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

 

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The Superhero Movie War Starts On TV

justice dawn

This past week we witnessed the opening salvos in this year’s Superhero Movie War disguised as TV specials and returning programs, plus more.

Marvel Comics and DC Comics are the two comic book juggernauts on the block and they’ve taken their rivalry to other media. Chiefly on film and TV. On DC/Warner Bros.’ side, this week had the return of the popular shows The Flash and Arrow, plus the special The Dawn of the Justice League, which was largely a commercial for the upcoming DC Extended Universe (DCEU) on film. They topped off the week with the debut of the eagerly awaited spinoff show Legends of Tomorrow. Marvel Comics/Disney, meanwhile, brought back Agent Carter and premiered a special celebrating the 75th anniversary of Captain America. Just by looking at the lineup it’s obvious that DC won the first round.

flash and arrowThe Flash was the best presentation even if its universe is apart from the DCEU. It was a typically great episode with the introduction of another classic Flash villain (the Turtle, who can slow down time), more intrigue about the uber villain Zoom and Barry Allen’s personal foibles taken straight from the pages of a Spider-Man comic book. The new Arrow episode hit all the marks with Oliver Queen/Green Arrow’s vendetta against Damien Dahrk as the episode tantalized us with the mystery of who dies in the near future. Based on the flashforwards to Oliver’s cemetery visits I’ll guess that the person who died is Felicity Smoak’s mother. I didn’t see Supergirl this week because I just couldn’t get into the show when it came out earlier this season.  Legends of Tomorrow was kind of a mixed bag, which means it was a bit of a letdown since this was highly anticipated. Doctor Who mashed legendsup with The Avengers, sounds great right? Well, Legends of Tomorrow is a case of a show sounding better than its execution. Mind you, it’s just the pilot episode and there were many cool things about the premiere episode like all the cameos and Easter eggs of the Arrowverse and the greater DC universe sprinkled liberally. But the episode had a hard time with its execution. Characters behave erratically, like Professor Stein, who is too eager to kidnap his partner Jefferson  just to go time traveling. And the way the characters just seem to take Rip Hunter’s word that he’s recruiting them for a noble quest without being healthily skeptical was too unbelievable. Still, Legends of Tomorrow had a goofy charm and is worth sticking with for the moment.

nutty smithThe half-hour special that aired on The CW, The Dawn of the Justice League, was just fodder for comic book fans anxious for the DCEU to get underway already. Basically, it was a commercial for upcoming films in the DCEU with lots of pre-production art for several DC heroes like Aquaman and Cyborg. Although it was great seeing actual footage from Wonder Woman and the new trailer for Suicide Squad was magnificent, it would’ve been terrific if they presented at least test footage of the characters that haven’t made their live-action appearances. BTW, the over-the-top fawning by the host Kevin Smith was just too much and the special inaccurately stated that Superman was a founding member of the Justice League. He actually wasn’t.

ABC aired its own superhero special, Captain America: 75 Heroic Years, which was a nostalgic and informative look at one of Marvel’s most popular heroes. Just like the DC special, it got some facts incorrect, notably not properly attributing the panels that Captain America appears in to being in The Amazing Spider-Man #36 (the 9/11 issue). But on the whole it was a well done special that featured interviews with Stan Lee, Chris Evans and the living relatives of Captain America’s creators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

agent carterMarvel’s sole original fiction program was Agent Carter, which returned for its second season. For the most part, it was competent and enjoyable, but couldn’t hold a candle to the excitement offered from the DC TV shows. It lacked the other shows’ energy and intrigue, though it did its best, especially in the opening scenes. The most interesting thing about the new Agent Carter was its origin of the darkforce energy (in the show called zero matter), which is supposedly the source of power in the Doctor Strange movie.

It’s only the first month of the year and already indications are that the Superhero Movie War will be quite intense. But remember it doesn’t matter which side you want to win since after all we fans get to revel in all the goodies on screen at home or in theaters.

Waldermann Rivera