By Scott Murray
In a recent episode of the Assembly of Geeks podcast, we discussed which movies pleased and disappointed us the most. With the new year offically underway, I have some specific hopes tied to some of the geek movies coming out in 2017.
The Lego Batman Movie
I am a big fan of The Lego Movie. More importantly, I am a big fan of Lego Batman's role in it. In fact, I once set Batman's self-made theme song as my ringtone for a short time (much to my wife's chagrin). Will Arnett brought the perfect blend of self-deprecating humor and badassery to the character. So, I was pretty stoked when I heard they were giving him his own movie.
The first two trailers for the movie made me laugh out loud and took my anticipation to a whole new level. However, the most recent trailer for The Batman Movie seemed more like a typical Batman animated adventure (with the exception of things like Robin ripping his pants off).
My hope: Is that the movie will have that perfect balance of parody humor and awesome Batman antics.
After Batman & Robin (and the movie lull that followed), my Batman fandom was buried in the weight of disappointment. In a way, the last two attempts to make Spider-Man movies have done the same thing. They never felt completely like Spider-Man to me (or as they say today - it wasn't MY Spider-Man). Tom Holland's appearance as the web-slinger in Captain America: Civil War gave me hope.
The first trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming was decent and had its moments. I'm hoping they just held back a little bit as I have big expectations for this one.
I am a fan of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. However, I am not a fan of Man of Steel or Batman vs. Superman (even though I liked the heroes that were featured in it). To me, the DCCU has a messy track record, and it didn't have to be this way. I want 2017 to be the start of something better, and I think Wonder Woman is the perfect character to put things into a better place.
After a failed television revival, a Smallville-style TV show idea that never saw light of day and executives who couldn't figure out what to do with her...I'm so glad she has this movie. However, that makes success even more important. Warner Bros. has shaken things up, and this will be the first film on Geoff Johns' watch. I'm hoping for the best!
I've seen the other Thor movies, and I'd say they were "okay". I find them to be a little underwhelming or just a little "meh". I think the approach to Ragnorok has the potential to improve those feelings. The additional actors like Cate Blancett, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson and Jeff GoldBlum, along with characters like The Hulk, Doctor Strange and Captain America, gives Ragnarok the chance to easily become my favorite Thor movie.
(See Wonder Woman comments.) Just...get better. Just do it better.
Star Wars Episode VIII
I'm saddened to think that I'll be watching Episode VIII with a heavy heart this year. I loved the idea that General Leia could be instramental in the possible redemption of Kylo Ren. Who knows how things will change. However, I hope we'll get more answers this time around - especially if they will END the Snoke theories. I also hope this will be a fantastic addition to the saga that doesn't feature anything that remotely resembles a Death Star. Oh, and more Captain Phasma, please!
by Jeremiah Stewart
Well, 2015 is coming to a close, and it has been quite a year for us geeks with huge blockbusters such as Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and a little Star Wars film. It was a year that also brought us Kingsman, Ant Man, Fantastic Four, Terminator: Genisys and more.
We had several of the DC animated films such as Throne of Atlantis, Batman vs Robin, and Bruce Timm’s return to animation with Gods and Monsters. On TV we’ve had Arrow, Flash, Gotham, Supergirl, Agents of Shield, Star Wars Rebels, and all of the Marvel shows Disney has running on Disney XD.
While there was a lot to be excited about, these are my top 10 geek outs of 2015.
10) The new costume and team look in Arrow
While Arrow was fine last season, it's been a breath of fresh air this season to watch this new-look/new attitude hero team take shape. Dameon Darke is possibly the best villain the show has ever had, and it's been fun watching Thea, Laurel, Diggle, Felicity and Ollie (of course) fight against him. Finally, seeing more green in Arrow as he became the Green Arrow led to one big geek out.
9) Court of Owls in Gotham
Some hated and some loved the first season of Gotham. I loved it. So far Season 2 has been focused on a very strong group of villains. The biggest surprise turned out to be that this was The Court of Owls. They are perhaps the most famous or strongest element added to the Batman mythos in the New 52, and their inclusion in Gotham led to a lot of brutal moments. It showed just really how far Gotham has fallen.
We know it will fall even further before the caped crusader dons his cape and cowl.
8) Trickster in Flash
What a year for Mark Hamill! Yes, we knew we'd see him in The Force Awakens, but he also made appearances in The Kingsman (he was in the comic too), a Batman game and The Flash. The Trickster was a role he owned in the 90s when John Wesley Shipp played the Flash. On the CW, Mark returned as his character with a new look and new attitude that still paid homage to the original version. It’s just really good seeing Mark on the screens again and most importantly...having a blast.
7) Darth Vader the flying Ace in Star Wars Rebels
Throughout the prequels and the original trilogy, we’re told that Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) is a great pilot. We get to see some of that in A New Hope via the trench run, and a little bit in the prequels. However, the biggest and best moment for him to shine was in the “movie of the week” kick-off of Star Wars Rebels Season 2. There we got to see Darth Vader flying his signature ship against an entire Rebel fleet.
Oh and did I say he was doing this alone and basically won single-handedly? If that is not geek out awesome, what is?
6) Batman busting in and tearing up the place at the end of Batman vs. Robin
There is something about seeing Batman in action that is just awesome. The animated DC film Batman vs Robin continues to show us the tumultuous relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son Damien. At the same time, it also gives us a villain voiced by Weird Al and the Court of Owls (twice in one year). Yet the biggest geek out moment came in the final act when Damien is on the rocks (due to choices) and Batman bursts in wearing an armored suit and just trashes the place.
5) Bruce Timm returning to DC
Bruce Timm made DC animation what it is, giving us Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and even Freakazoid! The DC Animated Universe has changed over the years, especially with the New 52 . That's where we got a new look and a new team of creators behind the films.
Last year, Warner Bros announced that Bruce Timm would return to the directors chair. Would he be directing a show we know and love? In a way, yes, but an all new story titled Gods and Monsters. We'll also get a web series to go with it. So, a TV show and a movie from one of the biggest and best animation directors ever? What's not to love? The movie ended up being DC’s best of the year!
4) Han Solo returning to Star Wars
Now before someone destroys me, threatens to take my geek card for making this number 4, let me explain why it's not number 1. First of all...he isn’t my favorite Star Wars character. My favorite is Luke Skywalker, and he’s not the star of Episode VII. Second, while The Force Awakens is my favorite film with Harrison Ford as Han Solo, it didn't mean that I screamed and clapped in delight after seeing him. Regardless of that, seeing him return to the franchise felt like watching him return “home” and it was really a welcome sight. Even better - he actually looked like he was having fun and enjoying himself for the first time in years.
3) Vision Appearing in Age of Ultron
I am not a Marvel fan, and I am not really knowledgeable in the Avengers. However, even I was excited in the trailers for Age of Ultron when we finally saw Vision open his eyes. Sure enough, the character seen in the film as played by Paul Bettany did not disappoint. Whether it was in his humorous moments or action scenes, Vision was awesome to see on the big screen.
2) Returning to Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park is my favorite film of all time, and this year, the franchise returned to some form with Jurassic World. Not everyone liked the film, but people like me experienced a real emotional response within the opening minutes. We watched a child (who could be any of us) enter the park and explore it all in great detail. The vision of Mr. John Hammond came true in all its glory. It was quite an emotional experience.
1) Martian Manhunter on Supergirl
This is an unexpected number one. Supergirl is not the best superhero show on television, but it is good enough for me to continue watching. Nonetheless, this show did have the biggest geek out moment of the year for me and it involved a character I never would have thought we’d see in a live action setting.
Martian Manhunter, the character many of us LOVED from Bruce Timm’s Justice League series, appeared as a regular in the show as a human. Then came the moment they showed us his true form. This wasn't film, this was TV! How could one not geek out? Who’d have thought we’d not only get him and see him done RIGHT?
Assembly of Geeks has said that sometimes we have those uncontrollable geek outs, and this fan got a big one when the Martian Manhunter, aka J’onn J’onzz, revealed himself!
Jeremiah Stewart is a podcaster and runs the Bombad Radio Podcast where he interviews authors, voice actors, as well as writes and directs Star Wars radio dramas.
By Scott Murray
When it comes to TV pilots, I've learned that negative knee-jerk reactions aren't always fair. After watching the first episode of Gotham, I was deeply concerned about how long I would stick with it. I love that show now. After watching the first episode of The Flash, I knew I liked it...but wasn't sure how much my passion for the series would grow. I loved it more than Arrow this year.
See the pattern?
Fortunately this has better prepared me for watching and reacting to a TV series pilot. With that in mind, I bring you my initial reactions to the first episode of the upcoming CBS series, Supergirl.
The stamp of Berlanti is definitely present
It's been a joy watching Greg Berlanti show TV networks how to effectively produce a series with a fully-costumed hero - no origin series needed. It's a formula that has definitely worked, and if you watch Arrow and The Flash, you will see some familiar elements to his recipe.
This includes how Kara's secret identity looks a bit like Felicity Smoak, the nods to Superman/Supergirl stories of the past and well-placed lines of humorous dialogue. However, the thing that stood out the most in this familiar formula was the fact that just like Oliver and Barry, Kara has her own "Control Central". Though this time instead of a lab or basement computer center, she has a mini-NORAD.
The special effects are...SUPER!
I've often commented about how solid the visuals are for The Flash. Supergirl wastes no time showing audiences that this series will have it too. There are scenes where the flights, heroic feats and fight sequences are complimented with great special effects. And yes, you see all of those elements in the pilot.
But they could be a little better.
Supergirl has superhuman strength and we need to feel that when she kicks or throws a punch. It's not enough to have her swing or fly into someone and quickly cut to a shot of the badguy hurling away. A common theme of this show is it's HER time to shine. Let's make the most of that, please!
The character standouts
It's the first episode, so obviously some characters are going to connect to us quicker than others. There's going to be those we like, and perhaps, those we need more time with. In my mind, the three standouts are Melissa Benoist, Mechad Brooks and Calista Flockhart.
Melissa is is a charming, engaging and even fun Kara/Supergirl. I like her enthusiasm, her ability to pull off the "everyday" working girl and a superhero. There was only one time where she said something that made me raise an eyebrow. At one point in the show, she's on a date and a guy asks here were she's from originally. She struggles with the answer and eventually says, "Um...up North?" I have to think she'd be a little more prepared for a question like that nowadays. It seems it would be the type of thing she'd even sort out before leaving her (Earth) home and going into the real world.
I think Mechad Brooks was already a likable James Olsen after seeing him in the preview trailer. I can tell you that he definitely carries that likability well into the pilot episode. It's also fun to learn more about his relationship with Superman and how he ended up in the same media company with Kara. I really think that he is going to be an audience favorite.
There has been some debate about Flockhart's character and by the way - I get it. Does it come off a little Devil Wears Prada? Yes. Does it come off a little bit much (almost trying too hard to be this characterization)? Yes. Yet, do bosses that talk and act like her exist? YES. I've worked for them. And yes, they were female. I think she effectively embodies some of the traits I've experienced.
The villains idea is a good one
I love how the writers figured out a way to drop Supervillains into this show. Without giving too much away, I thought it was very Superman II of them. I also thought the first hero/villain fight scenes were pretty darn good - way better than what we got from the first episodes of Smallville. The first villain doesn't have the gravitas of a Lex Luthor or General Zod, but he's not supposed to. This is all about letting you know what's to come.
Now the real work begins
The pilot for Supergirl shows promise, but there are some things that will need to improve for it to be a long lasting show on a major network. I recently voiced concerns about the Supergirl trailer on the podcast, and I will say I feel a little better about the show after watching the first episode. However, my concern about the tone of the show remains. While I like Benoist as Supergirl, I don't completely buy her as a Superhero just yet - and that's okay.
As Kara continues to learn how to use her powers to help people, I hope we'll see a much more serious side to her persona. I'm not saying she has to be Bruce Wayne, I just want to believe the happy-go-lucky character can flip a switch and become serious hero when she has to be one. If she can, it will be easier to get invested in both personas.
I remember feeling somewhat similar after the pilot for The Flash. Back then, we just knew it was going to be a lighter/less dark tone than Arrow. I worried about how seriously I could take the show, how invested I would become in the supporting cast and how strong the villain element would be.
All of those questions have been answered in big positive ways. Since Berlanti has a successful formula to work with, I think there's reasons for optimism.
Geek topics from AoG hosts and contributors.