Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ben Affleck as Batman

Before I heard that they were including Batman in a Man of Steel sequel, before I knew that they were calling it 'Batman vs. Superman'...before I knew who was cast as Batman...I was saying that the new Bruce Wayne (Batman) should be a more mature businessman type. I love me some Dark Knight, but the scene where Bruce Wayne falls asleep during board (bored?) meetings always bothered me. It was one aspect of his character that they got wrong, as good as the rest of it was. And then he bankrupts the company in the third movie. :-\ Anyway, that is the main thing I like about Ben Affleck playing Batman. I see him as the mature businessman type who can introduce some of the sci-fi elements that Nolan ignored in his version by being CEO of Wayne Tech (if he gets his own Batman series). We know he will be in the same universe as an alien from Krypton. Why not do a better darker verrsion of Mr. Freeze down the road the way the cartoon did? Or Clayface? I know he's not a sci-fi character, but I'd love to see a creepy version of the Ventriloquist in a Batman film.

Anyway, I think Ben Affleck's a good actor and I am glad they are bringing back the businessman part of his character. The other thing I keep seeing people write online is "I see him as Bruce Wayne, but not as Batman." Well, I saw him as Matt Murdock and, like Batman, all Daredevil had to do was wear a mask and growl while he fought, which he did convincingly, silly as that movie was. I would think Bruce Wayne would be the tougher side and some are coming around to admiting that Affleck would be a good Bruce Wayne...and I agree. I reserve judgement until I see a trailer.

Picking an actor that you don't care for to play an iconic hero is far less offenseive than changing the character or origin story in some disrespectful way (Han Solo shooting first, Alien Ninja Turtles) and there are many examples of actors who people didn't think would cut it as Batman characters and they ended up being great. (Michael Keaton and Heath Ledger)...so this doesn't deserve the outcry that it has gotten from fans online. In two years, Batman and Superman will be in the same live-action movie for the first time in Sujperman's 75 year plus history and that ain't nothin to sneeze at. :-)

'The Wolverine' review

Remember 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'? No, me neither, not really...or at least not enough to keep me away from this way better Wolvie solo film, which is basically a samurai film (with mutants). Hugh Jackman returns for the sixth time playing Logan (counting his cameo in X-Men First Class) and he is phenomenal as always. The story centers around his famous ability to heal quickly and his slow aging, whether or not that is a blessing or a curse and the bad guy who is manipulating that 'doubt' in Wolverine's mind to steal said mutant power.

Remember at the end of X-Men 3: The Last Stand, how Logan killed Jean Grey because he had to? Well, this film also centers around the guilt that he feels for killing the woman he loved. Famke Jansen plays Jean Grey in a series of dream sequences that can either be interpreted as Logan feeling guilty or Jean talking to him from the grave. I prefer the former, but you can take it either way. Kind of like at the end of Les Miserables, when all the characters show up in Hugh Jackman's dream when he was old and you COULD take it that they are in the afterlife, or maybe the old man is just remembering the peeople he's known. Well, this is like that and the movie is about Logan dealing with his terrible choice.

Remember that SNIKT sound that Wolverine's claws makes when he is fighting? He'll run into a crowd full of bad guys and slash at them all PG-13 style and they will fall with no slash marks or blood shown? Well, there is alot of that here, but there are also scenes where WWII Japanese soldiers stab themselves (no blood shown) to "regain their honor" and scenes where Wolverine is bleeding, getting stitched up and/or has to get this weird thing out of his heart. Same level of action as the other X-Men films, but with those more intense/gory things added for historical accuracy and medical context (that shows Wolverine's healing ability or lack thereof), I would not recommend this for very young superhero movie fans.

Remember that cameo in X-Men First Class where Logan showed up randomly when Xavier was looking for mutants and it was funny except for the f-bomb that Logan dropped? Well, towards the end of this film, he drops another one. I was "rolling with" the other "words" he shouldn't have used because Wolverine is supposed to be a tough, no-nonsense character, but he uses the F-bomb, again, in a genre that appeals to younger fans and that was disappointing.

What I liked about this movie is the level of realism that they achieve for most of it. The acting is really good. It is basically like a samurai movie, lone warrior kind of thing, except for the light sci-fi element of Wolverine losing his healing factor and a few mutant characters. The opening scene is great and very intense, taking place in WWII as the atom bomb was being dropped on Nagasaki. There is a really good fight scene later on top of a train where Wolverine does some things that he can only do because he is a mutant, but it's nowhere as ridiculous as X-Men Origins (chopping helicopter blades in half and then slowly walking away from a fireball etc.). The story involves political corruption, the Japanese mob (yazuka) and "real world" stuff. That is, until the end, where it goes really over the top for the final fight scene that almost feels like it was plucked out of a crazier movie. Yes, I liked seeing Silver Samurai (a character I only knew from the video game Marvel vs. Capcom), but that whole fight scene did feel forced. And then, it goes back to realism until the closing credits.

Overall, if you are looking for a well-acted light sci-fi film that nods to lone warrior type films, either westerns or samurai films or if you liked the other X-men movies, give this one a try with the above reservations. And...stay a few minutes into the credits, for their is a teaser for the next X-Men film, one that I am even more excited about 'Days of Future Past', based on the famous Chris Claremont X-Men time travel storyline.

BOTTOM LINE: 3.5 out of 5 adamantium claws

'Man of Steel' review

Every so often a movie comes along where I have to see it twice to decide if I liked it or not. In 2011, it was 'The Muppets'. This year, it was Man of Steel. The basic reason was that it was something that I loved growing up and the film was very different from what I expected. Part of my brain knew how well put together the movie was, but the angle knocked me off the fan platform. Green Lantern was a character I have always loved, but I knew that movie sucked halfway through. Same with Superman Returns, I actually did give it a second chance' but I knew it was bad the first time. The Dark Knight on the other hand, had me running out of the theatre looking for the line to go back in.

So, now that I have seen MOS twice, I can say that all of the things that I didn't expect worked really well. I like the fact that it was 'harder' science fiction than had been done with this character before (genetic pre-determination) and got into Krypton's history and what precisely was their downfall, forshadowing what Superman is supposed to be a 'shining example' from to the human race (besides helping people, which is nice). I liked how Lois Lane showed off her journalistic investigation skills more than had been shown previously and THAT was how she met Superman. She isn't just in the newsroom misspelling things ("How many P's in rapist?") and meeting Superman because she fell out of something high. I am looking forward to a similar take with April O'Neil in the new Ninja Turtle movie (instead of her just getting mugged near a sewer cover) and it worked here.

I disagree with the critics that the fight scenes were too long and did not include character beats. Yes, I am a Superman fan with ADD and therefore the target audience for this film, but the fight scenes did tell you things about the characters involved and there was enough character development that you care who is fighting and what for. The non-linear style of the first act will remind you of 'Batman Begins' (lots of flashbacks), but it is well-done. The scenes in 'Superman: the movie' of Clark running alongside a train and being gleeful that he has such cool powers have been replaced with scenes of a kid who is frightened that can't control his super hearing and his x-ray vision. Although he seems to have mastered his heat vision, which he uses while hiding in a closet to make sure that his teacher can't open the door knob. Pardon the theme here, but I related to a kid who can't concentrate in school and who gets yelled at and picked on as a result...and I liked watching him become a hero.

Basically, the movie is about Superman earning people's trust, an obstacle that he has to overcome in order to help the human race in the first place. It is like 'Star Trek' (the 2009 reboot) in that the Superman you remember is at the end of the movie and the rest of the story is about how he got that way.

My only complaints with the movie come from me comparing it to other films. My two favorite superhero movies have villians, the actors of which completely blew me away (Heath Ledger and Tom Hiddleston). So, this movie is losing a star simply because General Zod was no Joker or Loki. Still, a very good science fiction film and a good start to a new Superman franchise.

4/5 stars