Dive Deep (Aquaman, 2018)

Aquaman_posterSure, you know Aquaman can swim fast, talk to fish and punch hard. But what do you really know?

This holiday season, we have the full story of the savior of the seas.  Born of a lighthouse keeper from the surface world and the Princess of Atlantis, Arthur Curry has long dealt with the heartbreak of the death of his mother, believing it really to be his fault.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!!! when his half brother Orm sets his sites on uniting the kingdoms of Atlantis and destroying the surface world, the princess Mera seeks the aid of Arthur, who has avoided his Atlantean heritage.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!!! See, there is a magical trident that Aquaman will need to defeat his half brother, so he and Mera go on a big time treasure hunt.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!!! There is a guy called Black Manta who wants revenge on Arthur!

BUT THA- Oh, you get the idea.  They have packed a ton of stuff into this film, making it a bit of a mess. It is such a busy film full of story ideas it can make you wonder if any of those stories could have better room to breath in their own film.  However, one gets the sense that they had multiple assignments with this film. They had to fill in the back story not just of Arthur, but of Mera, Orm, Atlantis and a magical trident.

And yet, the film is a lot of fun.  The whole little side story in which Arthur and Mera are trying to find the trident National Treasure style is fun excitement.  And the film sets up a simple but good message for Aquaman to learn.  The effects are really good, which is important, because the entire sense of design depends on it.

The real highlight of the film is Atlantis. It is a lush and colorful undersea kingdom.  The use of undersea life in the designs of their vehicles and architecture is wondrous. This is DC film embraces the whimsy of it’s conceit to give a unique corner of the DCEU. There is also a real attention to small detail in all the underwater sequences that make is easy to forget people don’t breath or talk underwater. We get Aquaman in his traditional outfit and you know what? It looks great.

But it is not just the design and effects that the film has going for it. Now, Mamoa has limited acting range…but the filmmakers have filled the movie with a cast that keeps this from being an issue. He can do his brash and confident guy thing, because he is supported by top notch talent like Temuera Morrison, Nicole Kidman and Patrick Wilson. Wilson really carries a lot in the relationship between Orm and Arthur. He somehow manages to give a heart to a megalomaniacal maniac king. His hatred of Arthur is in a misguided blame for the loss of their mother, and Wilson sells this well.

And then there is James Wan. Wan is without a doubt one of the strongest directors in action films today. Even his giant action scenes are easy to follow. He balances sequences with multiple simultaneous leads exceptionally well (such as when Arthur and Mera become separated and have their own individual fights).

Aquaman manages to overcome a lot of odds, being far more entertaining than the elements ought to allow. So, in spite of a busy storyline, Aquaman is a rollicking fun adventure.

The Past, Present and Future of the DC Cinematic Universe Part 7

That’s it!  The end is here!

Bringing everything to a close, we look at what the future may hold for DC’s Cinematic Universe.

All Marvel characters and footage © 2018 Marvel Comics Group

All DC Characters and footage © 2018 Warner Brothers

 

Part 1- https://youtu.be/D2zovFL1QgQ
Part 2- https://youtu.be/oy51WH3O86o
Part 3- https://youtu.be/1rrpUwYehuI
Part 4- https://youtu.be/alRmOuCRP9o
Part 5- https://youtu.be/r9J8CFRnkP0
Part 6- https://youtu.be/0N16wEC6hxE

The Past, Present & Future of the DC Cinematic Universe

So, after giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to jump into the world of video blogging.

The video blogs will not be straight up reviews.  Instead they will be more analysis.  I will be using them to explore things going on in the industry of film, as well as look at popular film series and explore them.

The first video for the Tripping Through Gateways blog turned into a series. I did not realize as I was writing it just how long it was going to be.  So I broke it down into seven parts.  Part one actually explores the landscape preceding Man of Steel. This is the only video in the series to deal extensively with the Marvel Movies in any form of contrast, and it mainly for the purpose of exploring DC and Warner Brother’s progress with their shared film universe.

However, as I state in the video, this is not about Marvel vs DC. This is not a proclamation on who is better. I enjoy the characters from both Marvel and DC. And I want to see DC have real success. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Matter Eater Lad deserve that much.

 

Shazam! art by Doc Shaner

New Gods art by Jack Kirby

Ultimates art by Bryan Hitch

Marvel and it’s related characters are copyright © Marvel Entertainment

DC and it’s related characters are © Warner Brothers.

Social Justice Warriors (Justice League, 2017)

Justice_League_PosterWhen it comes to the movies?  DC has been struggling to  keep up with Marvel.  Part of this is really that DC did not lay out a plan from the start. While Marvel Released films with an aim toward the Avengers, DC was trying to figure out where to start.  The Nolan Batman films were a critical success, but also very much their own universe.  When they made Green Lantern, most attempts to build a larger never made it out of the script.

There was talk for several years starting off the DC Movie Universe with a Justice League film to be be directed by George Miller. This never came to pass, and when Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan began their work on Man of Steel it was decided this could be the start.  They did not do a ton, only lightly seeding references to a larger DC Cinematic Universe.

DC decided on following up Man of Steel not with Wonder Woman or Batman, but Batman V Superman.  Like Man of Steel, the reaction was mixed.  I am not a real big fan of either film, primarily because I feel like they are doing a rush job.  The films try and tackle big notions….but they have not earned it. Suicide Squad followed (troubling that we are meeting villains before the connected heroes). I did not mind Suicide Squad, I found it generally entertaining…but not as solid as Deadpool (whose success they were clearly aiming for).

The DC Cinematic Universe was desperate for an outright hit.  Luckily, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot delivered that with last summer’s Wonder Woman.  And so, for me, I had a little bit of hope they might look at this success and decide to use it as a template to right the ship.  Earlier this year, Zack Snyder announced he was stepping down for family reasons (His family was dealing with a tragic suicide of one of his children). It was announced that former Marvel architect Joss Whedon was brought in.  Whedon punched up the film with new dialog and reshoots.  And what is the end result?

Superman is still dead. The world is in chaos. Bruce Wayne is actively trying to bring a team together to protect the world from the larger threats. The threat here is from Steppenwolf…he came to earth once before in an attempt to destroy the planet, but was fought off by the Amazons, Atlanteans and human kind. His weapon, three items call Mother Boxes were split among the three groups and hidden away.

Batman also has a plan to bring Superman back, which Wonder Woman is uncomfortable with, but finally agrees to. And so, the team unites and takes on Steppenwolf.

So….is this redemption for DC?  Is this the second most awesome DC Cinematic Universe flick?  The answer is “Yes”. Buuuuuut….

Okay, so, the film opens with a nice little video, kids talking to Superman with there cell phone right after he has saved some people. And then we get Batman stopping a petty crook, except that it is a ruse to catch a creature called a para-demon.  The thief asks Batman if things are getting worse because they know Superman is dead.  This is followed by the film showing the world falling into despair, set to a haunted version of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows. This is all quite nice.

We also get a rather fun action sequence with Wonder Woman stopping a terror group.  This really is not a plot enhancing moment.  It is just a lot of fun to watch.   And the film has a lot of these.  There is a lot of fun action moments.  Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa clearly are having more fun than Ben Affleck.  Barry Allen has the same backstory of the the TV show (Dad in prison for murder of mom)…this is fine of course.  But it is not a storyline that really leads anywhere. I like the general characterization here though.  Barry is awkward with people in part because how time feels for him.  Admittedly, this is very similar to the comic book version of Marvel’s Quicksilver in which time moves so slow for him, he describes every minute of every day as being like waiting in line at the DMV.  Except, instead of being a jerk, Barry just struggles to slow down his thinking enough to not sound like he has severe ADD.

Aquaman has always been a sore spot of a character for DC.  He tends to get mocked endlessly for being able to “talk to fish”.  Here the film compensates a bit by making him a tough and jovial guy.  At one point he looks to Batman, smirks and says, “Dressed as a bat, I dig it.”

Cyborg is in kind of a thankless role.  He fills in the technology blanks. Ray Fischer is really likable in the role.  It just is that he feels like things just happen randomly to him.  At one point, his suit takes over and starts shooting at the newly resurrected Superman.  The idea that the mechanics are in control in such a fashion is interesting, but we do not really get an indication earlier that the mechanical part can go rogue, beyond it apparently making regular upgrades.

Gadot is spot on in her Wonder Woman boots.  The character is again a high point.  Digital mustache issues aside, Cavill is finally getting to be a Superman who likes himself. Superman seems to be more earthling than Kryptonian here.  And this is something that corrects the previous two films.  I understand the arguments about Superman and a connection for people who fall into the category of “Other”.  But Superman’s other status in the films were relegated to him acting like a life he never had was more his identity than the planet on which he grew up.  There are ways to portray the identity of “Other” without sacrificing important parts of the Superman mythos.  In this film, he no longer speaks about “on my planet”.  No, Earth is his home.  Lois is his home. Martha Kent is his home.

The action is pretty solid.  And the humor is there.  The film has bright colors! So, why did I add a “buuuuuuuuut”?

At one point, Aquaman says to the Flash, “So you were struck by lightning?”  Flash responds “Yeah, well that is the condensed version.”  And that is how the movie feels.  Apparently there was a mandate to keep the film at about two hours.  And boy is that apparent.

So many scenes feel cut short, so many conversations feel truncated.  At times, the film moves at “fan montage Youtube video” fast. We get brief glimpses of characters we want more of…and admittedly, Commissioner Gordon and Lois Lane will probably be far more prominent in the Batman and Superman follow-ups.

And then there is Steppenwolf.  A rather uninteresting character.  Remember Ronin from the first Guardians of the Galaxy?  Steppenwolf has the same goal…but without the nuance. The film is incredibly unclear about why this is…but it also does not hint at the notion there is someone behind Steppenwolf. He is a remarkably boring villain. And when you compare unfavorable to a weaker Marvel movie villain?  That has to hurt.

So, what we are left with is a film that is better than Man of Steel, Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad…but nowhere near as strong as Wonder Woman.  But that said? I had a lot of fun watching Justice League.

Marvel (Studios) Vs DC (Warner Brothers)

So, there has been a fair amount of talk suggesting DC royally kicked Marvel’s butt at the San Diego Comic Con this years when it comes to the movie side of things.  There was this article specifically citing nine ways that DC owned Marvel at SDCC.  While the points are valid, the “nine ways” are really the same one point, repeated nine times.

What is all comes down to is DC brought their A Game.  Marvel did not.  I was not there, so I am trusting the word of people I know who were there.  They were more impressed with DC (and Warner brothers) than Marvel’s contribution.  Marvel has one movie left this year, Doctor Strange.  I am excited for this film, I think it could be a nice and solid expansion into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They had some brief news, one that Kurt Russell is playing the human form of Ego the Living Planet.  The full Cast of Black Panther (which looks like an excellent cast).  They also announced Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, AKA Captain Marvel, Marvel’s first movie focused on a female lead hero.  Which comes out two years after Wonder Woman.  Way to drop that ball.  But the thing is, these announcements are simply confirmations of rumors.  Marvel relied mostly on concept art, rather than exciting new footage.

You see, DC Surprised everyone with brand new footage of Wonder Woman and Justice League.  Footage that got even jaded fans tired out by Man of Steel and Batman V Superman.  People got excited for DC’s cinematic future with actual footage.  Marvel only had footage for Doctor Strange…not one scrap of footage from Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor Ragnarok.  Now, that is understandable…filming just began on July 4th.  Far to close to SDCC to provide anything substantial.  But it would have been cool if Marvel announced their new name for the next Avengers film.  And that they next two were not a two parter.  Instead, they announced this after the con and they did not know what it would be called yet.  They had no footage from Spider-Man homecoming either.

DC’s parent company WB also got people excited with a new trailer for the Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Creatures and Where to Find Them and the first trailer for Kong Island, which looks quite thrilling.  Disney (Marvel’s parent company) brought…well…nothing.  It is pretty hard to say that Marvel did not get owned this years.  They played the same game they always played, and their over confidence appears to have led them to underestimate their competition.  It is to bad, considering how ahead they were, allowing DC to catch up may dampen enthusiasm.

The Most Ultimate Edition

Batman_V_Superman_ultimate_edition_coverSo, I took the time to watch the Ultimate Cut of Batman V Superman.  And you know what?  It is a great improvement.  It was enough for me to consider the film enjoyable.

The added footage really enhances the story filling in the blanks.  We now understand why Superman misses something that results in major death and destruction, and to cap it off, we see him helping locate survivors.  Also, while I already thought Bruce Wayne’s introduction was one of the best sequences in the film, we get extra seconds to show Bruce’s dedication to helping survivors.  This version also explains why Batman’s branding of criminals “results in a death sentence”.  It is part of Luthor’s plan to manipulate Superman’s perspective on the Batman.

On top of that, while we got evidence of Lois Lane’s dedication to find answers, finally we see Clark actively doing investigative reporting into Batman, as well as the discover of Luthor’s reach in influencing public opinion towards some of Superman’s actions.

This is not to say all my concerns and criticisms are alleviated.  For one, I really wish they would have Superman talk less like Earth is not his home.  He has spent 99.9% of his life on Earth.  Raise by citizens of earth.  He sees them as mom and pa.  He loves Lois.  He still talks about Krypton as “My world” as if Earth is not also his world.  Batman is a great detective, except where Luthor’s plan comes into play.  Superman gives up trying to convince Batman to help him a little to quickly and goes into fight mode faster than Superman really should.  Superman is not a dumb brute.  And honestly, I cannot help but find the thing that gets Batman to pause is…their mothers are both named Martha.  While that is certainly an interesting coincidence…but that that is the only thing that causes Batman to question his view on Superman seconds before killing him…oi.

But still, the Ultimate Version has made this a much better film, one I feel more confident in.  If this had been the theatrical version, the list of my negative feelings would not be nearly as long.  In addition, after watching the promo trailer for the upcoming Justice League, I am actually looking forward to seeing it.  The preview has an interesting take on Aquaman, Flash looks like a brighter heroic addition to the DCU.  Even Batman and Wonder Woman have some fun banter.

It is to early to state as fact of course, but the Wonder Woman trailer looks exciting and fun.  It looks like the Wonder Woman movie people have been wanting for a long time.  And if Suicide Squad is as fun as it looks…well, DC might have three winning films in a row.  Four if you include the Ultimate cut, though “winning” might be a slight overstatement.  But the future is showing a brighter potential for DC films.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑