Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My Comic Book Movie Pipe Dream

I love comic book movies.  The only problem I have with so many being made is trying to afford to see them all in the theater.  (Seriously, it costs me over $50 to take my family to the movies.  Sheesh) And I am loving the fact that obscure characters and teams we never thought would see the light of the silver screen are getting their own movies and are making serious bank too.  The studios are setting up their shared universes so that we get cameos and crossovers and team ups.  It's a great time to be a geek.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Batman V Superman: Not Bad Just...Disappointing

I have seen Batman V Superman at last.  I went in with low expectations considering the movie had 30% on Rotten Tomatoes.  But it really wasn't all that bad.  Parts of it were even good.  But I left the theater feeling disappointed.  Below I'll discuss the reasons why.  If you haven't seen the movie, consider yourself warned, ahead there be spoilers.

I'll start with Batman.  I liked Ben Affleck in the role.  And a lot of his scenes were pretty cool. The hints of past conflicts with the Joker and possibly the death of Jason Todd were great. They played up the detective aspect a little bit, but still didn't give it enough attention.  This Batman was pretty brutal, but I expected that knowing they were using the Frank Miller version as inspiration.  My main issue with this portrayal of Batman was that he seemed awfully fond of guns an murder.  Both his Batmobile and his Batwing came equipped with machine guns which he used quite freely.  Batman has a dislike for guns since his parents were murdered with one.  During the chase scene where he was trying to take the Kryptonite from Lexcorp he killed about 15 guys.  (That's just a number I pulled out of my ass by the way, I didn't do a count.)  He was making cars explode with people inside them left and right.  Batman isn't supposed to take life so lightly, even criminal life.

Lex Luthor's portrayal was much more frustrating.  He is supposed to be the biggest threat to Superman due to his intellect.  He is able to charm his way out of trouble with authority.  He is able to stay one step ahead of the heroes.  Some of that came through, with Lex figuring out Superman's alter ego of Clark Kent, Maneuvering Batman into stealing the Kryptonite to kill Supes, getting access to the Kryptonian ship to create Doomsday.  But a lot of this was undermined by the rambling, incoherent way of speaking that he had.  He came across a a lunatic rather than a cold, calculating schemer.  Every time he babbled his way onto the screen I couldn't wait for the scene to end.

My main fear going into the movie was that it would be bogged down with elements building up for Justice League.  There was some of that, but it didn't detract from the movie as much as I was afraid it would.  It was done pretty well.  Actually felt much more natural here than it did in Age of Ultron.  Which is good, because the movie was already being bogged down with all the weird dream sequences.  Most were from Batman, him being lifted into the air by a vortex of bats as a child, a bat creature smashing it's way from his mother's tomb to attack him.  The strangest by far was the bizarre daydream he had of Superman ruling the earth as authoritarian dictator, with both a human army and an army of what appeared to be Parademons.  This dream ended with a fake out of him waking up only to see who I assume was the Flash warning him about Superman, then he really woke up.  This sequence was long, confusing, and unnecessary.

The most disappointing thing about the movie was that all of the big reveal moments that should have raised goose bumps and brought cheers, had all been spoiled in the trailers.  The Robin suit with the Joker's message painted on it.  The first shot of Superman facing off against Batman.  The first shot of the Big Three standing side by side to do battle.  The reveal of Doomsday as the villain that brings the three together.  Now I know what some of you will say.  What about the death of Superman?  That wasn't in the trailers.  No it wasn't, but as soon as Doomsday was revealed most people familiar at all with the comics guessed where they were headed with it. And that leads to another disappointment with the movie.

The death of Superman was wasted by being used so early in the game.  This version of Superman was hated or mistrusted by a good portion of the people of Earth.  He was still moody and angsty and had not yet become the symbol of hope that he was in the comics.  He had just met the two other heroes who stood by him at the end.  He hadn't built of the relationships, the good will, the respect and honor that gave his death such an impact in the comics.  By killing him off in the second movie of their franchise, the film makers tried to cash in some emotional chips that they had not earned yet. And by setting up his return at the end of the movie, they remove any stakes from the coming Justice League movie.  Even if he is killed, he'll just get better.  And in this version it apparently takes only a few days and not the year that it took in the comics.

As for the other heroes shown in the movie, Wonder Woman was cool but was too obvious in setting up her movie.  We were already going to go see it, just focus on the story you're telling us right now.  The Flash was a little weird, and looked surprisingly like a hobo for a police scientist.  Aquaman's bit was sort of boring and he could have made a better impact by showing up during the final battle and helping to retrieve the Kryptonite spear that had fallen in the water.  Cyborg was the one member of the upcoming Justice League that I felt shouldn't be there.  To me he is a Titan.  Which makes it unexpected that his little intro clip was the only one that I thought was really cool and thoroughly enjoyed.

I feel like this could have been a really good movie.  Remove the dream sequences.  Restore Batman's code of honor and detective skills.  Make Lex less psychotic and more menacing.  Instead of having him create Doomsday, have him create Bizarro as the main villain.  This would leave Doomsday and the death of Superman for a later movie when it had more earned. Then make the trailers as minimal as possible so the money shots actually have an impact in the theater.    It was an okay movie, which for a movie as highly anticipated as this is a bit of a shame.  I am sure it will still earn a ton of money.  But it was disappointing in many ways.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Marvel Is Spinning Off The Wrong Show

I watched the newest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last night and it is apparent the rumors are true.  Below I will discuss what I mean and  why I think it is a bad idea.  If you are not up to date on the show, consider yourself warned.  THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

The latest episode set the scene for the long rumored spinoff with Bobbi and Hunter, by having them put in a situation where they were forced to leave the team.  I think this will be a big mistake for Marvel T.V.  I think the new show won't be interesting enough to hold it's own weight, and I think taking these characters away from the current show will detract from it.

One of the initial complaints about AoS was a lack of superpowers.  They have remedied that by introducing Inhumans.  But how are Bobbi and Hunter supposed to deal with Inhuman threats using guns and batons?  Plus, AoS will be dealing with Inhuman threats as well, so if they go this route the shows would be stepping on each others' toes.  This leaves the option for a straight up spy/action show not dealing with powers.  Television is bursting at the seams with these, so it would be up to the characters and the actors portraying them to make this show stand out.

Don't get me wrong, I like these characters.  I just don't think they would be as interesting without the dynamic of the team.  Hunter is a lot of fun when he gets too familiar with Coulson, or his awkward interactions with May.  Reducing his regular interactions to only Bobbi would severely limit his opportunities to shine.  Removing S.H.I.E.L.D. from the equation removes the dynamic that made the relationship between these two characters the most interesting.  Bobbi was dedicated to the agency and Hunter was dedicated to Bobbi, and it was fun to see how those loyalties played out.

AoS also loses two elements that made the last season so much fun.  Hunter as loose cannon was a great addition to the show.  I realize that with them adding Secret Warriors to the mix they needed to make some room for new characters to keep from overcrowding.  To be honest though, I felt like Secret Warriors was the more obvious spinoff.

That show would have an unlimited source of conflicts, new characters, villains.  I feel that Daisy is in a better place to be able to carry her own show, maybe taking Mac along for the ride.  The show would be able to deal with powered threats in a credible way, adding something significant to the MCU, and leaving the spy vs spy stuff to AoS.  This would give each show it's own playground to work in.  The Bobbi and Hunter show is likely to be AoS light.

I hope I am wrong and the new show is fantastic.  But I think back to the early first season of AoS and how it was Clark Gregg's charm that basically kept it afloat, and I just get a bad feeling.  Of course, Marvel has done so much great ground work that they can afford to take risks and have the occasional mis-step.  And we'll still have AoS, the movies, and the Netflix shows, even if this new show does turn out to be less than stellar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hopefully They Get Superman Right In The New Film

Superman is a character who has been around for decades, and been through many incarnations.  He has gained and lost powers, died and been reborn, even had some costume alterations.  Many see him as over-powered and thus not interesting.  I would argue that he is one of the most interesting heroes when portrayed correctly.  Unfortunately this has been rare.

Superman is the alien among us.  He looks like us but is not one of us, forever separate.  He has godlike powers that he could use to enslave us all, but instead uses those powers to help and protect us.  He is honest and virtuous and good natured, even though the weight of the world often rests on his shoulders.  He is the epitome of what most people strive to be.

In efforts to make him more popular he has had alternate versions introduced where he is evil, or authoritarian, or angsty.  However I don't think you need to change his personality or behavior to make him more interesting.  You just need to realize what a wonderful array of things you already have to play with.  My evidence for this assertion is the Cartoon Network series Justice League Unlimited.

It is my assertion this show is the best portrayal of Superman ever done.  He has all the characteristics of the all powerful alien and also the midwestern small town boy who never quite grew up.  It's the little details that hint at the larger issues that I love though.  One example is how people address him based upon how they relate to him.  Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter, being a mythological demi-goddeess and an alien respectively, call him Kal-El, his Kryptonian name.  Batman, being a "mere" human, calls him Clark, his earth name.  The Flash Calles him Supes, not being close enough to call him by either of his given names.

When Superman faced off against Darkseid there was possibly the best moment the character has ever had.  After taking a beating at the villain's hands, Superman comes to a realization.  He talks about having to always be careful to pull his punches, because it would be so easy to unintentionally hurt or kill someone.  Then he looks at Darkseid and says "But you can take it, can't you big guy".  With that he unleashes, hitting Darkseid with a punch which shatters windows for blocks with the shockwave.  This might be the only time a cartoon has had me jump off my couch and yelling encouragement at my t.v.

The point is, there is no need to make Superman dark or grim.  Part of his appeal is that with the burdens he bears he does not give in to darkness.  Man of Steel pointed out that the S shield is a symbol of hope.  Here's hoping the film makers remember that soon.