Marvel Wins The Movie War…For Now, Part Two

 

avengers guardians DC heroes

Marvel Entertainment has ruled the box office with its numerous hit films, especially those produced by Marvel Studios. Meanwhile, DC Entertainment and its parent company Warner Bros. while successful with TV and video game adaptations of the DC superheroes seemed to be asleep at the wheel in putting out film products to counter Marvel’s box office dominion.

Late Start

Around the beginning of this decade as Marvel Studios was blossoming what was DC Entertainment doing around this time? We got from them Green Lantern and The Dark Knight Rises. The former film didn’t perform to expectations and failed to resonate with fans and audiences. Green Lantern was hamstrung with weak villains, pedestrian storytelling, and for a film featuring a cosmic hero it was too Earthbound. On the other hand, the final film in Christopher Nolan’s DDark Knight trilogy was well received at the time of its release, but many grumbled that it was too ponderous, pretentious and its villain Bane (Tom Hardy) couldn’t compare to The Dark Knight’s Joker (Heath Ledger). What was noticeable was that Batman’s world seemed smaller and darker than the more light-toned Marvel Cinematic Universe. It seemed odd that Batman was the sole superhero around in Nolan’s films, although for The Dark Knight Rises’ plot of Gotham held hostage, that was a necessity. It was plain to see in the end that while the Batman films were hugely successful, they did not do anything to expand the DC Universe in film. So once that trilogy was completed there wasn’t anything to follow it.

Does all of this mean that it’s over for DC? Should they throw in the towel? Hell, no! They may be way behind Marvel at the moment, but they are gearing up for a new war that will start in March 25, 2016. The release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice is just the opening salvo. However, the failures of Green Lantern and The Dark Knight Rises in terms of creating a cinematic universe is why DC had to start over with Man Of Steel in 2013, already a few years behind Marvel Studios. That reboot of Superman and his mythos was successful, but it’s considered controversial by many fans who decried the character deviations, especially when Superman killed at the film’s end.

man of steelNevertheless, the film did begin an earnest establishment of a larger universe. Take the scene near the end when Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon) fight above Earth and tear apart a satellite belonging to Wayne Industries. It was a nifty Easter egg, but it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment and the film should’ve done more. Imagine if a post-credits scene was shown where the near destruction of Metropolis is shown on a TV screen. The camera would’ve pulled back to show that the TV was in a cave and that Batman could be seen watching the disaster on TV. Or have the TV in a non-descript apartment where a certain green Power Battery could be spotted.

Regardless, Man Of Steel was DC’s first true attempt at establishing its own cinematic universe. Its Easter eggs may pale next to Iron Man with the Avengers Initiative scene, but it’s a start.

Broad Horizons Ahead For Both Companies

From March 2016 until 2020, DC has eight films scheduled for release. At this point, the general public doesn’t know which properties will be on the big screen aside from Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, but current rumors point to Shazam, Wonder Woman, the Justice League (finally!), a new Batman, and a proper sequel to Man Of Steel. DC and Warner Bros. should be commended for not rushing things unlike some other movie studios with comic book properties (looking at you Sony). This means that when the universe is finally presented it should be cohesive and well done.

dawn of justiceRegarding the recent decision to move Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice from May 6,2016 to March 25,2016, it may seem like an admission of defeat. One way of looking at it is that DC recognizes what a juggernaut Marvel Studios and its films have become and want to avoid direct competition. But it’s really a more strategic move by DC and Warner Bros. to ensure that Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice reaches the widest possible audience. That is why they moved up the film’s release date so it doesn’t have to compete with the third Captain America film. A lot of people wwomansalivated over the prospect over these two comic book titans going at it in the box office, but in reality such direct competition would hurt both brands. In this case, DC would have suffered more. Why? It’s likely that Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice would’ve won the match against the third Captain America film, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a proven brand with devoted followers and Captain America has risen significantly in popularity thanks to his last film. There isn’t any way that the third film would flopped; it would’ve earned a respectable amount of money in the matchup, enough for Marvel to declare a pyrrhic victory and claim their film held up well against DC’s better known characters. In the meantime, if Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice didn’t have super impressive opening box office numbers or heaven forbid came in second on the opening weekend, it would’ve spelled a PR disaster for DC and stifled their burgeoning cinematic universe. DC had more to lose than Marvel, so taking a page from their competitor’s strategy book, they positioned their centerpiece film in a less competitive time period where it’s guaranteed to score high.

With DC beginning its own universe, which at this point is still in planning stages, Marvel is charging avengers ultron posterforward with more film releases. Next year will see the eagerly anticipated sequel Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man. The following year we’ll get the aforementioned third Captain America film and on July 28, 2017 the Guardians of the Galaxy will return to theaters with a new film. Additionally, Marvel recently announced several release dates through 2019 for five more films in the MCU. No details have been released but the speculation is that these films may include sequels to Thor, the Avengers, possibly Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr. recently expressed interest in continuing to play Iron Man), and new properties like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, the Inhumans, or Doctor Strange.

A film based on the last character mentioned, Doctor Strange, also means that Marvel is branching off in yet another direction. Like with Guardians Of The Galaxy, which is actually a space adventure film, a Doctor Strange film would not be a traditional superhero film, but rather one that deals in the genre of horror and fantasy. The fact that Scott Derrickson has been hired to direct the film is indicative of its horror trappings since Derrickson’s resume includes horror films.

lineupGuardians Of The Galaxy and the upcoming Doctor Strange film point to how Marvel has won the Movie War because they’ve done so well with superhero films that they are now able to branch off into other genres. DC has tried doing this in the past with poor adaptations of Constantine and Jonah Hex. If DC’s film slate includes a rumored movie based on its fantasy property Sandman, then this would prove that DC is remaining competitive and moving beyond superheroes as well. Continue reading

Advertisements

Dark Knight Exhibit

photofourBatman fans living in the L.A. area were very lucky recently when Warner Bros. held a free Batman exhibit to coincide with last month’s Blu-ray and DVD release of The Dark Knight Rises.

It was called The Dark Knight Legend Exhibit and was held in L.A. LIVE from November 30, 2012 until December 14th, 2012. The exhibit was held under a humongous tent on a parking lot and thanks to all the props, displays, murals and vehicles it had a very moody atmosphere. It was like being in a Batcave of sorts.

phototwo

Visitors were greeted to large murals of Gotham City as seen in the Christopher Nolan Batman films along with Hans Zimmer iconic music. The first thing to see was beautiful artwork from various artists displayed as if in an art gallery.

pic3 pic2

Moving past the art came real eye openers; several mannequins adorned with the costumes from The Dark Knight Rises and Nolan’s other Batman films. Moving deeper into the exhibit revealed assorted props in display cases and costumes worn by other characters in the Batman films. It was a thrill to see outfits worn by Bane, the Scarecrow and, of course, the Joker (the Heath Ledger version). One of the best parts was examining the cool gadgets from Batman’s utility belt and intricate maquettes.

pic5

But any Batman fan would say that the highlight of The Dark Knight Legend Exhibit were the prominently displayed vehicles seen in all the Batman films and the 1960s TV show as well. It was great seeing all the different Batmobiles which started off with the 1960s, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher versions to the tumbler vehicles. They even had a realistic mockup of the neutron bomb seen in The Dark Knight Rises and the Bat Signal too. The only thing missing was the Bat flying vehicle from The Dark Knight Rises. Maybe they didn’t have enough space for it.

photo3

There were also videos along the walls featuring interviews with actors and production personnel that could be listened to via headphones. It was a nice way to experience the exhibit, which took about an hour to walk through leisurely.

It’s such a great exhibit that would’ve been enjoyed by more fans who don’t live in L.A. There isn’t any information as to whether or not Warner Bros. will have The Dark Knight Legend Exhibit elsewhere, but it’s something to be considered.

Article & photos by GEO

The Dark Knight Rises And Falls

Acclaimed director Christopher Nolan concludes his Batman film trilogy with an absolute triumph. Needless to say, I loved The Dark Knight Rises. It’s simply one of the best superhero movies ever made and more importantly a satisfying way to finish a Batman film series.

By this, what is meant is that The Dark Knight Rises gives a finality to the Batman story  that has not been seen in comics except perhaps for certain aspects of Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns. In fact, Batfans will notice many similarities to The Dark Knight Returns at least in broader sense. That includes the idea of a retired Batman/Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) making a comeback when his beloved city of Gotham is imperiled, then he gets defeated the first time out before regrouping and coming back to take out the foe that pummeled him the first time out.

Christopher Nolan’s film also utilizes aspects of the great “Knightfall” storyline where the villain Bane defeats Batman by wearing him out then crippling him. Bane may not seem an imposing or interesting foe to the larger public because the only film exposure non-comic book fans had of him was that awful Batman And Robin movie. But true fans will see the spirit of who Bane is in The Dark Knight Rises. Tom Hardy who plays the masked villain deserves a lot of credit for the way he made Bane such a distinct villain. Not only did he physically pump up his body impressively to resemble the muscle-bound foe but because parts of his face are covered, Hardy created a memorable voice villain. Bane’s voice has a deep cadence that makes him sound like an older man or officer used to ordering troops around. How does he compare to Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight? Well, as great as Hardy is in Nolan’s third Batman film, Ledger created not only one of the greatest comic book villains on film but one of the greatest film villains of all time. Plus, viewers were able to see Ledger’s face and see more emotion than with Hardy.

As with all comic book adaptations, changes were made in The Dark Knight Rises. This was done with Bane regarding his origin. In this film, his background is tied to Batman, Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson from Batman Begins returns to play him) and Ra’s’ daughter Talia (Marion Cotillard). Viewers will see a link between all four characters and see how their shared experiences transformed them into separate ways.

But Bane isn’t the only standout in The Dark Knight Rises. Other memorable characters include Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine).

Although Selina isn’t called Catwoman and her feline aspects aren’t as exaggerated as with previous film incarnations of Catwoman, the character works in context of the film. Some may wonder during the film why so much screen time is spent on Blake, a young cop and ally of Batman, but he provides the film’s most pleasant surprise at the end; his arc was a real crowd pleaser. Fox is in many ways the head or brains of the Batman franchise. It should be pointed out that Alfred, Bruce’s loyal butler, is the heart and soul of the Batman franchise. He warns Bruce not to confront Bane simply because Alfred fears Bane. He knows that Bruce isn’t a match for the hulking villain. This leads to a very emotional argument where Alfred tells him that Bruce has another option in his life that doesn’t have anything to do with darkness. Bruce can have a shot at a happy life, but the superhero won’t hear of it since he feels bound to fight Bane. At that point, having a happy life is an abstract notion. It isn’t until Selina comes into the picture that having a happy life seems possible, so she serves as a sort of catalyst. Sure Marvel’s The Avengers was the greatest and most exciting superhero movie ever made, but The Dark Knight Rises has a deeper emotional core.

And what great battles are featured in the film! Nolan pulls out everything here. The Gotham police, the National Guard, and even the air force come out to confront Bane and his army. It was all thrilling to watch. As were all the cool gadgets and vehicles Batman uses like The Bat, the new interpretation of the batwing flying craft. The Bat was an amazing sight, sort of like a flying tank with VTOL capability and well armed. Batman also uses a type of EMP gun which helped him travel stealthily throughout Gotham, it was ingenious!

Christopher Nolan created an effective bookend to his Batman movies. Whereas The Dark Knight seemed like a crime thriller, his third film feels more like a superhero film.  The end of Batman in this film means so many things in the context of Nolan’s Batman world, and The Dark Knight Returns provides multiple, satisfying resolutions. Anyone who is worrying about the third film curse can relax because he doesn’t let the fans down with this sendoff.

GEO

Is The Bubble Expanding On Superhero Films?

Last year, there was a lot of speculation about the lasting power of superhero films. Many believed that they were on the way out due the way they underperformed in the box office in 2011.

There were three films in 2011 based on Marvel Comics characters (Thor, X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger) while DC Comics’ Green Lantern was also released as a film. While the Marvel films did respectably in the box office they weren’t supersized hits like The Dark Knight or the first Iron Man movie. Still they were well-received by fans and critics and did well enough to warrant sequels.

Green Lantern however, was a different story. As everyone knows, the film was a huge disappointment to many fans and didn’t make a lot of money. According to Box Office Mojo, the big-budgeted Green Lantern only earned $116 million with a worldwide total of $222 million domestically.

Many factors went into account for the disappointing box office sales in 2011. Some blamed the lack of popularity of some characters. The general public may know who Batman is, but brining up Green Lantern would raise eyebrows. With X-Men: First Class, many said that it may have made more money if it featured more well-known mutant characters and if the franchise didn’t have the stigma of recent inferior entries. Others pointed to a general burnout for such films and inferior 3D conversions (which thanks to bad word-of-mouth would dampen sales). Unless the film was phenomenal many would rather wait for DVD.

With that, while this year’s crop of films had fairly positive buzz late last year, there were concerns when 2012 began as to how good this year’s superhero films would turn out. Nerves weren’t helped by the failure of Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance but the superhero genre showed earlier this year that it had some life left with the success of Chronicle. There seemed to be cautious hope that The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises would do well. The heavy-hitting properties starring the companies’ flagship heroes were to affirm the popularity of superhero films.

Of course, the release of The Avengers changed everyone’s perceptions about superhero films. It featured characters that were seeded years earlier, so that lesser-known heroes like Hawkeye were paired up with superstars like Iron Man. But more importantly the film was well made and able to generate a super-frenzied buzz before its release. To date The Avengers has made $598 million domestically and nearly a staggering $1.5 billion worldwide according to Box Office Mojo.

Seemingly overnight, upcoming superhero films are now highly anticipated regardless of past hesitations. For example, while many fans decried Bane’s voice in early trailers for The Dark Knight Rises, adjustments were made to alleviate those concerns, even though the jury is still out on Catwoman. The final Christopher Nolan Batman film will undoubtedly do well. It may not perform as well as The Avengers but count on it being one of the year’s biggest hits.

The Amazing Spider-Man is also poised to do well. There are many detractors about the validity of a reboot so soon after Sam Raimi’s trilogy but many are impressed by what’s being shown on clips and trailers and it has a major marketing push behind it (plus this year being Spidey’s 50th anniversary can’t hurt). The film will probably finish behind The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises in terms of sales. Another factor that could help the new Spider-Man film is that it is coming in a bit of a lull between the other two superhero films. Currently, other films are topping the charts but don’t seem to have the staying power that The Avengers had and The Dark Knight Rises will probably dominate the box office for the remainder of the summer.

If one or both of the upcoming superhero films reaches blockbuster status expect the floodgates to open even further for future superhero films. Apparently stunned by the spectacular success of The Avengers, DC Entertainment announced that a Justice League film is in development. Anticipation seems to be growing over next year’s slate of superhero epics–Iron Man 3, The Man Of Steel, Thor 2 and The Wolverine. Furthermore, Marvel has announced that there will be follow ups to The Amazing Spider-Man and X-Men: First Class (with new stars like Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence reprising their roles) in 2014, as well as a new Captain America film, and another unannounced Marvel film. There are plans to bring back to the silver screen Daredevil and the Fantastic Four as well as big-screen debuts for Black Panther, Ant-Man, Wonder Woman, Lobo, and the Flash. Even Kick-Ass which only did respectably in theaters is getting a sequel.

At this point, it’s too early to say where all this will go, but two things are certain: 1) we’re in the Golden Age of Superhero Films and 2) despite some failures they are now a well-established movie genre that will stay for some time to come.

José Soto