“The Flash” Has New Directors (Surprise, Surprise)…

Not long ago, I reported that Ezra Miller, star of Justice League and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, was still set to play the speedy superhero, The Flash, in an upcoming Flash solo movie. Months ago, Miller’s future in the franchise had been put in jeopardy when he broke ranks with his directors, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, in order to write a new, edgier script for the movie, which he thought was too light-hearted.

Now, Warner Brothers have decided to place their bets on Miller, kicking Daley and Goldstein unceremoniously off the project. On the other hand, they’ve already decided not to move forward with Miller’s script either, but have instead chosen to start over from scratch (again), enlisting Christina Hodson, writer of Bumblebee and Birds of Prey, to redo the movie. Miller will still play the Flash, but he’s not calling the shots anymore. This whole situation is so confusing.

It gets weirder when we consider that Warner Brothers is (maybe?) still going for a darker take on the story, such as Miller was advocating, since they’ve hired horror directors Andy and Barbara Muschietti to take the reins from Daley and Goldstein. Then again, maybe not, since James Wan also came from the horror genre, but made Aquaman into one hilarious, family-friendly comedy, and the same occurred with David Sandberg, who switched gears from horror to humor, directing the DC’s most recent film, Shazam: and then we’ve got Jaume Collet-Serra, another horror director, coming over to the DC to direct Black Adam. It’s almost like the DCEU, or more specifically, DC president Walter Hamada, producer of multiple horror films, has a bias. At this point, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins has to score a big hit with her upcoming sequel to the 2017 hit, or she’s going to be replaced by another of Hamada’s own friends.

Anyway, I’m not trying to be a downer or anything…but, seriously, how many directors is this movie going to go through before it gets to be too much? How many scripts are going to be written? How does Ezra Miller somehow escape each of these purges by the skin of his teeth? What is going on behind the scenes? Filming dates have also changed, with cameras expected to start rolling on The Flash in January of next year…which, um, is going to conflict with Miller’s filming for Fantastic Beasts 3, if I’m not mistaken? Or does this mean Fantastic Beasts 3 is getting pushed back again?

If only I knew.

“The Flash” Is Still Happening!

Ezra Miller’s promising career has kind of run up against a brick wall this year – his two biggest upcoming projects, in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World and the DC Extended Universe, have both been stuck in some sort of…well, we can’t even call it “development hell” because neither has even made it into development yet! The Fantastic Beasts franchise is busy sending out S.O.S signals and frantically rearranging its schedule, with the release date for the series’ third entry having been pushed back to November of 2021. Miller’s DC solo movie, Flashpoint (or just The Flash, it doesn’t technically have a title yet) has been slowly drifting off into hazy forgetfulness for years, with random outbursts of news popping up every now and again to remind us that, maybe, someday, this movie might have a slim chance of possibly happening.

Earlier this year, there was huge breaking news that Ezra Miller was not only still making that movie, but had taken it upon himself to rewrite the entire script with the help of comic-book author Grant Morrison. The rumor, which began circulating on March 15th, suggested that Miller’s new script could be submitted to Warner Brothers Studios, and I quote, “as early as next week”.

And, uh, yeah…that apparently never happened.

What makes it even weirder is that, after the deafening silence from Miller, DC, and Warner Brothers the week after that report surfaced, there continued to be precisely no news about the film in the months since. Miller’s contract with DC was said to expire in May, at which point the actor would either have to renegotiate his deal or part ways with the role of the Flash – not something that seemed likely, considering that Miller claimed to be deeply committed to making sure the movie happened. Well, May came and went, and there was still no word about what Miller was up to: had he submitted his script, against the wishes of his own directors, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein? Had they persuaded him to abandon his idea and end his partnership with Morrison? Did Miller’s expire? Is he still playing the Flash? Is the Flash even still happening?

The story is still very patchy and incomplete, and there’s obviously a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes: because now, according to one vague sentence in a brief piece on Miller’s gender-fluidity by Variety, Miller “will get his DC Universe stand alone film as soon as he wraps up his work on the “Harry Potter” spinoff series “Fantastic Beasts”.

So…um, I guess he’s still onboard?

What’s not clear is whether Miller’s script – a darker take on the source material than that being used by his directors – has been adopted for the film, or whether the actor has been forced back in line. It would seem that he’s renegotiated his deal, at the very least. And it looks like The Flash is still happening? Unfortunately, it’s clearly not happening anytime soon: Miller’s responsibility to the Fantastic Beasts franchise will probably keep him occupied through most of early 2020, as he shoots Fantastic Beasts 3.

The article, though, doesn’t say Fantastic Beasts 3 – it refers to the entire Fantastic Beasts franchise, which gives me some reason to worry. Now, it could mean one of three things: (a) the article is simply worded oddly: Variety is usually reliable, but they did also reference an upcoming Justice League sequel in an article not too long ago about Ben Affleck – needless to say, there is no upcoming Justice League sequel and never has been. (b) the article is being literal, and implies that Miller will have to finish filming the last three Fantastic Beasts movies before he can move on to playing the Flash, in which case we’re going to have to wait a very long time for that movie, or (c), the most dreadful possibility, the article is being literal, and Fantastic Beasts 3 is indeed the end of the franchise: unfortunately, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, with the way that the second film in the series, The Crimes of Grindelwald, drastically underperformed at the box-office, and failed to resonate with critics or audiences.

I’m really hoping that it means nothing, and just boils down to a faulty editor or a careless writer.

But whatever it means for the Wizarding World, it looks like Miller’s future with the DCEU is…safe, I guess? He hasn’t been publicly let go, at least. Whatever is going on with the script behind the scenes, it looks like the Flash is still making his way…slowly…to the big screen.

Dwayne Johnson Joining The DCEU!

There have long been rumors that DC Comics antihero Black Adam would one day get his own solo movie, after studio executives decided the character was too important to be introduced as a supporting character in the Shazam movie. Well, now Shazam is out and has run its course, raking in a decent profit at the global box-office, and paving the way for Black Adam to finally reach the big screen by himself. The character is not a traditional hero: he first appeared in the comics as a villain, and still has a somewhat troubled and morally gray personality there, to this day. We’ve known for some time that one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is set to play him – when he appears on the big screen, he’ll probably be one of the crown jewels of the DC’s roster of actors, which at the moment doesn’t feature too many household names in starring roles, apart from maybe Jason Momoa (Aquaman). And maybe that’s the reason that Black Adam is suddenly moving into production: there’s been some chatter recently about Johnson wanting to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and DC probably doesn’t like the sound of that.

And that’s how we’ve ended up here, today, with Jaume Collet-Serra being brought on to direct Johnson in the upcoming Black Adam movie, expected to start filming sometime next year. Collet-Serra recently finished working with Johnson on Disney’s Jungle Cruise movie, and seems to have a good relationship with the actor. One little wrench in the plan, of course, is that the story of Black Adam may rely on his heroic arch-nemesis Shazam – and the Shazam movie, while it received glowing praise from critics, wasn’t exactly a box-office sensation in the domestic market. It didn’t do badly, but it was somewhat drowned out due to its unfortunate release date in between Marvel’s Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, both of which hit the billion-dollar mark: its domestic total of 139 million is still less than what Captain Marvel made just in its opening weekend. For more information on the film’s box-office, see here. Regardless of that, DC is apparently moving on with the franchise, with a sequel already in the works.

With Johnson starring (and producing), the Black Adam movie will likely get off the ground and make its way to theaters soon enough. Shazam 2 will probably follow. But the real question is: will audiences care, even if they do? Even the epic battle between Batman and Superman in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to inspire much interest – and that also featured the highly-anticipated arrival of heroes like Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which marketed epic battles between fan-favorite monsters such as Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah, and of course, Godzilla himself, has only managed to muster 67 million domestically. And these are characters with fanbases and followings. Shazam and Black Adam, meanwhile, are little-known characters, and Shazam‘s box-office returns suggest only moderate interest in the hero – and it  succeeded in part due to its appeal to younger audiences and families: a battle crossover event would likely be darker and grittier, and less of a kid-friendly film. But then again, Dwayne Johnson is one of only a few movie-stars who can draw all sorts of audiences to theaters like flies to honey: his DC debut could generate substantial publicity for the fledgling franchise.

What are your thoughts on the Black Adam movie? How do you think Dwayne Johnson’s involvement will help or hurt the film? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Robert Pattinson is Batman!

nbcnews.com

Yesterday’s CW Batwoman trailer declared very definitively, in a cringey opening monologue, that “The Bat’s not coming back” – well, that might be true enough for the CW network, which ignores DCEU continuity. In their alternate universe, Batman has left Gotham City and is thought to be dead.

But guess what? The DCEU ignores CW continuity (and sometimes their own continuity) too, so yesterday they revealed that, no, the Bat actually is coming back. And he’ll be played by Robert Pattinson.

The DCEU has always had a problem with having to recast many of their lead actors every so often – their latest Superman, Henry Cavill, is out, and their last Batman, Ben Affleck, is also gone: Affleck’s Batman didn’t even get to have a solo film before he was unceremoniously ousted. Personally, I was not a fan of the “Batfleck”, as his character was dubbed by social media. His performance in Justice League (which, granted, was a bad movie to begin with) was stiff and monotone, and his suit didn’t even fit him properly – seriously, the Bat-suit has to fit. The Dark Knight was reduced to a badly-costumed parody.

But with director Matt Reeves at the helm, DC’s upcoming The Batman is expected to go dark and gritty, with a take on the iconic character closer to that of Christopher Nolan’s sensational Dark Knight trilogy.

Apparently, the Robert Pattinson casting hasn’t been locked down yet, with Nicholas Hoult (star of the recent biopic Tolkien) also on Warner Brothers’ shortlist. But it seems obvious to me that Pattinson is the better choice, and could actually bring some interesting stuff to the table, if he were chosen for the role of the Caped Crusader. Reeves’ Batman movie will follow a young Bruce Wayne in the 1990’s, possibly as a follow-up to The Joker, which will open this fall – with that movie already being tossed around as a potential Oscars contender, it seems likely that The Batman will also have a dramatic and artistic approach to the comic-book source material. This has been Pattinson’s own interest, of late, as the former Twilight actor has branched out into the indie and art film genres – even set to star in a film directed by Christopher Nolan himself. Yet the mainstream DCEU is still conflicted between going dark and serious or light-hearted and ridiculous, with both paths looking fortuitous – the successes of the very dissimilar The Dark Knight Rises and Aquaman exemplify this.

But with Batman, there really should be no doubt in anyone’s mind: gritty is the way to go. You can’t have a Gotham City that isn’t shadowy and hostile, and you certainly can’t explore Batman’s impressive and classic roster of villains without going deep into the darker parts of the human psyche. Bruce Wayne himself is a hugely interesting character with plenty of emotional depth that could be explored in detail by a professional actor – rather than just making Batman yet another superhero with high-tech gadgets. If the script is top-notch and the DCEU isn’t afraid to possibly alienate an audience that would prefer more family-friendly, humorous fare, then I think The Batman could even prove itself a worthy Oscars competitor – superhero films have never really been Academy darlings, and the actors in them least of all: except Heath Ledger, who was given a Best Supporting Actor award for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Maybe – just maybe – Pattinson can build on his experiences in the indie genre to elevate Batman to the same status.

And maybe, though it’s unlikely, his take on the character might be successful enough that we could see another (better) Justice League movie. The romance that was built up between Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman might finally make sense – considering that Pattinson is much closer to Gadot’s own age than Affleck was. Of course, it all relies on The Joker and The Batman being good movies. I am definitely jumping a bit far ahead of myself.

The Bat is back. And hopefully this time he’s here to stay.

DC Takes A Whole New Approach With “The Joker”

Yesterday, at CinemaCon, Warner Brothers showed the first trailer for an upcoming release – The Joker, which stars Joaquin Phoenix and will open in October. The movie is going to be an origin story for the iconic Batman villain, and will be set in the 80’s, long before the DC universe as we know it: however, this may not be such a bad thing, as the DC universe is currently going through some renovations, to say the least, and the whole idea of a shared universe with all the DC characters is becoming more and more unlikely with every passing day – most recently, the Wonder Woman creative team have made headlines with their repeated statements that their next film, Wonder Woman 1984, won’t be a sequel: it will be a stand-alone film, for the stand-alone Wonder Woman universe, which apparently doesn’t actually exist in the DCEU proper – it’s all getting very confusing. Actually, it’s interesting to note that Wonder Woman 1984 and The Joker both take place in the 80’s, though I doubt there will be any connection. It’s unclear if The Joker will even have any connection to Matt Reeves’ Batman movie, which is still very much a top-secret project.

Anyway. Getting back to The Joker itself: the thing is, this movie clearly doesn’t want to fit into the DCEU at all. Just based from this trailer, we can see that this movie looks to be all the things that, at the moment, the DCEU is steering away from – dark and gritty realism with a dash of the macabre. It only makes sense when dealing with a character like the Joker: unpredictable, dangerous, defying expectations. We see in this trailer, in fact, the makings of a movie so unlike any previous comic book movie that I would not be shocked if it gets nominated for some Oscars next year – of course, it’s far too early to say that for certain, but it is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Black Panther was able to score a nomination for Best Picture this year: could The Joker be the next comic book movie to do so?

It might seem presumptuous to say “yes”, but take a look at this trailer: this is an intricate and profound character study of Arthur Fleck, the man who will become the Joker – there is sadness here, and a grim and unflinching portrait of a man scarred by emotional trauma. This Joker is not stylized or done up to fulfill comic book fans’ expectations: this Joker is stricken to the core by pain and anguish, he is depressed, tortured, on the brink of taking his own life. He has a job as a sign spinner outside a bankrupt store, where he dresses like a clown, intent on bringing “laughter and joy to the world”. He is robbed and beaten up, and even ends up at the Arkham State Hospital, an iconic location in Gotham City.  The locale looks like the New York City of the late 70’s and early 80’s, and its brutality is also reminiscent of that period.

But Arthur Fleck finds purpose in a new life – a life of crime, that gives him the opportunity to be free, careless, independent. He who once ran from the police now hounds them. He who once hid in the shadows now makes a dramatic entrance at a protest, somersaulting down a flight of steps. He who once slouched over, dressed in dark clothes, trudging through the filthy streets, now dons a new outfit: the painted smile, the green wig, the brightly colored suit. He no longer slouches – now, he leaps over taxi-cabs and strides elegantly down hallways, dancing for the great audience all around him, the people of Gotham. “I used to think that my life was a tragedy,” he says. “But now I realize it’s a comedy.”

And the people embrace him and take him as their figurehead in their rebellion against the forces of law and order. This is not a movie about a supervillain, this is a movie about a man who just happens to become a supervillain: it’s almost like historical fiction, uncovering the truth behind this classic character of comic book mythology and delving deep into his troubled psyche.

There is, however, one hint that may or may not indicate a connection to the wider DCEU – there is a scene, near the end of the trailer, of the Joker meeting a young boy, though the two are separated by the bars of a metal gate. This boy may not be the young Bruce Wayne, but there’s a strong chance that he is.

So no, aside from that one hint (that may not even be a hint), The Joker does not have a connection yet to the DCEU. But it doesn’t need one. It is entirely its own thing, its own bizarre and beautiful being, and it stands alone. The DCEU is moving towards being a fun, family-friendly environment – this stands out as a dark, harsh exception. But this movie (at least from the trailer) seems almost to enjoy and embrace its complete uniqueness.

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10