‘Justice League’ trailer arrives: Fool me twice, shame on me…

The new Justice League trailer arrived today, and the good news is that it looks awesome. The bad news is that Batman v Superman looked just as amazing and then turned out to be a sloppy mess.

Zack Snyder is an strong visual artist, but at this point in his career it seems like his Achilles heel is a propensity to sign off on scripts that are half-baked.

Check out the trailer below, watch my YouTube video, and then let me know that you think about the fate of Justice League in the comments below. I really hope Warner Bros. took the fans’ criticism to heart, because overall they know what they’re talking about.

Exit question: Can any movie be bad if the trailer use’s “Icky Thump,” by the White Stripes? If Justice League doesn’t do Jack White proud then your friendly neighborhood blogger we be one angry blogger…

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Batman v Superman: The truth — for DC Comics fans in denial

Batman v Superman desert

Last weekend this blog gave an honest review of Batman v Superman because your friendly neighborhood writer is always in search of truth, justice and the American way. I said it was a movie that had its good parts (e.g., Ben Affleck), its excellent parts (e.g., visuals), and parts that were just plain ugly (e.g., Jesse Eisenberg). I did that for the same reason I will readily admit that Iron Man 2 was a creative mess that was barely saved by Robert Downey Junior’s awesomeness — it’s the truth.

All this is relevant because something peculiar happened when box-office numbers came in on Sunday: Hardcore DC Comics fans and those with a vested interest in the movie’s success started framing its $420 million global gross over the weekend as proof that critics were all wrong.

CBR, for example, reported Monday:

Overcoming a torrent of negative reviews that triggered social-media backlash from die-hard fans, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” stormed theaters worldwide over the weekend, exceeding most box-office predictions and breaking records left and right.

It turns out that, after all the hand-wringing by fans and Warner Bros. executives alike, “Batman v Superman” really was review-proof.

My wife asked me what the numbers meant as they started rolling in and I said we wouldn’t really know until next weekend.

I will now let Forbes explain why:

Batman v Superman has set a new record for the worst Friday-to-Sunday drop for a superhero movie release in modern North American box office history. In dropping 55% from its $82 million Friday debut to its $37 million gross on Sunday, it pummeled all prior records for weakness in theatrical staying power. It even beat the nearly universally reviled and now long-forgotten Fantastic Four reboot, which dropped a comparatively modest 48% across its opening weekend in the summer of 2015. …

Superhero movies that don’t hold up well over their first weekend tend not to sustain much energy at the box office over the longer course of their theatrical runs. …

The steep decline in the Batman v Superman numbers points to the unfortunate likelihood that, apart from DC Comics fans, North American audiences don’t like the movie very much.

One of the biggest challenges in life is to see things as they are instead of how we wish them to be. The optimist sees things through rose-colored glasses and the pessimist seems things as unrealistically grim. The mind has a funny way of making any “true believer” immune to cold, hard reality, which is why the truth about BvS should be spread far and wide.

I want Warner Bros. to succeed with its long-term plans, but that is not likely to happen if executives do not come to terms with the film’s flaws. Having websites out there calling the movie “review-proof” does no-one any favors.

Filming for Justice League is scheduled to start April 11, but Warner Bros. may want to consider stepping on the breaks for a month or two if that it possible. The script of BvS was disjointed and Bruce Wayne appeared to be the only character who was not underdeveloped. Given that the same creative team is working on Justice League, it would be wise to pause, analyze what didn’t work with BvS, and then fix any problems that inadvertently carried over into the current project.

This blog may favor Marvel fare, but I have no desire to see DC properties crash and burn. The superhero genre has plenty of people who are eager for its demise, which is why Warner Bros. needs to right its ship before its too late.

Batman v Superman: Jesse Eisenberg’s Turd Luthor almost destroys film

Batman v Superman

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has arrived. Fans finally get to see the two titans of D.C. Comics square up against on another while simultaneously setting up numerous other movies. Was it good? Was it bad? Does the “Sad Affleck” viral video convey what millions of moviegoers will feel by the end of the weekend? I think that the one thing people will remember 10 years from now about the film is just how big of a turd Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor turned out to be in the D.C. Punch Bowl, but I will try and lay out what worked and what didn’t in bullet points below.

First off, it should be reiterated once again that director Zack Snyder knows how to make a movie look cool. There are scenes that are incredibly gorgeous and he seems to have a great gut instinct for the shots fans want to see — probably because he is a fan. His problem, however, comes from the writing side of the equation. It is glaringly obvious that someone mandated all sorts of things that should have never been in the movie, in part because Hollywood producers have a penchant for being idiots. The script paid the price.

The plot of the movie is fairly straight forward and essentially told in the trailer. Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne both view Superman’s existence on earth a threat to humanity and both pursue a monomaniacal quest to end his life.

Superman struggles with the role he plays living among humans and then a studio-mandated monster is shoehorned into the finale because needlessly spending lots of money somehow translates as “good” to executives in Hollywood (One would think they would learn a thing or two from X-men Origins: Wolverine, but no!) The credits roll and then everyone wonders if there will be an extra scene at the end because that’s what Marvel does. The end.

The question — Is it good? — still remains. First, let us acknowledge what worked:

  • Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and Batman. He put in the time required to succeed, and it showed.
  • Henry Cavill did a fine job as Clark Kent and Superman, even if he took a back seat in what was initially supposed to be his movie.
  • Jeremy Irons makes an excellent Alfred.
  • The fight scenes are exactly what you would expect from the guy who knocked it out of the park with 300

Now, let us cover what did not work:

  • Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is an embarrassment. The entire film is dark and gritty and then he plays Luthor like he drew inspiration from Jim Carrey’s Riddler from Batman Forever (another Warner Bros. movie that suffered because it had too much going on, among its many other problems). Worse, the ominous music that plays when he’s on screen — juxtaposed with his goofy performance — reminded me of the “Large Marge” scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Any scene with Eisenberg that was supposed to be dramatic was not because he wasn’t believable as a Superman-worthy villain.
  • The movie was disjointed. Luthor should have been a serious businessman and there was absolutely no need for him to create Doomsday. The way it all unfolded was cringeworthy, which again begs the question: Was it Synder’s fault or studio-mandated? I will give Synder the benefit of the doubt since he stuck to his guns on Watchmen and wisely changed the ending for its film adaptation.
  • Batman v Superman was too long. There was a good 30 minutes that could have been cut from the film if they weren’t trying so hard to set up Justice League.

Jesse Eisenberg

In short, Batman v Superman is the classic case of “What might have been.” Parts of it are good. Parts of it are excellent. Unfortunately, some of it is just bad. In fact, just looking at Jesse Eisenberg’s face right now makes me shake my head in disgust. It’s not as bad as the time he likened San Diego Comic Con to “genocide” (yes, seriously), but it’s pretty bad.

I recommend seeing Batman v Superman to long-time fans because the impossible was made possible. For a kid who grew up in the 80s, I cannot help but feel as though this generation is spoiled rotten when it comes to cinematic superhero fare. See the film, but know that you will also walk away frustrated at the wasted potential.

It wasn’t your fault this time, Ben. Really. It wasn’t.

Editor’s Note: Check out Hube’s take over at The Colossus of Rhodey.

Zack Snyder’s ‘nightmare’ sneak: Scowling Superman terrifies

Superman nightmare

Zack Snyder has released a new “Batman v Superman – Exclusive Sneak” for the upcoming movie, and it is frightening. The “nightmare” clip begins with Batman trapped in a desert bunker manned by some sort of shock troops loyal to Superman. The Man of Steel arrives at the remote location and approaches his prisoner with a scowl normally seen by the Dark Knight.

Batman nightmare

Yes, it is possible to make Batman wet his pants. Bruce Wayne is righteously terrified (hence, the nightmare). Imagine a man with the power of a god — unaccountable to no one and restricted only by his own definition of right and wrong. Would the world hope and pray that this “superman’s” moral compass had a lifetime warranty, or would they not want to chance it and find a way to destroy him?

Superman scowl nightmare

Nations around the world would only tolerate Superman’s existence as long as there were equal or greater threats out there that he could defend them from. Leaders would jockey to win his allegiance. Wars would be fought because of him, and in the end it is entirely plausible that he would finally succumb to the temptation to end the madness by declaring himself our global king.

Batman v Superman nightmare

Some fans are already bemoaning the movie and its depiction of “nightmare” Superman, even though it won’t even be in theaters for another four months.

Perhaps the most hilarious feedback came from Dan Slott — the guy who “killed” Peter Parker for over a year and then put Doctor Octopus behind the mask.

He said: “I’d rather have a Superman who inspires and gives people hope — and not a dark & gritty alien who inspires fear.”

Dan Slott Superman

The lack of self-awareness is astounding. Replace “Superman” with “Spider-Man” and “alien” with “Doctor Octopus” and then ask him how he has the gall to critique Snyder. But I digress.

Online critics who are oddly upset that Henry Cavill will not become a Christopher Reeve simulacrum are missing the point: Synder has elevated great characters to their well-deserved mythological status. He is exploring big ideas about larger-than-life characters. To do the movie justice (no pun intended), he can’t be beholden to some idealized version of Superman that simply would not work in the cinematic universe Warner Bros. has created.

Whether you’re on Team Snyder or a Team Slott, let me know what you think in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you think.

‘Batman v Superman’ trailer: Zack Snyder goes were Marvel Studios fears to tread

Batman v Superman 911The Batman v Superman trailer is out, and one thing is obvious: Zack Synder is going with a level of realism that Marvel Studios has shown no desire to duplicate. Anyone who lived through the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will not be able to see Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne engulfed in dust and debris without thinking of that day. If they decide to accept the director’s decision, then they can appreciate what the visual does for the story — while everyone else sprints away from the carnage, Bruce Wayne hurls himself head first into the chaos. That is the kind of bravery (bordering on psychosis) a man would need for him to seriously attempt to challenge Superman.

Batman v Superman flyThere are plenty of valid criticisms that could be made of Mr. Synder’s DC Universe, but it is hard to deny that his Superman exudes raw power. When he is on the screen, he demands respect. The argument that his costume is dated and cheesy just doesn’t fly (no pun intended), because if you can be led to believe that a character possesses the power to exterminate the entire human race, then you will respect him in almost any outfit.

Batman v Superman desertThe strength Superman wields is what will (understandably) cause Bruce Wayne to fear the alien and, at least for a portion of the film, seek to destroy him.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor telegraphs exactly what “Batman versus Superman” is about:

“Black and blue. God versus man. Day versus night.”

If a man had the power of a god — but he wasn’t God — wouldn’t he have to be destroyed? The same question would, of course, apply to a … Wonder Woman.

Batman v Superman Wonder WomanMarvel Studios has a track record of making great movies, but for the most part it has shied away from the level of realism embraced by Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and Zack Synder’s “Man of Steel.” Both kinds of movies can happily exist in the summertime blockbuster market, but Marvel’s problem is that there are only so many times the world can be demolished in a shared cinematic universe before the cotton candy-ish tone seems weird. Perhaps Marvel Studio’s “Civil War” will finally address that problem, but as of now DC has the pole position on superhero fare that makes an audience think about real-world issues.

If you plan on seeing “Batman v Superman,” then let me know what you think about the trailer or anything else related to the movie in the comments section below.

Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ hits audiences with big ideas, soars over small-minded critics

Man of Steel Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ aims for epic, and on almost every level it delivers. That is probably why it set a new best-ever opening weekend record for June. It has grossed $125.1 million by its first Sunday in theaters. Audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and yet the “professional” critics have been less kind. That is because ‘Man of Steel’ is about big ideas, and many critics have small minds.

A snapshot of some of the worse reviews indicate critics wanted something “fun,” which is probably a euphemism for “This isn’t anything like Christopher Reeves’ Superman.”

  • “Skimps on fun and romance.” (Newsday)
  • “There’s very little humor or joy in this Superman story.” Richard Roeper
  • “Man of Steel (has) a cold heart that no amount of spectacle can compensate for.” (Art House Film Guide)
  • “Where’s the fun?” (Movieline)

Could Zack Snyder have made a plucky Superman film? Sure. But that’s not what he wanted to do. He wanted to explore what it would really be like if someone like Superman walked among us. How would it affect him? How would the world react? Would it be a blessing or a curse?

Here’s what I said upon the release of the first trailer:

The truth is, the world would reject Superman. And in his love for humanity he would offer himself up to them. No matter how strong and powerful he was and no matter how much he tried to convince humanity that he loved it they would fear and, ultimately, seek to destroy him. A world in which Superman exists would thrust a moral weight upon the shoulders of its citizens that would be too uncomfortable to bear for millions (possibly billions) of people, and they would seek to find ways to cast off such a burden by banishing him from earth, discrediting or destroying him all together.

If Zack Synder plays his cards right he will have a hit movie on his hands that millions of its critics will hate for reasons they won’t be able to comprehend until years after the fact, if at all.

That is exactly the movie Zack Synder has made. It’s a movie about finding out why were put on this earth and what our purpose is. It’s about first knowing the difference between right and wrong — and then choosing the hard right instead of the easy wrong. It’s about having faith and hope and trust in our fellow man, but acknowledging that we are all fallible. It’s about a hero who we call Superman, but it’s also about the hero inside each and every one of us. ‘Man of Steel’ honors the individual, but stresses the importance of selfless service and the commitment we have to our family and our community.

The critics who say this movie has no “joy” are the ones who sound like they’re from another planet. ‘Man of Steel’ is one of the most uplifting superhero movies I’ve seen in ages, and it’s made better by a cast of actors who all basically knock it out of the ballpark.

Diane Lane is fantastic as Martha Kent, and the scene it which she soothes a young Clark as he struggles to understand his powers is pitch perfect. The tenderness she shows reminds us all of our own mother’s best moments — all heroes in their own right.

Kevin Costner’s role as Jonathan Kent is equally as impressive. He understands that work is a virtue. He has strong hands and a dirty shirt from his labor, but his heart is pure. He does his best to instill honesty and integrity in his boy in an imperfect world. And, even as he wrestles with moral conundrums, he gives his son a road map that will help him navigate life’s most difficult terrain.

Henry Cavill is Clark Kent. He is not Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent — nor should he have been. Director Zack Snyder knows that when you start asking questions like “Who is Superman?” that you are also asking “Who is Clark Kent?” and “Who is Kal-El?” And the answer is that at his core he is pure, he is strong and he is kind. He embodies courage and selfless service. He represents our highest ideals — the ones we know we can never fully attain, but die honorably trying to pursue. How Clark’s essence manifests itself on screen will very from actor to actor, but Henry Cavill’s Superman does the character proud.

‘Man of Steel’ has its flaws, but one of them is certainly not the absence of joy. Zack Snyder knew exactly what he wanted, and everyone from the actors on screen to the special effects guys gave it to him. Love it or hate it, ‘Man of Steel’ is the finished product born out of a very clear vision of what a modern Superman movie needed to be in order to succeed.

At a pivotal point in the film, Clark realizes that as impressive as his powers are, he has not even begun to tap the well of potential inside of him. It’s a powerful scene — one in which millions of viewers will likely reflect on their own efforts to harness the greatness within them. That is a joyous thing. That gives us reason to smile, and hope for the future of all mankind.

Don’t worry about the critics, Mr. Snyder. People around the world have now listened to the words of Jor-El and know that while he was speaking to the character Clark, he was also speaking to them: they too can “accomplish wonders.” And for that, we are thankful.

Man of Steel Henry Cavill

The Man of Steel’s One Weakness: Political Hacks

Is Henry Cavill's Superman the kind that fights for "Truth, Justice, and...All That Stuff", or will he fight for the American Way? The intensity in his eyes says director Zack Synder has the Man of Steel back on track.

The first images of Henry Cavill as Superman are up and about. He looks good. Case closed, which frees us up to ask the more important question: Who is the Man of Steel? Underneath all those bulging biceps—deep down inside—what’s really making him tick? What motivates him? Who is he at the center of his being?

Not too long ago moviegoers were asking the same thing about Captain America, and it turned out that despite the director’s best efforts at self-sabotage, it turned out to be a good film.

Because Superman is an American icon, writers and directors worth their salt need to have a firm grasp on America’s core principles. Superman should exude our highest ideals, which is why doing him “right” is extremely difficult. Placed in the hands of a confused writer or pseudo-intellectual, the character will collapse under his own weight. Writer Grant Morrison (who can be brilliant at times) misses the mark when he says:

“Each decade, these characters represent our own best idea of what we’d like to be, our own big idea…Superman started out as a socialist fighter for the oppressed in 1938, but that was the time of the Depression. In the ’80s, he’s a yuppie,” (H/T Four Color Media Monitor).

Wrong. Only bad writers are so lured by a sign of the time that they’d boil a character down to something that can be summed up in pithy pejoratives or political talking points. Only bad writers mistake universal rights for international opinion. Only bad writing essentially creates FDR’s Superman and Reagan’s Superman. Good writing transcends the kind of political sniping Grant Morrison sets the stage for.

So when Henry Cavill says he wants to “[be] as true as I can be to the original character and who the character is,” someone needs to follow up with the soon-to-be Clark Kent. They need to poke and prod his muscles with something deeper than, “How cool is it to put the big ‘S’ on every morning for work?”

I have confidence that Zack Snyder will do Superman proud. In fact, I would argue that his spot-on understanding of Dr. Manhattan (an awesome, yet cynical, take on what Superman would end up like if he existed) has prepared him for the task. He’s ready.

And now, it’s time to watch Rorschach die in all his awesomeness.