Batman v Superman: Really THAT Bad?

March 30, 2016 no comments Posted in Film, Movies

So Batman v Superman just came out and I’m going to talk about it, but to get the full picture we have to go back and look at

 

THE HISTORY

 

Chances are, you already know a good deal of this, but bear with me while I take you through the history of the two ever-youthful grandfathers of modern superheroes. Superman’s first published appearance was in a prose story in a science fiction magazine called Reign of the Superman in 1933, but he did not get his big break until 1938 when, after 5 years of failing to pitch the Superman character elsewhere Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sold the character to Detective Comics Inc, who then made the character the cover star of Action Comics #1. Other notable appearances in this issue were Zatara, father of prominent DC Comics character Zatanna and Tex Thompson…err, Mr America, who, despite appearing 3 whole years before the Captain of the same name has not quite had the same lasting appeal. Superman himself in this issue was quite a different beast from the one appearing in this film. There is no mention of Krypton, he has only been sent from a non-descript planet. He is turned in to an orphanage, rather than being raised by Jon and Martha Kent. He could not fly and was only indestructible to “anything less than a bursting shell”. The character we know today did not truly appear until Summer 1939’s Superman #1 where those absent elements were added. The characters’ on-screen presence began with George Reeves’ TV stint as the character in the 1951 series Adventures of Superman. It planted the character in the public consciousness before the character who defined the superhero comic book defined the superhero movie in 1978 with Superman: The Movie, directed by Richard Donner and starring Christopher Reeve (no relation to George Reeves). The film captured imaginations worldwide with its revolutionary (at the time) special effects that “made you believe a man could fly” and of course the oh-so-iconic John Williams score. The series then took several….questionable turns after Superman II before making a true return in 2013’s Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill as the man himself. The movie had a few things rough around the edges but showed true promise for the future. While questioning that future Zack Snyder and DC thought of something to add to the sequel. That something, or rather someone was…

 

Batman. The caped crusader first appeared in Detective Comics #27, where he wore purple gloves and killed without remorse. He led to a huge spike in the comics’ sales and was given his own book, the first issue of which included several things that define the dark knight to this day. His adversaries The Joker and Catwoman, as well as his origin story that you have doubtlessly seen countless times in film, television and even other comic books. Batman first came to screens in 1943 with Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft portraying the dynamic duo in the film serial, which had them face off against the villainous…Dr Daka? Not really an abundance of reference material there. Grant Morrison wasn’t even going there. The film had a sequel but we will now move on to one of the more iconic Batmen of the screen, 1966’s Batman TV show and movie (released shortly after the first series’ ending) was for a good time the most famous rendition of Batman and one that was somewhat unfairly maligned for not being a fair representation of the character.. The character went through several rebirths in the comics and finally, in 1989 a film came out to somewhat reflect this. TIm Burton’s Batman gave the character a darker edge while still being reasonably silly, this carried on to Batman Returns with the most perfect casting in the history of film, I am of course talking about Danny DeVito as the Penguin. And frankly, he’d still be perfect so get on that Mr. Affleck. We know you’re making that film. Just make it with this lovely little goblin man as The Penguin. Batman Forever…continued? the series with a new director and man in the cowl. Joel Schumacher is a pretty good director, but these are not pretty good films. I can take Forever for its campiness, Jim Carrey and Seal, but Batman and Robin is a step too far. The movie-going public seemed to agree, and the series vanished for several years. WB tried to bring it back with a variety of projects that were ultimately cancelled, like the earlier Ivan Reitman film starring Bill Murray as Batman and David Bowie as the Joker which was cancelled way back in 1985. These newer attempts included Joel Schumacher’s The Dark Knight Returns, which would’ve been entertaining at the very least, a Batman Beyond adaptation, Darren Aronofsky’s bizarre Batman: Year One pitch which involved a poverty-stricken Bruce Wayne taken in by a mechanic named Big Al. This project, which Frank Miller thought went over the line, was dropped for Batman vs Superman. Don’t worry, we didn’t skip anything. The 2004 project would’ve revolved around a loose continuation of the Burton/Schumacher films where the Joker kills Batman’s bride to be in the middle of their wedding. This resulted in Superman having to hold back Batman and being blamed for her death by Batman, which lead to their confrontation. In this film, Superman would have been played by Josh Hartnett, while Batman would’ve been played by Christian Bale, a descision that carried over into Christopher Nolan’s 2006 film Batman Begins. In my opinion the best Batman film as of March 24th 2016 but we’ll see how that goes. Nolan’s trilogy is the definitive take on the character for many. Just not me. Ok now hear me out please I’m so sorry. I feel the series takes the realism a bit too far, losing a lot of what makes Batman great. He’s not a man walking among gods, he’s a man walking above other men. He’s not the world’s greatest detective, he’s got people for that. To me, Nolan’s take on the character is a bit too grounded. I rarely get the sense that Bale’s Batman is the smartest man in the room and he solves his problems with punches too much. I think they’re fine films, I just can’t get behind that aspect. The series is (almost) universally loved and set high standards for the next cinematic appearance of the caped crusader after the trilogy ended with 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises

 

The two characters have been intrinsically linked since their inception. Batman was created in direct response to Superman, to give the Detective Comics book its own similar figurehead to the Man of Tomorrow. The characters have shared many books together, from World’s Finest Comics and Justice Society of America in the Golden Age to Batman/Superman and Justice League today. The two are amazing friends, wait, that’s the other guy. Super friends, that’s the one I guess. Superman, in most adaptations is perhaps one of the only people Batman really trusts. Ignore the Kryptonite in his basement, that’s for when the mind controllers come knocking. I do just wish they could’ve met on screen under these terms…

 

SO HOW IS IT

 

Batman v Superman is a very strange film. The film is perhaps best described with its parallels to the performance of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor within the film. It’s offbeat and a little disjointed and just different enough some people will absolutely hate it. I didn’t though. Batman v Superman has problems with pacing, with scenes flashing up seemingly at random with no rhyme or reason to their order. The film takes a solid few minutes in the middle to show you a few Justice League teasers with no relation to the story. It is incredibly lazy filmmaking the way this was done but I took the bait hook line and sinker. It was on par with the scene in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 where all of the Spider-Man villains’ equipment is in a basement in Oscorp for some reason but I liked this. As lazily inserted as the teasers are I think they’re very well done and it did get me, somewhat more cautiously, excited for Justice League next year. The film’s cast is almost impeccable. Ben Affleck finally plays the superhero he has had in him since 2003. He perfectly captured Bruce Wayne, regardless of his direction or script. I cannot wait to see what he does under his own direction and script. Gal Gadot embodies Wonder Woman perfectly in her admittedly short screen time, the character is a highlight of every scene she is in and her theme is top class, letting JunkieXL stretch his Mad Max muscle a little. Jeremy Irons plays what I think is without a doubt the best on-screen Alfred. It is played somewhat differently to how those Nolanites out there came to expect from Michael Caine but I feel it is much closer to the somewhat sassier Alfred of the comics and animated shows. Henry Cavill still shows promise of a Superman to surpass Reeve, but I feel direction holds him back. Those who thought Man of Steel was “not my Superman” will have less problems than they did there with this film, though some scenes may still leave them asking questions. Amy Adams as Lois Lane continues to be somewhat wasted, it is still a mystery whether it’s down to acting, directing or no-one at Warner seeming to be able to write the character properly. As mentioned before I believe Eisenberg as Luthor will be a very divisive element. He plays a very new take on the character and many seem to find it irritating. Personally, I think that was the point. At times I was reminded of Thomas Middleditch’s performance as Richard Hendricks in Silicon Valley, bratty, compulsive and calculating, he is an evolved Lex Luthor representing today’s not quite as big men at the top. Your mileage may vary.

 

The film looks very nice. The opening scene takes a scene that has been done countless times before and gives us without a doubt the best version yet. The team of Zack Snyder and Larry Fong can do nothing if not make films that look fantastic. It is a welcome change of pace from the constant big budget TV movie stylings of Marvel Studios’ regular outputs. The pieces of a fantastic film are all there. Though perhaps it may be a few too many. There was a “leaked” image last year that suggested the film would be split into two parts and we all scoffed at it, correctly assuming it to be fake but would it have been so bad? The film does already feel like a few films jammed into one. A sequel to Man of Steel, a Batman movie and a Justice League prequel. It functions decently as all of those but you have to wonder if they’d have been better served on their own.

 

My biggest question going into this movie after reading the reviews was not “Who will Win?”, it was “Could it possibly be THAT bad?”. The answer, I think, is no. Is it perfect? No, but only two films are. Is it fantastic? No, but it does have some great parts. Is it awful? No, but there’s plenty wrong with it. Who is to blame? Zack Snyder? Chris Terrio? Ben Affleck? Devin Faraci? Christopher Nolan? Joel Schumacher? Richard Pryor? Frank Miller? JJ Abrams? Kevin Feige? Mark Millar? The Estate of Bob Kane?  Warner Bros Executives? That crafty old rapscallion David S Goyer? Who really knows?

 

In the end, I enjoyed the film a great deal but recognised enough problems that I’m not sure how easy it will be for others to enjoy it. Do I think you should see it? Maybe. Do you like DC Comics and don’t hate Zack Snyder? Then totally. Are you bored, want to go see a movie but you’ve already seen Zootopia 4 times? Yeah, go ahead. Do you have a furry friend who keeps asking you to see Zootopia with him? See this instead to annoy them, that’s what I’m doing.

Things of the Year 2015

February 1, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

Why hello there, I’m Sean Reidy and these are my things of the year 2015.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
This is a game I spent several year obsessing over every slightest detail of in the lead up to its big release on September 1st. I had seen every trailer dozens of times. I watched any appearance of Hideo Kojima for some hope of news. I watched a Japanese livestream on Christmas Day to have a chicken hat confirmed for me. I bought the big 140 euro collector’s edition with a half scale replica of Big Boss’ bionic arm. I played the game non-stop for a month and I feel it is half a perfect game. Playing the game you see the occasional glimpse of an all time great, and the game still debatably is. But it could’ve been so, so much better. The game’s core gameplay is fantastic, every movement is fluid and responsive. The shooting is great, every one of the game’s wide variety of guns feel different to each other. The story is acceptable by general gaming standards but is pretty woeful by Metal Gear standards. Some segments of the story are fantastic. Quiet manages to have somewhat of an arc without any dialogue, the “woman in the room” who I won’t mention for spoilers has a heartbreaking side story, the mission “Voices” is spectacular and builds a fantastic atmosphere in one of the game’s very few indoor areas. MGSV is a huge disappointment, but also my Game of the Year.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
My Film of the Year was less of a disappointment. I was a big Star Wars fan a good few years ago but it had sort of subsisted into me deciding Empire was the only good one. The Force Awakens changed that, in the lead up to it I rediscovered the series I had abandoned and the film itself was the final clincher. I loved it. Almost every part of it. I understand it’s just A New Hope with new characters but I really like those new characters. Kylo Ren’s pathetic immaturity has given me one of my favourite film villains in years. Finn was well-acted, humourous. And of course, John Williams, fantastic as ever. The soundtrack is great, with the highlights being Rey’s Theme, March of the Resistance and The Jedi Steps & Finale. Rey’s Theme in particular gives a sense of discovery, hearing that song in the film I felt as if this was really it. After 32 years they got it right again. Good job, Disney.

Toast of London
Please watch Toast of London. Seriously. I don’t know a single person who watches it and it is the best surreal sitcom on TV since The IT Crowd. Toast stars Matt Berry (Douglas Reynholm from the previously mentioned IT Crowd) as Steven Toast, a failing, middle aged actor from London who is forced to do whatever job comes his way. The best of this year’s episodes involved popular US actor Jon Hamm, as Toast develops an unwanted homosexual crush on him. The show evokes memories of Father Ted, and I’d put some episodes on a level with that show’s absurdist highs like Speed 3 and The Mainland. It’s a fantastic show and, despite winning BAFTAs, I worry it has gone underappreciated.

Music Complete

The latest album from the legendary New Order is something that popped up out of the blue for me, I only knew of its existence a day before release, I’m glad I did find out about it though. The album has a perfect mix of electronica, the occasional classical instrument and some pretty good vocals. The highlights on the album include Restless, a song that sounds straight off a Joy Division album with its vaguely mopey lyricism with top class instrumentation, Stray Dog, a contemplative slower song with a spoken word angle that sounds semi-similar to Ron Perlman and Tutti Frutti, a much more house type of song with occasional disco flashes throughout. Overall the album was a tremendous surprise, and one I thoroughly recommend you give a listen to.

Bonus Thing of 2016

Blackstar, the 26th and final studio album of David Bowie was released on January 9th, Bowie’s 69th birthday. I listened to it then and I thought it was fantastic. I thought I had already found my album of the year. 3 days later, Bowie died after a secret 18 month battle with cancer. This cemented the album as my favourite, which allows me to write this in absolute confidence. Listening to the album that weekend was a strange experience. It was a fantastic album, but a weird one. A lot of things in it were unexplained. Then the news broke. It is a parting gift from Bowie, with the jazz infused tones of the album playing him out from the world. He did not take his death idly, and instead used it to fuel one last masterpiece. To my mind the best songs on the album are Lazarus, Dollar Days and I Can’t Give Everything Away. These songs are rooted in death. Lazarus is the most blunt of these, opening with “Look up here, I’m in heaven” before descending into a final verse about how “This way or no way, you know I’ll be free” and the song uses the same notes repeatedly to create an overwhelming sense of dread. It is a fantastic album, only made better by the unfortunate context.

Titanfall Review

January 9, 2016 no comments Posted in Video Games

Titanfall was released in March of 2014 on Xbox consoles and PC to much fervor. EA promoted the game as the next big thing in online gaming. The game had a huge media push and a massive open beta, played by 2 million people. Then it came out and the hype fizzled out quickly, the player base dropped and people moved on. I recently came into possession of an Xbox One and an EA Access subscription and I cannot possibly imagine why people quit.

 

Titanfall is at its core a simple Call of Duty-like twitch-based first person shooter (which is to be expected somewhat, as it is mostly made by ex-Call of Duty developers) but with three simple additions to the base mechanics that drive the experience to something higher (to the point where the most recent Call of Duty has completely aped two of them). The first of these three additions is wall running, which gives an amazing feel of momentum that may have ruined other, slower FPS games such as Battlefront for me forever. The second is the double jump, which works to accentuate what the wall run does for the game’s fluidity. The third and most obvious addition is the game’s big selling point. The titan. The titan is a giant, but quite fast mech the player takes control of, usually about 3 minutes into a match. It strikes the perfect balance between the more grounded designs of western mechs in sci-fi and the extravagant swiftness of the Japanese mecha designs you would see in anime such as Gundam or Gurren Lagann. These titans are satisfying to use and make you feel empowered without breaking the game’s balance in the slightest. The titans have the clear advantage in firepower but one of the most satisfying things in the game is the rodeo attack, in which you jump on the back of a titan, rip a panel off and start shooting up its insides.

 

Another triumph of balance is my favourite weapon in the game. The Smart Pistol Mk5. The weapon is a standard pistol but it, after a short time, automatically locks onto any target within a certain distance, even locking onto multiple at once. Hearing this may make you think it is a gamebreaker, surely a weapon you do not need to aim surpasses all the others but no, the lock on is fast enough to be viable, but just slow enough to keep it reasonable. The weapon feels clinical, like a precision instrument. You feel ruthlessly efficient using it. Every time the right trigger goes down you feel like a cold, calculating machine. And as all this is happening, you stop running for maybe a second to shoot before getting back to building momentum. The game has a tremendous pace. Life is short, death is fast, both are tremendously exciting. Titanfall is the first time since Battlefield 3 I have felt the desire to go back and play more of an FPS and I’ve missed it.

 

It does have some negatives. The lack of any offline gameplay is irritating. Even a Battlefront 2 style Galactic Conquest bot match would’ve sufficed. I am also lead to believe there wasn’t much content at launch, but this has become less of a problem as all the post-launch DLC is now free and pretty much mandatory unless you want to play nothing but private games.
Overall, Titanfall is a fantastic game everyone should play. It has dropped in price immensely since launch and I desperately hope the multiplatform sequel picks up more traction. It brought a new take on a genre that has grown entirely stagnatory.