Man of Steel Leaps to a Justice League Movie?

Although I was a fan of Superman comics since childhood, I had no great love for Richard Donner’s Superman movies.  It was not a fan boy disdain for a movie that wasn’t an exact copy of the comics, but that the 1978 Superman The Movie just didn’t live up to the hype.  Mario Puzo, writer of The Godfather, wrote the story for both Superman and Superman II, so for me, the expectations were pretty high.  Instead, I got a story in which at the end of the film, Superman goes back in time and fixes everything.  That’s functionally no different than the character waking up to discover it was all a dream.  To me, that has to be one of the worst endings for a major motion picture.  No matter  what they paid Mario Puzo for that, it was too much.

Title sequence from show opening; containing f...

Title sequence from show opening; containing from left to right, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Flash and Hawkgirl. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I didn’t have exceptionally high expectations for Man of Steel. I suppose that’s the best way to go into a movie since I ended up enjoying it without bringing my Mario Puzo baggage into the theater.  It was Superman recast as more of a Science Fiction movie.  Superman who grew up not knowing his origins and who he was, and a Superman who (spoiler alert –bail now if you haven’t seen the movie) actually goes too far and kills his nemesis, General Zod.

Although Man of Steel was no Avengers or Star Trek, it was on a tier just below that; a good retelling of the origin and a good possible springboard for future movies involving superheroes from the DC Universe including a Justice League movie.  Warner would love to capture the magic that The Avengers has brought.  I just don’t think it’s possible to replicate that with the DC Universe.  There are too many differences that would prevent that.

For one thing, the known characters are lame.  With the exception of Batman, most of the DC characters that Warner has to pull from their grab bag just would not be interesting on film.  Wonder Woman is a character that has been attempted for movie and film for years, including a series developed for this fall, and one planned for last fall and they just couldn’t make it work.  It’s hard to take a character inspired from Greek mythology and fit it into the same Science Fiction Universe that Man of Steel has created.  The Martian Manhunter is so powerful as to be almost god-like, and would look ridiculous outside of an animated treatment.  Green Lantern, although it didn’t exactly bomb, failed to generate any excitement and it would be hard to argue that character deserved another shot (although The Hulk got exactly that kind of makeover for Avengers).  It’s possible though.  There are multiple Green Lanterns to choose from.  If Hal Jordan doesn’t work, there is also John Stewart, Guy Gardiner, and Kyle Rayner.   One of them is bound to work.

And then there is Aquaman.  Less said about him the better.

Although it’s just in the rumor stage, it’s possible that Warner may try to pull a reverse Avengers and do a Justice League movie first then spin out stand alone movies from there.  That would be an exceedingly bad idea in my opinion.  None of the Marvel characters used in the Avengers were really that well known (with the exception of the Hulk).  They had name recognition, but no knowledge of the characters and no reason for the movie going public to have an interest in them until that interest was created by the stand alone movies.  Those stand alone movies made the appearance of characters like Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man appearing in a single movie an event.

Marvel walked before it ran, and that’s what DC needs to do.

How, you may ask?  If it were up to me, I would make the Man of Steel sequel a Superman/Batman movie.  Since Batman has to be recreated and reimagined anyway, why not make the next movie one in which the Batman character is introduced as living in the same movie Universe as Superman?  Given the popularity of Batman, if you can’t draw fantastic box office numbers with a movie that has both Superman and Batman, there is no point doing a Justice League movie.

Creatively I think it would make for a great movie.  In the comics, Batman was often able to get the upper hand on his super powered buddies by thinking several steps ahead. Superman plays checkers, Batman plays chess.  Naturally enough, a super powered being would tend to rely on those same super powers as a solution to any problem, but in a world of super powered people, how does a normal human compete?

With his mind of course.

Just an idea, and if it doesn’t work, Superman can always go back in time to fix everything.

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Star Trek Wrath of Darkness

I went to see this movie the first weekend it was out but I held off on posting this to avoid violating any sort of unwritten rule on spoilers, but at this point, enough time has passed  that knowing that the character Benedict Cumberbatch plays is Khan is either already well known, or totally irrelevant.  If you’re not familiar with the Star Trek Universe and are just interested in an action movie in space, whether the villain is named Khan or John Harrison is hardly a spoiler to anything important to the movie.  If you are a long time Trek fan, the fact that the villain is named Khan is… frankly it’s not a spoiler either way.  Unlike Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the villain’s real identity isn’t really important to the plot of this movie, and he could really just been named John Harrison without really adding or subtracting from the story.  Khan’s identity is more of an Easter egg than a spoiler for this movie.

But that’s fine if JJ Abrams secrecy on this point seems a little overdone.  That is part of how Abrams markets his movies.  I liked the Easter eggs in this movie and makes me feel as though the people who made the movie really care about the source material, and they are winking, just to me, that “Hey, we really get Star Trek!”  Even though Abrams probably didn’t know the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars before he took over the project.

As movies go, it was a thoroughly entertaining film, and it both answered some old questions and raised some new ones in the new Star Trek universe.

One of the things that had bugged me from Abrams first Star Trek film was how quickly Kirk went from cadet in trouble to Captain of a starship.  Really?  Even if you save the world, I’m thinking that Starfleet still doesn’t want to give a relative newbie the command of one of its top of the line starships.  How do you skip all of those ranks anyway?  Surely there are some Starfleet regulations having to do with time in service.  In this movie, that’s rectified by how quickly Kirk loses his rank and position when he’s caught violating the Prime Directive.  Kirk, busted down to First Officer, held the rank of Commander.  So just extrapolating here, but that leads me to believe that Captain was only a brevet rank, meaning he was assigned to the rank of Captain based solely on his position as skipper of the Enterprise, not as a rank he had actually earned and been promoted into.  So Commander was probably Kirk’s permanent rank.  Still, that’s not bad for someone who skipped most of the junior officer rank structure.

The other thing that I had an issue with was what was up with the white Khan?  Don’t get me wrong, I think Benedict Cumberbatch did a fantastic job playing the villain and really upped the ante on the level of acting in this movie, but he’s a man without a trace of melanin in his system, and he was cast to play Khan Noonien Singh, an Indian character.  I understand that in 1960’s Hollywood, you probably wouldn’t even think of casting an actual Indian to play an Indian.  They went with a Latin actor, Ricardo Montalbán instead.  Montalbán turned out to be an inspired choice.  He had not only the acting chops, but the sort of command presence that’s required to successfully play someone who was a deposed leader.  And boy, did the ladies love him!  Check out this clip from the original series Star Trek when he turns on the Alpha game on one of Kirk’s crewbabes.

That’s total Alpha Game, but fair warning; don’t try this at home kids.

It goes without saying that Montalbán steals every scene in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

When JJ Abrams was looking to cast his new Khan, once again he was looking at Latin actors.  Casting a Latin to play Indian in 1967 may have made perfect sense, but why would you do that in the 21st Century?  There are plenty of actual Indian actors who could have played that role.  But instead, the actor who wins the role is the whitest person from an island whose populace is already known for being pasty faced.  I’m not the only one who noticed this, the folks at Racebending.com made a big deal about it as well.

So how does this fit into the overall Star Trek alternate timeline?  Based on 2009’s Star Trek, JJ Abrams made his divergent timeline from Kirk’s birth, so every event from that point on was up to be changed or altered.  But Khan was from the 20th Century.  He preceded the divergent timeline and should have still been an Indian actor with a Mexican accent, rather than an Indian character with a British accent (I know, an Indian character with a British accent makes more sense).  If you allow me to geek out a bit, a couple of possibilities present themselves.

It’s possible that the Original Series Kirk altered the timeline.  The episode Space Seed, established the character Khan, his origins as a genetically engineered superman, and his role in the Eugenics Wars, which took place from 1992 to 1996.  Remember the war years?  Good times…  Within the three seasons that comprise the Original Series, the crew of the Enterprise was involved in time travel incidents that could have altered Earth history on at least three occasions:  Assignment Earth, taking place in 1968, The City on the Edge of Forever, which has Dr McCoy drastically altering events in depression era San Francisco, and Tomorrow is Yesterday, taking place in 1969.  Although all of these incursions were “fixed,” they were fixed via the band-aid approach.  Except in the episode Tomorrow is Yesterday, they didn’t undo the original timeline alteration; they merely made other changes to repair the original changes.  With that method, who knows what differences in the time line seeped through that were not obvious initially?

It’s also possible that the Temporal Cold War, from the Enterprise TV series could have altered 20th Century events.  In the two part Enterprise episode Storm Front, aliens from the future drastically alter the 20th Century by providing assistance to the Nazi’s so that they win World War II.  By the end of the episode, the timeline has been “reset” and things are back to where they are supposed to be, although what exactly that is seems unclear.  The Eugenics Wars and Khan could have all been reset as well.

Just so I’m clear, one of the changes that I’m discussing is whatever DNA that was used to create Khan in the first place may have been altered.  Khan was genetically engineered after all, so different timelines could mean different strands of DNA could have been selected to create Khan.

In other words, the genetic material could have come from a different Cumber-batch of DNA.

Get it?

How about, a whiter shade of Khan?

No?

Anyway… by the time the crew of the Voyager get their opportunity to mess with 20th Century Earth, in the episode Future’s End, the Voyager crew wind up in 1996, supposedly the last year of the Eugenics Wars.  However everything seemed… much like our 1996.  No major world wars featuring genetically engineered supermen.  Nor did the Voyager crew seemed to be expecting a Eugenics War.  Maybe it had been shifted or eliminated from the timeline?

My guess (and really, this is all nothing but guesses) is that the Eugenics Wars did happen, only not in the 1990’s as they did from Khan’s original timeline.  They probably happened some decades later, but they still happened, since the Eugenics Wars were still an issue during the time period of the Enterprise TV show.

This is the type of trivia that only a nerd could love, but it’s important.  That’s why JJ Abrams pulled the alternate timeline trick rather than just do a re-imagining of the series like was done with Battlestar Galactica.  Doing a hard reboot of the series and ignoring what came before would have been the easiest path, but it would drive Trekkers crazy.  Who needs that?

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My Netflix Review: Iron Sky

I had been waiting for this movie for years, ever since the initial trailer hit the internet:

So I was delighted to see it pop into Netflix last week.  It seemed to have all of the classic B movie elements, Nazis, a ridiculous premise, and did I mention Nazis?  Who wouldn’t want to see a comedy like that?  Well that was the purpose of the trailer.  Not to promote a movie already made, but to obtain financing for a movie the producers wanted to make.  Using crowd funding, the producers wanted to close the gap between what they were able to raise from normal studio methods and what they needed to complete the film.  Crowd funding may well be a strong future method of financing films as the internet makes it possible to connect potential investors by dangling a trailer of what you have in mind for a film.

And crowd funding did work, helping the producers close the financial gap and make their movie.  So the movie was released worldwide and…bombed, earning just over 8 million dollars worldwide.  Not that great for a movie that had such internet interest prior to being released.  Hopefully the movie’s investors didn’t have any retirement plans tied to their investment in this movie paying off.

But what about the movie itself?  Is it the Good, the Bad, or the Ugly?  If you put much stock into Rotten Tomatoes it rated a 37% on the Tomatometer.  However, it is a B movie about Nazis on the moon, so we’re talking about grading on the curve here.

The basic plot of the movie is that in the near future, an American moon expedition to the dark side of the moon comes across a secret Nazi moon base, hidden since the end of World War II and working to reverse the results of the war.  One of the American astronauts, or should I say the Black American astronaut is captured.  Realizing that the astronauts Iphone has more computing power than the Nazi’s World War II era  computers, the space Nazi’s send a mission to Earth to collect more Iphones to provide the computing power needed to operate their ultimate weapon.  Along for the ride is the supposedly brainwashed American Astronaut, and stowaway “Earthologist” Renate Richter (Julia Dietze).  Antics ensue when the Nazi’s hit New York and besides an Apple Store, they discover new motivations for their mission.

Plus, a space battle.

However here is my take:

First the good:  The movies tone was just about right.  It was playful, with a hint of comedy.  Not enough to really consider it an actual comedy, but in this case, the premise is the comedy.  Although I have to admit the parody of the Downfall parody meme placed in the film gave me a laugh out loud moment.  The movie is well casted, with the starring role of Renate by Julia Dietze showing perhaps the most delightful, beguiling Nazi to appear on the silver screen.   She outshines Udo Kier, who as the Führer is the biggest star in the film.  The special effects, although not spectacular, were sufficient for the film and the production and costuming was excellent.  Little was updated in the basic Nazi uniforms, which have proven a perennial fascist costuming favorite for over 60 years.  The set design was strictly 1940’s U-Boot.  Even the Nazi’s anti gravity flying saucers had a retro feel to them.

The bad:  As a Finnish-German-Australian production, I’m not sure how they know how to present black people.   Christopher Kirby, playing astronaut James Washington, as one of the main stars of the film, was given little to do other than stand around being black.  In fact his character wasn’t even an astronaut but a male model sent to space as a publicity stunt.  As a consequence, the character is presented as if the last time the makers of the film saw a black guy in a film was in a 1970’s Blaxploitation film.

Or any Chris Tucker movie.

I’m not saying it was a degrading or racist portrayal; I mean, the character didn’t say “feets don’t fail me now” or anything like that, but it was way stereotypie.

Also, I wasn’t a fan of the film’s Anti-Americanism.  In fact, reading some of the tweets on this movie, it seems like for most of the fans who really liked the film, the anti-Americanism was the best part of the film.  Start with a Palin-esque President; in fact you might as well call her President Palin.  The moon based Nazis who come to earth to collect Apple products end up with the President’s campaign manager, who integrates the newcomers National Socialist ideology into a winning campaign strategy.  Combine that with the US’s secret moon agenda and you quickly figure out who the real Nazi’s are:  Yep, it’s the Americans.  In fact at the end of the movie, even the Nazi’s get at least a partial redemption and sympathy from the audience. Thanks partly to Julia Dietze‘s ability to portray her character as the protagonist with nothing but good intentions, compared to the American indiscriminate targeting of women and children.  No sympathy for the Americans though.  They are the films real bad guys.

However, if you hate America, or can just handle heavy doses of anti-Americanism, I would recommend you see this movie.  First, if you really, really like B movies, this is definitely one.  And secondly, it’s about Nazi’s.  And they’re on the moon!  It’s kind of hard to mess that up.