Ruby Rose Is Batwoman – DC’s First Onscreen Gay Hero

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In a very welcome piece of news, Orange Is The New Black star, Ruby Rose, has been cast as Batwoman in the CW’s annual crossover event and for her own series next season.

In recent years Batwoman has been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ representation in comics. Originally created in 1956, as a love interest for Batman in order to combat the allegations of Batman’s homosexuality arising from the controversial book Seduction of the Innocent (1954), the character disappeared from comics in the mid-1960s but was reintroduced to the DC comic universe in 2006, when she was established as a Jewish lesbian, becoming the first-ever lesbian superhero title DC character.

The CW’s series, written by Caroline Dries based on the DC characters, sees Batwoman armed with a passion for social justice and a flair for speaking her mind. Rose will star as Kate Kane, soaring onto the streets of Gotham as Batwoman, an out lesbian and highly trained street fighter primed to snuff out the failing city’s criminal resurgence.

Rose’s casting comes on the heels of Monday’s statement from The CW that the network anticipates a pilot for the Batwoman series as early as midseason, but we will get our first glimpse of the character in the big Arrowverse crossover event this December (teaming up The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl, but not Legends of Tomorrow).

Rose, who identifies as gender fluid, has already starred in Pitch Perfect 3, XXX: The Return of Xander Cage and John Wick: Chapter 2, and will soon be seen punching giant sharks alongside Jason Statham, in The Meg.

This sounds very exciting to me, taking a very important step towards more inclusive characters in media, and since Rose has already shown herself to be an intriguing actor, Batwoman would appear to be in safe hands.

DC Unveils DC Universe TV

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DC have launched details of their forthcoming subscription TV service, DC Universe, including some interesting and surprising new details.

Alongside already announced new live-action series, including Titans, Swamp Thing and Doom Patrol, as well as animated fare such as animated series Young Justice: Outsiders and a fan-pleasing Harley Quinn show, the service will include back catalogue DC material such as the Christopher Reeves Superman films and the entire run of Batman films, alongside classic live action and animated shows including Wonder Woman and Batman: The Animated Series.

The service will feature a selection of animated movies including, Justice League: The Flashpoint ParadoxGreen Lantern: First Flight, and Wonder Woman.

Somewhat more surprisingly, the channel will operate as a storefront for DC, offering a curated library of digital comic books – 1938’s Action Comics No. 1 through to 2011’s New 52 – a whole range of DC collectibles and even a community space which will include a fan forum. There will be a ‘Breaking News’ section and viewers will be given early access areas to DC-related events and games.

An official statement announced:

“DC Universe is so much more than a streaming service. It’s a welcoming place for everyone to immerse themselves in their own level of DC fandom, with the epic characters, stories, and experiences they have come to expect from DC,” said Jim Lee, chief creative officer and publisher, DC Entertainment, in a statement. “We are investing in and creating original, high-quality shows including the new Titans series, and curating the most beloved nostalgic content, while at the same time elevating the comic reading experience to new heights. Nothing this robust has ever been offered to fans before.”

Whatever else happens with this intriguing new service, DC certainly can’t be faulted for its ambition. Whether or not there are enough punters willing to stump up hard-earned cash for such specific content remains to be seen, and it’s for sure Disney will be keeping a close eye on this before the release of their own streaming channel.

DC Universe is due to launch in beta mode in August, with a full launch soon after.

DC’s Doom Patrol Comes To TV

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Just last week DC Comics’ nascent streaming service, DC Universe, announced they would produce a Superman prequel series, Metropolis, and a Swamp Thing live-action series as part of its initial programming. Now the channel has ordered a 13 episode run of Doom Patrol.

Originally created by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani in 1963 (with several different incarnations over the years), the series is described as a re-imagining of one of DC’s more offbeat teams, featuring Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl and Crazy Jane, led by modern-day mad scientist Dr. Niles Caulder (The Chief).

The characters come together after suffering horrible accidents, and are mobilized into action by The Chief, who gives them new purpose as they investigate weird phenomena and protect Earth. The show will be a spin-off from DC’s previously announced Titans live-action series.

Berlanti Productions will produce in association with Warner Bros. Television. Greg Berlanti’s company already produces Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Black Lighting, Legends of TomorrowRiverdale and Titans.

Doom Patrol will go into production later this year for a 2019 launch. That’s going to be a whole lot of DC related content by next year. Let’s hope the quality of the shows is as good as, or better than, The Flash and Supergirl, and that there’s a hunger from the public for so much super-hero TV…

Justice League: Dawn of… Something.

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After a great deal of anticipation and no small amount of concern at its production woes, the best we could hope for with Justice League is that the film wasn’t going to be a complete mess.

Well, it is a mess, but it is also a lot of fun, more so than expected.

The Warner Bros/DC universe has been a wobbly affair from the outset. First of all, Zack Snyder presented a version of Superman in both Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman which suggested at best that he didn’t understand the character and at worst that he actively disliked him. This was followed by the incoherent Suicide Squad, and frankly the less said about that, ever, the better.

Finally, Patty Jenkins launched Wonder Woman (after a cameo in Batman vs Superman) with reverence and respect to the qualities that have made her such a much-loved character since 1941 and a palpable sense of joy. In a case more shocking than snow being white, audiences responded favourably.

While Diana of Themyscira was cleaning up at the box office, Warner Bros and DC decided on a spot of course correction for their characters. Joss Whedon (director of Marvel’s first two Avengers movies) was brought in to oversee rewrites and reshoots on Snyder’s Justice League. Industry scuttlebutt suggested this was an attempt to steer what had been Snyder’s overriding grim vision for the cinematic DC universe towards something more hopeful, and more fun.

A viewing of Justice League will clearly show this has been the case. In the opening moments Superman is given an introduction which attempts to make us understand why the world feels such a profound loss at his death. While welcome, it does come across as a rather clunky retcon, since what we’re shown fails to jibe with the lofty, distant character seen in his previous outings.

The film’s threat is then introduced and if you were hoping the casting of Ciarán Hinds would result in a character of subtlety and nuance then you’d have been better off hoping for a cameo from Batgirl as played by Adam Sandler. Steppenwolf is a CGI mope who wants to take over the world. And uh, that’s it. Frankly he makes the weakest Marvel villain seem like a character in a Mike Leigh film.

The rest of the plot, such as it is, sees the League introduced, but here again the film fails since these introductions feel more like trailers for forthcoming movies. This was always a danger for Justice League since DC decided not to put in the legwork that Marvel did, firmly establishing their characters in individual movies before bringing them together for The Avengers.

So we have a group of characters we barely get time to know, one whose place in the world is very obviously rewritten and a barely one-dimensional villain. As a film, it’s a shambles, but there is something more going on here.

Despite all of the above, the characters are a great deal of fun. That they are is testament to both the well-cast actors and, I strongly suspect, Whedon’s rewrites. Jason Momoa is obviously having a blast as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and that translates well (his ‘bro with a trident’ being more enjoyable than the trailers would have us believe), Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/Flash is a little more of an acquired taste – but his over-earnest shtick mostly works a treat, while Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone/Cyborg gets the shorter end of the stick and is barely developed at all. Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot (Bruce Wayne/Batman and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman) continue to do great work with their characters (but then we’ve been given time to get to know them). Gadot is definitely the MVP of the DC Extended Universe.

Thankfully, the gloom and doom portentousness of Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman has been entirely done away with, instead the mood here is downright pulpy, with events unfolding at a breakneck pace (that studio-dictated two-hour running time has really paid off). While the characters suffer from that, there is at least no time to be bored.

And then, of course, there’s Superman. It’s not really a spoiler to say the Man of Steel returns in Justice League, as his resurrection was teased just moments after his demise in Batman vs Superman. What is a pleasant surprise is that we are finally given a more recognisable version of the Last Son of Krypton than either of his previous outings. Even Henry Cavill’s super-suit has been colour-graded (in glaringly obvious post-production) to more closely resemble its comic book counterpart. Incidentally, Cavill’s real-life moustache, grown for the filming of  the newest Mission: Impossible movie and unable to be removed for Whedon’s reshoots, is also given a post-production erasing with frankly bizarre results.

But it’s pleasurable to see Superman, the real red and blue Superman, in action. It’s impossible to imagine Snyder’s version of the character asking “Is this guy still bothering you?” as he hurtles head-long into the villain. Let’s hope the long-in-gestation Man of Steel 2 picks up on this revitalised iteration.

The ultimate problem with Justice League is that, Wonder Woman aside, each of the films has left us hoping that DC/Warner Bros will learn from their mistakes and get it right next time. So much was riding on Justice League: this should have been the movie to get everything right, set up the individual characters and firmly establish the world and the tone of the movies to come. Instead we have a film where everyone is given rushed introductions, a dull villain to fight and some of the worst CGI seen in a major movie since The Hobbit trilogy.

Let’s be clear, just the fact that it tries to inject heart and hope into the flagship DC legends means that it’s already way more fun than either Man of Steel or Batman vs Superman (and it’s light years ahead of Suicide Squad, despite its similarly troubled production).

The film is not the complete disaster many were expecting, but neither is it the triumph many were hoping for.

While it’s a positive sign that the company has taken notice of Wonder Woman, at what point precisely can audiences stop hoping for DC to get it right next time and just enjoy the movies as they arrive!?

These iconic characters deserve a better movie. Maybe next time they’ll get it. But then I’ve said that before…

New Justice League Trailer Hits Comic-Con!

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As expected, the brand new Justice League trailer dropped at Hall H at the San Diego Comic-Con today and I’m happy to bring it to you in all its glory.

The film, the first to bring together DC Comics’ heavy-hitter characters (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg) recently took a sad hit in production when director Zack Snyder had to step down from the director’s chair, following a tragic family loss earlier this year.

Joss Whedon, already hard at work on the Warner Bros. lot developing the new Batgirl movie, has stepped in to bring the League across the finishing line. Whedon, with The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron under his belt, has a little experience of delivering mildly successful superhero team movies, of course.

Ben Affleck took to the stage at SDCC, prior to the trailer’s screening, to debunk yesterday’s rumours which suggested Warner Bros. were looking to transition him out of The Batman role, ready for a re-cast. I’m happy to hear this, as his take on the Caped Crusader was one of the few genuine highlights of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of the Franchise.*

Justice League will unite in cinemas on November 16. And I have to say, I dug the heck out out of this trailer. Here’s hoping DC have finally learned how to handle their characters in the right way…

*I know, I know…