Requiem For A Dark Knight

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The status of Ben Affleck’s role in the upcoming Batman film directed by Matt Reeves has been a source of both interest and mystery ever since Affleck left that film’s role as director two years ago. This mystery was finally solved a few days ago with the article on deadline.com that detailed a release date for the film titled The Batman, which will come to theaters on June 25th, 2021 with a new actor to be cast in the role. This was seemingly confirmed by Affleck himself, who retweeted the article on his Twitter account. This news has brought a reaction from fans that of sadness and regret since he will no longer be playing a role that he has owned since his debut in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The initial announcement of his casting as Batman was met with some skepticism at first, but after the first trailer for the movie, with the image of Bruce Wayne staring at his Batman outfit, consumed with rage, fans were convinced of his ability to play the dual role of playboy millionaire and costumed vigilante, obsessed with stopping what he saw as the ultimate threat in Superman. His excellent performance in the somewhat divisive film cemented his legacy as the definitive live-action Batman. His brief, but well received, cameo in Suicide Squad further excited fans. His last full time appearance as the Caped Crusader in Justice League in 2017 was met with mixed results since he seemed somewhat disinterested. Possibly this was due to reshoots by Joss Whedon and rewrites to the story that changed what the original director Zack Snyder had planned. But, overall, I thought his performance was still a great interpretation of a transformed Bruce Wayne who was trying to live up to Superman’s example and not let his sacrifice in Batman v Superman go in vain. 
I do wish that Ben Affleck was given another opportunity to play the role. However, due to the reaction to both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, as well as his own personal problems with alcoholism and a high profile divorce, this led to his wavering on whether or not to continue the role. Also complicating things was the fact that Matt Reeves wants to tell a story of a younger Batman that takes place maybe 10-15 years before the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There were some rumors that Affleck might play the older version of Batman at the start and end of the movie, but this seems to have been rejected by Reeves.  His vision of a noir-driven detective film does sound interesting and unique, but it would have been great to see Affleck in this type of film as well, since his previous movies as Batman focused on his fighting abilities and strengths. As for who will replace him, there are, of course, lots of rumors on that as well. One is Armie Hammer, who would be a good replacement. Hammer has been rumored to be up for the part of Hal Jordan in the upcoming Green Lantern Corps film, but that movie is still several years away with Geoff Johns writing a new script for it. Another one rumored is Aaron Taylor-Johnson from 2014’s Godzilla and 2010’s Kick-Ass. Whoever is picked should not be so young as to look more like Robin than Batman. Even though Reeves is supposedly looking for an actor in the range of 25-30, this Batman should already be an experienced crime fighter. Christoper Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005 already told the story of the Caped Crusader first starting out. Another origin story is not needed. Whoever is cast needs to have the same presence that Affleck had and be able to show that he will eventually become the force that dominated Gotham’s underworld in Batman v Superman.
If there is ever another Justice League movie or another DCEU film that takes place in present day, one hopes that Affleck will be called on to don the cape again, but that is unknown at this point. If he never plays the role again, his legacy is still cemented in comic movie lore as arguably the most accurate Bruce Wayne and Batman to show up on the big screen. Every role is eventually recast at some point. Look at how many actors have played the role of James Bond over the years. Batman is no exception. The character is over 75 years old and will go on no matter who plays him, so while it’s sad that Ben Affleck is leaving, any hysteria over this is not really necessary. I just hope that whoever takes the torch from him is able to live up to the standard he set and helps Matt Reeves make another great Batman movie.
C.S. Link

DCEU Woes & Growing Pains

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We all just learned that The Flash, the big-screen version of the Scarlet Speedster, has gone back to a page one rewrite over at Warner Bros. OK, this is not good for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).

This latest mishap with Warner Bros/DC is now fermenting the common thought that the DCEU is veering out of control. To date, the film studio has released three films in the DCEU and all of them have received mixed reactions to outright hostility from fans and critics. Box office-wise, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad have done well, but they haven’t exactly taken the world by storm unlike their competitors Marvel Studios.

All three films weren’t complete turds, in fact, they have many admirable traits. IMHO Man of Steel is a misunderstood classic while Suicide Squad introduced us to many memorable anti-heroes like Harley Quinn and Deadshot. But to say that they have been controversial is an understatement.

Now comes rumors that this year’s Justice League and even Wonder Woman are considered to be unfixable messes. Sure, these could just be nasty rumblings from nervous executives, but it leads us to wonder if it’s time for Warner Bros. and DC to start panicking. Hell, they could all be quivering already for all we know.

The sad part is that these developments are truly shameful because it’s a disservice to the wonderful DC Comics characters and their fans. Many of them must be rightfully rankled that Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and even the Fox X-Men films are for the most part well received. These woes do not mean that DC’s superheroes are inferior to Marvel’s, it’s just that the films these days are being mismanaged. It’s frustrating because the potential is there for some exceptionally classic films.

justice-league-oneThis doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. At least with The Flash, Warner Bros./DC, at least, knew something must have been wrong with the script and instead of just plowing ahead, decided to start over. In the long run this could mean we’ll get a quality film, but don’t get your hopes up that The Flash will premiere in 2018. No, get your Flash fix from the excellent TV show that is still airing. Now, the problem is that too many people have felt burned with the uneven Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Then add to that the fear that Justice League may turn out badly and now all hopes are turning to Wonder Woman for being the film that knocks it out of the park for the DCEU. If neither film can deliver, then expect to see a radical shake up over at the film studio over how these films are made.

The obvious problem is that there are too many cooks in the the DCEU kitchen and no clear boss who can provide a strong hand in the films’ direction. Basically, Warner Bros. needs their version of Kevin Feige, the mastermind behind the MCU’s success. Sure they recently appointed Geoff Johns to run the DCEU, but it’s too early to tell if he will have a positive impact. What if he fails?The good news is that the film studio probably does have their own Feige and that person is Greg Berlanti, who is responsible for the success of DC’s television efforts. Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl are all successful, well-regarded TV shows that have a lot of energy and stay mostly faithful to the superheroes’ roots. Berlanti has skillfully interwoven a shared universe that isn’t clunky or convoluted and encourages viewers to sample all the shows. The DC shows are actually better than some of Marvel’s MCU TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. because they are more lively and explore the full potential of their stories and characters.

Another thing to remember is that it is still early for the DCEU. There have only been three films and if memory serves us correctly at the same point with the MCU they had their share of growing pains. When there were only three films in the MCU, it wasn’t certain if the MCU could have succeeded. Those films happened to be Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2. Only the first Iron Man film was well received but all was forgiven with the later films. The same situation could happen with the DCEU, so patience is called for and better management at the studio. For instance, stop making all these announcements (like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson will play Black Adam) before the films are ready. Another thing is to slow down and stop trying to compete with the MCU. Marvel Studios carefully crafted their shared universe and the payoff was and continues to be huge. That is the lesson that Warner Bros. should take; slow and steady will yield higher rewards.

UPDATE:

The DCEU’s woes continue with the latest news that Ben Affleck is stepping down from directing the upcoming Batman solo film. This is especially disheartening because Affleck has the directing chops to elevate a superhero film. We’ll find out later what caused him to relinquish his directing task, but let’s be thankful that Affleck is still producing and starring in the next Batman film. Supposedly one of the short list directors that Warner Bros. Is considering is Matt Reeves. If Reeves or another talented director is tapped then all may not be lost for the Dark Knight in the DCEU.

Lewis T. Grove

Suicide Squad: An Energetically Wild Entry In The DCEU

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Suicide Squad is the latest DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film and continues the story of a world coming to terms with people possessing extraordinary powers or meta humans as they are called. The U.S. government responds to Superman’s status (not going there with spoilers!)  by creating a task force of super criminals to combat any paranormal events that team suicide squadoccur with meta humans at the root of it. This task force led by government official Amanda Waller (played well by Viola Davis) is sent to combat a group of creatures created by a mystical witch named Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) who double crosses the government as she was meant to be a part of the squad. We follow this group as they trek across Midway City, which is under attack by these beings. During their journey, we see their motivations and interactions with each other, which I found to be enjoyable.

As the latest DCEU entry, this film is much different in tone than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with its energetic visuals and soundtrack. Also, it focuses on a large number of characters who are villains in the DC universe. What this movie shares with its predecessor is negative reviews from film critics, but as with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I think these reviewers are off base.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn

 

Suicide Squad works in showcasing the crazy side of the DCEU, with fan favorites like Harley Quinn, who is played very well by Margot Robbie as a psychotic bad girl. She is the Joker’s girlfriend, but also carries her own weight as a truly crazy villain that is also highly unpredictable. Speaking of the Joker, while his screen time is on the short side, Jared Leto does a great job as a Joker who is a sadistic gangster determined to get his girl out of prison and back on his side. The glimpses we get of him will definitely whet the appetite of fans and create a big anticipation for his next appearance in the DCEU, which will hopefully be in the forthcoming Batman solo movie. Other well known characters include Batman villain Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Deadshot (Will Smith), who emerges as the de facto leader of the group. Rounding out the group are Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), who has an encounter with The Flash which was nice to see, and Diablo (Jay Hernandez) who plays a pivotal role in the group later in the film. Non-Squad characters include U.S. Special Forces agent Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who escorts the villains on their mission and ensures their loyalty, and his bodyguard Katana (Karen Fukuhara).

Suicide Squad

We see in interesting flashbacks the background of each of the villains and how they ended up in prison . The best one featured Harley and the Joker being chased by Batman (Ben Affleck), which is something that fans have wanted to experience on the big screen for ages. Batman’s brief encounter with Deadshot is also a thrill and serves to show an expanding shared universe that these movies are creating. While the action scenes can get hectic, the movie also doesn’t take itself too seriously with musical montages appearing when different characters get their screen time. This is also different from the somewhat somber tone of both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and it is not a bad thing. While I enjoyed the serious take on superhero stories from the previous films, the fact that this universe also has an irreverent side to it makes it seem larger and more varied which is just like the real world. Different places have different people and will not feel the same. This should be the case in a shared universe as well.

Jared Leto as JokerI would like to have seen more of the Joker and what he was doing while the Suicide Squad was rampaging through the city. Leto’s performance was that good, comparable to Heath Ledger’s take of the Clown Prince of Crime. He was advertised a lot for the film and is the most interesting of all the DC villains. Interesting enough, he displayed more affection for Harley Quinn than he did in the animated series. I also wanted to see some interaction between Killer Croc and Batman, but the two did not cross paths in this movie. It is mentioned that Batman chased Croc out of Gotham but sadly that is not shown. I think they may be saving all of this for Batman’s solo film, which is rumored to take place in Arkham Asylum and include all of the Caped Crusader’s foes.

Suicide Squad lineup

Overall, I had a good time watching this film and would definitely like to see a followup that expands on this group of DC baddies taking on whatever is thrown their way. The ending does seem to imply that their adventures will continue in some fashion, and the mid-credits scene helps to set up the Justice League movie as well as hint that the two groups will have some interaction in the future. Here’s hoping that will happen. Regardless, Suicide Squad is another solid entry in the growing DCEU lineup and I continue to look forward to the next films coming out next year. They include Wonder Woman and Justice League, both of which had interesting trailers in Comic-Con and will hopefully add more pieces to the DC movie universe. Suicide Squad is indeed a unique piece of it.

C.S. Link

Batman v Superman Heralds The New Superhero Movie War

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After waiting impatiently for many years, DC Comics fans at last get their own version of a superhero cinematic universe with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) actually began with 2013’s Man of Steel, which focused on DC’s first superhero Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), but it featured Easter eggs that referenced a larger DC universe. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the first real DCEU film that explores this cinematic universe. And director Zack Snyder picked a huge event for this DCEU film: the first meeting between DC’s titans Superman and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). But the big question is–is it good? After all, there had been much anticipation about the film for over a year, but then rumors started surfacing last month that Warner Bros. was supposedly nervous about the film based on reactions from early screenings.

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The reaction from critics has been harsh and further added to the worries that the film would kill off the DCEU before it could take off. Well, in my opinion these early reviews do the film something of an injustice (no pun intended). Batman v Superman is a good precursor to the much anticipated Justice League and does have excellent fight scenes between the two heroes. The buildup to the battle is effective in showing the lives of both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. Wayne is an older, bitter crime fighter who has seen his share of death and destruction, especially in the excellent prologue scene where he witnesses Superman’s fight with General Zod (Michael Shannon) from the earlier Man of Steel movie.  The experience of seeing so many of his employees dying in the chaos cements his suspicion and fear of Superman as a menace to the whole world.

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Clark Kent for his part is seen as struggling with the concept of being a god to many people and a devil to others, including the scheming Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who manipulates both Batman and Superman into a deadly battle for his own twisted sense of order. This whole concept of gods and monsters and our reaction to them is a key element of the film and is what drives our main characters. Scenes with Clark having heart to heart conversations with both Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and his mother Martha Kent (Diane Lane) about who he is are shown in contrast to Bruce Wayne’s attempts to come to terms with his life as a crime fighter and feeling of not having accomplished much in his life.

In regards to laying the ground work for future films, we see Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) who is a mysterious presence for much of the film until her big appearance near the final battle with DC super villain Doomsday. Her appearance in an old photo from World War I obviously sets up her forthcoming film and she does well playing the Amazonian warrior. We also see intriguing cameos of Justice League members Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller). All of which should increase the anticipation of the actual DC equivalent to Marvel’s The Avengers.

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The issue I have with the film is that all of this exposition and world building do take a while to get through and it does take time to finally get to the long awaited fight between Superman and Batman. As for the fight itself, it is well choreographed and brutal, but it is short and is not really the climax of the movie. I think maybe this is a problem of the marketing and title of the film. Dawn of Justice is a good description, but calling it Batman v Superman and having trailers show almost nothing but fight scenes can give someone the wrong impression of what the film is. It is not wall to wall action with Batman and Superman beating each other senseless. It is instead a continuation of the universe established in Man Of Steel and an exploration of what would happen if these otherworldly beings suddenly showed up on our world. Some reviews will state that this is all a bore, but I found a lot of these ideas interesting. However, the pacing of the film does suffer a bit when the second hour sets in and you want Batman and Superman to finally confront each other.

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In terms of the cast,  Ben Affleck is effective at showing a world-weary Bruce Wayne who is still traumatized by his parents death and also a brutal and aggressive Batman. His attempts to acquire kryptonite and later rescue of Martha Kent show a visceral fighting technique and willingness to go far to achieve his goals. Although, his depiction of apparently killing some enemies is not really consistent with the character and will be controversial. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is very good as his faithful but skeptical servant Alfred. Henry Cavill does a fine job showing his conflict with trying to be a good reporter and find out who Batman is, while at the same time being the world’s saviour and dealing with everyone’s increasing suspicions of him. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a mixed bag. He does well showing Luthor’s obsession with Superman and desire to destroy him. But his manic way of behaving is at odds with the character’s earlier interpretations of being calm, cool and in control of everything. Gal Gadot does much with her limited screen time as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and is already an audience favorite.

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Overall, I do like this film and am looking forward to more DCEU films like Suicide Squad and Justice League. Some of the criticisms it has gotten are valid but this is in no way a bad movie like some critics are saying. I just think it was not marketed properly and does take too much time to get to the advertised fight. However, seeing the DC trinity in action was a thrill and I hope to see more standalone films for these three characters to further explore their interesting backgrounds. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does the job of introducing all of the DC universe’s main characters and should satisfy fans who have waited a long time to see them come alive on the big screen.

 C.S. Link

On The Precipice Of The Superhero Movie War

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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.

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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