The Killing Joke Review

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While DC is struggling to get critical approval with its live-action films, as the (partly) undeserved roasting of BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad demonstrate, they have an impressive record of success with their animated features. In my opinion, the quality of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies (DCUAOM) has declined in recent years with Justice League: War and Son of Batman. However, there have been some bright spots such as Gods and Monsters, Assault on Arkham and Batman vs. Robin. I was hoping that The Killing Joke would continue that trend. It isn’t a bad film, but as a whole, it does not measure up to some of the aforementioned bright spots.

As a spoiler- free summary, this story involves The Joker escaping from Arkham Asylum and kidnapping Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). There will be some relatively minor spoilers throughout this review. I haven’t read the graphic novel in years and I wanted to do so before seeing this film. However, I ended up rushing ahead and watching the film first. For that reason, I won’t be able to compare this film to the finer details of the comic.

I was told by friends that the film added a prelude that explained more of Barbara Gordon’s backstory, prior to her kidnapping. A little research online also showed that this section also resulted in most of the criticism for the film. I tried to ignore these critiques and form my own opinions so that I wouldn’t unfairly bash the film. I have to say that some of the criticism is justified.

The most valuable insights that come from this prelude are:

  • Barbara still views crime-fighting as a thrill, not an unhealthy obsession the way Batman does
  • Conflict over this issue is what led to Barbara ending her role as Batgirl

These two insights are valuable, but my issue is some of the execution. The Batgirl prelude centers around a single criminal, Paris Franz, who becomes obsessed with Batgirl. However, Franz’s obsession is more like a delusional and arrogant fanboy, as opposed to the twisted dependency we see with The Joker and Batman. Franz ends up being a very forgettable villain and the writing for his character is mainly what makes the prelude unwelcome.

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Another issue, is the infamous sex scene. Sorry if it is a spoiler but it is a part of the story that I can’t review this film without mentioning. If I simply said there is a sex scene, then it would still be pretty easy to figure out which characters I am referring to. Although I am not personally a fan of a Batman/Batgirl relationship, I know it exists in some of the comics. What annoys me most about the sex scene isn’t the fact that a relationship I like to think of as father-daughter is changed; I just hated the fact that it was precipitated by a slap-slap-kiss trope. I didn’t even know that this was a trope until a year ago, but seeing it time after time led me to believe that other people must have noticed how often it pops up in romantic situations. Two people are fighting; they often start pushing or come to blows. Then they suddenly stop, stare into each other’s eyes, and kiss. It is hack writing at its best.

With that said, the rest of The Killing Joke is much better. Firstly, we have a better villain. Mark Hamill plays The Prince of Crime, and also plays The Joker in flashbacks that reveal how he became The Joker. The graphic novel is famous partly for introducing a tragic Joker origin story and the transformation from Jack Napier to the Prince of Crime is one of the film’s most haunting.

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The Joker’s actions in this film make you hate him, but you also can’t deny his charisma and his skills as a wordsmith. I enjoyed John DiMaggio as The Joker in Under the Red Hood but it is great to have Hamill back for this role, alongside Kevin Conroy. One of my favourite parts of the film is a Batman monologue near the beginning. While Conroy is famous for portraying Batman’s menace, his ability to convey the character’s (often hidden) warmth was also a treat to watch.

Joker’s kidnapping of Barbara is the central crux of the story, and the scene is a tough one to watch. The animation, the music (or lack thereof) and the voice acting make it one of my favourite scenes among all the DC animated films. Hamill brings a blend of menace and humour to the role, while navigating his way through one of the most pivotal moments in Batman’s history.

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The kidnapping also represents a high-point in the film, which is followed by the final showdown between Batman and The Joker. From what I remember, the kidnapping of Commissioner Gordon was more enthralling in the graphic novel. Here, the voice acting from Gordon and Joker’s gang of freaks brought this section of the film down.

Overall, I enjoyed The Killing Joke. However, the faults I’ve mentioned prevent it from being among the top-tier of the DCUAOM films. As it stands, it is a decent entry that had a lot of potential.

 

 

 

 

The Boys- Fallen Idols

Hello everyone,

My latest post for comicommand is available on the site and copied below. After reading Garth Ennis’s Preacher I was eager to check out some of his other work, but was worried that other works would disappoint in comparison. However, I am loving The Boys just as much as Preacher.

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

After reading Preacher, I was eager to check out Garth Ennis’s other work. I heard mixed reviews about The Boys, but after reading 40 issues, I can safely say that I’m loving the series. The Boys takes place in a world where the greatest superheroes are morally corrupted celebrities. The elite teams have corporate backing and become increasingly disconnected with normal humans, which also results in the careless loss of human life during their conflicts with supervillains.

The Boys is the nickname for a CIA squad that is responsible for keeping the heroes in line through intimidation or violence if need be. While I love the characters, one of my favourite things about the series is its depiction of superheroes. There aren’t many supervillains in the universe, since many super-powered people elect for an easier life as public idols. If a hero becomes popular enough through his conquests or sales of his own comic book, he gets to join an elite team, such as The Seven (a twisted version of The Justice League). With elite status, comes corporate funding, public appearances and full-blown celebrity status.

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Deciding to be a hero doesn’t mean that these figures are actually the good guys. Billy the Butcher, the leader of The Boys, knows firsthand that they view regular people as toys. When Malchemical, one of the most deadly heroes, is relegated to the C-List Superduper group, he lashes out after their leader submits a complaint about him. The concepts of consequences or judgment are foreign to him and he believes that yelling “I’m a superhero” frees him of all wrongdoing. When Malchemical continues to be ostracized by the group he attacks its leader and attempts to rape two of its members. Billy also knows that this is regular behavior for Malchemical. Numerous other incidents in the comics also show other abuses of power from other characters, whether it is rape or attempted murder. The Seven, for the most part, are a group of frat boys high on their own power.

Recent films like Man of Steel have been criticized for their depiction of the destruction that transpires when super-powered beings fight one another. I never jumped on this bandwagon since some level of damage seems inevitable and because the damage often becomes a plot point in future films, just like Superman’s fight with Zod plays a central role in BatmanvSuperman, or how the destruction in Avengers 1 and 2 leads to Civil War. The Boys starts off with a civilian being killed during a fight between a villain and A-Train, a member of The Seven. The difference here is A-Train’s lack of empathy. He realizes what he has done, but quickly leaves since the paramedics can take care of everything else. Later, he also attempts to rape The Seven’s newest number, Starlight.

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Some might see the moral depravity of The Seven as a caricature, but the heroes are no different than politicians, judges, police officers, athletes, musicians etc, who get caught up in scandal after scandal. A sense of invincibility (literally in the case of the heroes) can lead to a lack of restraint and can corrupt people who may have started their pursuit with noble intentions. For every superhero who is morally pure, similar to our typical image of Superman, there are ten who are simply in the business for the money and adoration. Values like justice mean very little and are simply useful platitudes that the heroes use to justify their presence. The Boys is a depressing look at a society filled with superheroes, but it may be the most realistic.

100 Bullets Review

Hello everyone,

My review of 100 Bullets is up on comicommand and is also pasted below. I am nearly finished Preacher now and like it a lot more than 100 Bullets so I’ll probably do a review later this week.

100 Bullets – Reloaded

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

I did an earlier article after reading the first volume of 100 Bullets. 80 issues later, the series is completed and I want to share my thoughts on it.

As The Commander said in his last article, the artwork can either elevate the story, or the story can elevate the art. In the case of 100 Bullets, the story definitely elevates the art. Making the switch from superhero comics to others can be jarring, mostly in terms of the artwork. However, the artwork for 100 Bullets still pales in comparison to ones like The Walking Dead and Y: The Last Man or Preacher. The covers are well done, as well as some panels, but overall the illustrations made it difficult to get into the first issue since their quality actually became distracting. Once I got through more of the story, I was able to tune out the artwork and appreciate the comics more.

The story starts off with separate subplots, all featuring the enigmatic Agent Graves, who offers people an attaché containing a gun with 100 bullets of untraceable ammunition. The gun is meant to be their weapon of choice against the people who ruined their lives, and the attaché also includes proof of their enemies’ wrongdoing.

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The various storylines and figures eventually mesh into a single story about an organization known as The Trust. Graves is a former agent of The Minutemen, a group of enforcers that the Trust disbanded, and he seeks to reinstate the Minutemen by eliminating their former bosses. For the most part, Brian Azzarello does a great job of linking each character and subplot to the main one. However, I could not help but notice that there were some storylines that were never mentioned again. It is implied that all the attaches were given with the purpose of reactivating the minutemen, who were basically brainwashed to forget their past lives. Yet there are some characters that are given attaches and never seen or referenced again.

I previously mentioned the issue of the dialogue overusing slang at times. This issue continues throughout all 100 issues and did drag the experience down a bit. Just about every minority character talks like their words were put through an Ebonics translator and it goes past being immersive or reflective of a certain area, and becomes completely distracting.

100 Bullets features very few “heroes”. For the most part, the character’s morals are different shades of grey. It takes a great writer to make us care about any of them, let alone to make a reader root for most of the characters. Issue by issue, I find myself supporting one character’s actions, and then supporting another character’s actions that could undo theirs… This cycle continues and culminates in an action-packed and bloody finale. One of my biggest gripes was that this action packed finale ends rather abruptly. We go from a violent bloodbath to a few lines of dialogue that are meant to reveal more about  a character’s motives, before ending with a cliffhanger.

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At the end of it all, Graves’s backstory is still shrouded in mystery. I don’t need everything spelled out but this was a case where just a few more lines sprinkled across a few issues could have led to a more fulfilling end. Since Graves plays such a central role in the story, the lack of more backstory for him makes the entire series somewhat hollow. One figure has played a huge role in leading to all of these events, but we don’t get a proper look at what truly drives him.

Overall, 100 Bullets was a great read and I will likely be going back to re-read certain issues. I knew it was an Eisner winner before I started reading and perhaps that got my hopes too high. I know there are many Azzarello fans that would heartily disagree with me.

Kingdom Come: Gods and Humans

Hello everyone,

Check out my latest post on comicommand.com or read it below:

Kingdom Come

Written by Cadeem Lalor

I started reading Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come (1996) just earlier today. Kingdom Come follows an alternate reality where a new hero, Magog, became a revered figure after killing The Joker. Meanwhile, the public’s long gestating fatigue with Superman’s “boy scout” persona led him to go into exile. With Superman gone, the rest of the league followed. Ten years later, the world is overrun by a new legion of super-powered beings that lack the moral fortitude and care for human life that the Justice League had. It was a title that came with a lot of hype, but I believe it has managed to live up to expectations. Within five pages, it got me thinking about something.

In the story, Norman McCay acts as a vessel for the Spectre, and also serves as a narrator of sorts. As he ruminates on the past he remembers a friend who recently passed away. He remembers his friend missing the human desire for achievement, manifested through competitions such as the Nobel Prize or the Olympics. In this world, where people are surrounded by god-like beings, it makes sense that human achievement is no longer as valued. Yet I don’t believe the question has ever been approached in such a way. Many comic books and adaptations bring up the issue of humans admiring, mistrusting or fearing super-humans. Yet none of the ones I have read have examined how social and political institutions or functions could change due to a new breed of people. Humans are used to being the center of life on Earth. Our collective achievements are what give everyday life meaning. Would we be as motivated to work out, knowing that there is a race of people whose strength we can never attain. Would we be as motivated to achieve academically if we know that the end goal, a lucrative career or recognition likely won’t come?

Competitions like The Olympics and Nobel Prize can be mired by a host of issues, but they are fundamentally meant to celebrate competition and human skill. Each event is a testament to the will and training of the people competing. Meanwhile the Nobel Prize serves as a chronicle of scientific, economic and literary advancement. With these events, we see humans striving to understand more of their world and attempt to take away power from gods, giving more power to the people. In the world of Kingdom Come, humans have given up on deciding their own destiny. They are at the mercy of super-humans. Even when Superman and the Justice League return, the public does not immediately feel empowered, they only shift their burden to new figures. Perhaps one group of super-humans makes the issue more obvious, but the issues persist either way. While the humans seek hope, there is little to come.

 

Is Batman An Anti-Hero?

Hello everyone,

Below is a piece I did for comicommand last week. Writing a new piece for them today that I’ll repost here as well. Feel free to check out the article on comicommand as well.

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I was recently reading a blog post detailing the author’s favourite anti-heroes. As expected, characters like Rorschach and Wolverine were near the top of the list but the author stated that he doesn’t consider Batman to be an anti-hero. The term “anti-hero” is a broad one, but generally it refers to a character who functions as a force of good but displays traits and moral ambiguity that is more typical of villains. For example, Wolverine is considered an anti-hero due to his violent methods of eliminating his enemies and character traits such as his aggressiveness and anti-social personality.

Of course it is easy to see Batman as a hero when compared to characters such as The Punisher, or more drastic examples like Alex from A Clockwork Orange. However, many anti-heroes are best presented, or fleshed out, when presented in contrast to the other characters in their universe. Wolverine’s loner tendencies are in contrast to Cyclops’s or Jean Grey’s role as leaders of the X-Men, Rorschach’s moral absolutism and anti-social persona are in contrast to Nite Owl’s morals and personality. In a sense, the term anti-hero can often be relative.

In the case of Batman, his qualities are best viewed in contrast to Superman’s. Although there are popular variations in the comics, Superman’s typical characterization makes him a symbol of light and hope. Superman’s world can be grim but it is his optimism that makes him a symbol of hope. Superman is also a figure who is less afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, being able to quickly form relationships with other heroes and present an air of compassion to civilians.

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One of the best examples of this contrast is a clip from the old Batman Animated Series. We first see Superman save a child who was stuck on a transmission tower, after climbing it for a dare. After saving the child, Superman gives him a pep talk about responsibility, encouraging him to be more careful. After Batman pulls two teens from the roof of a train, he only warns them that they’ll fry if they keep playing chicken.

Both characters are heroes, and have compassion for human life, but Batman’s much colder personality generates fear instead of the admiration that Superman receives. Here we can see Superman as an archetypal “good guy”: noble, courageous, and compassionate.

Batman is also a stark contrast to Superman due to his Machiavellian tactics.BatmanvSuperman was heavily criticized for the justification it gave for Batman to want to fight Superman, but the film did touch on the paranoia that defines the character. While Superman openly tries to build relationships with other members of the Justice League, Batman uses his time to analyze their strengths and weaknesses and form contingency plans. It is a noble cause, but the betrayal of his teammate’s trust takes him out of the territory of a conventional hero. The Injustice comics demonstrate this further when Batman disables Cyborg by planting a virus on him. Cyborg later discovers the virus was created the day that he and Batman met.

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Speaking of methods, Batman’s use of torture to gather information from criminals is also a sharp contrast to Superman’s. Batman may not kill, but he is willing to break teeth and bones in his pursuit of justice. Superman may end up doing the same thing when fighting an enemy, but he disproves of using these methods to interrogate criminals.

Although Batman can be seen as an anti-hero by these standards, it is also true that conceptions of what a hero are can change. I have spoken to people who see “boy scout” characters like Superman as boring characters, who lack as much complexity and depth as characters like Batman. This can then lead people to see Batman as simply a darker hero, but still a conventional hero. It was easier to label Batman as an anti-hero when he initially debuted, the shadow to Superman’s light. As time goes on and audiences become more inundated with anti-heroes in several mediums, maybe Batman can pale in comparison to his alternatives.  We now have Lobo, Deadpool, Constantine, The Comedian and so on.

Batman may be an anti-hero when we compare him to more conventional heroes like Superman and The Flash, but if we go to the other end of the spectrum, does he still belong in that category?

The Rest of 2016 In Film

Captain America: Civil War is out now, and I have seen it three times already. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed it more each time.

Captain America: Civil War was one of my most anticipated films of 2016, and with it now out of the way I wanted to make a short post to discuss what the rest of 2016 has to offer.

 

  • Suicide SquadJared-Leto-Joker-Suicide-Squad-Trailer-MTV

This has been my most anticipated film since the first teaser came out a year ago. The subsequent marketing has differed drastically in tone but has also made me even more excited for the film. Even many of the people brainwashed to want every comic book film to be “fun”, now seem to appreciate the tone Suicide Squad will bring. I don’t think a film has to be “fun” to be good, but it will be good to get more variety in the DCU. I wish we could get more tonal variety in the MCU as well.
Anyways, the cast excited me from the start. I was on the fence about Jared Leto as the joker but it looks like he will deliver a great take on one of my favourite characters. I am also excited to see characters for the first time on the big screen.

 

  • Rogue One

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I don’t even go to IMDB to discuss this film anymore since people complaining about a feminist agenda dominate the boards. A “feminist agenda” is in place because a woman is the lead.

Anyways, I love Star Wars and I originally thought that these expanded universe films were a cash-in. However, the blur cinematics for games such as Knights of The Fallen Empire demonstrate that the universe has a plethora of amazing characters and stories that the Star Wars trilogies can’t capture. Since The Force Awakens was pretty much a rehash of A New Hope, I am even more excited to see new characters and a new storyline. Ben Mendelsohn will kill it as a Star Wars villain if his previous performances are any indication.

 

  • X-Men: Apocalypse

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I despise Jennifer Lawrence, and this film would be #1 if it wasn’t for her. I feel like Mystique has a bigger role (as leader of the X-Men) only because of her star power. Unless I am mistaken, Mystique has never lead the X-Men.

 

  • Jason Bourne

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The marketing has been pretty secretive so far, which I don’t mind. It will be good to see Matt Damon back as Jason Bourne, after the disappointing Bourne:Legacy. I’m also curious to see how Alicia Vikander does in one of her biggest (commercially) roles to date. She was great in Ex-Machina but average in The Man From U.N.C.L.E so we’ll see what happens.

 

Y: The Last Man and Amazons

Hi everyone,

I know I missed a post yesterday but this post I did for comicommand went up on that site yesterday. If you like writing about comics feel free to check out comicommand and join us to contribute your own articles.

I’ll be posting a new piece tonight. The article is below:

The Walking Dead is currently my favourite comic book series and while I endure the one-month gap between issues, I decided to check out Y: The Last Man. It was highly recommended by many lists and was also only sixty issues long, saving me from the worry of a very long commitment on top of numerous other series and books I wish to read.

I binge-read the series over this past weekend and was not disappointed. Y: The Last Man is a science-fiction comic, where 25-year-old Yorick Brown and his pet monkey are seemingly the only ones to survive the spontaneous death of all male mammals. The sixty issues encompass Yorick’s fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world and his efforts to uncover the source of the catastrophe.

However, the series also gives us The Daughters of the Amazon, a society that burns down sperm clinics and is determined to remove all traces of perceived patriarchy. They attack Yorick on sight for being male and spend a large portion of the series trying to track him down in order to ensure that he does not reinstall the patriarchy they are fighting against. For the Amazons, the catastrophe that killed most of the men was an act of God or a sign that women need to reclaim their rightful place.

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The Amazons can either come across as an indictment of feminism, or more likely they’re a caricature of it. Something here is meant to ridicule the heightened fears that many men have about feminism. The plot obviously lends itself to feminism, since it deals with a society that is mostly female having to rebuild and eventually being able to do so. The first few issues also focus on the issue of presidential succession, highlighting how the predominance of male figures leads the Minister of Agriculture to become the next President of the United States. Agent 355, a member of a covert government branch known as the Culper Ring, also accompanies Yorick throughout the story and acts as his highly competent bodyguard and confidante. It would be contradictory for the series to present one strong female character after another, and then throw in The Amazons as a criticism of feminism.

The series began in 2002, well after The Men’s Right Movement led to a backlash against “political correctness” and “feminazis”. Like today, feminists were fighting for issues such as the eradication of rape culture, the culture of blaming rape victims for being raped e.g. “She asked for it.” Meanwhile, the manosphere begin to grow. The manosphere refers to a loosely connected group of blogs and websites that believe masculinity and men as a whole are now diminished due to feminism. The Men’s Rights Movement began by targeting divorce and child custody laws that favoured women, but has now expanded into a group of men who view relationships as adversarial in nature and believe that men need to dominate women. The manosphere has birthed groups such as pick-up artists and many members have a heightened level of bitterness and anger towards woman, especially concerning sexual rejection. The manosphere promotes the belief that feminism has disrupted men’s natural dominance in the world, leading women to become overly confident. This then makes men victims to egotistical and shallow women who are protected from criticism by the new social order which seeks to destroy masculinity.

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With this background information, it becomes easier to see how some men may view the Amazons as regular feminists, as opposed to stereotypical ones. Throughout the series, other female characters counteract the depiction of the Amazons. The comic does not present the women as perfect characters or ones who are all superior to Yorick. Some characters use him for sex, he outsmarts others and many of the women serve as Yorick’s villains. They are strong fighters, soldiers, intelligent scientists and people who are as lost in the new world as Yorick is.

The comics even imply that many of the Amazons only joined the group to escape hunger and homelessness. These are the motives that lead Yorick’s sister, Hero, to join the Amazons early in the story. While it is implied that the leader truly believes in her vision, it is clear that ideology is secondary to security for some Amazons. With this, the Amazons possibly get whittled down to a few members with extreme ideologies. Members like this are found in every group, and the Amazons become a more realistic and moderate creation if we realize that only a few members of their population truly believe that all men must die. Just like the manosphere like to argue that “not all men are like that”, Y: The Last Man argues, “not all women are like that”.

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Full Circle -From Comic Book to Film and Film to Comic Book

I originally wrote this piece for comicommand

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With the plethora of comic book films currently gracing the big screen, it is obvious that comic books have greatly affected film and mainstream entertainment as a whole. However, a less obvious feature of this golden age of comic book films, is the impact that comic book adaptations have on their own source material. Comic book Superman didn’t fight for “The American Way” until after 1940s radio broadcasts said he did. Superman also didn’t fly until the radio series added that feature. Additionally, characters such as Harley Quinn and Terry McGinnis made their first appearances in animated television shows such as Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond before entering the comics. These events bring up the point that it is unavoidable for adaptations to influence their properties to some extent. I originally considered writing this piece as a pros and cons article, but I realized that the list of benefits would be counteracted by only one very obvious con.

When films begin affecting films more, then financial motives can quickly overpower the values of storytelling and creativity. Characters such as Star-Lord now have new solo titles (Legendary Star Lord). It seems unlikely that the series is not somehow related to the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Film can allow more obscure characters to shine, breaking through the monotony of superhero films. However, this can also help to usher in monotony. Each “phase” of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is pre-scheduled to focus on certain characters and certain stories.  Marvel currently has all its filmsmapped out until 2019. Marvel also has general plans for phase 4, which begins in 2020. Of the next ten films, five are introducing new characters into the MCU. One will be the first solo film for the MCU’s Spider-Man, the rest will introduce Captain Marvel, The Inhumans, Black Panther and Doctor Strange.

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With four new characters being introduced, the spread between new characters and old seems fairly even. Since Black Panther comics are currently struggling, according to Marvel’s editor-in-chief, a boost in sales from a movie could do the franchise wonders. However, what happens if Marvel comics start to focus on the comics that have had popular films, or are about to? I doubt this would be the first time this has happened, but with the MCU’s prevalence, the impact could be much more drastic. Marvel could devote more resources and better writers to comics that have a movie coming soon. Meanwhile, other properties could be left to either stagnate or remain doomed to relative obscurity, until Marvel Studios decides to adapt them to film. This could potentially create a system where comic book publishing is essentially dictated by film-making. This suggestion may seem drastic at the moment, but it is important to consider that the MCU is only eight years old. The MCU did not invent comic book adaptations and older ones such as Blade (1998) and X-Men (2000) are just as vital to the success of comic book films. However, as I’ve discussed before, the MCU is the most saturated and popular engine for comic book films.

Steven Spielberg predicted comic book movies will reach a saturation point and go the way of the western, dying out and making way for a new hierarchy for tent pole films. It’s possible that Spielberg is right since it seems obvious that people will become fatigued from superhero films and desire less of them at some point. However, it is important to realize that Westerns thrived in mainstream Hollywood for decades before they became the anomaly they are now. For all we know, the MCU could thrive for twenty years before unsatisfactory box-office totals start to necessitate a change in Hollywood. In eight years we have already seen some of the effects of films on Marvel comics, what could twelve, twenty or even thirty more years of box-office domination lead to?

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DC vs. Marvel: Marvel Brainwashing and The Loss of Reason

I have heard many people say that there has never been a better time to be a comic book fan. While many people still view comic books as childish or ashamedly nerdy, comic books are now the inspiration for some of Hollywood’s most profitable and critically-revered films. Earlier works like Blade (1998), X-Men (200) and Spider-Man (2002) paved the way and later works like Iron Man (2009), Captain America (2011) and Avengers (2012) have cemented their status as marketable works. You may notice that all of the films I just listed are either Marvel comic book properties, or Marvel Studio properties. That is not because Marvel has made the only good comic book films. I think I ended up writing only Marvel films because I am a victim of some of the same brainwashing I am to criticize in this post.

This is another post that is a result of online ramblings I have come across, whether they are on YouTube, Instagram or IMDB. I do love some of Marvel’s films, such as the Captain America films, the first Iron Man and Avengers 1. However, I do have qualms with some of them, and I am able to acknowledge that they are not perfect and that they are not definitive examples of what a comic book film should be. The general public has a tendency to get attached to what comes first. Some people saw Jack Nicholson as their first Joker in a Hollywood film, so they refused to accept any other actor as Joker afterwards. For some people, Ledger was their first, and they already hate Leto simply because he is a different interpretation. Twenty years from now, there will probably be people saying that no Joker will ever top Leto’s.

In terms of Marvel, this tendency to like what comes first, manifests itself through a love of all films Marvel and a hate for anything else. Although DC had earlier successful comic book films such as V for Vendetta (Vertigo comics, which was then acquired by DC) the general public has now been saturated with marvel studio films that overshadow all other comic book properties. This saturation results in a high number of Marvel films that stamp themselves onto the public consciousness far quicker than any other comic book properties can. With Marvel films imprinted, people become less open to seeing something different. People may be open to different characters, but the Marvel v DC debate makes it clear that people are not open to other things, such as tone.

Marvel studios’ films are known for their light-heartedness, their humour, their “fun”. They have been cementing this style and reputation since 2008 with the first Iron Man. To this day, Marvel will even hire a comedy writer so that he can make a script about Asgardian doomsday more light-hearted. If any movie deserves a dark tone, it is Thor: Ragnarok, but I guess some studio executives disagreed.

I am not anti-fun or anti-humour. I simply do not like it when the device is overused. While some Marvel films have juggled it well, such as The Winter Soldier (2014), the Thor series has been severely brought down by terrible and consistent one-liners imho. While Loki’s humour is handled well, Jane’s (Natalie Portman) and Darcy’s (Kat Dennings) end up being the Jar Jars of the franchise. My problem is not only the overuse of humour, but how Marvel has successfully conditioned people to believe that this humour is the mark of a good comic book movie. Nowadays, any film that lacks the same level of levity is deemed too “dark”, “gritty”, “depressing, “brooding” or “pretentious”. A lot of the criticism levied towards Man of Steel (MOS) before it was even released came from this misconception. The trailers were serious in tone, nothing about them screamed “dark” or “brooding”, but people were so used to Marvel’s marketing by this point. The MOS trailers did not have enough one-liners, enough levity in comparison to Marvel’s trailers, so people were thrown off. Everything is relative, and since the MOS trailers were found to be lacking in humour, they were immediately deemed too dark.

This brings up another issue I have with Marvel’s brainwashing. I often hear people throw around the word “dark” like it is an insult in itself. As if saying a film is dark is as bad as saying the acting was terrible, the writing was terrible etc. A film can be “dark” and also be good, which seems like a fact that is lost on many members of the Marvel horde, and among Marvel studio executives. Dark does not equal depressing, gritty or pretentious.

While Marvel has darker material in some of its films, and has Netflix shows with much darker tones (Daredevil, Jessica Jones) it appears that Marvel’s status gives it more room to experiment than any other property has. Marvel’s trailers, films and tv shows can have darker tones without people complaining about them trying to “copy Christopher Nolan”, “not being fun” etc. While Marvel is allowed to experiment, change and adapt, DC is now forced to appeal to Marvel sensibilities in order to be less divisive among audiences.

The first Suicide Squad trailer was leaked, featuring a lovely cover of I started a joke. It was a serious, dramatic trailer but was subjected to the same talk of not being fun enough, in comparison to Marvel of course. Some of you might want me to cite specific websites and links, but honestly this chatter is all over the Internet: the same thing you are currently on. Google my arguments and you’ll come across them aplenty.

The second trailer came out, making great use of Bohemian Rhapsody, and also having more humour. What do you know, some of same people who love this one are happy to see that the film will still be “fun”. I have no problem with the second trailer’s lighter tone, or the film’s tone (from what we have seen so far). However, I hate the mentality that every film has to be “fun”. Is Saving Private Ryan a bad film because it isn’t “fun” enough? Maybe that example is a bit hyperbolic but hopefully it gets my point across. A film does not have to be “fun” to be good. Some characters are darker than others. Additionally, many comic book characters have histories spanning numerous decades. Some of their comics are darker than others. MOS used some of the more serious storylines for the film and then gets chastised for daring to be different and not following Marvel’s mould of being “fun” enough. I have even had someone on IMDB tell me that Superman was too serious since brow was too furrowed when he was learning how to fly. So they ignored the huge grin on his face when he was flying and instead criticize the scene because Superman wasn’t grinning ear to ear the entire time.

This brings me to another point about Marvel’s brainwashing. The desire to love everything Marvel often leads to nitpicking of anything that is not Marvel. While Man of Steel is deemed a terrible film and a terrible adaptation of Superman due to all the damage done during the final fight, The Avengers gets little or no hassle for the damage to New York City. This is the same damage that is mentioned in Daredevil and plays a part in Wilson Fisk’s efforts to rebuild the city. So while Man of Steel continues to get flack for showing that a city will get damaged when two super powered people fight in it, no one cares that New York got damaged since they love Marvel. This nitpicking not only affects films that already came out but also affects any new releases. I have heard someone criticize Jared Leto’s joker because his hair is dyed green, yes…really. I forget exactly where in the video the guy says it, but my comment on the video acknowledges him saying it. To me, it just seems like this person is either

  • Attached to Heath Ledger’s portrayal, which brings up my earlier issue of the general public getting attached to what comes first. This then leads to nitpicking of newer adaptations
  • Simply a Marvel fanboy (in the sense that he does not want to like non-marvel properties) and is looking for reasons to hate this new DC release.

Either way, his comment demonstrates the extent of stupidity that bias can lead to. I am not saying Suicide Squad, or any DC movie is guaranteed to be good. However, I think criticizing the film and saying they’re making “joker a punk” because his hair is dyed green is a little ridiculous.

The bias for Marvel sometimes does not only result in DC (or Warner Bros) vs Marvel, but also leads to people nitpicking any film that is not specifically a Marvel Studios production. People saw the design for Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse and some of them started crying for the rights to go back to Marvel. These people were willing to ignore everything the previous X-Men films did well (ignoring X3 and the Wolverine films). Despite how great Deadpool looks, I have read blogs, forum posts and other miscellaneous talk where people rant about how the rights should go back to Marvel. It’s obvious why they want that to happen. They just want Marvel studios to adapt the properties. Yes, I want the X-Men and Deadpool in the Avengers universe too, but I won’t hope a film fails just so that can happen. People are now so brainwashed they think Marvel is the only studio capable of handling a comic book film well.

You don’t like the shirt a character is wearing? Cry for the rights to go back to Marvel

You don’t like a character’s design? Cry for the rights to go back to Marvel

 

The Internet allows us access to so much information, but also allows us to customize our searches. We can choose what information to find and what information to cut out. This phenomenon has been explored mostly in regards to political polarization, but I think it is also relevant to entertainment preferences. Either way, it makes us dumber.

 

 

 

The Never Ending Marvel V DC Debate

I never read comics much growing up. In fact, most of my comic book knowledge comes from online research of different characters, with some of my favourites being Batman and Spider-Man. I bought my first comic, Watchmen, just a few years ago and I have followed that one up with titles like House of M and Civil War.

My comic interests have always intersected DC and Marvel, and I am sure many other fans can say the same. Although competition is unavoidable since they are two different companies involved, I do not think that the same level of close-mindedness among fans existed prior to the comic book film renaissance we are now witnessing. Did older comic book readers only read Marvel comics, and refuse to read DC or give DC any balanced criticism? Or vice versa? Hopefully not. Either way I think online arguments, whether they are on IMDB, YouTube, Empire etc. make it clear that close-mindedness abounds when it comes to comic book film discussion.

Some disclaimers:
1) Yes I know many people see comment as the cesspool of the Internet, and may wonder why I bother paying them any attention. For me, I felt the need to write this post since I can no longer go to forums like IMDB and have reasoned arguments with posters. My YouTube videos are drowned out by videos where other people echo the same views that I detest. So the simple reason for me doing this post: I need to vent.
2) Close-mindedness is a pretty big part of the human condition, so of course it extends far beyond people’s discussions of comic books.
3) I am not a Marvel OR DC fan, I am a fan of both worlds.

There is no arguing that Marvel or Disney/Marvel has built a dynasty. It seems that slapping the Marvel logo across any property can guarantee profit and good reviews from critics and audiences alike. Not only has Marvel released more films, but the shared universe they have created is a dream come true for long time comic book fans and an exciting prospect for a newer audience who are increasingly drawn to the characters.

Aside from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, DC has not had any critically revered films over the past ten years. Some have been panned for good reason imo, such as Green Lantern. Meanwhile. others were unfairly scathed. V for Vendetta (Vertigo) is technically a DC property, since DC purchased Vertigo comics. However, the average moviegoer probably does not know this. This brings up an important issue that I believe affects DC films far more than Marvel. Marvel’s status as the earlier franchise allows it to set a benchmark for fans who have a simple conception of certain characters. Marvel’s films generally have a reputation as more light-hearted, entertaining and fun, while DC’s are often seen as poor attempts to be “dark and gritty” or “copying Nolan”. In general I believe people have a tendency to become attached to what comes first. With the exception of The Dark Knight trilogy, most DC films were released after Iron Man.

Man of Steel, currently 58% on Rotten Tomatoes was critically divisive from what I have seen. Many people either loved it or hated it. I don’t have cited sources to examine all the reasons but the recent release of the Batman v Superman trailer has brought up more online criticism of Man of Steel. One of the biggest critiques from this past month and 2013, was that Man of Steel changed the character of Superman too much: Made him too brooding, too dark etc.

Since Marvel studios don’t own the X-Men or Spiderman until earlier this year, Marvel’s stable of characters weren’t as iconic as DC’s. Obviously the characters are firmly entrenched now, but I don’t think Iron Man or Captain America were AS popular to the general audience in 2008, as Batman or Superman were. Marvel has done a great job with their characters and their stable also gave them an advantage.

They did not have to worry as much about a misinformed general audience thinking that they ruined the characters. This advantage is especially clear when it comes to Man of Steel. Contrary to popular belief, Man of Steel did not actually change the character of Superman that much. A lot of the things people hated or thought were rip-offs of Batman Begins e.g. the depiction of his dad and his dad’s death, Clark travelling across the world, were elements borrowed from newer comics. Birthright and the New 52 comics were the biggest influences. In terms of

SPOILER ALERT FOR MAN OF STEEL

…..Superman killing Zod, writer David Goyer also explained that. In the comics, Superman does not kill because it is an arbitrary decision by the writers. In the world of Man of Steel, he had no choice and was forced to kill the last member of his race. After doing that, he will never want to do it again and this can also set up Batman’s mistrust of him in Batman v Superman. Some people say Superman should have dragged Zod to the moon, but this Superman cannot breathe in space. Superman’s powers fluctuate writer to writer in the comics, and his ability to breathe in space is one of the ones that changes often. Others say Superman should have dragged Zod somewhere else in the city and keep fighting. Yet some of these people are the same ones that complain about the fighting causing too much damage in the city.

However, much of the general audience is not bothered to look up facts like this. You may think it is not their responsibility to. However, these same people have the time to write reviews or do video reviews of Man of Steel and spread bad word of mouth.

While Marvel can get a pass on terrible love stories (Thor), forgettable villains (Malekith from Thor, Ronan from GOTG), I believe that some fans tear DC properties apart either because they have decided they will only support Marvel, or because they have a narrow view of how the character should be portrayed. I have had conversations with people who disliked Man of Steel because, and I quote, “His brow was too furrowed” in some scenes. This person specifically referenced the scene where Superman flies for the first time: The same scene where Superman is smiling and laughing as he sails through the air. Basically this person thought Superman should never be allowed to look serious, he should be grinning from ear to ear the entire movie. This is just one example of the relentless nitpicking bestowed on Man of Steel.

Another example:

Two super powered beings fight in a city and the city gets trashed (like many comics and tv shows) = worst movie ever and worst depiction of Superman ever. Even though the same thing happened to some extent in Superman II, with Christopher Reeves. This also happened in The Avengers, but very few people say The Avengers were portrayed horribly.

Marvel’s humour has also won it many fans, even if that humour consists of Kat Dennings making terrible quips for two hours (Yeah I really don’t like the Thor movies that much, Loki’s a highlight). I remember when the Man of Steel trailers were released and everyone thought they were “too dark”. I do not believe they were. The trailers were dramatic, serious, but not dark. They had the same tone as the trailers for The Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, Man of Steel was quick to be interpreted as an attempt to make Superman “dark and gritty”. It now seems that any DC trailer with a hint of seriousness will be interpreted as “joyless” or “too dark”.

As Marvel continues to strengthen its brand, we will have to see how DC progresses from this point onward. While I am excited at a shared DC universe, I do worry that they are rushing it. Aside from Batman and Superman, the next film features three other superheroes and some questionable casting: Gal Gadot looks horrible as Wonder Woman. My heart tells me yes, my brain tells me no. If the film is panned or met with polarizing reactions like Man of Steel was I hope it is not because people resort to the same tired arguments I have already discussed.