Batman vs Superman Comi-Con Trailer

I’ve been quietly optimistic about this movie. Man of Steel, whilst getting lukewarm reviews, was actually a pretty good Superman movie. It received a lot of negative feedback for the level of carnage wrought on Metropolis but I thought it was pretty representative of what would happen should two super humans decide to knock seven bells from one another. I also think Henry Cavill did a top job of portraying a character many think is quite bland and uninteresting. Sure there were things I didn’t like about the movie and sure there was some casting question marks but overall it was enjoyable enough. I’ve also been vocally confident about Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight. He’s a massively underrated actor. Yes Daredevil was shit but he’s the first to admit it. Equally an actor is only as good as the script and the direction.

I didn’t like Christian Bale. I expected him to do the job but, for me, he didn’t deliver. His Batman came off as a pouting, entitled child. Nothing of the cool, calculating, genius, master detective I know from my large (and growing larger) Batman comic book collection. Ben Affleck is a huge comic book fan and, specifically, a big Batman fan. Which means he understands the character far better than someone who does some reading in the interests of researching a character. In Bale’s defence he was let down by Nolan’s determination to make Batman ‘real’. Which meant bulky ill-fitting suits that prevented fight scenes from being anything other than awkward brawls. Also, little known fact, the hats (they weren’t cowls dammit!) were so tight in the Dark Knight and the Dark Knight Rises that Bale couldn’t breath through his nose.

Equally Zack Snyder is a huge DC Comics fan. For me Christopher Nolan fell far too wide of the mark when it came to a base understanding of the world he was depicting, either by ignorance or by design. Whichever is the answer it’s a massive middle finger at the fans. However one must not be ungrateful. Batman Begins was okay and its grit and grime is what sparked – I believe – the new era of comic book movies (and action movies in general). People get hurt. A lot. Buildings get torn down. A lot. And not everyone makes it out alive. I’ve had this debate a lot with friends – Batfans and non-Batfans alike. I’m told off regularly for wanting the movies to be far more meta than perhaps would appeal to the broader audience but I think when it comes to Batman it needs it. Not because Batman is a particularly complex character (although there are a lot of layers to him) but because the villains are. The thing about Batman isn’t that he wins every time, it’s that he wins in the end. He gets his arse kicked regularly but he regroups, figures it out and then brings down dark winged ruination on his enemies. All without crossing that all important line. That line, by the way, Nolan ignores in all three of his movies and is just one of many reasons why I don’t like them.

The decision to make the sequel a Batman vs Superman movie and, essentially, a Justice League origins movie was a bold move and one I wasn’t sold on. However, on reflection, and having seen the trailer below I’m entirely more behind the idea. A) Because Batman and Wonder Woman make Superman an entirely more interesting character. Bruce and Clark become akin to brothers over time despite their differences. Superman considers the entire world his to protect but even he grudgingly respects Batman’s sovereignty over Gotham City. Equally Wonder Woman balances Superman in other ways. Aside from (in the current continuity) being sole survivors of their respective civilisations which makes them kindred spirits, they are super humans in an un-super world. Without each other there’s an inescapable loneliness to their lives. But when it comes to matters of world saving and general arse-kickery they approach issues from different perspectives so they complement each other nicely. Plus she’s pretty much the only one who can deal with Superman when he loses control.

More over the order in which the DC Movies are being released starts to make sense as well. There’s an Easter egg in the trailer which relates to the Suicide Squad starring the delectable Margot Robbie…and some other people. Apparently. Combined with the rest of the release schedule – and the increasing likelihood that the new Green Lantern movies is going to be more like the Green Lantern Corp, the actual Justice League movies are going to be utterly bonkers. In the very best spandex clad ways.

Anyway, watch the trailer and see what you think. There’s lots of influence drawn from The Dark Knight Returns which, whilst non-canonical, has some epic Batman/Superman fisticuffs.

Man of Steel- A Review

So, Man of Steel eh? It’s been out a few weeks now, but it’s taken that long for me to fully get my thoughts down on it. I’ve never done a film review before either, which probably doesn’t help. I know these things are used mostly as buyers guides as to how to spend your money so I will give a brief summary for those who want that, then go on to talk about the interesting spoilery stuff.

So Man of Steel: Ambitious, slightly flawed, far too indulgent. However a great popcorn action film with aspirations to something higher you can go and see if you are able to turn your brain off that long.

Ok… are those lot gone? Now lets talk about the juicy, interesting SPOILER filled stuff.

I’m even going to put it behind a link so you won’t accidently read details whilst you scroll down the page looking for other posts

One last time HERE BE SPOILERS!

Are the next lot gone too? *Whew*, dodged a bullet there. Anyway, lets get on with this. Because of all the thoughts and moods I’ve experienced and gone through with Man of Steel, the most prevalent one is frustration. How can frustration be an emotion you ask? I dunno, Ask Geoff Johns*.

This how I feel every time no one gets that joke.

Man of Steel is, on the face of it, a really, really conflicted film. It wants to be an origin film, but not really, so it fudges it with a few half assed flashbacks of Pa Kent telling Clark he should never reveal his secret, yet hes going to change the world when he grows up to be a good man who saves the world. It wants Superman to be dark and troubled and refusing the Call of the Superhero, but then a guy gives him his suit and away he goes. He doesn’t want a family of 4 to die so badly he kills the bad guy, yet he’s happy to kill thousands whilst fighting same guy less than 5 minutes previously. The film tries to show Superman is all about caring for humanity, yet MoS has scenes where, as Redletter Media puts it “Superman now has uncomfortable associations with 9/11”.

Those are mostly surface details though and I want to get deeper than that. Because at the end of the day, plot takes second place to characterisation and enjoyment. Think about all the films you have excused even though your know it has a wooden acting or dodgy dialogue or special effects and you know its true. That I can pick up those surface details so readily shows that the film has deep problems under its surface and ultimately, is boring me. As Mark Kermode best put it:

“If a film is entertaining me, I can overlook its faults. But if, in the middle of  a huge action scene, I’m thinking about the plot holes or what I’m having for dinner tonight, you have failed to grab my attention and engage me”

That’s the key problem with the film for me. Engaging me in any way whatsoever and making be believe Superman is someone I should care about. Now I get what they were going for here. Its clear this film is the first in an arc, meant to validate why Superman is relevant, when the current consensus is that Superman isn’t “cool” anymore. That grasping of cool, of having spectacle and reveling in it to try to wow the audience is the reason this film has so many problems though.

Let me try to explain.

As a society, we use the world cool far too much in everyday life. I know I do anyway. Much like the term awesome, it gets used so much by people that it has lost all meaning as a word. That has left the word being largely useless to convey any real meaning, so its usage becomes entirely subjective depending on the person. Which means that ultimately, you can’t chase an audience who thrive on “cool” because an iron clad, definitive audience like that doesn’t exist. What may be cool to some people may instead be a Poochie to others, or even worse, just completely fall flat and bore them. In chasing that ever elusive word, I think Goyer and Snyder forgot to do the basics.

In Man of Steel,  I never got a sense of why I should care for the world or the people who live in it. With a few exceptions, I never got why I should care, or even particularly like, Superman. They fucked up rule number one. Have a clear cause and effect in your film, with linked emotional states so we can empathize with and care for the characters. By generating empathy, stakes are automatically raised because by caring for those characters, you care for what happens to them and their effect on the world around them.

In fact, its fair enough to say that the small moments where we got to see Henry Cavil act, instead of moping, the film truly took off! I’m betting anyone who saw these scene where Supes learnt to fly and was whooping with joy resonated with most of you. Because in amongst a dour film that doesn’t throw any sort of characterization at us beyond brief surface detail told to us (he’s a good person, he will save us all, Zod is evil because etc), to actually feel and experience something Superman does through his eyes was a fucking revelation!

Then the film falls back on surface details again and decides it would rather just show you disaster porn. But when you have no connection to the characters, the fights have no weight to them and instead you have time to think about other things. Which is why people have been complaining about that last 40 minuet fight, how much of a slog it was and the cognitive dissonance involved to ignore the thousands dead due to Superman “saving the day”.

Ooops! Was that YOUR city I smashed to a pulp? Sorry!

That last dramatic act where Superman kills Zod to save a family has no heft to it, because I don’t empathize with his plight. I’ve just seen Superman kill loads more people, why should it matter if one more family dies?  The film never took the time to explain why I should care because it didn’t do the emotional groundwork I’ve been talking about. I felt more sorry for Zod, because at least the film provided him with consistent motivation and enough reasons to empathise with him, even if he was a mass murderer x1000.

Bitchin’ facial hair though.

Remember the first three Indiana Jones films? Sure, they aren’t high art, but 60% of those films are escalating action sequences. Yet not once was I bored. Because the film takes the time to let the audience develop an emotional connection with Indiana Jones so you care what happens to him. Those films never rushed things either.

By trying to squeeze too much into one film (MoS it’s really two or three films worth of story crammed into one here ‘Krypton civil war’, ‘Superman growing up and finding himself’ and ‘Superman fights the world ending threat’), the chance to pace themselves and organically develop a connection between the films characters and its audience is lost.

But you know, Superman Returns didn’t have enough things being punched by Superman, so now Man of Steel has to be all about punching things.

Which is sad when Marvel can make films where people punch ALL THE THINGS and frequently have massive plot holes yet, you have an emotional connection to those characters so it doesn’t matter.

In a world where Marvel can make Captain America or ‘the boring one’ the best Avenger, its sad to see Warner Brothers fail to do the same for a character with those same stereotypes. Hopefully Man of Steel 2 will be in not so much of a rush to get out the gate and will take its time to set up its premise, its characters and just why we should be invested in them. Then, when the bigger DC universe is introduced, we care about it. I don’t hold up hopes though.

But that’s the world we live in now.

Man of Steel is in cinemas now.

*this is a comic book joke than many of you will not get. I apologise. But look up the Green Lantern Corps and the Emotional Spectrum if your interest is piqued