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Ben Affleck as Batman

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In 2013 Ben Affleck was cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the movie “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” As the internet experienced a meltdown and some misguided fans even signed petitions to have Affleck removed from the project, I was always on board with him being cast as the iconic capped crusader. View my old blog post in the link below.

MY Thoughts: Ben Affleck as Batman

I wanted to follow up my recent review of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” with my thoughts on how Ben Affleck actually played this iconic dual role. I will begin by posting this quote:

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times remarked: “All the Internet resistance to Affleck being cast as Batman seems silly when you see him … There’s not a moment when we don’t believe Affleck as Bruce Wayne or as Batman.”

I agree with this completely. It is kind of funny that even though many Batman and superhero fans had a public meltdown over Ben being cast, there is nary a hater to be found these days. Another point I want to make is, although I supported Ben 100% in this role and could see him doing well, even I underestimated exactly how good he ended up being in the role. Ben Affleck disappeared completely into both Characters! While watching the movie I completely forgot I was watching Ben Affleck! He is just that damned good!

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Comparisons are inevitable and I hate to use the word “better” in my comparisons (I can enjoy many things equal without making such judgments) I will add that Ben has come to personify the role for me. I do in fact enjoy all live incarnations of the character. Believe it or not but as of this writing “Batman Forever” is my favorite solo Batman movie, but Ben is my favorite portrayal of the character. I do like Nolan’s Batman Trilogy even though I have issues with it, however, I never really had a problem with Christian Bale’s portrayal of the Dark Knight. After watching Ben play both roles I have come to see his performance as the one I have been waiting for, for decades. Finally Bruce Wayne and his alter ego “The Batman” are portrayed the way they have been portrayed in the comics for a long, long time. I look forward with great anticipation to the Justice League movies and the solo Batman movies where Ben will once again don the cape and cowl to strike fear into the heart of darkness.

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Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice…a review.

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I cannot believe I have not yet reviewed Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The first pairing in live action of the two most iconic Superheroes in the world. There was a ton of expectation riding on this movie. The movie was heavily criticized by the professional pundits and under performed at the box office although it still made the studio money. One of the reasons for this is that the studio did not put out the three hour extended cut of the films into the theater. What was released to the theater was a truncated version of the film that was not very coherent in places. Note to film studio. Leave Zack Snyder alone and let him do his job, he knows what he is doing!

Therefore this review will be of the theatrical cut.

All movies do have their flaws…which is simply another way of saying “I would have done it differently” and although this movie is no exception the Pros greatly out weight any Cons it may have. I really enjoyed this movie so without further delay, the Pros and Cons of this film. Cons won the coin toss so they will go first. 🙂

Cons:

The story, even in the Extended Cut, still has some issues. The scene in the desert where Lois is interviewing a terrorist and then all hell breaks loose, it really isn’t too clear what is happening. One example, Batman brands his criminals and they end up getting killed in jail/prison…but the movie never tells you why they are being killed in jail or the motives for killing them.

Alfred. I think over all Jeremy Irons did a good job but his cynicism got old after a while. Plus, if he thinks Batman was going down the wrong road and becoming something corrupt, then you would think that he would have confronted Bruce long before he did in this movie. It seems Alfred was just as jaded as Batman was in this movie.

Death of Superman. I do understand that his sacrifice was to show the world that he truly is a force for good in the world and that he will use his powers to help and not hurt. However, maybe my objection is more about the elaborate funeral they gave Superman, because it all seems too soon because it really doesn’t feel Superman truly earned the accolades and the grief. In the movie Superman has been around less than two years and there is much controversy surrounding him, he certainly isn’t universally loved.

Death of Clark Kent. This is unprecedented. Sure, they have shown Superman die in the comics and animated movies, but they always have found a way to excuse Clark’s disappearance until Superman returns. This movie paints quite a dilemma where they are acknowledging both Clark and Superman are dead! How can they bring both back without the world knowing Clark Kent is Superman!?

Pros:

Good Story. Despite the story being muddled at times the story is very interesting and engaging. It really is not a story about Batman and Superman fighting, it is a story of redemption for both iconic characters.

Superman’s character arc. I like the idea in this universe where Superman isn’t a Mary Sue Boy-scout where everyone except the villains despise him and don’t trust him. In the real world we would have people truly fear and distrust Superman so I like that realistic approach and  how Superman has to cope with that reality especially in the face of life taking disasters committed to tarnish his name.

Batman’s Character arc. I love how this is an older and cynical and jaded Batman who has gone through many tragedies himself. We see that Robin is dead, Wayne Manor has been burned to the ground and Batman is an outlaw. I loved the scene where we fist see Batman in the room where he just branded the criminal and he is lurking in the shadows. Classic Batman! I also like how Batman comes to once again have faith in humanity restored. The scene where he rescues Martha Kent in the warehouse is the best live action scene of Batman ever put to film.

Special effects. Excellent. I love any time Superman takes flight!! Doomsday is created with such life-likeness! Great eye candy!

Good pacing. Even though the Extended Cut is three hours long the movie flows well without any slow spots at all.

Lex Luthor. I think Jesse Eisenberg was great as Luthor…yes he is Lex Luthor and not the son of Lex as many claim, he was bitter, psychotic and unpredictable.

Wonder Woman. What can I say? She was awesome! Gal Gadot was simply amazing as Wonder Woman and Diana Prince and she stole the show! I also loved the cameo glimpses of Aquaman and The Flash and Cyborg!!

I want to close by speaking of the controversial Martha scene. Sure, it is a bit cheesy but I do understand what they were doing and I think it was a great idea and worked although all it needed maybe was one line of dialogue. That was the moment Batman realized how far he had fallen and that he had become the very thing he had dedicated his life to fighting against. If Batman would have said that to Lois and Superman in some verbal way, I think it would have helped.

I really enjoyed this movie despite some of its flaws. All-in-all a good introduction of Batman in the DCEU and I look forward to more movies with these characters!

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Too Much of a Good Thing?

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One of the things I enjoy about such superheros like Superman, Batman & The Flash (my favorites in that order) is how unique they are. Superman is invulnerable, impervious to pain, can fly and run near at or better than the speed of light, has ex-ray and heat vision, super hearing…Batman is a human with no superpowers but an intellectual genius billionaire who has mastered several martial arts, has access to and developed many advanced gadgets, dresses up in a Bat-costume and fades into the night to scare and terrorize criminals. The Flash can run, move, think, and react at light speeds as well as having superhuman endurance that allows them to run incredible distances. Some, notably later versions, can vibrate so fast that they can pass through walls in a process called quantum tunneling, travel through time and can also lend and borrow speed. The Flash can heal more rapidly than an average human.

So what does DC Comics do with these unique characters? It creates a “Family” of similar superheroes with similar powers and abilities. Superman has Supergirl, Superboy, Krypto, Powergirl, Mon-El, Val-Zod Red Superman, Blue Superman, Asian Superman and Russian Superman etc. The Batman has many Robins, Nightwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, The Red Hood, Batman Beyond etc. The Flash has Jay Garrick (the earliest incarnation of the character), Barry Allen as The Flash, Wally West is the first Kid Flash and the third Flash, Bart Allen the second hero known as Kid Flash..and many more. Even Flash’s villains are just evil personifications of the Flash, such as Reverse Flash, Zoom and Doom etc..There are also many versions of the Green Lantern that originated from earth…Alan Scott, Hal Jordan,  Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.

My complaint is that with so many Superheros with the same name or powers within these families it waters down and dilutes the original characters and turning what was a special and unique character into something more ordinary. I am conflicted about this because there are actually some of these extra characters I love (Supergirl, Val-Zod, Jay Garrick, Reverse Flash, John Stewart). I even plan on doing a blog post dedicated to Val-Zod in thew future….Plus, as an artist and creative person myself, I certainly do not want to stifle creativity…

I just cannot also ignore this nagging feeling that all of these similar characters take something away from the original characters. I stopped watching the Flash TV series because of this problem. Not only does he have a team helping him but the majority of the villains are just like him to the point where The Flash himself doesn’t stand out, isn’t the star of his own show and is simply one of many with the same powers. I think Supergirl suffers from this a bit also.

This was just a little venting and I don’t really want or expect anything to be done, it just explains why I gravitate to stories that depict the original character rather than these many similar extensions in these superhero families.

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Batman Syndrome?

This is hopefully going to be a lighthearted fun piece. One of the interesting things about following science-fiction and fantasy films is that the fan base for certain franchises can be strongly opinionated and people can tend to get nasty. I have noticed it with Godzilla, Star Trek and Star Wars fans and comic book superhero fans. That leads me to today’s topic. Another point I want to make is that although I grew up in the 60s and 70s reading comic books I do not read them that much any more although I have kept up with what is going on in many of them. One of the trends that is big right now is superheros fighting other superheros as apposed to fighting criminals and villains.

In light of next years movies, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Marvel’s Civil war…superhero battles are all the rage…pun intended. Therefore on many of superhero related groups on Facebook there are these hypothetical battles between these fictional characters and the most prevalent one is between Batman and Superman. Observing the passion on both sides between which superhero would be triumphant there is something I have noticed about Batman fans, which I am one, but these übber fans guys take it up several notches and have what is called Batman Syndrome.

Now I must confess I am biased. I am mostly a Superman fan and Batman comes in second place. Having admitted that, let me define Batman Syndrome. Batman Syndrome is the belief that Batman cannot be defeated and not only that, given enough prep-time Batman can defeat any superhero no matter how powerful they are. Superman has limits but it seems like Batman does not.

Why is this a problem for me? Well, as a Superman fan I do find it a little funny to think that a guy who can fly faster than light, lift a freight-train with one hand and have bullets bounce off his chest as if they were jelly beans can be beaten by someone with zero superpowers. But if you have Batman Syndrome you think beating Superman or any meta-human with powers can easily be done…any time and all of the time. Sure, Batman has his kryptonite which can weaken Superman and for those with Batman Syndrome that is all it takes.

But my problem goes deeper than that. Batman Syndrome fundamentally changes the essence of all the characters. Do you have superpowers? Doesn’t matter in the end because despite them you can be beaten. Then why have superheros with special powers? In the end, under Batman Syndrome, they’re worthless. The other and more important point is that it changes Batman the most. Part of the appeal of Batman is that he is a human being with no superpowers. He lurks in the shadows and the night and strikes terror in the hearts of criminals. Yes, he is a master of martial arts, he is extremely intelligent and has unmatched detective skills along with advanced gadgets and technology at his disposal. But when you turn him into a god-like being you take away his humanity and it is his humanity that made him a great character in my eyes.

The last thing that bothers me about Batman Syndrome is that it turns Batman into someone with questionable ethics. In my day Batman and Superman were friends with trust and a common goals of stopping crime and evil. A cynical Batman who doesn’t trust anyone and has questionable ethics doesn’t sound like a character that would even want to fight crime and evil.

I like Batman to be human and with limitations. I like all my superheros to have some limitations for it makes for great story telling. A human Batman is one to look up to and relate to as he embodies all the best characteristics of being human. Without that he is just another superhero and nothing really distinguishes him from the rest. As a mortal with no powers and with limitations is an exciting character.

Where have all the colors gone?

The more I get into my art work the more I find it fascinating in how things are designed. From the design of starships or monster and creatures such as Godzilla and Cloverfield and even superhero costumes. This last subject, superhero costumes, is the topic of this post. I have been watching a lot of superhero movies and TV shows these past few weeks and I wanted to comment on how the costumes have changed.

In the 50s and 60s with George Reeves as Superman, Adam West as Batman, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman and Christopher Reeve as Superman in the 70s and 80s all had one thing in common: brightly colored costumes. Somewhere in the 2000s this began to change. Superman Returns, which came out in 2006, starred Brandon Routh which was a semi-sequel to the Christopher Reeves movies has a uniform that has a different shade of blue along with a red cape, undies, and boots that are more of a muted wine color rather than bright vivid red.

The Flash, a new TV series set to debut this fall, also has a redesigned costume and one of the main points is the bright red is substituted for a similar muted wine color featured in Superman Returns costume. Last years Man of Steel saw a radically redesigned superman costume. The muted blue was textured, the outer undies are gone and the red cape and boots are muted but not as much as the Superman Returns costume.

Why the trend in muted colors? I think in the name of realism these muted colors make our heroes look less cartoon and animated like than  their previous live action predecessors. Don’t get me wrong, I do like these new costumes and their colors. My question is, is this trend permanent or will brighter colored costumes make a return on the big and small screen? My thought is that Hollywood runs in cycles and someday I think we will see a return to brighter colors although I do think we will still see modern designs. I don’t think we will see an exact copy of the Christopher Reeve costume again, although the brighter colored costumes may return.

Maybe the larger question is will we see Superman with outer undies once again?

 

The Dark Knight Rises: My Review

Thanks to my lovely daughter sending me my Christmas present early, I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises. After Superman, Batman is my second favorite superhero. I will stick to the review of the movie and at a later date, sometime next week, I will examine the entire franchise. This movie does end the trilogy that began with 2005’s Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan has gone on record to say that there will not be a fourth installment of the Batman series in what fans call the Nolan Universe. I have heard mixed reports of whether or not Christian Bale would ever play Batman again.

Here is my synopsis of the movie: The movie takes place eight years after the events in The Dark Knight. Gotham has Harvey Dent Day on the anniversary of his death and has also passed the Dent Act which has rid Gotham of organized crime. Bruce Wayne has become a recluse and walks with a cane as his body has taken too many beatings as Batman. But a storm is coming to Gotham in the name of Bane, a masked hulk of a man who is coming to finish the job the League of Shadows was trying to accomplish in the first movie. Helping Bane at first is Slena Kyle a cat burgler who steals Bruce Wayne’s finger prints and tries to sell them off in exchange for a computer device that will wipe out her criminal record.

There is also a cop, a former orphan, Tim Drake, that has figured out Batman’s secret identity and tries to enlist Batman to return to Gotham. Soon Bane strikes and takes hostages from the Gotham Stock Exchange where Wayne’s stolen finger prints are used to steal money. This forces Batman to come out of retierment and he helps Selena Kyle get away from the criminals who are now turning on her. In exchange for the “clean slate” device Batman convinces Selena to bring him to Bane. When Selena brings Batman to Bane we discover that Bane knows who Batman is and begins to brutally beat up Batman in front of Selena. Bane breaks Batman’s back and dumps him in a hellish prison somewhere in the world. Meanwhile, as the police have discovered his location in the sewers, over 3,000 police officers come to capture him. This is all part of Bane’s plan as he explodes bombs all round the city and beneath the football stadium, trapping the police beneath the surface. Also, Bane has destroyed all but one bridge leading into the city and releases all prisoners and therefore holds the entire city hostage.

There is also a side story of Bruce Wayne and Miranda Tate. She becomes a love interest of Wayne and then a board member of Wayne Enterpise and encourages Bruce to get back into life. Alfred, disagrees with Bruce returning as Batman and feels that it will lead to his death and quits his service and leaves.

The Prison Bruce Wayne is dumped in is at the bottom of a giant Well-like structure and the only means of escape is to walk the narrow walk way on the sides. The problem is that there is a large gap in the walk way and no one has been successful in leaping across the gap to freedom. The only person to make the jump successfully was a small child born into the prison. Bruce Wayne is lead to believe this was Bane. His back is fixed by a prison doctor and with Bane feeding the Prison with the TV images of what is happening in Gotham, this motivates Bruce who begins to train to get himself back in physical shape. Within 5 months he makes the successful jump to get out of prison.

Bane captures a fusion reactor build by the Wayne foundation to give the city clean renewable energy and he has turned it into a nuclear bomb. In a massive show down Batman defeats Bane and with the help of Selena Kyle and Comissioner Gordon, Batman finds the bomb in the nick of time and carriesd it out to sea for detonation.

I hope that synopsis wasn’t too long winded! The movie it just under three hours and I did leave some elements out. I don’t want to spoil it yet for some friends I know who have not watched the movie. I want to still leave some surprises.

I have said in the past that I had mixed feeling about the Dark Knight and felt that it wasn’t as good as Batman Begins. Well, this movie had many references to the first movie and in many ways had a similar tone to that film and for that reason I did like it a great deal. I was on the edge of my couch and filled with excitment and anticipation while watching the events of this film unfold. This was a very thrilling movie. It was also not as dark as the Dark Knight. While the movie is serious in tone there are a few lighter moments in the film. It did bring back some fun into the franchise.

When Anne Hathaway was cast as Selena Kyle many fans though that this was a fatal flaw, a fatal mistake. I too, questioned this choice. Up until then Hathaway had only been known for playing sweet and more innocent characters. Wow!! How wrong I was to doubt the choice! Hathaway was excellent as Selena Kile. She exhibits quite a range from innoncence, grief to cold indifference. Although technically a villain, Selena is also supposed to be a sympathetic character, which can be a fine line for an actor to walk and Hathaway accomplishes this task with skill and finess. Although she is never called catwoman in the movie she is reffered to as a cat burglar a couple of times. However, make no mistake about it she IS Catwoman and when she is dressed up in her cat burglar outfit there is no doubt who she is. I have to say of all the women to have played the role she is by far the best.

Tom Hardy does an excellent job as Bane. He is not as leathal or as crazy as the Joker but he a formidable opponent. His physical presence and brute force make him greatly intimidating. His mask doesn’t make it too difficult to unsderstand him. There are times in the movie, and this has been my problem throughout the series, when it is difficult to understand what a charcter has said and although is is better in this movie that has been a complaint of mind for the entire series.

I will close this review by stating that Batman Begins is my favorite of the series followed cloesly by the Dark Knight Rises. In a week I will explain why. 🙂 Here are some simple pros and cons.

Pros: It is an exciting action adventure movie. The sets and costumes are done very well and the acting is excellent all around. The story is gripping and suspenseful. The length of the movie, 2 hours and 46 minutes, did not bother me. The movie is nicely paced an movies along with no lagging parts.

Cons: Nolan’s movies sometimes are complex and confusing with the plot. There are times when I am not clear who is who and what is happening and why. For example, after stealing Bruce Wayne’s finger prints (and pearl necklace) Selena disappears with a Congressman after the party. But it really isn’t clear where they are going, why the Congressman has disappeared and just who is it she is selling the finger prints to? Some of these issues are made more clear as the movie progresses, but there are some threads of the film that seem to just dangle in the wind.

I left out the ending and the controversy that surrounds it and will leave it to my review of the entire franchise. All in all I really liked the movie a great deal and I am very happy with it.

Can Robin be done successfully in a Batman movie?

This picture was something I found on a message board. I do not know who made the picture or who the kid is playing Robin along side Christian Bale’s version of Batman. But I love it!!

I actually liked Chris Donnell’s take on Robin in Batman Forever. I liked the costume and his rebelliousness and the fact that Bruce Wayne/Batman was reluctant to take on a partner and that they had clashes. I am pretty certain Robin will not be in the new Nolan movie but I was thinking when they eventually reboot Batman again should they include Robin? Or is his character out of date and just doesn’t work anymore? I personally do not think so, and I hope some day we will see a pairing of Batman & Robin on the big screen.

It is too bad that the next Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, will be the last for Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale et al. I really wanted to see Robin in this creation of Batman. I think the realism that Nolan was going for would have been a good place to examine the Bruce Wayne/ Batman and Dick Grayson/Robin relationships. It could have provided good drama and good character development. With the death of Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight Bruce only has Alfred as family. It would have been interesting to see how Bruce/Batman would have changed by having Robin in his life. At one point the Batman comics even had a female Robin, Stephanie Brown, so thinking outside the box and having a female Robin would be an interesting direction to go. 

Robin was developed as a character in the Batman comic in 1940 to attract younger readers. Even as a young lad myself I could relate to Robin more than Batman. As an adult I think having Robin as an on screen character in a feature film could help today’s youth find someone they can connect with just as other youths have done in the past.