August. The doldrums of basketball. When stories like CP3 being elected president of the player's union is front page news, you know we're running out of things to talk about (no offense, Chris)
Nate used to fill these days by regularly posting music. That was awesome. But unfortunately, I'm not Nate. I lack his culture and refinement when it comes to the more abstract value corners of culture. But what I do have is an undying love of modern pop culture. So instead, I'll put my thoughts out on this year's big happenings on the big screen, and some of the big happenings yet to come.
***I'm only going to really talk about the stuff that got my attention this year. There are some moves like After Earth, Oblivion, and Monster's U that I saw and enjoyed more or less, but didn't really get a strong reaction out of me. But if you guys want to talk about something I didn't, then by all means, get to it.
- Avengers/Iron Man 3
- Django Unchained
- The Wolverine/XMen: Days of Future Past
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Star Trek
- Star Wars: Ep VII
- Man of Steel
- Batman vs. Superman
If you have not seen/don't want to know about any of those films, don't keep reading.
Whose Line is it Anyway?
It's back. And no, it's not a film, but it deserves some mention. The original Whose Line was an improv comedy show that put Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles in the most ridiculous of situations via "sketches"....short skits with ridiculous instructions handed out by Drew Carey. It was highly beloved, yet underappreciated still, as we found out when it went off air and we all realized how much we missed it.
And now it's back! After 10 years, and the crew still has it.
The show keeps Wayne, Colin and Ryan together, and has featured some fantastic guests so far, like Glee's Kevin McHale and Key and Peele's Keegan Michael-Key. Jeff Davis...a regular fourth member from the old incarnation, has done an episode already too, which hopefully means we'll see Chip Easton and Greg Proops....and maybe even Drew!
Yes, because Carey is now hosting Price is Right, he's not able to sit behind the desk and hit the buzzer anymore. So sad. In his place is comedian Aisha Tyler. Who's not all that bad really. She doesn't participate as much as Drew, but doesn't hesitate to poke fun at things like Colin's lack of hair or Ryan's absurd choice in shoes. And she's also not fazed by the fraternity-type humor they fall into, which was my biggest concern before the re-premier. Drew was 'one of the guy'. Aisha's not a guy, but you clearly don't have to tip-toe around her.
About my only complaint...if you can call it that...is Aisha's clearly too pretty to be the group's whipping boy. Part of what made Drew so fantastic was he was a great fall guy and he knew it. If Wayne had a scene where he was an ugly hillbilly looking for an even uglier wife, Drew was perfectly fine with Brady making him the uglier wife. Aisha probably wouldn't mind either. But sh'es not someone they'd pick on like that anyway.
Otherwise, the show is intact, with a few new games even, and none of the guys have lost a step. Wayne in particular seems better than ever. His gospel rendition of McHale's Glee character (he plays Artie, the kid in the wheelchair) brought the house down.
CW has already ordered a second season, with more than double the episodes of their revival season 1.
Iron Man 3
For the most part, I really thought that IM3 righted the wrongs of IM2, doing away with the sort of campy, witty, dialogue-driven tale in exchange for a gritty explosion of action.
The film is set in the aftermath of Marvels big team-up film, with Pepper desperately trying to get her feet under her as the new CEO of Stark Industries and Tony struggling to hide a crippling case of PTSD resulting from having flown into- blowing up, and nearly dying in an alien dimension at the end of Avengers.
A lot of people didn't take well to the idea of Stark having anxiety issues resulting from the Chitauri invasion. I get that, but I think the blame is misdirected. It's not that he wouldn't be affected by that, it's just that the film didn't give us any real, emotional hit as to why. Just an abstract couple of lines saying, like 'ya, it changed me'. And that was it. If it had included a big flashback sequence or a ret-con of Pepper nearly getting aced by the aliens or something that maybe Starkcould have mistaken for another Chitauri landing that he freaked out over, I think the idea would have gone over a lot better. But it wasn't a huge issue to me.
What I didn't necessarily like what the somewhat anti-climactic ending. I was ok with the super comic-booky story about Extremis and the terrorism threat of the decoy Mandarin. And even the idea of Stark spending most of the movie without the suit. But much like Iron Man 1 and 2 and XMen: First Class, I felt the movie was trying to build up this epic action sequence at the end that it never quite pulled off. IM2 in particular seemed so limited, with the end battle taking place in this little enclosed dome space with all the characters kind of remaining stationary. IM3 at least had a ton of motion and impact (Stark has JARVIS remotely activate and fight with dozens of his suits simultaneously against an army of genetically enhanced Extremis experiments) but it still all took place is this very limited space with the camera almost always close in. No sense of scale or space or numbers that you got from the ends of even Avengers or Dark Knight Rises, much less something like Return of the Jedi or Lord of the Rings: Two Towers. As the Iron Man suit is the only thing any of the Phase 1 heroes has that can battle with the extreme speed, firepower and range that you see in the comics or cartoons, it would have been nice to have really seen that pushed to the maximum in IM3 the way it was in Avengers.
Yes, technically a 2012 movie, but it was so...gripping....that I feel compelled to talk about it.
Rumor has it that Will Smith turned down the role of Django, thinking it was a supporting character and that he wouldn't get to be the hero in the end. Ultimately, Jamie Foxx WAS billed as the lead, with the massively underappreciated Christoph Waltz winning the award for Best Supporting Actor in the role of Dr Schultz, and Django was the hero in the end, acing off the guy who was the real villain....note DeCaprio's Calvin Candie, but Sam Jackson's house slave character, Stephen.
As you'd expect from a Tarantino film, Django is pretty violent. Lots of shooting, lots of dead people. On top of that, the film is about American slavery, and Tarantino didn't pull any punches from that either, from a brutal scene where Django's wife (played by Kerry Washington) gets whipped to Foxx being stung upside down from the rafters to a Mandingo fighter being torn apart by dogs. The movie's opening shot is a horse getting capped in the head, and it never stops until the the credit roll.
Yet at the same time, the film has an incredible amount of humor and irony in it. Tarantino laces wit and absurdity through the whole narrative that you can't help but be amused by, even when characters are getting their skulls bashed in by claw hammers. Schultz frees Django from slavery on the condition that he helps track down a bounty, and Foxx does a magnificent job with the fish-out-of-water role of a free slave who doesn't quite know what to do with his freedom.
Django is a free man who Schultz literally starts calling Django Freeman in introductions. Schultz's cover is as a dentist, chasing a man whose last name is Candie. The action sequences have all sorts of laugh out loud moments to them, like when Tarantino cameos as a slave transported who get blown up by dynamite, leaving nothing but his work boots, a crater, and a fantastic bit of John Legend music behind.
I won't just go through the whole narrative here, but suffice it to say that I was quite compelled by it. Not only does it have the same kind of edge-of-your-seat tension as Inglorious Bastards, but it's fully and ultimately a story of two men who approach the same life in different ways. I thought Tarantino made a brilliant decision to make the real struggle between Django...a slave who goes to hell and back to win freedom for himself and his wife...and Stephen, a slave who lives inside that box, sucking up and playing the cripple to gain favoritism from Candie. So it wasn't a movie of blacks vs whites in the end. It ultimately became a heroes' journey story for Django.
I think Smith passing on the role was a blessing in the end. Foxx played Django with a broken, beaten, naive-but-determined bullishness that I don't think Smith could have. Will has too much swag, and he can't turn it off. It's infused in him as a person, the way it is in Sam Jackson. Waltz won Best Supporting Actor, probably by virtue of having been on the screen the most, but that nomination could have easily gone to DeCaprio or Jackson, both who turned in some of the best...if not the best...work of their respective careers here. Leo in particular did a fantastic job with his first role as the bad guy. He played Candie with genuine charm (authentically southern, no less) while still getting you to hate him and everything that character stood for.
And I get the complaints about racism, brutality, etc etc. I think Django did a good deed by opening that up. Tarantino knew what he was doing...you don't make a movie about slavery without expecting that. But he did it in such a real, clever, moving, entertaining way, that once you see it, you realize it would have been a shame for it to have been done any other way. As a whole, the film really can't be described fully in words....you have to experience it for yourself.
I don't have a whole lot to say about this film other than I thoroughly enjoy the reckless abandon with which Hugh Jackman plays the part. Unlike a lot of actors and actresses in kit, who you can tell can't completely get past the awkwardness of wearing a goofy costume and pretending to have superpowers that aren't real, Jackman has no hesitation in his portrayal of Logan, giving his performance an authenticity and genuineness that even Robert Downey's singular identity with Iron Man can't match.
The Wolverine draws directly from Logan's comic book connections to Japanese samurai culture, introducing to the screen some classic characters like Yukio and the Silver Samurai. It also would appear to serve as an interlude between First Class and the coming Days of Future Past. Among the scenes are flashbacks of Jean Grey's death in Last Stand, what appears to be Yuriko (Lady Deathstrike) a character closely connected to Logan, Sabertooth, and the adamantium that was bonded to his skeleton, and a credits scene involving Xavier warning him of a new, impending threat (which is likely the Sentinels Bryan Singer revealed at Comicon, who were conspicuously absent from the first trilogy)
My hope is that the Days of Future Past storyline follows the comics and animated show (which it appears it will, given the overly-extensive cast list) which would open the door to traveling back as far as the origin of the Apocalypse, when he was known as En Sabah Nur during the time of Egypt's Pharaoh's....whose story then goes far into the distant future to the time of Bishop, the indestructable Sentinel Nimrod, and Scott and Jean Summers' son, Cable.
It will be interesting to see how this develops now. Most of the XMen franchise still resides with Sony, even though Marvel has everything else, and is now Disney property. Marvel his a home run and then some with the Avengers Initiative (of which there are reportedly concrete plans for 8....8....more years of) The story and casting of Days of Future Past seems to indicate Sony would rather play ball with that than fold in.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The second Avengers movie has a title, and surprisingly, it's not about Thanos.
Superhero team-ups are always a tricky thing, because who do they fight against? The Hulk is an indestructable behemoth. Iron Man is a flying suit of armor with a brigade's worth of firepower. Thor is practically a god, by human standards.
Avengers got around this by pitting them against an army. A classic quality vs quantity struggle that's worked for everything from Jason Bourne to XWings vs TIE Fighters. But that ship has sailed, no what now?
Ultron is a sort of 'living' automaton, created in the comics by Pym (Ant Man). Joss Whedon has said that Ultron's origin in the movie won't involve Pym, but then again, it doesn't have to. Ultron in fact became a series of these machines, rebuilt again and again in iteration. In the comic Age of Ultron, the android basically conquers the planet, which the heroes can only undo through a series of convoluted, time-traveling quests.
I somehow doubt the film will go that route, but in terms of being a serious bad guy, Ultron is a pretty good choice. The thing more or less comes out as Superman with Xavier's mind (processing power...?) in the body of a Sentinel. More than enough to give a team of overpowered heroes a fight.
Now one very, very interesting bit about this film is Whedon's decision to include Magneto's children, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, two X-characters Sony doesn't own the rights to.
And Sony is saying it will feature Quicksilver in Days of Future Past. And neither seems inclined to make him the same actor. Again, playin' ball here.
Meanwhile, I have no idea how you put Scarlet Witch on the screen. Her power, technically speaking, is she can adjust the probability of any given thing...doing...whatever. Happening, not happening. Existing. Which, in a practical sense, translates as she can do whatever the hell she wants. What is the probability she can just suddenly fly? What is the probability that building will stay standing? What is the probability the ocean will spontaneously burst into flames?
I have to think that her unique powers and tormented personality will make her the one who stops Ultron in the end. But how to put those powers on the screen and getting audiences to understand what it really is...that it's not actually just she can do anything....that's going to be a puzzle.
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Four years was waaayyy too much time to go between JJ Abram's Star Trek reboot and his followup. But it was worth the wait anyway.
Into Darkness has probably been my favorite movie of the year so far. It's fast, it's emotional, it's packed with action and humor, and has a singular villain performance that I really think rivals Heath Ledger's Joker.
The alternate universe that Abrams set up has proven to be wildly entertaining, giving us classic Star Trek truisms in a new, modern package...without having to be a slave to the pre-existing work. In Abrams Trek, Kirk is still a loose cannon, Spock is still a boy scout, Scotty is still....Scottish (that's mean both as and not as a pun...)....BUT, Kirk's dad is dead, Vulcan is gone, and as a result, the Enterprise crew struggles to even be a crew because they were thrown together way sooner than they were ready for. In the show, they bicker, but they're functional veterans. In the movie reboot, they're all rookies and barely know what the definition of a crew is.
Everyone has their own story of some sort, but Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto carry the drama as Kirk and Spock. And it's cool to see them have real chemistry on the screen beyond just playing characters who naturally will be at odds over just about everything. Unlike what the end of Star Trek seemed to imply, they very much have not resolved their differences. But they both sincerely sell the idea that they want to work together, they just have different reasons for not knowing how.
But while the character drama is carried by the crew, the film is unquestionably carried by the villain.
"Intellect alone is useless in a fight, you, Mr Spock. You can't even break a rule, how would you be expected to break bone?" What a line.
Benedict Cumberbatch's sinister portrayal of Khan was genuinely awe-inspiring. And that's from someone who's just about seen it all in the movie theater. He's charming and dominant, but at the same time unstable and morally-ambiguous. He saves a little girl from death...to blackmail her father into blowing up a Starfleet weapons depot. He kills Admiral Pike...then singlehandedly saves Kirk by wiping out a squad of Klingons and turns himself in, only to betray and commandeer a warship. Which he then crashes into London. He has one goal, and if what you're doing helps him, he's your best friend. But if what you do 10 minutes later is unhelpful, he'll kill you.
And for the whole movie, he absolutely towers over everyone else on the cast. In word, in action, in sheer presence. Even when behind bars, he steals the thunder, while admirably continuing the proud tradition of bad guys getting caught on purpose to be locked in glass cages.
This looks to be Cumberbatch's big break into stardom. He's had fantastic small roles in films like The Hobbit and Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy (as well as staring in BBC's Sherlock), but this really put him on Hollywood's map.
I must say, I was kind of surprised by the accusations of whitewashing. I mean, I guess I can understand the point, but I never felt like Ricardo Montalban's Khan was ever a racial or ethnic character. He was a villain who just happened to be played by a Spanish actor. Yes, he was given a brief backstory as Indian Sikh, but it's not like that was ever an important part of his history. What mattered was his origin as a genetically created super-human. I felt like this was not the same as if they had made Uhura or Sulu white, as many of the hardcore Trekkies analogized. But maybe that's just me...?
I am pleased that Abrams continued his homage to the original Star Trek. And not just little moments here and there, like Bone's classic "Dammit man, I'm a doctor
not a basketball blogger!" Abrams broke canon with his alternate universe (that included Khan being discovered 'early' by Admiral Marcus rather than by Kirk), but he also made serious tribute to the original work, going so far as lifting Spock's entire 5+ minute death scene in Wrath of Khan for Kirk's alternate universe death.
What will be interesting now is what direction Star Trek goes with Abrams off to direct Star Wars now. One would think the Klingons are next, as a war was explicitly said to be coming. One thought is maybe, with this being a comprehensive thing, that maybe a Klingon war will see Kirk sharing the screen with Picard and Worf, which could open the door even wider for Janeway and 7-of-9 and a war with the Borg. Kirk v Borg could be pretty spectacular.
Star Wars: Episode VII
The last time I wrote up one of these was actually when we discussed Disney's acquisition of LucasFilm and ILM and how that completed the circle for film guru John Lassater.
New LucasFilm boss Kathleen Kennedy held out for JJ Abrams, who initially turned down the chance to direct. Which was smart, I think. Lucas, brilliant as he is, lost touch of what made the original trilogy so good and got caught up in the technicality of movie making. Too much time and effort into digital cameras and super-high-res character modeling, not enough time on dialogue and impact.
So the trick here is reverse-engineering what made the original trilogy so good (which wasn't an accident, even though it seemed that way) while still making it clear that this is a bridge to a new era in the Star Wars universe. It's a short list of directors who could be widely trusted to do that....personally, I had it down to just three I approved of: Spielberg, Whedon, and Abrams.
Spielberg was never (and will never) direct a Star Wars movie. Beyond being the same generation as George...which is also why guys like Scorsese, Robert Redford, and Ford Copela won't ever either....Spielberg and Lucas are practically best friends. He's not going to take on the legacy of someone he came up in the industry with. And Whedon is already buried under Avengers stuff, overseeing Phase 2, scripting and directing Age of Ulton, producing the SHIELD tv series, and probably starting the game plan for Phase 3. He in fact wanted to direct Star Wars. But can't.
"I'm as angry as you should be. When I heard [about 'Star Wars'] I was like, 'I wonder ... no, I really can't do that. Oh, I already have a job.' I wouldn't clear the 'Avengers."
Don't worry Joss. You'll get you chance. And hopefully that chance is a movie adaptation of the Heir to the Empire trilogy.
What's interesting to me is that the rumors, leaked casting call, and the return of Hamill, Fisher, and Ford support the theory that this new trilogy will be about Han and Leia's kids...specifically their older son Jacen.
The Solo kids...at least in the books....had a pretty dangerous childhood that one (their younger son Anakin) didn't make it out of, followed by a hellish adulthood that saw Jacen fall to the dark side and become the Sith Lord Darth Caedus, which ended when he was killed by his twin sister Jaina. And several big Star Wars characters die along the way, including Chewbacca, Admiral Ackbar, and Luke's wife Mara Jade.
FWIW, Jacen's fall to the dark side is one of the best pieces of literature in the entire Star Wars universe. Long story short, he comes to an 'understanding' that there is not actually a light or dark side of the Force, just a light and dark side to the hearts that use it, and that realization unlocks a power in him that makes even Luke look like an apprentice.
I highly doubt the films will follow the books exactly. In fact, it'd almost be impossible to. Jacen's real journey happens in the middle of a massive, 25 book series called the New Jedi Order, which chronicles Luke's rebuilt Jedi academy struggling to lead the galaxy against an extra-terrestrial species that can't be touched by the Force, and abhors machinery so much they grow everything they use. Their ships are coral, their armor is crab shells, their weapons are insects, and their propulsion is artificial black holes. They practice ruthlessness to the point of self-mutilation, and have no issues obliterating entire planets to get what they want. Chewbacca dies saving Anakin on the world of Sernpidal, when the aliens created a massive black hole that crashes the planet's moon into it.
But not only is that whole backstory way too big to put in a trilogy (or even three trilogies...), Jacen's real journey (which starts in the book Traitor) begins halfway through it, after Anakin dies. And the conclusion doesn't happen in the series at all...over even the next one.
So I'm eager too see how this will work out. Jacen is probably the second-most popular Star Wars book character behind only Grand Admiral Thrawn, and a fall to the dark side is the kind of classic, mirroring tale Lucas would gravitate to. But it's going to need to be presented in a very different way than it has been in the literature.
Too bad Harrison wasn't game to give up any secrets...
Man of Steel
I'm interested to know what you guys though about this one. Because I've heard...and have friends and family....that have wildly different opinions.
The hype for this film was unbelievable after the third trailer posted (30,000,000 views for a movie trailer? WAT?) and well....
My dad and I both really loved the movie, but didn't outright adore it. Whereas one of my friends said it was the best film he's seen in 10 years. And another friend says it's just about the worst one, comparing it to superhero tragedies like the Ryan Reynold's Green Lantern.
Personally, I'd say it's squarely in the A category of superhero films, sharing shelf space with Avenger, the first Iron Man, and Dark Knight Rises. It's not as good as The Dark Knight...which, as far as I'm concerned, is an untouchable A++++++++++++...but as a journey and an experience, I enjoyed it probably more than Avengers (I prefer DC's darker, grittier takes) and as much as any film I've seen this year.
I get the complaints that it was pretty humorless and kind of noisy. Henry Cavill's Superman...except for the last maybe 10 minutes...lacked even the self-ironic dark wit of Bale's Batman. And the fights were, true to Zack Snyder's vision, massive spectacles (although they at least had a bit of story to them) And there were definitely weird story gaps that I assume were a product of mostly not enough time. A lot of things....Jor El's presence in the data core, how Zod tracked down Clark and why he wanted Lana, and the military's early response...were very abbreviated or completely implied. Not to mention a few just outright strange sequences, like Clark not even attempting to save his dad, or why the military basically tried to carpet bomb Smallville when civilians were still in the area (the end fight had some of this too, but that's a different story I'll address in a sec) Clark discovery of the Fortress of Solitude seemed way too coincidental, and the entire opening sequence on Krypton felt like it needed to be a whole separate movie. (Hey, if Crowe is down for a Krypton movie, so am I)
On the other hand, I felt Man of Steel gave us the most complete version of Clark, the...being, I guess (since he's not really human) It presented him as he probably would be if he was real...a very lonely, confused being in a lot of pain because his physiology is drastically different and gives him superhuman powers he can't always control. The scene of him as a kid, discovering his x-ray vision as an actual x-ray set a perfect tone. The shot of him seeing his teacher as translucent muscle and skeleton was suitably jarring and kinda creepy. His eyes sometimes melt things. His ears pick up sounds miles away at extreme volumes and he can't shut it off. His awkwardness makes him a social outcast and victim of bullying, and he can't use his gifts to stop it.
Maybe most appropriate for me was the scene (you can see part of it in the trailer above) where a pre-teen Clark pushes a sinking bus out of a river in front of all his classmates (including a great cameo write-in of Lana Lang) which sets up the true dynamic between Clark and Jonathan as an extraordinarily gifted kid and a dad who's scared to death about that secret coming out.
Costner gets maybe a little obnoxious with his paranoia, but he also makes it completely understandable (kinda of like Tom Hank's Woody defending Andy to the point of annoyance in Toy Story 3) And what was brilliant about that is it grounds the rest of the movie and Clark as an adult as someone who is defined by the voice of Jonathan, and how that's both a great blessing and damnable curse to him.
In a way, the film wasn't so much Superman, but more of a sci-fi, alien on earth story, and the alien just happened to be Superman. Which to me, was great, because it showed a narrative of real-world consequences to humans realizing that not only are they not alone, but that their destiny as humanity can be fundamentally altered by these beings. Which is how you sell Superman as the hero. He is humanity's savior because he's literally the only one with even a prayer of beating Zod.
As an FYI, the Christian symbolism in Man of Steel was not like, an attempt at making a statement of any sort. Superman was created by two Jewish men (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) based quite heavily on the Biblical Moses, and as a partial analog to Christ. And that connection shows up all throughout the character's history all the way down to his Kryptonian name: Kal, as in the Kryptonian word for 'son' or 'child', and El, as in the Hebrew word for God. Kal-El...Son of God. So Snyder wasn't trying to say anything in particular or pander to a demographic...he was just staying true to Superman's roots in the comics.
I also really enjoyed Michael Shannon and Antje Traue as General Zod and Faora. I know a lot of people were unhappy that Shannon's Zod lacked the flamboyance of Terrence Stamp, but I thought that not only would that have been unnecessary here, it would have been inappropriate. Man of Steel is meant to be a look at Clark's humanity, and the point of Zod is to illustrate that Clark is like any other Kryptonian save one big difference: Zod was genetically bred on Krypton, Clark was raised by humans. Further, Shannon gave Zod a much-appreciated touch of empathy. You understood where he was coming from and why he was doing what he was doing...and even maybe felt a little sorry for him at the end. The bit he got after Clark crashes the Fortress of Solitude was fantastic and fully captured the character:
I exist to protect Kypton. That is the sole purpose for which I was born. And every action I take, no matter how violent or cruel, is done for the greater good of my people. And now I have no people.
Zod was a character of conviction. Misguided, but pure in his belief. He knew...in his soul...we was doing the right thing by using Earth to save his civilization, and that take gave him a lot more complexity and depth than a simple "I want to beat up Superman".
I feel like the movie accomplished what it needed to, and was entertaining. And the ending showed the promise of a more joyous, bright, heroic Superman ("Are you 'effin STUPID??") which implies that Snyder and Goyer in fact do know how to write that, they just chose not to for this particular installment.
Batman vs. Superman
They just announced...literally, as in an hour ago as of this writing....that Ben Affleck will be the new Batman in this Man of Steel sequel.
Welp. Ok then.
Snyder's Batman/Superman announcement brought the house down at Comicon.
On the heels of Man of Steel...and with Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy still vivid in everyone's minds....the fulfillment of what, for some, has been a lifelong dream seemed too good to be true. And it is pretty awesome. Batman and Superman are the original buddy cops...after basically the same thing, but so drastically different in approach, style and personality that they can't help but clash over...just about everything.
And of course, the announcement brought up two big questions:
What will the movie be about?
Of the many, many times they have featured together, the two I remember most fondly are the introductory crossover movie from the 90s cartoons (look up World's Finest on Youtube) and the Frank Miller BvS comic, which appears to be the basis of the coming film.
In the cartoon, Bruce and Clark grudgingly learn to work together to stop the Joker, who's cut a deal with Lex Luther to get rid of Superman, but ends up just stealing a bunch of his toys and wrecking NYC with them. In the comic, a very old, retired Batman (Wayne is 55 in the story) returns to fighting crime again, as the 'old heroes' are all gone and Superman has becomes something of a government lackey. They inevitably clash, as Clark has always viewed Bruce's brand of 'justice' as unchecked vigilantism. And....well, yeah. Dark Knight Returns. It's worth a read.
My guess is the film will be something of a mix of the two: a Batman/Superman fight centered around the fact that the world (no doubt with Luther at the microphone) doesn't really trust Supes, who by the way leveled a good portion of the city fighting Zod. But somewhere along the way, a much bigger threat arises that forces them to work together.
My story pitch would be something like this:
Lex Luther makes a public call for Superman to be identified and held publicly accountable (or sent away) This attracts the attention of Batman, who visits Luther as billionaire Bruce Wayne as a cover for doing some investigating, which turns up radiated Kryptonite in the wreck of Zod's terraforming ship Luther has confiscated. Batman figures out what it is and uses it to go after Superman.
Meanwhile, Luther decides to go on his own crusade, calling for Commissioner Gordon to bring the police and FBI against Supes, who then hands that task to the new head of Major Crimes, Edward Nigma (the Riddler), who has a grudge of his own against Batman. While Bats and Supes are going at it, Nigma combs through the wreckage of Zod's ship and inadvertantly releases/activates the Braniac, who manifests as a computer virus that, among other things, uses a horde of robots/robotic armor to try and kill everyone (think a bunch of evil Iron Men suits)
But while the story is a big question, the even bigger question, of course, was who will be Batman?
Well, I cast my vote.
So...Ben Affleck. I'm not really even sure what to think of that choice, other than someone at Warner's clearly has a thing for him (this is now the fifth time they're thrown an acting/directing role for a superhero movie at him)
It's not like he's terrible (ok...all that terrible...) but he's not exactly fantastic either. Particularly when the original shortlist...and the internet...had suggestions for actors who seemed much more natural for the role. The original rumor included Josh Brolin, who's persona seems to fit Bruce Wayne waaayyyy better than Affleck's.
I believed that WB/DC needed to hit home runs on four key things with the new Batman:
- The right age: if the story is really going to be Batman versus Superman, then the Batman actor needs to be convincingly older than Henry Cavill. Because Batman is a dude is a costume with a bunch of gadgets. Superman is a speeding, flying, super strong, nearly indestructable alien. There's just no way for Batman to beat him in a straight up punching contest. So the only way audiences will buy Batman having any chance in hell of actually standing toe-to-toe with Supes is for him to have a massive intelligence and experience edge. Which means he needs to look like he's been doing this for a while already. While still being young enough to keep playing the part in 2017 when Justice League is made.
- The right look: Henry Cavill is a dominant human being. Both in physical stature and in body language. And so the new Batman has to be someone who won't be dwarfed by that. Further, he has to be someone who looks both rugged and charming at the same time, as he leads a dual life as a millionaire playboy by day and a tormented mad man by night.
- The right persona: This is where I think a lot of the rumored actors (Orlando Bloom???) really fell apart. Both Batman and Superman have tragic origins...Clark is from another planet, loses his adopted father and ends up having to save the world that doesn't trust him from an alien invasion. Bruce saw his parents gunned down when he was a kid and now sees that murder in every criminal and himself in every victim. But the difference is Clark comes to terms with his past. He learns to accept the pain and loss and the fact there will always be those who hate him, and makes peace with it all. Bats never does. Bruce is always tormented by the obsession to never let anyone be another Bruce Wayne, to the point that even when he reaches an age where he intellectually knows he's not mentally or physically capable of being Batman anymore, he can't stop himself. (the Batman Beyond cartoon did a brilliant job portraying Bruce as the bitter old loner he always seemed destined to become) So whoever plays Batman has to have that inner conflict in him. Someone who's so haunted by his past that it's like he's right on the edge of insanity.
- The right name: Far be it from me to play the marketing game, but...well, you have to play it. 2015 is a big movie year, with Age of Ulton and Star Wars both set to release then. And as good as Cavill was in Man of Steel, he's not exactly a household name yet. He's not someone that people will go see no matter what movie he's in, like they will with say, Will Smith. So if you put up a poster that says Henry Cavill and Joe Manganiello? Henry Cavill and Michael Fassbender? Henry Cavill and Matthew Goode? That's a hard sell next to a poster that says Robert Downey Jr, Sam Jackson, and Scarlett Johannson. Even Cavill and Brolin would struggle for name recognition there. So it has to be someone billable.
Given all of that, the obvious first choice was clearly Christian Bale. Not only is he all four checkmarks, but he's already played Batman in two of the most popular Batman anythings ever made (and Batman Begins wasn't half bad either) How do you sell Batman as someone who's been doing it for a while? Cast the guy we've already watched doing it for 8 years.
I would think WB tried. There were even rumors of a $50mil contract offer (aka Robert Downey money) But in any case, Bale clearly said more than once he's done with Batman, so if he doesn't want to play ball, he doesn't.
With that in mind, I felt there was only one obvious choice to go with: Benedict Cumberbatch.
(Yes, I photoshopped him into the Batsuit. I WANTED IT TO BE REAL SO BAD)
Age? 37. Older than Cavill, young enough to not be a senior citizen in 5 years. Stature? Demeanor? DID YOU SEE STAR TREK? Dark, conflicted, pure dedication to a cause but morally ambiguous in fighting for it. John Harrison was practically Batman already. And with that being widely hailed as Cumberbatch's breakthrough performance (as well as his rabid cult following playing a detective....detective...in BBC's Sherlock) he was a guy the regular popcorn eater would have been eager to see. It was right there, guys. C'mon.
And the thing is, it's not like Affleck is a terrible choice. Directing is clearly a biggest strength for him than acting, but he's been in some pretty good films recently...Hollywoodland, State of Play, Argo, The Town...so it's not like he isn't talented. It's just...strange, I guess. Where did he even come from?
Not to mention the internet rages at just about anything. Same thing happened when they cast Heath Ledger as the Joker, Tom Hardy as Bane, even Daniel Craig as the new Bond (of which he has inarguably proven he was the right choice, and quite possibly the best Bond ever)
Maybe it's just bad memories of George Clooney...
In the end, it's still Goyer writing, Snyder directing, and Nolan producing. That's a team that can be trusted, I think.