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


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Part 2-
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Part 5-
Part 6-

The Past, Present and Future of the DC Cinematic Universe Part 4

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.

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Part 2-
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The Past, Present and Future of the DC Cinematic Universe Part 2

In Part two, we explore the movies that came right before the Man of Steel, as well as some of the failed attempts to kick off the Cinematic universe. We also begin discussing Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

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

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




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.

My Top Ten Films of 2017

Here is my top ten… top eleven… top twelve … wait… top THIRTEEN no, noTop FOURTEEN films of 2017. Before anyone asks?  I have not seen Ladybird, Blade Runner 2049, Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, Murder on the Orient Express, Wind River, Hostiles, the Shape of Water or Mother!

logan-movie-poster1.  Logan
Logan is the swan song for both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in their memorable runs as Wolverine and Professor X.  Set in a time where most of the X-Men are gone and Wolverine’s health is failing, Logan was a gutsy move.  It earns it’s ‘R’ rating in the first five minutes, but what really makes it stand out is the emotion that is packed into it.  Stewart gives a wonderful performance here.

2. Land of Mine
I know this was released in Denmark in 2015, but technically, it is a 2017 film for the U.S. So I am calling it as “this year”.  After all, the director’s next film is due out in 2018.

3. War For the Planet of the Apes
Matt Reeves managed to make the most consistent trilogy of films.  All three of his Apes movies have been top notch.  Emotional and exciting, Reeve shows a real understanding of the balance of action and drama.

4. Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman was everything I wanted to see from the DC film universe.  Wonder Woman is hopeful and filled with excitement.  It was a bright spot for Super-Hero films in general, the DC Cinematic Universe quite specifically.

get_out_poster5. Get Out
Jordan Peele, best known as part of the comedy duo Key and Peele, wrote and directed this smart dark social satire thriller that skewers liberal attitudes towards black Americans.  It has great writing and some really good performances.

6. The Big Sick
A wonderful and personal story from husband and wife creative team Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the Big Sick mines humor and heartbreak from their real life experience.  In what seems like the ultimate Rom Com movie plot, Emily had fallen into a coma early in their relationship.  The Big Sick does not approach this from a glossy sense of “isn’t it romantic”. It is messy and gut wrenching at times.  It is also endearing and joyful.  They explore the issues of cultural differences, the pressures those can bring on relationships. Really, the Big Sick is a wonderful little movie.

7. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Unexpectedly one of the most controversial films of the year… and one of the rare reversals for Star Wars where the critics largely love it, while the general audience is more sharply divided…The Last Jedi is kind of the Unforgiven of Star Wars. It also has one of Mark Hamill’s best live action performances ever.

Atomic_Blonde_Poster8. Atomic Blonde
This film was not what was advertised.  This is not a James Bond Spy Action flick.  This is an Espionage Thriller, and a very, very good one at that.

9. Edge of Seventeen
I thought this was a real good “coming of age” film, full of wit and heart.

10. It
It (Chapter One) is a pretty solid fright film.  Dramatic with some of the strongest kid actor performances I have seen in a long time, this was a real intense scare film and one of the best adaptions of King to date.

11. Logan Lucky
I suppose this is really just “White Trash Ocean’s Eleven”…but it is full of great performances, and held together emotionally by Channing Tatum and young Farrah Mackenzie. Really, this was a lot of fun.

12. Baby Driver
Baby Driver is not a deep film. It is not even all that emotionally engaging.  It is the simple story of a getaway driver trying to get out of his job for the girl he loves. But Edgar Wright does not give the film any such pretense of being more than just a really good noir action flick with a killer soundtrack.


13. Thor: Ragnarok
Ragnarok is a lot of fun. I simply had a terrific amount of fun.  The Hulk has evolved, Cate Blanchett’s Hela is a good villain and Taika Waititi managed what seemed to be looking impossible…a Thor film that rose above, “I guess it was okay.”

14. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Sam Raimi had a decent run with Spider-Man, but ended on a flawed note.  Marc Webb made Spider-Man films with some good points, but still did not quite connect for audiences.  Sony’s deal with Marvel to bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe paid off.  Skipping over the origin story, we get a Spider-Man months into his role.  Peter Parker wants to be an A-List Super-Hero badly, but he is stuck on a neighborhood level, and his connections to Tony Stark are not boosting him forward like he hoped.  Between good arcs for both Spider-Man and his nemesis the Vulture, I am excited to see where Peter goes next.

Honorable Mentions:

John Wick 2.  Somehow, these John Wick movies have me wanting to see more.  I mean, they are really enjoyable.  Kong: Skull Island was fun, much in the same way as Baby Driver.  A Cure For Wellness was just such a weird film, but I really liked it. Also really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  While not perfect, it is a lot of fun.

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.

Love is the Weapon (Wonder Woman, 2017)

wonder_woman_posterThere has been a lot of hype declaring that Wonder Woman is the best of the DC movies so far.  But that is not fair to the film.  Wonder Woman only had to be mediocre to rise to the top.  Wonder Woman is a much stronger film than that.  While Batman and Superman have had multiple appearances on movie screens, this is Wonder Woman’s first film in her 25 year history.  This in spite of the fact that she is an iconic character, she is part of DC’s “Holy Trinity” along with Batman and Superman.

It is no secret that despite financial success, the DC Cinematic Universe has hit a lot of speed bumps.  There have been things to like in previous outings, but overall, the films had a dark oppressive tone and frankly, Snyder and Company really did not get Superman at all.  One of the big pluses of Batman V Superman was, in fact Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.  Enough so that I felt encouraged by the film.  It help that it was in the hands of a director other than Snyder.

And what do you know?  It worked.  Wonder Woman is an origin tale, which is no surprise.  But the film opens with a beautiful sense of awe on the island of Themyscira (or as Steve Trevor calls it “Paradise Island”).  We see warriors training, being watched by young Diana.  She want to learn to fight, but her mother Hippolyta is adamant she will not be trained.  As time passes, Diana learns combat in secret, much to the disappointment of her mother.  Hippolyta eventually relents, but demands Diana be trained harder than any Amazon before her.

When a pilot on the run from the Germans crashes into the ocean near Themyscira it is clear that the war (World War 1) may come to them.  Diana makes impassioned pleas to her mother that the Amazon’s must step in and join the war.  In the end, she sneaks off the Island with Trevor to find and destroy the Greek god of war, Ares.

Diana is cast in the role of wide eyed innocent in a world she does not quite understand.  And the film follows largely in suit.  She has moments of child like wonder.  For example, sshe sees a baby-something she never saw on her island home-home and instantly wants to run over to it.  She tastes ice cream and tells the vendor that they should be very proud.  Even the sexual humor is polite in this film.  Yet, the innocence is not at the expense of Wonder Woman’s character.  No, it is integral to her nobility.  She believes the best.  She believes mankind was created to be good and noble, only corrupted by Ares’ cruel nature.  And then she must come to terms with the fact that this may not be the case.  Mankind may be capable of both greatness and the worst.

It is the little moments of goodness that start to drive Diana, as she sees the small treasures in the band of mercenaries she and Steve are saddled with.  At one point, one of the men buckles in combat, unable to do the one thing he was brought there to do.  When he suggests they leave him behind, Diana looks to him with a gentle smile and asks who would sing for them?  This instantly changes his spirit.  And that is the thing with Wonder Woman.  She is a fierce warrior.  She is powerful and dangerous.  But she is driven by kindness.  She is drive by love.  She is driven by hope.  And that is something that was missing in the DC Cinematic Universe.  A *hopeful* tone.  This is what the first Wonder Woman movie brought us.  Light in a dark movie universe.

There was a lot of talk about how Warner Brothers took a real gamble on Patty Jenkins as director.  That is a whole other discussion.  But if it was a gamble?  It paid off.  And Gal Gadot is proving herself to be the right choice for the role.  She has grace and kindness, but is equally convincing as a warrior.

Wonder Woman is most certainly the best DC film, in large part due to the fact that it really understands it’s hero.

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