Keaton returns to the Batcave! 5 Suits Keaton May Wear

by Drew Kiess

In 1992, Tim Burton’ts Batman Returns hit theaters. It may have upset parent groups and McDonald’s who hoped the superhero film would be more family and Happy Meal friendly, but it has become something of a classic since. It is also the last time we saw Michael Keaton as Batman. Keaton would exit the role as Warner Brothers would move on from Burton’s world for a lighter take with the late Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, and Val Kilmer would take over the role in a less than memorable performance.

Kilmer would only star in the one film before being replaced by George Clooney to disastrous effects in Batman and Robin, followed by Christian Bale in the beloved Batman trilogy from Christopher Nolan. The character would be rebooted again by Zack Snyder in Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and the upcoming Zack Snyder’s Justice League next year. Robert Pattinson is also preparing to resume filming on Matt Reeves’ film currently titled The Batman, which appears set to be more of a Black Label film like Joker that won’t influence the main film continuity, also set for release next year. The fact that we are getting two Batman movies next year is due to Affleck’s struggles during the filming of Justice League– an infamously troubled production following the departure of director Zack Snyder due to a family tragedy which was almost entirely reworked and reshot by Joss Whedon mere months before release. That experience during a time when the actor was dealing with a host f his own personal demons, led Affleck to drop out of Reeves’ film, which then evolved into being something entirely different from the already established DCEU. While Affleck will get to have his original performance seen for the first time next year, his time as Bruce Wayne on the bigscreen is over.

With a continuity in crisis, DC and Warner Brothers, now under the steady leadership of Walter Hamada, are taking a page out of a comic book editor’s playbook- reset the timeline, keep what works and discard the rest. Enter Flashpoint. The 2022 film, directed by It director Andy Muschietti, and seemingly starring Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash, will introduced the concept of the multiverse to the DC films. This concept is not new to fans of DC, and was also explored to great success in Sony/Marvel’s Into the Spiderverse. In a world where there are beloved movies, serials, and television shows in different continuities spanning nearly 80 years, this is an amazing way of officially saying that everything matters.

To prove that point, Flashpoint is bringing back Michael Keaton. Reports are even suggesting that Keaton will not only appear in Flashpoint as a touchstone to a previous movie universe, but will somehow be included into the DCEU going forward as the new Bruce Wayne, effectively replacing the void left behind by Ben Affleck.

This is all exciting news, and as a Batman nerd, I immediately begin thinking about seeing and older Bruce Wayne kicking thugs around. After some rumblings that Keaton would only be playing old man Wayne, The Hollywood Reporter seemingly put that to rest by confirming that the plan is for him to indeed don a batsuit. The question remains, however, what will that suit look like? To celebrate this momentous Batman news, here’s five suits that I think would make sense for the return of Keaton’s Batman:

5. A version of Batman Beyond

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With rumors of the potential for a Batman Beyond-like film on the horizon, be it with Terry McGinnis or Barbara Gordon as the mentee, an homage to Bruce’s suit in Batman Beyond would make sense. It could be as simple as the black and red suit, or it could be his later armored suit.

 

4. Kingdom Come

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In the classic novel Kingdom Come, an aged Dark Knight dons a suit of armor that allows him to move with his previous grace and power. A take on this would look great standing next to Ezra Miller’s Flash suit.

3. Arkham Knight suit

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Sticking with the mechanical suit theme, the suit from Arkham Knight self-assembled and could believably allow Batman to move in ways that his body would no longer be accustomed to moving.

2. The Hellbat

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This is obviously wishful thinking, but the Hellbat as seen in Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls would be highly welcomed by this fan. 

1. The 89 suit

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Honestly, this is the one I want most of all. Yes, it’s a dated look, but it would be incredible to see again. Just make the damn neck move. 

Remembering Denny O’Neil: 10 Accomplishments of the Legend

by Drew Kiess

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In 1969, Dennis “Denny” O’Neil took over writing Detective Comics, who’s leading character was a fledgling relic from a comic book era that was on its last legs. That character, of course, was none other than Batman. Following the cancellation of the television series two years earlier, comics featuring Batman were not in high demand and the books were, as they were before the TV series, on the verge of going the way of the dodo. O’Neil, with artist Neal Adams, changed that. Detective Comics #395 was published in November of ’69 and the groundwork was laid for the birth of the Bronze Age of comics, an era in which O’Neil left a lasting mark on not just one, but both of the major publishing houses.

As both editor and writer, O’Neil has made an indelible mark on characters such as Professor Xavier, Daredevil, Green Arrow, and Superman, as well as the Caped Crusader. There would be no way to fully appreciate how O’Neil defined the Silver Age, but below you will find 10 highlights in no particular order that merely scratch the surface.

10. Hiring Frank Miller to write Daredevil

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O’Neil took over as editor for Marvel in 1980. One of the books he oversaw was another fledgling comic, Daredevil, which was being written by Roger McKenzie and drawn by Frank Miller. O’Neil fired McKenzie and made Miller the sole role of writer, after having worked with Miller during a brief stint on The Amazing Spider-Man. During Miller’s hiatus from Daredevil, where he wrote, among other projects, The Dark Knight Returns, O’Neil took over and created Lady Deathstrike.

9. Creation of the League of Assassins

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Wanting to add a more cerebral villain, perhaps in part to combat the colorfulness of the still fresh TV series, editor Julius Schwartz developed a concept for a villain and named him Ra’s al Ghul. From his rough concept, O’Neil expanded the world and created a DC Comics staple in The League of Assassins, which has played a multimedia role in the Batman legacy. From Grant Morrison to Christopher Nolan, this organization has become fodder from some of Batman’s greatest stories.

8. Snowbirds Don’t Fly

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With the neutering of the Comics Code Authority in 1971 following a Stan Lee story with a subtle anti-drug message, O’Neil and Adams decided to take it a step further. Snowbirds Don’t Fly featured Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy struggling with a heroin addiction, which as even displayed on the cover. It was a major step forward in ending the heavy censorship of comic books.

7. No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!

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One year earlier in the same book, O’Neil had the hard travelling heroes take a road trip in which Green Arrow taught Green Lantern about racial unrest and disparity in American culture. The themes discussed in this book in 1970 seem disappointingly familiar today.

6. Azrael

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Denny O’Neil created Azrael in 1992 as part of the lead-up to Knightfall. O’Neil oversaw the Knightfall event as editor, which saw Azrael take over as Batman for the broken Bruce Wayne.

5. John Stewart Green Lantern

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In 1972, O’Neil created John Stewart, who became the third Green Lantern of Earth and DC’s first black superhero. Stewart would later go on to become most well known as Green Lantern through the Justice League animated series, and is still widely considered the fan favorite Green Lantern. O’Neil also fought back against Schwartz’s attempts to give him a more “black sounding” name.

4. Transformers

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In the early 80’s, O’Neil was brought in by Hasbro as part of a team to create a new line of transforming toys. His most notable contribution to this venture was the naming of Optimus Prime.

3. Teaching

O’Neil taught in the late 90s at the School of Visuals Arts. Gerard Way (yes, that Gerard Way), who would later run Young Animal DC, was among the many alumni of that era. O’Neil however was an all-time great mentor, ushering in talents such as Frank Miller, Dan Jurgens, and Chuck Dixon.

2. Superman vs Muhammed Ali

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Perhaps it’s simply a time capsule of a lost era, but this 1978 issue written by O’Neil is easily one of the most recognizable events in the Man of Steel’s history. For the record, Ali won, but threw Clark a bone anyways by telling him in the closing panel “WE are the greatest!”

1. Death in the Family

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As Batman editor, O’Neil came up for the concept behind Jim Starlin’s A Death in the Family. Inspired by an SNL segment featuring Eddie Murphy asking viewers to call in to determine the fate of a lobster, O’Neil allowed readers to call in to determine whether or not Jason Todd would survive an attack from the Joker. Todd was far from a fan favorite, but the vote came down to the wire. By a margin of only 72, it was determined that Todd would not survive, a decision which still has implications on Batman’s stories to this day.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War Review

by Drew Kiess

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In 2013, DC animation took on a new style and tone when they released Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. From there, they built a continuity with 15 more films starring several characters from the four corners of the DC Universe. It’s sequel, Justice League: War saw Darkseid launch an invasion of Earth, and established the tone and design of this new continuity as steeped in the New 52.

For the most part, with a few bumps and bruises along the way, this universe provided quality films and has been a major part of this writer’s anticipated films lists yearly. With the ending of Reign of the Supermen promising that the Justice League would take the war to Darkseid, fans of this series were eagerly anticipating the announcement of the next film.

What follows may be considered spoilers, but with the major twist of the movie occurring in the first five minutes, what else can I do?

Surprisingly, it wasn’t another Justice League sequel, but the sequel to 2017’s Justice League Dark that would take us to Apokolips. Turns out, for the story they wanted to tell, it was the right call. Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, directed by Matt Peters and Christina Sotta and written by Mairghread Scott and Ernie Altbacker, focuses on John Constantine, who is battling his demons regarding the failed mission to overtake Darkseid. War survivors Clark Kent and Raven seek him out to launch a desperate mission to free Earth from the oppression of Apokolips.

And that’s just the set up.

I truly cannot say much more about the film without fully going into spoilers, but what this creative team managed to accomplish with Apokolips War is something that should be experienced. The script manages to tie up loose threads from 15 films and brings finality to a universe in a way that a big budget universe feature never could. By the time the credits roll, there is no doubt of the finality of the events.

The bleakness may prevent this from being in regular rotation for me, but it is one of the best efforts from this universe. The film captures everything I love about “end of continuity” stories, because there’s no such thing as an unbreakable toy. The whole box is smashed without hesitation, and it is done in a way that reminds you that these films are love letters to comic books. But just like the comics, continuity wears thin and needs an update from time to time. It’s time for something new from these DC animated movies. I hope this isn’t the last time we see DC construct an animated movie continuity (Superman: Man of Tomorrow releases in August, but there’s no word on if it is a launchpad for a new continuity or if it is a standalone picture), but I will undoubtedly be looking forward to the next story.

 

Final Grade: A

Batman 66: Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack In the Middle

by Drew Kiess

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“Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle” is the first two-parter of the Bill Dozier Batman series staring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Frank Gorshin guest stars as Riddler. The episodes were directed by Robert Butler and written by Lorezon Semple, Jr., and premiered on January 12th and 13th, 1966.

 

When Gotham’s police force is intimidated by the return of the joyful devil Riddler, they realize they have only one choice: the Caped Crusader, deputy of the law, Batman and his faithful ward Robin must be called into action! Batman and Robin track down their arch enemy, and wrongfully accuse him of a crime. Riddler sues Batman, which threatens Batman’s secret identity- millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. 

 

Frank Gorshin steals this first double-header. We know that Adam West’s earnest performance as Batman is legendary, but Gorshin sets the tone for all the villains in this show with an over-the-top, manic performance. His movements are like a cartoon character and are surprisingly more controlled than Jim Carey’s turn as the Riddler in Batman Forever. Through all the mania, you can see the intelligence on Gorshin’s face. In this world, he is the smartest man in the room. This madness improves the comedy of West’s earnest performance. The whole thing is gloriously ridiculous. In one corner, a deadly serious, deputized crime fighter in a cape and cowl who labels his utility belt so he doesn’t have to memorize the contents, and in the other, the most intelligent, maniacal cartoon character to ever wear flesh. 

 

But Riddler has one weakness- he must prove that he’s the smartest man in the room, and that room must also include the Dynamic Duo. “Crime is no fun unless he’s outwitting us,” Robin observes. Batman and Robin fall into the Riddler’s trap at the “What a Way to Go-Go” discotheque (but not before giving the world the Bat-tutsi dance). Batman manages to escape, but Robin is not so lucky.

 

Here we have the staple trope of the Dozier Batman series- the dramatic cliff-hanger! Will Robin escape? Tune in tomorrow, same time same channel. Riddler enlists “Molly”, played by Bond-girl Jill St John to impersonate Robin using a rubber mold of his face. When Molly wears the mask, Burt Ward replaces her, meaning Ward is playing St John playing Molly. Ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is that a rubber mask can take someone shaped like Jill St John and turn them into someone shaped like Burt Ward. But the less said about that, the better.

 

Batman is never fooled, and when Molly realizes her plan was foiled, she attempts to escape by climbing on an atomic pile. Batman attempts to save her, but she falls to her death to the line, “What a terrible way to go-go.” Batman rescues Robin and puts an end to Riddler’s plot for good.

 

Bizarrely, Batman appears perfectly fine with the potential that Riddler was killed at the end of the episode, and perhaps even disappointed that he didn’t know for sure. That aside, what we see in this episode is an incredibly faithful representation of the Batman character from the 1950s. The 50s were a bad decade for comics, having been put under the Comics Code Authority after Seduction of the Innocent through mud on the industry. What resulted was a nerfed version of the medium that gained popularity during the second world war. That nerfing is what Bill Dozier’s series was satirizing. Understanding the show in that context and recognizing that, yes, it is supposed to be funny, can bring back the enjoyment of a series that many fans of the character’s more dark and brooding tone look sideways at. 

 

Yes, this Gotham looks more like the kind of big city Sheriff Andy Taylor would visit rather than the hell breaking through concrete vision of Tim Burton or the dirty Chicago vibe of the Nolan series. But for viewers of Batman in 1966 who were familiar with the book, this was Batman. Serious enough for kids to be enthralled by, and funny enough for adults to be entertained by. Campiness as serious art.

 

“Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack in the Middle” is a strong start. It introduces a classic, core villain, and sets the tone for all the major characters in the series. The pieces are in place for Batmania to begin.

 

Final Grade: A

Joker Review: A Medley Of Madness

By Drew Kiess

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Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix and is directed by Todd Phillips. Based on the villain we all know and love to hate from DC Comics, Joker is a one-and-done psychological thriller that has no franchise ambition, which is something that the comic book movie sub-genre is sadly lacking. Sequels and franchise-starters are the name of the game, and if nothing else, maybe that trend will finally be bucked. One can dream.

Once upon a time, I wrote about how dumb of an idea I thought a Joker movie was. I am happy to report that in the case of this film, I was dead wrong. Joker is a freight train and it hits hard. Like its subject, the film slithers and contorts as it weaves an uncomfortable story about the relationship of mental illness and violence, as well as explore, more superficially, how a character like the Joker could possibly come to exist.

This film is not unique in its depiction of madness. As has been pointed out by many before me, Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, and American Psycho all have shown a main character fall into murderousness. But when you take the most high profile villain in the most high profile subgenre of film and entertainment and give him a similar treatment, people are going to react. It’s not part of the plan. And that reaction has been harsh. Some are simply trying to score woke points in a world where clicks equal dollars (I don’t get paid to write these reviews, by the way). Others are striking against a preconceived idea of what a film like this ought to be. But Joker has opened up conversations like no other movie in recent memory, regardless of its quality.

Luckily, it is quite good. I will even dare to say that Joker is great. It is repetitive at this point to praise Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck and Joker, but I will do it anyways because it is deserving of the praise. What Phoenix manages to pull off is incredible. He is physically unlikable at all points in this movie, yet somehow manages to maintain a certain quality of helplessness that it is reasonable to feel some empathy towards him early in his downward spiral. However, that quality of helplessness vanishes as we reach the final stage of development in this two hour thriller. Fears that Joker would somehow make the Joker’s violence attractive are, in my opinion, unmerited. In any other story, a likeable character would choose option “A” at critical moments in his narrative. Arthur, every time, chooses option “B”, moving him further away from the character we as an audience empathized with at the beginning. The film, instead of glorifying the violence, makes us mourn for the fall of the offender. We wanted better for him and he fell short of that hope. It is a tragedy, which is nothing new to the arts. Just ask Bill Shakespeare.

It is a shame that we will never see this Joker get punched in the face by a man dressed like a bat, but for once, the Joker will get all the press in this film. But if you are a Batman fan, fear not: there are so many nods to other iterations of the character, and his eighty year legacy is honored well by the Phillip’s script. From references to Cesar Romero and Heath Ledger, to plot points ripped from the pages of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, this elseworld’s tale does not shy away from its comic book lineage. There is a wonderful blend of source material and creative license that keeps us on our toes while never straying away from the black heart of the clown prince.

Joker is one of those movies that it is hard to fully commit to an opinion on. It is deserving of long conversations and quiet reflection. While the internet is buzzing about whether or not it will lead to gun violence, it bluntly asks whether our monsters are born in a vacuum, or are they born out of a society going to hell? Perhaps in a climate of over-sensitivity and stark black and white morality, this question lands with a dud, but, it might just be the kind of important questions we need to be asking as our handbasket closes in on its final destination.

The film is not for everyone. It is audacious, violent, uncomfortable, and beautifully gross. It is also fascinating, thought provoking, and provocative. It is tempting for me to believe that those who do not see the message in the film are those who want to avoid it, but I also think that there are many who are simply not ready to have that conversation just yet. How are we responsible for our monsters? What have we done to create the awful world our villains live in? These are the questions that we are left with, and I hope that we begin to ask them.

Final score: Full House

NEWS: Pattinson Approved as Batman

by Drew Kiess

Smoke rises from the Gotham Cathedral. A new Batman has been chosen.

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Last month, Variety reported that Robert Pattinson had been cast as Batman in Matt Reeves’ The Batman. However, that story was dampened when other outlets said that it was not official and that it was down to Pattinson and Nicholas Hoult. However, today Deadline has reported that Pattinson, who was thought to be the frontrunner, has been approved by Warner Bros. to star as Bruce Wayne in the upcoming film trilogy, set to start production later this year, or early next year.

 

For most, Pattinson may seem like an odd fit, as he is mainly known as the guy from Twilight. Those who follow independent film, though, will know that Pattinson has created an impressive resume’ as of late, starring in indie darling films such as The Rover, Good Time, and The Lighthouse.

 

Details about The Batman are sparse, but it is believed that the film will feature several members of the rogue’s gallery, in a detective noir story, including The Penguin and Catwoman, as well as Riddler, among others. The Batman is scheduled to release June 25th, 2021.

Holy Moly! Shazam! Is A Triumph For DC

By Drew Kiess

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It seems like a lifetime ago that we fans were speculating that Dwayne Johnson was hinting at the possibility of a DC Universe movie featuring Shazam. Of course, when the movie was initially announced five years ago, Dwayne Johnson was announced as Black Adam. Things have changed, and while many (including me on some, but not all, fronts) will bemoan that change at Warner Bros. and DC Films, we now have our first winning streak as fans of this world on screen.

Aquaman was a moderate critical success and a major box office force. Following in the footsteps of James Wan, David Sandberg brought a truckload of magic into the DC universe with Shazam. Written by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke, Shazam brings back the Amblin spirit and tells the tale of an orphaned Billy Batson and his search for family…and there just so happens to be an ancient wizard looking to hand out superpowers to someone pure of heart.

Zachary Levi and Asher Angel together create a likeable Billy Batson. The movie works because these two actors convey an undying hopefulness and despite perhaps him behaving badly at times, we empathize with his journey. Jack Dylan Grazer as his foster-brother Freddy brings a nerdy perspective to the cast, and he is very much the audience’s viewfinder into the superhero world at-large. Mark Strong as the villainous Sivana adds a level of gravity to the proceedings and provides a poignant foe for our hero. The rest of the cast fills in beautifully, and I cannot find a weak point.

Where Shazam! soars where other superhero movies have fallen short for me is the use of humor. Most of the jokes land well and feel character appropriate. The film balances comedy and the understanding that the situations are, in fact, serious, very well. The humor is the kind of humor a fourteen-year-old would use in similar situations that Billy finds himself in, while Sivana is allowed to carry the weight of the darker elements of the story.

And the story does have darker elements. Sivana channels the Seven Deadly Sins in his search for power. Sandberg taps into his horror roots and creates a threat that has vibes of Gremlins-style horror, all balanced by Big-style heart. Levi’s childlike glee contrasts nicely with Strong’s childish envy.

Shazam! is the film that will win over many stragglers onto the DC Films bandwagon. It is a true crowd-pleaser and offers something for the whole family. My only concern heading out of this movie is the DC slate moving forward. Yes, Wonder Woman 84 hits theaters next summer, but between now and then, Joker and Birds of Prey, both of which are expected to be rater R, are on the horizon. Will this darker turn turn-off the fans hopping on board with the Aquaman-Shazam! vibe? Time will tell. But for now, get ready to enjoy one of the most joy-filled superhero movies we may ever see.

 

Final rating: A

Guardians of the Galaxy Director in Talks to Direct New Suicide Squad

By Drew Kiess

The hits keep coming.

We may have seen this one coming after it was announced last year that James Gunn would be writing a new Suicide Squad film after being fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 for controversial tweets involving child rape. It is assumed that Gunn’s film, titled The Suicide Squad will be a soft reboot and will feature a brand new Task Force X. No idea of whether this will fit in continuity with David Ayer’s 2016 film or if Viola Davis will return as Amanda Waller.

This news will likely be divisive, as Guardians of the Galaxy is not the most popular movie in DC circles, and Gunn himself is even less popular after his controversial firing. Whether this is a good fit is, obviously, yet to be seen.

Either way, this is likely to be a topic of debate for some time. Stay tuned to Shanlian on Batman’s social media for more news as it develops.

Matt Reeves’ Batman Gets Release Date, Affleck Officially Out

By Drew Kiess

It is being reported by Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter that director Matt Reeves’ Batman film will light the signal on June 25, 2021, the same weekend that Burton’s Batman debuted in 1989. The report also confirms that this will focus on a younger Bruce Wayne, leaving Ben Affleck reportedly out of a job. Earlier today, it was revealed that Reeves is looking to cast a “rogues gallery” for the film, which is said to be a noir detective film.

Warner Bros. is also releasing what seems to be a soft reboot of Suicide Squad, with The Suicide Squad (the The adding the all-important distinction) set to bow on August 6th, 2021. No indication was given as to whether or not James Gunn will be directing or only serving as a writer on this film. Super Pets, which was previously rumored, will release on May 21, 2021, but no more details were given as to the nature of this project.

The new DC Films is moving forward full steam, as just earlier this week we got out first look at next year’s Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). And now with these announcements, it seems clear that Hamada and company have no plans on slowing down.

Update: According to The Hollywood Reporter, James Gunn is in negotiations to direct The Suicide Squad.

Stay tuned to Shanlian on Batman for more news as it develops!

@shanlianonbatman

Aquaman Keeps DC Afloat

by Drew Kiess

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It feels like an eternity since Justice League landed with a thud last November, the film that introduced us (officially) to Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry. Irrespective of your opinion on that film (I still watch that movie with a stupid, childish grin on my face, despite its flaws), we all knew coming out of it that the landscape of DC on film was going to be changed forever.

The Snyder era, in practicality, was over (The Snyders are listed as producers for Aquaman, but likely had very little creative control). Aquaman is the first true post-Snyder DC film and the first film who’s post-production (and some production) overseen by Walter Hamada. This is the new DC Films, for better and worse.

By the time my “early” screening started, it felt like everyone in the world had already seen the film. In fact, it had already become a smash hit in China and had many screenings around the world. The word-of-mouth on the movie felt really strong, but the critical reception was lukewarm. Heading in, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was in for.

Ever since Geoff Johns took over the book in 2011 at the beginning of the “New 52” era, Aquaman has remained at the top of my favorite comic books. There’s been something exciting about the character for me for some time, and I have long wanted to see what the world of Atlantis would look like on the bigscreen. Finally, James Wan has brought this dream to life.

Aquaman looks gorgeous. Yes, it’s a CGI heavy film, but there’s probably a good reason for that. Rumor has it that Jason Momoa and Amber Heard are not actually fish-people. Once we accept the world, then hopefully we can acknowledge just how well crafted it is visually. But CGI always has a way of drawing criticism, warranted or not.

The cast of Aquaman, from Momoa’s Arthur to Heard’s Mera, and from Wilson’s Orm to DaFoe’s Vulko, are all pitch-perfect castings and seem to have good chemistry. It is an overused trite of film criticism to say that actors seemed to have a fun time making a movie (who cares? So long as it’s a great performance, they can be miserable for all I care), but Momoa had an energy about him that was absolutely infectious, and Heard played Mera with a light-hearted royal air.

Aquaman, however, squanders its cast’s chemistry with some fairly cliche’ emotional writing. There’s nothing wrong with a conventional Joseph Campbell-esque hero’s journey, but the writing needs to be less conventional and on-the-nose. Too often, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall’s screenplay held the hand of the audience through emotional beats, and some of these beats were delivered in flashback, without our heroes. Much of the humor falls flat as well, which falls square at the feet of the screenwriters The break-neck pace of the film and the consistency and quality of the action make up for much of what is lacking in the screenplay’s dialogue, but script-wise, it may be the weakest of these DCU films for me (remembering, of course, that I haven’t disliked one outright yet).

That hero’s journey is well-plotted. Arthur’s journey from reluctant hero to king is about as classic as it gets, and is a quintessential part of who this character is. He shows us that being heroic isn’t about whether we are worthy of our heroic stature, but it’s about what we decide to fight for–ourselves or those around us?

In a better world, this would have been a two-part film, giving some of the ideas and character development room to breathe. But because superhero movie sequels are not a guarantee outside of the mighty MCU, this film had quite a bit of ground to cover. The result is a fast-paced, wacky, and action-packed adventure. For the most part, it’s fun. It brings a comic book character to life in a way that I had not thought possible. Wan certainly deserves a chance to direct the sequel, and all signs point to him getting that chance. Aquaman is poised to become Warner Bros.’ biggest box-office superhero success since The Dark Knight Rises, but even if it falls short of that billion dollar mark, it should land happily in the neighborhood of Wonder Woman‘s $822 million dollar hull. The new DC Films is here, boys and girls. Let’s hope it sticks around.

Final Grade: Comics Code Approved Approved_by_the_Comics_Code_Authority

 

Aquaman is in U.S. theaters December 21st