WB vs Justice League

justice league

Dawn of Justice was terrible. Snyder made Superman into a dull, whining emo and Batman into a dim-witted, drunken, murdering psychopath who happens to dress like a bat. It goes without saying, then, that even after a mostly very good solo outing for Wonder Woman, I had no hope at all for Justice League.

Imagine my surprise, then, when after weeks of trying and failing to get in to see it, I found myself entirely alone in the cinema, enjoying most of what I was seeing. That’s right, I went to see Thor. I jest. I didn’t see Thor. Perhaps ‘enjoying’ is too strong a term. Easily tolerating.

Given how long it has been out now, I won’t try to avoid spoilers here but, honestly, there’s pretty much nothing TO spoil.

First off, the postivity of my opinion will obviously be swayed by how awful BvS was and the fact that it’s difficult not to compare Justice League with that. Were this the first team up film they had made, I would on the one hand be less forgiving, but on the other be a little more hopeful for the future of the DCMU (which is what I’m calling it). It had plenty of problems, but they seemed smaller than those in BvS, and there were actually enjoyable parts. On a scale of 1 (BvS) to 10 (WW – not that I’d quite give WW a 10/10), I would call Justice League a 6. In a proper rating out of 10, standing on its own merit, I’m not too sure what I could give it. Definitely less than that. 4?

Let’s start with my three biggest problems:

The CGI – WB needs to get its &%$! together when it comes to many things, but perhaps the most obvious to even the most casual of moviegoers is the CGI. It is sensationally bad. JL contains the worst yet. From a terrible, 100% CGI villain to completely unnecessary 100% CGI Alfred, to green-screening that looks like an unfinished fan film, WB would be hard pressed to make the CGI any worse. Cyborg’s face doesn’t need to be CGI – just have him wear a half mask and do it up with little bits of CGI. Although, they couldn’t get Superman’s upper lip to look realistic, so perhaps all is lost in this department.

The length – Perhaps ‘learning’ from people complaining about the length of BvS, Justice League is only two hours long. That would be okay for a solo film, but this is a team-up of six major characters. Although it did, to be fair, seem to give the characters equal-ish screen time, it could have done with at least an extra 30 minutes. As it is, it feels as though Whedon or Snyder or someone forgot that a film should have a middle, and instead went straight from the beginning into a run up to the end. One moment, we’re seeing some of the characters doing their own thing, and the next it’s all go. It’s like Usain Bolt turning up for the Olympics opening ceremony only to hear the starting gun and everyone’s off running and he’s not even in his goddamn shorts!

The Foundation – The film itself can’t help that it has to work off BvS, but…it does. Snyder stupidly rushed into the death of Superman storyline when the world doesn’t trust him, Batman just tried to murder him, and Diana has barely even met him. Even we, the audience, don’t have a good grasp of him as a character (this particular iteration, that is). Yet we’re supposed to believe that the entire world is in mourning because of his death, and so is each of the soon-to-be League. There are shots of places around the world flying gigantic flags with the Superman logo on them. Simply moronic.

Since I’m not sure how else to continue this whatever-this-is, let’s talk about the heroes:

Batman

batman

Batman was a huge disappointment in BvS. He was stupid and oblivious (he lets himself get caught in Luthor’s servers twice, and clumsy, plodding Clark Kent manages to follow him there a third time without him even noticing. World’s greatest dewhat?). There was an allusion to him being an alcoholic womaniser, rather than this being simply a disguise and misdirection. He’s a murdering psychopath. He stands smirking as his traps hurt Superman instead of actually acting. He sees Doomsday about to laser-face him and cowers behind his hands instead of using his multitude of tools and skills to save himself (I maintain that the scene should have happened as is, except without him swearing and hiding, and when Diana turns around to see if he’s okay, he’s standing on the roof above, having escaped in time anyway – she’s still the hero who jumped in front of face laser to save him, and he’s still Batman).

batman arkham

But…I’m getting off track. In Justice League, we’re not too sure if he’s still a murderer because no one ever mentions it and he only fights parademons, which don’t count. He’s still not the Batman I want to see, but he’s a little closer to it. Despite being an older Batman, he shows no signs of the take-charge, always ten steps ahead, ready for anything, surprised by nothing Batman I want to see. For reference, Kevin Conroy is the definitive Batman for me – a live action version of the Batman of the Arkham games would be the Marvel-buster (basically a more brutal, adult version of the animated series Batman). But he doesn’t seem quite as stupid this time, at least. The worst part for me was when Superman first shows up to fight Steppenwolf and Batman literally gasps, with a huge grin on his face. I mean…no.

Batman’s first scene is by far the best and (along with a certain two-sworded villain’s appearance in the post-credits) actually gave me a little hope for his solo film (NOTE: Before editing this, I read that he may now not be playing Batman again after all, which is disappointing – the problem is the Batman he’s been given, not how Affleck plays him). There’s nothing particularly special about it, but it just felt…nice. It felt Batman-ish. A common burglar is climbing out of a window with his loot, and in the window’s reflection, you see Batman watching. Then comes a fairly typical cat and mouse sequence where the thief tries to shoot him but Batman’s never quite there. Again, nothing special, but the most Batman-ish we’ve seen this Batman (and credit to the city around them – it felt like Gotham).

Wonder Woman

WW

There’s not too much to say about Wonder Woman. Her role is fairly minimal outside of hitting and slicing things. Otherwise, she’s really only there to protest bringing Superman back and to explain, unconvincingly, why she went off people in between WW and BvS. But what she did do, she did well.

It looked from the trailers like the team was a bit of a mess right up until Diana takes charge and gets them working as a team. This is not the case. Neither do they work badly together to start with, nor do they work particularly well together in the final fight. Perhaps WB’s collective brain will start working and we’ll see a Patty Jenkins Justice League next. I don’t know how she’d handle Batman, but WW, Superman, and Flash would all do well under her.

I was disappointed to see that not once did she fly. I still don’t know for sure if this version of Wonder Woman CAN fly. She certainly seemed to in her solo film, but it wasn’t clear enough. I’ve said before that, to me, she is almost Superman’s equal. He has more raw strength and power, but she is a demigod (or maybe full god in this version?) and is magic-based, and a trained warrior. These things together – again, to me – make her pretty much his equal in terms of who can beat who (up until Superman totally unleashes, that is; which he didn’t). I was worried, then, when I saw in a leaked video of Superman’s fight with them, that they headbutt each other. She barely knocks his head back, but then he headbutts her back and she gets planted in the concrete. The full scene is slightly better, as he actually headbutts her first, and does as little damage as her return headbutt. This at least shows that the most powerful man in the universe has to make some real effort to hurt her (but look out further down for how that’s completely ruined later on).

Superman

superman

We all knew he was going to come back in this film, but it was as though all the characters knew he was going to come back in this film too. There was no light bulb moment when they realise they can bring him back; there was no clever or interesting way they went about it; there was no emotional realisation that it might actually be possible; there was no real drama to him suddenly being alive again. Aquaman and Diana put forward their ideas that it might be a bad idea – that they don’t know that he’d come back wholly himself – but otherwise, there’s not really any discussion about it.

Then there’s the fact that he’s only in three crucial scenes. His fight with the others, his talk with Lois, and then the end fight when he turns up to save the day, single-handed. Again, this is where a longer film would have come in handy. Perhaps the worst thing about this is that when he does turn up to fight Steppenwolf (cue Batman’s schoolgirl gasp), he bats him about like a cat playing with a dead mouse. This is badly handled. Not only because the other superpowered heroes do him almost no damage (remember how Superman had to really try in order to hurt WW?), but also because of the introductory flashback scene of the first time he comes to Earth, and is fought by Amazons, Atlantians, ‘the tribes of man’, and…wait for it…gods. Yes, the actual gods fight him, and he’s still only just sent packing. But Superman turns up and that’s that. He doesn’t even get a hair out of place while ‘fighting’ Steppenwolf. This, to me, is a little too much. Steppenwolf should at least have got in a couple of good hits. It should have been Superman’s power that allowed them TOGETHER to overwhelm Steppenwolf. Sure, he should be capable of defeating him single-handed, but it shouldn’t be that easy, or else what is the point of the Justice League? Not to mention, if Steppenwolf had hurt Superman a bit, we’d have been wondering just how much more damage Darkseid will be able to do (and I really just can’t get over how weak it makes Diana seem).

Bad faceAnd he was just creepy and weird, like a Henry Cavill doppleganger was brought in to play him. He was so inhuman and unemotional all the way through – even when fighting Steppenwolf – as though he resented having to be there – character and actor.

 

Also, where did he get his new suit?

Flash

the-flash

Apparently, Flash was most people’s favourite character. I don’t really understand why. His scenes with his father were a bit weak – there was no chemistry there at all. A lot of his humour was way over the top, forced, unfunny, and just childish. He runs weirdly. There’s a scene near the end where he’s running along a road, and I literally thought he was falling or something because of the way his arms were flailing about. But no, that’s just how he runs.

He is perhaps the most pointless character, as at least the others have reason to be there. Flash is just there because he’s part of the Justice League, so he HAS to be. Sure, he saves some people, but there’s no part where he earns his place in the team or the film.

Aquaman

aquaman

I expected to dislike Aquaman. I don’t dislike Jason Mamoa, but his characters come across as too arrogant and smug for my liking. But, aside from a bit too much of the “Oh yeah”s and the “My man”s and the “Yeah-ya”s – which are nails on chalkboard to most non-Americans – he was actually okay. Not more than okay, but okay. I’ve read reviews that refer to him as the ‘bad boy’, which is just ridiculous. There’s nothing bad boy-ish about him other than his initial refusal to help. That’s it. He doesn’t hesitate for a second once he’s onboard. Doesn’t second guess anyone, doesn’t take issue with Diana taking charge and giving orders (one order), nothing. He has a teeny tiny spat with Cyborg which is over in an instant and feels no more serious than the rest of his banter.

What I don’t understand, though, is why he helps in the first place. Steppenwolf attacks Queen Mera, and Aquaman turns up to get beaten too. Then Mera – queen, remember – tells him that his then-queen mother gave him up to protect him (which he seems to immediately accept and change his previously-negative opinion of said mother), and that it would have been the mother’s duty (as queen) to go after Steppenwolf, but now it is Aquaman’s. W…why? Why is the queen’s duty not the queen’s duty now that the queen is a different queen? At least the Amazon queen actually makes some effort herself (and is actually acted properly too). It’s made to sound as though this is the first time Aquaman has even turned up in Atlantis, too, which makes it all even weirder.

Cyborg

Cyborg

I’ve heard it said that this is the weakest character, but I don’t agree. I don’t think he is given any less screen time than other characters, and best of all, his self-pity doesn’t last long and isn’t overwhelmingly irritating like certain other Batman/Superman films I could mention. He’s well acted, badly-CGI’d, and plays a crucial role in the story – but not so crucial that you feel he should have had a bigger part to play.

But seriously, why CGI the entire cyborg half of his face? It’s unnecessary and awful.

JL

When it came to humour, as I’ve already said, Flash failed to amuse most of the time, but even that wasn’t totally horrendous as Age of Ultron taught me to expect from Whedon. The worst of it was the bit we already saw, with him getting excited about the Bat signal. Otherwise it was his general awkward, immature nature that was supposed to amuse. There were, I think, two parts that actually made me laugh – one of which is an older woman on the news, which has nothing to do with anything.

Danny Elfman – I’m assuming at Whedon’s behest, or at least permission – brought back the Batman and Superman themes (the proper ones), which worked quite well for Batman, despite him not being a Batman worthy of that theme. For Superman, I can only assume the part where it was used properly was cut. The only time we hear it is a bizzaro version when he’s not himself and is fighting the team. There is a recognisable sound when he punches Steppenwolf, which might be at least a bit of the theme, but it was barely audible underneath the noise of Steppenwolf hitting the ground. Perhaps just as well, since he was even less deserving of it than Batman.

HARWOOD

‘Flat’ is probably the best word to describe it. Nothing ever felt remotely dangerous or dramatic, the only time the characters had a hint of emotional interaction with each other was when Bruce annoys Diana and she shoves him. Even that was over in an instant and they were apologising to each other minutes later. There’s no coming together, no clumsiness of people not used to working as a team and not used to trusting others, no…anything much. I’m not even totally sure why it would have been so terrible if Steppenwolf got all three motherboxes. I’m sure it was explained… It’s full of missed opportunities, rushes into things too fast, leaves no time for meaningful character development. It’s more like a pitch for a full film: ‘These are just some of the things you’ll see if you let us make a full Justice League movie’.

So, perhaps the main reason I actually ended up enjoying my two hours was because it was not as terrible as Dawn of Justice. I can’t explain why else I left the cinema not feeling as though I wasted two hours. I want the extended cut (BvS was less terrible in the extended cut), but whose do I want? Snyder’s? Not really. Whedon’s? Not really. I just want a longer, fuller version. But for now, I’m just surprised that I actually want to see it again.

Batman

See also:

The Big Blue Boy Scout
Birth of the Superhero

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Zack Snyder v Batman v Superman

Or: Zack Snyder v The DC Universe

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice

When I first heard about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I was more excited about it than I was about The Force Awakens (though that changed, of course, as TFA came closer). I wasn’t sure what to make of Ben Affleck being cast as Batman, but I thought he might do well. I was not a fan of Jesse Eisenberg being cast as Lex Luthor, but beyond that, I was expecting a good film.

Then the trailers started coming in. The first few teasers were good and only increased my excitement for the film. But it soon started to get worrying. Batman seemed to be doing things Batman shouldn’t be doing. He seemed to be showing too much emotion for my liking. Luthor was acting like an idiot. Doomsday right there in a trailer?! But I still held out hope. There have been trailers before that ill portrayed the film, and I could live with a slightly different take on Batman – every actor is going to play him differently, obviously, and I’ll never get the live action version that’s in my head anyway.

But after my hopes coming and going and coming and going again, I watched the film this morning not knowing what to think. And…I still don’t know what to think. If I were to give the briefest review, I would say it had good bits and bad bits, and overall I quite enjoyed it. But I’ll go a little deeper than that, with no spoilers.

Let’s randomly start with Lex Luthor. I was completely justified in my concerns about Jesse Eisenberg’s casting. He was probably the worst thing about the film. In the three video reviews I watched yesterday of the film, he was twice referred to as being very like Jim Carey. And the more the film goes on, the more I can see why. Though he isn’t as over the top as the reviews can make him seem, there are a couple of places where he brought to mind Carey’s Riddler in Arkham Asylum at the end of Batman Forever. He is certainly a new take on the character, being borderline schizophrenic rather than insane through his megalomania. He does at least have a few decent lines regarding whether Superman is truly good.

BvS-wonder-woman.JPG

Gal Gadot was a good choice for Wonder Woman, I thought, and she gives off a sense of power and virtue. Her sudden appearance (sudden to most of the characters) towards the end of the film made me smile, yet I can see how people not entirely familiar with her character would be very confused. Why, they would muse, is Wonder Woman doing more damage to Doomsday than Superman?

Affleck did a good job as Batman. I’ve heard a lot of people say he’s the best thing about the film, but I don’t know if I would go that far. To me, he is similar to Cavill as Superman: good, but not all that remarkable. I wouldn’t like to see him replaced and I’d be happy to watch him in the role again, but his name wouldn’t roll off my tongue if I was asked who I think the best Batman is (Kevin Conroy, since you ask). I’ll come back to more of Batman in a minute.

It’s difficult to talk about the film without properly…talking about it. A lot of the issues revolve around things that are, or could be considered, spoilers. But suffice to say that one annoyance is that the trailers pretty much show us the entire film. There is very little in there that will surprise you after watching those. Which is absolutely ridiculous on the part of the marketing team. Doomsday should never have been shown in the trailers, particularly. Even Wonder Woman’s best bits are in the trailers.

Just like my ramblings, the film is all over the place and lacking in any kind of sense of consistency or substance. I don’t understand a lot of the choices, such as sitting Metropolis right next to Gotham (you literally see the Bat signal from Metropolis), or having Batman closer to the end of his career just as the Justice League begins come together. Unfortunately, a lot of it is stuff I can’t mention in a spoiler-free review (like the plot point they used for the resolution – ridiculous and too soon). The dream sequences are another particularly confusing aspect of the film, since they don’t actually seem to have any relevance to anything.

It’s as though there are multiple films playing out in one, and Snyder doesn’t know which one to point the camera at. Although for the most part the way it jumps about isn’t too confusing, there is a lot of stuff that didn’t need to be in there at all. Like the cameos from the other Justice League members. The cameos themselves are bad, the way they are done is bad, and they are utterly pointless except to show Batman and Wonder Woman that there are more metahumans out there, which isn’t necessary information for this film. Why not end the film with one of them saying something like, ‘You know, there were more videos on that drive…’ and going from there?

In the end, though, the thing that really brought the film down was Batman. Yes, you’ve heard that he’s the best part, and yes he’s very good. But he kills people. Like a moron, Snyder tried to excuse it as not murder, but just plain old manslaughter. Funnily enough, that doesn’t make it okay. As I said, I can deal with a different take on the character, but when you completely alter a fundamental aspect of that character…well, you’re a twat.

Batman Kills.jpg

Not only does Batman kill, but he kills unnecessarily. Each and every kill could have been avoided and handled differently. At one point he even has devices that disable his enemies’ guns, so clearly some kind of brain activity is possible when it comes to thinking non-lethally. But instead, Snyder decides to take the lazy approach and just murder everyone else. And it is laziness because, at the end of the day, Batman in the comics can actually be quite profound, and that includes his reasons for not killing and his justifications for why it isn’t necessary, right, or his choice to make. Writing in good reasons why Batman still sticks to his all-important rule is so much harder than ‘oh, well, you know, he’s just tired of bad people doing bad things and stuff…’, so they simply didn’t bother.

That said, I wonder how the gentleman that Superman smashed through a brick wall at 100mph is doing.

One of the biggest aspects of Batman’s character is his iron will. And that extends to his not killing. But that’s not the only reason he doesn’t kill. It’s because he knows how close to the edge he is. He knows the darkness inside him. And he knows that if he were to go down that path, there would be no coming back; he would become everything that he has been fighting against. But no, Zack Snyder knows better, right?

Interesting question: If Batman is so happy to murder people, why is the Joker alive?

I decided early that I would never take a life. Right around the time I decided that I wanted to live. It wasn’t an arbitrary decision and it was more than moral. It’s about identity. As long as you can choose that, choose who you are in the world…you can choose to call yourself sane.‘ – Batman, New Earth

Vengeance blackens the soul, Bruce. I’ve always feared that you would become that which you fought against. You walk the edge of that abyss every night, but you haven’t fallen in and I thank heaven for that.‘ – Alfred, Mask of the Phantasm

If you kill a killer, the number of killers in the world remains the same.’ – Batman

It Always Starts With One

My biggest issue with the film is actually that in doing the things he has done, Snyder has impacted the entire DC cinematic universe. Everything to come has to work off the template that Snyder has laid down, even if Snyder himself is gone. And he absolutely should be removed from the Justice League, in my opinion. I don’t think he, or David S Goyer, should be allowed anywhere near the DCMU again. Or any superhero film for that matter.

To me, Snyder with BvS is a lot like Frank Miller with Dark Knight Returns. I know a lot of people love that graphic novel and think it’s the ultimate Batman, but I detest it (sorry). Neither of them seem to understand or even like either Batman or Superman.

But, as I said before, at the end of the day I did enjoy the film more than I disliked it. And I think I have run out of things to say without spoilers.

Batman

If you want more Superman and Batman, here are a couple of articles I’ve written before on the subject(s):

The Big Blue Boy Scout

Birth of the Superhero

BvS: Dawn of Unjustifiable Nonsense

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman

I have just watched the new Batman v Superman trailer for the second time and I wanted to rant about it. I needed to rant about it.

The first few teasers and trailers were okay. I felt a bit better about the film with each one (not including the teaser that came just before this new trailer). But now comes the three minute trailer that basically gives us the entire skeleton of the film. Obviously the following rant will contain spoilers.

So basically, Clark Kent – the super journalist – doesn’t have a clue who Bruce Wayne is. Bruce Wayne calls Superman a ‘freak dressed as a clown’ in a stare-down that kind of alludes to the possibility that Bruce knows who Clark really is.

Then the ridiculousness that is the new Lex Luthor pops in to tell Bruce not to pick a fight with Clark…oh ha ha…ha? How awfully humorous that writing is. How clever. I don’t know if the personality Lex displays in that scene is just his public persona and is completely different from the real him (I hope so), but it is terrible. Jesse Eisenberg is quite a good actor, yet his acting in this scene was a little embarrassing to watch.

Then the part that we all knew was coming, but weren’t necessarily expecting to be shown outright in the trailer: Lex Luthor creates Doomsday from Zod’s corpse. And he looks like one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fell into an acid bath while he was injecting himself with steroids.

The penultimate scene contains the worst case of ‘seriously?’ of the entire trailer, which is saying something. Wonder Woman saves Batman from Doomsday’s attack with her shield, and then Superman asks ‘Is she with you?’, to which the witty and original response is ‘I thought she was with you’! Oh what amazing writing this film will contain.

I thought Chris Terrio taking over the writing of the film would be a good thing, but it seems like the stain of David S Goyer can’t be cleaned off that easily.

Batsignal

It’s not just the few bits of awful writing that gets me, though. It’s Batman. From the line ‘You will’ at the end of the original teaser (about whether Superman bleeds), I’ve wondered if they were going in a decent direction with Batman. The scene at the end of the first proper trailer where Batman stands up from his wrecked Batmobile to face Superman was a brilliant scene that partly allayed my fears…but now we have this.

In the newest teaser, Batman looks terrified of Superman. It’s almost certainly a nightmare sequence, so it’s forgiveable. However, he seems to show too much emotion for my liking in the main trailer. There’s too much baring his teeth, too much slack-jawed…stuff (‘I thought she was with you’). And what the hell is with him throwing his arms over his face when Doomsday attacks? Batman wouldn’t do that. A) Batman would have a way out, as he always does. B) Even if he didn’t, he wouldn’t hide from his death, he would simply narrow his eyes and glare at it, striking terror into the heart of the poor Reaper sent to collect him.

It’s true that trailers can give a false impression of a film, and I really hope that is the case here, but if they aren’t going to get Batman right, then I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that the entire DC movie universe that they are setting up is kind of doomed before it gets going. The Trinity – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – are the foundations of that universe, and if they aren’t done right, said universe will crumble.

One of the things I knew would make a big impact on whether Batman works or not is the voice that Affleck chose to use. I still don’t know about it. He does speak as Batman without the armour that changes his voice drastically, but it’s not enough to go on. It sounds as though he’s just using the gravel that’s already in his voice, which could be okay. But it also sounds as though he may still be using a voice modulator, which I don’t really like. The main thing is that it sounds okay. But Kevin Conroy is still the best Batman voice.

Damn it, Batman doesn’t do crap like ‘I thought she was with you’! No, I can’t get over it, shut up. Batman does the ‘Thanks, Batman, we couldn’t have done it without you’, ‘I know’ lines. He does the hilarious, usually scathing one-liners that don’t take away from his terrifying Dark Knightness. And he doesn’t show the kinds of emotions that he does in this trailer. Fear of Superman, fear of death, shock at seeing Wonder Woman. HE’S THE GODDAMN BATMAN!

And now that abysmal Frank Miller line has made me feel unwell.

Incidentally, here are a few semi-related articles that you might like read:

The Big Blue Boy Scout

Birth of the Superhero (I used the same top image 😦 )

Batman: Arkham Knight (review)

The Big Blue Boy Scout

Superman - Truth. Justice. Hope.

The Man of Steel. Big Blue. The Man of Tomorrow. The Metropolis Marvel. Supes. The Boy Scout. The Last Son of Krypton. Smallville. Kal-El.

Superman.

He was one of the first superheroes and has endured 76 years of ups and downs for the comic industry – and it only took him 73 of those to learn where his underwear is meant to go. He is the template, the blueprint, for superpowered heroes who came after. And we still love him today. He still catches our imagination and makes us feel excited, like children again.

My first experience of him was from the Christopher Reeve films. I remember getting my mum to make me a cape out of a red velvet curtain, and poking the lenses out of an old pair of Ray-Bans (sorry!). Then I’d stroll around the living room in my Clark Kent disguise, until trouble inevitably erupted in a nearby land (the dining room). Then, off would come the glasses, and I’d fly, via the sofa and chairs, to said land. Apparently, the sewing machine’s brass-looking handles were actually Kryptonite, because it was on one of these, in the process of saving lives, that I fell off a chair and sliced my finger from top to bottom. Even Superman can cry.

Age 7 was the start of my depression and it was partly due to this that, for more years than I can recall, I’d go out into the garden, stare straight up at the sky and try as hard as I could to take off. Perhaps it’s for the best that I never did, because my dad carrying me through the house while I pretended to fly taught me that flying is damn sore on the back.

But that’s about as far as my personal story with Superman goes. I didn’t grow up with comics; I grew up with Knight Rider, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee, and the Dean Cain Superman series. He was only one of my ‘heroes’, as it were – though I never really considered anyone my hero.

Superman Saved My Life

But everywhere I look, there are a lot of real people who have been brought through real tragedies and trying times by Superman. He isn’t just an inspiration and symbol of hope to those 2D citizens in comic books, he’s a very real symbol to very real people. And I think there’s something quite remarkable about that. That symbol is hope. You might be surprised, after the “It means ‘Hope’” scene in Man of Steel, that the S emblem on Superman’s suit didn’t actually mean that for a long, long time. Not until the 2000s, in fact. To me, this is a case of writers realising that Superman himself had become a symbol of hope, and so it made sense to bring the emblem’s meaning into alignment.

Even as a baby, he was sent away from a dying world as their last hope. As a baby, he embodied hope.

So Superman is the shining beacon of hope. The bright blue ideal that many other superheroes look to for inspiration and leadership. He is the icon that shows us that there is something better out there, that we can be something greater. He is a shining light in the darkness not because of his strength and his powers but because of his purity, his incorruptible moral compass. It’s probably rivalled only by that of Captain America. He is unwavering in his ethics and values, and will not stray from or betray those under any circumstances, no matter what he faces and no matter the personal cost. That is an ideal many people find inspiring and aspire to. He is an example to people in this way and relatable for us because he doesn’t put himself on a pedestal. He doesn’t consider himself better than humans in any way, even while some of those humans refer to him as a god.

superman cries

What makes him so relatable is very human: loneliness. He is the last of his people (in some storylines), his birth family is dead, his Earth father dies relatively early-on, and (again, in some storylines) his Earth mother dies later on too. He embodies the sense of isolation that so many people feel. Although he has adopted humans as his people and Earth as his home, he is alone. Kal-El is neither Superman – the invulnerable, perfect hero – or Clark – the bumbling fool. These are two facades he puts on every day and so, surrounded as he is by people, he is still profoundly alone.

And Superman doesn’t just save the world from larger-than-life villains, he is there for people. For individuals. An alien who has travelled the stars, battled gargantuan monsters, and…bent steel, cares as much for individual people as he does for the world and humanity as a whole. Whenever we fall, he is there to pick us up.

So a near-perfect, incorruptible symbol he may be, but he is also relatable.

But is an alien with so much power that he could rule the world, but instead chooses to serve it, a bit boring? The struggle for acceptance and against loneliness is more of a theme rather than something directly addressed, and his choices always come across as easy for the Man of Steel. Physically, he is practically invincible.

Many people think that Superman is too perfect, too overpowered, too boring. I can kind of understand why, but even my limited knowledge of the character leads me to believe that if those people read more about him, they might appreciate him a little more.

Superman does what is right. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Sometimes his choices, though clearly right, are a struggle for him. He doesn’t fail to make those choices, but in some ways this means he sacrifices more, and more frequently, than many other heroes. No matter the cost, he will always do what is right.

Superman - remarkable dichotomy

Perhaps he is overpowered for normal battles. But there are plenty of supervillains out there to equal his strength and power. Again, it is usually his purity and the good within him that allow him to overcome. Do we hear the same amount about how overpowered Thor, the god of thunder, is? Or Green Lantern, with his ring that creates practically anything he wants? Superman gets beaten to a pulp as much as, say, Batman, does he not? So, what’s it all about? He has a weakness to Kryptonite, and magic, and a surprising amount of other things, yet Batman can defeat him even without those. A human man. Dressed as a bat. But his biggest weakness is his humanity, his compassion, that same good within him. It can so easily be exploited.

Superman is not human, but he will give his life for us (and has). You may think that it wouldn’t be easy for him to do that, but I’ve just closed an article full of comic pages detailing all the ways to kill Superman, and it’s so long I gave up before I even got halfway through.

I don’t really understand the idea that darker, tortured heroes are better. Those who give in to their weaknesses on occasion. Why is that? Because being pure good is boring? Because identifying with someone like that, giving in, is easier than striving to be something greater?

Batman isn’t too different to Superman, but he isn’t considered boring. Is that because his broken bones don’t heal as fast as Superman’s? Because he breaks lots of other people’s bones? He’s human and risks his life every time he goes out, but…so does Superman. The things that threaten the latter’s life are just, by necessity, more out-of-this-world.

The real world would be a better place with Superman. Not because of his powers, or because it would be cool to look up and see him flying overhead, but because of his purity, his morals, his ideals. And if that’s all it takes to make the world a better place, then shouldn’t we all strive to be Superman? If he, an alien, can be humanity’s greatest example, why cant we?
I think that is why Superman endures.

And now, because I don’t know how to end this article…here’s Martian Manhunter:

“Though we gather here today, bound together in sorrow and loss, we share a precious gift. We are, all of us, privileged to live a life that has been touched by Superman. The Man of Steel possessed many extraordinary gifts, and he shared them with us freely. None of these gifts were more remarkable than his ability to discern what needed to be done, and his unfailing courage in doing it, whatever the personal cost. Let us all strive to accept his gift, and pass it along, as an ongoing tribute to Kal-El of Krypton, the immigrant from the stars, who taught us all how to be heroes.” – Martian Manhunter

Thank you, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

This article was originally written for Uproar Comics.

Batman V Superman

Finally, we have a trailer for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. And that subtitle is still stupid.

The trailer was leaked on Thursday night/Friday morning and was promptly removed from most corners of the internet. I’m not sure of the quality of the original leak, but the version I saw was a fairly bad cam version (someone recorded it off the screen with a phone or camcorder). In response, a probably very annoyed Snyder/Warner Brothers did the best thing: they released the full quality version on Friday night. No doubt you’ve already seen it, but…watch it again:

Already there’s a lot of whinging about it, even though it’s a two-minute teaser trailer. It’s pretty much balanced between Superman and Batman, and alludes to the unrest among the people. It also gives us our first look at Batman in motion, and he looks bigger than Superman. The tone of the trailer is dark – by necessity – and people are assuming that means the entire film will be a dark and gritty adaptation. While I’m among the ones hoping that it won’t be (Superman shouldn’t be dark OR gritty), I’m not about to leap to such conclusions based on our first tease of the film.

There’s still some more to come with Snyder’s original IMAX event on Monday. I’m not sure exactly what will be there, but I read in one place that there will be two trailers shown for it. Snyder himself tweeted that there will be some shots in the trailer there that we didn’t get in Friday’s release. I had read earlier in the week that Aquman, Flash and Cyborg all get a brief shot, which didn’t happen, so perhaps they’ll be in Monday’s. I wonder too, though, if the IMAX event trailers will be like the comic-con one, where only those attending will get to see it, and the public never will.

The Dark Knight will take on the Big Blue Boy Scout in Zack Snyder’s second DC universe entry. Not a lot is known about the plot, except that it will deal with some of the aftermath of the events in Man of Steel (Zod invading and killing a lot of people, and Superman himself destroying the remains of Metropolis). It seems public opinion will be mostly against him, and he’ll be considered a menace rather than a hero. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) will no doubt take full advantage of this, as he’ll consider the flying alien a threat too.

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman

Judging by the batwing scene in the trailer, it seems someone – probably Luthor – will take control of Batman’s toys and use them to trick Superman into attacking the Dark Knight. Maybe. That’s a complete guess. Somehow, though, the two will come to blows. That can’t last the entire film, though, so who knows what the rest will be about.

Most of the Superman scenes, to me, seem to be some kind of dream sequence – perhaps a nightmare that he’s having as the public turn on him, making him question himself and what he might turn into. There is a shot of some soldiers with the Superman shield on their shoulders. Could that be an allusion to the alternate reality where Superman turns into a brutal dictator?

There’s plenty of stuff in the trailer that could be broken down and talked about at length, but…I won’t. Did you see the Riddler easter egg though?

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (still stupid) will be out on 25 March 2016. It stars Henry Cavill (Superman), Ben Affleck (Batman), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Jason Mamoa (Aquaman), Jeremy Irons (Alfred), Ray Fisher (Cyborg), and Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor). And some others.

Jason Mamoa Aquaman

Thrillers, Horrors and Supermen

My upcoming thriller has been rewritten and is now with beta readers. The feedback so far is very good. Although I think I may have made a wild guess in one post, I don’t have a release date yet. After I get it back from the proof readers, it will need a few edits, as well as rewrites for anything they pick up, and then off to the proofreader. But I thought I’d update my…uh…legions of loyal fans?

I also thought I’d give my thoughts on two of the things that have been taking up my non-writing time: Man of Steel and The Last Of Us.

I intended to write a full review of Man of Steel, and even sat here for about an hour writing and putting in images and so on. I was going to write about the theme and about what Superman means to people, and why does he remain arguably the greatest of superheroes… But in the end I decided I didn’t actually know where I was going with the review and it was sounding too negative. So I’ll just say a little this time.

I enjoyed Man of Steel, but it did have a few flaws in my eyes. One of the most obvious things when I think back is the music. Though the music was very good, there was one track that was used over and over and over, pretty much any time something happened that involved Zod or Superman. Just when you thought it had finally finished…it would kick in again! It got quite irritating. I’m not one that argues that the proper Superman theme should have been in there. Though it is no less iconic, and no less Superman, than the cape or inability to dress himself properly, this was a complete reboot. That means distancing itself from the old films, and in doing so, not having the theme makes sense. I miss it, but it wouldn’t have made any sense really. It would have been almost like putting the na na na na na na na na, Batmaaaan into Keaton’s films.

The next biggest let down of the film was a lack of drama. There’s plenty of it in flashback scenes with Robin H…Pa Kent. But there’s none whatsoever in two of the most important moments of the film: the first time he shows off his powers, and the first time he puts on the suit. None. Whatsoever. Let’s take the show of power first. It’s not a spoiler to say that this is when he rips open the big metal door and is covered in flames. That’s the first time we see his power. So why is there no drama to it? Why is there no more made out of it than of the scenes of him hauling fish about? Again, this is a reboot. That means it should be treated as though the audience has never seen Superman before and doesn’t know what he’s capable of. But no. Just have him a rip a door out of its frame, and appear ablaze, and treat it as though he’d just wandered into the kitchen.

Worse still is that there was absolutely nothing to the first time we see him in the suit! Just as Bruce Wayne talks about being a symbol in Batman Begins, so is Superman a symbol. And without that gaudy suit, there’s no symbol. So when we first see him walk out of those doors, cape flapping in the wind, it should have been a big moment. But there was nothing. The door opened and he walked out. Like it was the tenth time we’d seen him in the suit. Not only that, but why was he so accepting of the suit? Why didn’t he want to know why he had to wear tights? Why he had to have a big snag-on-everything cape. How come he’s suddenly clean shaven? I also didn’t like what comes next. He doesn’t immediately take off and rocket into the sky like he appears to in the trailers. That comes a little later. What does happen could be considered a tiny spoiler, so I won’t say, but the minute or so between emerging in the suit and taking off into full flight would have been better suited, in my eyes, to the beardy, checkered shirted Clark Kent.

Then there was the ending. The resolution with Zod. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t very Superman. I can’t really talk about it without spoilers, but it wasn’t the best. Nolan was apparently adamant that it was wrong and should happen another way, but Goyer eventually persuaded him. But at least it was written in a way that it was unavoidable. It just…shouldn’t have been.

My last big problem with it was the tornado scene. I know what they were trying to do with it, and in theory it was a great, emotional, moving scene. In reality, it wasn’t pulled off very well at all. It should have also been the last flashback before that final one. The final flashback was very good and would have been a lot more moving if it had been the only one after the tornado scene.

But overall, it was good. Perhaps very good. It wasn’t amazing and brilliant, and was lacking something I can’t put my finger on. A fundamental Superman-ness. It was, however, much better than I’d been dreading it might be. I’m one of the few people who really liked Superman Returns, and was very disappointed to hear he wasn’t being allowed to continue on with the sequel he had planned. But this makes a suitable replacement. Cavill is a good Superman, although he could do with less jaw clenching and getting angry, and did a lot of work to make himself look like Superman. But really, it was Clark Kent’s film, not Superman’s. Hopefully the sequel will bring us more of a Superman feel.

I’m looking forward to the Justice League film, though there needs to be a few standalone films to introduce the other members first. DC needs to pull its thumb out and get on with that. Marvel has nine films coming in the next couple of years, DC has…one. The MoS sequel that’s not even confirmed.

Overall, I’d give Man of Steel an 8/10. Just. Maybe 7.5/10. But I’ll definitely be getting the bluray as soon as it’s out.

In the interests of not making a big long post, I’ll write about The Last of Us tomorrow. So for now, I’ll leave you with this: