MMM Podcast, Episode 108: Justice League Down, Star-Lord Rises

Star-Lord

Warner Bros. proposed “Justice League” movie has hit the skids, leaving the studio and DC fans in limbo through the release of “Man of Steel.” The Gentlemen pick up the pieces while taking the reactionary studio to task like never before. We didn’t have many nice things to say, but we said them anyway. Meanwhile, Marvel Studios rages on with the casting of Chris Pratt as Star-Lord in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Sony Pictures has released the first details of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Finally, we debate the merits of Disney proposed “Star Wars” spinoffs for Han Solo and Boba Fett.

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  • Charlie

    At some point WB needs to realize that a JL film just ain’t going to happen. At least not now. I think at the very least they should have two Superman films, a Batman film and Wonder Woman film before they even start to think of a JL movie. I wouldn’t really make much of an attempt to link each film like Mavrel did in their solo films. Maybe a mention of Gotham in a Superman film or a mention of Metropolis in Batman. Nothing major like the cameos in the Marvel films. Just make solid solo films that focus on the title character, but also don’t shut the door on the possibility of there being a larger universe out there. I think a JL film will come more naturally if they take this approach. Doing it before then just feels like they’re forcing the issue.

  • Michael Lalaian

    I have to say, even as a Marvel fan, I share a lot of Josh’s frustration in the first part of this podcast. It can’t be a question about money or having an established character if we’re getting Jack the Giant Slayer. And this is happening while superhero films are dominating the film industry. In the past I know the gentlemen have addressed how Warner Bros has various reasons for not needing to do what Marvel does, and while that is true… Jack the Giant Slayer is getting made. There is really no excuse.

    Another thing that Josh and Chris brought up repeatedly was this idea of “exclusive rights to the characters.” Marvel has set up it’s own cinematic universe while not even possessing some of their most popular characters in Spider-Man, The X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Those are arguably three of the biggest pillars of the Marvel universe, yet we still have a completely functional, engaging Marvel universe on film. Warner Bros doesn’t even have that problem.

    We’re getting Guardians of the Galaxy, but not Wonder Woman. We’re getting Ant-Man, but not The Flash. I just don’t get it. While it is good on this side of the fence as a Marvel fan, I really, really, really want to see some more of these very iconic characters get their due.

  • pud333

    Totally agree with what you guys said. Some quick things:

    - For a company like WB, you’d think they’d be MORE willing to risk a little on Superhero films. Marvel has to risk it because the Superhero business is what they’re all about. They have no choice. WB has an entire portfolio of non-superhero movies and characters they can rely on. When you are that diversified, why not take a bit of risk on properties that have a) a guaranteed, built-in audience, and b) characters you freaking own!

    - What Marvel did so well was to preposition their product. I’ve been in sales my entire work life. And if I learned anything, it’s that in order to make a successful sale, you have to preposition it properly with your target audience. You need to talk about the benefits of why they need to buy your product, and then follow through on those promises. Marvel did just that. From the beginning, they introduced Iron Man to the world, and hinted at a larger superhero universe. They promised bigger, better things to come, and they promised that if you, the audience, invests some time and money in their individual superhero movies, you will be rewarded, and they made good on their promise. WB hasn’t done anything. They’re approaching things from, oh, let’s see how this does and then maybe something can happen after. What? How enticing would it be if I tried to sell you something without there being some sort of promise of a big emotional or entertainment payout at the end? With the WB’s track record, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    - I certainly think a World’s Finest or Batman/Superman film will be easier for WB to do. They could do MoS, then if it is a monster hit, they can do either MoS2, or World’s Finest / Batman – Superman film (I don’t care what they call it), where Batman gets rebooted. During World’s Finest, they could even have Wonder Woman or another JL member have a cameo. Boom. You basically gave the casual audience Superman again, rebooted Batman, and introduced a new superhero in basically 2 movies. Then they could do another MoS film and a Batman solo film after, then eventually work in Justice League. Yeah, that’s a long time horizon, but if WB is so afraid of risk, this would be a graudual way to introduce people to a larger DC universe. First impressions count, so they might as well start with their best foot forward. Forget the rest of the league for now.

  • Luis

    Could someone at WB LISTEN to what the audience wants! My GOD!!! Sean, you and the other gentlemen are so dead on. Is anyone at WB listening? What the hell??? Move! Do something! But to do nothing is frustrating beyond belief.

  • Stock

    I do understand the frustration, although I’m quite happy with the Batman films which I think will probably be the best that are ever made, and I’m starting to look forward to the Supes film, just to see if they can recover from Returns. But really, it wasn’t too long ago when the proposition of a JL film made everyone insanely angry. One, because nobody wanted a new Batman while Nolan was working on his version, and two, because everyone was sure it would suck anyway.

    Fact is, these are huge financial risks for any producer. There is no guarantee that people will flock in droves to see IM3, and the previews have left me a little cold to it. Thor 2 could take a dump. I don’t know anyone who gets hard over a Antman movie and Superman might bring in a sizeable crowd, but who knows? Maybe WB is hedging its bets because they don’t have much confidence in it. And they’ve seen it, not us.

    Guardians of the Galaxy is new though. If its done in some kind of really imaginative way that gets non-comic buyers into it, the thing could take off bigger than any new Star Wars franchise. Now that would be interesting.

  • Naes

    Sorry for the wall of text…
    Truth is that 3-5 superhero films per year is unsustainable. Last summer: Avengers, TDKR, Amazing Spiderman, Ghost Rider, Dredd. The market is at saturation point and the bubble will burst. Don’t believe me? After James Bond’s success there was a huge flood of spy films but the genre eventually crashed leaving Bond the only spy standing (other than occasional spy movies like Bourne). Godzilla and giant monster movies are another example. There’s not endless room in the market for Guardians (origin story), Dr. Strange (origin story), Ant-man (origin story) along with sequels for Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and perhaps another Hulk film (reboot) and the inevitable Avengers sequel in addition to X-men and Spider-man, Fantastic Four (reboot). Sony and Fox HAVE TO crank Spiderman, X-Men and Fantastic Four or lose the rights. Warner Bros SHOULD show restraint in putting out superhero movies but the flipside to that is that when you actually put out a movie it better be memorable. Green Lantern won’t cut it.
    WB needs to focus on getting the Superman franchise right and getting a new Batman film out in 2016-2017. A renewed Superman franchise will push out some of the also-rans. Even a crap Superman movie like Returns made more domestically than Thor and Cap. You don’t need to gamble on a JLA movie. Just make good solo movies! I’d love to see Batman deal with Penguin, Riddler, Black Mask, Hugo Strange and/or Hush, Deadshot and/or Deathstroke, a realistic Killer Croc, Firefly, an bad vigilante like Lock-up, Reaper, or Azrael. If you wanted to scrap the realism (not my preference) then you could use Clayface, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Solomon Grundy among others. Even 3rd and 4th tier Batman villains like Anarky or Prometheus could work with good writing.
    As for Superman:You have Superman dealing with General Zod in MOS. Awesome. But then you could have movies with Luthor, Braniac, Metallo, Parasite, Doomsday, Darkseid, Intergang, Superman could poach villains from other DC properties because his rogue’s gallery is sort of weak. He could fight the Red Lanterns or Starro since the GL franchise is dead… no use wasting good villains. Batman and Superman don’t have to even share the same universe. Would Supes referring to Gotham actually make his movie any better? That’s just nerdgasm stuff that fanboys claim to hate in Star Wars. There. You’re welcome WarnerBros- I just gave you ideas for the next ten Batman and Superman solo movies. Find me in 2030 and we’ll talk about JLA
    I have to strongly disagree with the idea that there is a huge wellspring of support for most of these JLA characters.Go look at the comic sales figures if you don’t believe me. Without the JLA, Batman (and family) have a dozen ongoing titles. Supes has 4 +1 upcoming later in 2013. GL has 4 titles. Wonder Woman has 1 mediocre-selling solo title, Flash has one mediocre-selling solo title. Aquaman is a punchline, Martian Manhunter has NEVER sustained a solo title, Hawkman is being cancelled. Do even comic fans want to see some of these characters in film when they don’t buy their comics?
    People underestimate the oddness of Iron Man’s success. It was a great movie but Robert Downey Jr. absolutely sold it to many people who couldn’t give a crap about Iron Man; my mother saw Iron because of RDJ. His suit/weapons/robot look appealed to the same audience that went and saw Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. It was a perfect confluence.

  • Charlie

    You guys made a good point about Will Beal’s script. I have no doubt there were plenty of people at the executive level making decisions and giving him notes and all that crap. I’m pretty sure that’s Warner’s biggest problem with all this nonsense. Too many cooks in the kitchen. People who have absolutely no business being involved in the creative process are and they are totally f***ing everything up.

    Whatever happened to I think it was DC Entertainment? I’m not sure if that’s the name, but wasn’t there some type of subdivision that WB created for their DC properties with Geoff Johns involved some how? I thought that was maybe their step towards doing what Disney/Marvel has done by having someone in charge like a Kevin Feige, but we really haven’t heard anything about that or Geoff Johns. Granted, Johns dropped the ball with Green Lantern so it’s probably for the best. But does anyone remember this? Was that WB’s attempt to try and have someone in charge of the DC properties, but have since backed off because GL was such a disaster? Or was it even intended for that?

  • http://twitter.com/TrueMiracle85 Javier Vargas (@TrueMiracle85)

    I’m sure the main problems with The Amazing Spider-Man can be traced back to Avi Arad. Same with the title choice for the sequel. I’m really hoping for a better film this time around and I hope they pull it off. WB/DC is the source of MANY peoples’ frustrations and I really hope things get moving with other DC properties after the imminent success of Man of Steel. Great podcast as always, guys.

  • Michael Lalaian

    (Holy hell, that ran long. I apologize in advance…)

    As much as I would love for DC and Warner Bros. to throw their hat into the superhero cinema ring, I am starting to think that we are actually dodging a huge bullet here. It occurred to me that If Warner Bros., with the way they do business, began to just put out superhero films more frequently, we could end up in a genre killing over saturation similar to what we saw in rhythm gaming between the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises. While the circumstances are not completely analogous, I think a lot of the beats in the rise and fall of rhythm games are very telling of what could happen with superhero films.

    Harmonix was a company founded by musicians with a very specific purpose in mind: to bring an appreciation for music, and a simulation of what it is like to play music, to the gaming masses. The first two Guitar Hero games were a perfect example of how they accomplished this. When Harmonix wanted to expand the experience to include drums and vocals, Activision, who published the series and owned the name, said no and told them to just make Guitar Hero 3. Uninterested, Harmonix struck out on their own and started the Rock Band games, leaving Guitar Hero behind at Activision.

    Marvel Studios and Harmonix share characteristics in that they were created out of a very specific purpose, and a huge love for, making a specific kind of product, and for the most part are independent, or at least autonomous, entities. Warner Bros. and Activision share characteristics in that they are both the major distributors (and producers) in their respective fields, do not focus on a just single genre within that field, and are run by executives and shareholders who are not intimately involved, or at least emotionally invested in, superhero films on the one hand or rhythm gaming on the other.

    Even though Harmonix no longer had their big franchise name (similar to how Marvel doesn’t have a Batman or a Superman, OR a Spider-Man or a Wolverine for that matter), they were confident in their new approach to an old way of doing things and put their new product out there. And it was amazing, it was a success critically and commercially. Now, Warner Bros. did respond to what Marvel was doing with “Green Lantern,” trying to make it “their Iron Man.” It flopped and they stopped, and now we are complaining for them to make more anyway while just demanding that more care goes into them.

    But, maybe we should just not get anything from Warner Bros. at all. I’m serious.

    Look at what Activision did after Harmonix was successful with Rock Band: They hired a new developer, Neversoft, which had never made a rhythm game before nor had any kind of investment in the mission statement that gave rise to Guitar Hero in the first place, and they started putting out games at a nearly non-stop basis. And it wasn’t just core Guitar Hero titles, they did a ton of band-specific games, weird portable versions that weren’t even Guitar Hero games anymore, Band Hero, DJ Hero… some were hits, most were misses, and they started to see diminishing returns.

    Harmonix had a great plan with Rock Band. They had a set schedule on how often they would release each installment, they revolutionized the genre again with downloadable content so you didn’t have to always buy a new disc, the band game they /did/ make was of a much higher quality (I’m talking about the Beatles here, we won’t mention Green Day…). They had a plan, they had a love for the material, and they were providing the consumers with exactly what they wanted.

    While rhythm gaming still exists, its heyday is over, and in large part due to the over saturation by Activision. A lot of the complaints I started hearing are very similar to what we could hear if WB did the same: “How come some songs are in one game by not in another?” (“Wait, why can’t The Flash be in the Avengers?”), “Oh, another Rock Band just came out? Didn’t we just get a new Guitar Hero last month?” (“Didn’t we just have a superhero movie come out last week? I want to see something else…”)… you can see where I’m going with this.

    On a previous show, Brad said of Wanrer Bros. that, referring to Lord of the Rings/the Hobbit and Harry Potter, that once WB knows that they are on to a good thing, they have no problem pumping out product. But Warner Bros. is not like Marvel Studios, they simply don’t care about superheroes, in the same way Actvision didn’t care about making people fall in love with music.

    While I can already hear Sean saying “Then just hire people who /do/ care, problem fucking solved,” that’s simply not in the DNA of large corporate entities like Warner Bros and Activision. They see something working, they copy it, they over saturate the market with it, and when the life is drained out of it, they walk away. Guitar Hero ruined everything and then ceased to exist, leaving the Rock Band franchise to limp on in a tarnished genre that would have otherwise been fine.

    This is important to me because both superhero films and rhythm gaming got me into two of my great loves in life: comics and classic rock. I hadn’t really stepped foot into a comic book shop until the first X-Men movie came out, and after that I was hooked. Similarly, it wasn’t until the first Guitar Hero game (made by Harmonix) that I started getting into bands like Queen, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd and so on. These products introduced me into some of the most important artistic interests in my life, and if I had been 13 when “Green Lantern” came out, I don’t think it would have had the same effect.

    Unless Warner Bros. created a completely separate studio that they grant a couple hundred million dollars to, leave completely alone for a few years and let them do their own thing as if they were Marvel Studios, then /at best/ we can expect Warner Bros to operate similarly to how 20th Century Fox has done with its own Marvel properties in the past: every once in a while we get an X-Men or an X2… but, more often than not, we get Daredevil, Elektra, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the Fantastic Four films. At worst, they drain the life out of the whole thing and when they feel that it can’t do anything for them anymore, they walk away. Then we won’t have DC OR Marvel films anymore.

    As much as I hate to say it, I’d rather just see Warner Bros. stop all together rather than risk a having a bunch of lackluster, sub par movies dragging down the aggregate quality of the genre to the point of irrelevance. Just like how I would have liked Activision not to have continued with the Guitar Hero series and just allowed Rock Band to be the shining beacon of /its/ genre.

    That said, in principle, it does enrage me that Marvel cane make a superhero out of a giant TALKING TREE, but Warner Bros. can’t make a decent Green Lantern or Flash movie.

  • Charlie

    Looking back at the whole Guitar Hero/Rock Band thing I think it was just a flash in the pan, flavor of the month fad. It was new and fresh and something anyone could pick up and was also a group thing that three or four people could into at parties and have some fun with. Eventually, though, that novelty just wares off and there’s only so much you can do with it. It was the same thing with the Nintendo Wii. That was new and innovative, brought people together and was very popular at the beginning, but really how many people still play it?

    Superhero films, on the other hand, have gone beyond the point of just being a fad. They’ve been going pretty strong since the early 2000′s and there haven’t been many signs that it’s slowing down. Really, if you think about it the market has already been over saturated. I mean, let’s face it, most superhero films follow the same formula or plot structure and share many of the same elements, but people seem to keep flocking to them when they hit theaters. I’m not sure how much WB/DC throwing their hat into the ring is going to change that.

  • Michael Lalaian

    You could be right about rhythm gaming being a flash in the pan, but the thing is you are only saying that /because/ the interest died down. Rock Band 3 was doing some pretty innovative things in terms of using real guitars and drums to teach people how to play instruments. It wasn’t perfect, but who knows what a Rock Band 4 (Which we’ll never get now) could have done for people learning and appreciating music. I remember reading that songs sold through Rock Band’s downloadable content consistently out sold the singles on iTunes. Had Activision not peed in the pool, people might actually still be swimming in it, but the thing is we’ll never know. All I know is that it was a means through which it accomplished for its subject matter (music, specifically rock/punk/metal/etc…) what superhero films tend to try and accomplish for /its/ subject matter (exposure to the uninitiated, a cultural phenomenon, massive bump in sales to it’s ‘source’ material…)

    I think we could easily find ourselves in a situation where superhero films are looked back on as just a fad as well. In reality 2008 may have been the only thing that saved it with Iron Man and The Dark Knight. Had neither of those movies come out, I doubt the slew of Fox-licensed Marvel films, the occasional Constantine or Catwoman from DC, or other small indie films would have kept the genre going. How I think DC getting more ambitious now could ruin things is that it really does bring down the average. I look back on 2011 as a great year, but imagine if we only got Thor or only got Captain America in addition to Green Lantern? Then people would have said “Half of these movies were terrible,” but luckily there was a 3:1 ratio of positive reactions to negative ones from the mainstream that year (even though I personally don’t care for X-Men First Class at all)

    I want to be clear that my position isn’t that I don’t want to see DC films. I’m a Marvel guy whose favorite character is Batman. The Dark Knight trilogy is hands down my favorite superhero trilogy of all time, and I’m actually looking forward to Man of Steel more than any other superhero film in 2013. However, I think we may have to accept that WB can’t,and maybe shouldn’t, “expand their DC roster” in the way that Marvel does with their interconnected universe, and instead just go after singularly powerful projects, like the Dark Knight films or Man of Steel, where it isn’t about “bringing the comic book to life” but just lettering a true auteur present their take on something.

    I can already hear the gentlemen saying “there is a Chris Nolan for every character,” and while that may or may not be true, if that’s the route we want to go then we may have to settle for only one or two self contained franchises at once that are done as well as The Dark Knight or (hopefully) Man of Steel. Believe me, I’d love nothing more than for it to be the other way, but I just really don’t see that realistically happening given how WB operates.

  • Mark-El

    Now that MoS is practically finished I think WB should sign up David Goyer and Zack Snyder to make the JLA film. Goyer knows Batman and Snyder would know Superman having just finished the film. They are both genre fans, have lots of credibility, have proven themselves in the superhero genre, and based on the trailer the look of MoS would fit in well with a JLA film. I also think the JLA would suit Snyder especially if Henry Cavill is cast as Superman to establish some type of continuity. WB have the talent to make this film and these two guys seem to have a considerable amount of creative control. It’s staring right at them.
    Avengers was more light hearted and I love that film but to avoid unfair comparisons and being singled out as a copy, JLA needs to do something to distinguish it from Avengers. Cast Morena Baccarin as Wonder Woman and the right actor as Batman and you have a winner.

  • heyberto

    I don’t really see a problem with the JL film preceding solo films. You just have to get someone to right a good script and then market it properly. Not everyone that went to see Avengers gave a shit about going to see Thor or Captain America in the theaters or even on video. It can work, provided its quality.

    I agree with Sean on the SW solo films. The mystery behind these characters is a big part of their allure, but that doesn’t mean some prequel stories will suck. I’m not real interested in seeing a Han Solo as a kid film.. but a well crafted character study of either of these characters could be cool. But taking mystery away doesn’t inherently mean you take away the cool factor.

    Regarding how far back is far enough to go with prequel stories, I’d love to see a Sith origin story, some Jedi stories.. all of which can be compelling even knowing which way the universe is heading.I do agree you can’t go back to too recent of a history… If you make a story with characters we care about, it just doesn’t matter. These stories can be smaller in scope, and don’t have to tie directly into the larger storylines established by the primary films.

  • Michael Lalaian

    Also, considering how much rage got thrown its way, I think we should get a Jack the Giant “Killer” roundtable :D