Thanks to the internet we know some things to be true. Specifically that Ben Affleck has been fired, or quit, and is no longer Batman. Except for the fact that he is, and is scheduled to appear in the next Justice League. We’ll get to why that is in a few. Other things we know is that Chris Hemsworth will never play Thor again. Except in Guardians of the Galaxy 3. And maybe in another Marvel film. There are no plans for a stand-alone Thor film, but that could be changed before my diaper. Suffice it to say there’s a lot of bad information out there. And, thanks to people needing to fill in blank spots with their burbling thoughts, it’s only going to get worse. There are, as of this typing, eight Marvel, and two Sony, movies slated for release with no information attached to them. Now, obviously, one will be a sequel to Venom. It made stupid money and, thanks to people like me who want to see it again, is doing steady biz as a download. The other Sony flik will probably be Morbius. It’s dark, has room for gratuitous violence and sex, and is a movie designed to make everyone who hated Twilight happy. That’s a potential fan base of billions. [Read more…] about Isn’t This Super?
It’s hard to believe that once, not that long ago, movies about superheroes were so few and far between that any attempt to do the genre justice, no matter how lame, was heralded by fans as the best thing to happen to things in the history of things. And, as I noted before, those movies got co-opted by major studios, watered down, and turned into the movie franchises we know and love today. So far so good. I guess. At least the groundwork was laid for superhero movies to start tackling some real world issues. Wonder Woman managed to address, and then move past, the genocide of Native Americans in a single scene, but Black Panther hit the issues of racism and human trafficking head on and never flinched. To be fair to Wonder Woman it had a lot on its plate before the first scene was shot. Many were quick to dismiss a film directed by a woman, starring a woman, about a woman who is famously bisexual. That last part the film dealt with tastefully and with humor.
But now, thanks to the internet and proliferation of choices, an ugly subset of humans have reared their heads and seem determined to force issues that don’t exist. Mostly they want people to choose between Marvel and DC.
The theme runs like this; Marvel makes great movies for the whole family that tend to preserve traditional family values. You can also note that Marvel was the main bastion of white male heroes as an underlying theme there. DC, on the other hand, is a dark place filled with death and sexuality that should be forever shunned. DC’s whiteness is ignored in these cases for reasons I can’t fathom. It isn’t like Batman or Superman are minorities unless you want to stretch the illegal alien motif to its breaking point.
And this silliness isn’t happening in a vacuum. It’s out in the open on Rotten Tomatoes website and many others that allow fan interaction. Most have, to some degree or another, downplayed fan input to keep it from spilling over on their main pages. RT, for example, has no fan scores on its front page. You have to click the movie title to see those rankings.
Now, like all cliches, there is some truth there. Marvel espouses a lighter tone than DC. Marvel also uses the exact same color palette for every film. DC does not. Marvel marketed their films better than any other company, even before they tied up with Disney. And their marketing is consistent from film to film. Except for Black Panther, which caught a bunch of middle aged white guys with their knickers twisted. But they turned that to their advantage, so good for them.
However, there is one major difference between Marvel and DC that does not get addressed since doing so would add some much needed perspective.
Marvel released almost a dozen movies to introduce its universe. DC has, for all intents and purposes, released its universe and will now backfill in with character driven movies. Batman V Superman and Justice League were essentially one long movie to get all your favorites on screen. Marvel has done nothing with their villains but DC released Suicide Squad. While not an amazing movie by any measure, it did get the backstories and introductions out of the way for a slate of characters who will populate smaller films for years to come.
And, this must be noted, fans of DC have bought into this. You wouldn’t know it by the message boards but it’s true. The last five DC releases have earned well over two billion dollars. No matter how you cut that pie there’s plenty for everyone.
Marvel has earned more but, after Infinity War finishes, they only have two or three more possible tent pole films; Black Panther Two (assuming he survives Infinity War), Spiderman II (same caveat as Black Panther) and Captain Marvel. Antman & Wasp is not a major film, although I bet it’ll be a lot of fun. There’s nothing seriously planned for X-Men or Fantastic Four, Deadpool is slated to conclude its run after this movie, and Venom is going to be a hard “R” celebration of violence porn, which I will also enjoy. DC, on the other hand, has numerous films coming out that could each stand as a tent pole; Aquaman, Wonder Woman 2, Shazam, Batman, Cyborg, The Flash, Black Adam with Duane Johnson, the all female crime film featuring Harley Quinn, and, at least, four or five more.
In other words, the playing field is changing.
Okay, that’s a brief look at the business involved, let’s look at the franchises. It is entirely possible to like both of them. I do. My girlfriend, who is late to the superhero game as she never read comics, loves them all. Despite what you see online more people fall into this category than not.
Simply put, there’s no need to hate. The plan for each franchise is wildly different, and the execution of each, while occasionally flawed (I’m looking at you Iron Man III & Man of Two Million Killed), have given fans something they’ve been hoping for all along. a chance to see their heroes come to life.
Both franchises need to do more, much more, to embrace diversity and representation. And fans need to hold them to that. The good news is that fans are. They are doing so the only way Hollywood understands. With their pocketbooks. Little girls, and people of color of all ages, didn’t walk out of Wonder Woman and Black Panther, respectively, crying and hugging each other because there was a funny smell in the ventilation system. Those movies touched them, moved them, and promised more to come.
Hopefully much more.
And there’s another part of this that gets overlooked. DC has been building its television universe to the point that it’s now overflowing off of the CW and developing its own channel. Marvel’s attempts at television have yielded Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Defenders universe on Netflix. All great shows, but they need the cinematic universe to survive, at least by reference. The DC shows work as stand-alone properties. They even have their own Superman and no one blinked. Essentially they have a firmer foundation to build from. Thus they can bring Teen Titans to the screen, currently entitled Titans, and still have those characters appear in films with different actors.
DC, it should be noted, also has the best superhero cartoons out there. Marvel doesn’t even try anymore instead limiting its animation licenses to stuff for Disney’s kids’ channel. Fortunately there is no plan for Spider Babies or anything like that, but the shows do skew young and are brightly colored.
Whoo, that’s a lot of shit to parse. So what does it mean for fans?
Well, for one, it means there will be a hell of lot of superhero stuff they can enjoy if they can get off their high hobby horses and quit sniping. A boy can dream, can’t he? As for me, it means I’m going to be buying a lot of popcorn, continuing to ignore the trolls, and parking my fat ass in a comfy seat right next to my girlfriend to cheer on the capes and cowls as they appear.
The rest of you should try it too. It’s far less stressful and a lot more fun.
But you have to do it without my girlfriend. Get your own.
Last night The World News Center’s official girlfriend and I went to see the Chicago premier of Black Panther. I’ll tell you all about that in a moment. But, if you’re in a hurry, it fucking rocked, go see it. However, the one thing that keeps popping up is how AWESOME it is to have the first black superhero on the big screen starring in a movie. Obviously, somebody missed Blade. Now, to be fair, Blade was a hard “R” rated film that seemed like more of an outlier at the time than a movement. I’ve written before about how that’s a mistake, and what happened to it and other similar films, so I won’t drag you down that path again. Suffice it to say that many filmmakers have made successful films starring minorities, and comics have had black superheroes for decades, but none have hit the public conscience like Black Panther. The reasons for that are multitudinous, and I’ll touch on some of them in a moment, but the short answer is times have changed.
I have a friend (yes, I know, you’re shocked) who claims that Black History Month should be called Black Misery Month. She is an actual African-American. Born in Ghana and now a U.S. citizen. Her complaint is how the month is presented. We get the “slavery is bad” meme in various presentations, with no explanation of any of the underlying causes or the complexities that surrounded it and then we get either George Washington Carver invented the peanut (he didn’t and that’s a gross simplification of the many things he did invent), or Maya Angelou wrote about caged birds (an actual insult to her legacy). Basically, we get a few talking points that no one actually talks about and then we move on to getting drunk and pretending to be Irish.
Yes, I know I’m already Irish, but I’m speaking generically here.
Anyway, considering that Africa is the birthplace of humanity, the home of our earliest, and most storied, civilizations, and has been the focal point of some of the greatest military actions in history, you’d be justified in wondering how all of that got swept under the historical rug.
Short answer? Racism, power, and money.
Long answer? There are four year courses at major universities that haven’t nailed all that down. We’ll stick with the short answer for now.
Nevertheless, as I’ve noted numerous times, nothing lasts forever. Time marches on and each generation gains a little more traction than the last. Rights, once mere pipe dreams, become reality. I was six years old before a black person was legally allowed to marry a white one. Now, aside from the occasional miscreant, no one even blinks at that any more.
Which brings us to Black Panther. The film struck a nerve not even the filmmakers saw coming. When we attended the premier there were worries not everyone who showed up would get in. Some didn’t. Some showed up six hours early. Don’t get me wrong, movie premiers are often oversold and people line up well in advance to get in. But this felt different. For one thing, the crowd was far more diverse than any I’ve encountered at a premier. For another, they were far more well behaved. Usually these crowds are rowdy, giggling and giddy in anticipation, and peppered with the usual neophytes who claim to have deep ties to the people they may have once served coffee. I only counted one of the latter and not one person engaged him. The rest were anxious, but calm. They desperately wanted this movie to be good. They wanted it to live up to, not only the hype but, their dreams. They wanted a black superhero who could truly rival Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne. And Black Panther could be that hero. A character who has flaws, resources, and a heart that cares under it all.
Short story? They got it.
Your spoiler free review follows.
Black Panther picks up after Captain America: Civil War and manages to do so with only the slightest references to that movie, or the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is truly a stand alone film.
It introduces us to the world of Wakanda, the fictional home of the Black Panther, and all its intricacies and problems. This is a world apart from us. Hidden from us. A world that holds great power, and a world that could be perceived as a great threat. A world that has left its African brothers and sisters to suffer while it prospered.
Those aren’t your usual superhero movie themes and this movie tackles them head on. They are central to all that happens. The villain, Killmonger, neatly represents the world we live in and troubles we see. T’Challa, the Black Panther and king of Wakanda after his father’s death in Civil War, is the heir to thousands of years of tradition who faces a chasm leading to the future. One he can widen or bridge over.
He’s not a fan of bridges at the beginning and you can’t blame him. His father reached out to the outside world, got killed, and nearly enmeshed his country in a war of unimaginable ferocity.
So bridges aren’t a happy thought for him.
But the love of his life thinks otherwise. She has been in the outside world and knows, firsthand, how much good Wakanda could do if it emerged from behind its self imposed curtain. Oddly, and to her disgust, she finds her beliefs more aligned with Killmonger’s than T’Challa’s.
There isn’t a single point in this movie where any of these issues are soft pedaled. And, somehow, they still manage to infuse some difficult scenes with humor. Suffice it to say this is the first time I’ve ever laughed out loud in the middle of a scene involving human trafficking.
Trust me, it’s okay and you will too.
For fans of female characters I can tell you will be suffering an embarrassment of riches. The four, primary, female leads are wildly different, hold unique loyalties, and do not behave in predictable ways. They make hard choices and live with their decisions. In many ways they make this movie greater than anticipated. They, actualizing real women, facing real life decisions, bring Wakanda to life more than any super suit or cool tech.
Although the suit and the tech are fucking awesome so don’t feel like you’ll be cheated.
There is not a wasted frame in this film and you’ll walk about talking about philosophical, and social, issues just as much as you find yourself gabbering over the amazing visuals, chases, and explosions. Essentially, this is a film that delivers on every level.
It’s not the best superhero movie I’ve seen, it’s one of the best movies of any kind I’ve seen.
Or, as The World News Center’s official girlfriend said as we were leaving the theater, “when can we see it again?”
Disney owns Marvel. Marvel owns Thor. Thor is now a woman, who is the daughter of king Odin. Thor is now a Disney Princess. You can thank Patricia Hernandez at Kotaku for bringing this to the attention of the internet. Thor is about to be joined by Jean Gray, Kitty Pryde, She-Hulk, Sue Storm, Rogue, X-23, Mystique and many others. No news yet if General Leia will be downgraded to princess again, or what will happen to Rey, Maz Kanata, Captain Phasma, or Katie, the Star Wars Girl. What the hell am I talking about? You may well ask. It’s simple. Over the last decade Disney has been on a mission to consolidate all the Marvel universes under one umbrella. Many people are unaware that the Star Wars comic book series has been released by Marvel for, like, ever.
So what does this mean to you? Initially not a lot. There are multiple movies already contracted, and paid, for that are still in the pipeline. Disney is not going to stop production on Infinity War, for example, to add in The Fantastic Four.
What does it mean to you long term?
Potentially quite a bit if you’re a fan of superhero movies.
I’ll ignore, for now, Todd VanDerWerff’s excellent article for VOX which, carefully and factually, details how this deal could kill Fox Television (which no longer has original content), give Disney 100% ownership of Hulu, and wipe out all mature content, and, instead, focus on the folks with capes, etc.
There’s more than enough there to keep me busy.
One thing mentioned in the VOX article does have immediate relevance, the death knell for all mature content. Disney has a corporate rule that all films must be PG-13 or lighter. Logan, Deadpool, and the upcoming Venom and Silver & Black, are all R rated and really don’t fit the House of Mouse motif.
Now, to be fair, when asked about this conundrum, Disney CEO, Bob Eiger, managed to remain completely neutral on the subject.
It (Deadpool) clearly has been and will be Marvel branded. But we think there might be an opportunity for a Marvel-R brand for something like Deadpool, as long as we let the audiences know what’s coming, we think we can manage that fine.
The nice people over at Movie Web took a look at the real world and came away unsure.
Walt Disney Pictures has previously distributed several R-rated films through their Touchstone Pictures banner, which they have been slowly phasing out lately. However, none of the movies released were productions of Disney. The last time the studio actually produced an R-rated film was 2006’s Apocalypto. So, it remains to be seen what the deal will mean for Deadpool and other R-rated Marvel movies. It has been said that the merger, if approved by regulators, won’t go into effect for another 12 to 18 months, which leaves Deadpool 2 alone, but could have an effect on the X-Force movie.
Disney is not acquiring Fox because it wants to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe or make for fan service movies, it’s doing so to compete in the direct-to-consumer marketplace, increase its library of content, while edging out Netflix and Amazon. The X-Men joining the MCU is a distant second to all of that, and not exactly essential for the company. If Disney decides to expand the MCU, they will more than likely make an offshoot to bring in the new movies to keep the MCU in the more kid-friendly area that it is in now. Again, this is more than a year away from happening, so there’s a lot to go over.
Though Bob Eiger was pretty non-committal about an R-rated division of the MCU, he probably hasn’t spent much time even thinking about it since this deal isn’t about the MCU or Deadpool or Die Hard or The Simpsons, it’s about expanding the brand and acquiring exclusive titles that won’t be available anywhere else. Hopefully Eiger’s words ring true for the future and Disney thinks of putting out R-rated material again, like it did with Touchstone. But for those waiting for Deadpool to fight alongside the Avengers, don’t hold your breath.
Okay, to be fair to Disney, their idea of an R-rated film is different from anyone else’s. While Touchstone is a wholly owned subsidiary, and not even a stand alone company in any regard, the R-rated fare it released tended to be brought in and then approved by Jeffrey Bruckheimer. There’s nothing wrong with that, and a lot of great movies got made that way, but Bruckheimer left in 2014 and there is no one to take his place.
Touchstone has done nothing of any significance since then and Disney seems content to let it die.
But what happens, then, with all the stuff that Fox had greelighted?
Well, in the short term, not much. The deal won’t take place until the end of 2018 at the earliest. So Deadpool, Venom, and the rest should be completed or well into production.
Now, will Disney distribute them? Probably not. For now they could dump them to Touchstone and keep their mousy hands clean. But how long can that arrangement last?
According to folks I spoke with, about three to five years, tops. That doesn’t even cover the current list of films in production.
So that’snot a tenable solution.
Another option is to remove the Disney brand from those films and release them under the creator brands, i.e, Marvel. Under this theory Disney still makes all the money but doesn’t have their brand directly associated with the edgy stuff.
That kind of sort of works, but Disney uses characters at its theme parks and, like it or not, Deadpool is popular with kids. Can you just see Deadpool helping kids line up for a ride on Magic Mountain?
No? That’s okay. No one can now.
But, you see, R-rated stuff can be tamed down to PG-13 or even G, just see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as an example. What started as a murder porn homage to Daredevil quickly became the “must have” toys for kids all over the world.
Disney could do that with all the titles and just make bank. Of course it would kill the souls of all of them.
Let’s be honest, Disney is completely built off of family experiences. Families do not, normally, take the kids out for an evening of murder porn or sex. Nor is there any way to logically add those elements into their theme parks. Disney makes its money off of licensing its brand to toys, clothing, and family experiences. They aren’t giving any of that up any time soon.
If they spin the properties off into a new subsidiary, those characters would be just as limited in their interactions with the main Marvel characters as they are now.
As the nice people at Movie Web noted above, don’t expect to see Deadpool in an Avengers film any time soon. And plan on watching any, or all, of whatever does get made on Hulu.
So that’s kind of fun. One channel for the kids to watch The House of Mouse and for their parents to watch The Punisher. I’m being snarky. As of now The Punisher, and all the other Marvel titles on Netflix are slated to stay right where they are.
But I’m sure this will all work out well.
By “well” I mean that, in five years, the universe will be gifted with Elektra costumes for toddlers.
Or she, along with the rest of the more adult characters, will slowly be shelved and forgotten.
And, with their departure, the world will be a less interesting place.