Best Superhero Movies That Were Never Made

Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker

Todd Philips’ controversial new film Joker opens this week.  It’s kind of amazing that a character piece with no connection to the DC Universe and no Batman in sight got the green light.  Many other movies aren’t so lucky.  Even movies with major talent attached to them.  Here’s a look at some superhero movies that were never made.

Superman Movies That Were Scrapped:

Christopher McQuarrie’s Man of Steel sequel

In July, the writer-director of Mission: Impossible-Fallout revealed on Twitter that he had pitched a Man of Steel sequel idea that would have tied in to a Green Lantern movie proposal.  Ultimately, Warner Brothers rejected both ideas.  McQuarrie did not give specifics of the plot of either film.

Matthew Vaughn’s Superman trilogy

The Kingsman director and comics creator Mark Millar pitched a Superman trilogy where the entire first film would have taken place on Krypton.  Superman would have grown up on Krypton, a change to his origin story, “maturing into an adult before having to reckon with his loyalty to both planets,” as Vaughn told Polygon.  This sounds like it could have really been epic.  I wish he’d reveal what his plans for the other two films were.

Superman: Flyby

J. J. Abrams wrote this Superman origin story that would have seen the hero fighting against new villain Ty-Zor, his Kryptonian cousin.  McG and Brett Ratner were each attached to direct the project at one point.  Warner Brothers ended up going with Superman Returns instead.

I want this sequel so bad!

Superman Returns sequel

Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns didn’t make enough money at the box office to revive the franchise.  He has hinted that a sequel would have been more action-oriented and might have featured the villain Brainiac.  This is the one that stings for me.  It always pulls at my heartstrings that SPOILER ALERT Superman has a son.  I really wanted a sequel to explore that concept in depth.  I remember watching Superman Returns with my friend Robert and both of us getting emotional during the scene where Superman watches his son sleeping.  This will always be one of the great unmade sequels for me.

Nic named his son Kal-El.

Superman Lives

This is the most famous unmade Superman film.  Tim Burton was attached to direct.  Nicholas Cage was going to play Superman.  Kevin Smith wrote a draft of the script.  There’s even a documentary about it titled The Death of “Superman Lives”:  What Happened?  The movie would have featured villains Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and Doomsday.  “The Death of Superman” story line from the comics was part of the movie’s inspiration.  After seeing what Tim Burton did with Batman, one can’t help but wonder what his Superman would have been like.

 

Spider-Man Sequels We’ll Never Get to See:

I know, I know.  Spidey’s a sore subject ever since the Sony/Marvel split.  But the truth is that Spider-Man’s been breaking our hearts for a while with expected sequels that never made it out of the gate.

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man

Casting rumors indicate that John Malkovich would have played the Vulture and Anne Hathaway would have played the Black Cat in this sequel.  Concept art indicates that villain Mysterio would have put in at least a cameo appearance.  Screenwriter James Vanderbilt was hired to write out plot lines for Spider-Man 5 and 6.  The exact reasons this sequel never came together aren’t completely clear.  Raimi takes responsibility and says he couldn’t deliver a quality film by the release date and didn’t want to disappoint the fans.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that we never got to see Dylan Baker’s version of the Lizard.

The Amazing Spider-Man 3

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ends with a cut scene that teases an awesome sequel.  It sets up a group of fan favorite villains called The Sinister Six which Spider-Man would have faced in the next movie.  Sadly, writer-director Drew Goddard never got to bring his vision to the screen though there are rumors it could still happen.

 

Batman Movies That Didn’t Happen:

Ivan Reitman’s Batman

The Ghostbusters director once had his eye on a 1960s-themed Batman project.  And the casting for this one is insane.  Bill Murray would have played Batman.  Eddie Murphy would have been Robin.  And David Bowie would have played the Joker.  (Aren’t you dying to see that?)  Fortunately, this movie fell apart, paving the way for Tim Burton’s Batman.

Robin Williams would have been amazing!

Batman Continues

If Tim Burton had made a third Batman film, Marlon Wayans would have played Robin and Robin Williams would have been the Riddler.  It would have set up a spinoff film for Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman as well.  As much as I like Batman Forever, I wish Burton could have completed his trilogy.

Batman Unchained

This would have been Joel Schumacher’s follow up to Batman and Robin.  Schumacher’s third Batman film, the fifth in the series, would have seen The Scarecrow and Harley Quinn make their first appearances on the big screen.  Batman and Robin also would have split up suggesting some of the darker storytelling associated more with Burton  than Schumacher.

 

Other Comic Book Movies That Never Made It To the Big Screen:

Would Armie Hammer have made a good Batman?

Justice League: Mortal

Before Zack Snyder’s Justice League movie came to fruition, Mad Max director George Miller was slated to direct this project in 2008.  The movie would have starred Armie Hammer as Batman, D.J. Catrona as Superman, Adam Brody and Anton Yelchin as dual Flashes, and Common as Green Lantern.  A high budget and a writer’s strike led to the movie being cancelled.

Still coming to a theater near you?

Doctor Doom

Fox hired Noah Hawley (creator of TV shows Fargo and Legion) to write a movie about Fantastic Four villain Doctor Doom.  Hawley has described his script as being an antihero story and a political thriller in the vein of Captain America: Winter Soldier.  The movie is largely considered dead after the Disney-Fox merger, however there is still some hope that Marvel may make the film at some point.  Especially now that they have plans to revive the Fantastic Four.

Someday, I will get my Silver Surfer movie. Someday.

The Silver Surfer

Speaking of Fantastic Four characters, comic book writer Brian K. Vaughn was hired to write a script for a stand-alone Silver Surfer script.  This was about two years before the Disney-Fox merger.  This secretive project is probably DOA as most of Fox’s comic book projects have been under the merger.  There is no word on whether actor Doug Jones would have reprised his role from the Fantastic Four sequel.

Green Lantern 2

Ryan Reynolds starred in The Green Lantern in 2011.  A sequel was written that focused on Sinestro becoming evil.  The first movie was a box office failure and plans for a sequel were scrapped.  Reynolds made fun of Green Lantern’s poor box office performance in the more popular movie Deadpool.

Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman

Before the Allan Heinberg script that became Patty Jenkins’ vision, Joss Whedon wrote an unproduced Wonder Woman script in the early 2000s.  It was recently leaked to the internet and has faced a lot of criticism for being sexist and focusing too much on Steve Trevor instead of Wonder Woman, even going so far as to make him the main character.  Whedon recently quit the Batgirl movie without completing a script, leaving it in limbo.  Which makes it another movie we may not get to see or at least not for a long time.

Make this movie, Hollywood!

Green Arrow: Escape From Super Max

I saved one of the best for last.  This one is cool as hell and I wish they would make it.  Framed for an assassination, Green Arrow has to partner with famous DC villains to break out of prison.  Doesn’t that sound awesome?  Cinema Blend has speculated that this would be an excellent script to transition the Arrow TV series into films.

What is your superpower?

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11 Raunchy Comedies You Should Watch Now

superbad actors and seth rogen
Superbad is Supergood. And super raunchy!

The extremely R-rated Good Boys is helping close out the summer movie season this week.  I’ve been looking forward to Good Boys for months, ever since the trailer dropped.  They had me at Jacob Tremblay.  What could be more wickedly subversive than casting the sweet little boy from Room and Wonder in a teen sex comedy?

If you’re also chomping at the bit to see Good Boys, here’s something to help tide you over.  It’s a list of my favorite raunchy comedies.

The Kentucky Fried Movie

The title of the movie is a misnomer as it has nothing to do with The Bluegrass State.  This is an early film from the minds that would go on to make Airplane and The Naked Gun series.  The movie is composed of a series of sketches, the film’s centerpiece being a parody of kung-fu films.  I recently got to witness my girlfriend’s reactions to the movie as she watched it online.  For a movie made in the ’70s, a lot of the humor and shock value stand up.

 

 

Mallrats

It was difficult choosing which Kevin Smith film to include on this list.  Clerks was groundbreaking and battled against censorship.  Chasing Amy and Dogma are dear to my heart.  I adore Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back but it’s not as iconic as Mallrats to me.  And while Clerks 2 is certainly offensive, it’s not as classic.  There’s just something about the running gags in Mallrats that I really love.  (“Like the back of a Volkswagen?”)  From the fortune teller to the chocolate pretzels, there are plenty of raunchy moments.

There’s also a Stan Lee cameo before that kind of thing became common.  And he gets a speech.  And it’s a good one.

 

 

There’s Something About Mary

By the time I saw this one, most of the best laughs had been ruined by previews or my friends.  However, screenwriting guru Robert McKee gave me a new appreciation for the opening scene.  He used as an example in his comedy writing seminar.

Ben Stiller’s character goes to pick up his prom date and while in the bathroom, he gets stuck in his zipper.  The Farrelly Brothers take what could be a one-note throw-away gag and turn it into comedy gold.  I forget exactly how the scene goes.  But more and more neighbors keep stopping by the house or passing by the window and trying to help, just making Stiller’s embarrassment that much worse.  The stuck zipper is like a laugh button.  And every time another character shows up, the Farrelly’s press it.

Watch the scene and you’ll see what I mean.  They milk about seventeen laughs from the audience out of a single gag.  (And just when you think you’re safe, they actually cut to a shot of it!  So gross!)  Definitely a masterclass in writing raunchy comedy.

Plus, the end credits has one of the most joyous sing-alongs of any movie.

 

 

Superbad

This is the Judd Apatow produced forefather to Good Boys.  If you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to ruin the joys of it for you.  Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Christipher Mintz-Plasse are hilarious in this teen comedy about friendship, and trying to acquire booze for a party.  This movie introduced Emma Stone to the world.

Seth Rogen and Bill Hader play possibly two of the worst cops in history.  This is the movie my ex-girlfriend took me to right before she dumped me, and I still love it.

 

 

 

Booksmart

Booksmart is Superbad for smart girls.  Two brainiacs try to cram four years worth of partying into one night before they head off to college.  Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein bring the funny in Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut.

This is one of my new favorite comedies.  It didn’t get a fair shake in the theaters and I hope it gets embraced on digital, streaming, etc.  The drug and sex jokes are funny, but even the innocent stuff, like just watching their nerdy dancing on the way to school, made me laugh so hard.

 

 

The Sweetest Thing

Selma Blair has several moments in this film that still make me laugh just to think of them.  Only Christina Applegate and Cameron Diaz would be good enough sports to round out the cast for a romantic sex comedy like this.  This movie really must be seen to be believed.

Below is an impromptu musical number from the film.  It is NSFW.

 

 

A Dirty Shame

I’ve only seen a few John Waters’ films.  This one again features Selma Blair as a promiscuous character that Waters saddled with a giant pair of fake breasts.  Which is really all you need to know about the film.  It deals in sexual extremes.  Waters tried to fit as many sexual fetishes into the movie as he could.

I only saw this once in the theater 15 years ago.  But I remember laughing hard the entire time.  PSA: This is the only movie on this list with an NC-17 rating.

 

 

American Pie

First things first: parts of this movie haven’t aged well.  Privacy and consent are very important, everyone.  That aside, this movie is still dear to me and reminds me what it felt like to be a teenager.  The screenwriter abstained from masturbating while he was writing the script, so he’d feel the characters’ frustration. 

This movie introduced most of America to the term “MILF” and popularized the phrase “This one time, in band camp…

 

 

EuroTrip

This lesser American Pie wannabe makes the list for one major reason:  an early surprise cameo from Matt Damon singing the cruel, heartbreaking, and utterly catchy “Scotty Doesn’t Know”, during which Scotty finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him.  It’s a totally rewindable moment that redeems the whole film.

 

 

 

Austin Powers: Goldmember

The Austin Powers trilogy concludes with this film.  It’s my favorite for several reasons.  It has the star-studded Austin Powers parody/film-within-a-film that includes John Travolta and Danny DeVito among others.  It also features Michael Caine and a young Beyonce.

All the sex jokes and scatalogical humor are there as well.  The first two movies are fun entrees, but this is pure dessert.

 

 

Bridesmaids

What a gift Bridesmaids is!  It really set Melissa McCarthy‘s movie career on fire.  And it gave us Chris O’Dowd.  The dress shop scene proves women can do gross out comedy just as well as the men.

 

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Movie Review – Booksmart – Whipsmart Nerd High School Anthem

Quiz – Melissa McCarthy – The Funniest Woman in Hollywood

The Top Six Richard Linklater Movies You Need To Watch Now

The Essential Tarantino – What to watch before Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Easter Eggs in Aladdin and The Lion King

Lion King: Timon
Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test!

Who knew classic, straight-laced, non-Pixar, Original Flavor Disney would start using Easter Eggs? It’s possible they’ve been doing this all along and I haven’t noticed, but usually there’s not a whiff of cross-pollination between, say, Princess properties. No nods to Snow White in Sleeping Beauty, for example, even though both feature winsome lasses in comas needing True Love’s Kiss. (Great plot resolution, folks. Sheesh.)

But then Pixar came around, relying on fresh humor often aimed squarely at adults. Pixar wasn’t afraid to mix up their universes with dozens of Easter Eggs for sharp-eyed fans to spot, especially on re-watches.

The Pixar Theory, and Beyond

In fact, there’s an entire Pixar Theory devoted to the notion that every Pixar film — with settings from the dawn of the dinosaurs, through to man’s diaspora through space — is one long, related story. Eagle-eyed viewers pour over every frame of Pixar films to spot connections between them. I’ve looked for, and found, Rex from Toy Story as a wood carving in Brave. This lends credence to the Boo (from Monsters, Inc) Theory. These things aren’t accidents.

The Carlin Brothers do a great job illustrating the Pixar Theory in their longish video (below). I think some of it’s too reachy, but the idea is fabulous and I’m willing to go all in.

It’s not just Pixar that does Easter Eggs now. Every genre franchise, including those of Star Wars, Marvel Studios, DC, Dreamworks, Sony, and “beyond” use Easter Eggs as a matter of principle.

Then…Disney bought Pixar (and Star Wars, and Marvel too).

Live Action Disney Does Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs are finally appearing in even the sacred Princess films, which were always the most straight-laced offerings in the Disney Vault. But since we’re seeing Eggs now in the live-action/CGI remakes, maybe this is where Disney decided to test the waters.

I’m going to mention a few Easter Eggs I spotted in Aladdin and The Lion King, the most recently remade Disney films, which both have Princesses.

(I’m counting Nala here. If Simba is a King, then Nala is a Queen.)

Lion King: Nala
Totally a Disney Princess.

Note: I’m not going to even try to mention Easter Eggs in Ralph Breaks the Internet, which doesn’t qualify as a remake of a Disney Classic, and is honestly one long series of amusing Easter Eggs. Feel free to mention those in the comments below, along with any other Eggs you’ve spotted elsewhere.

ralph breaks the internet and princess venelope
Uncountable Easter Eggs. Do you realize how long an article would have to be to list them all?

Easter Eggs in 2019’s Aladdin and Lion King Remakes

  • Aladdin: This one is a self-contained movie reference. The Disney studio logo opens, showing a sailing ship on their river, then pulls back to see the Disney Castle. Then the movie itself opens on a sailing ship. I need to see this again now to determine if it’s the same boat.
    will smith as genie in Aladdin and the live action disney remake
    You ain’t never had a friend like Genie, in either version.
  • When Genie is dressing Aladdin in the desert, the magic carpet plays in the sand in the background. Over a series of shots, we see Carpet making a sand castle. In the final shot of this, it’s clear the castle is a sand replica of the Disney Castle from the studio logo, and Carpet shoots a stream of sand over it that looks like the shooting star we see at the end of the logo sequence.

I didn’t even notice what Carpet was doing on my first watch. But it’s obvious now and very clever. (Logo sequence below is from 2011, but shows the castle and star.)

  • Aladdin: There’s a great nod to Shrek when he turns Abu into a donkey. Shrek is the tentpole of DreamWorks, a competitor, which is interesting. Genie utters a line like, “No, too obvious,” — pretty amusing, and only makes sense if it’s a subtle dig on Shrek.
  • Aladdin: My sister is an even bigger fan of Disney than I, and we went to see Aladdin together. She noticed Jafar had a lion sculpture on his desk that looked like Uncle Scar from The Lion King. I’d love to hear if anyone can confirm this.
    Lion King Scar
    Scar is actually his nickname. I looked it up. It’s a little cruel that Mufasa calls him that in public.
  • Aladdin: I can’t say for certain if this was intentional, but when Iago (just Parrot in the remake) becomes Giant Parrot, there’s a sequence suspiciously like one in Jurassic World
  • The Lion King: I only saw the remake once, but found one very obvious Easter Egg. It’s when Timon calls out to the hyenas to come and eat them (Timon and Pumbaa are acting as ‘bait’ for Simba and Nala) — it’s the beginning phrase of the big showstopping number Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast. I laughed out loud at that one. Timon even uses a mock French accent as he says dramatically, “Be…our…guest”: it looks like he’s about to burst into song, as the music swells. Then the chase begins. It’s a super fun moment.
    Lion King: Pumbaa
    Delicious pork bait.

    Only a few other people in the audience laughed, though, so they clearly missed it. If I’d seen The Lion King opening night, you BET the die-hard fans would have exploded into wild appreciation. (Disney superfans are fanatic. These are the people that dressed in ballgowns during the remade Beauty and the Beast on opening night.)

That’s All, Folks

Unfortunately, that’s all I have right now from The Lion King. I’ll be looking for Eggs if I catch it again at the theater. On first viewings, it’s hard to notice background events. Naturally. Easter Eggs delight and reward us during subsequent watches.

I’m glad Disney’s decided to join the new century finally and break down their 4th wall here and there. (Maybe acquiring Deadpool was a good influence!)

Movie Review – The Lion King (2019)

Surprise! The Lion King is a Hamlet Remake

Movie Review – Aladdin (2019) – A Live Action Remake, Good for the Target Audience

 

 

Was The Infinity War Snap actually random in who was dusted?

Thanos Snap
Is it really random? Or was there a plan?

A thought occurred to me last night while watching a YouTube video about Thanos’  Snap: were the people who became dust selected at random? At first glance I always assumed so, but maybe not.

I’m not a mathematician, and questions of probability can confound even professors of mathematics.

I’ll lay out my reasoning and you tell me if I missed something in the comments.

We know Dr. Strange observed 14,000,605 outcomes of the conflict with Thanos, and in only one of those outcomes did it end satisfactorily for the Avengers in Endgame.

Dr. Strange voluntarily gives up the Time Stone, and perhaps performs a few other tasks we don’t know about, to set the course for the one favorable outcome.

Spoilers follow for Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Make sure you’ve seen these before reading further!

The question is: how did Dr. Strange know Tony Stark/Iron Man would not be dusted?

The simple answer: Dr. Strange watched the outcome and knew Tony survived after a certain chain of events occurred.

Right? Then the snap itself does not randomly select lifeforms to dust. If an event — Tony surviving The Snap — always follows a chain of previous events, then it is a determined event, and not random.

If the snap itself randomly selects, then each snap will select a different set of lifeforms to dust. Therefore, all Dr. Strange could know is there’s one chain of events that ends well for the Avengers, as long as Tony doesn’t get dusted.

Remember, based on the outcome of Avengers: Endgame, the only solution Dr. Strange saw was for Tony to be the one, and the ONLY one, to reverse The Snap.

What do you think?

Life on Earth After Avengers: Endgame (Post-post Snap)

Movie Review – Avengers: Endgame

Avengers Endgame – long breakdown to describe what you just saw (Massive Spoilers!)

Avengers Infinity War – Whose Fault is the Snap?

Life on Earth After Avengers: Endgame (Post-post Snap)

Thanos SnapNOTE: Spoilers start right away for Avengers: Endgame.

Although it’s a beautiful moment in Avengers: Endgame when Dr. Strange‘s portals opened and The Vanished step back into existence, the sudden return of all these people is very problematic.

Let’s assume for a  minute Strange’s sorcerers planned ahead and saved all the people in planes from falling from the sky, teleporting them to safe landings. And so on for any Earthly or cosmically-based beings whose sudden reappearance would mean imminent death. I mean, if Strange can look into 14 million + lifetimes in the course of moments, I’ll wank he planned ahead for these literal car-wrecks, and many other contingencies too.

Captain America returned the Time Stone to the Sorcerer Supreme’s custody at the end of Endgame, so The Ancient One and Strange have an infinite amount of time to make sure the Endgame strategy didn’t cause a brand new Decimation.

But what then? What happens after The Snap is Unsnapped?

When the Infinity War saga finally ends and people try to go home, where do they go? It’s been five years. That’s quite a bit of time. Most people won’t have homes to return to. What happens when you find your house/palace/apartment/shack occupied by other people? What are the legalities of this? What would Judge Judy do? We have no precedent to fall back on. It’s not like people weren’t paying their rent because they lost their jobs — they were literally snuffed out and in of existence.

And as for returning to their families, that’s a can of worms even Ant-Man can’t open. When Hank Pym brought his wife back, he hadn’t moved on. Hope grew up in the interim, which was fine, but Janet was a welcome addition, not an interloper to someone’s new family. Hawkeye might now be five years older compared to his wife and kids, but he still had their house and hadn’t moved on either.

So — best case scenario for those returned is their loved ones pined away for half a decade, and now have huge mental traumas to process from living in the post-Snap world. Best case.

Worst case: their loved ones suddenly (from their POV) have new mates and children and are stuck with no one to help them re-assimilate into society. I doubt our world governments (outside of Wakanda) will do much besides creating homeless shelters and long food lines. Jobs will be gone. Society’s infrastructure won’t run right for years. The aftereffects of this kind of world-wide/universe-wide event should reverberate for at least a generation.

How does Spider-Man: Far From Home deal with the new reality?

This barely touches on the problems inherent in the Avengers’ plan to “bring them back, whatever it takes.”  Spider-Man 2: Far From Home (coming out this July) will delve into some of this. Far From Home is the last film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Three.

Honestly, I don’t see how Far From Home can do these issues justice. Sure, they will make some nod to the problems in the beginning of the film. But keep in mind this is a SPIDER-MAN movie, with all the humor and hijinks we expect from Peter Parker & Gang (all conveniently also Snapped, and thus still in high school).

Spending the entire next blockbuster showing how people will be housed and fed and have their property returned wouldn’t be much fun.

This video raises some good questions about how our planet would deal with the return of billions of people, and even touches on the deep items of religion and spirituality that would be affected when our understanding of death is irrevocably changed:

PS: Black Panther 2 – Who is King in Wakanda?

One great side question asked in this video: who’s been running Wakanda for the past five years? I always assumed Shuri would take up the mantle, until it was revealed in the Endgame trailers she was Snapped too. And if someone like M’Baku became King, are there any heart-shaped herbs left to give him Black Panther powers? Either way, does T’Challa automatically become King again (heartfelt Endgame coda aside)? Let’s assume Black Panther 2 deals with this. It’s going to be hard to make that interesting, since the first Black Panther movie already tread this ground in some detail.

Related Avengers Articles on RunPee.com

Movie Review – Avengers: Endgame

Did YOU Survive The Snap? You may as well get this over with…

Movie Review – Avengers Infinity War – An Unrivaled Marvel Epic

Movie Review – Doctor Strange

Movie Review – Spider-Man Homecoming

Movie Review – Ant-Man and the Wasp

Movie Review – Black Panther – One Incredible Party

Black Panther – Does Killmonger Have a Point?

Did YOU Survive The Snap? You may as well get this over with…

Thanos Snap

It’s been a year ago now, at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Almost as soon as Thanos got his “mitts” on every stone for the The Infinity Gauntlet, he snapped his giant purple fingers and snuffed out half of all living beings in the universe — people both  good and bad, rich and poor, young or old, in a process utterly random and without distinction, race, worthiness — anything. In fact, you are probably dead.

I, for one, AM dead. Gone: snuffed away, dust. My cold, grim, no nonsense message:

“You were slain by Thanos, for the good of the Universe.”

The Snap. 50-50 odds. Now it’s your turn to find out once and for all.

Want to know if YOU survived The Snap? This one little unadorned link will tell you, for good or ill.

Did Thanos Kill Me?

Go ahead. Click the purple link.

But once you know, it’s permanent. No matter how many times I try this site, they still tell me I’m ashes. They remember.

You may as well take a deep breath and know. If you’re dead, like me, our only hope is the Avengers  — and Captain Marvel — can bring us back on April 26th, the opening night of Avengers: Endgame.  At least RunPee will have Peetimes ready to go, so if you’re still alive, the three-hour runtime won’t make your survivor’s guilt worse.  🙂

#AvengeTheFallen

#WhateverItTakes

Movie Review – Avengers Infinity War – An Unrivaled Marvel Epic

Avengers Infinity War – what does the post credit scene mean?

Movie Review – Captain Marvel – A Pretty Good Origin Story

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film?

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. 

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

Movie Review – Man of Steel

Movie Review – Batman vs. Superman

 

The Matrix After 20 Years – A Retrospective: A Different Kind of Hero, a New Kind of Science Fiction

The MatrixThe year was 1999 and all any sci-fi fan could think about was: finally, another Star Wars movie. Had Phantom Menace come out in the age of social media it would have been, well, pretty much what we’re seeing with Avengers: Endgame right now.

But, I remember reading an article online — I don’t recall the source — that essentially said: if you think The Matrix is just a sci-fi appetizer to watch while you wait for the The Phantom Menace main course, then think again; this year of 1999 will be known forever as the movies that came out before The Matrix, and the movies that came out after The Matrix. #Truth

Remember the first scene of the movie — Trinity, stylishly clad in black leather, alone in a dilapidated room, typing on a computer. Contrast was everywhere: Trinity’s sleek appearance with the grungy room; her calm demeanor while being handcuffed with the nervousness of the police officers; and then, with the ease of a video game character playing in god-mode, she struck.

The Trinity character was instantly elevated to the level of superhero, then seconds later she was running scared for her life. We had no idea, but these men in bland suits were on another level completely.

Then, the payphone rang and Trinity sprinted to answer it — before being crushed by a massive truck.

What Just Happened?

In medias res (in the middle of things) hasn’t been done better, before or since.

The movie doesn’t relent for a moment. The audience is left as stupefied as the main character, wondering what is the Matrix, until Morpheus finally explains it to Neo: the Matrix is a prison, for your mind.

There’s a risk to building expectations in a movie plot, because it isn’t enough to meet those expectations; they must be exceeded. More often than not, stories let us down when the veil is lifted. You know those movies that succeed because you remember the titles: Inception, Blade Runner, Minority Report, Sixth Sense…The Matrix. Movies that don’t exceed their own expectations litter the movie timeline, like irrationals between the integers.

All the story elements of The Matrix had been explored, to one degree or another, by previous stories. It’s nearly impossible to come up with a meaningful trope that wasn’t worn ragged by the time the Greeks got around a campfire.  But, all through my adolescence and early adulthood every superhero story left me slightly dissatisfied. Something was missing, but I didn’t know what.

A great superhero movie needs a suitable balance between hero and villain. The vast majority of these stories end with the hero winning, because the heroes want it more…usually because they are fighting for something bigger than themselves. The villain usually fights for their own ends.

The closest these stories ever came to satisfaction was when the superhero discovered and accepted who they were, and let go of perceived limitations. But these limitations always centered on physicality or some superpower.

And then we watched Neo die. The unmistakable hero of the story lay dead on the hallway floor,  simultaneously dead in the chair holding his real physical body.

We’ve seen this before. This isn’t new.

What was new: Neo awoke/metamorphosized into a new state of understanding. He wasn’t faster, or stronger than before — he showed those traits of speed and strength already. Only now he had knowledge (gnosis) of everything in The Matrix. He was The One.

Neo distractedly fought Agent Smith, gazing in wonder at the surroundings he truly saw for the first time. There was no fight left to fight. Neo stepped through the doors of perception and saw infinity. This was the hero I was waiting for.

Analysis of Inception

Movie Review – Inception (No Spoilers)

60 Movies Standing Up To The Test Of Time

Movie Review – John Wick 1

What is Animated versus Live Action in Alita – Battle Angel

battle angle alita movie image
You can never have eyes that are too big. Not even as an animated superhero.

Alita: Battle Angel is one of my most-anticipated films of the year.  However, the trailers have been driving me crazy. My eyes can’t quite comprehend what they’re seeing.  What’s animated and what isn’t? Everything looks real and surreal at the same time, and two or three minute bursts of short clips are too quick to comprehend.  

A little research cleared up my biggest question:  Alita (played by Rosa Salazar) is CG. Christoph Waltz and most of the other actors are live-action.  

Weta did visual effects for the film.  They are famous for their work on Avatar, the Planet of the Apes prequels, and Gollum from Lord of the Rings.  Salazar wore a performance capture suit for Alita. A Weta crew member followed Salazar around with a computer attached to a camera on Salazar’s face.  They made sure the dots on her face were all in the right place, and that they were collecting all the right information for her facial capture. Salazar says of the suit, “I was a piece of technology walking around.”  

Much like her character.

“The way the performance capture process worked,” says producer Jon Landua, “is we had a number of cameras placed around the set that would record markers on the actor’s physical body.  The system would interpret that marker and put it into three dimensional space. [And then] create a skeleton to go inside a CG model to drive that CG model’s performance.” (To see how this works, see the video below.)   

Landau explains the advances Weta made in facial animation.   “What they’ve really worked on is on the inside-out. Working on a system that is not driving the facial performance from the outside, but understanding what the muscles are doing under the skin, and then moving the skin…One of the artists talked to Rosa about all of the idiosyncrasies she does that we’re not supposed to be able to do, this eyebrow will go up but this lip will go down.  No one else does that, but Rosa does it…It was Weta learning and teaching their system from the inside out, which is a brand new thing they’re doing and really pushing the technology.”

Eric Saindon, visual effects supervisor for Weta and two-time Oscar nominee for The Hobbit films, expounds further on this topic.  “We’re now able to work at the level of the facial musculature—so it’s no longer about just moving the surface skin, but moving the underlying muscles.  You can see it in how the movements of Alita’s face look so much like Rosa’s. We spent hundreds of hours just working with Alita’s mouth, because what makes even a big action scene work, is getting the most human expressions, and Rosa has a very expressive face.”    

Instead of using computer graphics, a live set was constructed.   “We’re in a live-action world that has digital characters brought into it,” says Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor for Weta.  

“Rosa’s not performing against a green screen,” says Jon Landau, “We put a 97,000 square foot set on the back lot of Troublemaker Studios, where Keean could go on a bridge in the rain with Rosa right there, and tenderly touch her cheek in a romantic scene that you couldn’t do before.  But Weta pushing the technology is allowing the actors to really do performances with each other.”

Rosa Salazar confirms, “I was given the gift of…existing in a practical environment with practical props and practical people and, with the exception of one day working on a green screen stage, all the other days were in the real true environment of that set.”   

One of the main sets is Iron City, a future metropolis which has gone to waste, though Alita sees it as beautiful.  “Since she has no memory, she sees everything in a beautiful way,“ says director Robert Rodriguez. Creating Iron City fell to Steve Joyner and Caylah Eddleblute, production designers who have worked with Rodriguez ever since From DuskTill Dawn.  “We knew going in that Robert is all about depth,“ says Joyner. “We knew he would want a city that seems to go on forever. So we knew we would have to create an intricate network of streets, alleys, and corridors that all interconnect. Ultimately, the sets were so complex there were nooks and crannies even Caylah and I didn’t know were there!”  

A scanning crew would scan every environment, so they would have a 3-D model for every set they shot in.    

Of course, not all of the preparation for the movie has been effects-based.  Salazar started physical training for the demanding role the day after being cast.  “You don’t want to cast someone and then you get two takes out of her, and then she’s exhausted,” she says.“  You want to get your endurance level up for something as physical as this. I went into training the very next morning and I trained for close to five months for a few hours every single day.  I did some muay thai, some kung-fu, staff work, kick boxing.”

If you’re as excited for Alita as I am, you’ll want to stay connected with RunPee.  Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Keep an eye out for our upcoming Alita review, and get the Peetimes for Alita through the RunPee app.  

 

Note:  The quotes used in this article came from the 20th Century Fox panel at New York City Comic Con, and from the production notes.  

Is Bumblebee a prequel or a reboot?

bumblebee is a quiet and yellow transformer bot
Everyone’s favorite Transformer Bot.

Prequel or reboot. Or, soft-reboot — whatever that is.  Just where does Bumblebee fit in the Transformers universe?

Officially, Bumblebee is a prequel, set in 1987. But when you watch the movie you better wear your best retcon glasses, because there’s a lot that just can’t fit with the story we already know. For instance: in the first 2007 Transformers, Sector 7 discovers the existence of Transformers (from the Beagle 2 Rover camera footage three years earlier). So, there’s that. And obviously, there’s no reference to Bumblebee’s 20 years of experience here on Earth.

[pullquote]The news is that Paramount and Hasbro would like to build a shared cinematic universe around Transformers, G.I. Joe, and maybe even pull in the Micronauts and Visionaries.[/pullquote]

This is an ongoing issue that all franchises face. It’s very easy for them to collapse under their own limitations. I’m not sure why anyone is even debating the issue. It isn’t like all the Transformer movies up to now aren’t already forgettable.  Just sweep them under the rug and start over.

All of the previous Transformer movies clearly tried to be gigantic ensemble high-stakes epics. (That’s what Michael Bay does.) [pullquote position=”right”]What Marvel taught us is it’s best to lead up to that ensemble epic with a few stories that build the foundation first.[/pullquote]

Maybe they are taking the same approach with Bumblebee, to start small and build up to an epic. We’re on-board.

Movie Review – Bumblebee

Review: Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen