Category Archives: Movies

Is Superman going to be the Antichrist? (A belated clickbaity response to Batman vs Superman)

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This blog contains spoilers, although to be honest, I’m probably doing you a favour.

I know, I know. I haven’t updated this blog in years. But tonight I feel inspired to get this down in black and white. Because, ladies and gentlemen, my ambivalence about Batman vs Superman and the forthcoming Justice League movie is eating away at me. This isn’t because B vs S only really gets good when Wonder Woman turns up to kick ass (thank goodness Diana and Lois are there, because all the male characters are dumber than a box of rocks). No, it’s because they’re going to make Superman the Antichrist.

Seriously. It’s all there. I can prove it.

Firstly, let’s start with the assumption that Batman’s nightmares are more than just bad dreams. The evidence is there – the desert sequence is full of imagery pointing towards Darkseid’s involvement, such as the Omega symbol and a bunch of Parademons. There’s nothing to suggest that Bats has encountered these previously, so why are they in his dreams?

His dreams are prophecies.

This is further backed up by his conversation with EvilSupes, who says something like “You took her from me. She was my world.” He later says something similar about Lois, which makes it suspicious that the phrase shows up in a dream before Bats hears it in reality.

To cap this off, Bruce wakes from the dream and is immediately confronted by a time travelling Barry Allen, who brings a warning from the future. “You were right about him,” Barry says, before stressing that Lois is the key. But he’s arrived too early, and so the warning is without context.

Now, this could be referring to anyone, but let’s go with the idea that the Flash is trying to prevent the future seen in Batman’s dream. As a crude guess, let’s say Lois dies and Clark blames Bruce.

Clark then becomes Darkseid’s number one butt monkey, heat visioning at least two people to death.

(This is so far from my idea of Superman that it actually makes me angry, but let’s put that aside for a moment for the sake of my aneurysm.)

This is all imminent, based on Lex’s rant at the end and the imagery of demons falling from above in the huge portrait.

But wait, Superman dies at the end! How can he take over the world?

Look at one of the memes that runs throughout the film – Superman as a false god. It’s one of the ways Snyder emphasises his ambiguity towards superheroes. That doesn’t mean it’s literal, does it?

But wait. Something weird happens at Superman’s grave right at the end. And it seems clear that Supes is alive in the future. And if you’ve read The Death of Superman in the comics, you’ll be expecting this to be thanks to Clark’s alien physiology, but what if this is actually part of the bad guy’s masterplan? For instance:

● Darkseid brings Superman back to life. Cue a messianic reaction towards him.

● Darkseid engineers Lois’s death, framing Batman in the process.

● Supes goes nuts, takes over the world, creating the dystopia seen in Batman’s dream.

● The Flash goes back in time to try to save Lois and prevent Darkseid Disneyland from ever existing.

Yes my friends. The plot of the forthcoming Justice League movie is based around  Superman becoming the antichrist servant of an evil false god. That’s my bet and I’m sticking to it. Feel free to disagree, but I reckon this theory fits the hints and themes of B vs S.

Only Grant Morrison can save us now.

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Never Mind the Batfleck – Why Ben Affleck as Batman Isn’t really the issue

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Contains spoilers go Man of Steel.

So, the Internet snapped again. It doesn’t take much nowadays, not now we’ve adopted it as the designated home of nerd rage. The Net was designed to survive nuclear Armageddon, but announce that Ben Affleck is going to play Batman and you’ll immediately feel the servers start to buckle under the strain.

I have a pretty easy-going take on the news. Man of Steel may have had a few scripting issues, but its casting was spot-on; I have no reason to believe that Zack Snyder and co. have dropped the ball this time. The Batman mythos is full of left-field casting decisions – Adam West? Michael Keaton? Heath Ledger? – and yet they worked for the type of stories their producers and directors were telling. I’m going to give Affleck a break.

Besides, everyone knows that the One True Batman is Kevin Conroy.

No, my worry about the forthcoming Superman/Batman movie is that we’ve yet to have a solo Superman film set in this continuity, because Man of Steel was really about the last generation of Kryptonians and their mess; in some respects it felt like a prequel to a more dedicated Superman story.

Okay, I might be off-base here, but think about it; Superman’s deal is that he’s an old fashioned, straight-forward hero figure, the guy who’ll save your cat from a tree and your kid from a rampaging alien death robot. You can play around with that, but that’s his thing. Problem is, that’s yet to be established in DC’s movieverse. On his first day on the job, he’s involved in a war his dad’s generation started, resulting in obscene property damage and, presumably, thousands of casualties. Compare this to Chris Reeve’s first action set piece, where he catches a helicopter and saves Lois. Yes, Man of Steel showed Clark saving a school bus full of kids and the crew of an oil rig, but they were presented as moments that threatened his future, not that defined Superman’s character and heroism.

So a sequel is coming in 2015, but a character that is yet to be fully defined is going to be sharing screen time with another character that exerts substantial gravitational pull. I’d also argue that, story wise, Batman might be the wrong character for the first DC movie team-up. Bats is a darker, more tortured character than Superman under normal circumstances, but here we have a Superman who has seen Metropolis levelled, thousands murdered and who was forced to execute General Zod on his first day on the job, not long after discovering that his home world was destroyed and the only other survivors were genocidal fanatics.

Beat that, Batman.

The commercial motivation for all this is to establish a cinematic DC Universe and to catch up with Marvel’s success story. From that point of view, putting DC’s two biggest characters on screen together makes perfect sense. Story-wise, however, I’m not so sure, not least because, based on the plot points left at the end of Man of Steel, and established characterisations across continuities, Batman would presumably have to the winner in any moral argument – are superhumans a public threat? Yeah, look at the ruins of Metropolis. Is killing supervillains wrong? Considering the need to keep popular bad guys like Lex and the Joker alive for sequels then yeah, have a no-kill rule. So would this lead to Superman abdicating moral responsibility in his own movie?

Now, if you want to establish the basis for a Justice League movie in the Man of Steel sequel then that’s possible but you don’t cast Ben Affleck. Why? Because the hero you need is Wonder Woman.

This is because Wonder Woman is a character from a warrior culture who nevertheless works as an ambassador for peace. If you want to ask whether Superman is a noble warrior who can live with killing his enemies, or a largely peaceful guy who helps people (necessitating the occasional smack down), then she’s a character who can illuminate both sides of that debate. She’s a known quantity and a Justice Leaguer and a character that genuinely expands the DC movieverse.

Now, I know it’s problematic introducing a major female character as a way of furthering a male character’s arc, but seeing that DC seem incapable of getting a Wonder Woman film or TV show made, then maybe problematic is better than non-existent. I may be wrong on that though.

So there we go – give Ben a chance but don’t screw over Superman in the process. The casting here isn’t as important as the writing, so let’s hope the script gives us the chance to get the Justice League movie we’ve been waiting to see.

Man Of Steel: My sort-of review (contains spoilers!)

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This post contains spoilers. Lots of spoilers, particularly about the ending of the film. You might not want to read on until you’ve seen the movie.

I’m sitting in the Odeon cinema in Derby, about five minutes before Man of Steel is due to start. I’ve seen the trailers, I’ve read the tweets, I’ve seen geek culture offer up almost every imaginable opinion about the film. And you know what? At this point, all I really want is for Superman to hit a bad guy with a bus.

I mean, what do I want – what do I expect from a Superman movie? He’s a pop culture icon, and because of that we develop our own conception of the character. It’s not DC Comics or Warner Brothers that define Superman, not really, it’s each of us, every die-hard fan having their own image in our heads made up of bits and pieces from comics and movies and TV and all the cool ideas we have that no-one else has thought of. Man of Steel isn’t going to live up to that – I guess the question is, as I watch a trailer for The Lone Ranger, what’s the film going to add to my Superman mythos?

The thing about Man of Steel, two-and-a-half-hours later, is that while it ‘s a Superman film, it’s not a film about Superman. It’s about the generation before him, their competing visions of the future and how those visions play out in the lives of Earth’s inhabitants. Is Zod right to want to preserve his world at all costs? Is Jor-el right to see his son as the embodiment of his own rebellion? Is Jonathan right to want Clark to keep his powers a secret? These questions drive the story more than Clark’s search for a place in the world, to the extent that at times the film feels like an extended prequel for a character study of Supes.

I hope we get to see that, because Henry Cavill is great – good enough not to be trapped in Chris Reeve’s shadow. His joy at finding he can fly is lovely – the sort of reaction Superman should have. We don’t get to see a Clark/Supes distinction – deliberately so – but I think Cavill could handle it, heading up an impeccable cast. That said, Michael Shannon’s mad-eyed intensity steals the show. Look, I thought Terence Stamp insisting everyone should kneel before him was legendary, but I’m sorry, there’s a new Zod in town and he punches his enemies through skyscrapers.

That spectacle is a real strength – this is the best superhero battle since Justice League Unlimited and that was animated. Sure the visuals are over the top, but this is a comic book movie, things should be turned up to 11. And frankly, Zack Snyder is the first director who seems to realise he should give us a reason to care that Krypton blows up, serving up some pulp sci-fi wonder and a badass Jor-el.

That’s one of the issues Snyder deals with – the other is making sure Lois doesn’t look like an idiot by letting her in on the Secret almost from the start. I could go another 75 years without seeing Lois fail to notice who Clark is again, and Man of Steel sidesteps that before you even realise they’ve done it. She’s also proactive and confident and she shoots bad guys with a death ray. Awesome.

But there’s always controversy. Normally I don’t mind that – I don’t care if Perry’s black or if Jimmy Olsen now seems to be Jenny; let there be change. But there is a moment that rips through my image of Superman and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Clark kills Zod, and while it’s to save innocents and he’s clearly devastated by it, it’s still a moment I’m uncomfortable with. Superman doesn’t kill, and while I’ve justified it to myself – it’s a set-up for a more character driven sequel, it’s the sort of thing that could fuel a future confrontation with Lex, but somehow that feels like fansplaining. I hope it’s not, especially if this is going to be the foundation for DC’s cinematic universe.

A while back, this would have been the main thing I took away from Man of Steel – I’d’ve debated it and got annoyed by it and insisted that Hollywood doesn’t get Superman. But now… Well, there’s a moment in which the young Clark has just discovered he’s adopted – that he’s not even from Earth. He turns to the man who raised him and asks “Can’t I just pretend I’m still your son?” “You are my son!” comes the reply, and that still gets me, even as I’m typing this.

Maybe it’s because I’m a new-ish stepdad, maybe it’s because I’m getting old and relating to fathers rather than sons, but… There’s just so much there, love and compassion and identity and fear, and so much of the film is tied up with the things parents want for their children, whether they’re from Kansas or Krypton. And it’s that moment that sticks with me, because ultimately I don’t want a film or even a favourite superhero that resonates with my comic collection, I want one that resonates with my life. That’s what Man of Steel adds to my Superman mythos – not just a new favourite Krypton, not just deranged superhero spectacle, not just a better role for Lois, but a moment that actually makes me relate to a story I’ve been following for years, a moment that gives voice to a bunch of feelings and hopes in my own life. That’s more than most movies offer, even ones I love.

Thank you Superman.

A Tribute To Star Wars

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May the Fourth be with you! Ha ha!

The Star Wars movies are some of my all-time favourite films. Of course they are – I was born in 1976, and therefore Star Wars (I refuse to call it A New Hope), The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are some of the fundamental stories of my childhood. Not only the films either; they were the first movies that really pushed the merchandising side of film-making, and so I had a substantial collection of Star Wars toys – the first one I acquired, second hand, was one of the third-stringers, an Imperial officer who got Force choked by Darth Vader, but I moved up the ladder. Heck, I had an X-Wing Fighter. I had the Millennium Falcon!

My grandmother wasn’t impressed by all this. A lot of the characters in the trilogy are pretty much grotesque, and if I was ever ill for no apparent reason, Nan blamed Chewbacca and the others. Medically speaking this was unfair, although a couple of George Lucas’s decisions over the years have made me feel ill if that counts..

Nah, as a kid in the early eighties, it was the aliens, robots and hardware that made Star Wars cool. Nowadays it’s easy to appreciate other aspects of the films, like how Harrison Ford becomes a megastar before your very eyes (“I love you!” “I know.” is one of the coolest moments in sci-fi history), or how there seems to be a whole back-story to the whole thing (I have a friend who thinks the Expanded Universe is better than the films; I don’t altogether agree, but it’s a fair position to take), or how good the costume design in Return of the Jedi is, but back in the day it was all about comedy robots, cool spaceships, and light sabers.

That covers a lot of its appeal – it’s not a science fiction film, not in the strictest sense of the definition. Science fiction, as a genre, is about technology and scientific potentialities and their imagined impact on humans. That’s not really Star Wars. Sure it’s set in space, but that doesn’t really make it science fiction, and while the hardware is seriously cool, that’s pretty much all it is. No, Star Wars is a fantasy movie set in space, complete with naive farmhands, princesses, comedy servants, wizards, swords and magic. It’s got the trappings of sci-fi, and it owes a massive debt to early movie serials like the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon adaptations, but at its heart it’s a fantasy movie with spaceships, and I think that’s a key component of its success. Fantasy, at least in the fairy tale guise that Star Wars taps into, is a bit more accessible than full-on science fiction; I think that’s a big part of Doctor Who’s success as well.

Another reason for the success of Star Wars is the way in which it lends itself to fandom; George Lucas has given his approval to fan films like Troops (Cops with Stormtroopers, basically – you can also join the 501st Stormtrooper Legion if you want ), you can have long arguments about why Chewbacca doesn’t get a medal when he did just as much work as anyone else, and you can sing along to Livin’ La Vida Yoda if you’re feeling musical. Never under-estimate the importance of fandom fodder to the success of all things culturally geek.

A lot of this is rose-tinted glasses – there are aspects of the original trilogy that look pretty dated nowadays – but at the same time it’s hard to see many blockbusters coming along nowadays that have half the impact of Star Wars; they may make more money, but I can’t see people cosplaying Avatar or Titanic in thirty years time. Or maybe, and again this is rose-tinted glasses time, there was a moment in cinema, late seventies to mid-eighties, that saw the release of a bunch of blockbusters that caught the imagination of audiences; Star Wars, yes, but also the Indiana Jones films, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters… Star Wars, to me, just seems to be the king of that movement. Or maybe it’s just because I loved all those movies as a kid.

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That’s the key, I think – Star Wars is for kids. And, of course, for adults who can accept it’s for kids and enjoy it because of that. And yet it’s also for the kids who once watched it on BBC or ITV every Christmas, and who had all the toys; for the kids who grew up and sold those toys because they grew out of them, even though they kick themselves because of what those toys are now worth to collectors; for the kids who, somewhere along the line, realised that, actually, there’s no point in growing up if you can’t pretend to have a light saber fight once in a while.

Because, for me and for a lot of Generation X, part of our imagination will always live in a galaxy far, far away.

It’s Not The Years, Honey, It’s The Postage (Indiana Jones and the University of Chicago)

This is awesome. A mystery correspondent has sent a package to the University of Chicago, addressed not to a student or a member of the faculty, but to Dr. Henry Jones Jr., otherwise known as ‘Indiana’.

This isn’t just a letter from someone who has trouble distinguishing reality from some of the greatest movies ever made. It’s a near-perfect replica of a diary seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but apparently hand-made and not a professional prop.

There’s no covering letter, and no explanation for the package has been forthcoming. The university wants to know what’s going on, simply because it’s cool. Heck, I want to know what’s going on.

I do know one thing though. This is why geeks are awesome…