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The State Of The DC Universe (and what a state it is)

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Written By: Daniel Burden

Somewhere along the way, something went terribly wrong. And I’m not sure how to fix it. Unless we can get Barry Allen to run back in time and sort things out, avoiding any dodgy plot hole time paradoxes of course. Maybe we can ask Superman to spin the Earth backwards on its axis. I suspect not on the latter idea, I think he’d be too busy brooding and whining, and being thoroughly dead. Because he was definitely dead at the end of Batman V Superman.

Positively.

Absolutely.

Dead.

He can’t save us.

What is this tragic and devastating circumstance that I’m desperate for a superhero to alter and make right? You might ask. And here’s the answer. I’m not asking them to go back and kill Hitler or anything like that.

But something does need changing, and that thing, is the DC cinematic universe.

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The two films we’ve currently had in the series are Man of Steel and Batman V Superman. Both directed by Zack Snyder and both scripted by David Goyer. It’s easy to blame them. Oh, there’s no ‘but’ at the end of that sentence.

I am blaming them. Warner Bros and DC gave Snyder carte blanche over these characters and stories, Goyer has written enough superhero films at this point, and what they have essentially done is stuck a proverbial middle finger up at comic book fans and audiences. Why? I don’t know. I can’t even begin to fathom. The sad part is both Man of Steel and Batman V Superman have good points, there’s a lot to like in both films but I feel there is an attempt by those involved to distance themselves from the current crop of superhero movies and make them more arty and dramatic and brooding. You can see it, the effort Snyder puts into every shot, he wants these films to mean something. And they do, just not what he intended.

Zack Snyder is about to commence production on Justice League pt.1 and there’s no way to feel happy about that, none of the criticism of Batman V Superman will affect Justice League, WB and DC will carry on with Snyder at the helm regardless. There’s no stopping Justice League now and these versions of the characters, Bizarro Superman will rise from his grave, will be back to save the world from… Something.

It’s Atlantis apparently, according to the most recent rumours, as the villain/opposing force. Which makes it sound awfully like the plot of brawler video game Injustice: Gods Among Us. Great game, Superman was a psychopath, oh, wait, that does sound similar to the DC cinematic universe.

Neither Batman V Superman nor Man of Steel failed financially, and that is what keeps Zack Snyder’s dreams alive, but they haven’t been hits on the level that the studio expected, and while Man of Steel got a lukewarm rating from critics and fans alike, Batman V Superman has been given a critical mauling unlike anything I have seen for some time, and most fans and general audiences greeted this first time big screen appearance of these legendary characters with a shrug.

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Part of me wants to think we’re living on Earth 2 right now, or some other parallel universe, and soon we will reach Flashpoint and everything will go back to normal. What do we get in this restored timeline?

How about a DC cinematic universe that started with Krypton, a film starring Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon, best friends who become enemies in a bitter struggle to save their planet, ending with Jor-El shooting the infant Kal into space. Followed by standalone Batman and Superman films, giving us the classic Under the Red Hood story with Ben Affleck still firmly in the role, and a version of Man of Steel with Jon Hamm as Clark and Rachel McAdams as Lois, in which Zod doesn’t get his neck broken and instead gets hurled back into the Phantom Zone only to release Brainiac for later films. Then drop us at Batman V Superman, George Miller directing, Billy Zane as a smarmy and scarily intelligent Lex Luthor.

Then come the other films, Wonder Woman and Aquaman and The Flash, culminating in a Justice League double bill featuring Brainiac and Darkseid. Then do smaller scale films such as Cyborg and sequels to the other films.

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But alas we aren’t there, we are wherever here is in the multiverse. A place where so far DC’s big screen universe has managed to let us down. Apart from Ben Affleck as Batman. He was awesome. Yet, on TV, DC still continue to get things right. Supergirl and The Flash recently did a cross network crossover and it was glorious, full of colour and wit and charm and a whimsical sense of fun that seems to avoid the movies in the extreme.

There’s a reason audiences have responded so well to Marvel in the last few years, even in the more serious films such as Winter Soldier, manage to retain that sense of fun. DC have decided to avoid having any fun and so far their films have suffered from it. Can they get it back?

Possibly.

Wonder Woman has a fair chance of being a less dour and miserable film, hopefully packed with ass kicking adventure. Suicide Squad, the next film in DC’s chamber, is in the middle of reshoots to add more humour. I’m not sure it that is needed and that adding it into a finished film is the right idea, it smacks of desperation on DC’s part, and might end up hurting Suicide Squad as a finished product. What I cannot imagine anyone wants is for all of the DC movie slate to be filled with grim and surly heroes who don’t have any fun. I get that DC don’t want to be Marvel and they shouldn’t have to be but their films are forgetting what made people fall in love with their characters over the last 80 years, they used to give hope and now that is gone.

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How Casinos Can Improve a Movie

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When it comes to movie themes, you got them all. From war movies to romance films, there is something for everybody. However, the gamble theme is not often present but some casino scenes really mattered. For example, the roulette ball in Casablanca that landed on 22 two times, all this was possible thanks to the rigged roulette. 

Another example is found in the movie 21. This movie is mainly made after a book called Bringing Down the House and just like the movie, it’s about a group of students “robbing” a casino playing Blackjack. Actually, the robbing process consists in one person taking a seat at a Blackjack table and that person just counts the cards. After a while, their friend joins knowing which cards were already played. As expected, they get caught and the action begins.  

Daniel Craig and Casino Royale 

If it’s not already obvious, these examples cannot go further without mentioning Daniel Craig starring as a MI6 agent in the movie Casino Royale. This movie was not like any other James Bond films. Firstly, the new actor had blond hair and blue eyes. This new look was not welcome at all especially for die hard 007 fans. Daniel Craig had nothing in common with the previous agents such as Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan. Moreover, back in 2005, right before the Casino Royale release, many fans were sure that Daniel will ruin the series. In fact, Casino Royale ended up being one of the best James Bond movies ever.  

After all, some changes were needed so the movie can have a fresh feeling. If we got used to every James Bond movie starting with the same scene, Casino Royale made it different. Until then, every single film started with a gun barrel sequence in which James walks in a white room, he turns, then fires and the blood drips down the screen. In the new 007 film, the movie starts with a black and white scene and at the end of this sequence, when we think that its first victim is dead, Daniel turns around then fires and we have the first gun barrel scene.  

As an illustration on the movie name, there are three poker scenes that make this film better. The first one has a well made old-fashion feel that is mainly made through the dissolve process. This technique was usually seen in the 80s and is a post-process film editing that makes the transition from one image to another.  

The second poker game is when Le Chiffre destroys James. Right after this game, there is a sequence that lets the agent sit alone on the table with nothing left, making the MI6 agent more natural. This is a high contrast with all the old cliché movies where James Bond was invincible. Further, Daniel gets poisoned by Le Chiffre but the secret agent survives by using the defibrillator from his car. Then he comes back and says ”I’m sorry, that last hand, killed me”.   

Like I said, casinos can be a good way to improve a movie. Also, land-based casinos suffered many changes over the years. Like most casinos that are now using online and mobile platforms. For about 400 years, casinos were just ”gamble houses”, but now they adopted new technologies. The most important change was of course, the online platforms which made it possible to enjoy casino games from the comfort of our house.  

For few years know, these virtual gamble houses started to show up everywhere. Moreover, there is a new online British casino called Admiral Casino and has a wide variety of fruit machines. In addition, their app is present on the App Store and you can now play slots like Sizzling Hot and Golden Sevens. Both games have 5 reels and are made by Novomatic. As has been noted, casinos made their contributions in many areas and now, thanks to the mobile technology they can be taken in your pocket. 

 

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Sequels Deliver at the Box Office

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Jurassic World was a gigantic hit in 2015, in fact, at a worldwide gross of $1,671,713,208 it remains the 5th highest grossing film of all time just behind Infinity War and The Force Awakens. That’s impressive for any franchise, let alone one long considered extinct. 

With its sequel, Fallen Kingdom, currently dominating the box office, it is worth looking at just how well sequels tend to do, the mixed fortunes they find themselves in, the biggest success stories and some considerably embarrassing failures. 

Fallen Kingdom hasn’t been a big hit with the critics (51% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 71% for the first film) but this evolution of the series has still resonated with audiences, currently sitting at $932,387,335 and very likely to pass the hallowed billion dollar mark in the next week or so. A billion dollars is nothing to be sniffed at but there is still every chance the studio will consider it something of a failure that it was unable to eclipse its predecessor. 

A few other franchises worth examining; 

Fast and Furious 

A franchise that rose from the ashes of almost going straight to DVD, with the 7th installment staking its claim in the big leagues, ironically 7th highest of all time, but when Fate of the Furious came just two years later, it made close to $300 million less. Is that audiences simply getting sick of cars doing ridiculous things, or something else? Fast 7 was unfortunately bolstered by the death of star Paul Walker, giving it increased media attention. 

Star Wars 

As previously mentioned, The Force Awakens is one of the biggest box office hits of all time, and whether or not it will be unseated in third place by Infinity War is almost too close to call but it will be incredibly close. 

But it terms of diminishing returns, The Last Jedi made over $700 million less than The Force Awakens. Why is that? The answer for this one is pretty simple, The Force Awakens was such a huge, once in a generation event, that it wasn’t going to happen a second time. Not that The Last Jedi’s box office is low, it sits at 11th of all time. 

But Star Wars has a different problem, it is now a series that digresses from the main saga and moved into spin off territory. Rogue One was a big hit, being a member of the billion dollar club, but Solo, a film plagued with production troubles, has really struggled, pulling in a fairly weak $368,879,115. The blame for this lies in the release window, with Infinity War still making good change, and Deadpool the week before, Solo hit in the middle of one of the most crowded summers in recent memory, with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom snapping quickly at its heels. 

What is considered a success or a failure in these terms anyway? It’s hard to know for sure. Sony’s second attempt at the Spider-Man franchise (Amazing Spider-Man if you find all these Spider-People confusing) was a decent hit, and the sequel only made $50 million less but was considered such a failure by Sony that they ended up handing the character back to Marvel. Which we can all agree was the right thing to do. But just $50 million was enough to make them wonder, not the other $650 million it made. Sequels are expected to make more money. 

Now, one last point. The highest grossing film of all time?  

Avatar. $2,787,965,087.  

That will probably never be beaten. Avatar 2 has a release date of December 18th 2020. Will it come anywhere close to the first film? This seems unlikely. Or maybe not, James Cameron should never be counted out, he might very well end up with the top 3 highest grossing films of all time. Or will Star Wars Episode 9, which goes into production this week, come back with a bang and topple Cameron’s big blue cat people? 

Only time, and a lot of money, will tell. 

 

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Cinema FOMO

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FOMO; the fear of missing out. Defined in 2015 by the Oxford English Dictionary as, ‘anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media’.

It’s true that in our online, digitally driven world, FOMO is thriving on a global scale, however that doesn’t mean it’s a new phenomenon. Throughout cinematic history, audiences have craved a shared experience, using quotes and characters as shorthand in their own conversations. No-one wants to be left out of the discussion.

Even in this technological age, the world’s leading film magazine Empire, remains an important and relevant source in the world of film journalism and with its much-loved features and interviews with Hollywood’s A-List, you can avoid serious FOMO by joining their subscription service today, meaning you’ll never miss a review or important update from the world of film.

When the teaser trailer for Black Panther landed, it was viewed 89 million times in just 24 hours. It was the most tweeted about movie in 2017 (before it was even released) and has gone on to become the most tweeted about film ever made. People wanted to be a part of the #BlackPanther and #Wakanda phenomenon and Twitter gave them the community they desired, adding in Q&A specials and a Black Panther custom emoji.

But what about before the dawn of Twitter? Back in the dark depths of 1999, a little film called The Blair Witch Project dropped. Using the internet, online forums went mad with leaked rumours about a film created from the found footage of three missing filmmakers. The accompanying website presented credible back stories and realistic style news interviews. Missing person leaflets were also distributed to enhance the story. (Spoiler alert; if you don’t already know, it was all entirely fictional). At the time however, this clever and original marketing fed directly in to our FOMO receptors.

But what if we take social media and the internet out of the equation. Do we travel back to a pre FOMO time? The truth? Absolutely not, so you can put the DeLorean away.

Back in 1961, Alfred Hitchcock released Psycho. Whilst his reputation was already established, this was a self financed film, so a lot was riding on its success. He made the decision not to screen for critics first, meaning audiences got to see the film at the same time, with no preconceptions. He refused cast interviews and to pump curiosity, issued an edict that nobody would be allowed in to cinemas after the picture began. Would you want to be the only one not to know what was happening inside the Bates Motel? Absolutely not. People flocked, queues stretching around the block to ensure they experienced this new cinematic milestone. Quite simply, FOMO struck again.

In truth, it’s an innate human desire to want to belong and regardless of marketing, it doesn’t get much better than sharing the joy of a cinematic experience with friends.

 

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