Advertisements

Snarcasm: 5 Non-Reasons Why the DC Movies are Working

dc movies working

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

Hey, did you guys know that the DCEU is working? I mean, it’s working hard, for sure, to dominate headlines and pointless online arguments about the very essence of filmmaking between people who’ve never watched Before Sunrise, but that’s not all!

The DCEU is also working in the sense that this was somehow the plan all along for DC and Warner Bros. That’s right, their first three films were critically panned on purpose. It was the plan all along for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman to get outclassed (financially or otherwise) by a movie about the Suicide Squad. And for all of these movies to scream “we’re a huge step back from The Dark Knight” on every poster that isn’t a bowl of Suicide Squad cereal for some reason.

How do we know the DCEU is working? Because Cowboy Bebop enthusiast Kofi Outlaw has five, count them, five reasons. And haven’t list-designed essay substitutes been the absolute best when it comes to persuasive arguments? I sure don’t think so.

DC Comics and Warner Bros. have had a strange year trying to get their DC Extended Universe established.

What a long, strange year it’s been in Rotten Tomatoes hell.

Big questions like “Who is to blame for the DCEU’s problems?” get tossed around the interwebs daily, but are they questions that need to be asked at all? 

Nope! No one needs to get blamed for failure or be held accountable for the consequences of certain actions, anymore. We now live in a society where doing something wrong is actually right, at least if you want to get “saved” from Rotten Tomatoes hell.

It’s clear there are people who do not like the films already released in the DCEU saga

And if it’s not clear, they’ll make it clear within five seconds of talking to them.

or the direction the films are taking with the likes of Zack Snyder’s Justice LeagueWonder Woman

Patty Jenkins is directing Wonder Woman, to be clear, not Zack Snyder. Though Snyder did have a hand in writing it, but alongside Geoff Johns, DC’s “budget Kevin Feige.”

But opinion is just opinion;

Oh, thank goodness.

and here are 5 Reasons Why the DCEU is Working, and could end up being dominant and cohesive shared universe movie saga. 

Terribly written sentences aside, you just stated that opinion is opinion, which is the exact equivalent of saying onion is onion, which takes less time. So why is your opinion opinion a better opinion opinion than anyone else’s?

Start slideshow –

God help us.

#1 It Makes Bigger Headlines

That sure is impressive.

DC makes bigger headlines than Marvel.

Source? Ah, who am I kidding.

And let’s be frank, here. DC’s biggest headlines happen to be more about how the movies are getting ravaged by critics (which Kofi later admits), instead of the headlines Marvel makes on good reviews. Assuming DC does have “bigger” headlines (what, is it like a bigger font or something?), Marvel still has more movies, which is only relevant if we care about quantity over quality, no?

I was there when Chris Evans won the long casting search for Captain America, or Chris Hemsworth won the role of Thor; they were big deal headlines, yes, but they were nowhere near the scope of when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman, or Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. 

That’s nice, but how does that mean the DCEU is working? It really only means that DC has recognizable characters, and we knew that alreadyOf course a casting announcement for Batman is going to get more attention than Thor. How is that indicative of the DCEU working?

The divide is even wider when it comes to villains: No villain Marvel has cast touches announcements like Jared Leto playing Joker or Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor.

Again, this is a battle not even Marvel cares about. You think they’re losing sleep over the fact that Yellowjacket didn’t have as many depressed journalists covering his casting than they did with the Joker and Lex Luthor, two of the most well-established comic-book villains of all time?

No, they were too busy enjoying the fact that they don’t need superfluous news coverage to dictate the success of their movies. It’s known as Metacritic Heaven.

Trailer releases put things in solid numbers, with the last few years at San Diego Comic-Con proving in indisputable viewer stats that DC movie trailers get more exposure than Marvel’s.

The DCEU has had great trailers, that’s for sure. I watched every Man of Steel trailer dozens of times because I couldn’t get enough. Then the movie utterly failed me and most of the audience. Turns out that good trailers don’t equate good movies, and if your idea of a film universe “working” has more to do with good marketing, then I’ll show you to the door that has a huge Transformers logo on it.

#2 It’s Established an Edgier Alternative

That’s like saying Christian Rock is inherently good because it’s “alternative” to mainstream music.

Nowadays, Marvel movies are released to slightly varying degrees of praise, make and expected level of money (half a billion at least) and pass through theatrical release with few waves. It’s a reliable machine, but does threaten to get a little boring in the long run. 

Yeah, it was really boring when they did a space movie that was nothing like what they’ve done before, a comedy heist movie featuring a guy who talks to ants, and a trilogy closer that rivals The Last Crusade.

BO-RING.

Thanks to Zack Snyder immediately going “full edgy” with his tinkering and re-imagining of DC’s core heroes –

Oh! I’ll finish this for you: everyone wants him fired. Well, not everyone, but everyone who has at least seen Before Sunrise. Or Sucker Punch. Or any other Zack Snyder movie.

the DCEU has established itself as a place where the rules get broken, and not everything is as “Disneyfied” as the squeaky-clean MCU. 

Yeah, I was so annoyed when the MCU decided not to “break rules” by starring a talking raccoon and a tree alien in one of its movies. Or when they pulled off a 70s spy thriller starring Captain America, one of the previously most one-note characters in all of comics.

But DCEU breaks rules left and right! Like when the characters in Suicide Squad fight a villain with a beam of light hitting the sky! And when they wrote Lex Luthor as Edward Nigma from Batman Forever! Or when they used virtually every visual trick and style Zack Snyder has featured in his movies since 300, but with DC characters!

Who would have thought style beats substance?

Long after people stopped caring about Iron Man 3’s shenanigans, they’re still arguing for and against Man of Steel;

Believe me, people still bring up Iron Man 3.

that says the DCEU is like punk rock: the financial returns may lower than a pop-culture formula, but the loyalty and love is exponentially more intense.

Again, though, this is all based on cheap intertextuality. A love and loyalty earned by the comics and previous iterations of the characters, not anything at all what the DCEU has earned on its own. Do you truly believe the majority of these fans would love Batman v Superman if it was featuring characters they didn’t recognize?

Meanwhile, people who’ve never read a comic in their life show up to see Marvel movies, because they don’t rely too heavily on intertextuality to tell a good story. They just tell good stories.

#3 Cult-Status Double Dip

Oh, this feels like a cult, alright.

While the theatrical releases of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad have all been plagued by harsh criticism, they’ve also achieved a sort of cult-status amongst the fans that embrace them,

Of course they do, and for the same reason people still think the Star Wars prequels are actually good movies. When you want something based on something you love to be good, you find ways to make it good. And since when are comic-book movies intended to be cult films? They’re made to be widely accessible and approachable. You’re essentially admitting that the DCEU is failing to find an audience outside the devoted few who would love anything with Batman and Superman in it.

With BvS:UE still making strong sales (and headlines), DC/WB has pulled off another trick: getting people to double-dip for a movie initially deemed “a failure.”

Yes, the DCEU is doing well in terms of DVD sales, but they’re a fraction of what a worldwide box office will bring you. It’s like saying the DCEU is “working” because they found a $20 bill on the side of the road.

I’ll grant you that a sizable group of fans love the DCEU movies. but that only means the DCEU is working for them. For these movies to become truly successful and grow in that success, they have to speak to larger audiences and prove themselves worthwhile films. But nothing in Kofi’s article explains how specific decisions made by Warner Bros. have yielded better results than they could have hoped for.

#4 Heroe$ & Villain$

Oh, Kofi, you outlaw.

As of writing this, Suicide Squad has just crossed the $500 million mark at the worldwide box office. At a nearly $200 million budget, it’s not a slam-dunk win like, say, Captain America: Civil War, but at three weeks at the top of the domestic box office (and overwhelmingly positive viewer ratings), Suicide Squad is far from the prophesied disaster that would die quickly on bad word mouth. 

A couple things. Like we mentioned earlier, Suicide Squad had fantastic marketing. The trailers sold a lot of people (not literally), many were curious because of the controversy, and many many people were itching to see Margot Robbie and Will Smith. Critics arguably put a sizable dent in the film’s potential returns, but nothing would have stopped the fans from showing up and rightly so.

But what did they think of the movie after they saw it?

Of course, Kofi doesn’t source his “overwhelmingly positive viewer ratings,” and I think he should because the data doesn’t back up his claim. It has a Rotten Tomatoes user rating of 68%, which is more “whelming” than anything else. And its B+ Cinemascore is decent at best. In comparison, Guardians of the Galaxy has a 92% user rating and an A Cinemascore. But hey, onions are onions.

So yes, Suicide Squad is doing well despite terrible reviews. For that reason, I’ve decided that the Transformers movies are “working.” Working to make a few people rich, at least.

the DCEU has now proven that it can make lucrative franchises out of its stable of heroes and villains.

Lucrative? Sure. As lucrative as they expected? No.

And diminishing returns are a big deal, Kofi. If these movies don’t improve in quality, more and more people will stop paying ticket prices to see them. Full stop. Short term success is one thing, but Warner Bros. is smart enough to know that they can’t keep churning out critical duds and expect growth.

#5 Better Woven Saga

Oh, this has to be a joke.

The truth of the matter is

…nothing you’re about to say.

cinematic shared universe world-building is always going to be somewhat clunky, given that a movie is supposed to be a standalone story while shared universes work in episodic chapters

And yet every Marvel movie has been a modest success at the very least. So maybe it’s not that clunky always.

The MCU phased 1 thread connects were superficial and arguably weak: 

This…is a joke a right?

post-credit “Avengers” name drops before anyone knew such scenes existed

…What?

characters like Hawkeye and Black Widow get half introduction while wedged in some one else’s solo film, etc

…What?!

First of all, both Hawkeye and Black Widow had introductions. Not “half” introductions. No one came up to ScarJo, asked her name, and walked away knowing only “Black.” Both characters made sensible appearances to slowly establish themselves before getting better fleshed out when it mattered. How is that weak? How is restraint weak?

The MCU has gotten a lot smarter about weaving its many many threads together (see: Captain America: Civil War), but it had a rough start. 

A rough start? Is that why The Avengers (the culmination of their “rough start”) is the highest-grossing superhero film of all time, complete with some of the highest ratings?

The DCEU, on the other hand, took a standalone film (Man of Steel) and managed to drop enough Easter eggs seamlessly into the mix to create a universe where Batman and Lex Luthor not only already exist offscreen, but are directly impacted by Man of Steel’s events.

What the Rotten Tomatoes Hell is this guy talking about? What easter eggs in Man of Steel are stronger than flat-out introducing characters in MCU films? How was it seamless? How is any of this part of your sentence?

One of the easiest criticisms to lob at the DCEU is their rushed cinematic universe. Instead of a sequel to Man of Steel or a standalone Batman movie, they skipped ahead to a movie with both characters, combining several comic storylines (Dark Knight Returns and Death of Superman) that don’t fit together and shouldn’t even exist at the beginning of a film universe.

Rotten onions are rotten onions. Or are they tomatoes? Now I understand that website.

Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad both grew organically out of both narrative developments in the preceding films, 

Said the most wishful thinker in the history of opinion opinions.

That interactivity and forward-thinking right from the start will inevitably make the DCEU a long-term investment that could come back to pay off in a much more fulfilling way than the MCU.

Forward-thinking? The DCEU has been one of the most reactionary products in modern cinematic history. They’re constantly shifting the tone and talent behind their movies to appease public opinion, hence the debacle that was Suicide Squad‘s final, Jokerless, cut. It’s not a bad thing that they’re at least trying, but to suggest that the DCEU has failed on purpose is an utter joke.

I also take umbrage with the idea that this “investment” will pay off in a more fulfilling way than the MCU. In order for that to be true, I have to rewatch Man of Steel and Batman v Superman one day. But honestly, if the DCEU rights the ship with Justice League and Wonder Woman (fingers crossed), I’m just going to pull a Green Lantern and pretend those first few movies never happened.

Seriously, this entire article is the equivalent of watching an infomercial. “Buy now! Guaranteed results!” It’s one thing to point out reasons for optimism in the DCEU, but it’s another to rewrite history and make your opinion sound factual. While I don’t disagree with Kofi that the DCEU could become a force to be reckoned down the road, he seems to have taken a page from Warner Bros’ handling of BvS, in that he just wants to skip ahead without any of the real work being done.


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar.

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Advertisements

Review: ‘Suicide Squad’ is a Guilty Pleasure Worth Admiring

suicide squad review

Note: This review is spoiler-free, but it does contain a major spoiler from the ending of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. You have been warned.

When it comes to comics that center around bad guys defeating even worse guys (and gals), Suicide Squad is one of the most lasting and recognizable of the lot.

It wasn’t the first book to be about villains, of course (though this movie is the first comic book film to have a main cast of villains as characters). But it was one of the first that was actually successful. And that’s probably because Suicide Squad essentially defined the idea of reluctant heroism found in the vilest of our society.

That’s tricky territory, because it presents a philosophical debate that modern society is mostly split on: Are people inherently bad, or are they tainted by an inherently bad world? 

suicide squad review

Fortunately, Suicide Squad doesn’t dwell on these questions for easy dramatic fodder (at least, not as much as it could have). Instead, it takes a note from some of Marvel’s recent films by emphasizing character over spectacle, at least with some of its titular bad guys.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the set up of Suicide Squad from the comics — of which the 80s run is still the best — the idea is simple. A shady black ops leader named Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis) wants to assemble her own team of metahumans, like Superman, and unhinged specialists, like Batman, in the wake of Superman’s death from the end of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The team is codenamed “Task Force X,” but as one of their recruits points out early on in the film, they’re really a “suicide squad” in the sense that they’re not expected to live through the mission that takes up the majority of the film. And that’s because most members of Task Force X are dangerous villains, accompanied by a Colonel and “good” metahuman to reign them in.

As noted earlier, the structure of Suicide Squad is brazenly different from typical superhero and comic book films. It’s focused and constrained to one major location, a familiar technique if you’re caught up with director David Ayer’s other work.

suicide squad review

And the decision to limit Suicide Squad to one mission ends up being one of the film’s greatest strengths, because by the end credits, the viewer is left feeling as if they’ve gone through a significant ordeal with these characters, even if the movie doesn’t always stick the landing with some of its big moments.

There’s as much good as there is bad with Suicide Squad, in the sense that Ayer and his team succeeded at getting this movie right where it really counts — notably with  standout characters like Deadshot (played by Will Smith). The problem is that like previous entries in the DC comics cinematic universe, Suicide Squad just doesn’t sweat the details enough.

These details include basic plot mapping (the opening scenes, for example, are a glaring mess), action set pieces (especially toward the end), and the film’s worst offense: its script. Though Suicide Squad has its moments of surprising and smile-inducing dialogue, a great deal of it comes off as hastily tacked on in order to elicit a reaction, usually humor.

For that reason, Suicide Squad practically forces the viewer to accept it in a very specific way. That is, it’s painted and executed as a guilty pleasure movie, and you get the sense that the movie has no aspirations for self-importance or melodrama. Which makes it an easy film to get lost in and just enjoy, without having to “turn your brain off,” for the most part.

suicide squad review

One of the reasons the movie swings more toward guilty pleasure has a lot to do with the care Warner Bros. has put into better fleshing out its world of DC characters, and a good number of them are paraded beautifully. As revealed in the early trailers, Batman (reprised by Ben Affleck) has a small presence in this film, and it plays out about as well as his best moments from Batman v Superman, without any of the confusing quirks added to the character.

And it goes without saying that Suicide Squad is brimming with loving references to other DC stories, reminiscent of how shows like Arrow and The Flash insert subtle asides for eagle-eyed viewers. Put simply, this is the first DC comics movie that does a good job of establishing a coherent personality for this world of heroes and villains, while also integrating it in a more graceful way than we’ve seen in the past.

The only weak link worth mentioning is certainly the Joker (played by Jared Leto), who is balanced with the other characters in this film in a gratifying way so as not to steal the spotlight. This ends up being for the best, though, because this is easily one of the most uninteresting depictions of the Joker of all time, not just in the movies.

Granted, the movie works hard to dress Leto up as the Joker, and sparse dialogue certainly sounds like something Joker might say. But upon close inspection, this version of the Joker does virtually nothing reminiscent of what’s fundamental to the character. There’s nothing he truly does that sets him apart from a flamboyant crime boss/pimp who wants to find his girlfriend.

suicide squad review

Yes, he wears funny costumes. Yes, he looks weird and kills people. But there is far more to the Joker than “oh by the way” scenes of him laying on a floor surrounded by knives. And that’s because his only true motivation in this film is to get Harley Quinn back. There’s no chaos, comedic insanity, or diabolical planning to anything he does or wants to do in the film. He simply acts like he is crazy, rather than truly showing it, and it’s one of the film’s biggest disappointments.

Thankfully, Joker is not the crux of Suicide Squad. Far from it. So it’s easy to overlook the shortcomings of his character in lieu of this film as its own standalone story. It’s not easy, though, to overlook the fact that too many characters in Suicide Squad have poorly fleshed out character ideologies that make sense of their own payoffs toward the end. They do it in spades for Deadshot and Diablo, but that’s about it.

Lastly, the soundtrack does little to enhance or even complement the story, instead only reminding viewers that Guardians of the Galaxy did a much better job integrating a playlist with the rhythm of its plot (as proven by the film sharing one of the same songs from Guardians). In Suicide Squad, it really just feels like the music was added out of obligation, not because it was essential to the scene it was put in.

suicide squad review

And better thought (and edits) put into the scenes is all it would have really taken to make Suicide Squad a better movie than what we’ve gotten, which is a guilty pleasure that only looks good by comparison to the in-universe movies its attached to.

Grade: C+

Extra Credits:

  • There’s a mid-credits stinger and…well, it’s not that relevant or surprising, honestly.
  • I’m not a fan of most David Ayer movies, so Suicide Squad sort of defied the odds in my case. According to all the evidence, I should have hated this movie.
  • The chemistry of the cast is one of the film’s biggest strengths, as emblemed by the fact that a lot of them got “SKWAD” tattoos for the movie.
  • It’s not saying much, but this is my favorite live-action depiction of the Suicide Squad. That’s what full Will Smith can do for a film.
  • A standalone Harley Quinn movie featuring other DC femme fatales has been announced by Warner Bros., but it’s likely that the success of Suicide Squad will still determine whether or not that actually happens.
  • For once, Cara Delevingne wasn’t one of the worst characters in a movie.

    I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Marvel Has Been Successful Because It’s Better at Being Different

marvel better different

Until the end of the “superhero golden era” finally comes, we won’t be able to analyze the full impact that Marvel Studios has had with its cinematic universe of movies. But even though we don’t have the full picture at our disposal, everyone has their own reasonable guess for how and why Marvel been the dominant superhero movie franchise for nearly a decade, in terms of both critical and fan reception.

Some of the effects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are quite obvious, and I think that’s why vague observations about Marvel Studios are tossed around by its naysayers. When you think of shared universe movies — that is, movies that share the same characters and other sandbox elements without being direct sequels — you might feel the urge to groan a bit, especially if you watch and keep up with a lot of different movie franchises that all strive to replicate what Marvel did so well with Iron Man in 2008.

Sony tried to kickstart a Spider-Man shared universe of villains and ultimately failed. Universal has long been planning a shared universe of monster movies, citing they could have the “Avengers” of Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, the Wolfman, and more. Even a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe is reportedly in the works, planned to kick off with a new Scooby Doo movie. And this year’s Ghostbusters ends with a universe-setting teaser straight out of the ambiguously defined Marvel formula.

Marvel’s most direct rival, and for several obvious, yet key reasons, is DC Comics, which Warner Bros. owns the exclusive rights to. After a hugely successful trilogy of Batman movies, all helmed by Christopher Nolan and universally praised by fans and critics, Warner Bros. took the next logical step toward establishing a shared universe of their own that could do for Wonder Woman and the Flash what Marvel managed for Iron Man and Captain America, just to name a few.

marvel better different

Remember, just one year after Nolan’s Batman trilogy ended with The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. released Man of Steel, the perfunctory beginning of what was meant to be something completely different compared to anything put out by Marvel Studios.

Except, well, Marvel has already  been “different” by its own standards for years, and it’s found great success doing so, while DC Comics hasn’t. At least not on the same scale.

To be fair, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were not financial failures, but they did fail to live up to their profitable potential, making less money domestically than Deadpool, which is based on a character far less popular and recognizable than Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. And even more recently, Suicide Squad has been panned by critics for sharing a lot of the same flaws of these movies, though it will still open to huge box office numbers, regardless.

What’s odd, then, is that the films have been criticized by many for being too different, using phrases like joyless and dark to color a picture of a movie that doesn’t deliver the same experience viewers got with most of the Marvel movies.

marvel better different

Supporters of these DC Comics movies have a right to call out this opinion for being intellectually dishonest. Of course a movie like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is different, they say. If it were the same formula as a movie like The Avengers, then critics would complain just as feverishly.

Both sides of this argument have it wrong, then. Because what they both forget is that while there is a bare-bones formula to the Marvel movies that makes them feel cohesive — that is, it’s easy to believe the movies exist in the same universe at all — none of them are all that similar to any of the others in just about every other way, unless the movie is a sequel, and even then, Marvel movies have a habit of changing entire subgenres in between their sequels.

One of the best and most famous examples of Marvel being “different” involves the entirety of what sets up the first Avengers movie, which serendipitously released the same year as The Dark Knight Rises. The very concept of setting up an ensemble superhero film after several standalone pictures that establish the characters was brand new at the time and, more importantly, untested.

Yet The Avengers is the highest-grossing superhero film of all time and was universally acclaimed by moviegoers, which holds up even today.

marvel better different

It’s fair to judge Marvel for being good at being different based on the fact that people loved The Avengers, despite how risky the structure of it was, and because it provided a sizable return on investment both financially and even culturally, hence we’re even having this debate about superhero movies being different.

What’s even more interesting, though, is the fact that Marvel movies have continued to be different and surprising, even though they have a proven formula they could repeat on end to minimize the risk of failure.

For example, the Marvel films that have truly defied expectations include Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, arnhich were both proven hits for the studio, despite being completely different from any other Marvel film in tone, structure, and many other crucial elements.

Guardians of the Galaxy is an action comedy set in space, and most of its characters aren’t even human. That’s a far cry from any other comic book film, period, let alone Marvel movies like Iron Man and even Thor. The premise of Ant-Man is absurd enough, despite the movie actually taking place on Earth. Yet it feels so different as a superhero movie because first and foremost, it’s really a heist film with bits of Edgar Wright’s unique editing style thrown in.

marvel better different

The upcoming Doctor Strange, set to release this November, is also a movie that — judging by the marketing and previous knowledge of the character — looks and feels different from previous Marvel offerings, because it seems to be tackling unchartered territory in terms of fantasy elements and dimensional science for the hero of that movie to experience.

These movies, excluding the as of yet unseen Doctor Strange, have been hits with both critics and casual audiences because yes, they’re different. So it’s strange, then, when both critics and naysayers of Marvel movies speak as if this cinematic universe has a firm license on vague storytelling elements, like humor and quipping. There’s a desire for DC to be the other side of the coin, different and more progressive than what might be called a mainstream superhero franchise with Marvel.

The problem with that desire, though, is that Marvel has already been the other side of that coin, and the other side of many coins that they, themselves, have inserted into the zeitgeist of superhero films. They don’t always get it right, of course, and some of their risks have been paid off better than others, but if DC should take notes on being “different” for the sake of surprising and delighting its fans, it should really be paying more attention to Marvel. Not less.

Because being different, while a good start, is not a merit on its own. Fantastic Four was different, which we can all agree on. But that definitely didn’t improve what was inherently flawed with that film. A non-Marvel movie that’s great at being different is Deadpool, made by Fox, proving that a superhero film doesn’t have to be made by Disney in order for it to be beloved by just about everyone old enough to see it.

marvel better different

I still have high hopes for DC Comics moving forward, though not nearly as high as I used to three years ago. But if you’re reading this and feeling a bit alienated because you want DC Comics and Warner Bros. to keep taking risks and producing films with these iconic characters that demand to be different from what we’ve seen before, then you can definitely take solace in one, major thing: The DC Comics movie universe under Geoff Johns — their new Chief Creative Officer and co-developer of The Flash on CW — kicks off next year with Wonder Woman.

And from what we’ve seen so far of that movie, the future could still be quite bright (not dark) for DC Comics.


I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Why I Walked Out of ‘The Legend of Tarzan’

the legend of tarzan

Not long after the halfway mark of The Legend of Tarzan, I did something I almost never do. Something I haven’t done in several years.

I walked out.

The strange thing is that I’ve sat through worse films. Last year’s Pan, for example, was a movie I opted to sit through until the bitter end, and this year’s Divergent Series: Allegiant (while tempting to bail on) had me following along until the moment the credits started rolling.

I’ve sat through The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, both Hitman movies, even Drillbit Taylor, and many more movies that deserve to be listed here. But Legend of Tarzan couldn’t get me to stay in my seat. It lost me around the time a grim and depressing Tarzan played by Alexander Skarsgard forced whoever it was Samuel L. Jackson was supposed to be against a wall with broody threats, despite the fact that this man had saved Tarzan’s life half a scene prior and was the only spark of life to exist in this story.

the legend of tarzan

To be fair, the movie lost me a lot earlier than that when it forced me to read through one of the most boring opening paragraphs set over black screen I’ve ever read, citing various political matters regarding a section of the Congo focusing on characters I know nothing or care nothing about — not because Belgian conflicts in the Congo aren’t interesting, but only because they’re not interesting when I’m in the theater to watch a Tarzan movie.

It’s strange because The Legend of Tarzan does very little to hold its viewers’ hands when it comes to the lore behind the story that this movie is essentially following up. It’s like watching the sequel to a movie that doesn’t really exist, perhaps because they decided enough people have either watched the old serials, read the old books, or even grew up on the Disney movie, even though that is a vastly different take on Edgar Rice Burrough’s original tale.

The movie gets started in a world where the classic Tarzan story already happened a long time ago, and he’s now a rich bloke in England married to Jane. One of the film’s first major red flags to me was how misappropriated the characters were to the plot they were acting. It was as if none of what was said or done mattered to them at all. Even Margot Robbie, who normally infuses quite a bit of energy into any movie she’s in, struggles to seem comfortable in this role and beside a brooding man who says little both verbally and nonverbally.

the legend of tarzan

There’s a glimmer of intrigue in the flashback scenes, which they use to eventually reveal more of Tarzan’s origin. But even these promising and gritty realizations of a boy growing up in a savage jungle are undercut by hideous CGI gorillas that look more dated than Rise of the Planet of the Apes, despite that movie being 5 years old.

Christoph Waltz plays the film’s bad guy, because for whatever reason, Hollywood can’t seem to get over that role they’ve pre-ordained for him because of one incredible performance from seven years ago. In the short time I stuck with the film, Waltz seemed incredibly restrained and unfocused on what was happening around him, very similar to last year’s Spectre.

The movie is bleak, colorless, and a victim to dreary pacing that even Batman v Superman would scoff at. It seems Warner Bros. is trying to capture a very specific aesthetic of dashing cinema that makes seeing these films on the big screen quite worth it. When they get it right, like with Mad Max: Fury Road, they accomplish this in spades.

But it seems these specific restrictions placed on decently talented filmmakers like David Yates manage to cripple most of the spectacle WB is trying to entice us with. The result is a movie like The Legend of Tarzan, which is just so boring and flavorless, I don’t hate it. I’m completely indifferent to it, which is a lot worse.

the legend of tarzan

I can have a lot of fun watching a bad movie. There’s a reason I bought Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition, against all odds. I find failure just as fascinating to dissect and analyze. But is it interesting to delve through the recipe of a Pop Tart? Maybe for some, and you know who you are, but even a meal that tastes bad can be worth the adventure realizing that fact. The Legend of Tarzan is anything but a worthwhile adventure.

Snarcasm: Film Critics Aren’t People Like Us

snarcasm film critics

Snark + Snarcasm = what you’re about to read

I struggled selecting this week’s Snarcasm because at this point, I’m pretty much done talking about Batman v Superman. I’ve reviewed it, talked about it endlessly on the podcast, and I even wrote a list of over 65 problems I have with it.

I’m just done. And while typical Snarcasm fare would involve digesting (then regurgitating) an insanely contrarian piece about Jesse Eisenberg’s “Lex Luthor” being the best version of the character yet…which exists…this week, let’s take a look at something you’ve probably thought at least 300 times in your lifetime.

Film critics aren’t perfect.

snarcasm film critics

For some reason, people think that critics think that they are perfect. That they fancy themselves the end all for whether or not a movie is truly good or bad. Never mind the fact that critics disagree constantly, which is why websites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic exist. But this is the Internet, where all of your presuppositions and knee-jerk opinions are signed into law by Facebook Congress (I’m bad at metaphors).

Sidney Fussell at Tech Insider (because apparently the film blogs didn’t want this hot take) writes:

Here’s the problem with all those bad ‘Batman v Superman’ reviews

Weirdly, but not surprisingly, Sid gives us more than just one “problem” with these reviews. I’ll be honest though and let you know now that I have quite a few problems with this article.

“Batman v Superman” isn’t a perfect film.

When did “this movie is not perfect” become the new preface for setting up an unpopular opinion? Next you’re going to tell us that Superman has a black best friend.

snarcasm film critics
Supergirl beat you to it

 But it would have to be a lot worse to justify its embarrassing dogpiling from critics.

Would it, though? I’m one of the critics who hated it, but it’s not like BvS has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes (as in 0% of critics liked it). It actually scored a 29%, with most critics being pretty mixed on the movie. In fact, the article Sid links to here mentions that critics almost unanimously praised certain aspects of this film, including Ben Affleck’s take on Batman.

So where is the dogpiling? The film has an average rating on RT of 5/10, which is an even split. You know, the opposite of an uneven split.

Critics are using their “BvS” reviews to express their frustrations with the big-budget superhero genre as a whole.

Holy generalizations, Batman!

First of all, critics have been frustrated with the superhero genre getting oversaturated for a while, now. Age of Ultron had a lot of complaints lobbed at it for this, and weak entries like Fantastic 4 have been eviscerated by critics. What makes BvS so special that it gets a pass for happening to be a bad movie that also exists in an oversaturated genre?

The film had to set up the DC universe, debut new characters, break even on the budget, and keep up with Marvel. Each misstep (and there are many) was reported as a complete disaster. 

Which is exactly the fault of DC for putting all of their hopes and dreams (and ideas) into one movie, when they could have just as easily taken their time and evened out their ambition. The stakes are high because DC is playing a high-stakes game and betting the house on the ponies and other casino metaphors (told you).

The pressure to do it all made for a very uneven film and many critics voiced frustration at what they saw was a rush to set up a lucrative cinematic universe (with endless spin-off and sequel potential) over simply making a good film. 

In other words, “Critics made that criticism because they’re right! What a bunch of morons!”

It’s funny though. The second season of Daredevil stuffs a lot of new characters and plots into its run, and yet critics aren’t taking their frustrations out on Marvel/Netflix. I wish I knew why.

snarcasm film critics
“It’s too dark!” 

When reading the many poor reviews of “Batman v Superman” it becomes apparent that somewhere along the way the action epic morphed from just one subpar action film into the representation of everything wrong with the (admittedly stuffed) superhero genre.

Again, this is because the movie itself is poor. If it had been excellent, no one would have made this observation. You sound like Zuko complaining because he didn’t want to go to the war meeting (“I just wanted to be invited!”)

The huge gap between critic reception and fan response shows that this movie really wasn’t “for the critics.” 

I’ve read this sentiment a lot, and I still don’t understand what it means. What, you made a movie that isn’t “made” for people who study and analyze movies? Do you think that’s a valid sentence to throw at people?

Critics review movies on the basis of how they represent the best of their own genre. Odds are that the critics have seen more superhero movies than many of the “fans,” considering they have to watch hundreds of films each year, including all of the ones you didn’t bother watching because you had the choice.

Telling a critic that a movie “wasn’t for them” is like getting mad at a garbageman for saying your moldy trash bags smell terrible. You don’t have to listen to him, but he’s probably right.

“Batman v Superman” currently has a mediocre to fair 72% audience approval rating with a ghastly 28% critic score.

Good thing people aren’t insanely easy to please.

Look, liking a movie doesn’t make it good, no matter how much I wish people liked Speed Racer as much as I did. Because it turns out that everyone likes bad movies, and it’s just tossup depending on the person.

It’s not the job of the critic to get inside your head and predetermine everything that will satisfy your Narnia mind. It’s your job to interpret a review based on what you know about the critic’s tastes, which is why people read the same critics every week, even if they disagree sometimes.

Amy Adams, who stars as Lois Lane, said the movie simply wasn’t “for the critics.”

Sure, let’s listen to the person who has a financial stake in the film she’s promoting. Not saying that doesn’t mean she’s right, but—

She’s right.

Let’s just settle down.

ultimately critics and audiences go to movies for different reasons: a critic goes to engage with a film, it’s perspective, and decide how well it executes a cinematic vision from this perspective. Audiences, especially for a popcorn action movie, go to be entertained.

Right, critics don’t care at all about entertainment, which is why they never talk about it or base their reviews on it. I’m pretty sure you have to sign an agreement on the “Become a Critic” form that states you can no longer factor in the entertainment of a movie when evaluating how entertaining it is.

If “Batman v Superman” functions well as entertainment, but not as reflective Campbellian metaphysics, then (no matter what critics say) it works.

Correction: a movie “works” if a movie works. The fact is that critics happen to be people as well, and guess what? The movie doesn’t work for them. A lot of people, fans included, don’t think the movie works. The people who do think the movie works have every right to think the movie works for them. But for everyone else who disagrees, it doesn’t work.

You can’t negate that by arbitrarily splitting up two vague generalizations of people groups and simplifying it to match your argument. That also doesn’t work.

And given its success at the box office so far, it’s working fairly well. 

Setting aside the fact that the movie had a record drop in the box office from Friday to Sunday, the big takeaway is that a movie making money is not a reflection on quality. It’s like saying McDonald’s is the best restaurant because it sells the most burgers.

snarcasm film critics

Fans have many new films and heroes to look forward to and most of it isn’t coming from “BvS” Zack Snyder.

I’m one of Snyder’s most vocal critics, and even I cut him some slack on the blame for BvS. A lot of its problems are clearly due to the studio forcing him to add unnecessary plots and teases.

Director Zack Snyder has taken the brunt of the criticism for “Batman v Superman,” with most reviewers saying his vision of an ideologically heavy-action film resulted in clunky, obtuse dialogue.

And for good reason. He may not deserve all the blame, but he certainly deserves most of it. BvS is based on his vision, as you say. And even though he doesn’t concept everything in the movie himself, he signed off on a vast majority of it as director.

And while the many teases to other properties irked some critics, at least fans can look forward to different visions for DC heroes from other directors. The sprawling DC Universe already has 11 more films in the docket between now and 2020, not a solo adventure for Ben Affleck’s Batman. 

That’s it? That’s the end of this article? Are you sure?

Let’s just call it a Thursday and get some McDonald’s.


Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Unopinionated: ‘Man of Steel’ Isn’t the Superman Movie We Asked For

esman of steel unpopular opinion

Every week, readers send me their unpopular opinions, and on Unopinionated, I explain why they’re unpopular in the first place.

From my inbox: “Man of Steel is a lot better than people give it credit for. In fact, it’s pretty much flawless.” – Shadan

The first “can’t put my finger on it” issue with Man of Steel is its identity crisis. Is it a space opera or a superhero movie? While some of the best superhero movies attempt to mix genres (the spy thriller undertones of Captain America: The Winter Soldier are a fine example), Man of Steel fails to commit fully to its aesthetic, bouncing themes and ideas around without any sort of thread that connects them.

Make a better world than ours, Kal. – Lara Lor-Van

This is partly because Man of Steel spends most of its long running time explaining what Kryptonians are, rather than who they are. And this of course carries over to Superman himself, who is so embedded in mainstream culture at this point that any sort of follow up has to sell him in a unique way in order to be effective.

The structure is overtly reminiscent of Batman Begins, and for good reason. Nolan’s 2005 rebirth of the Batman film franchise led to WB’s critical and financial smash hit, The Dark Knight, oft cited as the best superhero movie of all time. It makes sense that the studio would want to retell Superman’s origins with the same kind of flashback-focused narrative that combines backstory with the drama of the hero’s first journey.

In Batman Begins, however, there’s a clear vision that unites these flashbacks with present day, mostly because Christopher Nolan had creative authority. In Man of Steel, which was helmed by Zack Snyder, it’s clear that some parts of the film had separate influences. To put it bluntly, it’s jarring to jump from a Zack Snyder sci-fi movie to a Christopher Nolan origin story (with some vague Dragonball Z aesthetics thrown in during the final act).

man of steel unpopular opinion

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent is a double-edged sword of satisfaction. He absolutely looks the part, and his early wanderings in the movie are a highlight. Watching him show restraint in the face of overwhelming opposition (only to sacrifice the mystery in order to be a hero) is both a clever and unique way to make sense out of why he wants to be Superman in the first place.

Aside from this, Clark Kent is a character with very little to do, and even fewer critical decisions to make (which is why it feels bizarre when he does finally do something surprising). Instead, he merely reacts to everything around him as he scrambles from plot point to plot point. True, the script tries to add depth to his character with carefully worded interactions between him and the supporting cast, but they’re offset by impossibly moronic character decisions, notably with Jonathan Kent’s guidance and ultimate sacrifice that makes very little sense constructively.

People are afraid of what they don’t understand. – Jonathan Kent

Clark Kent is presented as a blank character who has more symbolism thrust upon him than any of the humanity (or Kryptonianity) that would make such symbolism feel substantial. Before the movie has a chance to actually go somewhere with Clark’s future and motivations, an all-out brawl erupts that monopolizes the final act, undercutting most of the thought-provoking ideas that would have justified the movie’s exposition. By the time the end credits start rolling, the audience is left with a titular character who is actually quite boring.

man of steel

Some of this could have been forgivable if Man of Steel had better handled its Lois Lane, which is likely the levity-filled saving grace of the first few Superman films. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Amy Adams’ Lois and Cavill’s Superman stumbles around in order to feel a little less forced than it deserves. The characters exchange few lines before major reveals (and out-of-context romance) take place, which could have been a novel idea if the film had offered more weight to these crucial moments.

Despite all of this, Man of Steel is not a terrible movie. In fact, it succeeds in many ways that its predecessors fell short. It gracefully omits typical Superman lore (Lex Luthor, kryptonite, etc.) in order to put attention on a unique narrative, complete with an awe-inspiring reimagining of Krypton. The action scenes are certainly eye-catching, discounting the egregious IHOP product placement and overly extended set pieces.

But overall, much of what Man of Steel offers in terms of themes, characters, and plot simply doesn’t mix with the established mythos of Superman. This wouldn’t be a problem, of course, if the movie wasn’t trying to tackle the most recognizable superhero of all time.

Hi, Lois Lane. Welcome to The Planet. – Lois

A gritty, more realistic take on Batman made sense because the character himself is already  somewhat grounded, making his internal struggle as endearing as it is believable. To replicate this, Snyder doubled down on how Superman is essentially Earth’s “messiah,” an enduring (and obvious) interpretation of the source material. The problem is that this isn’t what people actually love about the character, despite how fundamental the Jesus story is to Clark Kent. What people love about Superman lies elsewhere, far removed from a 33-year old Superman posing on a figurative cross in outer space. That kind of Superman is, for lack of a word already mentioned in this review, boring.

Simply put, Snyder’s Superman is a messiah, a son, a hero, and a wanderer. But strangely enough, he’s never a character. Not an interesting one, at least. And that’s all anyone was asking for.

Grade: C


Do you have an unpopular opinion you want challenged? Let me know in the comments and I’ll take it on in a future Unopinionated article. Or you can email nowconspiring@gmail.com

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

 

Which Is Better? Arrow vs. The Flash

the flash arrow better

“Which is Better?” is a new editorial series that dares to compare the best of pretty much everything. In this rundown, I’ll break down everything from story to characters in an attempt to declare which of these superhero shows is truly better. 

Back when it was still The WB Television Network, The CW aired a superhero origin series for Superman, which you probably remember as Smallville. It was a great show in its early seasons (its prime), but it faltered over the years due to its own popularity and unwillingness to end. Essentially, things got too complicated, important characters became throwaways…it was a forgettable mess by the time it finished.

But Smallville did set the standard for modern live-action DC Comics shows. It introduced an entire generation of non-comic readers to Green Arrow, prompting the CW to move forward with a new show/remake dedicated to just that character.

You can thank a lot of the creative vision and ambition behind Arrow and other DC shows to Greg Berlanti, who got his start working on Dawson’s Creek (the similarities between these two shows are unmistakable). Though Berlanti has helped produced some major duds, including the Green Lantern movie in 2011, the director/writer/producer has found great success crafting a DC Comics television universe that has branched off into The Flash and the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. He’s even the executive producer of CBS’s own DC Comics show, Supergirl.

which is better arrow flash

But the main shows we’re talking about today are truer rivals. They’ve crossed over many times, and The Flash was even introduced within an episode of Arrow. And although Arrow has been around since 2012, The Flash is already in its second season, giving us enough time to properly compare what stands out for each series.

So…which is better? (shoutout to user Tonio0064 for suggesting this entry).

It’s a hard question, and from what I’ve observed, The Flash has been considered by critics and audiences to be superior, despite how young it is. Another thing to consider is that a lot of what’s great about The Flash was pioneered by the teams who worked on Arrow, which suffered a bit from some clunky seasons trying to figure out what kind of show it had to be.

I’ve had a great time watching both shows, so I’ll be breaking down their merits in order to figure out which one really is better. But let’s be clear. Neither have failed this city.

BEST LEAD

which is better arrow flash

Both shows have titular main characters, so having a good lead has been critical to their success. Fortunately for Arrow and The Flash, Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin have done a fantastic job as Oliver Queen and Barry Allen, respectively.

They both walk a fine line between doing the comics justice, but also bringing something new to the character that non-comic fans can relate to. Oliver Queen is traditionally a hero known for being more of a left-wing robin hood type looking out for the little guy, but Amell’s take is more of a tortured warrior who fights for the greater good (at least for now).

Grant Gustin pulls off a Barry Allen with fewer wisecracks but more charm as a confident speedster with a heart of gold. And both of these characters work with larger teams instead of on their own, which is a more suitable format for television.

This is a close call, and I really like both characters. But if I had to choose one who goes just a little further with the character, then I have to pick Flash. Amell is a great actor, but he’s a bit more one-note and sullen compared to Gustin, who just seems to be having a lot more fun with his show.

Point goes to The Flash.

BEST SUPPORTING CAST

which is better arrow flash

In other words, Cisco or Felicity?

One of the most fun aspects of Arrow is how well the show has evolved its side characters. Diggle, Felicity, Thea, and even Laurel have grown into interesting characters who add more to the show than they distract from.

At the same time, though, the show often struggles with what their roles are. Specifically, Thea, Laurel, Roy, Quentin, and Sarah of all people have been hit-or-miss over the years, with Roy even leaving the show Teen Wolf-style.

The Flash, on the other hand, does more with less. Even if you compare second seasons to second seasons, Team Flash just seems to have a better sense of identity. Caitlin looks out for Barry’s health, Cisco makes the cool gadgets and decides on bad guy names, Wells comes up with the plans, Joe keeps everyone in check, and Iris is the unattainable love interest (though her character is slowly getting better than that).

This is a result of The Flash learning and avoiding the mistakes of Arrow, which gives them almost an unfair advantage. But the show still manages to learn and apply what’s worked in the past, and that’s no easy feat in the world of network television.

Point goes to The Flash.

BEST VILLAINS

which is better arrow flash

Arrow was lacking a compelling list of villains early in its first season. The enemies ranged from Nolan-verse archetypes to greedy businessmen, not the intriguing assassins and warlords that would populate future episodes. Even Merlyn was a bit underwhelming, despite his arch-villain clout.

The Flash found easy ways to introduce villains with one major event causing their arrival. The particle accelerator gave Barry and many of the villains their powers, making it Barry’s job to round them up (with the exception of foes like Captain Cold).

You’d think that would give The Flash an advantage, but this is something I don’t love about the series. For one thing, it’s a little too reminiscent of Static Shock, the animated series from the early 2000s that used very similar story elements to explain the sudden arrival of foes Static could contend with.

The major villains of The Flash have certainly been interesting in their own right, but not very unique or diverse. Sure, it’s still early, but Reverse Flash and Zoom are really just rival speedsters. Arrow did the same with Merlyn, a rival archer, but at least in its second season, it introduced two new villains who felt drastically more imposing. What made Deathstroke so great, for example, was how his story had been teased from the first season, and the “why” behind his villainy was more satisfying than Eobard Thawne’s mostly uncomplicated treachery.

I like the villains from The Flash, but I’m much more invested in the villains of Arrow, especially Floyd Lawton. Point goes to Arrow.

BEST STORY

which is better arrow flash

Included in this analysis is storytelling. Which show delivers the best experience in terms of drama and character development?

Arrow had a very promising premise in its first season that gave it the steam it needed to survive. Oliver Queen returned from presumed death after five years. While trying to readjust to his life and friends (including the ex-girlfriend he cheated on with her sister who died under his watch), Oliver took up a crusade as a vigilante, trying to redeem his city with the skills he learned while on a mysterious island.

This initial story worked well because we also saw flashbacks to the island that explained how Oliver survived and became “the vigilante.” By the time we reached the third season, however, the flashbacks quickly became pointless, feeling more like fodder for lackluster B plots. There’s a good one every now and again, but for me, these have been pretty skippable.

In contrast, The Flash utilizes “secret endings” at the end of each episode that shed light on a bigger mystery. Who is Harrison Wells, really? Who is the Reverse Flash? Who is Zoom? Strange I’m mentioning it again, but this is something Teen Wolf has excelled at in a grander sense, using mysteries you actually care about to keep you tuning in.

But does that really make the story better? No, and that’s a good thing. These mysteries are accessories to what make The Flash a fun watch, not the entire hook. I’m fine with waiting to find out which character is who because I enjoy Barry Allen’s journey as a superhero. It’s simpler than Arrow, for sure, and I like that because Flash is a less serious character, so when there’s drama, it feels more genuine when mixed with the comic relief.

This is another close call, but I have to give it to The Flash. While it may lack a narrative that hooks you in immediately, it provides a fleshed out universe that feels more fun to sink your teeth into.

VERDICT

which is better arrow flash

Well, I guess the critics are right. The Flash is better than Arrow, but it’s a closer match than I think some people realize. In everything we discussed, Arrow had many bright spots that elevate it above The Flash in some respects, especially when it comes to villains.

But overall, The Flash has benefitted from being more refined from the get-go, which is a testament to the work put in to make this show the best it could possibly be. We owe plenty of gratitude to Arrow for paving the way, but it’s honest to point out that it’s not the best, at least for now.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments.


Thanks for reading this. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my mailing list.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

%d bloggers like this: