Rejoice DC Fans you finally have the Batman you’ve always wanted to see on television! Only it’s not Batman, it’s Robin and he is kicking so much ass that I was giggling like a schoolgirl. I didn’t talk about my reaction to the Comic-Con trailer in July because I was decidedly meh about it. My initial reaction was “Oh joy, a dark, grim, Robin…How original.” I brushed the show off as just going for the look at how edgy we are,“tee-hee, fuck Batman”. However, Titans is much more than that and I was blown away by how much I’m loving this show. The launch trailer did not do the series justice.
Even though Suicide Squad turned out to be a mess of a film, Warner Brothers should be applauded for going off script in their latest failure. I’ve been vocal about how I hate the entire idea of every DC film being dark and grim just because for some reason the folks in charge think it’s cool and equates to some imagined “realism.”
One of the most eagerly anticipated Superhero films of the year, for comic book fans, isn’t coming out in theaters, it’s coming on Blu-ray in Aug, however some lucky fans will get to see one of the most controversial comic books EVER, Batman: The Killing Joke a little bit earliar. Continuing a decade-long tradition, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) will host the World Premiere of its latest DC Universe Original Movie at SDCC. The premiere will be held Friday, July 22, 2016. This is the year I’ll finally get to meet the great Mark Hamill! Woot!
It is nice watching a Superhero franchise where I don’t know much about the hero. Yeah I’m an old school Marvel Fan Girl – can’t stand the Marvel Now stuff, but I never got into Thor. The only thing I know about this character is the mythology they have built in the films. I thought the first Thor was the surprisingly good and the best film out of the first Phase 1 series of movies.
PBS has set a very different fall season with a unique combination of literature, pop culture, and history. Great Performances takes four of William Shakespeare’s ‘history plays’ – Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I & II, and Henry V – and folded them into a single narrative; Superheroes is a three-part documentary miniseries that examines the growth of superhero comics from from their ten-cent-an-issue originals to the multi-billion-dollar, multimedia industry it has become, and American Experience: The War of the World’s looks at the elements that made America ripe to accept Orson Welles’ infamous radio production of the H.G. Wells novel as reality.
These programs barely scrape the surface of the diversity and quality of PBS’s fall schedule. Follow the jump for dates and times of the network’s complete line-up.
When Watchmen was released, I wrote, “Watchmen is beautiful and brutal. It is an experience. Snyder has put together a thoughtful, nearly anthemic work here. There are various small changes and one major one [the pan-dimensional, intergalactic space squid is not here – and that’s a good thing] in the film, but the essentials are intact: the politics, the hovering of Armageddon, the nature of the characters, and the philosophical foundations for all of the above.”
The one thing that the Director’s cut DVD gets right is the addition of twenty-four minutes of footage that were removed to make the film as commercial as possible [once a studio fronts nine figures for a film, you have an obligation to try to get that money back]. The key scene, for me at least, is the death of the original Nite Owl [Stephen McHattie] and the current Nite Owl’s response. The combination of these two scenes show us how human most of the movie’s costumed characters are – and how distanced from the rest o humanity Rorschach is. The returned footage adds more depth to a theatrical cut that was already pretty accomplished.
Tim Kring and his creative team on Heroes [Mondays, 8/7C] have heard their show’s fans. Heroes returns with one helluva bang, giving us the answer to last season’s cliffhanger – who shot Nathan Petrelli [Adrian Pasdar] – inside of the first ninety seconds of the season three premiere. The premiere, The Second Coming/The Butterfly Effect, promises to be one of the more electrifying two hours of the new season [only the first hour was sent out for review].
One thing that remains constant is the show’s multiple character arcs that intersect in odd and unexpected ways. Thus, we find Matt Parkman [Greg Grunberg] in a desert; skip to a future confrontation from a very dark [brunette, actually] Claire and Peter, and meet a character named Tracey Strauss [Ali Larter] who looks exactly like Niki Sanders whom we were pretty sure had died in that exploding building in last season’s finale. Then there’s the character who returns from the grave; an encounter between the present-day Claire [Hayden Panettiere] and Sylar [Zachary Quinto] that doesn’t go the way anyone [except Tim Kring, who wrote the script] could have imagined. To cap it all off, there are the prisoners of Level 5 – and Noah Bennett [Jack Coleman] still channelling Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.
One of the things that Heroes does best – when it’s on form, and it’s on form here – is juggle multiple plot and character arcs. Volume Three: Villains looks to be the most complex volume in the series, thus far, and yet none of the characters seems to be short changed. Even odd pairings, like Suresh [Sendhil Ramamurthy] and Maya [Dania Ramirez] work – and it’s the first time since her introduction that Maya doesn’t drain the life out of her scenes. The show’s FX are in good form, too. Hiro’s [Masi Oka] arch-enemy. A young speedster named Daphne [Brea Grant] is handled extremely well by the FX team, and Grant brings an impish sense of fun to the character.
If you lost interest in Heroes last season, or stuck with it but thought it opened too slowly, you’ll find season three a real rush [and not just in the sense of Daphne’s superspeed]. If you need to brush up on what’s happened, so far, there is a special one-hour summary episode that immediately precedes the third season premiere.
Now that superhero movies are practically a genre unto themselves, maybe it’s time to look at novels that deal with super characters – after all, they’ve been around for decades! One [The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, by Michael Chabon] even won a Pulitzer Prize. Superpowers, A Novel, by David J. Scwartz, looks at the impact of superpowered people in the real world in a way that is fresh and insightful – but most of all, entertaining.
The trailers and clips released online for Hancock promise a superhero dramedy with an edge – and, for the first half of the film it delivers just that. Watching the drunken superhero get the bad guys while toting up millions of dollars in property damage is, at first, diverting and new. When he saves a PR whiz named Ray Embry [Jason Bateman], Bateman persuades him to change his image – first by doing jail time, second by treating people with more respect, and third by wearing a spiffy spandex outfit that looks like something out of the X-Men movies. Of course, being the rotten example that he is, before he can completely remake his image, Hancock develops the hots for Ray’s beautiful wife, Mary [Charlize Theron].
So far, so good. Hancock, in its first half, comes off as an effort to make a movie about the kind of hero that Marvel [Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk] does so well – the hero with superpowers and regular people’s problems. But now, we come to Hancock’s kryptonite. Like Superman, Green Lantern and so many classic superheroes, Hancock does, indeed, have a weakness – a weakness that’s telegraphed by several clues scattered through the first half of the film.
Therein lies the problem. After carefully setting up Hancock as one thing – a superhero – the revelation of his weakness changes everything, and not in the most sensible of ways. As I watched the clues develop, my first thought was, “oh, no. They wouldn’t…” Then, when it happened, I thought, “oh, no! They didn’t” – followed closely by, “golly-gosh-all-hemlock-gee-whiz-to-pieces! They did!” I won’t give the twist away, but I will say that, when you add up all the species of life and types of minerals there are on this planet, Hancock’s weakness is so hugely, disproportionately coincidental that, had it been used in a real comic book or graphic novel, the writer would’ve been laughed out of every comics shop in North America – just for starters!
As a result, the second half of Hancock is filled with mayhem of all sorts that, essentially, robs the film of the charm and wit that helped build up the first half. The shame of it all is that Smith, Bateman, and Theron give really good performances as the film disintegrates around them – and Peter Berg’s direction is precisely what it should be throughout. The problem with the script is that writers Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan seem to think that, because Hancock is a superhero movie, they can do anything they want. They’ve forgotten [if they ever even thought about it] that the best comics and graphic novels are set in universes that have rules – and adhere to them.
Sadly, the last half of Hancock, full of sound and fury as it is, totally undercuts the first half of the film’s effectiveness. In the end, Hancock may not be an average superhero, but his movie never reaches that level.
Ang Lee’s Hulk, the A Beautiful Mind take, left fans cold, so now we have Louis Leterrier’s “HULK SMASH!” version – and it does indeed rock the house. The script – solely credited to Zak Penn [suggesting that the parts star Edward Norton worked on were edited out] – gives us all kinds of neat stuff to watch: Bruce Banner [Norton] working on Brazilian martial arts techniques to maintain his calm; a graphic that pops up every so often to remind us that it’s been x days since his last Hulk-out; a kind of spiffy pair of references to Captain America [including a shield!]; a brief appearance by Dr. Leonard Sampson; a hint that the Hulk’s smartest arch-enemy might be waiting in the wings if a sequel is warranted, and lots more.
The question is, does the movie work? Well, yeah, it does. The only real problem with the film is that it has been edited to be almost the exact opposite of the Lee film – almost all action, with a small amount of character development. A lot of critics will probably tell you the film is humourless, too, but watch for what has to be Stan Lee’s best cameo ever and see what you think. There’s even just enough romance to remind people that Banner had a serious relationship before he become the Jekyll/Hyde being that he is.
The plot here is pretty much the basic Hulk comics plot: Banner doesn’t want to become the Hulk but people won’t leave him – with predictable and dire results. The fun is in setting the film is real locales [the chase through the Brazilian favella might remind of Jason Bourne, but it’s nifty in its own way] and in using the Banner character to show two of the basic conflicts in fiction: Man vs. Himself; Man vs. The Environment, and Man vs. Man. Banner’s struggle against his primal self is there, just as in the comics, as is his struggle with the U.S. Army – personified by General Thunderbolt Ross [William Hurt] and Emil Blonsky [Tim Roth]. A case could be made that the climactic battle between Hulk and the Abomination could also represent Man vs. The Environment [or misuse of same], but we’ll forego that one.
Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk loses the comic affectations of Lee’s film – there are no shots composed to resemble comic book panels – but retains the emotional core [however little screen time it might get] and powers forth the action. By the time Hulk and the Abomination clash, they are characters and not merely CG constructs. Leterrier’s direction is as swift as merciless as Emil Blonsky, and a whole ‘nother level beyond what he achieved in his Transporter films.
Perhaps, if there were more character moments [not many, but the inclusion of the Banner-Samson chat from the first trailer would’ve been nice] the film would resonate better, but this time, it’s all about the fun – and The Incredible Hulk is definitely that!
When we last saw Ben Tennyson, he was a ten-year old kid with a ten-year old’s attitudes to most things – including thinking girls were yucky. Now he’s fifteen, a sports hero and more tolerant of girls – practically a fan, in fact. After five years, he’s also pretty certain that he won’t need to become Ben 10 again. He’s wrong… dead wrong. Ben 10 premieres tonight [8/7C] with a special, hour-long episode before moving to its regular time slot, Saturdays [10 a.m./9] on The Cartoon Network.