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

 

Ten Films To Look For In 2016

team cap 2 id42

We’re clearly in the decade of the superhero film and this year’s slate of films reinforces that notion. Yet, there are plenty of other interesting genre films that range from fantasy to solid sci-fi. Here are ten films being released this year that are the most anticipated.

10. Passengers: The two superstars of genre films Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence co-star in this film about a man (Pratt) who wakes up prematurely in a generational starship and awakens a second passenger (Lawrence) for companionship. Given its release date and potentially controversial subject matter (the morality of waking someone up in that situation just to cure loneliness), this film may get lost or get moved to a different date. Still, Passengers sounds like a fascinating film worth watching if done right. (Release Date: December 21)

fantastic beasts9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Inspired by the book by J.K. Rowling and set in the Harry Potter universe, it’s directed by David Yates, who helmed the last few Harry Potter films. Focusing on an adult sorcerer who comes to America and the strained relations between magical and non-magical people (muggles) the trailer captured the mood of the Harry Potter film universe. The question is will it please the die-hard fans who will miss Harry Potter? (Release Date: November 18)

8. The BFG: The latest genre offering from the master filmmaker Steven Spielberg is based on a Roald Dahl fantasy book of the same name about a girl who befriends a friendly giant. It may be off putting to some fans who may want a genre film from Spielberg with more heft, especially those aching for the long-delayed Robopocalypse. However, it’s a Steven Spielberg film and he is arguably the greatest living director around, so The BFG is something worth checking out. (Release Date: July 1)

7. Deadpool: After a long gestating period deadpool poseand a terrible debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Merc with the Mouth gets his own solo film. Thanks to a tireless campaign by star Ryan Reynolds and others, 20th Century Fox finally greenlit the film last year and soon we’ll see if the efforts were worth it. Everyone involved promises that Deadpool will be a no-holds-bar, in-your-face but most of all, a faithfully violent interpretation of the Marvel Comics mercenary with the superhuman healing power thingy. (Release Date: February 12)

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: The first Star Wars anthology film comes out a year after the mammoth return of the space fantasy franchise. Eager to cash in on their billion-dollar franchise purchase Disney will increase the Star Wars movie presence with this prequel of sorts that is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker and Alan Tudyk. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story details the effort of a team of Rebels out to steal the plans of the Death Star. (Release Date: December 16)

star wars rogue one cast

5. Suicide Squad: A film that expands the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU), DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), focuses on a group of captured supervillains sent out on a deadly mission by the U.S. government. Highlighted by a Batman (Ben Afflec) cameo and Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and guaranteed scene-stealer Jared Leto as the new Joker, Suicide Squad will explore a darker corner of the DCEU as it gives audiences a unique spin on superhero films. (Release Date: August 5)

suicide Squad

4. Doctor Strange: The second MCU release for 2016 is already making waves on the Internet ever since we got our first glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. Marvel Studios is known for not resting on its superhero laurels and Doctor Strange doesn’t seem like an exception based on released concept art, which is quite eerie. Now forging a new storytelling avenue, that of the mystical and horror realm, this live-action presentation of the Marvel Comics character will hopefully be another hit for Marvel Studios. (Release Date: November 4)

doc strange

3. Independence Day: Resurgence: Finally after twenty years, we’re getting the sequel to Independence Day, the smash hit of 1996. Reuniting most of the original cast and newcomers like Liam Hemswoth, director Roland Emmerich picks up the alien invasion story twenty years after the giant alien motherships nearly destroyed humanity and the world. Now armed with hybridized alien tech, humanity, led by Jeff Goldblum, prepares for another confrontation with the aliens when they return to our solar system. (June 24)

2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Eagerly awaited ever since this film was announced back in 2013 during Comic-Con, it’s the first live-action meeting between Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and it looks like a monumental event! Not only does Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice boast the first encounter between the two but it also has the debut of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and a new Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). The last character may not thrill fans who aren’t too keen with the casting of Luthor, but Affleck’s once-controversial casting has won over many fans. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the DCEU will boldly engage the MCU in the Superhero Film War. (March 25)

batman meets superman

1. Captain America: Civil War: The epic throwdown between Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is the centerpiece in the third Captain America film. Loosely based on the Marvel Comics’ mini-series Civil War, this film, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, promises to be as hard-hitting and thought-provoking as the last Captain America film. But that’s not all Captain America: Civil War has going for it. The film will also feature the MCU debuts of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Marvel’s flagship hero Spider-Man (Tom Holland) himself. Still, with all this going for Captain America: Civil War can the Russo Brothers beat the director sophomore curse that has plagued the second MCU films done by veteran directors (see Joss Whedon and Jon Favreau)? On the other hand, the Russo Bros.’ Captain America: The Winter Solider was one of the greatest superhero films ever made and showcased their talents as directors so they should be able to repeat their success. (May 6)

cap vs iron man

Other noteworthy genre films coming out this year include: The 5th Wave (Jan. 22), another young-adult sci-fi film about an alien invasion; Kung Fu Panda 3 (Jan. 29), Dreamworks Animation’s martial arts, talking animal saga continues with Jack Black; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (February 5), adaptation of the horror romance of the same name; Midnight Special (March 18), delayed from last year about a father on the run with his superpowered son; The Jungle Book ( April 15), Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic; X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27), apthe sixth X-Men film brings back the rebooted franchise and a new slate of characters, including a mighty foe; The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (June 10), this sequel directed by James Wan reunites the stars from the first frightfest, but many wonder if it can be as scary as the first one; Finding Dory (June 17), Pixar’s sequel to the classic underwater animated film looks just as magical and colorful as the forgetful Dory goes missing; finding doryWarcraft (June 10), director Duncan Jones hopes to beat the video-game movie adaptation with this epic-looking fantasy adventure; Ghostbusters (July 15), a controversial, all-female reboot/remake of the beloved, comedic paranormal hunters; Star Trek Beyond (July 22) the terrible trailer with its Beastie Boys music dampened expectations for the latest Star Trek film, but it could be better than the trailer lets on; The Legend of Tarzan (July 1), David Yates directs this jungle epic starring Margo Robbie and Alexander Skarsgard as the title hero; Pete’s Dragon (August 12), a remake of the Disney classic about a boy and his oversized but cuddly dragon; Gambit (Oct. 7), another live-action adaptation of a Marvel Comic book character starring Channing Tatum; and Assassin’s Creed (Dec 21), stars Michael Fassbender as Callum Lynch/Aguilar, a master assassin in this long-awaited, video-game adaptation.

José Soto

2016 Hallmark Sci-Fi Ornaments

2016 ornaments hallmark

As fans scour stores for popular Hallmark ornaments (the Groot and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ornaments are already hard to find), collectors are already salivating over the known (to date) Hallmark ornaments slated for 2016. The usual suspects are represented in next year’s offerings and there will be some surprises that will be noted in updates here throughout next year.

Star Wars

It’s not surprising that the mega-popularity of Star Wars has spilled over into the world of ornaments. Expect some to be made based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the announced ornaments based on the new film are for BB-8, Han Solo, and the T-70 X-wing fighter. There will be more ornaments but are unknown at this time. Other ornaments include a stormtrooper helmet, Darth Vader interrogating Princess Leia in the first Star Wars film, and finally, believe it or not a tree topper of the Death Star.

vader leia ornament new xwing

Star Trek

As the great sci-fi franchise celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, it’s a given that there will be tons of merchandising lauding that event. The same will go with Hallmark which will release a gold original Enterprise ornament, and another called “To Boldly Go…” will be a diorama featuring the famous trio together; Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Hallmark will also put out an ornament of the salt vampire seen in the very first Star Trek episode “The Man Trap” and one of Chekov. Finally the Itty Bitty plushie craze hits Star Trek with several Itty Bittys of the Star Trek characters will be released.

enterprise ornament 2016

Sci-Fi & Superheroes

The superhero ornaments to be released in 2016 will be highlighted with a diorama featuring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as seen in next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. No word yet on what the Marvel superhero ornaments will be about except for Spider-Man, of course, and most likely the characters featured in Captain America: Civil War. A Falcon ornament would be cool if they made one. Better yet a diorama featuring Cap and Iron Man going at it would be perfect.

UPDATE: More ornaments have been announced and they include the new Batmobile from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Supergirl, Venom and Captain America and Iron Man from Captain America: Civil War. They look great!

superhero 2016 ornaments

Due to the success of the Daryl Dixon ornament, Rick Grimes will get his turn as the second ornament based on the hit TV show The Walking Dead will be released next year. To date there haven’t been many sci-fi/fantasy offerings  announced just two Harry Potter ornaments (Hedwig the owl, and Ollivanders ), He-Man, Grimlock the Dinobot, the Thunderbirds and the Alien Queen xenomorph which terrified audiences back in Aliens. It would make sense to do an ornament since 2016 is the 30th anniversary of that classic.

potter ornaments

Be sure to check back here with future updates when more ornaments are revealed.

Waldermann Rivera

 

Superman Shafted Again In The Movies

mad superman

There were rumors percolating recently that Warner Bros. dictated that Batman be emphasized more in the upcoming movie superhero slugfest Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Last week, the film’s director Zack Snyder confirmed that the film will focus more on Batman. On top of that indignity (for Superman), there are further rumors that a proper Man of Steel sequel focusing solely on Superman won’t happen. Instead, Warner Bros. was so wowed by Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that now there will be three Batman films coming out.

Yeah, the Batman fans must be tickled pink about this development but what about Superman? Once again, the Man of Steel, the first superhero gets pushed to the curb in favor of Batman. Sure, Batman is DC Comics’ most popular superhero and the marketing department just love him, but the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) can’t just rely on him to carry the load for the film franchise. One of the reasons why their competitors Marvel Studios has done so well with their cinematic universe is because they doesn’t just rely on one superhero. Their biggest hit isn’t called Iron Man and the Avengers. No, that film, The Avengers, spread the attention around its many heroes. Marvel Studios hasn’t been shy about producing films on more obscure characters and their gambles paid off. Look at Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man.

jokwe

In order for the DCEU to thrive, they need to diversify. They also have a rich comic book universe, it’s a shame that it’s largely ignored for Batman and his universe. Here’s another example, what went over so big in a recent DCEU trailer? The Joker and Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. We barely are aware that it features Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and other DC supervillains. The trailer even had a Batman cameo. Probably DC/Warner concluded that since Green Lantern and Man of Steel didn’t do too well, then they should go back to what worked for them. It’s a shame really because the DC Universe is ripe for exploring on film. At least, the DC TV shows realize this with their hit shows Arrow and The Flash, and it’s more amazing that they can’t use Batman at all.

Will we ever get a true sequel to Man of Steel? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was originally supposed to be that. Metallo was slated to be the main villain and the film was going to end with a chunk of kryptonite being sent to Wayne Manor. That Batcameo ballooned into having Batman be the co-lead and now supposedly the lead. Snyder’s excuse for this is that the film needed to explore Batman. What is there to explore? We know his origin already (which was shown yet again in the film’s trailer), why not just cut out all references to Superman and be done with it?

snyder bat

Right off the bat, DC and Warner Bros. seem to be panicking and going back to their old crutch of making all things about Batman. If this goes on expect to see Batman shoehorned into other upcoming DCEU films like Aquaman and Green Lantern Corps. He’s already has a guaranteed spot in Justice League. Sure, from a marketing standpoint it makes perfect sense to highlight your most popular characters but don’t be afraid to focus on other assets, if nurtured correctly, they too will be just as popular as Batman. That is the best way to compete against Marvel and it will delight fans to no end.

Waldermann Rivera

Comic-Con 2015 Highlights

deadpool hikerAnother Comic-Con has made its impact with genre fans from all over the world. As exciting as it was for those lucky enough to attend the annual gathering at San Diego, there wasn’t any Earth-shattering news to come out of the convention. Nonetheless, many presentations and speakers were able to whet the appetites for fans at what lies ahead.

TV Shows

New trailers for The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead made their debut and whetted the appetites for followers of the zombie phenomenon. While Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has leadership headaches in season six of The Walking Dead, we all finally get to see how the walker apocalypse got its start with the prequel spinoff.

While Marvel Studios was conspicuously absent this year, we did get news about their TV shows Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. The most intriguing was the tease that one of the actual Avengers (and Maria Hill doesn’t count!) may appear in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That being the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), which is terrific news since he is so popular.

As for their natural rival, DC, we found out that Jay Garrick will indeed be featured in The Flash and portrayed by Teddy Sears, plus Wally West is coming to the popular show as well as a new villain Zoom. Also, Hawkman himself will appear in the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. Do we smell another spinoff coming?

Movies

The three big movie-related revelations at Comic-Con were about Fox’s Marvel movies, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and DC/Warner Brothers’ superhero films. The clear winner was DC who presented a teaser for the Suicide Squad, announced that there will be a Green Lantern Corps. film  and that Ben Affleck will direct and star in a Batman solo film, and showed a near-perfect trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But let’s go over the first two revelations.

Fox presented teasers for next year’s Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse, as well as next month’s Fantastic Four. While the new X-Men presentation was fascinating, what brought the house down was the first look at Deadpool. The teaser featured many of the same scenes from the ashcan trailer that made the rounds in the Internet to sell the idea of a Deadpool film. But added to that were the basic origin stuff of how Slade Wilson became the Merc with a Mouth. Overall, the trailer clearly shows that this will be an R-rated film to the delight of fans.

Just as delightful to watch was the Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel that was highlighted by a reunion of the Original Trilogy stars, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. A behind-the-scenes video was released that had new footage from the upcoming Star Wars film and one point that seems to be hammered into the video is the reliance on practical sets and effects so as to set it apart from the prequel films.

Arguably the most popular presentations where done by DC/Warner Bros. with their two comic book films due next year. The Suicide Squad trailer was fairly standard with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) winning over drooling fans as expected. The images were buttressed by Will Smith’s take of Deadshot, who added some gravitas to what looked like a costume parade. However, Jared Leto stole the entire trailer at the end when he showed up as the Joker. He seemed just as manic and deadly as he appeared in the photos.

What set the DC presentation apart was the winning trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It showed that there will be real repercussions for the events in Man of Steel where Superman (Henry Cavill) and his foes effectively destroyed Metropolis. We find out that Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) was present in Metropolis during the climatic battle and witnessed firsthand the threat that meta-humans pose. His hatred for Superman seems natural and justified. Meanwhile, Superman has to contend with either being revered as some kind of god and feared and hated by others. All the protesters with the signs calling him an illegal alien is very topical. The final and winning touch to the trailer was the premiere of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. It didn’t show much but she looked beautiful and powerful. Thanks to the trailer Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has become the must-see film of 2016.

Marvel Studios MIA

DC’s presentations sucked all the air out of the convention for the other properties, even the Fox Marvel movies. What could’ve countered this was if Marvel Studios had bothered to make a presentation at Comic-Con. Instead, they stayed home and it remains to be seen if a price will be paid for this absence.

They had their reasons for staying out of Comic-Con, Ant-Man will be out in a few days and their other films may not be ready yet. Then there’s the fact that there may be presentations at next month’s D23 Expo, which will solely be about all things Disney. batman armorOr perhaps Marvel Studios will have another special presentation like they did last fall where they announced the full slate of the Phase Three MCU films. Except this time we’ll get actual footage from Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange.

Be that as it may, it is still probably a strategic mistake to take the year off Comic-Con. While the MCU films are riding a wave of popularity now, this year’s convention showed that genuine competition is coming and Marvel Studios needs to stay alert. Some cracks in the armor showed with Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man’s potential for success is unknown. If they didn’t want to show any footage, they could’ve at least shown some props or artwork from the upcoming films. Instead we got to see cool props from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice like the Batman armor. Score one for DC. 🙂

Lewis T. Grove