Midweek Geek Out 6-19-13: The Future of Superman (Spoiler-free Review!)

Posted on June 20, 2013

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It’s been a pretty intense gauntlet of new films for movie goers and geek inclined alike. Ironman 3 kicked off the 2013 summer season (see my review here) followed by new installments of Star Trek, Fast and Furious and Superman, as well as a few non-franchise movies, including the magician’s ensemble Now You See Me, apocalyptic comedy This is the End and Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby. With another half dozen big movies hitting before the end of the summer, 2013 promises to deliver, despite having to follow the tough act of the summer of 2012’s Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.

But, I have to say, the highlight of 2013 was easily the return of Superman to the big screen. For all intents and purposes, we haven’t had a proper Superman film since Superman II in 1980, which was 33 years ago, and I’ve already discussed a bit my feelings on our Man of Steel. I can’t imagine anyone making a convincing argument for Superman Returns and certainly not Superman 3 or 4. This past weekend, I finally got to see the (record-breaking) movie event of the year I had most looked forward to.

Man of Steel

Man of Steel

Was I disappointed?

The short answer: no. Director Zach Snyder celebrated Superman’s 75th anniversary by giving the fans what they really wanted from a Superman movie: a visually stunning and cleverly told origin story, designed for a whole new generation. The casting was, for the most part, on point, and the nonlinear story telling made for a compelling narrative. While it made some very daring choices with both the character and established lore, I really think it worked out to be a better movie than if they had maintained what had already been done previously, and most importantly, I didn’t feel they betrayed the character in the process. This wasn’t just a solid action movie on a comic book hero; this was a solid movie, period.

I will say that it could have used a bit more levity, Lois Lane and Jor-El were in far too much of the movie and the ending felt a bit overlong. Minor quibbles, though. I would give it a solid 8 – 8.5 out of 10, easily.

I’m keeping this spoiler free, but for those who have seen the movie and would care to discuss the ending, feel free to comment, though I highly suggest you read this first.

The fact that this movie resonated with audiences (for the most part) was very important considering the future of DC movies pretty much hinged upon it. Batman will always have a place in the mainstream, but it is really Superman that has to open the door to the larger world. If Superman cannot be presented to a contemporary audience in a way that works, the rest of the Justice League would have an even harder time bridging the gap. Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern didn’t work, Wonder Woman has had a difficult time finding traction with modern audiences (though I love the 2009 animated movie voiced by Keri Russel) with a cancelled TV pilot that never saw the light of day, and poor Aquaman has been so badly represented by SNL and Family Guy, he’d never make it in a stand-alone movie without a redeeming ensemble JLA film to set the record straight.

So with this milestone behind DC, what do we have to look forward to from our Man of Steel and the Justice League?

Work is already underway on the followup to the Superman film. Actually, the rumor is that it could hit as early as next year with a 2015 Justice League movie follow-up, presumably to compete with Marvel’s Avengers 2 head-on.

Personally, I hope they lean towards the side of caution and care with these films. You can’t change the fact that Marvel beat them to the punch with a brilliant strategy starting with Ironman in 2008; playing catch-up now is pointless. Doing it right is the most important thing, for everyone involved.

There has been a lot of back and forth and waffling on the strategy, at least that is the way it appears. At one point, they seemed interested in shoehorning Christian Bale’s Batman into a Justice League film, but at least according to the writer of Man of Steel, Cavil and Bale won’t be teaming up on screen anytime soon. The producer of Arrow (the CW show based upon the character of the Green Arrow, which I have discussed at length here) has expressed interest in a Ryan Reynolds cameo as Hal Jordan, if not Green Lantern outright, considering Green Arrow and Green Lantern have teamed up heavily in days of comic past. The question stands: are Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern and Christian Bale’s Batman going to be considered a part of Man of Steel’s universe or not?

Frankly, I am not sure what would be worse: trying to make Bale’s realistic Dark Knight fit in a super powered universe or rebooting the character all over again. Both could be executed without a hitch, but if they recast, they’ll have to pull a Mark Ruffalo as Hulk style Hail Mary if they want to pull it off. Recruiting Bale would almost require ignoring The Dark Knight Rises altogether or otherwise addressing his physical problems. Nothing has really been solidified, and that makes me nervous for a 2015 release.

Only time will tell.

Other Justice League points of interest:

1.) New 52 comic series

New 52 Justice League

New 52 Justice League

Justice League post New 52 is, in my opinion, the best comic available. Geoff Johns is a fantastic writer, and the narrative is interesting, the characters are engaging and the dialogue is the best I’ve ever seen in a comic. Volume 1 and 2 (Origins and The Villains Journey, respectively) are available as trade pubs, with Volume 3 (the Aquaman centric Throne of Atlantis) is due in Fall of 2013 and was a no-brainer pre-order for me. Even if you don’t regularly read comics, if you have ANY interest in these characters, I highly suggest it, even if you ignore the individual characters’ series. (Although individually, I also rather like Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, right now.)

Justice League / Aquaman crossover event "Throne of Atlantis"

Justice League / Aquaman crossover event “Throne of Atlantis”

Also, later this year, I’m very interested in the Trinity of Sin crossover event between the Justice League, Justice League of America and Justice League Dark.

2.) Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

Flashpoint Paradox preview image

Flashpoint Paradox preview image

Another DCU animated film about the events in the similarly titled Flashpoint crossover arc from 2011 (coincidentally also written by Geoff Johns). I like that Flash gets to spotlight an animated film, finally, plus we get the vocal talents of Kevin Conroy (the definitive Batman voice actor), Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern, Ron Perlman as Deathstroke and Cary Elwes as Aquaman, etc. Very excited about this, releases at the end of July.

3.) Justice League 3000

DC comics recently teased a series titled Justice League 3000 on comicbookresources.com. Not a lot of details (click here for more info), but I really like the concept art, especially Green Lantern.

CBR image, click-through for more details

CBR image, click-through for more details

4.) Injustice: Gods Among Us

Injustice Gods Among Us

Injustice Gods Among Us

Released in April, this fighting game explores a darker side of the Justice League members in an alternate reality twist where the all-powerful Superman, for reasons explained in the story, decides he is going to control and rule the human race rather than protect it, in a sense protecting it from itself. The lines between villain and hero are completely redrawn, as Batman leads an insurgency against Superman’s regime. I’ll write a more appropriate review when I have had more time at the controls, but I have spent a ton of time playing the freemium iOS version, which I highly recommend, and it is worth noting that the game has scored pretty well (averaging about 80% on Metacritic).

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