Superman and The Old School

As I was scrolling through Twitter this morning and came across this gem:

I knew I had to talk about it, even if only briefly, because it captures an argument I have made time and time again. So @CaptainMarvelTalk hates the art on the right (which is just fan art if I’m not mistaken) because it makes Superman too “dark”, “gritty”, “intimidating”.

I have previously noticed that people tend to have very static fews of certain characters. Superman does typically have a boy scout persona, the typical nice guy. Does that mean every single piece of art has to depict him smiling and happy? He can’t look intimidating in a single art piece?

When I raised this point to @CaptainMarvelTalk he said that intimidation is out of character for Superman.

I then responded with this:

An iconic scene from Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come where Superman angrily bursts into a political meeting. Of course, he doesn’t kill anyone, but he is undoubtedly intimidating here. Then @CaptainMarvelTalk argues that Superman is “angry” here, not intimidating. The two can obviously overlap, and are clearly affected by audience interpretation. In the original fan art, and in Kingdom Come, Superman is floating with his eyes glowing red. If the fan art counts as intimidating, the Kingdom Come piece undoubtedly does too.

Clearly, @CaptainMarvelTalk just hates newer artistic interpretations of Superman, in favour of the old school. Instead of saying that, he nitpicks and shuts out common sense and reasoning, contradicting himself time after time during our debate. I think this is a solid example of the bias that also fuels the Marvel v DC debate and the never-ending debate about how DC is “too dark” and doesn’t have enough “fun”.

 

Spider-Man Homecoming Trailer Thoughts

I initially avoided watching this trailer because I was worried it would give too much away. Overall, my wariness appears to be justified.

Tom Holland was a highlight of Captain America: Civil War, even though the character was clearly rushed into the film after Marvel obtained the rights (or technically leased them from Sony). Although I have previously ranted about the MCU obsession with light-heartedness and fun, I wasn’t as worried about that obsession ruining a Spider-Man film. Peter Parker’s wisecracking is a key part of the character and Holland mastered that element, as well as capturing a more serious moment when he referenced Uncle Ben’s death with Tony Stark.

Although plenty of people saw The Amazing Spider-Man series as being too dark, the tone wasn’t an issue for me. With that said, the second film was bogged down with too many villains and some pretty hammy performances from the likes of Paul Giamatti and Dane Dehaan.

Since Spider-Man is one of my favourite comic book characters, probably just behind Batman, Wolverine and The Punisher, I was excited for Homecoming.

Now…this trailer. The YouTube comments make it clear a lot of people disagree, but I think I have Tony Stark fatigue.  However, there is a silver lining. It looks like Stark steps back from supporting Peter after the incident on the ship, leaving the film to hopefully focus on our favourite wall crawler.

I am just worried the film might reach this point halfway through, which is too late in my opinion. The character of Peter Parker got anchored to Stark due to his rushed introduction in Civil War, and now the writers are doing their best to keep that thread alive and also find a coherent reason to cut it. Meanwhile, marketers are also pimping Tony Stark out to the audience.

The high school setting for Spider-Man worked surprisingly well in The Spectacular Spider-Man, since the show avoided becoming 90210 featuring Spider-Man. I am hoping this film has a good balance as well. Zendaya’s one line in this trailer already leaves me worried about her acting skills. She says “my friends are up there” with the same enthusiasm she would say “I broke a nail”.

On a positive note, the trailer doesn’t spoil too much of Michael Keaton as The Vulture. So far, he seems the best kept secret and also seems like he may be a highlight of the film. The new costume is awesome and I have renewed faith in Keaton after watching Birdman and Spotlight.

Additionally, a lot of the humour in this trailer was actually good. My favourite parts were the interactions between Peter and his friend. My least favourite ones, you guessed it, anything with Tony Stark.

What are your thoughts on the new Spider-Man Homecoming trailer?

Justice League Trailer Thoughts

Geoff Johns was kind enough to share the new Justice League trailer with twitter this morning.

So let’s get this out of the way. I am not a Marvel v DC person. Obviously I realize there is competition between the two brand and their related movie studios. However,  I do not condone the childish mindset that I can only like the movies from one group. My favourite comic book films include DC and Marvel properties, ranging from The Dark Knight, X:Men DOFP to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

With that said, I am cautiously optimistic about Justice League. I love the characters, especially Batman, but BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad have left a bad taste in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong, both films had great pieces and great moments. Overall. they felt short. Both had weak villians and weak third acts, along with some other issues.

As I watched this trailer I forgot about that for a moment. There is still no sign of Superman but I’m sure we’ll see him in the film. I am glad this film didn’t reveal too much about the plot or reveal the villain yet. We know it will be Darkseid’s uncle, Steppenwolf, and we get some glimpses of parademons (presumably) in this trailer.

From what I understand, Cyborg’s armour is derived from alien technology in the newer comics. It looks like his armour comes from a motherbox, a teleportation device Darkseid’s forces use. This motherbox appears to be the gateway that allows the parademons to reach earth. If this is the case, Cyborg could have a central role in the film and I am hoping the script and the actor can deliver.

To start, there is a lot of CGI in this trailer. Obviously that has to be the case for the visuals this story needs. The Flash looks amazing so far and his scenes are some of my favourites from the trailer. However, this trailer reminds me of 300 with the amount of computer generated backgrounds and surroundings. The scene with Batman fighting a parademon sticks out in my mind as one of the worst offenders. Maybe I wouldn’t notice as much if some of the effects looked better. Hopefully the effects are cleaned up by the time the film begins. Cyborg looks better than he did in the comic-con footage so I am hoping there is still time to improve the visuals.

With that being said, the visuals weren’t my greatest concern going into the film. Steppenwolf will hopefully provide a better villain than Doomsday, Luthor or Enchantress. This should help to strengthen the third act but won’t necessarily be enough. If the third act is just a fight filled with poor special effects, that can also cause the audience to lose interest, like I did with the last fight in BvS.

I am also hoping the desire to add more “fun” doesn’t ruin the script entirely. Obviously some characters are more light-hearted than others. However, Barry Allen has pretty much been turned into Wally West in terms of their personalities. Meanwhile it looks like they are trying to turn Bruce Wayne into Tony Stark. Obviously Bruce Wayne has the carefree, obnoxious playboy persona but the real Bruce Wayne has a drier sense of humour than the one we’ve seen so far.

Okay, time to be more positive.

Aquaman is one of my favourite superheroes, and is severely underrated by the general audience and even some comic book readers. Jason Momoa, as well as the writers, look like they’ll remedy that. I am sure that Aquaman or Flash will end up being the breakout stars of this film and possibly even the franchise. My only worry is Momoa’s acting skill, which isn’t that great from what I have seen so far. That doesn’t detract from my man crush, but it does bring up a possible issue with the film. We’ll see how he does.

In general, the action looks pretty awesome. Looking past the issue of the CGI, it looks like we’ll see some creative and memorable action sequences. It was great to see our first glimpse of J.K Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, and hear a reference to Robin since Batman is “playing well with others” again.

I can’t deny my excitement at seeing my favourite superheroes on screen together and I hope Zack Snyder delivers a film that lives up to the hype.

 

Iron Fist Thoughts

Hello everyone,

I know I haven’t been too active on the blog over this past week but I’m back to it now, and plan to keep uploading new content at least three times a week.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

I finished watching Iron Fist earlier in the week and while it isn’t as bad as some of the critics make out, it is definitely one of the weaker Marvel Netflix shows. Overall, the acting is some of the weakest we’ve seen. Luke Cage was also hampered by Mike Colter’s abilities, but fortunately he was the only real weak link in terms of the acting. Shades was a cheesy character but I believe Theo Rossi did the best he could with the role. With Iron Fist, we get some weak or inconsistent performances from the main character, and supporting cast such as David Wenham and Sacha Dhawan.

There is one issue that is the elephant in the room, so I guess I’ll get into that issue too. When the first promotional material aired many people complained about Danny Rand being white, even though he is also white in the comics. Rand was seen as another example of cultural appropriation or the white savour dynamic that we see in The Great Wall and earlier works like The Forbidden Kingdom (2008). I was quick to defend Rand’s race since the show was being true to the comics but I’ve also tried to be open-minded and see where detractors are coming from.

Some may view it as a stereotype if we get another martial artist who is Asian or Asian-American, but some people have pointed out that Rand could be different. He could have been a three-dimensional, wealthy, main character with martial art prowess. Instead we get another story where the white lead takes on scores of foreign Asian enemies. Of course we have Colleen as well, but she can basically be the one “Asian friend” that detracts from all the other problematic issues in the show. I am not saying you all have to buy this narrative, but it is something to think about. Of course, you can also feel free to just throw out right-wing buzzwords like “social justice warrior’ instead, talking about how you’re colour-blind and then support the whitewashing of movies like Ghost in the Shell.

Speaking of martial arts, the fight scenes in this show were underwhelming to say the least. I started watching Into The Badlands and I immediately saw what Iron Fist should have given us.

After Daredevil I was hoping to see amazing choreography and fluid action. Especially since Iron Fist, like Daredevil, is supposed to be one of the best fighters in the Marvel universe. Instead we get actors awkwardly working their way through their choreographed steps, giving no impression of real experience and training (for the most part). The Into The Badlands stars underwent three months of training prior to filming. In comparison, Finn Jones underwent three weeks. Then he only got to practice the choreography for specific fight scenes 15 minutes before they were filmed. Since the show’s writing is weaker, I was at least hoping to see some of the best action to date.

The “White Saviour” argument did pop back in my head after seeing Zhou Cheng (Lewis Tan) fight Danny. Tan, a martial artist in his own right, is also able to give us an interesting character with his few minutes of screen time. I can’t fault people for saying he should have received the role of Iron Fist instead.

Another issue with the show is that the most interesting parts of Danny’s backstory are only shown in very brief flashbacks, or are recited to us. I suspect that the show’s budget is the main culprit for this. Instead of a few more minutes of Danny’s training in K’un-Lun, we get more corporate espionage.

I thought the show was strongest mid-season, building up the mystique of the Hand and Madame Goa, demonstrating their hold over Harold Meachum. Speaking of Harold Meachum, Wenham’s performance went from great to hammy scene by scene. Don’t even get me started on his return from the dead (after Ward murders him), where he’s apparently brain-damaged and stumbles around New York like a crackhead. I blame that one on the writers though.

There is another issue I blame on the writers as well. It seems like a small one but almost ends up causing a plot hole. We see Gao use some sort of power on Danny when he confronts her after completing his challenges in the warehouse. Then she never uses this power again. It is never explained why she can’t use it again either. 

I love Claire Temple but I felt like this show could have used less of her. Obviously she is the bridge between all four Defenders characters, but did she really have to go to China with Danny and Colleen? Actually, I can understand her going to China. Did she have to specifically go to Gao’s hideout? She is the weakest fighter and if the writing was consistent, probably would have been killed. Finn Jones filmed Iron Fist back to back with The Defenders so that answers the question of why Jones got less time to prepare for his fights and why Claire was in most of the episodes. 

Aside from Claire, references to other characters were handled more smoothly. Claire is still reading Luke Cage’s letters from prison. Hogarth’s involvement makes more sense and her introduction into the show doesn’t rely on coincidence (like Claire training at Colleen’s dojo). Joy Meachum references hiring Jessica Jones as a private investigator; at least that is who I assume she referred to when talking about PI who’s good “when they’re sober”. As always, there are also references to “the incident”, which is the name used to refer to Loki’s attack on Manhattan and the Avengers subsequent defence of the city.

Jones and Colter are definitely the weaker actors from the Defenders troupe, with Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter providing strong performances as Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I am excited to see the characters together and am hoping that their collective strength can make up for the deficiencies that each actor and show had.

Logan Thoughts (Spoilers)

Click here for a spoiler-free review of the film.

After seeing Logan and having some more time to think about it, I wanted to share more thoughts on it without having to worry about spoiling any plot details.

First I have to address one of my biggest gripes. This is my first time seeing Boyd Holbrook in anything and I have to say I am more motivated to check out Narcos after seeing his performance. Do I have a man-crush? Maybe. From the first line of his first scene, I was enthralled. His performance initially hid the fact that the character, and the villains as a whole, were poorly developed. We know Transigen experiments on children and wants to weaponize mutant genes. It is obvious that an army of mutant children would be a terrifying weapon for their enemies, but the head figure (Zander Rice) also explains they created a virus that resulted in the lack of mutant births for the past 25 years. This is one of the most interesting machinations and is glossed over with a few lines of dialogue. It would have been interesting to see more of Rice’s role in this, and Pierce’s role in the curation of X-23 as the chief of security.

This brings up the issue of screen time. The film is 137 minutes, but didn’t feel that long to me, despite a late show time. I think an extra 15 minutes could have done wonders for fleshing out Transigen, Rice and Pierce. We wouldn’t need one solid chunk of exposition that drags the film down. I thought it would have been interesting to see X-23’s flashbacks, the same way we saw Logan’s in the original X-Men trilogy. These could have served the same purpose as the videos from X-23’s adoptive mother, and could have been more interesting.

Next, I just have to reiterate that Stephen Merchant is the man. Caliban had relatively little screen time compared to the main trio of Wolverine, Professor X and X-23, but he still held his own. Fear the light.

The death of the family during the farm scene came as a surprise. I had a feeling that something bad would happen once Professor X decided to stay the night. It came across as a careless move on his part but makes more sense analyzing the move from his character’s perspective. Westchester is where the X-Mansion is located and it is implied that he killed most of the X-Men in the “Westchester incident”. This also adds more reason why Charles says he “doesn’t deserve” a happy day like the one they had. He believes he deserves to be punished but he also wants to enjoy the company of other people before his death. He had years of isolation and is now somewhat carefree in his desire to enjoy life. Although it comes across as selfish, it is somewhat understandable.

However, the death of the family does make Charles’s decision tougher to cope with. Of course, he pays for the mistake as well when X-24 shows up. At first I thought Charles was having a flashback and was thinking they were adapting the X-Mansion incident from Old Man Logan, where Wolverine is tricked by Mysterio into killing the X-Men.

Instead, Charles dies, possibly thinking Wolverine killed him. Then the son, wife and dead get slaughtered. I was thinking that they would be saved at the last second, like most Hollywood films. Although their deaths were brutal, it was also good to see that the film truly wasn’t pulling any punches.

Some members of my audience audibly gasped when X-24 descends the stairs to meet Logan for the first time. For many people, it was a genuine “oh s***” moment. We know X-23 is a clone, now we see one that is Logan at his physical prime. These shots make use of digital faces but the effects are much more seamless than the version of **spoilers for Rogue One– Princess Leia in Rogue One of Clu in Tron: Legacy.

Although X-24 was an amazing physical threat, I feel as if his inclusion hampered the development and threat that could have come from Pierce. Like Zander, Pierce is mainly an overseer, managing the work of people underneath him. There is nothing wrong with villains like that, but maybe it comes across as more jarring, since he and The Reavers were marketed as the main, direct threat. Obviously X-24 would have been too big a reveal for the trailers and commercials, but it still brings up the issue of what audiences expected from Pierce.

Seeing Logan go near-berserk in the forest was an absolute treat. The roar after he takes the serum, followed by his sprint through the forest was cinematic gold.

 

Some people didn’t understand why an R-Rating was a big deal for this final film. Hopefully Logan shows why. Wolverine’s main weapon are metal claws he sinks into people, an R-rating works perfectly, for a solo film especially.  We don’t see stuntmen fall to the ground as Jackman swings his arms. For once, we get to see unadulterated carnage that truly immerses us in the experience. The casino scene, where Logan pushes his slaws, in semi slow-motion, through one man’s head after another is something we couldn’t have in a PG-13 film. The camera would have had to cut away with each stab.

The forest scene is something I’ve been wanting to see for a while and was delivered beautifully. Yet again. I have to comment on X-23. Many films are guilty of showing a woman with Angelina Jolie proportions knocking out 250 pound guys with one punch (looking at you Colombiana). X-23’s claws avoid that issue. We don’t see her overpower men for the most part. The flip she performs on the gas station attendant is the only example I can think of. Otherwise, she uses her size to her advantage, relying on stealth and agility to kill her enemies.

One thing that bothered me was that her transition from a borderline-feral mute to a more well-adjusted human seemed a little too fast. She nearly kills the gas station attendant because he tried to take her goods from her. At first I tried to rationalize that by saying that she interpreted his hands on her as a deadly threat, but her relationship with the Eden children contradicts that. Although the children were collectively treated as products by Transigen it is implied they had a pretty strong relationship with one another before they escaped. Since X-23, or Laura, is able to socialize with them normally when she arrives her reaction to the gas station attendant seems out of character. Then again, we didn’t get to see her interact with the group much. Most of the film from that point on focused on her interacting with Logan and their fight with Transigen. It would have been interesting to see how they all reacted to being together again.

P.S- Some people might laugh at the fat kid running, but that kid was hauling ass.

 

Deadpool 2 Teaser

 

Deadpool is the highest grossing R-rated film of all time and a sequel was inevitable. The plot wasn’t complex, but Ryan Reynold’s was amazing and many people were happy to see a more faithful adaptation of The Merc with a Mouth after the horrible first attempt in X:Men Origins.

The second film has been slightly hampered by some directorial issues, with Tim Miller leaving to be replaced by David Leitch (John Wick). Leitch seemed like a perfect candidate but since John Wick was co-directed by Chad Stahelski we’ll have to hope that the most memorable things about that film’s direction came from Leitch: Especially the distinctive gunfights. Meanwhile Drew Goddard’s (Cabin in the Woods, The Martian)  involvement as a writer also gives me hope that the film will bring more of what we liked from the first film, while also offering an improvement.

Cable is confirmed to be in Deadpool 2 but has not yet been cast, which is why I initially thought the teaser (also referred to as No Good Deed) was a fan-made video. However, No Good Deed is a legitimate teaser of sorts. It depicts Wade coming across a mugging and not-quite rushing to help. After fumbling around in a phone booth to change, he emerges only to find that the old man is already dead. The scene depicted will likely not even be in the film, but it does whet my appetite for another Deadpool film.

Like the “superhero landing” gag from the first film, this teaser is quick to mock old and new superhero tropes. Superman can change in a phone booth just fine because he has super speed, but Wade isn’t as fast or graceful. As Wade says later, “Didn’t those disappear in ’98?”

Stan Lee makes a cameo, and Deadpool is quick to break the fourth wall as he acknowledges him. After apologizing to the corpse of the man he was supposed to save, Wade also eats his ice cream in true anti-hero fashion, after running past a Logan poster. Wade then references Logan again, making sure to throw in an awful Australian accent in his attempt to mimic Hugh Jackman. Although the clip does come across as a bit dragged out I appreciated how it managed to combine all the essential aspects of the character into three minutes.

What were your thoughts on No Good Deed?

Matt Reeves To Direct The Batman

Note: For an abridged version of this post, check out my YouTube video.

About a month ago, Ben Affleck stepped down from directing The Batman, which does not yet have a release date. Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) was circling the role for a few weeks and it is now confirmed that he will direct, using a script from Chris Terrio. There  were reports that Geoff Johns and Affleck wrote the script but there has been no mention of that in recent reports concerning Reeves. However, Affleck and the studio apparently approved Terrio’s script. The new script is likely a composite of Johns, Affleck and Terrio’s work.

Ben Affleck made it no secret that he detested all the questions he received about The Batman while promoting other films, such as Live By Night. There was a lot of speculation that he would leave the directing role, and his role as Batman due to the pressure to please a horde of nitpicking comic book fans. For now, Affleck is still signed on to produce and act, and I hope it stays that way. Some reviews of Live By Night say that the film suffered from Affleck trying to do too much as an actor, writer and director. I can’t help but notice his original decision to step down coincided with the flood of negative reviews for Live By Night. Hopefully stepping down from directing The Batman as a move that is meant to alleviate some stress, but also ensure a better film.

The Batman is still my most anticipated DC solo film, and I hope it delivers the quality film that DC fans have been waiting for. Hopefully some of the other projects deliver that prior to The Batman as well. Man of Steel was decent, and BatmanvSuperman had the potential to be amazing. Instead, we get a terrible portrayal of Lex Luthor and a rushed version of Doomsday. Suicide Squad gave us some things to love, like Deadshot and Harley Quinn, and a lot to hate as well. I’m looking at you Enchantress, Incubus, most of the third act etc. Each film had great moments, and even stretches of excellence, that couldn’t elevate the entire film.

One of my favourite scenes from BatmanvSuperman

As I’ve said many times before, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has issues, but the tone of their films is not one of them.  Reeves last few films demonstrate that he knows how to handle a dark tone. People can complain about the need for more “fun” in the DC Universe, thanks Dwayne Johnson, but I think we can all agree that darkness fits a batman film. Aside from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Reeves also masterfully wrote and directed Let Me In (2010). The film is based on a revered book, but we have all seen great source material turned into subpar films. While Apes was also amazing, I think Let Me In is a better example of Reeve’s creative skill since it addresses a big issue I have had with some DC films and films as a whole.

When a great director creates a poor film people are quick to argue that the director was hampered by a poor script. From what I understand, the director can override the writer. The director shouldn’t be a drone mindlessly translating a script to film. he is supposed to utilize his own discretion to oversee what he films. Zack Snyder has numerous “story by” credits on IMDB, which is the same credit given to Christopher Nolan for Man of Steel. From what I have researched, “story by” is just a credit given to someone who came up with the basic plot of the film:

Superman’s fight with Zod makes people distrust and fear him, including Batman. Batman then forms a plan to take him out, but Lex Luthor has his own plans as well.

This basic plot could be conveyed in some form other than the screenplay, such as a “treatment” or short story.

In comparison, the screenplay credit goes to the person who actually crafts the dialogue and fleshes out the characters. Snyder’s only two “screenplay” credits are for Sucker Punch (2011) and  300: Rise of an Empire (2014). I tried watching Sucker Punch, I couldn’t finish it and I have consistently heard that Rise of an Empire is dramatically inferior to the original film. I don’t like to base my opinions solely on the opinions of others, since I would have avoided BatmanvSuperman like the plague if I did. If you believe that I am mistaken about Rise of an Empire, let me know. My point, is that a director who is also a strong writer should be able to expertly exercise his own discretion with the material he is given in order to create a great film.

While the director can override the writer, the studio can override the director. This has already happened with Bvs and Suicide Squad. The uncut version of BvS helps to flesh out Clark and Bruce more, while also clearing up some elements of the plot that didn’t make as much sense in the theatrical film. Meanwhile, the abusive Joker and Harley relationship was removed from Suicide Squad because the studio was worried it made things too dark (among other changes). The films aren’t perfect without these changes, but they are definitely better.

I am hoping that Reeves was able to negotiate for creative control over this project, so that the real filmmakers can craft something for the big screen that DC fans can be truly proud of. There are several other projects I am excited for in the meantime, especially Aquaman and I hope that The Batman doesn’t end up being one of the last hopes for a consistent and well crafted DCEU film.

The Walking Dead- Midseason Premiere Thoughts

Season 7 was of The Walking Dead was originally one of my most anticipated since it would focus on Negan, one of my favourite comic book villains and the best villain that The Walking Dead comics have had to date. Season 6 introduced Negan and ended with a money-grubbing tease that left a bad taste in my mouth and made me skeptical of what season 7 would offer.

The season 7 premiere featured a drawn out encounter with Negan that was obviously done to pad screen time, but I was willing to overlook it for the first episode. Then the second and third episode focused on The Hilltop and The Saviours respectively. It has always bothered me when The Walking Dead does this, instead of cutting between the different stories. Shows like Game of Thrones have far more characters and locations to deal with and do a better job of giving each party their necessary time. I have no problems with Tara and Heath as characters, but giving them an entire episode was ridiculous.

Some may argue that focusing on one location gives more opportunity for character development and builds anticipation for other story arcs. In this case, I beg to differ. Cutting between different stories during an episode forces writers to be more concise with their storytelling, so that an entire episode doesn’t end up serving as filler. Instead of 40 minutes (without commercials), writers are forced to use tighter writing to express the same story in 20. Or they can possibly stretch the different stories over multiple episodes.

The way it stands, the eventual conflict with Negan gets dragged out to episode 9 since three episodes didn’t show Rick and Alexandria at all. Since The Walking Dead is sticking to longer seasons (the past few have been 16) it seems the desire to reach a certain amount of episodes, instead of just telling a story naturally, interferes with the storytelling. The Marvel Netflix shows have a similar issue, since Marvel makes them all thirteen episodes. I felt like Luke Cage, in particular, could have been shortened. The midseason break also seems like a move designed to keep The Walking Dead on air as long as possible, especially now that other AMC hits like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have completed their runs.

I never considered The Walking Dead one of the best shows out there, especially since the acting is inconsistent at best. It ranges from great (Lincoln), mediocre (Serratos) to awful (Riggs). With all that said, I was not that excited for the mid-season premiere.

Firstly, I am sure that Gabriel didn’t actually betray Rick since it would derail his entire arc as a more committed member of Alexandria. When he is driving away in the car, I thought I was seeing things, but online articles have confirmed that someone else emerges in the passenger seat. Earlier in the season, we saw someone spying on Gabriel at the wall and on Rick and Aaron at the boat. It appears that person reached out to Gabriel, and is probably aligned with the community that confronts Rick’s group at the end of the episode. I loved Rick’s smile; the look of a man who has found his army.

I thought the group might be Oceanside, but Oceanside was previously introduced as a female-only group. In the comics, the group is co-ed and Michonne joins them for a while. Unless they’ve added men since their last appearance in the show, this appears to be a brand new group that was never shown in the comics. If they are a new group, it almost comes across as a deus-ex machina, but I’ll reserve judgment until the next episode. The show better not focus on another group for the entirety of the next episode.

Some fans have had a hard time grasping why Rick’s group didn’t want to fight back earlier. Hopefully this episode makes it clear they were worried about their lack of numbers, relative to The Saviours.  Additionally, Negan has made sure to consistently put Rick in a bind by making the lives of others tied to his. Yes, Rick could have beaten Negan to death with Lucille when Negan visited Alexandria, but then The Saviours would slaughter everyone.

Like the comics, Gregory is content to stick his head in the sand and submit to Negan’s rule. Xander Berkeley chewed some scenery in this episode, and hopefully we won’t see too much of that in the rest of the season. If his arc follows the arc from the comics, we’ll be seeing him around more and this show doesn’t need more weak acting.

While Ezekiel is happy to join Rick’s alliance in the comics, he is hesitant here due to the risk of losing everything they’ve built. It is a fear that Rick had as well, and it is likely Ezekiel will change his mind. Ezekiel’s refusal also brings up another issue. In the comics, Dwight is actually a double agent who is working with Ezekiel to take Negan out. The show has already hinted at Dwight’s animosity towards Negan, for taking his wife and burning his face. We know that his motives for wanting Negan gone are there, but it looks like he may not be a double agent in the show. This doesn’t bother me too much, since his reveal seemed like a last minute decision in the comics. If Dwight was a double agent the whole time, why did he kill Abraham if he didn’t really have to?

Morgan reunites with Rick for the first time since Carol’s disappearance from Alexandria, and his own hesitation to go to war seems to have impacted Ezekiel’s decision. Although Morgan is willing to kill in self-defence, it seems the fear of all the lives that will be lost in the war makes him hesitate to join an all out war. The only positive thing to come out the meeting with Ezekiel is his offer of asylum for Daryl. This episode also made me wonder if Daryl will find Carol and convince her and Ezekiel to join the war.

While Rick doesn’t get what he wants from Ezekiel, he does came across explosives that he plans to put to good use against The Saviours. Rosita appears to have learned some valuable things from Eugene, and this appears to be the start of an arc that is meant to make us root for her character more. However, I still despise her character. Her sheer stupidity in trying to kill Negan with only one bullet got someone else killed and got Eugene taken away. Her attitude to Sasha also fails to make her endearing. Also, there’s the fact that she was in a relationship with Spencer of all people. The girl’s got poor taste.

Have to say I am more excited for issue #165 of The Walking Dead comic, than the next episode of this show.

Ben Affleck Will No Longer Direct The Batman Solo Film

It would be an understatement to say that BatmanvSuperman got mixed reviews from professional critics and fans upon its release. Some argued it was one of the best comic book films ever made, others regarded it as a cinematic travesty. Personally, I found the film to be average. Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor and the film’s third act were its greatest weaknesses in my opinion. The film asked interesting questions and had some amazing scenes, which made it even more frustrating that the entire film couldn’t be as powerful.

One thing that many people agreed on, whether they liked the film or not, is that Ben Affleck’s performance as Batman was amazing. Of course, there are some haters but many negative and positive reviews single out Affleck as a redeeming factor.

After Affleck’s portrayal many fans were excited to hear that he would be behind the camera and in front of it for the Batman solo film. Unfortunately, that dream will not come true. Perhaps we should have seen this coming. There was meme after meme making fun of Affleck’s apparent irritation with being asked about Batman, and even Affleck’s own statement that constant questions about the film are a “pain in the ass”.

Affleck says he is still committed to the film as an actor and producer, but feels like he would be unable to handle all three aspects well. Some may think this decision is tied to the recent box office and critical disappointment of Live By Night, but I believe that the attention this film received may have made Affleck hesitant to take on all the key responsibilities.

Now the question is who will direct this film. I feel that if Snyder were to direct, it would get a poor reception from the film geeks simply due to his name being attached. If IMDB is any indication, many people consider him one of the weakest cogs of the entire DC Extended Universe. It’s true that he is mainly a visual director, but I think he can do a great job if he also has a great script.

Earlier reports indicated Affleck and DC Comics Geoff Johns were writing the script for the film. While Live By Night may have faced less critical adoration that Gone Baby Gone, The Town or Argo I still like the odds of getting a good script from Affleck. Geoff Johns’s work with the New 52 has faced some mixed reviews but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for this script as well.

Off the top of my head, I would love to see what Denis Villeneuve would do with a Batman film. This is pretty much a pipe dream but I had to share it. I have not see Arrival yet, but Sicario and Prisoners, and love how he handles morally grey characters. Not to mention that his cinematography is amazing and is what made me think of him directing a Batman film.

Many of the best films I have seen relatively recently have not been from directors I knew or expected much from, with Deadpool and Ex-Machina being the best examples. Maybe Affleck’s decision is a blessing in disguise. Some new blood could be exactly what the DCEU needs.