Batman v Superman: Deeper Insights

SPOILERS WILL BE DISCUSSED HERE

I decided to write a second piece on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. After writing the review, (Which you can read here) I realized that I still had many things in my head regarding this film. As a person who enjoyed it, I wanted to get out my remaining thoughts on some of liberties taken with the two main characters. It certainly has been a point of discussion among film fans and comic fans. Even in writing this piece I am planning to see the movie a second time so I can get a better understanding of the events that occurred. I’m going to be talking about plot points from here on so this is your official spoiler warning. This whole piece will be a giant spoiler. If you have seen the film or just don’t care about spoilers read on past this picture of the Trinity.  

If you’re still interested, here we go.

I’m not here to “defend” Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It does not need my protection. If it makes a a billion dollars or flopped with a box office total of $5, Warner Bros, DC Entertainment and Zack Snyder all have more money than I’ll ever have. This is not about shouting down the other side of the audience. This is not about proving critics right or wrong. This not about trying to change minds. This about experience. My experience with a film that I went in with expectations no higher nor lower than any other time I go to the movies. Yet when I left the theater after seeing a film that has been divisive to say the least, in a way I saw myself reflected back and in other ways saw the world reflected back at me. 

 Batman v Superman, has come out and appears to have caused a rift unlike any I have ever seen in my life as either a lover of cinema or a lover of comics. As each reviewed released further indicated the quality of the film, people took to the web and social media to voice their opinions. Some felt that this was innevitable. That the many questions about the production and over marketing left nothing to the imagination. Those who had questions and doubts about Zack Snyder’s continuing influence after the mixed reception to 2013’s Man of Steel. On the other hand you had people at another extreme. Those calling the whole thing and “Anti-DC, Anti-Snyder, Paid by Disney & Marvel Smear campaign.” It’s nothing new under the sun for audiences to disagree with critics And that was before people went to see it. Once the general audiences began to see it, multiple divides were created. You had those who like it and those who hate it. There are those who claim DC is better than Marvel and vice versa. Those who claim that they are “true fans” of Batman and/or Superman. In the midst of all this venom and vitriol going around on the Internet, stands myself. I’m a fan of both Bats and Supes. I love the MCU films and was eager for DC to finally begin theirs. As far as critic reviews goes, I know what I like in regards to blockbuster films so the negative reviews did not phase me. I walked in expecting to be entertained first and foremost and came out feeling that and more. 

 One of the most controversial decisions made for Batman v Superman (which I’ll abrieviate as BvS from here on) is the depiction of its title characters. Personally I never take issue with an interpretation of a character no matter how controversial. I sometimes wonder am I doing it wrong as a comic fan as I never really hold an ideal of the character in my head. 

Superman is uncertain of himself. He wonders is there a point to what he is doing. Should he do this? The world is split on him. He’s loved and he’s hated. He says Superman wasn’t his dream. He’s disillusioned and does not know of his place in the world and if what he is doing really matters. 

After years of fighting crime, Bruce Wayne is burnt out. He’s bitter and angry. Now he has come into contact with a being who has a power he couldn’t possibly imagine. Although his intentions are for the safety of the human race, Bruce is afraid for the first time since his parents murder. He is powerless, and in his mission to bring down The Superman combined with what he feels is the uselessness of his lifelong mission, sinks to the depths of the element he swore to protect citizens from.

I’ve felt the range of emotions both of these characters feel. Growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania I’ve seen and experienced things that question your role in society and your outlook on our society. When you are an introverted individual, an aggressive, bustling urban city can be overwhelming at times. I’ve felt this as a teen and sometimes even as an married adult. You don’t want to have a cynical view but sometimes it can not be helped. I fear at times I may never be the man I should be. 

 Then we get to the polarizing  climax of the film. The title fight. As Batman prepares to kill Superman with a Kryptonite spear, Superman pleads for him to Save Martha. Almost enraged, Batman demands to know where he heard that name. In comes Lois who tells him Martha is his mother. In that moment, Bruce Wayne realizes that he was about to fully become the monster he feared Kal-El was. This was a man who had a mother and people who love him. He only wanted to do what was best for the people. For Clark in that moment, he began what we all know Superman to be. The one who puts himself first. He did what was needed of him If he died, so be it. As long as Martha Kent was safe. Whether you thought it poignant like me or hamfisted and horribly handled, what it was was a moment. All it took was a moment to change the hearts of both men. 

I feel that although Bruce had the more visible transformation after that moment, it is Clark whose moment will change the world forever. By giving his life to protect Metropolis from Doomsday, he becomes that Superman that we wanted. That we will need. His doubts have subsided and he is truly The Man of Steel. 

My insecurities are part of my stumble, my hesitations and doubts a part of my fall. Yet in this world with so much darkness, we only need a moment. And that can begin to change everything.  

BvS is not the best movie I have ever seen. It is not even the best superhero movie I have ever seen. What it is to me however is special. Special for presenting the world as it is and through all of the bad, giving me a moment to see it will be alright. In a way, I feel I’m like those who did not like the movie. I was expecting to be entertained. I was, but I received more. I received that ideal I never held. I understand the disappointment the rest of the world has. That these are not the Batman and Superman they know. Yet for me, I got the Batman and Superman that I needed.

Also check out: 

 Second Chance – Man of Steel

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    A Strange Trip through Life is Strange

     I didn’t really play the point & click/graphic adventure game when I was younger. Since games like that are more focused toward stories and characters and themes as opposed to gameplay and action I didn’t pay attention to them. As I’ve gotten older my mind has opened up to more than the basic game experience. This style of game has made a bit of a resurgence lately with the episodic series from Telltale Games. Stories like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands have brought in a new generation of audience. I am included in this new group. I recently played and complete one of my new favorites in this genre, a game called Life Is Strange.

    The game is the story of photography student Maxine Caufield. It covers a week of her life as a student at Blackwell Academy in the fictitious town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. The game begins with Max going about her day at school. Early in episode 1, she witnesses an even that causes her to discover she has the ability to rewind time. After meeting up with her childhood friend Chole Price, Max embarks on a journey that may possibly result in the end of reality.

    The game was released in 2015 over 5 episodes and is now available in whole for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows PC.  

     From a gameplay/technical perspective the game has all the pieces of a point & click adventure. A lot of dialogue, paying attention to your surroundings, puzzles, hunting for items needed to progress the story and player choices that may impact the narrative. To mix things up, we have the use of Max’s rewind ability which is used not only to redo moments where you made a choice that you want to see play out differently, but also to solve puzzles. It is a nice mechanic that gives a new feature to a fairly old style of game. There are some issues with the syncing of the characters mouth movements to their voices. However the voice acting is pretty good and believable. I never once doubted that these were high school students in this story. From the slang to the vocal inflections, nothing ever felt overdone or melodramatic. 

    Another issue was there was a fetch quest halfway through that was longer than it should have been. There also are a couple sections that are stealth focused that did not need to be there. There is  a stealth area toward the end that really dragged on for me. You will not be blown away by the game’s visuals, but there are some pretty good light effects evident in the many sunsets you see during play. 

     Normally games like this do not offer reasons to play through again other than to make different choices, but this one does give a little incentive. Throughout the game you have a chance to photograph items Max may come across during the story. You can snap shots to earn trophies or achievements based on your platform of preference. There is also a director commentary that was released for free.  

       Like other games before it, the core of Life is Strange is its story. There are two elements to it that I enjoyed. First is the time travel elements that give no real explanation. I am fine with that. For example we don’t know how Max actually gets this power or rules of time travel. It’s kept simple. Something happens, she can rewind and do things different and there are different outcomes. There isn’t any scientific reasons and I’m glad because it would take too much from the overall narrative. Aside from the science fiction elements, there is a very human story here. Max has no idea that is happening to her and she has to balance this with normal high school life. I relate to Max in a way as she is person who does not quite fit in nor fully fit out in regards to the social groups that we are normally presented with teenagers. There is so much going on around her with themes of bullying, friendship, suicide, grief and resentment coming to the forefront. I also enjoyed the characters she interacts with as there is some depth to the other students that are not normally shown in films or television. The choices you have during the story make you think as they are not simple to make. There are consequences that may not make themselves known in the short run, but may or may not affect your relationships later.  
    I was totally engaged from start to finish. Once I reached the end and made my final choice, I sat so still I’m not sure if I was breathing. I knew what I had chosen, but to see the end result play out with the knowledge I gained throughout was a hard hitting moment indeed.This was a great experience for me to play and I appreciate the work developer Dontnod Entertainment out into this. I look forward to their next game in this style if they wish to make another. Life is not only strange, it’s great! 

     Final Rating (4/5 – Great story with time travel, some technical issues with lip syncing and some padded fetch quests  and stealth sections.)

    For more DeaconsDen coverage of narrative driven games, check out the reviews for:

    The Walking Dead – The Complete First Season
    The Wolf Among Us
    Until Dawn

    What’s old is new again – Mario Puzo’s The Godfather: The Complete Epic 1901-1959

    I am a huge fan of the Godfather films. The first is certainly one of my favorite films ever and Part II is arguably one of, if not the best sequel ever filmed. I think what draws me to them is not the crime element, but the character study of the Corleone family and Al Pacino’s Michael in particular. To see the descent of this man who was once so idealistic into a force to be reckoned with is amazing. I know it’s all subjective I feel these two films you can attach the term “masterpiece” to. 

     I’ve read before about The Complete Epic. This originally began as a TV version of the first two films cut in chronological order. The Godfather Part II, for those who don’t know shows a parallel story between the descent of Michael and the rise of his father Vito. The scenes with young Vito (Robert DeNiro in an Oscar-winning performance) obviously take place before the original film. This version takes all those scenes and places them at the beginning of the film, followed by the events of the first film and concluding with the main story of Part II. This version recently aired on HBO and is currently available on HBO Go and I imagine is also available On Demand if you have a subscription. If you have never seen these films go see them as separate films first. Then come back and watch The Complete Epic. The story will make sense either way but the impact of the story shifts subtly in each version as I will explain.

    First I have to say, I love this version! I’ve seen both of these films many times and it felt like I was watching for the first time. There is over an hour of scenes that did not make the separate film releases that really add to the experience. In the original versions these would have seemed superfluous but added back to this version gives us an extra insight into characters and for me help formulate new ways to think about them. For example there are some added moments with James Caan’s Sonny in the moments after his father is shot. Normally we all know Sonny as a hothead, but these few extra moments with him getting the news, dealing with it and mobilizing his people shows that perhaps his temper doesn’t boil when you don’t give him time to simmer. At least that’s how I interpreted it. 

     Another aspect I did enjoy was Vito’s story at the beginning. Robert DeNiro has such charisma in that role and once his early years are complete and we move on to Marlon Brando playing Vito, it feels like a perfect character evolution and I still sense the presence of DeNiro in Brando’s performance even though it is the other way around. 

     There is one thing however that is lost by placing Vito’s story in the beginning and that is the parallel between his rise to power and his son Michael’s descent as a human being. It was a decision that made The Godfather Part II a great film. But there is still something positive about it. Now father and son bookend the film. We see the spectrum that the Corleone men sit on. Vito even as a young man built himself up to a point. There was line that he would intend to stay on one side of and cross when needed. Not a moment before nor after. Michael, went beyond that point. He crossed that line that his father tried not to cross and became what Vito did not want for himself not any of his sons. It makes you wonder were there signs in Michael’s childhood that Vito noticed which would be why he told him he never wanted this life for him. It’s a different way at looking at the two men. Oh and one more thing, the origin of Hyman Roth. I’ll just leave that there.

     Watching The Godfather Epic has given the crime saga an new lease on life for me. It’s a new movie. I knew the story but  now I feel I have more to chew on. If you are a fan of these films I recommend you give this version a chance. I really hope this gets a blu-Ray release in the future! 

       

    A Big Thanks for 2015

    I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has visited DeaconsDen at anytime during 2015. The blog as seen a huge boost and there is still room to grow. I plan to continue to bring new content in the new year as well as the DeaconsDen podcast which I hope to have ready during January. Once again a big thanks and see ya next year!

      

    Return to Thundera

    IMG_3756.JPGInspired by my recent contribution for my good friend Vic over at Vic’s Movie Den I wrote a post recommending 5 Animated Series. It was a fun narrowing this down to five quality series that I feel adults would love as well as kids. I previously wrote up one of the shows on the list, The Spectacular Spider-Man. I now want to take a moment to write up another on my list. This being the 2011 reimagining of ThunderCats.

    Now I grew up with ThunderCats in the 80s and it without a doubt is one of my favorite shows ever. I have the first season in dvd and always revisit it. I’m just nostalgic like that. However, this really is a program of its era. It does not translate to younger audiences now and I understand that. I don’t have kids now but when I do I don’t expect them to look at this show the same way I do. Early episodes and especially later episodes just don’t hold up. It looks cheesy now.

    In 2011 a reboot/reimagining of ThunderCats aired. Like all really good animated series, it was cancelled before its time despite being packed to the brim with action, drama and diverse and well-written characters.

    The names of the characters are the same but instead of the one-dimensional templates of the original, these cats have quite some depth.

    Let’s start with the setting. In the original the ThunderCats were refugees from the planet Thundera and escaped it’s destruction and crash landed on Third Earth. In this series Thundera is a nation of Third Earth and the Thunderians rule other species. At the show’s opening it appears cats are disliked by other species due to how they are governed by King Claudus, ( voiced by Larry Kenney, the original Lion-O). So what we have here is a class system put in place by the most powerful of the species. The first episodes show this contention the best when Lion-O attempts to show mercy to two lizards imprisoned for stealing food. So from the jump we aren’t presented with the Mary Sue’s from the original series.

    This show has a great amount of character depth which really reinforces the need for great storytelling and complex characters. Let’s take a look at the main characters here. Just a warning there is going to be some SPOILERS in here

    Lion-O:

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    The young Lord of the Thundercats, thrust into leading after terrible events befall their kingdom. With him we see some basic tropes. He’s aloof, doesn’t get along with his father, and is competitive with his brother Tygra. At the show’s beginning, it seems that Lion-O doesn’t care for the crown. He’s late to his own right of passage ceremony. And when he looks through the Sword of Omens and sees a vision of Mumm-Ra, he acts like a teenager when he sees two attractive young women. This is simply what it looks like, but Lion-O is one who can appear at times to see the bigger picture. Yet he can get sidetracked with vengeful thoughts, but is a very patient character.

    Tygra:

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    Here perhaps is the most developed character in the entire show. He antagonizes his younger brother and has a great relationship with his father, which Lion-O does not. He also appears to be very respected in the kingdom. He has quite the inferiority/superiority complex, which could stem from the fact that he is adopted. Tygra is part of the exiled Tiger Clan that was on the side of Mumm-Ra centuries ago. For their role, they were exiled. A disease overtook the clan and Tygra’s father made a deal with the Ancient Spirits of Evil to save the clan. They did. Now the wanted his son as payment. He sent Tygra away and he ended up as the royal prince. All was well until the queen announced she was pregnant. Tygra who was once known as her “Little King” now became her “Little Prince,” since he could no longer inherit the throne. When she dies giving birth to Lion-O he is devastated. He has lost both his crown and his mother. This makes his connection with Cheetara more viable as it is something that is his once again.

    Cheetara:

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    Part of the Order of the Clerics, after the fall of Thundera, Cheetara is the last remaining Cleric. Her role is that of an advisory person to Lion-O as Jaga was to King Claudus. Her backstory is that of a young girl who wanted to be a Cleric. She clearly possessed the speed needed, yet according to Jaga lacked the patience needed. She waited outside the building where the clerics meet for days, meeting a young Tygra in the process. Proving her worth, she is admitted to the order. In the beginning episodes of the series she gives Lion-O advice and encouragement, which he interprets as a romantic interest. This leads to conflict down the line between him and Tygra. She doesn’t downplay anything which I feel is a great trait to have for an adviser, let your leader always feel in control.

    Panthro:

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    Panthro, as in the original series is the muscle and mechanical expert of the team. Like the other characters there is more to his story. In this version, Panthro is a man on a mission. A general in the Thunderian army, Panthro was betrayed by Grune, a fellow military man like himself. Grune switched over to Mumm-Ra’s side when given an opportunity for power. He has some interesting character features as well such as not considering Lion-O’s opinion on matters due to the young king’s lack of experience and his military background. Panthro knows scenarios but has to defer to his king. It actually presents some intriguing conflict had the show been able to continue if Panthro had persisted in butting heads with Lion-O. Also he is afraid of water and never learned to swim and it brings a dimension to this character who has seen a great many things and yet water is his Achilles.

    As you can see, there is much more depth to these characters than there was in the original series. This was a very mature effort. I think that people might be more inclined to watch this as opposed to The Spectacular Spider-Man due to its animation style. It has a much more serious look to it. Like any show there are a couple of filler episodes but it certainly takes its time in building its story arcs to a conclusion. And at the end of each arc, there is a change in the characters that gives them new perspective.

    At only 26 episodes this series is over before it truly begins which is a shame. Cut down too soon like a good deal of quality animated programs. But this ThunderCats series is one I highly recommend. I have the complete series on DVD and definitely will upgrade to the Blu-Ray in the future.

    A Comic Moment: George Lucas’ The Star Wars By Dark Horse Comics

    Now that the trailer for the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens has been released, I want to revisit a post from earlier this year. A look at the comic adaptation of George Lucas’s original rough draft script, The Star Wars. 20140609-205832-75512496.jpg

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    Creators

    Writer:
    J. W. Rinzler
    Artist:
    Mike Mayhew
    Colorist:
    Rain Beredo
    Letterer:
    Michael Heisler
    Cover Artist:
    Nick Runge

    A while back I began reading a limited comic series called The Star Wars published by Dark Horse comics. This eight-issues series was based on the original rough draft screenplay by George Lucas. This would evolve over the course of the 1970s to eventually become the movie we know as Star Wars.

    I had never read a Star Wars comic before in my life, so when I was in my local shop and I saw the cover of issue one, I though this was a comic adaptation of the original film, when I saw it was of Lucas’ original version I had to check it out.

    In my previous post, I noted that this is Star Wars in name, but not what your are used to seeing. You see character names, but they are not the same characters. For example, Luke Skywalker is not the heroic young aspiring Jedi we all know and love, but a battle hardened general. He basically fills in the role for Obi-Wan Kenobi. And in the role of the young hero, we have Annikin Starkiller, son of Kane who takes up the mantle to save the galaxy from the evil empire. We also have our princess, still named Leia, our two droids, also named C3PO and R2D2. The names are spelled slightly different however. Our bounty hunter Han Solo is not human, but an alien. And of course the villain, who is still named Darth Vader.

    As a comic, this was a lot of fun to read it had great artwork. Very bright colors. Even though this was not the same Star Wars story, it certainly had the same epic, adventurous tone as the original film did. Since this is an adaptation, I can only assume that the dialogue between characters was Lucas’. Just like his work on the prequel films, it is very cheesy and just like in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the romance between Annikin and Princess Leia is so cringeworthy, I actually felt nostalgic. Guess the good news is that we can’t say Lucas lost his talent for writing dialogue, it never was really there.

    But I certainly can say, that he does have an imagination, and seeing some of his original thoughts in some form of visual is quite rewarding. This could never have been an actual film I feel, it could have possibly been worse than the prequels, which I actually do like those movies.

    My reccomendation: Head to your local comic shop and pick up The Star Wars issues 1-8. I had a blast reading and most likely will pick it up when it is released in a special collected format. Go visit a galaxy not too far from the one that is far, far, away.

    Looking at The Innocents for the 1st Time

    Directed by Jack Clayton

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    I picked this up during the semi-annual Criterion Collection sale at Barnes and Noble. I have heard about this film’s legacy for years and had never seen it. I always like to hear of successful genre films from an older era because I feel viewers nowadays dismiss them unfairly. Here we have a nice and atmospheric gothic horror film that as you watch it is actually quite unsettling. Deborah Kerr plays a woman who becomes the governess for a wealthy man’s niece and nephew. I won’t go too much further into the plot as not to spoil anything but there is something suspicious about these kids. I know it sounds cliche, but the mystery behind this is quite intriguing.

    The film opens with the 20th Century Fox logo, but no fanfare. It’s just a stark black and white image with the sound of a little girl singing. Very unnerving. I had previously thought that the opening to Alien 3 was very dark and foreboding but this takes the cake. The film oozes menace throughout which really makes it a horror film and not just some scare machine which one would think having seen its trailer. Honestly it doesn’t help sell the film at all. It makes it look like some 60s B-movie and this is far more than that.

    As I watched the film, I took note of the splendid craftsmanship in the cinematography. It really reminded me of the work of Stanley Kubrick. Combine that with the tension that permeates the story which is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock, this is probably why I responded so well to the picture.

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    A prime example of knowing how to scare people without making them jump. I would recommend The Innocents to anyone who hasn’t seen it or to those who profess to be horror movie buffs. This is a fantastic film, with quality acting and it’s also very well crafted. It’s a shame I did not see this film sooner.

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