Justice League’s motto: Do no harm

Justice League movie logo

No major spoilers but the spoiler adverse should pass this up.

The subtitle of Justice League could be “Do No Harm.” One of the main missions of the film seems to be to repair the damage done to DC Comics characters in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

In that regard, Justice League succeeds.

(OK spoiler sensitive types bail out now.)

The film brings back Superman who had died at the end of Batman v Superman. What’s more, he’s brought back (after an understandable period of adjustment) as being….well, Superman.

With 2013’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, the Man of Steel was full of self doubt, unsteady and, at times, not very Superman-like. In Justice League, Henry Cavill’s Superman costume looks like it has been cleaned. It looked dirty in his previous two appearances.

Even better, Superman embraces being a hero. That’s what Superman does. The movie doesn’t have Clark Kent wink at the audience, the way comic book Clark Kent did decades ago. But it’s a big improvement. And Superman actually isn’t in the movie that much.

Other characters do a lot of the heavy lifting. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman understandably carries a lot of the load. Jason Momoa grabs attention as Aquaman, a character general audiences probably aren’t that familiar with. Ezra Miller brings a neurotic take on the Flash.

Finally, there’s Ben Affleck’s Batman. The actor took much of the brunt of criticism for Batman v Superman, which depicted the character at times as a homicidal maniac. The “do no harm” label applies here as well. Batman is more on an even keel (well, as much as a guy who dresses up in a Bat costume can). The new-look Affleck/Batman even shows some compassion at times.

The production of this film has been a bit of a soap opera. Extensive rewrites and reshoots. A large budget, raising doubts whether this movie will ever earn a dime of profit. And even having Henry Cavill’s mustache (grown for Mission: Impossible 6) digitally erased in the reshoots.

And, of course, there has been plenty of speculation whether Affleck will return as Batman. Intentional or not, a scene in the film evokes this when Affleck’s aging Bruce Wayne acknowledges he can’t keep being Batman much longer.

In the end, the movie makes the viewer forget the soap opera. That may be the biggest compliment one can provide. GRADE: B-Plus.

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Some critics get out the knives for Justice League

Justice League movie logo

Some critics have gotten out the knives for Justice League, the Warner Bros./DC Comics movie debuting this week.

Rotten Tomatoes is waiting a bit to unveil its “fresh” rating for Justice League. So it’s hard to tell how representative these non-spoiler excerpts are.

Still, it’s clear some critics are feeling no restraint. (One headline: “‘Justice League’ Is a Big, Ugly Mess.”)

RICHARD LAWSON, VANITY FAIR: “The film is, plainly stated, terrible, and I’m sorry that everyone wasted their time and money making it—and that people are being asked to waste their time and money seeing it. I hate to be so blunt, but it simply must be said this time.”

ALONSO DURALDE, THE WRAP: “(I)f you like your superhero battles in deep dark tunnels or under skies purple with alien soot, director Zack Snyder is back with yet another installment that looks the way Axe body spray smells.”

CHRIS NASHAWATY, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: “Some day, hopefully soon, DC will get the recipe right again and duplicate Wonder Woman’s storytelling magic. But today isn’t that day, and Justice League unfortunately isn’t that film. C+”

MATT GOLDBERG: COLLIDER: “In place of disaster, Justice League is a largely bland, forgettable affair that has nice moments scattered throughout and the promise of a better tomorrow, but outside of Wonder Woman, that’s all the DCEU ever really offers: the promise that the next movie will be better. And sure, Justice League is better than Batman v Superman, but that doesn’t make it good.”

GEOFFREY MACNAB, THE INDEPENDENT: “This is surely the most infantile of recent superhero yarns – a film that squanders the talents of an impressive ensemble cast and eschews any meaningful characterisation in favour of ever more overblown special effects.”

To be fair, some critics have liked the movie. Here’s a sampling. Some of these are mixed (or have caveats), but here are complimentary excerpts:

MARK HUGHES, FORBES.COM: Justice League “retains enough of the DNA of the previous (DC-based) films to be recognizable as their successor, while carving out a new space closer to the tone and style of action-adventure superheroism found in Wonder Woman. And it offers average movie-goers the sort of chest-swelling sense of heroism and pure joyful entertainment they love and reward with their hard-earned dollars at the box office.”

OWEN GLEIBERMAN, VARIETY: “The film is the definition of an adequate high-spirited studio lark: no more, no less. If fans get excited about it, that may mostly be because they’re excited about getting excited. Yet the movie is no cheat. It’s a tasty franchise delivery system that kicks a certain series back into gear.”

TASHA ROBINSON, THE VERGE: “And taken as a whole, Justice League is often thrilling and rousing, with few of the outright infuriating twists that have made past DCEU movies so frustrating…For once, the heroes have a relatively black-and-white battle ahead of them, without existential questions about whether humanity deserves saving, or whether they deserve to save humanity. And that lets the characters cut loose in a triumphant barrage of over-the-top carnage that shows them each to their best heroic potential.”

Wonder Woman sequel to debut 1 week before Bond 25

Wonder Woman poster

Bond 25’s U.S. competition just got tougher.

Warner Bros. has rescheduled Wonder Woman 2, the sequel to this year’s hit, to Nov. 1, 2019, The Hollywood Reporter said. That’s six weeks earlier than it’s previous release date of Dec. 13 — and one week before Bond 25’s current U.S. date of Nov. 8, 2019.

Warners moved the Wonder Woman sequel after Walt Disney Co. moved Star Wars Episode IX to Dec. 20, 2019, THR said. That movie originally had a May 2019 release date. But the Star Wars entry changed directors (to J.J. Abrams from Colin Trevorrow), causing Disney to push back its release.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions announced the Nov. 8 date for Bond 25 in July. For the moment, there isn’t an official distributor for the 007 movie. However, Deadline: Hollywood reported on Sunday that MGM and Annapurna Pictures’ new distribution joint venture is close to being named the U.S. distributor of Bond 25. An international distributor hasn’t been decided, Deadline said.

If the Nov. 8 date stands, Bond 25 will have major competition in the U.S. from the second weekend of Wonder Woman 2. (Bond 25 is to come out earlier internationally but a date hasn’t been specified.) Patty Jenkins, who directed this year’s film, is scheduled to helm the sequel.

One potential caveat: Page Six, the New York Post’s gossip operation, on Nov. 11 reported that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot is balking at playing the character again if producer-mogul Brett Ratner’s RatPac-Dune is involved with Wonder Woman 2. Warner Bros. has called that story false.

RatPac-Dune has helped finance a number of Warner Bros. movies over the past few years, including Wonder Woman. Ratner, meanwhile, has been accused of sexual misconduct.

On the other hand, given how Wonder Woman was both a critical and box office hit, Warner Bros. has incentive to get Gadot back. She has been a major part of the marketing for Justice League, which comes out this week.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times reported separately that the RatPac-Dune deal with Warner Bros. expires in spring 2018 and likely won’t affect Wonder Woman 2.

Footnote: Warner Bros. has been among those studios vying to be a Bond 25 distributor.

Disney may buy most of Fox? Hoo boy!

Walt Disney Co. logo

Walt Disney Co. has had talks to buy most of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio, CNBC reported, citing people it didn’t identify.

Here’s an excerpt:

21st Century Fox has been holding talks to sell most of the company to Walt Disney Co., leaving behind a media company tightly focused on news and sports, according to people familiar with the situation.

The talks have taken place over the last few weeks and there is no certainty they will lead to a deal. The two sides are not currently talking at this very moment, but given the on again, off again nature of the talks, they could be revisited.

According to the CNBC story, 21st Century Fox leader Rupert Murdoch would hold onto news and sports networks and sell off entertainment businesses.

While the situation is in flux, here are some potential effects:

–20th Century Fox currently has the contract to handle home video releases of James Bond movies.

–20th Century Fox has been among the studios sniffing around for a deal to distribute Bond 25.

–The Fox movie studio controls the rights to some Marvel characters, including the X-Men. Disney owns Marvel but Fox’s control of such key characters is a notable gap for Disney/Marvel.

Questions:

Would a Fox acquisition by Disney affect not only the Bond 25 distribution issue, but also home video? And, if a deal took place, would Disney get into the Bond 25 distribution hunt?

Would a Disney acquisition of most of Fox finally bring Disney full control of all (or almost all) Marvel characters in the movies?

Stayed tuned, as the saying goes.

Thor: Ragnarok — third time the charm?

Thor: Ragnarok poster

Thor: Ragnarok has begun its international run and will debut in the United States next week. So far, critics have given it their seal of approval, far more than the hero’s two previous installments.

The new movie, with Chris Hemsworth returning as the Norse God of Thunder, has a 95 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the website that collects reviews.

That’s up from the 77 percent fresh rating for 2011’s Thor and the 66 percent for 2013’s Thor: The Dark World.

Thor has a reputation for being one of the stuffier of Marvel’s original comic book heroes. He was powerful, but not tortured the way Bruce Banner/Hulk was. Thor didn’t crack wise the way Peter Parker/Spider-Man did.

A common view among reviewers is Thor: Ragnarok has more humor compared with the earlier installments. Regardless, here’s a look at some non-spoiler excerpts from reviews.

RAFER GUZMAN, NEWSDAY: Thor: Ragnarok “turns down the Shakespearean pretensions, cranks up the humor and delivers what is essentially an action-comedy with swords and capes….It’s a close cousin to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ a high-energy lark that occasionally makes time for monsters, battles, bloodletting and spectacular special effects.”

PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE: “Need a quick fix for the bleak dystopian epics flooding the multiplex? Take a hit off the laughing gas rising up out of Thor: Ragnarok, which may be the most fun you’ll ever have at a Marvel movie…As for Hemsworth, who showed his comedy chops in the femcentric Ghostbusters remake, the Australian actor seems liberated by the opportunity to shake off any trace of God-of-Thunder gravitas.”

Thor fights the Thing in a 1968 Fantastic Four comic drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Joe Sinnott.

STEPHANIE ZACHAREK, TIME: “Thor: Ragnarok is boyishly eager to reveal Thor’s goofy likability to us, as if it were something we hadn’t yet cottoned to. Directed by the enormously talented New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, it’s well intentioned but ultimately numbing, an instance of fun overkill whose ultimate goal seems to be to put us into a special-effects coma.”

LINDSEY BAHR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: “The results are pretty decent, though perhaps not the total departure that had been hyped….But it’s a fairly flawed movie on the whole with egregious tonal shifts. Some of the gags go on too long with the Hulk with too little payoff and sometimes it seems as though there’s a mandate that every 25 minutes there will be a big fight no matter what.”

ROE MCDERMOTT, HOT PRESS: “Similarly, the action sequences – though well-executed – are lacking in originality, resulting in an utterly generic offering. You’ll watch, be lightly amused for two hours, and go back to forgetting that Thor exists.”

Justice League trailer: Many explosions, bit of humor

Warner Bros. this morning brought out a new trailer for Justice League, its big superhero movie. The film, due out Nov. 17, has been the subject of a lot of press coverage and seen extensive reshoots.

The new trailer features a lot of explosions and mayhem as Earth is imperiled with Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) leading a new team.

And there’s some humor toward the end, presumably Warners’ way of addressing criticism that 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was too dark and moody.

Speaking of Superman, this is the first Justice League trailer where he appears. But it’s still unclear how they’re going to bring him back.

Here’s the trailer:

Len Wein, co-creator of Wolverine, dies at 69

Len Wein (1948-2017)

Len Wein, a comics fan turned comics professional, has died at 69, according to multiple posts on social meedia by comics professionals including Mark Millar and Kurt Busiek. .

Wein co-created the mutant character Wolverine while writing The Incredible Hulk for Marvel.

He also revived the X-Men in 1975, with a new cast, including Wolverine. (The X-Men originally were created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.)

Wolverine helped make Hugh Jackman a star, both through X-Men and Wolverine movies. Jackman’s most recent performance as the character was in this year’s Logan.

At DC Comics, Wein wrote a number of Batman stories. One highlight was a 1970s story, Moon of the Wolf, illustrated by Neal Adams and Dick Giorddano, in which Batman encounters a warewolf. It would later be adapted in the Batman: The Animated Series.

Growing up in the greater New York area, Wein and friend Marv Wolfman (who would also become a comics professional) would visit the prolific Jack Kirby at his home.

“We came over for mile and cookies on Saturdays,” Wein said in a documentary about Kirby. When they’d see Kirby at his drawing board, Wein said, “His hand was always moving, producing.”

Such experiences presumably explain why Wein went into the field.

After becoming a writer at Marvel, he was named editor-in-chief after Roy Thomas (who had succeeded Stan Lee) stepped down. It wasn’t an easy time for the company. “Wein struggled with the constant cycle of cancellations and launches,” Sean Howe wrote in his book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Wolfman took over.

Eventually, a number of people (Thomas, Wein, Wolfman and others) got deals where they were editors of the titles they wrote. In the late 1970s, these deals were ended and Jim Shooter was put in charge of Marvel’s titles.

Nevertheless, Wein stayed in the field for a long time. Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and director of the first two Avengers movie for Marvel, posted a tribute:

UPDATE (8:55 p.m. ET): Hugh Jackman posted a tribute to Len Wein on Twitter.

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