What is there to say about Edward Graham Peeler Jr? The man lives and breathes Comic-con culture. From Buffy to Captain Marvel, Jabba the Hut to Jar Jar, I can always count on Peeler for a hot take, encyclopedic knowledge, or a rage-based rant on everything wrong with a film. You can follow his blog at https://dreadpiratesite.wordpress.com/, or his video reviews on youtube. I took an opportunity to discuss the upcoming slate of DC films, their handling of their own comic book franchises, and projected plan for the future:
Me: DC released 2 big trailers at comic con this year. One being Aquaman- their sole release of the year- and the other being Shazam which took me by surprise. I feel like a lot is riding on Aquaman seeing as Wonder Woman has been the only real success of this universe DC is trying to build. What were your thoughts on the trailer?
Edward: I feel like I need to preface this answer with a little back-story. As a comic book fan and as someone who likes DC’s comics, I have been boycotting the DCEU. Without going too much into it, around the time Man Of Steel came out, the comics sucked. They were doing this really stupid reboot that nobody liked called the New 52, that DC will still claim was a HUGE success regardless of the fact that they have completely undone that entire storyline, and brought us back to the classic comics, which for the most part are good again. Now their other media at the time was still pretty good: good video games, good direct to DVD stuff; things like that. And the trailer for Man Of Steel looked amazing, so I went into it expecting a great movie. And I absolutely hated it. Man Of Steel set a standard going forward with these movies that said to me “We don’t care about the integrity of these characters and what they’re supposed to be about. We don’t care about an intelligent or engaging storyline. We don’t care about likeable characters. Hell, we don’t care about doing a competent and entertaining blockbuster. We just want to throw a bunch of dumb pretty visuals at you and get your money. And you should give us your money because we’re Warner Bros. and we know better than you.” And I’m like, NOPE. I knew if this is the foot their going to start this universe off on, everything down the line they follow through with is going to suck. So I vowed I’m not going to watch any of these. So I’ve just been sitting on the sidelines watching DC and Warner Bros embarrass themselves every year. I successfully avoided Batman V. Superman, but I watched and read many reviews, and talked to many friends who confirmed it was trash. I know about all the stupid plot points of that film and agree, they’re garbage. I was celebrating my birthday with my best friend Josh, and we decided to get drunk, and have bad movie night, and that’s how I saw Suicide Squad (I made him sit through Yoga Hoosiers.) And yeah, Suicide Squad was also retarded, just style over substance. The only thing it had going for it was Margo Robbie’s sexy ass and her chemistry with Will Smith. The scenes where the two of them are plotting and scheming were the few bright spots of the film. I recently saw Focus which stars the two of them, and they are amazing in that film together. Of course it’s a much better film in general. I also liked Diablo breaking the Enchantress’s illusion. His strength of will and awareness of who and what he is, was a rare good character moment in a film where a government agent shoots her own people in the head because she’s too lazy to ask them to leave the room. Everyone tells me Wonder Woman is the greatest film of all time and I refuse to see it because even if it is good and Gal Gadot is amazing in it, I have no interest in this garbage universe. And I’ve heard plenty of people criticize the film too. Best I can tell it’s a 7 out of 10, good but not great. I think a lot of people are praising it because if you don’t praise a product about Wonder Woman, the greatest female super hero of all time, then you’re anti-feminist. And to that I say, whatever. Lieutenant Ripley is the greatest female movie super hero of all time as far as I’m concerned and she’s been around since the 80s. The crappy Wonder Woman tv pilot from a couple years back is proof that just because Wonder Woman is in a story doesn’t mean it’s good. However, I will say Gal Gadot does appear to be doing a decent job with the character. When it comes to performances, action, and raw beauty, she is an excellent incarnation of the character. It’s a shame she’s in the worst version of the DC Universe to date. And Justice League, I sat back, avoided it, and laughed and celebrated when it bombed. Like BVS, I watched and read many reviews and listened to word of mouth. I know about every stupid thing they did. It’s trash and everybody knows. Not to belabor this but one of DC and Warner Bros. problems is an abject refusal to copy the Marvel formula for building a cinematic universe. If they had literally just copy and pasted everything Marvel has done, these would be good movies and they would actually be competition for Marvel. There is no helping this studio. The DCEU sucks. We all know it. I don’t know why they bother. What they should do is scrap this entire garbage universe and hire a guy like Kevin Feige, who loves the comics, to manage a new series of DC films. But they’re so stupid, they’re going to have to fall on their face a few more times before that happens. Aquaman and Shazam are not going to save them at all. But I’ve rambled enough. What did I actually think of the trailers?
The Aquaman trailer is very brightly colored, with a lot of stuff happening all over the place. Warner Bros. is still trying to convince me that Jason Momoa (who seems like a very nice person) is an awesome cross between Conan the Barbarian and The Little Mermaid. I am not impressed. Warner Bros. is notorious, especially in this franchise, for amazing looking trailers that promote a garbage film. It looks like they are trying to present an awesome sci-fi adventure film that I just have got to see. They’re trying really hard to push that narrative, which is smart. They even have Black Manta as the bad guy, one of Aquaman’s most iconic villains. The problem is, even if it is good, it’s just another Wonder Woman, a good film in a garbage universe I have no interest in visiting. On top of that, this is just sad. Warner Bros. is and has been banking that an Aquaman movie is going to save this franchise, a character that NO ONE, NOT EVEN COMIC BOOK FANS, care about. As a fan, I can attest that Aquaman is actually a great character. He has a lot of cool powers like super strength and water control. Over time he has been turned into a warrior king and a major contributor to the Justice League with many awesome adventures and his own supporting characters under his belt. There was even a period where he lost his arm and it was replaced by an unbreakable harpoon that he could launch and entangle his enemies with as well as use like a drill. He’s a great character, but in the public consciousness he’s still the idiot in orange whose only powers is to swim and talk to fish from the Super Friends. All the cool stuff I just mentioned has been a tremendous effort in the comics to get him away from the original image and it still hasn’t worked, not even in the comics. In the above mentioned God-awful New 52, their approach to rebooting Aquaman was having some doofy idiot approach Aquaman, the fucking king of Atlantis and an established world saving hero, and make fun of him as a reference to the Super Friends all the while the comic insisting that “Aquaman is actually really cool”. Well if he was there would be no reason to remind the reader of that, and to be fair, better writers in the past have just used the character, cheesy history and all, and not beaten the audience over the head like the above example. He has his fans who adore the character, but even among his fans, it’s hard to find people that will adamantly defend the character, and talk him up, especially when comparing him to his fellow league members; even non-comic fans can’t shut up about how awesome the Big 3 are (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) and he’s even out-shined by major second stringers such as the Flash and Green Lantern. I think most people would agree that even Hawkman outshines Aquaman on several points. The point is he has never escaped the shadow of his underwhelming earlier incarnations, and all Warner Bros. has attempted, is hiring an actor know for playing barbarian characters and has gotten Jason’s fan base interested in the project so they can see him do what he does in every show he’s in. And even if this does take off, great DC. That means the only two characters in your universe anybody wants to see is Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Once again what DC should be doing and is not doing is treating Aquaman like Marvel treated the Guardians of the Galaxy and Antman, as lesser known, underappreciated characters and we’re going to take a risk on even bothering to make a project on them. That way they can get people to take a chance on the character, be surprised by the quality of the film, and fall in love with the character. They’re not doing that. They’re banking on the Aquaman movie being great and we’re going to just love everybody’s least favorite Justice League character. I predict this movie is going to be like another Green Lantern movie, where there’s going to be a lot of cool, in-concept, CGI crap all over the movie, that is actually a reference to stuff from the comics that when executed comes across as uninteresting and boring. It was a bad idea to invest so much in this film in the first place, but every decision Warner Bros. has made post-The Dark Knight has been a mistake, and they abjectly refuse to learn from any of their failures.
As for Shazam, their trying to make this movie their Deadpool. Which is funny because they were also trying to make Suicide Squad their Deadpool, and that worked out so well <.<. So the deal with Shazam (or Captain Marvel as he’s supposed to be called. It’s a long story of legal battles with Marvel Comics. Don’t ask.) is that he’s supposed to be a nice little kid named Billy Batson whose been enchanted by a wizard whose actually named Shazam, and the magic of Shazam enables Billy to turn into a superhero with powers comparable to Superman. He’s almost as strong as Superman and can actually handle him in a fight especially since the source of his powers is magic which is one of Superman’s weaknesses. He can be a funny character, because he is child-like and as a result can come across as silly, but he’s also a really good kid with a strong sense of right and wrong, and often times an unwillingness to compromise due to his maturity. So he’s a legitimate superhero who can go on adventures and fight the same world ending crap Superman fights. It doesn’t look like they’re going in that direction with this movie. They’re just focusing on comedy and focusing on one aspect of the character: he’s a kid who turns into a superhero. Look how silly that idea is. That’s the movie. The movie looks legitimately dumb going by the trailer. I’m not paying 10 bucks to see a dummy in a superhero outfit dance around in a shallow attempt to make me laugh. And again if this is their breakout movie, that’s pathetic. It means the only character in this universe people are going to come out and see is a character their playing solely as a joke. “What about Deadpool?” I hear you say. Well Deadpool is not solely a comedic character. He’s hilarious, but he’s also a badass, and there’s plenty of serious drama and even romance in his books, and both movies reflect that well. For this movie to work it can’t just be comedy. The DC Captain Marvel needs to go on adventures and fight villains and reflect the adventurous feel of his book to work. If they do this right, the film should feel like Spider-man Homecoming, equal parts comedy, drama, and superhero adventure. I think their just going for dumb comedy which I have no interest in seeing. It’s a step up from Aquaman and it might actually be funny, I’ll give it that. But again if the best they can do is Shazam, that’s pathetic in terms of getting people to see this mess of universe they’ve created.
Me: I felt like DC, with these two films, was conspicuously addressing their reputation for dark fare, showcasing a lighter side, especially with Shazam.
Edward: Yeah, their trying to lighten themselves up and be more like Marvel. It’s just their doing it in such a clunky fashion, without understanding why Marvel works. Everything DC and Warner Bros. does reeks of desperation. They should have started out copying Marvel, and it’s a little too late to save this garbage universe they’ve made. Also, they should have been light hearted TO BEGIN WITH, instead of trying to make everyone of their characters Batman. The DC Universe is inherently cheesy and that’s part of the reason why it’s awesome. If they had embraced that from the get-go, their movies would be charming and redeemable.
Me: Next year sees three big releases from DC: Shazam, The Joker, and Wonder Woman 1984. Wonder Woman 1984 sounds exciting. We can probably project that being a success, but what are you expecting from the second entry?
Edward: I’m honestly not sure. It could be an opportunity either for a great sequel, or for DC to shit the bed again. I think either outcome is possible. If it’s good, what Warner Bros. should do is declare all DCEU movies, except the two Wonder Woman movies, as non-canon. Make Wonder Woman their Iron Man, and start fresh, slowly introducing better versions of Superman, Batman, and other characters into a new better DC cinematic universe. And if they were to do that, I might actually see both Wonder Woman movies.
Me: I really believe the best super hero movies have some compelling story line for the hero outside of his suit; inner demons, the burden of being super, what have you. In Wonder Woman, we had the romance between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. Now that he’s gone, what do they do with her character?
Edward: *shrug* I’m not sure. I’d have to care about the Wonder Woman movie to adequately explore that. They could do something that has been explored in fantasy and horror before with elves and vampires, where she’s still partially in mourning for him as an immortal who is in love with an ordinary human destined to die. Some of the best drama in the Highlander series comes from the idea of being in love with mortal women, leading to pain, because of the woman’s inevitable death while the immortal lives on. Connor McCloud still mourns Heather centuries after her passing. They could do something similar to that with Wonder Woman, and maybe compare it to Captain America’s plight in the Avengers movies, since he’s still waiting for that dance with Peggy that he’s never going to get. I’d focus on action. Cheetah’s fun. She’s a mutant cat-woman, mad scientist. Good old science fiction camp character. Has nothing to do with Greek mythology so there is a nice contrast between her and Wonder Woman. I’d introduce more characters too, show that Wonder Woman has adapted with the times and is doing the best she can to move on. I think that might be interesting. I might actually even watch it this time.
Me: Another big release for 2019 is a Joker origin film. I’m highly skeptical about just the premise, since I think the joker is more interesting as an enigma.
Edward: Yeah, they keep doing this stupid crap, where they’re trying to make movies about villains! It’s all Sony’s fault for trying to make a Sinister Six movie! Which was a terrible idea, and fortunately it never saw the light of day, but then Warner Bros. thought it would be a great idea, and that’s how we got Suicide Squad, and sure enough Suicide Squad sucks. And of course Warner Bros. is retarded and never learns from their mistakes, so they’re trying to beat this dead horse again. Making movies about super villains is stupid for a variety of reasons. The biggest problem is, in comic books, villains serve to compliment the hero; they exist to be the nemesis of a particular hero or group of heroes. They can be interesting characters in their own right, but we wouldn’t even know about them, or what makes them tick, if we hadn’t been reading the story of the hero they oppose. So it’s inherently stupid and misguided to make a stand alone adventure of a character that is, essentially, a supporting character of another character, especially if we haven’t even introduced that other character first. That was what was dumb about Sinister Six. You want to make this movie about a team of Spider-man villains before you put them in a Spider-man movie. It doesn’t make sense. Likewise, in Suicide Squad it was stupid. You’ve got this team of villains, who are all villains of various heroes who we haven’t even seen on the big screen yet. It’s part of DC and Warner Bros.’ problem since day one; doing things out of order. First they did Man Of Steel, which was about Superman. Then instead of doing a few more Superman movies to establish Luthor, and a few other villains, all the while doing a Batman and Wonder Woman movie (which is what Marvel would have done) they jump right into BVS, a big crossover movie featuring two heroes we haven’t seen in this continuity yet. We’re not given a standalone, to get to know them. No, we just throw them together. And then the same thing with Suicide Squad. Let’s just introduce a bunch of Batman and the Flash villains without doing a Flash or a Batman movie. Hell, let’s introduce and focus on Harley Quinn, not only without doing a Batman standalone ,but also without properly introducing and focusing on the Joker, who we will also arbitrarily throw into this movie, without a set up in another film. Warner Bros. wants a cinematic universe without doing the hard work that Marvel has been doing for years to get where they are. And now they’re going to make the same mistake again. We’re going to make a Joker movie without making a Batman standalone movie, where Batman deals with the Joker. These characters are dependent on you, the viewer, understanding that they are a supporting character of a completely different character that we’re not going to introduce first. It’s completely backwards and baffling, and just a stupid and confusing way to go about things in terms of getting viewers interested. The second problem is they are trying to make stand alone movies about bad guys. Now of course that’s not impossible. Not every protagonist needs to be a good person. They are plenty of stories out there, that are from the point of view of villains, anti-heroes, or at the very least deeply flawed characters. But if you’re going to do that, you need to have a really good, smartly written script to make it work. The best stuff that deals with this kind of idea outside of comic book adaptations depends on this. The other problem is, if your main character is a bad guy, well, ok, what kind of movie are you going to end up making? And invariably the answer is either a horror movie or a super violent crime thriller. And that’s at best. That’s the problem this dumb studio is invariable going to get itself into if it wants to go down this route. Again, stories with un-saintly protagonists are not new. Your story can come from any number of perspectives. But if your going to do something like this, it needs to be like a Quentin Tarantino film at his most raw. A Joker film in particular should be a really fucked up psychological thriller on par with Taxi Driver, if they expect it to be good. And I don’t think their ready to make that kind of a story. They don’t have the balls for that. They want kids to see their movies and buy their toys, and if you do a dark ass movie where the Joker is a blood and guts serial killer, parents aren’t going to take their kids to see your films. They’re not going to get your Joker action figures if you cross that line. Also, these superhero films focus exclusively on the heroes saving the day. How can you do a movie about a villain any justice if you know without a doubt he’s going to get defeated? Where is the investment in this film if I know for a fact he’s going to lose? I mean just think about the motivation of these villains in a standalone film. The Sinister Six would spend their movie robbing banks and trying to kill Spider-man because that’s their motivation. That’s why they are a team. Spider-man villains tend to have cool science fiction powers and simple evil motivations; they rob banks. That’s what they do. You want a complex tortured sympathetic back story, go read about Magneto in X-men. Also, the Sinister Six specifically united, because they wanted to pool their resources and skills together to kill Spider-man, who beat them multiple times and stopped them from robbing banks. A Joker movie would be about the Joker running around killing people and spreading chaos throughout Gotham City in a typical clown, psycho circus-y way, because he believes life is a giant monstrous joke. He would be doing that and trying to kill Batman. Those are the two forces that drive and motivate him. And any other headline villain would be similar. Luthor would be trying to kill Superman. Sabertooth would be trying to kill Wolverine. Apocalypse would be trying to take over the world. And if they are meant to be the protagonist than their has to be a possibility that they’ll win and get away with murdering the heroes and wantonly killing. It’s not impossible to do a story like this. I might even like it because I’m into all different types of stories. But that’s clearly not for everybody. So they’re not going to do that. They’re not going to have any teeth. The heroes will live and win the day. And so then, why even bother in the first place. The movie will be too tame to appeal to exploitation fans and the mainstream superhero fans are going to be confused as to why we’re watching a movie about a bad guy. Your end result will be a pointless film that has no right to exist. And most importantly of all, it’s not going to save Warner Bros. They are desperately throwing whatever characters and properties DC has against a wall to see what sticks instead of just focusing on making a good film. It’s pathetic. Is it really so difficult to hire talented people and just let them make a good film for you? To just let your creators create, and not screw with them, because you need to have some idiot panicky marketing guy add his two cents to how a scene should be played out? If they keep this up, Warner Bros. will go down in history as a once great film company who completely ruined themselves, making bad Justice League movies.
Me: They are already breaking off to a degree from Suicide Squad anyways with Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker as mentioned.
Edward: Oh, dude, I don’t even know what that’s all about. There’s suppose to be two different continuities for the Joker. There’s going to be Jared Leto’s “Trying Too Hard” Joker from Suicide Squad, which is still the canon Joker of the DCEU, and then Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is supposed to be an alternate continuity, having nothing to do with the DCEU. You know, just to confuse everybody. Aside from scrapping the DCEU, they need to just focus on making good superhero movies. Prove to me you can make a good Batman movie, before you do a Joker standalone movie. I will gladly watch the Joker standalone movie, if you guys give me one good Batman movie. Truth be told, if they want a cinematic universe so badly, they should focus on making more good Lego movies and Godzilla/giant monster movies. That’s the only thing they’re making right now that is meant to have a shared universe, that I think is genuinely good.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-