Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 is the Best MCU Movie (Drops Mic)

I’ve recently been smacked around the head by an epiphany. After seeing Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 and squeeing like a squeezy dog-toy, I now understand what everyone’s banging on about when they say that superhero movies should be fun. Although I’ve got a lot of time for grittier versions (a la Man of Steel or Logan), a film that goes for your sense of humour is arguably more… enjoyable? Is that the word I’m looking for? Anyway, you leave the cinema content that all is well with the world and practically bouncing along the pavement. You also get many, many quotable memes out of it. As such, I’d peg it as the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the original. Fight me.

Something good, something bad… a bit of both? Concept art by Andy Park

This is thanks to its refusal to take things too seriously. Volume 2 is wonderfully irreverent, poking fun at itself while bringing back 80s nostalgia with a raised middle-finger. The film isn’t afraid to get weird either – and I mean properly weird. When it’s not using daft locations from the comics (including a living planet, of all things), it’s diving into well-worn tropes that are given a self-deprecating twist. There’s the obligatory ‘follow your heart’/realisation-of-great-power moment that’s shunted off kilter by a certain videogame character, and this is preceded by a ridiculous father-son game of catch mid-way through the story. Guardians knows that it’s silly, so everything’s very tongue-in-cheek. I suppose this is only fair when you’ve got a film starring sentient trees and a talking racoon.

Another bullseye is its strong character-development, of course. Karen Gillen’s Nebula benefits from this in particular, as does Michael Rooker’s brilliant Yondu (out-of-context quote of the day: ‘I’m Mary Poppins, y’all’). The main cast’s arcs aren’t quite so strong this time around, but they still get a thumbs-up as well. The only other MCU franchise that can match it in this regard is Captain America, or – and I know I’ll get stick for this – Iron Man.

Basically, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 hits all the right notes: it’d love nothing more than for you to just enjoy yourself. Seriously, go see it.

Logan: What Happened to the X-Men?

Days of Future Past was a great send-off for the X-Men, all things considered: although we’d watched them be systematically murdered over its two-hour run-time, the final scene (which showed the team alive and well) ended their story on a satisfying note. After six films of heartache, they’d finally gotten their happy ending. However, Logan shows us that we spoke too soon. The X-Men are gone a mere six years later, mutants are dying out and the gruff but heroic Wolverine is a battered shell of his former self. Even Professor X is a husk of what he once was, stuffed out of sight in an overturned water-tower and babbling incomprehensible Shakespeare. It makes you wonder where everything went wrong.

Discussing that takes us into spoiler territory, so be warned – come back later if you’ve not yet seen the movie. The reveal is handled brilliantly, so I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you here.

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No matter what, it’s a far cry from the X-Mansion – concept for Logan by Shae Shatz (via i09

Logan may not give us much to go on, but the scant information it does provide is nothing short of heartbreaking. We learn that several people (upwards of 600, in fact) were injured in an event the film calls the ‘Westchester incident’: as a news anchor points out after the climactic battle in a casino, the effects of this were eerily similar to those seen when Xavier has his seizures. More distressingly, seven mutants were killed in this disaster. Because Westchester is the location of Xavier’s famous school, the implication is clear.

The fact that Professor X’s illness left most of his students in danger is devastating, especially considering how many of them were children. Indeed, while most assume the mortalities were classic X-Men – and director James Mangold alludes to as much – it’s possible that some of those victims were children in the first place. It would certainly add more incentive for Wolverine to keep the truth from his ailing mentor. For a teacher whose pupils’ safety is their highest priority, this is more damaging than any supervillain could hope to be.

Either way, it’s a deeply tragic turn of events. The X-Men thought they’d escaped the end of days but it found them nonetheless. The horror of not knowing exactly what happened makes things infinitely worse, meanwhile: we’re left hanging when it comes to our favourite characters. Are the likes of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm still alive? We’ve got no idea. As Logan’s writer points out, those deaths may not even have been of characters we knew.

That said, we can do some reading between the lines here. Jean is almost certainly a casualty. As one of the most powerful mutants out there, I can’t imagine she’d drop off the radar. Her demise would also emotionally destroy Wolverine all over again, adding to the cynicism that oozes out of his every pore in this movie. He went through hell and back to change the X-Men’s past, so things still going wrong would utterly break him. It’s a similar argument where Storm and Beast are concerned. They’re much too influential not to leave a footprint on Logan’s world, yet there’s little sign of mutants beyond Wolverine’s friends or the children they’re trying to save.

The only hero I can see making it out alive is Kitty Pryde, mostly thanks to her ability to phase through matter. Could she be hurt if intangible? Who knows. I suppose the likes of Cyclops could have survived and faded into obscurity too because of his penchant for angst, but I say that mostly because I’d love to see a story that adapts recent comics where he’s a Magneto-like extremist.

I don’t suppose it matters. Life sucks anyway if you’re a mutant by the time we hit Logan, regardless of whether you were present for the Westchester incident or not. Disturbingly, the mutant race went out with a whimper rather than a bang this time: thanks to foodstuffs that attack mutant-genes in carriers, no more can be born. In a dark twist, the DNA of older mutants is also co-opted as for experiments like Laura. Judging by our protagonist’s desperation to reach the Canadian border, we should probably assume that it’s one of the few countries with any protection left for Wolverine’s kind. Things are truly grim.

That’s a recurring theme of the ­X-Men franchise since Days of Future Past – the more things change, the more they stay the same. We see this clearly in Logan. While the timeline’s been altered, the events of prior films seem to have happened in one way or another in spite of the change. Professor X references the Statue of Liberty from the original movie, Wolverine still has his X-Men Origins dog-tags and he’s held onto the samurai sword from The Wolverine. One of the only alterations is the revelation that Wolverine had a drug-problem, a virgin career in cage-fighting and a position as an assassin when he was found by Xavier in this new reality. It’s reminiscent of the Ultimate comics version of the character, a series where he was employed by Magneto to kill Professor X.

We’ll probably never see how things shook out, of course – it’s much more powerful it’s left to our imaginations. The upside, though? We’ll just have to watch it again and see if there’s anything we missed. What a shame.

Check back every Friday for a new blog celebrating the characters, worlds and craft of geeky pop-culture.

Is it Time for the DCEU to Reboot?

The only thing that seems to be coming out of DC’s film department right now is disappointment. It’s a real blow. Clumsily dubbed the ‘DC Extended Universe’, this is a franchise that’s careening downhill whilst engulfed in the fire of bad reviews. On top of the critically-panned Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad, two directors have left The Flash in ironically quick succession. Additionally, The Batman has struggled to pin down a director after Ben Affleck – who also stars in the titular role – stepped down from behind the camera last month. There are even reports that he’s close to hanging up the cowl itself. When paired with rumours of trouble surrounding Wonder Woman (even if that’s since been refuted), it’s hard not to think a reset is desperately needed.

Concept art from the abandoned George Miller Justice League film - via SlashFilm
Concept art from the abandoned (and seemingly much cheerier) George Miller Justice League film – via SlashFilm

Tempting though it is, I’d be gutted if Warner Bros. threw in the towel. The last two instalments were less than stellar, but seeing Man of Steel consigned to the scrap-heap along with them breaks my heart. Despite having problems of its own, the film’s depiction of Krypton is nothing short of breath-taking. Moreover, I maintain that the first two-thirds of that film were spot-on. After a sympathetic journey to find his purpose in life, a now-humanised Superman becomes the hero we know and love once he’s donned his costume. He laughs, smiles and, above all else, does what’s right. But then it all goes pear-shaped with disaster-porn battles and a climax that understandably turned off fans. I’d argue that it only veered off the rails when Clark had his trippy, on-the-nose dream-sequence with Zod.

Similarly, its sequel had plenty of good ideas to work with. No, really. They simply weren’t executed well (though that’s a discussion for another day) thanks to its director and writers who’ve had a stranglehold on things thus far. To scrap the series without giving someone else a crack of the whip would therefore feel wasteful. Considering how the lauded comic scribe Geoff Johns has just taken charge, things may start looking up at last. We should at least see what he does first.

Nevertheless, I wonder what the result would be if they were to call things quits. Perhaps a soft reboot (a la X-Men: First Class) might be the best course of action. Future films could zero in on Wonder Woman’s past, Batman’s career pre-Superman in the 1990s or side-step entirely with new and unknown characters. The already in-production Shazam would be a great place to start, for instance. Introducing a young boy who’s given the power to transform into an adult superhero, it’d inject a sense of wide-eyed wonder that’s in high demand after so much gloom.

If DC followed this path, there’d really be no need to reference prior films at all. Each of the above can happily stand alone.

Failing that, they could even hand off to a new generation like Marvel is rumoured to do after Avengers: Infinity War’s sequel. Maybe the recently-announced Nightwing film – following the original Robin as he strikes out on his own – could be the first step on that road.

All the same, my preference would be for a completely fresh break set in the past. One ace DC has up its sleeve is a long and illustrious past stretching back into the WWII era: the Justice League weren’t the first team to protect our world. Known instead as the Justice Society, this group included Wonder Woman and an elder generation of the Flash and Green Lantern. There’s your ‘in’ for an audience arriving with fresh eyes.

Better still, it featured characters we’ve never seen in cinema before. That includes the mystical Doctor Fate, Sandman (who’s reminiscent of Watchmen’s Rorschach), the original Atom and happy-go-lucky Stargirl.

By focusing on this band of ‘Mystery Men’ and women (as they were known back then), you reverse the mistakes DC has made up until now. To begin with, returning to the Golden Age of comics where heroes do good because they’re upstanding people is something we’re missing in today’s dark, naval-gazing equivalent. Secondly, it’s not obviously a reboot so we’d avoid audience fatigue. As far as they’re concerned, this could fit into the universe they’ve come to know already. If they respond well, you’d then build back up to the present-day cast.

Whether DC has it in them to be so bold is another matter, of course. Changing tack would mean abandoning the many projects already in production. With Aquaman, Flash and The Batman already gearing up, that’d be a wasted investment Warner Bros. may not want to contemplate. However, If Wonder Woman and this autumn’s Justice League hit another critical brick wall it’ll probably be time to call things quits regardless.

Check back every Friday for a new blog celebrating the characters, worlds and craft of geeky pop-culture.

Here’s Why Sorcerers Didn’t Appear in the MCU Before Doctor Strange

Comics have some truly cracking catchphrases. “It’s clobberin’ time” and “great Caesar’s ghost” immediately spring to mind. However, the ever-iconic Spider-Man quote “with great power comes great responsibility” outdoes them all. Despite being over 40 years old, it arguably remains the best-known of all superhero quotes. That resilience probably has something to do with the fact it’s true; influence and ability can do a lot of good, but they also have the potential to be abused. This is a danger history makes very clear.

The world of magic is a strange place. Concept art by Marvel.
The world of magic is a strange place. Concept art by Marvel.

Bearing that in mind, it’s no wonder magicians are so secretive within the world of Doctor Strange. They’re some of the strongest players on the field. Namely, no manner of high-tech suit can match the ability to manipulate time or hurl your opponent into another dimension. Even thunder-god and painfully well-built Thor would struggle when combating a sorcerer who can travel across space at will. Consequently, it’s a talent that must be rigorously monitored and/or protected from those who’d abuse it. The film’s villain and its finale demonstrate just how devastating a wizard gone bad can get.

That’s my response to the question of where these magic-users were in prior movies. Besides being kept busy with mystical threats (up to and including demonic monsters Captain America simply isn’t equipped to handle) the risks of such an ability can’t be sniffed at. They also explain why those like Stephen Strange wouldn’t want it to become common knowledge. While every Tom, Dick and Harry would want to use it for petty gain, shady characters abusing magic is a scarier proposition. When criminals and generally nasty pieces of work can manipulate the weather or summon demons, I dread to think what’d be left of anyone caught in the middle. What could the average shmuck do against that? It’s David vs Goliath, except Goliath can summon weapons from thin air or fire portable bombs from their fingertips. As an example, political assassination would be a breeze when you can just warp into your victim’s office.

Accordingly, Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One must have the last word on ‘strict’. We see this through her harsh entry requirements. There’s little indication of sorcerers operating outside her order either, so I’m guessing she’s got a monopoly on the market. Why is another matter, though. I can’t imagine hers is the only school of magic out there. Do they scoop up any would-be magicians before they can make a mess or stamp out rival organisations? It’s a question that’s never really answered, and the resulting speculation heightens her menace.

It opens a fascinating can of worms too. Because Merlin, wizards and classical monsters are part of Marvel’s comic canon, we’re left to wonder if they exist in the film universe as well. Were the Salem witches ‘real’, for instance? Is Bigfoot an actual thing? What about vampires and werewolves? The possibilities are endless, and that’s an exciting prospect for this series going forward. Considering how crowded the superhero market is right now, a fresh twist can only be a good thing.

Luke Cage is Right – Secret Identities Don’t Work

Netflix’s Marvel shows put a bullet in the head of daydreams; they underline how becoming a paragon of truth, justice and the American way can’t possibly end well. You’re more likely to end up in a hospital ward than the front page.

Unlike his Hell's Kitchen counterpart Daredevil, Luke Cage doesn't bother with masks - concept art and poster by Marvel
Unlike his Hell’s Kitchen counterpart Daredevil, Luke Cage doesn’t bother with masks – concept art and poster by Marvel

Being beaten to a pulp would be the least of our worries, though. Keeping your secret identity that way is probably nigh-on impossible in the modern age. Perhaps Luke Cage has the right idea. The eponymous hero – currently living in Harlem – doesn’t bother hiding who he is. Biologically altered until practically nothing can hurt him, he’s an everyman who looks out for the average Joe. No masks are required when bullets bounce off your oh-so buff chest.

It’s probably for the best. Even if it can halt a 10mm slug, unbreakable skin can’t stop cameras. That’s a very real possibility nowadays. Appearing on CCTV is more of a certainty than a what-if thanks to recent surges in public surveillance. Although you could argue society’s better for it, the last few decades have seen us dragged into something of an Orwellian nightmare. Today’s world is one of scrutiny, electronic tracking, traceable e-commerce and phone tapping. According to the NY Daily News, cities such as New York boast around 17,000 CCTV cameras. In the meantime, London has ‘roughly half-million’ at its disposal. Good luck trying to avoid those when you need to pull on your cape and tights.

I appreciate that this is the equivalent of stamping on a child’s favourite toy, but the straightforward romance of twentieth century comic books is a thing of the past. From the medium’s golden age to its 1960s resurgance, closed-circuit cameras were a rarity. It wasn’t until 1968 that they started appearing on major US streets, so disappearing into an alleyway to change was still plausible. Now’s a very different story. As the UK reality series Hunted demonstrates, escaping detection is difficult when someone with time and a whole team of staff wants you found.

The programme’s elevator pitch is a stroke of genius; how long can a handful of average people last when they go on the run? Following both fugitives and pursuers, it’s terrifying to see how much info Big Brother has at its disposal. Unless you’re well-trained, obsessively paranoid or exceptionally lucky, you’re almost guaranteed to be tagged by someone’s surveillance system. Moreover, they’d track down most unsubtle disturbers of the peace – e.g. your average superhero – in ten seconds flat. The only characters I can see avoiding this are the likes of Superman, Spider-Man and Batman. One can travel or change at superspeed, another literally dons his costume on the side of skyscrapers and the last has enough cash to make suitably cool tech that’ll cover his tracks.

Unfortunately for them, security cameras aren’t the only way to keep track of someone. Besides email and browser history, the long arm of the law can track your buying habits as well. When you’ve got no powers to rely on and need down-to-earth gear keeping you safe it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Police can trace that kind of purchase if they’ve got a warrant to do so (and know what they’re looking for, of course).

Amazon’s therefore out of the question, leaving under-the-counter cash transactions or an outfit you’ve put together yourself. And if that’s the case, why are you in the superhero business anyway? You could make a killing selling cosplay costumes.

In essence, escaping the fuzz would be difficult should you take the law into your own hands. They’d have a lot of reason for wanting you found, good intentions or not; you’d be a vigilante who leaves assault and property damage in their wake. I dread to think what the legal ramifications of that could be. Just imagine a thug suing you for breaking his arm.

Not having a secret identity might save you a lot of hassle in this regard, but – as anyone who’s ever seen a superhero story knows – this won’t end well. You’ll make enemies, and if they know where to find you they’ll hold every card.

With that in mind, working with the authorities or receiving proper training isn’t the worst idea going. That’s the crux of Iron Man’s argument in Captain America: Civil War, and in a real-world context it doesn’t seem so unreasonable. 

I wonder if Luke Cage’s decision to fly solo without protecting his identity will come back to bite him. Judging by his stablemates Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Want Captain America: Civil War’s Spider-Man To Stand Out? Make Him a Star

It didn’t matter that his name was in the title: I struggled to give two hoots about Captain America going into Civil War. It’s all Spider-Man’s fault. The character’s been dragged headfirst through one too many duff movies recently, so seeing him back on form (and integrated into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe) was nerd nirvana. Better yet, nobody felt the need to dredge up his origin again. He’s a kid who can stick to walls, shoot webbing and generally flout the laws of common sense . We get it.

Going back to basics - concept art by Ryan Meinerding
Going back to basics – concept art by Ryan Meinerding

Still – and I hate to admit it – diving right into the action does have one snag. It closes doors. Although I’m loathe to rehash old ground (nobody needs to see Uncle Ben bite the dust for a third time), starting later in Spidey’s career makes it tricky to explore some of his best material. There’s only so much you can do with the flashbacks I’m sure we’ll get during Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Back when he hit the stands in 1962, superheroes were flawless champions of a vanilla variety. By contrast, Spidey was flawed before and after gaining his powers. Rather than beginning as a crime-fighting do-gooder, Peter Parker stumbled on the idea by accident; in fact, he was more interested in making a quick buck. After winning the wrestling match we saw in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, Peter became an overnight celebrity. His stunts would sell out auditoriums and he was featured on TV talk-shows. Then Ben’s murder came knocking. Unsurprisingly, the fun was sucked out of stardom. Being Spider-Man wasn’t just a reminder of Peter’s biggest mistake. It personified the arrogance that’d caused his uncle’s death in the first place. The only reason he kept appearing on stage was to pay for the bills his family couldn’t afford, not to mention his Aunt May’s medical care.

Things got steadily worse from there. When an accident left him barred from performing again, Peter answered the call for photos of a wanted felon – Vulture, who’s due to make his debut in Homecoming – and ended up stopping him as a happy by-product. This became a regular occurrence with supervillains such as Sandman and Electro until the wise-cracking boy-scout we have today was born. It’s a shame we won’t get to see that on the big screen. At least, not all of it. For me, Peter’s reluctant heroism is a crucial part of what makes him stand out.

All the same, there’s evidence to suggest Spider-Man has already been through this trial by fire before we meet him in Civil War. A quick browse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wiki would suggest he’s already causing a stir amongst journalists when Ant-Man takes place. Remember the reference to folk who can swing or cling to walls? Considering how soon after being bitten by the radioactive/genetically altered spider this must be, Peter’s clearly been showing off. In a world of thunder gods and green rage monsters, he’d have to if he wanted to get their attention. I love the idea of him making waves on a programme like America’s Got Talent. It modernises a classic comic arc and leaves room for the hero worship that made him so unpopular with media outlets (enter J. Jonah Jameson and The Daily Bugle. Dan Slott’s excellent Learning to Crawl explored this idea a couple of years ago. Inspired by Spidey’s exploits, another high-schooler followed Peter’s example and tried to play at superheroes. He then took things too far and became his idol’s first enemy.

Even if future films skip that plot, this version seems to take inspiration from another we didn’t see enough of in the last two iterations. Indeed, Peter seems every bit as hard-up for cash as his comic equivalent. Besides a cobbled-together 90s computer and his habit of raiding dumpsters for kit like a cheap-as-chips DVD player, his first concern when meeting Tony Stark was the money he could bring to the table. This suggests he and Aunt May aren’t so well off as her catwalk-worthy fashion sense and their swanky flat would suggest. Are they struggling to keep up with the rent now Ben’s gone? Could May be pulling extra shifts to compensate as with The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Perhaps this is why Peter’s concerned about her ‘freaking out’; the demands of her job might be stretching her too thin. If Marvel wanted to emulate the comics, this might even be chipping away at her health. If you want to go down the rabbit hole further still, maybe she’s got something like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that makes working difficult for her. I know how much of a pain in the tush that can be.

Anyway, we’ll probably get answers as to what Spidey’s been up to next year when Homecoming comes out. But for now? I’ve got my fingers crossed it’ll explore this side of the character. It’s what makes him who he is in my eyes, and it’s also what makes him different. Not just from the competition; from prior versions as well.

Enjoy this post? Come back every Friday for more! In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @thewordyben

If Superheroes Were Real It’d Probably End Up Like Suicide Squad

It’s eerie when fact mimics fiction. Take Suicide Squad. Following criminals who’re pressganged into missions that’ll get them killed, the idea’s not a popular one for the government’s top brass. It hasn’t gone over very well on this side of the screen, either. Once a media darling, DC’s latest movie is now a critical dud with just 27% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Despite breaking records via a lucrative debut, it’s been savaged by reviewers who argue that the story doesn’t make much sense. Recruiting pyrotechnic ‘gang-bangers’ is logical if you’re taking on Superman-level threats, but a psychopath whose unique selling point is his boomerang? Although I enjoyed the result, that’s a stretch.

Using bad people to do some good - from Suicide Squad: Art of the Movie, via Cosmic Book News
Using bad people to do some good – from Suicide Squad: Art of the Movie, via Cosmic Book News

What isn’t so hard to buy into is a country weaponizing super-humans. In a world where people can fly or bend steel with their bare hands, national security becomes somewhat more complicated. As they point out in this film, we’re stuffed if someone like Superman decides to tear the White House’s roof off. Imagine that power in the hands of a terrorist. The result is carnage, and there’s not a damn thing we could do to stop it.

As such, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say these people would become the next arms race. I interviewed Psychology Teaching Fellow Ian Fairholm about this a couple of years ago (you can find the full article on GamesRadar), and he explained how superheroes would instantly become the most valuable resource out there.

‘If someone had the sort of powers we’re talking about (where they could level a city), political organisations and governments would get extremely jittery,’ he said. ‘You’re not just talking about a weapon, which to some extent is legislated… if a human being came out of the blue… who could be as destructive as a nuclear device, I think every government in the world would be panicking’.

He went on to theorize that they’d be very interested in rounding up such individuals. I suppose these people aren’t just an asset; they’re a deterrent. When your enemy has access to a superhero on the battlefield, you’re probably going to want your own.

I appreciate that this is a hypothetical argument. There’s a precedent for it, however. When World War II ended, the Americans decided they couldn’t let the Nazi brain-trust go to waste. Because of this, they took on hundreds of enemy scientists in an operation dubbed ‘Paperclip’. The idea was ‘to exploit German scientists for American research and to deny these intellectual resources to the Soviet Union’. Sound familiar?

This decision was kept top secret, and it’s easy to see why. Even if those Nazis helped the space programme become what it is today, employing them is morally ambiguous in the extreme. As you’d expect, the public were pretty upset once they found out.

Of course, those running Suicide Squad’s team don’t have to worry about our opinion. If things go bad, their operatives will get thrown under the bus. As Margot Robbie’s Harley puts it, they’re ‘bad guys. It’s what we do.’

With that in mind, I wonder whether fact will follow fiction again; after its shaky reception, should DC sweep this franchise under the rug?

Gods Are Real in Justice League, But They’re Also Horrible

With Suicide Squad hitting cinemas on Friday 5th August, I’m celebrating by posting blogs that fill in the blanks of the DC movie universe.

It’s a relief to see that Warner Bros. is finally listening. They debuted the first Wonder Woman and Justice League trailers at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, and both worked hard to distance themselves from the gloom of Batman v Superman. Tipping melodrama overboard, the latter focuses on humour instead. The result is a very different DC universe. It seems to be an admission that this is a world we should enjoy, not psychoanalyse; the source material features a flying dog, after all. It can be a pretty goofy place.

The Greek gods are worshipped by both Aquaman and Wonder Woman's people - concept art for Justice League
The Greek gods are worshipped by both Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s people – concept art for Justice League

Thankfully, that sense of whimsy isn’t limited to one-liners. It also extends to the films’ mythology. For starters, Suicide Squad features a sword which absorbs the souls of its victims. It’s starring a cannibalistic man-crocodile, too. Then there’s Wonder Woman. Alien heritage and riches don’t cut it for this superhero; she was brought to life by Zeus, King of the Greek gods. Although it might come off as a throwaway line in her trailer (especially due to Chris Pine’s reaction), that’s a pretty big deal when you stop and think about it. This is a place where hard-drinking, vengeful, motherf—–g deities aren’t just a legend.

More to the point, it’s a divorce from the pseudo-science which defined Man of Steel. Rather than shoring up leaps of logic with technobabble, we’re now getting someone known for hurling lightning bolts at those who ‘displeased and defied him’. Indeed, the gods’ influence is hard to ignore because of the Amazons (Wonder Woman’s people). According to DC President Geoff Johns, they’re a race created through divine intervention to protect humanity.

Marvel beat their rivals to the punch in this regard with Thor, but these higher powers add a unique spin on the formula. Rather than benevolent (if cantankerous) deities who protect the innocent, the Greek pantheon is made up of phenomenally capricious sods. Zeus himself was a lecherous cheat, siring over 100 children with almost as many women. He’s joined by a long-suffering wife, Hera. Although it’s entirely reasonable to be cheesed off at your husband for cheating, murdering his mistresses or turning them into monsters might verge on overkill. Worse, she hurled her infant son Hephaestus out of heaven because he had the misfortune of being ugly.

Fortunately for those living in the DC universe, these aren’t gods in a traditional sense. If the comics are anything to go by, they’re not unlike Thor’s Asgardians. A highly advanced alien culture, they possess technology far beyond our understanding. In fact, digging through their convoluted backstory suggests less than divine origins. ‘Extra-dimensional’ beings created by what is essentially a second Big Bang (dubbed the Godwave), they’re the latest in a long line of entities that have been vying for control of the universe since the dawn of time. The Greek pantheon is actually one of many who exist outside of time and space. Justice League’s villain Steppenwolf is another example.

NOTE – SPOILERS FOR SUICIDE SQUAD FOLLOW.

Judging by comments from Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad, Enchantress is as well. A demon ‘from another dimension’, she’s well over 6000 years old. Like Zeus, this deity is something of a PR disaster; the character’s inspiration is an embodiment of lust, as suggested by Screen Rant. This explains her ludicrously skimpy outfit and provides context for Enchantress making minions by snogging them (no, I’m not saying either of these were good ideas).

No matter their identity, these beings could shed light on a personal bugbear of mine. Why do humans and aliens look the same in DC’s universe? Kryptonians are identical to us despite having evolved light years away, and that’s not just odd. It’s outright bizarre. But if humanoid gods such as Zeus and co. have been pulling the galaxy’s strings for millennia, they might be the common ancestor I’ve mentioned before.

The question is, where’ve they been in the years since? These films are supposed to occur in ‘our’ world, so Zeus’ dysfunctional family must have taken a backseat since the days of Ancient Greece (according to a set visit by Screen Rant, they helped defend humanity against Steppenwolf’s army thousands of years ago). I mean, they weren’t exactly falling over themselves to stop Zod during Man of Steel. Perhaps they’ve given up on humanity like the Amazons are supposed to have done.

It’s equally unclear how they’ll be handled in upcoming movies. Warner Bros. are left with two choices; they can embrace this kooky part of DC history or keep things vague to avoid writing themselves into a corner. Both approaches have merit, but I’d hope their newfound sense of fun will help them opt for something a little more fantastical.