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Movies Review

Movie Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The elephant in the room, right?  Yes, I saw BvS: DoJ.  I don’t hate it, but there hasn’t been a comic book movie that’s ever elicited a wider range of reactions from me.  For every cool moment or visual, there are long stretches where my only reaction is a sigh or eyeroll or double facepalm.  Let me break down what I loved and hated with the film.

Loved:

  • Ben Affleck as Batman – For all the doubters, he actually makes a fine Batman.  Handles the fight scenes well, and can pull off Bruce Wayne as well.
  • Jeremy Irons as Alfred – The grumpy voice of reason in Bruce’s ear.  Not sure why he couldn’t still be the butler but he works.
  • Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman – So stunning and fierce.  Loved that they worked in both the wristbands and the lasso.  Can’t wait to see her movie, especially since it’s away from Zack Snyder’s influence and we may get some compassion from Diana.
  • Solid action and effects – Love Batman’s fights, though the actual Batman v Superman part may be the weakest.
  • The music – I’m not music critic, but it was good.  Not distracting and fit the scenes.

Hated:

  • Batman sure dreams a lot – Not only does the death of the Waynes shown at the beginning of the film segue into some weird dream where young Bruce falls into the future Batcave, and get lifted out by flying bats (really), but he has a nightmare about totalitarian Superman later too.  These may be related to the Flash’s attempt to time travel with some dire warning for Bruce but even that is hard to understand.
  • Plot holes – Every comic book has plot holes, and so do their movies.  Most can be overlooked or explained away fairly easy, but there’s one here that still bugs me, and it’s something a lot of other Batman movies screw up.  At one point during Bruce’s investigations, he uncovers a link to Lex Luthor via what he thinks is a person referred to as the “White Portuguese”.  It turns out the White Portuguese is actually a ship.  Not a secret ship, or a renamed ship, it’s got that name on the side in 15 foot high letters.  Does the Batcave not have Google?  Even the little pissant ships that come to Buffalo to the grain silos have webpages dedicated to them.  Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, star of Detective Comics.  UGH.
  • Lex Luthor – I get it, they wanted to do something a little different with Lex.  I’d even agree that a young Lex/old Bruce dynamic where they are known to each other as business rivals could work.  But the weird mincing and preening mannerisms, the barefoot genius act (oh, basketball in the lobby of his headquarters), all it does it manage to take his few menacing moments and offset them with the dumb.
  • Doubling down on what we hated in Man of Steel – Really, Zack, we didn’t need another of Clark’s parents telling him to maybe not be a hero.  If you are going to play up the dead parent angst with Bruce, why Superman too?  Instead of letting us move on and forget about the whole “maybe you shouldn’t help people Clark” they bring it up again.  Same thing with the destruction angle.  In no less than three places during fights Snyder goes out of his way to have someone mention ‘that place is deserted’, ‘the business district is empty now’, what have you.  It misses the point that those of us who complained about the death and destruction were making.  It’s not that it was happening, it’s that the film didn’t show Superman trying to stop it.  It would’ve been much better to still have people there, but show Clark saving some of them.  Zod smashes a building, Clark holds it up long enough for those trapped to get out, or he takes an extra beating to distract the Kryptonians so a bus can get off a bridge.  The way it’s handled here feels like Snyder and the writers saying “SEE, I SAID THERE’S NO PEOPLE TO GET KILLED THERE, SATISFIED???”.
  • We meet the Justice League via email? – Bruce hacks Lexcorp and finds information on other ‘metahumans’ and sends it to Diana.  We are literally shown Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman via video clips embedded in an email.  At least Cyborg and Aquaman look cool.
  • Doomsday still dumb – Doomsday was a dumb villain when he ‘killed’ Superman in the comics, still dumb now.  Guessing they didn’t want to do Luthor in a powersuit battling directly since they already put Batman in a suit like that to fight Superman.
  • Super Slo-Mo – A Snyder staple, overused here to ridiculous levels.  Particularly egregious during the death of the Waynes.
  • Speaking of the Waynes dying – Snyder’s version of the scene is particularly painful.  By having Thomas Wayne fight back, it changes the whole dynamic…who knows if he even gets shot without it?  The pearls snapped by the gun so they could drop to the ground, an excuse to show pearls fall to the ground in slow motion.  Compare it to Batman Begins where it all happens so fast, it feels like a real robbery gone wrong.  AND it introduces us to Gordon, the one good cop in Gotham.  It had meaning to the movie and the future of Batman.  Here, it means nothing except setting up Bruce and Clark bonding over having mothers named MARTHAAAAAAAA.

Now that sounds like a lot of negatives, but I did like parts of the film.  Cut out the dream sequences, and the needless Lois in peril subplot and you’d have a solid 1hr 45min superhero movie.  Not great but a better base to work from.  The idea that they want to ADD 30 minutes to this is mind-boggling.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Man of Steel

Superman, the character, has never held great appeal for me.  I’ve enjoyed some of the movies and shows, read a few comics here and there, but he’s never been particularly interesting.  The trailers for Man of Steel, though, intrigued me.  They promised a Superman with some depth, played with the mythology a bit, and implied some true terror from Zod.  In truth, all of those things are there, but I still feel slightly disappointed in the end result.

Spoilers ahoy…

We begin on Krypton, which is dying already due to it’s core being tapped for energy.  There’s another interesting twist – all of Krypton’s babies are part of a breeding program, designed to create a sort of caste system.  Kal-El is the first baby born in the natural way in hundreds of years.  I have no idea if this is an idea from the comics or not, but I hadn’t seen it before.  Zod busts in to the council chamber to take over the planet, such as it is.  Considering the previous regime has literally set it on the course for destruction, he’s got a point.  It’s too late, of course, but Jor-El steals…something and hides it inside his baby, who he launches into space.  So far, pretty normal, right?

The middle section of the movie explores Clark’s life after he’s found by the Kents, seen from the present day but with flashbacks to childhood events.  You’ve seen most of the flashbacks in the trailers.  Lois Lane, ace reporter, stumbles across our hero while reporting on an apparent spacecraft hidden under ice for thousands of years (old Kryptonian scout ship).  It serves the purpose of the Fortress of Solitude, and Clark/Kal-El meets a hologram of his space-dad and has The Talk.  He saves Lois after she follows him to the ship, and she tasks herself with finding out who this mysterious superpowered stranger is.  It’s not that hard, as she quickly follows his trail of daring rescues back to the bus incident you see in the trailers – perhaps a commentary on how hard it is to keep things secret nowadays.  But don’t worry, she’s not going to tell anyone.

Zod finds the Earth, having been freed from the Phantom Zone ship when Krypton went boom.  Apparently activating the scout ship to talk to his space-dad sent out a distress signal.  Oops.  Clark, trying to gain the trust of the American military, surrenders to them and allows them to hand him over to Zod.  We learn that Zod was engineered to be the perfect soldier to defend Krypton, and he wants to take the info Jor-El stole and embedded in his son to recreate Earth in Krypton’s image.  Since this would mean the destruction of his adopted home, Kal-El reacts pretty strongly to that.  Space-dad’s hologram passes the information on how to stop this ‘World Engine’ terraformer in a way that will suck the Kryptonians back into the Phantom Zone, and Lois works with Eliot Stabler and Toby Ziegler to make sure it happens.  That leaves the final battle between Superman (finally named as such) and Zod.  It is what you expect, though their fight and the World Engine’s destruction pretty much level Metropolis.  Of course, it’ll be completly normal next movie, right?  Anway, Superman is forced to make a terrible choice that feels pretty contrived at the end of the Zod fight.  An epic fight between two nigh-indestructible heat-ray wielding supermen comes down to what happens while Superman has Zod in a headlock?  There’s some emotion there, but only if you know the one thing Superman never wants to do (kill).  And he sure does get over that in a jiffy, doesn’t he?  More on that later.

In the end I think we’re supposed to feel sorry for Kal-El that Krypton will not be restored, but considering the Krypton that was, was a stagnating society that had destroyed itself with bad choices, I find it hard to get too worked up over it.  He wouldn’t fit in there any better than he would here, really.  I did enjoy the performances from all of the main actors.  Shannon’s Zod is both sympathetic and menacing.  He’s a product of the broken Krypton – engineered to protect it, and unable to think outside of that.  Henry Cavill was a solid Superman and Amy Adams at least seemed like she could be a reporter, which gives her an advantage over Lois in Superman Returns.  All the various Clark/Kal parents are where they need to be.

The major problems with the movie come down to two things.  The first is the neck-snapping.  Up to that point, Superman hadn’t been paying any attention to what’s been happening to the average person on the ground.  Now, suddenly, here’s a couple of people being directly threatened, and he goes THERE?  Where Superman NEVER goes?  My friend Chris points out numerous other options other than the FINAL one used.  I bet you could think up a few more.  Even if you keep that scene, you know what would’ve made it more poignant?  Say Supes and Zod are bashing their way through the city, wrecking stuff, but hey!  That schoolbus is about to be crushed by rubble!  Superman zooms over and rescues them, and gets wrecked by Zod as a result.  Show him trying and failing to help these common folks caught in the crossfire of this huge battle.  Then the terrible choice Clark makes might have some heft.  Zod will have already killed thousands but at least it would’ve shown that Superman cared.  The anguish might’ve felt earned instead of forced.

The other problem is that you went big with the first movie.  How do you follow this?  Lex Luthor is the only other option that Joe Moviegoer knows.  But that usually means bringing in the biggest weakness of the Superman franchise – Kryptonite.  There are other villains but even now, everyone is looking for Luthor, there’s no way that’s not what comes next.

I will say that I did enjoy the movie.  I have no plans to see it again, but it’s probably one of those I’d watch when it came on FX in the future.  That puts it on par with Iron Man 2.  No need to seek it out unless you are a big Superman fan, and even if, it may tick you off.