Marvel: Phase Two – Look to the Stars

Avengers Age of Ultron and the end of Marvel Phase 2

Jokerside’s second major look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it nears the end of Phase Two. Spoilers abound like Ultron drones – if you’re not up to speed with events on the small and large screens as of May 2015 then Code Green.

MARVEL’S PHASE TWO HAS REACHED ITS PEAK. IT’S NOT OVER, THE CURIOUS ANT MAN HAS THE HONOUR OF CLOSING THE PHASE LATER THIS YEAR. BUT THAT FILM WOULD HAVE TO PREPOSTEROUSLY EXCEED ITS DIMINUTIVE NAME TO REACH THE HEIGHTS OF GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY OR THE SECOND AVENGERS FILM. So let’s call Age of Ultron the peak – the one film that would not only buck the trend but also set off some mild warning bells should it fail to top the box office list this year. Sitting atop a phase that’s destin­ed to rake in considerably more than $4 billion, it’s clear that the Avengers fuelled Marvel machine is marching on, although not on the same tank tracks it used to.

All Change

What was extraordinary about Phase One was the dominance of military strength

At the half-way point of Phase Two, Jokerside took a sly glimpse at the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) at what was a significant turning point. Starting with the imperious Iron Man 3 (and only dropping slightly with a follow-up trip to Asgard) the newly imbued and properly Disneyfied Phase Two did exactly what it should: raise the game in every film and on every level. The MCU was expanding and consolidating with barely a glance back at the narrower scope of its 2008 beginnings. What was extraordinary about Phase One was the dominance of military strength, starting with Tony Stark’s life-changing trials in Afghanistan and culminating in the full reveal of SHIELD’s far-reaching machine. That build up overwhelmed the unfortunate Iron Man 2, but by the time the Avengers initiative had reached its fruition at the end of Phase One there was little doubt that we were watching the SHIELD show.

So it was only natural that SHIELD would spin off into an actual television show, and presumably why, in-spite of that small screen expansion, Phase Two set about ripping SHIELD up. With Stark going solo at the start of Phase Two, it was up to Captain America’s fight against the Winter Soldier to prove how much Phase One’s build-up could be forgotten. It was the right film for it, splintering SHIELD under the shield of a man who was never an easy fit into that organisation. That film proved monumental for the MCU, setting the agenda for the future of Marvel properties on the big and small screens.

Missing Mutants

Mutation was packed off to Fox

Beyond SHIELD’s fate, there was a giant mutant elephant standing in Stark Tower. A year ago Jokerside explored the clear agenda that Winter Soldier’s post-title sequence set out:

“The Winter Soldier’s biggest contribution may not be the dissolution of SHIELD but its clear design on the 21st century. Here was its own Iron Man 2 moment – after all, which Marvel film can risk standing still? In a scene a little too tell not show, the real pattern for future films was laid down. It’s a hook with a nicely sinister overtone, whether HYDRA succeeded or not (they couldn’t have wiped out all the potential…). Von Strucker’s closing cameo shows that the next century had been unlocked by their prophecy of potential. It was almost distracting to hear Stephen Strange get a mention, not that Cap blinked at it. If Strange already exists, he may well not be ‘active’ (met the Ancient One…) and yet still destined to become the Sorcerer Supreme. Similarly the twins look to dodge the mutant bullet. There are potentially no mutants in this Marvel universes, simply accelerated or expected ‘twists’ of potential.”

Marvel: Phase Two – One of our Tanks is Missing

Mutation had been packed off with the X-Men to Fox, with the two legendary Mutant members of the Avengers now a product of experimentation. And that meant the phase that properly launched into the universe (after Thor’s tentative first steps ) also had to take long hard looks at the human condition. Just two films later, Avengers: Age of Ultron would complete the set by destroying Hydra and unlocking two famous twins. Read more…

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Marvel: Disney and the Age of Marvel

Disney Age of Marvel

The Walt Disney Company’s costly acquisition strategy looks increasingly shrewd as Avengers: Age of Ultron pushes the Marvel Cinematic Universe to being the world’s highest grossing film franchise.

First published by Molewood Consulting on 29th April 2015.

THE NUMBERS ARE IN AND QUITE UNLIKE THE EVENTS THAT OFTEN ASSEMBLE EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES, THEY’RE EMINENTLY PREDICTABLE. The latest installment in the unstoppable march of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU) looks set to break records all round. At home, highly aggressive estimates suggest Avengers: Age of Ultronmay make up to $230million and in actual terms is likely to smash $200.3 million taken by its 2012 predecessor in the United States. Opening across 44 international territories, it’s confirmed as setting a Hulk-like record of $200.2 million, despite alleged boycotts caused by rental fee disagreements in the German market.

Under the unrelenting march of Marvel’s new heroes, the UK showed the changing of the guard more than most. Ultron’s £20.18 million debut beat the opening set by James Bond with 2012’s Skyfall.

Not Just a Phase

Phase 2 will conclude this July

It’s safe to say that the second Avengers film has comfortably surpassed its estimated $280 million budget and is well on track to beat the $1.518 billion grossed by its predecessor. It also continues the phenomenal performance of the Marvel movies as their structured development process reaches the end of its second phase. Phase 2 will conclude this July with a new and lesser known Marvel IP Ant-Man. Even if that film matches the lowest grossing MCU film so far (2008’s Incredible Hulk took $263.4) Phase 2 will likely exceed $5.12 billion. Not bad, when you already have Phase 3 lined up…

Read more…

Marvel: Phase 2 – One of our Tanks is Missing

Tony Stark iron Man
The Winter Soldier is coming…

Spoilers aplenty in a look at cinematic Marvel mid-way through its second phase.

AS CAPTAIN AMERICA ENDS HIS SECOND TOUR OF DUTY ON THE BIG SCREEN, IT’S CLEAR THAT THE REIGN OF MARVEL WILL LAST A LONG TIME YET.  Having ridden high in charts and critical approval, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has secured over $680 million for the House of Mouse/Ideas at time of writing.  That’s far in excess of its rather cool pre-Disney predecessor, but it’s hardly a stealthy Hydra take-over.  The Winter Soldier comes in the middle of Marvel’s cinematic Phase 2: The second stage of the cinematic wonder of the modern age that’s constantly exceeded expectations as it’s risen from the gamma irradiated shell of The Avengers like a… well, never mind…

As the greatest motion picture phenomenon of recent times, it’s hard to recall the early years of this millennium when Marvel endured constant financial woe as Captain America ushers in August’s unknown quantities: The Guardians of the Galaxy.

If this new, fully Disney wave of Marvel films pushes any word it’s ‘sophistication’

How quaint and prosaic The Avengers looks now.  In Phase 2, only Thor failed to grasp the complicated cross-fire of ‘the laws of sequel’ – a fact its $644 million haul hides nicely.  On the whole Marvel has risen to the challenge with all the properties coming back louder, sharper, less in awe of their creative roots, brasher, higher budget and reasonably, far more economic with it.  If this new, fully Disney wave of Marvel films pushes any word it’s ‘sophistication’.  And that’s less reflective of shrewd business acumen on Disney’s part than their belief in consolidating brands.  With Phase 2 and 3 likely not only to bring out of contract franchise heavy weights like Downey Jr back into the fold but also introduce the likes of Robert Redford and Michael Douglas, there’s no doubt Disney’s presence has oiled some tricky wheels.  Downey Jr’s return for more than Avengers 2 and 3 is a must…

The Military PhaseTank meets Incredible hulk

A year ago, prior to Phase 1’s beginning, I watched all the Marvel films (in film-chronological order of course).  Here’s the proof!

The one thing that struck me about Phase 1 was how incredibly militarily-led it is.  The Hulk needs a tank to smash, Stark needs weapons to develop…  The armed forces are one heavy and consistent element.  The funny thing is that in spite of General Ross’ best efforts, the military had never ranked highly in my impression of Marvel before.  I signed off that long and four-colour day with the start of Phase 2.  And what a start.

Multiplicity

Marvel Studios looked as though they could recreate the unbelievably prolific zeitgeist of the 1960s

Iron Man 3 sits atop the franchise, an incredibly enjoyable and satisfying piece of film-making that has set the bar of incredibly high for Edgar Wright’s Phase opening Ant Man in 2015.  That second sequel took almost as much as its two prequels combined.  Even the mildly disappointing, drearily samey Thor: The Dark World took almost $200 million more than its predecessor.  But with the mid-way point that catches up with Captain America, there’s more than greys, mystery and cliff-hangers; there’s the undiscovered country of an untested and unfamiliar property in the realm of consistent half billion films.  But then the modern Marvel reign begun with, if not quite the unfamiliar, the little known.  Iron Man dwarfed the near-released Hulk (always a paler shade of green on the big screen) and set a trend for surprise that cinematic Marvel should never, ever forget.  As unlikely as it seemed, Marvel Studios looked as though they could recreate the unbelievably prolific zeitgeist of Lee, Kirby, Ditko and co in the 1960s…  Well, until they were shrewdly swallowed up by Disney.  As much as Marvel wears the amalgam of its cinematic universe as an iron suit, it’s that overarching connectivity that’s crucial.

Galactic Storm

Incredible Hulk meets TankIn 2014, Guardians has set down a confident space gauntlet with its brash teaser trailer.  The style’s not a massive surprise considering the overall Marvel approach, the original property and director James Gunn’s CV.  It’s aping of The Usual Suspects – especially considering its near release to Bryan Singer’s X Men: Days of Future Past shouts confidence and its musical recall to Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs cuts an interesting ‘70s/’90s vibe. The casting is satisfyingly leftfield, with two box office heavyweights supplying larynxes alone.  Reilly and Serafinowicz add some left-field lightness, although he less said about that trailer sign-off the better.

Winter has come

It looks like Guardians will be a far cry from Captain America’s second dry rollercoaster.  Robbed of the Second World War setting its main nods came in Philadelphia Experiment style poignancy.  Just scraping through on the make-up, Peggy Carter’s role seemed more about the potential spin-off series than as balance to the return of Bucky Barnes or any potential (comic-inspired) romance between Cap and her niece, the fleeting Sharon Carter in The Winter Soldier.

Cap’s second outing left some dry in the cinema but nonetheless managed to wow the critics to a praise just sat between Iron Man 3 and Thor 2.  And that’s just about right.

Aside from Carter, so many elements seemed  far too bolted on for what prides itself as a cohesive universe.  Toby Jones’ return was canonically fair enough but lacked some necessary anchor without any significant World War II flash backs.  There were neat lines (yes, the internet’s “helpful”) but even some witty understatement came up short against Whedon’s one-liners and baseball cards in The Avengers.

Nods to other films were frequent.  The excellently executed hijack reconnaissance kicked the film off like an espionage thriller classic while reintroducing and showcasing the impressive skills of the superheroes, and master spies, in SHIELD’s ranks.  With cracks appearing early, the film doesn’t let up on references as it powers on.

The film ends in pure Independence Day territory

For the first half of the film, cloudless, large, blue skies dominate frames in the Triskelion, a stark blank canvas that all the players are exposed against.  Unveiling that kind of conspiracy in bright daylight is a tricky thing to pull off, but it works.  Unfortunately, early Mission: Impossible allusions grow when the old ‘hero turned rogue’ line is wheeled out.  It’s a hackneyed plot device no matter the plot requirement.  It takes many pages from the M:I text book, especially the latter two entries that strongly follow the clean-cut, cash-cow JJ Abrams method.  Add in the double-crossing elder statesman and you’re dredging up all manner of films from Judge Dredd to Minority Report.  By the end, after an epic vista hinted at by the Inception-like score, the film ends in pure Independence Day territory.  The ‘spaceship’ take down’, where the individual craft have to be boarded separately and sabotaged is videogame plotting, not film.  That’s no slight, it just hints at the demands of a mechanic beyond simple, strong storytelling.

The Winter Soldier, for all its confident staging and well-drilled, hard-hitting set-pieces, contained huge and unforgivable gaps in between its references.  The comparison to Iron Man is unflattering.

Admittedly The Winter Soldier brings us the third dose of a monumentally dull character.  The super-serum did not generate charisma and an automatic weakness against Stark.  Such a noble lack of magnetism is no bad thing, just ask Superman, but means the script and plot have to work harder.  While The Avengers utilised each member’s opposition well (in life outlook, politics and ability – drawing on long held comic tradition), Black Widow doesn’t quite get mean enough in The Winter Soldier.

There’s plenty to be mined from Cap’s new indoctrination into SHIELD, but the organisation is disbanded far too soon to dig into it.  Of course, the whole plot paves the way for a Civil War storyline in about two Avengers time but it doesn’t play to any of Cap’s strengths bar the ‘living embodiment of good’ facet.  Indeed, the most fun Cap has takes place in the opening scene as he laps the soon to soar again Falcon.  So, what can you do with the the ultimate goody two-shoes (see about the other one here)?

An out and out dinosaur fascist

Millar had a simple approach in The Ultimates, the comic series that has played inspiration for much of Marvel’s cinematic forays: make him an out and out dinosaur fascist.  “Surrender? Does this A stand for France” yells Cap at a Nazi Chitauri in a pivotal scene of the first volume.  Such playful, and doleful caricaturing couldn’t wash on the big screen of course – there’s no room for that political speculation in this post-HYDRA world.  All the while, Stark can still play rampant with the personal and double-professional.

A full-on satire on super-costumery

And onto Cap’s Rhodes, the new Bucky.  Falcon is well, if conveniently realised.  The unforgivable part is the wing suit.  Inexplicably left in his care, it works like a dream, as does his exit from post-combat trauma.  Compared to his fellow iron-comparator, the evolution of the Iron Man suit (and combat stress) was used beautifully in Iron Man 3.  By the end, director Shane Black not only had his preference of keeping Downey Jr out of the suit and in a  buddy-cop duo, not only introduced the Hulk-Buster armour, but provided a full-on satire on super-costumery at the same time.  The Winter Soldier showed huge gaps in logic and set-up, understandable if it’s taking on an impossibly large and far-reaching) conspiracy.  Instead, its strength came in unravelling. And it was mighty good at that.

Hulk smash puny Tank - Pantone 348 (Angry)

Disassemble

The Mandarin is the real masterstroke

Increasingly it’s clear how bereft Iron Man 2 is in the Marvel cinematic universe. Robbed of the originality and surprise its simple forbear had, IM2‘s obsession with sewing SHIELD into the franchise and assembling the Avengers was a mistake, no matter how much a guilty pleasure the glimpse of that “that shield” was .

A few films and one Phase on, The Winter Soldier manages to take SHIELD apart far more skilfully than Iron Man 2 put it together.  That’s underlined by Gary Shandling’s rather wasted cameo in both.

While The Winter Soldier looked to recent successes and 70s intrigue while Iron Man 3 was focussed on the 1980s. While both the films looked at soldier technology to provide an opposition (one more Goth than the other), both used the comfort of the sequel to turn to recent comic book runs.  It’s a welcome development, but overall, that Mandarin twist (real or not) is the real masterstroke.

Dropped SHIELD

So, SHIELD is no more and the middling television spin-off looks like a ruse of great craft.  We still have Fury of course, now rogue himself and a little more perforated.   However, considering their own demise, how much neater if the antagonists had not been HYDRA but simply an opposing faction of SHIELD.  Too heated, too institution-baiting?  Sometimes the films can’t touch the comic’s ambitions and that’s the power of the printed page.

Summer Steel

Iron Man 3 may be one of the greatest 80s action films of all time.

Away from SHIELD and the Avengers (perhaps its real strength), Phase 2-opening Iron Man 3 remains the film to dethrone.

That film was more than another Downey Jr show, as crucial he was to its success.  Shane Black seemed a risk but if he was, he was a necessary one.  That Black’s CV is replete with that first script sale of Lethal Weapon, the excellent Downey Jr-starring Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and his infamous script notes is good enough – you need to inject a film franchise built on the left-field with an edgy risk  and the result was the fifth highest grossing film of all time.

It could well have been Axel Foley…

Yes, it turned out that Black was exactly the guy.  John Favreau did an excellent job with the first Iron Man, but the second instalment stalled badly.  After the franchise created its own HYDRA so early on, Joss Whedon and Shane Black brought us gloriously and insanely well cast films, with crafted plot twists and great slabs of nostalgia.  Iron Man 3 is so nostalgic it may well be one of the greatest 80s action films of all time.  It wasn’t just the Black and Downey Jr re-match, it was that strong blending of 80s sensibility with the greatest current trend.  Iron Man 3’s littered with it.  Of course it’s most blatant in the  Riggs and Murtaugh buddy ending as sans-suits Stark and Rhodes take on the villain with gun in hands.  But there’s also the gratuitously silly villains’ lair scene.  Before the Mandarin is un-, or perhaps, re-masked, it could well have been Axel Foley striding around the villa, knocking out the sunglass wearing/machine gun toting sentries one at a time.  Utterly superb.  I can only hope that Stark put a banana in a few car exhausts as well.

The finale, similar to 2010’s The A-Team’s port-side knock-out, received a bashing on release but it wasn’t a question of money.  New York, San Francisco and Washington can be pulverised again and again film, but Man of Steel showed how one building may as well be a cargo pod.  Here the real emphasis was on suite of suits itself.  The Iron man films have captured the evolving suits well, each a facet of Stark’s life.  From the fleeting Hulk-Buster to the current version, triangle or circular arc, the empty suit is a motif every bit as powerful as the Batman/Bruce Wayne/ Mask/real dynamic that Batman films have been playing with for many years.

Turning Points

Bringing the loose association and gravity of the actors’ past roles

All the Phase 2 films have showed the well of resource and imagination that Marvel has to draw on for its movies; over five decades worth.  But it was Iron Man 3 and Cap 2 that really ran with it, both picking up direct, if highly modified, storylines.  Considering the links, it’s surprising how loosely some Marvel themes are set up – or perhaps it’s a neat homage to the 60s mentality that signalled the House of Idea’s most fertile time.  There’s also a real sense that Marvel want to strongly establish their films in the history of celluloid.  Casting the likes of Redford and Douglas helps, bringing the loose association and gravity of their past roles.  Like Watchmen, Douglas’ announcement as Hank Pym suggests that he’s very much passing the mantle of the atom on to Ant Mna – unless he’s a previous Giant Man, or Yellow Jacket…  The real question is: who gets the Wasp?

Divergent Futures

Accelerated or expected ‘twists’ of potential

Before the franchise goes intergalactic once again, The Winter Soldier’s biggest contribution may not be the dissolution of SHIELD but its clear design on the 21st century.  Here was its own Iron Man 2 moment – after all, which Marvel film can risk standing still?  In a scene a little too tell not show, the real pattern for future  films was laid down. It’s a hook with a nicely sinister overtone, whether HYDRA succeeded or not (they couldn’t have wiped out all the potential…). Von Strucker’s closing cameo shows that the next century had been unlocked by their prophecy of potential.  It was almost distracting to hear Stephen Strange get a mention, not that Cap blinked at it.  If Strange already exists, he may well not be ‘active’ (met the Ancient One) and yet destined to become the Sorcerer Supreme.  Similarly the twins look to dodge the mutant bullet.  There are potentially no mutants in the marvel universes, simply accelerated or expected ‘twists’ of potential.

I can’t see Marvel be happy running without mutants.

For external reasons, it was important to get the Scarlet Witch and her speedy brother in before Fox’s Marvel X-Films latched onto Quicksilver.  Whether mutant or brought to ‘potential’, the final shot makes it clear that little in the Marvel universe will change.  That closing, chilling sight of a deranged Scarlet Witch left no doubt that the story is heading every bit the way the comics did prior to House of M, mutants or no.  And I can’t see Marvel be happy running without mutants.

Matrix-style thread of choice and destiny now runs through Marvel like a candle wick and it’s welcome. Iron Man showed you don’t always need to call on The Avengers, Thor opened up space while Captain America left all bets either very wide open or unbelievably constrained.  The Marvel cinematic universe is built on risk and long may that continue.

Batman Beyond: The Devil and Ben Affleck

Darebats

Ben Affleck is the Dark Knight. 

THE NEWS SPRUNG OUT OF THE SHADOWS LATE ON THURSDAY – AGAIN I WISH THAT WARNER WOULD GIVE SOME WARNING FOR THEIR SURPRISE ANNOUNCEMENTS. BEN AFFLECK IS THE DARK KNIGHT.

More than usual, the genre press led with ‘What do you think?’ headlines – and that’s saying something. There are few actors who’d create more of a stir. Recent weeks have been consumed with rumours that Warner Bros were casting around for an older Batman to match their 33 year old on screen Superman – even pursuing Christian Bale’s return to the tune of $50 million. Recently retired Caped Crusader Bale is just two years younger than Affleck, but it turns out that offer was either flatly rejected, a neat distraction or both. The sudden and definitive announcement surprised many, more than guaranteeing an argument.

Indifferent commentators have been increasingly quiet during a Summer where superhero films have dodged blockbuster box office meltdown. But this news stirred them. They stress that for them it’s not an Affleck issue. It’s more a lament – usually an ill-considered one – that it’s time to seal the comic book film genre away in UV protecting plastic sleeves. In an attic. For once, fans with vision the size of the bat cave entrance may be more clued up, but not necessarily for the right reason. The problem is that Ben Affleck has form.

Red Devil

2003’s Daredevil hangs over Affleck like Kingpin over Hell’s Kitchen. And that’s a little unfair. Far from being the victim of misfortune, it’s been mainly Affleck who’s distanced himself from it – with an emphasis on never playing a superhero again. 2003 was an odd time for the genre, falling in an odd hinterland half a decade before Marvel Studios kicked off their ambitions. At the time Fox’s X Men franchise was successfully burgeoning but remained quite low key. That Summer also saw Ang Lee’s tortured Hulk suffer (mind you, in a difficult season even Harry Potter underperformed).

Daredevil is an established and well regarded Marvel superhero, with one of the most eminent fathers in Stan Lee. But he’s always been one that fits a little awkwardly into the Marvel film roster. Now Fox have rejected Joe Carnahan’s intriguing 70s reboot and the rights have reverted to Marvel Studios it’s hard to see the Man without Fear slipping neatly into the Avengers universe anytime soon. While tragedy and classic monster horror runs through the Hulk’s veins and comedy and coming of age angst drip from Spiderman’s web, Daredevil marries one of the hokiest origin stories with themes of religion, law and city-grit. The horned one is perhaps the darkest fantasy creation to ever wear scarlet in comics and over time creators such as Frank Miller have honed him into a fascinating character – so much more than disability and toxic ooze. Those B-Movie roots that even the Turtles couldn’t totally steal remain, but his position as the real Batman of the Marvel Universe is clear. Pipe down Iron Man.

Director Mark Steven Johnson, a director who often finds it very difficult to please, got a lot right. Daredevil’s power was startlingly realised if a little too stylised. The curse of heightened senses and the Devil’s Catholic guilt were implemented well while the cast was well filled out. The late Michael Clarke Duncan was a superb Kingpin in particular. Fox certainly didn’t fear the worst before it opened, ordering an extra post-credit scene that showed rising star of the moment Colin Farrell’s or rather his character Bullseye had survived for a sequel. Still, despite those apparent strengths in a second string costumed hero film, it didn’t even touch $180million in receipts. It scored under half the amount that the sublime X Men 2 clawed in for the studio just two months later.

A lot of the supposed faults of the mini-Devil franchise were cemented by the unwise Electra spin-off film. Despite the presence of small screen directing legend Rob Bowman, things didn’t go well. Just a cursory look at one of Electra’s comics shows that it would have been hard to conceive the film more poorly. Affleck wasn’t slow to remove himself from the disappointment, but an even more uncomfortable year was to follow. Having already bounced back from Pearl Harbour in 2001, 2003/4 saw him endure the release of Gigli, Paycheck and Jersey Girl following Daredevil. Each proved a nail of various sizes, and it wasn’t long until the former Hollywood golden child found a better stable behind the camera. However, not before, interestingly, he found time to portray doomed Superman actor George Reeves in Hollywoodland.

And so 10 years later, after a chequered decade, Affleck returns to superheroes, this time as that other famous vigilante of the night, the one with the black cowl.

Dark Knight

2013 has cemented Affleck’s remarkable repositioning. Taking the directing reins and major roles in a series of serious, gritty and political films has quickly established him up as a talent to watch. His choices and oh so serious bearded persona could be seen as mildly cynical were it not for the critical acclaim and awards… He’s making money as well. Argo raked in $232 million and he’s well on the same path as Clint Eastwood took, but in a far shorter timeframe. His best film win at the Oscars this year may have surprised, but in hindsight it was the one film that allowed the Academy to acknowledge politics at arm’s length. George Clooney had Affleck’s back. Their beards were strong.

So really, it’s the timing of the casting that’s most surprising. Affleck’s name’s been linked to Bruce Wayne’s before, most recently in the flurry of activity surrounding the presumed Justice League movie. Affleck was linked with that directing gig before Snyder was locked in… But there must be some truth to ever rumour, especially in Gotham.

Warner ultimately decided on a cleverer route to realising their big screen ambitions than leaping into their own Avengers. While they can introduce a rebooted Batman in the next Superman film, building and boosting Man of Steel 2’s box office, it’ increasingly likely that they will be growing other characters from the small screen. Series two of DC Superhero series Arrow is set to feature the origin of Scarlet Speedster Flash (which bears some similarity to Daredevil’s hokum) starting a run that may well continue straight onto the big screen. It’s a far cry from previous years where television appearances were overruled in favour of screen development. That change in thinking, while brilliantly opposite to Marvel’s, uncoincidentally collides with the box set generation’s rapidly changing habits. On Wednesday one-time Lex Luthor Kevin Spacey, a praised the golden age of television that is outshining a lot of cinema’s offerings. Warner’s plan increasingly looks multi-format, benefitting from a cohesion that the empire has fecklessly mishandled in recent years.

However, there’s a more telling indication in Affleck’s casting. He’s not the man without fear, the arrogant Hollywood star unaffected by critics…

Affleck is director of the Best film at the 2013 Academy Awards, with a strong recent working relationship with Warner Bros. Further details have surfaced over the last day that Nolan’s serious stab at Gotham-lore was enough to pique Affleck’s interest and he may even have been in the frame for Man of Steel. Certainly it seems reasonable that Affleck’s also eyeing up the contribution he can make to the character behind the camera, either in a solo tale or as part of the larger DC universe.

Casting wise, the past week has seen speculation grow around Lex Luthor with many names connected to the role signalling a similarly serious intent. Among some heavy-hitting fan-baiting names, imagine Bryan Cranston’s Luthor flexing stocks and shares and Kryptonite opposite Affleck’s Bruce Wayne. It looks like, having settled on the serious direction inspired by the Dark Knight trilogy – one which at least limits the possibility of a critical failure – Warner and DC are building a family for the future. It’s a strong one if David Goyer, Nolan, Snyder and Affleck continue to orbit it.

If Affleck had sought the advice of his friend George Clooney, the response may have been as brutal as some of the internet’s reaction. Some have observed that Warner may just as well have put Clooney back in the cowl but that’s another unfair reminder how one misplaced appearance can disrupt a career. Clooney was an excellent Bruce Wayne and hardly responsible for 1997’s Batman and Robin debacle. Put him in the cowl now and it wouldn’t be a terrible choice by any means, but unfortunately it represents far more of a nadir than Daredevil. In many ways, their respective superheroes have made the modern Affleck and Clooney.

Affleck’s chin, sans beard, will return to fantasy once again, but this time to a fantasy one steeped in allegory and metaphor and not a slavish origin. DC has built a universe of consequence and repercussion – not terrible things to have in a blockbuster. While the Dark Knight is a closed and dusty shop, this Batman isn’t likely to be a total reinvention. While undoubtedly dark and vigilante, this Batman will be as crucial to the plot’s capitalist and political scrutiny as inevitable Snyder-size devastation. Affleck will join an ensemble. He won’t take on the mantle of a new and repurposed Batman that some fans are calling for, but he certainly won’t be a Daredevil.

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