Shazam – Official Teaser Trailer (SDCC)

Much to my surprise, I enjoyed the first teaser for Shazam out of San Diego Comic-Con.

And while I still think Zachary Levi–visually speaking–isn’t a great choice for the role (he’s just not, physically speaking, massive enough, making the copious amount of muscle padding he has to wear look more goofy than heroic. This is particular odd when you consider that Dwayne Johnson would be an ideal Shazam because he actually has the physique to pull it off with a bare minimum of padding) he seems game with the whole Big-with-superpowers idea that underpins the movie.

It’s also good that the DCEU seems to have finally realized that different movies can have different tones–which should be fairly obvious to anyone that loves the characters of the DC Universe as much as Zach Snyder claims to.

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Aquaman – Official Trailer (SDCC)

Let me be clear: I think Zach Snyder ruined the DCEU (which isn’t for a moment to imply that he did it alone. He had plenty of help from executives that were apparently so ignorant of their own IP that they let Snyder–whom no matter what he says in public does not like these characters–ruin them for likely years to come).

His vision was–on the whole–nihilistic, ugly and clearly pessimistic (which shouldn’t a shock considering Snyder is apparently a fan of Ayn Rand); which leads to James Wan’s Aquaman, a movie I care less about for the title character than it features Black Manta, who ranks among my favorite DC Comics villains.

Though I can see what Wan is trying to do. The world his Aquaman occupies seems lush and beautiful, and visually closer Guardians Of The Galaxy than anything from the DCEU thus far.

But the question is, is it enough?

I don’t think so. So, while I don’t think Aquaman will be a failure, I do expect it to underwhelm at the box office because we have literally been given no reason to care about Arthur Curry as a character.

Has DC Films Accepted That They Have Deep-Seated Problems, Or Are They Shifting Deck Chairs? Part II

I caught Star Wars: The Last Jedi last weekend and have no idea what all the hullabaloo is about (by which I mean I understand many of the complaints, though they’re not terribly persuasive when looked at in context).

It’s a decent movie though as far as I can tell all the rancor revolving around it is undeserved–though before the movie began there was a trailer for Avengers: Infinity War.

It’s a great trailer, though what interested me more (especially considering I have seen it alt least twenty times) is the response of someone in the theater.

She said, in reference to the trailer, “Those are the really good superheroes.” or something to that effect.

And that, for DC Films, is a problem because what they have lost is something that is extremely difficult to reclaim, and that’s mindshare (a topic I have mentioned before, but is worth revisiting).

At this point, when many moviegoers think of superheroes they think of Iron Man, Captain America or Thor, and to a lesser extent Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

That is a problem because–while it doesn’t mean that people won’t see movies with other characters–it does make it likely that they will occupy a lower tier in terms of their preferences.

So, unless Marvel Studios screws up in a big way there’s virtually no way DC Films is going to close the gap.

Which is why–as I have also said before–they should stop trying.

In other words, the only thing that can save DC Films is that they acknowledge that Marvel Studios has won because that will enable them to do what they should have done in the first place, which is to just produce engaging, fun superhero films without the onus of trying to outrun the fastest kid on the block.

Another reason I brought this up is because Warner Bros recently appointed Walter Hamada as head of DC Films.  Harada has been a producer behind franchises like The Conjuring and IT, though it remains to be seen if his success will transfer to the DCEU.

Wrong Lessons Learned from the Justice League Brouhaha

 

And while ‘brouhaha’ may be a little melodramatic for a film that’s earned over $570 million at the worldwide box office the story surrounding the development of the movie is far more interesting than the movie itself.

You may have heard about a petition to release a Zach Snyder-cut of Justice League (despite there being no evidence there’s enough footage to make a complete movie) and a counter petition to release a Joss Whedon-cut of the same movie (who filmed significantly less than Snyder, making the idea even sillier) and quickly realized that they are way too many people not quite understanding the nature of the problem.

And that problem is that the DCEU, as it currently exists, is based on a very shaky foundation, one of Zach Snyder’s making (and that’s not to solely put all the blame on his shoulders, especially considering there’s more than enough to go around.  That being said, if the movie were a critical and financial success Snyder would likely have no problem accepting the kudos.  Conversely, when a movie doesn’t do well the director gets the blame).

And while his approach has its fans, what it doesn’t have is enough to make it viable (or Warner Bros would have likely not have had Whedon reshoot a portion of the entire movie.  And as terrible as the death of a child is, I don’t buy that he stepped down for that reason exclusively, especially when the movie was almost finished).

If that weren’t enough of a reason, this whole petition nonsense triples down on an approach proven NOT TO WORK!  Man of Steel underperformed.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did as well.  Suicide Squad, despite being the worse of the three–and interestingly not directed by Snyder, despite his visual dynamic in full-effect, didn’t.

The same applies to Wonder Woman.

As I alluded to earlier, it’s not that Justice League isn’t profitable, it’s that it production budget is so high–before reshoots it was somewhere in the ballpark of $250 million there’s little likelihood Warners would throw good money after bad.

 

Why Is Anyone Shocked Justice League Underperformed?

I was watching a lot of YouTube this weekend, deliberately looking for videos about the shocking–for some–weekend box office returns for Warner Bros/DC Entertainment’s Justice League.

Though what I find most shocking is their their shock because the writing has been on the wall for literally years.

While none of the movies that make up the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) have yet to fail financially, they’ve certainly done so critically (with the exception of Wonder Woman, the first DCEU movie under the supervision of Geoff Johns and Diane Lane, co-heads of DC Entertainment, that was both financially and critically successful), which is an indicator that critics were not too crazy about how DC was interpreting its own characters.

The declining box office was a sign moviegoers felt similarly, a change in sentiment was seemingly slow to respond to.

Snyder’s first movie under the DCEU banner was 2013’s Man of Steel, a nihilistic– some could say cynical–take on Superman which it could be argued underperformed (for a movie featuring literally one of the most iconic characters in comic history).

Suicide Squad (despite being written and directed by David Ayer, stuck faithfully to Snyder’s template of visual ugliness and moral murkiness; which perhaps ironically better fit the property, since we’re talking about a team composed of villains) actually over performed at the box office, despite being savaged by critics.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was literally the nail in the coffin for Synder’s version of the DCEU (and I honestly believe that if his daughter had not committed suicide–which resulted in him moving away from directing Jusrice League–Warner Bros would have had to find some other pretext for replacing him because when a movie featuring two of the most iconic characters in history fails to break a billion at the box office, something is very wrong.

Which brings us to Justice League, the movie that literally was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many viewers.  Despite brining in Joss Whedon to change the feel and tone of the movie, it’s apparently resulted in a clash of styles as opposed to the clarity of one person’s vision, which is problematic for entirely different reasons.

Luckily–for comic book movies–this appears less a problem with them in general than the DCEU in particular which means that as long as other studios continue to push the envelope and develop new and interesting characters there’s little chance of the same happening to them

 

Lightning Strikes, Thor: Ragnarök Roars!

img_0536And Yes, ‘Ragnarök’ has an umlaut and it’s lazy not to include it.

Anyway, last week I made the audacious claim that Thor: Ragnarök would likely join the Billion Dollar Club, the hallowed ground where movies that earn at least a billion dollars go during their theatrical runs roam.

And profits matter because as much as some want to make it all about the quality and watchability of a movie–which are important–Hollywood isn’t a charity and if these expensive tentpoles aren’t going to bring adequate returns, they’re going to stop making them.

And it goes without saying that that’s a bit of a double-edged sword because what applies to the original Star Wars trilogy also applied to the Transformers movies 😭.

I mention this because Thor: Ragnarök has crossed the $500 million mark ($502.3 m) not even two weeks into its box office run though it has to be mentioned that it has done so with little in the way of competition–A Bad Mom’s Christmas is less a genuine alternative than cagey counter-programming–till Justice League comes out in about a week’s time.

It’s worth looking at where Thor: Ragnarök is making its money.  Over $350 million of the $503 million it has earned thus far has come from the international box office–$354 million versus $150 million domestically.

That domestic figure is problematic, though I suspect if it reaches $400 million on this end of the pond a billion dollar run is assured, and ironically Justice League could help as much as hinder that from happening.

Expect moviegoers to initially flock to the latest from Warner Bros and DC Entertainment (ironically enough, on the strength of Wonder Woman, a fortuitous accident because there’s no sign Warner Bros expected her to resonate with audiences as much as she did) but that should only slow Thor’s momentum, not stop it outright.

And if Justice League doesn’t meet audience expectations–all those rewrites and reshoots weren’t made out of overwhelming confidence–which has the side effect of increasing the budget to a rumored $300 million.

That’s problematic because if it makes anything under a billion it’s a well-intentioned failure, while Thor: Ragnarök at a budget of $180 million can reach $800 million and be comfortably profitable.

Though as I have written, I see it going higher.

Is Wonder Woman Really the Highest Earning Superhero Origin Movie?

'Wonder Woman' is highest-grossing superhero origin movie of all time - Business Insider copySorry, I don’t buy it Wonder Woman as the ‘highest-grossing superhero origin movie of all time.

Reason being, it neglect a little movie called Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spider-Man isn’t an origin movie, you say?

That’s where we’ll have to differ (because it is).

This iteration of Spider-Man is first introduced in Captain America: Civil War so it technically isn’t his first appearance.  Then again, Wonder Woman was first introduced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice so it wasn’t her’s either.

But what people who say Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t an origin story seem to be missing is that there have been THREE prior versions of the character relatively recently, which means to include it again would bore moviegoers (The Amazing Spider-Man retconned the origin, making Peter Parker’s parents spies–sort of–which was  dumb, though you can at least understand why they did it).

So Marvel Studios took a different approach.  They emphasized Spider-Man growing in the role, so in a sense it is an origin film in that Parker–despite wearing the costume–is not Spider-Man.

Instead he’s awkward, and truth be told, not terribly good at what he does (a fact the movie emphasizes more often than once).

In other words, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an origin story, just not a blatantly obvious one.