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- I’ve been putting off any kind of review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of a New Film Franchise, We Hope simply because at this point, what’s to add, really. I liked it fine: I thought it was a valid and interesting interpretation of these characters, though I do understand the larger context complaints about tone and accessibility to younger potential viewers. Just taken as a film on its own terms, outside the criticisms of “I didn’t want this movie, I wanted a different movie,” it’s no better or worse than most big-budget blockbuster films. It’s certainly better made than the mishmash of Age of Ultron, and at least seems to have a vision and a point of view. Maybe not the vision or point of view people necessarily wanted, but I think there was some depth to the proceedings that made it worthwhile viewing, at least to me.
Yes, sure, I’d love to have a bright, cheery Superman movie. At least we’re getting a bright, cheery Batman movie (in the form of Lego Batman, guest-starring Superman!). But at least I think we can all agree that Wonder Woman was pretty great. And Lex is a hoot.
Here’s a review by pal Ragnell that I pretty much agree with.
- Free Comic Book Day plans are still coming along, and if you missed my announcement about my special guest that day, well feast your peepers on this. I don’t really have a lot of prep to do, as I’m not doing the age-appropriate packaging like I used to do…just setting ’em up on tables for free perusal works fine, and stretches supply out a bit longer. I certainly don’t have the same worries I did about getting a turnout at my new shop that I did prior to last year’s FCBD, given how things worked out. If anything, I’m hoping for a larger turnout.
I am a little annoyed that the special FCBD retail shopping bags haven’t shipped out yet…you know, those white plastic bags with the logo on ’em. That was a good advertising tool, and if I don’t get them until a week or two prior to the event, a fat lot of good that’ll do me. I contacted my distributor, and even they don’t seem to know when they’re getting to me. In the meantime, I’m passing out the bookmarks and the flyers I did get, and I’ll have some specially-printed Sterling Silver Comics-specific flyers to give away as well.
Just so long as I don’t have the stoned guy cycling around my storefront chatting people up about Herman Hesse again. That’s a Free Comic Book Day repeat I’d rather avoid.
- Haven’t really done a market report of late, I realize, but did want to note that the newest Star Wars spinoff, Poe Dameron, has sold quite well. Star Wars comic sales are still very strong, though they have softened slightly, now that they’ve been around a while and the new movie’s come and gone. But, with Force Awakens now available on home video and with hype beginning to build on the forthcoming Rogue One, maybe interest will rise again. It sure did for Poe Dameron, as I said, which I’m sure probably caught some folks at Disney by surprise just how much interest there is in the character. The strong creative team (Charles Soule and Phil Noto) and the accompanying freebie buttons and lithographs didn’t hurt.
We’ll see how sales go on next week’s arrival of the long-delayed C-3PO one-shot.
…but I just couldn’t do it. I got, I don’t know, about 40 minutes or so in, over a couple of attempts on consecutive nights, and decided it just wasn’t worth the effort. It did have 1) Helen Slater as a charming Supergirl despite everything, 2) Peter Cook being as Peter Cook-ish as the movie would allow, and 3) Matt Frewer in a brief role as a street creep, but that just wasn’t enough, I’m afraid. There is a fine line between the filmmakers allowing the viewer to fill in narrative gaps and filmmakers just not giving half a darn, and I’m afraid Supergirl veered more closely to the latter. It’s the kind of thing that brought us “Phantom Zone Villain Levitation-Ray Finger” and “Restore-Great-Wall-of-China-Vision” in the Superman films, the “who cares/it’s good enough” method of storytelling that tells anyone even vaguely familiar with the source material that they, and said source material, don’t matter enough to be treated with even the slightest respect.
I tried to be more charitable…even the venerated Superman: The Movie isn’t without its flaws, but even trying to view Supergirl as a near-dreamlike fairy tale, which one suspects was at least partially the intent, it’s just not very well done. Or it’s just that what passed for cutting-edge superhero movie-making in the mid-1980s just hasn’t aged well into the early 21st century. Or maybe I just plain wasn’t in the mood for it. Whatever the reason, it was more than I could bear, so back in the ol’ Netflix envelope it goes. Sorry, #1 Fan of the 1984 Supergirl Movie That I’m Sure I’ll Be Hearing from Soon.
• • •
In other news: I’ve been trying to come up with a follow-up to my last post, in particular the response from blogging brother Tim, but I’ve been having a hard time of it. It’s a complicated issue, regarding how best to return an old series to the stands after years of absence, and there’s no good answer. You can just ignore what came before and start afresh (like Valiant), you can reissue everything previously published prior to starting new material, either in individual issues (Miracleman) or in book collections (Beanworld).
Or, in the case of the Badger, which, as I’d said before, is pretty continuity-light, just bring him back in new adventures and reintroduce old characters/situations as needed. Old fans will be satisfied, and new fans won’t feel like they’re out of their depth with missed backstory.
I don’t know…it’s tough, and anyone, from new creators to long-established ones, trying to claim a little space on retailers’ shelves among the multiple Batman and Deadpool comics has my sympathies and understanding. It’s a small, tough marketplace and you’ve got your work cut out for you.
• • •
In other, other news, pal Andrew will be featuring Shrinking Violet from the Legion of Super-Heroes all this month. Why, you may ask? Why not, I reply.
Yeah, I know I’m stretching this thing a bit, adding more fuel to the fire on something studios would rather just vanish into thin air. However, it occurred to me over the weekend that perhaps one should have some measure of pity for the poor guy(s) and/or gal(s) in charge of the official Fantastic Four movie Twitter account:
I’m sure they’re not locked away in a secret bunker somewhere, away from all media…they know the film is critically despised and tanking, but they’re still plugging away, hyping the film and trying to generate interest. And, of course, what else would they be doing? Presumably someone’s being paid to run that account…I mean, I’m guessing, I don’t suppose they’d throw some unpaid intern on there. And right now, that’s probably the last place they’d want an unpaid intern.
So, yeah, you’re not going to see “um…hey, everyone, sorry about the film” tweeted on there anytime soon, though that would be amazing. But if this account hasn’t yet, well…. But still, those folks running the Twitter account have a job to do, and they have to do it as best they’re able, because I’m sure the last thing they want is the studio deciding the reason the film flopped was because the Twitter campaign was insufficiently compelling and pointing their big ol’ stogie-wielding movie mogul fingers at them.
The other issue with running a Twitter account for a less-than-popular movie is that, well, on the Internet everyone gets their say. Sometimes it’s erudite and refined educated folks like all of you fine readers perusing my site, and sometimes it’s just straight-up dummies. I wondered aloud about the temptation of whoever’s in charge of the FF account to click the “Notifications” link and see how everyone’s responding to them. Because, boy howdy, are people responding to them, letting them have it with both barrels. You can pretty much just click on any post there and see the parade of haters venting their keyboard rage, for whatever good that’ll do. But I have to tell you, this particular exchange cracked me up:
So there are defenders for the film, too, presuming that they’re not all Fox employees.
There’s beginning to be some backlash to the backlash, suggesting that maybe we’ve gone from “well, that movie didn’t turn out as planned” to just dogpiling on the dopey film because it’s the fun thing to do. And, yeah, okay, it’s a little fun, and a small heaping of deserved scorn onto a studio once in a while helps remind them that maybe there’s some shit we won’t eat. But thanks to the Internet, any creative product with a social media presence gets hit with waves of anger over anything, sometimes deserved, usually not, and it all just blurs together into one bit ol’ mass of “why are we bothering reaching out to the fans again?” Who knows if the FF people are even paying attention to online reaction. I suspect the box office returns are keeping them occupied.
Anyway, that’s enough of that. I think I’ll hold off further comment ’til I actually see the darned thing, rented from Netflix in three or four months. Like I’ve been saying, the look of the film is very appealing, so I’d at least like to enjoy that aspect of it. And if it’s all that bad, I’ll just throw on my Blu-ray of Frank Miller’s The Spirit and wash that taste out.
• • •
As mentioned last week, I am now contributing to the Trouble with Comics
group blog, mostly to the weekly roundtable question discussion thingie. This week’s question
is regarding the future of the comic book periodical, and I pitch in with my usual overlong, rambling and nonsensical response.
Plus, here is an overview of what’s been going on over there, and boy, those folks have been busy as all get-out. And there’s plenty more to come!
[…but the SPOILER ALERT is in place in case you want to know NOTHING about the new film]
So one of the questions I heard a lot over the course of my Wednesday was “did you see the Deadpool trailer, and as I type this I still haven’t see the main trailer, which is one of those naughty “red band” trailers that doesn’t censor things like “fuck” or “shit” or other words I would never, ever use on my site. However, I did see the trailer-for-the-trailer which is a thing we do now I guess, and I suppose it was amusing enough. However, I’m one of those funnybook-readin’ guys that never really got into Deadpool. I mean, I get the character’s appeal, I’m glad people are really into him, and I really, really hope Marvel doesn’t burn people out on him anytime soon, like the last time Deadpool was prominent in the marketplace. Or maybe I’m thinking of the Punisher. Or Wolverine. Or Ghost Rider. Anyway, you get my point.
Oh, okay, after the end of that paragraph and the beginning of this one I went ahead and watched the full trailer, since I was going to have to copy the URL for the link above anyway. It’s…well, it’s a lot bloodier than I was expecting, and the CGI Deadpool mask actually worked okay (putting half-lie to the whole “don’t make my costume green or animated” gag, referencing Ryan Reynolds’s’ previous superhero role). I can see parents taking their kids to see this new Marvel superhero movie, expecting more of the usual formula, and getting blindsided by the usual formula plus sex and George Carlin’s Seven Words, and never going to a Marvel movie ever again. Or maybe this is just what the superhero movie marketplace needed, and Deadpool will be the greatest cinematic achievement in film history, crashing economies as every available dollar, euro and Geoffrey Buck gets sucked into box offices around the world. Or maybe nobody will see it all. I’m definitely putting my dime on one of those options, or somewhere between. That’s right, that’s my position and I’m sticking to it, and I don’t care who’s offended.
Speaking of Marvel movies nobody’s seeing, the latest in what apparently will be a long line of Fantastic Four reboots, stretching (heh) out into infinity is opening this week. Or has opened. Or will opened. Regardless, word on the ol’ Internet superhighway is that…well, it ain’t good. Which is a shame, because I noted on this site a while back that the trailer made it look less like a superhero movie and more like a high-end science fiction film, and that seemed like a good way to go. And despite reaction, I still kind of want to see it, maybe via Netflix someday rather than enduring a theater visit, if only to enjoy the cinematography and effects and to see maybe if Mr. Fantastic’s stretchy powers actually work onscreen this time.
What bothers me most is that Doctor Doom once again is given superpowers from the accident that transforms everybody, like in the FF films from a decade ago. I mean, yeah, I can see the filmmakers wanting to make sure Doom seems like he can stand on his own against the Fantastic Four by ramping up his special abilities, because as we know there’s no way an audience is going to accept just a more-or-less normal guy in a metal suit in a superhero film. But as I said on Twitter just the other day:
…and granted, Doom did steal the Surfer’s powers in Rise of the Silver Surfer
, so that movie at least had that
. But as I lamented last year:
It’s like they’re afraid to let Stan and Jack’s creation be Stan and Jack’s creation. Yes, some compromises and changes need to be made…it’s not the early 1960s anymore, and film ain’t comics, but surely there must be a way to capture the essence of the original stories while making them appeal to modern movie audiences. Or maybe there isn’t. Maybe there’s just a magic there that can never translate. Almost wish Marvel’s film studio could
get the rights back to the FF, because they’ve had a stronger history getting these characters onscreen and making them appealing.
Also I’m annoyed because I want them to do enough FF movies in a row without rebooting so that maybe we can get an actual, real, live-action Galactus onscreen (and not that stupid smoke cloud from the FF Silver Surfer film). Ooh, and the Watcher, too, so long as I’m dreaming, and if they don’t make him look like the Queen of Hearts from that Tim Burton Alice film, what with that big ol’ noggin of his.
Let me leave you with some words to think about, from Twitter pal Steven:
Just got in from seeing Ant-Man…it’s nearing midnight as I write this, so I’ll keep it short. Or small. Like an ant. An ant man.
Hold on, let me try that again.
Just saw Ant-Man, and it was a vast improvement over the last Marvel film inflicted on us, Avengers: Age of Disjointed Nonsense. While I wasn’t terribly eager for yet another superhero origin story, this one was unique (I believe) in that it gave us our first legacy superhero, more or less, in which an older hero passes down his name and powers and so forth to another. It was also a story which worked at a much smaller (har har, yes, I know) scale than recent Marvel movies, less bogged down by the shared universe, or at least incorporating it in a more natural, less in-your-face fashion. Having only one superhero guest-star during the course of the main story was something of a relief, though from the looks of things we’re going to get the exact opposite of that in this forthcoming Civil War movie.
Anyway, it was exciting and interesting, and, something the Marvel movies have been particularly good at, funny without undermining the characters. If anything the humor helps along that suspension of disbelief required to buy into all this craziness. That’s the kind of deep insight that keeps you two or three dozen people coming back to Progressive Ruin Dot Com.
The film also had one of the greatest, most fitting cameos of all time. No, not Stan the Man (yes, he’s there)…I’m talking about this fella. And I gotta give them credit for actually working the phrase “tales to astonish” — the name of the comic Ant-Man first appeared in — into the dialogue.
So, Ant-Man: surprisingly good. I’d recommend you go see it, because I’m sure you totally haven’t by now.
That’s it, I’m off to bed. Pleas-ANT dreams!
(SPOILERS ahead…not many, but enough to annoy you if you haven’t seen the films)
Well, I went in wanting…okay, let me amend that. I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing Jurassic World
at all, to be honest. I was perfectly happy waiting to get the disc from Netflix in about five or six months from now. As it turned out, though, there was a bit of a family outing to see the film and I was…perhaps “strongarmed” into going is putting it a little too harshly, but, ah, what the heck, to return to the beginning of this paragraph I went in wanting some dinosaur mayhem and that’s what I got.
While there’s a sameness to all the Jurassic family of movies, it’s probably been long enough since a new one’s been on the big screen that there’s a welcome nostalgic enjoyment to seeing the formula play out with minor variations and…I almost said “improved effects,” but the original Jurassic Park raised the bar so high it’s almost like there’s nowhere else for the effects to go. It was all a bunch of enjoyable nonsense, with, as noted, plenty of dinosaur action (sometimes a little too intense, maybe, judging by the family in the row ahead of us that quietly made their exit about 2/3rd of the way through the film), but I think this was enough. I don’t see a need to pay a return visit to the franchise for a fifth variation on “it appears dinosaurs and humans don’t mix,” but of course we will since the movie made all the money in its opening weekend. However, if the next movie is about a humongous mega-dinosaur mutant threatening the Earth and the only way to defeat it is by somehow growing Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum reprising the role, natch) to giant size and pitting the two against each other, I’ll be there opening day.
One more point, which I thought was interesting (and here’s the SPOILER I warned you about), is how the Tyrannosaur went from the being the Big Bad of the first two films to being, more or less, the hero of the fourth film. A heroism born of familiarity, and certainly played upon by the filmmakers…”enough of this new weird nasty dinosaur, let’s see our old friend the T-rex kick his ass!”
So, okay, I may be a little behind the times in finally seeing this film, but I noticed the new Criterion Blu-ray edition made it to Netflix and, well, I thought I’d give it a shot. This is one of those films where I’ve repeatedly seen the same stills over and over again in various contexts over the decades (the pic of Henry, as seen on the disc packaging above, and of course the hideously deformed baby). For years, without really knowing anything about this movie, I’d assumed the title referred to either that gentleman’s lofty hairdo, or perhaps to that weird baby-thing…I mean, it still can, I guess, but that there’s a more literal explanation in the film is oddly satisfying as well. Emphasis on “oddly.”
I…um, I don’t even know where to start on this movie. It’s like watching a nightmare, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. The terrifying dream logic pushes along the action in this horrible world all the characters are stuck in…it’s compelling and it’s awful, all at once. Not sure what it all means just yet — some stuff I got, some I’m still chewin’ on — and I’m certain if I looked around online I’d have plenty of people wanting to tell me what it does mean, but it’s nice to occasionally experience a movie where there’s still a little room to dig into it after taking a first pass. And imagine, not a digital dinosaur to be seen.
Haven’t really made the time to see this one yet. Perhaps if it starts getting some positive word of mouth I’ll be more inclined to go.
[Some minor SPOILERS AHEAD]
So I was clued in by one of Johanna’s recent posts that there was a new Justice League animated feature that was going to be available exclusively at Target stores, which seemed to come as a surprise to pretty much everybody. According to this interview with the director, there was a desire for a DC superhero cartoon that maybe skewed a little younger than the usual DC Direct films that could be marketed alongside the toylines, and this was the result.
They really want you to know that this is an “original movie,” since it not only tells you so in a blurb directly printed under the title, but this sticker is affixed to the front of the package as well:
And this sticker is slapped on the box too, reminding you about Superman’s 75th anniversary last year:
As for the cartoon itself…it’s entertaining enough, with plenty of superhero versus supervillain action and a simplistic time-travel plot. The Legion of Super-Heroes are involved, kinda sorta, with Dawnstar and Karate Kid as two potential members of that future super-team who find themselves in the present day, trying to prevent Lex Luthor from using Legion villain the Time Trapper to destroy the Justice League. Dawnstar is given, in addition to her traditional super-tracking powers, some kind of magical glowy energy-healing ability that seems to primarily exist to provide a quick ending to the climactic battle of the movie. Karate Kid’s ability to spot structural flaws are given enough of a flourish to be a visually-interesting super power, and his martial arts skills are given a good showcase in a battle with Robin.
The character designs are New 52-inspired, with too many seams and not enough red trunks:
…though Superman doesn’t have that terrible collar, which is a plus. Bizarro does
have red pants in this cartoon, in case you were worried. I should note that Superman’s design, from his costume to his facial features, do fluctuate somewhat throughout the feature, which is a little distracting.
One of the major highlights in the story is when everybody time travels back to Smallville, with the villains attempting to prevent the Kents from rescuing baby Kal-El, and the heroes trying to keep history on track. It’s a very funny, slightly surreal sequence as the good guys and bad guys play keep-away with Baby Kal, who is repeatedly referred to as “Superbaby.” This Silver Age fan approves.
While mostly enjoyable, if slight, there are some minor quibbles with the film, such as Robin’s characterization as a bit of a petulant child (meant to be comic relief, and probably funny to the target (heh) audience, but may grate on old people like you and me). Plus, the Time Trapper’s ultimate gambit, to apparently…wreck stuff around Earth with time vortices, I guess? — doesn’t seem like much of a final battle beyond giving heroes one last action scene to show off their stuff.
One surprising positive: this dude shows up, and though my initial reaction was “oh, no,” he’s actually one of the more entertaining parts of the film:
Yup, that’s the jester-ish Toyman from the ’70s Super Friends
cartoons, redesigned into apparently being some kind of robot-toy-thing himself:
…and a brief shot of a display in a 31st century museum gives us his extremely depressing fate:
The original Toyman of the ’70s cartoons was mostly just annoying. I want to know more about this
Toyman, who is less annoying and more creepy and / or goofy.
Bonus features on this disc include two of the original Super Friends episodes, both involving some kind of time travel, and I haven’t watched them yet because I’m sure I’ve seen them before and therefore they have already stolen away enough of my life.
Overall it’s a fun cartoon, despite some minor issues, and hopefully will lead to more all-ages original animated features based on DC properties. …By which of course I mean “Swamp Thing.”
…And that was my slightly-facetious reaction to the Man of Steel film I posted on the Twitter soon after getting home early Sunday morning (and referring to circumstances explained in the beginning of this Wikipedia article).
I do have to say, though, I now understand the reactions I was getting as described in this other Twitter post from Friday afternoon:
There is certainly a lot to like in the film…it’s well-cast, the film itself is beautifully shot, and the weaving of the Smallville flashbacks into the narrative was effective, I thought. As for the action sequences…well, whatever else you can say about director Zack Snyder, he can certainly deliver an action sequence that’s easily followed, as opposed to other films where “action” means “zoom the camera in close and shake it around a lot,” which too easily bamboozles my addled brain.
As for the other stuff…well, I’ll be getting into big ol’ SPOILERS here, so if haven’t seen the film, skip the text that immediately follows this shot of fiery-hot Henry Cavill, and continue reading after you see the pic of Supes and Lois holding hands:
Certainly a lot has been said about the sheer amount of destruction in the film…when the Daily Planet staffer tells Superman “you saved us!” after we just watched a huge chunk of Metropolis smashed into rubble, surely at the cost of more lives than you’d care to think about, one can almost be convinced that was intended as an ironic joke, a commentary on just how horrible it would be to live in a world where there were super-powered people flying around and fighting out their grudge matches through soft, watery citizens and balsa-wood buildings. Bully has a thoughtful commentary
on this film’s devastation of Metropolis that I suggest you read…the idea that so many folks seemingly died in a Superman film, with Superman unable to save them, seems incompatible with the very idea of a Superman story. Not that you can’t tell good stories about such a thing — this Hitman story
is one example — but…well, it just didn’t feel
right, you know? Yes, this is Superman’s first big challenge and he’s not quite learned the ropes yet, and yes, Superman had to choose between saving billions
versus saving thousands, but…well, one would have hoped Superman would have found a way to save everyone.
That’s the “reviewing the movie I would have preferred” versus “the movie I got” trope, I realize, but, man, my Superman would have saved them all.
(Jeff Parker notes in his review that this amount of collateral damage is a “stock convention of superhero stories,” and that “if they want you to think a lot of people died, you see footage of dead people.” And, you know, fair enough. Seeing it in live action, in this amount of detail, as opposed to looking at it on a comics page, makes it a little more difficult to suspend the disbelief, but I can see Parker’s point.)
The other Big Troubling Moment in the film, one that was in fact spoiled for me by someone’s casual retweeting of someone else’s comment upon it — oh, the dangers of the social Internet — is, of course, the killing of General Zod by Superman. It did bring to my mind the last time Superman openly killed anyone, in this comic here where he executes Phantom Zone villains responsible for the deaths of billions, acting as Krypton’s last arbitrator of justice. That was bit of a controversial move at the time, but it was shortly after the mid-1980s reboot of the character and it was intended, as memory serves, as the impetus for Superman’s code against killing, a long-standing tradition for the character.
Again, I’ve seen the argument made that the event in the film is a formative moment for Superman, that this will lead to his unwillingness to take a life ever again, particularly given the anguish he expresses in the moments afterward. And in the larger “journey of the hero” context, like the destruction of Metropolis, I can understand and even, for the sake of the story, accept the choices made here, but the old fanboy in me wants the Superman who doesn’t want anybody to die, and won’t let anybody die.
In short, when someone asks me if I liked Man of Steel, I suspect will lead my answer with a pause. There’s a lot to think about here, not the least of which is the contrast between the Superman I picture in my head versus the Superman that works onscreen, that works for the vast majority of people who haven’t been reading Superman comics for the last few decades. The audience I saw this with applauded at the end of the film, so clearly they were happy with it, though I did notice some…ambivalence? shock? certainly some quiet whispering in reaction to Zod’s death. So, you know, it wasn’t just me.
A couple of other brief comments: I liked the brief glimpses we got of the evolution of young Clark’s friendship with Pete Ross, I enjoy the new dynamic in the Lois and Clark relationship (no “I wonder why I never see Clark and Superman together” here!), Laurence Fishburne makes a great Perry White, and holy cow, we get Faora (Horo-Kanu and all!) and Steve Lombard! And I do have to admit, Fanboy Mike very much appreciated the moment when the military stood down and realized that Superman was on their side. That was nice.
Plus, I think they probably should have animated a giant red arrow pointing from the stained glass window Jesus to Clark in that one shot, just in case no one got the symbolism.
In addition, I came out of the movie with the most firm of convictions that Sears is the place to go for massively destructive fight scenes and for vans to throw at supervillains. That’s some effective sponsor placement!
But seriously, there is a lot to ponder in this film…it’s easy to dismiss as “not my Superman,” and I can understand that. There’s a part of me that even kinda sorta feel that way myself. There is still a lot here to appreciate, I think, as a valid reinterpretation of the character, and that there is so much discussion and debate over the film…that’s preferable to a forgettable film that inspires nothing.
However, you guys out there trying to convince us there are Aquaman references in Man of Steel? C’mon.
So Iron Man 3
was better than Iron Man 2
and neither are a patch on Iron Man No Number but Is Now Referred to As Iron Man 1
, but all in all, like I once said about the X-Men
film franchise at a time when there were
only three X-Men films, that we got three watchable and generally likable Iron Man movies at all
is relatively miraculous.
I did have the same problem with this film that I did with the previous installment, that too often during the film I found myself thinking “why am I being shown this when I could be seeing Iron Man doing stuff instead” — particularly during that middle “Tony Stark, Action Spy Detective, Goes to Tennessee” segment of the film. But, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained, and you end up getting more Iron Man armor action than you can handle during the film’s climax, with too brief glimpses of the dozens of different armored suits Stark apparently assembled between sequels.
Okay, the “not enough Iron Man action” is kind of a terrible complaint…Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark carries the show whether he’s in armor or not, and I did enjoy the film. And it’s not as if I was expecting beginning-to-end Iron Man fight scenes…I realize there’s such a thing as “pacing.” When you get right down to it, the amount of Iron Man action was exactly the amount and of the correct quality for the story they were telling, he said as if anyone cared what he thought. I guess the old fanboy in me wanted more Iron Man in action at the height of his powers, outside of struggling against both technological and psychological failures, but I guess that’s what the Avengers movies are for. That this film, along with Downey’s portrayal, makes us like and care about the “civilian” identity as much, if not more so, than the superhero identity, is its real strength. Tony’s a cool dude that sometimes wears super-armor and his movies are fun…what am I complaining about, really?
Also, it’s nice that Bruce Banner was played by the same actor in more than one feature film. The lack of MODOK is points against, however. And, as always, not enough Miguel Ferrer, which is my gripe about pretty much every film.
In other news, I saw the new direct-to-home-video-disc Superman Unbound
film, adapting that “Superman meets the REAL Brainiac” story that ran in the comics a couple of years back. …Well, that was certainly a Superman versus Brainiac story, with some neat visuals and an interesting subplot about Superman’s overprotectiveness of people in his life. Plus, the story ends on a big life-changing decision, which would probably have an impact on the sequel they spend time setting up at the very end of the film (a scene placed during the credits, actually) should one ever come, which it won’t.
It was fine, but honestly, though, I wish DC would just straight up adapt some classic Silver Age stories for their direct-to-DVD film program for a change…it’ll never happen, but it’s nice to think about. …At least the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon took care of that need for a few years.
“Skinny little Hansi.”
“She grew up. She filled out.”
[There may be SPOILERS ahead for The Dark Knight Returns, both animated and comic-ated.]
Now I suspect it’s going to be hard to believe that one can forget a large, gun-totin’ woman named Bruno, topless save for some kind of adhesive swastikas placed over her breasts, and yet this is apparently what happened to me prior to popping in Part Two of DC’s direct-to-DVD/Blu-Ray animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. If I had remembered, I’m sure it would have crossed my mind at least once to ponder “I wonder if they’re actually going to go through with that” or “I wonder if they’ll tone it down a bit.” Instead, it came as a complete surprise to me when Bruno showed up on screen. And it certainly is a different experience seeing Bruno in a four-minute fully-animated action sequence on a 50-inch screen as opposed to seeing a handful of panels in a comic book. And by “different” I mean “that’s going to come as a shock when Mom puts this on for Little Billy and then walks back into the room when Bruno’s onscreen fighting Batman.” Yeah, yeah, it’s PG-13 an’ all, but man, that felt like a bit much. So of course I got a screenshot and shared it with you on my site. You’re welcome.
As for the parts of this cartoon that aren’t about topless Neo-Nazis: what I was really looking forward to was Michael Emerson’s turn as The Joker. Emerson was probably the best part of that TV show Lost, playing an evil and slimy little jerk who was still at least somewhat sympathetic and certainly charismatic, and that performance comes though in this role as well. A bit of Emerson’s voice work on the Joker reminded me of, oddly enough, Paul Lynde, which I’m guessing was likely more coincidental than deliberate, and is certainly not a complaint. (And of course, when one thinks of Paul Lynde in relation to Batman, this comes to mind.) His Joker was definitely creepy and unsettling, and probably the high point of this whole endeavor.
And speaking of the whole endeavor…one of the most intrinsic parts of the original Dark Knight Returns comics was the constant internal dialogue running throughout, revealing each character’s hopes, fears, etc., as well as providing the most affecting and emotional points of the story. When Alfred dies as the Wayne Mansion burns, just seeing him drop onscreen doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of reading Alfred’s “Of course” when the same thing happens in the comic. And when they push the dialogue from the comic’s internal thoughts to the cartoon’s external voice…well, let’s just say having Commissioner Gordon outright say “I think of Sarah…the rest is easy” as part of a retirement speech to a roomful of people lacks the gravitas it has when he repeats it to himself in the comic.
And that whole business with Superman nearly being killed by the atomic explosion, and his subsequent revival. In the cartoon, it’s simply weird and grotesque. In the comic, with Superman’s inner pleading with Mother Earth, there’s that undercurrent of sadness and despair and desire to protect that’s left unspoken, nor even implied, in the adaptation. …I suspect some enterprising group of fans will someday make a reedit of these films, filling in the lost narration themselves, that the cartoons sorely lack.
Not to say that these films are entirely without merit…the big set pieces still work just fine: Batman’s battle with the Mutants leader, the last confrontation with the Joker, the climactic fight with Superman. And even the nearly last bit of business, with Carrie and Clark at Bruce’s grave site…that was pulled off nicely. I also appreciated that they didn’t stray too far from the comic’s 1980s origins, keeping Reagan as President, and there’s even a brief shot somewhere near the end of the film, which of course I can’t locate now, showing a storefront for “VHS / BETA” or something like that. Or maybe I imagined it. You make the call.
Overall, the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns animated adaptation was an interesting experiment, if flawed, with some nice voice work. I understand the choices the filmmakers made…well, my jury’s still out on the Bruno thing, but I guess fans would have complained if she wasn’t there…but in my opinion the loss of the internal dialogues from the comic cut most of the heart out of the story.
Well anyway, if these Dark Knight cartoons do well, maybe we’ll get an animated version of the sequel Dark Knight Strikes Again. That I’d like to see.
If you’re wondering about that Hansi comic, here you go.
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