SHAZAM! Earns The Exclamation Point

Being a hero is a choice, one that’s never too late to make and that never has to be made alone. That trinity of concepts is the beautiful and emotional throughline that holds together the light, breezy and fun Shazam!, taking this superheroic riff on Big and elevating it to a place that resonates on the same emotional and thematic frequency as Donner’s Superman, a movie as focused on the small humanity of heroism as the big superhumanity of it.

Based on one of the least cool DC characters, a character who was ingested into that universe in a business deal but who has never quite found his place in the pantheon (not for lack of trying or lack of quality comics), Shazam!opts to embrace everything that makes its source material so out of step. It’s a family movie, a funny movie, a loving movie, a hopeful movie, a movie whose hero earnestly says “Holy moly” a couple of times. Most of all it’s a kid’s movie, just as Shazam (or Captain Marvel as he seemingly cannot be legally called in this film) is a kid’s hero. And I don’t mean that in a dismissive or condescending way, but rather that the character represents the positive peak of the wish-fulfillment possibilities of the superhero genre.

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AQUAMAN: Warner Bros Realizes These Movies Can Be Fun

Attitude is everything. Aquaman has a fairly rotten script, and it is so green screen/stagebound that the few scenes shot on location are actually shocking. It is completely unoriginal, comprised mostly of swipes from other movies, from STAR WARS to CONAN, from the BOURNE films to DUNE, and a million others in between. This Aquaman bears almost no resemblance to the character as he has been depicted in comics and cartoons over the decades.

And yet there’s this attitude about the movie that makes it absolutely irresistible. There’s an enthusiasm that director James Wan brings that is palpable, that has the same energy as a golden retriever puppy that just wants to play with you and be loved by you. That same energy is shared by Jason Momoa, who looks more like Lobo than Arthur Curry, but who has a heart as soft as a jellyfish.

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The End Of The DCEU Phase Zero

Marvel set up their cinematic universe in phases. The first phase was leading up to The Avengersthe financing deal the then-fledgling studio got would allow them to make The Avengers pretty much no matter what, although they had contingency plans in case the solo movies bombed (there had been talk of releasing the movie as an Iron Man sequel, for instance).

Since then the phases have been largely delineated by the Avengers movies, with the solo films swirling around and leading into the next team-up movie. It has, to put it mildly, worked. The planning has not been impeccable, but it has been strong enough so far to overcome director changes and the vagaries of public interest.

The DCEU (DC Extended Universe, what the fans call the DC Comics Movieverse) has not been so lucky. The DCEU has seemed like a cinematic encapsulation of the phrase “Man plans, God laughs.” Looking to compete with the MCU, DC’s parent company Warner Bros in 2014 announced an ambitious slate of superhero films… and the wheels started falling off almost immediately. Two of the films from that slate – Justice League, Part Two and Cyborg, are functionally gone. Another, The Flash, is supposedly happening, but has been plagued with the kind of director turnover that can only be attributable to the production office being built on a cursed burial ground. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was savaged by critics and came up short at the box office. Justice League was destroyed by critics and audiences, and was essentially a bomb, not only failing to crack the gold standard one billion dollars worldwide, but actually earning less than every previous DCEU film.

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TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES: Disrespecting DC, And It Works

Here’s the great yin and yang of our time: DC’s movies are terrible, while their TV shows tend to be rather delightful. Marvel makes the best movies, but their TV shows lean towards the very bad. Weirdly the only place where this dichotomy is broken is when it comes to animated DC movies – they are actually really great, better than the live action DC movies and stake out their own weird space in the superhero universe.

Lego Batman was a blast, and I think was one of the better Batman movies ever made. It really got to the heart of the character, while also poking a lot of fun at the character. And now Teen Titans Go! To The Movies has arrived and is a better DC Universe movie than any of the live action DC Universe movies, and it accomplishes that while being wildly irreverent and disrespectful… but in a truly loving way.

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A Tale Of Two Fucks

In the trailer for Titansthe upcoming superhero show on the streaming DC Universe service, a frankly murderous 20something Robin, when asked where Batman is, growls “Fuck Batman.”

If you’ve ever wanted to hear the Boy Wonder drop the f-bomb, promises Titans, we got you covered. The moment has already stirred up some controversy and some fun on Twitter, which is saying something since the trailer also includes Dove – a character who represents peace and non-violence – inflicting gruesome violence on someone. And, as mentioned above, Robin the Boy Wonder going all Punisher on some street thugs.

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Why I’m Sitting Out The DC Universe Service

Today DC announced the main details for its new streaming movies/TV/comic service, DC Universe.  The anchor of the service will be four new TV series, and they’ll also have all your favorite old DC shows, movies and cartoons. The new shows are Titansan incongruously R-rated version of Teen TitansDoom PatrolSwamp Thing and a fourth, to be announced this week, show.

I won’t be getting the service, despite its reasonable price ($7.99 a month, $75 paid yearly). It’s not because the trailer for Titans is a try-hard grim n’ gritty embarrassment (“Fuck Batman,” Robin intones into the camera before SHOOTING a bunch of alleyway thugs to death). It’s not because I don’t actually need a service that has Legends of the Super Friends on demand 24/7. It isn’t even because I’m unemployed and shouldn’t be spending my limited dollars on something like this.

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JUSTICE LEAGUE: Crisis On Infinite Not Giving A Shits

I vividly recall watching Batman v Superman at a press screening. It was the first screening, a showing at the IMAX at Universal City Walk, and there were maybe nine of us in the audience. Twenty minutes into the movie I was ready to give up; the film was assaultive, obnoxious, almost physically painful to sit through. Watching in that environment felt like getting beat up. Going into Justice League I figured that if this film didn’t evoke a fight or flight response in me I would have to say that it was at least better than BvS.

And… it is. Yet at the same time Justice League offers us a new perspective on the disaster that was BvS, a new way of looking at that film. For all its flaws, for how bad it was, BvS was the work of an author. It was a movie with a point of view and a style, and even if I hated everything about that POV and everything about that style as presented, it at least had them. To quote a great thinker:

I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

Justice League has no ethos. It’s an empty, bland motion picture product without a personality or anything to make it feel special beyond the fact that it’s using different intellectual property than other comic book movies are using. It’s a dutiful exercise of corporate art in the service of advancing a larger franchise that the studio hopes will make money. The movie has no reason to exist, and I mean that from an internal, in-universe way.

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