Yesterday was DC FanDome, otherwise known as Christmas Day for fans of comics-based entertainment. And if there was something I realized about myself, it’s that I’m good at giving advice but lousy at following it. While I curated a personal schedule that allowed for some FanDome-family balance, I still ended up logging on at 1 am and then staying up for eight hours straight to get a first viewing of the different presentations.
Which turned out to be the wise move, because the schedule I had painstakingly arranged mattered diddly-squat. The organizers revised the schedule they had handed out to media outlets again after breaking up the confab into two events just three days ahead of D-Day. (Lesson learned: Go straight to the website for scheduling details.) So if you happened to follow the schedule I had laid out and wondered where the hell in the itinerary you were, my sincere apologies.
Having said that, here are the major takeaways from the DC FanDome:
The panel for The Flash feature film was undiluted fun.
Unlike the panel where the cast of Wonder Woman played a game where they had to suss out who among the participants were villains, which strived for fun but ended up becoming a grating mess of people talking over each other, the panel for the first-ever feature film for The Flash was pure entertainment. Star Ezra Miller doled out “flash facts”—Did you know that Superman is a vegetarian who loves Metallica?
Or that director Andy Muschietti served in the trenches as a production assistant in the Madonna-starring musical Evita before ushering Pennywise into our collective nightmares?—while Muschietti, his sister/producing partner Barbara and screenwriter Christina Hodson did the obligatory behind-the-scenes shtick.
Ezra, looking fresh from a tryout for Jesus Christ Superstar in long, curly locks and a beard, was such an effective host, it was almost easy to overlook the reveal that the Scarlet Speedster now has a new light-embedded suit designed by Bruce Wayne.
DC avoids the timeline conundrum that plagued the X-Men movies: Build a multiverse!
Taking off from the giddy, gasp-inducing moment in The Flash series that had Ezra Miller meeting his TV counterpart Grant Gustin during the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover episode, DC film chief Walter Hamada expounded on the idea of parallel realities (which, by the way, was created by The Flash, being the quantum physics-based superhero that he is): “What the multiverse means is we can tell these great stories where we can tell different stories. There’s one earth where we have Gal and Ezra…and another where we have Year Two Batman…and then there’s Joker, which isn’t part of either continuity.
Matt Reeves can continue to build out his Gotham [in The Batman]. Those are things we can do because we don’t have to worry about how that would impact Aquaman 2 or The Flash, because it’s all just part of the multiverse.” A handy, catch-all solution, though that still doesn’t explain what reality the Adam West-Burt Ward Batman show from the ‘60s existed in.
You’ll have to be a diehard fan of the comics to make out who some of the newcomers are in the next Suicide Squad movie.
Apart from returning actors Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Joel Kinnaman (squad leader Rick Flag), Jai Courtney (Captain Boomerang) and Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn…duh!), director James Gunn unveiled a plethora of newcomers to The Suicide Squad, making this one of the most top-heavy superhero movies to ever see the light of a projector. Not only that, but it would take a fervent follower of the comics to recognize some of the names on the marquee, among them Polka Dot Man (character actor David Dastmalchian, who counts The Dark Knight Rises and the Ant-Man movies among his credits), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and Solsoria (Alice Braga).
Apart from making Michael Rooker (Savant) the butt of jokes, Gunn assured his cast that the studio was “overwhelmingly happy” with how his edit was turning out, in advance of the sequel’s August 6, 2021 release.
I am personally excited about Gunn’s presence in the DC Universe. Because if anybody can turn obscure villains like Blackguard (Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson) and TDK (Nathan Fillion, playing a baddie named after…a brand of cassette tape?) into household names, it’s the guy who turned Guardians of the Galaxy into a cultural juggernaut.
The Snyder cut of Justice League is four-freaking-hours long!
Rivaled in substance only by The Batman segment (more on that later), there was certainly a lot to unpack in this panel headed by director Zack Snyder, who had to turn the reins of filming his omnium gatherum of DC superheroes over to Joss Whedon due to a family tragedy.
Just before introducing the trailer, Snyder revealed that his cut of Justice League is coming to the streaming platform HBO Go next year in four one-hour episodes. He didn’t specify whether those episodes would drop all at once for binge-watching or whether they would be released on a staggered basis. But what really piqued my interest was the director’s promise that they would be working on a distribution plan for territories outside of HBO Go’s reach. I’m holding you to that, Zack!
I don’t know whether it’s because I haven’t seen Justice League in a long time, but the trailer for this new cut seemed chock-full of fresh footage. My perception could also be the result of a shrewdly structured presentation, which found Snyder fielding questions from his stars before unveiling the trailer. Snyder told actor Ray Fisher that his character Cyborg has an extended role in the film, saying that the part-man, part-machine superhero “is the heart of the movie. He’s the thing that holds the team together in the end.” He also told Miller that The Flash would get more fleshing out in this edit. He also dropped this intriguing hint: “You’re going to see something with Flash in this film that I don’t think you’ve ever seen…he’s a quantum character, so you might see him do something…” before trailing off.
The Wonder Woman 1984 and SHAZAM! panels felt a bit lightweight.
Apart from DC Publisher, Chief Content Officer and comics legend Jim Lee, the other stars who made multiple appearances during the confab were director Patty Jenkins and the cast of Wonder Woman 1984. In fact, Gal Gadot popped up so many times throughout the length of DC FanDome, you would be forgiven for thinking she was a company stakeholder.
Still, that doesn’t disguise the fact that Wonder Woman 1984 felt like it was mistaking quantity for quality. The intermittent appearances of the Wonder Woman panel throughout the confab was understandable, given that it’s the next DC franchise bowing on the big screen—a prospect made even more high-stakes by COVID. But given their ubiquity, you’d think the stars would have more opportunities to unveil something more substantial than a full look at Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah costume. At one point during their Werewolf 1984 game, leading man Chris Pine ate a sandwich, cradled his face on his palm, and looked for all the world like the epitome of quarantine boredom.
Meanwhile, the SHAZAM! panel leaned into the idea that they couldn’t reveal much about the sequel and tried to mine it for comedy. In the middle of the presentation, Sinbad—who is himself misremembered for starring in the 1996 fantasy-comedy Kazaam, which often gets confused for SHAZAM!—joined in, fishing for a role and calling star Zachary Levi “John Krasinski”. The result was a 10-minute segment that felt longer than it had to, in danger of popping a vein in its forehead as it reached for chuckles, climaxing in the only notable reveal of the whole presentation: the title of its next installment, SHAZAM! Fury of the Gods.
DC FanDome saved the best for last with The Batman.
Director Matt Reeves—he who directed the motion sickness-inducing monsterfest Cloverfield—talked about the gothic and grungy Liverpool posing as Gotham City, mentioned that lead star Robert Pattinson had input in the design of his Batsuit, and let slip that the nascent Dark Knight would be locked in a matchup with The Riddler. But for the life of me, what I really remember about this panel is the trailer.
Not a teaser, mind you—a trailer. And for a movie that’s only about a quarter through filming, there were already a lot of goodies on display: a look at the Batcave, Zoe Kravitz as a rough-around-the-edges Catwoman, one shot of Colin Farrell standing in the rain and looking unrecognizable as Oswald Cobblepot, ie: The Penguin.
But despite the by-now trademark grim aesthetic of the franchise, what feels most revelatory about this trailer is how it returns to the roots of Batman as a detective—DC stands for Detective Comics, after all—opening as it does with a crime in a mansion being investigated by future police commissioner Jim Gordon, played by a haunted Jeffrey Wright. From a grisly shot of a head wrapped in packing tape with a message scrawled on it, the crime scene notes addressed to the Batman escalate, culminating in an ominous voice-over telling the caped vigilante that “he’s a part of it…you’ll see.”
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If the producers of the panel had hoped to introduce Robert Pattinson to the fandom in an auspicious way, they certainly succeeded. Gone is the reluctant heartthrob of the Twilight movies and the fey darling of independent movies: In their place is a confident Bruce Wayne and a bone-crunching Batman. There’s even a sequence in the trailer which features such raw, extended violence to make even Christian Bale queasy.
Even Robert Pattinson’s Batman growl is on point, as he tells a gang of white-faced thugs, “I’m vengeance.” While introducing the panel, the star told the fan gathering that he was “anxious to get back to work.” Not as anxious as we are to see the fruits of your labor, R-Patz.