Wonder Woman - Thoughts on how she makes the DCU and Superman Better

Last week Wonder Woman effectively put the DCU on a much better footing as it over-performed at the box office and thrilled fans and critics alike. I was one of those fans and I instantly got excited for the new path forward for this universe and how Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have put their unique stamp within the DCU. They have also smartly built a blueprint for a successful comic book dynasty, that if followed, could indeed rival the Mouse House and Marvel. If you saw the movie you are probably giving me a bit of a blank stare and saying did we watch the same movie--other than the beginning and end there was literally no real connection to the DC Universe. And you would be correct. What it did do is create a well rounded protagonist that can and will set the tone for future installments that will hopefully tie into the rest of the Justice League going forward. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman brought her earnest sense of right and wrong without appearing hokey and a righteousness and a naivete that was understandable and relatable. In fact she is by far the closest representation of what Superman should have been since Christopher Reeve last donned the tights.  

 The first real superhero movie that encapsulated everything that makes a comic book special: an incredible origin story, an iconic costume, an iconic soundtrack and a smart but dastardly villain who you can’t help but love. The hope and optimism of an entire generation is poured into every frame. It’s what started all of this - Superman: The Motion Picture.   The film is a bit dated at times, it was after all made in 1978, but the themes and characters still remain relevant today. In fact it holds up so well that Wonder Woman cleverly made noticeable nods to Richard Donner’s original. The prime example was the fantastic alley way scene that mirrored the stick up scene from Superman in many respects. It was a great call back. Director Patty Jenkins went even further, with her love of Superman, in her pitch to Warner Brothers for the film as she aspired to make a film full of love, humor and emotion just like Donner’s. After seeing the movie I can happily say this was a masterful success.

 Despite the bleak look through most of the film, the themes Jenkins expressed in her pitch were present throughout and allowed Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman to actually grow and become the Wonder Woman that we saw in Batman v. Superman. Her chemistry with Chris Pine was probably one of the best pairings since Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the last Spider-Man movies. It all seems so simple - write good characters, let them grow. This is unfortunately what was missing from Batman v Superman and Man of Steel. It’s not that Man of Steel was bad,  Henry Cavill is a great Superman, it’s just the massive misunderstanding of the character of Superman. For me it started with the Kent family. For both of those films Superman’s foster parents Martha and Jonathan, at every turn, would tell Clark to be fearful don’t use your powers or you might be discovered. Jonathan tells a young Clark that maybe he should have let a bus full of kids die to protect his secret. In one of the worst parts for me in that movie where Jonathan waves off Clark from saving his own life during a Tornado - and he lets him die. I guess that’s honoring your Father’s wishes but it’s pretty fucked up. In Batman v Superman Martha tells Clark that he can save people or not he doesn’t owe anybody anything. That’s kind of terrible, frankly and the fact that both of them espouse this thinking it’s no wonder he went nuclear on Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel. I understood in the beginning of Man of Steel why Clark felt the need to use his powers as little as possible for fear of doing more damage. But again by the end of the film he’s going full throttle against Zod cratering Metropolis. I know it became a plot point later in the sequel Batman v Superman. But to me it felt like the spectacle over the story by Snyder and it sacrifices the character of Superman as a result, to be honest.  Snyder was just looking for eye popping action scenes of destruction but not really thinking about character motivations. Which brings us to Wonder Woman in Themyscira where her mother, Hippolyta, embodies a bit of both Ma and Pa Kent but through a much better script and with stronger character development is shown why Diana must take the risk and use her powers to save others. This is championed by the wonderful Robin Wright who plays Diana’s bad ass warrior aunt. It worked so seamlessly and to watch Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman discover man’s world with its sexism, cruelty, deception and lies. To see her struggle through this but retain the inherent goodness she represents and embody the strength of love and empathy that encapsulates Wonder Woman makes my thoughts on this matter clear. Also she kicked ass with the lasso and the bulletproof bracelets. In conclusion not only should Patty Jenkins make the sequel to Wonder Woman but she needs to be given the reigns to Superman as well STAT.

Lego Batman - Opening Gross

Last week I did a little gross prediction of the new Lego Batman movie. It was going up against Fifty Shades Darker and John Wick 2. All three were highly anticipated so something would have to give. The total box office for last weekend for all movies was $188,579,473. Compared to last year at this time, which was the weekend of Feb 12 - 15th, the gross was  $89,904,854 lower. Doesn't quite get to Deadpool levels but still a strong weekend. I put Lego Movie taking the number one spot between 65-70 million. It actually ended up at number one with a very solid 53 million. Fifty Shades ended with 46.6 million and John Wick 2 at 30.4 million. I was a little surprised that Batman didn't surpass Lego Movie in opening box office. But there is some evidence in sequels or even side-way sequels that Box office doesn't always translate the same. Despicable Me 2 grosses 83 million on it's opening weekend in 2013 and ended up at 368 million all in. It's side sequel Minions in 2015 opened to a whopping 115.7 million but couldn't quite top D2 at 336 million all in. I was looking at this film as my barometer for Lego Batman's possible success but still came up short.  Lego Batman will still make out like a bandit and it looks like Lego Batman will again be the number one at the box office this President's Day weekend after kicking Matt Damon and Ice Cube's asses. For some reason I was convinced that adults would want to see this movie as much as Lego movie because it's Batman and I don't know if that was a correct assumption. The film got good reviews and nerd and geek of all ages seemed ecstatic about it but it came up short of Lego Movie's opening tally.  I think that Lego Batman has a strong hold for a while, you have an animated film, Rock Dog coming out next week which will take a bit of that gross but I don't think it will be much. My final tally on Lego Movie is 225 - 250 million all in. 

Next week we'll take a look at Logan, which comes out on March 3rd, and based on early reviews this one could be the best X-Men story ever put on screen.  

 

Comic Book Movies 2017

I thought I would start off the new year taking a look at some of the new comic book properties coming out in 2017. There are a lot of sequels and re-makes in the bunch I know but there is quite a lot to look forward to from animation to live action, comedy to drama. 2017 is beginning to look like a banner year in Hollywood's continual efforts to make cinema look a hell of a lot like the glossy colored books with letters that you can only get in a comic book store. I know the complaints about these movies continue to grow but I believe strongly that as long as they put the characters and stories first they will never get a complaint from me. No matter if it's Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, Sony or Disney. 

The Lego Batman Movie (Feb 20) - As a man in his late 30s I proclaim loud and proud that I still watch and enjoy animated movies and TV. Sometimes the animated medium surpasses the live action versions. Like Batman the Animated Series from the 90's which is by the far the best and most consistent interpretation of Batman on the big or little screen. Now if you've seen the Lego Batman movie trailer I would say it's akin to the 60's Adam West Batman then any current iteration. But that's its intent. Warner Brothers is cashing in on the success of Lego Movie and Batman was one of the fun supporting characters in that movie so naturally it makes sense to make a Lego Batman movie. I'm certainly taking my three kids to see this cause it looks silly and fun and like the Lego movie, probably plays to both young and old audiences simultaneously. I'm always of the mind to get the kids into superheroes and comics early and Lego Batman will help that tremendously. 

Lego Batman trailer: https://youtu.be/rGQUKzSDhrg 

Logan (March 3) It's been a long road for the X-Men franchise and for me the franchise is kind of a mixed bag. My favorites so far, not including Deadpool,  have been in this order: X-Men: First Class, X-Men 2, X-Men, Days of Future Past, The Wolverine, Age of Apocalypse, Wolverine Origins and finally one of the worst comic book movies ever X-Men: Last Stand. When I first saw the trailer for Logan with the haunting voice of Johnny Cash singing a cover of Trent Reznor's Hurt it just changed everything for me. Logan is loosely based on the comic Old Man Logan an 8 part series by writer Miles Millar and artist Steve McNiven which puts Wolverine in an alternate timeline which surmises that Earth's super villains have conquered the Earth and carved it out into territories. The Super Heroes you know like Captain America and Spider-Man are all gone, but of course Wolverine remains. Obviously given the Hulk, Red Skull and Hawkeye are very prominent in the comic version they will have to be cut out of the film due to copyright issues between Disney/Marvel and Fox. Which is for the better, I think, it would be impossible to make a coherent adaptation of Old Man Logan on the big screen which it looks like Director James Mangold did not do. Doesn't mean you shouldn't read it, but some things just aren't filmable and this is one of them. From what I've seen so far it looks amazing and it is definitely one I'm looking forward to. It's finally a worthy redemption story for Logan that feels like it has real stakes. Logan ever the reluctant hero must protect what I assume is X-23. A young girl clone of the rampaging Canuck himself. Along for the ride is a very old and seemingly infirm Professor X. What's really amazing is that this doesn't look or feel like a conventional superhero tale. If I didn't know the character I would have thought it was a dark dystopian drama in the vein of the Road or I Am Legend. I loved everything about the Wolverine except for the end with Silver Samurai and it always felt like studio meddling to me. Hopefully Mangold is able to keep them out of his cut for Logan and if it is as good as the trailers suggest this could be the best of the entire series.

Logan trailer: https://youtu.be/Div0iP65aZo   

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5) Marvel is still clicking on all thrusters with each movie they come out with. The trailer for the second installment of Guardians feels like coming home. Expectations for this one is high and I hope it excels past the first one in quality and scope. The weak link in the first one was probably the villain Ronan the Accuser. He was ably played by Lee Pace but he wasn't given enough character to give him three dimensions I hope they learn from that in the new one. But let's be honest the ensemble cast here is the best part: Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and now baby Groot. The second best thing is the music and the song they picked for the 2nd trailer was perfect in "Fox on the Run" by Sweet. In fact it's so good it hit number 1 on ITunes almost immediately. Also with the added casting of Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone I gotta believe it'll be huge. Honestly I can't wait to see how they depict Ego the Living Planet in a movie. He's a character I would never have expected them to pick given that he is, you know, a living Planet. How the hell does that work? 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 trailer: https://youtu.be/2cv2ueYnKjg

Wonder Woman (June 2) Warner Brothers has not been off to an impressive start with their DC Universe. Man of Steel was good enough but a pattern begin to form throughout that Snyder was not understanding the man in the red and blue tights. It deepened further when Snyder took on the reigns of Batman V Superman and in my opinion cocked it up. Wonder Woman's role, although short and without real purpose, still managed to make me feel excited to explore her character further. Literally Snyder just threw her in the movie with hopes that people would like her. Thankfully it was Gal Gadot and we did. Which is why I got even more excited to see the trailer for Wonder Woman, which was heavy on action and intrigue and most importantly didn't have Zach Snyder's name on it. Director Patty Jenkins is making her mark with the woman with the golden lasso and it looks pretty bad ass. Yes, the first trailer  seemed to strike a semblance to Captain America: The First Avenger given that it is a World War, just the first one this time. But the second trailer put most of that to rest. You got Chris Pine as dashing love interest Steve Trevor. It looks like it has a good sense of itself balancing the action, drama and the humor nicely, at least in the trailer. Wonder Woman looks truly fantastic and I can't wait to see what she can do. 

Wonder Woman trailer: https://youtu.be/T1j7qWUQjog

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7) I will admit I have multiple biases with this character. I thought it only fair to put my cards on the table. Firstly Spider-Man is my favorite hero. As far back as I can remember Spider-Man was a part of my life. When I was four I named my first dog, a black lab, Spider. I was obsessed with the nerdy kid with coke bottle glasses that would change into red and blue spandex and climb walls. We were nerds, social outcasts, sensitive. I identified with Peter Parker immediately. I loved him when he did his guest spot on Electric Company with a young Morgan Freeman. I loved the cartoons the comics over the years and my prized Amazing Spidey collection which I threatened my mother not to destroy. She did not. I enjoyed the Raimi/McGuire Spider-Man run with an asterisk on that third one.  The Webb/Garfield duo-logy was not too shabby but I had major issues with that second one. My biggest problem with all of these franchise however was consistency. Tobey McGuire was a great Peter Parker but his Spidey was lacking grit. He was almost too sensitive. I wanted the wisecracking Spidey. Andrew Garfield was fairly decent at both, especially the smart ass part which is essential but he too was lacking except on the Peter Parker side. Tom Holland changed that. Yes, his Spider-Man is younger and a teenager again but in the short time he was on screen in Civil War he nailed both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, wise ass with enough sensitivity and damnit he feels more like a New Yorker even though the actor is British. So that brings us to the Homecoming trailer. It looks so good, I'm almost worried that it might be too good to be true. It feels, as they promised, like John Hughes wrote a Spider-Man movie which in my mind is a wonderful thing. The icing on the cake is Michael Keaton's return to comic book movies as the Vulture and of course RDJ showing up as Tony Stark mentoring Peter and getting a little Iron Man action as well. Sign me up, I admit I'm ready to drink the kool-aid.

Spider-Man: Homecoming: https://youtu.be/oNE0zRNyXuc

Thor: Ragnarok (Nov 3) We don't have a trailer for this yet although some Comic-Con footage did leak out that show Bruce Banner in the woods under attack by creatures and what looked like two of the Warrior's Three, Fandral and Hogun kicking some ass. According to reports this movie takes place on various worlds with multiple heroes and villains joining Thor. Jeff Goldblum will be playing the Grandmaster who is similar to Mongul of DC fame. Grandmaster likes Gladiatorial style combat and the rumor is he makes Thor fight Hulk in such a battle. Kevin Feige and company at Marvel pretty much admitted it's World War Hulk. Doctor Strange will be making an appearance and if you've seen his movie you'll know his involvement. He is charged by Thor to locate Odin in New York. All of the key heroes from the previous installments will be here as well; Sif, Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg, Heimdall as well as a new Asgardian, Valkyrie. Plus Loki is returning and Cate Blanchett as the ruler of the Underworld, Hela.  This is hands down shaping up to be the best in the Thor franchise, so stay tuned for that trailer. 

Justice League (Nov 17) I want to believe this is going to be awesome and make up for the terribleness that was Batman V. Superman, but honestly I just don't know. With all the rumors about Ben Affleck now not directing Batman to all the other rumors that Justice League is turning into a massive shit show with director Zach Snyder flailing wildly while attempting to right the ship. I thought the teaser from Comic-Con was solid enough and they had more humor and gravitas in just the first few minutes then in the entirety of BvS. So that is something. I'm keeping expectations low but I'm curious to see how Snyder brings together Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman and a resurrected Superman without completely shitting the bed. Could happen. I'm hoping for the best.

Justice League Comic-Con teaser: https://youtu.be/HsCkjNOzalo 

Bat Family sketches by Alex Yi

Catwoman

My boy Alex Yi has been hard at work sketching and drawing new pieces. I wanted to show a few here and they are also on his Art Gallery page if you want to check them out there. He has a combination of pencil sketches and rubber mat sketches done only with a sharpie. Unfortunately they don't scan well so there is a bit of a glare on the photo but it doesn't take away from the awesome. Please enjoy and if you are interested in buying any of these drop Alex a line on Instagram @alexyiart.

Suicide Squad Wasn't Quite as Bad as Critics Said

Sketch by Alex Yi

I Just got out of Suicide Squad and I came away liking much more than the critics said I would. Is the film perfect, absolutely not. I will agree that the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), while interesting, was not the best choice for this band of rogues to go to war with. Her powers are weird and very hard to define and they didn't have enough time to establish her or her relationship with hero Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). That being said the Dirty Dozen meets the DCU is a fair comparison of what we saw on screen and the character moments are strong with certain members of the team. Diablo (Jay Hernandez), doesn't get as much time as Harley, Flag and Deadshot but what he does have is a solid arc and one of the most tragic backstory of this ragtag group of anti-heroes. Deadshot (Will Smith) probably gets the most airtime and they allow his humanity and humor to shine through the bad that he's done, and even though it was a bit forced at first, showed the compatibility with Rick Flag at the end of the movie. This is honestly a return to form for Will Smith and it cannot be ignored. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie)  was electric as expected and truly captured the gonzo insanity of the Joker's girlfriend. Jared Leto was good but I admit I didn't care about his character that much, he did his job in the movie and played the role admirably, maybe in future installments he'll show me something truly interesting but for now he was just serviceable. It was nice seeing Batman show up at times and Affleck continued to show why he belongs in the cowl. But the real standout here is Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), you don't get any colder or calculated than this woman and she nailed it. This was the Waller from the comics who could completely be the villain or the hero of this tale as she weaves the line throughout. Suicide Squad doesn't work without her and it makes it clear to you why. You also get some nice surprises from Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) who brought some of the humor and a little heart in unexpected places.

Overall I think the critics were right to trash the story a bit but they just can't ignore how great many of these characters are and how they are depicted on screen. Yes it plays like an episode directly ripped from a comic book, but that is kinda the point I think.  Ayer deserves a lot of credit and it shows how much better a filmmaker he is compared to Zach Snyder and the contrast between this and Batman v Superman couldn't be any more stark. What do you think?

Sketch by Alex Yi

Sketch by Alex Yi