Hey readers, moviegoers and geeks! Were you able to watch the official, first movie trailer of Wonder Woman 1984? It was released globally today online and, in case you have not seen it, here is the movie trailer for your viewing pleasure.
That movie trailer, which was released around the time the Wonder Woman 1984 special event at the CCXP in Brazil ended, was a blast and having seen it, I am more excited for the movie’s June 2020 release. I plan to watch it on an IMAX screen by then.
What can I say? It does not only have the 1980s setting (hence the year on the movie title), but the said time setting was made to be very lively in terms of visuals, fashion, style, music and feel. When it comes the decade in real life, it was the same decade when DC Comics published the maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. Following Crisis, a major relaunch of the entire DC Comics universe followed and along the way Wonder Woman was reintroduced under the creative direction of George Perez. The George Perez-era of Wonder Woman, at least seen in the trailer, is looking like a big influence on the new movie starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine (whose character Steve Trevor returns somehow) and directed by Patty Jenkins. This brings me to my next point.
Early in the trailer, Diana/Wonder Woman was shown talking with archaeologist Barbara Ann Minerva (played by Kristen Wiig). What’s so significant about Minerva? She is none other than the super villain Cheetah, specifically the 3rd version of the character that debuted in the comic books during the George Perez-era of Wonder Woman!
Here are some images from the pages of Wonder Woman #9 from 1988.
As I mentioned before, the involvement of Cheetah in the movie is alone a great attraction. As far as the trailer goes, we only see Cheetah in her normal human form with Kristen Wiig. The way I see it, we will eventually see the super villain in her terrifying, animal-like form. I am speculating the filmmakers will save that for the movie’s release and will only show very brief, body part shots in the next two movie trailers leading into June 2020. It’s much better this way especially under the watch of Walter Hamada.
Regarding the return of Steve Trevor, I don’t want to speculate as to how he returns given what happened in the acclaimed Wonder Woman movie of 2017. Still, it sure is nice to Chris Pine return as Diana’s romantic partner because he and Gal Gadot have solid chemistry together and there is indeed a need to present more cinematic adventures of them together just like in the comic books!
As seen in the trailer, some shots showing Wonder Woman and Steve traveling together in a foreign land (with a desert environment) where they encounter military hardware operated by some group (or a government perhaps?). This is clearly a Cold War reference although which particular setting or historical event the movie is emphasizing remains to be revealed.
The Cold War setting is the new era emphasized for Wonder Woman 1984. Story details are unintentionally light but what was shown in the trailer made the movie very promising.
As for other elements like the cinematic Maxwell Lord, shots of Themyscira, Wonder Woman’s armor and others, I’ll discuss those next time. Right now, things are looking great for Wonder Woman 1984 and we’ll see more what the filmmakers have left to offer in the next two movie trailers.
If my sources are correct, the creative synergy of director Patty Jenkins combined with passionate work implemented by Gal Gadot on playing the Queen of Superheroes should result a great Wonder Woman cinematic story as well as a solid superhero movie. On the part of Warner Bros. Pictures, it seems the studio and its creative teams are now in more solid footing when it comes to making new DC Comics superhero movies. The DC Comics cinematic stuff will resume on February 2020 with the release of Birds of Prey.
Wonder Woman 1984 will open in cinemas around the world on June 2020.
With the unexpected, massive success of the Joker movie (my review here), the DC Comics brand in the field of movies got strong even though the said film was not related at all with the current DC Comics Cinematic Universe. The R-rated, Joaquin Phoenix-led movie grossed over $1,000,000,000 worldwide (without even a release in China) and already it is one of the most profitable movies this year given the fact it was made for well below $100 million. Also, please take note that less than 100% of each ticket sold gets collected by the movie producer.
The future meanwhile looks very promising for fans of DC Comics movies. 2020 will see the respective theatrical releases of Birds of Prey (February) and Wonder Woman 1984 (June) care of Warner Bros. and its creative teams of filmmakers. The Batman (starring Robert Pattinson and directed by Matt Reeves) meanwhile spearheads the cinematic superhero excitement for 2021.
“I’m honored to join the iconic #DCUniverse and it’s a true pleasure to become, BLACK ADAM. BLACK ADAM is blessed by magic with the powers equal to SUPERMAN, but the difference is he doesn’t toe the mark or walk the line. He’s a rebellious, one of a kind superhero, who’ll always do what’s right for the people – but he does it his way,” Johnson wrote in his Facebook page’s November 15, 2019 post.
“I’ve not given up the role. There’s a lot I have to give for Superman yet. A lot of storytelling to do. A lot of real, true depths to the honesty of the character I want to get into. I want to reflect the comic books. That’s important to me. There’s a lot of justice to be done for Superman. The status is: You’ll see,” Cavill said.
While there is no clear sign that there will be a new Superman movie coming, I want to express that Warner Bros. and its creative teams should grab the opportunity of bringing Dwayne Johnson and Henry Cavill together on the big screen as Black Adam and Superman respectively.
I’m not saying that Superman should be in the Black Adam movie because I believe that the 2021 movie has its own concept already. Rather they can have the two DC Comics characters together in a future Superman movie with Black Adam as the main antagonist, and have the two fight each other hard.
In the comic books, there have been past battles between the Man of Steel and the Shazam villain. The first was in the 1982 comic book DC Comics Presents #49. Check out the images posted below.
And then there was the other encounter in 2005’s Action Comics #831.
Let’s not forget the fact that Dwayne Johnson is a great attraction when it comes to hard battles on the big screen.
I believe that having Johnson as Black Adam fighting Cavill’s Superman will be a great cinematic attraction. With the right director and the right fight choreographer, such a movie battle will be a lot of fun and make people forget about the disappointing battle of the DC Comics icons in Batman v. Superman (which started strongly but lost energy and its pace worsened). In terms of storytelling, there are enough comic book references to help screenwriters come up with a sensible and believable way to establish a conflict between Black Adam and Superman. Again, there is Batman v. Superman as a cinematic storytelling disappointment to avoid repeating.
Let’s not forget that the movie Shazam was a critical and commercial hit for Warner Bros. and it’s safe to say that we will see more of Zachary Levi reprise the title role in future movies. At the same time, we have yet to see Shazam (formerly called Captain Marvel) face off with Black Adam and have a true, lengthy encounter with Superman.
If you are a dedicated DC Comics fan who wants to see Superman and Black Adam clash together on the big screen, express your support to the filmmakers, to Warner Bros. and also to Henry Cavill and Dwayne Johnson online.
It’s all out in the entertainment news! Wonder Woman is, literally, coming to Brazil as Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins confirmed through social media that their much-awaited movie Wonder Woman 1984 will officially be presented at the Comic-Con Experience (CCXP) this December in the country. This is not the first time that Warner Bros. showcased DC Comics movies at the annual pop culture event there in Brazil.
As Gadot and the movie director will be there, it is expected that there will be a special presentation about the film and that Warner Bros. will officially release online the first trailer of it.
It has been quite some time since Wonder Woman 1984’s production got completed and so far any footage of it has yet to be shown worldwide. The movie was originally slated for a November 2019 global release in cinemas but Warner Bros. delayed it to June 2020.
2017’s Wonder Woman was an acclaimed movie which grossed over $800 million worldwide. Believe it or not, that film was Patty Jenkins’ 2nd movie as director and, quite notably, her directorial debut happened way back in 2003. That first film of Jenkins’ was Monster and its star Charlize Theron won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Image from the official movie poster of Wonder Woman 1984 showing Gal Gadot in armor.
Come December, excitement for the 2020 film should spread like wildfire through social media from Brazil to the entire world. Let me add that featuring Wonder Woman 1984 at the CCXP makes a lot of sense since the 2017 movie grossed $33.5 million in ticket sales there in Brazil. The country is also very receptive towards other DC Comics movies such as Aquaman ($36.3 million), Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice ($36.7 million) and Justice League ($41.3 million).
There is nothing like seeing squabbling individuals (each with a unique talent or two) realize that they have to end the division between them and work together to solve a problem that affects everyone.
Tropes like that are common in superhero comic books, animation, movies and other forms of media. The concept of having superheroes is precisely the key element behind the UltraForce of the Ultraverse.
To put things in perspective, UltraForce is a team of superheroes (called Ultras in the Ultraverse) composed of Prime, Hardcase, Prototype, Topaz, Ghoul, Pixx and Contrary. The team was formed to protect the public while, at the same time, keep their fellow Ultras (examples: Mantra, The Strangers, Night Man, etc.) from getting out of line with the general public and their government leaders.
Previously, I discussed what would it be like had superheroes conspired with government officials and corporate media as told in UltraForce #2. For this article, we take a look back at the formation of the team in UltraForce #1, published by Malibu Comics in August 1994 with a story by Gerard Jones and art by the legendary George Perez.
The story begins with a disaster as fighter planes get pulled down to the ground by an unknown force. A pilot who ejected and flew by parachute finds himself pulled down as well. Down on his back, he feels intense pain and could not get himself up. His body begins to get destroyed when a voice is heard.
“You thought your little flying toys would stop me. You thought your mastery of light and air made you invincible. And no creature of the dark, hidden places could possibly beat you. Now feel the weight. Feel what we feel. The weight of the core of the Earth. The weight of eons of darkness. The age of light and air is done. Prepare for a new age. The age of Atalon!”
Inside a ship above the desert, Hardcase reacts as he watches multiple monitors showing current events highlighting people’s fear of the Ultras, citizen demanding controls, Hardcase reported as saying “only Ultras can control Ultras”, plus an image of Prime and Prototype in action. With him were Contrary, Pixx and Ghoul.
“No!” said Hardcase. “I won’t go through that again!”
Harcase clarifies to his companions that, due to his past with The Squad ending in tragedy, he won’t join a group and end up counting friends’ bodies again. Regarding his reported quote in the media, he stated that he specifically said that government could never control Ultras plus he did not say an UltraForce should try to do it. Being an actor in Hollywood, he decides to go to the media and wash his hands of this.
Contrary, who is the schemer in the team, asked him, “Won’t the public fear Ultras more and more…unless someone steps up to teach Ultras how to function in the world?”
Hardcase asked if she was the one to do the teaching.
Pixx butts into the conversation telling them that Prime and Prototype are about to approach the press. After calling Pixx an attentive student, Contrary tells Hardcase she is the to teach the Ultras which she claims is her business.
In front of the press, Prime (who is a kid inside that overly muscular body) talks impulsively to them and Prototype (who is receiving communication feed from Ultratech which seeks a public coup with the idea of him gathering the team) who states that an UltraForce is needed and that he will recruit one.
This sets off Prime to act even more impulsively over who has credit over the UltraForce idea. Behind the scenes, Ultratech’s Leland and Hardcase watch as things turn wrong (between Prime and Prototype) in front of the press.
“They’re going to force the government to crack down on Ultras!” – Hardcase.
Concerned that the embarrassment could start a civil war between Ultras and Normals (the people), Hardcase tells Contrary he wants to leave the ship to prevent things from getting worse. Contrary gets on his way saying she was going to talk to Prime and Prototype and even have their ship fly after them.
Hardcase disagrees with her idea and insisted she should not be near the mess (about Ultras and the public) until she comes clean with all her secrets and explain what her academy for Ultras is about.
“Is this the same Hardcase who didn’t want responsibility of leading other Ultras…laying down the law for me?” – Contrary
Eventually Contrary sends Hardcase away and tells Pixx to bring their ship to the Redstone Arsenal.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Topaz appears suddenly in the middle of a football game causing confusion to the players and the spectators.
I absolutely enjoyed reading UltraForce #1for the fact that it has a very engaging story, great art, in-depth characterization and a great presentation of superheroes banding together for a higher cause. It is the complete package of what a fun yet thoughtful superhero comic book should be!
The story written by Gerard Jones shows lots of signs that things were carefully planned not just for the comic book but for the Ultraverse as a whole as it focused on the concept about the Ultras being on the edge of getting misunderstood by the general public (the people who don’t have powers) who in turn relied on the news coverage of corporate media (which itself has lapses or made deliberate moves that did not give the viewers an accurate look at the events that happened) to take a look at beings with powers.
This concept kinda reminds me of the traditional concept behind the X-Men. Charles Xavier founded the X-Men to train mutants to use their gifts for good while trying to establish a bond of understanding and tolerance between mutants and humans.
UltraForce’s concept of the fragile link between Ultras and ordinary people really went deep as it involved not only the media but also the private sector, the government leaders and the armed forces. Heck, in Prototype #1 the corporation Ultratech made its move with Ultras by having a flying, armored guy representing them. In Prime #1, the element of militarism was involved.
The comic book’s concept is nicely reflected in Hardcases thoughts below.
“Great. The military, the media, the eyes of the world…dying for a sign. Are Ultras for them or against them? And what sign are we giving them?”
Gerard Jones also achieved a great job with the characterization. Prime is the impulsive powerful superhero who is also a loose canon because he’s really a kind inside the large, muscular body of a man. Prototype is piloted by a young guy working for a corporation and along the way, he has trouble balancing himself between duty and personal interest. Hardcase, who has been living with guilt as one of two surviving members of The Squad, struggles between his internal struggle and keeping the peace between humans and Ultras. The way I remember these three notable Ultraverse lead characters from their respective comic book series, their personalities were successfully replicated and developed in this comic book.
Contrary meanwhile is subtle yet brainy and strategic figure of the team. For the most part, she is mysterious and yet already has a clear vision about mentoring people with super powers. She is easily the most defining member of UltraForce who does not have her own comic book series. Topaz, who comes from a society of women, is clearly the Ultraverse parallel to DC Comics’ Wonder Woman. She appeared in prior issues of Mantra and her addition to UltraForce added more depth and variety. Of course, given her background, working alongside men is a challenge for her personally. Pixx and Ghoul, meanwhile, contributed nicely as supporting characters in this comic book. For the villain King Atalon, he succeeded in presenting himself and his group as a credible threat to the world. Not only is he powerful in combat, he is very driven with a mission for his kingdom and his people strongly love him and support him.
Even though this was just the first story, UltraForce #1 is already a nice exploration of each member’s personality and the personal relationships between them. How these characters formed a team was not only convincing but was done with a lot of depth and focus. At the same time, the dialogue written for each character is lively to read. Take note how Atalon reacted to Prototype’s attack on him.
“Didn’t your Dr. Einstein tell your people decades ago that great gravity could bend even energy? But you never do listen to your own wise men, do you? Just like my people. We wise ones must find ways to make you listen.”
Spectacle and action? There’s lot of them in this comic book. More than enough to satisfy anyone who enjoys reading superhero stories that pack a lot of hard-hitting action, intense moments of damage on the surrounding made only possible by superheroes, energy blasts and the like.
This bring me to the next aspect of the comic book….George Perez’s great art! I should say that Malibu Comics made the best decision to hire Perez for UltraForce #1 given his established talent of drawing multiple superheroes in high detail (with that distinct style on drawing human faces) and ensuring that what was written on Gerard Jones’ script would come out not only looking great but also always look very lively. I love the way Perez drew the facial expressions of Hardcase, the visualization of Prime’s immense strength, Pixx looking really like a teenager, the high level of detail on the backgrounds, Ghoul’s creepy look and much more. No doubt about it, each and every panel drawn by Perez is great to look at!
I really love reading and re-reading UltraForce #1. It succeeded in its goal of getting the divided superheroes together to form a team in convincing fashion complete with a clear and present danger (Atalon and his people) that justifies the events. It’s got great writing and art, very engaging characters, heavy action and a good amount of characterization. The good news about this comic book is that it can be found in good supply online and you don’t have to worry about paying high prices for it. As of this writing, you can order a near-mint copy of UltraForce #1 for only $4 at the website of Mile High Comics. Apart from comic books, there were some action figures of UltraForce released and there was a short-lived animated series of it on TV.
If you are a comic book reader who is dissatisfied with today’s comic books (and even superhero movies), if you are reader looking for a great superhero team reading experience, or if you want the best superhero comic book experiences of not only the Ultraverse but of the 1990s as a whole, then UltraForce #1 is highly recommended! This comic book is a classic of its decade!
I miss the old times when big rivals Marvel and DC Comics would set aside competition temporarily to team up and rely on their respective comic creators to make superhero crossover comic books that the fans can enjoy.
Back in the 1970s, key developments related to the comic book adaptation of The Wizard of Oz brought the two rivals together as partners. In 1976, Marvel and DC’s first superhero crossover Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man got published and to this day many comic book collectors and geeks I encountered still enjoy it. A few of them even called it a classic.
The collaboration between Marvel and DC continued in 1981 with Superman and Spider-Man which was published as issue number 28 of the Marvel Treasury Edition series.
This is my look back at Superman and Spider-Man.
The comic book
Scripted by then Marvel Comic editor-in-chief Jim Shooter (with Marv Wolfman mentioned for plot suggestions) with art drawn by John Buscema and inkwork done by Terry Austin, Al Milgrom, Steva Leialoha, Walt Simonson, Bob Layton, Joe Rubinstein and Bob Wiacek, the comic book begins when Spider-Man swings into a construction site where he encounters several armed men and stops them singlehandedly.
Even though he stopped the bad guys, Spider-Man’s spider sense bothers him making him speculate that, because there’s no clear danger around him, the construction site seemed to be a threat.
After Spider-Man swings away from the police who just arrived, classic Marvel supervillain Doctor Doom watches via surveillance video and he was bother by the way things turned out.
“I did not like the way Spider-Man paused and look around after subduing the thieves – – as if he sensed something unusual about the excavation! Those accursed spider instincts of his,” Doom said before proceeding with his master plan.
A day later, the Hulk arrives in Metropolis causing lots of damage. Separately Superman and Spider-Man arrive to contain the green guy. However, things are not what they seem. This is where the story description ends.
What this comic book lacked compared to the 1976 Superman-Spider-Man crossover is visual impact. Clearly John Buscema had to follow closely the script which called for multiple panels per page and that left him little room to draw scenes dynamically. That’s not to see the art is weak. In fact, Buscema’s art is pretty good and he has deep knowledge about how the characters (including those many supporting characters and other minor characters from both Marvel and DC Comics) really looked from the size of Hulk’s body, the details on Wonder Woman’s costume, the distinctive look of J. Jonah Jameson, Perry White, etc. In short, I recognized the characters very easily.
While the high number of panels per page limited him, Buscema managed to come up with some action shots that packed some impact.
When it comes to writing and storytelling, this comic book exceeds that of the 1976 Superman-Spider-Man crossover big time! To start with, the plot is much more elaborate, more detailed and yet consistently remained easy to follow.
While the 1976 crossover had the most popular villains of Superman and Spider-Man as the representation of evil, this one instead had Dr. Doom and Parasite. The great news is that these two super villains complement each other nicely and that itself adds good depth into the plot. Dr. Doom is a major schemer and Parasite fitted nicely within his master plan for global chaos.
Regarding dialogue, the script had a lot of strength and was also specific in capturing the personalities of the superheroes, the super villains and the supporting cast. I can easily identify J. Jonah Jameson, Perry White, Lois Lane and others through the dialogue.
Not to be outdone is the deeper approach to the crossover aspect of the story. Right from the start, the comic book creators expected us readers to suspend disbelief and start believing that while the story is non-canon, the respective universes of Marvel and DC Comics co-existed. Because there were TV shows of Wonder Woman and the Hulk playing, the two characters were included in the comic book adding depth to the crossover.
Speaking of crossovers, this comic book was not limited to Superman and Spider-Man. The encounter between the Hulk and Superman was a short but sweet spectacle to read. The encounter between Wonder Woman and Spider-Man meanwhile was short yet fun.
Adding more to the fun in this comic book was how Clark Kent interacted with the Spider-Man supporting characters while Peter Parker interacted with the Superman supporting characters. I enjoyed every moment of these scenes.
As far as narrative is concerned, this comic book is slightly slanted towards Superman. One factor behind this was the implementation of how local authorities interact with Superman and Spider-Man. Whenever he solves crime, Superman is highly respected by the public and the police. This is not the case with Spider-Man who is often perceived to be a social menace even though he helps solve crimes. Another factor was that Superman did more detective-type work (including a visit to Latveria) while Spidey hardly contributed anything to the plot’s development.
Regardless, the two icons got a fair share of the spotlight during the final stages of the story and there was enough spectacle to enjoy.
If there is any complaint I have, it would be the comic book creators’ reluctance on fully connecting itself to the 1976 crossover. In the scene wherein Peter Parker was guided into the film editing room by Jimmy Olsen, he recognized Lois Lane and remembered meeting her in the 1976 crossover (which ended with socializing). And yet when Spider-Man and Superman get together in this comic book, there was a noticeable lack of friendliness and personal cooperation between them even though they bonded nicely in the 1976 story.
Overall, Superman and Spider-Man is indeed a highly engaging, fun-filled superhero crossover comic book. For me, it is a true literary classic and definitely worth searching for out there. I read this crossover many times from start to finish and even though I knew the plot and the dialogue, I still had a lot of fun reading along the way. With the combined talents of Shooter, Buscema and many others, this superhero crossover was indeed one of the very best stories ever told by Marvel and DC Comics.
Given the current corporate climate Marvel and DC Comics are now in, it is very unlikely we will see another creatively fun superhero crossover collaboration between them happening soon. For the newcomers reading this, Marvel is owned by the Walt Disney Company while DC Comics is owned by Warner Bros.
Remember when Israeli actress Gal Gadot revealed that she auditioned for a role at Warner Bros. not knowing that she would eventually get hired to play Wonder Woman?
Such a development like that happened here in the Philippines as ABS-CBN formally announced on July 17 that they hired 20-year-old actress Jane de Leon as the new cinematic Darna (finally replacing Lisa Soberano) and this puts the much delayed Darna live-action movie back on track.
In an interview with Preview.ph, de Leon revealed that she went through a process that involved a public audition, a special audition for artists, the final call, the panel meeting and the big meeting with the bosses at ABS-CBN. Along the way, she remembered auditioning for a villain role and the audition involved the participation of around three hundred candidates (according to ABS-CBN’s official announcement).
In the network’s official announcement, there was the final deliberation in which the network management asked the actress how committed she is in getting the role. De Leon replied that she would “everything and anything” for it and added that she believes “in what Darna stands for.”
Olivia Lamasan, who is the ABS-CBN Films managing director, asked De Leon (translated from Tagalog): “Are you ready? Are you ready to hold the stone? Are you ready to be Darna? This is because we are giving you (the role of) Darna.”
Unsurprisingly, De Leon got shocked with getting the role. Darna, after all, is a Philippine superhero icon that started way back in the 1950s and multiple comic books, movies and TV episodes were made featuring the character. The late Mars Ravelo created Darna.
Lamasan stated to ABS-CBN News that the Darna movie is a “genesis story” (origin) with a coming-of-age theme. She added that having someone “young and with an air of innocence” as well as “strength of character.”
Personally, I am not surprised that an origin story is the concept of the still unmade movie. This is, after all, the newest version of Darna under ABS-CBN and the new actress has to not only play the icon but also make her relevant with today’s moviegoers, including the many Filipinos born just before or just after the year 2000.
Behind the scenes, experienced filmmakers were involved in the selection process and they carefully made their choices. Darna movie director Jerrold Tarog said that De Leon was their unanimous choice.
Beyond the casting for the icon, it remains to be seen what kind of quality moviegoers will get once the Darna film project finally gets made. We moviegoers have to ask: how much spectacle will the film have? Will the script have childish humor? Will the Darna costume for Jane de Leon still be the traditional 2-piece swimsuit with boots, helmet and that front loincloth? Will the movie serve as a platform for the possible launch of single, shared cinematic universe of Mars Ravelo’s superheroes?
From this point on, the producers and filmmakers should be able to move forward at last with making the Darna movie while Jane de Leon prepares herself.
Details of De Leon
A native of Laguna province, Jane de Leon stands 5’3 and is talented with acting, singing, dancing and playing drums and guitar. She also took part in modeling. With regards to movies and television, her credits include The Debutantes (2017 movie), Ipaglaban Mo (TV series), Maalaala mo kaya (TV series), and Halik (TV series).
This past summer, the production of the pending Darna movie project suffered a major setback when Liza Soberano dropped out due to a serious injury of her finger. I wrote about that months ago and the fact that Soberano cried during the ABS-CBN interview (she admitted she let the fans down) only showed how heavy and painful the loss of the Philippine pop culture icon was to her deep inside. Not only that, the original director Erik Matti is no longer involved and has since been replaced by Jerrold Tarog.
As of this writing, the filmmakers are still quietly searching for a suitable replacement for Soberano.
As the search goes on in this age of social media and Hollywood-produced superhero movies that dominated the Philippine box office, the hot question remains – is a Darna movie still needed?
To understand things better, let’s go back to the beginning.
Created by the late Mars Ravelo, Darna debuted in 1950 in illustrated print media and went on to appear in comic books, comic strips, magazine special features, television and movies to name some. Through the decades, Darna went on to become a Philippine pop culture icon and there were those who even compared her with Wonder Woman.
In Philippine cinema, Vilma Santos (who is now a public servant) made her mark with the public when she played Darna more than once. Other actresses who played the superhero in other movies were Sharon Cuneta, Anjanette Abayari and Regine Velasquez to name a few.
The 21st century
In the 21st century, Darna was unsurprisingly modernized in a TV series starring Angel Locsin and produced by GMA Network. The series became a hit nationwide and helped keep Ravelo’s icon relevant to Filipinos while also boosting Locsin’s popularity. A few years later, GMA lost Locsin to its rival network ABS-CBN and “replaced” her with then newcomer Marian Rivera who went on to become a star. While still holding the rights to Darna, GMA launched in 2009 a new series with Rivera as the superhero. Like the 2005 series before it, it became a hit as well.
While it was a success, the deal between GMA and the surviving members of Mars Ravelo came to an end. Unsurprisingly, in 2015, the Ravelos signed up with rival network ABS-CBN with upcoming Darna projects in mind. What made this new deal different was that it was in the form of a motion picture project through its movie-making arm Star Cinema.
Making a live-action Darna movie turned out to be tricky and time-consuming. In 2017, the project generated a lot of buzz and excitement when the young and pretty Liza Soberano was hired to play Ravelo’s creation. She was easily referred to as the “Millennial Darna”.
Of course, in this age of social media and smartphones, Filipinos expressed their reactions online. While there were those who welcomed Soberano as Darna, there were some who had problems with the actress’ American accent and heritage (note: Soberano was born in the United States) and some even claimed that she was “not Filipina enough” to play Darna who in the realm of fantasy is Narda, who is often portrayed as a simple Filipina.
And then there were some people who preferred Angel Locsin over Soberano. Take note that almost a decade before Soberano signed up to play Darna, Locsin was hired by ABS-CBN and starred in many big projects with the network achieving lots of success in both television and movies. As such, it was no surprise that there were still many craving for Locsin to play Darna under the banner of ABS-CBN.
Before losing the role, Liza Soberano worked really hard to play Darna. Videos and images of her physically training for the role were released online and it has been reported that she researched the icon behind the scenes. Soberano, by the way, studied at SISFU (Southville International School Affiliated with Foreign Universities) in BF International, Las Pinas City.
Do people really want to see a Darna movie at all?
While Star Cinema is slowly making the Darna movie, it is only fair to ask if people really want to see the movie at all. Do Filipinos, who collectively paid a good amount of money to enjoy Hollywood-made superhero movies in local cinemas since the year 2000, really need to watch Darna on the big screen?
Now I am not a filmmaker nor have I gotten involved in the nation’s film industry but as a long-time geek, observer and former journalist, I should say that the odds are against Star Cinema.
Traditionally here in the Philippines, local film productions that became hits were the romantic comedy and horror types of movies. There were a few historical epic films that became hits along the way. A few fantasy movies were released and made some good money. Given the fact that these kinds of films became hits with Filipino moviegoers and given the fact that the Filipino action film genre has faded away since the early 2000s (note: Filipino action movies have been rarely produced since then), it comes to show that Filipino moviegoers are not that interested in locally made action scenes.
Action scenes combined with computer-generated images (CGI) are among the most attractive features of Hollywood superhero movies to Filipinos. There is nothing like watching Spider-Man’s classic fights with Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 (2004), Wonder Woman leading the fight against the Germans in the No Man’s Land scene in Wonder Woman (2017), Batman fighting a gang of thugs in the warehouse in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and the massive battle between the superheroes and the evil ones in plains of Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) all happen on the big screen!
Definitely those forms of spectacle look great, feel intense and were enjoyable to watch again and again. Moviegoers here in the Philippines paid good money to experience those sequences. For sure, all those on-screen action sequences were carefully crafted, choreographed and painstakingly laced with CGI at a high cost.
That being said, what can the Darna movie offer local moviegoers in terms of spectacle? Can the filmmakers come up with something stylish (if not original) with the action with Darna that can convince moviegoers to come back for more? How much money can the filmmakers afford to invest in such spectacle? For sure, there will be moviegoers who can’t help but make comparisons with Darna’s on-screen spectacle with those of movies from Marvel and DC.
There is also the challenge for the Darna filmmakers to tell a compelling story and have the moviegoers connect with the characters. Sure there is Darna (Narda is her civilian identity) but who else could they add as key cast members? The least the filmmakers could do is involve supporting characters who would end up annoying moviegoers. If the Darna movie would have humor, the producers should make sure that the comedy players should avoid annoying the viewers as they try to make comic relief.
Challenging also is the implementation of the villain to give Darna problems and compel her to act heroically. There is the long-time enemy Valentina but how can the filmmakers make her relevant and not look corny to the locally viewers who have gotten so used to villains in Hollywood superhero movies. Creating a brand new, all-original villain for Darna on the big screen could be a last resort if ever none of the Mars Ravelo-created villains would fit in. A weak cinematic villain is a big no-no.
And then there is the challenge of dramatizing and modernizing the origin of Darna on the big screen. This can make or break the movie because emphasizing the origin requires a good amount of build-up and however the story is written (with the expected big battle near the end) the movie should have balance. It is key to entertain the viewers, to connect them with the characters and make the plot relevant to them. If there is way too much build-up (read: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), moviegoers will end up getting burned out and the spectacle won’t save the movie. If the film has too much social commentary, it could turn off moviegoers.
Another issue is maintaining the relevance of Darna with the Filipinos as time passes. Each year that passes, a superhero movie of Marvel or DC Comics gets released in cinemas nationwide and adding more to the relevance of the superheroes in those movies is the presence of comic books and trade paperbacks of superheroes in retailers. I’m a comic reader and no matter how hard I try, I could not even find a Darna comic book at the retailers (including the comic book specialty stores) and not even reprints of old comics are available. As for the past TV series and movies of Darna, they can be viewed on YouTube but those productions are not too appealing to me.
Merchandise of Darna and the other Mars Ravelo heroes Lastikman and Captain Barbell are not that common commercially. The Ravelos however, in partnership with ABS-CBN, sell such merchandise (under the title Ravelo Komiks Universe) online.
During my time at the recent Toycon, there was a Ravelo Komiks Universe at the main exhibition floor which showcased statues and some merchandise of Darna, Captain Barbel and Lastikman. There were even hired models portraying the Ravelo superheroes in full costume.
One last issue to discuss here is movie competition. Hollywood superhero movies pretty much made tremendous commercial, and even social, impact here in the Philippines since the year 2000 when X-Men proved that superhero films can be taken seriously and be enjoyed for what they are. There is no denying that Marvel and DC Comics movies are major moneymakers among Filipinos. Wonder Woman grossed over P520 million nationwide in 2017. The disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse made over P400 million in 2016. Iron Man 3’s gross in 2013 was over P625 million. Lastly, Avengers: Endgame made over P1.6 billion this year!
Superhero movie competition is already tough and for sure moviegoers will compare Darna to those foreign superhero flicks on every detail. As if that was not hard enough, there is also movie competition with non-superhero flicks like Jurassic World (over P500 million) and the Star Wars movies to name a few. Some comedies and romantic comedies occasionally sell a lot. There are also those computer-generated animation films as well not to mention some Filipino movies that sometimes turn into major blockbusters.
With these issues discussed, making a Darna movie is hard to do and selling it, if ever it gets made at all, is an even bigger challenge for Star Cinema. As a movie market, the Philippines and its moviegoers have an undeniable appetite for foreign movies and if it is spectacle they crave for, they search for it from Hollywood from the superhero movies, the sci-fi movies, the hard action films, fantasy movies, etc. Adding further to the challenge of making the Darna movie succeed is the advanced publishing of schedules of releases of future movies like Wonder Woman 1984 which will be released worldwide on the first week of June 2020.
If ever the film will be made, could Star Cinema’s Darna turn out as the complete package of really special superhero fun, engaging storytelling, memorable characters and great spectacle in the near future? Will it be released during the Metro Manila Film Festival or during the January-November period? How can Star Cinema make Darna relevant to young moviegoers, geeks and the many Filipinos who love watching Hollywood superhero movies?
The answers should unravel in the near future. There is, however, the possibility that the Darna movie would end up getting cancelled. Personally, I would not be surprised if that happens.
Don’t get me wrong. While I am not a fan of Darna, I still am interested to see a modern day film adaptation of Mars Ravelo’s superhero and hope it will happen with an engaging story, characters worth connecting with and carry lots of entertainment value. While I enjoy watching Hollywood superhero movies, I still will give the Darna movie a chance if it ever gets made as a solid film.
How about you, readers? Do you want to see a Darna film on the big screen?