“Black Adam” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, The Commuter) and stars Dwayne Johnson (Red Notice, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, Hidden Figures), Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Fosters), Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest, The L Word), Marwan Kenzari (Aladdin, The Old Guard), Quintessa Swindell (Euphoria, Trinkets), Bodhi Sabongui (A Million Little Things, The Baby-Sitters Club), and Pierce Brosnan (Mamma Mia!, The November Man). This film is the latest installment to the Detective Comics Extended Universe, well before the recent transition under James Gunn and Peter Safran. Nevertheless, the film follows an individual who is freed from a tomb after 5,000 years. Being a fish out of water, said individual must adapt to a new world with new friends and foes.
2022 has been an okay year for comic book movies. I liked most of the comic book movies that have come out this year. There have been some duds like “DC League of Super-Pets” and especially “Morbius.” However, the genre has had more wins than losses so far. I will say, regardless of their quality, this year has given me a reason to look forward to various comic book movies like “The Batman” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” The expectations I had for those movies were at the very least, notable. As for how they turned out, both were good, but not great. Although “Black Adam” is an interesting case in regards to hype unlike those two movies. While “Black Adam” may not be as popular as say Wonder Woman, this project had a lot of time put into it, so I was curious to see how it would turn out after all these years. The development of “Black Adam” had been known since the late 2000s. Since then, Johnson has been a busy professional, but I am glad to see him come back to work on this property. At the same time, was the wait too long? It is possible, because every other year, the idea of a “Black Adam” movie became an idea where I would “believe it when I see it.” Well, it is 2022, and now I have seen it. What did I think of it?
Ehh… I guess it is okay…
If you want me to be real, my expectations for “Black Adam,” despite the amount of time that has been put into it, were not high. I was not expecting to be disappointed. Although the marketing was fine at best. When it comes to Dwayne Johnson, I have respect for him as a personality, but he does not always make the best movies. Sure, there are some standouts like “Central Intelligence,” some of the “Fast & Furious” installments, and the “Jumanji” movies. Although he has also made quite a few stinkers like “Rampage,” “Skyscraper,” and “Red Notice.” Despite being arguably the biggest and strongest movie star in the world, he has had quite a few punches he had to roll with. Even so, I find Johnson charming and I look forward to some of the things he does, even if it ends up sucking.
From a general audience perspective, this is the kind of movie that should sell. It is based on comics, which has been a hot trend in recent years. It stars The Rock, who has also been on trend based on his leading and supporting roles. Not surprisingly, the film already made over $250 million worldwide. It may not be making as much money as certain previous DC films, but the film is on track to become one of the biggest of Johnson’s career. Just because the box office is big, at least until “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” slaughters the movie next weekend, does not mean the movie has the strength of Johnson himself. Although I can see why this movie is doing so well with audiences. The action is bombastic, the scope is enormous, and there are some genuinely fun moments to be had here.
This movie is fun, but it is the kind of fun that would I also use to describe certain fast food restaurants. It is great for getting together with your friends to experience something that is it not going to revolutionize the world, but instead something you will mostly enjoy the moment it is in front of you. The dialogue is some of the cheesiest of its genre but the visual effects are pretty enough to have an attractive flair.
Dwayne Johnson, after many years of advertising this movie, saying it will happen, and finally delivering it to the masses, dons the suit of Black Adam, an anti-hero whose main trait is changing his mood either between brooding or stoic. While this may sound like a jab at the performance, I will give Dwayne Johnson some credit for his performance. Every time I watch a performance from Johnson, it comes off like he is playing the same person. Specifically, himself, or some alternate version of such an individual. It is just like Kevin Hart. It is just like Melissa McCarthy. It is just like Tiffany Haddish. Johnson has a tendency to play characters from one movie to the next who would come off as interchangeable if they stood next to each other. While Black Adam may not be my favorite of his characters he has played, Johnson seems to emit a different vibe or deliver another tone when portraying the anti-hero. Maybe it is because Johnson is often seen playing characters whose motivations for good happen to be clear. He is trying to help friends, his family. This time around, he plays a character who is comparatively psychotic compared to say Bob Stone in “Central Intelligence.” Though it is slightly different from some of other roles, I admire Johnson for attempting to play a character with this angle in mind.
When it comes to this film’s characters, that is the element of the film, as disposable as it is, that I am probably going to remember the most. But it is probably for reasons that would work more when it comes to marketing than the film itself. There is nothing wrong with star power, but I am likely going to remember this film because of that more than what happens in the film. I have a strong feeling that the only reason I will remember who the Justice Society is a year from now is the fact that renowned actor Pierce Brosnan plays Dr. Fate. No offense to Hawkman, Atom-Smasher, and Cyclone along with their discount Xaiver Institute where they reside. If Pierce Brosnan was not in the Justice Society, this movie would be just a tad more forgettable than it really is.
“Black Adam” feels like a comic book movie that tries to belong in the 2020s, especially with its attempts to expand a tonally inconsistent cinematic universe. But at the same time, it cannot help but stretch itself back to previous decades. Select scenes reminded me of a wild 90s movie with goofy edits or some notorious 80s film from Cannon Productions like the Sylvester Stallone-starring “Over the Top.” The latter is actually a pretty good example here because of the unlikely bond between the protagonist and a young boy. Although when it comes to this similarity, “Over the Top,” which is not a great movie to begin with, somehow delivers a more appealing edition of such a bond.
Despite my digs at the film, which it earns, I had a halfway decent time with “Black Adam.” But if you had to ask me what my favorite part of “Black Adam” was, I would have a troubling time coming up with a definitive answer. This is not to say the movie is awful. It is to say that maybe that when it comes to DC fare, this is an addition that delivers. but maybe not to its full potential. Even though I did not think the movie was perfect, I had a “favorite part” in “The Batman,” specifically the chase between Batman and the Penguin at the movie’s midway point. I had a favorite part in “Joker.” I had a favorite part in “Wonder Woman.” Despite its flaws, I had a favorite part in “Batman v. Superman.” To me, “Black Adam” is going to be remembered for its wins. But when I use the word “remembered” in this case, I might be a bit generous with that, because there are better comic book movies this year. As far as movies with Dwayne Johnson go, this is not the worst he has done, but it is certainly not his strongest effort either.
If anything, this movie comes off as a visual experience. When I watch movies, I refuse to turn off my brain because as someone who reviews movies, I need to stay focused on what it is in front of me. That said, “Black Adam” feels like a turn off your brain kind of movie. Not to mention a noisy one at that. If you watch this in a premium cinema, I would not be surprised if your auditorium shakes, or at least comes close to doing so. “Black Adam” is basically this year’s “Venom: Let There be Carnage.” I liked both movies, but not for reasons that would make want to watch them in the next month or two. They’re noisy, but they’re also noisy in a way that appeals to the senses. The dialogue is not the greatest, but it has its moments. Although “Venom: Let There be Carnage” in this case would be a better movie because as a turn off your brain movie, it feels simpler. Possibly because of its tightly knit runtime and pacing.
In short, did the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe change? The answer, not so much.
In the end, there is not much to say about “Black Adam” other than it is a movie that easily entertains, but also hardly gives a reason to have staying power. “Black Adam” is not the worst DC movie in the ongoing cinematic universe. That dishonor belongs to “Wonder Woman 1984.” Although it comes off as a massive step down to the previous DCEU film, “The Suicide Squad.” I was not expecting this film to be as killer as “The Suicide Squad,” but I was hoping that it would be good. To say it is good would not be a lie, depending on what your definition of good is. But to say it is memorable is another thing. If I need background noise, “Black Adam” is an okay choice. But if I want to watch a DC movie, I will stick with “The Dark Knight.” Although I would still give this a watch in the theater if you really want something to see, but maybe for a matinee price. I am going to give “Black Adam” a 6/10.
“Black Adam” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new movie “Call Jane.” I went to go see the film in theaters last weekend. It is not getting a lot of publicity, but it is a movie that had my curiosity with Elizabeth Banks in the lead role. Whether it had my attention, is another story. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Black Adam?” What did you think about it? Or, who is your favorite movie star working today? For me, the rule is simple. Give me Tom Cruise or give me death. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Elvis” is directed by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, The Great Gatsby) and stars Austin Butler (Life Unexpected, Switched at Birth), Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Cast Away), Olivia DeJonge (The Visit, The Society), Helen Thomson (Bad Mothers, Stupid, Stupid Man), and Richard Roxborough (Moulin Rouge!, Mission: Impossible II). This film is a biopic on the iconic musician Elvis Presley. The movie providers glimmers of his childhood in addition to his life in music and movies. There is also a shining of light on Presley’s relationship with his manager, Tom Parker.
I was looking forward to “Elvis” ever since I saw the trailer. It looked electric, zazzy, and colorful. I also will admit that I enjoy listening to Elvis Presley every once in a while as “Suspicious Minds” is sometimes a notable song choice of mine when I am writing. I am not a hardcore Elvis fanatic, but I was quite curious to get to know more about the iconic musician’s life and perhaps see a killer performance from Austin Butler. While Butler has had plenty of acting experience, this is undoubtedly the role that will make him a star, and not just because he’s playing a star. This leads me to my most prominent positive of the film, which is that Austin Butler does not waste a second on the screen.
Similar to how Rami Malek practically transformed into Freddie Mercury in 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Austin Butler gives a performance for the ages. In fact one thing that I think Butler does better in his performance as Presley compared to Malek as Mercury is that we actually hear Butler sing. There are snippets of the movie where Presley’s actual voice can be heard, but unlike Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the singing sequences in “Elvis” were not completely lip synced. Butler also looks like a king in this film. Speaking of which, one notable element of Elvis Presley that I often think of is like some modern musicians like Megan Thee Stallion or Cardi B, there is some definite sex appeal that had been accurately reflected in the movie. Sometimes this comes with the idea that the sexualization goes too far. Young people, especially women, are seen in this movie losing their minds the moment they see Presley himself. I liked this aspect of the film, I thought it was perfectly showcased.
Butler gives a transformative, otherworldly portrayal of a musician who has not been alive since the 1970s, but somehow has risen from the dead just to stand in front me as I eat popcorn for two and a half hours. It is undoubtedly one of the best performances of the year. I think they made a good choice on casting Butler, not only because he’s a great actor, but unlike say Harry Styles, who was in the running to play the character, Butler is way less recognizable, which I think comes off as less of a distraction. This adds, again, more of a transformation factor than anything else. Although I was delighted to know that before “Elvis,” Butler’s most recent outing was in the insanely good “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” where he slays as Tex Watson. There is no denying it, Austin Butler was perfect in “Elvis.”
Too bad almost every other aspect of the movie pales in comparison.
Speaking of performances, let’s talk about Tom Hanks. Unlike Austin Butler, it is almost certain that most moviegoers would watch a movie just because Tom Hanks is in it. He is great in everything he does, except for “Elvis.” Tom Hanks plays Elvis Presley’s sleazy, gambling addict manager by the name of Tom Parker. Judging this performance is incredibly difficult. Because on one hand, Tom Hanks plays a much different role than I am used to seeing him in. This is a rare instance where Hanks actually plays an antagonist, so I appreciate that Hanks is trying to drift away from always being typecast as Mr. Nice Guy. But this is not only not Hanks’s bread and butter, he delivers a performance that feels weirdly over the top and stereotypical. Granted, it kind of matches the tone of the film, which almost feels animated at times. When I think of Elvis Presley, the artist, I think of lively, vibrant music that often lights up a room. Tom Hanks definitely feels animated. As for lively and vibrant, not so much. And that accent got on my nerves real fast…
Let’s put it this way, Tom Hanks has had a long and prestigious career as an actor to the point where he has done many great films like “Toy Story,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” and fairly recently, the somewhat overlooked “News of the World.” Of course he has had bad days at the office. Just look at “The Circle,” a movie that almost ruins the reputations of several iconic names in Hollywood like Emma Watson and Patton Oswalt. Even in a bad or fairly mediocre Tom Hanks movie like “Sully,” Hanks is never the problem. He gives it his all. “Elvis” is a rare instance that not only is the movie atrocious, but Tom Hanks gives one of the worst performances I have seen from him. I do not completely blame Hanks. I think in terms of makeup and costume design, his character looked transformative. Hanks himself, once again, sort of diverged from being a “nice guy” that not only audiences are used to seeing, but people claim him to actually be in real life. The directing and script are the real problem here. Tom Parker comes off as one of the most stereotypical and cliche characters of his kind in cinematic history.
It also feels weird knowing that this movie is called “Elvis” and yet it almost feels more like “The Tom Parker Chronicles” in disguise. I mean, sure, in a way, Parker was a monumental part of Elvis Presley’s legacy. But when I go into “Elvis,” I want, well, Elvis, taking up as much spotlight as he can. The movie IS about Elvis, but it almost does not feel that way at times. I am almost surprised we did not see Tom Parker in a mid-credits scene suddenly walk out on stage, bedazzled, singing a snippet of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
Here is a fun fact for you all, so far, the only movie in history to have not just been nominated, but win both an Oscar and a Razzie is the 1987 film “Wall Street.” Michael Douglas won an Oscar for Best Actor and Daryl Hannah won a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress. This is a shot in the dark prediction, because awards season is technically still on the rise. Although I think there is a solid chance that “Elvis” could categorize itself as one of two films to win both the Oscar and the Razzie. I can see Austin Butler winning Best Actor, and I can see Tom Hanks winning Worst Supporting Actor. It goes to show how much of a mish mash “Elvis” feels like. This film comes off as a Saturday morning cartoon, a grounded drama, and unfortunately, a confused narrative. I think the confusion is best summed up in one of the first lines, where Tom Parker introduces himself.
“For those of you who are wondering who this fella here is, I am the legendary Colonel Tom Parker. I am the man who gave the world Elvis Presley. Without me, there would be no Elvis Presley. And yet, there are some who’d make me out to be the villain of this here story.” -Tom Parker
Yes, there are movies I like where the villain technically becomes the hero of the story. “Avengers: Infinity War,” despite having “Avengers” in the title, starts and ends with Thanos, the man who wants to rid of half the universe’s population. But not only did he feel fleshed out, I bought into the character. Similarly, there are movies about self-absorbed, entitled morons that make themselves out to be the hero, like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and if it is written and directed in a certain way, it can work. “Elvis” honestly feels inconsistent, and part of it is because Parker needlessly steals the spotlight in every other scene. There are scene stealers, and then there are scene hijackers, like Tom Parker. Tom Parker comes off as a paper thin cartoon within a grounded story. It is kind of like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” if Roger Rabbit had actual human flesh.
I should not be surprised, but as I watched this movie, I failed to realize perhaps the greatest source of my pain, the director, Baz Luhrmann. Baz Luhrmann directed and co-wrote “Elvis.” This film definitely has a style, but despite its occasional ease on the eyes and ears, the movie travels at the speed of a rocket. Only thing is, I am not in the rocket, I am hanging right by the engine. It feels like I was watching “Run Lola Run” but if the runtime were doubled. This is probably the closest I have come to having a headache while watching a movie in a theater. Now, Baz Luhrmann did not direct “Run Lola Run.” He did direct other glitzy, glossy films like “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby.” I have not seen those movies. But I did see another film from Luhrmann, the 1997 “Romeo + Juliet.” I understand what the movie was going for by trying to modernize the classic Shakespearean play. Perhaps give it more of an oomph for people who tend to nap during class readings and discussions of William Shakespeare. But I genuinely thought it was one of the most annoying and mind-numbing movies I have ever watched. “Elvis” is more entertaining, but compared to “Romeo + Juliet,” it suffers from a longer runtime and pacing issues. “Elvis” is 2 hours and 39 minutes long, and yet it feels like an eternity at times.
Speaking of negativity and hate, let’s dive into another positive. Trust me, this makes sense. Like other modern musicians such as Kanye West, Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber, Elvis definitely had his haters. While I was not a fan of the Tom Parker character and his portrayal from Tom Hanks, one thing I did like is how all out this movie went to showcasing the merchandising for Presley. They even sold “hate” merchandise which upon one’s purchase, the money from said purchase goes directly to Parker and Presley themselves. This is genius and I think if we lived in a non-Internet age, we could have seen more of this from other high profile names, including politicians. Unfortunately for the movie “Elvis,” the negatives outweigh the positives. Therefore, if I had to buy a button symbolizing my thoughts in regard to the movie, it would probably lean toward the “hater” route. Baz Luhrmann is a director who knows his style, but leaves much to be desired when it comes to delivering an entertaining narrative.
In the end, “The Tom Parker Chron–” sorry, got confused for a sec… In the end, “Elvis” is a long, overblown, glitz and glamour fest that melted my brain. It is sad to say that perhaps the most positive thing I can say about “Elvis” is that it is at least more watchable than “Romeo + Juliet.” But much like “Romeo + Juliet,” I cannot see myself ever watching “Elvis” again even if I were promised a million bucks. This is the movie that is going to be remembered as both Austin Butler’s big break, and yet, one of the worst days at the office for acting legend Tom Hanks. I am going to give “Elvis” a 3/10.
“Elvis” in now playing in theatres and is also available on HBO Max.
Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of music-based films, my next review is going to be for the brand new Japanese animation “Inu-Oh.” The film follows a dancer and a musician who develop a friendship and perform for crowds across the land. If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Elvis?” What did you think about it? Or, have you seen any other Baz Luhrmann films? Tell me your thoughts on the ones you like or dislike. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot to talk about! I mean, wow! Before we dive into what has been happening lately at Warner Bros. Discovery, let me give you a recap of some of the events that went down during AT&T’s possession of Warner Bros..
If you asked me what I thought about the state of Warner Bros. a year ago, I would have said I was nervous. Warnermedia’s decision to put all of their big movies on HBO Max hurt most of those movies that already happened to be finished. This ultimately hurt their box office, not to mention potential word of mouth and longevity. Sure, it definitely seemed like a good idea to combat COVID-19 and certain titles like “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Dune” had a halfway decent performance, but it does not change the fact that for the most part, the performance of most of these films were financially hindered. While some may argue that Warnermedia offered viewers a choice by putting their movies both in theaters and on streaming, they also had a long-term goal on prioritizing content for HBO Max, which was created through said ownership.
For the most part, HBO Max was not a bad idea. It contained a lot of the latest movies from studios like Universal, Fox, and Warner Brothers, the entire DC library, some of the shows from Turner networks like TBS and TNT. They had a good thing going. Then in 2020, it was announced that Warner Brothers’s entire slate of films for the next year would go to HBO Max in addition to theatres, as recently mentioned. This technically started with the 2020 film “Wonder Woman 1984.” The unexpected move led to the film’s star and director, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins respectively, receiving more than $10 million as a result. Alternate stars on the other hand were not favored.
“Representatives for major Warner Bros. stars like Denzel Washington, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, Hugh Jackman and Angelina Jolie wanted to know why their clients had been treated in a lesser manner than Ms. Gadot. Talk of a Warner Bros. boycott began circulating inside the Directors Guild of America. A partner at one talent agency spent part of the weekend meeting with litigators. Some people started to angrily refer to the studio as Former Bros.” –The New York Times
Legendary Pictures, the production company behind “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Dune,” noted that they, like others, were not given advance notice on the move. On a nearly dated “Saturday Night Live” episode, host and “Dune” star Timothee Chalamet ended the show by unveiling a Legendary sweatshirt, symbolizing his support for the company.
While one perk of HBO Max is the freedom for viewers to watch the new films as many times as they want for 30 days, the caveat for the studio is that the films are free as long as the viewers subscribe. In addition to hurting the movie theaters that work alongside the studios, movies like “In the Heights,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Reminiscence,” “King Richard,” and “The Matrix Resurrections” did not even make their budgets back.
You could make the argument that HBO Max benefited from this. Sure, they had some subscribers come aboard. In fact the service topped their projections (70 million) by the end of 2021 by earning 73 million paid subscribers. But that is not enough. Warner Bros. lost one of their key filmmakers, specifically Christopher Nolan, and has damaged their trust with others as they felt backstabbed by these recent events. Denis Villeneuve, while he ultimately finished and released “Dune” in October 2021, found out about his movie’s simultaneous HBO Max release on the news long before the film ultimately came out. It is the studio’s project at the end of the day, but it does not mean Warner Bros. and AT&T can ignore common sense and decency with their fellow creators. This was a multi-million dollar collaborative effort, and it is very much Denis Villeneuve’s movie as much as it is Warnermedia’s. When Villeneuve promises he will bring forth a franchise, his mouth cannot be kept shut in situations like this.
Now that David Zaslav is responsible for the position of CEO, a position previously held by Jason Kilar, many big changes have come about in such a short time. As of now, there are no more day and date Warner Bros. movies. “The Batman,” “Elvis,” and “DC League of Super-Pets” all released in theaters exclusively for a period of time. There are still movies that have been released on HBO Max exclusively, like the romantic comedy “Moonshot,” but without the day and date option. But for the most part, the new administration has allowed their few theatrical exclusive films to shine.
Now, as a fan of the moviegoing experience, this is great. I am glad to know these movies are being seen the way the filmmakers intended. I do not know if Warner Bros. is going to restore its relationship with Christopher Nolan, but that is probably going to depend on how well “Oppenheimer” does for Universal. Although as someone who has found streaming convenient and messy, this month has demonstrated the messier elements on the HBO Max side of things.
Recent events have shown my slight lack of trust from streaming providers. Last week, HBO Max removed six films. It is normal for a streamer to get rid of their film or television content. Maybe the deal has expired and a project needs to move somewhere else, or maybe a property is under new ownership. These are perfectly valid reasons to remove a film from a service, despite disappointing the fans of that movie. What is unusual however is that a set of “Max Originals,” meaning that these projects were exclusive to HBO Max, were removed from the service. I emphasize, not HBO the channel, HBO Max. Despite being intended and marketed as exclusives, they were removed. Although if you look around, they are not QUITE exclusive. This is probably why they were called “Max Originals” and not “Max Exclusives.” These films are available for purchase on platforms like Google Play and Vudu, therefore they are not unwatchable. Well, except “Superintelligence,” you should never ever watch that movie even in your sleep. And there is also good news for physical media collectors. These movies, like the recently mentioned “Superintelligence,” are also available on DVD. So while these films may be gone from HBO Max, you can pay to watch them in other ways.
Nevertheless, an event like this shocks me as the films are technically Warner Brothers movies, which HBO Max would perhaps most likely try to maintain as they are a part of the brand. It is the same reason why you never saw “The Irishman” leave Netflix. It is the same reason why you never saw “Manchester by the Sea” leave Prime Video. It is the same reason why you never saw “LEGO Star Wars: The Holiday Special” leave Disney+. With the exception of that last one, these titles are available elsewhere such as DVD and Blu-ray, but these are ultimately the studio’s and streamer’s projects to control and maintain on their respective services. Or so I thought. They can practically do anything now and it is kind of unreal to think about.
So HBO Max got rid of six “exclusive” films. Fine. They can do that. People can still watch them elsewhere? Okay, that’s wonderful. I think it is a bit weird to not at least leave them on the service for people to at least watch, although at the same time I do not think people subscribe to HBO Max nowadays to watch “The Witches.” These films, or more specifically, where they ended up, are partially the result of the previous administration. “Superintelligence” was once supposed to release theatrically, but it was eventually dropped exclusively on HBO Max through Ben Falcone’s pitch. “The Witches,” directed by Robert Zemeckis, was supposed to be released theatrically, but was ultimately moved to HBO Max. However, it was released theatrically in international markets. I can understand why a move like this was made. In addition to promoting HBO Max, COVID-19 was still somewhat new and prominent in late 2020. But if there is something I can say “The Witches” and “Superintelligence” have in common other than their release, it is their lack of longevity. When you release a movie in theaters, you ultimately do more than simply release it for the big screen. If the movie is successful on the big screen, there is a chance it could also succeed when it comes to VOD and physical media. It already has word of mouth, and if enough people are curious, it could have a second wind. This is a tried and true method that works almost every time.
Despite my confidence, and we will dive more into that, in regard to David Zaslav as CEO, this is perhaps the one big conundrum that has come up during his time as the head of the company. If there is an outside force that is making these movies disappear, I wish I knew about it. But for now, this makes no sense.
Speaking of movies you will not be seeing anymore, let’s talk about “Batgirl.” During Jason Kilar’s run as CEO, it was announced that we would be seeing an HBO Max exclusive “Batgirl” movie set in the DCEU. The film was previously in development, partially under the creative juices of Joss Whedon, but he left the project a year after its 2017 announcement. The film would star Leslie Grace (In the Heights) and similar to “The Flash,” which we will be talking about later, viewers would be treated to Michael Keaton as he returns to play Batman. Before Zaslav became CEO, another DC film once set to hit HBO Max, “Blue Beetle,” was officially no longer an HBO Max exclusive and would instead play in theaters. This is how every other DCEU film, including the day and date-specific “Wonder Woman 1984” and “The Suicide Squad,” released.
“Batgirl,” both before and after Zaslav’s beginning as CEO, was never announced to receive the same treatment. In fact, one more announcement in this crazy week is that the release of “Batgirl” would be cancelled. Nobody in the viewing public would ever get to see the movie, no matter what. Not in theatres, not on HBO Max. No bat time, no bat channel.
Obviously this came as a shock given how the film finished shooting and happened to be in post-production. And not to ignore Leslie Grace’s titular character, who wouldn’t want to see Michael Keaton as Batman again? This could have been a good movie. But after seeing more information, I had my doubts as to whether it was actually good to begin with.
“Batgirl” was originally intended for HBO Max, and when you do not have to worry about the stakes of the big screen, there is, theoretically, less of a vision that encapsulates quality. I am not saying straight to streaming movies cannot work, but it comes with a major price tag from a viewer’s perspective as being “inferior.” “Batgirl” had a $90 million budget. In DC speak, this is about the same as 2019’s “Shazam!” although about half as much as Matt Reeves’s “The Batman.” While Leslie Grace may not have carried the star power of Robert Pattinson, the movie had plenty of big names alongside her including J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser, and as mentioned before, Michael Keaton. The directing team behind the film, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah had experience with action films before, not to mention 2020’s biggest picture (not that there was much competition), “Bad Boys for Life.” The two even have experience at DC’s competitor, Marvel Studios. While they never made a Marvel film, the duo handled directing duties for two episodes of the Disney+ original series “Ms. Marvel.”
For all I know, these people gave 110% to every part of the production. Leslie Grace could have given the performance of the year. Michael Keaton could have given his best portrayal of Batman yet. And this would be a movie that could establish Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah as future in-house names at DC kind of like the Russo Brothers were to Marvel for some time. But given how “Batgirl,” is cancelled as a tax write-off as of last week, I, and the viewing public as a whole, will never know for sure.
There is a saying that actions speak louder than words, but given how I have never seen “Batgirl,” I unfortunately can only rely on words at this point. However, other people have seen the movie through test screenings, and the results are reportedly not great. While the movie is said to have scored similarly to “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” which is still set to release this December, one source says the consensus led to a verdict that indicated “Batgirl” is not big enough for theaters, nor appropriate enough for a platform like HBO Max, as revealed by Hollywood insider Matthew Belloni on an episode of his podcast, “The Town.”
“This is someone who was in the test screening a couple months ago where they were trying to figure out what to do with this movie and I called him and we chatted and he said that after the screening, the executives Walter Hamada of DC and some of the others there ask the audience, “Did this feel big?” and clearly they were trying to figure out whether it felt like it deserved a theatrical release and the consensus was absolutely not. He said it played like a TV pilot, the stakes were very small… He said it felt a little like Dark Phoenix.” -Matthew Belloni
Why are they releasing “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and not “Batgirl?” That is a great question. If you ask me, I think it is a somewhat marketable film that could do well around the holiday season, or in this case, well enough to compete with “Avatar: The Way of Water,” but nevertheless. Although “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” was planned as a theatrical release this whole time, and may have been executed as such during the production. And the first trailer of the film promises some neat treats for those looking for a big screen experience. I reiterate, I have not seen “Batgirl,” but I think there is a reason why I am seeing material for “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” and nothing for “Batgirl.” While I genuinely feel terrible for everyone behind the film, I stand by David Zaslav’s decision to cancel “Batgirl.” I would rather have a genuinely great movie that will win over audiences as opposed to a terrible movie that could cause people to compare it to “Batman & Robin.” People are going to literally have to say that the best Batgirl movie is somehow “The LEGO Batman Movie!” Who thought we’d be saying that in this day and age?! And Zaslav cancelled the film for this reason. During a recent conference call, Zaslav was asked about the cancelation of “Batgirl,” which he stated was part of a restructuring of DC through a 10-year plan. This plan would be similar to what Alan Horn and Bob Iger established with producer Kevin Feige over at Disney’s Marvel Studios. In addition to that, Zaslav wants to make sure that audiences are not only getting good movies, but happen to be getting their money’s worth at the cinema similar to the studio itself through the box office as it releases its newer content.
“We’ve seen luckily by having access now to all the data, how direct-to-streaming movies perform. And our conclusion is that expensive direct-to-streaming movies in terms of how people are consuming them on the platform, how often people go there or buy it or buy a service for it and how it gets nourished over time is no comparison to what happens when you launch a film in the motion – in the theaters. And so this idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it. We can’t find an economic value for it.” –David Zaslav
However, I am not saying the axing of “Batgirl” is not unfortunate for the audience. I was looking forward to potentially seeing the movie. This is also an unfortunate cancelation in terms of diversity. Because Leslie Grace is Afro-Latina, giving a fresh look to the DCEU’s main heroes. This means that most of the studio’s upcoming lineup, like “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and “The Flash” will continue to center around white male characters. While these films are likely to be successful, it avoids giving a particular audience a film they can call their own. While “Wonder Woman” and its vastly inferior sequel obviously happen to be anthems for women, it does not change the fact that there are still some audiences who probably have not seen themselves in the heroes DC is providing. Sure, the “Suicide Squad” movies feature two different African-American leads, but as far as non-team movies go, diversity has some ways to go. Superman is a white male. Shazam is a white male. The Flash, while played by an actor who currently identifies as non-binary, is as far as we know, a white male. Harley Quinn, while not a male, is more of an anti-hero as seen in projects like “Birds of Prey.” This could have been DC’s chance to give the audience a different kind of hero. And while this may be towards the villain or anti-hero route, DC is lucky that the Dwayne Johnson-starring “Black Adam” is set to come out as the iconic movie star happens to be Black and Samoan.
At the same time though, while this is unfortunate, I will reiterate, I agree with Zaslav’s decision to cancel the film. It is not a pleasant decision to make, but as a business move, it makes sense. I am not saying people are not interested in seeing a Latina superhero, but I think that if people want a character like Batgirl, such a character should receive better treatment than what she is getting at the moment. I have to remind everyone reading this that I am a straight white male, therefore it is my responsibility to acknowledge that a lot of the movies that have come out in the superhero genre revolves around people like me. Some are great like “Iron Man” while others are not so great like “Morbius.” This is the same thing I have said about “Ghostbusters” since I watched the 2016 Paul Feig-directed reboot. You cannot just remake the movie with women and call it a day. You have to have a good script, great chemistry amongst the cast, and solid humor. Now obviously every movie has its fans, but I saw the movie and felt that it failed on those recently mentioned objectives. Pitching and selling a “Batgirl” film to the audience is half the battle. The other half is delivering a great story or experience that will stand the test of time, and I can only assume that “Batgirl” did not meet certain standards to make that happen.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the cancelation of “Batgirl” has more to do with the reset plan in regard to DC and not as much to do with the talent behind the film like Leslie Grace.
“Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of “Batgirl” and “Scoob! Holiday Haunt” and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future.” -WB Insider (The Hollywood Reporter)
On that note, I will remind you that “Batgirl” is not the only upcoming Warner Bros. film that was announced to be cancelled last week, as the quote suggests that “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” a Christmas-themed “Scooby-Doo” film, was also part of the chopping block. The film was set to come out on HBO Max this year, which does not surprise me as 2020’s “Scoob!” skipped theatres and went straight to VOD due to COVID-19. While I watched “Scoob!” a couple years ago and thought it was a trainwreck, I will note one thing that was not a problem was the look of the film or the animation style. Overall, it looked very polished. Once again, I can only use assumptions here, but I would not be surprised if this streaming-mindset affected production in terms of how polished the film could turn out. Once again, I feel bad for the crew, but I think that this is a proper business decision.
Although if I must be real, I find it shocking that “Batgirl” was cancelled at the time it was. I am less shocked after finding out that it probably was not that good. Although what I am saying is that there is another DC film that based on public outcry, probably should have been cancelled first. In fact, recent events further indicate the complications behind this film’s existence. That film being… “The Flash.”
The Flash is one of the more well-known DC superheroes, and the hero’s popularity has only jumped due to the success of CW’s original series that is soon to enter its final season. Although on the movie side, there has been extensive development in regard to bringing the red speedster to the big screen but for several reasons, they could not quite get it out before the end of the previous decade. Having seen both “Justice League” and its eventual “Snyder Cut” on HBO Max, I think Ezra Miller did a fine job bringing Barry Allen to life and I would not mind seeing more of the character. Unfortunately, if Miller continues to play the character, I may have second thoughts.
After seeing Ezra Miller’s shenanigans of choking a woman in a bar, assault, restraining orders, harrassing a woman in her own apartment, and most recently, burglary, this only makes Zaslav’s final decision on “The Flash” that much harder to make. You could say that releasing “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is also hard because Amber Heard is in it, but that’s a cakewalk compared to this. For one thing, the public is divided on whether Heard is innocent or guilty after her recent trial with Johnny Depp. And not to undermine the events prior to or of said trial, many of Ezra Miller’s crimes or arrests have happened after they finished shooting “The Flash.” As time has shown, I believe in redemption. Since joining Marvel, James Gunn held back on making inappropriate jokes over the Internet, and even after his firing and rehiring, he kept his cool. But at this point, when Ezra Miller has already been cast, the movie is shot, and it is set to release next year. This is a dilemma if there ever was one. As a viewer who is not in charge of a substantial company or its products, it is easy for me to say that they should cancel the movie or recast Ezra Miller and reshoot every scene with the character of Barry Allen. But the film already has a budget of $200 million, and this requires a massive return of the crew, the actors, everybody.
…But in my own little fantasyland, I also think it is worth it. …Kind of. It’s not my money, and if it were, for all I know, I might not have said this.
Similar to “Spider-Man: No Way Home” where there were three Spider-Men on the lineup, “The Flash” is a movie where we are seeing the return of Michael Keaton as Batman, making “Batgirl” one of the two films where the iconic actor dons his cowl. That, alongside another Batman appearance from Ben Affleck, will obviously get butts in seats. This is certainly a film that people will want to see in theaters before streaming, making HBO Max a concept that must be left out of the equation. But this involves potential delays, recasting, and so on. The other alternative I can get behind at this point is releasing the film as is and announcing Ezra Miller’s firing beforehand. I could almost see there being a disclaimer before the film starts stating the wrongdoings of Ezra Miller and a note that Warner Bros. does not condone or approve of his actions. While it may not be comfortable to provide in a public setting, it is better to condemn this consistently inappropriate or incorrect behavior rather than continue to enable it. There is a good chance Ezra Miller is already canned and such a thing has not been announced, but I think this is a message that should be announced before the public starts a trend claiming Warner Bros. “defends assaulters” or something along those lines. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, but this is exhibit A as to why that is not true. On the bright side, reports have surfaced that “The Flash” is apparently a good movie. Obviously, film is subjective, so if it comes out, we will see if that statement holds true. But it is nice to hear Warner Bros. Discovery has confidence in the film’s quality, unlike “Batgirl.” Some of the general audience more than likely will not care about what Ezra Miller has done in the past, but it does not change the fact that word gets around. Plus Miller is getting into trouble on a consistent basis. They have already been the subject of multiple negative events as of this year. My confidence in Miller or their image’s ability to change by next year, or even 2024, is quite low. What if they end up in prison for a year? What is Warner Bros. Discovery going to do then? Imagine if Ezra Miller shows up at the premiere and how awkward that could be given everything they have done. This is not exactly my idea, but one alternative is finding a way to remarket the film as a “Batman” movie. I do not know how much the script would warrant such a thing, but given the marketability of the “Batman” IP and the fact that there are two Batmen in the movie, it theoretically makes sense.
Until then, there is no easy answer to this ongoing problem. “Batgirl” may have had its reasons to be cancelled, but this only makes me wonder what is going to happen with “The Flash.” If the movie gets cancelled because of Ezra Miller, it is a solid publicity move in the short term, but this also ends up being a disservice to the rest of the people behind the film who had nothing to do with Ezra Miller other than working with them. But at the end of the day, filmmaking is a business. And if Ezra Miller keeps doing what they’re doing, or worse, the business of the film is only going to trickle bit by bit. “The Flash” is still set to come out, and I am glad to hear it is good. But is it worth it? Much like “Batgirl,” but for completely different reasons, “The Flash” at this stage is probably going to hit some landmines if the studio wants it to be released theatrically. But at the same time, the movie is too big, not to mention too expensive, for HBO Max.
Sticking with HBO Max, let’s ask a question… WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING TO HBO MAX?!
Remember how HBO Max was supposed to be Warnermedia’s big streaming service? It was the thing that was going to make HBO Now look like HBO Then. Some not so surprising news that came out of last week’s events was the merging of HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streaming service. Now, that has not happened yet. You will not find “Property Brothers” on HBO Max, nor will you find “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on Discovery+.
This is not the first time in recent years that Warner had one of its streaming services fold into another one, as DC Universe gradually dissolved in 2020 and all of its film and television content like “Titans” and “Harley Quinn” ended up on HBO Max, with the latter now airing its third season.
Now if you ask me, I like the fact that all of this content is merging. I am probably not going to watch all of it. But it is nice to know that the options are there. For all I know, there could be a new show that I could put on in the background one day. I think one big problem consumers face is that there are too many streaming services out there. I do not have Discovery+, as it is one of the few services I do not consider a priority. Slimming two services into one is not necessarily a bad concept. My one concern is how much more I’d be paying, that is if there is a price hike. I will revisit this issue later, because I need to talk about one of the most poorly guided comparisons I have seen in this day and age.
Remember how I said actions speak louder than words? Well, words are pretty powerful. Some people tend to take them seriously.
I understand that this may be an exaggeration, but it still must be pointed out. When talking about the differences between HBO Max and Discovery+, this was done through a side-by-side chart indicating that HBO Max’s content was male-skew and Discovery+’s content was female-skew. Now to be fair, I am a man and I have never watched Discovery+ on my own time. I rarely turn on any of Discovery’s channels. But this is a loose and stereotypical assumption to make in this day and age. Because this declares that gendered content is put into boxes. HBO is one of the most sought-after cable networks of all time by all genders. “Game of Thrones” was a huge hit over recent years. Recent series like “Scenes From a Marriage” have been met with acclaim. And APPARENTLY, women don’t watch “EUPHORIA?!” If anything, they’re the target audience! Literally every woman on this planet wants to be Zendaya! She is good-looking, she has an Emmy, and she is dating Spider-Man! You think women do not watch “Euphoria?”
I am not saying that some of these classifications do not make sense. HBO has a lot of scripted content, and that is their forte. Although HBO Max has plenty of unscripted or reality content like the original show “Legendary,” truTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” and the TBS reboot of “Wipeout.” It is very much a service for everyone in same way that Netflix or Prime Video is. Discovery+ is very much a comfort food network. Most of their content is within the reality genre like “90 Day Fiancé,” “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” and “Chopped.” Again, I am a man, and I do not know of many men, but I know they are out there, who lean into Discovery’s content more than they do with the type of content HBO provides, so Zaslav and the infographic are technically onto something. But it does not mean that this is the best analogy to give to the public.
Also, you are telling me “The Bachelor” is a male-skewed show?! Again, I imagine there are some men who watch. Although if you want to talk about HBO Max strictly having male-skewed content, I raise you “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise,” “The Bachelor: Winter Games” and “Bachelor Pad!” The only guys watching these shows are those who are trying to impress their significant other that this show specifically targets! Obviously, there are others, but you get my point! What man turns on the television, looks at that night’s lineup, and thinks, I’m gonna pour myself some wine, and watch young women fight over a guy?! The majority would flip the channel in a heartbeat.
There are also plenty of HBO or HBO Max scripted shows that do not mainly target men. In addition to the recently mentioned “Euphoria,” look at shows like “Big Little Lies,” “Gossip Girl,” “Insecure,” “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” “Love Life,” and let me just remind you that HBO has a show literally called “Girls.” HBO and HBO Max apparently suggests that women do not watch shows like “Succession,” “Silicon Valley,” “Divorce,” “The White Lotus,” or “Mare of Easttown.”
The men/women analogy would have probably worked in the 1920s. More so in the 1820s. But definitely not in the 2020s. This was probably delivered with the best intention in mind, but it does not change the fact that the delivery was terrible. The infographic itself is helpful and for the most part, an accurate representation of both streaming services. HBO Max is definitely more lean in and Discovery+ is certainly more lean back. Those are good comparisons. Plus, while I did address that HBO Max is not short on unscripted content, it is no doubt that scripted content is their bread and butter in the same way that unscripted content is to Discovery+.
Now let’s go back to the price concern. While it is nice to know that I would not be paying for two different streaming services at the same time, one of the nice things about HBO Max is that while it is not the cheapest service out there, it offers a lot of great, sometimes award-winning content, for a reasonable price. HBO Max has two tiers, an ad-included tier at $9.99 and an ad-free tier at $14.99. Discovery+ also offers two tiers. An ad-included tier at $4.99 and an ad-free tier at $6.99. These prices make some sense given how Discovery+ is more of a niche service in the same way that the horror-based Shudder would be to a certain degree. Should we see these two services combine, I think it is perhaps likely that the service to be offered will have an increased price from HBO Max’s current price. If it increases by $1, I do not see much of a problem. $2? Okay, whatever. $3? Now you are pushing it. I understand that adding more content can justify a price increase, but there comes a tipping point. If I find out that this new streaming service costs $19.99/month or more, which is the current price for Netflix’s top tier, I would have to debate on ignoring the service and worry about my other subscriptions for the time being. There is plenty of great content being offered through services like Hulu and Prime Video that I’d rather flock to for a better value. I especially worry for those who have Discovery+ and not HBO Max, because their increase could be worse.
There is no official word as to what the name of the combined service is, and this presents a problem if they come up with a new name. The beauty of HBO Max is that the name HBO is one of the most coveted television brands ever conceived. No offense to Discovery, but when most people think of “television,” HBO is often seen as the gold standard nowadays. They could come up with a new name, let’s just use Warner Discovery as an example, but this could result in brand confusion. This could be HBO’s most bewildering matter since trying to explain the difference between HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max. What makes HBO Max different? I don’t know, it’s purple! This could be a short term confusion once the audience collectively realizes where their preferred content ended up, but nevertheless.
Phew. We made it to the end. Just to recap, I still use and enjoy HBO Max. The third season of “Harley Quinn” is great fun and I cannot wait to see the rest of it. I am excited to see where David Zaslav takes the Warner Bros. brand in the future. I am curious about movies like Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” which looks like a trip if there ever was one. I just hope that Zaslav realizes within the mistakes that have been made recently, that this Warner Bros. Discovery ship remains as tight as possible. While I remain saddened for the crews behind the films, I think cancelling “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” were the right moves. If the movies were not up to a certain standard, then why should they be put out to begin with? The main basis of the movie business is profit. This is part of why “Batgirl” was cancelled, but I am also glad to know that we will not potentially be seeing the next “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” or the next “Catwoman” or the next “Morbius.” It is still NOT Morbin’ time! I don’t care who says it! Why is “The Flash” not cancelled? Sure, I hear it is a good movie, but the closer we get to its release, the more I worry about the film itself in addition to its star’s ability to not cause chaos. Is there a weird move will we see next from Zaslav and crew? Who knows? Until then, all I can do is sit back and wait for movies like “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and go back and watch the many hit movies and television shows on HBO Max like “Peacemaker,” “The Carbonaro Effect,” and “The Bachel–” Hahaha, never mind that last one.
Thanks for reading this post! If you liked this post and want to see more, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! If you are interested in more of my long-form content, check out my five-thousand word analysis as to why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” the recent anime from Mamoru Hosoda. This is a movie which is by the way, as of this post’s debut, NOW STREAMING ON HBO MAX! Until then, I want to know your thoughts! What do you think about the recent events at Warner Bros. Discovery? Do you think the brand is in a good direction? Do you think cancelling “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” was a wise decision? What do you think they should do with “The Flash” at this point? Also, about those six movies that were taken off HBO Max, did you watch any of them? Tell me your thoughts. If you ask me, I think “An American Pickle” is one of the most overlooked comedies in recent times and a hilarious parody on modern society. Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!