Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – A Good Batman Story Trapped in a Terrible Film

Batman v Superman

      “Batman v Superman” is a terrible film. There is a good film in here (“The Dark Knight Returns” and what could have more fully come with that) but all that is drowned out in the baggage of Lois and Clark and anything involving some of the worst villains I have seen on screen. Lex Luthor and Doomsday are absolutely terrible characters and I never felt threatened or interested in them due to how they were written and portrayed. This is a film that tried to do so much and ended up completely failing because of it.

     The film was directed by Zack Snyder and wrote by David Goyer with Chris Terrio. The film was produced by Deborah Snyder and Charles Roven.

     The story starts with “Man of Steel” leaves off with Bruce Wayne witnessing the destruction of a Wayne Tower by Superman in the “Battle for Metropolis,” after saving people he is filled with hate towards Superman and thinks he is a threat that must be dealt with. Elsewhere Lex Luthor plots Superman’s destruction as well.

The Pros: The Cinematography – Visually, this film like “Man of Steel” is beautiful. The dark color pallet creates a visually stunning film that Larry Fong truly did a masterful job portraying. It looks like comics turned film, which is one of the few things this film has going in it’s favor.

The Soundtrack – Hans Zimmer once again creates a beautiful score and with Junkie XL we actually get some pretty rocking pieces…for example Wonder Woman has a fantastic theme that really captures the power of her character.

Perry White – Fishburne is finally allowed to do something! I really enjoyed the small role he played in this as the cynical editor of “The Daily Planet” who knows he is in a dying industry so is making the most out of what is profitable.

Alfred – Jeremy Irons is a great Alfred. His wit is dry and sharp and you can tell that he’s given up on helping Bruce Wayne move on so simply does what he can to protect him and help him realize the bigger picture. He really is an awesome character and I wish we’d gotten more time with him.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Ben Affleck is a fantastic Batman and I can’t wait to see his solo outing. He potrays Batman who has lost all sense of grounding and has gone full Punisher so well…this is the Batman of “The Dark Returns.” He’s lost everything and is ready to do anything to protect his city and people, even if it means killing an unknown quantity like Superman. From his branding of criminals, to his shooting of minions…this Batman has lost all hope and really doesn’t reclaim any sense of self until the very end.

Against Authority and the Corruption of Power – A running theme is one of anti-authority and a critique of power, especially that which is absolute. We see the government hearings, Batman and Lex attempt to hold Superman’s power in check, while in the case of Lex and Batman they were already a corrupt power already out for themselves…in this way there really aren’t any heroes. No one is there to protect the innocent and reel unchecked power in, and that is the true tragedy of the film as this should have been what the film was about with a moral Superman and vigilante Batman.

Okay: Wonder Woman / Diane Prince – We don’t get to know Wonder Woman all that well except to learn she was around in World War 1 and is a Meta-human. She has an awesome theme song though and the scenes we have with her are alright. I’m interested in her solo film at least.

The Cons: Lois Lane – Lois continues to be a cipher and plot device and I couldn’t stand her character. She never brings up Jimmy Olsen or his death or asks Superman why he isn’t looking at the bigger picture beyond her, she’s part of the problem with Superman and that never gets called out. She is a core reason why he’s so selfish.

Martha Wayne – Martha is just kind of there and also enabling Superman’s lack of growth as she tells him that he owes humanity nothing (um, Earth is his adopted world so he owes it by being a part of it) and she like Lois just needs to be saved and focuses as a cliched plot device.

Superman / Clark Kent – This guy is a cipher who can only see Lois and random people on television tops. I thought he’d seek to write the wrongs of the battle of Metropolis but instead he spends all his time being selfish and not taking those who may die in his fights into account. He has no moral high ground over Batman and is just as bad. If Lex had actually been a well written character I would have been rooting for him to kill this guy.

Doomsday – Boring villain who looks like a giant Cave Troll and gets more powerful when he is hit with energy. Seriously, he only exists to kill Superman. He wasn’t even needed in this as Batman could have killed Superman and realized his mistake…instead we get a villain that is poorly rendered CGI and has zero character.

Let Luthor – Where Doomsday has zero character Lex lacks a consistent character. I didn’t know why he wanted to kill Superman as him being anti-alien and super hero made no sense when he created Doomsday, his plots were also pointless too as Batman was already trying to kill Superman. Jessie Eisenberg is just awful. Seriously, this guy annoyed me more than Sandman and Venom in “Spider-Man 3” and Doctor Doom in the “Fantastic Four” films. One theory is he is Lex Jr. and the real Lex Luthor is still in the wings, I hope so because this guy is an inconsistent joke who comes off as a really poor rendition of the Joker.

Lack of Focus – There are three films in this. The Batman film, which is good. The Justice League film which goes from okay to bad, and the Superman film which is just terrible. Either one of these films on their own could have been a favorite, or at least enjoyable yet flawed like “Man of Steel.” Instead it all feels rushed and I found myself face palming and sighing multiple times during this film. I didn’t care about the characters because we were never given time to, or in the case of Superman and his villains…they were so poorly written no amount of time could have fixed it.

The Ending – Superman dies but maybe isn’t dead, he sent Lois a ring proposing to her, Lex says a bigger bad is coming from beyond the stars and Wonder Woman and Batman work on forming the Justice League to honor Superman…None of this worked.

  This is a film that could have been great. Had we gotten a story that only involved “Batman v Superman” and was Snyder’s “Dark Knight Returns,” it would have been amazing! There would have been focus, there wouldn’t have been the baggage and clutter and the larger themes wouldn’t have become lost within this mess of a plot. I don’t recommend this film at all, Affleck is not reason enough to see this film, just wait until the stand alone “Batman” film is released. This film is loud, pointless and the good of Batman is not enough to offset the cluttered story, terrible villains and bland Superman. I seriously don’t recommend this film. Not worth your money or time. Zack Snyder should have just done his version of “The Dark Knight Returns” or done another solo Superman movie.

Final Score: 5 / 10 For the good Batman story in the mess.

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Man of Steel (2013): Great Villain, Bland Leads and a World Worth Exploring

Man of Steel poster

   “Man of Steel” is a controversial film, and after seeing it I get why. This is a film that isn’t a favorite, but I didn’t hate it either. I found the main leads boring but I found the world they inhabited fascinating, and I did enjoy the villain a lot. I found the writing clunky but the cinematography and score helped counter that in some ways…this is film that I’m torn over a little bit and at the end of the day, I did enjoy…even if I’m not likely to see it again anytime soon. What lead me to checking out this film is I plan on reviewing “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” soon and since that is a direct sequel to this film, I figured I should do my research and finally watch it.

      The film was directed by Zack Snyder and written by David Goyer and Christopher Nolan with the producers being Charles Roven and Deborah Snyer, Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas.

     The story involves the origin of Superman (Henry Cavill) in regards to his childhood and the fall of Krypton leading to General Zod (Michael Shannon) returning to Earth in order to shape the planet into a new Krypton.

  The Pros: The Cinematography – Amir Mokri does a fantastic job on the cinematography and shows us a dark world full of life and color. We see it in the adventures in the wilderness with Superman and at the beginning especially when alien Krypton and it’s destruction is shown to us.

The Soundtrack – Hans Zimmer creates a masterful soaring score that really captures the promise of Superman and also the danger of the villains he faces. These are aliens who are as powerful as the best of humanity’s tech and the score captures the alienness of Krypton and those who come from it, even Superman.

The Universe – I like this Universe. I found Krypton very cool, from the High Council, the Military, the fact that people are raised to be in certain roles (creating a caste system) and how Jor-El’s heresy leads to Superman’s creation and also the destruction of Krypton’s people, culture and world as a whole. I also like how humanity fears Superman…it feels believable and from that Superman’s vulnerability and inability to really save people as he doesn’t understand his power fully.

Krypton – This is my third timing mention Krypton, but it is worth doing so. I loved Krpyton’s design and the technology on the planet as well as the mixture of biology and tech. This was a world that I wanted to spend more time in and would have watched and loved the movie if it just took place here and wasn’t about Superman at all until the very end.

Jor-El – Russell Crowe was great as Superman’s dad. He was easily the best actor in this and the writing for him felt the most natural. His personal relationship and rivalry with Zod was fantastic too and I like how they had a grudging respect for one another, even up until the end. They were equals and in the end both were destroyed because of it.

General Zod – Michael Shannon is awesome! I really want to see this guy in more films after this. This is a guy who could ham it up and have an aura of fear and crazy about it. He reminded me of Jeffrey Dean Morgan who played The Comedian in “Watchmen.” I wanted to know this character more and he truly felt like a threat the entire time. I got why Superman couldn’t save people and had to kill him, as long as this guy lived Earth would be under threat of total annihilation and he’d do it and could do it, even without his technology.

General Calvin Swanwick – Harry Lennix is great in everything I’ve seen him in. He gives character and depth to a role that would usually be stock in any other film (and was for all the Daily Planet folks and the Kents). I hope he’s in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Okay: Superman – Cavill is okay but he isn’t given the chance to show all that much depth. He’s sad and angry and we see him smile…once. I get being thoughtful but Cavill isn’t that great of an actor, thoughtful just ends up looking angry. He was one of the weakest but I at least got his motivation and his desire to look after those around him.

The Cons: Lois Lane – Lois Lane is a plot device in this. She is a living McGuffin that moves around plot points to advance the story. Poor Amy Adams…the one time she has a chance to do something (relationship with Superman) there isn’t any chemistry. She really wasn’t needed in this story and her role could be filled by anybody.

Perry White – Fishburne is a good actor but in here he is just a stock character type. The Daily Planet doesn’t really do anything and he like Lois Lane is there mostly to be saved by Superman….

Jonathan and Martha Kent – These two are the final stock types….there is paranoid Jonathan who wants Clark to keep his powers secret until he’s ready even if people die…and his Mom who is just kind of there and isn’t given anything to do. These folks felt like American^tm

Blatant Product Placement – Superman fights in the IHOP, used to work at the IHOP and over the course of the film there. This was super annoying and thankfully the action distracted from this because every time something came I couldn’t help but be annoyed…I get films need endorsements and money to be made, but this doesn’t have to “Transformers” level obvious.

      This is a deeply flawed but enjoyable movie. It makes me want to go back and check out other versions of the character from Bruce Timm’s version of the character, the original Superman of the films and even the very hated “Superman Returns.” I’ll admit he isn’t the guy I’m drawn to DC comics for. It is hard to tell a compelling Superman story as so much of what creates drama is the facing of adversity and if you are someone with only one weakness, it’s hard to create tension. In that way Superman is only as interesting as the world around him and I found the world around him in this fascinating, even if the character paled in comparison to the villain.

Final Score: 7.6 / 10

“The Flash” Season 1 – Fun and Light Finally Comes to the DC Cinematic Universe

The Flash Season 1

   A show that manages to have both drama, fun and keep a consistent tone. I never expected such a thing from the CW as so much of there shows are grimdark and have characters stuck in a cycle (like the Winchesters) so no growth happens. Not so for the 1st Season of “The Flash.” Every episode has consequences and leads to something greater. There are obviously issues, mostly that come from being a CW show and falling into some of the traps that seem to come with the territory of that network hosting your show but it is counterbalanced with fun and joy while still keeping drama.

      “The Flash” was created by Greg Berlanti, Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg.

 The story involves the Flash’s creation after Dr. Wells’s Collider sets off an explosion that creates Meta-Humans in Central City. From here Barry Allen must become the hero the city needs while solving the mystery of his murdered mother and stopping the Meta-humans in Central City.

The Pros: Central City – Central City is awesome! It is a city with hope that still has to deal with the problems of Super Humans who can cause problems. The fact that our protagonists made it this way adds another layer to that conflict within the city as well.

The Tone – The tone is uplifting even with Barry’s mother being dead and his father in prison. It’s very Disney in that way. It works and it is the only hopeful DC project I’ve seen so far. “Gotham” doesn’t have any for obvious reasons as that doesn’t really mix all that well with modern Batman and even Superman has gone grimdark. Not-so for the Flash who is still allowed his hope and innocence.

The Meta-Humans and Rogues – These folks are interesting even with many of them just being common thieves out for revenge. There were two who stood out though.

Everyman – Hannibal is a shapeshifter  and takes a lot to take down. He’s good at getting into our heroes’ heads.

The Trickster – Mark Hamill (who played “The Trickster” in other shows including the animated “Justice League”) is so much fun in this. He is like the Joker who he’s also played as we see him hold people hostage and put on a show. I can’t wait to see this character return as he almost outsmarts and beats the Flash, showing besides Captain Cold and Reverse-Flash and Grodd, that he is the best opponent.

Captain Cold – This guy is cold as ice and manages to manipulate our heroes to free the Meta-Humans. He isn’t a meta-human and more than makes up for it with his guile and his own version of honor as he never reveals who the Flash really is.

Allies – I enjoyed the allies even though they can fall a bit too much on to referencing “Arrow” sometimes. I get they are in the same universe but there is a better way to do crossovers.

Dr. Caitlin Snow – Snow is awkward and also one of the smartest members of the team and helps save Barry from the foot he often puts in his mouth on many occasions. I liked her character and that it took her a long time to come around to Dr. Wells her mentor being a villain.

Cisco Ramon – Cisco is the guy coming up with names for all the Meta-Humans. I really liked how we discover he is a Meta-Human as he remembers an alternate timeline where Dr. Wells kills him. Their relationship is great as he is the mentor and father Cisco never had and it is at S.T.A.R. Labs where he finds acceptance and family.

Oliver Queen/Arrow – He is the Batman to Flash’s Superman and the brood to the Flash’s joking and hope. That is really where their friendship really works. He joins the final fight and neutralizes the Alternate-Flash.

Felicity Smoak – She has  a great chemistry with Barry and the members of S.T.A.R. Labs and would have worked perfectly in this show. She helps characters grow and never stops being a friend.

Primary Antagonists – The main antagonists are a lot of fun. This is one thing the show did amazingly. Whether it is Grodd, Eiling or Thawne…these folks are intriguing.

General Eiling – Clancy Brown is in everything! In this we see him as the hunter of Meta-Humans as he hopes to weaponize them to stop the evil ones. To him people are a means to an end and he has a respect for the Flash even as Flash is probably on his hit list too.

Gorilla Grodd – Grodd was experimented on by Eiling and Thawne and continues to evolve. He is psychic and makes Joe nearly kill himself. He is also extremely strong and survives getting hit by a train. I can’t wait to see where his evolution takes him. I hope we get to see the Grodd of the animated Justice League as he was a Gorilla who felt like a threat and was on par with Lex Luthor in schemes at times.

Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash – Thawne created the Flash since in his future he and the flash were enemies. He goes back in time to kill Barry as a child but fails due to the Flash saving his younger self so instead kills Barry’s mother as well as Dr. Wells to speed up the event and creation of Meta-Humans. He’s ambitious and complicated as even though he is a sociopath he clearly had feelings for his mentees and Barry. Tom Cavanaugh does a great job.

Protagonists – The primary protagonists are wonderful, even though the romances don’t really work.

Iris West – Iris goes from someone who is all about the social to an active journalist who first breaks the existence of the Flash to the world. Her arc is standing up for her agency as she shoots down Eddie or Barry whenever they try to speak for what she wants or what she should and shouldn’t know. This is what makes her compelling, not the love triangle.

Joe West – Jesse L. Martin (last saw him as Tom Collins in “Rent”) is awesome as the detective who adapts pretty quickly to the changing world of Central City. He works with Barry closely and has to deal with how his overprotectiveness alienates him from his daughter. He was one of my favorite characters and he is good at holding his own against the Meta-Humans.

Barry Allen/The Flash – Barry is kindness with a refusal to kill as we see him do all he can to see the best in people, even when he gets burned. He is naive and hopeful and it makes him a lot of fun and he deals with letting go of his mother and moving on with his life, taking all he learned from her to heart. He’s a bit of an obsessive nerd and it works for the character. I liked him when he wasn’t in romance mode.

The Parent Relationships – Wells and Barry, Barry and his Dad, Joe and Barry and Joe and Iris. These relationships really define the show as we see them grow in love and the relationships change overtime. Joe is overprotective but comes to trust his daughters choices in the end just as he does for Barry and Wells’s betrayal is contrasted with the fact that he wanted to give Barry what he had taken away and gives him the chance to save his mother.

The Flash and Reverse-Flash Relationship – These two are foils and contrasts made all the more complicated by the fact that the Reverse-Flash created Flash and became his mentor and friend. This makes his final demise sad in a way even as the writers write him as just ambitious and evil by the end.

The Cons: Eddie Thawne – There was the idea of a character here but in the end he was the trope “Noble Sacrifice” as he cornily says all he wanted was to be Iris’s hero. Lies, he wanted to be in a relationship with her, though due to plot it could never go anywhere.

Ronnie – Ronnie is the boyfriend who is just kind of there. He never feels like a character and just needs rescuing. He does save Flash a few times at least but he wasn’t needed for Snow to feel guilt over what happened. So in the end he was redundant. He does marry Doctor Snow at the end though.

Atom – What is it with boyfriends not being written all that well on this show? He’s the rich nerd billionare who bought out Oliver Queen’s company and is in a relationship with Felicity Smoak. He’s also just kind of there and exists only to have a mini-plot with Cisco. He is the reference part of the show.

Love Triangle – This didn’t work. I could see the ideas they were going for but in the end they just made everyone involved look like manipulative dicks. Whether it was Eddie and Iris passive aggressively fighting but still being together or the Flash lying to Iris and justfying himself by saying she likes him. Just didn’t work. The romances just didn’t work.

CW Look – Everything is too polished. It works sometimes but it makes it so destruction never looks real. It’s all too polished and CG.

Reference – Arrow and The Flash fight and it is cool until you think too hard about it. I get a meta-human making people angry and turning the Flash on Arrow but it felt more like a contrived reason to have them fight and to bring Arrow into things when The Flash worked fine with Felicity being the only reference to Starling City.

The Cliffhanger Ending – Future Flash stops Present Flash from saving his mom (no explanation is done but he does get to say good-bye. Eddie kills himself which erases Reverse-Flash who is his future descendant from existence and a big giant singularity forms above the city for the Flash to stop. The End.

    This was a good show and one I would definitely recommend. The Flash is one of the most underutilized characters in the DC Universe and is usually the glue of the Justice League. It is wonderful to see his comedic nature and charm put to good use here and allowing him space to breathe. This show could have easily been grimdark given the Reverse-Flash killed his mom, but he always manages to keep some level of innocence to him and light, even when he’s facing the dark. For this reason alone I’d recommend the show. It’s broken out of the dark tone the DC Cinematic Universe (Nolan “Dark Knight” Trilogy, “Man of Steel,” “Arrow,” etc.) seems to be trapped in.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Solidly good.