Lots of people are trying to figure out who's to blame for why JUSTICE LEAGUE is such a disappointment. Few are blaming the right person. It's time to set the record straight.
[Earlier today, I gave my Twitter followers a chance to vote on a topic for me to rant on. They chose this one. Enjoy!]
Lots of people are trying to figure out who's to blame for why JUSTICE LEAGUE is such a disappointment. Few are blaming the right person. It's time to set the record straight.
Look, with the arrival of the trailer for Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War today, everyone's going to be all-too-happy to pat that studio on the back. And that's fine. Marvel Studios deserves a ton of praise. But today I find myself thinking about DC fans. It's been a bruising couple of weeks, and I'm sure that- for some- the Infinity War hype feels like salt on their wounds. The internet has become an endless cavalcade of "How Could JUSTICE LEAGUE Have Bombed So Hard?"-type stories, with everyone and their mother suddenly an expert on how a studio should do things (and I, myself, practically wrote a book about that very topic). So I figured I'd go against that trend and point out what the DC Films have gotten right so far.
Grandiose, Mythological Storytelling
It's been said that when it comes to the two top dogs in the realm of comic books that "Marvel is about humans trying to play God, while DC is about Gods trying to be more human." Zack Snyder took this ethos quite seriously when he helped shape the first round of DC Films. He made these characters God-like, and he treated their mythologies with respect, heft, and gravitas.
For proof of this, you need only watch the first chunks of both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In MOS, every aspect of that sequence on Krypton was treated with great weight, thought, and care. The way that beast lets out a primal roar that startles the bird-like creatures and sends them flying into the horizon, signaling the arrival of Krypton's last son; The beautiful, poetic words spoken by Lara and Jor-El about their son and his future; Hans Zimmer's sumptuous score.
While some may doubt how fully Snyder truly understood the character of Superman, no one can deny that he took the arrival of DC's greatest champion seriously, or that he established a mythological tone for the DC Films Universe in these opening moments of its first chapter.
The same can be said for Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman. The opening moments of that film take us back to that seminal moment in the DC Comics lore- the moment when a Dark Knight is born in the blood of his murdered parents. We see Bruce at their funeral, we flash back to that fateful night, we feel his terror and disbelief, and we see him reborn amidst the swarm of bats in that underground cave.
The careful attention to detail in that sequence set the stage for an incredible new Batman. The words and actions of his parents during their tragic final moments were powerful, and the impact they have on young Bruce tells us so much about what drives this man.
That tradition continued in Wonder Woman. Every moment spent on Themyscira cements the idea that Diana is an otherworldly force for good. Her mythos, as depicted in the film, reveals her to be the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons. There's great talk of her destiny, her untapped power, her mysterious conception, and the story her mother reads her before bed conjures images of Greek Gods battling over the very fate of the world.
Diana's first villain, Ares, is a mythological figure that transcends comic books! He's the God of War, spoken of in ancient texts for centuries. In the film's third act, Diana is fighting the very idea of war itself. It's Love vs Hate. The film, based on a story by Snyder, managed to be both lighter in tone yet heavier in its ideological pursuits.
Wonder Woman accomplished something rather remarkable. It had way more humor, fun, and innuendo than previous DC efforts, yet- when it mattered- it was iconic and majestic.
One of the reasons Wonder Woman connected so gloriously with audiences was that it made people feel what some of the greatest superhero tales ever have made them feel. It begged the question:
"Wouldn't the world be a better place if these heroes existed?"
Some may not realize it, but that question- on a subconscious level- is something that attracts us to these characters when we first lay eyes on them as children. They give us hope and an ideal to strive toward.
In its finest moments, the first wave of DC Films accomplished this. Whether it was Clark saving those kids on the bus, despite the potential consequences; Bruce darting around on the streets of Metropolis getting people to safety as Zod and Superman battle in the sky above; or Diana conquering No Man's Land, these heroes were treated like the mythic, heroic figures that have endured in pop culture since their creation.
While Justice League was, admittedly, a step in the wrong direction, there's still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about DC's future. The WB brass, and the folks now running DC Entertainment, have known for months that Wonder Woman was going to be the template moving forward. Unfortunately, by the time that became clear to them, JL was already mostly in-the-can. They were unhappy with where Snyder had taken things, but they couldn't dump the movie at that point, so as the old saying goes, "They put lipstick on a pig."
We can debate the quality of what we ended up with from now into eternity, but it doesn't change the fact that Warner Bros. is not using Justice League as its proof-of-concept; That's what Wonder Woman is for.
And what does that mean? It means stories that strive to find that unique balance between mythology, humor, heart, and heroics; And movies that celebrate these characters, rather than deconstruct them.
For now, while we wait 13 agonizing months for Aquaman, let's just remember what DC has gotten right so far:
They treated our heroes like the Gods among us that they are.
Hope you enjoyed reading this. I plan on exploring this a little more on next week's episode of the podcast. Looking back on Man of Steel also got me thinking again about what my perfect Superman movie would look and feel like. Thinking of creating something I could share with you all that would serve as my "Superman Pitch To The Universe" since so many people have either wondered what it would be, or have assumed incorrectly what it was I didn't like about Man of Steel.
If you'd like to keep up on the content I create, be sure to subscribe to my show where ever you get your podcasts, and follow me on Twitter (@I_AM_MFR).
It's been 11 days since Justice League began its theatrical run around the world. In that time, it's been a total roller coaster ride for both fans and Warner Bros, as the film's reception has come into focus. After years of hype, tons of behind-the-scenes drama, predictions about how it'll fare critically, and discussions about whether or not it will be the first film in the new DC Films Universe to crack the ballyhooed billion dollar mark, there are now actual answers to those questions.
Some, like my friends over at Batman-On-Film, are firm in their belief that Warner Bros. is going to "blow the whole thing up" and reboot everything. Others are optimistic that DC Entertainment is going to stay the course and give us films that truly live up to their potential.
I, myself, don't know what to think. As someone who's exhaustively versed in the history of DC and Warner Bros. (Seriously, CLICK HERE for an in-depth history lesson), I can't help but think of the past as I try to predict what the future will hold.
See, back in the mid-00s, Warner Bros. was set to launch a shared universe long before Marvel Studios entered the picture. They first conceived of a "Batman vs Superman" film back in 2002, and then pivoted away from that when Superman Returns misfired and Batman Begins triumphed. At the time, the studio went to Christopher Nolan, said "Do whatever you want with Batman," and the director went and put the character off on his own island where he couldn't interact with the rest of the DC Universe. This put WB in a bind, as they still craved a shared universe, yet no one could deny that Nolan turned Batman into the King of Superheroes during his Dark Knight Trilogy.
At the time, after Green Lantern flopped and Justice League Mortal got scrapped, Warner Bros. was forced to wait until Nolan was done with Batman in 2012 before they could take another crack at a shared universe with 2013's Man of Steel.
Now they're at a similar fork in the road. Justice League today is what Superman Returns was then- a pricey misfire. So are they going to go to their current crop of filmmakers, like Patty Jenkins, James Wan, and Matt Reeves, and give them the same offer they gave Nolan? My BOF buddies, Bill and Rick, seem to think so. But I just can't see Warner Bros. putting their shared universe on the shelf again.
Something that makes the outlook very different now than it was when SR stumbled out of the gate is that they've already got Aquaman in the can and Wonder Woman 2 is an absolute certainty. So the studio is already way too invested in this current continuity to simply let the directors reboot them and cut all ties to Snyder's old DCEU.
With all of this in mind, I reached out to my sources over at Warner Bros., and I've been bugging them for anything they can tell me about what the studio is thinking about the future of the DC Films Universe.
For starters, they say things are relatively quiet right now. On some level, they've known for a while that Justice League wasn't going to be the monumental smash hit they had once envisioned, so its dismal showing at the box office last week wasn't exactly a shocker. Using very fitting terminology, they say that "there is hope" about the film's legs, though, based on the aforementioned gentle second weekend drop. They also note that "the social media interaction has been good" for the film, which adds to their sense that the movie could put up some respectable numbers these next two weekends and inch towards at least breaking even. It also points to the fact that they're un-phased by the negative backlash from hardcore Snyder fans.
While they couldn't say, with certainty, what the future holds since the studio plans on being quiet about the DC slate for a bit, they did mention something that could be very, very telling:
(Beware Justice League *SPOILERS* Lie Ahead!)
They've taken note of the buzz around the Legion of Doom post-credit sequence, and it looks like they may use the popularity of that concept as the connective tissue for the next few DC films.
You may have noticed that there's been an awful lot of chatter about Joe Manganiello's Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, in the last few days. The studio has allowed him to release a high-res image of himself as the character, and the once tight-lipped actor has had his lips loosened so that he can keep the hype going.
None of this is a coincidence. My source says it's part of a calculated effort to get people focused on the LOD.
"Legion of Doom is happening. Not an LOD movie, but building towards the team. Watch Manganiello. He has pretty much been blatant."
So they want to build the team, but they're not planning a movie? I asked for further clarification, and here's what I was told:
(Beware! A Slight AQUAMAN Spoiler Lies Ahead!)
"They're working on something cool for SDCC [San Diego Comic Con] 18, related to LOD. They want to continue planting seeds and building momentum for the team. Things will be generally quiet on the DC front until Aquaman hype begins, but I can tell you that there will be another LOD tag at end of that."
And then, just like that, my little birds flew away, leaving me to piece together what this intel means. And I think I've figured out what the tentative plan is.
Bye Bye Darkseid, Hello Legion of Doom
In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio began planting the seeds for Darkseid. That's because the original plan saw Justice League as a two-part epic: The first part would center on Steppenwolf's efforts to bring Apokolips to earth, and the second part would pit our heroes against Darkseid. Now, it should be obvious to anyone who saw Justice League that part of the film's massive overhaul was to completely change course from that original plan. To borrow a video game analogy, Steppenwolf got promoted from Mini-Boss to Final Boss, and nearly all of the Darkseid buildup ended up on the cutting room floor save for one direct reference.
To many, it seemed like Justice League would be stripped of any foreshadowing of the future, since the studio had seemingly lost all faith in the film and was about to dump it into theaters with head-scratchingly poor CG. But then they did something interesting. Mere days before releasing the theatrical cut, after several rounds of special screenings had taken place, they suddenly slapped a Legion of Doom tag scene onto it. It's something Snyder had shot last year, back when Justice League was still seen as a massive launchpad for future DC films, and it was suddenly attached onto the theatrical cut as the sole tease for the future.
What seems to be happening now is that DC Entertainment wants to build up the LOD concept- that there's a group of mega-villains operating in the shadows- and use them as the connective tissue for the next few DC movies. Almost as the inverse of what Marvel did when they peppered all of their Phase One films with teases for a team of heroes, DC wants to pepper their next wave of films with teases for a team of villains. But rather than build to an LOD movie, I think the team could end up the central focus of the next couple of far off team-up movies: Flashpoint, Justice League 2, or both.
How that would work is anyone's guess, as those scripts are still being worked on, and Justice League 2- in particular- is a very far off priority at the moment. But it seems like the current plan is for the next few films to contain tags that show the Legion of Doom adding to its ranks before delivering a big payoff down the line.
It'd be a smart move, in many ways. Darkseid would've added to the negative perception that many of DC's villains have been way too CG-heavy and over-the-top. A team of gritty, tangible villains (Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, The Joker, et al) combined with more super-powered- yet humanoid- baddies (Reverse-Flash, Black Adam, etc) could be the perfect foil for the Justice League in a future team-up. And, considering Marvel Studios is going to be plastering Thanos everywhere these next few years, Darkseid may have ended up looking like a knockoff- ironic, considering he came first in the books.
Something like this would also cushion the blow when another actor takes over as Batman once Affleck's departure is official. As I said in my scoop from two weeks ago, the plan is to surround the next actor with familiar faces like Jeremy Irons and J.K. Simmons. If the tag on The Batman ends up having Jared Leto's Joker joining the LOD, it'll further smooth out the transition from Affleck to the new actor, keeping this Batman firmly connected to the DC Films canon.
It should be fascinating to see how this all plays out. Unfortunately, we're going to have to be super patient. As my source said, the next glimpse of the LOD won't come until next year, and the company is still piecing together exactly what the future looks like. The endgame is unclear, but what is clear is that they want to use the Legion of Doom to get there.
So strap in and sit tight! And, of course, subscribe to my El Fanboy Podcast for analysis on this scoop (and everything else going on in Geek Moviedom) in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Earlier this week, I revisited Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, and made episodes dedicated to each. Now that I've seen the third chapter of Zack Snyder's DC Trilogy, I've made an in-depth bonus episode filled with all of the news, analysis, and non-spoiler thoughts I have about the film.
You can listen here, or- better yet- you can subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher, or where ever premium podcasts are found to find older episodes and catch up on all the fascinating happenings on these films we all care so much about.
I know what you're thinking. You've come to this site you've probably never heard of, to read a report posted on a very plain-looking blog, and you're wondering "Um, how can I take this seriously?"
For starters, here's a little background:
For 3.5 years, I was a daily contributor to Latino-Review (now LRM). While there, I'd do everything from cover the day's top stories, write editorials, co-host their Los Fanboys Podcast, and fly to places to do set reports for them. During my tenure there, I became known as the "DCEU Guy." I wrote dozens upon dozens of features analyzing all the various INs and OUTs of the shared world Warner Bros. has been piecing together since Man of Steel arrived in 2013.
For the last eight months I've been on my own- I'm a mercenary. Sometimes I write for myself; sometimes I write for IGN; sometimes I pop up on The Splash Report (where I get to work with my old friend, Latino-Review founder, Kellvin Chavez!). But, to be clear, I'm not a daily writer anymore. I've had offers, but it just doesn't interest me. When it comes to covering fanboy news and providing analysis, my pride and joy is my weekly podcast (El Fanboy Podcast), and that's where I put all of my focus.
When this story came onto my radar, I was conflicted as to where/how to bring it to you. I've decided to share it here as a bit of an experiment. I can't ask you to keep visiting for daily updates, because that's not what this site is about. What I can ask is: If you're into podcasts, please subscribe to El Fanboy, available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, and literally everywhere. That's where you're likely to hear more follow-ups to this story, and it's really what I am nowadays- A Podcast Host, not a Reporter.
So if you enjoy this story, check out my show. And follow me on the Twitter!
All right, let's get to it:
I'll admit it. When John Campea revealed yesterday that Jake Gyllenhaal was the likely replacement for Ben Affleck, should the revered actor-director decide to leave the role of Batman, I was fairly crushed. See, I've known about this for quite some time and I was sitting on it, waiting for Justice League to come out because I knew the situation would come to a head shortly after.
It's practically an open secret, amongst the film reporting community, that Affleck has been eyeing his exit from the DC Films Universe for quite some time. While some fans will act shocked, and others have fought with writers like me for almost a year whenever an update is offered on this front, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone looking at the situation objectively. I've reported extensively on this elsewhere (and I've got another full-on investigation coming up on the horizon), and in recent months I've kept mum on the subject because it's been such an annoying game of Bat & Mouse with Mr. Affleck.
Well, now that the cat's out of the bag, I may as well spill what else I've heard:
The news that Affleck may soon be replaced by Jake Gyllenhaal brings up a lot of questions and I'm here to answer them for you. Questions such as:
Throughout the course of the last 11 months, Affleck has gone from "Get me out of here!" to "Maybe I'll stay" to "With everything going on in my life, a stabile job like this could do me good" to "I can't do this anymore." This internal tug-of-war not only led to his relationship with the studio souring, but it also became a public relations nightmare, as his romance with Batman became a very distracting "Will They? or Won't They?" affair within the DC Films narrative.
But, to be clear, it wasn't always bad. And there were, indeed, times when it looked like he may stick around to work out a proper exit. That's why it's hard to call Affleck a liar, or get too upset with him about the times he's directly stated that he's not going anywhere. There were genuinely times he thought he might, and there's also the little matter of "I have to sell Justice League. That's my job. I can't tell people I'm leaving the role before the movie has even come out. That'll overshadow the movie!" That kind of thought process is easy to understand.
At the end of the day, though, just as he said this on Jimmy Kimmel Live on January 9:
“I’m gonna direct the next Batman, we’re workin’ on it. It’s one of those things that’s really frustrating because like with Live by Night, it took me a year and a half to write it and get it ready and I worked really hard, it’s just nobody gave a shit. No one was like ‘Where’s Live by Night?!’ But with Batman I keep getting the like, ‘Where’s the fucking Batman?!’ and I’m like ‘Bro I’m workin’, give me a second!”
And then dropped out on January 30...
The guy has just been trying to do his job by keeping up the facade that everything is going smoothly.
As of a few weeks ago, here's what my source was saying about the matter while speaking to me on the condition of anonymity:
"They've got someone waiting in the (Bat)wings to apply pressure. If he [Affleck] can’t agree to terms, he is gone."
With today's leak of Gyllenhaal's name, I contacted my source to see if things had changed. Turns out they had:
"[The Gyllenhaal] news will probably be confirmed, because now Affleck is most likely not coming back. The last few weeks have been clear he wants out. It's a bummer. So I think that is why the JG stuff is leaking harder."
Indeed, something must have finally clicked for Affleck while on the marathon of a publicity tour for Justice League, and so his exit is finally all but a sure thing. He first publicly admitted that his future as Batman was in question a couple of days ago, when he revealed that he was "contemplating" appearing in The Batman, and that he was trying to figure out a "cool way to segue out of the role."
With regard to the continuity for The Batman, some are wondering what this recasting means. Gyllenhaal doesn't exactly resemble Affleck, and he's likely to play the character quite differently. If you'll recall, a few months ago, Reeves set the internet ablaze when he made comments that sounded like the film wouldn't be connected to the DCEU. He would eventually walk those comments back, but this stuff brings it back to the forefront.
So what's it going to be? Is The Batman going to be a reboot? Will it exist as part of an alternate continuity like that Joker movie Todd Phillips is working on?
"The Batman will not be a prequel or reboot. It's the JL [Justice League] Batman."
Okay. Will it be about a younger Bruce Wayne?
"JG will be almost 40 when The Batman is out. He still has operated for 20 years, but his age will be less of the focus."
My final question had to do with what they're hearing about the script, which is still currently in development. Here's what my source said of the current state of things:
"Reeves is going to do some stuff influenced in crime film and deep Batman mythos."
This seems to go hand-in-hand with what Reeves said a few months back, about his film being more of a noir, detective story. What's new and interesting is the idea of Reeves delving deep into the mythos. Up until now, the films have all tackled fairly mainstream villains: Joker, Bane, Ra's Al Ghul, Penguin, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Mister Freeze, Two-Face, and The Riddler. If Reeves is going deep, this could mean we get to finally meet cinematic versions of characters like Black Mask, Victor Zsasz, or Hush.
I've also been told by folks I trust that Reeves is looking at David Fincher films like Se7en, Zodiac, and The Game. He's really high on this idea of a gritty crime drama, with the World's Greatest Detective on the case.
Lastly, for those of you concerned that it's going to be jarring to have someone just take over as Batman, DC Entertainment plans on making the transition go smoothly by surrounding the new Bruce Wayne with familiar faces. In other words, whether it's Gyllenhaal or someone else, he'll have a supporting cast comprised of Jeremy Irons, J.K. Simmons, and- if needed for the story- Jared Leto and Margot Robbie, to make sure it's clear that this is the same Dark Knight we've seen in Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League.
It's been fascinating to watch all of this unfold, and I'll be sad if Affleck does- indeed- abandon the cave, but I'm hoping we finally find a resolution to all of this- and soon!
If you enjoyed this report, be sure to subscribe to the El Fanboy Podcast. I'm putting up an all-Justice League Special Edition in a couple of hours.
Until Next Time...Adios!
It's no secret that Justice League and all of the behind-the-scenes drama that's been unfolding at DC Entertainment since Spring of 2016 has created a tough time for the online geek community. The DC fandom has splintered off into different camps ever since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out and had a very polarizing affect on things. There are those who loved it and felt it should exemplify what the DC Cinematic Universe should look and feel like- Grandiose, Mythological, Cerebral, and Morally Complex. Then there are those who rejected what Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio created, feeling that its characterizations and implications about the iconic heroes housed within it were off-putting and a step in the wrong direction.
Unsurprisingly, the news and intel that's come out of DC Entertainment during this period has been received quite differently by both camps. Those who loved BvS hated everything they were hearing about sweeping changes taking place behind-the-scenes, while it was all music to the ears of those who yearned for an overhaul of the DC Cinematic Universe.
Indeed, it became such a tough pill to swallow for those in the pro-BvS camp that it led to a schism between them and the online sites they'd been visiting for years for news and scoops. They didn't want to believe the stories, which all painted the following picture:
Every single one of these stories was received and digested totally differently depending on what camp you were in. For some it was like a knife in the back, for others it was a reason to rejoice. But one truly unfortunate consequence of all of this news is that it drove a wedge between the pro-BvS crowd and the entertainment news community.
When a story would be reported by a scoop site, it would be ridiculed and decried. It'd get labeled as "click bait" and "fake news." When it- or some version of it- would get confirmed by a trusted news outlet like Variety or The Hollywood Reporter later on, or even confirmed by those running DC Entertainment, it was usually met with further denial, outrage, or backlash from those who had spent months hoping it wasn't true.
Those who hated what was happening began resenting anyone who was happy about the changes, and some of those who were rejoicing began rubbing it in the faces of those who initially denied and doubted that anything was afoot at DC Entertainment after BvS. These sore winners made it impossible for those on the other side of the fence to come to grips with the fact that the DC Cinematic Universe would never again resemble Snyder's blueprint once Justice League was over and done with. Those who adored Snyder found themselves cornered, sensing that they were part of a small, passionate minority; A group up against fellow DC fans who wanted changes, troll-like Marvel fans who childishly want to see DC projects struggle, and the vast majority of the online news community who seemingly had nothing but bad news to deliver to them.
And, backed into a corner, they became an angry tribe and a defensive, embattled hive mind was born. A community rose from the ashes of Snyder's fallen kingdom and- in a way- that's kind of beautiful.
At a time when Justice League is preaching for everyone to Come Together, and to Unite because "You Can't Save The World Alone," these people found each other. It became them against the world.
It's with that in mind that I hope that Justice League finds a way to mend this broken fandom. The film, a merging of the two ideas that both camps love, could serve as a bridge to a united front. Those who love Snyder's aesthetic and mythological visual storytelling, rich with comic-book-come-to-life imagery will get that in spades. Those who yearned for a more optimistic, hopeful, joyous celebration of these characters they've loved their whole lives will get that.
Maybe, just maybe, both sides will realize what an amazing time to be alive this is and look towards the future with open arms and an open mind, together. It may have been a bumpy ride, but DC may have finally found its footing. On the horizon, we have James Wan's Aquaman, Patty Jenkins returning for Wonder Woman 2, and a Matt Reeves Batman movie! Not to mention, we should be learning any day now who will be directing 2020's Flashpoint.
And, lastly, after all of these trials and tribulations Justice League will be here in a few days and the buzz so far on it...is good!!!
Sometimes, you've just got to pinch yourself.
It's time, at last, to come together. And I'm All In for that.
Last week, I made this video available to all of my Patreon Patrons. This week? I share it with everyone.
Watch it to see how I make the case for why Justice League won't join the Billion Dollar Club. It's not an anti-DC or anti-Snyder thing. Just analysis with plenty of food for thought. Enjoy!
You can find the written version on The Splash Report by clicking here: "MFR SAYS THOR: RAGNAROK IS A SMARTLY-CRAFTED DUMB MOVIE"