Newbie Movie Review – Suicide Squad (2016)

margot robbie as harleyquinn in suicide squad
What? We’re bad guys.

Surprise, Surprise. Justice League is Actually a Good DC Flick

Movie Truism: Maybe going into a movie with low expectations makes it better. I didn’t bother to see DC’s highly anticipated 2016 Suicide Squad in the theaters because it was so lowly-regarded among critics and viewers alike. So I just let it slip by.

Cut to 2019. When I heard James Gunn  — beloved director of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — was taking over the creative reins of Suicide Squad 2 (as a ‘soft’ reboot), hope flared anew that finally DC would have a group film brilliant enough, funny enough, and just damn worthy enough to counter the amazing ensembles produced by the MCU.

A Whole Lot of Good

The stars of Suicide Squad come down to two charismatic roles — Will Smith’s Deadshot — a decent man trapped by a nasty super-skill set, and Margo Robbie’s gleefully, lethally, nutso Harley Quinn.

Here’s Quinn’s efficient backstory from the movie:

Honestly, I enjoyed the whole misfit group. There was a one-take moment where I grinned from ear to ear, as the misfit crew executes a dynamic Hero Shot. It’s an expected trope in superhero films, right? In Suicide Squad, it felt earned and triumphant…until the next second, where you realized, hey, this is a Villain Shot. An Anti-Hero Shot? An Anti-Villain Shot? The sheer amount of dissonance was delightful.

(Some spoilers for Suicide Squad 1 follow)

This is good story making. Really. Suicide Squad had a ton of viewer treats that broke from DC’s usual grim-is-good comic world. I too wanted to see “The Bat” put away: as Quinn says, “He ruins all the fun.” Batman shows up, but he’s relegated to the background. Superman’s only mentioned in passing. Good and good. This isn’t about them.

There are so many Easter Eggs in the background, with great signage, throwaway lines, and outright allusions to other characters inside the DC universe and out. [They even predicted 2019’s “Evil Superman” Brightburn! ] This is some lively shit.

Another treat: the appropriately brief cameo of Flash. (Ezra Miller can do a lot in a small role, and was a bright spot in the mostly dreary Justice League.)

Suicide Squad has Two Great Music Tracks

As on Guardians of the Galaxy (which Suicide Squad was supposed to mirror) the extensive rock playlist is perfectly used. It’s great that movies list their songs during the credits, so I can remember to add them to my tune rotations. Suicide Squad leaned heavily into The Rolling Stones, which felt just right.

The second track — that instrumental background music we generally consider the “soundtrack” — was top-notch. In my notes, I scribbled several scenes where the music greatly underscored a character’s growth, emotional confusion, or was just plain…well…heroic. No other way to put it.

Another movie truism: bad guys can be heroes, and heroes can be bad guys. I think DC’s entire oeuvre is an ode to this concept.  (Exceptions: Wonder Woman and maybe Shazam.)

I’ll say this, though — the over-reliance on Queen tunes in genre films is starting to wear on me. When a scene perfectly uses a song in one film, said tune should be retired, like a great athlete’s number. So hearing Bohemian Rhapsody used by this crew was a nice moment, but as far as I’m concerned, BoRhap belongs to the wonderfully wacky Wayne’s World, forever. Can’t Stop Me Now was jarring in The Umbrella Academy, because why would anyone want to compete with the iconic zombie scene in the Winchester in Shaun of the Dead? (“Kill the Queen!”) And ripping Spirit in the Sky off the back of Guardians of the Galaxy went beyond homage.

Exposition and the Suicide Squad Characters

This is how you do it. With a large cast of super powered and/or crazy people to introduce, the best solution is to make the movie about THEM, not a MacGuffin plot. In a surprisingly smart move, that’s what Suicide Squad did. I loved the stylized flashback scenes of these criminals doing what they do best, their blink-fast list of skills, and how they each got taken down. These were very amusing scenes. Killer Crock especially was a hoot (Crock doesn’t seem actually evil, unlike most of the crew). His line about being beautiful was unexpected and well-played.

We also got some meaningful scenes with DeadShot in a text-book example of how to tell an emotional backstory in an efficient, effective way.

Speaking of DeadShot, he was a natural group leader, and Will Smith carried the movie effortlessly. Strangely, Smith apparently bugged on the James Gunn Suicide Squad 2 sequel. The news is Idris Alba is slated to recast Smith, which seems like a fair trade. Alba is the man, woefully underused as Heimdall in the MCU.

How About The Big Bad?

What really brought Suicide Squad down was the villain, and here I mean The Incubus. I’ll treat him separately from his sister, The Enchantress.

Actually, I don’t have time to discuss bad writing. The Incubus has zero development and isn’t worth delving into. He’s overpowered and boring. Next!

The Enchantress showed some promise in her CGI form, but when little June Moon started writhing around, it looked ridiculous. I appreciated the line that Mankind worships machines instead of gods now, but nothing was done with that intriguing concept. Fail. I don’t care. Bad villains are an ongoing superhero problem, but I mostly ignore that at this point.

An ensemble origin movie isn’t about who they fight, in any case. It’s about  group-building and world-building, which Suicide Squad got very right.

And the Joker?

Now, let’s talk about the real controversial role: Jared Leto’s Joker. So many Jokers over the years. Some get it right. All are distinctive.

I’ve got my favorites, but Leto’s not one of them: I’ll just say I’m glad his role was little more than an extended cameo. Let’s keep it that way in the sequel. Quinn on her own is much more fun and I prefer her out of the Joker’s shadow. With the Suicide crew she’s a fascinatingly deranged soul, instead of being a pet to the Joker. (Seriously, he whistles for her like a dog.)

I’ll give this Joker one thing: he had one deeply interesting line. It resonated so strongly for me that I wrote it down to think about —

“Desire becomes surrender…surrender becomes power.”

Suicide Squad, Overall

Something I hoped Suicide Squad would do is create real stakes and jeopardy…where not everyone you like is going to make it out alive. I had a feeling who that would be if they went there, and was satisfied with the payout when they did. It’s a brave gamble to take when you’re working with an ensemble you’re hoping to grow.

However, I didn’t buy their warm family feelings after sharing feelings over a few drinks, but I’ll give them this — bonds can form fast in life-threatening situations. And they had so much in common on a fundamental level: severely misguided people, good at being bad, damaged moral compasses, isolated, frequently abused, seen as the dregs of humanity, then abandoned in a dark hole with no hope of atonement.

Still, I’ll forgive some storytelling shortcuts in a movie this amusing.  With Gunn in the saddle, I’ve high hopes for Suicide Squad 2.

Color me pleased. I’m happy to add a third movie to the DCEU that I actually enjoyed, along with Wonder Woman and Shazam.

(BTW, stay through to the end credit scenes. Justice League was no Avengers, but it was thrilling to see JL’s inception anyway.)

Movie Grade: B

Guardians of the Galaxy Ex-Director James Gunn to Direct Suicide Squad 2

Movie Review – Batman vs. Superman

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film? How Shazam Could Fix the DCEU

A Happy Shazam Review – A delightful time in the DC universe (for once)

zachary levi as shazam
Go in expecting fun and a lot of heart. Not your typical DC entry. Thankfully.

I’d heard from the rest of the RunPee Family that Shazam was a disappointing remake, even though I had big hopes DC would finally put out a fun, lithe, winsome feature, with a superhero I could have fun with (unlike Batman, Supes and the rest of the grim gang). Sadly, I waited an abnormally long time to see it. I typically see major genre films on opening night. I finally caught Shazam tonite. And I had a GREAT TIME.

Sure, the Shazam villain sucked

I’ll start with what wasn’t so great, since it’s only one lame thing: the bad guy. He wasn’t that interesting, and his seven deadly sins were just poorly-written/depicted fools.

But that didn’t matter

You know what? Most of the time, not even the nearly-perfect formula of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets the villains right, especially in origin films. I’m kind of used to that.

So, in Shazam I could just get up and pee during the bad-guy scenes, and be burblingly present for what I really came for — the immense fun of young Billy Batson and his handicappable friend Freddy, figuring out how to be a superhero with little to no instruction. And their test recordings. And in finding a lair. A LAIR. (Preferably behind a waterfall, with seven bedrooms….hehehe. Where do I get one? There should be realtors doing this as a specialty.)

I loved that Shazam actually takes place in the DCEU, a world where these champions exist, and Freddy spends his entire young life making a study of them. It all ties in. He’s a great ‘chair guy’, so to speak, and a crucial component of Billy’s story. Freddy’s foreground/background nods to the Justice League are everywhere if you pay attention, and that somehow makes the darkness of those other DC flicks less despondent.

What did I want out of Shazam?

Just this: a fun DC movie that would make me happy, take me away from real-life worries for a few hours, and hopefully infuse a sense of joy into a franchise I gave up on long ago. And I got what I needed — an origin story that may not be as clever and heartfelt as MCU’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, but offered a new young hero who needed to learn heroing. You know: Billy Batson could take a bus to Queens and hang out with Peter Parker over some nice New York shwarma. I think those two young heroes would have a lot to commiserate on.

I wrote elsewhere what the anagram SHAZAM stands for, so I won’t repeat it here. And while I’m not sure the big red guy (um, not Santa, although he does make a great “cameo” in this Christmasy movie) really showed off the Wisdom and Stamina gifts, that’s okay. THE KID IS 14. Give him some time to work it out. Billy even came up with a decent catchphrase by the end.

Also, I noted a lot of nods to popular culture, including a great reference to Tom Hank’s classic Big. Remember the giant piano key scene? (I let out a loud whoop at that point, but the rest of the packed theater didn’t. Am I the only one old enough to have caught that reference? Whatever. DC did good.)

Here’s what I really want to say about Shazam:

I smiled the entire time. I  giggled; I clapped, I cheered. In essence, I had a great time at the movies. And that’s all I really want when I spend my time and money to watch some bit of magical make-believe: make me happier than when I walked in. Send me home like a kid on Christmas morning.

I’m not saying Shazam is as clever or thoughtful as a typical Marvel movie, but I do tend to grade the MCU on a curve. For DC to make me feel this good, I have to bump Shazam into the A range. I liked the characters, the foster family, the resolution (I don’t care if the plot didn’t make much sense rationally — I’m very forgiving with fantasy films); I liked Zackary Levi’s inspired goofy portrayal, and I absolutely freaked with joy at the last second cameo.

You know what? Here’s the thing: do you like gritty DC? Then maybe Shazam isn’t your cuppa. Personally, I can’t wait for a little more silly fun to jump start the Justice League Crew.

Movie Grade: A-

PS: Shazam was a Saturday morning TV kid’s show in the 70s. I enjoyed it then, but this remake is much more cool. The original show, along with their sister show Isis, played it straight. This Shazam is much, much, better. I think if I watched any of the old Shazam TV episodes, I’d be appalled. Times change, and not everything “nostalgic” ages well.

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film? How Shazam Could Fix the DCEU

Do you know what SHAZAM! Stands For?

Movie Review – Shazam! – Great for Tweens, Less So for Adults

Movie Review – Spider-Man Homecoming

Do you know what SHAZAM! Stands For?

shazam zackary levi
Instant Shazam! Just press the big glowing button.

Shazam is not actually a name.  It’s not an expletive either, although shouting SHAZAM! sounds like one. Shazam is shorthand for various mythical gods and demi-gods who lend their immense powerful attributes to a chosen DC Champion.

Do you know offhand who these mythological Shazam characters reference? Maybe you can guess. Or you might squeak out an-almost forgotten memory that old 1970s Shazam children’s’ television show. (|Come on; show your age…)

Here’s the breakdown of those gods and what they have to offer the Shazam “chosen one” –

S – The wisdom of Solomon
 
H – The strength of Hercules
 
A – The stamina of Atlas 
 
Z – The power of Zeus 
 
A – The courage of Achilles
 
M – The speed of Mercury (Includes flight..)
—–

Good or bad as Shazam the movie was (opinions vary wildly), who couldn’t use these things? Give me Wisdom and Stamina right now. What would you want most? Tell us in RunPee’s comments below. We won’t judge. Flight would be pretty sweet, right??

A Happy Shazam Review – A delightful time in the DC universe (for once)

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film? How Shazam Could Fix the DCEU

Movie Review – Shazam! – Great for Tweens, Less So for Adults

 

Movie Review – Shazam! – Great for Tweens, Less So for Adults

Movie Review - Shazam!I’ll start by setting the context: I love action/superhero movies, but never read any comics. So, I’m basing this review strictly on how I see the movie, not how it compares to any other body of work.

The Good:

While I definitely didn’t like the movie, I’m sure young boys under 12 years old or so will eat it up.

  • There were plenty of good laughs throughout the movie.
  • I would have given the movie a D+ if it hadn’t been for a LOT of improvement during the last 15 minutes of the film.
  • The villain was done well enough. At least his motivations, and reasons why he had those motivations, were clear enough.
  • There was a nice homage to the movie Big, with Tom Hanks. Did you catch that? 🙂

The Bad:

I didn’t like the movie on a number of levels. The pacing was poor. There was way too much time spent on scenes that just didn’t do anything for the plot or characters.

  • While the young actor who played Billy Batson (Asher Angel) did a fine job, I didn’t think he had the right look. Namely, he doesn’t look anything like a young Zachary Levi, who plays Shazam. One way or another, they should have cast two actors who could realistically look like the same person at different ages.
  • I get it that Shazam’s suit is supposed to be ridiculous, but the cape was so bad as to be distracting, and the muscle suit Zachary Levi wears looks like a high end Halloween suit — not realistic at all.
  • Then there’s the cartoonish action: like holding a bus up by the windshield.
  • Lastly, there’s a 1990s TV show quality to the production. I’m not talking about the CGI, which was adequate, but the filming and pacing. It just felt like a TV episode. Not a cinematic experience.

In short, it’s just another adequate DC production that labors to impress, then falls short.

Grade: C

About The Peetimes: Vera and I independently agreed on all 3 Peetimes, so we’re confident these are as good as they can be. The 1st Peetime is only for Emergencies, because there’s an important scene shortly after it ends. The 2nd Peetime is Recommended. You won’t miss any good humor or action. The 3rd Peetime is okay, but has a lot of hero/villain conversation.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Shazam! (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Superhero, Tweens

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film? How Shazam Could Fix the DCEU

A Happy Shazam Review – A delightful time in the DC universe (for once)

Do you know what SHAZAM! Stands For?

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film? How Shazam Could Fix the DCEU

Shazam movie poster
It’s like Big. But with Superpowers.

Rest assured, there is an actual answer here. According to every reliable internet source, Shazam is indeed set within the larger universe of the DC superheroes, at least from the ‘official DCEU starting point’ with Man of Steel, in 2013. Just so we’re all clear, DCEU stands for the DC Extended Universe. All good? Great — let’s get into it.

It seems strange that a genuinely goofy superhero film (trailer tag line: “He’s not so serious“) would fit seamlessly within the endless grim-darkiness of the rest of the DCEU supers. Batman? Broody. Superman? Angsty. Aquaman? I don’t know what happened to the joviality he displayed in The Justice League, but his solo outing left me cold. The Justice League itself did have a few moments where I grinned, but I don’t recall any honest laughs.

Suicide Squad was billed as the “Guardians of the Galaxy of DC”, but ended up a hopelessly off-putting mess — lacking in actual, you know, levity. (James Gunn will be directing a soft-reboot of Suicide Squad, and we can hope he will bring to Suicide Squad what he did with Guardians of the Galaxy. Full stop. #InGunnWeTrust)

And then there’s Wonder Woman, which is not a  particularly comedic film, but is the best feature in the DCEU stable. It’s grand. It’s glorious. But still rather serious, in comparison with the 22+ home run hits from The Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU: a term you should know by now, after ten deeply interwoven years).

Would Shazam fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

This leads us to the MCU. Marvel has the movie formula down — great characters, sparkling dialogue, emotional stakes, lots of sacrifice and acts of compassion, gorgeous visuals, and yes, a TON of humor.

Would Shazam, as a character, fit into the MCU? Yes. Yes indeedy. Right next to Antman and Spider-Man, which are on the lightest, fluffiest end of Marvel’s franchise (“Wait — we have an Antman and a Spider-Man?”). Shazam could be Peter Parker’s friend, even.

But the two universes can never, ever meet. That would be like matter and antimatter colliding.

Can a purely funny film like Shazam work in the DCEU?

Back to Shazam. Batman News says to  look closely at the ‘boy’ characters — Billy Batson’s young friend Freddy Freeman is a huge DC superhero fan, wearing Aquaman logo shirts, collecting newspaper clippings of momentous hero events: generally displaying a savvy knowledge of the ‘real’ superheroes. He likes supers and knows a lot about them; he treats them as actual people in his world, not comic book fantasies.

Screenrant says the producers went to great lengths to only show background action figures the DCEU featured to date, holding back on characters they haven’t allotted movie time to yet. It’s a deliberate thing. It’s world-building.

ING.com reports: “So while Superman was battling Zod and then Batman and then Doomsday and then death and then Steppenwolf, Billy Batson was being tossed around the foster care system.”

We’re supposed to understand these boys live on a planet where Superman and Batman fought a mano-a-mano battle royale, where Gotham City is a crazed warren of evil-doers, and Wonder Woman is out there inspiring legions of little girls. I know I’ll be paying attention to everything in the background during Shazam, and you should too. Tee-shirts, wall posters, thingies on shelves and desktops…and note the city graffiti, even (see: Stan Lee, in Deadpool 2, his most minimal cameo ever).

How are they going to ultimately integrate the silly antics of Shazam with the grim reality of Batman and Co? Well, that’s assuming they’ll meet. DC has a long way to go in rehabilitating their franchise in a non-depressing way, and personally, I don’t think they can do this. Not right now. But I won’t toss in the towel just yet.

How Shazam could save DC:

If Shazam brings in the box office bucks, then clearly the producers will be thrilled to finally have a joyful origin story on the table. Besides creating Shazam sequels (which will surely lose their luster as Billy becomes a grown man on his own), they might decide to lighten up overall. This is to the good. They’ve tried to set themselves apart from the MCU over the years, but at the cost of pleasing many fans.

Not that they should be a cookie-cutter of the MCU. I hope they find their own path, because to me, the more adventure blockbusters the better…but I’d like to leave a DC movie feeling on top of the world, instead of vaguely disturbed.

If they can pick up some of the wonder of Wonder Woman, and add the (hopeful) hilarity of Shazam, they’ll have a franchise people will go nuts for. Just as a comparison, again, with the MCU, it’s only April 2nd and the tickets for April 24th’s Avengers: Endgame just became available. It’s the only thing trending on Twitter today and fans are losing their minds to secure opening night seats. Don’t you think DC would like a little of that boisterous clamor for their films?

I’m not giving up hope just yet. Shazam has me filled with it. It might be goofy as hell, but this world could stand to loosen up a little. Between the darkness of Batman and the silliness of Shazam, DC might find their way.

Enjoy the SHAZAM! trailer right here:

Shazam is 2 hours and 12 minutes long, and there are reportedly two extra scenes during the credits, so keep your RunPee app handy to tell you when to take the best breaks for the loo. 

Movie Review – Man of Steel

Movie review: Batman vs. Superman

Guardians of the Galaxy Ex-Director James Gunn to Direct Suicide Squad 2

 

What DC Can Learn from Marvel Movies

DC comics superheroes
Let’s bring some playfulness into DC, okay?

This awesome 10 minute video (below) by ScreenRant picks apart how and why the Marvel Cinematic Universe kills it over the DC Extended Universe. You may be a bigger DC fan over Marvel, but it’s hard to argue the MCU movies are  more inspiring, with strong character beats and good-natured humor…while DC limps along being largely morose. This might change with the Aquaman film (he was quite amusing in The Justice League, along with The Flash). And then there’s the really fun-looking trailers for the upcoming April 2019 release of Shazaam.

[pullquote]I think DC might be getting the picture: stop with the grim, and come in with the ability to transport fans to a place where they can let go of their worries and enjoy a couple of hours at the cinema.[/pullquote]

Marvel used humor way back in the beginning  (ten years ago) with Iron Man 1, and upped the comic ante with time and expertise — just look at Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok, and most of the latter film entries. Those are beautiful films, and also carry important messages. Did “We Are Groot” make you tear up? How about as Peter Parker cried under the rubble, then realized no grown-up was going to swoop in and save him? Did you enjoy when Ant-Man ecstatically learned he could join the ‘real’ heroes in Captain America: Civil War as a certified Avenger, or when Black Widow asked Hawkeye, mid-fight, if they were still buddies?

There’s a lot to deconstruct with Marvel, and that’s not EVEN getting into the masterpiece that was X-Men’s Logan. (Which I have seen only once, because extra curricular crying is not  on my list of daily fun stuff.)

In any case, I think DC might be getting the message. When James Gunn was unceremoniously fired from Disney’s Marvel world, DC eagerly snapped him up, to do for Suicide Squad what he did for Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m sure this wasn’t a good move for Marvel, but hey — we’ll get what I expect to be a fantastic treatment for Suicide Squad, on a premise mostly squandered before.

So, enjoy this video about what Marvel does that DC needs to emulate:

Guardians of the Galaxy Ex-Director James Gunn to Direct Suicide Squad 2

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Dan’s POV)

Guardians of the Galaxy Ex-Director James Gunn to Direct Suicide Squad 2

We are still Groot.

In a surprise move that, in hindsight, should not be so surprising, DC snapped up erstwhile Marvel director James Gunn.

The director who helmed the beloved Guardians of the Galaxy films was fired last July from GOTG Vol3 for offensive Twitter jokes posted over a decade ago, stirring up ire and confusion from legions of fans. The entire GOTG cast got involved, tweeting support for Gunn and asking Disney to reconsider their stance. One actor, Dave Bautista (Drax), stated he would quit the MCU if Marvel didn’t use Gunn’s script for Vol3.

It’s been an emotional road for fans since then. I was at the San Diego Comic Con the day Gunn was slated to speak, and it hit the entire convention like a blow. He didn’t appear at all, which made a lot of sense: this knee-jerk move most probably broke his heart. GOTG was his baby, and he made Marvel a lot of money. [pullquote]Gunn took a little-known cosmic corner of the Marvel Comics universe, one with a walking tree and a talking raccoon, and made a joyously exuberant space epic that even non-geeks adore.[/pullquote]  He’s so intimately connected to his characters that he was brought in for Avengers: Infinity War to write all the Guardians’ lines, keeping the tone tied to the GOTG flicks.

Word is that Marvel, now owned by Disney, will still use Gunn’s script for the conclusion to his trilogy, but this hasn’t been confirmed. The feature was slated in the MCU roster for 2020, but is now considered on haitus. In other words, no one knows anything. There might not even BE a third Guardians film, after all is said and done.

Which leads us to the DC Extended Universe. Suicide Squad was intended to be DC’s equivalent to the MCU’s Guardians movies, with rollicking tunes and irreverent characters who are “something good, something bad: a little bit of both.” Unfortunately, SS really wasn’t very good, and became another dead end in DC’s bid to catch up with the MCU.

Gunn coming on board will change things. With the Wonderwoman films course correcting the entire franchise, and the anticipation awaiting December’s Aquaman film, this could be just the kick in the pants DC needed to compete for the hearts of fans. They certainly made a smart call to add Gunn to their universe.  He’s expected to bring to Suicide Squad 2 what he lent to the Guardians films: a freshness, good tunes, witty dialog, and a rousing sense of adventurous fun.

Wonder Woman 1984: Actor News, Story Continuity

DC’s Wonder Woman 1984 film, scheduled to arrive November 19, 2019, posted a first look at Kristen Wigg’s villain “The Cheetah” today, and at this point we know very little about the role. The sequel/prequel plot will somehow be squashed between the bulk of Amazon princess’ World War I origin entry last summer, and her final scene fast-forwarded to the present day with a Bruce Wayne reference (Wayne Industries).

This isn’t even including her featured cameos set in modern times during Batman V Superman (released March 25, 2016) and The Justice League (November 15, 2017).

We do know Chris Pine returns as Steve Trevor (another pretty Chris, playing another heroic Steve…yeah, we know), and we have to guess: is he also as immortal as Diana Prince seems to be? Prince is from a race of Amazons, so maybe I can buy that. But I don’t think immortality is contagious. Also…we saw Trevor die in Wonder Woman, right?  And not in a preserving block of ice, like the MCU’s Steve Rogers, so…WTF?

Comicbook.com offers some ideas how Steve Trevor can return. (Clones, magic, time jumps…) Pine’s Trevor was infinitely likeable, so okaaaaaay….but with Superman already resurrected, the DCEU is on shaky ground offering  actual stakes.

[pullquote]DC is clearly trying to catch-up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but breaking their timeline can’t help. The MCU has seen heroes return, but they’ve earned their way, keeping continuity almost completely intact over ten years — something of a major miracle.[/pullquote]

 

In any case, we’ll be going both back and forth to the future in Wonder Woman 1984. To confuse things further, this is set shortly after Lynda Carter gave us her campy/cool (but also iconic) Wonder Woman TV series from 1975 to 1979.

How all of this will shake out better make sense, if the DCEU wants to keep the slight momentum they garnered with Gal Godot’s breakout Wonder Woman appearances in Batman V Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Justice League. Color us confused and tentatively hopeful.

Anyway, here’s the first photo of Kristen Wiig/The Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984, as her human role…possibly looking at a stuffed cheetah in a museum?

 

Is Deadpool in the Avengers’ Universe?

[pullquote]It’s established that Deadpool swims in his own little eddy in the great Marvel River.[/pullquote] Marvel is a pretty big entertainment property,  spanning The X-Men (including  Deadpool as their R-rated step-child), the MCU, the comics, and a whole host of related TV shows falling under the franchise’s umbrella.

It’s not a free-for-all, though it seems like one. The MCU stands alone, keeping the heroes in its galaxy firmly to themselves. [pullquote position=”right”]And Deadpool is definitely set within  the X-Men lineup (little as they seem to want anything to do with him — they find Deadpool even less of a team player than Woverine and far more annoying).[/pullquote]

Here are the little hints that Deadpool might be straddling both ends of the Marvel worlds.

WARNING: Spoilery spoilers below… 

Wade Wilson/Deadpool cracks a lot of jokes about things a fictional character shouldn’t know. He’s aware of himself as a comic book anti-hero and of his own movie actor, Ryan Reynolds (whom he shoots in DP2, mid-credits, to Canada’s “everlasting gratitude”).

He knows about the multiple X-Men timelines, the continuity breaks, and how different actors are currently playing the same roles (“McAvoy or Stewart? I can never keep these timelines straight”).

He knows pop culture and the difference between the Marvel and DC worlds.[pullquote position=”right”] And while the powers that be try to contain him within that R-rated eddy of the X-Men river, we see hints that the Avengers are also in his universe,  peripherally.[/pullquote]

As I watched the Deadpool double feature last week, I made  some notes hinting that Wade Wilson might live a little in the same cinematic universe at the MCU. I’m sure there are other clues that I missed, and we’re not even going to mention the asides about mothers named Martha and how dark the DCU is: 

That Big Old S.H.E.I.L.D. Helicarrier:

At the end of the first movie, the climactic set piece is aboard one of the Avenger’s flying aircraft carriers. It’s a derelict, presumably on the scrap docks after the Battle of New York, but still clearly marked as one of Nick Fury’s own. Keep an eye out for the sign behind Francis and Wade as they tussle. You can catch bits of the words here and there, warning people to “beware of jet blast, propellers and rotors” (see minute 0.05).  Then, the wide shots show most clearly what this hunk of junk really is. It’s very recognizable to MCU fans.

Nick Fury:

In the stinger after DP1’s credits, Deadpool chides us all to go home, before releasing the bomb that Cable will be in the next movie (played perhaps by Keira Knightly)…and that there could be a Samuel Jackson cameo, with an eyepatch, if they are lucky. Fury, as we know, assembled the Avengers in the first place.

Hawkeye In Deadpool 2:

When Deadpool gets his control collar on, he loses his powers. Ever ready to poke fun at the Avengers, he says something like, “Now I’m only as strong as Haweye!” Dis! But also, yeah: Hawkeye shoots a mean bow, but so did Katniss. So Hawkeye’s a now a male Katniss. Why he’s even on the Avengers core team is a story for another day.

Clips from DP2 are not released yet, but here is a little comic book scene establishing their psuedo-frenemy-partnership:

Stan Lee appears in both DP films, in one way or another. We can’t actually count this as just an MCU thing — Stan Lee appears in everything he’s laid a finger on. Stan Lee is like a demi-god in the Marvel worlds (and we recently discovered his overarching “Watcher Informant” role to the Marvel’s intergalactic mightiest). Here Stan Lee makes another delightful cameo in this early teaser for the Deadpool 2 film:

And then we have this delightful letter, with Deadpool trying to join the Avengers. Tony Stark is brutally clear: “No. Absolutely not. Go bother Professor X. No.”

I know I missed more references. And you bet I will hunt them down and pin them to this page like a live bug.

———–

Here’s someone else’s hard work about how DP is secretly an MCU member:

Or tell me what I missed in the comments and I’ll give the credit to you.  Enjoy, maybe over a nice chimichanga.

Amd remember, Deadpool can say chimichanga in seven languages. Can you?

 

 

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

Now DC has its own cinematic universe. That’s fine: I won’t turn down good entertainment. I’m a geek through and through, and NEED my sci fi fix to sleep well at night. But DC has a history of being either 1. Disappointing, or 2. Really and Truly Grim. Contrast this to Marvel and the Avengers, which engages me, making me happy. Life is tough enough; my entertainment choices should make me laugh and smile and feel better about being alive. Mostly, Marvel does just this.

So, DC. Specifically, The Justice League. I’m old enough to remember the original Saturday morning cartoons about the Justice League, AKA Super Friends. I liked it then, Wonder Twins and all. Now, I’m cautious. Ambivalent. Waiting to see where things go.

Here’s what I’m thinking: we had the earnestly serious but ultimately depressing Nolan-version Batman films. Health Ledger made those watchable. Then we had some rebooted Superman flicks that were also dark, which for Supes is simply unforgivable. Superman is about lightness, apple pie, and good vibes, and making the world a better place. See Superman in the 1980s, when it was done right. Ya with me?

The new Superman made him unbearably moody. I understand a broody Batman, who is admittedly an alcoholic, a loner, and just a breath away from being a supervillain himself.

Then DC brought them together in Batman vs Superman – more grimdark stuff – and Suicide Squad, which was…okay? Guardians of the Galaxy it wasn’t,  though it tried. It shot high, landed low.

Finally, DC hit a home run in Wonder Woman. YES! It was exactly what we, the long-suffering fans, hoped for. Fun, a tiny bit joyous, ambitiously pretty, and sprinkled with humor. It felt like Fantastic Beasts in the Harry Potter franchise and the first Captain America movie: all three take place roughly in the same timeframe.

This loooong lead in brings us to Justice League. Did it do the job, bring it, give us what the DCEU needed? Hmmmm, somewhat. It was definitely an ensemble piece with fun beats, good 70s tunes, and an amiable premise. However, the producers seemed in too big a hurry to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not earned. The MCU has a lot of groundwork and years on DC. When The Avengers came together, it was simpatico.

To explain: We “get” Diana Prince/the Wonder Woman. She carried Justice League on her lithe Amazonian back. We know her; we like her. She brings the action and the humor. She leads the team. I have no WW complaints.

The Batman? Hmmmm. Gloomy and underserved. I don’t have much to say on his role in JL, besides, “What the frak he was thinking to bring Supes back?” Oh, is that a spoiler? (Not if you watched the trailers.)

It’s been said here before: the problem with Superman is that he’s too powerful. You can only hurt him with Kryptonite. There’s not much else to say or do with this guy.

He also makes The Flash unfortunately redundant. Why have someone who can run fast when Superman can best him in speed?

But, speaking of The Flash himself: awesome. Admittedly, he owned most of this film’s humor, and the actor was up to the task. He’s clearly the DCEU version of Spiderman, and I want more. Gimme, gimme. I’ll be very happy to watch the standalone Flash film when it comes.

But then, there’s Cyborg. He’s a cipher, an Iron Man without the personality. I think he could have been better written. Next…

That leaves Aquaman. Superbly cast and executed — he needs his own origin movie. That’s all, mike drop, end of story. I loved the energy, the raw power he brought to the screen. What was frustrating: his character’s lack of mythological depth. What is the deal with Atlantis? What’s his relationship with Norway? Do fish obey him or what? Stuff was missing. In the meantime, I LOVED what we got, which was funny and engaging, both. DC needs to move up his movie in their queue, and drop the terrible pathos of Batman and Superman, who are frankly played out.

It’s not like you HAVE to pander to the fans, but in this case, give the Bat a break. Move on. Give us something fun and pretty and new. We want good storytelling, not another angsty reboot.

So, the JL movie was fine. The villain was a bust, but hey; I’m used to that and have learned to ignore it. Steppenwolf was a low-rent Sauron from Lord of the Rings, but I frankly don’t care. Marvel has had its share of Macguffin villains (see Guardians of the Galaxy, my favorite MCU movie). So, I can forgive the Justice League baddie as a sucky ripoff, as long as the ensemble story works. Which it mostly does. (Oh, and the “Mother Boxes” — give me a break. Infinity Stones much? Come up with your own plot. Even Voldemort was original.)

Altogether, was Justice League good? Well. It was fine. Middle of the road; basically non-offensive superhero fare. See it in the theater, but don’t pay extra for IMAX or 3D. Joss Whedon’s involvement helped the banter significantly (you can really tell his lines in this – they stand out – mostly with The Flash, and Aquaman).

To sum: the best DCEU movie yet, coming in just a hair ahead of Wonder Woman (mainly because I loves me a good ensemble film). But, really, if I had to choose, I’d see Thor: Ragnarok again. That movie just slayed me, and I’ve seen it four times now.

Movie Grade: B-