of the strengths (in my opinion) that smaller imprints such as Vertigo and Image Comics have.

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The last comic series I read was Vertigo’s Y The Last Man, a post-apocalyptic story where all male mammals spontaneously die, except for Yorick Brown and his pet monkey. I heard about the comic, it sounded interesting, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take another series on. What convinced me was seeing that it was only sixty issues. One weekend later, I binge read the entire series. It wasn’t only sixty issues because it got cancelled, but because that was the end of the story. Yorick’s journey ended, and the series ended with it.

I am also currently reading Image Comics’, The Walking Dead. Although the series is longer, currently on issue 155, it is likely to be a more straightforward read than decades of comics from other characters.
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Marvel and DC titles do of course have graphic novels, or certain series for each character, like The Dark Knight Returns and the ongoing Injustice series. These stories can either be an alternate version of a character or simply an isolated story arc. These can provide a great introduction to characters but can also lose some impact for new readers. In the case of Injustice, the set up to the story is rooted in references to Doomsday and Scarecrow. If someone reading the series didn’t know the characters, then the story could lose its effectiveness. Some of these self-contained stories, do not really function as self-contained ones, still requiring some level of knowledge from other comics. Of course, this is typically only an issue for more popular characters like the Justice League, with (relatively) smaller titles such as Transmetropolitan being truly self-contained.

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With The Walking Dead and Y The Last Man, all of the world building is done within the series. There are no related tie-ins, background info or even general comic knowledge that needs to be consulted. The story can simply be followed with one issue after another, with no need to switch between events. I do not have a problem with burying myself in the history of DC and Marvel. I know that for many people, the sheer variety is what draws them to comics. They look forward to seeing how a new writer handles their favourite characters. They don’t dread having to catch up, they look forward to it. The success of Marvel and DC Comics makes it clear that many people may not even see the limited stories of Vertigo and Image as a strength. I do look forward to reading more DC and Marvel comics, and getting more caught up with the stable of writers and stories available. This viewpoint is very subjective, I only hope that readers may be able to understand my point of view.

The Irony of the MCU

 

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I saw Captain America: Civil War recently and I currently rank it as my second favourite MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) film, with The Winter Soldier still being #1 for me. Despite the love I have for some of the MCU, I can’t help but notice the criticism people always levy at DC films. I am no DC “fanboy”, I recognize that they don’t have as solid a film universe, since they got a later start on it. However, I have previously discusses my disdain for people who say that DC movies have a problem with their tone. Many negative reviews will at least mention the darker tone of the DC universe films as being a problem, as if darker=worse.I realize that Marvel has dark properties on Netflix, like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but I made this post specifically to discuss the MCU on the big screen. Reading comprehension is a dying art, so let me break this down a little further. I am not saying that BvS or Man of Steel are amazing. MOS was a 7.5 for me and BvS a 6.5. I am not saying these films have no flaws. I am saying that I don’t think their tone is one of their flaws.

Obviously BvS had issues aside from its tone (I’m looking at you Eisenberg) but I can’t stand this relatively
new idea that darkness is a bad thing in itself, and that “dark” and “good” are mutually exclusive. Of course, there have been dark comic book films that have been relatively well received, like The Dark Knight and the more recent example of X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, times are changing. Go to Rotten Tomatoes and see how many negative reviews of Apocalypse mention the “dark”, “grim”, “joyless” tone as being an issue. I’ll wait.

There is a pervasive mentality that a comic book movie must be “fun”. It shouldn’t take itself too seriously and should have plenty of comic relief, otherwise it has failed as a film. The MCU is now held up as the standard of comic relief and as the benchmark for the tone that a comic book film should have. It is easy to see why people latched onto them since they have had the most prolific comic book film output of any studio.

What I find ironic, is that the “fun” mentality is what held comic book films back for so long. Many critics and members of the general public who flock to see MCU films now would have once scoffed at the idea of a critically revered comic book film. Of course there are classics like Superman (1978) but Superman did not usher in an era of consistent comic book films and box-office domination by comic book films. This era started slowly with films like Blade, then X-Men and then Spider-Man. Then came Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and then the birth of the MCU with Iron Man.

Many critics once thought comic book films would never have the success they do now. They might be silly fun, but no one would take such films seriously. The idea of Oscar winners or nominees regularly starring in comic book films would have been deemed preposterous. Marlon Brando’s appearance in Superman was such a big deal due to the pedigree that he brought to the film. The first big successes of the modern era (Blade and X-Men) used a tone that many would now view as overly dramatic, “dark”, “pretentious” etc. but that is what allowed comic book films to gain more popularity and critic recognition. If it weren’t for these films we might not have the MCU. Yet everyone now forgets the stigma comic book films had to overcome and wants everything to be “fun” and “colourful”. There was a time when people thought that was all comic book films would have to offer, and it seems like fans now want history to repeat itself.