Posts Tagged ‘Joss Whedon’

Justice League Review: It Was Fine, I Guess? Not Good, But Not Awful

November 17, 2017

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Justice League isn’t a terrible movie, and that in itself is a major achievement. Director Zack Snyder’s past two superhero outings were dour, unwieldy affairs that fundamentally misunderstood almost every character who appeared in them. Justice League is a much more conventional movie, leaner and even fun at times. It’s not great by any means. I wouldn’t even say it was good. But I didn’t leave the theater angry, so that’s a plus.

Everyone seems to have learned a few lessons from Wonder Woman, which is the far superior film by leaps and bounds. Justice League is lighter and funnier than its predecessors, though since those films weren’t light or funny in the slightest it really wouldn’t have taken much. But Snyder and his uncredited co-director Joss Whedon appear to be actively trying to set a new tone. There are jokes this time, and considerably less brooding and angst. The team bickers which each other instead of trying to kill each other. People smile sometimes. The success of this new approach is hit and miss, with a lot of corny dialogue and quips, but it’s a far better direction to move the franchise toward than the dark, miserable drama of the past.

In terms of plot, Justice League is a little bit thin. Steppenwolf and his evil plan to terraform the Earth and turn it into a hellscape is pretty standard stuff, and neither he nor his nondescript legion of Parademon minions bring much personality to the movie. Luckily, the good guys are far more endearing and enjoyable to watch. Jason Momoa’s gruff Aquaman is a good time, Ezra Miller’s socially awkward Flash is amusing, and the complicated interpersonal dynamics of bringing a group of very different heroes together for a common cause made for some decent scenes. Everyone is new at this team thing, and several members were new to their powers, so watching them all find their way together makes for an interesting angle. That’s really what the movie is about more so than the possible destruction of the world or how to bring back Superman (SPOILER ALERT: They bring back Superman! I know, I was shocked too).

Between assembling the League and Steppenwolf’s nefarious activities, we get a tour of the franchise as a whole and a peek at where things are going. We stop by Themyscira again, and I missed Patty Jenkins so much. The scenes there highlight that this was a film written, directed, and generally designed by men, as do many of Wonder Woman’s scenes. Nonetheless, the scene is a good reminder of the larger superhero world at play here. As is the visit to Atlantis, peeks into the backstories of the Flash and Cyborg (who was particularly cool; I’m excited to see more of Ray Fisher’s take on him moving forward), and a fun cameo that I won’t spoil. All of this will be fleshed out in solo films to come, and this is a franchise that could grow in interesting ways.

Watching the film, I realized that my main issue above all else was characterization. Having grown up on DC comic books and researched them extensively in my professional life, I feel like I know these characters very well. And as much as Momoa was fun, that wasn’t Aquaman. Ditto for Miller and the Flash. Affleck’s Batman and Cavill’s Superman have been off for multiple films now. No one feels right to me in the way that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman does. She captures the spirit and legacy of Diana so well, in ways that the boys just don’t with their characters. It felt like I was watching Wonder Woman plus a bunch of alternate universe impostors.

In short, while they’ve made an okay movie with the characterizations they’ve decided to go with, it just doesn’t feel like the real Justice League to me. That’s 100% my personal taste, of course. But by not being true to the characters, I found this turn toward the light to be a little bit underwhelming. Composer Danny Elfman even integrated iconic bits of his own 1989 Batman score and John Williams’ Superman theme, which was super clever and cool, and it still didn’t move me because these versions of the characters don’t fit the iconic mold for me. For example, there’s a mid-credits scene with Superman and the Flash that is classic comic book fare and I should have loved it, but because the personalities are so different from my experience of the characters it fell flat. While I appreciated what they were trying to do, it just didn’t land for me in any emotionally resonant way. Meanwhile, I wanted to cheer every time Wonder Woman did anything rad because Gadot’s take on her connects with me so well. With everyone else, I felt a disconnect.

Speaking of Wonder Woman, I enjoyed her role in Justice League for the most part. The franchise painted itself into a corner by having her stay out of the public eye for a century in Batman v Superman, so trying to reconcile that with the engaged, inspirational character we saw in Wonder Woman was a bit awkward but narratively necessary. Her action scenes were excellent, especially her solo outing busting up an attempted bombing; there’s so much bullet deflecting, and it’s glorious. What I enjoyed the most, though, is that she’s the heart and soul of the team. No one particularly likes or trusts each other as the League comes together, but they all respect and admire Wonder Woman. There’s a scene where she and Batman are arguing in front of everyone and she gives him a forceful shove, and the Flash says something along the lines of “If she’d killed you, we would have covered for her.” As much as Batman is the one who works to assemble the team and Superman is set up as some sort of great, inspiring unifier, it’s Wonder Woman who brings them all together.

Another of my favourite ladies, Lois Lane, is in the mix as well, and although she isn’t given much to do, she does have a couple of amazing scenes. When SPOILER ALERT Superman comes back (I still can’t believe it! They pulled the wool over our eyes on that one!), Lois plays a pivotal role in what was the only really emotionally impactful moment in the entire film. Her connection with Superman is shown beautifully, and Adams and Cavill have great chemistry together that really makes for a powerful reunion. I wish that Lois could have had a bigger role, perhaps tracking down a big story or some such, but Adams make the most of the limited screen time she’s given.

Overall, Justice League isn’t awful and I’m glad about that. It’s not good either, and this cinematic universe really isn’t for me apart from Wonder Woman, but there was nothing egregious or terrible about it. I mean, the Amazons should have beaten the hell out of Steppenwolf; they screwed up there. But other than that, it is a run of the mill superhero film that isn’t entirely unpleasant to watch. It’s easily the second best movie from DC’s current superhero line. It’s just far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far behind the first best.

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Marvel Studios Is Stealing All Of The Wonder Women

August 25, 2014

Over the past decade or so, there have been several attempts to bring a live action Wonder Woman to the movies and/or television. They’ve all failed spectacularly, because I guess maybe all of us Wonder Woman fans did something in a past life that we’re collectively paying for now? That could be it. That or institutionalized sexism in the entertainment industry and society at large. One or the other.

Throughout these abandoned projects, various actors have been linked to the titular role but nothing ever came of it. They all moved onto other projects, and we’re finally going to get a live action Wonder Woman in 2016 when Gal Gadot dons her brown costume in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But in the meantime, Marvel Studios has been snapping up several of these past potential Wonder Womans and giving them cool, kick ass roles in their own cinematic universe, all of which have or will hit the big screen before Wonder Woman ever does.

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First, Joss Whedon cast Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill in The Avengers, and she’s appeared throughout the Marvel franchise since. Way back, Whedon was hired to write a Wonder Woman movie that never came together, and when he announced he was leaving the project he hinted that Smulders was his first choice for Wonder Woman. Whedon later brought her into the fold when he directed the most successful superhero movie of all time (good work letting him walk away from Wonder Woman, Warner Bros.!), and she’s been an awesome Maria Hill throughout her many appearances on the big and small screen. Smulders is a great fit for the role, though every time I see her in it I lament that we never got to see her as Wonder Woman. I think she would have been fantastic.

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Around the time Whedon was working on his Wonder Woman script, Warner Bros. spoke to several actors about playing the lead and one of those women was Evangeline Lilly. The conversations never went anywhere, what with the movie falling apart, but she later booked some great roles in other epic action films. She was spectacular as Tauriel in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug last winter, and now she’s set to play Hope van Dyne in Marvel’s upcoming Ant-Man film. Plus, given her rad new haircut, it looks like she’s going to get to be the Wasp too, which is all sorts of cool. Lilly may have sadly missed out on Wonder Woman, but she’ll get to play a superhero for Marvel.

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Finally, Marvel’s grabbed Adrianne Palicki, who actually played Wonder Woman in David E. Kelley’s god awful pilot a couple of years back. The show was a complete mess, but Palicki was solid in the role and could have made a decent Wonder Woman on a better project. She’s since shown her action chops as Lady Jaye in GI Joe: Retaliation and recently had a very charming run on NBC’s About a Boy. Now she’s set to star as Bobbi Morse, ie. Mockingbird, in the upcoming season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., completing the Wonder Woman trifecta for Marvel Studios.

A live action Wonder Woman is coming, slowly but surely, but Warner Bros.’ list of failed projects has turned into a very strong casting sheet for Marvel Studios. While it would be nice for Marvel to put a female superhero in a lead role at some point, several women in the Marvel cinematic universe have had great, kick ass roles over the past few years, which is a lot more than we can say about DC’s superhero movie output. Our series of losses as Wonder Woman fans has turned into gains elsewhere, but I’d still trade a Maria Hill, the Wasp, and Mockingbird for a decent Wonder Woman any day of the week.

The CW Is Developing A New Wonder Woman TV Show OR Let’s Stay Cool, Gang

September 7, 2012

Vulture is reporting that the CW has commissioned a pilot script for a new Wonder Woman show from former Wonder Woman writer Allan Heinberg.  Tentatively titled Amazon, the show would focus on the early years of Wonder Woman’s superhero career (because the CW doesn’t make shows about grown ups).  It’s like a Smallville for Wonder Woman, basically.

So first off, the good things.  Wonder Woman might be on a screen of some sort!!  That’s exciting, and Allan Heinberg is a good choice to do it.  His run on Young Avengers is a modern classic, really, and while his time on Wonder Woman was brief, I dug it.  He’s a guy with a solid comics background, and is a WAY better choice than David E. Kelley was.  Plus, hopefully they’re smart enough to learn from the MANY mistakes of the last failed Wonder Woman pilot.

However, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here.  This is just a script.  There’s no greenlight or pilot guarantee or anything like that.  This is a rumour that the CW is, at best, looking into doing a Wonder Woman TV show.  That’s all we’ve got so far.

Also, we all know the history of bringing Wonder Woman to the screen… it just doesn’t work out well.  No one wanted to touch the David E. Kelley pilot, and with good reason, while for some reason Warner Bros. couldn’t get on the same page as Joss Whedon so he just went and made The Avengers instead.  Wonder Woman’s lived in development hell for ages, so we shouldn’t get too excited yet.

We should also remember that the CW already has a new superhero show scheduled for this fall in ArrowSmallville was solid for them, but you’ve got to think that the likelihood of Amazon getting made is going to depend on how well Arrow goes over.  If it bombs, the whole thing might get shelved.  And that’s a show that STARS Green Arrow, so it’s sort of a possibility.

Plus, it’s the CW.  That means a potentially low budget, melodramatic, terrible show.  No one wants to see One Tree Hill with Amazons.  Batman and Superman are getting $250 million movies, and I think Wonder Woman deserves to be in the same ballpark, not following America’s Next Top Model on a network not many people watch.  Though synergywise, Amazons are tall gals… you could do some cross-promotion with a guest spot prize for the model who takes the fiercest picture some week.

So yes, this is potentially exciting.  It could be cool.  Hell, it could be fantastic.  But it could also not happen OR we could get a show with Chad Michael Murray as Steve Trevor and last cycle’s Top Model runner-up as Wonder Woman.  A show on the CW might not be a great sign that Warner Bros. has faith in Wonder Woman as a potential franchise.

Let me leave you with some good news though.  In the 1960s, they tried to make a Wonder Woman pilot that turned out so awful they didn’t even bother to finish shooting it.  They tried again in the early 1970s with a TV movie that bombed.  Then, on the third try, we got Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman and a show that ran for three years.  Maybe the third time will be the charm again for Wonder Woman, and this show will take off after the Whedon and Kelley debacles.  But again, it’s the earliest of early days.  Let’s not get our hopes too high yet.

Avengers Movie Review OR I LOVE The Hulk!!!!

May 5, 2012

So The Avengers was absolutely fantastic.  Marvel’s done a pretty amazing job with their film properties, Ghost Riders and Punishers aside, and the most impressive part is that they’ve made me like their characters.  I’m a hardcore DC guy, and I only buy/read Marvel titles when a creator I really love is on the book (right now, Fraction, Hickman, and DeConnick are my Marvel people).  I couldn’t care less about the Avengers, and never have.

But then they made me love Iron Man by making him Robert Downey Jr.  And then they made Thor, the only character I was predisposed to like on account of I’m a mythology nerd, even awesomer than I thought it would be.  Then they took Captain America, a character I find unintentionally hilarious, and made a great action movie with an old school feel.  So now I like all these people!!

The only character I wasn’t keen on was the Hulk.  The Eric Bana and Edward Norton versions of the character didn’t do much for me.  So I figured there’s not much you can do with a mindless force of destruction, and when it was announced he’d be in The Avengers with characters I did like, I just hoped he wouldn’t bring it down too much.  Turns out, the Hulk was my very favourite character.  And that’s what was so great about The Avengers… it took everything I liked and made it better, and took what I didn’t like and made it AWESOME.

I’m going to spoil the hell out of the movie now, so…

SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!

GO AWAY IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE AVENGERS YET!!

I’M ABOUT TO RUIN IT ALL SO BAD!!!

Okay… that should do it.

We all love Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man.  We all love Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury.  We all love(d) Agent Coulson (I’M STILL UPSET ABOUT THAT!!).  We love Cap, we love Thor, and we REALLY love Loki.  We knew these things would be good, and they were.  In fact, they were spectacular.  All of that was great.

There were other things, though, that we probably had some doubts about.  Black Widow didn’t have much to do in Iron Man 2 so she was sort of an unknown.  Hawkeye was only in Thor for like three seconds.  The Hulk movies kind of sucked.  Plus it was a pretty full cast already with the heroes we loved… tossing in these characters we weren’t sure of AND a new one with Maria Hill could have been too much.  Of course, it wasn’t.

Black Widow was BAD ASS.  And an actual character this time.  She manipulated Loki well with her Hawkeye story and acted all cold and aloof after, but you could tell there was something there.  And then she fought the Hulk, killed a TON of aliens, and jumped on one of those alien flier things and flew it up to the top of Stark tower.  It was pretty great.

Hawkeye was killer too.  He was all evil for a while, but then he came back with a score to settle and shot oh so many aliens with his bow and arrow skills.  Maria Hill was cool too, and way more hardcore than I thought Robin Scherbatsky could be.  They were all fantastic additions to the Marvel movie universe.

But then there’s the Hulk.  You guys, the Hulk was the GREATEST!!  Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner was so laid back/silently rage filled the whole time, was cracking jokes with the best of them, and just generally fit right in with the affable big guns we loved already.  And then he Hulked out and it was AMAZING.  The Thor/Hulk fight was crazy fun, but in that final battle at the end it was ALL about the Hulk.  I don’t think I’ve EVER heard a theatre erupt like it did today when Hulk grabbed Loki and smashed him on the floor over and over and over… it might have been the best thing I’ve ever seen on the big screen EVER.  And everybody was LOVING it.  Ditto the Hulk punching Thor after they took down the alien snake.  He was great comic relief, but he also busted up the aliens SO fantastically.  Arrows and repulsor rays and hammers are fun and all, but nothing’s better than getting in there and manhandling bad guys.  I NEVER thought the Hulk would be the best part of this movie, and he was by far.

On top of all the characters being cooler than they’ve ever been before, The Avengers was a big step up stylistically as well.  The Marvel movies have all had a similar structure and tone, and it had become a bit formulaic.  Something crazy would happen, creating the hero, the hero would have fun hijinks for a while, things would get more serious, and then it would end with a big battle.  All of the movies were great, but that wasn’t really going to work for The Avengers.

Instead of the usual structure, they opted with wall to wall insanity, constantly building and building the chaos.  Sure, it ended with a huge battle, but there were like FIVE battles before that there were comparable to or bigger than the grand finale battles from the other films.  The SHIELD base got blown up, they fought Loki, they all fought each other escorting Loki back, the helicarrier got attacked and THEN the aliens arrived and it was crazier than everything before combined!!!  All the while being hilarious and endearing and fun, and building the plot beautifully, as well as maintaining the original tone that was so key to making the originals movies such successes.

Because here’s the thing about the Avengers: They’re all a lot of fun.  As Fury and his cohorts assembled the team, I thought for a second “This is a bit of a slow build” (and “Why is Thor last? He’s my favourite!”), but then I realized I didn’t care because all of the characters are such a good time on their own.  They don’t have to be battling fiendish gods or invading alien hordes.  They can just sit around and chat and make jokes and it’s ridiculously fun.  The superhero insanity was awesome, but the characters are just so enjoyable.  If The Avengers 2 was a two hour extended cut of the after credits scene of the team eating shawarma, I’d still go see it.  They’re just fun to be around, explosions and punching aside.

Finally, I’m super impressed with Joss Whedon.  Don’t crucify me, but I’m not a huge Whedon guy.  I really love Astonishing X-Men, but Buffy and Firefly/Serenity and all of that really isn’t my scene.  He’s got geek cred up the wazoo, but The Avengers was far and away the biggest thing he’s ever done.  And he KILLED it.  He maintained the feel of the original movies while adding his own style to the mix, and juggled a lot of characters, a lot of plot, and an insane amount of action with a remarkable level of finesse.  The movie never dragged, nor did it short change any of the characters or become too chaotic to follow.  It was quite a directorial feat all around, and it sort of makes me ill that he never got to make a Wonder Woman movie.  Imagine the awesomeness of The Avengers, but with Wonder Woman instead… how great would that be??!!

So yeah, I LOVED it.  But let’s not be sycophantic… there must be something to critique.  Well, I’m pretty bummed about Agent Coulson.  And I didn’t like Thor without sleeves.  He looked silly.  That’s about it.  Other than that, it was such a good time!!  It was epic superhero fun with an amazing ensemble, though really it’s worth seeing just for that Hulk vs. Loki scene.  Seriously, that might be the best thing I’ve EVER seen.

One Quick Thought About The Avengers Movie

May 4, 2012

I saw The Avengers this afternoon, and it was absolutely fantastic!!  All of the actors were great, the writing was sharp, and the action scenes were just BEYOND out of hand.  Plus, the Hulk was pretty much the best character ever… he totally stole the show.

Anyway, I’ll do up a proper review later tonight, but after seeing how great The Avengers, was it really needs to be said:

JOSS WHEDON COULD HAVE MADE YOU A WONDER WOMAN MOVIE, WARNER BROS.!!!!!

WHAT THE HELL???!!!

Get it together, Warner Bros.  Marvel is making you look just shameful.  And pretty stupid for letting Whedon go.

That is all.  More on The Avengers later tonight!!

NBC Says No To Wonder Woman

May 13, 2011

 

Entertainment Weekly is reporting that the Wonder Woman TV show is dead, and I think EVERY Wonder Woman fan in the universe saw this coming.  We’re used to hearing about potential Wonder Woman projects that don’t come together, leaving us toyed with and annoyed.  Though really, losing the David E. Kelley project is probably going to sting people a lot less than losing the Joss Whedon project.  Plus, we’re sort of numb to the pain now.

So NBC said no, which is a bummer.  For purely selfish reasons, I was jazzed to have a Wonder Woman TV show… that would be really handy for someone trying to shop a book about the character!!  As a HUGE Wonder Woman fan, the show sounded like it had some big problems (too big, it would seem now), but I appreciated that Kelley and his team seemed to be tweaking a lot of things in response to fan reactions.  They made the costume better, they had her kick more ass, and it just overall seemed like a show that was willing to evolve.  I anticipated not liking the pilot and then enjoying the show better as they played with it over the course of the season.  From what we originally heard of the pilot to what it became, it definitely sounded like it got better.  Not good, necessarily, but better.  It might have gone somewhere cool.

While I was never super enthused about the project (apart from the logo… I quite liked that), I was nonetheless looking forward to it.  When damn near every superhero/comic property has a movie or TV show on the way, Wonder Woman deserves to be on a screen of some sort.  She has SO much potential, and I think a decent Wonder Woman project could go over big.  I mean, look at Thor… it opened awesomely last weekend, and Thor is basically a male Wonder Woman.  Mythological background, cool powers, fish out of water… that’s Wonder Woman!!  It’s sad that no one can get anything going with Wonder Woman.

Now, NBC’s passed on Wonder Woman before… not to get your hopes up or anything.  They passed on the script before changing their mind, so maybe the same could happen here.  I hope they at least show it at some point, since it’s already made… maybe as a TV movie or something.  I’d even go for it leaking online.  I just want to see what it would have been like. 

NBC also passed on Ron Moore’s magic/cop show 17th Precinct, which is nuts… he made BATTLESTAR GALACTICA!! AND they passed on a Western set in Reconstruction-era America.  I would have watched the hell out of that show!!  It could be like Loveless on my TV (probably not… you’d need HBO for Loveless… I miss Loveless).  But they also passed on Don Johnson’s new show, so they’ve got some sense at least.  No one’s clamouring for a new Nash Bridges.  But yeah, this is a downer.  An expected downer, really, but a downer nonetheless.


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