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)

Agents of SHIELD comes to ABC this fall

14-May-13 4:38 PM by
Filed under Television; 1 comment.

It's not enough that Marvel will, by the end of this year, have produced three Iron Man movies, two Incredible Hulks, two Thors, a Captain America, and The Avengers. Having dominated the silver screen, they're now moving to master the smaller screen with this fall's debut of the television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The show, which has been in production since 2012, officially passed the pilot stage on May 10 and is scheduled to air Tuesdays at 8 PM this fall on ABC, made official by the trailer:

(There's also a 30-second teaser trailer that's rather uninspiring.)

After watching the above, I'm curious what previous shows S.H.I.E.L.D. will draw upon. The trailer makes the agency sound like hunters of the superpowered, which is too reminiscent of Heroes, a show that started with great promise but quickly crashed and burned. Or will Marvel's show eschew a serial nature in favor of a phenomenon of the week, in the style of The X-Files?

(more…)

Application to SHIELD

26-Sep-12 3:12 PM by
Filed under Humor, Television; Comments Off on Application to SHIELD

In 2012, four Marvel superheroes combined their franchises into one summer blockbuster: The Avengers. This team consisting of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk was assembled by agents of the secret military agency known as Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division — SHIELD for short.

ABC wants to know more about this agency and has ordered a television pilot. Best of all, they're tapping Avengers director Joss Whedon — creator of Buffy, Dollhouse, and Dr. Horrible — to co-write and possibly direct.

Just as SHIELD did, Whedon is assembling an all-star team, and graphic designer Adam Levermore wants in. He has worked on the Battlestar Galactica, Serenity, and The Guild franchises, which he feels make him the perfect candidate to work in the super nerdy world of superheroes. Although I'm not familiar with his name and only vaguely familiar with his work, I have to admit that he makes a convincing case for his application to the SHIELD series:

I'd hire him. Wouldn't you?

And if you don't get the closing joke to Adam, you need to see "Once More, With Feeling"!

(Hat tip to Cheezburger)

Batman vs. Captain America

18-Jul-12 10:29 AM by
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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)

Avengers Assemble

11-Oct-11 10:08 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 2 comments.

Ladies and gentlemen… boys and girls… I present to you: the summer blockbuster of 2012.

Marvel superheroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and Thor join forces as the Avengers, under the direction of Joss Whedon of Buffy and Firefly fame. The team's individual films have, on the whole, been good to great, so even I, only an occasional fan of Marvel Comics, find myself with high hopes and expectations for this collaboration.

This raises the question: Why can't DC Comics do this with their stable of legendary heroes? Their Batman franchise is going gangbusters, but they've so far failed to gain traction with Superman (though a reboot is coming in 2013) or Green Lantern. The IMDb lists a Wonder Woman TV show coming later this year, with a movie in 2015. By contrast, Marvel assembled their team in just four years.

We'll likely not have an answer until well after The Avengers' May 4, 2012, debut.

UPDATE: Do not be fooled by cheap imitations!

Or wanna-bes!

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.

X-Men: First Class First Look

11-Feb-11 2:38 PM by
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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)

The Technology and Security of Iron Man 2

17-May-10 10:49 AM by
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Iron Man 2 Three years ago, my then-new employment at Computerworld partnered me with security maven Angela Gunn to produce a series of articles on a topic of mutual interest: geeky films. To make it appropriate for our employer's audience, we dissected the IT in films, she from a security perspective and I from a cinematic one. We wrote three such articles before Angela found employment elsewhere.

Movies are not a core topic for an enterprise IT magazine, so the series was put on the backburner. Fortunately, I recently found a new co-author with whom to collaborate. Bill Brenner of CSO Online, a publication affiliated with Computerworld, and I decide to revive the "Security Goes to the Movies" brand with a few changes. Instead of writing in two voices with one commenting on the other, we tried integrating our commentary into a consistent tone, making for a less jarring reading experience.

Our first outing was to see Iron Man 2 opening night with former Computerworld copyeditor Gene Demaitre, with whom I wrote the similarly cinematic IT piece, "Do Sci-Fi Films Get Advanced Tech Right?". Angela and I had reviewed the original Iron Man, and I was eager to put its successor to the same scrutiny.

The first fruit of this labor is now online:

The summer blockbuster season officially kicked off last Friday with Iron Man 2, an action-packed superhero flick that had the fifth-highest-grossing opening weekend in Hollywood's history. Whether you like the movie or not, at least one thing about it rings true — the plot and the characters provide a striking reflection of today's tech security industry.

Marvel's metallic superhero was first portrayed on the silver screen by Robert Downey Jr. in 2008's Iron Man. In that film, playboy industrialist Tony Stark has a crisis of conscience and brings the manufacture of weapons at his defense company to a halt. To chase down terrorists who have misappropriated his munitions, Stark builds himself an armored, weaponized exoskeleton suit (that can fly!) and becomes Iron Man, making his invention an object of desire to military profiteers.

The sequel is much the same, with more villains, more conniving and more suits. A montage catches us up on what's happened since the previous movie: With no country's military able to match Iron Man's technological superiority, Stark's vigilante action and deterrent policy have brought about a worldwide détente.

Since Stark is the only person who knows what makes Iron Man tick, the world's security rests entirely in his hands. Not surprisingly, the U.S. government wants to reproduce the Iron Man suit for its own militaristic purposes; the debate over private vs. public security forms one of the movie's core conflicts.

You can read the rest of our story at Computerworld.com (or CSO Online, if you prefer). Bill and I pretty happy with it and look forward to working together again.

One passage was rightfully left on the cutting room floor as it had little relevance to security technology, but Showbits readers may find it helpful to know:

There is a scene in Monaco in which Stark acts heroically without his suit, underscoring the fact that superpowers do not a superhero make. But the pendulum swings both ways, as later, we see an armored Stark making an ass of himself, akin to the Iron Man comic book plot "Demon in a Bottle." When he does battle evildoers, the film focuses tightly on the action, which provides less context for the overall scene; had the director pulled back on the camera a bit more, we'd have a better grasp of what's happening when.

Have you seen the film that kicked off the summer blockbuster season? What did you think, from any perspective?