Batman vs. Captain America

18-Jul-12 10:29 AM by
Filed under Showbits; Comments Off on Batman vs. Captain America

Showdowns and smackdowns are a popular impetus for comic book action sequences. The film The Avengers featured a contentious team-up of some of Marvel Comics' greatest heroes, while a recent comic book plot pitted this same team against the mutants known as the X-Men.

But rarely do we see authorized battles across the universes, those being DC and Marvel. Each has its own stable of superheroes, and never shall the twain meet (with the exception of the rare amalgam). Thank goodness for fan films, which know no limits and can pair the likes of Captain America and Batman.

I love that the film is completely plot-free, allowing the viewer to make up a reason not only for why these two good guys are fighting, but how they encountered each other in the first place. Did the Infinity Gauntlet breach the galactic barrier? Did Mr. Mxyzptlk play a trick? As believable as each explanation may be, I find it hard to believe that the hand-to-hand combat skills of a serum-enhanced super soldier could even temporarily overcome the extensive training the Dark Knight has had in all the world's martial arts — just watch how much more reliant Cap is on his shield than Batman is on his utility belt. Fortunately, the battle lets you choose the winner, with a separate concluding video for each: Batman or Captain America.

At the moment, this video is the only one in the "Ultimate Fan Fights" playlist. Given the production values and choreography (and excessive use of dramatic slow-motion) of this first battle, I hope to see more showdowns from this group, IGN's START.

(Hat tip to Gene Demaitre and ComicBookMovie)

The Avengers' Backup

27-Jul-11 8:29 PM by
Filed under Humor; Comments Off on The Avengers' Backup

Stan Lee's true believers know to stick around after each Marvel superhero film, in case of an Easter Egg teasing future comic book adaptations. Perhaps the greatest series of such teasers are those that began with the original Iron Man film, subtly setting the groundwork for multiple movies to be tied together, leading up to The Avengers.

It's the promise of that 2012 film, which will unite Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, and Thor that led me to catch this summer's release of Thor. I have no familiarity with the Norse god and wasn't interested in seeing his movie — but I knew that if I skipped this one while seeing the other three, I'd be only 75% prepared for the team-up I 100% want to see.

These tie-ins successfully pried my moviegoing money from me, making it an effective strategy for Marvel. What if they decided to apply that same tactic to more of their films — or even patented it then lent it to other studios? What other films might we be forced to endure just to ensure we didn't miss the big picture? College Humor has the answer.

In Brightest Day

17-Jun-11 10:51 AM by
Filed under Trailers; Comments Off on In Brightest Day

This is a day that will be long remembered: the release of a highly anticipated film adaptation of one of the most popular comic books ever.

When I started reading comics in 1996, I was immediately drawn to a superhero I wasn't very familiar with. His abilities and adventures were stunning and made me an instant fan. I've long hoped to see him brought to life by Nathan Fillion, and someone in power must've seen the fan trailer that demonstrated the power of that union, as he's been cast in a direct-to-DVD animated film. But the live action take on this storied character debuts today with an entirely different cast:

Yes, I want to see Green Lantern — but the casting and the reception have both been poor. So I'm psyched to see the perennial favorites from Sesame Street ride the wave of public awareness to promote their upcoming film. The above is one of many misleading trailers that suggest terrible films in alternative genres. Here's the romantic comedy approach:

SImply named The Muppets, the film returns Jim Henson's creations to the silver screen on November 23, 2011.

X-Men: First Class First Look

11-Feb-11 2:38 PM by
Filed under Trailers; Comments Off on X-Men: First Class First Look

Comic books have been adapted to film for decades, but it was Sony's adaptations of X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002) that seems to have kicked off the popularity the genre is currently enjoying. Now everything under the sun is getting the silver screen treatment, with 2011 in particular experiencing a glut. This year's lineup includes Thor, Captain America, and Green Lantern, all of which have potential to be great summer blockbusters.

The X-Men? Not so much.

The trilogy that ended in 2006 is getting a prequel. Well, another prequel: we already got the cleverly named X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which told the, uh, origins of Wolverine. By contrast, on June 3, we'll see the beginnings of the leaders of the two tribes of mutants that waged war across that trilogy. Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr are set to become Professor X and Magneto in X-Men: First Class, directed by Matthew Vaughn.

As trailers go, this one is mediocre. The use of clips from the first film, without showing the actors' faces, is clever. Their new avatars are James McAvoy, who played Mr. Tumnus the faun in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Michael Fassbender, from Inglourious Basterds and Jonah Hex. The trailer doesn't show us enough of Kevin Bacon as villain Sebastian Shaw. I'm also not sure I remember any history books acknowledging the role mutants played in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wanting more details, I checked out the film's official Web site, which disappointingly is simply a redirect to a Facebook fan page.

Although the original X-Men film showed only the first manifestation of Magneto's powers, we didn't see any of the intervening fifty-plus years in which he met Professor X then strayed from the path of justice. It's an interesting story — but with the four X-Men movies thus far being 50/50, I'm inclined to sit this one out.

(Hat tip to Erik Davis)

Dr. Manhattan Project

29-Jan-09 12:30 PM by
Filed under Trailers; Comments Off on Dr. Manhattan Project

I don't often post historical material to Showbits, but I found this news broadcast from 1970 sufficiently compelling:

Watchmen premieres Friday, March 6th, courtesy the recent resolution of legal issues between distributor Warner Bros. and Fox. See the full trailer here.

Who Watches the Watchmen Trailer?

30-Jul-08 12:00 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 3 comments.

In addition to Terminator Salvation, this month's The Dark Knight also saw the debut of the trailer for Watchmen. This movie, like so many others this summer, is based on a comic book (or, in this case, graphic novel), but not one of a comic nature. There's little to find funny about this contemporary to Frank Miller's gritty The Dark Knight Returns. It setting is primarily realistic, with "super"-heroes who are nothing more than costumed crimefighters with a repertoire replete of human flaws. They hide behind their costumes, seeking refuge from a multitude of sins: megalomania, paranoia, violation. Alan Moore's book is often considered one of the greatest graphic novels of all time, and many of its diverse elements and plot threads appear in the trailer:

But to the casual viewer — the vast majority of moviegoers who have never read, or even heard of, a 21-year-old graphic novel — the above montage will likely be unintelligible. It clearly portrays a dystopian setting, but its variety of brooding characters does little to suggest a storyline. I expect the movie will be successful in capturing the book's themes; what I question is the studio's ability to sell it. Will they call it a cross between Sin City and 300? Their pride in Watchmen's printed origin is evident, and given the recent success of other comic conversions, there's certainly nothing to be ashamed of. So they're likely to continue promoting that background, unlike Constantine or Road to Perdition, which you'd think were meant for the silver screen.

It will be interesting to see the evolution of public perception as we near the watching of Watchmen.

Hulk (a) Smash!!

27-Jun-08 11:05 AM by
Filed under Reviews; 1 comment.

Bill Bixby's Hulk impressed on me the quintessential rendition of the monster, which made Eric Bana's take all the more monstrous. I have spent the last five years submerging memories of that 2003 Hulk film, and I worried that this summer's second attempt at the green giant would be more of the same. But with the reassurances of Marvel devotees, I paid my admission and steeled myself for the worst.

It's amazing what a difference is made when a film's star shares my opinion. As Ed Norton said on Jimmy Kimmel, "We're trying to rescue this franchise from the crapper!" He thus took a heavy hand in the scripting and editing of this outing, resulting in a much more engaging and fluid tale.

From the opening, it's clear this film is neither sequel nor remake. Dr. Banner's backstory is told primarily through brief vignettes that play out under the opening credit sequence. This encapsulation suffices for comic book buffs; others will pick up the details from ensuing dialogue. The story is clearly an homage to its television namesake: Within the first few minutes of the opening is a cameo by Bill Bixby, and later there's Lou Ferrigno in a much more noticeable and respectful appearance than in the last Hulk film. This is not a movie-length episode of the television series, but there are many common elements, such as a protagonist on the run, looking for a cure, which could not be present in an "origin" story such as Ang Lee's. The renewed focus on character development is a welcome change from the 2003 version that featured arena-type combat, a ridiculous villain, and a hero we could neither understand nor sympathize with.

The supporting cast here creates a valuable context for Banner to develop in. Like Jeff Bridges in Iron Man, William Hurt has aged into an excellent villain almost unrecognizable from his usual throwaway fare in films such as Michael and A.I. His brassy, hard-as-nails general is someone whose motivations we can almost understand, smartly keeping him from being the true villain. General Ross is also a more interesting father figure than the one Nick Nolte tried to play in the last Hulk film; Banner's relationships are sufficiently complex and painful without introducing unnecessary and villainous family.

As for the Hulk's actual adversary, I was hesitant by what the trailers suggested: essentially an evil Hulk, manufactured through the same means that brought us our original hero. Yet the smallest of details banished my concerns and instead subtly incorporated the Hulk into the rich Marvel mythos. It seems the gamma radiation which put Banner on the lam was a byproduct of research into creating the perfect "super-soldier" — a phrase that should hold meaning to any fan of the Marvel universe.

The Incredible Hulk has a good mix of action and dialogue. Banner is subjected to only three transformations, and in the style of Alien, his first appearance is kept almost entirely in the dark. Action fans may've expected more of the title character and less of his human counterpart, but I think the film's focus is exactly where its cinematic predecessor showed (by counterexample) it should be. (There could've been even more; I'm told there are over 70 minutes of deleted scenes, several of which are visible in the trailers.) Director Louis Leterrier deftly works the threat of the Hulk into even non-action sequences. There's a tense scene in which a metamorphosis begins and Betty climbs atop the thrashing figure to offer calming words, piercing Banner's confused haze to remind him who he is. Perhaps this act struck me for being so similar to my mother's own actions when my father had a seizure.

There are a few inconsistencies. When Banner is driving at night with "a person of interest", he ducks down in his car seat; but the next morning, he feels comfortable strolling through an open glade with her in broad daylight. When threatened, he pushes his love interest away for her own safety — but later, when he knows he's about to transform, he makes no such gestures. Is this guy a brilliant scientist or not??

More to the point: is The Incredible Hulk a brilliant film? I'd say yes, and it's almost enough to make me wonder if the 2003 film was Marvel Comics' attempt at New Coke to make us appreciate the reboot all the more. Iron Man is still the summer film to beat, but as superheroes go, Ed Norton has created an unexpectedly incredible movie.

AC/DC

22-Mar-07 10:43 AM by
Filed under Films; 3 comments.

In my quest for podcasts, I came across Supertalk Concern, a Superman show that doesn't limit itself to the Man of Steel. The latest episode has exciting scripting and production updates on live-action versions of Wonder Woman, The Flash, Justice League, and Watchmen. I'd be thrilled to see DC produce a film that'd succeed on the scale of Marvel's Spider-Man or X-Men.

But best of all in this podcast is a reading of a story the headline of which featured prominently in Superman Returns: "Why the World Doesn't Need a Superman". The show's host got his hands on the Daily Planet newspaper prop used in the movie, and it features actual articles, advertisements, and more. Though his delivery is not very elocutionary, the content of the article is interesting, proposing that, though Superman inspired humanity to achieve piece, it also made them sloppy and unable to care for themselves, knowing that Krypton's Last Son would save them. The message is mixed — though we can claim our independence in his absence, the blood is on his hands of those who have died who he would have saved by his presence — but the value is not just in the rhetoric, but in the insight it provides to its author. If we compare her theories to Superman's reception upon landing the airplane in the baseball stadium, it's astounding to acknowledge how positively everyone welcomed him back — perhaps everyone but Lois, the article's Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Methinks this is personal!

Courtesy Showbits reader Gene comes more film news from the DC universe. This interview with Bruce Timm looks at an upcoming series of direct-to-video animated films that, unlike Mystery of the Batwoman, are not based directly on animated series. Among them, look for a revamp of Superman that will pit two popular bad boys against each other: Adam Baldwin (Firefly's Jayne) as Superman, and James Marsters (Buffy's Spike) as Lex Luthor. Cool!