The Superman Problem

Late last week a few stories broke about DC not being entirely sure how to use Superman in their films. It’s a revelation that will shock very few, considering they’ve not touched the man of steel since Batman V Superman and Justice League where he was mishandled and used in odd ways. I think DC have been making some good moves lately, but their handling of Superman has shown they don’t understand what they have with the character. 

The character that started the Superhero film genre in the 70’s couldn’t catch a break in the 2010’s and has nothing planned for the 2020’s. Henry Cavill looks the part, and even acts the part superbly, but DC seem hesitant to go forward with anything involving the Kryptonian.

The age-old problem people immediately put forward with Superman is that he’s impervious to everything except a green rock, which is true, he is overpowered. That does not make it hard for him to be compelling though. One of the most interesting aspects of the character for me is not that he’s a godlike figure, but that he struggles to fit in anywhere.

He knows he doesn’t fit in with the people around him, but he’s grown up as one of them and lives among them. He loves a human woman, he has human friends, a normal job, and in all three of those situations he feels uncomfortable. If DC need a little bit of inspiration, they should watch Kill Bill 2, where Bill talks about superman.

“When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent”

Man, of Steel did not take this angle, it made superman a reluctant hero who then had to step up into the role. To me, being Superman was always the easy part for the character. Saving people from falling buildings, punching villains, all that jazz is the easy part. The hard part is maintaining his Clark Kent persona. Diving into that side of him is a tough choice though, because it’s the part that doesn’t involve him being a superhero.

From that angle, the challenge with Superman isn’t making him compelling or relevant to audiences but making that fit into a modern superhero film. The action set pieces need agency and stakes, and there is only really two ways to do that with superman. Green rocks or kidnapping the ones he cares about. Of course, we have seen both ideas executed before.

Batman V Superman had the ingredients of a good superman story, the problem with that film stem from the over eagerness of the studio to cram in everyone and catch up to Marvel. They had an interesting Lex Luthor, but he was only a bit part character because they had to get to Batman, and cover Wonder Woman, and bring in doomsday to eventually kill superman. All in one film. It was too much and went beyond ambition into the realms of stupidity. Also, Batman might well kill people, but he’s not got much previous with just annihilating people with rockets and machine guns.

In Lex Luthor, we have an influential billionaire who people can easily find things to hate about. His power is his influence, and to me the dynamic between him and superman could potentially rival the Batman/Joker situation. The Superman film I want to see is Superman struggling with being a human whilst finding stopping super-villains a piece of cake. Then he should deal with facing a real human problem like having his reputation dragged and false stories leaked about him, an enemy he can’t punch or throw around to defeat.

Give Superman a problem that Clark Kent must deal with, then you force him into a position he’s uncomfortable in, and that makes for great drama. DC trying to fit Superman into the universe they have with Wonder Woman and Aquaman probably won’t work this way, as they need him to be even more powerful than those two, who at this point are gods. Maybe they should take a leaf out of the Joker book and make a standalone Superman story that isn’t connected to the rest of the DC Films.

I hope they don’t just bench the character and focus on everything else. I am not even the biggest Superman fan, but the character demands respect, as without his films in the 70s, we wouldn’t have any of these superhero films.

A nerdy one to start the week, probably in reaction to my Sunday which was spent watching NFL and the Premier League. ‘Til Tomorrow!

ChAzJS

 

Justice League Review 

I’m confident in saying that before any of the modern superhero movie craze started, a Justice League movie was top of the list of films I’d love to see. After the success of the MCU and the rise of the superhero film, DCs stuttering start to their films universe has been a painful one as a big fan of the source material. Nevertheless here we are, a Justice League film is finally in cinemas.

With no character rights issues like marvel had with Spiderman and co, DC is able to field it’s big players in their first movie and for someone who grew up on the Justice League TV show, just seeing these characters on the big screen brought to life by good actors is an absolute treat. Each actor, from the once again majestic Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, to the new kid on the block Ray Fisher as Cyborg, has bags of talent and hopefully it bodes well for the future.

Jason Momoa’s sheer screen presence turns Aquaman from a joke character to a legit badass, even if the character is pretty one note throughout, always cracking wise about the situation. Ezra Miller plays the Flash with a real sense of childish excitement, and he has some really great moments. I think this incarnation of the speedster is different enough from the Flash on TV right now that we can differentiate easily between them, which is a worry some had. As I mentioned previously Ray Fisher is really strong in his first credited role, not bad for your first gig in Hollywood, a key role in Justice League. Cyborgs a little to broody in this film for me, but I think the future will see the more light hearted character that we know from Teen Titans coming into play. 

Whilst the actors are solid, the problem with these three characters is that they are just dropped in with no previous context. It does a good job of making you interested in seeing more, but in a 2 hour superhero team up movie not knowing 3 characters of the 5 man team advertised is a problem when we can’t spend much time with them.

Gal Gadot has proven her critics wrong, showing again she has the acting chops and the charisma to lead a film like this. She’s the DC universes shining light right now and this film highlights her again as a stand out. Alongside her is Ben Afflecks Batman, who was terrific in the last film, is decent enough. This time (crucially) he isn’t murdering guys left right and centre, but the actor himself doesn’t seem as interested as he had been previously.

Spoilers, Superman does have a role in this film. Henry Cavill is back in the role and he has licence to be a bit more cheerful now with Joss Whedon at the helm. Whedons effect is felt on the film, it has great moments of dialogue between the characters, and these are the best part of the film.

The villain of this film is the most generic, basic superhero villain ever. He is also a fully CG character. That combination means that the very basic plot is uninteresting and doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The heroes are the reason to watch Justice League, the villain could be almost anything and it wouldn’t have made a difference if this was the plan. 

The films colour pallette is quite odd, in that you can see a clear change between Zack Snyder directed scenes and Joss Whedon’s ones. The film starts out dark like Batman v Superman and ends as light and fun as the Avengers, but the overall tone is consistent throughout. When you consider how troubled the production of this film was it’s a wonder its as cohesive as it is. Aside from the colours popping a little more later in the film, you couldn’t tell there’s been 2 directors.

Justice League is a great comic book movie if it was 2008.  Theres moments in this film that will make you feel like a kid again seeing the biggest superheros combine and kick arse. Unfortunately it’s 2017, and in a world where we get 3-5 decent to great comic book movies a year, the flaws in Justice League stand out a little more. It could be said it’s very similar to the first Avengers movie, except that has multiple movies introducing every character so it didn’t feel as rushed together. I had a good time though, and it’s another step in the right direction for DC and Warner Bros.

Good for: those of you who have always wanted to see these heroes together. Theres a few pinch yourself moments and by the end of the film you’ll know DC is slowly trying to turn the ship. 

Bad for: people becoming a little tired of the superhero films, this is as generic a plot you’re going to find. It also suffers from the lack of set up for 3 of the characters who have never been on screen before.

Verdict : 6/10 – a step in the right direction, but not a huge one. 

​Justice League review embargo lifting just one day before release

The news doing the rounds today is that Justice League film coming November 17th will not allow reviews to be published until just one day before the film’s wide release date. This is in a stark contrast to Marvel’s treatment of Thor Ragnarok which had its review embargo lifted a full 2 weeks before it’s US release.  

This does raise some questions. Does this reveal a lack of confidence from Warner Bros? Are they just being wary of spoilers getting out? Is it something we should be worried about?

Warner Bros and DC do have a track record of keeping the embargo and release dates pretty close, as with Wonder Woman earlier this year was scheduled to lifts it’s embargo just a day before, but it was surprisingly lifted a week early once they felt confident in the film. This could well happen again, and I for one hope so as I am really excited for the Justice League film.

My thoughts on Batman V Superman and Suicide squad have led me to temper my expectations for the DC film universe, and that’s even taking into consideration the triumph that was Wonder Woman. WW felt like its own separate film and the trailers for JL have given off the impression of a return to the tone and style of BvS and Suicide Squad which I didn’t enjoy as much as I hoped I would.

The precedent set by the WW embargo being lifted early once the positive buzz started is dangerous. If we get to the week before release and Justice Leagues embargo still stands, the concerns I have about the flick will be at the forefront of my mind when I sit down on the cinema in a few short weeks time.

I hope Justice League surprises everyone and knocks it out of the park, but until we hear from somebody not involved in the production of the film saying positive things, there is going to be trepidation from the majority of fans, me included.

Hears hoping this is all much ado about nothing….