Friday, July 21, 2017

An Open Letter to David F Sandberg about "World's Mightiest Mortal"

David F. Sandberg is officially the director of the Captain Marvel movie.  Production is set to begin early in 2018. So, in this open letter to Mr Sandberg (and the powers-that-be at New Line Cinema), I will express my hopes for what could and should be the definitive cinematic Captain Marvel.

The very first thing Mr Sandberg should do is bring in Alex Ross to be the project's creative consultant, and perhaps also a producer. He is one of only a few contemporary comic book talents who really "gets" the World's Mightiest Mortal.  Just as Johnson's manager, Dany Garcia, is working hard to make sure the Black Adam character is perfect, it should be Alex Ross' privilege to do the same for the Captain Marvel character. The film should use Ross' version of Captain Marvel's uniform, but it should not be skintight spandex or muscle enhancing rubber. The model of Tom Tyler's costume from the serial should be used, where the top is more of a jacket, and the pants, while snug, are not actual tights. Need I say, no hoodie cape, please.  In addition, I would suggest artist Jerry Ordway be brought in to assist in creating the design for Fawcett City, with its unique blend of Art Deco elegance with Norman Rockwell Americana. The definitive film needs to have a good balance of fun and humor with action-adventure and drama and pathos. I would like to see the film use tilted ("Dutch") camera angles, much like celebrated film maker Orson Welles pioneered, to give it a unique look.

The film itself needs to stay away from the horribly failed Curse of Shazam reboot.  The movie should have its foundation on the works of Alex Ross, specifically Justice and Shazam: Power of Hope and the recent, and very successful Thuderworld Adventures by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart, as well as lifting the Billy Batson-Uncle Dudley relationship from Roy and Dann Thomas' Shazam The New Beginning.  The primary influence and tone should come from the Fawcett comics of the 1940s. When Otto Binder and C.C. Beck hit their stride, they produced some of the greatest superhero adventures of all time. Previous attempts at developing the movie over the past decade seemed married to the "Big with superpowers" concept.  This concept keeps the character trapped in a goofy, juvenile stereotype. Cap should not act like a 12 year old. He has the wisdom of Solomon, which should make him more mature and less headstrong than Billy. The movie could use such a Big concept in a subtle way, but to go over the top, as most recent comic book stories featuring Captain Marvel have, would be a critical mistake.  I encourage Mr Sandberg to bring in Henry Danger creator/producer/writer Dan Schneider to tweak and polish Henry Gayden's script. Schneider would be a natural to capture the whimsy and humor of the original Fawcett comics, and could give the tone of the script the youthful energy that helped make Spider-Man: Homecoming such a hit.

As in the Fawcett comics, Billy should be the star of the movie. Its his adventures we follow. Yet there still must be a lot of screen time and action sequences for Captain Marvel. I speculate the creators of Captain Marvel had the Old Testament book of Tobit in mind as a muse. In it, the mighty archangel Saint Raphael takes the form of a teen, Azariah, while among mortals. I suggest all Captain Marvel fans read this book. If you don't have a Bible with the deuterocanonical books, here is a link for Tobit .   Mary and Freddy should be supporting characters the film, but they should not get their powers until the sequels. Needless to say I do not want to see the three new52 kids, Darla, Pedro and Eugene, cluttering up the film. And despite some fans clamoring for it, I do not want to see Superman in anyway in this film.  This movie should stand on its own, much like Wonder Woman did. If there must be a cameo with an established DCEU character, Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman would be the most preferable and make the most sense. A completely outside of the box choice, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, would be as unique as the chemistry Harley and Billy share in the Injustice line of comic books.

The elephant in the living room needs to be addressed.  Captain Marvel's name. I am vehemently against the idea of renaming Captain Marvel with the wizard's name, Shazam. In a perfect world, the film makers will just call him Captain Marvel, as it should be, and let the chips fall where they may.  But I fear some backdoor politics may cause that name to be off limits. If that's the case, I would advocate for Captain Marvel to be nameless in the movie, just as the name Wonder Woman has never been spoken in either of the two movies featuring her. The end credits should credit the actor playing him as "World's Mightiest Mortal", and leave it at that. In fact, "World's Mightiest Mortal" should be the title of the movie. Another idea is to borrow a gag from Spider-Man Homecoming. In the final scene, a crowd of people surround Captain Marvel.  For the first time, they ask "who are you?"  He replies, "Captain Ma--" cut to black, end of movie.

Perhaps the most infamous Captain Marvel fan was/is Elvis Presley. The definitive Captain Marvel movie must have an Elvis soundtrack. Mr Sandberg has stated Guardians of the Galaxy is his inspiration for superhero movies.  It had a prominent soundtrack, and for the Captain Marvel movie to follow suit, Elvis performances need to be represented, if not dominate. "If I Can Dream" would be a perfect theme song. Many of his under appreciated 60s tracks would fit the film perfectly, like "Long Legged Girl" for Beautia, "What A Wonderful Life" for Billy, "That's Someone You'll Never Forget" for Billy's crush on Beautia, "Kiss Me Quick" for Beautia's longing for Captain Marvel, etc.  Perhaps Duane Eddy's hit instrumental "Shazam" could be incorporated into the score.

Casting suggestions:

Captain Marvel - Lou Ferrigno Jr
The son of TV's Incredible Hulk has the pedigree, the acting talent, and the looks to bring the character to life on the silver screen.
Alternate picks: Alan Ritchson, Wes Bentley, or Daniel Cudmore.

Billy Batson - Colin Critchley
This talented young actor would not only be perfect for Billy Batson, but in his recent film Legends of the Hidden Temple, he exclaims "Holy Moly", and in that instant, he became Billy Batson.

Shazam - Tim Allen
Playing Santa Claus was a great primer for the role of Shazam.  Allen would give the role a grandfatherly warmth and a slight off kilter humor that would make the character's limited screen time a gem.
Alternate picks: Michael Keaton, James CaanF Murray Abraham, James Woods, or Max von Sydow.
 
Dr Sivana - Jackie Earle Haley
This talented character actor would bring the Rightful Ruler of the Universe to life and be bad news for Captain Marvel.
Alternate pick: Michael D Cohen

Beautia - Virginia Gardner.

This bombshell-in-the-making would be perfect for the World's Sexiest Woman.
Alternate picks: Suki Waterhouse, Haley Bennett, Genevieve Morton, or Carla Sonre.

Uncle Dudley - his royal majesty Micky Dolenz .
This is my #1 casting pick! Dolenz is Dudley incarnate and would be a highlight of the movie and a real scene stealer. If nothing else, I want Dolenz cast as Dudley.

Mary Bromfield/Batson - Jade Pettyjohn.  
Although she's a couple years older than Colin Critchley, her range is as young as 13, and her personality would bring Mary to life.
Alternate choices: Breanna YdeReagan Strange, or  Saylor Bell.

Sterling Morris - Jon Voight.
This acting legend would be perfect to bring the owner of station WHIZ to life.
Alternate pick: Dan Aykroyd.

Mr Tawny - Jim Belushi.
I could really see Belushi in the role, whether it be him in extensive make up, or a CGI character based on Belushi's looks and mannerisms, with him doing the voice.  Just perfect.

Freddy Freeman - Levi Miller
 
A talented young actor who can bring the darker, more serious counterpart to Billy to life on the silver screen.

Freddy's Grandpa - Alan Alda.
This TV legend is sure to bring gravitas and likability to the character, and really set the audience up for heartbreak when the inevitable happens.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hollywood Reporter confirms World's Mightiest Mortal rumors

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed David Sandberg is the director of World's Mightiest Mortal and that filming will begin in January or February 2018 with "a likely release in 2019".  Also noted is Peter Safran, teh producer of the upcoming Aquaman movie, and Sandberg's Annabelle sequel, is in negotiations to produce World's Mightiest Mortal.  It looks like we may have a Captain Marvel in the next few months.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: Batman '66 meets the Legion of Superheroes

After the bad taste left by Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77, one would think it is great news to bring in Mike and Lee Allred, who produced the single best issue of the regular run of Batman '66 - its final issue. But it is kind of perplexing that the Legion of Superheroes were chosen to co-star.  I have to consider, was it supposed to be based on the Legends of the Superheroes TV specials, which would make more sense, and somehow, a misunderstanding resulted with the Legion of Superheroes instead?  The story opens with the Legion coming from the future to recruit the world's greatest teen superhero, Robin, to help them on capturing a villain, Universo, who time traveled to 1966.  Meanwhile Egghead discovers the Legion's time ships.  Batman goes with some of the Legion to the future to capture Egghead, while Robin leads the rest of the Legion in 1966 to capture Universo.  Hmm... Egghead and Universo sure look alike. In the future, Batman encounters a lot of classic silver age Legion scenarios, while in 1966, its alluded to the Legion may have come to an alternate timeline than the one they intended to go to.  Batman's team catches up to Egghead, who quickly comes back to 1966, where Universo has hypnotized Gotham's leadership. They realize Universo is Egghead's descendant and decide to team up.  Robin and his team try to save City Hall, and Batman and his team arrive back to help out. The artwork is absolute perfection, but the script reads more like a tribute to the Legion of Superheroes, with a real silver age feel, that guest stars Batman and Robin. While it is a definite step up from the previous Wonder Woman '77 debacle, if the rumors are true that this will be the final Batman '66 project, it ends on a wrong note. The franchise should end with a spotlight on Batman and Robin, not on the Legion. Hopefully there will be more Batman '66 projects after a brief hiatus to rethink the many flaws of the execution of the franchise. Hopefully Andy Fish will be brought in to create some of the new Batman '66 projects. This issue earns a B-.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

World's Mightiest Mortal gets production time line

Just days after fan-favorite Captain Marvel candidate Derek Theler was cast as Mr Immortal in the upcoming TV series New Warriors, taking him out of the running for the role, several sources are announcing that World's Mightiest Mortal will begin production in February 2018.  These sources are assuming David Sandberg, who was the most recent name linked to the project, will direct despite no formal announcement he has signed on. What has been confirmed is Dwayne Johnson will not have any significant role, other than perhaps a teaser cameo, in the movie.  His Black Adam will only be featured in the solo movie of the same name, which as of yet, does not have any kind of production time table (and if Johnson is serious about running for president, may not have time to make the movie at all before he must suspend all film making activities to run).

This may signal that, in a departure from the recent Shazam reboots in the comics, where Captain Marvel and Black Adam are intrinsically linked, the film may go back to the original Fawcett source material, where Black Adam was not a pivotal role in Captain Marvel's origin.  It is also important to point out the reports say "production" will begin... not "filming". So I expect a director to be unveiled in the coming months as well as an announcement that a script has been approved, and for the casting process to begin in February.  Actual filming may being in Summer or early Fall of 2018. With an estimated 3 or 4 month shooting schedule, and then a similar amount of time needed for editing and post-production, I can't see them making the targeted April 2019 release date.  Even Summer 2019 would be cutting it close.  I expect the release date to change to sometime in 2020, which coincidentally, would be Captain Marvel's 80th Anniversary.

Monday, July 10, 2017

And another one out of the running?

Today, The Hollywood Reporter unveiled the cast for the upcoming MCU TV series New Warriors.  Derek Theler has been cast as Mister Immortal.  This severely reduces that odds he could be cast as Captain Marvel in the World's Mightiest Mortal movie, and subjectively could be seen as a crippling blow to the casting process and to the movie. Theler was one of my top picks for the role, and while I'm happy for him that he landed a superhero role, which is something he has wanted for years, it is kind of a sad day for Captain Marvel fans.  New Line Cinema, Seven Bucks, and DC really dropped the ball on this.  Dwayne Johnson signed on to play Black Adam three years ago.  Since then, Theler, as well as Lou Ferrigno Jr and Alan Ritchson, publicly expressed interest in the project through social media.  One of them could have been locked into the role a year ago, but we are still empty handed, with Theler now moving on to New Warriors.  To make matters even worse, several weeks ago Dwayne Johnson put forth Armie Hammer as the leading contender, whom I think is all wrong for the role.  One small glimmer of hope is Hammer is giving the impression he is not interested in the Shazam project, and is leaning more toward Green Lantern, although he claims he is currently not in negotiations for either project. At this moment, it is hard not to be very discouraged about the status of the movie.  An earlier post of mine going through most of the potential actors for the role can be found here, and as you can read, many have been picked off for other projects since I first posted it.

Friday, July 7, 2017

movie review: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

To start with the bottom line, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man II.  It is right up there with Captain America: The Winter Soldier as one of the best MCU movies to date. Like the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, it can be accurately described as an action-comedy.  Director Jon Watts wisely skips doing another retelling of Spidey's origin, which made the lackluster The Amazing Spider-Man feel like a rerun. On the contrary, this movie feels very fresh, and keeps much of the Sam Raimi tone and feel.  It can be considered a direct sequel to the first Avengers movie, as well as a follow up to Captain America: Civil War.

The film opens on Adrian Toomes eight years ago, just after the events in the first Avengers movie. Toomes' company has been hired to clear the wreckage, but is quickly shut out by Stark Industries who takes over.  Toomes decides to keep some of the alien tech and devises a plan to build and sell weapons. Skip to eight years later, and we see the events featuring Spidey from Captain America: Civil War, but from Spidey's viewpoint. Skip to a few months later, and Spidey is being your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, cleaning up his neighborhood of crime while waiting to be called in for the next Avengers mission while also trying to juggle duties and responsibilities at school. As Toomes' weapons business grows, things escalate.  Unlike the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield versions, there is a pivotal scene where Spidey needs to literally hold a sinking ferry together to keep it from sinking.  In similar scenes, the Maguire and Garfield versions would have triumphed, but in this version, Spidey is failing and needs to be bailed out by Iron Man.  It is a scene that proves this take on Spider-Man is just a kid sometimes in over his head. To teach Peter a lesson, Stark takes back the tech heavy suit.

Peter then concentrates on his normal life, becoming more concerned with scoring a date with Liz to homecoming, but the Vulture continues to complicate things.  Later, during the big final fight between Spidey and the Vulture, the alien tech Toomes made his wings from is going to explode.  Spidey tries to save Toomes, and when it explodes and Toomes is engulfed in fire, what does Spidey do?  Does he say something morally ambiguous like "I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you"? Does he break Toomes' neck, killing him? Does he stab him multiple times until he's dead?  No, Spidey runs into the fire and saves Toomes' life.  This is the action of a true superhero.

There are also some more blatant potshots at the DCEU, such as Parker's friend and sidekick Ned saying how he wants to be the "guy in the chair", a reference to CW TV show characters like Cisco (The Flash) and Felicity (Arrow), and the Stark designed tech heavy Spider suit going into an attack and kill mode, and into an intimidation mode, which allows Peter to speak in an over the top gravelly voice spoofing Christian Bale's Batman. Unlike Wonder Woman's amateurish CGI, the CGI in Homecoming is first rate and stellar.

Tom Holland is truly amazing as Peter Parker, and brings youth and energy and humor to the role. Although, for all the hype the film makers have made about setting the film in Queens, NY, Holland, who is British, does not speak with a Queens accent, instead using a generic, mid-Western non-accent. Actually, none of the previous Spidey actors really spoke with any kind of New York accent.  His costume is faithful to the early Steve Ditko artwork, and we for the first time ever outside of the comics, we get to see the webbing under Spidey's arms. Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark mentors Peter, assisted by Happy Hogan (Jon Favereau, who gets more screen time than Stark despite how the trailers made it look), and there is a cameo by Chris Evans as Captain America, wearing his old costume from the first Avengers movie (but not "The First Avenger"), in a series of cheesy PSA's that were intended to be several years old and outdated.

Jacob Batalon does a good job as Ned, seeing how the film makers probably didn't want to reboot Harry Osborne again, but I thought his role could have been just a bit smaller. Tony Revolori's Flash Thompson re-envisions the character as an intellectual bully. Disney Channel actress Zendaya plays Peter's classmate Michelle, in a typically over-acted Disney Channel sit-com style, that thankfully isn't too big, but hints at a larger presence in upcoming movies (indeed, there seems to be some "bait and switch" regarding character names).  A much better performance is given by Laura Harrier as Peter's crush Liz, and perhaps the best of Peter's classmates is Angourie Rice as Betty Brant.

Michael Keaton turns in perhaps the best performance of a villain in an MCU movie.  With the exception of Loki, the MCU villains are mostly lackluster and seem like afterthoughts. Keaton shatters that mold, giving Toomes relatability, sympathy, and a cold as ice evil streak. The one big mistake was he didn't say the line "Pussy! Batman would never cry!".  Although to be fair, I think this is the first Spider-Man movie where Peter doesn't cry.  But those who hated Spider-Man III, be warned, Peter does try to dance in this one. Aunt May played by Marissa Tomei (who does have a natural NY accent), is probably the character altered the most from the comics. There is a running gag that has everyone hitting on her.  Unbelievably, this is the third Spider-Man movie in a row with no sign of J Jonah Jameson. A big plus is the classic Spider-Man cartoon theme song was revived. After the two awful Andrew Garfield misfires, it's great to see Spider-Man be amazing again.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: Batman '66 meets Wonder Woman '77 #6

The mercifully final issue of this rather disappointing series begins with Ra's in the Batcave, having a heart to heart talk with Bruce, trying to convince him to join the League of Shadows.  Meanwhile, Nightwing, Wonder Woman and Catwoman disco-fights their way out of Talia's trap (yes, it's a horrid as it sounds).  They call on "Batwoman" to lend a hand to invade the League's hide out, the former Arkham Asylum. But then, Batman shows up, in a Smokey and the Bandit era Trans Am customized as the Batmobile. He quickly explains he's been inspired again, and the five heroes enter Arkham, only to meet the members of the League- Mr Freeze, Clayface, Croc, The Cheetah and the criminally underused Riddler. There's another big fight, as Ra's and Talia attempt to escape.  Batman encounters Ra's at another pit, while the other three heroes continue to fight off villains and henchmen.  Batman and Ra's nearly fall into the Pit, but Wonder Woman rescues with her lasso. Ra's slips from Batman grip and falls into the pit, which reverts him... to a kid.  The story ends with Wonder Woman hinting at forming the JLA with Batman.  As with the previous issue, this is an average issue if you consider it a generic all-ages Batman story, but as a Batman '66 installment, it is a complete failure.  I'm not sure who to place the blame for this.  Is it a corporate DC mandate to force the 66 Universe to conform to generic DC continuity, or is it all Jeff Parker's idea since it is usually only the stories he writes that has this? This issue earns an F, and this entire miniseries should be retconned out. DC needs to bring in Andy Fish to get the Batman '66 franchise back on the right track.