Reaction To The New DCU Announcement

To be frank, it was best to wait a few days after the announcement from DC Studios’ head James Gunn about their new slate of DC Universe (DCU) films and TV shows. The immediate reaction for these types of announcements often run wildly until the news is fully digested. What was interesting about Gunn’s announcement was not the rage from fans of the ending DC Extended Universe (DCEU), but the large collective shrug from most.

There are many reasons for the various reactions, but the pervailing muted response has to do with the content of the upcoming DCU films and TV shows and that fans have been burned before with the intial announcement of the DCEU. When the first batch of DCEU films were announced last decade there was a lot to get fans super excited, especially with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now we know how all that turned out. Some of the films were never made (with The Flash finally premiering later this year), while some released films failed to deliver. Then there is the fact that some of the more well-received aspects of the DCEU, namely actors like Henry Cavill and Gal Godot, will not be a part of the DCU. So, naturally the skepticism and outrage was expected.

But let’s face the truth: the DCEU was a failure. Blame the executives at Warner Bros.. Blame the producers, writers, directors and actors. Blame the unrealistic expectations and toxic fans. But the fact remains that there were too many missed opportunities and that Warner Bros. was too reactionary. Instead of trying to fix what was wrong with the DCEU, the film studios had a scattershot approach to their DC properties. They ignored what worked with the DCEU and doubled down on films and TV shows that featured DC characters, but were not connected to the DCEU. What made things worse for the cinematic universe was that non-DCEU films like Joker and The Batman were huge successes. More and more DC films and TV shows were greenlit that were not part of the DCEU, while the DCEU itself was left behind.

This was a mistake. Warner Bros. have the characters in a shared superhero universe that should have rivaled Marvel Studios and their properties. While this may please Marvel fans, the fact is that Marvel Studios needs healthy competition to keep them on their toes, and we were seeing the effect, as their recent films and TV shows were not as well received as earlier releases.

What could have been done to salvage the DCEU? Nothing, at this point. James Gunn took the right approach by starting over. But there should have been a complete reboot. Instead we are getting a TV show about Amanda Waller starring Viola Davis, who was prominent in the DCEU. Then there are reports that other actors from the DCEU like Ezra Miller will be a part of the DCU. Why keep Davis and Miller but not Cavill and Gadot? The latter two actors were very popular and turned in iconic performances as Superman and Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, while they were great in their roles they are too identified with the DCEU and nervous executives probably feared that keeping them in a new cinematic universe would be too confusing for the average moviegoer. Whatever.

On the other hand, to dismiss the DCU without seeing the final product is foolish. James Gunn is a very talented filmmaker who took the obscure Marvel Comics property Guardians of the Galaxy and made them beloved superstars. He also did this to a lesser effect with DC characters in his film The Suicide Squad and TV show Peacemaker.

Do some of the announced films and TV shows sound uninspiring? Sure. Who is clamoring for Waller or The Authority or Paradise Lost (sorry this last announced project seems too much like Game of Thrones)? Who the hell can replace Henry Cavill? Anyone trying to answer this should remember how many fans were attached to Christopher Reeve as Superman or bemoaned about how Brandon Routh was short changed. Who knows, maybe Cavill and Gadot will return at some point. It happened to Routh when he had the opportunity to reprise Superman in the Arrowverse version of Crisis on Infinite Earths. That is one crossover event that is begging to be redone properly by Gunn and his people.

It stinks that we have to wait until 2025 to see the first DCU entry Superman: Legacy, but until then we should be patient and see what happens. We should also be rooting for the DCU to succeed because if it falters like the DCEU then it will be a long time before such effort is made to create a live-action cinematic universe based on the beloved DC characters.

Doomed Patrol

This past week, HBO Max announced that their streaming series, Doom Patrol and Titans, were ending once their fourth seasons conclude later this year. These two TV shows are based on the DC Comics and originally streamed on the now-defunct DC Universe app before they were carried over to HBO Max.

The news of the series concluding has upset many fans, especially those of Doom Patrol. With its four season, Doom Patrol will surely go down as one of the most bizarre DC TV shows or movies to come out. It centers on a groups of superhero misfits who were given their “powers” if you want to call it that by scientist Niles Calder (Timothy Dalton) in his quest to protect his daughter Dorothy (Abi Monterey), who can bring her imaginary friends to life. His tampering resulted in certain damaged individuals who gained strange abilities. 

This includes Cliff Steele aka Robotman (Brendan Fraser), a man whose brain was placed in a robot body that is not very maneuverable. His background as an absentee father shows him trying to make amends by bonding with his daughter and grandson with mixed results. Rita Farr (April Bowlby), a movie star from the past whose exposure to toxic gas changes her molecular structure to that of gelatin giving her the name Elasti-woman, also has emotional issues with regards to her mother and her failed movie career. This is a common theme in the show with the characters all having issues with their pasts and trying to overcome this. Larry Trainor (Riley Shanahan), Negative Man, is no exception who was a former fighter pilot who bonded with a negative energy entity after a plane crash disfigured him. He also deals with child abandonment issues with his own child and his father, as well. Vic Stone (Joivan Wade), Cyborg, was turned into a half-man, half-machine colossus by his scientist father after a car crash, and has to come to terms with his new life. Vic is alienated from his family and friends while finding a new family in the Doom Patrol. Perhaps the most damaged character is Kay Challis (Diane Guerrero), Crazy Jane, who suffers from multiple personalities that were created to protect a little girl that was abused. These different personas are shown as a group of women living in an underground area connected by a subway station, when at certain times, one of them comes to the surface to display a completely different aspect of Jane’s life, and a different super power, too.

The plots of the episodes are strange to say the least and the flashbacks to each character’s respective pasts are a frequent occurrence. We see them thinking about their traumas, struggling to get past it and become heroes to fight against whatever threats they are facing today. These threats include Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk), an old enemy of Niles, or the Candlemaker, a creature from Dorothy’s subconscious, as well as Madame Rouge (Michelle Gomez), a time traveling agent of the Bureau of Normalcy, who captured Rita and forced her to become a weapon. Later on, Rouge actually joins the Doom Patrol to lead them after the departure of Niles. The series can seem somewhat chaotic with so many different ideas thrown around. Such things like a sentient street that talks to people via signs, zombie versions of the characters going to the afterlife, and magical creatures coming from a girl’s imagination all make the show very distinctive in DC lore.

Doom Patrol is supposed to have a proper ending as the producers had a hint that cancellation was coming so hopefully the last batch of episodes coming out later this year will give this odd group the sendoff they deserve and hopefully they will finally get some peace of mind. Regardless of how it ends however, this series has cemented its place as the most unique property to come out of the DC universe and will most likely stay that way.

C. S. Link

Top Ten Films & TV Shows Of 2022

2022 is done and it is time to briefly look back at the best genre films and television shows that came out in 2022. Of course, every reader’s preference and ranking will be different and everyone will have their opinions about these lists and are entitled to them. Drop a comment if you agree with the rankings or have different ones.

TV Shows

It is clear that we are in the middle of a Golden Age of genre TV shows given there so many high-quality shows that came out in just one year. Many of the streamed or aired TV shows are genuine classics with the top three shows being virtually tied for first place and their ranks can be interchanged.

10. The Peripheral

Loosely based on William Gibson’s book, this was one sci-fi show worth watching. Chloë Moretz Grace stars as a VR gamer in the near future caught up in a mind-bending conspiracy involving time travel and alternate realities.

9. The Sandman

This turned out to be a remarkably faithful adaptation of the classic DC/Vertigo dark fantasy comic book. More like a traditional episodic show with standalone stories, The Sandman was inventive, colorful, disturbing and brilliant.

8. Peacemaker

James Gunn sojourn into the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) took a hysterical turn with the first (and possibly final) DCEU TV show. It took one of the least likeable anti-heroes from The Suicide Squad and turned him into a relatable and emotionally complex character.

7. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Director James Gunn delivered an awesome, heartfelt and funny holiday special starring the Guardians of the Galaxy. In between the gooey holiday scenes were moments of pure laughter as the alien Guardians went to Earth to kidnap the actor Kevin Bacon to present as a Christmas present. The songs were great, too.

6. The Boys

With the introduction of Soldier Boy, The Boys took a turn at satirizing the Marvel Comics heroes with his clear similarities to Captain America. Meanwhile, the series continued to be outrageously violent with gross-out humor and in-your-face commentary about our times.

5. Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ewan McGregor reprised the role he made his own in the Star Wars prequels. The series served as both a sequel to those films and a prequel to the original Star Wars. Despite some flaws, McGregor elevated the show with his brilliant performance as a fallen Jedi who has to rediscover his faith.

4. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Despite some Star Trek shows that faltered in 2022, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds breathed new life in the franchise. This was due to smart scripts that emulated the original Star Trek, a charming cast, and a back-to-basics approach with its storytelling that favored standalone episodes.

3. Andor

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

This Star Wars show was the ultimate slow burn as the prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story centered on the anti-hero Rebel agent, Cassian Andor. Separate arcs thoroughly examined Andor’s personal growth and the people around him. It also realistically depicted of how a rebellion grows in an authoritarian society.

2. House of the Dragon

Many who were disappointed by the final season of Game of Thrones were pleasantly surprised by this fascinating prequel that focused on the dragon-worshiping Targaryen royal family. Despite its prequel limitations, the show quickly captivated audiences who were drawn back to the fantasy world of George R.R. Martin.

1. Stranger Things 4

The fourth season of Stranger Things managed to reinvigorate the series with fascinating origin stories and situations, and new and memorable characters. At the same time, this season focused on the core characters that were so beloved and who were allowed to grow as they faced terrifying new threats from the Upside Down dimension.

Honorable Mentions:

Doom Patrol; For All Mankind; Halo; The Handmaid’s Tale; Love, Death + Robots; Moon Knight; The Orville; Raised By Wolves; Severance; She-Hulk: Attorney At Law; Snowpiercer, Star Trek: Picard; Star Trek: Prodigy; Superman & Lois; Tales of the Jedi; Titans; Werewolf By Night; The Umbrella Academy; Undone

Films

Surprisingly, the genre offerings for 2022 were not as plentiful as in previous years. Superhero films still dominate the release schedule though many other genre films (horror, animated, sci-fi, fantasy) have made their presence felt as well in a solid year for genre films.

10. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

The sequel film delivered the best family film of the year. It was also an exciting, colorful and largely faithful live-action adaptation of the classic Sega video game hero and his expanded roster of friends and foes.

9. The Black Phone

This film by Scott Derrickson proved why he is one of the best visionary horror directors today with The Black Phone. He cleverly combined classic horror elements from serial killers to psychic phenomenon to ghosts.

8. Nope

Director Jordan Peele’s latest genre offering was an intriguing and original take on the U.F.O. phenomenon. Nope had its fair share of suspense, horror and the contemplative character studies Peele is known for, as well as elements of a neo-Western.

7. Prey

The Predator franchise was unexpectedly revived with the latest film that took the franchise in a new and fresh direction. Placing the film centuries ago, Prey amped up the thrills as the human characters had to rely on their wits and skills instead of technology against the inhuman Predator hunting them.

6. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Michelle Yeoh turned in a fantastic performance as several variations of the same character in this film that gave us a true multiverse of madness. The film truly went out there with its sometimes bizarre depictions of colliding parallel universes.

5. Jurassic World: Dominion

The conclusion to the second Jurassic Park film trilogy ended on a high note full of dinosaurs rampaging in modern-day society. However, the film’s true high note was when it had the main heroes from both trilogies meeting and teaming up to save the world from extinction.

4 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Director Ryan Coogler pulled off the impossible with a sequel that does not feature the star or main character from the original film. This film was full of depth as it explored grief and loss, while expanding the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with the introduction of one of Marvel’s best anti-heroes, Namor.

3. The Batman

We actually got to see the Dark Knight Detective do some actual detective work in this grounded and gritty version of Batman. The dark and brooding film delivered intense action, intrigue and a horrifying version of the Riddler that rivaled classic cinematic serial killers.

2. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

While the year’s top MCU film did not exactly deliver a multiverse of madness, it was a fun deep dive into the MCU with chilling horror elements and wild visuals. Sam Raimi was an inspired choice of a director who utilized his horror and comic book film background to full effect.

1. Avatar: The Way of Water

The sequel to Avatar, the biggest box office hit of all time, surprised many who dismissed it for being an empty special effects-heavy sequel. However, director James Cameron’s breathtaking vision of an alien world and its solid world building and characters helped propel Avatar: The Way of Water into a must-see event.

Honorable Mentions:

Barbarian; Beavis and Butthead Do the Universe; Black Crab; Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers; DC League of Super Pets; Lighthyear; Moonfall; Puss in Boots: The Last Wish; Smile; Strange World; Thor: Love and Thunder; Turning Red

Phase Four Of The MCU: Ranked

The fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) turned out to be a mixed bag in terms of quality. It was also different in that the MCU now officially incorporated TV shows and as a result, we had plenty to watch and enjoy. Some of the films and TV shows were bonafide gems, others were hugely disappointing. As we prepare for Phase Five, let’s look back at Phase Four of the MCU and rank them. If anyone has a different list order, please feel free to drop a comment.

18. Ms. Marvel

Where to start with this MCU TV show? Not only does it turn Ms. Marvel into a poor person’s Green Lantern, it betrays her comic roots by making her a mutant. Then it commits the deadly sin by veering too much into dull Pakistani family drama that took up valuable screen time.

17. Eternals

This is a contender for being the worst MCU film. It’s dull, plodding and pretentious. What’s worse is that it insults comic book legend Jack Kirby’s original vision of these superheroes by changing their origin and purpose. It ranks higher than Ms. Marvel only because its special effects and cinematography were better.

16. I Am Groot

Basically, it was a cute animated show. Actually it was a bunch of five-minute segments featuring Baby Groot doing silly antics. So, pretty much it was geared for kids and the young at heart, but otherwise, it’s harmless fluff for the rest of us to skip over or watch to kill a few minutes of time.

15. Moon Knight

Despite Oscar Isaac’s winning performance as the title character and some good fight scenes, the show was too uneven. It seemed as if the showrunners could not decide if Moon Knight was a psychological mystery, an Indiana Jones-type of adventure story or a downright fantasy. What we got was a narrative mess.

14. Loki

This show that first expanded on the concept of the multiverse is a perfect case for showing not telling. It did have some interesting concepts and the introduction of Kang was chilling, the show was weighed down by too many scenes of exposition that was not particularly engaging.

13. She-Hulk: Attorney At Law

Unlike other uneven MCU TV shows that fell apart at the end, this one stuck the landing hard. Unfortunately, many episodes of this supposed comedy were simply not funny. Still, Tatiana Maslany turned in an endearing performance as the title character while she went through the downside of being a superhero celebrity.

12. Black Widow

A film set during Phase Three starring a now-dead character was an unusual way to start the film side of Phase Four of the MCU. Some complained the film was unnecessary, but it cannot be denied that it was an exciting spy thriller with some memorable characters.

11. Hawkeye

This could have been one of the greatest superhero TV shows due to onscreen buddy chemistry between Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld and presenting the physical and emotional toll Hawkeye suffered from the MCU films. But, the writing and directing was inconsistent, though some episodes were terrific.

10. Thor: Love and Thunder

While it is not as good as Thor: Ragnarok, the fourth Thor film was downright hysterical and enjoyable at times. However, it was hampered with its uneven tone that made too light of some sober themes like cancer and deity worship that were often overwhelmed by poorly timed slapstick scenes.

9. Werewolf By Night

After the uneven results of its MCU TV shows, Marvel Studios tried a new approach with a one-off TV special. It not only worked spectacularly, but the special expanded the MCU with more horror elements and intriguing new characters that must be brought back again.

8. What If…?

This animated series sometimes went wild with its exploration of the multiverse with interesting alternate MCU worlds that led to an epic showdown at the end of the season that teamed up several familiar heroes with new twists. Unlike Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Ultron featured in this series was truly terrifying.

7. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Both funny and heartfelt, this holiday special from director James Gunn is everything a holiday special should be. Aside from presenting the usual heart-tugging and whimsical elements of a holiday special, it also served as an excellent way of preparing us for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3.

6. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The second MCU TV show did a great job of examining the impact of the events from Avengers: Endgame on the world and several Captain America-related characters. What made the character moments so memorable were that they were so grounded and relatable to viewers, and touched on real-world issues.

5. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

This action fantasy film is a perfect example of taking an obscure character and turning him and his world into a popular sensation. The film impressed all of us with the stunning and exciting fight sequences and its eye-popping fantasy scenes were quite breathtaking and wondrous. It’s easy to see why its director was tapped to film the next Avengers film.  

4. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The sequel to Black Panther proved to be a worthy followup to the original film, even without its main character. Director Ryan Coogler co-wrote this heartfelt and somber film that dwelled on the devastating aftermath from the loss of Black Panther as felt by his loved ones and his nation. Also, Namor was a brilliantly presented anti-hero/antagonist with a thought-provoking back story.

3. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

While the multiverse was not exactly mad in the second Doctor Strange film, the concepts of other realities was well explored with a visual relish by director Sam Raimi. Drawing from his horror film repertoire, Raimi infused the film with chilling horror elements and imagery, and fantastic (forgive the pun) references to other Marvel Comics properties and Marvel film universes.

2. WandaVision

The very first MCU TV show is still the best one to date. Elizabeth Olsen gave a genuine standout performance as the emotionally fragile Wanda Maximoff dealing with immense grief in an unusual way. The show quickly became must-see viewing as we pondered the mystery of what was going on with Wanda’s reality that was presented by amusing takes of American sitcoms through the decades. WandaVision also expanded the MCU in an organic, supernatural way that did not feel forced and teased us of what was to come.

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

The third MCU Spider-Man film turned out to be one of the best MCU films ever as the film truly opened up and introduced audiences to the concept of the multiverse. Fans were elated over Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire reprising their roles as Spider-Man, as well as the return of classic Spider-Man villains like Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin (reprised by the actors who originated the roles: Al Molina and Willem Dafoe). What made the film truly stand out was its deeply emotional core as Spider-Man is forced to learn that with great power, comes great responsibility.

Werewolf By Night Harkens Back To Classic Horror Films

The latest offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Werewolf by Night, was just released on Disney + in time for the Halloween season. Werewolf by Night is actually a rarity these days, a television film and only about an hour, at that. More interesting is that like many projects in the MCU’s Phase Four, it is not the typical superhero slugfest. In fact, the film does not make any kind of overt connection to the larger MCU, but it ends up enriching the MCU with its solidly supernatural motif.

Filmed largely in black and white, the film follows Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), a so-called monster hunter, who arrives at a spooky manor and participates in a ceremonial hunt of a captured monster held in a maze in the manor’s grounds. The prize for finding the monster is a mystical stone called the Bloodstone that was once wielded by Ulysses Bloodstone, who died recently. During the hunt, Jack teams up with fellow monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), the estranged daughter of Ulysses Bloodstone. Jack is only interested in finding the monster, while Elsa wants the Bloodstone. During the hunt the two must deal with rival monster hunters and Jack’s hidden secrets.

Werewolf by Night, is surprisingly fun and spooky. It clearly harkens back to the old Universal classic horror films from the ’40s featuring Dracula, the Wolfwman and other famous monsters. But the film also has a grindhouse, 1970s feel with its graphic violence (muted by the black and white photography), it is probably the most violent MCU offering to date and is appropriate for this kind of project.

The film’s atmosphere is perfect for the story it tells and has the right amount of jump scares and thrills. The film could have benefited from a slightly longer length to flesh out the story and characters, but supposedly there was extra footage that was deleted because they were too comical and Marvel Studios is smarting over recent criticism that their projects are too comical. It would be a joy to see a followup to Werewolf by Night, as there is so much about Jack Russell and Elsa Bloodstone that we viewers are not aware of and there is a lot of potential with the those two. Also, it would be interesting to see how they fit in with the larger MCU, and the same goes for the third standout character in the film, Man-Thing. In addition to the Werewolf, the hulking, moss-covered monstrosity is perfectly comics accurate and imposing. The effects used to bring the creature to life were very impressive, in fact, it was clear most of the film’s budget was held back to benefit Man-Thing’s appearances. If anything, a Man-Thing spinoff film or series must be made.

As for the title character, he was obviously a person wearing monster makeup, but it was a refreshing throwback to the CG that has taken over. More importantly despite the low-tech approach to how he is presented, the monstrous Werewolf was very terrifying with his savage and animalistic fights.

Director Michael Giacchino creates a moody and dark atmosphere filled with shadows and a sense of dread, which is what made the old Universal horror films so beloved. His directorial debut is quite impressive given that he is best known for his distinct film scores (by the way, he also scored this film and his work was brilliant as always). Given the way he was able to bring out the scares and deliver a solid horror film, he should be seriously considered to direct the Blade film, given that Marvel Studios is now scrambling to find a director for that project. Werewolf by Night demonstrates that Giacchino has the skills to give us a great vampire film.

Unlike some misfires in Phase Four of the MCU, Werewolf by Night is a textbook example of doing something different that engages the viewers and unveals spooky new corners of the growing MCU.

José Soto