Intermission: “Summer School.”
At this point, let’s just start making lists of longtime friends of Robert Downey Jr. and assume that they’re all going to wind up in Marvel Movies eventually. James Spader has been cast as ULTRON for “Avengers 2.” Newsworthy in and of itself, definitely, but interesting because it highlights the fact that there’s a lot more mystery this time around.
The only “secret” in the first “Avengers” was what the aliens were going to be called (and that still seems more like the result of Marvel going into production without actually knowing what name/design they were legally allowed to use since these were clearly supposed to be Skrulls at one point); but since it’s already been confirmed that the movie Ultron will have a different origin (in the comics he’s a rogue invention of perennial super-science fuck-up Hank Pym, aka “Ant-Man” whose movie isn’t due out until after A2) this is that rare moment where longtime fans aren’t really ahead of the game as to what the story of a Marvel Studios production is going to be (no, “predicting” that “Avengers” would go “meet, disagree, make up, smack the Putty Patrol around NYC” doesn’t count.)
Hit the jump for some crazy theories:
Ultron’s origin in the comics is a bit convoluted: He first shows up as a masked mystery-villain, then reveals himself to be a humanoid robot, then reveals that he’s a self-improving, artificially-intelligent machine that originated as an early stab at sentient robotics by Dr. Pym that went nuts (Oedipus Complex – he hates his “father” and is obsessed with Pym’s then-girlfriend Janet Van Dyne aka “The Wasp”) and ran off to go become evil.
The announcement-teaser shown at SDCC was an extreme-closeup of what looked like a new Iron Man helmet under-construction, zooming out to reveal Ultron’s face at the very end. That started what’s probably the easiest “call” to make guessing-game wise: With no Ant-Man on the scene, Ultron’s creator will probably end up being Tony Stark (in comics, Ultron It makes the most sense, and it’s not like Marvel would be against having more things in these movies lead back to Iron Man. One of the Iron Man armors gets a mind of it’s own? That’s not a bad new origin, and as good a way as any to get Stark back into the game after he more or less (SPOILER ALERT!) decides to dial back on the Iron Man-ing at the end of “Iron Man 3.”
The fun conclusion jumped to next: The “A.I. gone bad” mind inside Ultron will be J.A.R.V.I.S., Stark’s personal A.I. voiced in all the movies thus far by Paul Bettany. That’d be a cool twist and a novel use of the shared-universe conceit (minor character from one series becomes a big bad in the team-up ten films later), and hypnotizing the human-butler version of Jarvis was part of Ultron’s debut story in Avengers #68, but with Spader now confirmed as the voice (and probably fake-human “face,” at least some of the time) of the character that theory seems to be out the window.
Or is it? I’ve got a theory of my own: Very silly, kind of crazy, pretty unlikely but not 100% outside the realm of possibility:
What if Ultron is DUMMY?*
As in “Dummy,” the semi-self-aware robotic arm that Tony Stark keeps around for menial tasks, treats like the world’s dumbest robot dog but also seems to have some kind of sentimentality about (he’s one of the few things being taken away from the ruins of Stark’s house in IM3)? It’s already been established, after all, that Dummy is more-or-less the precursor to J.A.R.V.I.S. and all Stark’s other robot/robot-esque projects…
…so it’d make a nice retrofit of the comics’ origin (and maybe another chance to give Pepper Potts something to do in an “Avengers” movie, something RDJ insisted on in the first one.) And if you’re looking to send audiences home with some kind of lingering “whoa,” the idea that a comic relief background player from “Iron Man” turns into a dangerous villain more-or-less because of all that abuse we were laughing at would do it – plus, you KNOW that Downey’s “…DUMMY!??” reaction would be fucking priceless.
Ultron the Big Scary Terminator-Esque Robot is giving his big “Reap what you sow!!!” self-justifying villain speech, an instead of flashing back to a war-zone or some childhood trauma it’s just scene after scene of RDJ being a dick to a robot arm? GOLD. Potential subsequent related dialogue? (“I yell at my microwave at least once a day and it never tried to take over the world or kill me! …well, okay maybe that one time.”) Solid.
Realistically, this is pretty damn unlikely – mostly because it it might be a little too far over the line between “good silly” (re: Thor) and “too silly” (re: Frog Thor,”) but I’d be all over it. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t count J.A.R.V.I.S. out as having a bigger role in a robot/AI-related story: If both Ultron and Scarlet Witch are in this, it’d be really surprising if The Vision didn’t turn up as well.
*Just so we’re clear: If it turns out I’m even half right about this, I’m never ever shutting up about it.
Actors who started out as “heartthrobs” only to descend into walking-joke territory getting serious comebacks in middle-age is becoming a trend of 21st Century Hollywood, what with Robert Downey Jr. improbably serving as the masthead of a Disney action franchise and Ben Affleck getting cast in some sort of caped-person movie over the weekend. It’s been looking for awhile now that Matthew McConaughey would be added to that list after solid turns in little-seen features like “Lincoln Lawyer” and “Killer Joe.” Now he’s going full steam ahead with “Dallas Buyers Club,” a biopic of hard-living rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof who, after being diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and nearly dying from ineffective AZT treatments, went looking for FDA-unapproved medications in Mexico; eventually becoming the unassuming leader of a semi-underground meds-smuggling network – ultimately keeping himself alive about six and a half years longer than his initial diagnosis projected.
OSCAR: “A true story, you say? Average rural bigot (Woodroof was apparently not the biggest fan of the gay community prior to his experience) opens his eyes and becomes a hero, you say? One-man-against-The-System, you say? AIDS you say!? Attractive famous person losing a bunch of weight to simulate debilitating illness, you say!!???”
Still, hell of a trailer. There’s the usual heavy-sigh to be had about how of course it takes finding a story wherein the hero/victim/martyr is a straight white guy whose so classically All American he’s a literal Cowboy to get mainstream audiences to show up for a movie about just how much of a blind eye we turned to the AIDS crisis… but effective is effective.
Headline kind of says it all. Nothing else to report, but there you go. Ben Affleck is the new Dark Knight for “Batman vs. Superman.” This only just now happened, so not much else to say. A few thoughts do come to mind immediately, however…
Okay, Internet? Get it out of your system: Bennifer. Gigli. Jersey Girl. Reindeer Games. Armageddon. Ha ha ha. None of that matters. Literally. Affleck is basically a post-larvae actor/director at this point – nothing before “Gone Baby Gone” matters. Ben’s the man.
Besides, he wasn’t the problem in “Daredevil.” If he played Batman/Bruce Wayne in the same basic manner as Daredevil/Matt Murdock he’d be the best one apart from Keaton, Conroy, Bader and Adam West (Fuck you, Adam West was good.)
This doesn’t automatically mean the movie is that much closer to not sucking. Not using Christian Bale means this won’t totally be the played-out Nolan Batman, yes. Not casting someone appreciably older than Henry Cavill means it can’t be that close to “Dark Knight Returns;” but those pernicious influences are still there.
Fun Fact #1: Unless I’m forgetting someone, this makes Ben Affleck the only actor who has ever played Batman AND Superman (look it up.)
Fun Fact #2: This actually isn’t a total surprise: Back when Warner Bros. was still committed to “Justice League” coming out opposite “Avengers 2,” they offered Affleck the director’s chair on that one with the caveat that he also play Batman. Supposedly he said no at the time. One thing changed… I wonder if the other thing has, too?
Poor Henry Cavill. Not only do they think you need Batman’s help to make people want to see you as Superman again, they think you need Oscar-Winning-Megastar-Batman.
Honestly? I’m immediately fond of this decision – and not just because it means he might possibly maybe bring some (or all?) of the production of a DC movie or two here to Boston. This guy is a good actor, he can play tough, he has range… but he’s also funny and “regular.” I’m sure the paycheck on this is big enough that he’d do the part in helium-voice if they asked, but if they let him play Batman as something other than the one-note growling asshole we’ve been putting up with for the last decade he could really be something special. Enough time has passed since George Clooney – we can have a stable, semi-happy Batman again.
Seriously, though – Ben? Mr. Affleck? Please bring some or all of this production to Boston. The last Gotham City was in fucking Philly for crissakes.
Let’s get THIS dull idiocy out of the way: No, Matt Damon would be a shitty Robin. Casey Affleck for Robin, though? That I like. Jennifer Garner would be a not-awful Wonder Woman, but that’s not gonna happen. No, Kevin Smith doesn’t need to be anywhere near this – he’s probably gonna launch another fucking circlejerk podcast just to “cover” this, let it be.
Now, Matt Damon for Lex Luthor, on the other hand? I’m listening.
PERSPECTIVE: Honestly, whether or not “Batman vs. Superman” is good is ultimately a negligible thing at this point. They’re not gonna stop making superhero movies anytime soon, if this one doesn’t work they’ll get right eventually. This is good news strictly on the basis that the guy behind “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town” and “Argo” is going to have enough Fuck You Money to make whatever the HELL he wants for the forseeable future. That’s why we call these things “tentpoles,” kids.
Y’know what’s funny? The logic used to be that DC heroes (or, more specifically, anyone from “Superfriends”) were well-known/iconic enough to sell themselves, while Marvel’s roster would probably need A-list megastars to make mainstream audiences give a shit.
The “Beltway Sniper” killings seem like a lot longer ago than they were (2002), but then so does the presence of Isaiah Washington in a real movie:
Remember “Will It Blend?” A viral-marketing campaign for high-end blenders that was kinda funny on YouTube a few years ago? No? Well, it was funny. Did you ever wonder what Kels Goodman, the independent filmmaker who put the campaign together, was up to now? No, again? Well, too bad – I’m gonna show you anyway.
As it turns out, Utah’s own (because of course) Kels Goodman thinks of himself as a right-wing agent provocateur. His statement to the world? “The Last Eagle Scout,” a paranoid “Dramedy” action-fantasy seemingly comprised (if it’s trailer is any indication) entirely of Michelle Bachman talking-points (and which it’s website repeatedly calls a “dramedy.” The premise? The Liberals (embodied by, I shit you not, Congressman Jude Marx) have established a “political correctness” dictatorship in America – depriving the citizenry of Baby Jesus Sanctified RIGHTS!!! to shitty snack foods, enforcing a secularized version of the Pledge of Allegiance, a “citizen’s task force” (PRIVATE OBAMA THUG ARMY OH NOES!!!) etc. But when they cross the line by using a terrible accident (“false flag operation,” calling it right now) as pretext to defund and dismantle The Boy Scouts, one lone heroic smug blonde douchebag with a slingshot opts to go all “Red Dawn” on their asses.
…Yeah. It’s not quite the divine vintage of 9/11-broke-my-brain idiocy as, say, “Liberality For All,” but it’s not for lack of trying. Amid all the more obvious stupidity (“LOL because gun-free-zones in schools is EXACTLY the same thing as banning nail-clippers!”) I think my favorite thing is the uber-earnest Aryan goodber playing the hero “Cliff” trying so hard to pull off the Dirty Harry/Snake Plissken/John McClane grim, disaffected hero thing. That’s it, kiddo – cock that head at an angle, glare n’ stammer, act like there’s a weird sound only you can hear going off behind you during dialogue scenes. Reach for the stars.
Oh, and in case you thought maybe this was just some harmless goofery by jerks with cameras, check out this rancid scene from the movie itself; which introduces “Boys Of The Nation,” the Evil Liberal Government’s replacement for The Boy Scouts that drops outdoor activities and moral instruction for “tolerance,” male/male hugging, fashion, shopping, baking and a badge called “The Flaming Torch.” GET IT!!??
What, you thought you were gettin’ out of this without a nice big helping of feminization/gay-bashing? You should know better than that by now.
This… thing apparently hit DVD last week or so. Has anyone had the (dis)pleasure?
Hear me out on this one, folks.
By tonight, the movie news of the weekend will be that “Lee Daniel’s The Butler” (a not particularly good but well-intended film) will be the boxoffice champ of the weekend – probably by more so than will even be initially reported because the film press tends to ignore Sunday, a day on which “black films” almost always over-perform. Fairly or not, much like for Daniels’ “Precious” a lot of the credit for that is going to be laid on the presence of media omni-figure Oprah Winfrey. For whatever reason, the fact of this made something “click” in my head:
Warner Bros. should cut whatever check would need to be cut to get Oprah to turn up in “Batman vs. Superman” as Amanda Waller.
Technically, Waller started out as a government-affiliated bad guy in mid-80s comics, but the character has evolved over time (before being ruined, along with everything else, by The New 52), thanks in part to memorable turns by CCH Pounder in the DC Animated Universe shows, into a kind of morally-ambiguous counterpart to Nick Fury (movie version); a human official unafraid to try and “manage” the presence of superhuman beings on Earth by whatever means necessary. Angela Bassett played a version of the character in “Green Lantern,” but nobody cares about anything that happened in or around “Green Lantern.”
Here’s the thing: WB wants very badly to imitate the profitable shared-universe that Disney/Marvel have going on, but they clearly have no plan or idea how to get there – the latest gossip is that they’re willing to give Christian Bale one of the biggest paydays in history to do ONE more appearance for “Batman vs. Superman,” which would means they’re right back to re-casting Batman for “Justice League.” A character like this – who can easily turn up in multiple related films for a memorable cameo – is a good way to at least start getting there; and it’d fit with the residual Nolanized downer vibe that WB is still insisting on for “their version” to be an alternately friendly or villainous buzzkill.
The main thing that’s always made Waller unique is, frankly, that she’s a middle-aged, plus-sized black woman; a character type that practically doesn’t exist in mainstream comics, to say nothing of holding a position of substantial power. If that’s the character your casting, why wouldn’t you make an offer to the actual most powerful/influential middle-aged plus-sized black woman on the planet who also happens to be a not-terrible actress? And who is really, really well-suited to the part?
Yes, you’d get a tidal-wave of reflexive fanboy hate right off the bat. College Humor etc. would have spoof material for weeks (“You get a Batmobile! You get a Batmobile!”), the whole shebang. But it would dissipate if/when they see her being good in the first SDCC sizzle-reel – besides, they’re still gonna go see it. The benefit you get – namely the immediate attention of several huge audience segments that normally couldn’t give less of a shit about these movies: She shows up in the trailer, even for a moment? Suddenly your on a ton of radars you weren’t before. There’s a whole nation of moms out there with superhero-junkie kids who would flip for the idea of Oprah turning up to essentially tell Batman to finish his vegetables and clean his goddamn room, for starters.
Also… let’s face it, she’s one of the best self-promoters on the planet and there’s no way you don’t benefit from that: DCU movies would likely have prime booking and promotion on her TV network and affiliated shows, an even bigger segment of the press is paying attention, and the only possible downside would be if she somehow proved unable to convincingly portray a character that could be summarized as “You, but a hardass and wearing a suit.”
Would it be a risk? A little bit, yeah. But a better investment (with much better potential payoff) than dropping $50 Million for another 150 minutes of “BWHEREIZZET?? BWHERSTHATREGGAR!!!???”