Movie Review: Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice

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When Man of Steel came out, there was talks of how Warner Bros could do an extended movie universe with DC Comics characters like Marvel/Disney was with the Avengers.  With the previous DC film, Green Lantern tanking, they wanted to do a crossover with Superman and, by far the most successful DC Comic character ever brought to the big screen, Batman.  The result is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The movie opens with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) witnessing the Battle of Metropolis.  As he rushes to the site of the Wayne Corp offices in Metropolis, he is helpless as the rest of the population as the event unfolds around him.  He reaches the building only to see it destroyed in the wake of the fight between Zod and Superman (Henry Cavill).  18 months later, Bruce is convinced that he is a threat and need to be put down.

Superman is having his own crisis of conscience.  With the public divided on how responsible he was for the death toll in Metropolis  and an incident in Africa, he questions whether or not he is doing any good.  He starts to take notice of Batman’s activities in Gotham, as his actions have become more violent.  Both heroes are set on a course that will see them come in conflict with each other.  The apparent mastermind behind all this is the head of Lexcorp, Lex Luthor.  His plan is to play both heroes off of each other and convince the US government that Superman is a threat.  He gets his hands on the Kryptonian ship and the body of Zod  that the government had possession of.  With that, he plans to create a threat that would spell “doomsday” for the Man of Steel, if Batman doesn’t take him down first.

The movie clocks in over 2 and a half hours but it held my attention the whole time.  There are a lot of huge action pieces as the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel come into conflict.  Affleck is a good fit as an aged Dark Knight, dark and brooding after a two decade long battle against crime.  He invokes the Batman of Frank Millar’s classic, The Dark Knight Returns, being more brutal and less likely to care if criminals a killed or injured, but still concerned with saving the innocent.  In fact, there are scenes that mimic panels from the comic, which is fitting because the film is inspired by the fight between Superman and Batman at the end of that series.

Cavill is good as a Superman who is still a man and not a god.  He makes mistakes and in the high stakes role as a superhero, that can cost lives.  He, too is manipulated in fighting Batman, but in the end lets his rage get the best of him (though Batman’s attacks doesn’t help.)  Eisneberg’s Luthor is a bit of a misfire for me.  He comes off a bit whiny, like a spoilt brat, but he does have the cruel streak that the modern Luthor has in the comics and believes that the ends justifies the means because his ego won’t let him be wrong.

The film also features Wonder Woman (Gail Gadot) in a supporting role and what ever misgiving I had about the casting (mostly because she was unknown to me) are gone now.  She plays a vital role in the end and looks amazing in the outfit, which is better than in the porn version, for a change.  Her characterization is pretty much in line with her depiction in the comics since 1987.  I cannot wait until we see Wondy in her own movie next year.

If there is one complaint, it’s that it is too dark in places.  While I like that the Man of Steel did not go for the “gee willikers” brightness of the Christopher Reeves films but felt a bit of levity wouldn’t hurt it.  With Zack Snyder and Cristopher Nolan keeping the overall tone similar to the Dark Knight trilogy,  a lot of the movie is dark and somber.  Only the scenes with Wonder Woman are there a few funny quips (“I thought she was with you?”) to break up the serious tone.  As a movie that has accompanying toy line aimed at kids, it is a bit too dark for that audience

I think that Batman V Superman does what it was intended to do, to set up a future franchise featuring multiple heroes.  Aquaman, Flash and even Cyborg appear in some form or another. with the Flash getting a speaking role, referring to event that, out of context,  may confirm Batman was right about Superman, but I think hints to Superman’s fate beyond the end of this movie.  As a Batman and Superman movie, it does its best to show what would happen if they went head to head.  It pays homage to the Dark Knight Returns series and even has elements from a certain Superman storyline in which he fights Doomsday (I’ll let you guess which one.)  I hope we get a Justice League movie out of this because more Battfleck (now my second favorite Batman after Adam West) and Gail Gadot’s Wonder Woman is a good thing.

4 out of 5

 

Graphic Novel Review- Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench

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Aquaman is one of the characters that not one really gets.  Created in 1941, he had already been beaten to the page by Timely/Marvel’s Sub-Mariner by a few years.  He wasn’t actually from Atlantis in his origin; he was just genetically modified by his father using recovered Atlantis technology.  It wasn’t until his revival in the 1950’s that he truly started to mimic Namor:  half human/Atlantean, and heir to the throne, but without the surly attitude and the ridiculous ankle wings. He was super strong and could survive on the ocean floor (imagine the pressure.) He could talk to  (command, really) all sort of aquatic life.  But still he seemed like a lesser character.  The comics tried to make him a more rounded character, adding a half-brother/arch nemesis and even  had another villain kidnap and kill his son.  The 80’s saw his origins tweaked along with Atlantis’ history and even saw a short-lived black and blue camouflage costume.  The 90’s saw him go extreme, with long hair and a beard and even had him lose his hand and replace it with a hook.  Even with a successful run in his own book and with the Justice League, things wound down for him.  Returning to the orange and green outfit, he eventually was replaced, killed off and eventually returned to life.

What does all that matter when it comes to reading Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench?  Not much as one of the directives of the New 52 was to keep both new readers and veteran ones on equal ground by confusing the hell out of them on continuity (do I sound bitter?).  But the new series seems to follow-up Brightest Day thematically by having Aquaman try to lead a quiet like away from Atlantis with his wife, Mera and reconnect with his human past as Arthur Curry.  But being a public hero (and wearing the costume everywhere he goes) he sticks out in the small town of Mercy Reef and the townsfolk don’t know what to make of him.  Helping out only elicits comments like “what can Aquaman do?” and snide comments about talking to seafood.  Even the cops seem to disrespect him.  This frustrates Arthur and infuriates Mera, being used to being respected under the waves and amongst Arthur’s superhero colleagues.  But when underwater creatures from a dark area called the Trench start attacking the surface, it is up to Aquaman to show the town what he can do.

Six issues of the 2011 launched Aquaman series are collected in this volume, all written by writer Geoff Johns.  Responsible for the revival of the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern and the Barry Allen version of the Flash, Johns makes a compelling case that Aquaman is more than the “talks to fish” guy.  Arthur, while preferring a peaceful life, wants to be respected by the residents of Mercy Reef and trusted by law enforcement.  But he deal with attitude that somewhat reflect  those of the average comic reader about the character. He shows that in every way he is a hero, saving the eventually thankful people from danger..

The book is illustrated by penciller Ivan Reis (Blackest Night, Green Lantern) and inker Joe Prado.  Long time collaborators with Johns, the art team really sells the story, giving the book a strong look.  They did really good with the looks of the monsters of the Trench.

The Trench storyline covers four issues, with the remaining stories featuring. Aquaman lost in the desert, seeing mirages and the other about Mera trying, and mostly failing to fit in with the townsfolk.  Both are good stories to get to know the characters better.  Also the book introduces us to a new supporting character, Aquadog!  No, he is just a normal dog.

I liked the book.  Despite my misgivings about the whole New 52, Johns is a good writer that can restore any characters reputation.  Granted, I did not find Aquaman interesting until his 90’s makeover and subsequent use in Grant Morrison’s JLA, I did not like DC’s practice of killing off their heroes in the mid 00’s (though Elongated Man can stay dead, for all I care).  Though I did not realize that Aquaman was killed off until he showed up a Black Lantern in Blackest Night #1, I thought there was more to tell about the character.  This book sets him up good for that and as of this writing, Aquaman is still being published monthly.

I recommend this book to anyone that wants to know more about the character.  WIth his series going strong and a leading role in the recently released Justice League: Throne of Atlantis on DVD/Blu-Ray  character’s exposure has been better than ever.  I am sure more interest will be drawn by his appearance in the upcoming move Superman/Batman: Dawn of Justice, played by Jason Momoa (Games of Thrones, Conan),  So, despite being mocked on the Big Bang Theory as a joke by Raj (who is so that group’s Aquaman, by his own reasoning), it is not a bad time to be Aquaman, right now.

Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench is available at most comic book stores and retail stores.