Friday, November 18, 2016

Reactions to the Suicide Squad Extended Cut

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast contains my quick reactions to the extended cut of Suicide Squad, released this week digitally.

Overall, the movie is basically the same -- the strengths (and flaws) remain intact. There are a few new moments that I think would've been good additions to the theatrical release, but there are also some parts that I think were wise to have cut out. I really like this version of the Joker, but I think some of the new footage works better as an extra rather than a part of the theatrical version of the film.

See also our analysis of themes and characters.

Superhero Movies: A Personal Ratings Rundown

I love DC Films and especially the burgeoning Justice League Universe. But I also often say that I like most of the Marvel Studios films, too, and I've even gone on record saying that people should be willing to like both movie franchises rather than picking sides and being antagonistic. Following the release of Doctor Strange and Captain America: Civil War, and with me being underwhelmed by both of those films, I thought it was time for me to revisit the claim that I "like most Marvel movies." Is that really true?

So here's a quick rundown of my personal opinions on a bunch of WB/DC and Marvel superhero movies, going back about 10 years. Let's see where I really stand:

Doctor Strange (Marvel, 2016) 6.0Visuals pretty but not meaningful; Too formulaic, especially at the beginning; Humor in the wrong spots; Secondary characters too flat.
Suicide Squad (WB/DC, 2016) 7.5Good characters and style; Enchantress a good choice but not well executed; Action a bit run-of-the-mill.
Captain America: Civil War (Marvel, 2016) 6.5Strong thematic set-up but does not follow through; Action is fun but tone is inconsistent and motivations are contradictory or absent; Cinematography is weak.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (WB/DC, 2016) 9.8Deep, coherent character arcs; Rich in societal, philosophical themes; Strong use of visual imagery; Great music.
Ant-Man (Marvel, 2015) 5.5Humor did not land well for me; Character arcs were too obvious and sometimes pushed aside in favor of plot beats; Not much to discuss afterward.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel, 2015) 6.5Important theme but addressed in a surface-level way; Ultron always seemed like James Spader to me; Action was contradictingly flat and chaotic.
Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel, 2014) 7.0Entertaining movie but I am not as infatuated with Rocket Raccoon or Drax as others are; Ronan’s role in the plot was contrived; Chris Pratt is Chris Pratt.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel, 2014) 8.0Cap, Bucky have good characterizations; Plot is intriguing though themes are under-developed; Fury’s “death” was bad, Helicarriers unrealistic.
Thor: The Dark World (Marvel, 2013) 4.5I did not really enjoy the characters, the humor, or the plot; it looked like TV.
Man of Steel (WB/DC, 2013) 9.5Realistic world building; Deep characterization of Clark/Kal-El; Great link between origin and villain; Compelling action and music; Drawback is a few bad lines of dialogue.
Iron Man 3 (Marvel, 2013) 6.0Some good Iron Man / Tony personality but I did not really get into it and it was quickly forgettable.
The Dark Knight Rises (WB/DC, 2012) 8.0A logical conclusion to the character arcs and themes of the trilogy, though a bit of a letdown from the stellar TDK; some plot contrivances but a good story for Bane; Great action in parts but poor fight scenes in other parts.
The Avengers (Marvel, 2012) 7.5Good multi-character story but lack of deep themes; Exciting action but disrespect to real heroes, first responders; Humor gets in the way at times.
Captain America: The First Avenger (Marvel, 2011) 7.0A pretty straightforward, pretty decent origin story but not great; period settings were cool; a bit cheesy and safe in its approach, at times.
Green Lantern (WB/DC, 2011) 6.5To me it’s not as bad as most people say; Humor good in most spots, not all; Effects and production design were hit and miss; Villain didn’t reach potential.
Thor (Marvel, 2011) 6.0Personally don’t like the Thor character that much and didn’t buy his relationships on Earth; Predictable or formulaic in parts.
Jonah Hex (WB/DC, 2010) 6.0Not a great movie but I liked the thorough setting and tone, and Brolin’s portrayal of Hex; other performances not as good; some really good scenes even if the whole thing was undercooked.
Iron Man 2 (Marvel, 2010) 7.0Step down in cinematography, story from the first installment; some action scenes are pretty good but they are sometimes convoluted; Didn’t like the villain.
The Dark Knight (WB/DC, 2008) 9.6Great villains; Good story and characters that all feed into themes; Memorable scenes and music; Discussion starter.
The Incredible Hulk (Marvel, 2008) 6.5Not a big fan of Edward Norton; Some good action sequences but the story was pretty pedestrian.
Iron Man (Marvel, 2008) 8.5Compelling character; Good cinematography, settings; strong action scenes; right amount of humor.
Superman Returns (WB/DC, 2006) 7.5 As others have said – pretty good drama, not a great superhero movie; Nods to classic Superman are nice but also hold it back from greatness.
Batman Begins (WB/DC, 2005) 8.5Refreshing and serious new take on Bruce Wayne and Batman; Good settings and music; Smart choice of villains.

Looking across the whole table, my rating averages 8.1 for the 9 WB/DC films and only 6.6 for the 14 Marvel films. So as expected, my tastes align more with the WB/DC side of things. But to answer the main question -- is it true that I like most of the Marvel movies? -- I tend to consider anything above a 6/10 as me "liking it" and so the Marvel average is above 6 and so is in the "like" range. Also, going film by film, there are 9 out of the 14 that I've rated higher than 6, so yes, it is true that I like most of the Marvel films. But...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

DC Rebirth and the New 52: Sales Comparison Update

DC's Rebirth initiative was both a creative move and a business calculation, the biggest one since the New 52 relaunch in 2011. In advance of Rebirth, I analyzed the sales numbers and came to realize that it makes fiscal sense to double ship the premiere titles and trim off some of the more niche titles. This was creatively risky (I loved Prez and The Omega Men, and Midnighter was good, too, for example) but it has turned out well because the quality of stories and art have been so good in the Rebirth books.

I have found it interesting to compare the Rebirth sales numbers to the New 52 sales numbers in 2011. So here is my update on those numbers:

Before we pull out some numbers from the table, it is important to note two things in favor of Rebirth that do not show up in the table. First, Rebirth started with the Rebirth #1 issues, which gave most of the series a boost in sales even before they had the strong sales of the main #1. There was no counterpart to this in the New 52 relaunch. Second, because many of the Rebirth series ship twice per month (including all the ones in the table above), this means that DC has pulled in all these sales numbers in half the time it took to reach them in New 52. And the extra issues of Batman, The Flash, etc., have taken the place of the lowest sellers in the New 52 (e.g., OMAC, Savage Hawkman). So even if the Rebirth sales numbers were right on pace with the New 52, the Rebirth initiative would still be a doing better for the bottom line.

Now, the things that stand out to me from the table.

DC Comics Sales in October 2016

On May 27th, DC Comics kicked off the Rebirth era to great acclaim from critics and fans alike. In June they released their first batch of Rebirth #1's and saw a solid boost in comic sales. In July and August and September they actually surpassed Marvel Comics in terms of market share, which is a very rare thing (at least over the last 15 years).

In this post, I will share some of the numbers from the October sales reports from Diamond Comic Distributors (U.S. physical sales), as crunched by Comichron. For October 2016, Marvel returned to its typical roost atop the sales charts, but DC is hanging around much closer than it was doing in 2014, 2015, or the early part of 2016. Since acquiring the Star Wars line, Marvel has been a comic sales powerhouse. And along those lines, Marvel posted a dollar share of 35.9% to DC's 30.7% (Image 9.5%), and Marvel had a unit share of 36.5% to DC's 34.8% (Image 8.8%). The two market share figures are not the same because DC has a lower average price per issue, thanks to the $2.99 cover price on most DC books, which I personally appreciate a lot.

Marvel's sales were boosted by a few prominent #1's (e.g., Champions, Doctor Strange and the Sorcerer Supreme) and the next installment in their drawn out Civil War II event. Star Wars #25 also came out for them as a big seller. Meanwhile, DC ticked slightly down because they have exited their phase of Rebirth #1's and they are now into the heart of the ongoing series.

Even though DC was slightly behind Marvel for October, it is important to realize that the pie itself has gotten significantly bigger since Rebirth began. The total number of units sold in the US is up 11% over last year and up 16% over five years ago. This is astounding when one realizes that that industry growth is not counting digital sales, which are obviously way up since five years ago as well. So it's really a win-win right now for DC and Marvel.

If you're curious, the top sellers for DC in October were mainly the Batman-related books. Batman Dark Knight III The Master Race, Batman, and All-Star Batman posted issues in the top ten. Detective Comics also posted issues in the top twenty, as did Justice League and The Flash.

Note: Take this however you wish, but while we're on the topic of money and DC/Marvel comparisons, you might be interested to know that Marvel CEO Perlmutter gave millions of dollars to the Trump campaign for president, last winter and right up through October.

Monday, November 14, 2016

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Suicide Squad Scenes 11-13

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Waller's visit to Belle Reve, Deadshot's shooting range demonstration, Flag's criticisms of Task Force X, and Joker's knife circle.

  • Box office update
  • Harley Quinn to Waller: "Are you the devil?"
  • Killer Croc internalizing his monsterness
  • El Diablo foreshadowing death
  • Deadshot's shooting range and list of demands
  • Flag pitches a team of soldiers instead of the Squad
  • No one believes the Waller stories
  • Joker's knife circle
  • Ayer's choice of roster for the Squad
  • Trade Paperback Giveaway and the Number 23
Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco
Man of Steel Answers, Suicide Squadcast
@JLUPodcast on twitter

<Transcript of the episode>

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Doctor Strange Review (No Spoilers)

I usually watch Marvel/Disney movies but I don't usually cover them on this blog. Recently, however, Jason Book and I talked about upcoming comic book movies from several studios. The first of those movies was Doctor Strange (Marvel Studios). Like several other Marvel movies, I thought it was fairly entertaining but not great in terms of the craft of filmmaking. My rating after one viewing is 6/10 and my (spoiler free) review is below.

Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson, has several promising features but each of them is held back by some accompanying flaws. Starting with the main character, I thought Stephen Strange had a fairly good arc moving from self-involvement to selflessness and Benedict Cumberbatch turned in a good performance. But that arc was a bit too obvious and cliche for my taste, and the film also suffered because I don't think any of the other characters had enough development or multi-dimensionality. It felt to me like everyone else was there to serve Strange's story -- and yes, this is his solo movie, but it is still possible to give the secondary characters some of their own development and nuance and I felt like Doctor Strange was underwhelming in this department.

Many people are praising the visual effects, and while I agree there are some elements that are visually stunning, I felt like the land/building warps were usually pointless and only served to create an interesting backdrop to the action. There were a couple scenes where the land warps were used by a character to try to trip or stop another character, so that is at least minor purpose, but that still seems like an inefficient way to stop them if you have magic at your disposal, and most of the other times I couldn't discern any real purpose for all the visual craziness that was happening on the screen.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Forthcoming Comic Book Movies: Strange, Logan, Guardians, and the League

Jason Book and I discuss our anticipation and some recent footage released for some upcoming comic book movies -- Doctor Strange, Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy (Vol. 2), and Justice League.

It's been a great year for comic book movies thus far in 2016, but there are several good things still on the horizon... and we didn't even have time to talk about Wonder Woman, which looks great and will have a new trailer coming this week.