Fans of DC Comics had Christmas morning come early for them this month thanks to the DC FanDome, an online only event spanning 24 hours which featured virtual panels providing sneak peeks at their upcoming films, television shows, and video games, as well as retrospectives on their massive library of characters as well as some comedy sketches. Despite the limited resources at their disposal (there were no crowds for any of this, given the current climate), DC did a great job of capturing the fan convention experience at home, providing content that was fun, informative, and brisk.
Of course, at the last minute, DC Comics split the convention in half, moving the majority of their panels on TV series to a later date on Saturday, September 12th. This meant that the first day of the event was mostly focused on movies, with panels which were wisely spread out throughout the day so that no one had to spend the entire afternoon glued to their laptop. One downside to everything was that every panel was streamed on schedule, meaning that fans had to be on their digital devices at a certain time otherwise they’d miss out.
In fairness, DC did run the panels in a 24-hour loop which ensured that each one would be shown three times, but anyone wishing to revisit them (or catch the ones that they missed) now that they’re over might be a little disappointed. On a bittersweet note, the event took place only days after the announcement that DC Comics was doing a huge amount of layoffs of their staff, adding a negative taste to an otherwise highly enjoyable day for fans.
The event was free to everyone, with Animated Views’s Dacey Booker making sure he was online for all of the major panels (though he sadly wasn’t able to catch everything), including the sneak peeks of Wonder Woman 1984, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and The Batman.
Kicking things after a traditional highlight reel celebrating a history of DC Comics in cinema (including the Burton Batman movies and Christopher Reeve Superman installments) was Wonder Woman 1984, the highly anticipated sequel which was originally supposed to open back in June. On hand were director Patty Jenkins, along with cast members Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig.
Immediately it was apparent that everything here was going to have more bells and whistles than the recent “Comic-Con@Home”, complete with sophisticated special effects being used to create the “dome” of the event’s namesake, and all of the actors standing in front of similar backdrops to provide a feeling of more visual unity between everyone despite them all ultimately speaking from their houses. From there, the usual fan questions followed (all pre-taped in this case), with everything livening up greatly after a surprise appearance by Wonder Woman TV star Lynda Carter (who everyone, naturally, was very flattering and affectionate towards).
The Q&A itself didn’t provide many details on what to expect from the sequel–many of the fan questions taken were silly ones such as Venus Williams asking “Could Diana and Cheetah set aside their differences to play tennis together?”–but that all changed with the reveal of a brand new trailer. Unlike a number of the panels done at “Comic-Con@Home”, which showed their previews right away, DC made the wise decision to use them as a way to whet the appetites of viewers for the new footage they were about to be treated to. It was much more similar to how such conventions are done in “real life” and really helped capture the feeling of watching similar events such as “Star Wars Celebration” from a home computer (albeit without all of the screaming audience members).
Even better, the full trailer delivered in terms of getting people pumped up for a movie which hasn’t had any marketing since its first teaser back in December. The main focus was on Captain Steve Trevor’s mysterious return after he seemed to die at the end of the first film, but the big “money shot” was the reveal of Wiig’s Cheetah, who looks about as you would expect for her to–even if that means she kind of resembles a character from Cats!
The action also continues to look absolutely spectacular here, especially as Wonder Woman leaps and shoves her way through open traffic in what looks to be a massive sequence. Wonder Woman 1984 is currently set for theatrical release in October, but given how uncertain things are right now (even with a handful of theaters reopening), there’s a good chance that might end up changing.
Just after the panel for Wonder Woman 1984 ended, DC wasted no time in getting the ball rolling with an announcement trailer, this time for an upcoming video game called Gotham Knights. The high concept game will take place after Bruce Wayne is killed (or, at least apparently killed; it wouldn’t be the first time Batman faked his death), leaving Gotham under the protection of his sidekicks and partners Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and Red Hood.
Unlike Wonder Woman, there was no attempt at a traditional “panel” for Gotham Knights, with things kicking off right away with a teaser trailer consisting of a posthumous message from Bruce Wayne: “If you’re watching this, it means I’m dead.” The preview was simply chill-inducing and did exactly what it had to do in terms of getting gamers excited. Following the trailer, there was a very brief Q&A with the game’s creators (in which they talked about how it put YOU in control of Gotham) before even more preview footage was shown, this time showing off seven minutes of gameplay.
Even without being able to touch any buttons on a control pad, this looks to be exciting, tense, and atmospheric on a level similar to the Arkham series. It might be enough to get me to invest in a console someday! Gotham Knights is set to hit store shelves in 2021.
The “Introducing Flash” (“ahh-ahh!”) event didn’t play like a panel so much as an extra feature on a DVD promoting a upcoming film, with star Ezra Miller providing trivia and jokes about the character alongside interviews with filmmakers Andy and Barbara Muschietti and screenwriter Christina Hodson. Days before FanDome went live, it had been revealed that Ben Affleck would be returning as Bruce Wayne for The Flash, along with the confirmation of rumors that Micheal Keaton would also be back in the batsuit.
Though no filming has taken place yet, there was some information provided about where the plot will go. Following up on the plot in Justice League where he was trying to clear the name of his wrongfully imprisoned father, the film will have Barry Allen attempting to go back in time to prevent his mother’s murder from ever happening. In doing so, The Flash will accidentally enter other dimensions via “The Multiverse” (a concept already explored on the current television series), and going by the montage of clips shown during the panel, this could lead to some intriguing possibilities.
Not only does it inevitably open up the door for Keaton’s Batman (that at least appears to be him in the exciting concept art which was also revealed) to come out and play, but footage from TV’s Gotham and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen was also showcased, indicating that Barry Allen will do quite a bit of world jumping.
The Flash has been in and out of production limbo for several years now (remember back when Phil Lord and Chris Miller were involved?), but this time they do seem to have a really strong concept behind it, so fingers crossed once everything finally gets back to “normal” (whenever that may be!), the movie will be able to speed into theaters.
Let’s face it, what Batman means has changed a lot over the years. For today’s generation, the character is a dark, brooding force of nature committed to fighting crime at almost all costs thanks largely to the Christopher Nolan installments. But in the 1960’s, Batman was the most modern television comedy on the air, poking fun at superheroes in a way which had never been done before all while the late Adam West maintained a straight face.
This is of course a huge contrast to more recent versions of the Caped Crusader, including the animated series Batman Beyond, which featured an older Bruce Wayne training a young ex-con to become the new Batman to defend a futuristic Gotham City. The comedy sketch “Beyond Batman” imagined what would happen that world crossed with the one of Adam West, with Wayne picking up a transmission from “another reality” which was actually an episode of the old show.
What followed was Mystery Science Theater 3000-style riffing as West’s Batman stopped the Joker from an evil plot involving throwing fish and a giant man-eating clam. Many of the jokes were quite sharp observations (“Why does the villain’s lair have so many randomly placed telescopes?”), and multiple jabs were made about the Joker having a mustache visibly under his clown makeup (Caesar Romano famously refused to shave it for the role). But it was all clearly being done from a place of love and nostalgia for the 60’s adventures, and hopefully it will make its way to YouTube officially soon.
When writer/director James Gunn was abruptly fired from Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 over some dirty jokes he made on Twitter several years beforehand, the entire internet reacted with shock. Many were quick to jump to Gunn’s defense, but Marvel made no indications they were going to change their minds. Fittingly, DC was like “Well, if Marvel doesn’t want him, then we’ll take him!”
Thus Gunn was hired to helm The Suicide Squad, a kind-of sequel to the 2016 blockbuster which will see a new team of supervillains take on another seemingly impossible mission. Proving that comic book nerds can in fact have their cake and eat it too, Marvel later announced that Gunn would be doing the third Guardians outing after all, meaning the fan-favorite director will now be doing two more big budget films for the genre.
The panel was much more crowded than the others, as Gunn has assembled an enormous cast for this movie, and almost all of them were present for roll call. Following this, a special preview revealed who the new cast members of the movie would be playing (King Shark! Polka Dot Man!) before everyone settled down for an extended game of trivia.
This was one of the instances of the event where the crowd was missed, as an audience laughing along with the cast as they got confused over who was on which team would’ve been a more rewarding experience in a full auditorium. As things did happen, there was still enjoyment to be had–particularly a running gag in which everyone pretended to hate working with Michael Rooker–but it still felt like it might’ve gone on for a bit too long.
Nevertheless, there was also plenty of talk over what to expect from the new movie. Gunn was extremely enthusiastic, saying that the studio absolutely loves the rough cut they’ve seen of it (which fortunately wrapped up filming before everything in the world went crazy). Gunn promised that it was by far the biggest movie he’s ever done, claiming it had more special effects than “all of the Marvel movies combined!”
There was no “trailer” for The Suicide Squad shown–it’s not set to open for an entire year–but Gunn did provide viewers with an impressive sizzle reel of behind-the-scenes footage. Going by all of the explosions and insanity on display, it appeared that he wasn’t overplaying the film’s scope.
The sneak peek also threatened that, unlike the first film where almost the entire Squad survived, the new film will have a much higher body count. “Don’t get attached!” Look for The Suicide Squad on the big screen August 6th, 2021.
Harley Quinn saw a resurgence in popularity largely thanks to Margot Robbie’s lovable take on the character in Suicide Squad (which she reprised in this year’s extremely entertaining and agile Birds of Prey), so it made sense that she would eventually get her own cartoon spin-off series, even if it is extremely profane and definitely intended for mature audiences (her eyes are also…weird).
“Ask Harley Quinn” was a brief sketch involving Harley (in a repeated animation, because the budget for this seems to have been quite small) answering fan questions. There was definitely funny material, however it was so crass that most of it won’t be mentioned here. What I can talk about was her blatantly dropping product placement for HBO Max (which the show is available on, along with DC Universe and SyFy) and not being able to confirm whether or not there would be a Season 3. An uncensored version of the “interview” without the constant bleeps is set to be shown during the second day of DC FanDome in September (where the focus will largely be on television).
Back in 2017, Zack Snyder abruptly left the director’s chair for Justice League following a family tragedy, handing over the reins over to Joss Whedon–a fitting choice given he had helmed a little movie called The Avengers. For better or for worse, this resulted in Whedon more or less taking over the movie that ended up in theaters, despite Snyder still maintaining top billing.
Now, for what it’s worth, I actually loved the theatrical version of Justice League–even if it’s hard to say who deserves the credit for that! With a ton of action and fast pacing, it’s the closest thing we’ll get today to something that truly feels like a 90’s superhero movie, even directly paying homage to the original Superman and Batman blockbusters thanks to subtle musical nods via Danny Elfman’s score.
Having said that, the change in tone from the previous DC films was pretty clear, and one sensed that Snyder had an even “bigger” film in mind than what we got on the big screen. Three years and many online fan petitions later, and we’re finally getting Zack Snyder’s Justice League–which most will undoubtedly refer to as
The Snyder Cut–on HBO Max in 2021.
For many, this panel may have been the biggest event of the day. Snyder himself served as the moderator, expressing extreme gratitude to the people who made the “Release The Snyder Cut” movement go viral. This was followed by fan questions being given by the cast members themselves, including Affleck asking who Snyder’s favorite comic book character was (the answer was Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen) and Ray Fisher inquiring if Cyborg would get more screen time (he will, with Snyder proclaiming him “the heart of the movie”).
There was also the announcement that the final runtime for the Snyder cut is four hours(!), and that it will be split into four separate “episodes” on HBO Max. Snyder also said that they’re working on a way to make “a complete version” available (hopefully this means a disc release?), and promised that those living in territories where HBO Max is not available will still have access to the film.
Finally, there was the moment everyone was there for: the trailer. In addition the showing off some of the spectacle (including the first glimpse of Darkseid), the preview was mostly moody and emotional as it was set to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
Sure, you could make the argument that the song is overused, but darn me if it wasn’t incredibly effective here, and the wait for The Snyder Cut just got a whole lot harder (curiously, the trailer wasn’t presented in widescreen, and it remains to be seen if this was merely a stylistic choice for the preview or if it’s something Snyder will use to visually set his cut apart from the theatrical version).
Again falling into the “feeling more like a DVD extra” category was the event for Black Adam. For the most part, Dwayne Johnson was the only one present for it, talking about what he hopes to accomplish with the movie (which hasn’t begun filming) and answering a handful of fan questions.
Johnson claimed that the movie would be faithful to the character’s “ruthless” nature, but didn’t specify whether or not he would be a hero in the film. In the comics, Black Adam is often a villain whose violent ways of dealing with criminals put him at odds with the likes of Superman and Green Lantern. What Johnson was able to show off was a brief “motion comic” teaser explaining Black Adam’s origin story (narrated by Johnson himself in character), but the biggest reveal was the news that the movie will also feature the Justice Society of America, including Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Calypso, and Atom Smasher.
Johnson also briefly chatted with his fellow cast member Noah Centineo (who appeared to be in his living room) about playing Atom Smasher, who has the ability to change into any size he wants. This lead to them hyping up what sounded like a huge battle that will take place in Paris in which Atom Smasher grows taller than the Eiffel Tower and fights Black Adam.
Then again, production hasn’t even started on Black Adam yet, and even with a big name like Dwayne Johnson attached to star, it feels like a movie–dues the character being a somewhat obscure one as far as nerd culture goes–that’s at risk of being cancelled if DC and Warner Bros. aren’t fully confident about its financial returns. It’s inclusion in the FanDome does inspire hope that it will actually get made, so fingers crossed that it’s able to meet its intended December 2021 release date.
This extended featurette featured interviews with voice actors from all over the world who have played Batman. It didn’t only cover those who have done the foreign language tracks for animation, but those who dubbed the live-action movies as well. It was pretty fascinating stuff, especially when hearing the actors talk about how dubbing for Christian Bale’s Batman (very intense) is a lot different than doing Ben Affleck’s (much louder, but also more emotional). Multiple actors on the panel also praised Will Arnett’s hilarious version of the character in The Lego Batman Movie, saying he was a delight to try to replicate.
The DC Extended Universe movies supposedly split up fans, but Aquaman seemed to be one that almost everyone agreed was pretty awesome, a spectacular action-packed undersea adventure which was also a worldwide box office hit. For the FanDome Panel, Ocean Master actor Patrick Wilson talked with James Wan about the film’s success, as well as some behind-the-scenes secrets about how the incredible visual effects were brought to life (the entire cast was often hoisted several feet off the ground for the underwater scenes).
From there, Wan was able to reveal just a little (but not much) about what to expect from the sequel, including the news that Wilson’s villainous character would return. Much has been made on other websites about Wan saying the next installment will be “more serious,” but in the actual event he only appeared to imply that it might be slightly darker, so there’s probably no reason for viewers to prepare themselves from something completely different from the fun they had last time (no word, however, on the status of Amber Heard returning as Mera amid her recent public controversy). Aquaman 2 will sail into in theaters in 2022.
This featurette provided a retrospective of Batman’s most famous enemy through the years, including interviews with actors who have played the iconic criminal such as Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Jared Leto, and Joaquin Phoenix. If that sounds more like a documentary than a fan panel, it’s because it was one, and turned out to be an extended trailer for a 35-minute film called Joker: Put on a Happy Face, which is currently available to watch on the Apple TV app.
Concluding the day’s festivities was the panel for The Batman. Warner Bros. was clearly feeling confident about what they had here, as they gave it the most attention of the event and saved it for last. Director Matt Reeves (War of the Planet of the Apes) gave an interview which lasted nearly half an hour, talking about what attracted him to the project and explaining what he hoped to do with Batman that hadn’t been done before.
Of course, there’s so much that has been done with Batman over his 80 years of existence that it might be hard to put him in new situations. Rather than go over his origin story again, Reeves hopes to show Bruce Wayne “developing into” Batman, kicking things off a year after he began dawning the cape and cowl. Much discussion was also given to the casting of Twilight’s Robert Pattinson in the title role, which Reeves appeared to be quite excited about. “He’s a chameleon. He’s never the same person twice.”
Reeves also talked about how one of his main inspirations was 70’s cinema such as Taxi Driver (weirdly enough, that also had an enormous influence on last year’s Joker), and discussed how he was trying to do a movie that explored Batman’s detective skills more than previous big screen incarnations have. He also teased that audiences could anticipate “very different” takes on classic characters like Catwoman, Penguin, and the Riddler (he wasn’t kidding on that last part, but more on that later).
The conversation then shifted to the spin-off TV series which is already in early development for HBO Max. Told from the perspective of “the city,” it will chronicle the life of a corrupt cop “on a quest to find his soul” as everyone comes to learn of a vigilante that has just started taking the law into his own hands. It sounded similar to the well-received Gotham in a lot of ways. It will take place one year before the events of the new film.
Sadly, due to the pandemic, production on The Batman was shut down after only 25% of it was filmed…which made it all the more shocking that Reeves was able to surprise fans by showing off a full trailer! To say the movie looks “dark” might be an understatement–visually it feels as though Batman stepped into David Fincher’s Seven–with a brooding soundtrack which made the first look positively mesmerizing.
Previous versions of the Riddler have largely focused on his comedy and wackiness–there’s a reason Jim Carrey was cast to play him in Batman Forever–but Paul Dano is giving him a far more twisted personality, with him now being a serial killer who (true to form) is openly taunting a certain superhero into playing his demented game. Pattinson, meanwhile, expresses a haunted intensity through his eyes alone, his Bruce Wayne looking disheveled and exhausted, his Batman practically a tornado of fury as he absolutely pummels a thug with a swift combination of punches.
It was a very impressive preview for a movie that has barely begun production. Originally set for release this October, The Batman is now heading to theaters in 2021.
The DC FanDome served its purpose in providing those “attending” with an exciting experience even without being a full “convention” in the traditional sense. All of the major trailers shown were promising, and the panels did a good job of making the audience feel like a part of the action. We’re all of course hoping that things return to business as usual sooner rather than later, but for the time being–and when done right–online events such as this one are effective ways of keeping fans happy.