Justice League Review

Along with Netflix’s Punisher, November 17 also marked the release of Justice League. Anyone who watches my YouTube videos or has read my other articles knows that I hate the DC vs Marvel mentality that prevents people from trying to enjoy both properties. Due to my own openness to enjoy both, this weekend was an early Christmas.

After some disappointing results from BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad (don’t even get me started) I approached Justice League with cautious optimism. One of my biggest worries after seeing the trailers was that the studios would force more humour or “fun” into the film. Joss Whedon assisted with post-production but Ben Affleck has said that the tone was set prior to Whedon’s arrival. I have no problem with “fun” itself, but I hate the increasingly popular mentality that every comic book film has to be fun in order to be good. This mentality also leads to people targeting the tone as an issue if a film is poor. BvS had its share of issues, such as Eisenberg’s Luthor and the third act. The tone was the least of my worries but people flocked to that argument like moths to a flame. I was worried the filmmakers would now see adding more humour as the only key to success, as opposed to some better performances, character development etc.

I can say that most of the humour in the film works. There are some lines, particularly one from Batman, that felt out of place but the film didn’t end up being Thor: Ragnarok like I feared. Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) provides most of the comic relief and will probably emerge as a new fan favourite. His Flash is young and inexperienced, serving mostly as crowd control and ancillary support in the fights. While I liked the character himself, I still have to wonder why Barry was given Wally West’s personality. Any fans of the Justice League animated show will remember Wally West’s flash as the comic relief. Meanwhile, Barry Allen is a more serious character. Miller is weaker in the more dramatic scenes, which is a surprise given his performance in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Maybe my friend was onto something when he said Zack Snyder’s weakness is directing actors.

However, the majority of performances either gave us something new to like or built off what we’ve seen before. Ben Affleck’s Batman is more optimistic about his ability to impact the world with the league but still has traces of the world weary Batman that many fans are probably familiar with. He has “contingency plans” and he still knows how to push people’s buttons, as demonstrated in a scene where he confronts Wonder Woman.

Gal Gadot shines as the heart of the team, the warrior who also serves as a mother to the team’s new or reluctant members. Ray Fisher actually emerged as one of my favourite performances, but the writing and runtime doesn’t allow his character to flourish, especially in the second half. Jason Momoa is decent as Aquaman. Don’t get me wrong, he is an imposing figure on screen who has probably diminished the general public’s idea of Aquaman as a loser, but this film does lead me wondering how well he will carry a solo film.

Anyone who has seen all of the trailers or even saw BvS knows it was likely Superman would return. His return is actually tied into the plot from BvS, and is something that Batman is actively pursuing in the film. It doesn’t end up being a deus ex machina like I feared and Superman’s return actually leads to one of the film’s most memorable moments. Henry Cavill could be a wooden Superman at times but I actually enjoyed his performance here.

It is clear some scenes were cut from the film, either because we are missing parts from the trailer, or the fact that the film could have used some more time to flesh out the new Leaguers. To its credit, Justice League gives us a sense of character backstories without spending too much screen time to go in depth e.g. we learn Barry got struck by lightning and we know Cyborg was in an accident, but we don’t see it. This may be due to post-production cuts or it may have been the original cut. However, it begs the question of why ten or fifteen minutes couldn’t have been used to give Cyborg, The Flash or Aquaman some more devoted screen time. Stepping into the light is a theme of the film, not referring to tone, but referring to heroes who often work alone coming together to fight an enemy. At the beginning of the film Cyborg is still coming to terms with his new identity and takes some cues from Batman, keeping to himself while he tries to better understand his body and abilities. He makes it clear he can’t fully control his body yet and this leads to some interesting conflict, but this subplot is discarded in the film’s second half.

I hate to bring up a Marvel comparison but herein lies the advantage of doing solo films prior to the team-up. My previous paragraph could end up being null if each character got a solo film first. However, I will say that doing a team up film first can also generate more interest for a solo one. With their budgets, superhero films aren’t always guaranteed box office success. Maybe a Cyborg film done prior to Justice League would not have done as well as the studio hoped? Now, I hope the film comes to fruition due to Fisher’s performance.

Speaking of Marvel comparisons, Justice League does give us a pretty forgettable villain. I was excited to hear about Steppenwolf as the villain since it meant we could soon be getting Darkseid. The design we saw in the deleted scene of BvS is discarded here for a look that is more generic and looks poorly rendered for the majority of the film’s scenes.

Steppenwolf’s plot revolves around the Mother Boxes, three devices that can combine to turn any planet into the hellish environment of his homeworld (awesome getting a reference to Apokolips). The majority of Steppenwolf’s screen time is spent in search of the Mother Boxes, which leads to a memorable fight with the Amazons and some great fights with the League.

Wonder Woman shines as the battlefield MVP for most of the film. The Flash and Aquaman get their moments as well, while Cyborg serves his own purpose. It is an old joke that Batman would be useless against physically powerful villains but decades of comics show him fighting far more powerful foes with the use of gadgets and tactics. We get some of that here but there is also plenty of time when Batman is removed from his plane or bat mobile and ends up being the weakest link. Even when he is fighting one thug at the beginning of the film he is able to execute some stunning acrobatics (complete with slo-mo) but then still takes a lot of time to take down one person when compared to his speed in the warehouse fight in the first film. Now, this film makes it clear he is getting older and is more beaten up than ever, but his prowess ends up being inconsistent throughout the film.

While CGI provides us some great shots, such as Flash’s Sistine Chapel moment, it also gives us many other scenes where CGI simply seems unnecessary or poorly rendered. The fights fights are hampered by poor CGI in places, especially for the parademons. Like Steppenwolf himself, the parademons looked better in BvS (the Knightmare scene). Additionally, the fights are somewhat diminished by the fact that we aren’t as emotionally invested since the villain isn’t that interesting. He is physically powerful and imposing but so are his opponents, we need more than that to interest us. Ciaran Hinds’s voice acting sadly seems wasted. Steppenwolf has some good lines but overall he felt like another placeholder villain with a pretty generic motive that was provided simply so the league could have something to fight.

A film should not be judged simply for what it sets up, but I have to give the theatrical cut some credit for its ability to weave in other characters and worlds in its concise running time. We get a brief glimpse of Atlantis and glimpses of important characters from other worlds, such as the Greek Gods and Green Lanterns. There are two post-credits scenes and the second one leads well into the future DCEU movies, while also providing a glimpse of a character many fans have been waiting for.

Overall, Wonder Woman is still my favourite DCEU film, but there are some things that I liked about the Justice League movie. The final fight is more entertaining, which is probably unfair since the fight combines our favourite characters. Justice League is hampered by some of the same issues from its predecessors but still surpasses BvS Suicide Squad and after some thought I might have to say it beats Man of Steel. I might revisit this ranking in a week though.

For now:

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. Justice League
  3. Man of Steel
  4. Batman V Superman
  5. Suicide Squad

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.

 

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”.

 

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.”

 

 

 

Comic Book Stigma

Warning: Spoilers for BatmanvSuperman

Henry Cavill recently posted a picture on Instagram that revealed a close up of a black Superman suit. Superman was killed by Doomsday in BatmanvSuperman, but the film’s last scene implied that Superman will return. Following his death in the comics in the early 1990s (also at the hands of Doomsday) Superman returns with a black suit, with a white S logo. This new suit allowed him to absorb more solar energy and regenerate faster, since he needed to regain his strength. I know this latter piece of information from comic book fans online, whether it was through comments on articles or on Facebook.

Superman-Suit-History-Return-Black

I avoid reading articles on Facebook since all the links to related material can lead to a social media spiral that takes up too much time. However, I gave in and finally decided to check out the comment section of one of the articles discussing Cavill’s picture. Since comic book films are so popular nowadays, I honestly thought that the stigma of comic books; the belief that readers are all basement dwelling, vampiric virgins was somewhat diminished. Obviously I knew the stigma still existed but the comments I read show the extent to which people still look down on viewers who actually know or care about the source material for their beloved films.

comcbookguy

Several people complained about the black costume as expected, some said it ripped off Batman, some said it only made Superman even darker (literally I guess, even though people complain about Superman not being “fun” enough). Comic book fans or people who were bothered to use Google, then advised the uninformed that the suit comes from a storyline in the comics.

The responses to this information? If I had to take a shot every time the word “virgin” popped up I would be passed out by the 25th comment. These people obviously care about the film enough to comment on the article, but they can’t take the time to use Google or heed the information they are given by comic book readers. To them, the comic books don’t matter. Who reads those things anyway? They are here about movies, the things that cool people watch.

This mindset reminds of me of Robert Downey Jr.’s character in Tropic Thunder, and the infamous “never go full retard” scene. In case you can’t watch the clip, and if you haven’t seen Tropic Thunder (get on that ASAP) Ben Stiller’s character is frustrated that his portrayal of a mentally challenged boy in one of his films was critically panned. Downey Jr. then explains that the critically lauded performances of mental disability, such as Rain Man, weren’t “full retard”. In more polite terms they didn’t have conditions that made them unable to function for the most part. In the case of Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman’s character was autistic.

It is now acceptable to love comic book films, but  actually reading and knowing about comics is deemed “full retard”. Never mind that the movies wouldn’t exist without the comics, and that the comics can often be better written than the films.

 

Suicide Squad Review- 6.5/10

suicide-squad-poster

Before I began, don’t be discouraged by the number that I have to give. Suicide Squad has a lot of things to love, but it also has a list of things that I thought could have been much better. It is an entertaining film, but falls short of being a great one.

The film follows Task Force X, a group assembled by government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Task Force X is assembled to tackle dangerous missions, in return for reduced sentences. With bombs implanted in their necks, the group are nothing more than pawns who can be used and blamed for any government failures if need be.

Suicide Squad was one of my most anticipated films for this year and my most anticipated comic book film. We would get the first live-action, silver screen Harley Quinn and a new take on The Joker, one of my favourite fictional characters. Since so much of the film’s hype surrounded these two I figure I will start with them. Not only were they prominent in the marketing but they are also two of the film’s biggest highlights.

As a disclaimer, The Joker does not have that much screen time. I am not faulting the film for this since he is not a central part of the story. His screen time fits the grander narrative without overloading it. However, it appears many people felt misled by the marketing and see the short screen time as another fault of the film. A good portion of The Joker’s screen time comes from flashbacks, showing the transformation from Harleen Quinzel to Harley Quinn. These scenes are some of my favourite ones in the film. I can’t say whether I like this Joker as much as Heath Ledger’s but it is a tough comparison since I only have about twenty minutes to judge from this film. Additionally, this version of The Joker is much different.

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The tattoos and the grill aren’t explained here, but I hope they will be in future installments. Maybe there won’t be one cohesive explanation, maybe this version of The Joker is simply one that gets tattoos. While Heath Ledger’s was an anarchist who was willing to light a mountain of money on fire, this one appears to own a club as a revenue stream and a front for more illegitimate business. Brian Azzarello’s graphic novel Joker also had its main character involved in club management for revenue, so this change didn’t bother me. When it comes to this Joker’s appearance, you can either accept it or you can’t. If you can’t accept the look you’ll probably view the performance through a biased lens.

theory-the-joker-will-not-have-tattoos-well-most-of-them-375770

From the limited screen time I did enjoy Leto’s take on the character. With the time we get, The Joker is more serious than some may be used to, but we have to realize that the Joker’s moments of pure insanity are best when they are balanced out with calmer ones. We get calm and we get mayhem. Deleted scenes will likely show more as well, there were about ten more minutes of Joker footage cut from the film from what I have heard.

Since The Joker’s plotline is intertwined with Harley Quinn in this film, we needed a strong Harley Quinn in order to strengthen the arc for both characters. Robbie delivered. Some people seemed worried that she didn’t have a Brooklyn accent but I can assure you she does. Also, she delivers much more than a Brooklyn accent. She is captivating, charismatic, funny while also displaying the violence and psychosis that makes her a villain. The Joker and Harley relationship has often been portrayed as one where Harley genuinely loves The Joker, while he often manipulates or abuses her. We get hints of that here and I look forward to seeing what the filmmakers do with the characters from this point on. While this film does still leave me excited for future DC films, it stands as a solo film better than the theatrical version of BatmanvSuperman does. Cameos and references to other DCEU characters are much more streamlined than some of the ones we had in BvS.

Aside from Harley, Will Smith is also great as Deadshot. People complained about a black actor getting the part, but as I’ve discussed before, people always defend whitewashing. If you don’t like white characters getting taken away, don’t just sit on the sidelines and tell me “It’s just a movie” when white actors portray minorities. Will Smith brings the same charisma and attitude from early roles like Men in Black and Independence Day, which may annoy some viewers. However, he still inhabits a new character well and doesn’t simply turn Deadshot into another role we’re used to.

Jay Hernandez is another memorable addition as El Diablo, who has one of the most interesting backstories in the film. Jai Courtney, who receives his fair share of hate online, also provides a great take on Captain Boomerang.

Suicide_Squad_New_HD-Screencaps_038

Viola Davis is the reason I started watching How To Get Away With Murder and she is pretty good here as well. I loved how her character was written, embodying the Machiavellianism I remember from the Justice League television show.

Aside from these four, a lot of the other main characters are somewhat forgettable. I loved Joel Kinnaman in The Killing and House of Cards but he falls flat here for the most part. Katana is a cool character but has very little screen time. She is not a villain here, but is a bodyguard of sorts for Rick Flagg. Despite this association with the main group of the film, her and Killer Croc both have few lines. Most of their screen time comes in the final battle of the film. Speaking of Killer Croc, he was almost a caricature of a black person.

killer croc

Of course, Croc is mutated but the comics depict him as being a mutated black person. In this film we get a “black” character who calls Harley “shorty” and makes only one request from the prison guards, “BET”. Yeah, more pressing issues in the world but could not help notice.

Like X:Men Apocalypse, this film brings up the issue of how to introduce and handle multiple characters in a team film. Apocalypse struggled with developing The Four Horseman (with the exception of Magneto) and the younger versions of Jean, Jubilee and Nightcrawler. Suicide Squad struggles with Croc, Katana and its villain. Many people expected Enchantress to be the main villain. She is one of them, but there is another one introduced who is poorly developed and also sports the worst CGI in the film.

This ultimately makes the third act somewhat dull in comparison to what came before. The third act does have some highlights, mainly from El Diablo and The Joker. However, it left me underwhelmed the same way the third act in BatmanvSuperman did.

Suicide Squad also brings up the issue of forcing a film to be lighter or more “fun”. The company that edited the trailer was brought in to make the film less somber, and the film ends up bloated with songs, especially in the first hour. When I say songs I don’t just mean the score. A good chunk of the film ends up being a music video. There is a ten minute stretch where there are two different montages with two different songs. First, there is Eminem’s Without Me, and then The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. It honestly might have been less than ten minutes. This frequent song use continues for the most of the first half of the film, dying down to a reasonable level near the climax. It was entertaining at first, but became excessive pretty quick. My friend wondered if the film spent half its budget on song rights. I could not help but think that some scenes would have been better without music blaring over them.

joker

The use of purple Lamborghini was perfect though, that song is fire.

Coming from someone who loves musical interludes in films, I have to say that this work of post-production editing damaged the final product. The same thing happened with BatmanvSuperman. It seems like the studio needs to have more faith in its directors.

There is a lot to love in Suicide Squad, but also a lot that needed to be improved. Maybe I am a fanboy but I am still excited for Justice League. I only hope that it doesn’t have the same issues with post-production that BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad had.

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.

addd

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?

Batffleck Movie Will Be An Original Story

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You can also watch my video on this topic.

BatmanvSuperman definitely got its fair share of hate but even some of the most vitriolic reviews praise Ben Affleck’s performance as Batman. I gave BatmanvSuperman a 6.5/10 but Ben Affleck is a big part of its re-watchability and once the film was done I remained excited about the batman solo film.

Anyone following my Twitter or Instagram will know that I was hoping for an adaptation of the Red Hood storyline. However, Ben Affleck confirmed that if he were to write the film (which he is), that he would make the story an original one.

Geoff Johns, DC’s Chief Creative Officer, is co-writing and will likely have a great deal of influence on the script as well.

The desire to go with an original story does bring up two issues for me.

1) Ben Affleck’s Main Justification

Affleck stated that he would want to use an original story due to the element of unpredictability. Like BvS, the Batman film will borrow elements from other comics and combine them into a new story. The audience would not know exactly what to expect. This logic does fall flat for me since the excitement of most book adaptations is the anticipation of seeing certain characters and events play out in a different medium. For example, many Game of Thrones fans eagerly awaited the television adaptation of moments like The Red Wedding and a big part of the excitement was the predictability. The predicability can also give way to suspense.

If story lines or characters are being excluded simply to make the story less predictable, then the changes may not always add value to the character and story.

2) Characters/Story Lines Could Be Prematurely Used

One issue that many fans of the film, myself included, had with Doomsday was that his inclusion felt poorly developed. Obviously Doomsday does not need to recite a soliloquy detailing his murderous intentions, but his origin is more interesting in the comics. Also, some poorly rendered CGI took away from the gravitas of the final fight. Now that Doomsday and Superman have already died in this film’s universe, this removes the option of seeing a full Death of Superman arc on screen. The storyline was used (arguably too early) and now must be retired.

I worry that the same thing could happen if pieces of story lines such as Red Hood or Injustice are cobbled together.

Affleck has proven himself to be a good writer. I know reception of the New 52 has been mixed, but I do hear that some of John’s work with DC is amazing so I am hoping that the solo Batman film still delivers an engaging DC story.

The Irony of the MCU

 

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I saw Captain America: Civil War recently and I currently rank it as my second favourite MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) film, with The Winter Soldier still being #1 for me. Despite the love I have for some of the MCU, I can’t help but notice the criticism people always levy at DC films. I am no DC “fanboy”, I recognize that they don’t have as solid a film universe, since they got a later start on it. However, I have previously discusses my disdain for people who say that DC movies have a problem with their tone. Many negative reviews will at least mention the darker tone of the DC universe films as being a problem, as if darker=worse.I realize that Marvel has dark properties on Netflix, like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but I made this post specifically to discuss the MCU on the big screen. Reading comprehension is a dying art, so let me break this down a little further. I am not saying that BvS or Man of Steel are amazing. MOS was a 7.5 for me and BvS a 6.5. I am not saying these films have no flaws. I am saying that I don’t think their tone is one of their flaws.

Obviously BvS had issues aside from its tone (I’m looking at you Eisenberg) but I can’t stand this relatively
new idea that darkness is a bad thing in itself, and that “dark” and “good” are mutually exclusive. Of course, there have been dark comic book films that have been relatively well received, like The Dark Knight and the more recent example of X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, times are changing. Go to Rotten Tomatoes and see how many negative reviews of Apocalypse mention the “dark”, “grim”, “joyless” tone as being an issue. I’ll wait.

There is a pervasive mentality that a comic book movie must be “fun”. It shouldn’t take itself too seriously and should have plenty of comic relief, otherwise it has failed as a film. The MCU is now held up as the standard of comic relief and as the benchmark for the tone that a comic book film should have. It is easy to see why people latched onto them since they have had the most prolific comic book film output of any studio.

What I find ironic, is that the “fun” mentality is what held comic book films back for so long. Many critics and members of the general public who flock to see MCU films now would have once scoffed at the idea of a critically revered comic book film. Of course there are classics like Superman (1978) but Superman did not usher in an era of consistent comic book films and box-office domination by comic book films. This era started slowly with films like Blade, then X-Men and then Spider-Man. Then came Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and then the birth of the MCU with Iron Man.

Many critics once thought comic book films would never have the success they do now. They might be silly fun, but no one would take such films seriously. The idea of Oscar winners or nominees regularly starring in comic book films would have been deemed preposterous. Marlon Brando’s appearance in Superman was such a big deal due to the pedigree that he brought to the film. The first big successes of the modern era (Blade and X-Men) used a tone that many would now view as overly dramatic, “dark”, “pretentious” etc. but that is what allowed comic book films to gain more popularity and critic recognition. If it weren’t for these films we might not have the MCU. Yet everyone now forgets the stigma comic book films had to overcome and wants everything to be “fun” and “colourful”. There was a time when people thought that was all comic book films would have to offer, and it seems like fans now want history to repeat itself.