DC superheroes on TV this fall

28-May-14 2:41 PM by
Filed under Television; 3 comments.

Superheroes are cashing in big at the box office — but on television, they're a gamble. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., despite being renewed, has received mixed reviews, while other shows such as The Cape haven't survived a single season. This fall, several shows are taking the bet that they can buck the trend and be a success on the small screen.

Capitalizing on the recent trilogy of Batman movies (and the successful line of Arkham video games), the Dark Knight comes to Fox this fall — though he's a minor character in his own show. Set in Bruce Wayne's youth, shortly after his parents are murdered, Gotham focuses on Detective James Gordon, the officer who would one day be police commissioner, as he investigates crimes and encounters characters such as Harvey Dent, Edward Nygma, and Selina Kyle, years before they become the villains that would haunt the city's night. It's a combination of superhero and police procedural that hopes to last longer than the other show to be set in Gotham and not feature Batman, that being 2002's Birds of Prey, cancelled after just 13 episodes. Check out the trailer for Gotham:

Why is comic book publisher DC capitalizing so heavily on the iconic character of Batman? Lest you think they've forgotten their rich cast of other superheroes, joining Arrow on The CW this fall will be the Scarlet Speedster himself, The Flash:

The FlashLook familiar? This character already had a television run with a 1990 live-action series starring John Wesley Shipp. That incarnation of the Flash lasted only one season and 22 episodes, with the high cost of production cited as a reason for its cancellation. But with special effects now more affordable and accessible than ever, it's not just the Flash that's getting a second chance: Shipp has been cast in a recurring role as the hero's father, Henry Allen. Lightning does strike twice!

I'm more excited about that casting decision than I am about 24-year-old Thomas Gustin as Henry's speedy son, Barry. He seems too young and similar in build to Andrew Garfield, whose second Spider-Man movie debuted earlier this month. I don't know how old Barry was in the comic books when he received his powers, and I'm not opposed to rewriting and adapting the source material — but Tobey Maguire did such a great job of showcasing powers thrust upon the young that I'd like to see a more mature hero in this role.

With Arrow and The Flash on the same network — and set in the same universe, as seen in the above trailer's crossover — is DC positioning itself to create a television pantheon to rival Marvel's silver-screen Avengers? If so, what role will Smallville play in this lineup? Superhero cameos were the norm in that decade-long incarnation of Superman, though the Green Arrow that appeared there is seemingly not the same character who now has his own show. Where will they go from here?

Of course, Marvel isn't going to let DC have all the fun. Complementing the second season of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be a precursor to the agency in Agent Carter, with Hayley Atwell reprising her role from the Captain America films. Based on the Agent Carter one-shot that was released with the Iron Man 3 DVD, the series will be set in 1946, during the post-WWII founding of S.H.I.E.L.D. Whether this show will be like Gotham in the unlikelihood of featuring superheroes, or will be closer to S.H.I.E.L.D. in its encounters with the unknown, remains to be seen.

Movies take only two hours to judge, but as fans of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Joss Whedon know, television shows can take years to mature and for characters to develop Let's hope these superhero spinoffs get that chance.

(Hat tip to Charlie Jane Anders via Gene Demaitre)

Knight Life

15-Mar-07 8:30 AM by
Filed under Reviews, Television; Comments Off on Knight Life

I'm a fan of Batman in all his incarnations, from comics to television to film, but some formats and actors represent the Dark Knight better than others. Looking at his silver screen appearances, it's clear to me who the superior actor is. Forget Val Kilmer, George Clooney, or Christian Bale; give me Kevin Conroy anyday. His portrayal of Batman in the 1993 film Mask of the Phantasm (as well as Mark Hamill's as The Joker) helped establish the movie as the most realistic and authentic adventure of the Caped Crusader yet.

Phantasm was based on the animated television series that premiered in 1992. Unfortunately, the show's style, both in animation and characterization, became much simpler in 1997 when the show was rechristened The New Batman Adventures. It's this style that was employed by the show's last hurrah, the 2003 direct-to-video film Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, which I finally watched last night.

It'd been awhile since I'd seen its predecessor, the 1998 direct-to-video Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero, but I remember not liking what they did with the characters, and the juxtaposition of hand-drawn and computer-generated animation being disconcerting. Fortunately, Mystery of the Batwoman has a smoother appearance. There are some really great animated sequences, and though these are inconsistent, the animation is always at least average — albeit still in that simpler style. The sound effects are also contributive to the experience; there is a particular fight scene between Batwoman and two nameless bunny girls that demonstrates excellent audio and choreography.

I was also surprised by the plot, which I expected to be a no-brainer to anyone familiar with the No Man's Land story arc from the Batman comics in 1999. Instead, rather than mangling the characters we know and love, this film introduces three new characters. But ultimately, the titular enigma is akin to badly-written murder-mystery, where ALL the clues are red herrings.

Like Sub-Zero, this film ends on an exploding boat, and all the loose ends are neatly tied up. By comparison, Mask of the Phantasm bucked that trend with a resolution that could hardly be called happy — and that was before Bruce Wayne adopted his darker, more uniform, and more boring presentation. Mystery of the Batwoman felt more like a prolonged episode that didn't develop our established heroes much. But taken more lightly, it was a fun prolonged episode, and one I appreciated all the more for not having seen any new animated Batman adventures in many years.