Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman is an origin story of sorts for Diana Prince a.k.a Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Amazon who leaves her home island of Themyscira to venture to aid the Allies in World War II. She is accompanied on her journey by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy who crash landed in Themyscira after escaping from the Germans with information on their new super weapons.

I originally planned to see Wonder Woman on Tuesday, and after some delays I finally got around to it last night. The film made headlines for being the first DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film to get good reviews, currently sitting at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not one to blindly follow reviews, but I know a lot of other people do. Relatively poor reviews for Man of Steel and horrendous ones for BatmanvSuperman led Warner Bros to force changes onto Suicide Squad that ultimately made that film worse e.g. cut out the abusive Joker and Harley Relationship, overload the film with songs to lighten the tone.

With that said, I realized that Wonder Woman was carrying the DCEU on its shoulders. This film needed to rekindle hope for the studio executives and the general audience. Did the film live up to the hype? I will say that it wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty good.

Firstly, any regular readers will know that I despise the obsession with “fun” that is rampant these days, especially when it comes to comic book films. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a whole is committed to keeping the films light, with Kevin Feige saying the films will never be dark. There is no better example of this than Thor: Ragnarok (the Asgardian term for Doomsday) being rewritten just to lighten the tone. I have no problem with levity and fun, but it is always better when it actually fits the situation and the characters. It gets tiresome when every serious moment or line is undercut by a one-liner.

Wonder Woman definitely has more levity and “fun” than MOS and BvS, but is darker than Suicide Squad. Yet it is still better than Suicide Squad. Point being,  “fun” is not a guarantee of good, “dark” is not a guarantee of bad, and I hope studio executives don’t see Wonder Woman’s success as the sole result of its lighter tone.

The humour does work well in the film, mainly playing off Diana as a fish out of water in “Man’s World”. Gal Gadot truly shines when portraying Diana’s childlike curiosity and innocence as she learns more about Man’s World. Her performance is weaker when the script asks more of her. Fortunately, she is assisted by Chris Pine. After seeing Pine as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek films I knew he would be great in this role and he didn’t disappoint. The character of Steve Trevor has often been used as comic relief and Pine nails that, while also deftly handling the more serious moments. Pine and Gadot are also assisted by their own rag-tag group, amongst which Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) is the stand out.

One issue that the DCEU, like the MCU has had, are its villains. The MCU has Loki as its standout, and the DCEU is still trying to find its own. On repeat viewings, The Joker is underwhelming (not just due to his screen time), Doomsday’s weak CGI and tacked on introduction didn’t help his case, and Lex Luthor…they should have cast someone else. General Zod is one of the DCEU’s better contenders, a competent villain but not a very memorable one.

Wonder Woman fights against the Nazis here, with the main focus on General Erich Ludendorff (Daniel Huston) and Isabel Maru a.k.a Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya). Although Ludendorff has more screen time, Doctor Poison was more memorable. Her mask probably helped to add to her screen presence, and I’d much rather see a slew of Doctor Poison costumes for Halloween this year than the Harley Quinn epidemic of last year. Not to take anything away from Huston either, his German accent is a bit hokey at times but overall he was enjoyable, with he and Doctor Poison forming a Joker/Harley dynamic.

Diana also has a more personal villain in the film. Many people may already know the villain I’m referring to, but I won’t delve into him too much to avoid giving too much away. Overall, the final villain’s reveal and the final fight scene could have been handled better.

A consistent issue with the DCEU has been its third act. Man of Steel still offers the best third act fight scene in my opinion, with Wonder Woman coming in second. Let’s not talk about Suicide Squad. Like BatmanvSuperman and MOS, WW’s last fight scene is somewhat hampered by some cartoonish effects. The effects in this sequence were more jarring since the visuals and action were pretty impressive up to this point. We don’t truly see Diana fight as Wonder Woman for at least fourty minutes into the film, but the fight is well worth it. I also didn’t feel like the film dragged up until this point or any other in the film.  Aside from some poor effects, my only issue with the fight scenes is that slow-motion is overused at times. Otherwise, the action is fast-paced and well-choreographed. Let’s not forget the score, with the Wonder Woman theme being reminiscent of the Donner Superman one in terms of the excitement it generates.

Wonder Woman offers action, levity and some great performances. Wonder Woman also doesn’t shoehorn in any links to other DC characters. The only reference to another member of the Justice League is an organic one that helps to tie the story together and give an ending that has all the “hope” so many people say the DCEU is lacking. I walked out of the theater more excited about Justice League and the other DCEU films, while also hoping that the stories don’t end up being hampered by the “fun” mentality. WW’s tone was a great mix of dark and light, not afraid to show the dark side of human nature while also countering with a level of optimism that befits the character. Superman helped to counter the darkness in Batman, and Wonder Woman helps to counter the darkness in both.

Thor: Ragnarok Thoughts

I have previously discussed my refusal to see Thor: Ragnarok due to Marvel’s insistence on bringing a comedy writer onboard to rework the film only because they worried the film was too dark.

Of course, I wouldn’t want a film to be dark if the tone doesn’t fit the characters or story. This argument can be a can of worms since many characters have stories that are uncharacteristically dark or light (e.g. The Flash with Flashpoint Paradox). The Barry Allen version of The Flash isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but Flashpoint Paradox still took the darkness to a whole other level.

But I digress.

The previous Thor films had plenty of comic relief, or attempts at it. These included one painful line after another from the likes of Kat Dennings and Natalie Portman. One of the few good things to come out of the Thor series has been Loki. Ragnarok refers to Asgardian doomsday, so a dark tone seemed appropriate. Even if the film wasn’t going to adapt the mythical Ragnarok events, a title referencing doomsday still implies some level of darkness. Darkness would fit the story, and it could therefore fit the character. If a film is overhauled only to lighten the tone, regardless of whether the tone fits the character or story, that is a travesty. People complain about film’s being “dark” for no reason, but very few people have a problem with more “fun”.

What bothers me the most about the decision to change the film is that this demonstrates how the need for “fun” overrides other artistic considerations. The previous Thor films have other issues, such as a love story lacking chemistry,  and some weak villains (looking at you dark elves). All those issues were overlooked previously, but bring on some darkness, and it’s all hands on deck to make another film.

I still refuse to see the film in theatres but I must say that this first trailer has some great moments. More Loki is always a good thing, and I love the new look, which is partially inspired by his look in the Young Avengers.

Hela looks like she might give us another good villain. Her helmet has drawn a lot of comparisons to Aku, but since the helmet originates from the older comics, seems like Aku was inspired by Hela.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hulk doesn’t look as convincing (CGI wise) as he did in The Avengers film but the film still has more post-production to go. I actually didn’t mind the “he’s a friend from work” line since it actually seems in character for Thor. However, it still sucks that just about every epic moment is likely to be undercut by a one-liner that the fun-addled masses will eat up.

I’ve been told my writing is quite depressing, so perhaps I hate the Marvel “fun mania” since it clashes with my own creative proclivities. As Jeremy Jahns said sometimes I would prefer an epic moment, to a funny one. Likewise, sometimes I would prefer an epic movie to a “fun” one.

Kill Or Be Killed

Hello everyone,

Comicommand is back and the first articles of the new year were uploaded yesterday, including my article on Ed Brubaker’s “Kill or Be Killed” (2016).

Check it out below or on the site.

 

kill-or-be-killed

I first came across Ed Brubaker’s work with Incognito, a short but interesting series about a former supervillain in the witness protection program. Kill or be Killed (2016) frequently popped up in any discussion of Brubaker and I was quick to add it to my reading list.

The series follows Dylan, a college student who is visited by a demon after a failed suicide attempt. The demon advised Dylan that he spared his life, but must now kill one person a month in order to continue living. After the demon breaks his arm and uses host bodies to assault him, Dylan begins his quest to eliminate people who deserve to die.

Dylan’s father committed suicide when he was younger, which indicates he may have inherited certain dispositions from that side of the family. What makes the story so interesting is that Dylan has tried to commit suicide previously, so we know that he is mentally troubled. For all we know, his vision of a demon is all a part of his own delusion: a sort of split personality that prods him to begin his quest. The series is only on its fifth issue so there is still plenty of time to see if this theory is right.

Dylan may be mentally troubled but many of his struggles are universal. He is yet another student trying to figure out his life, and who struggles with girls. His best friend, Kira, is dating his roommate and he mostly sees her only when she visits her boyfriend.

people-who-deserve-it

People Who Deserve It

Even though the protagonist is relatable, the story can fall apart if the transition to crime-fighting is handled poorly. Brubaker excels at creating a realistic portrait of attempted vigilantism that reminded me somewhat of Kick-Ass. Dylan is able to get a gun pretty easily, since his deceased father had one buried in his possessions. This plot point might seem too convenient but it fits since we know Dylan’s dad committed suicide, he is likely carrying out his mission with his father’s murder weapon.

The toughest part for Dylan is finding people who deserve to die. He realizes that he can’t rely on movies as a blueprint, knowing that muggings and other crimes don’t routinely happen on subways or dark alleys when he is present. He finds his first target because he remembers that one of his childhood friends was molested by his older brother. He already knows the person’s name, and Facebook gives him everything else he needs, including the person’s work place.

When he’s successful with his first hit, he can’t remember if he said something to the target before he shoots him. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t, and his mind is retroactively adding in a cool one-liner that one of his favourite movie characters would say. Dylan faces success, but he also faces plenty of failure. His actions escalate, bringing more consequences for him. As the story progresses, we’ll likely see consequences for his loved ones too.

Kill or Be Killed is a deconstruction of vigilantism, a love story and a story of mental illness. Brubaker deftly handles Dylan’s development and I am eager to see how the series ends his journey.

killed-or-be-killed-1

The Rock and DC Comics- Tonal Change

Two days ago, The Rock posted to Instagram about a meeting he had with DC Comics concerning the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The Rock was announced as a lead for the DCEU’s Shazam (yes, the hero is actually called Captain Marvel but due to copyright issues he is just Shazam at the moment) adaptation, playing the role of the villain Black Adam.

However, there has been little word on the project since then. Henry Cavill posted a picture of he and the Rock sharing a drink in late December, fueling speculation that The Rock would make an appearance in the next Superman solo film, especially since Cavill hinted at bright things for the future.

The Rock is one of the few stars who can engage audiences off charisma alone. He is not the greatest actor, but his work on Ballers shows that he is developing. I am excited to see that the project is coming together slowly but The Rock’s summary of the meeting leaves me slightly worried.

“Had a very cool and strategic meeting with the heads of DC about their entire universe. As a hard core DC fan, to get a real sense of the tonal shifts and developments coming in these future movies has me fired up. Something we, as DC fans have all been waiting for for a very long time.

Hope, optimism & FUN.

Even when talking about the the most ruthless villain/anti-hero of all time finally coming to life. Prepare yourselves DC Universe.”

I have discussed the obsession with making comic book films “fun” before and how this belief is founded on nonsensical assumptions.

“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… 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.”

You don’t have to tell me that BatmanvSuperman (Bvs) of Suicide Squad (SS) had issues. The villains and third act for both films sucked. Some dialogue was weak, some acting was weak, Eisenberg was a terrible Luthor etc. I am not a DC “fanboy”. I don’t think that DC can do no wrong. I just hate the fact that people believe that the solution to these films is to make them more “fun”. Some of the things added to SS to make it more fun, actually made it worse, such as the overly abundant musical segways. The emphasis on adding more “fun” in could cause the writers, directors, studios etc. to overlook other issues, such as a weak villain or weak storytelling (which is not always tied to tone). Like this writer says, “‘Justice League’ Is Reportedly “A Mess” & That’s Fine, As Long As It’s a Fun Mess.” Words can not describe how much I detest this mentality. Sadly critics and audiences will probably love the film more for its tone even if everything else is terrible.

The Justice League trailer already had me worried that the studio is putting even more pressure on the directors and writers to lighten things up. Bruce Wayne seems completely out of character, and so does Barry Allen. Wally West (Allen’s nephew-in law) is the version of The Flash that is known for being comic-relief. Allen is a more serious character, but it seems like the writers have just changed Allen completely in order to get more room for humour. Wayne can be funny as well, but I find his humour is best when it is done similarly to the dry humour we’re familiar with from Alfred.

One of the best examples of Batman’s humour, in my opinion, comes from the animated film Superman/Batman Apocalypse. After a newly arrived Supergirl damages $50,000 worth of batcave equipment, Superman asks Batman to send him the bill.  Batman then says: “On a reporter’s salary, right.”

That kind of humour adds levity, without coming across as out of character. Unlike the “more or less” exchange in The Justice League. That is the issue I have with some of the “fun” people insist on, especially because people normally ask for fun because DC is dark relative to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). When there is an insistence on having “fun” in every scene it can just kill dramatic tension. As Jeremy Jahns said in his review of Doctor Strange, “Sometimes I want an epic moment instead of a funny one.”

 

 

 

Outcast

I’ll be back to writing for comicommand soon, and should have an article for them around January 15. My first piece for the new year will be a piece on Ed Brubaker’s Kill or Be Killed. Until then, I wanted to share some thoughts on another ongoing series that I’m reading.

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is undoubtedly the comic that turned me into a serious comic book reader. It started with Rick Grimes, then moved on to Spider Jerusalem, Jesse Custer, Billy The Butcher, Mark Grayson, and now Kyle Barnes.

After binging on Invincible and then having to wait until February for the next issue, I eagerly sought out Kirkman’s latest series. After giving us a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, and then a superhero story, Kirkman delves into demonic possession.

Outcast follows Kyle Barnes, a man whose life is plagued with demonic possession and who is ostracized in his hometown after allegedly hurting his wife and daughter. While Kyle knows something changed his wife, making her attack their daughter, no one else believes him. As he returns home, Reverend Anderson helps to open his eyes to the truth of demonic possession.

Although I have not seen many films related to possession, I have always been interested in the subject. Firstly, Paul Azaceta’s artwork truly helps to bring the story to life from the first frame onward. The style is somewhat simple, compared to works like Punisher: Max, but is reminiscent of Invincible. Azaceta fits the comic’s atmosphere of horror by seamlessly transitioning from relatively simple frames, to ones that are genuinely unsettling.

 

Kirkman is also able to explore a religious theme, without creating a story that is pro or anti-Christian. Kyle represents the skeptic, while Reverend Anderson is the holy man who slowly makes Kyle accept the truth of exorcism. The story could come across as formulaic with this set up, but Anderson is a layered character who believes in the Lord, while also having his own doubts about institutionalized religion and God. Anderson’s thoughts are some of the most interesting parts of the story.

Kirkman also adds interesting modifications to the exorcism mythos, which are slowly explained as we get further into the series. In some ways, the exorcism links to several other issues in Kyle’s life. His mother abused him due to her possession and his wife abused their daughter. Both of these periods have significantly affected Kyle’s psyche, which leaves him in a dark place that aligns with the overall tone of the comic. Every triumph that Kyle faces is followed by another revelation that causes more pain or a setback from the forces that are working against him.

With each issue, we learn more about the possessed and the overarching conflict continues to build with Issue #24, which was released today.

Like The Walking Dead, Outcast currently has its own television show as well. One season is complete, and it has been renewed for another. Clearly, it isn’t the phenomenon The Walking Dead is, but maybe the show isn’t as hampered by filler. That’s a post for another day.

Preacher Review

Hello everyone,

I wrote this piece a few weeks ago after reading Preacher but it got lost in the shuffle with comicommand since I submitted two articles in a short period of time. Preacher is one of my favourite comic book series and I highly recommend it, along with The Boys. You can read this piece on comicommand or below.

the-gang

Written By Cadeem Lalor

After wrapping up 100 Bullets, I decided to move on to Preacher.  Preacher follows Jesse Custer, a preacher in the Texas town of Annville. During a service, a supernatural spirit named “Genesis” possesses Jesse and kills the entire congregation. Jesse later learns that the Genesis is the offspring of an angel and a demon, and that God left heaven the moment it was created. Jesse then sets out to literally find God and make him answer for deserting heaven.

Firstly, the cover artwork is amazing and many of them are among my favourite pieces of comic book art. The interior art also holds up. I do prefer the art in Y: The Last Man more but I don’t want to fall into the trap of always comparing one style to another. Preacher’s style is different, but I don’t believe it is inferior.

Jesse is a likeable protagonist with a tragic backstory, whose morals are shaped by his deceased father. While Jesse is a great character, Preacher’s greatest strength is the story and the stable of supporting characters. Jesse often fights with Tulip O’Hare, his girlfriend, and I know some fans criticized this aspect of the writing. I started reading with an open mind and can see why some may be annoyed by the relationship. However, their fights are justified. The main one throughout the story is Jesse’s desire to keep Tulip out of harm’s way by taking on enemies himself. While Tulip appreciates the sentiment she knows she is a capable shooter who has saved Jesse’s life numerous times. I can understand why such situations could result in conflict but the conflict was written well enough for me to still root for both characters.

herr-starr

Preacher also features Cassidy, an Irish vampire. Cassidy rotates from being an anti-hero to something more sinister as the series progresses, but still remained my favourite character of the series. However, he does have a lot of competition.

Cassidy’s biggest competitor is Herr-Starr, a former German anti-terrorist operative and the main antagonist of the series. As the head of The Grail, Starr leads a mission to capture Custer and use him as a Messiah figure for The Grail’s vision of Armageddon. As the series progresses, Starr seeks to replace The Grail’s leadership and his motive for finding Custer becomes purely personal. The failures and misfortunes Starr faces trying to capture Jesse cause him to become more unhinged as the series progresses and Starr is responsible for making me laugh more than any sitcom has.

Starr is also followed by Arseface, a teenager who was deformed after failing to kill himself with a shotgun. Ennis manages to move seamlessly between making Arseface a pitiful character and comic relief, while also making Arseface’s story as interesting as Custer’s search for God.

jesse-arseface-cassidy

I was not completely satisfied with the last issue, only because there was one aspect of the ending that felt hollow. However, the ending is not poor enough to deplete the quality of the series and is only a small bump in a smooth road.Preacher joins Y: The Last Man, and Transmetropolitan as one of my favourite limited series.

Joker and Harley Quinn- Wish Fulfillment for The Twilight Crowd

As I scrolled through instagram this morning, I came across a post by another user who was upset that people kept arguing that the Harley Quinn and Joker relationship is meant to be a manipulative and abusive one. The user is aware that the relationship is depicted like that in the comics, but argues that the movies don’t portray that. In her mind, the relationship is a case of two people with psychological issues being there for one another. I have previously discussed how people who actually know about the comics are still treated as basement dwelling virgins, since people believe the source material for their beloved films shouldn’t matter. Today’s first post on @moviegrapevine was inspired by my reaction to this delusional user, and I figured I would expand my thoughts here.

In the comics, Harley is often depicted as heavily dependent on the Joker, and arguably experiencing true love. Meanwhile, The Joker sees her as a prized possession or a tool to be used as he pleases. Deleted scenes from Suicide Squad reveal a more abusive relationship. This article describes a scene that was cut (SPOILER ALERT)

jokerandharley

 

…. from Joker’s helicopter rescue of Harley. In the movie, they share a kiss and it is a sweet moment. In the deleted scene Joker verbally scolds her. There is also  leaked set footage of another scene where The Joker slaps Harley.

joker-harley-quinn-196378

 

 

These scenes were cut partly due to WB’s concerns about the film being too dark, especially following the backlash BatmanvSuperman received for its tone. This serves as yet another example of how the “make it fun” mentality can damage a film. We do not have the proper Harley and Joker relationship without the abuse. They are not meant to be an ideal couple. The Joker is unpredictable, selfish and violent. His treatment of Harley should reflect that. Yes, he comes back to recapture her at the end of the film, but that is like a real-life abusive husband buying his wife something shiny after he beats her; It only serves to continue the cycle of abuse. Of course, Harley Quinn puts up with his abuse to her issues with dependency, but I am sick of people arguing their relationship is supposed to be sweet and romantic in Suicide Squad.

The marketing for Suicide Squad focused heavily on Harley Quinn, which was perfectly fine with me since it is her big screen debut. However, the focus on Harley and the related girl power also served to attract the type of audience that would not normally see a comic book film. Instead of female comic book fans or general action film fans, we also attract the woman who would normally pass on this movie to read or watch Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight again. Wish fulfillment is a huge part of what makes these kinds of love stories so popular. Erika Leonard, better known as E.L James, admits that her writing was influenced by her own fantasies.

People flock to love stories to imagine themselves as the woman being chased after by the most popular guy in high school, or the woman hooking up with a millionaire. I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, and I refuse to. I understand the relationship portrayed there is not an ideal one, but from what I understand the BDSM is a consensual part of the relationship. Women can still fantasize about being taken in such a way by a millionaire. It is harder to fantasize about being used and abused by a psychotic clown. So when they are confronted with the truth that their “bae” is actually abusive, they deny it by any means necessary. It ruins the illusion of this sweet relationship with the hot prince of crime (yes, a lot of girls think this Joker is hot). Their real boyfriends are either non-existent or don’t fit their laundry list of ideal traits. e.g. bad boy persona, tattoos. Grow up and take your wish fulfillment elsewhere.

 

100 Bullets

Hello everyone,

My latest blog post for comicommand is up on their site and it is copied below.

100 Bullets

100 Bullets

Written By Cadeem Lalor

After reading the much hyped Joker by Brian Azzarello’s much hyped Joker, I found myself somewhat disappointed by it. The concept was great and since The Joker is my favourite villain, I was happy to explore his madness more, but the ending felt incomplete and the overall story wasn’t as engaging as I hoped. 100 Bullets was highly recommended and I figured that I would give it a shot. The entire series runs for 100 issues and I purchased the first volume, which includes issues 1-19.

Now I have a better idea of why Azzarello is a revered author. The concept was what motivated me to buy the comic, revolving around separate stories where people are given an opportunity to take revenge on someone who has wronged them, armed with irrefutable evidence and a gun with 100 rounds of untraceable ammunition. This revenge is facilitated by a man known only as Agent Graves.

While the concept is interesting, the comic could easily falter with poor execution. The toughest thing to initially accept was the artwork, which I felt paled in comparison to works like The Walking Dead or Transmetropolitan. Like Joker, some panels are amazingly detailed and well-rendered. Meanwhile, several others looked poorly done. I remember that I felt the same way about the art for the first few issues of The Walking Dead, and I wondered if I might get more used to the art as the story progressed. For the most part I did, but I still feel like the artwork is one of the weaker aspects of the comic.

100 Bullets #92

Another issue that seemed to carry over from Joker is the way that minority characters are generally depicted. Most of the characters we meet in 100 Bullets are poor ones, so I initially tried to dismiss the ebonics and the stereotypes as being indicative of class, since it also crosses racial lines. However, Killer Croc (who is black) also has similar lines in Joker. Maybe we can argue Croc also grew up poor but the dialogue ends up sounding stale and forced when the writer shoehorns slang into every other sentence. One of Elmore Leonard’s rules of writing is to use regional dialects and slang sparingly, but that isn’t the case here. Series like The Walking Dead handled such dialogue better with characters like Tyrese and Axel, making it flow more smoothly.

With the negatives out of the way, I can say that Azzarello still manages to craft a great story. As the issues continue, the different storylines and characters become more connected. We learn more about Graves, his allies, his enemies and it starts to become clear that the people getting their shot at revenge are likely pawns. Since each issue generally revolves around a different character, with appearances or references by others, one of the biggest challenges is to keep each story as engaging as the previous one. Azzarello accomplishes this well, introducing our new character and their predicament quickly. The stories then snowball from there, from a case study of one person, into a larger exploration of this world. The dialogue is well written when it’s not weighed down by slang. Azzarello also allows the plot’s full details to be revealed slowly. We know who our character is and why they want revenge. Everything else, such as Grave’s goal, is only hinted at piece by piece. We get the feeling we will know all at some point, but we also know that we won’t be learning until near the end of the tale.

The series isn’t perfect and since it won an Eisner award, my expectations are high. However, I am excited to see how the story wraps up.

Travis Clevenger

Suicide Squad- Drowning in Bad Reviews

suicide-squad-poster

Since the first official trailer was released back in January, Suicide Squad has been one of my most anticipated films of 2016. At this point, Rogue One and SQ hold the top spots.

Another highly anticipated film, BatmanvSuperman, was a disappointment, mainly due to the third act and the presence of Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor Jr. who was in desperate need of some Ritalin.

I gave the film a 6.5/10, and was surprised to learn that Rotten Tomatoes gave it less than 30%. I knew the reviews weren’t good going into the film, but I didn’t realize the reviews were that bad. I can agree with some of the criticisms levied at the film. I understand that the dream sequences were jarring and nonsensical for some, although they did have some comic references that delighted me. I understand that the conflict between batman and superman could have been better developed. I understand the Martha scene could have been executed better, even if the intention was laudable, Doomsday was terribly developed etc.

maxresdefault

Obviously, I can’t say the film was amazing. Ben Affleck was great, Gal Gadot gave a memorable silver screen debut for Wonder Woman etc., the film built off the much aligned destruction in Man of Steel…but the positives are weighed down. I am not a fanboy who rejects reason when defending a film. I understand that the film has its faults, but the hate levied against it seems vastly disproportionate to them. Mainly because a lot of criticism revolves around the film’s tone. This is of course not the only criticism, but it is one that pops up in numerous reviews.

I have previously discussed the ongoing belief that comic book films should be light-hearted and “fun”. I find this funny since the source material doesn’t always fit this criteria. The comic book version of Civil War was not full of witty banter and “fun”, but we get that in the film. I did love the movie and I do like many of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films, but the insistence on a “fun” tone is making the movies become stale to me. It is good to have tonal variety. DC will have more humour with films like Shazam and Aquaman, which will help to balance out the darker films. The Justice League Comic Con footage also shows us a lighter tone, but I hope that more jokes aren’t shoehorned in only to appeal to the horde that thought BvS was too “dark” “brooding” “depressing” etc.

No other genre of films will get panned solely for its tone. No one will say a biopic is bad because it’s depressing, but comic book films seem to be bound by a duty to make their audience laugh. People are used to this and expect this now due to the MCU. Some might be quick to say that the MCU’s films are light because they fit the characters. However, that is not always the case. Thor: Ragnarok, the third film in the Thor series, will revolve around Asgardian Doomsday. It would make sense for this film to be dark, at least relative to the previous films. However, a comedy writer was brought in to change the film specifically because they thought the original script was too dark. Again, he was brought in ONLY due to concerns about darkness, not character development, plot etc.

1446686178594

The humour started with Robert Downey Jr. ad-libbing dialogue in Iron Man (2008), which became a template for the rest of the MCU, and it is now a recognized staple of the Marvel films. Now that Disney owns Marvel, you can bet that there is even more corporate pressure to keep everything light and family friendly. Of course, the Netflix shows are much darker and ones like Jessica Jones aren’t meant for children at all. However, these shows are much cheaper than a $150 million film, so there is less pressure to appeal to a wider audience. It seems like the execs are more willing to experiment with darker themes and tones when crafting a Netflix series. For the moment, any darker Marvel characters will either be watered down on film or available on Netflix. The funny thing is that these shows rarely get criticized for the tone the same way the films do. People don’t say they would be improved if they were more “fun”.

daredevils2-970-80

Point being, Marvel has created a brand that is lighter and I believe people have a much harder time accepting anything else. Even Stephen Colbert has criticized DC for being too dark, referring to Suicide Squad as the “mopey avengers“. This is despite a marketing campaign that has continuously portrayed SQ as a lighter, more “fun” film than BvS. Colbert is not a film buff, or a huge comic fan. When it comes to his interest in these topics, he can be considered a member of the general public. He is a perfect example of how the mindset that DC is too dark has filtered through society. Kevin Fiege has explicitly stated that the MCU will never be dark, arguing that humour is in the “DNA of the movies”. There you have it, a commitment to sticking to the same tone for every single MCU film, despite the character or story arc being explored. It’s a restrictive policy but one that many people commend. They have adapted to expect this tone from their comic book films and they retroactively ascribe the “fun” to the source material.

Aside from the issue of expecting light-heartedness, it seems like people are much more forgiving of a film’s faults if it is light-hearted. I saw a tweet from someone today that was criticizing SQ directory, David Ayer, for his “snarky” response to the negative reviews. @4starfilms didn’t appreciate the response since he has plenty of things to criticize the film for. The funny part, @4starfilms hasn’t seen the film yet. I am not assuming that because it’s not out yet for general audiences yet. I asked him, and he told me he hasn’t seen it. All the criticisms he has for SQ? Solely based on reviews he has read. BvS taught me not to judge a film just by reviews, which was something I did for Fantastic Four (2015).  While @4Starfilsm bashes SQ based only off reviews, a recent review of the new Jason Bourne film also says that the film deserves a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes. Obviously he doesn’t truly believe that critics are always right. Seems like he was just eager to hate the film. It can be easy to jump on the bandwagon. @4Starfilms is also another person who thinks the tone was one of the main issues for BvS. Seeing a pattern here?

I’m seeing SQ this Saturday and I will reserve judgment until then. Who knows, it might suck, but I won’t bash it prematurely and I won’t say it sucks because of the tone.