Film Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Remember back in 2007 when you saw “I Am Legend” and saw this and snickered? 

 
Well now that throwaway image is now a reality. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the second film in the DC Extended Universe is here.  This movie has certainly been talked about ever since it was announced. Mostly it was all skepticism that was a result of the mixed reception on th initial film in the DCEU, 2013’s Man of Steel. That film raised a lot of questions and concerns about how Zack Snyder, who returns as director would handle the meeting of arguably the 2 greatest superheroes in popular culture. Did I find it a hit or miss? The critics have not been nice to it. At the time of this writing it is at 29% on Rotten Tomatoes and the audience reception has been just as mixed. 

 Well first things first. I enjoyed Batman v Superman. I honestly did. It is by no means a perfect movie, but it presented me with something I don’t usually see in current superhero movies and that included the recently released Deadpool. I was presented with a dark interpretation that certainly will be divisive but I actually accept those changes because I do not have an ideal image of these characters. I have favorite interpretations sure, but do I have a certain way that I have built up Batman or Superman to be?  I don’t. Therefore I was able to enjoy how they were presented here. I’m not going to go too in depth on that matter in this review. 

The film is set in the aftermath of Superman’s battle with Zod and the Kryptonians during the climax of Man of Steel. After an opening scene which recounts the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, we see the battle of Metropolis from Bruce’s point of view. Here he sees the power that Kal-El possesses and wonders what happens if he is not on the side of the people of Earth. In he meantime Lex Luthor has been doing some things in the background involving the Kryptonians technology that may have grave repercussions for all. 

 As far as casting goes we all know the reactions when Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jesse Eisenberg were cast as Batman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor respectively. I thought Affleck was well cast. He brings a world weariness to the Dark Knight as he ponders what a Superman in the world can mean for humanity. Gadot is perfectly cast as Wonder Woman. During the film she is on her own mission separate from the main story that ties into future events for the DCEU. And she has a badass theme! Eisenberg for me just came across as Jesse Eisenberg just a little more manic. I didn’t hate his performance, nor love it. As far as th returning Man of Steel cast, Henry Cavill still impresses me as a basically reluctant Superman and his reaction during one particular scene sums that up. Amy Adams is still great as Lois Lane and Diane and Laurence Fishburn are solid as well. I also give a thumbs up for Jeremy Irons as Alfred who I so wished there was more of. Especially following Michael Caine in the Dark Knight Trilogy..

Another element I enjoyed was Hans Zimmer’s score. I loved the music to Man of Steel and the same goes here. I did not find it as bombastic as the previous film, but it has some great callbacks. I felt that the themes for Batman and Superman were on point. The best piece of music however, is Wonder Woman’s theme, Is She With You? As a comic book fan, it perfectly encapsulates the aura of the Amazonian and immediately got me excited for her film to be released in 2017. 

 I earlier stated what I enjoyed about the film was its presentation of a version of Superman and Batman not really seen before. The problem however is how the film is constructed to show us this. This isn’t the Man of Steel and Dark Knight your are accustomed to. I took no issue with that, but the film’s editing sort of doesn’t give us much context at times. Hopefully once the announced Ultimate Cut restores the speculated 30 minutes of footage this may help with that context. The editing also causes some odd pacing issues as well, where I felt engaged most of the time, but it would feel like a sudden speed bump in other places. The darkend visual asthetic was a bit more strong than in Snyder’s previous work, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of what was on screen. 

 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is certainly just as divisive if not more than Man of Steel, but as an alternate way to look at superheroes, I appreciate the story and the differing ideals it tried to present. The editing causes it to suffer in places and the context can get lost due to this. I thought the action scenes were great and the score matched the tone of film well. I did enjoy the nods that are setting up the larger DC Universe as I felt they were pretty organic. Is this a film for general audiences? Is it a film for comic book fans? I can’t answer that question for anyone. I can say that for me, this movie worked. Possibly in ways I hadn’t really thought of before with this genre. Whatever DC and WB decide going forward in the wake of BvS, I can say I am now more interested than ever to see.

Final Rating (3.5/5) Batman v Superman presents a challenging interpretation of its 2 main characters that I appreciate. Some of the motivations can be lost due to some issues with editing, but I enjoyed the action and look forward to how these 2 Titans carry on in the wake of the events of the film and future DC Extended Universe films. Hurry up Wonder Woman!

Check out these awesome character posters!

   
     
    

  

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Second Chance – Man Of Steel

  
In preparation for the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I decided to revisit what is now the first film in the DC Extended Universe, Man of Steel. Directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan, Man of Steel is a retelling of the Superman origin. Henry Cavill steps into the blue tights for the first time as Kal-El/Clark Kent. Michael Shannon is General Zod. Amy Adams takes on the role of iconic reporter Lois Lane.  

 I was excited to see this film upon its release and I did enjoy it the first time around. It is one of the most divisive and polarizing superhero flicks ever made where it literally is a 50/50 shot on who loves it or hates it. 

Watching it again leading up to this big follow up has just reaffirmed what I felt in 2013. I really enjoy Man of Steel. I love it’s modern sensibilities, scale and filmmaking. As what is now the opening chapter in a larger DC movie universe, I think it was a pretty good start point. Considering that Batman is supposed to be jaded and cynical by time of BvS, I think it makes sense that this is the moment that brings him back to the crime fighting world, while to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, “taking your first steps into a larger world.” 

 One thing that benefits Man of Steel is that it plays better at home than it did in theaters. I actually feel a bit more engaged than I did then and I enjoyed it on the big screen. For some reason the action feels less hectic and Hans Zimmer’s score feels less like constant punches to the head. I pretty much still enjoy the casting choices most notably Michael Shannon as Zod. 

   
I will say this as a negative about the film. It sets up a lot of great character moments and it never really follows up on them. It’s a shame actually because they really were some great moments. In addition to that the 2 scenes of note (we all know which 2 scenes in particular I’m talking about.) I did not have an issue with either of them. I understand the issues people do take with them but I just interpret them differently. 

 There are plenty of superhero films that are better written and directed than Man of Steel for sure, but after giving this a fresh look before the new movie I can safely say for myself that I love Man of Steel as much as I love the 1978 Superman film. It hits the right notes for me as the beginning of Superman’s story and I look forward to seeing the story continue with Batman v Superman.

Film Review – 10 Cloverfield Lane

 
Produced by J.J. Abrams and directed by Temple University alum Dan Trachtenberg, (Shout out to Philadelphia) 10 Cloverfield Lane is a science fiction horror thriller much like its spiritual predecessor Cloverfield that was released in 2008.

The film starts with a bang. Quite loudly in fact as Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is involved in a car accident that send pusher careening out of control. The sound design in that scene alone warrants some award recognition as you can feel the crunch of metal and glass. After the crash she awakens in a bunker owned by Howard (John Goodman) who informs her of an attack that has happened outside and that they can not leave. There is also another occupant of the bunker Emmet (John Gallagher Jr) To avoid spoilers I will stop with the plot description here. Everything written so far you can mostly see in the trailers and tv spots. 

 I love films that have a limited setting. As a major fan of the works of Alfred Hitchcock, I always appreciate the capabilities to tell a complete story that takes place in 1 location with a cast of less than 10 people. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a great modern example of that kind of storytelling. It is tense and does not waste time getting going. It is very economical with its  story. There isn’t really an exposition to speak of and it doesn’t matter. At a running time of 1 hour and 43 minutes it uses every second to the fullest to make you feel tense and uncomfortable. Legit tension operates in this film not just modern horror jump scares. Where does this apprehension come from? Some of it is in the sounds that the characters hear from outside that are uncertain in nature. Most of it however is from the fantastic performance of John Goodman. Throughout this film the man is a human time bomb and the moments when he is not speaking you find yourself even more terrified of him because if he is not being verbal, his physical acting takes over and puts you more on edge. Winstead and Gallaher Jr play off Goodman well as they figure how to live with this man. Winstead also shines as she plays Michelle with a very proactive personality and in one of a few direct character moments expresses her regrets and resolves to change that about herself. 

 

There were a couple of nitpicks I do have with the film. At times I felt the film was overscored. There were moments where I just thought no music would have sold the tension far more effectively. It comes across as bombastic and unneeded since we know and understand he severity of the situation. Another issue is that there is a mystery that is introduced during the film that was really intriguing but does not receive any resolution. Personally I would have loved to see this played out and trim down the film’s actual climax a bit to make room to develop this thread a bit more. 

 I appreciate that this is not a direct sequel to the original film. Also that this was not quickly churned out. The time taken to create this really shows in the craftsmanship of the story. Director Dan Trachtenberg doesn’t really waste a shot here for his directorial debut. With this entry I really hope that Cloverfield becomes a series of separate stories like a cinematic Twilight Zone.  

 10 Cloverfield Lane decides what it wants to do from the start and immediately pulls you in with tension that is enhanced by some great performances and excellent sound design and keeps you there for its lengths. I hope this trend can continue for future installments and that the creators take their time to get it right. This is a pretty damn good thriller.

Final Rating (4.5/5) John Goodman gives a terrifying, unhinged performance. Great tension and atmosphere. Musical score can be overbearing at times and an unexplored plot thread are the negatives for me. 

 

Gotham City Photography – Shots from Batman: Arkham Knight

Taking some time out to share some photos I created in the Photo Mode of the video game Batman: Arkham Knight. I completed the game a while back but went back to play the DLC missions and rediscovered this mode. I didn’t have a good grasp on it in the beginning, simply taking standard shots of what was immediately on screen. I kept practicing and got a handle on moving the camera around, fiddling with the lighting, looking at the best angles and I think I’ve improved a great deal. So here are some recent shots. I hope you all enjoy!

Nightwing

Step Off 

 

Batman

The Knight Returns  

  

  
Turbines to speed

 
Atomic Batteries to Power

  
 

Catwoman

 FaceOff 

 Ballet 

Harley Quinn

 Approach   

Queen Clown

 
The Pale Moonlight   
Leap of Faith

 
Batter Up   

High Kick Harley


Batgirl

 Size up  

Jab

 
 Foot meet Face
  
You Ready?

 

Dance with the Devil
 
I’m Out!

  

Early Thoughts: The Flash (1990s TV series)

  

 

This was a blind buy a few months ago. I found the complete series in a bargain bin at Best Buy for $10. I’ve always heard of this version of The Flash but I’ve never watched an episode. However being a fan of the current series on The CW, I decided to give this a try. At the moment I’ve only watched a few episodes, but I want to just give a few quick thoughts on this superhero series. To my surprise, I’m actually really impressed so far. Aside from some general 1990s cheesiness, the show actually has some decent production values. I haven’t done any research but I would imagine that after the success of the 1989 Batman film, Warner Bros had some money left over to devote to this. Speaking of the Batman connection, the series features a damn good theme by Danny Elfman. It has a Batman feel as evidenced by my wife who heard the show playing and asked if I was watching Batman, but it’s really epic in its own right. 

 The chemistry between John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen and Amanda Pays as Tina McGee is also a highlight. I’ve enjoyed their dynamic and partnership early on. It’s great that they both have made appearances in the new series. 

 I’ve also enjoyed the seriousness with which the source material is taken. I know in this era it’s a battle between “dark and gritty” and “comic-icky fluff” yet this series so far has balanced both in what I have seen. The Flash makes sure to give us a superhero come to life. That’s how I always approach the genre.

I heard the series gets better as it goes along. I’m hooked now and can’t wait to see some of the Rogues like Captain Cold, Mirror Master and The Trickster. Now I’m wondering what would have happened had this show been able to continue.   

  
I do feel that the newest Flash series is overall better constructed, but what I’ve seen so far, this early live action incarnation is quite the gem in superhero television.