(CNN)In their zeal to catch up with Marvel, DC and Warner Bros. plunged into the super-team waters before establishing individual building blocks, creating a high degree of difficulty. While not on par with “Wonder Woman,” “Aquaman” is a step toward restoring equilibrium, creating a sprawling undersea world that most closely resembles the Thor franchise in terms of scope, majesty and happily, humor.
In a sense, Wan brings the same eye that “Batman v Superman” director Zack Snyder possesses in adapting comic-book images to the screen, without drowning his protagonist in angst. The result is a movie that’s fairly buoyant, and to use a term that might seem out of place when describing a special-effects-laden blockbuster, generally fun.
After two appearances in earlier films (one, admittedly, silent and brief), Aquaman finally gets a full-blown origin story, including the tale of how his mother (Nicole Kidman) — a runaway Atlantean princess — washed ashore and met his dad (“Star Wars” alum Temuera Morrison), hanging around long enough to give birth to a son, Arthur.
Forced to return to Atlantis and its elaborate society hidden beneath the waves, she leaves the boy to grow up with his dad, a youth that’s complicated when those extraordinary abilities manifest themselves.
Back to present day, a threat arises in the form of Arthur’s half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), who is determined to declare war on the surface-dwellers. Aquaman is enlisted to stop the plot by another rebellious Atlantean princess, Mera (Amber Heard), who is putting her own status at risk — and potentially alienating her father (Dolph Lundgren) — by siding with him.
What amounts to a quest ensues, one necessary to give Arthur a fighting chance against the forces arrayed against him. That also creates a little too much opportunity for Aquaman and Mera to squabble and of course bond, while crisscrossing the globe in pursuit of a trident imbued with fantastic powers.
There’s no escaping that the dialogue feels strained in places — it’s not easy taking a villain seriously who yearns for the title “Ocean Master” — and “Aquaman” requires a certain degree of buy-in, perhaps especially from those whose familiarity with the character begins and ends with “Super Friends.” Wan compensates for that, however, with the enormously intricate civilization that he conjures, from the fantastic beasts to the towering spires of Atlantis.
The action, similarly, is both kinetic and mounted with the kind of scale where a submarine can be thrown around like a toy. And while the idea of a reluctant hero tasked with fulfilling his destiny is hardly a new one, Momoa alternately makes him irascible and actually kind of goofy — the first member of this DC universe with whom you might actually like to throw back a beer or three.
Perhaps foremost, Wan offers a giant spectacle that, while sporadically unwieldy, sails along briskly enough (despite running well over two hours) and proves consistently interesting visually. In an cinematic age where part of the challenge is motivating people to see movies during their theatrical window, “Aquaman” feels like a master of that domain.
“Aquaman” premieres Dec. 21 in the U.S. It’s rated PG-13. Like Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, CNN is a unit of WarnerMedia.
Yet it’s still projected to become one of the most profitable big budget superhero movies yet after accounting for both its production budget and its gross earnings, according to Forbes.
But not all moviegoers are equally into Venom. The film’s box office success is predominantly attributed to its considerably better international showing (accounting for 74.3 percent of its total earnings), versus its pretty average domestic numbers (making up only 25.7 percent of the total).
Based on Box Office Mojo‘s numbers, this wide discrepancy between domestic and international audiences is even greater than Batman v Superman, which earned $870 million globally. In contrast to these less-liked entries into the superhero genre, Wonder Woman‘s domestic and international earnings were close to an even split.
Also over the five-day holiday weekend, Ralph Breaks the Internet came out on top at the U.S. box office, taking in $85 million to become the second-highest Thanksgiving weekend opening ever (after 2013’s Frozen). And in second place was Creed II, whose $55 million haul broke records to become the largest live-action Thanksgiving debut in history.
Meanwhile, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald highlights still more disparity between the U.S. and international audiences, falling to third top grosser domestically but remaining #1 for the second weekend in a row worldwide.
Image: Rockstar Games / Eidos Montreal / Naughty dog – Composite by mashable
It’s Villain Week here at Mashable. In honor of the release of Venom, we’re celebrating all our favorite evildoers from film and TV all week long. Spooky, scary!
Not every video game needs a villain, but a good one can make a strong game even better.
Villains give us reasons to fight. They motivate the story. Sometimes, they even see the error of their ways and switch teams. Usually though, villains represent the ultimate threat, the last obstacle to overcome before you can lean back in satisfaction as a game’s credits roll.
There’s a long and colorful history of memorable video game villains. We’re ranking them here based not on who’s “best,” but rather who’s “worst.” The more evil and detestable, the better.
10. Trevor Philips (Grand Theft Auto V)
Ah, Trevor. Pretty much any playable character in a Rockstar Games release qualifies as an anti-hero. But Trevor’s unhinged and antisocial behavior elevates him above the rest.
I guess he’s not your traditional villain, since you’re actually playing as Trevor for large portions of Grand Theft Auto V. But he’s memorable for his antics as a thief, a liar, and a murderer, and he lives that life whether you’re playing as him or against him.
9. Captain Martin Walker (Spec Ops: The Line)
Spec Ops: The Line delivered one of the most brilliant bait-and-switch twists I’ve ever seen in a story-driven action game. Spoilers ahead.
Your journey through a sandstorm-wracked Dubai is essentially a play on Apocalypse Now. Captain Martin Walker is introduced as one member of a squad that’s been sent to Dubai to restore order in the wake of the “Damned 33rd” Infantry Battalion and their PTSD-addled commander enacting a brutal form of martial law on the local population.
Only that’s not what’s really going on. By the end of the game, you learn that the Damned 33rd’s commander is dead, and many of the atrocities witnessed during the game were actually committed by Walker himself. It’s a dark, powerful turn that, in a matter of minutes, reframes the narrative around the idea that you’ve been a terrible scourge the entire time.
Two all-time great villains so far, and both of them were playable characters. That’s not weird, right?
8. Agent 47 (Hitman)
Technically speaking, the smooth-talking, fabulously bald star of the Hitman series is as lethal as you want him to be. Even though murder is on the menu in the end, every time, there’s nothing stopping you from knocking out possible witnesses instead of just killing them. Hell, your score is higher when you play the part of a conscientious hitman. Yay for only killing who you must!
But! Going completely non-lethal (save for your targets) brings a lot of added challenge to Hitman. It takes a lot more time to render someone unconscious out than snuff them out completely, and when you do the latter they never wake up.
Another playable villain. What’s going on here?
7. Booker DeWitt (BioShock Infinite)
BioShock Infinite is a thrilling game. And a confusing one. Spoilers!
You play as Booker DeWitt, and you’re up against Zachary Comstock, the founder of the floating sky city Columbia who also happens to be an alternate universe version of Booker. You don’t learn that detail about Comstock until the end, though.
And so you spend the game murdering your way across Columbia, which is populated with an army of Comstock adherents. Then, once all truths are revealed, you actually take the step of wiping Comstock — and the city he built — from existence.
Comstock is the villain here, let’s be clear. But Booker is Comstock. So Booker is the villain? Why are all of the best video game villains characters you control?
6. Wander (Shadow of the Colossus)
Let’s just impose a blanket spoiler warning for the rest of this list.
It’s clear early on in Shadow of the Colossus that something isn’t quite right. By the time you’ve led Wander to his first skyscraping Colossus — one of sixteen massive boss fights that make up the sum total of this otherwise combat-free game — you’re nagged by a creeping sense that your efforts to resurrect your dead lady love will involve tearing down this beautiful world.
That’s exactly what happens. Wander defeats the 16 Colossi, only to discover that in the process he’s unleashed a powerful magical being that’s been imprisoned for an unspecified amount of time. Oops.
5. Batman (Batman: Arkham Knight)
I know what you’re thinking. “Batman? Seriously???”
Yes. For all of their technical and narrative excellence, the Arkham games took a weird turn in the last entry — Arkham Knight — when they gave the Caped Crusader a literal tank to use in his never-ending effort to keep Gotham City safe.
The bat-tank doesn’t fire explosive shells and it’s not technically built for destruction. What’s more, remote-operated drones are primarily what you’re shooting at when you’re in the tank. But. It’s a freaking tank. Big, heavy, destroys pretty much anything it rolls through. Collateral damage in the extremes.
Sorry Bats. The game expects us to suspend our disbelief, but Arkham Knight turned you into everything you claim to stand against.
4. Nathan Drake (Uncharted series)
Come on. Nate Drake? The Indiana Jones of video games?!
Have you played an Uncharted game lately? Nathan Drake may be a lovable scamp of a treasure hunter, but he’s also handy with bullets and the guns that shoot them.
The climbing and puzzle solving in your typical Uncharted game is broken up by extended combat sequences in which you’re expected to lay waste to armies of bad dudes. Sure, Drake doesn’t gun down innocents (at least not knowingly). But make no mistake: He’s a mass murderer. In most civilized countries, dude would spend life behind bars for his crimes.
We’ve gone completely off the rails now. Action video game heroes are actually villains, confirmed.
3. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider reboot series)
Past Tomb Raider games have leaned in on action, but the Tomb Raider reboot from 2013 kicked off a new era for the series, one featuring a much more violent Lara Croft. It’s technically aping Uncharted in a lot of ways, but Uncharted went there first by openly aping Tomb Raider. (And both draw inspiration from Indiana Jones.)
Just like Drake, new Lara is a literal mass murderer. Over the course of any one game in the reboot trilogy, you’ll gun down hundreds of nameless dudes. Her coming of age journey is bathed in blood. She might see herself as a hero and a defender of the little people, but the families of the guys she gunned down would probably feel differently.
2. Mario (Super Mario World)
This could really apply to multiple Mario games where Yoshi also appears. Mario is the scourge of the Mushroom Kingdom, crushing its residents beneath his mushroom blood-soaked boots. But what really makes Mario worthy of god-tier villain status is his cruel treatment of Yoshi.
Yoshi, for those who might not know, is the smiling green dinosaur that Mario can ride like a horse. Yoshi has a number of abilities, including a great high jump. Mario can also use his dino friend as a launchpad, jumping as Yoshi and then jumping off of Yoshi at the apex of the first jump for extra height.
This usually happens to bridge some otherwise uncrossable gap. Which means it ends with Yoshi inevitably plunging to his death in one of the game’s many bottomless death pits. Not too surprising that a guy who stomps living creatures just because they’re in his way would betray a friend like this.
1. IRL gamers (You know who you are)
Twist! #NotAllGamers, amirite?
Here’s a good litmus test: If you’re offended at the idea that real-life gamers are the most dreadful villains in video games then you’re probably part of the problem.
And don’t forget GamerGate, the hate group that’s engaged in an open campaign of harassment — primarily targeting women in the industry — since 2014. I’m going to weather a few days of attacks on social media after this publishes, simply because I invoked that detestable group’s name.
Yes, games are always going to struggle to strike the right balance between likable characters and entertaining action. Our favorite heroes are never going to stop being villains from a certain point of view. But the people who play these games aren’t lines of code. They’re people. They’re capable of change. And yet, many choose not to. I can’t think of anything more villainous.
UPDATE, 6:06 p.m. ET: Telltale Games has issued an official statement, which has been added below. Story has been updated throughout.
Beloved game studio Telltale Games went through a major downsizing.
The company went through a major round of layoffs Friday, dropping the size of its studio from about 250 people down to just 25 people as the developer moves toward “majority studio closure,” Gamasutra, The Verge, and US Gamer, and former Telltale employees reported Friday.
Known for its narrative-driven chapter-based games like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Batman: The Telltale Series, Telltale is holding onto the small group of people to complete the final season of The Walking Dead, which still has three announced episodes expected to release in September, November, and December, according to US Gamer.
According to reports, the second Wolf Among Us game and the recently announced Stranger Things game have both effectively been canceled.
Telltale Games started in 2004 and rocketed in popularity with their critically acclaimed Walking Dead game in 2012, introducing their narrative, episodic style to a broader market. Along with games based on The Walking Dead, Telltale created narrative games based on other popular series including Minecraft, Borderlands, Game of Thrones, Guardians of the Galaxy, and a whole bunch more.
Kebabs are good, but it’s a deep fried version that has got people talking.
If you haven’t seen the new Avengers: Infinity War, there happens to be a scene set in Edinburgh, Scotland where Elizabeth Olsen (who plays Wanda) and Paul Bettany (Vision) have a conversation front of a kebab shop.
The best part of Avengers #InfinityWar is definitely when you see the movie in Edinburgh and then during the Edinburgh scene everyone in the screen loses their shit laughing at the “We Will Deep Fry Your Kebab!” sign in the background of one of the scenes!
The most prominent part of the Edinburgh bit in Avengers, during a really emotional moment: A big sign in a chippie window reading “WE WILL DEEP FRY YOUR KEBAB” with a wee saltire underneath it and everything.
But it wouldn’t be surprising if there was a chippy (a fish and chip shop) out there doing it. There was Glasgow’s Stonner Kebab from a few years back, which was a pork sausage wrapped in doner kebab meat, battered then fried.
One question from #InfinityWar though.. they really deep fry kebabs in Scotland? Madness 🙄
Bale admitted as much on MTV’s Happy Sad Confused podcast. “Yes, I’m interested [in seeing Ben Affleck’s performance],” he said. “My son seemed like he was really interested, but then I realized he just wanted to see that trailer and that was it. And, you know, I tend to go see films that [my kids] want to see.”
Perhaps that’s for the best, seeing as Justice League got pretty ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ reviews. However, Bale’s lack of interest in costumed heroes does not stop with Batman.
“I have to confess, I’m not a huge superhero film fan,” he continued. “People seem surprised at that. I don’t know why. But I’ve not seen any of the Avengers films or any of those films at all. I hear they’re very good, but I’m quite happy just hearing they’re very good.”
Well, presumably, people are surprised because Bale’s starred in two of the most well-regarded superhero movies of all time, and also The Dark Knight Rises. But to each his own and all that.
Anyway, at the rate the rumors are flying about Affleck’s potential exit, we may have a new Batman by the time Bale gets around to seeing a superhero movie in theaters.
Though Bale’s not much for Marvel or DC, he acknowledged that there is one franchise he still adores. “Star Wars, I’m a huge fan,” he said. “Star Wars really interests me. I’ve still got the Millennium Falcon, I’ve got the AT-AT.” (Bale pronounces it “at-at” instead of “A-T-A-T,” just ICYWW.)
In fact, Bale was in “a discussion” about appearing in Solo: A Star Wars Story at one point – and though that particular conversation didn’t go anywhere, he’s got his fingers crossed for more like it. “I hope there’ll be future discussions,” he said.
In the meantime, someone should probably check back with Bale in about six months. The former Batman may not have any strong opinions yet about the new Batman, but as a Star Wars diehard, he’s bound to have some thoughts about the new Han Solo.
With $96 million on opening weekend, Justice League is by far the weakest box office performer of all the DCEU films. This was supposed to be their Avengers. Instead, it was their Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem.
Five movies deep, with all your key heroes activated and united, is this where you want to land on the DCEU opening weekend rankings?
Batman v Superman: $166 million
Suicide Squad: $133.6
Man of Steel: $116.6 million
Wonder Woman: $103.25 million
Justice League: $96 million
What does Warner Bros. do now?
Now the studio finds itself in a real pickle
This is precisely what the studio was trying to avoid when it pointed Zack Snyder to the exits a year ago, plugging in Joss Whedon to rip out the critical movie’s guts and reshoot them with an all-new, lighter, jokier, ensembley-er tone.
The coming weeks will be worse for Justice League, as its box office returns drop like a stone. Wonder Woman may have the next-lowest domestic opening weekend, but that film had unbelievably powerful legs, holding strong for a stunning 21 weeks on its way to passing all the other DC films and landing in the Top 5 superhero movies of all time.
And now the studio finds itself in a real pickle. It spent mountains of cash and political capital to pivot away from Snyder’s doleful vision that critics hated but at least was working with a loyal (and, ahem, vocal) swath of DC fans. There’s no going back to that look – that ship has sailed – but the way forward is not exactly clear, either.
Wonder Woman may be one of the most beloved superhero movies of all time; it will be shared and re-watched and talked about for generations. But melding casting, character, and director is a fussy magic, more a result of serendipity than planning or foresight. It’s safe to say that Wonder Woman succeeded in spite of its place in the DCEU, and certainly not because of it.
Aquaman was hardly the breakout character of Justice League, and yet he’s up next December. Neither Batman nor Superman has a date on the calendar, and Wonder Woman 2 is a full two years away. Shazam, Cyborg, and Green Lantern Corps are the only projects with spots on a calendar.
Shazam, Cyborg, and Green Lantern Corps? Are they serious with that game plan?
Shazam, Cyborg and Green Lantern Corps? Are they serious with that game plan?
It’s a mess, compounded by Warner Bros. desire to eject Affleck’s foibles from the Batmobile – how do you do that gracefully, keeping continuity and a straight face? – and the fact that the studio is in the midst of an ownership change. Anyone staring down the barrel of new bosses about to take over knows how paralyzing that can be.
With Suicide Squad director David Ayers out of the picture, not even it has a way forward. That movie was hot vomit but at least it made money; a sequel should’ve been a foregone conclusion the minute tracking came online.
Ahh, there’s that phrase: At least it made money. Something all the other DC films, love ’em or hate ’em, could boast. “We made it for the fans!” the studio crowed, and the fans, at least, turned out.
But for Justice League to fall below that important cosmetic nine-figures domestic opener is a big, blazing distress signal in the clouds that those fans are becoming impatient.
And you better believe someone is muttering that they should’ve just let Snyder finish this DCEU thing. At least that would’ve been a way forward.
Ed Skrien is stepping down from his role as Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming Hellboy reboot amid some all-too familiar controversy.
Diamio, originally seen in the Hellboy book published by Dark Horse Comics, is of Japanese descent. Skrein — who you may recognize as the O.G. Daario Naharis on Game of Thrones, or baddie Francis Freeman/Ajax from Deadpool — is not.
If there is one word to describe Elif Batuman’s new novel The Idiot, it’s the word “mundane.” And that just might be the novel’s greatest strength.
The book follows the year in the life of Selin, a Turkish-American freshman at Harvard. As Selin goes through her freshman year, she must navigate getting along with her roommates, an infatuation/ relationship with an older Hungarian student, and later, a trip to Europe to teach English.
Oh, and all the while dealing with the typical college freshman woes of examining the relationship between truth, existence, and language while studying linguistics. Casual.
But what makes The Idiot shine is the way the novel meticulously documents the banal situations and observations Selin has in her day-to-day life. Whether it’s Selin thinking about math (“I wasn’t particularly interested in high school math acquisition, but nobody ever said we were put on this earth for our own entertainment”) or Selin watching a crush dig through his pockets (“An amazing sight, someone youre infatuated with trying to fish something out of a jeans pocket”), Batuman writes of Selin’s adventures with a bluntness and dryness that’s witty, so mundane that it’s surreal, and yet, instantly relatable in a way that will make readers want to scream, “EXTREME SAME!”
And in a lot of ways, the dry narration is the point. The Idiot is a meandering, largely plotless novel that concerns itself with, yes, what happens to Selin, but also with what stories we tell, how we tell them, and to whom.
“I felt a wave of nausea to realize that I had propagated these stories just by telling Svetlana what was going on just because I wanted to tell some other person the basic events of my own life,” Batuman writes later on in the book.
Put all together, Elif Batuman’s the The Idiot is a smart, fresh, and disarmingly relatable novel that’s sure to be one of the best books you’ll read all year.
This week on the MashReads Podcast, we read and discuss Elif Batuman’s new novel The Idiot. Join us as we talk about language, passive vs. active characters, and what makes The Idiot so special.
Then, inspired by The Idiot, which follows conventions of Russian literature, we discuss impactful and formative Russian literature, including The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Forty Rooms by Olga Grushin.
And, as always, we close the show with recommendations:
Aliza recommends catching up on Game of Thrones. MJ piggiebacks off of that and also recommends Funny or Die’s Game of Thrones recap series “Gay of Thrones.“
Peter recommends Edgar Wright’s new movie Baby Driver.
MJ has a host of micro-recommendations including: reading The New York Times Magazine’s Letters of Recommendation and listening to Carly Rae Jepsen’s album Emotion when you’re having a bad day.
Next week are discussing the latest dive into the Spider-Man universe, Spider-Man: Homecoming, because, comic books, folks. We hope you’ll join us.
And if you’re looking for another book to sink your teeth into, we suggest Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, our new MashReads book club pick for the month. Gyasi will be talking to MashReads IRL on Tuesday, July 25 at 6:30 p.m. EDT at Mashable HQ in New York City. RSVP here and join us!
Don’t forget to follow MashReads on Facebook and Twitter for the latest, greatest book news.
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock – composite by mashable
J.K. Rowling had some choice words to share with her followers in the wake of Saturday’s cowardly terrorist attack on London citizens.
She was tweeting in response to a New York Times post that characterized the United Kingdom as “reeling” in the wake of its second terror attack in two weeks. Saturday’s incident followed a May 22 suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.
She even fended off a troll who accused her of being disconnected and out of touch. In response to a derisive tweet that scoffed at her commenting on the news from the safety of a “walled off secure compound,” Rowling issued a corrective.
Bless your heart, I’m travelling to London right now. You keep believing in Lex Luther, though. Keep that world view nice and simple https://t.co/mzheI95D8p