Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

sddefault Man of Steel was and continues to be a very divisive film. So much so that many people will decide to close this window with my next sentence. I loved that film. No, it wasn't perfect and there are some aspects I very much disliked but it was the first Superman movie I enjoyed and the first time I cared about the character. It was also the first time we saw him truly fight at this power level and that was a joy to behold. I mention all of this because those that hated that film are ready to hate BvS mostly due to Snyder. Well let me tell you as a big fan of Man of Steel... I was not a fan of BvS. While it has a lot of great scenes and sequences it is also mess mired in itself.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a sequel to Man of Steel and I appreciate that. However it does deal with its direct impact on their world and thereby serves as the introduction to their world at large.

From the top, it opens with a very classy retelling of the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents. Very little is changed and one could argue no one really needs to see this again but the way it was filmed was fantastic. It might be one of my favorite parts of the movie to be honest. Afterward the movie continues to be very Bruce centric as we are shown the Metropolis incident from the eyes of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). He's on the ground, trying to get to a building he owns to get his people out off there while the World Engine is pounding the city to dust. Hoo boy, from the perspective of the people on the ground I can totally understand a hatred of Superman (Henry Cavill). If you had issues with the 9/11-ish imagery from MoS you will have a fit in these sequence. It is very visceral, very disturbing. Bruce Wayne running around in it is great because at no point do you think "Look at Ben Affleck go!" No, this dude was born to play this role. That's right, suck it, haters! Ben Affleck is perfection and I couldn't be happier with this casting choice... but I digress. This scene plays out to show us why Batman wants to take a fight to Superman's door. From here I'll go spoiler free but know that from here the movie starts to get stuck in it's own mess of plot strings.

So let's hit on the big players. Superman/Clark Kent isn't much different from the guy we saw in Man of Steel and that's not ok. It was fine when he was starting out and was entirely unsure of who he was and what he was doing but now he's out there being a good guy and he's still 100% unsure of himself. Rather mopey and there's next to no growth of character between films. This left me entirely disinterested in him and his love affair with Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Though I still love her as Lois, I have to admit. We also get a bit more of Perry White (Lawrence Fishburne) and he was a joy to watch.

Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is... interesting. In civilian clothes she looks entirely unassuming. Just Diana Prince here, attractive rich woman... or something. However when she shows up as Wonder Woman in full armor it is game on! She was a true warrior and loved the fight. She's perfectly at home in combat. So was she the perfect casting choice? Almost. She can't deliver a line to save her life. Some might avoid saying this because of her accent but I was one of the people that was happy to have a WW with an accent. However her accent is what you'll pay attention to as she delivers all her lines with zero emotion other than guttural yelling in combat. She has a film coming up and now I'm more than a bit worried about it.

So how was Jesse Eisenberg? Another huge point of contention among fans. From the trailers I thought I would love him. Turns out not so much. Have you seen the videos of Weird Gamer Guy, Onyx the Fortuitous? If not hit that link. Lex was like that guy but toned down a bit. I expected quirky but I didn't expect this. Yes, he was a scheming Machiavellian super villain and that was great, but he was also that guy and that was not great at all. It was entirely not a good way to go with him and it turned me off quite a bit.

As stated I won't spoil the plot but there is a lot of plot going on. A hell of a lot of strings to pull at, some makes sense and some make zero sense at all. It's not hard to follow but it's not fun to do so either. It's a convoluted film that isn't just introducing us to the universe it's trying to tell a really bizarre story while introducing plot elements in order to give reason for the scenes they want to make. Knowing WB this was certainly a film outline written by committee with others brought in to string it all together. I went in ready to love this movie and left struggling to like it.

Superman with no growth, Batman with a lack of moral center, Wonder Woman with a terrible actress, Lex that needs meds and a convoluted script. Well... the effects were great and the action was fantastic. However this leaves me far less enthused about what they've dubbed the DC Extended Universe. There was a ton of effort put into this movie and I don't think it really pays off. Opening weekend will be great but I expect a huge drop off after that.

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Review: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

Since 2007 DC has been releasing some pretty awesome direct-to-video films based on many of their popular characters and storylines. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the 17th film in the DC Animated Universe, continues this tradition with an all-star cast, good storytelling and great animation.  It is an adaptation of the Flashpoint story arc by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert which, in effect reset the DC Comics Universe timeline and created the New 52 continuity, a relaunched, remixed and revamped version of all DC Comics. The film opens with a flashback into Barry Allen’s origin as a young man coming home later than expected only to find that his mother has been killed.  Flash forward to the present and we see Allen as the Flash thwarting an ambush from some of his rouges gallery including Captains Cold, Boomerang, Mirror Master, and The Top (editor note: The Flash has some terrible villains).  Eobard Thawne, a.k.a. Professor Zoom, reveals himself to be the mastermind of the ambush and Flash, with the help of the rest of the Justice League, defeats the goons.  Upon his defeat, Professor Zoom gets under Flash’s skin and vows his revenge.  The next day, Barry wakes to find himself in a reality where his mother is alive, he has no powers, and the world is caught in the middle of a brutal war between Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s respective forces.

The animation in this film is top notch and some of the best in the DCAU.  Fans of the Young Justice TV show will feel right at home with Phil Bourassa’s anime influenced character designs.  With the scarlet speedster blurring through the screen, to the destroyed beauty of the world in the wake of the war, and the shocking crimson dripping from a severed head, this movie is a visual delight.

You read that right, a severed head.  This movie is the darkest entry in the DCAU to date.  Characters will die and die in violent ways.  This is not for children.

The voice work, led by Justin Chambers as the Flash, is excellent. He helps sell the audience that The Flash can and should have a star vehicle.  He and Kevin McKidd as a bitter, alcoholic Thomas Wayne carry the film and have a good chemistry.   Andrea Romano has once again brought together a phenomenal cast including, Michael B. Jordan, C. Thomas Howell, Nathan Fillion, Ron Pearlman, Kevin Conroy, Carey Elwes, Vanessa Marshall, Steve Blum, Jennifer Hale, and Dana Delaney (back as Lois Lane).  The entire cast gives a great performance, even if most of them only get a line or two.

With Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, DC continues to outshine all others with its animated offerings. This film is worthy to be in any comic fan’s collection.

Review: Man of Steel

Man of Steel

Comic book movies have had such a successful run over the last number of years. The sub genre has become mainstream and is beginning to feel like a genre all its own. In 1978, Richard Donner’s Superman was unprecedented, but since then we have seen three direct sequels and a fourth unsuccessful pseudo followup in 2006. Superman is by far the most well known comic book character around the world. Even people who have never read a comic know his basic origin story. Being such a known character has made his onscreen adaptations difficult to tackle. Director Zack Snyder attempts such a task with this year’s Man of Steel.

The challenge in adapting Superman to film is making him relevant in modern times. The character was created in 1938, and has a dated look, morality code, and worldview. In an age of violent villains and brooding heroes, can the flying boy scout still impress us?Director Zack Snyder worked with producer Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and writer David Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) to create a movie that works to bring the “granddaddy of superheroes” back to the world of the living. To say that Snyder and his team delivered is a vast understatement. Man of Steel gives us a heartfelt take on a story we thought we already knew, outrageous characters, and action that rivals some of the biggest and best Hollywood has to offer.

The aforementioned origin story is relatively the same as we’ve seen in past films. We are treated to the added bonus message about free choice in a society. I am not sure if this was a metaphor for some modern day political issue or not, but to me it had some weight. Superman’s father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) is the early focus of the movie and plays to adding a serious level of gravitas to this classic character who was originally played by Marlon Brando. Jor-El works early on to warn of the impending danger to his homeworld of Krypton. Opposite Jor-El's ease and heroism is brutal and myopic General Zod (Michael Shannon). Zod’s soul purpose is to protect Krypton at all cost. Like any automaton, Zod goes too far when his “programming” conflicts with what’s happening around him. He decides to make a go at taking over Krypton.

Flash forward to Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) as an adult on Earth and we see his interactions with Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, respectively). Intercut with moments of Clark as a child, the movie does a great job of not just rehashing the story everyone knows. The relationship between Clark and the Kents is very well explored and gives you a real sense of where Superman gets his moral center. For the first time in any Superman movie real exposition is given for Clark Kent/Superman’s struggle to adapt to living with his powers. The struggle to just be normal is a thread throughout his childhood. There is even time taken to give the audience a look at how Superman literally sees the world around him. A perspective not touched on ever in previous big screen outings.

Throughout his time in secret Clark is being pursued by the famous journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who is tracking his good deeds around the world. Lane has some interactions with him and she becomes obsessed with the very idea of an alien being. Eventually Superman in all his glory debuts himself to the world and Snyder does a great job of asking the question of “how would humans react to seeing a god show up on Earth?” This is yet another thing not explored in previous films. Once the world is put in danger Superman begins to make a myriad of sacrifices for the common good. From this point on a struggle ensues and we are treated to ~40 minutes of pure action. The sequences were heavy CGI-ed, but looked clean. The fight pace was insanely quick as you’d imagine. Jumping from one end of the screen to another and back again was common. Fighting through buildings and other urban landscapes was pretty par for the course after a while; this is not a complaint. The scope of the fights felt massive and lead to the the understanding of how powerful these characters were. Even smaller roles like Faora (Antje Traue), General Zod’s right hand woman was given a time to shine. I found myself grinning from ear to ear when she was onscreen battling. I cheered, smiled, and even chuckled as this was the Superman movie I’ve been waiting for for many years.

Henry Cavill’s Superman is a the classic good looking farm boy from Kansas that we all know and love. Cavill brings a nice guy innocence to the roll, but nothing really Earth shatteringly new. He is competent in the character and does no harm. His interactions with Lois Lane were on the weaker side, and was a rather decent hindrance to the overall flow of the movie. I wanted more from the two of them. Lois is fairly underwritten here, even as a damsel in distress character. A stronger definition for who she is would have helped greatly. The chemistry just wasn’t there this go round. When it came to Cavill taking on the big shoes and challenging Shannon face to face he delivers and you can't help but root for him. Cavill is my generation’s Superman, and I think we will be happy to have him. Michael Shannon shines as General Zod. Taking up about the massive mantel that Terrence Stamp left behind Shannon works his best just under the surface crazy personality style to the max. From calm General to foaming at the mouth psycho, Shannon runs the gamut.

All and all, Man of Steel is the movie I’ve been waiting for and I think modern movie goers will love it just the same. Warner Bros/DC have had some great moments with The Dark Knight Trilogy, but also had some false starts like Green Lantern. With Man of Steel it appears that they might just have got their footing back and are ready to start running full speed. Taking the route of a grounded world in which these fantastic characters live is the proper move for Warner Bros/DC and they seem to be taking it. What’s next for them is hard to say, but if they keep this up there is no end to the possibilities. The tagline for the 1978 Superman film was "You'll believe a man can fly." In 2013, you can believe again!

 [easyreview title= "Review of Man of Steel" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.5" overall= false]