Wanna know how Captain Phasma gets out of the trash compactor?
Cheers Marvel this 5 issue series will literally answer the questions that no one has been asking.
A.K.A. Marvel/Lucasfilm take the piss.
What we have here is Marvel and Lucasfilm exploiting their readership. Whilst the body of work that Marvel has put out since regaining the Star Wars licence from Dark Horse in 2015 has continued to remain high and they have avoided saturating the marketplace, by limiting themselves to at most 4 titles being released in any given month, there is however something amiss with this release.
In keeping the quality high they have ensured that an always devoted fanbase will buy everything, putting out 95 variant issues of Star Wars issue 1 and although that is a novelty factor that will attract only the most hardened collector with the deepest pockets, Marvel have seen fit to release this ‘gem’.
With Unplugged, the loyal fanbase get three droid-centric stories packaged together that have been previously found as back-up/bonus content in the back pages of other titles. There is nothing wrong with the stories, they are cutesy and perfect for a younger audience. In fact I hope that with titles like this or something like My Little Pony they are able to draw in a new generation of readers whether in print or digital. My issue is that this is a cynical repackaging of previously released material with no mention of this anywhere within the issue showing a deep lack of respect for the readers.
Chris Eliopoulos’ artwork is lovely, whimsical and whilst simplistic is a perfect fit for the stories, would I read an entire issue or run in this style probably not but would I give this to a younger reader certainly. However repackaging and charging about £4.00 ($4.99) for stories I’ve already got in other issues* just leaves a bad taste in the mouth as the novelty quality wears off.
* Poe Dameron #1 (BB-8 story), Star Wars #25 (R2-D2 story), Star Wars: Darth Maul #1 (Probe Droid story).
I’d given up hope of this ever hitting the airwaves, it seems to have been in development for well over a year and whilst I appreciate that it can take some time for a show to move from being optioned by a studio, particularly if its based upon pre-existing material, moving past the development stage and being ordered to Pilot stage. From there there is no guarantee that the show will even be picked up for a half or even full season.
The superhero landscape is littered with shows that never made it past the pilot stage. The 2011 Wonder Woman, the 2006 Aquaman and Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off Most Wanted, to name three. All of which incidentally star Adrianne Palicki, that poor girl just can’t catch a break as she also starred in the unsold pilot for The Robinsons: Lost in Space (2003) which was directed by John Woo.
Powerless was first announced in January 2016 and has taken just over a year to be broadcast, though there are reports of various behind the scenes issues with the shows original show runner leaving in August 2016 and the pilot episode that was shown at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con being almost completely reshot and its premise of a group working for an insurance company that has to deal with the fall-out from superhero battles being completely dropped. The new version of the show concerns a group of developers who design products to protect people from harm during superhero battles. Neither sound particularly appealing and given the laughter vacuum that surrounds the pilot that aired the original must have been terrible to warrant a complete overhaul.
The cast are fine, Vanessa Hudgens has that perky ‘all American girl next door’ quality as Emily Locke. Alan Tudyk is suitably self serving as her boss Van Wayne, Thomas Wayne’s ‘cousins, cousins, cousin’. As for the rest of the cast Danny Pudi, Christina Kirk and Ron Funches, as I’m not familiar with their body of work it’s difficult to make any snap judgements as it’s the pilot so they aren’t given a lot to work with. The roles may dramatically improve for everyone as the series progresses but from this laughter free vacuum I am not holding out much hope.
Given that sitcoms generally tend to work on the basis of stereotypes and impossibly thin plotting to get by I was hoping that given the rich comic book world in which this show would be working there would be more depth. In the opening episode there just isn’t, a half arsed jab at Batman Vs Superman for its vague reasoning for the two heroes to be fighting is pretty thin for a show that trundles along for 22minutes with no direction.
It has already been established that this show isn’t part of The CW Arrowverse, nor clearly the big screen universe of the DCEU. So it seems to almost be part of the Batman ’66 universe, as although uncredited Adam West provides the show with its opening narration introducing us to the world of Wayne Security. Along with another DC alumni Marc McClure who is probably most famous for playing Jimmy Olsen to Christopher Reeves Superman.
This opening episode does not fill me with a great deal of hope for the series, iMDb currently has unto 10 episodes listed but as this appears to be relatively cheap to produce there could be more, I think this is the first time I have ever hoped that a series would get cancelled as I find it embarrassing for everyone involved and doesn’t look good in the already muddied waters of DC related material, thank god for Arrow and company.
Given their relatively similar premises maybe Marvel are waiting to see how this show fairs before taking Damage Control forward, a show that seems to have been in development almost as long as Powerless.
I hadn’t seen Green Lantern (Campbell) since it was released in 2011 and I can’t say it left a great impression on me at the time. I found the overall story flat and uninspiring with the characters a little bland and not particularly deep or likeable and as origin stories go it was by the numbers. In fact the whole thing had been done much better in 2009 with the animated feature Green Lantern: First Flight (Montgomery), this wasn’t the first time that DC had put out a superior animated feature covering similar territory. In 1997 they released the widely derided Batman & Robin (Schumacher), followed by the animated feature Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (Kirkland) which covered similar ground and had been held back by Warner Bros. for fear it would over shadow their live action dud.
For all intents and purposes this should have been the beginning of a live action DC universe, Marvel already had the drop on DC by 3 years with Iron Man (Favreau, 2008) and Man Of Steel (Snyder, 2013) was still 2 years away. Given its science fiction leanings, with a healthy dose of cop thrown into the mix this should have been the perfect starting point for the more ‘God’ like elements of the DC universe and should have put an end to Warner Bros. reliance upon Batman and Superman titles that have been their cash cow since 1978.
I’m not sure what prompted me to re-watch Green Lantern 6 years later, or buy it for that matter, however 25p for the Blu-Ray Extended Cut on Amazon, courtesy of Music Magpie, certainly helped sweeten the pot. So with some trepidation I sat down to watch a film that memory convinced me was nothing short of terrible, one of the worst comic book movies to ever grace our screens, right down there with Catwoman (Pitof, 2004) and Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (Nevaldine, Taylor, 2011).
Was it as bad as I remembered? Well no, but it wasn’t great either. The Extended Cut runs a little over 10 minutes longer than the cinema release and doesn’t add a great deal to the plot, unlike ‘classic’ Directors or Extended Cuts like Aliens (Cameron, 1986) or The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (Jackson, 2001, 2002, 2003). The additional 10 minutes don’t alter the film in any significant or noticeable way there are no revelations in the additional footage that change relationships or plot points the film gets to its destination in much the same shape, it just takes 10 more minutes to arrive.
6 years on I still think Ryan Reynolds is woefully miscast, and was apparently cast against director Martin Campbell’s wishes as he had wanted Bradley Cooper for the part. I don’t think either would/are suitable choices both actors are largely inter-changable but I find Reynolds is just far too cocky and carefree to be believable as Hal Jordan. I’ve always thought of Jordan as a straight arrow albeit one who would bend the rules rather than flat out ignore them as he does with Reynolds interpretation.
Reynolds isn’t the only one miscast, Blake Lively, as Carol Ferris, just seems woefully out of place. Whilst she isn’t reduced to eye candy I just don’t buy Lively as a test pilot, in much the same way that I still don’t see Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist in The World Is Not Enough (Apted, 1999). The part is underwritten and apart from one line of improvised dialogue “I’ve seen you naked! You think I wouldn’t recognise you because you covered your cheekbones!” the role is uneventful.
Peter Sarsgaard fairs a little better as Hector Hammond, getting to chew some serious scenery but the uneven pacing, more of that shortly, means that his arc whips by at breakneck speed and is over before you know it.
The remainder of the cast is filled out with a decent and dependable cast, but they have very little screen time and provide little more than lip service to their comic book originators.
As for the plot, pacing and editing. It is a little hit and miss from the beginning. This is very much a by the book origin story and feels like a collection of scenes in desperate need of a plot, it bounces back and forth between earth and space and Parallax. For the sake of the plot Jordan learns to use his ring and powers with surprising ease and the training montage flies by in less than a couple of minutes as does Jordans’ doubt in his abilities before a final act turn around. As for the final act it is a little underwhelming, Parallax isn’t written as the massive threat he/it should be and follows the trend of evil clouds previously seen in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Story, 2007).
I think that happens to have been my biggest issue with the film watching it again, whilst it gloriously embraces the science fiction elements of the source material there is too much of the film that is CGI, from the Green Lantern costumes to 95% of the Lanterns. Almost every scene features some digital tinkering making The Phantom Menace (Lucas, 1999) look positively restrained in comparison. The CG just makes everything look weightless and this film was there at the beginning for global disasters lacking the gravitas they should have.
I think the character could have greatly benefited from a sequel, especially with the mid-credit sequence that suggests Mark Strong’s Sinestro would be the villain. Looking at Box Office Mojo I’m not surprised the film didn’t get a sequel as it appears to have cost in the region of $200 million, and only just broke even with a worldwide gross of just under $220 million. Even with the studio desperately trying to tag the film to the latest 3D craze that only just seems to be dying on its arse, it doesn’t appear to have helped the box office in any way.
The Green Lantern looks to be getting another go at the box office in 2020 with Green Lantern Corps. so like Ang Lees Hulk (2003) this appears to be the forgotten step child that DC doesn’t talk about. Had there been a better more well rounded script who knows we may have had a sequel by now and have even been talking up an appearance in Justice League (Snyder, 2017). As it is we’ll simply continue to chalk this up to one of the many comic book misfires and at the time of writing this is the 837 most (un)popular film on IMDB.
In all of comics, there is nothing that more perfectly encapsulates Americana and the 1940s and 50s era of innocence, malt shops and that there was once a time you could trust politicians and those in charge.
Archie and the gang, have remained largely unchanged since 1941, even with a variety of animated shows throughout the years and a live action TV movie in 1990, Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again (Lowry) that depicted the characters 15 years after graduating high school the world of Archie has remained forever in a bubble. Not to dissimilar to the The Brady Bunch Movie (1995, Thomas) that placed the titular family in the modern era but presented them with the same attitudes and morality as when the original show aired (1969-74).
the moody millennial updating of Archie, Betty, Veronica and the rest of the ensemble. All of the promotional artwork, trailers and one sheets for the show gave us the first glimpses of a show steeped in Noir, Lynch and any number of over-sexed teen dramas. In the first promotional poster we saw a steamed up VW Beetle, SPOILER the pilot/opening episode reveals that the couple in the car are Archie and music teacher Miss Grundy who is a far cry from her original 1941 incarnation.
Add in teen angst, unrequited love, heavy doses of medication, a potential murder with hints of incest and social hierarchy that wouldn’t be out of place in Mean Girls (2004, Waters) and the show is a melting pot of many ideas that will either be crushed under the weight of its ideas over the shows first season of 12 chapters, rather than episodes, or give us a show that lives up to the promise of its Lynchian premise.
Presently the opening episode reminds me of the recent MTV version of Scream, with its dark themes and portentous voiceover. It is certainly a bold move on the part of The CW, though the show was originally developed at Fox in 2014, to take a show so inherently American and add such darkness to it.
Though given the times we live in, the darkness beneath the surface of something so clean and all American is more a reflection of our times than a meditation upon the change in the American dream.
On the 12th of December 2015 I wrote Tipping Point. Are we there or have we passed it? during which I asked whether the 8 feature films due for release along with the numerous TV shows, live action and various animated titles being released in 2016 represented a tipping point for comic book related material, along with the 50+ titles that are due to be released or are in development between 2016 and 2020 represented a market reaching saturation point with the bubble and the wider publics taste in such material soon to burst and fade as whatever the next trend is takes flight.
Well writing as I am now in January 2017, it doesn’t appear that that bubble is going to burst anytime soon, its stretched to the point that the once dark ballon is practically transparent and the sharp edges threaten to tear through at any moment but 2017 promises to be another bumper year for comic book fans. The list of titles being optioned, where studios buy up the rights to potentially make features or shows of the title, continues to grow but presently we do not appear to have any titles in development past 2020 when I wrote originally back in 2015.
2016 had 8 feature films dropping across various formats, cinema and VOD, in 2017 we get at least 9 features potentially hitting the cinema. Three titles from the MCU, Guardians Vol. 2 (April), Spider-Man: Homecoming (July) and Thor: Ragnarok (October).
The struggling DCEU has two features which lets face it are make or break for the studio in terms of general goodwill from the public and critics at large, even fans are struggling to defend the features. Wonder Woman and Justice League: Part 1, personally a horrible title, hit the silver screen in June and November respectively. Will all the behind the scenes issues that appear to be surrounding the DC films and the revolving door policy that seems to be effecting the Flash features directors chair this could well spell the end of the DCEU unless 2017 corrects the mistakes made over the past year.
As for the odds and sods, we have the highly anticipated Logan, apparently marking Hugh Jackmans final appearance as Wolverine, the potentially controversial Ghost In The Shell starring Scarlett Johansson, both in March and Kingsman: The Golden Circle in October but my personal favourite release has got to be Lego Batman in February which looks like it could be the best Batman related feature in many years.
TV isn’t much better with all of The CWs DC titles, Arrow, The Flash, Legends Of Tomorrow and Supergirl for anyone struggling to keep up, confirmed to return for new seasons in the latter half of the year. As well as their Archie update Riverdale which is due to air at the end of January.
The Marvel/Netflix stable continues to be full steam ahead with Iron Fist (March), The Punisher and The Defenders (both TBC) all dropping on the streaming platform this year. As does The Inhumans, which appears to have been shifted from a feature to an event/mini-series though the opening episode will be screened in cinemas in September.
The Fox/Marvel show Legion, that apparently has no connection to the X-Men features airs in February and sensibly runs for only eight episodes, that could change should the show be renewed. We also get the 3rd season of the long delayed iZombie in April along with the will it/won’t it ever be released Powerless from DC in February. Depending on how that show does Marvel may eventually release/put in to production Damage Control which seems to have been in development for a few years now.
Other shows due to return though lacking release dates are the two Walking Dead shows, Preacher and Wynonna Earp. So this year alone we will definitely get 16 live action shows related to comic book material with at least 7 of those being ‘NEW’ to the airwaves, that figure could increase to 17 as at the time of writing there has been no confirmation that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be renewed for a fifth season.
Now the reason I concluded that last sentence with ‘live action’ is because the animated shows and DTV features further muddy the waters. DC continue to dominate this marketplace, in much the same way they do with live action shows, this year will see the release of the animated feature Justice League Dark, that rather beautifully sees the return of Matt Ryan to the role of John Constantine and later in the year DC will follow that up with two more animated features Teen Titans: The Judas Contract and Batman and Harley Quinn, though neither have confirmed release dates at the time of writing. Speaking of Matt Ryan will again reprise his role in a web series, Constantine, from the same studio that brought us Vixen and which will thus tie the character to The CWs Arrowverse along with the in development Freedom Fighters: The Ray which is also due to air at some point this year, making Constantine the sixth show to fall under that umbrella.
Marvel however are not to be out done as at some point in 2017 we will get an animated spin-off from their 2014 feature Big Hero 6, and second season of Guardians of The Galaxy and a new Spider-Man series, simply titled Marvel’s Spider-Man that will replace the Ultimate Spider-Man series that ran for four seasons along with some potential Rocket & Groot animated shorts though bugger all has been heard about that since some concept art appeared online all over a year ago.
One final mention must go to Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series which has been renewed for a fifth season and will likely air in the later half of the year as at the time of writing the fourth season was still airing, mostly due to animated shows not being as closely controlled by networks and episodes dropping randomly at times, often with a couple of months between new episodes.
I though this was getting out of hand in 2015, but 2017 just goes to show that studios and networks are going to continue to churn out shows, features and animation based on comic related material, there is the in built market, new generations of fans are born ever year and whilst they continue to make money and be profitable comic related material will be seen on a screen somewhere in one form or another.
In a side note we may also get two Death Note feature films, the US version and the 3rd Japanese feature, ‘Light Up the New World’ that was released in Japan last year. As well as an animated feature of Chew, that has been in development for a number of years and did have Robin Williams attached before his untimely death.
In a move that I’m not sure many people saw coming Joe Casey’s SEX came to an end this month. Maybe I’m being a little over dramatic with that statement, whilst the title has come to an end as a title published on a monthly basis, which isn’t bad going when you consider that at times Marvel and DC have struggled, the indie title published by Image is going to make the move to Trade/Collected editions only at some point in 2017. In February we will see the publication of the titles fifth volume ‘Reflexology’ and then we’ve just got to wait for volume six to appear.
I think my biggest concern with SEX going down the completely trade/collected edition route is that it could eventually just fade away, I understand Casey’s concern that “Monthly comic books are a grind. No doubt about it. Creator-owned comic books in particular — when you make them like we do — can be a certain kind of grind that takes its toll over time.” But I’d worry that without that monthly deadline to hit the trade/collected editions will get further and further apart. The title has been in circulation for the past three years and is far from over, in a strange sense the title has covered a lot and very little in its 34 issues with so much more potential than its for want of a better term ‘shock title’ would lead you to believe.
I’ll miss the erratic nature of its publication, start of the month end of the month occasionally two issues in a month. But boy is buying the collected editions really going to screw up my book shelf.
This was a bold move on the part of The CW, combine all four of its DC properties, including Supergirl after her move from CBS, into one big crossover story. I was really looking forward to this, the previous cameo’s, Constantine, and crossovers between The Flash, Arrow and Legends Of Tomorrow had for the most part been successful and whilst Gotham is out there on its own these shows have far more cohesion going on than Marvel’s own TV shows, Netflix’s aside, that share the same universe but never really converge. (At the time of writing).
One of the biggest benefits for Invasion! is that it was able to balance the overall storyline whilst still tying up various threads from each shows storylines and how they impact upon the other shows. Of the four shows Supergirl was the weakest but that was largely down to the episode having nothing to do with the over-arching plot, with the final scene merely involving Barry Allen and Cisco Ramon travelling from Earth-Prime to Earth-38 to enlist Supergirl’s help in their battle with the Dominators.
Supergirl however proves to be one of the highlights across the entire arc, Melissa Benoist’s acting is superb as Supergirl attempts to navigate around the vast array of characters presenting us with some moments of gold. Her reaction to Mick Rory’s (Heat Wave) backstory of having burnt his childhood home down with his entire family in it is absolutely priceless as is her interaction with Ray Palmer (The Atom) during the Legends episode that leaves Palmer commenting that she ‘looks like my cousin’. In fact I found the overall story to be a little flat with the various character interactions being the one thing that held everything together, from Cisco’s comments about Curtis’ (Mister Terrific) penchant for quoting films as, sarcastically, ‘original’. These knowing moments where the production team acknowledge that maybe some of their characters are a little derivative of each other works in the shows benefit, as does the reaction of various characters to ‘Flashpoint’ particularly the Legends team who ‘deal’ with time abnormalities on a weekly basis and their questioning of Barry’s selfishness and the repercussions that are being felt across the Arrowverse shows.
Barry’s selfishness which will no doubt continue to have repercussions across the remainder of season 3 for the scarlet speedster and potentially the other Arrowverse shows beyond some superficial changes, such as Diggle now having a son as opposed to previously having a daughter. Oliver Queen’s sometimes prickly nature also works well within the show, although he has had various teams around him during Arrows, now, 5 seasons as a character he has always preferred to work alone where he has total control of the situation. The inclusion of Supergirl and the various characters is something which doesn’t sit well with Oliver and he is not backward in letting his feelings be known about it. It’s character moments like these that are the highlights, the acknowledgement of Snart’s (Captain Cold) sacrifice during the first season of Legends is given a poignant moment of levity along with Dr. Stein’s discovery that he has inadvertently altered his own history with the revelation that he now has a daughter.
The characters are the real bonus of this arc, not the story, and I hope should the shows continue for a few more years that we get some more crossovers. Hopefully one where the Supergirl episode is more than just the introduction and we get some interaction between her cast and Arrowverse characters beyond Barry, though I am massively looking forward to the musical crossover episode, there is some real musical pedigree amongst the casts of Supergirl and The Flash. It is certain that Kara and Barry work best together and this probably has more to do with their shows slightly lighter tone when compared to Arrow or the ensemble of Legends.
What’s the difference between DC and Marvel films right now?
Well unless you really go at it and I mean really at it, most Marvel films tend to hold up pretty well under the microscope, even Iron Man 3 and the Thor’s.
DC on the other hand seem to be a cluster fuck of ideas thrown at the wall with no thought about how they are all going to fit together in the long run to tell a cohesive story that builds over a series of films.
Marvel have steadily crafted their films, whereas DC seem desperate to put a universe together and have ultimately missed the potential of the characters they have in their catalogue. Marvel were working with D-list characters, you know the ones that no one would buy when the company entered bankruptcy in 1996/97, and have somehow become a media juggernaut on the back of them whilst the companies that own characters such as the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man just can’t seem to get it right.
So what’s the difference between DC and Marvel fans?
Marvel fans don’t give a shit about extended cuts, the bonus scenes on the retail releases are just bonus cuts. With or without them the films get to the same place even if there might have been some behind the scenes issues. Mickey Rourke states that much of his performance from Iron Man 2 ended up on the cutting room floor, and Thor: The Dark World’s director Alan Taylor stated that the film changed in post production. Whatever the issues the films tell there story without the need for extended cuts.
DC fans on the other hand seem to rely upon extended cuts to make sense of the film they have just watched, Batman V Superman being the obvious choice, if you can’t tell a coherent story over 2 hours then your clearly doing something very, very wrong. Fans are also apparently clamouring for an extended cut of Suicide Squad due to the amount of footage that featured in the trailers but was no where to be seen in the cinema release.
As it stands at the moment Marvel are literally taking a crowbar to DC at the cinema and there seems to be no end in sight to the blood in the water, Marvel are sitting pretty on the beach as the sharks circle DC’s punctured raft.
How the hell is the DCEU in crisis after only three films?
Some seem to think that Zack Snyder is to blame, he has after all directed Man Of Steel and Batman Vs Superman and is the Executive Producer on Suicide Squad. Sadly he is also credited as ‘Story By’ on the upcoming Wonder Woman, a film that apparently is in crisis according to one ‘supposed’ former Warner Bros. employee. Along with numerous sites reporting upon the apparent behind the scenes issues at Warner Bros. here’s one and here’s another. There are also a number of reports that Suicide Squad had various competing edits that left fans with, personally the best DCEU so far, a mess of a film.
So what the hell is going on, DC/Warner Bros. are working with some of the most recognisable characters in comic books but somehow don’t seem to be able to craft a film that isn’t full of plot holes, questionable dialogue or crappy editing.
Wonder Woman has a lot riding on it, yes we’ve had the surprising release of the Justice League trailer which presented us with some surprisingly light and funny dialogue. But Wonder Woman is the first superhero feature film to have a woman in the lead since Elektra in 2005 and we all know how well that one was received.
Sooner or later a comic book film is going to tank really big at the Box Office, like Fantastic Four big and it’s going to kill the current goodwill that comic book movies have with the wider cinema going audience. I’ve written previously about the tipping point regarding comic book related properties, here, and with DC’s recent announcement that the possible Booster Gold film wont be part of the DCEU it seems pretty clear that should Wonder Woman and Justice League not fair so well at the box office Warner Bros./DC’s slate of announced titles could get a lot smaller unlike Marvel’s which seems to add a new title every couple of months.