Catch-Up Review: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2: The Marvel Sequel
– A Hero Corner Catch-up Review by David 2

Following the success of “Iron Man” and the redemption of “The Incredible Hulk” in 2008, Marvel Studios went forward with part 3 of their grand gamble with the release of “Iron Man 2” in 2010.

Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and director/co-star Jon Favreau return as Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, and Happy Hogan, with Clark Gregg coming back as Agent Coulson and our after-credit surprise Samuel L. Jackson returning as super-spy SHIELD director Nick Fury.  Scarlett Johansson makes her debut as Black Widow, and Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke share the villain roles in this film as corporate weasel Justin Hammer and Ivan “Whiplash” Vanko. It also includes Garry Shandling as slimy Senator Stern and Stan Lee as… well, Stan Lee.  Terrance Howard was not able to be in this movie, so instead Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle takes over as Colonel Jim Rhodes for this and all other future appearances for the character.

The movie takes place about two years after the first one, with the world knowing that Tony Stark is Iron Man.  Slimy Senator Stern has declared Iron Man to be United States Government property, which, as Tony points out, would directly violate the 13th Amendment.  Justin Hammer wants to replace Tony Stark in the game of making Iron Man suits and was working with terrorist nations to try to make it happen… did he not follow what happened in the first movie?  Ivan Vanko wants revenge for what happened to his father when he first worked with Tony’s father.

Oh, and Tony is dying. The same Arc reactor that keeps him alive and powers the Iron Man armor is also slowly poisoning him.

So Tony is making preparations.  Or… he’s doing somewhat reckless and stupid things like making his girlfriend Pepper the company’s CEO, driving race cars in Monaco, and throwing wild parties with hot women, which forces his buddy Rhodes to step in with an earlier Iron Man armor, which he could somehow operate without an Arc reactor surgically implanted in his chest.  And that meltdown brings Nick Fury and SHIELD to the scene to piece everything together and get Tony back “in the game”.

There’s a lot more going on, but I’ll just stop here.

In terms of stories, this one is pretty good.  Again, it was well-cast.  There are enough twists and turns to keep people interested, and you really don’t know how it all turns out until the end, but it still leaves us with a good feel.  It also keeps the whole “Avengers” vibe going both during the story and also in the after-credit scene.  It’s no big surprise either. We know where the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be going next.

Unfortunately this movie also begins to expose some stupid flaws, such as having a super-genius suddenly be super-neurotic.  Tony Stark no longer “takes” things from people?  He’s become people-phobic?  Since when?  Obviously he had no problems bedding blond reporters in the first movie.  And he was pretty close with those hot party babes.  And being “people-phobic” apparently didn’t stop him from getting a little too touchy-feely with a certain character at the very end of the movie (and I’m not talking about Pepper).

Plus, the supposed key part of the Iron Man armor is the Arc reactor.  That’s why Obediah Stane couldn’t duplicate it in the first movie.  That’s why Tony Stark is Iron Man and why they can’t separate the two.  And yet, by the end of the movie, we have just that with Iron Man and War Machine.  That’s a serious abandonment of a key sticking point for the character, which they treat pretty nonchalantly.

I didn’t mention it in the Iron Man review, but Clark Gregg really begins to stand out a little more as Agent Coulson in this movie, even though his overall role is minimal and serves as basically a hint towards the next movie.  But, speaking of, whatever happened to “If you try to escape, or play any sort of games with me, I will taze you and watch ‘Supernanny’ while you drool into the carpet”?  I would have loved to have seen that!  How did that get forgotten?

And I know some people complained about Scarlett Johansson’s role as the Black Widow, but, honestly, she played her part as can be expected.  This movie was not about Black Widow.  It was about Tony Stark.  Black Widow was an agent of SHIELD, she had a job to do, and she did it.

And now on to the next movie…

Catch-Up Review: The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk: The Marvel Reboot
– A Hero-Corner Catch-up Review by David 2

2008 was the start of the all-mighty Marvel Comics launching their own movie studio and their own cinematic universe.  “Iron Man” was the first, but he was far from the last.

In that same year, Marvel Studio worked with Universal Pictures to make up for the mistake Universal made back in 2003 with the Ang Lee failure known simply as “Hulk”.  It was a rather depressing story filled with a whiny Bruce Banner and a bad CGI Hulk that was almost gelatinous at times.  Marvel needed the Hulk for their ultimate gamble, and Universal was willing to work with them to “redeem” themselves and their hero.

“Fight Club” star Edward Norton stars as Bruce Banner in this movie, with Liv Tyler as his girlfriend, Betty Ross, William Hurt doing a pretty credible Sam Elliot impersonation as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, and Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, aka The Abomination.  The original “Hulk”, Lou Ferrigno, has a quick cameo and also voices The Hulk.  Yes, the Hulk talks.  Oh, and creator Stan Lee is in it too.

The story is pretty simple.  Bruce Banner created a monster called The Hulk.  The Hulk comes out when Bruce is angry or stressed.  Bruce has been trying to keep The Hulk contained and keep him away from General Ross, who wants The Hulk so he can use it as a weapon.  Bruce wants to destroy the Hulk, and Ross wants to make Hulk his personal weapon of mass destruction.  See?  Simple!

Eventually Bruce finds himself back in America, and back with his girlfriend Betty – who just happens to be the general’s daughter – and with the promise of a cure.  General Ross, however, decides to create his own “super-soldier” to take down The Hulk.  As you can imagine, this ends up being a bad idea.  And now the only thing that can stop this new “abomination” is The Hulk.

In terms of stories, this one was somewhat weak.  It did redeem itself from the Ang Lee movie, but it didn’t give you that feeling of excitement that we saw with “Iron Man”.  The casting was done well, the characters were adequately developed, and nobody looked like they were moping around or were throwing emo tantrums.  The pace was consistent and it wasn’t bogged down with flashbacks like the first movie was.  I suppose that’s a good thing.

The movie does have an after-credit scene… because it’s Marvel… and this one brings Tony Stark into the mix, letting us know (if we didn’t figure it out already), that this was also part of the great gamble that will lead us to “The Avengers”.  Chalk that one up as a win and a “whew” for the Mighty Marvel.

 

Catch-Up Review: Iron Man

Iron Man: New Marvel Universe
– A Hero Corner Catch-Up Review by David 2

In 2008, Marvel Comics took a huge risk that would pay off big-time.  Rather than continuing to sell the movie rights of their characters to big movie studios and then hoping those big studios would do them justice, Marvel decided to create their own movie studio and launch their own major motion pictures of their in-house heroes… or, those that they still retained the full rights to.

The problem for them was that all of their really big characters were sold out to the other studios.  20th Century Fox had the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, and all of their characters including Wolverine, Sony had Spider-Man, and Columbia had Ghost-Rider, which, at that time, just released their first movie.

But Marvel still had the Avengers, including The Hulk, which they got from Universal Pictures after they screwed up with the 2003 Ang Lee flop.  So the Mighty Marvel launched an ambitious plan.  They weren’t going to just do their own superhero movie.  They were going to do a whole string of them, leading up to the big crescendo…. “The Avengers”.

The first movie in this grand plan was “Iron Man”, launched in 2008 by Marvel Studio and starring Robert Downey Jr, Terrance Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges and directed (and co-starred) by Jon Favreau.  Oh, and Iron Man creator Stan Lee makes one of his famed cameos.

The story is a modernized version of the original story in the 1960’s.  Spoiled billionaire Tony Stark (Downey), the orphaned son of a weapons manufacturer, is kidnapped in the Middle East by terrorists.  He is injured but is saved by one of the doctors also held hostage by the terrorists.  He sees the horrors of his weapons, and he decides he needs to do something to stop it.  He uses parts of his weapons to create a device that keeps the unique shrapnel inside him from killing him, and then builds a suit of armor to force his way out of his cell and away to freedom.

Returning to civilization, he immediately suspends all weapons projects and focuses all of his efforts into a new project, which is to perfect the “Iron Man” armor that he originally used to liberate himself from the terrorists.  But he keeps all of this a secret, which confuses everyone, including his assistant, Pepper Potts (Paltrow), his best friend and Air Force officer (Howard), and his business partner, Obediah Stane (Bridges).  His secret project, though, also reveals the truth behind his abduction, and the real villain of the story is soon exposed.

I’d go further into this, but I’ll leave the rest for you to figure out if you haven’t seen it already.  If you haven’t, though, I strongly suggest that you wait until the whole movie is finished, because this is the movie that started off the trend of having post-credit scenes that you really do not want to miss.

In terms of movies, this was one of the best for Marvel and still so.  The casting was almost perfect, with Robert Downey Jr. being the perfect one to lead the franchise as Tony Stark.  While some people complained that Gwenyth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts was too much of a “useless” character, her role in the whole dynamic was pretty much realistic.  This movie was about Tony Stark and about Iron Man, and to that end it did exceedingly well.

And it’s the after-credit scene that let us know that this was just the beginning…

Welcome the “Catch-up Reviews”

In order to get caught up with the dozens of hero-related movies, especially coming from Marvel Studios, we’re going to be posting “Catch-up Reviews”, starting with the 2008 movie “Iron Man”.

The important thing to note about these reviews is that they’re not going to be terribly in-depth.  They will convey just enough information to get a feel of how David 2 sees these movies, and point out some details that stand out.

So get ready to get caught up…

Editorial: Understanding Batman

Understanding Batman

A Hero Corner Commentary by David 2

If I have to choose between the two dominant superhero franchises, DC and Marvel, I have to choose DC.  DC was here first and they created some of the most iconic characters.

And if I have to choose between Superman or Batman, I’ll choose Superman any day.  Both are also iconic characters, but Superman has always been about hope.  Batman, on the other hand, has been about something entirely different.

I’ll get to Superman in another article, but I think it’s more important to focus on Batman right now because Batman is a character that gets misinterpreted way too often.

People seem to get the impression that Batman is somehow a “superhero” because he is the only one without superpowers.  And then they’re quick to say that his brain is a “superpower” because he can supposedly out-think and out-strategize anyone.  The Internet myth says that Batman can beat anyone, including Chuck Norris, Darth Vader, Satan, and even God.  In fact, some Bat-fans will fanatically believe that Batman could punch-out God Almighty if he was given the opportunity.

No, he can’t do that.  And not just because he just doesn’t have the “opportunity”.

This misunderstanding of who and what Batman is has led to DC pulling out the infamous “Batman versus Superman” thread over and over and over again, especially after Frank Miller first showed it in his “Dark Knight Returns” miniseries.  Yes, Superman can kill Batman if he was so inclined, and do so at a speed that would prevent Batman from doing anything to counter it.  But he doesn’t do that because of who Superman is, not because Batman is somehow better.

Batman has evolved as a character over the decades, and his personality has evolved as well.  The Comics Code Authority castrated Batman as a dark vigilante and had him in brighter colors working more as a strategist and tactician instead of a dark and brooding crime fighter.  The 1960’s “Batman” TV series showed Adam West as a campy blue-and-grey “legally deputized” crimefighter.  Miller returned Batman to his darker overtones, and subsequent artists and writers have tried to follow his lead of turning Batman into a brooding secretive defender of the night.  Tim Burton masterfully showed it in the movies “Batman” and “Batman Returns” with Michael Keaton as Batman.  Christopher Nolan perfected it in the “Dark Knight” trilogy with Christian Bale as Batman.  And, to his credit, Zach Snyder continued the trend starting in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” with Ben Affleck as the current film incarnation of Batman.

But none of this proves that Batman is somehow “better” or some undefeatable champion who can out-think and out-match every force in the universe, including God Almighty.

So who and what is Batman?

Batman is Bruce Wayne, and Bruce Wayne is an eternally traumatized crime victim looking for power and control so he won’t ever have to feel victimized again.

That is it in a nutshell.

In the animated motion picture “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker”, it was Mark Hamill’s Joker that exposed the truth about Batman when he finds out that Batman is Bruce Wayne.

“It’s true, Batsy! I know everything. And kinda like the kid who peeks at his Christmas presents, I must admit, it’s sadly anti-climactic. Behind all the sturm and bat-o-rangs, you’re just a little boy in a playsuit, crying for mommy and daddy! It’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.”  (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0233298/quotes)

This is why Batman does what he does.  He is a traumatized crime victim.  He watched as his parents were murdered right in front of him, and because of that, he is on an obsessive-compulsive fixation to find the means so that he will never, never, ever, feel helpless like that ever again.

Batman doesn’t “hate” Superman.  Xenophobic bigotry has been a very disturbing trend in the DC multimedia multiverse, and one that is wrongly placed on people like Batman.  Batman does not “hate” Superman because Superman is an alien.  He hates not being able to control someone like Superman.  He comes up with contingency plans on top of contingency plans because he cannot allow anyone to get the better of him.  He “works” with the Justice League because it’s the only way he can keep an eye on all of them and find out how he can wield power and control over them.  Because that is the only way a traumatized crime victim can function with others.  He sees everyone as a potential threat.

Obviously Bruce Wayne uses women as a “cover” so people won’t think he’s Batman.  But people have also tried to pair Batman up with so many different women, including Wonder Woman and Catwoman, and they’ve all failed.  Because Batman can’t really love anyone.  His traumatic mind cannot allow anyone to be on equal footing as him, because then he would not have power or control over them.  You have to overcome that trauma to be in a healthy emotional relationship with anyone, and that trauma is what makes Batman who he is.

Batman is not “unstoppable”.  In fact, the only reason why he is Batman is because certain people failed to do their jobs to stop him when they had the chance.  Yes, I’m talking about Bruce Wayne’s legal guardian as a child, Alfred Pennyworth, but also the other people that should have stepped in at that point.  Maybe it’s because mental health is in the basement in terms of priorities in society, but Bruce Wayne’s OCD should have been identified and dealt with when he was growing up.  But, obviously, it wasn’t because Bruce Wayne is also filthy rich.  He inherited more wealth than he ever could want or need.  Batman is the original “Affluenza” case, only his self-destruction involves fighting crime instead of drunkenly plowing into helpless families in a stolen vehicle.

This is also why Batman is Bruce Wayne and not vice-versa.  There have been other people that have “become” Batman, and some better at it than others.  Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, Terry McGuiness, Bane, Ra’s ah Ghoul, Kal-El of Krypton, Alfred Pennyworth, Carrie Kelly, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, and – I kid you not it happened in 2016 – Lois Lane have all “became” Batman.

But they never really “were” Batman.  Some of them try.  Some of them even do a pretty good job at it.  But they are not Batman.  They can never be Batman.  Because Batman is Bruce Wayne; a traumatized crime victim with an obsessive-compulsive fixation on maintaining power and control over every situation he is in.

This is why DC Comics cannot get rid of Bruce Wayne, no matter how many times they try to do that.  They killed off Bruce Wayne in Earth 2, but that universe’s Dick Grayson never really could be Batman.  They killed Bruce Wayne in “Final Crisis”, and all of Bruce Wayne’s “Robins” fight over who would follow him, but even with Dick Grayson as Batman paired with the son of Bruce Wayne as his Robin, they still felt compelled to bring Bruce Wayne back from the dead.  They “kill” Batman in “The Dark Knight Rises”, pass the cave over to Robin John Blake, and then they hit the “reboot” button to the whole movie franchise.  They even “kill” Bruce Wayne in the comics in a “final battle” with the Joker, take Wayne’s money away, turn Batman into a corporate-owned police force played by Commissioner Gordon, give a mind-wiped Bruce Wayne the happy life that he always deserved, and they still can’t keep him “dead”.

They all fail because Batman is Bruce Wayne.  Other people can play Batman.  They can pretend to be Batman.  But nobody else other than Bruce Wayne can be Batman, because Batman is Bruce Wayne.  Even Terry McGuiness, who currently serves as “Batman Beyond” in the comics is not really Batman.  He’s just an extension of Bruce Wayne, using his technology and taking Bruce Wayne’s lead because, in the DC comic future, Bruce Wayne is too old to physically continue his quest.  But he doesn’t stop “being” Batman.  He’s just using a proxy.

Batman is not the “apex of human determination”.  He is not a “super-tactician”.  He is not able to beat everyone and everything.  Batman is just a traumatized crime victim with an obsessive-compulsive disorder and more money than he ever could want or need and a group of enablers that failed in their jobs.  And while the writers and directors and actors and artists have been able to turn this traumatized crime victim with OCD into an iconic DC hero and an intriguing protagonist, we should not consider Batman to be anything more than what he truly is… flawed, and very human.

(Note: Batman is a fictional character created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger and is owned by DC Comics, a subsidiary of Time-Warner.  This article is a speculation from a longtime fan and sometime writer under the Fair Use doctrine and should not be presumed to be published with either the expressed or implied permission from either DC Comics or Time-Warner.)

Review: “Suicide Squad”

Suicide Squad – A Non-Hero Hero Movie

A Review and Commentary by David 2

2016 was the year for two movies from the new DC Cinematic Universe.  The first was “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”… which was a letdown for so many people, including this reviewer.  The second was “Suicide Squad”.

Much like BvS, Suicide Squad started to get some positive feedback from people.  Then, unfortunately, the goon squad of media reviewers attacked the movie mercilessly just like they did “Man of Steel” and BvS.  They wanted to like it.  They really did.  But they couldn’t.  Why?  Because it takes place in the same cinematic world as “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.

It makes you wonder if some of these so-called “impartial reviewers” have either a preference for or maybe even getting a little pocket change by a certain corporate rodent with his own cinematic superhero franchise.  I know I have to keep reminding myself that media reviewers are paid to review even the movies that they don’t want to see, but you have to wonder why they give high marks to a marginally-good movie like “Captain America: Civil War” (which is on my “to review” list) and an automatic fail to an even better movie like “Suicide Squad”.

Yes, I said “better movie”, and you’ll see why.

We start with something that the reviewers hate… the fact that this story takes place after the events of BvS.  Superman is dead, but super-xenophobic bigotry is still alive and flying roughshod all over the United States government.  Suits and soldiers alike are scared of “the next Superman”.  They start hashing out scenarios where “Superman” would supposedly fly over to the White House, rip off the roof, and outright murder the President of the United States.  Oh, “Superman” wouldn’t… just don’t give Zach Snyder any ideas… but supposedly the “next Superman” could.  And who would stop this hypothetical “next Superman”?  It’s not like there was this chunk of glowing green rock that they could weaponize and… Oh, wait, there is.

Anyway, in comes Amanda Waller; the dirtiest player in the government game.  She not only knows where all the bodies are buried in Washington, she helped bury them.  And she has a plan to save the world from “the next Superman”.  She has a collection of the worst of the worst in the world all locked away in a special ultra-secret black-ops prison called Belle Reve.

Some of them were captured by Batman, or at least pursued by “The Bat”.  Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Killer Croc were all chased by Batman at some point.  One Aussie bugger, Captain Boomerang, was taken down by a certain red-suited speedster we know as The Flash.  All of these criminals were thrown down a “hole” and then Amanda threw the hole away.  And now that she has them, she wants to use them as a black-ops team.

She teases the government with her trump card; an ancient spirit called “The Enchantress”.  A spirit that possesses the body of a young archeologist and is under the orchestrated loving watch of Waller’s “pet” soldier, Colonel Flag.  Waller literally owns the Enchantress’s heart and can destroy it at any time.  The human host owns Flag’s heart emotionally.  Waller uses this dysfunctional connection to get the Enchantress to steal some secret Iranian nuclear plans, and this gives her the green light for “Task Force X”, aka the “Suicide Squad”.

Needless to say, something goes wrong with this deal.  The Enchantress gets free, she frees her brother, and the two of them launch their plan to destroy modern civilization.  Waller summons the rest of Task Force X, but they’re kept in the dark about the whole deal.  The team is joined by El Diablo, a pyrokinetic gang member who murdered his family and now regrets his choices; by Katana, a Japanese vigilante who actually works for Flag; and by Slipnot, a mercenary known for knots and scaling walls.  We don’t know too much about Slipnot, so guess who ends up being the red-shirt of this team?

What keeps these criminals in check are miniature explosives planted in their heads.  Both Flag and Waller can trip the switch and either one or everyone can die.  And if either of them die, they all die.  Slipnot, our designated red-shirt, is the one that finds out how real this threat is when he tries to run.

Now we add a wild card to the game: Harley Quinn’s boyfriend, The Joker.  We find out through flashbacks how Harley went from an Arkham Asylum psychologist into psychotic girlfriend, and how she somehow managed to win Joker’s heart as well.  And Joker finds out where Harley has been and where she is going and he spares no expense to get her.

The team finds out the truth about what they are doing, and they’re not happy.  But they somehow manage to do the right thing and confront the Enchantress and her brother.

There’s a lot more to the story, but why spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet?

Let’s start with what works.

The casting was almost spot-on with their comic book originals for the key characters.  Will Smith’s Deadshot was a game-changer for the movie but he really owned the role.  Margot Robbie also owned the role of Harley Quinn, especially in the accent and the mannerisms.  The flashback scenes of her transformation from Harleen Quinzell to Harley could have come right out of an Alex Ross montage.  Ditto for Viola Davis as Waller.  Davis managed to give Waller a dead-stare that made people know she was being serious about everything she said.  Jarred Leto’s Joker was a welcomed break from previous actors.  He wasn’t over-the-top like Jack Nicholson, or an agent of chaos like the late Heath Ledger, or even a goofy cackling comic villain like the late Caesar Romero.  Leto played the Joker as a smooth operator, a master criminal but not as an out-and-out comic book villain.  Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje did a spot-on Killer Croc.  And while I had little knowledge of El Diablo as a character, Jay Hernandez did play him quite well as the criminal trying to pay penance.

There wasn’t really too much about Katana’s character other than going over her backstory.  Karen Fukuhara’s portrayal of the character was sort of neutral to this reviewer.  Neither good nor bad.  That’s actually a good thing given the number of characters involved in this production.

What didn’t work… well, Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress was a little more like an overexaggerated emo swimsuit model covered in muck in the beginning, and at the end resembled more like a dancer at the Copacabana.  The comic-book character resembled more like a Salem witch dressed in green, so I can see where Director David Ayer was going with this change.  Still, some more work was needed.  Likewise, Jai Courtney’s Digger Harkness, aka Captain Boomerang, was a bit difficult to swallow, especially the pink unicorn fetish.  The comic book version of Digger was a pro.  He was one of the original members of Flash’s Rogues.  He was not someone with teamwork problems as this version was seen as.  I also didn’t like Joel Kinnaman’s portrayal of Colonel Rick Flag.  Flag is a second-generation spit-and-polish soldier.  Think “Captain America”, not “Hillbilly Stand-In #2”.

And then there’s Slipknot.  Here’s a little tip for future directors: if you’re going to have a red-shirt character to prove Waller wasn’t kidding about the exploding implant, don’t make it so obvious.  You bring him in and he’s the one character in the whole bunch of criminals that you really don’t talk about other than give the quick introduction.  He was screaming “red-shirt” from the moment he showed up.  And when he does his “red-shirt” thing, it’s no surprise.

Then there are the superhero cameos.  We get to see Ezra Miller as The Flash in this movie, even if it is for less than a minute… which is an eternity for a speedster… and he’s only there to show how Boomerang is brought down.  And, of course, we have Ben Affleck reprising his BvS role as both Batman and Bruce Wayne.  Because we can’t have crime going on in Gotham City without Batman being involved.  After all, this is the DC Cinematic Universe, not a TV series on The CW or Fox.  Affleck again owns the role, even if his is a smaller role in this criminal-dominated movie, although his second appearance as Bruce Wayne seemed a bit forced.  And, yes, we have the “ghost” of Zach Snyder’s Superman as represented by the flashback of his public funeral and the continual reference of him as “a threat” even after all he’s done in life.

Let’s get to the story.  This was actually a good story, although far from being an original idea.  Anyone remember “The Dirty Dozen”?  The idea that Task Force X would fail on the first mission, though, is a little weak, but it did advance the story.  The point was to get the Squad together and get them all to work together, which they do in their own unique ways.

What didn’t work was the overuse of night settings… but this is a general complaint with filmmakers and their fetish for nighttime footage.  And the swirling light with the debris in orbit around it?  Come on, Director Ayer, we’ve seen this already with “Man of Steel” and their Kryptonian World Engine!  That’s just being lazy!

All-in-all though, “Suicide Squad” was actually a very good movie.  Better than BvS.  The movie’s plusses clearly outweighed the minuses.  We’re introduced to some of the villains in the DC Cinematic Universe in a way that shows a little bit about who they are and what makes them tick.  And, yeah, we have the obligatory Batman presence.  Because, you know, Batman.

Mission accomplished, Suicide Squad.  You kept the ball rolling for 2017’s “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League”.  Ten more years off your sentences.

Review: “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”

“Batman v Superman”:
He Died For Our Sins

– A review and commentary by David 2

Let’s start with a warning: This review includes spoilers about the movie that DC got all up in arms about when it was first released.  If, by some chance, you have not seen “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” yet and you don’t want to be spoiled by how it turned out, then stop reading now.  But… it would be too late since one of the key spoilers is in the very title of this review.

Oh well.  Now you know how some of us feel.

When “Man of Steel” came out, fans of Superman (and I am among them) had superhuman expectations.  We expected Zach Snyder’s Superman to completely destroy Marvel’s cinematic success story.  We expected an awe-inspiring epic blockbuster movie that would make “Marvel’s The Avengers” look like Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four”(Go ahead and look that up.  It’s out there.)

We didn’t get that.  What we got instead was a good movie.  Not great.  Not awe-inspiring.  Not epic.  Just… good.  Read my review of it if you don’t believe me.

We forgot that Zach Snyder had already taken one of the best DC mini-series ever – “Watchmen” – and turned that into a modestly good movie.  Not great.  Just good.  We also remember that he did a movie called “300”, and we forgot that it didn’t end well for our hero.  But that wasn’t his fault.  That was just how the original story turned out.

And after that modestly good movie named “Watchmen” (which I’ll get to reviewing at some point) and the good “Man of Steel”, we waited to see what Snyder would have for us to make up for failing to meet our superhuman expectations.  We wanted him to top MoS with something bigger and better.  We still needed our “win” to show the almighty Disney-owned Marvel that DC can match them, if not beat them.

We should have known where Snyder was going when he first teased convention-goers at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2013 with the Super-Bat logo and the memorable line from Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns”:

“I want you to remember, Clark…in all the years to come…in your most private moments…I want you to remember my hand at your throat…I want you to remember…the one man who beat you.”

We should have known at that moment what Zach Snyder had in mind for us.

He was not going to give us “Man of Steel 2”.  He was not going to give us another Superman movie.

Zach Snyder was going to give us a Batman movie.

But in order to do that, Snyder had to take his second DC creation – the Superman that we were led to accept and embrace in “Man of Steel” – and kill him.

We start with yet another re-telling of the infamous night in Crime Alley, when Bruce Wayne became an orphan and the Batman was born.  You have to wonder why Snyder would follow the abhorrent movie pattern of re-inventing the origin wheel until you realize that there is a moment in that highly-over-reenacted scene that is essential for the film’s climax.

Then we see Snyder re-invent the wheel again, this time with the climactic events in “Man of Steel” as seen from grown-up Bruce Wayne’s perspective as he rushes to his Wayne Financial building in Metropolis…. which apparently is right across the river from Gotham City.  What the hell, Snyder?

I do have to say that this was actually a very creative way to see things from Bruce Wayne’s view, as you recognize the battle between Superman and Zod from MoS, but now it’s being seen from the angle of the ordinary person.  You don’t see a hero fighting a villain on behalf of humanity.  You just see two aliens fighting, and Metropolis being caught in the crossfire.

This is all part of Snyder’s need to destroy the MoS Superman to make way for the BvS Batman.  Even the introduction of the scene shows the complete alienation of our hero.  We are told by text that this was when the world was introduced to “the Superman”.  Not “Superman”, as in the superhero and Earth’s greatest champion; but “the Superman”, as in the superior being.  The alien.  And, yes, that word will be used a lot.

From that point on, we see an ongoing crusade to condemn Superman at every opportunity.  When he steps in to save Lois from an African warlord, we hear a Senate committee hold him responsible for the deaths that follow.  Never mind that they all died from bullets and Superman doesn’t have a gun.  The media and the politicians focus on the endless debate over whether or not Superman *should* save the day, not that he is doing it.

In fact, we don’t see him actually saving the day in any of these instances.  We either see him before doing it or we see him after he does it.  And even amidst scenes of people in awe of what he can do, there is still that ever-present message questioning *why* he is doing it.  Even the Daily Planet joins in on the Superman-hate, and it is the one publication that you would think would stand up for him.

Of course there are plans in motion by our main villain, Lex Luthor.  But it is almost as if Director Snyder is working alongside Lex as a secret accomplice to demonize Superman and to kill everything that Superman is and everything that Superman represents.

Even Superman’s civilian guise as Clark Kent can’t get a break.  His boss, Perry White, decides Clark would be better doing sports than in looking into the recent brutal streak of Gotham City’s hero, the Batman.  Clark has a story to look into, the essence of journalism, and Perry keeps on saying “Where’s my sports article, Kent?”

Speaking of Batman, this is clearly not the Dark Knight from the previous blockbuster movies.  He’s older and more brutal, and we really don’t know why other than to speculate that it had to do with what happened in MoS.  This Batman brands villains like The Phantom, and his brand is considered a death sentence in prison.  He has no qualms shooting people, which is very un-Batman.  He’s also not above stealing, which he does like a bull in a china shop.  He even leaves a heavy Bat-shuriken as his calling card so there’s no mistaking who did it.  Again, that’s very un-Batman.

And I’m not even getting into the whole “nightmare-within-a-nightmare” scene.  This is Snyder’s way to introduce us to the Justice League, by showing us that there is an even greater threat looming.  There are subtle hints as to who this “greater threat” is, but they’re all completely lost to anyone who has never picked up a comic book and only got their comic book knowledge from the movies.  Then there’s the strange visit from the man from the future (the Flash), warning Batman to “fear him” and to listen to Lois.  Fear “who”?  Again we are led to believe that it is Superman, when the comic book fan knows that it is really someone else.  Someone… let’s just say someone with a really “dark side”.

That brings us to the scene in the United States Capitol Building.  A very iconic moment; Superman walking into the Senate Committee chambers to give testimony and to answer questions from the very career politicians that have been criticizing him all this time.  You have this feeling like he’s a lamb being led to slaughter, which really isn’t too far from the truth.

Of all of the moments in the movie, this is the one that hurt me the most as a longtime fan of Superman.  You have that moment when Senator Finch, Superman’s biggest public critic, is knocked from her opening bluster as she realizes that the mechanizations of Lex Luthor are about to literally blow up in her face.  Moments of awkward silence, of looking around and seeing Lex’s empty chair in the audience, of seeing jars of “Granny’s Peach Tea” in front of her, of knowing what is about to happen…

… and Superman, our hero, is oblivious to all of this!

In Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns”, our hero is able to outrun a heavy-duty autogun from high Earth orbit.  In Richard Lester’s “Superman II”, our hero is able to move so fast, he can appear to be in several places all at once and fool three Kryptonians.  Even in “Man of Steel”, our hero is able to eventually match a seasoned soldier like Zod blow-for-blow even without formal military training, overpower the Kryptonian World Engine, and to out-fly a singularity event – a miniature black hole – to carry Lois to safety.  Oh and let’s not forget he was able to fly halfway around the world in a matter of minutes.

And yet, here, this Superman makes no effort to move from his spot to stop the explosion that follows or to even try to save one single person.  There is barely a hint of emotion.  He who cried after snapping Zod’s neck, who cried after seeing his adopted father get swept away by a tornado, suddenly was cold and unemotional as he stood there in the fiery conflagration of what used to be the Capitol Building.

Even his remorse afterward with Lois is so uncharacteristic of everything that we’ve accepted about Superman.  The man whose chest symbol represents “Hope”, the man who took pride in telling Lois what that symbol means, is now saying that it was all just a delusion of a Kansas farmer.  Excuse me, but which “Kansas farmer” are you talking about?  Jonathan Kent sure as hell did not want to see Clark be Superman.  He made that point clear in MoS and why he was the real antagonist of that movie!  And now you’re inferring this was “his” delusion?  No.  Wrong.  This is not my Superman.  This isn’t even the “Man of Steel” Superman!  This is Zach Snyder’s “villain” Superman!

Yes, you heard me right.  Everything you see here is part of Director Snyder’s plan to paint Superman as the “villain” of the story.  The “enemy” for Snyder’s Batman to hate and target.  The whole justification for him to break into LexCorp and steal the kryptonite, to weaponize it, and have that climactic confrontation that Snyder has led us to.  Zach Snyder has painted Superman as the antagonist!

And that brings us to the climactic confrontations, plural.  Lex versus Superman, Superman versus Batman, Batman versus Lex’s goons, Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman versus Doomsday, a roller coaster of confrontation and violence.

And during that time, I thought, for a moment, that my faith in Director Snyder’s interpretations of my favorite characters would finally be rewarded.  For a moment, we actually had Superman being Superman, Batman being Batman, and, of course, Wonder Woman being Wonder Woman.

And… then not long after that, I realized what Snyder was leading us towards, and I realized what was about to happen.

This was Superman about to die.

Director Snyder led us to Superman sacrificing his life to stop the monster.

It’s one thing to give us the monster so early in the current DC Cinematic Universe.  To give us a taste of what it can do, knowing what Doomsday’s ultimate destiny is.  It is another thing entirely to have Doomsday fulfil its destiny so soon and to kill Superman now rather than later on, when he is cherished and respected around the world.

The end result is a completely disbelieveable “World Without Superman”.  In the original comic story and even in the DC Animated movie “Superman: Doomsday”, Superman battles Doomsday and dies in the middle of Metropolis, saving the lives of everyone threatened by Doomsday’s killing spree.  Here, Superman dies far away from people, using a pig-sticker tipped with the one substance that can kill both of them.  Aside from two heroes and one reporter, there’s nobody around to witness this sacrifice.  It’s not broadcast around the world.  Jimmy Olson isn’t around to photograph it.  Hell, Jimmy Olson was killed in the beginning of the whole movie!  (Assuming, of course, that really is Jimmy and not a CIA cover name.)

And let’s not forget that Superman’s reputation at this point is pretty much non-existent thanks to Lex Luthor’s games.  He’s already been branded a villain.  Even the Daily Planet doesn’t defend Superman anymore, never mind write what Batman calls a “puff-piece editorial”.

So where is all this global remorse coming from?  As far as the world is concerned at this point, Superman is an alien, aliens are evil, so Superman is evil.  That is the message that Director Snyder and Lex Luthor and their cohorts have successfully crafted all through this movie.  So if Superman dies, then the masses should be saying “Good riddance”, not “O-M-G this is horrible!”

The actual remorse, of course, is coming from us, the real fans of Superman.  The ones that feel cheated out of the movie that they expected.

Much like “Man of Steel”, Snyder snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and managed to give us only a good movie.  Make that a good Batman movie.  It is certainly a horrible Superman movie, given how little screen time he’s actually given and how he’s treated by both the other characters and by Director Snyder.

The movie is riddled with holes, such as what happened to Robin, whose defaced outfit we see displayed in the Batcave.  What happened to Wayne Manor?  Why is it in shambles?  Where is “Bruce Wayne” living now?  Wouldn’t it seem strange that this successful billionaire businessman would suddenly be “homeless”?  Why is Superman hauling an old capsized ocean-liner across the ice?  Why didn’t he recover the crashed Kryptonian ship?  Why is it still in disarray?  If the government has the ship with Superman’s permission, wouldn’t they know that Kryptonians would not normally be working in a ship while waist-deep in prenatal goo from the birthing chamber?  After all, that ship was his for a while in MoS.  You would think that they would at least consult him as to how it should normally look.

There is supposedly a whole hour of deleted scenes that Snyder would like included in a special “director’s cut” version that is supposed to fill in some of those holes.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

It appears that Team Snyder tried to grab a whole dozen comic storylines and then shoved them all together.  Clearly we can see both Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” and Dan Jurgen’s “Death of Superman” stories in this movie.  But then there are other comic storylines snuck in, including parts of New 52 “Justice League” and “Superman: Birthright”, not to mention a dystopian future right out of the pages Grant Morrison’s “Rock Of Ages” storyline in “JLA”.

Unfortunately, all of those different storylines and ideas helped to turn this movie into a mess.  Snyder should have just borrowed from one storyline and left it at that.

The rampant xenophobic bigotry is also something that was pretty blatant, especially coming from Snyder’s “hero”, Batman.  And this is a problem that I see not only in this movie, but in Warner Brother’s TV ventures with the CW network, most notably “Supergirl”.  Oh, Superman can save the world, but he’s still an alien, so let’s just nuke him for good measure.  The only good alien is a dead alien, right Bruce?

In terms of casting, most of the cast did admirably well given the tasks provided.  Ben Affleck did pull off a great Bruce Wayne and Batman, putting him in the same Bat-league as Michael Keaton.  I felt sorry for how Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman was abused and wasted in this movie.  It wasn’t his fault, though.  We deserved better, and he certainly deserved better.  Amy Adams continued to do great as Lois Lane.  While her boyfriend was being smeared by her own employer, she was busy uncovering the real villain behind it all.  Well… only one of the real villains, since the other one was Director Snyder himself.

Jeremy Irons did a rather competent Alfred.  His cool demeanor was more along the lines of the comics instead of Michael Caine’s witty version in the “Dark Knight” trilogy.  Lawrence Fishburn’s Perry White was lacking somewhat, but, again, it wasn’t really his fault.  Bringing back Harry Lennix and Christina Wren from MoS felt somewhat forced.  Ditto for Kevin Costner’s brief appearance as Ghost-of-Jonathan.  What he said could’ve easily been spoken by Martha Kent, who was played quite well by Diane Lane.  (Disclosure: she’s been one of my favorite actresses, so it’s hard to speak ill of her work.)  Holly Hunter’s role as Senator Finch was rather confusing.  Was she a Luthor stooge or simply skeptical of aliens?  It was hard to tell, and, of course, that final scene that she was in was very painful to watch.  It felt like nails across a chalkboard.  But, again, it wasn’t really the actress’s fault that it turned out that way.

Oh, and Snyder certainly had no problem finding work for his “Watchmen” alumni.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played the brutal Comedian in “Watchmen”, played the overplayed Thomas Wayne.  Patrick Wilson, who played the Batman-like Nite Owl in “Watchmen”, did the telephone voice of the President.  And Carla Gugino, who played the original Silk Spectre in “Watchmen”, did the voice of the Kryptonian artificial intelligence (reprising her role from MoS).  It was a nice touch, but, again, Snyder should have spent a little more effort into the story than on who was in it.

That brings me to the best and the worst of the castings.  The best, by far, was Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.  I’ll admit that I had my doubts about her filling in that role, mostly because it was best played on TV by the curvaceous Lynda Carter.  I remember Gadot’s appearances in the “Fast and Furious” series and saying to myself “*She* will be wearing Wonder Woman’s outfit?!?”

But, to her credit, Gadot pulled it off.  She captured the essence of the Amazon warrior princess and made it believable.  When she first appeared in her Wonder Woman outfit, the theater audience exploded in applause, and rightly so.

Sadly, the worst casting was Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.  As a comic writer and fan, I knew where Snyder was heading with Luthor.  He wanted us to see Lex’s ascension into a supervillain, like Lex was in “Superman: Birthright”.  Except that, in the end, we find that he’s not a supervillain… just a super-stooge.  Not to mention a super-stooge with a gradually-unravelling mind.  What is it with filmmakers and their fixation on having super-geniuses with fatal neurotic flaws?  The essence of Lex Luthor is that he is a shrewd, narcissistic, Machiavellian shark, whether as a scientific genius or as a “master of the universe” in the business world.  Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is seemingly none of these.  He’s just a spoiled brat with too much money for his own good.

“Ultimate Edition Update”: Having seen the “Ultimate Edition” with the additional footage, I have to say that my opinion of the movie hasn’t changed too much.  The extra footage does flesh things out a little bit, such as having Superman actually try to save lives after the Capitol Building explosion, and how Batman’s branded criminals are being killed by Lex Luthor’s goons, and how the African warlord massacre was staged by Luthor’s goons, using flamethrowers to make it look like Superman fried them with his heat vision.  You also see Clark Kent be gradually guided to consider Batman a threat instead of actually doing the sports article that his boss told him to cover.  You also get to see the football game that was the subject of Perry’s sports obsession.  This is stuff that Warner Brothers should have included in the theatrical release from day one, but didn’t because they were being stupid.  But, hey, what do you expect from time-obsessive execs?

I’ll remind you of something that I said in my review of “Man of Steel”: if the viewer has to figure these little things out on their own, then you have failed as a storyteller.

Director Snyder loved to paint Superman in Christ-like analogies, so it’s only right for me to say that ultimately the “Man of Steel” Superman died more for our sins than those of Director Snyder’s.  It was our sin of greed, of wanting a movie to instantly make up and surpass what a decade of Marvel productions built up, that led us to Snyder’s sin of overkill, and to him killing the MoS Superman.  We know Director Snyder will bring Superman back to life, probably at some point in the upcoming “Justice League” movie.  The only things that we don’t know are how he returns, and what kind of Superman we will get back.

Will we get the kind of Superman that we want?  Or will we get the kind of Superman that Director Snyder thinks we “deserve”?