Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – Movie Review

batman v superman

Director Zack Snyder has proved to be the Kryptonite of this new DC universe. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is classic Snyder: visually adept yet narratively and thematically senseless. With two of the most compelling and popular characters in the world, numerous questions about purpose and responsibility are aimlessly wasted. Throw in resplendent amounts of religious and political imagery, and way too many dream sequences, and what we’re left with is a sad mishandling of what should be a powerful and (ahem) entertaining film. The opening is fantastic, as we watch Bruce Wayne and others reel from the disasters perpetrated by Superman in Man of Steel. Unfortunately from there, things go downhill fairly quickly, as story clichés (Kryptonite) and lame coincidences (Bruce and Clark’s mom have the same name! Wow!) fill a convoluted plot. Worst yet, this “action” film is overstuffed with unending amounts of ethical speeches and monologues in place of actual character connections. DC’s desperation to right their own wrongs in the destruction in Man of Steel becomes embarrassing (“Luckily that island was deserted”). Even when we aren’t being lazily spoken at or having our emotions ineffectively manipulated, the set-pieces are largely insipid and boring. As for the pluses, Affleck is great as Batman, giving a unique turn as a sloppier, older, and angrier Dark Knight. Also, for the very little we see of Gadot’s Wonder Woman, it creates an excited eagerness for her stand-alone film. However, BvS as a whole has less in common with its positives than with Eisenberg’s poorly-casted Lex Luthor: frantic, ill-thought, desperate, and truly awful.

 

2 out of 5 stars

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Comic Book Review – Superman Unchained (2013 – 2014): Deluxe Edition (The New 52)

superman unchained

After enjoying Superman’s crazed 1950’s high speculative fiction (SF) watermark—including every shade of Kryptonite—in terms of “re-boots,” I’m a huge fan of the Superman in action in Dennis O’Neil and Curt Swan’s 1971 “The Sandman Saga,” running across Superman (Vol. 1) issues: #233 – 235, 237 – 238, and 240 – 242, and edited by the magnificent Julius Schwartz.

But even Grant Morrison struggled to give us a clear distillation of New 52-era Superman, ramping up ample thematic tropes from creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s original “Fanfare for the Common Man” ethos, born and bred somewhat in Philip Wylie’s 1930 potboiler, “Gladiator.” But I still felt little kinship to the current take on the Man of Steel—that is until Batman scribe Scott Snyder (fair enough: he redefined the Dark Knight for our era in a way that genuinely works, and it appears Tom King is following up quite nicely) breathed life into a quickly flagging New 52 vision by penning an unconventional, completely cinematic buddy action film pairing Superman with Wraith, an ultra-powerful alien who, at first, gives Big Blue a run for his money as a rival.

Wraith has an actual “world view,” one completely opposed to that of the Man of Steel, as Wraith sees his having been co-opted by the government as better for the world, and Superman as the naïve new flash in the pan sailing through the skies. Wraith wants nothing of fame. He’s been performing black-ops for United States government with abandon for years. Rather than mere mid-air fisticuffs, the reader gets genuine ideologies in conflict, as the two ultra-powerful beings clearly have different things in mind in terms of what it means to protect the earth—even if that means an occasional genuflection in opposition force General Lane’s direction.

Author Scott Snyder hurls many a plot-thread into the air, and Jim Lee illustrates each with gusto, even managing to make the character design on Wraith rise above, say, the mere Mongul homage it could have been. Collected as a nice stand-alone book, the story is filled with funny asides that work, such as Lana Lang’s comment to Lois Lane, regarding Wonder woman: “Did you know they’re dating?” Between that and Wraith acting as an only marginally accepted mentor as the two ultimately have to team, forging Superman’s best outing since Kurt Buseik’s all-too-brief run.

 

4 out of 5 stars

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Superman Returns (2006) – Movie Review

superman returns

Like many other people, the character of Superman has always been a firm favourite of mine dating back to my childhood. Christopher Reeve’s Superman made me believe a man could fly, with the light-hearted ‘Lois and Clark’ series seeing me through the Nineties.

‘Superman Returns’ is set five years after Christopher Reeve’s ‘Superman II’ (thankfully ignoring the events in the lacklustre ‘Superman III and IV’). Superman, after five years of searching for the remains of his home planet Krypton, has returned to Earth to resume his life as Clark Kent only to find things moved on without him. Lois Lane is now mother to five-year-old son Jason and engaged to Perry White’s nephew Richard. She is also thoroughly disenchanted with Superman although it soon becomes clear there is much unresolved feelings between the two. But between juggling his conflicting emotions for Lois and his duties to protecting the population, Superman has to face his arch-enemy Lex Luthor, who has stolen the crystals from the Fortress of Solitude and is intent on using them to rule the world.

It was never going to be easy Brandon Routh to step into Christopher Reeve’s shoes but he takes it in his stride, managing to capture the bumbling but kindly nature of Clark and the strong, reserved demeanour of a Superman who strives to find a balance between his alien heritage and the life he has made for himself on Earth. He makes the role his own yet does well in succeeding where Reeve left off. Kate Bosworth was also another surprise. I was very disappointed in her casting initially but seeing her perform in the film left me realising that she was perfect for the job as she portrays the cocky and determined yet vulnerable Lois to a tee. Kevin Spacey was great as the obsessive, slightly unhinged Luthor who possesses a real hatred for our hero while Parker Posey gave us a nicely-portrayed ‘shades of grey’ character in Kitty, a villain with a heart. Even the little moppet who played Jason gave a decent performance without being wooden or grating.

What I loved most about the film is that it delivered an interesting storyline that didn’t reject the first two ‘Superman’ films, which are classics in the heart of any Superman fan and had already done a good job in covering the origins story. But at the same time, it didn’t shirk in giving us deeper insights into the character of Superman, the solitary hero and the man who just wants to fit in. What was a pleasant surprise was that the film also refused to dumb down to small children in the audience, which is a growing problem with many Hollywood films that over-dose on infantile humour to appeal to kids resulting in boredom for anyone over fourteen. There was humour, some on a level to make children laugh, but overall there was a nice mix of action, romance and darkness aimed more at an older audience. They even avoid the clichéd pitfall of portraying Lois’ love interest to be a sanctimonious twit and instead he came across as a genuinely nice guy who shows that it’s understandable why she has problems choosing between him and Superman

In fact, my only real problem was that there wasn’t enough interaction between Lois and Clark, which would have been nice as Clark’s jealousy towards his alter-ego and the attention Lois lavishes on him is a large part of the story yet in the film, you felt as if Clark and Superman really were two different people with Clark just being some rather random guy. However, it can be over-looked by the fact that Clark was so happy to just have Lois’ attention that he didn’t care whether it was projected onto himself in his real personality or on Superman.

For anyone who has yet to see the film, I do recommend it and don’t allow yourself to be put off by nitpickers complaining about the actors’ being too young (better they be a shade on the younger side than going the ‘Smallville’ route where you have adults in their late twenties and thirties prancing around pretending to be teens and just looking ridiculous for it) or that the film is too long (even the eight-year-olds in the audience sat quietly, glued to the screen, for the entire film) or that it’s bland (no more so than ‘Spiderman’). I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

9 out of 10 stars

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