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.

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…

Danny Elfman’s Justice League Theme – And Score To Include Iconic Batman Theme

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(UPDATE: Williams’ Superman score is in and can be heard in the track I’ve just added, Friends And Foes)

Whatever the heck comes out from the complicated production history of Warner/DC’s Justice League movie, at least we’ll be getting some kickass music.

Friend to the cinematic capes Danny Elfman (Batman, Darkman, Spider-Man etc) is scoring the film and insists he will use his iconic Batman theme (as heard in the 1990s movies and Batman – The Animated Series). In fact, there even seem to be traces of it heard in the new Justice League theme (hear for yourself below).

Rumours are also running rife that the film will reintroduce John Williams’ even more iconic (iconicer?) Superman theme.

This certainly all lends credence to the suggestion that DC are using the retooled-by-Joss-Whedon Justice League to do a major spot of course correction with their flagship characters, no doubt spurred on by the success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. Hopefully this pans out and we’ll get to see the more hopeful, upbeat representation these characters deserve and leave behind Zack Snyder’s dour, grimdark take on the DC universe.

We’ll know for sure in just a few weeks, but in the meantime here’s the brand new Justice League theme from Elfman. Enjoy…

 

(UPDATE: Here’s a track featuring John Williams’ Superman Theme)

Can They Be Heroes…? Justice League Trailer

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And so the latest (in a seemingly long, long line) of Justice League trailers hits.

Each trailer has shown a marked improvement and the greater reliance on character has been showing through more each time. What does this mean for the movie with Joss Whedon taking over after director Zack Snyder’s departure due to a terrible family loss? That remains to be seen, of course, but at least the trailers have been getting better.

Not much else to say at this point. Let’s hope Justice League can continue the rehabilitation of the DC Extended Universe after the promise shown by Wonder Woman.

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…

She’s A Wonder! – Jenkins’ Princess Rules!

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Director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman had a lot of baggage to carry when it arrived in theatres. The previous DC Extended Universe movies (Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad) had performed well (though not as well as hoped) at the box office, but were the subjects of vast swathes of critical scorn. Besides this was the more serious battle against Hollywood sexism, where the common perception among those with the power to greenlight productions has long been that women could neither helm nor feature as main stars of big, action franchise movies.

While I’m somewhat late to the game with this review (unusually, Wonder Woman has opened later here in Norway than in many other territories), it has given me the chance to see both of these issues blown out of the water by both the film’s success and critical reaction. The film set records for the biggest domestic opening for a female director ($103.3 million) and the biggest opening for a female-led comic book film, and has, to date, grossed over $500 million worldwide.

And I’m very happy to reiterate the good news. Taken on its own terms Wonder Woman is bright, funny, charming, exciting and a genuine feel-good movie. Taken against the issues weighted against it stepping into the ring you might also call it an outright triumph.

The origin story, well known to comic book fans since American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston and artist Harry G. Peter brought her to the pages of All-Star Comics # 8 in 1941, is weaved into a World War I adventure which also brings in several of Princess Diana of Themyscira’s supporting characters (including Queen Hippolyta and the Amazons, Steve Trevor and Etta Candy) and in itself is a thoroughly entertaining romp.

Where the film really scores however is in several key ways that contrast sharply with the previous DC movies. Gone is the relentless grimdark misery of Batman vs Superman, the distancing ‘god above us’ approach to Superman and, praise the gods of film craft, the incoherent characterisation, storytelling and editing of Suicide Squad.

Jenkins’ film is generally full of clear storytelling and fun action sequences, even utilising Zack Snyder’s trademark speed ramping to actually help with both clarity and story (its use in an important moment where the Amazons face off against bullets for the first time not only looks cool but packs quite an emotional wallop). There are some genuinely exciting moments of action (Wonder Woman crossing No Man’s Land on the Belgian Front and her subsequent attack on a German stronghold are… sorry… wonders served more by character than empty cool visuals).

Wonder Woman moves at a breezy clip, from Paradise Island to London and finally to the battlefields of Belgium and, while it does ultimately succumb to the usual climax of two super-powered folk hurling big, heavy things at each other, it at least does so in an almost low-key way that provides a little emotional weight. However it doesn’t quite succeed in making the villainous character involved (I won’t name the actor either so as to avoid spoilers) seem massively threatening, which is a shame and sees some points knocked off.

Jenkins does have two extra special weapons: leads Gal Gadot and Chris Pine share terrific chemistry and carry more than their share of the film’s appeal. Pine has slowly become one of our more interesting screen presences, leading one particularly perceptive critic (and he/she will have to forgive my failing memory as to who exactly) to accurately describe him as “a character actor in a leading man’s body.” He’s a pretty face who’s pulled off a number of whip-smart performances and Wonder Woman is no exception, basting Steve Trevor in easy going, old time, movie star charm.

As for Gadot, the camera loves her and she’s well served by Jenkins and her writers (screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Heinberg, Zack Snyder, and Jason Fuchs) who together make Diana a warm, relatable character. There are plenty of small moments gifted to her which show why the world falls in love with Diana, and Gadot radiates atomic levels of charm while giving us a genuinely heroic hero, and make no doubt about it, one both men and women can root for!

At one point in the film, Pine’s Captain Steve Trevor tells Diana he’s taking her to London to meet with “the men who can” end the war. “I’m the man who can!” Diana replies, completely on point.

Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman? They’re the women who can.

Will Wonder Woman Save DC Movies…?

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It’s no secret that here at Out of Dave’s Head Towers, the DC movies are considered to be something of a mess (and that’s being kinder than they perhaps deserve). Man of Steel has its qualities, Batman Vs Superman was an overstuffed mess and the less said about Suicide Squad the better for my use of expletives.

Dc and Warner Bros, clearly inspired by the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe dived into their first productions with zeal but no understanding of what made the Marvel movie franchises work so well. Instead of careful planning, the DC movies exhibit painfully obvious signs of throwing in everything but the kitchen sink in the hope of universe building, but do so with no vision of what makes their characters so special or indeed how an interconnected universe of movies should develop.

So it’s no small thing to say that I’m hoping against hope this rudderless ship of a brand can be saved by two women… director Patty Jenkins and DC’s Amazonian, Wonder Woman.

Everything about this film is shaping up nicely (though of course, the same could be said of the previous efforts) from the cast and crew to the look of the film. The Wonder Woman trailers (and Jenkins’ track record) have promised something far more cohesive and this latest from Warner Bros and DC is no exception.

Wonder Woman is a character who has never yet been handled right in her relatively few onscreen appearances (sorry, Lynda, I love you and your crazy 1970s TV show with its spangle and kookiness, but y’know…) and she deserves to be given the best treatment out of the starting gate.

Here’s hoping she can use her lassoo of truth to steer this ship into better waters.

Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, opens on June 2nd.

She’s a wonder – the Wonder Woman trailer is here!


Created by the American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston and originally drawn by H. G. Peter, Wonder Woman first appeared in All Star Comics #8 in December 1941 and first cover-dated on Sensation Comics #1, January 1942.

Over the decades the character’s role as an international diplomatic heroine fighting for justice, love, peace, and gender equality has led to Wonder Woman being widely hailed as a feminist icon.

On screen however she has fared less well, with the most memorable portrayal to date coming in the form of the high camp antics of Lynda Carter in the 1970s TV series.

So hopes are riding high (not least of which in this writer, as a self-professed Wonder Woman geek) that the latest incarnation from Warner Bros. will do the character justice.

The movie, due to hit our screens on on November 17, 2017, directed by the always interesting Patty (‘Monster’) Jenkins, and starring Gal Gadot as the demigoddess, and warrior princess of the Amazons of Themyscira, alongside Chris Pine, Lucy Davis, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Danny Huston, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, Elena Anaya and David Thewlis. That’s a heck of a cast and a lot of great talent surrounding the first big screen outing for one of DC Comics’ most preeminent characters.

This first trailer (just released for the San Diego Comic Con 2016) bodes well and looks like a lot of fun, so here’s hoping the film successfully gives us the true feminist hero we deserve.

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