How to Feel About All of the Upcoming Superhero Movies

So awhile back I told all of you precious ducks to not worry about the future of superhero movies, because it all could turn out ok after all! And it might! But let’s take a hard, granular look at how all of this stuff is actually going to shake out. Probably, I mean.

I’ve got a pretty terrible prognosticatory record when it comes to superhero movies1, but I know some stuff about superheroes. I last checked in specifically with Marvel about eighteen months ago, but a bunch of stuff has happened since then, and a bunch of stuff has changed. Additionally, I’m including some non-Marvel stuff here, to expand the horizons and purview of these regular check-ins. So here we go!

1 everyone who knew me in 2007, say, remembers that I was super duper excited about The Spirit and, because you’ve probably forgotten, it states saying again: that movie sucked on toast.

Captain America: Civil War
WHAT IT IS: The occasion of this very revisiting of the topic, Captain America: Civil War has successfully gotten The Hulk out of the way, and stands to be a more streamlined, and, ultimately, more sensible version of its comics inspiration. I loved the comics Civil War2, but the movie has an even clearer advantage: they’ve been able to tailor the characters toward this sort of thing for several movies and, really, they’ve got a clear arc for why it makes sense and why it would happen right now of all times (to wit: Tony Stark’s guilt about the amount of civilian damage that has been done in the name of him trying to stop massive cosmic evil, primarily). It enables the story to be told in a more direct, less-backstory-interferent way. Which is good.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because, if nothing else, Chris Evans’ Captain America is just great. And because Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes is also just great. Actually, they’re pretty much all great. Which means if the story is handled even reasonably competently, we should get a pretty good movie out of it.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Well, it could go pretty far in the direction of “overwrought” – that’s always a risk with all of these. And Avengers: Age of Ultron was a little draggy and a little undercooked, which could mean that fatigue is setting in in terms of making these happen. But I don’t know, I’m not actually waffling that much.

2 this is an opinion that is not shared by a lot of people, and those people have their reasons, but also I’ve found generally like different things about superheroes than I do, so I’m content to live and let live about it.

X-Men: Apocalypse
WHAT IT IS: The end of a trilogy (although not the end, if he is to be believed, of Bryan Singer’s time as the director of these movies) that began with X-Men: First Class and has covered a decade each. This one introduces Apocalypse, a late-eighties addition to the X-Men rogue’s gallery who, here, is representing both the first mutant and also a purported “extinction-level threat.”

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, the movie immediately prior to this one was X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is legitimately one of the best superhero movies ever made, so they could still carry over that pretty well. The trailer makes it clear that we’re looking at something pretty visually distinctive, and all of the super-cool people that appeared in the previous installments are back, so the cast is still strong. Apocalypse is being played by the Oscar Isaac, who is great basically all the time. Apocalypse the character had a great storyline in the nineties (Age of Apocalypse), and was also the late-stage big-bad of the 90s X-Men cartoon, which a lot of people my age remember fondly, and which was, itself, the way a lot of people got into the X-Men in the first place, so there’s a lot of feelings about Apocalypse,3 and also a lot of hints about how to use the character properly.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Oh, there are so many reasons. Despite being compellingly used as an over-arching bad guy, as a direct stand-up villain Apocalypse is almost always bullshit. There’s also a bunch of super-nerdy griping about how his powers work4 that may or may not even come to bear on the whole thing, but create several reasons to waffle. There’s also the danger that, as good as the last couple have been in terms of juggling a billion characters and keeping them separate, this could wind up overstuffed – all of the X-Men, plus five villains, some of whom presumably jump ship to become good guys5 – which was one of the many, many problems that sank the last X-Men trilogy ender (X3). But really, the main source of waffling is that although there were periods of comics that I liked more (Daredevil, the Starlin Cosmic Marvel stuff that included Guardians of the Galaxy and the Infinity Series), I was foremost (albeit not first) an X-Titles fan, and the last couple of movies have delivered on everything that was cool about them when I was a kid, and so I’m tempted not to put a lot of faith in a good adaptation of something that could, really, usher in all the stuff that made me stop reading it in the first place. But seriously, just look at that mass of footnotes. I have a lot of feelings here6.

3 he is, for example, my brother’s absolute hands-down favorite X-Men villain for these reasons
4 the shortest possible version of which is this: they often don’t, and the fact that his powers are extremely poorly defined* means that he has power levels that range from “guy who plausibly takes over the world and creates a dystopia” to “guy who loses a fight to Cyclops in the first round”, and that entire range is often covered over the course of one storyline.
* the best I can do here is that he has control over the molecules of his body (and sometimes also other molecules), a bunch of telepathic/telekinetic abilities, and then also a bunch of high-tech armor and weaponry that were loaneda to him by the Celestials. But also he has to “recharge” all the time because of the stress this all puts on his body (?!), so he’s usually asleep. And by “usually” I mean “for most of human history”.
a LOANED. Like, they’re letting him borrow their magic suit and their fancy spaceship and all their world-destroying weapons. Also, Apocalypse’s backstory in the comics includes the Celestials at minimum. Imagine how confusing it would get if they had all the rights they needed. I would need to figure out how to further-embed footnotes, for starters.
5 this happens to Apocalypse’s Horsemen an awful lot, but also I can’t bring myself to believe that at least Storm doesn’t end up an X-Man at the end of the movie
6 this is also completely without touching on my early-adolescent feelings about Psylocke, because I respect you people enough to put any kind of point on that. I’m sure you can deduce where that figures in.

Suicide Squad
WHAT IT IS: A DC movie, in which a bunch of Justice League7 villains do contract dirty work for the government in exchange for leniency. Because the government decided the best way to deal with The Joker is to give him leniency if he takes care of some crime. Yep.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, for starters it’s a cast full of extremely charismatic people (Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Cara Delivingne, Ike Barinholtz, Viola Davis), many of whom are also capable of being very funny. In a departure from the dour, airless Batman v Superman, this film is a bit more of a romp, which can only help matters (especially with an ensemble cast full of, as mentioned, very funny people). The trailer looks a little bit insane, but it could be the good kind of insane. Jared Leto, especially, is pretty clearly swinging for the fences here, which usually works out for him.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Leaving aside that the premise of the whole thing8 is bananapants bonkerballs, the first thing you run smack into is that DC hasn’t made a superhero movie that’s been actually good since The Dark Knight9. The second thing is that Jared Leto is really going at this hard, and the press is full of stories of Jared Leto being a total weirdo, and the character is really weirdly designed, and, y’know, Jared Leto is a very talented actor who can do a bunch of stuff and it might all turn out ok, but it all seems a little….Hot Topic-y. A little too much telling about the crazy and not enough showing. But hey! Trailers lie all the time. So really what we’re left with is that this is meant to fit into Zack Snyder’s misanthropic, hyper-dark vision for the world of Superman and Batman and all that, and is meant to lead into the Justice League movies (which seems completely backward). Couple that with the fact of late-stage reshoots (the consensus of which was that it needed to be more Deadpool-y to grab some of those Deadpool dollars, which I guess I could believe, since Batman v Superman clearly didn’t become the movie to emulate), which almost never really mean good things and….OK, so look. The reasons to waffle are that there is basically no way for this to work, but the cast is really good and the movie might be kind of funny? Or at least a hard-charging, earnestly-meant failure, which is better than we’re getting from DC movies these days in general.

7 although this is well before either of the Justice League movies, so I guess they’re just regular old villains of humanity.
8 which, in its defense, is also the premise of the comic book upon which the film is based
9 OK, so, I’m not really getting into the Watchmen argument, but I think it’s actually a good movie, and it came out after The Dark Knight, but I’m not counting it in favor of leaving both it and the pretty-actually-terrible The Dark Knight Rises off the reckoning.

Doctor Strange
WHAT IT IS: One of Marvel’s weirdest superheroes does magic stuff, usually with all sorts of occult/horror trappings. Doctor Strange is trained in the art of magic by The Ancient One, who also trains the villain, Baron Mordo, and really, this one gets weird in a hurry.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not shy about taking on the out-there elements of their comic book source material, which is pretty cool. Doctor Strange has a bunch of different “modes,” like most sub-top-tier superheroes with a long history, and some of them are pretty compelling. The movie could very well be visually striking (there’s a lot of opportunity for it, certainly), and so far the MCU has made something of a reputation for digging out the interesting parts to their less-popular adaptations. Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor are generally great actors, and that can’t hurt.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Well, I never actually liked Doctor Strange as a character. I read his titles when they were part of the Cosmic Universe, but not really any other time, and since his work adjacent to the Avengers10 is generally my least favorite part of all that, it’s not really setting my toes tapping. That said, it’s necessary to have one of the Cosmic characters around so that when the Infinity Stuff happens, there’s someone to act as a communicator (in the original comics, the Silver Surfer does, in fact, go straight to Doctor Strange to tell him about Thanos), so I get it. The trailer is kind of all over the place, but who knows about trailers?

10 although, really, he worked even more often alongside the Fantastic Four, who for obvious reasons are not a concern here.

LEGO Batman
WHAT IT IS: The Batman we deserve, and the Batman that we need right now. Will Arnett’s performance as LEGO Batman already stole one movie, so they just gave him another one to have for himself.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because a frothy, comedic take specifically on the last thirty years of ever-grimmer, ever-grittier Batman is a fantastic idea, and because Chris McKay, the director, produced and wrote for Moral Orel, which means that I’m inclined to give him an enormous benefit of the doubt. Plus Michael Cera is going to be Robin, and Will Arnett and Michael Cera have a history of being great in conjunction.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: I’m pretty much not waffling, but I suppose there’s the chance that the surprise element that made The LEGO Movie so good would be lacking here, and it might collapse under the weight of expectation. But really, I don’t think there’s much to go wrong here – just let Will Arnett be his Batman, and let ‘er rip.

A Movie Where Wolverine Flips Everybody Off On the Poster
WHAT IT IS: It’s a movie featuring Wolverine (who’s got his middle claw up in the same manner that he did sixteen years ago in the first X-Men movie, so really, it’s already hitting new lows of lazy recycling) that has a poster before it has a title. It’s notable because it’s (at this point) (allegedly) Hugh Jackman’s last go-round as Dr. Claw.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: The last Wolverine movie was pretty good, and this is more a sequel to that than anything, as the same director is involved. Hugh Jackman is reliably amiable in these movies. This one is purported to include Professor X a bunch, and I like James McAvoy. Plus, who knows, they could work especially hard at getting it right if it really is the last one.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Because there’s one pretty good Wolverine movie, and one truly abyssmal one. Because Wolverine works best in a team dynamic11, especially in movie terms. And, really, because the movie has a poster before it has a title, which means they’re already going about this whole thing backwards. I know the marketing and creative parts of movies are kept separate, and I do get it that it could happen for a bunch of reasons, but none of those potential reasons seems to indicate “this is going to work out.” Plus it’s probably going to be rated R because of Deadpool, which might be fine, or might be really, truly stupid. As is generally the case with all things Wolverine.

11 yes, I know he’s had his own book for the last several decades. I also know that it’s usually not very good.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
WHAT IT IS: The sequel to the greatest superhero movie ever made.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because it’s the sequel to the greatest superhero movie ever made, and this time they’ve added Kurt Russell.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Nope. Another Guardians of the Galaxy movie. With Kurt Russell. No waffles here one little bit.

Wonder Woman
WHAT IT IS: DC’s favorite Amazon has the first feature film in her almost 80-year history devoted to her. She was introduced in Batman v Superman, and is a member of the Justice League, so this is the beginning of a whole Wonde Woman thing.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because Gal Gadot’s performance was the one thing in Batman v Superman that was generally (nearly unanimously, in fact) agreed to be pretty good. There’s a lot of history with Wonder Woman, and it’s pretty cool that it’s happening finally. This will also be the first female-led superhero movie since superhero movies became a multibillion dollar growth industry. It’s being directed by a lady who directed an episode of Arrested Development. It’s a good episode. So that’s good. It’s got a pretty good cast, and the photos that are available of the set look pretty good. Good good good, that’s what we’ve got here. Just good all the way down.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Most of the problems here are basically the same as my problems with Doctor Strange: I don’t have much in the way of excited feelings about the character in general, so it’s hard for me to get really into the idea of the movie. Plus, the number of botched handlings of Wonder Woman (adaptationally or otherwise) is actually much greater than the number of times it went well for the character, so I advise holding out on the hype train here.

Another Fucking Spider-Man Movie
WHAT IT IS: An as-yet untitled movie welcoming Spider-Man back to the big screen. Again. The only footage we have at all at this point is from the trailer to Captain America: Civil War.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, as always, there’s a bunch of stuff you can do with Spider-Man. He’s got some great, highly-adaptable stories, and he’s a character that seriously resonates with a bunch of people.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Oh my god it’s another Spider-Man movie. And this is a clearly young version of Spider-Man, which means there’s a very real danger of having to watch his goddamn origin story again. I mean really, until Marvel writes a press release that says “we are literally not putting his origin story in this dumb movie”, I really can’t countenance looking forward to it.

Thor: Ragnarok
WHAT IT IS: It probably isn’t the thing where Thor, Loki, Odin et al die and the world is covered in water and begins anew as fertile land (and also eternal winter12). It’s probably a big-ass superhero fight between, well, Thor and Loki and all that. Maybe Surtur, who was totally a thing in the comics. Looked pretty cool. Big red guy. We probably saw some stuff from this movie alluded to in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: I really like the Thor movies. This is probably wrapping up the series, and, honestly, may very well be the end of the line for Chris Hemsworth’s Thor – his death could very much yield a new Thor13, and seems, really to be implied by the title. Plus, Taika Waititi is such a weirdly left-field choice of director that it’s hard not to be a little bit intrigued by what could happen there – comedy directors have had great luck with Marvel movies up to now (James Gunn, Matthew Vaughn, Peyton Reed, The Russo Brothers, etc.), so there’s no reason to think it might not work out. Plus Cate Blanchett!

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: It’s probably going to be hell of long. Like, hell of long. The other two are long already, this one is going to be a capstone. Plus the Thor parts of the Avengers’ movies are getting a little less moored in the shared reality, so it could also just be really weird and disconnected. But really, it probably won’t.

12 I make no apologies for the weirdness of norse mythology here, people. I will further point out that squirrels and roosters are very important figures in the end of the world.
13 Lady Thor would be just swell, Eric Masterson/Thunderstirke less so, Beta Ray Bill the absolute best-case scenario

Justice League: Part One
WHAT IT IS: The culmination of DC’s shared film universe, bringing together a bunch of the characters who will, at the time it comes out, have gotten a bunch of solo movies. Most of the people involved made appearances in Batman V Superman.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Uh…because Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is in it? And I guess Jason Momoa’s Aquaman? That’s pretty cool. I guess. I mean, Aquaman hasn’t done much in film yet, but I’m trying to give this movie the benefit of the doubt here. It definitely won’t be too bright. It’ll probably be in-focus. The sound will probably be synched to the picture properly. So if that’s your thing, you’re in business.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: There’s just nothing here that, at the end of April in 2016, looks at all heartening. Admittedly we haven’t seen a frame of it, and it probably isn’t even written yet, but I just don’t see, given what we have seen, and given the direction this all seems to be going, that we’re all going to be super-happy with the end result. Plus, I’m not a fan of the Justice League in any of its best forms, I can’t imagine this is going to work out.

Black Panther
WHAT IT IS: The first Black superhero solo movie. Black Panther is a Batman-esque “dude with gadgets” sort of hero, played here by Chadwick Boseman.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: There’s some cool stuff in Black Panther’s history, and Chadwick Boseman is a good actor. We also got a scene of Andy Serkis’s Ulysses Klaw, who is likely to be the villain here (given that he’s a Black Panther villain canonically, and his arm just got ripped off by Ultron, making him go all crazy and want to kill the Avengers or whatever), and that was pretty good. We’ll probably have a better idea of how this will go after BP makes his debut in Captain America: Civil War. But there’s a pretty wide-open set of storytelling possibilities here: like Ant-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy, there isn’t, like, a huge iconic story that needs to be dealt with or gotten around, although the current run13 is just about as high-profile as the character has ever been. As an aside, if there is to be any real crossover between the Netflix Marvel series and the MCU, this would logically seem to be the place where it happens (it is very probably not going to happen, however) – Black Panther and Daredevil are tight bros. You can tell this by their long history together, and also their suspiciously similar fashion sense.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: it’s a little too early to tell how waffley I’m going to be here – BP’s profile has been raised enough that it’s likely to be handled pretty respectfully. The only real pitfall is that it could be entirely too serious, and collapse under its own weight. But really, that’s finding some pretty wildly speculative reasons to temper what should reasonably be a fair amount of excitement. Also, although these kinds of “blank slate” movies (see above) have generally worked for the MCU, there’s always the risk that they’ll wind up some formula-chasing disappointment, so I suppose that’s real for this as well14.

13 Which is being written by Ta-Nehisi Coates!
14 Not that having a strong canonical through-line did anything to prevent the Iron Man movies from descending pretty far into dumb nonsense.

The Flash
WHAT IT IS: A movie completely separate and distinct from the television show currently operating, with the time-travelling Flash that confused and confounded everybody in Batman v Superman, directed by the guy that wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: If there’s anything that points to DC learning to lighten the holy hell up and let their colorful, exuberant characters be colorful and exuberant, it’s this one. Grahame-Smith has a long history of knowing a bunch of stuff about comics in general15, and, hey, it can’t all be terrible bullshit all the time in terms of DC movies, can it?

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: I mean, at this point we’ve seen the DC movie Flash, and there’s not really a lot of reason to be happy about it. It’s another over-anguished, grimdark version of a character that isn’t well-suited for it. This one’s a pretty far way off, and there’s a chance they could course-correct by this point, but the product will still have to fit in the Justice League movies, so how far afield can it possibly wander?

15 albeit Spider-Man in published particular

Avengers: Infinity War Part I
WHAT IT IS: The big banana. The knock-down, drag-out fight against Thanos and his magic bejewelled glove. The culmination of the whole ball of wax. Also the first half of a movie, separated by a bunch of other movies. Which is kind of weird.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, insofar as there’s an “it”, this is “it.” This is (presumably, and also purportedly) the thing that it’s all been building toward since Iron Man – a huge, hero-uniting fight against a dude whose current powers are a threat to all of existence itself. So if the MCU can be trusted to sling huge events into the world (and there’s not really a lot of reason to believe they can’t), this is the hugest. It also provides a handy reset, or ending, or out, or however you want to think of it, and so is likely to close up a bunch of stuff that will still be in the air at the time of its release.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: It is also, of course, possible that the whole thing will collapse under its own weight. The Inhumans movie has hit some shaky ground (being pulled from the definite release schedule), and not having them could make this basically The Avengers in Space, albeit alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s already an Avengers-rending event (Civil War) in between here and there, so it’s probably too early to tell.

Ant-Man and the Wasp
WHAT IT IS: The second Ant-Man movie, one in which Hope Van Dyne is a full-on superhero, at least if we can believe the title, which, y’know, we probably can.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: The first Ant-Man was, if not the best movie in the world, a clearly enjoyable caper film with a bunch of weird science stuff shoved into it, which is pretty cool. If this is more of that sort of thing, we’re probably in pretty good shape.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: A lot of the distinctive production elements that came along with Ant-Man were vestigial from Edgar Wright’s time at the helm16, and since this is the first big one after Infinity War Part I, it runs the risk of being infused with that movie’s (assumedly) portentious bearing, which would torpedo a fair amount of the charm of the first.

16 he does a lot of planning and pre-production for his movies, and was fired so late in the process that when Peyton Reed (who was fine, and who is returning for this one) came in, a bunch of that stuff was already there, which is why Ant-Man still manages to feel a lot like an Edgar Wright movie.

Aquaman
WHAT IT IS: Drogo, Kahl of the Water Critters, does some super-stuff in the ocean.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Aquaman has gotten a bad rap for a long time – he’s got powers which are incredibly powerful, but was dragged into the city by the people that wrote him, so ended up looking like a joke17. Since I’m choosing to believe that it’s possible for DC to turn their ship around, I will also say that there’s room here for a really weird visual exploration of a kind of superheroics you don’t generally see – something like Conan, something like John Carter18, something like The Abyss – and a titular character whose motivations for superheroics are pretty different from the standard DC character set. I also like Jason Momoa, and think there’s a lot of room for him to be a pretty good action movie dude, if he can get a good movie across his transom. James Wan, the director, has made highly watchable movies out of much worse source material.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Same reason as the other DC movies, really. It could be really fun, it could be different, it probably will get run through the Snyderizer (he’s the over-arching architect of the whole thing as of the time of this writing) and come out dark and dumb and joyless. We will probably have a better idea about the tenor of the individual character movies after Wonder Woman comes out, but until then what we have to go on is the ALL GRIMACING ALL THE TIME “vision” of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.

17 anyone who wants to argue the lameness of Aquaman is going to have to first explain to me why Hawkman, whose power is literally the same as fucking Arthur from The Tick, gets a pass in the “dumb stupid useless powers” competition.
18 the fact that these two particular characters – one of whom Jason Momoa has already played – also have something of a troubled relationship to filmic adaptation of late is probably not helping me make my case, but the point stands nevertheless.

Captain Marvel
WHAT IT IS: Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie, featuring the tremendously powerful Carol Danvers, probably to introduce her as “the cavalry” in the fight against Thanos, which will probably go badly as of Infinity War Part I.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Because Captain Marvel has, in the last five years or so, become a really incredible character19. This movie, particularly, has been clamored for pretty loudly, and is finally happening. She was supposed to be introduced at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Marvel didn’t want that to happen, for whatever reason, so clearly space is made for her in the world. The movie is being written by the woman that wrote Inside Out and the woman that wrote Guardians of the Galaxy. All signs point to yes!

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Well, the non-Carol Danvers Captains Marvel are all fine, but often super-goofy. This worked out ok for the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, but is still going to be something of a risk. Since basically no information exists about how this one is going to go, there’s the usual “proceed with caution” waffles, but really, all signs point to yes!

19 Largely by the hand of National Treasure Kelly Sue Deconnick

Shazam
WHAT IT IS: Originally known as Captain Marvel20, Shazam! Is a heretofore-neglected superhero with a long history, purportedly played by Dwayne Johnson.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Dwayne Johnson is hard not to like. He’s playing a square-jawed mega-powerful muscle dude, which could be cool I guess? I have basically no background with Shazam, having only read Jeff Smith’s run from ten or so years ago and (I think) one other set of issues21. Plus, there’s not really any information to go on here. Maybe they’ll cg Dwayne Johnson’s face on a kid like they did with Chris Evans in the pre-super serum Captain America scenes. That’d be adorable.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: We are moving out of the films where it’s really possible to waffle. I guess I’m waffling because it has a release date – a month after the MCU Captain Marvel – and a star, and it seems more “opportunism” than “good idea,” but I guess it only seems that way if you know the character wasn’t called Shazam the whole time.

20 so it was originally published as Captain Marvel, and it was a naked Superman rip-off (this sort of thing happened in the early days of comic books literally all the time). DC eventually just bought out the character, but by the time they were able to publish their own books feature him, Marvel Comics had started and had their own character named Captain Marvel, which they had trademarked, so DC had to call it something different.
21 I though it was by Kurt Busiek which, hey, where is my Astro-City movie? Have we given serious thought to an Astro-City movie? There should be an Astro-City movie. But it wasn’t Kurt Busiek after all, so I don’t remember who it was or why I would’ve read it. Could’ve been the Geoff Johns’ run from a couple of years ago I guess? I really have no real memory of it.

Justice League Part Two
WHAT IT IS: The second Justice League movie, obviously, but also this one will come after we’ve gotten solo movies from members Aquaman and The Flash (and probably Shazam), so we’ll have all that tasty “depth” to get in there.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: If this even ends up happening, it’ll be a triumph of will and/or stubbornness to rival basically any film ever made, and will therefore be worth seeing in its own right, since as of today it’s baffling that one of these movies is going to happen, let alone a sequel. That said, if they change direction, if we get the Flash and Aquaman movies that we could, this could be a pretty satisfying film, right up until everyone turns into a murderbot and we just end up right back where we started.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Man, the DC movies are so repetitive that it’s hard to even say why they’re not going to work without repeating myself. Too dark, too self-serious without being actual serious, too much murder. That’s probably how this goes. There’s no reason to believe otherwise at this point.

Cyborg
WHAT IT IS: Jesus. They keep happening. We saw a glimpse of this guy in Batman v Superman – he was the one-armed dude having his arm regrown by a robot cube.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: Well, that cube is the Mother Box, one of the great, weird Jack Kirby gifts from Fourth World. And maybe we’ll get one from Kirby, and get a brawling, sprawling movie about a hardscrabble hero who has to work really hard to do stuff, like a Cyborg noir. Or literally just a remake of the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, only set in the DC Universe. With a mother box. Actually, I would like to start a kickstarter to make the DC Cyborg movie that last one. The remake one. Albert Pyun is still around, he was just in that documentary about Cannon Films. Call him up, see what he’s doing, then put him in charge of a $200 million movie. It’ll at least be more interesting than what you’ve got now.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: They’re not going to do any of that. He’s going to get his new future-arm and turn into a murderbot, just like Batman did. Just like Batman did. Cripes.

Green Lantern Corps
WHAT IT IS: The Green Lantern Corps is sort of cosmic DC like Captain Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy are Cosmic Marvel. There’s a bunch of them, the best-known of which is the Green Lantern, they all have colored rings, and they’re an interdimensional police force thingy.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED: I mean, this could be a lot of fun. There’s a lot of weird stuff to play with here, and since it’s easy for it not to happen specifically on Earth, it could make the constant-murdering thing that happens in present-day DC movies a little easier to take. Or maybe by this point they’ll be done with the constant-murdering thing and we’ll be allowed to see a fun movie about interdimensional supercops.

BUT I’M WAFFLING BECAUSE: Well, leaving aside the fact that the last Green Lantern movie was basically unwatchable, it’s still an uphill sell, especially with things in the DC movies the way they are now. But then, this is four full years away, so a lot can change in that time, and there may be no reason to have worried after all.


The 2016 MTV Movie Awards

Spring is in the air1! Flowers are showing their faces, birds are singing their songs, and MTV is giving out some goofy-ass movie awards. Not being one to shy away from celebrating all of the most precious rituals, I’m here to take a gander at these awards and tell you how they should, in a just world2, shake out.

1 at the time of this writing, snow is literally in the air, which is likely to interfere with the number of baseballs in the air, which means sadness is also in the air, but we’re going to pretend there’s spring in the air for the sake of this piece
2 we do not live in a just world. See FN1.

Will Smith is getting the career achievement award (the “MTV Generation Award”), which is fine. He’s made some high-profile flicks recently, and seems to be recovering from the last few years, when he made a bunch of hugely-forgettable, sometimes-regrettable movies instead of good ones. So yay!

Best Hero
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is up for 11 of these things, in various and sundry forms. The first of them here is Daisy Ridley. She’s up against Chris Evans, for his fourth performance as Captain America, which was fine, but also the fourth one. Ditto Jennifer Lawrence in the second part of Mockingjay, which also loses points for really only being the second half of a movie. Paul Rudd is fine in Ant-Man – I liked it more than a lot of people seemed to, but it wasn’t anything I’d necessarily call “the best”. Dwayne Johnson punched an earthquake. That’s pretty impressive. So it’s either the aformentioned Ms. Ridley or Charlize Theron for Mad Max: Fury Road. Since I would quibble that Daisey Ridley wasn’t the lone hero of the movie, I’m going to give it to Charlize.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

Ensemble Cast
Weirdly, all of these movies are sequels, except for Trainwreck. That would make it easy, but also Trainwreck had a bunch of problems. Of course, Pitch Perfect 2 is literally nothing but problems, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is made up of leftover problems from the three movies prior to it. Furious 7 is a worthwhile use of that ensemble, I suppose, but it’s still not actually a good movie. Avengers: Age of Ultron is specifically about the dismantling of the ensemble that propelled the first movie. That leaves us with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which I’m perfectly ok with.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Virtual Performance
I’m not entirely sure what rebranding “voice performance” as “virtual performance” is meant to do. I suppose heavily motion-captured performances would also qualify, but none of these are one of those. They’re pretty much just all voice performances straight up and down, of which the best is clearly James Spader in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: James Spader, Avengers: Age of Ultron

Best Action Performance
I feel like every time Dwayne Johnson is nominated for something for San Andreas, I want to make a joke about punching an earthquake. I also feel like, since he does not actually, in any accurate sense, punch an earthquake, that such jokes aren’t really tenable for more than a couple of outings. These are dilemmas I face here. I’m also wondering if he’s sad that he wasn’t nominated for Furious 7 over Vin Diesel. I guess they want to maximize the number of people they can get in the room at once. Not that it’s a huge question, since neither of them would be the winner in any case. John Boyega was fine in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Jennifer Lawrence remains a deeply charismatic actress, but also The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 was kind of a mess. Chris Pratt remains a deeply charismatic actor, but Jurassic World remains a difficult movie to like on any but its own terms. Ryan Reynolds remains a deeply charismatic actor, and Deadpool was fucking rad.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Best Villain
I mean, the real villain here is the forthcoming “best kiss” category, about which more in a moment. Some of these are fine performances in very good movies – Ed Skrein does his job in Deadpool, Samuel L. Jackson does about what you’d expect in Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Hugh Keays-Byrne plays an effective villain in Mad Max: Fury Road4, although the performance itself isn’t anything particularly special – and one of them is an acceptable performance in a stupid, awful movie (that would be Tom Hardy in The Revenant). On the one hand, that leaves us with Adam Driver by process of elimination. On the other hand, Adam Driver is really, really good in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

4 I’m going to say now, even though it makes me about the six thousandth person to do so, that I’m tired of every movie title having a colon in it. I’m not sure what anyone should do about it, but it’s really making titles a whole lot longer than they need to be.

Best Kiss
I hate this category. I also loathe the numerical majority of the movies in this category (the exceptions are Deadpool which, as mentioned, is fucking rad, and Trainwreck, which is merely in need of a judicious edit). I don’t want to watch any of these people kiss each other. Dumb dumb dumb.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: It would’ve been pretty cool if Adam Driver had kissed that burned-out Darth Vader helmet, though. Actually, no it wouldn’t have. It would have been super dumb. But all of this is already super dumb.

Best Fight
This category is, for whatever reason, less annoying to me. That probably says more about me than it does about the category, but the category isn’t writing this paragraph, is it? Obviously I’m not going to start saying good things about The Revenant now, so that’s right out. The fights nominated in Spy and Mad Max: Fury Road were good in and of themselves, but Spy isn’t the funniest one and Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t the best action-y one. The Iron Man/Hulk fight in Avengers: Age of Ultron is the funniest one, and the Deadpool/Ajax one from Deadpool is the best action-y one5. Anyway, none of them were ever really in it. Because one of the one thigns that has pretty much always gone down correctly in Star Wars films are the lightsaber fights, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t disappoint one little bit6 (ok, so, FN6 has a bunch of serious Star Wars blabber, written by someone that used to spend a seriously enormous amount of time in the Star Wars universe, so if this doesn’t sound like something you want to read, I will completely understand skipping that one). So it’s that one.

5 yes the funniest one is from the less funny movie. That seemed weird to me to type also, but y’know, that’s how it goes.
6 I am aware that Rey didn’t have any training with the lightsaber before being pretty good with it, but it’s not like Kylo Ren would’ve had a bunch of duelling experience with it either, just some practice generally swinging it at stuff. I mean, it’s not like Order 66 had a subclause that was something like “keep some lightsaber practice people alive in case there’s a kid someday that wants to get good at fencing and stuff.” Although it is true that Stomtroopers are capable of wielding weapons that turn out to be useful against lightsabers (when Finn is wielding the lightsaber there’s that dude with the mace-thing that can block it), there’s no evidence that it was designed to be so, and that might have been a lucky circumstance. All of which is without even touching on the fact that force talent can manifest itself in a bunch of ways*, and that it might just be the case that Rey was able to channel her abilities in ways that made her more effective in the fight intuitively. So there. It was totally awesome. Shut up, nerds.
* part of the reason it’s not addressing that is that a lof the information we have on the various form that force talent takes was rendered non-canon, and therefore wouldn’t be brought to bear on this particular lightsaber fight anyway, but we do know that there are various ways in which the force manifests itself, particularly w/r/t lightsaber combat. C.f. Yoda v Dooku or Maul v Jinn or Vader v Kenobi.

Best Comedic Performance
Here’s the thing. I know the “fish out of water” comedy is as old (like, literally actually as old) as the idea of narrative comedy itself. But full three of these comedies are “person who is not tough is put in a position where they are tough” and that’s fine, I guess7, but it seems like a thin well to draw on. Rebel Wilson is just doing what Rebel Wilson does, and I’ve never been a particular fan of it. Amy Schumer was fine. I liked Deadpool a whole lot.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

7 it is, in this circumstance, beside the point to say that the three funniest people overall in this category – Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart and Melissa McCarthy have all made me laugh in circumstances beyond that which I would normally expect – are the three that have all made comedies in which they have to be “tough”, and are therefore the source of this bafflement, but it’s worth noting anyway. It is, however, also worth noting that, despite each of them being capable of being tremendously funny, they all have careers that can, charitably, be called “wildly inconsistent”.

Documentary
This is a weirdly serious category, right? I mean, this seems sort of out of place. They’re all well-done, serious choices, and sort of hard to rank when you’re in a mindset that has you considering what the best fight scene is. Weird.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Amy

True Story
Judging movies specifically for being based on a true story always seems weird. It feels awkward to me to say “hey NFL dudes with concussions, lady with the mops, people affected by the financial crisis, members of NWA and (apparently) that one dude brutalized by a bear in the snow, all of your stories are going to be thrown into a soup and judged against one another.” That said, here we are saying it. Joy is still dumb. The Revenant is still execrable. Concussion and Steve Jobs look great by comparison, but why not give this one to Straight Outta Compton.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Straight Outta Compton

Breakthrough Performance
THE FUCK JOHN BOYEGA’S BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE WAS IN STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. HE WAS ABSOLUTE TITS IN ATTACK THE BLOCK. Believe it, bruv. Anyway, Dakota Johnson and Brie Larson were both great in their respective films here. Daisy Ridley and Amy Schumer are closer bets, but really. While on the one hand it’s hard to say this dude that played his dad doesn’t necessarily have some pretty specific advantages, it’s also hard to say it wasn’t the damn best. So there you have it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: O’Shea Jackson, Straight Outta Compton

Best Female Performance
I get that nominating Jennifer Lawrence is a good way to get her to show up to your awards show and all, but really, enough with Joy already. Anna Kendrick is no worse in Pitch Perfect 2 than she was in Pitch Perfect, which is a little thin in terms of reward-receiving reasons. Morena Baccarin was fine in Deadpool. Alicia Vikander and Daisy Ridley were even great in Ex Machina and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, respectively. But honestly, Mad Max: Fury Road belongs to Charlize Theron, and she is therefore the winner.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Male Performance
I can’t type The Revenant anymore guys. I just can’t. Will Smith is getting the Generations award but, to TELL THE TRUTH, I don’t think Concussion is particularly noteworthy. I’m the last person on Earth to talk about not bestowing any applicable accolades on Chris Pratt, and I’ve said a bunch about what there is to love about Jurassic World in this space, but I don’t think it’s the sort of thing people should get acting awards for. Even the ones bestowed by MTV. Surprisingly, I’m going to break from my usual here and say that while Ryan Reynolds was just delightful in Deadpool, Michael B. Jordan was super duper great in Creed. And super duper is better than just delightful. Obviously. Obviously.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Michael B. Jordan, Creed

Movie of the Year
I first want to say that this might be the only time in the entire history of me writing about awards shows that I’ve liked every single movie in a “best movie” category8. That’s pretty cool. That said, we got a good Star Wars movie last year, and it’s been a long time since we had one of those, so my allegiances are clear.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

8 this is abetted, thankfully, by the MTV Movie Award people somehow seeing a way to not nominate The Revenant. Thank heaven for small favors.
And there it is, bar the reveal of clips from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Suicide Squad and Captain America: Civil War, which we’ll probably see back in this space around this time next year. See you then!