Category Archives: Comics

Suicide Squad: A Hot Mess

Although visually interesting and sprinkled with a few great performances and some humor, the mess of Suicide Squad’s story overshadows everything else. It still manages to entertain, though, making it better than Batman v. Superman, but BvS set the bar pretty low.

While it will likely make lots of money for DC, Suicide Squad also does nothing to prove that DC can produce a good comic-book movie outside of Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

Secret government person Amanda Waller wants to build a team to combat a potential future meta-human threat (i.e. What if the next “superman” wasn’t on our side). Instead of looking for potential “good guys” (because that relates to a different upcoming DC movie), Waller decides to use villains, including other meta-humans. Ultimately, she argues, the villains are expendable – if something goes south, they’ll throw the team under the bus.

Harley Quinn and Deadshot get the longest introductions since they both involve scenes with the Batman (Batfleck) and the Joker. The other members of the squad get shorter intros: Killer Croc, Diablo, Captain Boomerang, and the Enchantress. Colonel Rick Flag, a bad-ass best-of-the-best soldier is recruited to lead them. Oh, and Katana and Slipknot show up about an hour into the movie with no explanation. 

So after about 30-40 minutes setting up the Squad, someone realizes there should be a villain in the film, and that’s where things go completely off the rails. 

The villain, via a series of badly edited scenes, quickly sets up in Midway City? (because it can’t be Gotham or Metropolis?) and establishes that it’s going to do something very bad to the city (and the world?) and that the military is powerless to stop them. 

So, the Squad is activated. Each member of the team has a small explosive implanted in their necks that can be remotely detonated by Flag/Waller to ensure that they follow orders. Instead of pursuing the villain, Waller sends the team in to retrieve a high-value target in the city and escort them to safety.

So, yeah, although the squad was formed to combat evil meta-humans, and there’s a clear meta-human threat, the squad is sent on an entirely different mission. 

Of course, the squad ultimately winds up confronting the villain, but by that happens, you’ve given up on watching a cohesive story and are just rolling with what happens on screen. There’s a subplot with Joker in order give Jared Leto’s Joker some additional screen time, but outside of the flashbacks to establish Harley Quinn’s story, the entire Joker arc feels unnecessary and tacked on. 

The weirdest thing about the squad? There’s virtually no conflict amongst the team. They all go along with the orders they’re given, and despite that none of these characters were meant to be team players and are thrown together into this situation, they all work together with almost no conflict between each other. 

And, there’s something odd about the music choices. It’s not that the songs are bad, but they never feel like they’re played at the right moments. It feels like the choice to use classic rock songs was a deliberate attempt to try give the movie a “Guardians of the Galaxy vibe” without understanding how or why the music worked in that film.

As far as the cast goes, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn steals every scene she’s in. Viola Davis is excellent as the cool and fierce Amanda Waller. 

Will Smith is fine as Deadshot, with one exception. He’s given the Deadshot mask as part of his costume, but it seems like he’s got a clause in his contract that the audience must see his face on film 95% of the time. He puts the mask on twice in the film, and neither case makes any sense. Arrow’s version of Deadshot didn’t have the mask at all, so Smith would have been fine without it.

Jared Leto’s Joker is… fine, I guess. Trying to do something different from Heath Ledger’s Joker in the Dark Knight, Leto’s version is more of a crazed, tattooed gangster. He does bring some nice touches to the character, though.

Katana matches her comic-book version. Boomerang is kind of the comic relief of the film. Croc doesn’t have much screen time, but the look doesn’t feel quite right. Croc should have been much bigger, either via a suit or digital effects. Diablo looks great when he transforms.

And the Enchantress – She’s probably the worst part of the film. The initial set up is interesting by setting up the dual personas, and the transformation from June Moone to the Enchantress is pretty good. I don’t think it’s just Cara Delevingne’s performance; the entire arc around this character was so badly written that every scene with her in it disrupts the flow of the movie.

There are already stories out that state the studio got involved late in the project after the dismal reviews from BvS and even paid for some reshoots to add some levity to this film. I read one article that went as far as to say there were actually two different versions of the movie being put together at one point – David Ayer’s version, and the studio’s. 

It feels like the release was a mishmash of both versions, and it shows. Still, it could have been a LOT worse (for that, see last year’s Fantastic Four). 

There are a few great performances (Smith, Davis, and Robbie) in the film and, despite grinding to a halt story-wise halfway through, the movie does succeed in limping to the end and is, if nothing else, at least entertaining to watch. 

Unfortunately, DC still hasn’t managed to find the right combination of elements to produce a comic-book movie that matches the success or coherence of any of the Marvel films. It’s unfortunate, too, because I could have easily seen Suicide Squad capturing a lot of the elements from both Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool and create a distinct movie franchise. 

Gotham – Ugh

My quick thoughts on Gotham.

I had really hoped that they would take the story elements from Batman:Year One, which is as much Gordon’s story as it is Batman’s and use that as the foundation for the series. (If you’re a Batman fan and haven’t read Year One, you should – it’s one of the best Batman stories out there)

I guess they should put a disclaimer or something that this series will not tie into the movies? Or, maybe it will tie in with Batman v. Superman (ugh)? 

The pilot was okay. The fact that the story is set back at the point Thomas and Martha Wayne are murdered makes me wonder what they’re going to do with 15-20 years of time to kill. (I’m assuming Bruce was 8 — the show makes him look 10-11 — when his parents were killed and probably in his 20s when he becomes Batman)

The overall plot eventually wound up being mildly interesting, but too many elements where thrown in that get in the way. Instead of making a good police show about Gotham, the producers seem to be determined (at least for now) in beating people over the head with reminders that – “Hey, this is a Batman show – but without Batman.”

I’m also not thrilled that other police characters from the “current” Batman are now in the past. it feels like some of the characters were forced into the story because someone scanned through the Batman comics and picked up on them. They didn’t read the story, just kind of skimmed through the comics and brought things in without thinking of how they fit in the context.

Case in point: Officer Montoya – I suspect she’s only in this series to play on the idea that she’s had some type of prior relationship with Gordon’s fiancé, Barbara Kean. Kean appears to be a based on Kathine Kane, aka Batwoman, and she doesn’t belong in this story. 

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with the possible lesbian relationship between Kean and Montoya. To me, though, if you want to do a Batwoman TV show, then make one. It’s a disservice to that comic to just force a few elements of those characters here.

The really really annoying thing though? Sticking these not-so-subtle references of characters from Batman’s rogues gallery in the show. This feels like an bad corporate decision. Wouldn’t it be “cool” to show younger versions of Batman villains? 

The short answer is: No

Someone watched Kick-Ass and thought a young Catwoman would be cool to add to the show. Someone else thought it would be cute if Riddler was working for the police. There are four of these characters appearing in the pilot alone, so I shudder to think of how long this will keep going on. Scarecrow is young Bruce’s psychologist helping him deal with the death of his parents? Mr Freeze is driving an ice-cream truck? 

There are so many excellent police shows out there that they could borrow from, I’m not sure why they couldn’t simply make it a good police show.

Take us back in time to the time before Thomas and Martha Wayne are killed. Maybe months? Show us that Gotham was a good place to live, but the first seeds of corruption were already appearing. The death of the Waynes could have made a major statement to the characters in the show and the people of Gotham in general if it had been used later. 

Year One would have been a better point in time to start the show. Gordon has just arrived in town. The town is already corrupt. The show focuses on Gordon trying to do the right thing while facing an uphill battle inside an already corrupt police force. You could even have the show without Batman – directly. He appears and all the cops have to go on are the descriptions from the criminals, Gordon eventually is ordered to try capture the “Bat-Man.” and we could see him stage stings to try lure him out of the shadows.  Eventually, Gordon wonders if stopping the Batman is such a great idea because he seems to be pissing off all of the right people.

Alas…

Maybe they’ll find a way to make the show work, but right now it’s not high on my list of shows to watch. 

Of course, I say that, and yet I suffered through the most of Agents of Shield last year.. 

 

The “Amazing” Spider-Man 2 Review

 Okay, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 had some great scenes in it. Every fight scene with the web head doing his thing, swinging through the city, fighting the bad guys while making wisecracks and just plain having fun was amazing. The first confrontation with Electro had a great bit that really gave us a feel for what Spidey’s spider-sense does. 

There’s a couple of nice scenes with Spider-Man and a little nerdy kid. 

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry on-screen and are annoyingly cute to watch even though the are-we-or-aren’t-we-dating story drags on for far too long. 

It’s a good summer popcorn movie that could probably have been shorter if that was the original intent of the producers. It seemed like the producers of the movie were too focused on the long game – meaning – they’re dying to transform Spider-Man into a mega multi-movie universe along the lines of what Marvel Studios has done with the Avengers. (Spider-Man’s movie rights are owned by Sony – and they let you know it throughout the film) 

At the end of the day, though, you have a few great scenes wrapped up in a mess of a 2hr, 22min film that milks the love story as long as it can yet rushes to introduce villains, transform them via the most ridiculous means, and turn them against Spider-Man with very little back story. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it weren’t for the fact that the bad guys will likely be back in the sequels. 

While it may be a great idea to create a multi-movie franchise like Marvel Studios, if the first movie(s) aren’t very good, why on earth would audiences bother going to the sequels? After this film, I have little desire to see a “Sinister-Six” movie. (The next “Spider-Man” movie is going to focus on the villains – and will come out before an Amazing Spider-Man 3)

The movie has the elements there, and if they were shaken up and re-assembled in a different order, you might have wound up with a better overall story.

Case in point – There was a scene between Harry and Peter in the trailers where Harry showed Peter that OSCORP had Peter under surveillance, and it was cut from the movie. There was another cut scene from the trailers between Harry and Norman Osborn where they’re discussing Peter where Harry says “What about Peter?” to which Norman replies “Not everyone gets to have a happy ending.”

The movie focuses so much on OSCORP that it seems a shame that those two bits were cut from the film because it could have helped build up this larger epic conflict between OSCORP and the Parker(s). 

(BEGIN SPOILER) – Skip this section if you don’t want to know anything about the movie.

So, imagine how this would work —

Harry comes back to visit his dying father. His father reveals his legacy and fills him in on the research that he was doing with Richard Parker and that Peter may be the “key” to Harry’s survival.

After Norman dies, Harry is going though his father’s “Special Projects” files and stumbles across the research into the radioactive spiders. He also sees that Peter has been under surveillance and finds a video diary entry from Norman discussing his belief (but can’t prove) that Peter may be Spider-Man. 

Now, Harry has motivation to start hanging out with Peter again in order to rebuild their friendship. Show several quick scenes of them together (not the same sequence – make it clear that it’s different dates). 

Later, they have the conversation in OSCORP that we see in the trailer where Harry is showing Peter the surveillance footage while Harry quietly watches Peter and wonders if his father was right about the idea that Peter is Spider-Man. 

This would occur before Harry asks Peter to help him locate Spider-Man because he may be the key to saving Harry’s life.

(END SPOILER)

Anyway… 

Although The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has some great moments in it, they’re not enough to overcome the weakness of the overall story. It’s a decent popcorn summer movie, but it could have been better or at the very least mercifully shorter.

——————————–

This is a great FAQ (WARNING: SPOILERS!) that jokes about a lot of the good and bad elements of the film. It’s written by Rob Bricken who wrote another ingenious FAQ last year about Star Trek: Into Darkness.

http://io9.com/the-amazing-spider-man-2-the-amazing-spoiler-faq-1572405038

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

NOTE: If you haven’t seen it, remember, in true Marvel fashion, stick around for the credits. There are two additional scenes during the credits. I missed the second one, so I’ll have to catch it the next time.

Despite falling into more of a traditional action movie towards the end, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has a solid story that also displays a great deal of depth for its main characters and makes the movie the strongest Marvel Studios movie to date.

You might be turned off by the title, thinking that this is a “super-hero” movie, and, well, it is. Instead, consider Captain America: The Winter Soldier as more of a political thriller whose main characters happen to be super-heroes.

The opening 20 minutes feel more like something out of James Bond than a big super-hero spectacle. Then you realize, oh, wait. SHIELD is supposed to be a spy agency.

I’m not a huge fan of Captain America, and for the most part, nothing in the first movie nor the Avengers changed my mind. But, the opening scene really changed my mind.

This movie transforms Captain America/Steve Rogers into a great character. Although Rogers has always had a desire to serve his country, he begins to question Nick Fury and, once he learns of SHIELD’s latest initiative, both SHIELD and his role in this new world. Add this to Rogers still adjusting to living in the 21st century, and there’s a lot of dimension to this soldier. 

Something else that I don’t remember seeing in the first film that I thought was a great touch was that, like the latest Batman movies, Cap now seems to have his own fighting style and using his shield is a big part of that style. It’s not that Cap needs the shield to fight, but we now see him wield the shield with the same expertise a master samurai would wield his katana.

This time around, Cap is caught in the middle of a much bigger story and he quickly learns not to trust anyone at SHIELD, well, except Black Widow. The two of them begin digging into a mystery involving Nick Fury and someone called The Winter Soldier, which SHIELD treating Cap and Widow as fugitives. The fugitive angle also forces both characters to spend most of the movie out of costume, which helps make them closer to being “normal” people.

There’s a great chemistry between Cap and Black Widow in this movie, and despite a quick kissing scene, there’s no attempt to force Widow into a love interest. In fact, part of the banter they have is Widow trying to play matchmaker for Cap. 

Black Widow has a lot more to do in the movie as well. We learn a great deal more about her character, and being the spy who “gets the job done” plays well against Cap’s sense of justice.

Sam Wilson, a former soldier and veteran’s counselor that Cap meets early in the movie also gets sucked into the story when Cap and Widow need a place to hide. He also gives Cap a glimpse into life outside of being a soldier as well as someone else whose lost a partner in war. We eventually learn that he flew a very, um, unique craft during the war.

There are a couple of big reveals about the villains of the movie before the action ratchets up that I won’t go into. 

Once the action gets going, it almost becomes a completely different film where the explosions are big and the snappy one-liners kick in. The movie quickly recovers though, and there are some big ramifications to the story after the fireworks die down.

Overall, though, the movie works as a great action-thriller with touches of super-hero stuff thrown into the mix. It’s probably the most complex story I’ve seen in any of the Marvel movies, and that’s a good thing. 

The Dark Knight (Mostly) Rises

(Note: Although I was at one of the marathon Batman screenings on Thursday evening, I didn’t learn about the tragedy in Aurora until late Friday morning.  My deepest sympathies go out to the families of those who lost their lives.)

 

I went into The Dark Knight Rises with medium hopes. I’d hoped it would be a very good movie, and it would be a brilliant ending to a great movie trilogy. I really didn’t expect the movie to complete with The Dark Knight. 

Getting a chance to see The Dark Knight just before the midnight showing did nothing to change my mind. 

Is “Rises” a good movie? Yes, it’s a very good albeit very long movie. For me, though, it could have been better. 

I’m not going into a rant here about what I didn’t like about the story because I don’t want to give away aspects of the movie. Also, this would become a novel instead of a post.

What worked in the movie? 

Christian Bale is still great as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Michael Caine has some great moments as Alfred.

I was actually surprised by Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. I think she did a great job even though I’m not entirely sure why the character was in the movie.

Even with the voice cleanup, there were still moments where I wasn’t entirely sure what Tom Hardy’s Bane was saying. I was pretty “meh” about Bane in the movie. I understood why they picked him as the villain, but I also knew it was very unlikely anyone who played any villain in this movie would surpass Heath Ledger’s legendary Joker in the Dark Knight.

Ok. I will say this. I swear I’ve seen that mask of Bane’s from somewhere before.

Try to sit through the entire 2 hours and 45 minutes without wanting Bane to say “Luke, I am your father.” 

For me, there were more than a few holes in the story. There were a few “Wait, what?” moments as well, and I think they could have been more daring at the ending (but wasn’t surprised they didn’t go there).

There was also one name uttered near the very end that made me cringe. 

Then again, I’m a reader of the Batman comics and I’m more familiar with how things played out in the comics. There were some bad points in the comics, too, but overall, it was a very good series.

My verdict? Go see it. It’s a very good movie that wraps up the trilogy decently, just not brilliantly.