Star Wars and the Falsehood of Correct Opinions

by Drew Kiess

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Nothing like a Star Wars movie to bring us together, right?

Being a DC Comics fan, I’m in an interesting position to comment on divisive movies. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is certainly just that, but in a fascinating way that I am struggling to find a parallel to. Perhaps J.J. Abram’s Star Trek, ironically, has had a similar reaction to where it is a critical hit and seemingly well liked among casual moviegoers and fans, but incredibly divisive among the more faithful fanbase.

I will get this out of the way now: I did not particularly like The Last Jedi. I found the plot to be clunky and full of holes that would make Mr. Sir proud. It was an incredibly uneven experience with the things that I loved about it clashing with the things that I didn’t. This, however, does not mean that the film was without merit or should, as some zealous fans have suggested, be stricken from the official canon. That is just nonsense.

All students surpass their masters. This is the way things work. This is the theme of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi and is easily the greatest thing this movie can add to the franchise. We can always move beyond the things that have come in the past and embrace the future, even if that future makes us uneasy.

And I embrace that lesson. I will be the first to admit, while I was fighting the good fight for Man of Steel against the “Not My Superman” crowd, I was planted directly in the middle of the “Not my Star Wars” crowd as a proud member. The year 2005 changed the way I viewed Star Wars with the conclusion of Revenge of the Sith. The Star War was over. It was a thing of the past. The next month, I would read for the first time Batman Year One and watch Batman Begins and my conversion to being a comic book nerd from being a Star Wars nerd was completed. “When I was a child, I thought as a child…”

And so Star Wars was cemented as an element of my childhood. I was fourteen when Revenge of the Sith hit cinemas and Star Wars has always been a relic for me of that time period. I have flippantly referred to Star Wars as the nerd starter pack. I still (kind of) stand by that.

The prospect of bringing them back and even deconstructing these heroes was not and is not an idea that I am entirely game for. I have a deeper understanding of those who dislike Man of Steel for that reason. However, that was my problem with The Force Awakens. I do suspect that is also the problem for some with this film, but it reveals another dark side to fandom:

If someone disagrees with our opinion, we have to explain it away.

The reason I didn’t like The Last Jedi is simple: the negative subjectively outweighed the positive. The reason others liked it is because they had the reverse experience. The common theory that has been thrown around is that those who dislike it are throwing some kind of tantrum because of their fan theories is actually a disservice to the movie you love.

I fully believe that The Last Jedi is a bold movie that makes bold decisions. If those worked for you, great. I would hope that if you are a fan of a controversial movie that you would choose to engage in the conversation rather than categorize dissention and write them off. Engaging with it is the best way to embrace it.

On the flip side, if you hated it, do not conflate those who love it with blind brand loyalists. Any movie worthy of a strong negative reaction must have qualities that are bold enough to warrant appreciation from someone else.

I believe that conversations about movies can and should include discussing different opinions and not become a shouting match. We all have a different road that leads us to these movies and so we all have a different experience with them. Hear from them, and let it inform and even strengthen your own opinion. You might actually learn something along the way. Learn the lessons from the film arguments in the past and make the ones coming up better. Movies shouldn’t be something that rips us apart, but something that brings us together—even if we disagree.

 

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Nightwing Director Shares Brief Update

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After retweeting our official Twitter Page “Nightwing” director Chris McKay gave us a brief update on when to expect some news on the upcoming DC Film. Mr. McKay commented on a question from a fan about the status of the upcoming film, and when we might hear some news about it.

Mr. McKay replied “I would expect to be able to tell you more concrete info on our movies progress around February.”unnamed-9

“Nightwing” is in heavy pre-production, so make sure you stay tuned in during the month February for more information about the upcoming film. “Nightwing”  will be directed by Chris McKay with the script penned by Bill Dubuque and is being produced by Geoff Johns and Deborah Snyder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Episode 104 ft. Mark Hughes

Justin and Kyle sit down with Forbes writer Mark Hughes and have an at length conversation about the aftermath of Justice League, the possible future of the DC Extended Universe and what the next steps for that shared universe could be.

Being a Batman podcast we ask Mark to gives his picks to take up the Mantle of “The Bat” if Ben Affleck does leave the role of Batman after Justice League!

Make sure that you like our Facebook Page Shanlian On Batman Podcast, Follow us on Twitter at ShanlianOnBat. If you want follow us individually on Twitter make sure that you follow us @BatmanShanlian, @BatmanBassSlap and @LootingKyle!

Op Ed: Leadership at Warner Bros. Must Change

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By

Drew Kiess

The DC Film fan community feels like it is in mourning. Several loyalists are bemoaning the loss of a movie that could have been. Others, while liking the movie, are bemoaning a movie in a franchise they liked get hated on yet again. I am here to add another think-piece as to what I think is going on, and how to right the ship.

What follows is, in many ways, my interpretation of events. I personally believe this is how things have gone down and why a change needs to be made in Warner Bros. leadership if DC Films are to succeed.

Kevin Tsujihara took over as CEO of Warner Bros. early in the life of DC Films (formerly, and popularly, known as the DCEU), only months before the release of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, still the second-most critical success for DC Films. Man of Steel had a respectable run at the box office despite what was then perceived as a mixed reception (funny what time and perspective will give you).

Just weeks later at San Diego Comic-Con, Snyder announced that Batman would feature in the Man of Steel sequel. While my recollection of the timeline is a bit foggy, somewhere in this period of time Tsujihara began talking about the DC universe. He saw the dollar signs printed all over those $2.99 comic mags and wanted a piece of the pie the distinguished competition was scarfing down. The previous year, Marvel studios made bank with The Avengers and just a month before Man of Steel they made bank again with Iron Man 3. With Nolan’s cash-cow Batman trilogy over, it was time for DC to make a splash, in Tsujihara’s eyes.

As the movie that would eventually be known as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice developed from Man of Steel 2 into, well, Dawn of Justice, the movie was delayed to begin planning for DC’s own slate of interconnected superhero movies. For Snyder, what started as a quest to make a Superman movie, turned into something much bigger. And for those who did not share Snyder’s vision for the Man of Tomorrow, the delay was a sign of bad things to come.

Rumors and bad press dogged DC Films from that day on. Every reshoot was a sign of a trouble, every sneeze on the set was seen as an infection of the soul and potentially the downfall of Western Civilization as we know it. And then when the movie clocked in at three hours long, it was embarrassingly chopped down to size in what I can only assume was a decision made by someone who does not tell stories for a living, putting those who do in an uncomfortable position of having to trim muscle after the fat was all gone.

And then the movie was released and was critically panned, with a better version of the movie sitting quietly on a hard drive, already announced for a Blu Ray release. This failure was followed up by responding only to complaints about tone, forgetting that successful storytelling should take priority, by chopping up Suicide Squad into a manic music video, which was also critically panned.

Geoff Johns and Jon Berg’s newly acquired leadership helps lead the way to what would become DC Film’s biggest success in Wonder Woman. While rumors persisted, studio interference did not play a major role in the production of Wonder Woman, and, lo and behold, Patty Jenkins delivered a fantastic product that was loved by both fans and critics.

But the wrong lessons were learned. Over and over, the wrong lessons were learned by Tsujihara and his team. Batman v Superman was critically panned, but instead of learning to trust their directors to produce the most cohesive product, they repeat their mistake ten-fold with Suicide Squad. And then, news comes out that Tsujihara mandated that Justice League needed to clock in at two hours. Once again, he learned the wrong lessons from his failures, and apparently learned nothing from his success.

Before I continue, I want to reiterate that I actually really enjoyed Justice League. But I do have a sense of loss knowing how badly its released was botched. I do not blame any of the creative forces for whatever failings there are in Justice League. The reality is that Joss Whedon and Geoff Johns had a job, and that was to make the movie Kevin Tsujihara wanted. Tsujihara signed their checks and had something very specific that he wanted.

Leaks, negative press, and studio interference has been a common theme for Warners since Tsujihara took over. Even movies not related to DC Comics have had their share of problems. Remember The Hobbit, Edge of Tomorrow, Jupiter Ascending, Mad Max Fury Road, Pan, The Nice Guys, The Legend of Tarzan, Live by Night, King Arthur, and Blade Runner 2049, just to name a few? All of these movies suffered from production drama, budgetary limitations, studio interference, botched marketing, or under-performing box office results. All of these were under the leadership of Kevin Tsujihara. His mistakes are pervasive and repetitive.

Failure is not the act of making mistakes, but the act of not learning from them. I do not believe that every single Warner Bros. failure rests on Tsujihara’s shoulders, but he is the leader and must take the blame. DC Film’s is in a unique position for a rebirth over the next two years, with only three films on their schedule, two new franchises in Aquaman and Shazam! and Patty Jenkins’ sequel to Wonder Woman. With these franchises being new introductions, history has shown that the directors will be given a longer leash, but after the financial failing that Justice League appears to be headed for, Warners brass may be overzealous to make sure these movies are done “right”, which is never a good sign.

So, the only logical conclusion for the health of both the DC Films brand and for the brand of Warner Bros. as a whole would be for Kevin Tsujihara to be removed from his position as CEO.

The studio needs to return to its identity of filmmaker friendly and leave behind the competition greediness of the last four years of blockbuster productions. Jeff Robinov, who was replaced at Warners in the 2013 that saw Sue Kroll, Greg Silverman, and Toby Emmerich become the leadership group behind Tsujihara, should have, in my opinion, been elevated to CEO at that time. His leadership as President saw one of the most successful periods in studio history, and is rumored to be looking for an exit from his current role with Sony. If I had a vote, it would belong to him.

But, until then, I’m going to see Justice League again. What can I say? I liked it.

Justice League Review

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by Drew Kiess

 

How to describe a movie like Justice League? Or, a better question, how to describe a movie like Justice League in a way that it has not already been described?

Let’s look over what we know: yes, we know that the post-production process on this movie was less than smooth for various reasons, chief among them a personal tragedy in the director’s family. Yes, we also know that the critical hill for this movie to climb was probably much too steep and the comparisons to the distinguished competition were unavoidable (how could anything measure up to what is already locked-in as a cultural phenomenon?). And yes, we also know that the tone of this film was shifted even further from the somberness of its predecessor due to critical feedback.

We know all that. What we don’t know is how things would have turned out otherwise. I can only review this movie for the movie I saw in the theaters and not the movie that I thought we were getting. Maybe someday we’ll get to see that movie (we’re just now getting to see the three hour version of 1978’s Superman The Movie, so there’s always hope), but this is the Justice League movie we got. And—honestly—I loved it.

To say a movie is imperfect seems like a critical cheat, but it is also important to say in this case. While I think most of the imperfections pointed out aren’t necessarily the same problems I have with the film (most of my complaints involve the ever-hated spoilers, so I will avoid talking too much about them), this is the first of the three Snyder DC Films entries that I’m comfortable with letting the critical onslaught hit without much argument. Perhaps that says more about me than the movie, but this is not quite the same kind of movie as Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. If you hated those movies, you might take that as a relief. As someone who loved them, it is a bit of a dunk in cold water.

What exists instead, though, is just as reverent a love letter to DC Comics fans. Never did I dream of seeing pieces from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World on a big screen. Seeing Commissioner Gordon (played well by J.K. Simmons) speaking with Batman and Wonder Woman and The Flash and Cyborg on a rooftop is a treat. And for anyone who has read the works of Kirby, Grant Morrison’s Rock of Ages, or Geoff John’s Justice League: Origins, there is plenty to keep you geeking out from the opening titles to the close of the credits. And yes, that end credits scene is as good as you’ve been told.

Of the major characters, most for me were given a fantastic show case as to what makes them amazing characters. There is one character that I felt may have been shortchanged, but that may be super spoilery (see what I did there?). Steppenwolf was fine. The great thing about using a character like Steppenwolf is that he does not come with a lot of baggage and is disposable without having his fan club become up-in-arms. Quick, name your favorite Steppenwolf comic book! He serves the purpose of providing a threat daunting enough to get the team together, but is not the kind of character who merits a long-winded motivation.

What the movie does well for me is not shying away from the comic book-ness of the whole thing. While the humor, thanks in part to screenwriter (and post-production supervisor) Joss Whedon, is cranked up in Justice League, it never feels aimed at the audience for enjoying these types of stories. It managed to have fun while still telling a cool story ripped almost perfectly from the pages of a comic book. And that may make it a movie that’s not for everyone. But if you’re someone who loves these characters, I highly recommend seeing Justice League with someone who loves these characters with you. There’ll be plenty for you to talk about.

Final score: Comic Code Approved

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Justice League Review

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By Chris Evans

 

The time has finally come for fans of DC comics and just comic films in general, Justice League is here! WB has been trying to get this thing off the ground for a while going back to JL:Mortal. So, how is it? Is it better than BvS? Is it as good as Wonder Woman? Does Superman finally smile? Let’s get into it without spoilers.

I liked it. A lot. It plays like an episode of Justice League Unlimited with Snyder visuals, impressive action pieces, and some Whedon jokes thrown in. It’s an interesting blend.

The characters are represented very well and each of them get their moments to shine, they are really what make the film work so I’m going to spend a little time talking about them. I think a lot of people are really going to dig Ezra Miller as the Flash and Jason Momoa as Aquaman particularly. They are both very welcomed additions and frankly the latter was a surprise. I’ve never ever been an Aquaman fan and always felt the character was borderline useless. My mind has changed. Ray Fisher is also pretty good as Cyborg, he brings emotional weight to his role despite being almost completely CGI. You’ve also got some other newcomers like J.K. Simmons as Gordon and Billy Crudup as Henry Allen, both do well enough in their short scenes. Then there’s the returning cast members who once again deliver. People worried about Affleck’s Batman being too much like Frank Miller’s shouldn’t worry, he’s more akin to the BTAS Bruce/Batman here. Gal continues to be WONDERful. I don’t want to say much about Cavill because of spoilers but it’s great to see him back and see Superman fully formed.

The story itself is paper thin which can be seen as a positive or a negative depending how you like your superhero flicks. In this case, I really didn’t mind. It’s very straight forward and to the point, not a bad thing in my opinion this time around. I believe the film’s tight running time also had something to do with it being so straight forward, they had no time to waste. The villain though? Eh. He’s okay I guess and starts off vicious enough but by the final battle it’s really clear that he’s hardly a real threat. That’s one of the films’ flaws, you don’t really get the sense that this is ever more than the team can actually handle especially with favorite boy scout around. It didn’t hurt the film too much for me but I definitely would’ve preferred a stronger villain.

Another flaw is the CGI and that’s really unfortunate for a movie of this scale. I’m not going to pick on the parademons because they’re essentially demonic bugs, I didn’t expect them to look amazing although I did like their look. This is a side note but I think they may have looked better in BvS than they do here. Back to the point though, Cyborg looks downright terrible in a lot of his scenes. There’s one particular bit toward the end where it’s so bad he looks like something out of a late 90s video game, it’s a shame when you compare him to other movies with fully CGI characters. Stepppenwolf doesn’t fare much better, I felt like his face was barely even emoting most of the time. There’s also plenty of other times where he just stands out and not in a good way. I really expected more polish but it is what it is I suppose.

The pacing and editing is an issue as well, it moves at such a pace that you can’t digest some moments because it’s quickly on the way to the next bit. There’s no breathing room. I’ve been describing JL as a ride and I believe that’s accurate for that reason. However, I feel like we are going to end up with another extended version once this film hits home and we won’t even notice these little speed bumps.

The bottom line is that Justice League isn’t going to win any awards but it’s a great time at the movies with some fantastic characters and some really awesome moments. Plus, the two end credit scenes are cinematic gold. Do. Not. Miss. Them.

Oh and….Superman smiles.

“Wonder Woman 2” Release Date Changes

 

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By Justin Shanlian

 

Warner Bros. Pictures has moved “Wonder Woman 2” up six weeks!

The Patty Jenkins directed sequel will make is theatrical premiere on November 1, 2019. This announcement comes as no big surprise as the studio positions the summers biggest blockbuster away from the sequel to “The Last Jedi.” 

December 13, 2019 was WW2 original release date, but when Colin Trevorrow was let go from Episode IX, and JJ Abrams was brought back in, Disney decided to push the release date for that film back to give the filmmakers more time.

 

 

 

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Early Justice League Reactions and Elfman’s Score

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It’s hard to believe that we are just a few days away from being in a theater and watching some of our favorite superheroes fighting side-by-side for the first time. Justice League premieres now in less than a week and it feels like Twitter is so full of 280-character opinions that it is about to burst at the seams.

With the social media embargo lifting on Friday, we now have some of the first verified opinions on Justice League. While there have been a few killjoys, it does sound like we are in for a good time when the film finally rolls. A quintessential part of getting hyped up for these DC Films has been listening to the musical score the week before. I am not entirely sure if there is another franchise, with the exception of Star Wars, where the musical score is so closely analyzed. (How many people remember the Twitter debates surrounding the score for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Yeah, I don’t either.)

The Justice League score, like much about this movie since the departure of Zack Snyder, has been under the microscope since it was announced that it would be Danny Elfman instead of the previously announced Junkie XL, who co-composed for Batman v Superman and impressed us all with his soundtrack for Mad Max: Fury Road. Danny Elfman, of course, has had his fair share of superhero work, from Tim Burton’s Batman, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. From a personal point of view, his score for Spider-Man 2 is among my favorite comic book movie scores of all time, and I was excited to hear what he had come up for Justice League.

Fan reaction to the score has been an interesting one to watch. I will say that I do not think it works as well as a standalone listen as much as what Hans Zimmer put together for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. That does not mean that it is a bad score.

There are scores we listen to specifically because it reminds us of a movie we love. Elfman’s Batman score is actually a perfect example of this. Outside of the main theme and Decent Into Mystery, I would argue that there are not a lot of tracks that would standalone if not for the emotional connection to a movie that we love. Clint Mansell’s Noah score is an example for me of the opposite, great pieces of music that are used within a movie.

If I am to fully judge Elfman’s score, I will need to hear it in context. I will say, I am a fan of the call-backs to the classic Batman and Superman themes. If the response to complaints about Batman and Superman not behaving like themselves in previous films has been answered by, “well, they’re building up to being the heroes we all love”, then I personally like using the classic musical cues to indicate that they are behaving at their best and most heroic.

I do want to signal out Sigrid’s Everybody Knows cover, the opening track on the soundtrack. It is a standout and has always been lyrically a very somber song. My curiosity is certainly piqued as to how this relates to the story Snyder and Whedon are telling with Justice League.

I am no musical expert. But after listening to the Justice League soundtrack, I can say that I fully believe it can work. I cannot wait to hear those classic themes fill up a theater next week. Be sure to keep the conversation going and tell us what you think!

 

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