The Past, Present and Future of the DC Cinematic Universe Part 7

That’s it!  The end is here!

Bringing everything to a close, we look at what the future may hold for DC’s Cinematic Universe.

All Marvel characters and footage © 2018 Marvel Comics Group

All DC Characters and footage © 2018 Warner Brothers

 

Part 1- https://youtu.be/D2zovFL1QgQ
Part 2- https://youtu.be/oy51WH3O86o
Part 3- https://youtu.be/1rrpUwYehuI
Part 4- https://youtu.be/alRmOuCRP9o
Part 5- https://youtu.be/r9J8CFRnkP0
Part 6- https://youtu.be/0N16wEC6hxE

The Past, Present and Future of the DC Cinematic Universe Part 4

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice continues…a movie in which the most compelling hero is not Batman or Superman. And is the best thing in spite of have no discernible plot-line of her own.

Marvel and it’s related characters are © 2018 Marvel Entertainment

DC and it’s related characters are © 2018 Warner Brothers.

Part 1- https://youtu.be/D2zovFL1QgQ
Part 2- https://youtu.be/oy51WH3O86o
Part 3- https://youtu.be/1rrpUwYehuI

The Past, Present and Future of the DC Cinematic Universe Part 2

In Part two, we explore the movies that came right before the Man of Steel, as well as some of the failed attempts to kick off the Cinematic universe. We also begin discussing Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

Marvel and it’s related characters are copyright © Marvel Entertainment

DC and it’s related characters are © Warner Brothers.

 

 

 

Social Justice Warriors (Justice League, 2017)

Justice_League_PosterWhen it comes to the movies?  DC has been struggling to  keep up with Marvel.  Part of this is really that DC did not lay out a plan from the start. While Marvel Released films with an aim toward the Avengers, DC was trying to figure out where to start.  The Nolan Batman films were a critical success, but also very much their own universe.  When they made Green Lantern, most attempts to build a larger never made it out of the script.

There was talk for several years starting off the DC Movie Universe with a Justice League film to be be directed by George Miller. This never came to pass, and when Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan began their work on Man of Steel it was decided this could be the start.  They did not do a ton, only lightly seeding references to a larger DC Cinematic Universe.

DC decided on following up Man of Steel not with Wonder Woman or Batman, but Batman V Superman.  Like Man of Steel, the reaction was mixed.  I am not a real big fan of either film, primarily because I feel like they are doing a rush job.  The films try and tackle big notions….but they have not earned it. Suicide Squad followed (troubling that we are meeting villains before the connected heroes). I did not mind Suicide Squad, I found it generally entertaining…but not as solid as Deadpool (whose success they were clearly aiming for).

The DC Cinematic Universe was desperate for an outright hit.  Luckily, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot delivered that with last summer’s Wonder Woman.  And so, for me, I had a little bit of hope they might look at this success and decide to use it as a template to right the ship.  Earlier this year, Zack Snyder announced he was stepping down for family reasons (His family was dealing with a tragic suicide of one of his children). It was announced that former Marvel architect Joss Whedon was brought in.  Whedon punched up the film with new dialog and reshoots.  And what is the end result?

Superman is still dead. The world is in chaos. Bruce Wayne is actively trying to bring a team together to protect the world from the larger threats. The threat here is from Steppenwolf…he came to earth once before in an attempt to destroy the planet, but was fought off by the Amazons, Atlanteans and human kind. His weapon, three items call Mother Boxes were split among the three groups and hidden away.

Batman also has a plan to bring Superman back, which Wonder Woman is uncomfortable with, but finally agrees to. And so, the team unites and takes on Steppenwolf.

So….is this redemption for DC?  Is this the second most awesome DC Cinematic Universe flick?  The answer is “Yes”. Buuuuuut….

Okay, so, the film opens with a nice little video, kids talking to Superman with there cell phone right after he has saved some people. And then we get Batman stopping a petty crook, except that it is a ruse to catch a creature called a para-demon.  The thief asks Batman if things are getting worse because they know Superman is dead.  This is followed by the film showing the world falling into despair, set to a haunted version of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows. This is all quite nice.

We also get a rather fun action sequence with Wonder Woman stopping a terror group.  This really is not a plot enhancing moment.  It is just a lot of fun to watch.   And the film has a lot of these.  There is a lot of fun action moments.  Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa clearly are having more fun than Ben Affleck.  Barry Allen has the same backstory of the the TV show (Dad in prison for murder of mom)…this is fine of course.  But it is not a storyline that really leads anywhere. I like the general characterization here though.  Barry is awkward with people in part because how time feels for him.  Admittedly, this is very similar to the comic book version of Marvel’s Quicksilver in which time moves so slow for him, he describes every minute of every day as being like waiting in line at the DMV.  Except, instead of being a jerk, Barry just struggles to slow down his thinking enough to not sound like he has severe ADD.

Aquaman has always been a sore spot of a character for DC.  He tends to get mocked endlessly for being able to “talk to fish”.  Here the film compensates a bit by making him a tough and jovial guy.  At one point he looks to Batman, smirks and says, “Dressed as a bat, I dig it.”

Cyborg is in kind of a thankless role.  He fills in the technology blanks. Ray Fischer is really likable in the role.  It just is that he feels like things just happen randomly to him.  At one point, his suit takes over and starts shooting at the newly resurrected Superman.  The idea that the mechanics are in control in such a fashion is interesting, but we do not really get an indication earlier that the mechanical part can go rogue, beyond it apparently making regular upgrades.

Gadot is spot on in her Wonder Woman boots.  The character is again a high point.  Digital mustache issues aside, Cavill is finally getting to be a Superman who likes himself. Superman seems to be more earthling than Kryptonian here.  And this is something that corrects the previous two films.  I understand the arguments about Superman and a connection for people who fall into the category of “Other”.  But Superman’s other status in the films were relegated to him acting like a life he never had was more his identity than the planet on which he grew up.  There are ways to portray the identity of “Other” without sacrificing important parts of the Superman mythos.  In this film, he no longer speaks about “on my planet”.  No, Earth is his home.  Lois is his home. Martha Kent is his home.

The action is pretty solid.  And the humor is there.  The film has bright colors! So, why did I add a “buuuuuuuuut”?

At one point, Aquaman says to the Flash, “So you were struck by lightning?”  Flash responds “Yeah, well that is the condensed version.”  And that is how the movie feels.  Apparently there was a mandate to keep the film at about two hours.  And boy is that apparent.

So many scenes feel cut short, so many conversations feel truncated.  At times, the film moves at “fan montage Youtube video” fast. We get brief glimpses of characters we want more of…and admittedly, Commissioner Gordon and Lois Lane will probably be far more prominent in the Batman and Superman follow-ups.

And then there is Steppenwolf.  A rather uninteresting character.  Remember Ronin from the first Guardians of the Galaxy?  Steppenwolf has the same goal…but without the nuance. The film is incredibly unclear about why this is…but it also does not hint at the notion there is someone behind Steppenwolf. He is a remarkably boring villain. And when you compare unfavorable to a weaker Marvel movie villain?  That has to hurt.

So, what we are left with is a film that is better than Man of Steel, Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad…but nowhere near as strong as Wonder Woman.  But that said? I had a lot of fun watching Justice League.

I Watches the Watchmen (Watchmen, 2009)

untitledHonestly, I was feeling slightly hesitant bout seeing this film.  For one, the mini-series has a longstanding reputation as being “UN-filmable”due to it’s dense and complex structure.  Certain “commentators” and critics had me wondering if I was about to see a movie that was setting new standards in levels of sex and gore.

Seventies Italian Giallo filmmakers have nothing to fear. Countless films crossed these lines long before Watchmen, and so as a film, Watchmen covers no new territory there, nor is it a sign of sinking depravity.

Overall, the film was one I really did enjoy.  The visual look of the film is stylish, though not as hyper stylish as, say, Sin City or the Spirit.  But it is a visual feast.  It is interesting, because while the setting is often dark and grimy, the colors still seem vibrant.

The opening ten minutes are flat out brilliant, beginning with the murder that kicks off the mystery the forms the groundwork of the story.  The credits are beautifully framed, they are like living photographs that give us a quick primer for the alternate timeline, from the rise of the masked hero to the present.

From there we jump into character introductions, following the one remaining masked vigilante, Rorschach.    As personified by Jackie Earl Haley, Rorschach comes to life.  Rorschach is admittedly a troublesome character.  He’s a bigoted sociopath, yet, strangely compelling in his black and white view.  The appeal of heroes that see in black and white is easy to understand.  The willingness to step forward and fight a perceived evil without compromise sounds noble.  But Rorschach is the other side of black and white thinking.  People are rarely so easily divisible between all good and all evil (in spite of the right and left’s desire to cast anyone who disagrees with them in the role of great evil).  And Rorschach is a reflection of the path blind devotion to a black and white view of justice can take.  Haley still manages to give him moments where you are compelled to root for him, or even feel sorrow for him.

The Comedian, whose death is the catalyst of the story, is a heartless bastard, who has looked deep into the heart of the world and walked away without hope and full of cynicism and depravity.  He likes hurting people and takes joy in cruelty.  A nationalist with no soul, he ultimately becomes undone emotionally by own lack of compassion.  He is the man stricken be a broken heart he did not think he had.  And Jeffrey Dean Morgan brings the character to life.  It’s a near perfect performance, successfully bringing Moore’s creation to life.

I was unsure of Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg, the Nite Owl.  Early pictures had him looking a tad too fit.  But the instant I saw Dan, I knew this was the guy I remembered.  Wilson brings the character a certain melancholy  that I thought might be lost in translation.  But this is a guy who regrets having given up, but has gotten soft over the years.  He is truly the closes thing to a hero in the film.

Malin Ackerman was a bit more disappointing, at times her delivery is a bit stiff.  However, there are times where she embodies the insecurity that riddles Laurie (Silk Spectre II).  It just stands out against so many of the other performances.  I also worried about Matthew Goode as he seemed… too fragile, but once on screen, I felt he carried the presence that was required by a character hailed as the smartest man on earth.  Billy Crudup also provides a nice, distant feel with Dr. Manhattan.  Manhattan is the most powerful, and only truly super powered hero in the story.  But his powers are so immense, that he has lost touch with humanity, unable to connect to us any longer.

The story unfolds slowly, but certainly not at a boring pace, and Snyder has managed to keep it feel like it is moving along, even when watching talking heads.  It’s a challenge to the traditional super-hero story in which might makes right and heroes are noble people.  Instead, the heroes are driven by a myriad of goals.  And even the film’s villain is seeking to save humanity from itself.

The film is visually stunning, and the costumed heroes do not look like silly tights.  The sets (unlike Snyder’s 300, which was filmed in front of a blue screen, much of the streets of the collapsing 1985 cities were built) are carefully created and convincing.  And the film really plays in to Snyder’s strengths as a filmmaker.

My two main criticisms are semi related.  One is the music.  The song choices are all so on the nose, Snyder shows little flair in this film for original song choices (unfortunate as his Dawn of the Dead remake had the single best use of a Johnny Cash song in a film ever, as well as other inspired choices).  Really? The Sounds of Silence for a funeral scene?  And then there is the absurdly explicit sex scene.  People were laughing, suggesting it was having the opposite effect.  It did not help that it was set to the Leonard Cohen classic Hallelujah.  But in the overall scheme of things?  These are minor quibbles, the film is largely a success and compelling in it’s own right.

Snyder did good.  The cast did great (overall).  The gory moment are not the point of the film, and while some are there, they are ultimately serving the story.  Most of the condemnation I have seen for the film could be just as applicable to the source material.

It’s not for kids, and I would never recommend a parent take their child to this movie.  But what do I know?  I thought the Dark Knight was inappropriate for children and tons of people tell me their kids loved it.

On a random ending note…I saw one question that seems so, “Wait a minute”.  On Veit’s TVs Rambo is playing on one screen.  In a world where we won the Vietnam War… why would Rambo get made?  I suppose in the world of Watchmen, it’s an alternate universe tale… “What if we didn’t win?” 😉

The Most Ultimate Edition

Batman_V_Superman_ultimate_edition_coverSo, I took the time to watch the Ultimate Cut of Batman V Superman.  And you know what?  It is a great improvement.  It was enough for me to consider the film enjoyable.

The added footage really enhances the story filling in the blanks.  We now understand why Superman misses something that results in major death and destruction, and to cap it off, we see him helping locate survivors.  Also, while I already thought Bruce Wayne’s introduction was one of the best sequences in the film, we get extra seconds to show Bruce’s dedication to helping survivors.  This version also explains why Batman’s branding of criminals “results in a death sentence”.  It is part of Luthor’s plan to manipulate Superman’s perspective on the Batman.

On top of that, while we got evidence of Lois Lane’s dedication to find answers, finally we see Clark actively doing investigative reporting into Batman, as well as the discover of Luthor’s reach in influencing public opinion towards some of Superman’s actions.

This is not to say all my concerns and criticisms are alleviated.  For one, I really wish they would have Superman talk less like Earth is not his home.  He has spent 99.9% of his life on Earth.  Raise by citizens of earth.  He sees them as mom and pa.  He loves Lois.  He still talks about Krypton as “My world” as if Earth is not also his world.  Batman is a great detective, except where Luthor’s plan comes into play.  Superman gives up trying to convince Batman to help him a little to quickly and goes into fight mode faster than Superman really should.  Superman is not a dumb brute.  And honestly, I cannot help but find the thing that gets Batman to pause is…their mothers are both named Martha.  While that is certainly an interesting coincidence…but that that is the only thing that causes Batman to question his view on Superman seconds before killing him…oi.

But still, the Ultimate Version has made this a much better film, one I feel more confident in.  If this had been the theatrical version, the list of my negative feelings would not be nearly as long.  In addition, after watching the promo trailer for the upcoming Justice League, I am actually looking forward to seeing it.  The preview has an interesting take on Aquaman, Flash looks like a brighter heroic addition to the DCU.  Even Batman and Wonder Woman have some fun banter.

It is to early to state as fact of course, but the Wonder Woman trailer looks exciting and fun.  It looks like the Wonder Woman movie people have been wanting for a long time.  And if Suicide Squad is as fun as it looks…well, DC might have three winning films in a row.  Four if you include the Ultimate cut, though “winning” might be a slight overstatement.  But the future is showing a brighter potential for DC films.

Kevin Smith Was Right

No, really.  Smith recently commented on Batman v Superman.  He had the following to say:

“The movie I felt like didn’t really have a heart. It was certainly f—–’ humorless, there was nothing funny going on in that world whatsoever.”

And you know what?  He is right.*

Batman_Vs_Superman_MovieI get what Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan were trying to do.  They were trying to make this major hard edged epic film.  They were trying to make something that “transcended” popcorn and super-hero movies.  When asked why there was no post credit scene in Man of Steel like Marvel does, Nolan scoffed and stated that real films do not do that.  He walked it back a bit, but I suspect he meant it when he said it.  And of course, Snyder can be endlessly quoted about the epic tone and nature he is trying to create for the DC Movie universe.  That tone is big, full of grim consequence (though it is dishonest to pretend Marvel’s world lacks consequences, as the films are often having results that impact other films as well as their various television shows).  This, of course makes it rather hilarious that Warner Brothers defended the critical reaction to the film by claiming it is just fun.

While I tried to remain spoiler free in my review?  This is not going to avoid them. At. All.  If you want to see the movie (or Man of Steel for that matter) yet, and do not want anything-including the end of the film-ruined?  Stop reading.

Man of Steel was pretty problematic in how it set up Superman.  First there was the whole troubling Johnathan Kent stuff.  Johnathan had some genuinely great moments of fatherly kindness.  When Clark asks if he can just keep pretending to be Johnathan and Martha’s son, and Johnathan responds with “You are my son.”  That is a perfect moment.  Yet, just moments before, Pa Kent suggests that maybe Clark should have let his fellow students die in a bus crash, rather than risk exposure.  Rather than be saved by Clark, Johnathan lets himself be engulfed by a tornado.  Clark could have saved him and they could have explained it to the towns folk in Smallville as…well, an amazing story of survival.

Clark does not appear in costume to the world until after Zod arrives.  You might not think it matters, but trust me, it creates a problem for Batman v Superman.  It would have helped the story immensely if Superman had some heroics before Zod arrived.  It would build Superman up in the eyes of the public.

In Batman v Superman, we are first introduced to Bruce Wayne during the Superman and Zod fight.  And this is, in fact a great scene.  Wayne is shown as aggressively, passionately devoted to protecting his employees.  He helps a man pinned by a beam, he saves a child from falling debris.  This does set up an understandable distrust of Superman and Superman’s power.  But when we meet his alter Batman…well, Batman has hit hard times.  Batman has become bitter and vicious, now branding criminals with his batarangs.  He is mired in bitterness and anger.  Batman is kind of at odds with Bruce Wayne.  Bruce is a man we see saving people.  Batman is a guy brutalizing people and marking them for death.

This is not necessarily an entirely invalid presentation of the character.  A lot of critics note how he shows little regard for killing people.  And this is true, but the idea that he is to busy trying to fend off a whole lot of guys who are trying to kill him is pretty fair.  It is kind of like asking why a soldier shot a bunch of guys shooting at him.  Batman actually is mostly a fighter.  And the scene where he saves Martha Kent?  Awesome.  When he tells Martha “I’m a friend of your son’s”?  That is something I wanted to see in a movie featuring Batman and Superman.

But I digress, the problem with introducing us to this Batman as the entry into the new DC Cinematic Universe?  We get hints of a backstory that implies Batman has been through hell and lost a whole lot.  And yet, we are never introduced to the hero that Batman was, which would open doors to juxtapose with the hero he is now.  It has no weight to simply hint that he has “gone through hell”.  We needed to know Batman for this to resonate.

It is similar with Superman.  We get brief shots of him coming in to save people in disasters.  But we have not known Superman as Superman long enough for the questions about his “godhood” to come into play.  And his alien nature is more heavily focused, how distant he is.  Clark seems to have little humanity of his own, with Lois practically his sole tether to humanity.  Although Snyder suggested killing Zod was to show why Superman abhors killing, one of our first acts of Superman in the present is to save Lois from a warlord by slamming into him at full speed pushing him through multiple walls, an act that most certainly would have killed the man.  This was a terrific opportunity for the filmmakers to be creative in saving Lois from the guy in a non-lethal way, but they opted to have him casually take the guy out.  So, killing Zod did not cause Superman to take preserving life all that seriously.But that is not what the scene is for.  It is set to show Superman being setup as dangerous.

By giving us very little Superman time as hero?  It pulls the rug from the potential emotion and ethical questions being posed.  These are big questions, but we do not see enough of Superman as heroic savior to truly sell the hero worship that some people are supposedly rebelling against.  We know there is distrust because the film makes a point of telling us there is.  Superman does not seem to enjoy helping people in this universe.  He seems to almost do it begrudgingly.  He always looks so serious in the moments we see him saving anyone.  Superman barely cracks a smile.  There should be a juxtaposition between Superman and Batman in attitude.  Superman should be questioning the methods of Batman.  In an early John Byrne comic, there was a story where Batman and Superman first meet.  In the comic, Batman forces Superman to help him by suggesting that he planted a bomb on an innocent person in the city.  Superman is bothered by this…until he discovers that the innocent person was Batman himself.  It was a really good moment in establishing their overall nobility and where they were ultimately on the same side.  Superman is the beaming hope, Batman is the hero needed to deal with the darkness in life.

And yet, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman give us a Superman who is every bit as grim as Batman.  One of the things that might have helped is if, in Superman and Batman’s first meeting, Superman had been less the authoritarian and more friendly guy trying to reason with Batman.  Superman trying to reach out, being rebuffed by Batman would encourage Superman to be frustrated, as he cannot get through to Batman.  Batman, of course, so distrustful that he has no time for what he misinterprets as a false piety.

Also, it would have been better, story-wise, for Superman to bristle at the God talk.  He should have refuted that point, but whenever anyone calls him a God? He seems totally indifferent.

But there is nothing really separating Superman and Batman besides powers.  Both are angry.  Both are insolent and self centered.  In fact, Batman (the greatest detective) and Clark Kent (the great investigative journalist) both are easily manipulated by Lex Luthor.  Both are easily goaded into fighting.  Superman at least has a decent reason, Luthor is threatening to kill his mom.  Batman is sent off the edge by a package that pokes at his personal pain (the loss of his parents).  He does not question it, he just assumes that it is time to take Superman out.  Frankly, the inciting incident makes no damn sense.  Luther sends in a guy to testify against Superman and the guy is basically a powerful bomb.  This would appear like an assassination attempt on Superman, not like Superman acting as terrorist.  But in Batman’s mind the right thing to do is not to try and determine who blew up the court room killing a countless number of people…it is, “Superman must be stopped.”  This is a messy story point at best.  It makes no damn sense for Batman to fall for this at worst.

Luthor is more than a bit of a mess.  They were clearly trying to re-invent him as a new character we have never seen before…but it never comes together…he is to much the petty child, bitter and oblivious.  They try and give him lines that make him sound like he has motivation, but the truth is?  It all feels hollow.  One bit of inspiration would have helped the character was to really invest him with a sense of nobility.  A belief that he was really doing this to protect people from alien threats.  That he distrusts aliens and therefor distrusts Superman.  And that is not effectively done here.  Eisenberg’s jittery performance leaves him feeling a lot less ominous.  And he stoops to kidnapping and willing to kill Martha Kent (in a pretty clear nod to the Killing Joke, but substituting Martha Kent for Barbara Gordon and Lex for the Joker).  It just makes Luthor seem cheap.  I am not saying Luthor would not kidnap Martha.  I am saying a strong Lex Luthor would not allow the kidnapping to be traced to him.

In my second viewing of the film, I found myself frustrated with Perry White.  On the one hand, Fishburne has a lot of fun with the role.  His reactions when he cannot find Clark Kent is some of the few times you get to laugh.  But at the same time, Perry White being absolutely uninterested in hard news seems…wrong.

Honestly, there was no need to have flashbacks to Martha and Thomas Wayne being killed.  That was so hammered into us in previous films and television…and nobody has found a way to make it feel like a necessary sequence.

Please understand, I wanted to totally be wrong about this movie.  I wanted to believe maybe they cracked the code.  And for a few moments at the beginning (aside from the unnecessary showing of the Waynes getting killed)? I thought we were on our way there.  People have actually suggested the lack of humor is a good thing.  It is taking the themes seriously.  Except, humor is not only something we turn to in good times.  In fact, we often turn to humor in tragic times.

As I have said, I do not think the film was an absolute disaster.  I think the 29% Rotten Tomatoes rating is a bit overdoing it.  And I do not have quite the hate for Snyder that some do.  The visuals are nice.  There are shots that, yes, inspire excitement.  Cool shots of Superman and Batman…and Wonder Woman?  She is great.  She comes out of this unscathed.  Part of that is the film barely develops her.  But she is cool in the big fight with Doomsday.

Some critics, such as Kyle Smith of the New York Post claims that Batman v Superman is to smart for Marvel fans.  Except, I am a Batman fan.  I am a Superman fan. I am a Wonder Woman fan.  I like these characters.  But attempting to suggest that this film is just to heady for folks because it deals with big themes?  Well, that ignores that it does not deal with the big themes very well.  And Marvel films are constantly addressing the end results of what their heroes do.  The attack in New York (from Avengers) was addressed in other Marvel Films and TV shows.  The heroes constantly question what they have done.  Age of Ultron was all about how far is to far to protect the world.  Civil War is all about how people are afraid…the results of heroes running around without supervision.  And we have seen Tony and Steve enough that we know those characters.  We have gotten to know them.  There is emotional punch to seeing them in conflict.

And in the end, that is what Frustrates me here.  We have a Superman who does not really consider earth his home until the last moments of the film-right before he dies at Doomsday’s hands.  And this Superman?  We have barely known him as an audience.  And we have known this Batman even less.  If WB had been building up to this over the course of several films?  Do you realize what a gut punch this movie might have been?  We had Man of Steel and he is killed one movie later because Zack Snyder wanted him out of the way to allow Batman to build the Justice League.  And it all feels far too calculated, there is no power to the beats of the film.  If Ben Affleck’s Batman was one we were connected to prior to this film?  It might have been very powerful.  The film skates over this by giving fans iconic imagery to fall back on.  Those great moments are not great because the film earns them, but rather the film cheats by expecting the audience to fill in the blanks with an excited reaction to “Scenes We Always Wanted to see!”

I wish that Batman v Superman was smarter than the Marvel movies.  I wish it was as epic in it’s storytelling as it is in it’s visual representations of famous comic book panels and covers.  I wanted the movie to be great.  It thrilled me when early reports were that this was an awesome film, not anything like we feared.  But when you can say “It is not as terrible as people say, but it was not that great” and it is a defense? Well, that is how folks defend a movie like God’s Not Dead.  My first viewing of the film, I told someone that Marvel has nothing to fear at this point.  My second viewing did not really change that.

I want WB to start making movies at least as Strong as the Avengers or Captain America: the Winter Soldier.  This movie is not it.  Maybe the extended cut Blu-ray will change my mind a bit…but I am not holding my breath at this point.

 

*Since I started writing this?  Smith saw the film a second time and basically said he found the film’s heart…it was in the audience.  And I am sorry…No.  That is a terrible defense.  The audience should not have to bring the heart to the film.

 

 

 

Super Pals In Conflict (Batman V Superman:Dawn of Justice, 2016)

batman_vs_superman_pop_art_postersThis film has been both hotly anticipated and less than interesting depending on who you ask.  In fact, the talk at the beginning of the week was that people had seen the movie and loved it.  It was starting to look like Deadpool all over again.  The early reaction made me wonder if my preconceptions were fair.  Then, as the week progressed and more official reviews started to come out?  It started to suggest my low expectations were warranted.  Of course, I still felt I needed to see the film before declaring it a dud or success.

I am inclined to say it is better than the (at the last time I checked) 30% Rotten Tomato rating.  But it is not truly great either.  Clocking in at two hours and forty minutes, it is reaching for a standard of epic.  Snyder and Nolan have emphasized that their films are different than those of Marvel.  And it is true…the Marvel films, to a large extent, combine humor, adventure and suspense.  Sure, some do it better than others.  But they are lively fun films.  Snyder has describe wanting his DC Cinematic Universe to be more epic Greek Myth.

Affleck actually works well in the role.  There was plenty of online hemming and hawing…but Affleck’s Batman was pretty strong.  Jeremy Iron’s Alfred worked very effectively for me.  I enjoyed the larger screen time to Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White.  He seems to be having a lot of fun as the tough Editor in Chief of the Daily Planet.  I liked Amy Adam’s Lois Lane in Man of Steel, and she is just as good here.  In spite of criticisms of the Man of Steel, I like Henry Cavill and feel he gives us the best Superman we can hope for given the material.  I also liked when they focused on Lois and Clark’s relationship.  I also enjoyed the brief time given to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and find myself looking to her solo film now.

The weakest link of the characters was Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor.  The character never feels as brilliant or as menacing as he should.  Instead he just comes across as weird and quirky.

I can appreciate that they tried to make the destruction of Man of Steel a real sticking point that Superman has to face.  That his heroics can even see negative results.  This does really give a plausible motivation to Batman.  The Batman we get in the film is cynical and has given up hope, rather than seeing Superman as that hope, he becomes determined to stop Superman.  When Lex Luthor manipulates events, Batman falls over the edge.  This actually works pretty well.  It is an old comic book trope where two heroes meet, not realizing they are on the same side and fight, before realizing they are on the same side.  The first Avengers film did this in very entertaining fashion in about five minutes.  Here, Superman and Batman spend a majority of the film in distrust.

However, the film is just so packed with advance planning for the cinematic universe, they start forcing stuff into the film to prepare us.  This also becomes confusing on telling apart dreams from memories from possible future events…at one point I was trying to determine if Bruce Wayne was having a potential prophetic vision.  The film also lacks a strong central antagonist, and the introduction of Doomsday for the final battle just makes the film feel overloaded.  The film feels bloated and confusing, and could use some streamlining.

It is also obvious that the criticisms of the Man of Steel’s massive destruction really stung Snyder.  At points a general points out that they cleared an area, a newscast points out that the workday is over and everyone had gone home…Batman explains he chose a particular area for a fight because it was abandoned…the filmmakers really want you to know just how many people are not getting killed.

The movie is full of iconic visuals of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, and that is what they feel like.  “Remember this panel from Dark Knight Returns?!”  But they do not enhance the story.  And Snyder’s cynical approach infects even the color grading.  It is almost a dull and faded world.  I am missing vibrant color in the DC Universe.

In the end, like Man of Steel…there are things I really did like.  There are things I really did not care for.  The film just misses the mark in a way that bums me out.  I want to leave a movie starring Superman feeling hopeful and happy.  I cannot say that here.  The film never earns it’s deeper questions of hero worship and power, or the repercussions of Superman’s actions.  I appreciate that they tried to aim for depth…it just is not as deep as they would like us to think it is.

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