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Is Warner Bros Finally Getting It Right?

It’s been no secret that for years now, Warner Bros has made a hash of its DC properties on screen. While they might have started the current trend of superhero tent pole films (take the likes of the original Superman series, or the Burton-Schumacher Batman films), with Marvel struggling to get anything going for them, the tables have well and truly been turned of late. Marvel has managed to score such slam dunks as the Iron Man series, the Thor films, and above all, the Avengers universe. In the same time, Warners has struggled to even ape the Marvel model. They hoped to get a unified universe off the ground with their Green Lantern film, but well, that film has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 26% for a reason.


When it was announced at last year’s San Diego Comic Con, the mecca of all things comic and geek, that Warner Bros would be attempting a unified universe again with their sequel to 2013’s box office superhit (but critically “meh”) Man of Steel, I was sceptical. It isn’t just that I don’t trust Snyder completely right now. Or the fact that without Nolan present to look over his shoulder, David Goyer can turn out to be a shockingly clunky writer. It was just that it all felt too rushed. A new version of Batman less than 5 years before Nolan’s definitive take? How do you manage that, man? How can you even hope to top Nolan’s take? Or even differentiate your own take?


And then they cast Ben Affleck. Yep, Daredevil was all shades of terrible, but I was willing to get behind that guy. He seems perfect Bruce Wayne material. Specially an older Bruce Wayne. Plus, his recent escapades as a director suggest he actually has a head for story and pacing and nuance—all things that the “visionary director of 300 and Watchmen” (Zack Snyder) lacks. Maybe, it was a silent admission of Warner Bros’ part that Snyder still needs some sort of guidance when it comes to character development. And this was just reiterated when Affleck got his Oscar winning writer, Chris Terrio (Argo) on to the project. Yep, things seemed to be looking up.


But then, bombshells were dropped on us. Wonder Woman would be in the project. Maybe they were rushing a bit, but it could work. Oh wait. They just cast Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman! A woman, notorious for how skinny she is, would be playing a female superhero notorious for how buff she is! Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. And a Lex Luthor with hair. All these were wild departures from not just the norm, but what any fan of these properties could have (and would have) hoped for. Especially considering that the great Bryan Cranston was such a perfect fan favourite for Luthor.


For all these reasons, Warner Bros might have felt the pressure coming into this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Coming to the biggest geek event on Earth, with fans firmly sitting on edge, waiting to tear you to pieces for any sign of disrespect to their beloved characters, is not an easy thing to do. And boy, did Warner Bros put on a show!




As this insane first character look at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s Wonder Woman proves, WB and Snyder really seem to have gotten the character look down to a pat. And really, the Wonder Woman costume has proven to be one of the toughest to get right on screen. A skirt too short, and you get slammed for having a “leery eye”. A departure from the comic book costume (as the 2011 Wonder Woman pilot tried by giving the character a blue pants), and fans go up in an uproar. But this costume really seems to convey the character’s toughness and vulnerabilities, even making up for Gal Gadot’s slight built.


But more than this reveal, fans went giddy after getting their first look at actual footage from the 2016 film. I’m sure you have all read descriptions of the footage (if you haven’t, it’s a tease to an epic showdown between Batman and Superman, with plenty of mood and atmosphere about the two characters). Some of you might have even seen bootlegged versions of the footage (if you haven’t its best to wait till an official release of the footage. It will literally blow your mind). After watching this footage, I really have no doubt that Snyder and co have found their own (cinematically) unique take on the character. A faithful adaptation of the character from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (which also, coincidentally, had a showdown between Batman and Superman), this version seems grittier and more ruthless than anything Nolan ever committed to screen.




Snyder has never let fans down when it comes to the visuals. And that is particularly true of the clip shown too. Oodles of style, immense teases, and atmosphere right for such an epic showdown. Even knowing this tendency of Snyder’s I am suddenly more than silently optimistic about the film, and about the entire unified DC universe. There seems to be great talent involved, and the choice of teases (till now) seem to suggest that those in control have a firm understanding of what is needed. And, for that, I believe Warner Bros deserves hearty congratulations.


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©Rachit Agarwal for

Sherlock: Is the BBC series better than the RDJ films?


I’ve been a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes for as long as I can remember. Where normal kids my age were reading Noddy, I was already on a steady diet of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, which led swiftly into the world of Sherlock Holmes. Hound of the Baskervilles. The Adventure of the Dancing Men. And A Scandal in Bohemia. There was something about this genius of a man which kept me riveted. Each page had to be turned. The mind had to be sharpened to be like Holmes.

So when it came to my attention that Robert Downey Junior was going to act in a revisionist and slightly unconventional take on Holmes, I was naturally excited. To say that I wasn’t won over completely would be a slight stretch. There were elements worth loving there, and then there were insane elements there, but all in all, it was a fairly good effort. And then, I happened to stumble across BBC’s Sherlock.

What happened next, in hindsight, looks as obvious as the final few pages of any Holmes story. I was bowled over by the series. Absolutely gob smacked. Such perfection! The movies…well they just seemed like pap then. So, what exactly had happened?

  • The Actor in the Character: Robert Downey Jr seems to have a fixed template and style. It works for him, and occasionally he manages to create something brilliant out of it (I’m looking at you, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Iron Man). But more often than not, he just comes across as bored. Much like he’s stuck in the same rut as Johnny Depp. Each character is just Robert Downey Jr in the appropriate costume. His Sherlock Holmes was more of the same. To call RDJ’s presence mildly distracting would be underselling the distraction.

And then on the other hand is Benedict Cumberbatch. A largely unknown commodity back when Sherlock premiered, he managed to nail the idiosyncrasies and mannerisms of the character like RDJ can only hope he one day does. Cumberbatch’s Holmes was Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes, filtered through the vision of the show’s creators, stories needs and Cumberbatch’s personality. Cumberbatch, through chance or by design, managed to capture the very essence of Holmes.

  • The Plots: When Arthur Conan Doyle was at his best, he didn’t need Holmes to save the world. He didn’t need the presence of black magic to heighten the mystery, or to resolve it. He didn’t need megalomaniacs for villains. All he relied on was good old fashioned character work. Villains whose motivations made sense. Holmes’ and Watson’s camaraderie. A coherent line of logic running through (and under) even the most outrageous scenarios (Hound of the Baskervilles, anyone?).

In ditching all this, and focusing on the more-is-more philosophy, Guy Ritchie and co really dropped the ball. Especially in the second instalment of the film franchise. Let’s just say it: Moriarty’s plan in the film made no sense. And worse still, it was borrowed from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And we all know how that turned out.

In keeping the focus firmly on the character, Sherlock’s creators, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, displayed a keen understanding of Doyle’s narratives. Moffat summed it up best when he said that Sherlock wasn’t a detective show, but a show about a detective. Their enterprising punt seems to be paying off. The show’s characterizations of Holmes, Watson, Adler and Moriarty are already being hailed as the definitive versions of the characters for this generation. Poor ole RDJ can only look on in despair at being so firmly upstaged.


  • Production Value: Who doesn’t remember David Arnold and Michael Price’s breathtaking score for the TV series? That swell of the orchestra during the big reveal in season two’s A Scandal in Belgravia? That haunting love theme, talking about a doomed, yet magical love? Or those numerous visual flourishes littered throughout the series. Those little things which destroyed the entire visual grammar of TV shows, and firmly supplanted a new status quo in its stead. That even maestros like Hans Zimmer and Guy Ritchie can’t match these flourishes in the music and camera department are testament to the inventiveness displayed by this particular team of Brits. Ritchie, no mug himself when it comes to visuals, has his moments throughout the film series, but they are just style over substance moments. In creating a visual grammar for the TV series which relies on style aiding substance, the entire production crew managed to strike gold and create an everlasting paean to creativity.

Sherlock Series 3

  • Fan Service: Sherlock has been able to mobilize fans, and whip them into a frenzy, like never before. Holmes is suddenly relevant again. How did it manage to do that? By minding those little moments. Holmes getting his famous deerstalker. All those subtle (yet obvious) and playful riffs on various Conan Doyle story titles. Season three’s different explanations to how Sherlock faked his own death. Hell, even the act of Sherlock faking his own death. The series managed to take numerous fan favourite images and moments from the books and past incarnations of Holmes, and give them their due respect. Each moment was earned. Observant fans latched on to these. Those not quite so observant invariably got whipped up because of their friends’ enthusiasm. Cumberbatch’s otter face has become to this generation what the mug of Basil Rathbone was to post-war audiences.

By ensuring they have a keen eye on the books, and an even keener ear on the ground (err…actually, internet discussion forums), Moffat and Gatiss have made Sherlock into a participative event.


For all its talent both behind, and in front, of the camera, the Sherlock Holmes films are yet to display an understanding of character, or fans, on par with the BBC show. Of the two versions, fans will only willingly and impatiently wait for only one, of that this writer is extremely certain. Surely, he is not the only one to feel that way, is he?

(I would love to hear your point of view, and to engage in meaningful discussion about the merits/demerits of both versions. Honestly)


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©Rachit Agarwal for