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Blockbuster Season 2015: The Wrap Up

As Hollywood begins launching its tentpole movies earlier and earlier in the year, summer has gone from a standard three-month season to a hulking behemoth of a period that sprawls over nearly half a year. Essentially, it’s been a long summer, filled with the usual glut of $100 million plus blockbuster CGI action etc. fests – but this year, those movies have come in an awful lot of different shapes and sizes. We’ve had outright classics, pleasant surprises and insulting failures – so, to mark the end of blockbuster season, here’s my retrospective of the handful of summer blockbusters I got to see:

The Instant Classic – Mad Max: Fury Road

This was my outright favourite movie of the summer by a fair margin, and I’d be willing to send any one of my two readers a good amount of money if it doesn’t end up at the top of my list at the end of the year. Okay, there were a couple of flaws here and there, but Fury Road was a genuine action masterpiece – a near-perfect combination of hugely capable, steady direction from George Miller, a lean and compact script that stuck doggedly to the ‘actions speak louder than words’ thing, and a thematic depth that would likely reward a whole lot of repeat viewings. In Furiosa, it had a heroine with more complexity and depth than the movie’s supposed lead (a good thing, mind), and it extended that inclusive attitude to the rest of the mostly female cast, who also possessed strong characterisation and few of the lazy ‘token female character’ tropes that often pop up in blockbusters. Perfectly, breathlessly paced, Fury Road was a non-stop rollercoaster ride of bonkers, thrilling action… okay, now I sound like a poster quote, but you get the point.

The Instant Disaster – Fantastic Four

The other side of the coin, then. My post-before-last was a lengthy rant about why Fantastic Four sucked balls, so I’ll keep this one short. Easily the worst movie of the summer, Fantastic Four was a horrendously messy hodge-podge of vaguely original but mostly dull science-fiction, insipid character drama, generic superhero angst and 80s arcade games (that’s the third act) that failed at just about everything that it put its mind to. If it found success with something, you could bet that idea would be gone pretty soon after. It’s clearly the result of the well-documented Josh Trank vs Fox dust-ups, with unfinished character arcs, inconsistent tone and a conclusion that doesn’t feel like the ending the movie should have had. Oh, and the movie’s only real action scene is about as exciting as an invasive medical procedure, so it’s a slog to get through even at the best points of the movie.

The Reliable Performer – Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

This may sound horrendously smug and self-satisfied, but the fact that the fifth Mission: Impossible was going to be good was never really in any doubt from me. Sure enough, despite kinda lukewarm pre-release buzz, Rogue Nation attracted critical acclaim and stellar box office receipts, just like its equally strong predecessor – and it’s completely deserved, for one of the best blockbusters of the summer. All the elements that worked in Ghost Protocol work here – Tom Cruise’s performance, the ensemble cast, the crazy practical-effects stunts, the propulsive pace, the relatively breezy tone, and some elements that were weaker last time around are improved upon, such as the villain (a slightly thin character, but still a huge improvement), the relentlessly innovative action set-pieces (including a three-in-one extended set-piece that encompasses two separate chases and an underwater heist without stopping for breath), and female lead (Rebecca Ferguson’s character is easily the movie’s most intriguing and complex character, and therefore the most compelling to watch). In short, it’s a sequel to a franchise that’s never been more confident – Rogue Nation doesn’t push the boat out too far, but it’s still a remarkably assured franchise entry.

The Best Dumb Movie – Furious 7

This is probably worth a qualifying statement – Furious 7 is the best dumb movie of the summer because it’s absolutely excellent at being really dumb. From the scene where Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson drives an ambulance onto a drone, rips out its minigun and starts firing, to the scene where the crew drive out of a plane that’s 35,000 up and live, to the moment where Vin Diesel drives a supercar between three massive skyscrapers, Furious 7 has more in common with a Looney Tunes cartoon than a serious action movie. But the dumbness is why it works – all of the insanity feels intentional, giving the whole movie a knowing self-awareness that makes the dumbness enjoyable to watch rather than frustrating. Basically, F & F at this point seems to be becoming a superhero franchise in all but name with over-the-top supervillains and indestructible heroes, and it’s all the better for it.

The Pleasant Surprise/Relief – Ant-Man

Most Marvel movies have some kind of production troubles nowadays, but Ant-Man‘s protracted, tumultuous production is probably the worst in recent memory. With acclaimed director Edgar Wright out, and a seemingly less exciting and more studio-friendly director in, a lot of people wrote off this movie last year as a likely rushed, homogenised and bland superhero origin story. The first, painfully generic, trailer, did not do much to assuage people, and I almost got on the ‘Ant-Man will suck’ anti-hype-train at this point. Later marketing was better, but there was still a niggling feeling that Ant-Man would break Marvel’s hot streak – but, thankfully not. Ant-Man is far from perfect, but it’s still a really fun and inventive action movie that actively benefits from shunning the large scale of most superhero movies for a more intimate, character-focused scope. And despite the negative buzz beforehand, Ant-Man scored higher on Rotten Tomatoes (in both user and critics) than Avengers: Age of Ultron. Was that deserved? Probably not (my opinion is fact, y’all), but it does reflect how Ant-Man‘s quality was a genuine relief for nervous Marvel fans.

The One That Got People Talking – Avengers: Age of Ultron

It’s a shame that I couldn’t give Age of Ultron a nicer title, but alas (I’m not pretentious). Joss Whedon’s sequel was actually a very entertaining movie with an impressive, if kinda flawed focus on character, but it’ll probably be remember as the sequel that sparked a hell of a lot of conversation. By including a huge amount of set-up and teases for future movies, it got people talking about the nature of expansive cinematic universes and what constitutes a satisfying experience for an individual movie. By including exploration of self-hatred and bringing the inability to have children into that, it got people talking about the superhero genre’s treatment of women and whether Joss Whedon was implying some slightly iffy things (he probably wasn’t, but hey). By making its villain, a homicidal robot, as quippy and sarcastic as its heroes, it got people talking about whether Marvel’s light-hearted tone takes the tension out of its movies. I could go on – almost every aspect of Age of Ultron sparked a lot of debate, and that’s kinda impressive.

The Best Use of Chris Pratt – Jurassic World

Admittedly, Chris Pratt only starred in one movie this summer, so Jurassic World‘s win is kinda by default, scooping up the highest accolade of this post purely by the fact that there was no other competition. Still, it does make good use of our lord and saviour, with Pratt delivering a reasonably charismatic and engaging performance as the decoy main character who has the personality of a shoe. I’d like to have seen more of Chris Pratt this year, but Jurassic World will just have to do.

So, there you go – summer’s drawn to a close, and the flow of blockbusters is gonna slow down an awful lot from here on out. It’s been a pretty great summer, however, and there’s still plenty of intriguing prospects for the autumn – The Martian, the final Hunger Games, Spectre, and the indie movie of the year; The Force Awakens. 

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Terminator Genisys Live Review: My Introduction to Jai Courtney

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REBRAND! Yep, the caterpillar that was Screen Machine has turned into… another caterpillar (aiming to be a butterfly soon). Since I’ve drifted away a little from TV coverage, I figured I may as well make it official and turn this into a pure film blog – so there’s your name change explanation. You may stop protesting, and shut down that ‘Bring Back Screen Machine’ petition with 1 signature. There’s also a snazzy new look, which should hopefully be a little more colourful and impactful than the other one. That, and I like the font.

However, as some things change, some others stay the same, which is why I’ve coughed up another one of my Live Reviews. Live Reviews, for those of you out of the loop (yep, all zero of you), are loosely based on the popular ‘review’ format (you may have heard of them), in which I watch a movie and make both critical analysis and shitty jokes at a ratio of about 1 critical comment to 15 shitty jokes. With summer winding down, I’m popping back to a few of the blockbusters I missed from this year – and one of the most notable was Terminator Genisys, the reboot/sequel/remake monstrosity that made an awful lot of critics angry. Is it that bad? Well, who knows, but I tried to find out anyway:

Spoilers, of course, lie below.

00:05:20 – Ah, good old Jai Courtney starting off the movie with 5 minutes of voiceover. No offence to the guy, but if the colour beige were a person, it would probably be Jai Courtney.

00:10:26 – Things were actually getting exciting… and then Jai Courtney started talking again.

00:17:26 – I’m kinda surprised Kyle Reese was cool with the whole ‘everyone staring at his fully naked body’ while he travels through time, but hey, maybe the apocalypse makes people more liberal with nudity.

00:20:23 – I have to say, an Arnold Schwarzenegger vs Arnold Schwarzenegger battle is something I never knew I needed in my life until now.

00:24:29 – This truly is a dark reboot of the Terminator franchise, in that I can’t actually see anything that’s going on right now.

00:31:21 – Hang on, Sarah named her Terminator ‘Pops?’. That sounds more like a breakfast cereal than a killing machine. Generally speaking, Terminators should not remind me of Rice Krispies.

00:37:52 – Plot summary thus far: Kyle is sent back in time and finds a Terminator that has also been sent back who saves him from a Terminator who was sent back who also destroyed another Terminator who was sent back, and now there might be another Terminator who wasn’t sent back what is going on

00:39:59 – There’s two Jai Courtneys on screen. One’s enough, thanks.

00:46:09 – Look up the word ‘convoluted’ in a dictionary, and you’ll find ‘Terminator Genisys’ as the definition, alongside a picture of Jai Courtney’s best acting face.

00:51:00 – I could really do without the constant (PG-13) nudity from time travel. It’s like extremely softcore pornography with complicated lectures on the nature of time travel instead of dirty talk.

00:57:06 – ‘Everything in my life, totally connected’. As well as being top realistic human being speech, it appears that the screenwriters are trying to pull a ‘the technologies is evils’ moral on us. Nah.

1:01:12 – Holy shit, John Connor’s back in 2017?! That said, that might not be John Connor as we know him, because the trailer told me that. Spoiler alert.

1:04:14 – Holy shit, it really is John?! That said, it could be a Terminator version of John, because the trailer told me that too. Spoiler alert.

1:06:55 – Holy shit, Arnold Schwarzenegger (I refuse to call him Pops) shot John?! That said, he’s probably not dead, and is probably resistant to bullets, because the trailer showed me that too. Spoiler alert.

1:08:01 – Holy shit, John’s a Terminator?! I wonder if he’ll survive this scene? I’m kidding, of course he will! The trailer showed me that too! (Spoiler alert!)

The bad running jokes end here, I promise.

1:15:09 – I haven’t found anything to make a joke about in the last few minutes. Insert Jai Courtney joke of your choosing to fill the gap.

I lied about the running jokes.

1:20:04 – I’m starting to think that ‘old, not obsolete’ is meant to be significant, given we’ve been told it three times. It’s almost like the franchise is referring to itself! For the record, that’s a little generous… it’s mostly obsolete.

1:22:46 – It’d be nice if the movie didn’t try to portray Kyle and Sarah as star-crossed lovers after two days during which they mostly disliked each other, you know? Wouldn’t that be swell?

1:24:49 – Sorry, screenwriters, but ‘Rule this!’ is the ‘badass comeback’ equivalent of saying ‘your mum’.

1:29:12 – Note to Hollywood: there are other bridges in the world other than the Golden Gate Bridge. Please use them, and not the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s had enough stress from apes, Magneto, Godzilla, kaiju and the massive earthquake Dwayne Johnson was involved in that one time recently.

1:34:31 – I think this helicopter chase has confused the abilities of helicopters with futuristic… space… hovering… uh, just not helicopters.

1:38:15 – ‘I’ll be back’. Like le original Terminator, geddit? Nostalgia?

1:41:57 – Drinking game! Take a sip when John Connor Terminator escapes a ridiculously overblown fake-out death situation and magically re-appears next to the heroes! Actually, don’t play it. It’d be a bit of a health hazard.

1:47:36 – Terminator Genisys is pulling off the impressive fear of making the imminent apocalypse feel completely stakes-free and vaguely boring!

1:50:40 –  Fair play, Arnold’s (NOT POPS) sacrifice is a great emotional moment that actually has some weight. Good stuff, Genisys.

1:54:33 – Oh. Looks like the magic silver gooey stuff brought him back. Dammit, Genisys.

1:57:42 – At least this is a nice and conclusive ending to the franchise, as Skynet’s clearly shown to be dead and gone here.

2:00:42 – God damn it, Genisys.

So, Terminator Genisys. It’s not actually as bad a movie as the Rotten Tomatoes score, or even the tone of this post (look, criticism is funnier) would suggest – Sarah Connor’s character is fairly complex, it’s generally entertaining in a way that fellow critical punching-bag Fantastic Four wasn’t, and there’s a handful of actually decent jokes. If you turned your brain off, you would probably have a good time, which is more than could be said for other critically panned movies. However, with the brain on, it’s a heavily flawed movie, and one that can only be described as mediocre.

The mythology elements are boring and nonsensical, the movie ties itself in knots trying to set up the time travel stuff, there’s at least two or three too many overblown action sequences, it doesn’t explore the most interesting concepts it introduces in any detail, (John Connor’s transformation, the impact of Genisys on society), and the final act is pretty bad, culminating in a one-two-three punch of an embarrassing cop-out regarding Arnold the Terminator’s ‘death’, a completely unearned romantic moment for Sarah and Kyle (who are soulmates 4 life, ignoring the fact they’ve known each other for a few days) and a horrendously lazy post-credits stinger that uses the irritating ‘but the villain actually survived the thing that should have destroyed them!’ trope to bring Skynet back for more sequels, completely negating the entire movie in the process.

The next Live Review will be a bit of a first – the first ever review done with another human person! What movie? That’d be Minions. Shit.

Posted in Reviews, Unoriginal Thoughts

Up in Flames – Unoriginal Thoughts on Fantastic Four

Even by the turbulent standards of superhero movies, Fantastic Four has had a dramatic production. From major reshoots to director-vs-studio battles, it’s all come out over the past couple of weeks – things on the set of Fox’s reboot were even worse than the reports during production had indicated. Since then, it’s hit cinemas to a near-universal critical panning, with 8% on Rotten Tomatoes, a venomous fan and audience reaction and lukewarm box office receipts that are struggling to reach half of what modest hit and also-troubled Ant-Man had reached at this point.

With director Josh Trank having trashed his own movie and burned bridges himself, Fantastic Four is the most toxically received superhero movie since… well, probably Batman & Robin. I only just saw it, interested to see just how bad it was… but was it really that bad?

Unfortunately, though it’s far from irredeemable, Fantastic Four is at no point a ‘good’ movie. The best it can scrape up from the bombed-out mess of its production is a sort of passably written, vaguely innovative mediocrity that could probably lead to a fairly average movie if that standard was held up throughout the movie. It’s not, and ‘relatively okay’ is the best Fantastic Four really gets. It reaches these dizzy 6/10 heights mostly during the first act, a section of the movie that clearly fits the pre-release hype from Trank and writer Simon Kinberg. Sure, it’s pretty dull, but the first act introduces a bit of heart in the form of the firm friendship between Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. It’s an unconventional, kind of sweet friendship that’s entirely dropped from the film after about fifteen minutes and returned to for a couple of short scenes midway through. Herein lies the problem with the movie – there’s flickers of goodness, such as the introduction of Richards and Grimm’s odd couple friendship, but that goodness is swiftly chucked out for more mediocrity that never amounts to anything.

It would be kind to Fantastic Four to even say that the first act is all good. It’s not really, even if it’s actually passable for the most part – once Reed meets Sue Storm, Victor von Doom and Johnny Storm to build the ‘Quantum Gate’ that can teleport matter to an alternate dimension, the movie begins to taper off. It spends an awful lot of time with these characters, but never actually fleshes them out in any meaningful way – Victor, for instance, is a identikit anarchist with an utterly generic ‘unrequited love’ motivation, and we never really learn any more from that. The unconventional relationship between adopted daughter Sue and her surrogate father and brother is set up, but amounts to absolutely nothing apart from a cheap little ‘funny accent’ gag. Reed and Johnny are shown to have hit it off at later points during the movie, but this process isn’t seen – it’s up to the viewers to sketch all of the details in. There’s nothing that even resembles an action sequence until the foursome’s trip to Planet Zero halfway through – and you’d kind of expect some good character work to fill that gap. It doesn’t, at all, with the movie’s character work amounting to half-made ideas that never reach fruition, leaving most of the first act as a plodding ball of mediocrity that cares far more about the mechanics of the foursome’s ‘Quantum Gate’ then the interplay between characters.

Okay, some things do work – there is a sense of exploration and wonder that permeates the strongest parts of this movie as the foursome prepare for a ground-breaking journey into the unknown, and Reg E Cathey’s warm presence as patriarch Franklin Storm helps to add a bit of heart to the otherwise kinda dry sequences. To be perfectly honest, if the tone of the first act is what Josh Trank would have made the entire movie look like, this movie would have been okay – a little dull, and with disappointingly flat characters, but it still would have been a relatively new take on superheroes that’s anchored firmly in the realms of hard science-fiction. Even after the accident (a scene that’s not particularly good, and features some of the dumbest decision-making from trained scientists since Prometheus), Trank’s ‘vision’ remains relatively intact. The movie actually peaks here, with a couple of scenes introducing the audience to the Four’s new powers that are genuinely clever and innovative, utilising visuals that really underline the horror of the Four’s new ‘conditions’. The scenes are fresh, new, and indicate a take on superheroics that would be divisive but still original for the superhero genre. Trank teased ‘body horror’ for this movie, and that’s exactly what these two scenes deliver in spades. Things, at this point, really seem to be picking up.

Then, with one on-screen subtitle, it all goes very wrong. The second half of the movie is a steep downhill slope in quality, consisting of messy ‘character work’ that’s even drained of the ambition and wonder that made the first act at least a tiny bit interesting. It’s here where the tape and glue used to stick this movie back together during production is all too prominent – an incoherent, even more dull set of scenes that don’t really work on any level. Half the time, it’s army guys walking through rooms pointing at the Four and saying how incredible their powers are. The other half, it’s the Four angsting about how horrible their powers are. Even the kernels of good stuff that’s still buried deep within the mess of this second half come to nothing, discarded during a third act that… I’ll talk about later, as it needs to be talked about at length. It’s just hard to see the storytelling logic at work in this second half – it doesn’t reflect the sci-fi wonder of the first act, the brief flickers of body horror midway through, the politically weighty grit of the Dark Knight movies or the colourful fun of Marvel’s movies. It’s just a complete mess, as the writers evidently thrash around for a direction to take the story in. The idea of the army using some of the Four as weapons? Good on paper, but it’s a concept that we’re told about rather than actually witnessing, and it doesn’t come to anything. The superheroes experiencing varying levels of angst as they develop hugely differing opinions on their powers? Good on paper, but those differences in opinion are tossed away for a traditional CGI final battle. I could go on and on – the filmmakers certainly scroll through a lot of subplots and concepts in search of a way to end this trainwreck, but once they find a new idea the old one is lost in the abyss. Thankfully, in the last 15-20 minutes, they land on something.

I’m prone to a bit of hyperbole, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that the third act of Fantastic Four (which lasts about 15 minutes) is the most irredeemably noxious pile of ripe animal dung you’ll see in cinemas this year. Think that’s over the top? Nope. After staying just mediocre enough to avoid dipping into ‘so bad it’s good’ levels, Fantastic Four takes a deep dive into accidental parody territory in the last 20 minutes – except it goes beyond ‘entertaining trash’, to the point where the awfulness feels vaguely offensive on a personal level, as if Miles Teller had burst out of the screen to personally tell me I have no friends. Anyway, the final act. It’s the only real action sequence of this deeply dull movie that feels longer than any superhero movie released lately despite being a good 30-40 minutes shorter than most superhero movies, so you’d expect the filmmakers to go all out. But nope. What we get is a final fight that fails to understand the basic mechanics of audience investment – a lot of CGI is inevitable in superhero movies, but the audience need something tangibly familiar to hold onto amidst the computer-generated chaos. That’s unbelievably easy to accomplish – just plop the action on Earth, and the CGI action immediately feels more real, helping the audience to actually respond to the chaos going on.

Fantastic Four fails even that, setting the action in a deeply ugly CGI world populated by CGI structures. The action itself features mostly-CGI heroes flying around and shooting bits of CGI at a CGI villain standing on a CGI platform. The CGI villain’s plan involves a CGI beam of light into the sky, which creates a CGI hole in the sky sucking bits of CGI up from Earth into the CGI world – and to stop the CGI heroes, the villain shoots CGI back at them to stop the heroes’ CGI attacks. See how many times I just typed CGI? That’s the final act in a nutshell – an orgy of computer generated things flying about that’s so untethered from reality that we might as well be playing an old PS2 video game, because that’s about the level of quality that the third act can reach. Even more hilariously, the entire battle lasts about 5-10 minutes, and is staged exactly like a PS2 boss fight, where the heroes have to shoot at a boss standing high above on a platform, decreasing his health and dodging his attacks. It’s just horrendously bad – a perfect storm of bad writing, bad direction, bad CGI and bad acting that combine to create something terrible.

Perhaps the worst thing about the final act, though, is Dr Doom. I should say that I don’t tend to read comics, so I have no major attachment to the characters this movie pisses all over – but even to me, this movie’s incarnation of Dr Doom is an insult. He’s vaguely OK in the first act, but after his turn to villainy he’s… well, I have no idea. It’s similar to X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘s weird take on Deadpool – a needlessly major change to a character with tons of potential that only serves to turn him into an utter joke. Here, Doom is turned from the charismatic supervillain dictator of the comics to a terrifying cross between a homeless person, a crash test dummy, and a Christmas tree. I didn’t laugh at any of the jokes in this movie, but I couldn’t help myself when the movie zoomed in for a close up on Doom (see below). The dreadful design is only the tip of the iceberg, though – Doom’s further sunk by the appalling scripting (‘THERE IS NO VICTOR, ONLY DOOM’ is a real, actual line, performed entirely seriously) and nonsensical logic behind his powers (it’s never really explained how he survived, how exactly he got them given the movie is very specific about how the Four get their particular powers, what the powers actually are, and why Doom doesn’t use his insta-kill head explosion powers on the Four immediately). People complain, rightly, about Marvel Studios’ thinly written villains, but Doom is another level of dreadfulness – it’s literally impossible to ascertain what the filmmakers were actually thinking of accomplishing with this character.

Not to be upstaged, this movie leaves us on a toe-curling moment of cringe that shows Fox’s eagerness to set up a franchise. Left in the dust, because of that eagerness, are key conflicts and plot points that are wiped from the table so the movie can leave the Four in an ideal position for sequels. And, in all honesty, Fox should leave it here. Swallow their pride, throw in the towel, and focus more on the infinitely better X-Men franchise. As for the Four? As a fan, I’d love for the characters to shift back to Marvel Studios, as I think they can genuinely be redeemed there. Realistically, I think Fox should put this franchise on ice – Marvel or no, they’ve proved twice that Fox cannot make a good Fantastic Four movie. Maybe they’re not suited to film? Who knows – but either way, it’s time for the Four to go into hibernation…

Fantastic Four, then. If production had been smoother, maybe this would have been a good movie. Maybe it would simply be mediocre, reflecting the bits of the movie that seem to be wholly Josh Trank’s. Or maybe it was never going to work out. As it is, we have a movie that’s unsatisfying as a character exploration (nowhere near enough development), origin story (some of the most exciting parts of an origin are skipped, and the Four don’t even seem that well formed at movie’s end), action movie (the only set-piece is cinematic garbage), or innovative and intriguing new take on superheroes (there’s glimmers, but a lot of this movie is more generic than Marvel’s supposedly homogenised movie). If it’s not the worst superhero movie I’ve ever seen, it’s damn close. In a year where we’ve had a surprisingly introspective Avengers sequel and a genuinely good Ant-Man movie, Fantastic Four is a disappointing step back for the genre as a whole. No sequels, please.

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Live Review: Man of Steel

Many moons ago, once upon a time, I did a couple of posts where I ‘reviewed’ (i.e. made bad jokes I came up with in the spur of the moment) movies as I watched them, and promised it would be a regular thing. Two months later, it is not a regular thing – but hey, here’s another one of these things, just so people can stop standing outside my house yelling ‘BRING LIVE REVIEWS BACK’. I mean, they haven’t, but if they had done, then they would be leaving at this point. So there.

This time, it’s another superhero movie (I actually planned to do one for Furious 7 recently, but forgot to take notes as I watched it – for the record, good movie, great ending, not enough Jason Statham) – perhaps the most divisive superhero movie of the last few years, and that’s saying something. I’ve made a few jabs at Man of Steel‘s dark and gritty revisionist take on Superman here before, but how does the actual movie measure up?

Spoilers, of course, lie below.

00:01:30 –  Man of Steel‘s very first scene is Superman’s mother painfully giving birth. Much dark, very gritty, so dramatic. Wow.

00:05:40 – It does start as it means to go on, with an entire (alien) city being shot to pieces, accompanied by several huge explosions. Michael Bay would be proud.

00:10:48 – ‘Goodbye, my son. Our hopes and dreams travel with you.’ No pressure, then Kal. Jor El’s one of those terrible, really demanding parents, isn’t he? Good thing he wasn’t around for Clark’s exams.

00:14:32 – Oh, no, RIP Russell Crowe, going out with a vintage ‘oh deary me, just been stabbed’ face. Lesson for the future, kids – never gape up at the sky when a bad guy is conscious and holding a very sharp weapon right next to you.

00:18:09 – Hang on, we’re still on Krypton?

00:20:13 – Cut to fishing boat, because what all previous Superman movies had been missing was a fishing sequence. Clearly. (Note from the future: disappointing lack of actual fishing in this scene)

00:22:42 – Clark’s doing a crucifixion pose. Gee, I wonder what that reminds me of? Visionary director Zack Snyder is clearly trying to get something across here.

00:26:19 – Does Clark just walk around getting constant, really vivid flashbacks from everything he sees? ‘Oh look, a pencil! That reminds me of that time when…’

00:29:22 – Jonathan Kent, being introduced by implying that Clark should have let a bunch of innocent kids die slowly. What a swell guy!

00:31:50 – Credit where credit is due – the scenes between young Clark and his dad are some of the best dramatic scenes of the movie, even if the choice to dump a bunch of flashbacks right after the extended prologue is… kinda misguided.

00:34:00 – That guy at the bar is an asshole. I hope Clark does a small thing to punish… wait, he destroyed the guy’s car? Okay then.

00:38:23 – This movie is terribly paced. We’re almost 40 minutes in, and it doesn’t really feel like anything has really happened yet apart from the mostly unnecessary Krypton. That’s what you get for dumping all the flashbacks at the start of the movie, Snyder.

00:43:31 – ‘I’m a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer’, And Other Things Real Human Beings Say to People They Know Really Well, coming soon to every shitty bookstore.

00:46:00 – Good old Russell Crowe. He’s an actor, of course, but he apparently also doubles up as a university lecturer of the famous subject, ‘Fictional Planet History’!

00:52:20 – Okay, so Superman’s first flight is a really great scene that nails how damn cool it really is to be Superman… in a movie that’s about how difficult and exhausting it is to be Superman.

00:57:24 – I thought that Jonathan Kent’s death scene made sense on first viewing, but nope. It’s just really, really dumb. ‘NO, STOP CLARK! I COULD PROBABLY TRY AND LIMP FROM THIS TORNADO WITHOUT YOU HELPING, BUT I HAVE A POINT TO PROVE HERE!’

01:03:27 – ‘Zod’s back! Remember? The guy who disappeared 45 minutes ago and has barely been mentioned since? Guys? This is a big deal, guys!’ – Zack Snyder, clearly

01:09:08 – Superman is framed behind a portrait of Jesus before his crucifixion, while he contemplates giving himself up to an evil member of his ‘race’ to save everyone. Get it? Do you get what visionary Zack Snyder is trying to get across here yet?

01:11:40 – The movie almost names Superman, but stops. They couldn’t be having those silly codenames in our serious and dramatic superhero (it’s basically a Biblical epic, obviously) film, could they? Oh no. This is an adult film that tackles many serious themes, you see. Codenames are for kids, and small children, and people who don’t understand what visionary Zack Snyder is trying to get across here.

01:17:10 – The idea of Superman struggling in Krypton’s atmosphere because he’s basically a citizen of Earth? Good! That being conveyed by Superman coughing up blood in max edgy style? Not so good.

01:19:22 – Oh, yeah, another exposition dump! I love exposition dumps almost as much as I love terrible Jesus symbolism!

01:27:01 – Superman’s doing another crucifixion pose, just after being told by his powerful and basically immortal dad that he can go down to Earth and save the human race. I know it’s been subtle, but what visionary Zack Snyder has been trying to get across all along is that Superman is meant to be like Jesus! Don’t look so surprised.

01:29:31 – ‘WHERE IS THE CODEX?’, from the makers of ‘WHERE ARE THEY?’ and ‘WHERE IS THE TRIGGER?’. ‘WHERE IS THE CODEX? YOU’D NEVER GIVE IT TO AN ORDINARY CITIZEN!’

01:30:00 – Superman kicking off the action by taking the fight into a populated area and blowing up a gas station! You go, hero!

01:32:37 – The army are getting in on it too, by shooting up a street with fighter jets! Everybody wins! Everybody gets to accidentally kill innocent civilians!

It was at this point that Amazon crashed, so the action here jumps forward a day in time, where my ears were hurting less from the constant noise of the action, and I was slightly less desensitised to explosions.

01:41:52 – I do love Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack, but I wish the guy would chill out just a bit with the volume every now and then.

01:44:35 – ‘They’re terraforming!’ ‘Wut’s dat?’, replies a fully trained US army soldier. This is probably why David S Goyer is currently out of a job.

01:49:20 – This movie sure does love the military, featuring them in the action just about as much as Superman. Mmm, jets shooting CGI missiles at CGI objects… that’s what I go see a Superman movie for.

01:53:09 – The constant dubstep beats that the World Engine lets out as it destroys Metropolis takes a little tension out of these scenes. That, and it gives me extremely vivid Amazing Spider-Man 2 flashbacks.

02:00:04 – Superman and Lois’ kiss just makes me realise how badly undercooked their whole relationship is. They have one, maybe two actual conversations, and they’re suddenly in love. Um, alrighty.

02:02:09 – Also, Man of Steel has an exact moment where Zod is kneeling before Superman, where things could quite easily have been wrapped up. But nope, overly noisy and destructive final fight it is.

02:04:56 – ‘WHERE DID YOU TRAIN? ON A FARM?!’ – It was at this moment when I realised that Michael Shannon is not a great actor, partially because he sounds like he’s permanently chewing gum when he’s speaking.

02:08:05 – Oh, Superman just killed Zod. The idea fits this edgy new version of Superman, but the execution, where Superman has many alternatives besides killing that could have stopped Zod, is pretty poor. Maybe Superman just wanted one more kill for good luck after the hundreds he’s racked up during the final fight? Also, there are actually citizens alive in Metropolis after all that? Wow, I’m impressed. That’s some good restraint from visionary director Zack Snyder.

02:12:25 – In this dark and gritty Superman reboot, no-one still recognises Clark Kent when he puts some glasses on and messes up his hair. Guess some things never change…

So, Man of Steel – a well-intentioned movie, certainly, with lofty ambitions of being a serious and dramatic new take on Superman, but one where the execution turns the potential into a deeply flawed, pretentious slog with frequent obnoxious symbolism, an overlong third act, a weird focus on the military and a general feeling that this is not really how a Superman movie should be. There’s some good character stuff, but this is one dark and gritty reboot that falls flat. Good thing Batman and Wonder Woman are in the sequel.

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The Definitive Guide to All 24 Upcoming Superhero Movies

Why, hello there. It’s been a while. Yep, it’s absolutely been two and a half weeks since my last post, in which time this blog has withered away a little. Please ignore the poison ivy growing on the wall. I’ve actually been doing legitimate things in the meantime (I know, it’s scary), which has swallowed up a lot of my free time – but now things are easing up a little on that front, posts should become a little more frequent. To start off again, here’s a good old formulaic comic book movie post with a double digit number in the title. I am original.

As a side effect of the new popularity of expansive shared universes for comic book adaptations, the amount of upcoming comic book movies has mushroomed to an amount that’s had many internet commentators fearing for the very existence of film itself (I’m sure it’ll be okay, but there you go). With the five-year-plus wave of comic book movies scheduled to truly kick off next year, here’s a novel-length, 10,000 word preview of each and every one of the sequels, origin stories and mega-blockbuster-team-up-buzzword-events coming from the four colour world from 2016 to 2020:

Deadpool (February 12th, 2016)

What’s it about? Dying ex-Special Forces mercenary Wade Wilson is given a second chance via a special treatment that transforms him into the fourth-wall breaking anti-hero Deadpool, a guy who’s more interested in blowing people’s brains out in really creative ways than saving the planet. Chaos, eleven million F bombs and plenty of really immature yet oddly funny jokes ensues as Deadpool runs into heroes Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (yes, really) on a search for the man who destroyed his life.

Reasons to look forward to it: As comic book movies go, Deadpool is unusual to say the least. It’s the first explicitly R-rated blockbuster in ages, it’s more of an action comedy than a straightforward action movie, and it’s a movie that will frequently smash the fourth wall to tiny pieces via Deadpool’s quips to camera. The recent trailer looks genuinely funny and energetic, and there’s every chance it could be a great palate cleanser before the darker fare 2016 will serve up. It’s made clearly for the fans, and there’s been a lot of love poured into what seemed to be a trouble-free production (unlike, erm, another of Deadpool‘s Marvel stablemates at Fox). Done right, this could be a cult masterpiece.

Reasons to be apprehensive: The trailer above is undoubtedly funny, but some of the gags aren’t all that funny. In a two minute trailer, that’s fine, as the next, genuinely funny joke is just a few seconds off – but in a movie, that’s far harder to pull off, indicating the possibility of frequently unfunny stretches that really do make a mark on the movie’s quality. Most importantly, though, Deadpool‘s fourth wall quip/mega-gore shtick is a gimmick, and it’s one that might not stretch out to two-odd hours. If the directors don’t vary the humour a little, there’s the risk that Deadpool could run out of steam fast and just end up obnoxious by the end, with the fourth wall gimmick losing all its novelty well before the credits roll. Yup, how’s that for a party pooper?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25th, 2016)

What’s it about? After the events of Man of Steel‘s demolition derby finale, the world’s feeling a little uneasy about the presence of Superman (understandably, considering the amount of innocent people he probably killed in the crossfire in the previous movie) – but no one is more uneasy than Gotham’s good ol’ rebooted vigilante, Batman. Having been in the game for 20 years, Batman is so angsty at this point that his initial reaction is to eliminate Superman from the picture – and as Superman loves killing people, this ends in a bit of a scrap. Meanwhile, billionaire Lex Luthor is prepping something that will probably force the two together…

Reasons to look forward to it: Batman v Superman! If you squint, there’s a lot to be sceptical about here, but BATMAN V SUPERMAN!! It’s a killer concept, never done before on live action, and this is backed up by a recent extended trailer that revealed some really intriguing backstory coupled with tantalising shots of the heroes fighting. The movie’s take on Batman, as a veteran vigilante who’s lived through the bulk of the defining events in Batman’s life in the comics already (take the Robin suit in the latest trailer, indicating that Jason Todd has been and gone here), is a clever and original one that simply and effectively distinguishes Ben Affleck’s take from the still recent Nolan movies. Add in a substantial appearance from Wonder Woman and the replacing of the writer of Man of Steel‘s subpar script, David S Goyer (sorry Davey) and you have a movie that looks fantastic on paper.

Reasons to be apprehensive: Movies are not written on paper. Well, they are, but not in that way. And they’re typed nowadays, so there! (Except when they’re printed, but I digress). Anyway, there’s an awful lot that could go wrong here. Zack Snyder seemed to be at fault for some, if not all of the problems in Man of Steel, and considering he’s back here, similar mistakes could be made again. The tone has been continuously described as weighty, and more grounded – that’s perfectly fine, but the ‘dark and gritty’, pseudo-Shakespearian approach to superheroes looks worryingly pretentious on paper. There’s a fine line between weighty and po-faced, and there’s no guarantee that Dawn of Justice won’t cartwheel over that line with a misguided approach to a concept that, as mentioned above, looks awesome on paper.

Captain America: Civil War (May 6th, 2016)

Captain-America-3-Civil-War-Cap-vs-Iron-Man-artworkWhat’s it about? In Captain America’s third and presumably final ‘solo outing’, Cap and Iron Man’s friendship is fractured after an international incident involving Cap’s new Avengers team leads to governments introducing a global Superhero Registration Act to regulate all superhuman activity. Disagreeing on the whole shebang, Cap and Iron Man divvy up a list of available superheroes into two opposing factions and duke it out over good ol’ moral disagreements about the nature of freedom. While they fight, HYDRA nutbag Baron Zemo plots ze evil plan to destroy ze vurld (or plots something slightly smaller scale – who knows?).

Reasons to be excited: Civil War was a great comic book that’s mired in the intriguing moral greyness that pervades some of the best superhero movies like The Winter Soldier – and Marvel’s never been in a better state to pull off an adaptation. After several movies apiece, we’re invested in the characters of Captain America and Iron Man, so seeing them duking it out will have an impact that Batman v Superman simply can’t have. There’s also a long list of mid-tier superheroes to fill out the ranks of the two factions, ensuring plenty of enjoyable spectacle that delivers on the comic book’s huge gathering of heroes – including the first look at the new Spider-Man, cleverly introduced to the MCU here in the warm comforts of a brief role in an ensemble movie. Most of all, though, the directing team of Joe and Anthony Russo are a damn safe pair of hands having directed The Winter Soldier, and their return here bodes very well indeed for this one, including the chance to resolve the intriguing Bucky arc in style here.

Reasons to be apprehensive: By the time this comes out next May, Avengers: Age of Ultron will only be a year old. Normally, that would be fine, but Civil War includes so many superheroes that it seems to be an Avengers flick in all but name. This can be partially zigzagged by relegating most superheroes to window dressing as Cap takes the lead, but the cast list certainly looks overstuffed for a solo movie – if not managed correctly, the huge cast could swallow up the hugely interesting character and solo plotlines of Captain America and cough out an Avengers-lite sequel that’s basically just another big-ambition Marvel ensemble movie. The Russos are certainly talented, but it’s gonna take a hell of a lot to assemble the huge cast into roles that neither squander the characters nor magnify their role in order to diminish Captain America’s.

X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27th, 2016)

X-Men-Apocalypse-Storm-and-Psylocke

What’s it about? A decade or so after the time-warping events of Days of Future Past, ancient mutant and all round powerful guy En Sabah Nur or Apocalypse (much catchier) pops up to create all sorts of destruction, recruiting four mutants as his Horsemen, including a bearded Magneto Fassbender. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier continues his path towards becoming Patrick Stewart by setting up a school for mutants, recruiting younger versions of familiar faces and training them up…

Reasons to be excited: Like Civil War, we’re in safe-ish hands here. Bryan Singer nailed the shit out of Days of Future Past, creating a franchise classic that impressively juggled a huge cast whilst cleaning up the tangled mess that the franchise had become by the time this prequel trilogy rolled around. Apocalypse gives the chance for the franchise to play with a new central villain – Magneto’s a great character and all, but he’s been a major villain in four movies at this point, so Apocalypse offers the ideal chance for the franchise to explore a villain that’s extremely different to our tortured metal-morphing friend. In addition, the disaster movie influences that Singer has talked up provides an intriguing and refreshing tonal shift for a series that’s now excelling at them – provided that things don’t go too Michael Bay, the path is open for Apocalypse to carve its own niche in the enormous X-canon. In short, the X-franchise has gotten its good will back, and I’m excited to see where it all goes next.

Reasons to be apprehensive: A massive cast – yes, that old chestnut (becoming a bit of a common theme already). The cast seems to be even bigger than Days of Future Past, which only avoided collapsing by delegating more obscure characters into cool but small foot-soldier roles – with many of the new additions being younger versions of major characters like Jean Grey and Storm rather than obscure and often new characters that DOFP served up in minor roles, it’s gonna be harder to successfully juggle a cast without shortchanging any major characters too much.

Suicide Squad (August 5th, 2016)

What’s it about? The US government are assholes. That’s not a loaded political statement – that’s just pointing out that the tactics they use in Suicide Squad are a little bit dumb. Terrible joke out of the way, Suicide Squad sees government official Amanda Waller assemble a team of colourful super-villains on suicide missions in order to ‘do some good’. If the mission goes bad, the government deny involvement. If the Squad go rogue, the explosive chips implanted into them do their work.

Reasons to be excited: The comic book genre has been consistently diversifying tonally in recent years, but Suicide Squad is another genuinely new proposition. A movie where the heroes are despicable psychopaths is undoubtedly an interesting new step, and the trailer shows off a bonkers tone and aesthetic that shows that this is a DC movie that’s not afraid to embrace the villains’ wacky comic book roots (yep, Killer Croc is on board here) – in short, this one looks unashamed to be fun. The power duo of Harley Quinn, making her first appearance in live action, and the Joker, reinvented here by an encouragingly crazy Jared Leto, should spice things up even further, and there’s plenty of potential for this movie to be a completely fresh addition to DC’s expanded movie universe. Flipping the entire notion of a hero vs villain movie on its head may not pay off, but if this is done right, this could be a huge turning point for the genre itself.

Reasons to be apprehensive: I’ve said before that Suicide Squad, with its cast of thoroughly dislikable protagonists, certainly fits into the DC universe’s grim ‘n’ gritty tone – but there’s a danger that things could be pushed too far. With director David Ayer literally sending his actors to boot camp beforehand, Suicide Squad is running the risk of becoming overly, obnoxiously edgy; more concerned about shock value and enforcing a tone of gritty darkness than creating an enjoyable comic book movie. The right balance needs to be found between grit and heightened fun – too many shock value moments created for internet discussion, and Suicide Squad will fall to pieces, not truly able to tell its own story without trying to one-up itself in the gritty stakes.

NOTE: From here on out, details become much more thin on the ground. There’ll be a lot of informed comic speculation, so bear in mind that all of this is hypothetical and subject to studios tinkering with origin stories and whatnot.

Gambit (October 7th, 2016)

Channing-Tatum-wanted-for-Gambit-movie

What’s it about? New Orleans-based mutant thief Remy LeBeau aka Gambit has the power to manipulate kinetic energy – with that power, presumably, he’ll fight a bad guy. Yep, not an awful lot to say about this one.

Reasons to be excited: Gambit recently signed up director Rupert Wyatt, who did a fantastic job with another blockbuster, Rise of the Planet of the Apes – with the presence of the likeable Channing Tatum in the lead role and a handful of really good actresses testing for the female lead, there’s a solid base here for an enjoyable extension to the X-universe. There’s the chance to go smaller scale and more contained, eschewing the ballooning scope of the main movies for a more focused and character-based tale that does justice to a major character whose only previous appearance was a brief role in all-round shit show X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Reasons to be apprehensive: Does this movie even really need to exist? With Gambit bringing the number of X-Men universe movies next year to three (higher than Marvel themselves or DC), this spin-off sticks out like a sore thumb by possessing no real unique selling point. Unlike the R-rated, heavily stylised Deadpool, it’ll be extremely hard to craft this into a movie that avoids slipping into generic origin story territory – Gambit might be a bit of a dick at times, but he’s still yet another brooding superhero with not that much to distinguish him by. In this growing genre, comic book movies need a unique reason to exist that distinguishes them from the rest; and unfortunately, it’s hard to see how Gambit could be turned into an essential entry into the genre. Gambit might not be the least appetising movie on this list, but the character himself feels much more like an ensemble player rather than a lead capable of carrying his own $150 million movie, even if he is played by Channing ‘HAHAHAHAHA‘ Tatum.

Doctor Strange (November 4th, 2016)

What’s it about? Genius neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, essentially the medical equivalent of Tony Stark, has his life and ego torn to pieces in an accident that damages the nerves in his hands. Unsurprisingly, it’s tricky to be a surgeon without using your hands, so Strange pops off on a quest to fix them, leading to his discovery of a mysterious figure called the Ancient One, who instead teaches him sorcery. In the process, Strange faces off against one of the Ancient One’s pupils, Baron Mordo…

Reasons to be excited: Some corners of the internet may have been unhappy at his casting, but Benedict Cumberbatch is a pretty damn exciting addition to the MCU – and the role of Doctor Strange is one that plays directly to his strengths, with plenty of mysticism combined with an initially huge ego (just like his Sherlock, then). Doctor Strange also allows the chance for the MCU to delve into a brand new corner of the mythology, exploring the world of sorcery with trippy and unique visuals that should easily give Doctor Strange its own unique visual identity as it portrays Strange’s experience (think the ending of Ant-Man, multiplied by 100). With the chance to organically expand the MCU’s mythology and tell a fresh and intriguing origin story at the same time, Doctor Strange certainly seems like one to watch…

Reasons to be apprehensive: While certain elements are entirely unique for superhero movies, others are pretty similar. Strange’s initial character and eventual character development seem, on paper, to be extremely similar to the similarly ego-driven Tony Stark – while watching Stark learn humility and become a hero was intriguing, Doctor Strange faces the risk of retreading that character journey with a different end destination and a lick of paint. At a time where origin stories are getting a tad stale, Doctor Strange needs to play heavily into its unique elements in order to avoid becoming yet another standard white male hero origin story in a genre already overstuffed with them…

‘Wow, that was a lot of words’, I hear you say. I hear you readying the mouse to close the tab. Don’t! There’s only, like, 75% more of this article left.

Wolverine 3 (March 3, 2017)

What’s it about? Hugh Jackman’s third and final Wolverine solo movie is still a while off production, so it’s hard to truly say how this one will go down. From hints that Jackman’s given, however, it seems as if his final appearance as Logan will loosely adapt the comic book storyline Old Man Logan in some form – that comic saw an older version of Wolverine towards the end of his life, battling villains in a dystopian future.

Reasons to be excited: After seven appearances in X-Men movies and seventeen years (by the time this movie rolls around), Hugh Jackman’s finally hanging up the claws here. That’s obviously a little sad, but it does give this solo movie a compelling reason to exist – with the need to keep Logan active for sequels and spin-offs removed, director James Mangold is free to do something bold with the character, like killing him off, or sending him into permanent retirement. This ups the unpredictability factor, increasing the excitement as audiences are allowed to genuinely wonder of Logan will make it out of this one. Even if Logan is kept in play and recast or kept alive, making this a definitive finale for Jackman is a smart choice that should help give Jackman the send-off he deserves.

Reasons to be apprehensive: Final appearance or not, does the world need another Wolverine movie? The character’s not exactly been hard done by in film, having played a major role in almost every X-Men movie including the ensemble pieces, so a third solo movie risks the chance of Wolverine burn-out, with the franchise running out of new things to do with the character. Furthermore, the Wolverine solo movies have been a little patchy – as mentioned last part, X-Men Origins was cinematic faeces, and even the superior The Wolverine  was kinda forgettable as it suffered from a generic third act, a boring villain and a lack of stakes. With The Wolverine director James Mangold back for this one, this third solo outing has an uphill battle on its hands to match the quality of the recent, stronger prequel movies. On the bright side, it’s James Mangold, and not Origins director Gavin Hood, so this movie’s unlikely to look like a topographical map of Utah (hot reference for you there).

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5th, 2017)

What’s it about? Like Wolver3ne (geddit?), it’s hard to tell what Vol. 2 will be about. Teases from James Gunn have indicated that Star Lord’s missing dad will play a major role here, and that almost every surviving player from the first movie, including the villainous Nebula (who wisely scarpered before the proverbial hit the fan for Ronan in the first movie) will return. Purple-headed mega-villain Thanos is likely to pop up again, and the good ol’ Infinity Stones will rear their curiously uninteresting head again if Thanos is making a showing. Oh boy, I love me some Infinity Stones.

Reasons to be excited: Regular readers of this blog (all three of you, including me) will know that I love Guardians of the Galaxy – and part of that movie’s success was down to director James Gunn and the endearingly wacky visuals and strong script he brought to the table. He’s back here, so that bodes very well indeed. The characters of the Guardians were introduced strongly in the first movie, giving the opportunity for Vol. 2 to put some meat on the bones and really dig into some of the characters’ psyches – and do justice to some characters who were shortchanged last time, like strangely bland female lead Gamora. That, and yet another killer soundtrack (Awesome Mix Vol. 2, anyone?), should make this sequel a winner.

Reasons to be apprehensive: I don’t really love Infinity Stones. The six MacGuffins have bogged down every movie they’ve appeared in with tedious mythology and generic villains in pursuit of them (the Infinity Stones subplot in Age of Ultron felt like it had been crammed into a finished cut, kicking and screaming) – and as an Infinity Stone is stashed on the planet Xandar, the colourful gems are likely to crop up again here in more set-up for Infinity War. If they play a small role, that’s fine, but like Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World there’s the risk that Vol. 2 could become weighed down by the necessary set-up, and disappear up itself with an excess of really uninteresting set-up that doesn’t add to the story of the movie itself.

Fantastic Four 2/Fant4stic 2/Fant8stic (Fantastic 4 x 2 = 8) – (June 9, 2017)

I’m breaking format for this one, because I’m a maverick. The sequel to Fox’s critically acclaimed (just multiply by 10 and it’d be 90% on Rotten Tomatoes!) Fantastic Four reboot was scheduled for 2017 a while back, but it’s actually the movie on this list that’s least likely to end up getting made. With appalling reviews and an opening weekend at #2 that only just outstripped Adam Sandler’s cheaper, in-of-itself a flop Pixels, it’s crisis time for a franchise that Fox presumably hoped would match their X-Men franchise in terms of success. In fact, because Fox are friendly, a rumour broke out during the writing of this post that Fox are considering swapping out the Fant4stic sequel for a Deadpool sequel, postponing the second outing for Marvel’s first and least successful family to an undefined and probably non-existent date.

Obviously, that report could be nonsense, but the general gist of it is trustworthy – unless Fantastic Four is a smash hit internationally (it’s guaranteed to flop in the US with well under $80m, a mark that even Green Lantern comfortably passed), it’s hard to see how a sequel could hit cinemas in under two years time. Truth be told, a Fox movie will probably hit cinemas on this date, but it probably won’t be Fantastic Four 2 due to the aforementioned toxic reviews and poor box office returns. Like The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, the likely routes for the Fantastic Four are the big cinematic graveyard or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know which one I would prefer.

Put it this way: if Fantastic Four 2 hits cinemas on June 9th, 2017, I’ll change this blog into an Adam Sandler fanpage.

Wonder Woman (June 23rd, 2017)

What’s it about? Wonder Woman has about ten million different origins, ranging from Diana Prince being part of an Amazon tribe who meets crashed pilot and love interest Steve Trevor (who’s in this movie, played by Chris Pine) on a remote island, Diana Prince being the daughter of Greek god Zeus, Wonder Woman being an ambassador for fictional country Themyscira tasked with a peacekeeping mission abroad, and, my favourite, Wonder Woman being a clay figure brought to life by the gods. Rumours have indicated that the Zeus one is the origin this movie will go with, which is an utter shame, because the clay figure one is objectively better.

Reasons to look forward to it: Somewhat depressingly, this is the first female-led superhero movie since 2005’s Elektra – and Wonder Woman is a slightly more compelling character than that, possessing an impressive power set that makes her one of the DC universe’s most powerful characters. It’s undoubtedly true that a female-based superhero movie is a bit of a breath of fresh air, allowing for the creation of a genuinely iconic female superhero who isn’t just a supporting player – like Suicide Squad‘s villainous focus, this change from the regular superhero formula distinguishes Wonder Woman from the pack nicely. DC’s hiring of a female director, Patty Jenkins, is a smart choice that shows some encouraging progressiveness, and should help to craft Wonder Woman into a unique, distinctly feminist blockbuster that’s not just a generic superhero origin story with a token gender swap.

Reasons to be apprehensive: The fact that Wonder Woman is the daughter of Zeus here doesn’t really cohere with the straight-faced, gritty DC universe. Sure, we’ve seen alien planets like Krypton, but aliens are one thing, and Greek gods are another – if Wonder Woman delves too much into the Greek god stuff, it could end up undercutting the tone of the universe DC have created, and destroying the audience’s suspension of disbelief in the process.

Spider-Man Reboot III (July 28th, 2017)

What’s it about? The question for this one should be what the third Spider-Man reboot in 15 years is not about, because we know that: this definitely isn’t Spider-Man’s origin again, so you can all breathe a sigh of relief at the fact that we’re not going to see Uncle Ben’s stupid attempt to stop a thief again. We also know that it’s not going to feature a villain that’s been used before in a Spider-Man movie, so we can scratch most of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery including Green Goblin, Dr Octopus and Electro off the list for the first movie at least. There’s less info around about what this movie will actually be about, however. It’ll feature Peter Parker in high school, facing bullies and homework while swinging around New York fighting crime (so, like, pretty much every Spider-Man movie) – and the two previously unused villains that have both been rumoured are goldfish bowl-headed and illusion expert Mysterio, and Kraven the Hunter, animal skin lover and professional big game (that includes Spider-Man, naturally) hunter. A very recent rumour indicates that Kraven is the frontrunner, with a loose adaptation of classic storyline Kraven’s Last Hunt potentially on the cards.

Reasons to look forward to it: This is yet another Spider-Man reboot, but it’s one that has an awful lot more going for it on paper than the actually decent The Amazing Spider-Man (the first one, not the turd they called a sequel). Finally, Spider-Man has joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to some desperate deal-wrangling between Marvel and Sony, which gives a few great benefits to this movie – it has the chance to work in a couple of MCU characters for supporting roles and cameos (if Spidey needs a pep talk from Tony Stark, for instance, that’s on the table), ensuring that Spider-Man’s no longer entirely isolated from the rest of the Marvel universe. The biggest benefit of the deal, however, is the fact that Marvel Studios have some creative control – showrunner Kevin Feige has helped make genuinely enjoyable movies out of previously obscure superheroes like the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, so a well-known yet often mistreated hero like Spider-Man could benefit from his creative input. The aforementioned reveal that this movie will delve into Spidey’s rogues gallery is an encouraging one – Spider-Man has a huge and varied rogues gallery, so it’s encouraging to see that Spidey’s first MCU outing won’t just bring back the Green Goblin for round three. There’s a lot of potential in unused villains like Mysterio, Kraven, Vulture, Shocker and Carnage (okay, probably best to wait for the sequel for Carnage, but hey), and each one of them would work as fresh and intriguing foes for Spidey to fight.

Reasons to be apprehensive: This is yet another Spider-Man reboot. You’ve heard variations on the ‘does the world need another [insert superhero here] movie?’ earlier in this post, but it’s probably most aptly used here. Sony rebooted the Spider-Man franchise barely three years ago, and we’re already preparing for another wiping of the slate. Is there really any point to a rebooted Spider-Man? The high school element has been talked up as a unique selling point, but that’s been covered in both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield flavours of the character – without a truly unique selling point (boy do I love that phrase) aside from the character’s integration into the wider universe, this new reboot actually looks considerably less exciting than some of Marvel’s more diverse and colourful upcoming movies like Black Panther and Captain Marvel. With audience interest plummeting, Marvel and Sony are going to have to seriously innovate to keep Spider-Man afloat as a character who can actually carry his own lucrative movies.

NOTE: We’re halfway there! Yes, that’s right, you’re halfway through this nonsense. If you’ve been reading this in one go, I’d recommend going to sleep. If it’s not night-time, sleep anyway.

Thor: Ragnarok (November 3rd, 2017)

What’s it about? Considering Marvel’s fondness of trilogies, this is likely to be Thor’s final solo movie – and fittingly, the title suggests that the God of Thunder/the least interesting Avenger (I’m sorry) is going out with a bang. ‘Ragnarok’ means ‘the end of all things’, so it’s all likely to go a little pear-shaped for Thor and his Asgardian buddies. Fire demon Surtur is rumoured for villain duties, and there’s the lingering issue of Loki now ruling Asgard in disguise, which is a tiny bit of a pressing problem. Like Guardians Vol 2., Ragnarok is likely to deal with the Infinity Stone stashed on Asgard, meaning yet another possible appearance from our old friend, Thanos (who, incidentally, really drew the short straw on the genetic lottery with bright purple skin).

Reasons to be excited: Kevin Feige used Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a comparison point for what this movie will do with Thor’s character – that might be an empty promise, but any mention of The Winter Soldier can only be a good thing. After all, The Dark World failed partially due to the relative lack of things it did to develop Thor’s character, leaving the door open for Ragnarok to upend Thor’s world and smash his corner of the MCU to pieces; if that comparison is accurate, then Ragnarok could be the movie that finally cracks Thor’s character by daring to hugely change all things Thor-related in time for Infinity War. 

Reasons to be apprehensive: Weirdly enough, despite his prominence in Avengers movies, Thor has never been that interesting a character. His first movie was good enough, but since then we’ve had two Avengers movies where Thor floated around being overshadowed by his vastly more developed and colourful teammates, and a solo sequel, The Dark World, that traded in meaningful development for annoying comic relief and piss-poor mythology concerning Infinity Stones.Thor’s never found the success of Captain America or Iron Man in his solo movies, and that doesn’t bode well for this one unless Marvel decide to heavily tinker with his supporting cast and place the Asgardian players above the dull Earth comic relief team in terms of prominence, and deliver some development to Thor’s character that goes beyond merely retreading the good stuff that the first Thor pulled off. Because, with no disrespect to the doubtlessly huge contingent of Natalie Portman fans that read my blog, who gives a shit about Jane Foster?

Justice League Part One (November 17th, 2017)

What’s it about? The first of DC’s attempt to one-up the Avengers with their own super-team, Justice League Part 1 is likely to feature every superhero above except perhaps Green Lantern – that’s Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, the Flash and Cyborg. As for the bad guy? That’s rumoured to be Braniac for this one, an alien android with a god-level intellect, telepathy, telekinesis and the ability to clone himself. Think Ultron, but with go-faster stripes and a new engine in the back.

Reasons to be excited: JUSTICE LEAGUE!! Ahem. The Avengers movies have been some of Marvel’s best movies, and it’s hard to underestimate the appeal of slapping every major superhero around in one movie. DC’s hero roster is impressive, too – even the Flash, an iconic fan-favourite, is perhaps the third or fourth most known character at best. If DC manage to capture the thrill of the Avengers movies and transplant it into a grittier world where team-ups might be subject to some fairly intense conflict from the get-go, this could be a hugely exciting blockbuster that provides a very different take on a superhero team-up to Marvel’s bright and breezy efforts. Plus, the chance to see Batman, the eternal and angsty lone wolf (DARKNESS! NO PARENTS! CONTINUED DARKNESS!), forced to work in a team is golden.

Reasons to be apprehensive: It’s our old friend Zack Snyder again. Snyder’s already signed up to direct Justice League, which puts a major question mark over the potential quality of this one, for many of the same reasons that I’m apprehensive about Batman v Superman. If Snyder brings some of his bad Man of Steel habits to the table, such as irritating Jesus symbolism and deafeningly loud third acts, then a great concept could go down the toilet. Plus, there’s the usual ‘grim and gritty’ issues – conflict between the team is fine, and it wouldn’t be a very interesting movie if everyone got along swimmingly from the get go, but the possibility of every hero’s individual brooding angst colliding could create a black hole of angst between equally tortured superheroes that could suck all the inherent fun of seeing all these heroes together out of proceedings.

The Flash (March 23rd, 2018)

What’s it about? Thanks to the fact that we know Ezra Miller is playing the Barry Allen version of the character, we have a good idea of what this will look like if this movie chooses to follow the origin story of the Flash. If it’s an origin story, then it’ll look a little like this: Barry Allen, Central City Police forensics expert, is struck by a lightning bolt and doused in chemicals for good measure, imbuing him with super-speed, which Barry can access by tapping into a mysterious substance called the Speed Force. If it’s not an origin story, it’ll likely just be a simple Flash vs villain story – but origin or no, the smart money’s on the Flash’s arch-enemy, the Reverse Flash, to be the villain here. Reverse Flash/Professor Zoom is a fellow speedster and all-round psycho who often dedicates his life to making Barry’s suck by continuously tormenting him with his superior speed. If the movie wants to go one step further, then time travel could be in play – in both the comics and the TV show, Barry and the Reverse Flash can run fast enough to travel through time, leading to all sorts of extremely confusing hijinks.

Reasons to be excited: If The Flash sticks to the tone of the comics/TV show, this could be a nice palate cleanser in between bouts of extremely gritty darkness in the other movies. Barry Allen, somewhat unusually, actively enjoys being the Flash, and brings a bright and cheerful demeanour that’s not unlike a Marvel superhero. Barry has a tragic backstory, which should fill the DC gritty darkness quota nicely, but The Flash could be a refreshing tonal departure from the solo movies starring tortured, brooding heroes with plenty to angst about. Plus, there’s a sci-fi edge to the mythos that elevates the Flash above the level of generic superhero – in the same way that Marvel have been bringing a different genre to each new movie, The Flash could be the first proper superhero science-fiction movie, incorporating sci-fi elements like time travel and the Speed Force. In this respect, The Flash has a leg up on some of the other DC solo movies – it’s harder to see what distinct genre Aquaman or Cyborg could fit into, whereas The Flash should be able to draw upon the sci-fi elements of the mythos for a comfortingly familiar yet adequately distinctive superhero movie.

Reasons to be apprehensive: It’s easy to see this one going very, very wrong. I mentioned above that the lightness of Barry Allen’s character could tonally distinguish this movie from the other, darker DC movies – but it’s just as possible that the brooding, tortured elements of Barry Allen could be dialled up to eleven for a grittier and ‘more realistic’ Flash movie that feels more tonally consistent with the universe as a whole. DC have already added a gritty filter to a usually colourful superhero, Superman, so it’s quite easy to imagine them doing the same to the Flash, sanding away the more outwardly heroic elements of the character to create an anti-hero of sorts, and entirely missing the point of the character in the process. There’s also the elephant in the room – the TV show, which should still be running when this comes out barring some intervention from DC. The TV show might not possess the budget and impressive special effects of the movies, but the first season was a terrific season of TV that provided a faithful version of Barry Allen’s character while incorporating almost all of the wacky elements of the comics that would seem overly ambitious on paper. Truth be told, it’s hard to see how this iteration of Barry Allen could top the show aside from prettier effects – unlike the Barry Allen’s cinematic stablemates, The Flash is already living under a lightning bolt-shaped shadow. Or something. That sounded cooler in my head.

Oh boy. You still reading? Or have you skipped a few? If you’ve read this all in one go, a gold medal will be in the post. It’s actually plastic, and you will have to pay for postage and packaging costs yourself. Sorry.

Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 (May 4th, 2018)

What’s it about? The first instalment of Marvel’s behemoth two-part extravaganza season finale, Infinity War Part 1 is likely to see the war against Thanos and his decked-out golden glove, the Infinity Gauntlet (more Infinity Stones!!!) finally kick off. The good old rumour-sphere has suggested that Part 1 will feature a pared-back cast of superheroes mainly consisting of heroes introduced in Phases Two and Three, like Scarlet Witch, Vision, Spider-Man and so on, while the OG cast of Avengers like Iron Man only make minor appearances. Regardless of the truth of the rumour, this one will likely delve into Thanos’ character a little to fully develop Marvel’s biggest villain yet – and if Kevin Feige’s comments about the Infinity War movies being a little more standalone than the Part 1 and 2 tags may suggest, this movie might not even be entirely about Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, instead focusing on a side story that leads into the big throwdown in Part 2.

Reasons to be excited: Marvel have been laying the groundwork for the Infinity War movies since The Avengers in 2012, so it’s safe to say that this one is a little bit exciting. Specifically, Part 1‘s an interesting prospect because it’s harder to pin down what it’ll be about – Part 2 will obviously be the final battle against Thanos, but the splitting of this final movie into two parts gives Part 1 the chance to do something entirely unpredictable; it’s one final chance to go off-piste and subvert expectations before the mandated showdown in the second movie. Plus, it’s a chance to fully see the numerous new heroes Marvel have introduced in action as a team – Cap’s full team of new Avengers will be in Captain America: Civil War, but only likely as window dressing to fill out the ranks of Team Iron Man and Team Cap. Here, they can be fleshed out characters in their own right with no need for Marvel to place the limelight on a lead character. It’s a chance for the little guys like Ant-Man, Falcon, Scarlet Witch et al to shine as major players before they have to concede their places to the original Avengers – and if Marvel want to, this movie’s the best chance to naturally work in some of their TV heroes like Daredevil, Luke Cage and Quake and actually do justice to them, with less need to lavish attention on lucrative money-making characters like Iron Man. Side note: Marvel, please at least put Daredevil in Infinity War. I’ll repay you. I’ll… buy a ticket for this movie.

Reasons to be apprehensive: The words ‘Part 1’ have fairly uninspiring connotations, recalling Hollywood’s numerous half-assed attempts to split series finales of book adaptations in order to earn double the money (Harry Potter, The Hobbit etc). In almost every case, at least one half of the split adaptations has dragged immensely, with the movie required to tread water in order to justify the split. Guess which half that is? Yep, part one, the movie that has to do the bulk of the set-up for a showdown that doesn’t even happen in the movie. Often, part ones are half a movie – unrewarding table-setters that have their own merits, but pale in comparison to the much more exciting concluding part, where the bulk of the fun is allowed to take place. Infinity War can circumvent some of these issues by virtue of the fact that it’s not a straight adaptation of anything, but the issue of set-up for part two possibly taking precedent over the actual story of part one and an inconclusive ending could still persist. ‘Want the payoff for this? Wait a year!’, is what the gist of this movie could end up being. Works great for TV, but less so for movies.

Black Panther (July 6th, 2018)

What’s it about? Since Black Panther is making an appearance in Captain America: Civil War, it’s safe to say that this probably won’t be an origin story. Therefore, the death of T’Challa aka Black Panther’s dad may already have happened when this movie opens, leaving Black Panther, probably, as the story of how T’Challa rises to become the leader of the tribal African nation Wakanda (not real, sadly). As for the villain, that’s likely to be Ulysses Klaue, arms dealer and all-round douchebag who killed Black Panther’s dad in the comics. Klaue’s actually already been seen in the MCU, played in a brief role by motion-capture god Andy Serkis in Avengers: Age of Ultron (for those who don’t remember, cuttlefish guy who got his arm chopped off by Ultron).

Reasons to be excited: It’s Marvel’s first superhero movie starring a non-white lead – and while Marvel are a year behind DC in terms of female-led movies, they’re ahead of the curve here over DC (whose first effort non-white effort comes two years after this). That might seem less exciting than a female-led movie, but the Black Panther comics integrate the titular character’s race into the narrative with an African setting and tribal system that’s hugely important to the plot. In short, this isn’t a movie that could really be done with a white lead (okay, it could, but it’d be a teensy bit racist), meaning that Marvel’s first genuinely inclusive solo movie feels inclusive rather than token. Wakanda’s also a country steeped in mythology already introduced into the MCU – it’s the home of vibranium, a material that’s cropped up multiple times in the movies, making up Captain America’s shield and the Vision’s body in Age of Ultron. That means a lot of groundwork has been laid already, ensuring that Black Panther doesn’t  have to waste time lecturing audiences about what vibranium is, or who Ulysses Klaue is in detail, as audiences will already have seen them well before this movie comes out.

Reasons to be apprehensive: Black Panther‘s still a good three years off, but it hit the headlines recently when critically acclaimed director Ava duVernay was briefly reported to have gotten the directing job (coincidentally by a site I write for, because this is a small world), and then later confirmed that she had met with Marvel and had turned them down due to creative differences over the character. That’s a bit of a red flag – my admittedly piddly knowledge of the character extends to the fact that the Black Panther comics delve into intriguing and meaningful themes like the burden of leadership. There’s a kind of royal drama edge to the comics, and those as-yet-unexplored themes regarding T’Challa’s leadership spot in Wakanda and the struggles he faces could do with an accomplished director who can bring personality and meaning to proceedings. The fact that Marvel seem lukewarm with that idea indicates that they might be more interested in a director who can make a movie that fits into the wider universe than a movie that explores those themes, which is a concerning sign this far out. Then again, Marvel did this much later on in the production like with Ant-Man, and that turned out pretty well, so what do I know? (Actually very little, for the record, I’m just making things up as I go along).

Aquaman (July 27th, 2018)

What’s it about? One of DC’s slightly more out-there propositions, Aquaman is likely to feature the titular character’s struggles with his role as the king of Atlantis (you wait years for superhero movies starring rulers of fictional places, and two come along in the same month). If this is the Arthur Curry (what a surname) version of the character, and if this movie follows Aquaman’s origins, then it’ll see Arthur Curry ending up in the sea as a young child, being contacted by a really strange looking mysterious being and meeting all sorts of creatures on the way to becoming king of Atlantis. Oh, and Aquaman can talk to fish, which is useful.

Reasons to be excited: After a couple of years of relatively safe comic book movies starring mainstream, relatively straight-laced superheroes like the Flash and Wonder Woman, Aquaman is DC’s first chance to go a little crazy with one of their solo movies. If Suicide Squad is DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy, a wacky and heightened team-up movie, then this is DC’s Ant-Man – a solo movie starring a hero with slightly weird powers and sporting a slightly silly moniker. Ant-Man had fun embracing the weirdness of its premise while still taking the whole concept seriously, and there’s no reason why Aquaman can’t do that either – by approaching the concept with a raised eyebrow and a knowing streak of self-awareness, this can pre-empt some audience opinions about the character and his powerset, and actively take advantage of them to create a movie that isn’t laughably serious in its commitment to translate the character into their gritty universe. This could be a movie that punctures the idea that DC take themselves too seriously, if The Flash doesn’t already – and with the genuinely intimidating Jason Momoa on board as the lead, Aquaman can still retain enough weight and credibility to simultaneously prove the public perception of Aquaman as a joke superhero wrong.

Reasons to be apprehensive: On the other hand, this is DC we’re talking about. Self-awareness does not seem to be their sort of thing, which means we could be in for a gritty and serious iteration of Aquaman here. Some might say that’s a better way of proving the doubters wrong, but those hypothetical made-up people are actually wrong. If this movie’s entirely played straight, it runs the risk of actively reinforcing the public perception of Aquaman, becoming a joke in of itself. There’s going to be a few people who will snicker at the name, and if DC don’t acknowledge that, then Aquaman might be DC’s first comedy, introducing concepts such as a humanoid squid with a straight face and expecting the audience to take these things seriously. Things could get unintentionally funny, really fast.

Captain Marvel (November 2nd, 2018)

What’s it about? Captain Marvel might be the most commonly used name of any superhero – so much so that there’s a Captain Marvel in DC comics – but this Captain Marvel has been confirmed to be Carol Danvers, a US army officer who gains superpowers after an alien bomb blows up on her. Those powers are a grab bag of basically every superpower you could think of, including super-strength, flight, telekinesis, precognition, energy manipulation, super-speed, energy absorption/projection… yep, Marvel just took every superpower out of the hat here.

Reasons to be excited: It’s Marvel’s first female-led movie – which, considering the long-running fervour over the idea of a Black Widow movie, is about time. Considering Captain Marvel’s enormous power-set, this is Marvel basically introducing their most powerful superhero yet – making that superhero in question a woman is a big tick in the progressiveness box for Marvel.  Captain Marvel’s also a great choice for movies because of her links to previously established Marvel mythology like the Kree (blue alien race), so like Black Panther, there’ll be less exposition needed than normal here; and the cosmic scale of the character’s adventures provides the ideal chance for Marvel to tie into the Infinity War movies, which will also likely play out partially in space, making Captain Marvel an essential addition to canon.

Reasons to be apprehensive: The timing of this movie is a bit of a question mark. It’s not the only movie to be released in between Infinity War parts one and two, as Black Panther will occupy the summer spot in 2018 – but, unlike Black Panther (which was planned for before Infinity War in late 2017 before Spider-Man pushed it back), Captain Marvel was always planned to be sandwiched in between the major crossover movies even before the delay. Taking into account the sheer scale of the Infinity War movies, it’s quite possible that Captain Marvel could be nondescriptly produced as a space-filler in between the Infinity War movies, with less attention given to it than a regular Marvel movie. Marvel are probably big enough to avoid that happening, but the timing does raise a couple of alarm bells that this might not be a movie that’s particularly important to Marvel… which it kinda should be.

Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 (May 3rd, 2019)

What’s it about? The grand finale – the culmination of (by this point) eleven years of Marvel movies, and the launch pad for whatever Marvel do next. This is where the battle against Thanos will conclude, and it’s likely to see an assembly of absolutely shit-tons of characters, from the original Avengers like Iron Man and Captain America, to newly introduced heroes like Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, the full Guardians of the Galaxy roster, possibly some Inhumans, possibly some TV superheroes and a pick-and-mix of supporting characters from all corners of the MCU. There’ll be a hell of a lot of death, chaos and destruction – and if the rumour mill is correct, then this is also the send-off for Marvel’s original Avengers line-up . Everyone’s going to be in this one, and possibly also their immediate relatives.

Reasons to be excited: This is where Marvel can truly let loose for the most ambitious superhero movie ever created – no set-up’s needed here, just plenty of exciting payoff. Characters who have never met before can collide for the first time, long-running stalwarts can get the send-off they can deserve and new sides of old characters can be discovered – it can be a celebration of the MCU of sorts, allowing the Russo brothers to play in a fully open sandbox and deliver something that combines all the greatest elements of the Marvel movies so far to create something special. With no need to hold back for a future sequel, the Russos can go all-out here with everything they have to create a truly special finale to everything that’s come before. The idea of 30-odd heroes working together to defeat Thanos is something that’s pretty damn exciting to think about, and Infinity War Part 2 is the movie where that pipe-dream can actually happen. Pretty exciting, right? (This is the part where I contradict myself…)

Reasons to be apprehensive: I hate fun, so I had to think of reasons why this hugely anticipated movie might not be so good. Unfortunately, with a huge cast comes huge problems – namely, that juggling this massive gathering of characters and doing them all justice is an extremely tough challenge. It’s going to take some deft hands to negotiate the hurdles that this unprecedented cast will present and avoid the movie collapsing into an incoherent mess of fanservice and little else. Infinity War Part 2 needs to tell a satisfying, detailed story without the need to service the enormous cast of characters getting in the way – because, otherwise, this hugely anticipated movie becomes a hugely despised flop that’s held in about the same esteem as X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Moderation is the key here – too much fanservice, and this movie won’t work at all. Too little, and it’ll have squandered a golden opportunity to take advantage of a cast of characters that likely won’t be matched ever again. The Russos might be well equipped for this balancing act, but it’s still going to be one hell of a challenge for them.

Justice League Part Two (June 14th, 2019)

What’s it about? It’s hard to say much about a sequel to a movie that’s two years off, but here we go anyway. Our reliable old friend, the rumour mill has provided a few indications at least of how the second round of DC team-up shenanigans will pan out; after a possible absence of Green Lantern in the first movie, Part Two will purportedly see Green Lantern join the team (and if the title of the Green Lantern movie that comes out the year after this is an indication, that might be Green Lanterns). After a rumoured scrap with Brainiac last time, the villain here is rumoured to be Darkseid; a pretty fitting villain for the sequel. Darkseid’s basically DC’s answer to Thanos (galactic supervillain with massively over-the-top powers), but without the glove to assist him. In short, he’s basically one of the most powerful villains in any comic, so it could be a little hard to take him down.

Reasons to be excited: Unlike the mostly separate Avengers movies, the Justice League movies seem more closely linked, as evidenced by the ‘Part One’ and ‘Part Two’ subtitles and the rumoured back-to-back filming. If the serialised approach is what DC are going for, then it’s a smart alternative to the standalone Avengers movies that could lead to the formation of an expansive, ambitious and detailed story told over two movies that’s able to explore villains and characters in much more detail than Marvel’s efforts. This is complete conjecture, and DC might end up turning out two standalone Justice League movies with little connection to each other, but this different approach is one that suits DC’s ‘deeper, more character-focused’ remit, and avoids the issue of the Justice League movies appearing to be an attempt to shamelessly copy the success of The Avengers. 

Reasons to be apprehensive: As Avengers: Age of Ultron showed last year, it’s tough to make a superhero team-up sequel. Age of Ultron was a very good movie, but it struggled with balancing the amounts of set-up, character development and action that’s required of a sequel, becoming something of a mess (if a very admirably made mess) in the process. The challenge with a sequel is to delve deeper into the characters expand the roster while doing justice to both the new additions and original stalwarts, and tell a story that’s more detailed and expansive in the process – and that’s a trick that Age of Ultron only just managed to pull off, even with Joss Whedon at the helm. In DC’s slightly less carefully constructed universe? It could be even harder.

Inhumans (July 12th, 2019)

What’s it about? The Inhumans are a group of beings that were originally scientific playthings of the Kree – though they’re born dormant and powerless, their powers can be unlocked through exposure to Terrigen Mist, which triggers a process called Terrigenesis. If you’re familiar with all of this, it’s because a group of Inhumans are currently playing a major role in Agents of SHIELD, so they’ve actually been introduced to the MCU already. The Inhumans the movie will focus on, however, will probably be the Royal Family that includes Black Bolt, a superhero with a voice so damaging it’s a bit of a safety hazard, and their struggles to avoid the numerous threats that royal families tend to face.

Reasons to be excited: It’s been pointed out beforehand that this is Marvel’s chance to essentially one-up the X-Men franchise – the Inhumans are broadly similar to the X-Men, as they’re both humanoids with powers that are given to them at birth rather than being in an accident. Introducing the Inhumans, then, allows Marvel to make up for lost time by introducing a whole slew of new characters in the style of X-Men who don’t need to have their ‘how they got their powers’ backstories fleshed out, allowing Inhumans to get to the exciting stuff more quickly. Both Marvel and DC will have had rulers as main characters at this point, but having a royal family opens up the possibility of exploring the power struggles and conflicts of a royal family as they battle for the throne – like Game of Thrones in space, except without dragons, and lots of other things. Again, this is previously unexplored territory which could allow Inhumans to beat the superhero fatigue that will probably have set in by 2019, giving this movie a distinct hook and identity.

Reasons to be apprehensive: The Inhumans, unlike the X-Men, are a complicated group of characters with a complex mythology in place to explain how they even get their powers. That mythology will have to be explained, which could leave Inhumans as a slightly dry movie that’s forced to deliver an exposition dump to explain everything that’s going on. Exposition is no fun, and I’m not particularly excited for the inevitable lectures on the ins and outs of Terrigenesis. There’s ways this exposition can be delivered in an entertaining and natural fashion, but there’s certainly a good chance that Inhumans could be a bit of a slog as it slows down continuously to explain itself, especially in the early stages of the movie.

Cyborg (April 3rd, 2020)

What’s it about? Again, assuming that Cyborg is an origin story, we have a decent idea of what this movie will be about: high school American football player Victor Stone gets caught in a horrific accident that requires Stone to be fitted with robotic pieces and nanites to save his life, turning him into a cyborg (geddit?).

Reasons to be excited: Um, reasons to be excited about this movie… Right, could be a little difficult. There’s some good potential in Victor’s torment at being turned into a half-robot and having his humanity ripped away, which could provide a decent emotional through-line for Cyborg. The father/son dynamic that’s key to Cyborg’s character (his dad was the one to turned him into a cyborg) is one that will probably still be untapped by any DC movie at this point, which means there’s plenty of fresh thematic ground for Cyborg to cover. It’s also DC’s first proper solo movie toplined by a non-white actor – sure, it’s a little late at this point, but it’s still encouraging that Cyborg was placed in the queue ahead of other, white superheroes like Green Arrow, and a sign that DC at least care about diversity in their movies.

Reasons to be apprehensive: Like Gambit, this seems to be a movie that’s trying to turn an adequate supporting character into a leading hero – and just like Gambit, Cyborg does not appear to be that exciting a character. From the relatively generic origin story, to the relatively standard daddy issues and torment about his status as a cyborg, Cyborg’s story seems by-the-numbers; a repackaged and reheated story cobbled together from the origin stories and personalities of more exciting and well-known superheroes. There’s very little to get excited about here, so we’ll just swiftly move on. Sorry Cyborg. It’s nothing personal. And onto the final movie:

You’ve made it! If you’ve actually been reading this for the whole time and haven’t skipped like 15 movies (I don’t blame you), then I salute you. Honestly, I think you’re a little insane, but I still salute you.

Green Lantern Corps (June 19th, 2020)

What’s it about? Note the Corps – this movie won’t just be about one Green Lantern. It’ll be about two Green Lanterns (I know, calm down at the back) – Hal Jordan and John Stewart, as they carry out missions for the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic force (basically, Space Cops) who protect the galaxy from nefarious arseholes looking to blow planets up, or something along those lines.

Reasons to be excited: Having two Green Lanterns is just about the best decision DC could have made with a Green Lantern movie – by avoiding a retread of the critically panned 2011 movie, Green Lantern Corps should be able to carve out its own identity as a very different and distinct take on the Green Lantern mythos. There’s potential here for a fun space buddy-cop dynamic between Hal and John as they work together – Iron Man 3‘s buddy cop dynamic between Iron Man and War Machine provided some of the best jokes of that movie, and transplanting that sort of odd-couple dynamic into space could create some really interesting results. Most of all, though, Green Lantern Corps could be the sort of fun space-faring adventure that ditches the potentially stale Earth-bound settings for a colourful mix of alien planets, making sure that this isn’t just yet another superhero movie set in blandly familiar cityscapes and warehouses. Guardians of the Galaxy showed the benefits of a space-faring superhero movie, and Green Lantern Corps could do well to follow in that movie’s footsteps.

Reasons to be apprehensive: There’s a Ryan Reynolds shaped elephant in the room here. 2011’s Green Lantern showed DC trying and horribly failing to translate the Green Lantern mythos to screen – and while the use of multiple Green Lanterns in Corps shows a bit of course correction, there’s still prior evidence that Green Lantern might not be an easy character to portray in a movie. It could be that the sci-fi elements are too cheesy to be portrayed in a relatively serious movie, or that a two hour movie can’t hope to scratch the surface of the mythos – maybe it was just poor scripting that led to 2011 Green Lantern being a bit of a turd, or maybe it’s symptomatic of a problem with trying to accurately and effectively translate Green Lantern mythos to film. Unlike most of DC’s upcoming movies, Green Lantern Corps is saddled with the challenge of cleansing the general audience’s memories of a terrible previous effort starring the characters before it can even start to be enjoyable on its own terms – guess what was the last reboot of a reviled take on a superhero franchise? Yup, Fantastic Four. That turned out well.

So, it’s safe to say that despite the huge number of comic book movies coming in the next few years, there’s a huge variety – from light-hearted romps, to gritty reboots, from vaguely intimate action movies to apocalyptic two-part mega crossover events. Not every movie on this list will be critically acclaimed, and some may never see the light of day (take a bow, Fantastic FourTwo) – but hey, if you’re even vaguely a fan of superhero movies, there’s a hell of a lot to look forward to here. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the next five years of movies before audiences turn on the genre and anime movies become the new craze instead.