There should not be an official origin to the Joker…but if you gotta make the movie…
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
And now it all comes together…the Justice League.
All Marvel Characters © 2018 Marvel Comics Group
All DC Characters and Video Footage © 2018 Warner Brothers
A quick run through of Suicide Squad and a look at the shining high point of the DC Cinematic Universe.
All DC Characters, footage and Art © 2018 Warner Brothers
All Marvel Content © 2018 Marvel Comics Group
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice continues…a movie in which the most compelling hero is not Batman or Superman. And is the best thing in spite of have no discernible plot-line of her own.
Marvel and it’s related characters are © 2018 Marvel Entertainment
DC and it’s related characters are © 2018 Warner Brothers.
I will be honest…I find this claim a bit dubious. Not because there is zero truth to it. But the headline lays the lack of staying power. Hollywood has relied heavy on genre before and movies survived. For one, westerns did not kill the industry. And they ruled for a long time.
But as the article notes, lots of movies from multiple genres are facing massive declines in their second and third weeks. The continued reliance on blaming comic book movies (or more specifically Super-Hero movies…after all, Road to Perdition and a History of Violence are comic book movies) for Hollywood’s ills is a bit overstating things.
There are less than ten super-hero films a year (usually less than five, but there is a year coming up with eight or nine on the slate). There are over a hundred films released every year. Super-hero films are not even ten percent of the films released each year. I have mentioned all this before. I think the article is right in the reference to all the choices cannibalizing each other.
I confess, there is one thing I wish Marvel Studios would do. Marvel has a large catalog of material. They are saturating their own market with such big movies, they are not planning for what will happen when super-hero films just won’t make money. Marvel Studios has a real concern there than DC does not have. DC is just part of the WB…they have other options.
Marvel’s sole option right now is their cinematic universe. Marvel Studios can, and should start considering making smaller movies…films not aimed at the blockbuster. Both in their cinematic universe and outside of it.
Marvel needs to look to the future if they want to succeed past 2020. They need to look into stuff they own that is not super-heroes. Fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, adventures,espionage, comedy, family fare. Marvel has all sorts of options beyond their Cinematic Universe. They need to take the risk and see if they can succeed without the MCU. They took risks with Ant-Man and Guardians and now Doctor Strange. Now Kevin Feige and his team need to see if they can work their magic beyond super-heroes.
Warner Brothers is pinning a lot of hopes on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. They have already started talk of her next film. If it happens, they better bring along Poison Ivy.
Harley Quinn was created by Paul Dini for Batman the Animated Series. She was a part of Jokers gang and soon filled the role of “Joker’s Girlfriend”. Her history was that she was a psychologist who fell in love with her patient…the Joker. She walked away from her career to a life of crime with her Puddin’. In the cartoons? This worked. The Batman Rogues Gallery were not running around murdering people. So, even the Joker was a bit lighter. People loved Harley Quinn (Kevin Smith named his Daughter Harley Quinn Smith) and she grew in popularity. Harley Quinn looked like this:
Initially, her introduction to comics was through Paul Dini created Batman the Animated Series comics. But eventually she was brought into the DC Universe proper. With art by Terry and Rachel Dodson, Harley still captured a lot of what people loved. She was kind of adorably sweet, though dangerous. And she kept her costume.
They also started moving her away from her close ties to the Joker. In the comics? Joker has pretty always been a maniacal murderer. He is a pretty horrifying character. This led to an attempt to make her into an anti-hero…one who succeeds-while trying to commit crimes. But it makes the character more of a trauma survivor-who survived by becoming more fractured emotionally…but whether this was handled well is up for debate.
DC reinvented their Universe in a line wide reboot dubbed the New 52. This brought about some changes to Harley and the most noticeable was this:
Her costume was now highly sexualized, which seemed counter intuitive to the character. All too often, comic books use “sexy” as code for “bad”. Characters who have upped the anti a bit. The sexier they dress, the more deviant they must be. In the New 52 Harley killed children, along with dressing a bit kinkier. In fairness, Amanda Conner has adjusted her Costume a bit:
Conner is part of a select group of artists who create “Good Girl Art” and receives more praise than criticism for their cheesecake. But I digress…The New 52 Joker was even creepier and homicidal in some ways…which forced an updating to Harley being more vicious. Any innocence to her character was removed.
Suicide Squad hits theaters with Margot Robbie in the role of Harley Quinn.
She clearly has a lot in common with the newer incarnations and the film made sure to heavily tie her to the Joker (even if he is not a prominent presence in the film). And the previews made appear that her personality was a bit more like a teenager lashing out at strict parent. I will say, Robbie does a solid job with the character in the film. She has expressed discomfort with the clothes in the movie. The iconography of her costume is not the corset and short shorts, and the fact that the filmmakers don’t get that…well…
The film struggles with her in the same way the comics often have. How to make her sympathetic when she is in love with a homicidal criminal? The film gives us a Harley who is a victim, yet can be unsympathetic in a way that is frustrating. It makes Quinn seem weak and trapped, in spite of the film’s portraying her as stronger without the Joker. It may have been better to leave the Joker out of it outside of a flashback or two.
Harley will always be a somewhat divisive character, but it really depends on if they cut her loose from the shadow of the Joker or not.
(Featured Image is by Alex Ross)
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.
No, really. Smith recently commented on Batman v Superman. He had the following to say:
“The movie I felt like didn’t really have a heart. It was certainly f—–’ humorless, there was nothing funny going on in that world whatsoever.”
And you know what? He is right.*
I get what Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan were trying to do. They were trying to make this major hard edged epic film. They were trying to make something that “transcended” popcorn and super-hero movies. When asked why there was no post credit scene in Man of Steel like Marvel does, Nolan scoffed and stated that real films do not do that. He walked it back a bit, but I suspect he meant it when he said it. And of course, Snyder can be endlessly quoted about the epic tone and nature he is trying to create for the DC Movie universe. That tone is big, full of grim consequence (though it is dishonest to pretend Marvel’s world lacks consequences, as the films are often having results that impact other films as well as their various television shows). This, of course makes it rather hilarious that Warner Brothers defended the critical reaction to the film by claiming it is just fun.
While I tried to remain spoiler free in my review? This is not going to avoid them. At. All. If you want to see the movie (or Man of Steel for that matter) yet, and do not want anything-including the end of the film-ruined? Stop reading.
Man of Steel was pretty problematic in how it set up Superman. First there was the whole troubling Johnathan Kent stuff. Johnathan had some genuinely great moments of fatherly kindness. When Clark asks if he can just keep pretending to be Johnathan and Martha’s son, and Johnathan responds with “You are my son.” That is a perfect moment. Yet, just moments before, Pa Kent suggests that maybe Clark should have let his fellow students die in a bus crash, rather than risk exposure. Rather than be saved by Clark, Johnathan lets himself be engulfed by a tornado. Clark could have saved him and they could have explained it to the towns folk in Smallville as…well, an amazing story of survival.
Clark does not appear in costume to the world until after Zod arrives. You might not think it matters, but trust me, it creates a problem for Batman v Superman. It would have helped the story immensely if Superman had some heroics before Zod arrived. It would build Superman up in the eyes of the public.
In Batman v Superman, we are first introduced to Bruce Wayne during the Superman and Zod fight. And this is, in fact a great scene. Wayne is shown as aggressively, passionately devoted to protecting his employees. He helps a man pinned by a beam, he saves a child from falling debris. This does set up an understandable distrust of Superman and Superman’s power. But when we meet his alter Batman…well, Batman has hit hard times. Batman has become bitter and vicious, now branding criminals with his batarangs. He is mired in bitterness and anger. Batman is kind of at odds with Bruce Wayne. Bruce is a man we see saving people. Batman is a guy brutalizing people and marking them for death.
This is not necessarily an entirely invalid presentation of the character. A lot of critics note how he shows little regard for killing people. And this is true, but the idea that he is to busy trying to fend off a whole lot of guys who are trying to kill him is pretty fair. It is kind of like asking why a soldier shot a bunch of guys shooting at him. Batman actually is mostly a fighter. And the scene where he saves Martha Kent? Awesome. When he tells Martha “I’m a friend of your son’s”? That is something I wanted to see in a movie featuring Batman and Superman.
But I digress, the problem with introducing us to this Batman as the entry into the new DC Cinematic Universe? We get hints of a backstory that implies Batman has been through hell and lost a whole lot. And yet, we are never introduced to the hero that Batman was, which would open doors to juxtapose with the hero he is now. It has no weight to simply hint that he has “gone through hell”. We needed to know Batman for this to resonate.
It is similar with Superman. We get brief shots of him coming in to save people in disasters. But we have not known Superman as Superman long enough for the questions about his “godhood” to come into play. And his alien nature is more heavily focused, how distant he is. Clark seems to have little humanity of his own, with Lois practically his sole tether to humanity. Although Snyder suggested killing Zod was to show why Superman abhors killing, one of our first acts of Superman in the present is to save Lois from a warlord by slamming into him at full speed pushing him through multiple walls, an act that most certainly would have killed the man. This was a terrific opportunity for the filmmakers to be creative in saving Lois from the guy in a non-lethal way, but they opted to have him casually take the guy out. So, killing Zod did not cause Superman to take preserving life all that seriously.But that is not what the scene is for. It is set to show Superman being setup as dangerous.
By giving us very little Superman time as hero? It pulls the rug from the potential emotion and ethical questions being posed. These are big questions, but we do not see enough of Superman as heroic savior to truly sell the hero worship that some people are supposedly rebelling against. We know there is distrust because the film makes a point of telling us there is. Superman does not seem to enjoy helping people in this universe. He seems to almost do it begrudgingly. He always looks so serious in the moments we see him saving anyone. Superman barely cracks a smile. There should be a juxtaposition between Superman and Batman in attitude. Superman should be questioning the methods of Batman. In an early John Byrne comic, there was a story where Batman and Superman first meet. In the comic, Batman forces Superman to help him by suggesting that he planted a bomb on an innocent person in the city. Superman is bothered by this…until he discovers that the innocent person was Batman himself. It was a really good moment in establishing their overall nobility and where they were ultimately on the same side. Superman is the beaming hope, Batman is the hero needed to deal with the darkness in life.
And yet, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman give us a Superman who is every bit as grim as Batman. One of the things that might have helped is if, in Superman and Batman’s first meeting, Superman had been less the authoritarian and more friendly guy trying to reason with Batman. Superman trying to reach out, being rebuffed by Batman would encourage Superman to be frustrated, as he cannot get through to Batman. Batman, of course, so distrustful that he has no time for what he misinterprets as a false piety.
Also, it would have been better, story-wise, for Superman to bristle at the God talk. He should have refuted that point, but whenever anyone calls him a God? He seems totally indifferent.
But there is nothing really separating Superman and Batman besides powers. Both are angry. Both are insolent and self centered. In fact, Batman (the greatest detective) and Clark Kent (the great investigative journalist) both are easily manipulated by Lex Luthor. Both are easily goaded into fighting. Superman at least has a decent reason, Luthor is threatening to kill his mom. Batman is sent off the edge by a package that pokes at his personal pain (the loss of his parents). He does not question it, he just assumes that it is time to take Superman out. Frankly, the inciting incident makes no damn sense. Luther sends in a guy to testify against Superman and the guy is basically a powerful bomb. This would appear like an assassination attempt on Superman, not like Superman acting as terrorist. But in Batman’s mind the right thing to do is not to try and determine who blew up the court room killing a countless number of people…it is, “Superman must be stopped.” This is a messy story point at best. It makes no damn sense for Batman to fall for this at worst.
Luthor is more than a bit of a mess. They were clearly trying to re-invent him as a new character we have never seen before…but it never comes together…he is to much the petty child, bitter and oblivious. They try and give him lines that make him sound like he has motivation, but the truth is? It all feels hollow. One bit of inspiration would have helped the character was to really invest him with a sense of nobility. A belief that he was really doing this to protect people from alien threats. That he distrusts aliens and therefor distrusts Superman. And that is not effectively done here. Eisenberg’s jittery performance leaves him feeling a lot less ominous. And he stoops to kidnapping and willing to kill Martha Kent (in a pretty clear nod to the Killing Joke, but substituting Martha Kent for Barbara Gordon and Lex for the Joker). It just makes Luthor seem cheap. I am not saying Luthor would not kidnap Martha. I am saying a strong Lex Luthor would not allow the kidnapping to be traced to him.
In my second viewing of the film, I found myself frustrated with Perry White. On the one hand, Fishburne has a lot of fun with the role. His reactions when he cannot find Clark Kent is some of the few times you get to laugh. But at the same time, Perry White being absolutely uninterested in hard news seems…wrong.
Honestly, there was no need to have flashbacks to Martha and Thomas Wayne being killed. That was so hammered into us in previous films and television…and nobody has found a way to make it feel like a necessary sequence.
Please understand, I wanted to totally be wrong about this movie. I wanted to believe maybe they cracked the code. And for a few moments at the beginning (aside from the unnecessary showing of the Waynes getting killed)? I thought we were on our way there. People have actually suggested the lack of humor is a good thing. It is taking the themes seriously. Except, humor is not only something we turn to in good times. In fact, we often turn to humor in tragic times.
As I have said, I do not think the film was an absolute disaster. I think the 29% Rotten Tomatoes rating is a bit overdoing it. And I do not have quite the hate for Snyder that some do. The visuals are nice. There are shots that, yes, inspire excitement. Cool shots of Superman and Batman…and Wonder Woman? She is great. She comes out of this unscathed. Part of that is the film barely develops her. But she is cool in the big fight with Doomsday.
Some critics, such as Kyle Smith of the New York Post claims that Batman v Superman is to smart for Marvel fans. Except, I am a Batman fan. I am a Superman fan. I am a Wonder Woman fan. I like these characters. But attempting to suggest that this film is just to heady for folks because it deals with big themes? Well, that ignores that it does not deal with the big themes very well. And Marvel films are constantly addressing the end results of what their heroes do. The attack in New York (from Avengers) was addressed in other Marvel Films and TV shows. The heroes constantly question what they have done. Age of Ultron was all about how far is to far to protect the world. Civil War is all about how people are afraid…the results of heroes running around without supervision. And we have seen Tony and Steve enough that we know those characters. We have gotten to know them. There is emotional punch to seeing them in conflict.
And in the end, that is what Frustrates me here. We have a Superman who does not really consider earth his home until the last moments of the film-right before he dies at Doomsday’s hands. And this Superman? We have barely known him as an audience. And we have known this Batman even less. If WB had been building up to this over the course of several films? Do you realize what a gut punch this movie might have been? We had Man of Steel and he is killed one movie later because Zack Snyder wanted him out of the way to allow Batman to build the Justice League. And it all feels far too calculated, there is no power to the beats of the film. If Ben Affleck’s Batman was one we were connected to prior to this film? It might have been very powerful. The film skates over this by giving fans iconic imagery to fall back on. Those great moments are not great because the film earns them, but rather the film cheats by expecting the audience to fill in the blanks with an excited reaction to “Scenes We Always Wanted to see!”
I wish that Batman v Superman was smarter than the Marvel movies. I wish it was as epic in it’s storytelling as it is in it’s visual representations of famous comic book panels and covers. I wanted the movie to be great. It thrilled me when early reports were that this was an awesome film, not anything like we feared. But when you can say “It is not as terrible as people say, but it was not that great” and it is a defense? Well, that is how folks defend a movie like God’s Not Dead. My first viewing of the film, I told someone that Marvel has nothing to fear at this point. My second viewing did not really change that.
I want WB to start making movies at least as Strong as the Avengers or Captain America: the Winter Soldier. This movie is not it. Maybe the extended cut Blu-ray will change my mind a bit…but I am not holding my breath at this point.
*Since I started writing this? Smith saw the film a second time and basically said he found the film’s heart…it was in the audience. And I am sorry…No. That is a terrible defense. The audience should not have to bring the heart to the film.
Much talk has been given about Spider-Man’s second reboot and his entering the the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The hype is getting so ridiculous that an article appeared in my Facebook feed *confirming* Spider-Man would appear in Civil War. People are so desperate for angles that they are confirming stories confirmed months ago.
The more interesting part is the address the most common concern people seem to have about the reboot. Are we getting stuck with another origin story? The fact that Spider-Man is appearing in Civil War would indicate the answer to be no. The MCU has been fairly good at not jumping backwards. The timeline appears as if they will be jumping into a story with an active Spider-Man.
This interview suggests that, currently, they are not writing an origin movie:
“I think that everybody feels like you know he got bit by a spider and you know Uncle Ben died, and we probably don’t need to revisit that.”
“We want to explore the fact that just because you get superpowers doesn’t make you into a really sophisticated, successful adult. He’s still a kid and he’s clumsy and he’s a geek and he’s a bit of an outcast, and in many ways the superpowers amplify that and exacerbate his trying to fit in.”
This is good to see. Truthfully, the origin movie is rarely needed. I get that there are all sorts of fun that can occur with someone learning their powers. But a simple solution is set the story early in the hero’s career. This allows for amusing and dramatic stumbles due to inexperience. You can still set up the rivalries.
In that sense, I get the idea that DC is working with. It seems like Batman v Superman will be introducing characters who are already active. I am not fully behind the “older Batman” approach…but in a way, I appreciate the way they seem to be avoiding another Batman origin story. Sure, it appears we will see some flashbacks, but comics have always reflected on characters origins in their storytelling. But Warner Brothers and DC seem to be realizing they can start the story later in the career of the character. Really, I think it would have helped Man of Steel to start in his early career, instead of the introduction to his world as fighting a massive and destructive battle with Zod.
To be fair, Marvel has not just given us origin films. The Incredible Hulk was not an origin tale and really, Thor was an established Asgardian Warrior. But Marvel really has leaned heavily on origin films. And it certainly worked for the best with Captain America. So it is good to see that Marvel and their screenwriters understand that it is just not necessary to retell the Spider-Origin all over again.