Identity crisis in Man of Steel trailer

14-Dec-12 12:55 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 2 comments.

Tis the season for superhero reboots: Spider-Man got his this past summer, and the Fantastic Four will get a makeover in 2015. Between those two will be the most iconic superhero of them all. Kal-El, the Last Son of Krypton, will become Clark Kent, then Superman, this June 14 in Man of Steel, an original film directed by Zack Snyder (300), produced by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises), and written by David Goyer (Blade II, Jumper, The Dark Knight, Ghost Rider 2). With teasers having been released at this past July's Comic-Con, it wasn't until this week that the masses got their first glimpse of Metropolis' defender with this full trailer:

Man of Steel is the first Superman film (if it can be considered that, given the movie's title's lack of nomenclature) to not be based Christopher Reeve's interpretation since he made that role manifest in 1978. Bryan Singer's 2006 sequel was both empowered and limited by its adherence to continuity, and though I seem to be one of the few who enjoyed Brandon Routh in the role, even I agree it's time for an original retelling.

And that we'll get: Snyder's version appears to focus away from the action and more on the character. Although there are hints of super-powered villains, the film's tension appears to originate from the identity crisis Kal experiences. Is he an alien, a Kansan, or a Samaritan? How will he balance his responsibilities to himself, his family, and his world? It doesn't sound like the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster, yet with such a storied production crew behind it, Man of Steel has potential to deliver the movie franchise back into the sun.

(Hat tips to Gene Demaitre, Kevin Melrose, and Keith Shaw)

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.

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)

DC Superheroes Duke It Out on DVD

06-Apr-10 1:03 PM by
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DC, the animation house responsible for Batman and Superman, have in the last few years brought their stable of superheroes to life in a series of direct-to-DVD feature films. From the aforementioned mainstays to less popular heroes Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, each has gotten a crack at the spotlight. But despite extended length compared with their television series and PG-13 ratings, I found that two recent installments don't always do their heroes justice.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is based on the first six issues of the Superman/Batman comic book that launched in 2003. When Lex Luthor is elected president, one of his first acts is to declare his two arch-nemeses enemies of the state. With villains out to collect the bounty and vigilantes-turned-soldiers determined to follow the letter of the law, Batman and Superman have few places left to turn.

The plot consists mostly of blows being traded among a cavalcade of DC superheroes. While this who's-who of the DCU can be fun for fans of the comics, it doesn't leave much room for character development. There are a few insightful moments, be it in dialogue or in cooperative battle tactics, that reveal Superman and Batman's relationship and ability to work as a team, but mostly it's just one action scene after another.

But the presentation of this film is fantastic, with a vaguely anime-like look. Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly reprise the titular roles they've become famous for in the last two decades, while Clancy Brown and Allison Mack (the latter of Smallville) turn in admirable performances as Lex Luthor and Power Girl, respectively. Unfortunately, the script doesn't afford Power Girl much respect, leaving her a weak-willed woman. (Can you spot LeVar Burton's cameo?)

Batman and Owlman

Batman and Owlman face their counterparts.

Public Enemies was followed this February with DC's seventh and most recent video release, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, in which our heroes — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter — travel to a mirror universe, where heroes are villains and vice versa. Such an encounter could be a fascinating opportunity to delve into what makes someone be good or evil, but the running time of just 75 minutes affords little opportunity for backstory or character development. The most screen time is given to the trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman and their evil counterparts: Ultraman, Owlman, and Superwoman, but the only meaningful dialogue is given to Batman and Owlman. There is a superficial love interest for the Martian Manhunter, but it's not explored in any real depth.

Being such a short film, the plot has to move fast. The Justice League's first melee with the Crime Syndicate occurs just 12 minutes into the film, resulting in an exciting airborne battle. In this scene and throughout the film, the Justice League fight mostly random super-powered troops; the movie doesn't pit our heroes against their equivalents until about the one-hour mark.

Again, the animation is top-notch, though there remain instances where CGI is not as seamlessly integrated as they could be. It would've been clever had Batman, Owlman, or both been played by familiar voice actors, such as Kevin Conroy. But we do instead get excellent performances with James Wood as Owlman, Gina Torres (Firefly) as Superwoman, Bruce Davison (X-Men) as the POTUS, and Kari Wuhrer (Sliders) as Black Canary.

Both movies feature trailers and featurettes that we've seen on DC's other DVDs, which doesn't make for very "special" features. A notable exception is Crisis on Two Earths, which includes an original short film starring The Spectre, the DC universe's manifestation of God's spirit of vengeance.

These two animated films feature top-notch production values and are true to their comic book origins without requiring viewers to be familiar with their other animated incarnations. But I couldn't help but feeling that the PG-13 rating was used not to explore mature themes and characters, but to show grittier slugfests. I don't need "mature" to mean "dark", but I do want to see characters embark on a journey, tackling issues with more than their fists.

The Return of Superman Returns

01-Dec-09 2:45 PM by
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Superman Returns, released to theaters in June 2006, was a mixed success: it raked in $391 million from the worldwide box office — a lot of money, but well short of the $500 million expected. Critics were also, well, critical: some found male lead Brandon Routh dull, the plot lacking in action, and the inclusion of Superman's son unnecessary.

But Superman fanboys, even those who can are not blind to the film's shortcomings, still love the film and want even more from it. The various teasers and trailers released at the time revealed footage not seen in the final cut, so we hoped those pieces would be restored in the DVD edition. And though some deleted scenes were indeed made available, there remain even more that were not.

Just as Superman II got a Richard Donner cut, there is now a petition for Warner Bros. to create Superman Returns: The Bryan Singer Cut, named for the movie's writer, producer, and director. These fans have taken what unreleased snippets they could find and strung together this trailer:

As an owner of the original Superman Returns DVD, I would buy another edition and so hope this petition succeeds — but I don't think it will. First, Superman Returns is likely to be dismissed in whatever film is next for the superhero; the potential for a reboot could be confused by further promotion of this film. Second, the Richard Donner cut was a unique situation in which studio politics prevented his vision for Superman II from being realized for more than two decades; I don't know of any similar dissatisfaction on Bryan Singer's part. Finally, since DVDs have regional releases, I'm not sure if it hurts, or is immaterial to, the cause that the petition is based in Argentina.

Nonetheless, you can follow the cause on Facebook or Twitter, though neither have been updated in the last two weeks, just two days after the above trailer was posted to YouTube. Perhaps this cause was just a superhero fly-by-night.

Hat tip to the BlueTights Network.

Heroes Redux

12-Oct-08 11:23 AM by
Filed under Television; 2 comments.

Between 8 PM Friday night and 1 AM Sunday morning, I watched the entire second season of Heroes. The writers' strike abbreviated this season to only 11 episodes, down 23 from the show's launch — otherwise my marathon would've been far more demanding. Though I liked both seasons, I can see why some fans were disappointed with the follow-up to the blockbuster debut season. Here are my thoughts (and spoilers)…
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Hands On Hancock

09-Jul-08 5:40 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 1 comment.

Superheroes have been a hot property for decades, but the last few years have been especially generous to fans of the genre. We've seen everyone from Superman and the X-Men to Constantine and Hellboy transition from comic book to silver screen, many of them successfully. Nonetheless, it was a welcome change of pace to take in Hancock, an original property with its own take on superpowered beings living among us.

Secret identities are a mainstay of the superhero genre, and the same is true for Will Smith's John Hancock, but with a twist: his identity is secret even to himself. Hancock is imbued with flight, super-strength, super-speed, and invulnerability, but like Superboy and unlike Superman, he is always "on" as Hancock. He has no normal childhood to serve as a foundation for his self-identity, nor human persona to retreat to and through which to keep in touch with the non-powered populace he tries to serve. The result is a drunken, reckless "hero" frustrated ostensibly with an ungrateful citizenry, but truly with his own inability to connect to the rest of humanity. The opportunity and struggle to overcome that conflict arises when Hancock saves someone (Jason Bateman) who sees the maligned martyr's potential for greatness, and the two team up to create a new image that rectifies the careless flaws for which Hancock has become infamous.

It's an interesting approach, and one, as another review noted, that's welcome after the fantastic though typical fare of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. There's some comedy here, not too much action, and some character introspection — though there could've been more. The film takes an unusual, though not entirely unexpected, turn in the last half-hour. I've heard criticism of this portion of the film, but I found it satisfactorily answered many questions I'd accumulated during the previous hour.

A different script could likely have satisfied both me and the film's critics more uniformly, but that's not the movie we were given. What we got was a character study on the burden of great power — not its inherent responsibility to others, but its ability to elevate above mankind someone who considers himself below it. Some touching and thoughtful sequences make this a superhero film of a different ilk from what we're accustomed to, and I appreciate that diversity.