The Dark Knight III: The Master Race

Note: The below article is one that I intended to upload to comicommand back in March. Since comicommand is not being updated for the moment (but will be soon), I have decided to post this article on my site instead.

I heard mixed things about The Dark Knight: Master Race but my love of Batman eventually persuaded me to check out Frank Miller’s latest foray into the character’s mythos. This series is also co-written by Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) and follows three years after The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

In this continuity, Ray Palmer (The Atom) is successfully able to free the inhabitants of the miniaturized, bottled Kryptonian city Kandor. Not only does he free them, but he also returns them to full size. Once free, these new inhabitants set out to create a society where the strongest, their own people, rule.

Although I also have mixed thoughts about this series, which shifts from amazing to mediocre within one issue, its exploration of Superman and his people is enough to keep me reading.

One of my biggest issues with the new 52, at least as portrayed in animated films like Justice League: War, was the relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman. When together, they are like the captain of the football team and the head cheerleader. Lois Lane wasn’t just a love interest to me. She was one of the key figures, along with Superman’s adoptive parents, that literally and figuratively kept Superman grounded. While Superman was more physically separated from his parents, Lois was a constant thread that enabled him to value human life. Growing up among humans also developed Superman’s respect for them.

In contrast, the daughter that he had with Wonder Woman grew up among Amazons and sees humans as “ants”. When the inhabitants of Kandor make their intentions clear, Lara is eager to follow them and shun her father, who she sees as a traitor to his people. She has grown up with the power granted by two of the world’s greatest heroes, along with the isolationist mindset of the Amazons.

The Kandorian leader, Quar, is a twisted version of what Superman could have been. While enemies like Zod desired the annihilation of humans, Quar expresses a paternalistic mindset that undermines human agency. In his own view, humans need to be ruled. They are the savage slaves that he wishes to civilize. Superman recognizes his power, and the advantages it gives him over the people of Earth, but he also recognizes the strength and free will of its people. Although he is better than Quar in many ways, he is not far removed from him.

 

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract Review

It is an understatement of epic proportions to say that the post-Flashpoint DC Animated Films have not lived up to their predecessors. Flashpoint, my favourite DC Animated film, was followed by Warwhich had very little going for it. Weak voice acting from a lot of the cast, weak dialogue, terrible characterizations for some characters (Wonder Woman especially) etc. The list of negatives goes on and the subsequent films did little to raise my hopes. Batman v Robin and Gods and Monsters were bright spots, which gave me hope that DC were climbing the ladder back to greatness. Then Justice League vs. Teen Titans came along, and sent my hopes spiralling into the abyss. The Killing Joke was a little disappointing, and could have cut the batgirl prelude, but was a pretty good film overall. Then we got a pretty forgettable Justice League Dark, not terrible, but nothing special earlier compared to works like Under The Red HoodSuperman vs The Elite, First Flight or even Assault on Arkham.

All of that to say, I made sure not to get my hopes up about this film.The Judas Contract (TJC) is an adaptation of the comic storyline of the same name, which I have not read. I can’t judge the film based on it’s accuracy to the comic since I have not read the comic yet and don’t want to simply Google comparisons since they’ll contain spoilers for the comics.

Overall, the film is a definite improvement over JL vs Teen Titans and War. Since the latter two films are my most hated DC animated films to date, that compliment isn’t saying much.

The most notable improvement in this film was the handling of Damian Wayne’s character. Since his introduction in Son of Batman Damian Wayne has been abrasive, stubborn, arrogant…in short, bratty. In Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin and Bad Blood his more undesirable characteristics were also balanced out to create an anti-hero that was annoying at times, but not insufferable. Then JL vs Teen Titans undid any development the character previously received and pretty much made him Bart Simpson in a Robin suit. All improvements in terms of social skills, self-awareness, respect etc. were gone.

Spoiler: I was happy when Blue Beetle nearly killed him.

In TJC Damian is still a loner who is adjusting to working well with a team, just like his dad. He still has an attitude problem but he also looks out for his team and isn’t the petulant child we last saw in JL vs Teen Titans.

Damian, along with Beast Boy are the highlights among the Titans, with their dialogue and voice actors bringing the most life to their roles. Nightwing, one of my favourite characters, also gets to shine. We get to learn more about Starfire’s background, although she still just comes across as a two-dimension princess kindness for the most part.

The newest member, Terra, plays a pivotal role in the story and her story arc demonstrates how seemingly unsympathetic characters can still gain our sympathy. However, there is a birthday scene that was truly cringeworthy and reminded me of the DDR scene in JL vs Teen Titans.

I have to say that Deathstroke was the biggest highlight of the film. Aside from being one of my favourite DC villains, Miguel Ferrer does an amazing job as the villain. Deathstroke doesn’t have that many lines compared to some of the other characters, and his character mainly relies on charisma for the role. Ferrer brings that in spades and makes me overlook some of the weaker dialogue and relatively little screen time.

The other villians were somewhat forgettable in my opinion, and the final fight actually proves to be one of the duller ones. Bigger is not always better.

Overall, The Judas Contract was a decent way to pass the time, but still makes me miss the older DC films even more.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Edit: The trailer is now out, and I will be doing  a video and blog post with my thoughts on it later today.

Star Wars Celebration Orlando is now underway, featuring panels with the stars and filmmakers of the Star Wars franchise. Director Rian Johnson is present, and it is expected that the trailer for The Last Jedi will premiere online tomorrow. With that said I thought I would share some of my hopes for the next film.

1) No death star.

We have had three death stars over seven films, and even the original trilogy didn’t have two death stars back to back.  I didn’t mind seeing the original death star again in Rogue One, since it was a prequel. With that said, death stars should simply be retired for the saga as a whole.

2) More development for Finn as a capable warrior.

John Boyega has hinted (via Instagram) that Finn will have a more physical role in The Last Jedi. He has also hinted that the character would be boring if he started off as a  skilled warrior, instead of realistically developing to that point. Since Rey is often accused of being a Mary Sue to her skills as a pilot, mechanic, and her skill with the force and the lightsaber, maybe Boyega has a point. I have previously discussed the Mary Sue argument, although I believe detractors may have a point I simply have to question if a male character with the same skills would be criticized as much. After all, Luke had the same skill set in A New Hope.

Finn was marketed as the franchise’s next Jedi, and his fate in the film came across as a cruel bait and switch. First, one of the few black main characters in the franchise is reduced to comic relief for the most part. Second, he’s unconscious at the end of the film while Rey goes to train with Luke. Boyega is a great actor, if his performances in Attack The Block and Imperial Dreams are any indication and I hope he gets more room to shine.

3) More new locations and people.

Rogue One and the announcement of various spin-offs that deviated from the “Episode” series initially seemed like a cash grab. However, Rogue One ended up being a breath of fresh air. Star Wars is the story of a galaxy,  and it was great to be separated from one family and one set of characters for a few hours. We got memorable new characters and places that still relate to the “Episode” series while also showcasing how vast the universe really is.

If the trailer is released tomorrow, I’ll be fanboying like everyone else, with these hopes in the back of my mind.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Archer: Dreamland Season Premiere Review

When it was announced that Archer’s eighth season would move transplant all of the beloved characters into a different time, fan theories were rife with the belief that the eighth season would be Sterling’s coma-induced dreams. Of course, the season’s title, “Dreamland” also made it a very compelling theory.

The creators didn’t waste anytime confirming what many people thought, offering a brief takeout as we see the gang at a funeral for Woodhouse. Woodhouse’s voice actor passed away in 2015 and the character was understandably absent from the show afterwards. This episode finally resolves the issue of Woodhouse’s disappearance in a way that pays respect to George Coe. In this case, I am glad the character gets to pass along with his voice actor.

Once the funeral is wrapped up, we see Archer, and his five o’clock shadow resting in a hospital dead. Three months after getting shot by Veronica Deane. I was originally upset that Archer’s life could potentially end at the hands of a starlet, especially after all the other threats he’s faced. However, I realized that such a fate would actually fit Archer’s personality and history. Archer has always let his guard down, thinking with the head below his waist instead of in his brain, whenever a beautiful woman comes along.

While I loved seasons 1-3 as a whole, 4- 7 have been weaker entries in the series. There have been some good episodes throughout the show’s run, but seasons 1-3 offer the most consistently entertaining episodes. Season 7 was an improvement over 5 and 6 in my opinion, and season 8 looks like it is also getting closer to the standard of the first few seasons.

The noir setting offers a fresh take that is stunningly appropriate for Archer, and has also been used to offer brilliant alterations of the supporting cast. All of the main characters have been re-introduced in one way or another, while also maintaining parallels to their original selves. Cyril is still a dick to Archer and vice-versa, Lana is still a love interest who knows how to Archer in his place, Krieger still deals in illegal goods, Pam is still badass, Mallory is still a domineering boss, Cheryl is still crazy, Barry is still an arch-nemesis etc.

In terms of humour, this episode holds promises for a season that could potentially usurp number four as my fourth favourite, and maybe even go higher.

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”.

 

Bates Motel: The Scene We’ve Been Waiting For

Warning: Spoilers will ensue for Bates Motel up until this point, which is episode 6 of season 5.

I remember watching Psycho (1960) years ago, mainly to see the film that birthed the most iconic shower scene in cinema history.

The music, the scream, the knife-wielding silhouette…it’s perfect. Maybe it comes across as cheesy now but I think the context has to be considered here. At this time, Psycho was breaking new ground in the horror genre, inspiring numerous other aspiring writers and directors, while also making people scared to take a shower.

Bates Motel could have turned out to be a terrible attempt to try to rehash, or cash in on a classic, but it has been able to truly become its own beast. It has carved out its own mythos, while also respecting and paying tribute to its source material: the 1960 film and the book that preceded it.

These past two seasons of Bates Motel have improved greatly by removing strenuous subplots and focusing on the Bates family. More specifically, the show became a lot more interesting as it focused on Norman’s descent into madness.

This season brought up a significant character from the old movie, Marion Crane, the victim of the famous shower scene. I was worried that Rihanna would ruin this season with her presence, but she was surprisingly competent in the role. I’m not going to say she was great, but she wasn’t atrocious and didn’t ruin the show. Maybe I was setting the bar low for her.

I was sure the show would have their own version of the shower scene, but I wasn’t sure how they would approach it. Would they try to do a carbon copy of the scene? Probably not a good idea since the original is so iconic. Instead, we get a genius twist on the scene, with the show’s biggest douchebag getting carved up instead.

The choice of music was perfect, with the lyrics and the tone matching the footage of Norman embracing his other half. The music was also vastly different from the original, creating a scene that is a homage to Pyscho but can still stand by itself. I like the fact that his alternate persona is portrayed as being self-aware of its own existence, acknowledging that it is a coping mechanism, but arguing it is still a necessary piece of Norman’s mind.The show was even brazen enough to tease us with the possibility of Marion’s death earlier in the episode.Marion lives another day, but Riri will likely not return to the show (which is okay with me).

Freddie Highmore has been a true powerhouse over these past few seasons, and Vera Farigma continues to kill it as Norma (or pretend Norma). This dynamic duo has the rest of this season to bring Bates Motel home and I am looking forward to seeing how this series ends.

 

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 films as bogged down with two 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.