Monday, April 30, 2012
The Justice League has been in existence far longer than the Avengers. The Justice League premiered in 1960, for the first time ever bringing together superheroes into one big team to fight evil once a month: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash, and Martian Manhunter. The success of the comic was so huge that Marvel asked Stan Lee to design a team of heroes to compete with the Justice League in monthly sales, thus began the Marvel Age with the creation of the Fantastic Four. However, Stan "The Man" did not create the Avengers until 1963, two years after the Fantastic Four was introduced.
Fast forward to modern day, Marvel is releasing a movie based on The Avengers this Friday, and DC has no Justice League movie anywhere in sight. At one time, DC was leading the charge, and now they have dropped the ball. Why has Marvel been able to make The Avengers a reality?
I really feel the primary reason DC has fallen behind Marvel is because Warner Bros. (who owns DC Comics) has only in the past few years, even tried to get movies made on any hero that wasn't Batman or Superman. If you look at the history of films based on DC Comics, save for the occasional oddball, like Steel or Catwoman, Batman and Superman have been it for DC on film. There have been 9 Batman movies to get theatrical release, counting this Summer's The Dark Knight Rises, and there have been 7 Superman movies to get theatrical release, counting next year's The Man of Steel. Great numbers for only two characters, and yet over the past decade, almost every major Marvel hero, from Spider-Man to Thor to Captain America, has had at least one movie grace the silver screen. This is the main reason why The Avengers is a reality, they have made more movies off of their other big screen heroes, but there's still more to this story.
You could argue that last year's Green Lantern was DC's attempt to do what Marvel did, starting with Iron Man, and start trying to build a DC Universe onscreen that would lead to a Justice League movie, but it didn't work. Here is why Green Lantern did not work, and it's why many Marvel characters like the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and even the Hulk, have been trapped in movie limbo. It's because the studio churned out a mindless blockbuster with no real character behind it. The fact of the matter is, you can say these movies are just for entertainment, and yet the superheroes movies that were overtly cartoonish without any real, humanistic character development and believable dramatic stakes, have all been panned by critics and audiences alike.
Look at what Marvel did with Iron Man. They made a movie that, while still science fiction, was driven by a character whose motivations were spurred by real human emotional responses to these fantastical situations. They asked the question, what if this happened in real life? How would this character of Tony Stark respond emotionally? By doing this, Marvel produced a movie that, while was still impossible science fiction, felt human and real. The thing is, they didn't try to go the complete opposite of fantasy and try to find a realistic way to explain every piece of science Tony Stark used, but rather they used the character of Tony Stark and represented him as an emotional human being in implausible circumstances, and audiences believed that it was real in effect, without losing the sci-fi edge. Green Lantern had none of this, nor did the Fantastic Four movies, and so may others, like Daredevil. They just plodded along, trying to sell toys rather than finding the things about these characters that have made them relatable for decades of comic book readers.
Since Iron Man, Marvel has used the same model to make films based off of the Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, and have succeeded. Audiences bought it, better than they bought Green Lantern because DC did not try to find the human elements within the fantastical. That is why the original Superman: The Movie worked, and it's why Batman Begins and The Dark Knight worked, DC had found the human elements beneath those characters, so it's not like they can't do it, it's more of they're in a knee-jerk reaction phase in regards to Marvel.
After Iron Man hit theaters and there was the whole idea of The Avengers coming to the big screen, while it seemed like a longshot, DC tried to rush in production a Justice League movie that ultimately fell apart due to backlash from fans thanks to leaked production details that showed signs of a large flop on WB's hands. To be honest, I am glad that failed Justice League film never went before the camera, because it would have been a train wreck from all I've heard about the script, however this explains DC's biggest problem as to why there is no Justice League movie.
Marvel has taken their time to develop The Avengers. They have hired filmmakers with immense passions for the source material to transform these wonderful characters into cinematic icons, and they have succeeded because they did not rush any of these characters to the screen. They took their time to find the right way to do Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, and The Avengers is simply the next logical move for them. Why DC is struggling is because they haven't taken the time to develop their heroes.
I mean, Green Lantern was rushed through the production cycle with a cast and crew that was simply in it for a paycheck. They didn't hire a filmmaker who was a passionate Green Lantern fan, and had a unique vision for the character, and that is why it struck out. This is why none of the originality from the Green Lantern comic books bled over into the film adaptation, because it was being made not as a faithful adaptation, but as a popcorn movie and nothing else. Yes, Iron Man is a popcorn movie, but the character of Tony Stark is a deep, three-dimensional character true to his comic book counterpart. You'd be hard-pressed to find even two dimensions in Ryan Reynold's performance as Hal Jordan in Green Lantern, and it is not Reynolds' fault either, but it's a combination of poor script, poor direction, and poor miscasting. Reynolds was never right for Hal Jordan, he'd of made a good Flash, but not a good Green Lantern, and it showed. Of course, the other argument people have is that DC's characters just aren't relatable to modern audiences like Marvel's are, and I say that is just a load of crap.
Compare and contrast Thor and Wonder Woman, both are mythical heroes fighting against Gods and characters from mythology. If a Thor movie can work, so could a Wonder Woman movie. You could even compare a Thor movie to a potential Aquaman movie. And to say in a world where audiences adore alien material like Star Wars and Transformers, you can't tell me that the tale of an intergalactic police officer, like Green Lantern, is not viable in today's market place. He just wasn't done right. So the argument that DC is no longer relevant, is just a bunch of ignorance, and is a misunderstanding of the DC heroes.
Currently, every superhero property other than Batman and Superman seems to be dead at WB/DC. In a time where Marvel's second and third string heroes are starting to make their way to the screen, DC is still struggling to get their first string off of the ground. Green Lantern writer, Greg Berlanti, was hired to try and crack the code on The Flash, but does anyone think WB is gonna continue with his script after the failure of Green Lantern? As for Wonder Woman, a TV pilot was made for last season, word was it was atrocious, and if The Avengers is successful, we can bet WB will be kicking themselves for never allowing writer/director Joss Whedon to make his Wonder Woman movie. However, the court is not out on the Justice League anytime in the near future.
If next year's Superman flick, The Man of Steel, finds success with critics and the box office, then that could be the springboard for DC like Iron Man was for Marvel. Perhaps DC should call Joss Whedon and let him do Wonder Woman, and why not actually take the time to do these heroes right rather than trying to make a movie that will sell toys. Just saying, but there's a reason Marvel has had more success than DC, and that is why.
Regardless, Marvel beat the Justice League to the party, so rather than trying to compete with The Avengers, DC should just do their own thing. They're gonna be called copycats of Marvel at this point, no matter what they do, so just take the time to develop each individual hero, do them right, and don't pull the plug before they go before the camera, something that WB is notorious for doing with DC Comics' based films. Rather than pulling the plug on someone like Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams, which believe it or not they did on both counts over the past decade, let talented filmmakers play and create. It's what they're paid to do, and if you let someone passionate like Christopher Nolan, Bryan Singer, or Sam Raimi have the reins of a hero that they love, you will see the results. Then, once this is done, DC can do a Justice League movie, but no need to rush it simply for the sake of competing with The Avengers.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Bernie was the nicest guy on Earth, everyone loved him. He produced the local community theater, led worship at the church, and was friend to all, including the meanest old lady in town, Marjorie, played to over-the-top perfection by Shirley MacLaine. However, soon Bernie learned all about Marjorie and she began to wear on his nerves, and in a momentary lapse he shoots her in the back. I should say, this film is a comedy, albeit a black comedy in the vein of the Coen Brothers' films, but a comedy all the same. Even in the scene when Bernie shoots Marjorie, I found myself laughing out loud thanks to the performance of Jack Black and his reaction upon realizing what he's done.
As Bernie Tiede, Jack Black is very dialed down. Sure, he has a funny effeminate accent, but when you hear the real Bernie speak in interviews from real-life, you realize how spot on Jack Black was. The thing is, Jack Black uses all of his considerable talents in this one film. He proves that he is a good singer, and not just adept at doing his heavy metal thing with Tenacious D. Jack Black surprisingly sings hymns and Broadway showtunes real well, showing vocal range, but he also shows range in his acting chops. He plays everything seriously and just lets the absurdity of the situations be what makes it all funny rather than him hamming it up. This is a very contained performance that shows genuine maturation in Black as an actor, not as a comedian, and makes me intrigued to see what else he can do.
I just love Bernie. It's one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long, long time. It's politically incorrect, and that's what makes it all the funnier. Huge kudos to director Richard Linklater for another superb experience.
I give Bernie an A+
Superman: The Movie is a seminal superhero film, because it was the first ever superhero film to treat the source material with the respect that it deserved, and managed to appeal not just to children, but to adults as well. What director Richard Donner and actor Christopher Reeve did with this film, was they treated the character of Superman as an emotionally conflicted man who happened to be from outer space. They didn't make jokes at the character's expense like Adam West did, but if they made jokes it was simply because the characters were funny (i.e. all of the great banter between Lois and Clark or the arguing between Lex and Otis). As well, they made it dramatic. They weren't doing little wink-winks to the camera when the nukes were launched in the climax of the film, they took it seriously. They presented it as drama. When Lois Lane dies at the end of the film and Superman cries over her lifeless body, that is something you would have never seen George Reeves or Adam West ever do. With this greater attention to drama and human emotion, Superman: The Movie is the first seminal superhero film, because it bridged the gap between kids' entertainment and adult entertainment, however it was still viewed as just that, entertainment.
Moving on to 1989 and the second of the seminal superhero films, Tim Burton's Batman. Batman was a seminal superhero film, because if Superman: The Movie proved there were adults willing to take superheroes seriously on the big screen, then Batman reaped all of the benefits. In so many ways, Batman was not a movie made for children, it was dark and very adult from the very first frames of the film showing prostitutes and gangsters walking the streets of Gotham. The film was taken serious from the very beginning, a large part thanks to the appearance of critically successful actor Jack Nicholson as the Joker. However, even though the film picked up the ball where Superman left it, Batman did not go beyond being pure entertainment, that still took many more years.
The fourth most seminal superhero film would have to be another Batman flick, Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, released in 2005. In so many ways, Batman Begins is not only one of the most seminal superhero movies of all-time, it also just happens to be one of the more seminal blockbusters of the past decade as well. What Batman Begins did was it was the first real superhero film that I can remember to ever get serious consideration from many pundits to be up for an Academy Award. Batman Begins was a gripping drama first, and an action epic second. In some ways, Batman Begins was one of the first superhero films to cross over from being pure entertainment to being critically successful to the point that it wound up on many critics' best films of the year lists. That is a rare feat, that many superhero movies before had not achieved. While some other superhero flicks, like X-2 and Spider-Man 2 were equally loved by critics and were great at the drama first, action second mantra, where Batman Begins earns a spot and not those other films, is that it also revolutionized the way so many blockbusters were made after the fact. Batman Begins was a big budget action film that utilized a non-linear narrative, that was as focused on flashbacks as it was on the present day story. Before Batman Begins, blockbusters had the occasional flashback, but none before it had ever really been 1/3 flashback. The focus on disrupting the traditional flow of the three-act structure separated Batman Begins from not just any other superhero film, but it also separated it from other blockbusters, as well, making people take notice to what Christopher Nolan was doing, and now there's a glut of non-linear blockbusters every year.
Friday, April 20, 2012
I give Lockout a D
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
|Actual Teaser Poster|
In the mid-90s, Warner Bros. saw the success of their Batman franchise and wanted to revive Superman for a modern audience, so they hired filmmaker Kevin Smith of Clerks fame to write the film that came to be known as Superman Lives. The idea of the film was not very much different than what it seems that Zack Snyder is actually doing with The Man of Steel, hitting theaters in 2013. The idea was to make a contemporary Superman, because somehow the character of Superman had lost touch with the cynical society of the 1990s, so their goal was to make an edgier, more grounded Superman tale that was loosely based on the "Death of Superman" storyline from the early '90s. (Don't believe how close it came to reality, the poster on the upper right that was in movie theaters Summer of 1997 teasing the movie to come out the following year).
|Nic Cage's costume fitting for the film|
|Cage in Chris Reeves' costume|
While I am not a big fan of Nicholas Cage, I have to be honest and say that in some weird sort of second Earth, I can picture Cage as Superman, and especially as Clark Kent. The bumbling everyman he played in National Treasure very well might have been how he would have played a more dialed down and realistic Clark Kent, and who is to say that Cage couldn't have pulled off Superman. Imagine that same role with a little more confidence and the same morals and you'd have a really nice, likable hero who isn't as goodie-good as Christopher Reeves was, but not as dark as Christian Bale's Batman, a perfect balance for a slightly less sentimental take on the character.
|Cox from the '90s|
|Spacey as Luthor|
|Concept art of Costume|
|Concept art of Supes vs. Brainiac|
|Concept art of Doomsday|
I feel the follow-up to Batman & Robin, Batman Triumphant would have more than likely been made if Superman had been successful, simply to keep up the DC brand name and to possibly pave the way for the much desired Batman/Superman crossover film that has been toyed with since the late '90s. In fact, had Superman Lives been successful, it would have not been out of the realm of possibilities that instead of Batman Triumphant we may have just seen a straight up Batman/Superman crossover as the sequel, after all both film series were being produced by the same producer, Jon Peters. Just seeing how well The Avengers is tracking in terms of predicted box office, the idea of a crossover, putting two mega characters into one movie is a big money kind of idea, and it would have more than likely done huge business at the box office.
|Batman & Superman|
The big thing is, I really think that Superman Lives would have at least made back its budget and with the Hollywood studios so sequel crazy in the late '90s a sequel would have been made just to cash in on the property. So what about things like Smallville, Superman Returns, and The Man of Steel coming out next year?
There really isn't any indication to say that Smallville would have been affected, seeing as it was a TV show, but it's pretty obvious that Bryan Singer's Superman Returns (made in 2006, and which I am a fan of by the way) would have never been made. Regardless of your feelings toward that movie, the fact that it was a sequel to the Christoher Reeves' movies and that it detailed a similar storyline to Superman Lives featuring the death and resurrection of Superman, that movie would have never been made. As well, WB would have probably not been so desperate to get a Superman movie made in the 2000s, that when the first filmmaker with a huge passion for the project came in and pitched his idea, they would make it no matter how much it cost -- since Superman Lives would have probably spawned a series of films similar to the Batman series. And as for The Man of Steel, well it may exist in some capacity, because it is safe to assume that by 2012 in the world of Superman Lives' existence, that franchise would have already imploded and WB would have been gunning for a reboot. I think one of the biggest things that could have been affected though, is not just Superman films, but all superhero films.
|Superman Returns poster|
Ultimately, if Superman Lives had been made it would have caused a domino effect that would have drastically changed the cinematic landscape of the last decade and a half, no matter what films would still exist and what wouldn't, it would be different because not every film released since then would have seen the light of day. While there is no way of knowing for sure what movies would be different or wouldn't exist, the point still remains. Even still, the legacy that Superman Lives leaves behind is one of missed opportunities and potential success. There will always be that lingering question of what could have been.