On The Precipice Of The Superhero Movie War

dawn of justice heroes fight

Well fans, we are just about a month away from the commencement of the Superhero Movie War when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debuts in theaters. Roughly six weeks later, the second round of the Superhero Movie War goes off with the release of Captain America: Civil War. Both cinematic juggernauts are the opening salvo between DC Comics/Warner Bros. and Marvel Comics/Disney and the duel between the rivals promises to be way beyond epic.

Some may say that the war started already with the release of Deadpool but that wouldn’t apply here since Deadpool was released by 20th Century Fox and is therefore not part of Disney/Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). On a side note, an argument can be made that Deadpool and therefore the rest of the Fox X-Men films are part of the MCU because of the wrecked helicarrier plainly seen in Deadpool’s climax.

Putting Deadpool aside, the next two superhero films to be released this year represent the apex of both rivals and have many similarities. Chiefly, the concept of superheroes fighting one another and public mistrust of superheroes. Luckily, just by looking at the trailers and what’s been revealed so far, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War are different enough from each other though the average low-information film critic who hasn’t read a comic book in decades may disagree.

On that note, can anyone predict how good will these two films be? Got me. The trailers look fantastic, but we all know better. Both films have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

superman meanThe first film to enter the Superhero Movie War is the  monumental first meeting between DC’s comic book giants and the second film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).  2013’s Man of Steel was the first film of the DCEU and while successful it wasn’t the super-hit that Warner Bros. hoped for. Many purists complained that it was too dark and humorless and went against Superman’s character. These critics, obviously, can’t be pleased that Man of Steel’s director Zack Snyder is directing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the two-part Justice League film coming out in 2017 and 2019. There are complaints about the casting of Lex Luthor, the look of the villain Doomsday, the inclusion of too many characters starting with Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

There have been recent Internet grumblings that the second DCEU film is making Warner Bros. nervous because of mixed reactions from early screenings. The rumblings were so bad, that many websites starting speculating if Zack Snyder would be replaced as director for Justice League and that even that film would be shelved for another Batman solo film. OTH, last year there were reports that screenings for Warner executives brought about standing ovations. But news of less-than-enthusiastic reactions to the film this late in the game is cause for worry. snyder JLLet’s be clear here, this film isn’t going to flop, it will rake in hundreds of millions at the box office, but it’s also a very expensive film and according to many sources has to gross $1 billion dollars to make a profit. That is a tall order given its release date. Originally it was a summer film but was slated directly against Captain America: Civil War so DC/Warner Bros. blinked and instead of releasing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice later in the year, it was decided to beat Marvel/Disney to the punch by premiering it first without any competition. But Ben Affleck’s interpretation of Batman has won over many skeptics and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman looks incredible and beautiful. To dispel the negativity, Warner Bros. announced today that Justice League, Part I will begin filming this year on April 11 and that Snyder will be directing it and its conclusion. So all the nervousness among DC fans could just be jitters and sensitivity over been beaten over the head for many years by MCU fans.

cap 3As for Captain America: Civil War, it has a similar problem in that it is jammed with so many characters. This might’ve been fine with a superhero team movie but it’s a Captain America film. How can he be the main character if there are so many distractions? Having too many players helped sink last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Another potential problem is that Captain America: Civil War is the third film in the Captain America trilogies and historically the third films in trilogies are considered weak entries. Then there is a unique MCU film curse in that this film is the second film directed by the same team that directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Joe and Anthony Russo. The second Captain America film was hailed as a masterpiece and all that, but the last two times a director helmed a second MCU film, the results weren’t great. That would be Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon, who directed Iron Man & Iron Man 2, and The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron respectively.

team cap

Honestly, it’s hard to say if the Russo Brothers can break this curse. But Marvel Studios has confidence in them and showed this by giving them the next two Avengers films to direct. Then there go the Internet rumors again about early reactions, however, in this case, there are reports that the third Captain America film delivers the goods. One thing that is different with this film and the DCEU film is that to date, there have only been two trailers shown and neither gave us a peek at the one superhero everyone is dying to see: Spider-Man. Whereas, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has had a few trailers (including TV spots), some of which gave away vital plot points. The lack of trailers for the MCU film is a good way to build up anticipation and demand, while the DCEU film marketing is designed to raise awareness and put butts in theater seats. Frankly, both approaches work.

So which film will end the opening round? Which one will be the critical and box office darling? Seriously, there is good reason to say that both films will do fine and we should be thankful that A) We’re getting some plum choices to watch and B) that both studios were wise enough not having their films directly compete against each other and forcing us fans to choose which film to watch on the opening weekend.

T. Rod Jones

 

Let’s Recast The Fantastic Four The Right Way

ff21It looks like 20th Century Fox is going ahead with their reboot of the Fantastic Four, and many fans are already up in arms over that development. They fear the reboot will be as bad as previous attempts and the negative reaction is so intense that many are hoping it stays in development hell rather than being filmed.

What is so troubling for them and myself included are the casting choices being mentioned in the trade papers. While Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch is an intriguing, though out-of-left-field possibility, some like Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic just left me wondering what the hell is going on with the casting director. Has anyone looked tellerat this actor? He looks like a dweeb! I’m sorry but nothing about Teller gives the impression that he is a gifted scientist type. And given how young he is, it’s pretty clear that the filmmakers are going to emulate the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book, which if you ask me wasn’t good at all. The comic book isn’t even being published anymore! Making the superhero team a bunch of child prodigies was a mistake and took out vital parts of what makes the team so fun. See, they’re a family unit, with Reed Richards as the father figure, Ben Grimm as the grumpy but lovable uncle, Sue Storm as the mother figure and her brother Johnny being the impulsive kid in the bunch.

But that doesn’t seem to be the way that Fox is going. Getting a bunch of young actors for these roles is more important to them since they want the movie to appeal to the teenagers. The problem is that the kind of teenagers they’re trying to attract don’t care about the Fantastic Four and probably wouldn’t see the reboot anyway. Then many of the teenagers that do care about the FF will probably be so turned off by the radical changes that they will boycott the film.

Let’s pretend that we’re actually in charge of casting the Fantastic Four reboot. Forget about trying to get the popular young actor and let’s try to stay faithful to the comics. After all, the Fantastic Four put Marvel Comics on the map with their novel approach to super heroics. Now I know that the following choices won’t even be considered, but they’re who I would pick for a new Fantastic Four film.

hammReed Richards/Mr. Fantastic: Going with a twentysomething is the wrong approach to Marvel’s premier scientist. Reed is the 21st century equivalent of an Einstein and he should look the part. As the leader of the Fantastic Four, Mr. Fantastic should be portrayed by a more mature yet fit actor. There are many excellent choices out there for the role and even Ioan Gruffudd did a decent job as Mr. Fantastic. For the reboot Jon Hamm would be fabulous (pun intended) as Reed Richards. He’s the right age for the part (Reed is roughly in his early forties), looks intelligent and emotes a grounded and mature quality needed for the leadership role. Other choices: Casey Affleck; Misha Collins

Sue Storm/Invisible Woman: Jessica Alba, the previous actress to portray Richards’ fiancé then wife rankled many alice evefans who didn’t think she was right for the part. Putting aside her ethnicity, Alba lacked that motherly/big sister/peacekeeper quality needed for the role, but she wasn’t the worst casting choice–more on that later. Now hands down, Alice Eve, most recently seen on Star Trek Into Darkness is a perfect pick for Sue Storm. She looks the part and has the acting chops to pull off the role easily. Eve can do the more brainy and modern interpretation of Storm seen in the comics and can be a tough lady when needed. Other choices: Evan Rachel Wood; Blake Lively Continue reading

Spidey’s Back!

Spidey!In a move that really wasn’t all that surprising to us, Marvel Comics announced that Peter Parker will once again be Spider-Man this spring. The New York Daily News broke the story earlier today in a feature that included an interview with Spider-Man writer Dan Slott.

For anyone who doesn’t follow the latest happenings in the Marvel Comics universe, Peter Parker’s consciousness was removed from his body by his long-time foe Doctor Octopus in a mind swap. Doctor Octopus was dying and did the switch in order to survive. This all culminated in late 2012 with the final issue of the long-running title The Amazing Spider-Man, which was number 700. The title was replaced by The Superior Spider-Man, which featured Doctor Octopus masquerading as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his darker, meaner take of the superhero divided fans. Many decried the fact that their beloved nerd, Parker, was dumped in order to give new blood to the Spider-Man comic books. But a vocal number of readers came to like the new Spider-Man who wasn’t so noble or honorable. This divide will probably continue for the rest of the character’s history.

Still, fans who disliked the new ASm2Spider-Man are breathing a sigh of relief at the news, which isn’t truly surprising. Think about it, a big-budget movie is coming out in a few short months (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and it wouldn’t do to have a disconnect between the comic book and movie versions of Spider-Man. The idea of explaining to non-fans that the Peter Parker in the comic books isn’t really him, but the one in the movies is the real deal, can leave anyone confused. This is Marvel’s most famous and beloved superhero, after all. In the long run, that character change couldn’t be permanent. It’s all part of branding and marketing efforts to increase buzz and comic book sales. It worked in the past with so many other superheroes –Superman, Batman and Captain America have had similar storylines where they were replaced. But these marketing gimmicks, while they do work, create negativity and cynicism about the company, since the average reader knew that despite Marvel’s insistence in 2012 that Peter Parker was dying off, that things would go back to the status quo.

This doesn’t mean that The Superior Spider-Man was a flawed effort, it did have its merits and presented a fresh take on Marvel’s flagship superhero. But it is a bit of a relief that the happy-go-lucky Peter Parker is back in a new launch of The Amazing Spider-Man. If only it didn’t have to be relaunched as an issue number 1, but that’s the marketing department for you.

Lewis T. Grove

Khristmas Klingon Style

klingon khristmasOne of the stranger gift requests I received for this Christmas is the new Star Trek book A Very Klingon Khristmas by Paul Ruditis. It’s obviously a parody about the holiday season done Klingon style. Sure, there are many absurd Klingon parodies floating around pop culture out there, but this is one of the more better made ones. BTW, the honor for the most bizarre, yet hysterical spoof is the Klingon video parody of Psy’s famous dance song “Gangnam Style”.

Getting back to A Very Klingon Khristmas, the book looks at the holiday from a Klingon point of view. The holiday being celebrated tongue-in-cheek style is the birth of the mighty Klingon warrior Kahless. In the Klingon holiday, Santa Claus has retractable claws and leaves tribbles in the stockings of the naughty kids, and so on. But, what really sells the book are the Norman Rockwell-like paintings (by Patrick Faricy) that capture the festive, family mood of Christmas with a Klingon spin.

klingon carolers

It’s a cute and fun book for Star Trek fans that isn’t too pricy, (less than $20) though the hardcover is only 32 pages long. That’s something to consider if you’re doing some last minute shopping and need to get something for a Star Trek fan. Look at it this way, A Very Klingon Khristmas will last longer in a fan’s memories than another Star Trek calendar.

So this can be the start of a new kind gift idea. Who knows? Maybe they’ll do other Christmas-themed Star Trek books. Personally, I’d like to read a A Ferengi Christmas Carol. 😀

Annette DeForrester

2014 Hallmark Sci-Fi Ornaments

scout trooper 2This holiday season’s Hallmark ornaments for sci-fi and other genre fans has been a bit lacking. Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautifully crafted, but there isn’t a lot to choose from. Next year, on the other hand, promises a treasure trove not just for Star Wars ornaments, but for other popular films and TV shows.

Star Wars

The Star Wars ornaments made by Hallmark are increasingly popular, which is evident from the variety of available ornaments. The 2014 Hallmark Star Wars ornaments are sure to be sought after by many Star Wars fans. They include:

  • The sandcrawler terrain vehicle used by the nomadic Jawas in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
  • The alien Cantina band from the same film, and the ornament will feature sound. Hopefully it will have the famous, space jazzy music heard in the background when Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi entered the Cantina.

CANTINA

  •  An Imperial scout trooper as seen in Return Of The Jedi. Sorry, no speeder bike. Maybe in 2015, unless the new Star Wars film hogs up everything.
  • Darth Vader from the final moments of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, when he is fitted with his infamous armor for the first time. If all goes well, we won’t hear him screaming “NOOOO!”. Then again that should be good for a laugh around the Christmas tree.
  • A LEGO version of Boba Fett, the bounty hunter.
  • Another Peekbuster ornament with the motion detector that was used last year for Darth Vader. This time Yoda will do the honors and unlike Darth Vader, Yoda looks more suited for the Peekbuster job. That’s because his green skin goes better with the red Santa clothes.

Star Trek

There will be only three Star Trek-based ornaments released by Hallmark in 2014.  They are the U.S.S. Vengeance PA.INT.34205S_H7.Cship featured in Star Trek Into Darkness, Sulu wearing the original series uniform and a diorama featuring Spock mind-melding with a Horta as seen in the classic Star Trek episode “The Devil In The Dark”. Hopefully by the time the 50th anniversary of Star Trek comes around in 2016, Hallmark will beef up their offerings.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Superheroes

Unlike this year, there are plenty of inspired Hallmark ornaments planned for 2014. Superhero ornaments will include Spider-Man, the Hulk, Superman in his modern suit shown in The New 52 comic books and the Adam West version of Batman ornament that was delayed previously. Also worth mentioning is that the Batmobile shown in Tim Burton’s Batman will be available.

superman hulk ornament

As interesting as the superhero ornaments are, the 2014 Hallmark sci-fi and fantasy ornaments will really whet genre fans’ appetites. I can already see some of these hanging from the tree next year. Announced so far are:

alien ape

  • The voracious alien xenomorph from the classic film Alien. Sure, it’s probably too ghastly to hang on a Christmas tree, but it sure is lovingly rendered as seen from photos. It will look great on a shelf or desk.
  • Cornelius from the original Planet Of The Apes film. No word yet if ornaments based on the modern Planet Of The Apes movies will be made.
  • Last year’s ornament of the DeLorean car from Back To The Future was very popular. It was Starloggers’ pick for ornament of the year. For 2014, Hallmark will release another version of that famous car, but it will be the flying DeLorean seen in Back To The Future, Part II.
  • Godzilla! No images are available at the time of this article, but it should be awesome. Hallmark gets extra points if the Godzilla ornament has his famous roar.
  • Harry Potter has become a mainstay with Hallmark ornaments and the 2014 ornament will be of him and Professor McGonagall.
  • An ornament based on The Hunger Games films.
  • The great white shark from Jaws! I’m already humming the Jaws theme.
  • Sloth, the deformed, but lovably goofy Fratelli brother from The Goonies.
  • Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the dwarves from The Hobbit.

 frankenstein

  • Like the Alien and Jaws ornaments, this one about the Frankenstein monster from the classic Universal Studios films may not go with a Christmas tree. But it looks fantastic, too!
  • Another Hallmark sci-fi ornament coming out in 2014 will be of Optimus Prime, the heroic leader of the Transformers. The one shown in photos looks to be based on the toy and not the Transformers films.

Waldermann Rivera