Who Should Be On The Shortlist To Direct The Batman?

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Ever since we all got the bombshell that Ben Affleck was stepping down as director for the new Batman film, the Internet geek community has been stirring up clicks over who should take over as director for The Batman (the current rumor being that is the title of the film). The choices being offered up ranged from the inspired to the WTF territory–supposedly there is an online petition to get Warner Bros./DC Studios to hire Zack Snyder to do it. Yes, the one chiefly responsible for bringing about the woes for DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Thankfully, the film company already has a short list of potential directors and we should hear who will do it soon. But before that happens let’s speculate over who would be a good fit to direct the next Batman solo film.

Darren Aronofsky

The director with the distinctive and dark visual touch has been attached aronofsky-batmanto potential Batman films for some time. Before Christopher Nolan revitalized the Dark Knight, Aronofsky was a serious contender to revamp Batman with a live-action adaptation of Batman: Year One after the Batman & Robin debacle. Now that he has more bang to his name thanks to high-profile films like Black Swan, he will bring a level of heft that a Zack Snyder cannot provide.

Cary Fukunaga

Anyone who has seen the acclaimed first season of True Detective, which was directed by Fukunaga, will recognize the brilliance of hiring him the helm The Batman. He certainly will add an atmospheric and crime-centered touch to the film and he is an up and coming talent to watch.

Patty Jenkins

jenkinsIf Jenkins is able to pull off a top-tier superhero film with Wonder Woman as some early buzz has it, then she should be rewarded with a chance to helm a film starring DC’s most popular superhero. Then again, other buzz has it that Wonder Woman is a mess so we won’t know until this summer if Jenkins is up to snuff, but most likely Warner Bros. will have tapped The Batman director already.

Sam Mendes

The brilliant, award-winning director who won rave reviews for his job at directing Skyfall, is a good, solid contender. He will certainly bring much needed gravitas to the DCEU and has shown the capability of reviving a struggling franchise as he did with James Bond, which needed a boost after Quantum of Solace.

George Miller

After the triumph of the adrenaline-fueled masterpiece Mad Max: Fury Road, george-millerMiller is a natural to take on the Caped Crusader. As we all know he was supposed to direct a Justice League film that featured Armie Hammer as Batman (currently rumored to be taking over the role if Ben Affleck does indeed leave the DCEU altogether). Miller is certainly an inspired choice for The Batman because he will add much-needed excitement and drama to the film on the level that Affleck would have done.

Matt Reeves

Supposedly he is the frontrunner to take over for Ben Affleck and his selection would surely calm everyone’s nerves. Currently, he is putting his finishing touches in this summer’s War For the Planet of the Apes and his work on the Apes films has been stellar. Able to bring to the table, films that are exciting, terrifying and thought provoking (see Cloverfield and Let Me In), Reeves will certainly gives us a memorable Batman film.

Matthew Vaughn 

vaughn-bid-daddyOut of all the directors on this list, Vaughn is probably the best suited for a Batman film. His filmography shows a healthy respect and admiration for comic book adaptations starting with Kick-Ass, and continuing with X-Men: First Class and the popular Kingsmen: The Secret Service and its upcoming sequel. To get an idea of how he would direct Ben Affleck, see Kick-Ass which featured an excellent Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy, a Batman-esque superhero and was one of that film’s highlights.

Joss Whedon

Honestly, Joss Whedon has the pedigree to helm a big-budget superhero film. He will bring much needed levity, briskness and verve to the too-murky DCEU as he has demonstrated with his Avengers films. More importantly, he is available and his energies should be recharged at this point to tackle the Dark Knight. Who knows maybe if it works out he can take on another Justice League film, he has shown the capability of directing superhero team films and it will be a coup for Warner Bros.

ben-affleck-as-batman

There are many other contenders out there, though some like Christopher Nolan or Tim Burton are not going to return to a Batman film. Others like Kevin Smith, Guillermo Del Toro or Snyder may delight fans but are not realistic prospects. Any of the ones listed above are excellent candidates who will provide a confident and professional job of directing the next Batman film. And if they’re not chosen then they should be seriously considered for other films in the DCEU.

Waldermann Rivera

 

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

Comic-Con 2016 Highlights

The San Diego Comic-Con for 2016 has come and gone and we’re all the more hyped up after the event. Unlike previous Comic-Cons most of the film studios were all too eager to share the trailers for their upcoming films and TV shows. That is except for 20th Century Fox who took their marbles and went home…actually didn’t even present. They wanted to avoid having their presentations pirated. Nice way to promote Alien: Covenant and the third Wolverine flick, people. Result: DC and Marvel ruled the event by bringing their A game.

Justice League

TV Stuff

The other studios made their announcements and presentations. For TV shows, the third season teaser for The Flash got everyone up in arms in anticipation at seeing the live-action version of Flashpoint. For those in the dark, that’s the comic book event where the Flash saved his mom in the past and created a dark reality. This adaptation won’t be literal but more like what we saw with the Marvel Comics Civil War event in Captain America: Civil War. But it still looks awesome. The other DC shows on the CW also had interesting presentations and announcement, the best of those being that the Legends of Tomorrow will be facing the Legion of Doom and meet the rest of the Justice Society of America.

Marvel Studios raised some eyebrows with the revelation that Ghost Rider will be appearing in the fourth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and this should be interesting. As for their Netflix stuff, we got teasers of The Defenders (check out our Twitter account with a link to it), Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. The last show looked undeniably badass and thankfully we only have to wait a couple more months.

The biggest TV announcement had to be for Star Trek: Discovery. We saw a glorious 2001: A Space Odyssey-like opener with a starship launching out of a hollowed-out asteroid. What was most intriguing was that the ship’s design is based on one of Ralph McQuarrie’s unused Enterprise designs for the lost Star Trek film Planet of the Titans.

starship Discovery

As cool as it was to see one of McQuarrie’s design come to life, what is sure to get everyone even more excited is that Bryan Fuller, one of the showrunners, confirmed the show will take place in the Star Trek Prime universe! No reboots, people! The real Star Trek has indeed returned! Ahem, apologies to those that love nuTrek, Star Trek Beyond is a fun film that redeems the Star Trek reboots.

Film Stuff

DC Comics and Warner Bros. are still smarting over the lukewarm reception to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. So they didn’t hold back anything in Comic-Con 2016. Amidst the flood of trailers for Suicide Squad, which makes us feel already as if we’ve seen the entire film, came trailers for Wonder Woman and Justice League. The Justice League trailer was very enticing and actually sold us on the Snyderverse version of the Flash. Sure, Grant Gustin rules as Barry Allen but it’s undeniable that Ezra Miller had a lot of charm as the new Flash. The trailer had much more humor than anything seen in Batman v Superman, but where’s Superman? Meanwhile, Gal Gadot clearly shines in the footage shown in both the Justice League and in the trailer of Wonder Woman kicking ass in World War I.

As for DC’s rival Marvel, well they had their goodies as well. Unlike DC, most of the trailers for their upcoming movies are still under lock and key being they are “exclusives” for Comic-Con. There’s no point in trying to scrounge the Internet for pirate footage of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 or Spider-Man: Homecoming, it will look like crap and be taken down anyway. But here’s a quick look at Thor: Ragnarok, which will be gone soon:

Marvel should take a cue from DC and present their goods to the larger world who could not attend. The one trailer they released was the second one for Doctor Strange. Make all the snarky remarks that it looks like Inception, but this movie looks astounding! If it works, it will take the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a whole new direction and that is how you keep the superhero film genre afloat. The highlights of Marvel Studios reveals were Brie Larson’s casting as Captain Marvel, the Vulture will be the villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Kurt Russell will play Peter Quill’s dad, aka Ego the Living Planet, in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2!

Spidey fights Vulture

In closing, Comic-Con 2016 had a lot more to show for the general public than in recent years. A lot of the announcements and trailers were ho hum like Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. But more than a few were quite enticing like the one for the return of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (to be shown on Netflix), a Blair Witch sequel and this one for Kong: Skull Island.

It’s great to see the big ape back on the screen! On the whole, we have plenty of fun things to watch in the coming months and into 2017.

Mounting Pressure For A Justice League Film

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Now that Man Of Steel has proven to be a hit at the box office, demand has increased even more for a Justice League film. It’s unfair to Man Of Steel because the natural thing would’ve been for a sequel to that Superman film. It’s also unfair for the Batman franchise being that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy concluded last year. Normally, the focus on the franchise would have been on rebooting it not taking part in a team film.

What is driving the pressure for a Justice League film is the phenomenal success of Disney/Marvel’s film The Avengers. To say that The Avengers was a game changer isn’t a small statement. That film proved that it is feasible to present an entertaining, well crafted film that utilizes many characters from a shared cinematic universe. But it’s not unprecedented. Remember Universal Studios decades ago did this with their horror movie monsters fighting each other in films.

Lost Opportunities

Warner Bros. and DC should’ve gotten the ball rolling years ago and put references of the larger DC Comics universe into their DC films.

satelliteThey did put in very minor references in Batman & Robin (where Batman mentions Superman) and in Superman Returns (a PA announcement could be heard about a Gotham City train), but that was it. Christopher Nolan refused to have any mention of the other DC characters in his Batman films, so that opportunity was lost. Ditto with 2011’s Green Lantern. In Man Of Steel, Superman and Zod battle by a satellite that belongs to Bruce Wayne’s company, so that is a Batman reference. Plus, some there’s a blink-and-you-miss-it Booster Gold reference during a fight scene. Yet all this pales to Nick Fury’s surprise, substantial cameo at the end of Iron Man, which led to more Marvel Comics universe references in other Marvel films that culminated with The Avengers.

DC could go the same route but they don’t have the time. Fans want a Justice League film now. They’ve grown impatient with the studio’s glacial progress. Besides many higher ups in DC and Warner Bros. have stated that they don’t want to copy Disney/Marvel’s formula. Frankly, it would be the best thing to do, but with Disney/Marvel charging ahead and greenlighting films, Warner Bros./DC can’t afford to do that. It becomes a game of catch up and they’re way behind.

Nonetheless, many fans are going insane with the lack of communication from Warner Bros./DC on the status of the Justice League film.

This proves that they are taking this matter seriously and want to put out the best possible film. While there is pressure to make the film already, they don’t just want to rush out and slap something together. Given the failure of Green Lantern, Warner Bros./DC know they cannot alienate fans. Continue reading

DC, It’s Time For A Justice League Film

OK DC, Marvel has thrown down the gauntlet. Look at the result: The Avengers film looks to be one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters-maybe the biggest one. The buzz and hysteria surrounding this film is phenomenal. Toys based on the film are selling well and other merchandise is getting hard to find. Marvel Studios took a gamble and were patient. They carefully nurtured the film properties, which increased awareness for their characters. For The Avengers, Marvel Studios managed to corral the actors originating the super hero roles (with the exception of Edward Norton who didn’t reprise Bruce Banner/The Hulk) and bagged a director (Joss Whedon) who is an unabashed fan. Well it paid off in a super way-an opening weekend draw of over $200 million isn’t anything to sneeze at. So now the question remains: when will DC and Warner Brothers get their act together and put out a Justice League film? We’re not talking about some animated or motion capture film but an actual live-action film featuring Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash and DC Comics’ other great heroes.

Honestly how difficult is it to pull off? Marvel managed to do it, and DC’s characters has had more film and TV exposure so it would be easy to generate enthusiasm for such a film. And Marvel’s efforts are quite considerable if one takes into account how their properties have been scattered among many Hollywood studios. Warner Bros. has owned DC for some time so the logistics of gathering all their characters into one film should not be difficult. Of course, the ideal would be to bring aboard the most recent actors who’ve played the super heroes like Christian Bale or Ryan Reynolds, but it’s not really necessary as seen with Mark Ruffalo taking over the Bruce Banner/Hulk role in The Avengers and Superman and Batman have been recast throughout the years.

It isn’t as if The Avengers sprung up out of nowhere. The first inkling about a film starring Marvel Comics’ heroes came about at the end of the first Iron Man film in 2008 and later that year with The Incredible Hulk. In those films and others since then put out by Marvel Studios there have been many Easter eggs for fans that showed a shared universe. Captain America’s shield was in the background during a scene from Iron Man, the spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. turned up, Hawkeye and Black Widow made cameos (Hawkeye in Thor and Black Widow in Iron Man 2) and even the Infinity Gauntlet was shown briefly in Thor. The point of all this was that for four years, Warner Bros./DC and everyone in the world knew Marvel Studios was building up to an Avengers film. Yet DC and Warner Bros. didn’t do anything to match that concept. Their releases didn’t give any indication of a shared universe (the last time this idea was explored were vague railroad PA announcements for a train headed to Gotham City in Superman Returns). It was so simple and would’ve excited fans.

That’s not to say that they haven’t tried to bring the Justice League to life. Putting aside the incredibly awful 1990s TV show pilot and a simplified version of the team appearing informally in Smallville, Warner Bros. was close to producing a Justice League film in 2008. A script was commissioned, George Miller was hired to direct it and he was casting roles, in other words, Justice League was in actual preproduction. But the Writers Guild strike of that year gave Warner Bros. a chance to pause and ultimately kill the project.

Reportedly, the studio wanted to emulate Marvel’s pattern of releasing solo super hero films that would culminate in a Justice League movie. But as of this writing, there is very little evidence that they are working toward such a film.

One worrying factor about building up to a Justice League film is the recent track record of DC movies. Aside from the recent Batman films, Superman Returns, Green Lantern, Constantine, Jonah Hex and Watchmen have been box office disappointments. The Dark Knight Rises is a guaranteed hit but this can’t be stated for next year’s Man Of Steel. Superman has proven to be a difficult character to translate to the big screen unless the right director is chosen and The Man Of Steel’s director, Zack Snyder has had a spotty record at the box office. So if the new Superman film doesn’t deliver it could mean another long drought before Superman returns to the silver screen and could delay a Justice League film.

Christopher Nolan, the director behind the successful Batman reboot, was rumored to be in line for directing a Justice League movie but there isn’t anything concrete stated about that notion. What is troubling for some fans is that Christopher Nolan as said in interviews that he wishes to keep the worlds of the individual heroes separate from each other. So, as with The Dark Knight, there probably won’t be any acknowledgement of Metropolis or Central City in The Dark Knight Rises. Ditto for Man Of Steel, which he is producing.

This mentality is shared by DC Entertainment as well. Diane Nelson, DC Entertainment President, said to IGN back in 2010, “We do have a very different attitude about how you build a content slate. And it isn’t necessarily about connecting those properties together to build a single thing. We think we’ve got great stories and characters that will lend themselves to great standalone experiences.”

Perhaps after looking at how much money The Avengers is making and the film’s popularity, DC and Warner Bros. may change their mind.

Lewis T. Grove