2016年4月6日 星期三

Thoughts on the Future of Various Cinematic Universes

Batman v. Superman premiered two weeks ago, Civil War is due (in Taiwan) 21 days from now, and X-Men: Apocalypse is due 21 days after that.  This means that three separate cinematic universes are in full swing, and with this in mind I'd like to discuss what the future might hold for each.

1. The DC Extended Universe

We are only two films into DC's Extended Universe.  The first of these was 2013's Man of Steel, and the second is the recently released Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  A third film, Suicide Squad, will appear later this summer.

And later still: 

Wonder Woman (2017), Justice League Part 1 (2017), The Flash (2018), Aquaman (2018), Shazam (2019?), Justice League Part 2 (2019), Cyborg (2020), and Green Lantern Corps (2020).

How it's looking now: 

Batman v. Superman is a very divisive film.  Some of us love it, others hate it, with very few people in the middle.  I think it has flaws, but the initial critical reaction was far out of proportion to any flaws this movie might have.  It's not perfect, but if you really think it's worse than the first Thor, or the third X-men, you might want to question your loyalty to Marvel properties and/or your rampant dislike for anything DC.  There's a lot of "brand loyalty" at work in people's reactions to this film, both to its benefit and to its disadvantage.

Obviously replacing Snyder as director of the upcoming Justice League Part 1 would change many people's perceptions of the DC Extended Universe.  So will the success or failure of the upcoming Suicide Squad.  Yet I think that as of now the DCEU is on much firmer footing, and if Suicide Squad does well, future critics will be much kinder to Batman v. Superman.  As it is, BvS made a TON of money, and I don't think Warner Bros. has too much to worry about.

What I think they should do: 

a. Replace Snyder.  I think the guy's got talent, and finding another director will certainly delay production of Justice League Part 1, but it seems like the right thing to do.

b. Keep hiring good directors, and have faith in them.  Right now Marvel resembles the "studio system" of 1940s Hollywood, and DC won't be able to compete if they emulate the same system.  Instead of the top-down approach that Kevin Feige embodies, find directors with talent, and trust that they'll make a good movie without so much oversight.  David Ayer (Suicide Squad) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) both have proven track records, and both can deliver quality films if Warner Bros. trusts in their respective visions.

c. Beat Marvel to the punch.  What do I mean by this?  Darkseid!  Darkseid and his Fourth World mythos are to Thanos what the anthill is the the ant.  I've heard talk that Justice League Part 1 will use the Atlanteans as the villains, but hopefully Darkseid will figure into that film as well.  DC has always done villains better than Marvel, and Darkseid represents an opportunity to deliver the original article (Darkseid) before Marvel re-releases the copy (Thanos) in Infinity War.

d. Don't try to copy Marvel's formula.  A lot of the negative reaction to Batman v. Superman can be boiled down to "not Marvel."  That's OK.  Not everyone's going to get it at first.  Don't be afraid to get "dark" just because Marvel has a lighter touch.  The recent talk of Suicide Squad undergoing reshoots to make it "more fun" is worrying, and would seem to indicate a lack of confidence in the course they've chosen.

2. The Marvel Cinematic Universe

The upcoming Captain America: Civil War will be the 13th film in the series, and the first film in Marvel's "Phase Three."  It's also the third Captain America film, following 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, and 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Expectations for this movie are high.

And later still: 

Doctor Strange (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Spider-Man (in partnership with Sony, 2017), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War - Part 1 (2018), Captain Marvel (2019), Avengers: Infinity War - Part 2 (2019), and Inhumans (2019).

And of course the Netflix shows should also be mentioned, since they occur in the same universe.  Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Defenders are all in various stages of production, though the dates of their release are more tentative.  And yes, there's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, and the upcoming Damage Control, though - full disclosure - I have to say that I don't bother with the non-Netflix shows.

How it's looking now:

Marvel is still king of the castle, and should continue to be so with the release of Civil War.  I think Civil War will be a huge success, but the reaction to Doctor Strange will be more telling.  Marvel is well into its B-level heroes now, and by the time they arrive at Luke Cage and Captain Marvel they'll have arrived at the C-level.  Will the public get tired of their tried and tested formula?

What I think they should do: 

a. Don't be afraid to get weird.  Doctor Strange is of course their first opportunity to do this, since he's a magical hero who travels into other dimensions.  The Marvel films are definitely starting to feel a bit formulaic, and throwing in an eccentric one now and then will make their entire cinematic universe more interesting.

b. Make it topical.  Marvel does issues well, and the popularity of the Civil War idea reflects this.  Marvel has always done social issues better than DC, just as DC has always done the cosmic stuff better.  I think if the Marvel films can stay relevant they will continue to do well.

c. Don't oversaturate the market.  This is of course the biggest danger that Marvel Studios faces, aside from the soon-to-expire contracts of its leading men and women.  Success invites overexposure, and the public can only care about so many superheroes and so many storylines at one time.  "Holding back" a little will ensure that there's still an audience for these things down the line. 

d. Have a plan B.  What is Marvel going to do without Evans, Downey, and Hemsworth?  These actors will inevitably exit stage left at some point, and Marvel should be preparing for this outcome.  It is an interesting question: Will they go with newer heroes, or reboot the older ones? 

3. Fox's X-Men Film Series.

As stated above, X-Men: Apocalypse will be appearing in May, to be followed by a third Wolverine film in 2017.  X-Men: Apocalypse is the 9th movie in this series, and marks Bryan Singer's fourth outing (if you'll forgive the pun) as director.

And later still: 

Deadpool 2, X-Force, Gambit, and the New Mutants are all possibilities, but Fox isn't assigning release dates to their future films as yet.  I think this is a smart move, as it frees them up to pursue whatever projects seem most viable.

How it's looking now:

Deadpool was an astounding and unexpected worldwide success, produced on what was - in superhero terms - a miniscule budget.  X-Men: Days of Future Past was also well received, though it wasn't the game-changer that Deadpool was.  I would describe the anticipation for X-Men: Apocalypse as "moderate," though of course positive reviews can always change people's minds.

What I think they should do: 

a. The New Mutants.  This was a popular (if not super popular) comic book from the late 1980s, that would translate well into a film.  It would also make the X-men films much richer, showing us aspects of that world we haven't really seen before.  Magik and Warlock would also look amazing onscreen.

b. Enough with Mystique already.  I get that Jennifer Lawrence is a talented and beautiful actress, but her role in the X-men films is beginning to resemble that of Wolverine.  Mystique leading a team against Apocalypse?  Really?  Who thought that idea made sense?  This character is already far more important that she ever was in the comics, and her importance comes at the expense of other, more interesting characters.

c. Deadpool sequel please.  Of course this is bound to happen at some point, but I'm hoping it's sooner rather than later.  Cable also comes with the sequel.

d. X-Force.  It might be better to do this after a New Mutants film, especially since X-Force was a natural outgrowth of the New Mutants.  Having the mutants go "paramilitary" would be a great idea.

e. Get rid of Singer.  Really.  It's time for him to go.  I thought Days of Future Past deserved the critical praise it received, and Apocalypse may deserve similar accolades, but his version of the X-Men continues to look as if it's stuck in the past.  I'm also getting really, really tired of black leather body armor and the endless inclusion of Magneto.  Someone needs to do something new already.

f. Recast Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman has already stated that the third Wolverine will be his last run as the character.  And as much as I think the X-men film series owes its continued existence to him, it's high time we got a Wolverine that was rougher around the edges.  This, I think, should be done as soon as possible.