Comic Book Movies: Same IP; Different Media #movie #MCU #DCEU

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I ran into this meme on Facebook, and it triggered a long-held thought that I suspect is still relevant today.

Constantine
Constantine (if you know the source of this meme, please let me know so I can give proper credit)

This refers to the movie Constantine, which I love. Its Rotten Tomatoes scores are typical of the divide between film credits and the audience. The last panel in the meme is what grabbed me. It references the fact that comics and movies are different media, and so they should play out differently. That appears to be something many (not necessarily most) comic book fans can’t grasp. Even when they accept, for example, the death of Thanos, they immediately start spreading theories as to how he could return in future movies. That attitude is still prevalent, and as much as I loved Thanos, I don’t get why.

This issue goes back a long way for me. I remember my cousin, and avid comic book collector, not liking that the Joker died in Michael Keaton’s first Batman movie (1989). In part, he saw it as a waste of a character that could be put to good use later. (His views may have changed, but others still make this argument.) The thing is, the Joker is not a character that they should have used again, precisely because it’s a movie.

It’s necessary for villains to survive in the comics. There are only so many ideas for villains, and with comic story lines having to last decades, killing off villains would create a shortage of adversaries for your stories. The only way to fix that would be to have another person take up that villain’s mantle. Sometimes that works, but doing that too often would leave the reader with the notion that they’re effectively dealing with the same character, so the writers are (cheaply) trying to have it both ways. Hence, you instead put them in prison or Arkham Asylum, they escape, and then you start the cycle again.

Movies are different. Most audience members require definitive closure, with death providing the most dramatic end to a story. Because the MCU‘s “blistering” pace still produces only three movies per year, there are actually far too many interesting villains that will go unused if you’re going to reuse the ones you’ve already shown. By the time you genuinely need to reuse a villain (if ever), you’re probably rebooting the cinematic universe for a different generation of viewers anyway. Ergo, for movies, you can have the closure your audience craves without painting yourself into a corner. If that pisses off a small percentage of your core fans that are still going to watch your movies anyway, you have an acceptable outcome.

Go ahead. Kill the Joker.

EDIT: See my comment below.

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Ability Is Great, but Confidence Is Key #DCEU #MCU

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It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
— Mark Twain

Yesterday, I wrote about my re-watch of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. As soon as I finished, I re-watched Justice League because of course I did. My favorite scene from Justice League was the fight between Superman and the others, and within that scene, I loved where the Flash entered the speed force (his element), Superman was ready for it, Superman cast off the other members with ease, and then beat up the Flash before the other three even hit the ground. Once and for all, it established Superman as a badass. A badass with the exploitable weakness of his concern for others, but nevertheless a badass.

What struck me about that scene within the scene is that Superman won on Flash’s home turf. He shouldn’t have, but yet he did. Superman won because he was confident, and the Flash was an insecure kid who had never been in a fight before he teamed up with Batman, et al. (which didn’t go so well for him). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a superhero movie address this theme.

Also, within Justice League, Victor Stone had to take control back from the machine that infected him, and he couldn’t do that while it still intimidated him. There are quite a few examples. On the flip side, Arthur Curry was far too arrogant when he agreed to face his half-brother, King Orm, in the Combat of the Kings (Aquaman). Arrogance can be just as damaging as meekness. You need to strike a balance between the two to realize your full potential, but the point is that attitude certainly matters and always will.

I hope Flash won the race from the mid-credit scene, but he probably spent too much time looking at Superman to see who was currently winning, which always slows you down. Meekness. 😦

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Long Movie: Batman v. Superman Ultimate Edition #movie #Superman #Batman #DCEU

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I liked Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but because it currently has a 62% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I can’t say it’s a Guilty Pleasure. I do hear a lot of hate from my social media connections, though, and many of them have told me that they actually liked the Ultimate Edition because of the additional information it provides. (One suggested that the same thing could be said about the Watchman Extended Cut.) I agree that the additional scenes improve BvS, but that raised a question for me: Why not keep them in the cinematic release?

The Ultimate Edition is 3 hours and 3 minutes long (including credits). I’ve seen 3-hour movies in the theater, so if the scenes are already filmed and modified in post production (i.e., paid for), why waste them? Give people their money’s worth, improve the movie, and your reviews will be better. I can think of three responses to my question.

Response 1: You want some deleted scenes to make the home release more enticing.
Counterpoint: If people don’t like your movie, nothing will entice them to buy your home releases.

Response 2: I’m operating from hindsight. There was no way to know that the deleted scenes would have improved the movie.
Counterpoint: Does anyone really think that the test audiences didn’t like the deleted scenes? They made the movie much better. Aren’t filmmakers professionals? Why can’t they figure out how to use test audiences to get the right result, especially for movies with such huge budgets?

Response 3: Three hour (or more) movies are too long.
Counterpoint: Bring back the intermission so that people with short attention spans and weak bladders can handle it. Oh, snap!

Who’s got a response #4? I’ll defeat that one too.

I can’t believe they cut Jon Stewart. At this point, I suspect that cutting scenes is simply a strange sort of tradition among filmmakers. 

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Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part IV @ZacharyLevi @ponysmasher @martamilans @smugorange @realamberheard @thedcuniverse #movie #Shazam #Aquaman

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I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Aquaman

Having seen all of these movies again, the intro to DC movies is beginning to annoy me. It shows all of these heroes, but we haven’t seen most of them, and we haven’t seen the reboot for others. Get moving, DC.

Why would Atlanta choke on water? On another note, it’s a good thing they didn’t name her Detroit. That’d be weird.

I’m not surprised that Atlanta could kick Jango Fett’s ass.

The second it’s clear that Arthur could speak to fish and his eyes turned yellow, the FBI would be called.

Kill those Ruskies! No, wait. They’re not the bad guys.

All my knowledge of Aquaman comes from the cheesy, 70s Super Friends cartoon. I never thought of him as bulletproof. Not that it’s a high bar, but I like this interpretation better.

Well what do you know? Aquaman kills too.

If you let the water fill up, it’ll be easier to lift the bar off of him. I thought you were a pirate.

Sharks or seahorses? Sharks or seahorses? Who the hell would pick seahorses? These sea dudes seem to be able to swim faster than their mounts anyway, so the only reason to have a mount is because it looks badass.

Now we know why Ivan Drago could punch so hard. Steroids had nothing to do with it.

I thought they made a good choice with the special effects. The director was considering bubbles coming out of their mouths as they spoke. That would have looked dumb. This is much better.

I’ve already written about the bar scene.

“We already have an Atlantean living among us, and his name is Aquaman.” That’s such a good point that I find it hard to believe anyone doesn’t already believe in Atlantis.

Technology aside, Arthur got his ass kicked in a fist fight. That was disappointing to see.

“King Orm Marius v. Half Breed.” Love that.

King Orm choked on water too. What’s up with that? Do salamanders choke when they come out of the water?

“I think I’m gonna need a bigger helmet.” Hmmmm. That sounds familiar.

“Look, Fight Club.” I doubt she gets the reference.

“. . . she’s a mystery to me . . . .” Great choice of music.

Pinocchio? That’s a hell of a coincidence.

It would have sucked if that fragile bottle had somehow been damaged.

He certainly got a bigger helmet.

During the chase of Mera, the music sounded like something out of Super Mario Bros.

Okay, so his head’s in a toilet. How long will that work? Eventually, he’s going to have to find a more permanent solution.

I’m glad Black Manta survived. I’m not sure how he survived, but I’m glad he did. He’s a good villain, but he wasn’t the primary villain of this movie. He needs a little more than one fight as Black Manta before he’s toast, probably as a member of the teased Legion of Doom. He did look like a bug, though. I hate bugs.

Orange and green isn’t a good look, but I’m glad they stuck with it. Let’s just hope that they use more subdued shades going forward.

I always love me a big, climactic battle.

I still don’t like when leaders are chosen by birthright or combat. I’m not sure a magical trident is a better method.

Well, Atlanta hasn’t aged a day. Can’t say the same for Thomas Curry.

Shazam!

This is my favorite DC movie and certainly in my top five for comic book movies. And I love comic book movies.

As I’ve written, Shazam! occupies the same space in the DCEU as Guardians of the Galaxy occupies in the MCU (especially GotG2), but not just because they place the greatest emphasize on humor within their respective cinematic universes. They both deal with a dynamic not often addressed: the foster family. That is, not a family by blood or choice, but one that’s forced upon you by the system or circumstance. Sure, there’s some choice involved, but not nearly as much. Moreover, both Billy Batson and Peter Quill have an idealized view of what family is, and neither becomes whole until they have that naive view painfully shattered. I wasn’t raised in a foster home, but in a significant way, I can relate. This is clearly why I love these particular movies.

I don’t think that was a fair test. How would this kid know that he wasn’t supposed to grab the eye? How does he know which ones are good? He’s a bit young to make that decision on the fly. In hindsight, we know that Sivana was a bad guy because the script says so, but the scene didn’t do a good job of showing that.

Those are some dumb cops.

You can’t just walk away from a kid because he gets lost. The law will find you, especially if you don’t bother to move out of the city.

I love Victor and Rosa, but I talked about that here. Rosa is played by Marta Milans, who’s in White Lines on Netflix. If you like her here, you can watch more of her there. I just started it. Also on Netflix is the AMC series, Halt and Catch Fire. That’s a great show in which Cooper Andrews (Victor) can be seen in a supporting role.

I loved Mark Strong’s villain in Green Lantern, and I love him here.

Everyone has bad stuff in their upbringings, but not everyone goes bad. This movie had me revisiting the question of where the line is drawn between “he couldn’t help it” and “stop whining and behave yourself.”

Freddy didn’t eat any of his lunch. He just threw out the entire tray. Not wasting food is an obsession with me. It’s not a good thing — makes weight loss tough — but it seems selfish.

Hitting the disabled with your car could get you arrested. Beating them up after the fact won’t make things better.

I never understood the icing up of the windows when a potential champion was summoned, but it was a cool effect. (I’m aware that there doesn’t have to be a reason.)

Shazam is settling for Billy. He really doesn’t have a choice but couldn’t properly test him even if he did. He got lucky with Billy.

I love the set up for Black Adam. We really need to see that movie.

Zachary Levi did an incredible job of portraying a kid suddenly placed in an adult’s body, starting with hitting his head on the way out of the subway car. He’s delightfully awkward.

“Stupid adult hands!”
“Superpowers? Dude, I don’t even know how to pee in this thing.”

Um, considering the first statement, it’s a good thing the second statement is true.

The failed mugging gives us our first glimpse into how flawed the characters are. They literally stole $73 from the mugging “victim.”

Shazam’s outfit is gaudy, but those shoes are ridiculous.

Bullets don’t just drop to the ground. They ricochet. Not very smart.

Again, acting like a kid. They can’t stand the taste of beer. I relate to this as well.

The major theme of the movie, care of Cooper Andrews: “It’s not home until you call it home. It’s something you choose.”

Some criticized the scene in the boardroom for being too brutal, but it had to be. The movie swung the pendulum towards comedy, but it’s still an action-oriented comic book movie. We occasionally needed to be reminded of the stakes. This scene did that for us, and as a result, none of the subsequent scenes had to be this rough.

I wish he had said, “Dude, where’s my car?”

Another example of how flawed they are: They stole hundreds from an ATM. Then after the Realtor scene, Freddy shows how selfish he is. He understands the rules of being a superhero, and he breaks them just to look cool. All of this is normal for kids, but it’s still problematic within the script (he could get his foster family killed), and good in the real world. We don’t get to see these characters grow unless they need to.

Eye of the Tiger is the perfect choice for the “lightning from my hands” scene. It takes place on the “Rocky steps.”

So Billy places the bus in danger, but we can still say does a good thing saving the passengers. After doing so, his first thought is, “Look what I did!” That’s not heroic.

A little physics lesson for you. It’s not the fall that kills you; it’s the sudden stop at the bottom. Catching the bus would still cause everyone almost exactly as much harm as letting it hit the ground. I know these movies have to defy science, but this one is an easy fix.

In the first fight with Sivana, we see another example of Billy’s childishness. We know from the script that Billy’s more powerful than Sivana, yet he’s still gets his ass kicked. On average, kids by far lack the confidence of adults. That’s why he loses. Good writing and acting.

The reference to Big is awesome.

Victor and Rosa (the stepparents) do a great job of “good cop, bad cop” when taking care of Billy.

She really is a good sister. 🙂

I wish I had learned at 14 what Billy learned in his reunion with his biological mother.

Billy transforming into Captain Marvel while jumping off the building is probably the best shot in the movie.

“If a superhero can’t save his family, he’s not much of a superhero.” Yep, that’s the catch phrase, and it also shows the Billy is finally emotionally whole. Giving the scared girl the tiger doll was a nice callback to his first scene.

“Billy!” 🙂

And now we have a bunch of kids put into adult bodies. I still love Darla trying to convince the fake Santa that she’s been really good this year. But again, it’s not the fall that kills you, but the sudden stop at the bottom.

Everyone’s cheering except the girl with the tiger doll. She’s still a little concerned.

“What’s a lair?”

The ending scene in the cafeteria is great. I wish Cavil could have done it.

Did I mention that I love this movie?

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Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part III @GalGadot @modernwest @HarryJLennix @BenAffleck @realamberheard @thedcuniverse #BirdsOfPrey #JusticeLeague #movie

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Birds of Prey

I had to rent this movie to stream it. Worth it.

That’s not quite the saying, but close enough.

Hyenas are cute. From a distance.

There isn’t a single major character in this movie that isn’t seriously damaged.

You couldn’t pay me enough money to eat that breakfast sandwich.

That’s a bold enough fashion statement even without being involved in a chase.

As always, physics takes a back seat to drama, but this movie doesn’t even bother to justify it with magic, or alien metal, or anything that makes it easy for me to ignore.

The back and forth through the timeline can be hard to follow, but this movie pulled it off.

“Other pocket.” 🙂

Baseball bats and knees don’t go well together. Nor do beards and lighters.

I saw this in the theater with my friend, Erik, and we were the only two in there. At the moment Harley looks into the camera, Erik and I both spontaneously laughed out loud. Sorry, Deadpool, but that’s how you break the fourth wall. Once. Voice overs are fine, but make the break count so it has an impact.

 

Go to 0:40.

Hyenas are feliforms. She should have fed Bruce cat food. 🙂

I love when popular songs are reimagined; in this case, Hit Me with Your Best Shot. And sometimes, using the original works really well too.

A fitting death for Black Mask. Not just in the sense that he deserved it, but also because it was sufficiently hideous considering the tone of the movie.

I enjoyed this movie, but only as a comedy, and I liked the directing. As an action movie, though, it was substandard, and sometimes the characters overacted. Basically, it wasn’t as good as I remembered it, which means — as always — I’m probably overthinking things. This isn’t the kind of movie where you should do that.

Justice League

Believe it or not, this isn’t a guilty pleasure. The audience score is 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you’re one of the squeaky wheels that didn’t like this movie, you’re with the critics. That’s not necessarily a bad place to be.

Based on the explosion, that bomb wouldn’t have blown up 4 city blocks.

I can think of several reasons to be pissed at being turned into a cyborg, but the ability to fly isn’t one of them. Nor is the ability to access whatever information I want.

I really didn’t think an arrow would stop Steppenwolf. Why did they? Well, I know the answer. It made for a great fight scene.

“Keep it moving!” Where to? You’re on an island and on horseback. He can go anywhere you can.

I want more Green Lantern. I hope he’s in the Snyder Cut.

“I need . . . friends.” Yet, the Flash is the only member of the Justice League that isn’t constantly brooding.

Bug spray. I hate bugs, too.

Wasn’t Superman in a suit? Where’d his shirt and shoes go? And why hasn’t anyone cleaned up the rubble from the monument yet?

CGI mustache-free lip aside, the fight scene between Superman and the Justice League was great. It established Superman as a bad ass. I especially loved that he threw everyone off, and before they could hit the ground, beat the Flash at his own game. The look on the Flash’s face when he realizes what’s going to happen is priceless.

The cop pointing a gun at Superman is a dipshit.

Again, Diane Lane is the best Martha Kent.

 

Once again, the physics of comics make no sense. If Superman were holding an apartment building like that, he’d produce a tremendous amount of pressure at a single point that would cause the building to split. I know, I know; I thought it was a cool visual and good joke too.

The only reason to keep the main villain alive at the end of a movie is so that he can be a threat in a sequel. My understanding is that Justice League 2 was supposed to start with Darkseid killing Steppenwolf because of his failure. That makes keeping Steppenwolf alive even dumber. There should have been resolution . . . and a threat of what was to come.

As an attorney that was working with REO properties (think foreclosure) at the time I saw this movie, I thought, “Why would Bruce Wayne buy the bank. Just buy Martha Kent’s house at auction (or by simple contract if it was currently REO). My friend, Erik, pointed out, “Because buying his way out of trouble is Bruce Wayne’s solution to everything. It’s just what he does.” Good point.

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Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part II @GalGadot @modernwest @HarryJLennix @BenAffleck @joelkinnaman @JaredLeto @thedcuniverse #Batman #Superman #SuicideSquad #movie

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Like everyone else, I was happy we didn’t get yet another Batman origin story. Handling through the credits was a great idea. I loved the music as well.

Around the time this movie was released. there was a video showing the fight scenes between Superman and Zod in both Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice. It showed that both of those scenes were synchronized precisely. I can’t find the video anywhere. All I could find was a 2-second clip. I love that attention to detail.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.

A real Superman would exacerbate the already massive polarization in America on both political and religious grounds. Considering it was a side story, the movie did a good job of capturing that tension.

Superman isn’t the only one that kills. Batman kills people. A lot of people. That pisses off people. A lot of people. (Not I. It’s an action movie.)

Did Soledad O’Brien die in the explosion? She must have. Pat Lahey definitely did.

“It did on my world. My world doesn’t exist anymore.” Foreshadowing for a moment I love in this movie when Superman realizes something important.

Okay, I agree. Martha?

How exactly would Lex Luthor be able to control Doomsday if it had killed Superman? The first thing it tried to do was punch Luthor. It failed but would have destroyed the entire world after defeating Superman.

Doomsday at the top of LexCorp tower facing off with Apache choppers reminded me of the finale of King Kong (1976).

“This is my world. You are my world.” This is where Superman realizes something important. The musical piece, This Is My World, captures the scene perfectly.

Lex Luthor isn’t really bald if they simply shaved his head.

Suicide Squad

Solid star power.

In creating the team, they created the threat. That’s a bit odd.

I’m a fan of Adam Beach and was pissed he got only a few words of dialogue and not much of a role. But hey; no small parts, right? At least he served a purpose.

Like several movies in the MCU, I always find myself asking, “What are all the other heroes doing while the world is being threatened?” Then I stop overthinking it.

I hate to be an asshole, but Cara Delevingne really sucks.

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Travelling Through the #DCEU, Part I @GalGadot @russellcrowe @modernwest @HarryJLennix #WonderWoman #Superman #ManOfSteel #movie

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

I really liked the DCEU, so I’ve decided to rewatch all of the DCEU movies in chronological order as I once did with the MCU. Doing so isn’t as important because the DCEU movies aren’t nearly as dependent on each other, but it’s something to do. 🙂 The order of the movies is Wonder Woman, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Justice League, Aquaman, and Shazam!

Wonder Woman

This was a fun movie. Huge stakes, lots of action, and just the right amount of humor strike a proper balance between serious and campy. I liked the way they presented the effects of the Lasso of Hestia on Steve Trevor. Its effect on Aquaman was funnier, of course, but as he wasn’t resisting it, his experience wasn’t strictly inconsistent with Steve Trevor’s.

The premise of the Amazons is flawed. They make a huge deal out of the fact that once Ares is killed, everyone will go back to loving each other. If they only knew that World War II was on the horizon, not to mention everything else that happened after that. Things actually got worse. I wonder (pun intended) whether that will be addressed in the sequel.

I love David Thewlis, but he was miscast here. He’s too old even in the flashback scenes where they use CGI to de-age him. I would have preferred a younger actor.

I like that Diana starts as hopelessly naive. It gives her room to grow, but because of her superpowers, she can sometimes get away with it (e.g., crossing “No man’s land,” which was my favorite scene and music in the movie).

So much for Steve Trevor not wanting to sleep with a woman before marriage.

Diana uses a lot of Capoeira.

For a second, I thought Sameer was going to suggest. “Get help.” 🙂

As to my point above, Steve Trevor and Ares both try to explain away Ares’ responsibility for human evil, but then SPOILER ALERT Diana kills Ares. Was Trevor mistaken? Was Ares lying? Nope. Things continued to get worse after World War I.

All of the telekinesis in the first part of the fight against Ares reminds me of Luke’s first battle against Vader in the Empire Strikes Back. Ares’ creation of swords on the fly reminds me of Hela in Thor: Ragnarok.

I hope they come up with a really good explanation for Steve Trevor’s return in Wonder Woman 1984. Otherwise, it’ll cheapen his moving death scene in this movie. I know that characters always come back to life in comics, but this is a different medium. Death should be final. Otherwise, there are no stakes, and thus no drama.

Wonder Woman 1984

Dammit! I wish I could watch this now.

Man of Steel

I’m a HUGE fan of this soundtrack.

At times, the opening sequence reminds me of the Matrix, Avatar, and Apocalypse Now.

Heresy
noun
Belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine.

It’s heresy to have babies naturally?

Henry Cavill is my favorite Superman. Deal with it. And Diane Lane is my favorite Martha Kent.

I always found weird the theory that Aquaman saved Superman after the oil rig explosion. A natural, terrestrial threat could kill Superman? I have enough trouble accepting that he was knocked unconscious by it, but okay. Drama.

The most heroic thing about Clark Kent that’s obtainable by all of us is a complete lack of pride.

Everyone argues. It doesn’t mean you don’t love each other. If the last thing you say to someone you love is harsh, don’t beat yourself up over it. They understood. Wouldn’t you?

Kevin Costner’s sacrifice was far better than Glen Ford’s heart attack.

I love how Coburn Goss portrays a priest thinking, “Oh, shit!” but somehow keeping his composure.

So Kryptonians are ultra-sensitive to different atmospheres but totally cool with the vacuum of space?

The amount of destruction in this movie is horrifying. It makes sense considering who’s fighting whom, but how could you rebuild that?

It’s so funny to me that this is the same Michael Shannon from Knives Out. Great actor.

“106 Days without an accident.” Oops. The 1 and 6 just got knocked off. Hell of a joke to put in such a scene.

Wait. Why remove your armor, Zod?

Oooooooh, there goes Wayne Tower.

Superman kills! The direction in which he broke Zod’s neck should have killed the people anyway.

“Welcome to the planet.”

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Guilty Pleasure: Green Lantern @VancityReynolds @TaikaWaititi #movie #GuiltyPleasure #QuarantineLife

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First off:

Yeah, I know. With Rotten Tomatoes scores of 26 from the critics (who mean nothing to me) and 45 from the audience, Green Lantern isn’t exactly well-loved, but if it were, it wouldn’t be a guilty pleasure. You chose to read this post. You’re committed to hearing me praise a movie you can’t stand.

Let’s start with the easy part: Ryan Reynolds is always great. You all love his sarcasm in Deadpool, and he delivers it here in spades. It’s a typical Ryan Reynolds performance, and if you can’t get behind that, you’re truly lost. As for the rest of the cast, I know of at least three Oscar winners (Tim Robbins, Geoffrey Rush, and Taika Watiti) and one nominee (Angela Bassett) in there. They didn’t win Oscars for this movie, but it’s a good cast.

Moving on, one of the dead horses I love to beat is that I’ve never really read comics, but there’s a method to that madness. I have an exceptional, long-term memory, and I read a few comics in childhood, so I have some idea of comics lore. However, I have no loyalty to their story lines. If Parallax is nothing like what he was in the comics, I wouldn’t know and don’t care. This isn’t a defense of Parallax — I thought he was rather goofy — but rather a means to help you understand why I hold the positions I do on this and other Guilty Pleasure posts. Ergo, many of the reasons you may have for hating this movie have no relevance to me.

Next, Sinestro. Whether we’re talking about the actor (Marc Strong) or the character, this movie was the set up for a sequel that would rival the Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan or Aliens. Whereas the first movie is always about the protagonists, the second movie is always about the villains. I know of no comic villains with a more tragic fall than Sinestro. He was made quite sympathetic and demonstrated a dedicated campaign against the fear to which he eventually succumbed. This made his fall from grace all the greater. Again, I don’t know many comic book back stories, but a second movie with Mark Strong playing Sinestro as the villain could have been incredible.

Then there’s Taika Waititi. He really sucked in this 🙂 , but considering who he’s become, this is a great look back at his beginnings. Sure, that’s not a reason to like the movie, but I consider it bonus points. He’s turned into something special and won an Oscar for his efforts elsewhere.

Finally, the music. Music is my favorite art form, and when I really like the music, it can often carry the movie. The music is overall rather weak in this movie, but there are a couple of pieces that are on one of my playlists. Here’s a short example that I thought captured the scene well:

The music starts at 0:54, but you may need the entire clip to appreciate my point.

All of this is enough for me to watch this movie occasionally despite some poor dialogue and overacting. I’m doing so as I write this.

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power–Green Lantern’s light!

If you’re interested, it’s streaming on HBO Now.  

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No Small Parts: The Biker in #Aquaman #DCEU #NoSmallParts @DCComics

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The DCEU is dark. In Man of Steel, Superman lost his mother and father before he knew them, and then lost his adoptive father just after reminding him he wasn’t his real father. Bruce Wayne famously lost both his parents, and that loss created the Batman. Wonder Woman couldn’t move forward without turning her back on her family, and by the end of the movie, she lost her one true love. The DCEU likes to kill heroes’ families.

The DCEU has taken some heat for how dark its tone is. The argument I’ve heard the most is that Marvel has always been upbeat, and Marvel is a success, so that must be the path to success. I think that’s a strange line of thought. First, there can be more than one path to success, and plenty of dark movies have enjoyed success. Second, the DCEU had to take its own path. If it had mimicked Marvel, it would have inspired just as many detractors who would have criticized a lack of originality. (My suspicion is that many of those detractors would have been the same people, but we’ll never know.) Whether you agree or disagree, my bottom line is that I’m glad it forged its own path, and I’ve enjoyed all the DCEU movies.

The Light in the Darkness

Moving to Aquaman, Jason Momoa played a brooding, reluctant hero who avoided connection at all costs due to his half-breed status and the loss of his mother. This is right in line with the darkness that I’ve enjoyed. That said, too much of even a good thing can be bad. We needed a break, and not just a scene or two. We needed hope, and not just an alien letter on a shirt. We needed to see Aquaman connect in a big way, and reuniting with his long, lost mother was just that. But that could have felt forced if not for the hints we had that deep down inside he sought that connection. Besides his scenes with his father, that started with the bar scene.

Go to 2:02 for the bar scene.

Granted, the build up within that scene was a bit overacted (which appears to be solely the script’s fault), but it redeemed itself by quickly shifting to comedy and lightheartedness. The actor portraying “Biker” is Luke Owen. Finding his information has proven difficult, so I can’t point to anything else he’s done or even copy him on this post. But as I’ve stated in my first and second “No Small Parts” posts, the scene and Mr. Owen’s part were important. They started the build up to the much-needed light in the darkness of the DCEU.

I leave you with a great song from the soundtrack.

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#Shazam v. Guardians of the Galaxy @ponysmasher @martamilans @smugorange @russburlingame @comicbook @BrandonDavisBD @janellwheeler @tylacinee @SunSoar25 @ZacharyLevi @karengillan #GotG #mcu #decu

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On April Fool’s Day, I enjoyed yet another quarantine watch party. This one was for Shazam, which I love. We were joined by the director, David Sandberg, and the actors that played Billy’s foster parents, Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews. The party was hosted by Brandon Davis of Comicbook.com, and Russ Burlingame joined in as well. We may have been joined by some other people involved in the film, but I wouldn’t know. I was clearly confused. For a moment I though Russ was the producer or something. Awkward.

Anyway, comic book movies are well-loved, but it seems most people love them solely for their action and fantasy elements. I feel that they don’t get the respect they deserve for the acting and screenwriting, which at times is top notch. After all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) and DC Extended Universe (“DCEU”) have a few former Oscar winners in them. There are several themes that came up in our collective commentary that I wanted to discuss, some of which are shared with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Shazam occupies the same space in the DCEU as GotG. When I initially made that observation, my thoughts were narrow. I was referring to the fact that both were expected to lighten the mood of their respective cinematic universes by focusing a lot more on comedy than the others. All these movies have some comedic one-liners, and both Shazam and GotG were still very much action-oriented, but we all can see that the balance between those two genres were tipped a little further comedy for Shazam and GotG. But there were other reasons to make this connection that I didn’t initially appreciate.

Everyone Was Pretty Selfish

As with most stories, the primary characters in these films were flawed; to-wit: their motivations selfish. In GotG, Peter was a thief, Gamora was an assassin, Rocket and Groot were mercenaries, and Drax was motivated solely by hatred and loss. Each of those attitudes led to risks not only to their own well-beings, but to the well-beings of the entire galaxy. The same selfishness was common among the main characters in Shazam, and not just the villain. These flaws were normal for children their ages, and thus the stakes were initially lower, but when these kids were forced to deal with fantastic circumstances that don’t exist in the real world, they had no choice but to grow up quickly. It didn’t go so well. Billy stole from Freddy, and when they worked together, they willingly took $73 from the mugging “victim” knowing full well that Shazam was scaring her into handing over the money. They stole far more money from an ATM.

Eventually, Billy started to play the role of a hero, but only because his reckless behavior created the danger in the first place. Though he saved the day … well …

Billy’s still all about himself. Freddy had his own problems. He “understood this whole superhero thing” better than anyone, but he quickly broke his own rules.

Family Takes Many Forms

That second tweet isn’t strictly correct. The Vasquez family wasn’t an “adoptive” family; they were a foster family. That’s a slightly different dynamic. I’m not familiar with the details of the process, but in an adoptive family, at least the parents get to choose the children they adopt. In a foster family, that choice is made by the foster care system. Foster familes are forced on one another, and in GotG, that’s true as well. The Guardians were forced on one another by circumstance. This isn’t to say that freewill didn’t play any part; the Vasquez family chose to be a foster family to someone, and the Guardians could have split up as soon as they escaped prison (or at any other time). I’m just saying that there were far more severe limits placed on their respective choices, and that makes their coming together as a family more impressive.

And those families worked. By working together, the characters in desperate need of personal growth became better. They focused on more than just themselves. On the extreme end of the spectrum, Nebula’s realized relationship with Gamora, and then the other Guardians, led to her rhetoric shifting from “I’m killing Thanos because I hate him” to “I’m killing Thanos because he’s going to kill half the universe.” In a similar way, despite all the superpowers he had, Billy was still just a dopey kid who’s sense of family was an unattainable ideal, and like Starlord, that caused him initially to miss the family that was right in front of his face. Billy didn’t really evolve until he accepted his new family, and then he learned not only their importance, but everyone’s importance. The sense of family led to a sense of community.

The Stakes Were Still High

These are still action movies. The Guardians saved a planet from a villain who would eventually become a threat to the entire galaxy. That threat needed to be extreme in order to keep the movie from getting too lighthearted. Shazam was written to be even far more family-friendly, yet the boardroom scene was so dark that it received quite a bit of criticism. I don’t think that’s fair. A movie so lighthearted can cause the viewer to lose sight of the stakes. Doctor Sivana murdered several people, including his brother and father. Sound familiar, Ego? What about you, Thanos?

The Acting Was Solid

I won’t beat the dead horse any more than I must, but here’s a quick summary of my feelings on the actors of GotG. The actors in GotG represented the best acting ensemble in the MCU, and Karen Gillan’s performance was so good in the MCU and elsewhere (for example, no spoilers and spoilers) that I’m convinced that there’s an Oscar in her future if she’s given the right script. Similarly, the cast of Shazam! is probably my favorite ensemble from the DCEU. All the themes above required solid acting to pull off.

Zachary Levi did a fantastic job playing a kid in a man’s body. He had the same insecurities as any kid and tried to hide them by acting as a kid would assume an adult would act. Billy’s lack of a father figure added to the awkwardness, which Levi captured well. A lot of that is scriptwriting, but someone must act it out.

One thing that stood out to me was that Billy never showed a fear of the dark as Tom Hanks’s character in Big did.

This made sense because he had superpowers, but when he met Dr. Sivana, he had that moment of fear. Once he experienced Sivana’s superpowers and intimidating personality, that childish fear rose to the surface. He assumed (inaccurately) that his powers were no match for Sivana’s.

Later in the movie, Meagan Good had a similar but funny moment.

For context, she was an adult actress acting giddy around a guy playing Santa.

Marta and Cooper did a great job as foster parents, which was critical to advancing the main theme of the movie.

Perhaps they showed a little too much patience for Billy’s antics than they should in the real world, but this is a movie, so the script did what it had to do. The point is that foster parents should be patient, and that’s something to which I can relate. When push came to shove, they mixed the right amount of good cop/bad cop in how they dealt with Billy. That gave Billy the push he needed, leading to his catchphrase, “If a superhero can’t save his family, he’s not much of a hero.”

The child actors did a really good job as well. I don’t have much to say about them because they were kids playing kids, so nothing floored me there. However, having a script that takes advantage of a bunch of cute kids is always going to make some people happy.

Conclusion

I’ve never really read comics. I don’t know how faithful this movie was to the comics, and I understand that’s important to some of you, but I just don’t care. I’m taking this movie at face value, and I was impressed with both the acting and script. It was a lot of fun and may be my favorite DCEU film to date (though I really liked Wonder Woman too).

Postscript

There are some people included on my cc: that weren’t involved in the film and (to my knowledge) aren’t professional journalists. They were people that I “met” for the first time through this quarantine watch party, and they’re as important to it as the celebrities. It was a lot of fun. You may want to join us sometime.

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