“Victory has Defeated You” A Second Opinion on “The Dark Knight Rises”

If you’ve talked to me in the last few years then you know that I love Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker. I had even planned on doing an article on why Interstellar is one of the best movies of the last 20 years.(Maybe I still should?) But one of his major films was always one that I wasn’t incredibly fond of. That film was The Dark Knight Rises. As I have written before, my good friend Nick is a huge Nolan fan and we always had disagreements over this film. He finally just challenged me to watch it again and do an article on it. So this article is dedicated to my illustrious friend, Nick Wild.

I remember watching the first two parts of Nolan’s trilogy with a sincere sense of awe and wonder at who Batman could be and what Gotham could mean to a person. I loved these films and the structure they used to constantly maintain a sense of change and fear in Gotham. This poor finale had an incredibly difficult task of following The Dark Knight which was and still is considered by many to be, not only, the best Batman film but the best superhero film of all time. You have a phenomenal performance done by Heath Ledger that is impossible to top and his death made a few people ask if they should even do a third film. This is where DKR’s biggest problem lies: Nolan’s heart wasn’t in it. You can feel that throughout the film that this was the second script and that this was plan B to his original “Joker’s Trial” Script but, luckily, Christopher Nolan is an A+ filmmaker so what would be a convoluted mess from any other director becomes a film that works exceptionally well as a finale to his Batman story.

It’s definitely worth mentioning that Nolan had a clear vision for making this a story as much about the entirety of Gotham and not just about Batman.  through the economic downfall in the first film which led to the deaths of Martha and Thomas Wayne but then in the second film we see that even though Batman has come and brought hope to this city alongside Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent we still have crime to deal with in the form of Sal Maroni. This is why every villain in the trilogy was methodical and written in a way that affected the theme of the film. Ra’s Al Ghul and Scarecrow both dealt in fear, one causing it and one using it to his advantage. Joker dealt in chaos and Two-Face was the direct reflection of it. Then we finally get to the third film and we’re dealing with Bane and Catwoman.

Both of these villains work more as an antithesis of Bruce Wayne in every fashion of his life. Bane is the dark part of his origin, the chosen destroyer of Gotham that Ra’s Al Ghul wanted Bruce to be. Bane is the reckoning of Gotham that he declares himself as and he works as a villain in a way that none of the others could or would. Whereas Joker wanted to prove that everyone was chaotic, Bane was counting on it and used it to his advantage. I like this version of Bane because when most people think of Bane then they just see him as the man who was strong enough to break the Bat without knowing that he was smart enough to actually break Batman down in more than just a physical encounter. Hardy is giving a great performance here and there’s only one main Issue I have with Bane and that is that it is very difficult to understand him at multiple different times and that most of those lines are fairly crucial scenes. When he kills Dagett should be absolutely terrifying but it falls flat if you don’t have captions on. Both versions of his voice had their own problems and I honestly don’t know who to blame in the process, was Hardy just trying too hard? Did the lead sound editor take a Vacation during Bane week? Either way, my favorite line of his is the title of this article and I didn’t know he said it until my most recent viewing, which is sad.  Bane as a character works in the sense that his plan/speeches are still very relevant 4 years later, he brings to light the fact that their peace was built on a lie.  But more importantly he gives Gotham back to the people and lets them detroy themselves.

This is where Catwoman comes in. Selina Kyle has been the victim of a difficult lifestyle, presumably she’s been on her own for a long time and now she’s turned to theft to either make ends meet or further her agenda and hopefully work towards a better life. She works against Bruce Wayne in the fact that she has had to fight for everything in her life where Bruce was born into money. Now this is something that Nolan covered well in the first film. Bruce talks about leaving Gotham and going to a place where no one knows him, stealing for the first time so he can eat and understanding that not every crime is worth a beat down and being sent to a prison. So Bruce understands her but she doesn’t really understand him as a person just yet. All she sees is someone with a ridiculous amount of money while everyone else is starving or homeless. Remember how I said that Nolan had a clear vision for his story? well one of the underlying themes here is that “The Dent Act” has stopped most of the crime in the city but on the other end it’s keeping parents away from kids, abolishing most of the middle class and almost regressing itself back to the economic climate we saw in Batman Begins. Which is why Bane’s plan works so well. People are afraid, fear breeds anger and anger breeds rash actions…like joining with Bane.

So from a solid thematic standpoint, we’ve seen the setup of Bane and Catwoman being direct opposition for Batman. But what about the rest of the film?

Well Christian Bale is still fantastic in this role. I’ve never had any problems with him in these films. He makes the entire pit sequence interesting just by delivering some great lines and giving a great performance of someone who has to “Become something more” See what I did there?

I’ve always said that Michael Caine was terribly underused in this film and I still believe that but now I understand why. He’s meant to show that this Bruce Wayne has nothing, he lost Rachel, he lost his hope because of Harvey, he blames himself for Jim Gordon’s injuries and now he’s about to lose Alfred. Does this work for this film? Yes. Would I have done it differently? Absolutely.

Remember this exchange: Bruce – You still haven’t given up on me”

Alfred – “Never”

It’s beautiful, it’s special and it’s completely undone by the characters actions in the third film. I understand that’s the point but it still upsets me every time I watch it. Alfred never leaves. “Never”

John Blake is a new character that I want to love because Joseph Gordon Levitt is great but he makes some pretty stupid decisions in this film. Granted, yes most of them are done because he’s still learning but still, he throws the handgun away because Guns are bad but the next time you see him he has a shotgun. That will never not annoy me. Still, I would’ve liked to have seen who he became at the end of the film. Nightwing? New Batman? Something else entirely?

Now we get to the final point of the film and my least favorite part of it, Talia Al Ghul. Now you might be thinking that either I don’t like Marion Cotillard or that I don’t like that it changes things from the comics but that’s not the case because Cotillard is amazing and absolutely gorgeous in this film and I don’t care if they change things as long as it makes sense…which this doesn’t. Talia’s origin with Bane is just convoluted at best but I can get past that, what I can’t get past is her motivation. She wants to fulfill her father’s dream and destroy Gotham which I’m fine with until she explains that she hated her father because he cast Bane out of the League Of Shadows. So why does she want to fulfill her father’s destiny? Well her direct quote to Bruce: “I hated my father, until you killed him” doesn’t make sense at all. So that’s why Talia always annoys me in this film.

My other complaint is fairly minor due to it being circumstantial and that is that you don’t have to see The Dark Knight to watch this movie. As long as you know that Rachel and Harvey died then you have everything you need to know from that film. Now the reason I don’t complain as much about that is of course due to Heath Ledger’s untimely passing forcing them to build a new story and not wanting to cheapen his performance by making it nothing more than a passing reference.

Overall I love the themes in this film and the performances are just perfect. The opening scene is never not interesting, the fight sequence where Bane is just destroying Batman is beautifully shot and has some great dialogue, if you can understand it, from Hardy and the ending may not be the perfect Batman ending but it’s the perfect Nolan ending and it’s the one we deserve.

“A Great Swell Of Pity” X-Men : Apocalypse Review

Spoiler Warning, if that sort of thing upsets you.

 

I absolutely love the X-Men, they were the first group of characters that I really followed in the comics. I loved the idea of them being outcasts and being hated by the people that they protect. These are ideas that resonate within all of us at some point in our lives, which is why the X-Men remain so popular. Their film history has ranged from phenomenal to 2 of my least favorite comic book films of all time(X-Men : The Last Stand and X-Men Origins : Wolverine) This film falls somewhere in the middle because on the good side you have powerful performances by Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. The primary problem being that this might be their last X-Men Film which leads to the bad side and that is the fact that they don’t have much of a series without those three. Apocalypse as a character is terribly written and he looks laughably bad by 2016 standards. I feel bad for SImon Kinberg(The Writer) in the sense that he probably had the beginnings of the script written when he saw Age Of Ultron last year, took it to Bryan Singer(The Director) and they kept trying to come up with ways that Apocalypse wouldn’t end up being a discount Ultron but they just couldn’t manage it. His main plan is that, using Magneto’s ability to control the metal in the earth, he’s going to cause tidal waves and anyone who survives will be stronger and he will rule over them. Just let that plan sink in for a bit before you move onto the next paragraph.

Oscar Isaac does the best he can with that script, he delivers these speeches well but they don’t hold any weight because Apocalypse is pretty useless in this movie. His power set is basically Sylar from Heroes when it comes down to it, he transfers his consciousness from body to body and gains their mutant abilities afterwards, I wasn’t a huge fan of that but then three huge thoughts crossed my mind that made me hate that subplot even more

  • If he can gain their powers after transferring into them then why does he need Horsemen? Let’s face it Angel, Psylocke and Storm all would’ve taken that deal in this movie because they’re just weak-minded pawns. Magneto would’ve been a bit difficult but you could fight them and force it on him like he tries to do with Xavier.
  • If he has control over inorganic matter, which he clearly shows us multiple times, then why does he need Magneto to cause tidal waves?
  • If you can sense the power within these mutants then why are you not choosing the girl with the power of the Phoenix Force?

Apocalypse left me with a lot of questions about his intelligence, maybe he should’ve transferred into a mutant whose power was logical cognitive abilities…Eh? Eh? Ah what do you know from funny. But seriously, no one can ever complain about MCU villains ever again because even if they weren’t overtly threatening then you can at least say that they were more interesting than Apocalypse and I never had problems with their logic.

Psylocke, Angel and Storm are just shadows of who they should’ve been but they’re nothing more than Henchmen.(particularly Psylocke.)

I like Nightcrawler, Jean and Cyclops. Cyclops is still annoying, Nightcrawler is pretty spot on and Jean is great except for one key part : Jean Grey just murders Angel. There’s no way around it. I struggle with that because Jean is so typically the one that is trying to sustain human life unless it’s absolutely necessary…like when she kills Apocalypse but Angel was technically just misguided like Storm who is welcomed into the X-Men without anyone mentioning the whole helping destroy the world thing.

Caliban’s kind of in this movie. He can sense mutants but for some reason he can’t sense Apocalypse. I’m just questioning where Kinberg and Singer got their information about these characters especially when Singer had banned comics from the sets of his films. Can we please get Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman back?

Fox needs to come to terms with something terrifying: it’s not 2000 anymore. This film would’ve been considered the pinnacle of Comic book films if we hadn’t seen The Dark Knight trilogy or anything Marvel Studios has put out. To many people 17 years isn’t a long time but in the world of comics and film it is. We need to adapt and write stronger stories and actually build our characters instead of just showing them to us, you can tell me that the girl with the white mohawk was Storm all day long but I can assure you that it wasn’t. We have advanced beyond the world of just seeing things and have progressed into wanting to know more about who these characters are and until Fox realizes that then they’ll only make a profit based off of people being hopeful that when they go they’ll see a better X-Men film.

Overall, the film is worth the price of admission for Fassbender’s performance as Magneto. There’s a few things that they get right that are so good but there’s a lot of bad in this movie.

The Forgotten: My Thoughts on DC Rebirth.

First and foremost, Major Spoiler warning, I tried doing this without spoilers but even the first 5 pages are full of moments that will have massive repercussions over the next few months.

 

 

Still here? Alright good…but just to be sure…

 

So yesterday saw the release of DC Rebirth #1 and I’m sorry I took forever in writing this article but I had to process the issue and really approach this with a level head. For those of you that don’t know then this is the ultimate DC event that’s going to be a soft reboot of all of their comics. This is also the last comic that Geoff Johns is going to write for the foreseeable future. As I previously wrote about, he is going to go and head up the new DC Films and is focusing the majority of his time on that. I’m okay with Johns taking a break but not the way that they’re going about it. Rebirth doesn’t answer all of the questions that we have and I’m worried about other people carrying the story after Johns is gone. This is a story that could easily go off the rails quickly. Johns as a writer knows and loves these characters, he wants them to succeed and be as great to us as they are to him. His writing in this issue is some of the best he’s done since his Green Lantern finale but that’s exactly why it’s sad to lose him right here. He and the company used this issue to “fix” the DC universe and the “problems” of the New 52 and he did so in a way that only a certain group of people could be upset with, the only problem is that that group of people are the people who were helping to keep the lights on.

DC Rebirth #1 is narrated by Wally West, a character who’s original incarnation has been missing since the start of The New 52. Many fans wanted his return to DC and I did too. They brought us a new Wally West and although he was good, he was vastly different from who we were used to, the new Wally was a kid who was troubled and hung out with the wrong crowds and he had to be coached into becoming the hero we needed. The original Wally was the heart of The Teen Titans, he was the Flash that my generation grew up with and he deserved better than to just be “Forgotten”

That word takes on a new meaning in this issue because instead of dying, Wally has been flung through the speed force since The New 52 started. He wasn’t dead, he was just “Forgotten” It’s a very miserable existence and what’s worse is that he sees this darkness growing and can do nothing to stop it. He keeps trying to return to our world and while he’s trying when he finally does get back he tells us that our heroes have been weakened since The New 52 started. The villains of this time theft have been revealed as none other than Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias from Watchmen. I actually really like bringing them in because Johns has spoken multiple times about a return of Hope and Optimism in the comics and films and there’s no greater villain for that then the cynicism of The Watchmen.  So now that Wally is back and he remembers everything that happened before The New 52 he can tell all of our new heroes about the people that they could be and once were which I guess I’m ok with that but I liked the characters in The New 52. One of the other things that Johns spoken about was a return to the legacy of DC. Which is great…but don’t forget the legacy of The New 52.

Chris Sims once wrote about “The Problem” and this issue coupled with the release of Batman V. Superman : Dawn of Justice solidifies it. The basic premise of “The Problem” is that DC has chased the popularity of Marvel for the past 50 years and they just can’t reach it.(Seriously, the entire article is worth your time. Go check it out.) He’s right about the idea and I do believe that it is a factor but the real problem in this instance is that DC hasn’t believed in the New 52 for the last two years. Batman was the only consistent run throughout the entirety of 2011-2016 and that was only because of Snyder, Capullo and Miki just all being exceptional creators. Everything else just sort of faded out and it seemed like DC didn’t care. Scott Lobdell still has a job as a writer even though he has put forth almost no effort to better his writing. They let Pak, Bunn, Lemire and Fialkov slip through their fingers even though they were fantastic and you know what the worst problem was? They listened to the whinier fans instead of the ones that were actually buying the books. So instead of adapting the story to be both a fan service and an exceptional creative opportunity DC just told us that we were wrong for buying all of those comics for the past 5 years and that these characters were weakened versions of our favorite heroes. Phenomenal Stories like “Goddess Of War”, “Throne Of Atlantis”, “Zero Year”, “Endgame”, “The Red and The Green”, “Forever Evil” and many others may never matter again. I’m hoping that they don’t do away with them but there is a good chance that it could happen.

I will hang onto my optimism for DC for as long as I can but currently the truth is that for those of us who fell in love with The New 52, the ones who spent time and money buying these books and following these characters we are the ones who will still read DC, we are the ones who will still love the Hope that they have shown us but, sadly, we are the ones who have been Forgotten.

Midday Snarks

If you like cynical, sarcastic comedy with humble insights into genre stuff, here are some Midday Snarks for a nice afternoon snack. Like Vance’s Speeding Bullets, but less mature and much more exaggerated. Sometimes.

  • According to reports, the new Assassin’s Creed movie is going to be two-thirds set in modern day and only one-third set in the Spanish Inquisition. When all thought it was impossible, Ubisoft has somehow discovered a way to take the only part of Assassin’s Creed games that no one has cared about for years and still make a cash-grab out of it.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse comes out this weekend. Hopefully it will answer everyone’s burning questions, like what happened to Wolverine at the end of DoFP? Why is Magneto going against everything in his character to be a Horseman? Why is Mystique even in this movie, and why the hell does she constantly look like Jennifer Lawrence?
  • In an interview that surfaced a few weeks ago, Henry Cavill was asked about critics’ rather—ahem—averse reviews of Batman vs. Superman. Cavill responded that what really matters is the audience’s reaction. Well, Mr. Kent, the fans have spoken, and it turns out you don’t really have any.
  • Disney released a teaser trailer for Beauty and the Beast, and it was phenomenally done. Disney also proved that once again it is apparently the only movie-making company that knows how to release an actual teaser trailer and not a show-the-whole-damn-plot-in-under-three-minutes trailer. Kudos.
  • Back to Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft has announced that in true Ubisoft fashion, movie-goers will only get the whole film experience if they pre-order the feature and pay an additional $40 for a replica of the iconic pen that you may or may not notice Michael Fassbender using in the movie.
  • News reports say that the rumored Tetris feature film is real, and it will have a sci-fi thriller tone to it. I don’t even have a joke for this one. Are you ******** kidding me?
  • Marvel has announced that the vast majority of the cast in the future Black Panther movie will be African or African-American (because in today’s society, that actually warrants an announcement rather than a common-sense conclusion). Small population of Marvel fans simultaneously outraged about the politically correct agenda while arguing that they are somehow not racist.
  • Uncharted 4 is released and is greeted by a host of 10/10 scores from critics and reviewers. Naughty Dog still refuses to reboot Crash Bandicoot. Playstation fans still drowning in tears. Naughty Dog still not caring.
  • Nintendo announces that they are officially looking to branch out into feature films with their video game properties! Reports claim that the Legend of Zelda franchise is apparently not on the table. In similar news, man dying of thirst breaks into water bottling facility and drinks out of the toilet.
  • Star Wars Battlefront sequel is rumored to appear at this year’s E3. Jaded Star Wars fan asks, “Is it the second half of the first game that they forgot to make?”
  • Fox comic book adaptation “Lucifer” continues to be protested by conservative Christian moms of America. AMC’s “Preacher” show previewed this past Sunday and has yet to receive any protest from similar groups. This goes to confirm the longstanding truth that, much like Zack Snyder, most moms just do not know their source material.
  • In directly related news, tons of children receive the new DOOM game from their parents despite M-rating and graphic violence, leading “Lucifer” executives completely dumbfounded.
  • The new Call of Duty game, CoD: Infinite Warfare, really leaves Treyarch in a rough place as far as names for successive CoD titles. They do currently have a leg up on EA, however, seeing as how the new Call of Duty will have more space combat than Star Wars Battlefront.

DC Rebirth: Cautious Optimism

For months we in the comic book world have been hearing about DC Rebirth.  This company-wide initiative is designed to reinvigorate the creative juices at DC and inspire a new direction that will allow for innovation in comics, and… Synergy? Unity? (I’m running out of buzzwords…)

You know what, lets just say it: Rebirth is about making money.  Plain and simple.  And please, let us not pretend to be offended by that fact.  In all honesty, DC has to do something.  Ever since “DC You,” they have been getting crushed by Marvel in the sales column, and it is not as if the sales are an aberration.  Marvel’s creative output has been close to flawless, and, unlike DC, their ventures into the mainstream have been extremely well-received, particularly on the cinematic front.  So what is DC to do?  Well, apparently you turn to Geoff Johns, and you have him write a Rebirth story.  It has worked in the past, so it will work again, right?  Personally, I am cautiously optimistic about this whole thing.  However, there are some warning bells that I believe we should be aware of.  Therefore, before next weeks giant 80 page spectacular, I believe it would be prudent to examine some of the things that make me more “cautious” than “optimistic.

A Dearth of Big Name Creators

Let us travel back in time to the launch of the New 52.  When the reboot was announced, most of us marveled at the veritable murderer’s row that DC was rolling out.  You had Geoff Johns on Justice League, Aquaman, and Green Lantern.  Scott Snyder, as the number one up and coming writer in the business, took over the Batman title.  Grant Morrison was on Action Comics.  Gail Simone was on Batgirl.  Brian Azzarello was given Wonder Woman, a fact which surprised many people, due to his typically dark subject matter.  Granted, there were some missteps, but for the most part DC was actively trying to get the nest possible creators for their New 52 lineup.

Flash forward now to the end of March 2016.  The titles have been announced, but we are waiting to hear who the creative teams will be.  After all, they are having a massive presentation to tell us who will be doing what, so surely they have some big names lined up for this massive Rebirth.  Vance and I were literally drooling over the possibilities.  Would Morrison be given a title?  What is Scott Snyder going to do?  Would there be any surprises?  And so we huddled around our phone and waited for the bombshells.  And the sad fact is… we are still waiting.  Here is what we got:

Peter J. Tomasi on Superman

Dan Jurgens on Action Comics

Scott Lobdell (danger Will Robinson) on Red Hood and the Outlaws.

No Greg Pak.  No Cullen Bunn.  No Babs Tarr, which is really strange considering how successful her Batgirl has been.  It is almost as if every creator who wrote strong titles for the New 52 has been excised from Rebirth.  And understand, with the exception of Lobdell (who has already had one much maligned run on Red Hood and the Outlaws), I do not have any problems with any of their creative choices.  Jurgens and Tomasi are seasoned vets at this point.  But where have all the up and coming creators gone?  Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart, and Brendan Fletcher redefined Batgirl.  Cullen Bunn wrote a fantastic Sinestro comic.  Remember all the hype David Walker was getting for his Cyborg comic?  Where did he go?  And why did DC stick Gene Luen Yang on a comic no one is going to read? Also, remember how Jason Fabok was going to be the next big artist?  Where is he at?  Granted, Tom King is taking Batman, which should be great.  Tim Seeley on Nightwing and Joshua Williamson on Flash both have a lot of potential.  And of course, there is Greg Rucka on Wonder Woman.  But even with Rucka’s announcement I found myself excited and at the same time thinking, “We have seen this before.”

And before I get accused of being pessimistic, then compare Rebirth’s strategy to what Marvel has done with Black Panther.  When Marvel needed a knockout writer to create the Black Panther mythos for a new generation of readers they went out and got Ta-Nehisi Coates (New York Times writer and winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant).  When DC needed a writer for their new Superman comics, which are each supposed to launch a new direction for Superman, they let their best Superman writer walk (Greg Pak), stuck their closest equivalent to a Ta-Nehisi Coates (Gene Luen Yang) on a comic that will be cancelled in 6 months, and went with two guys who haven’t written a best selling comic in at least 10 years in Dan Jurgens and Peter J. Tomasi.  I cannot help but find this troubling.

Rebirth is a Completely Reactionary Event

Here is an actual quote from the DC Comics Preview Guide for April, regarding the new Green Arrow title.  “Readers are aching for the reunion of Green Arrow and Black Canary, and we’re finally going to give it to them.  Also returning?  Green Arrow’s goatee.”  Sign me up!  I was iffy, and then they mentioned facial hair.

In all seriousness, within that quote from Ben Percy (who I actually think will do a bang up job on Green Arrow) lies one of the major problems with Rebirth, namely, that the entire endeavor seems to be a reaction to the whining of the old guard DC fans.  I am actually shocked that they  haven’t killed off the new Wally West and brought back the pre-new 52 Wally.  My least favorite aspect of this is what they are doing with Superman.  From what I can gather, the New-52 version of Superman is going to die and the pre-Crisis version of Superman is returning.  Which, in my opinion, negates everything that has happened in the New 52 with the character.  And make no mistake, they did a lot with the Superman character.  They gave him a new love interest in Wonder Woman.  They gave him a new power in the “solar flare.”  Now, apparently all that is going away.  Does this mean that 2011-2016 will be remembered as this time when we had a fake Superman, and the rest of his 75-plus years we had the right Superman?  I know the argument will be, “Well actually they are both the real Superman, because they are from different universes/timelines.”  All that is fine, but it still means that 2011-2016 will have an asterisk next to it, when it comes to Superman, because that Superman was replaced.  Hey remember when Marvel tried to tell its customers that Ben Reilly was the actual Spider-Man, and Peter Parker was a clone?  How is this any different?

This all stems from the fact that there is a contingence of fans who have complained about everything the New 52 has done.  They hated Superman’s armor, they hated the collar on his costume, they hated his relationship with Wonder Woman, and they want their old comics back.  However, say what you will about the New 52, but it was anything but reactionary.  In fact, the only thing it was reacting to was the fact that DC had literally told every story they could.  I mean, they had the Infinite Crisis, they had Rebirths of both Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, they had the Sinestro Corps war, they had the Final Crisis, both Blackest Night and Brightest Day… what else was there to do?  By resetting the timeline, what they essentially did was allow everyone to jump into comics without having 30 years (or more) backstory explained.  Contrast this with Rebirth, which seems to want to add everything back, so that we can have things like 2 Clark Kents.  It could work, but I am a little skeptical.  I’m not sure this will please longtime fans, and I do not see how it can bring in new fans.

The Last Stand of Geoff Johns

When Geoff Johns came on stage during the Rebirth presentation at WonderCon, he was introduced as if he is the Michael Jordan of comic books.  This really isn’t too far from the truth.  In the 21st Century only Brian Michael Bendis has wielded anywhere near the power or has had a hand in as many epic events.  His influence is evident all through the comic world.  And, when Johns wants to be, he is, arguably, the best comic book writer in the world.  And yet, if Rebirth is his baby, then where is he in all this?  He is writing the giant Rebirth Special, and is helping Abnett on a future Aquaman story, but other than that he is not writing anything for Rebirth.  This troubles me, because if DC has two assets in their pocket, they have Scott Snyder and they have Geoff Johns, and yet Johns seems to be taking on an overseer’s role.  Will this work?  I’m not sure.

Here is what I know: 95% percent of the time Geoff Johns has delivered for DC in a big way.  It appears that his hands are all over this initiative, and that is, ultimately, a good thing.  When you strip everything else away, Geoff Johns is just a guy who loves comic books.  And that is what gives me hope.  Even within my reticence, I am willing to give this Rebirth a shot, because it is rare that Geoff Johns lets the comic book community down.

All that being said, who do we think is getting their arm cut off in the Rebirth Special?

 

Speeding Bullets #4

As always, the “Speeding Bullet” articles are focused on talking about the latest news in the world of fandoms. Typically if I talk about breaking news then I do it on the Facebook page but sometimes, certain subjects require a few more words…this is one of those times.

The State of DC Films: Can Geoff Johns save them?

Geoff Johns is one of my favorite writers. His work is full of hopeful messages, strong heroes and brilliant villains. Johns has, throughout his entire career, thrived on reviving properties that were either forgotten or weren’t selling very well. (“Green Lantern”, “Teen Titans”, “Justice Society of America”, ETC.) Now he has to revitalize something that has taken a turn for the worst: The DC Cinematic Universe. They’ve chosen him (as Chief Creative Officer) and Jon Berg (as Executive VP) to head up production of the newly created DC Films. Furthering themselves away from Warner Brothers and becoming their own entity is something that I have wanted ever since they announced a shared universe. I think on paper it is a brilliant move and I’m hoping they can stick the landing with it. Obviously some changes have needed to happen because no matter who you are, whether you hated or kinda liked it, you have to say that Batman V. Superman had it’s fair share of problems. I’m not doing this article to bash the film, I don’t want this site to become that, but it’s so clearly the reasoning behind this shake-up that it has to be referenced.

Considering that Johns is one of my favorite writers I want to enjoy this but I have to do this with a slight bit of reticence. I always try to look at the big picture and understand what decisions have to be made before we, the public, see anything. Johns is a great choice for leading the films but as WiseSage said to me, “It’s too reactive.” I agree with him to an extent because I, too, would have preferred DC to make this decision from the beginning but obviously that wasn’t the case. Instead we have to remedy the situation that has been placed before us. Naturally, WB/DC has seen the varying reactions to their film and Marvel’s “Civil War” and saw the stark contrast between their film being heralded as an apocalyptic force to the superhero genre and Marvel’s single-handedly making everyone believe in it again.

So, the question is: What can DC do to save themselves? Johns is a good start but this could create problems for their comics. Over the past few years Johns has been spread very thin over the Comics, Shows and Films and many people have deemed this to be a major issue with DC considering how certain issues with the comics or shows have only gotten worse or haven’t been fixed at all. This summer marks the premiere of “Rebirth” which is going to be a comic book event that could make or break them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for it but the more I consider it the more I see the chinks in their armor.(Be on the Lookout for WiseSage’s new article on the issues with “Rebirth” in the next few days) They have a limited number of A-List creators in their upcoming line-up and it worries me that their stories might be focused more on fixing the problems that people are complaining about and not about trying to create great stories in the first place.

I hear you already, “But Vance, isn’t fan outcry exactly what this entire article is about?” Yes, but not just for the sake of trying to please everyone. Comics, and their subsequent adaptations, are in their very nature something that is 50% based on fan appreciation and 50% on creative quality. If either one is compromised then something needs to be fixed.

In conclusion, Johns is someone that can easily turn DC around for the better. Less than 3 years ago, DC was at a new height of financial and creative power that I think they can easily return to with the right leadership.

What to Expect from Spider-Man: Homecoming

So now that we’ve seen Tom Holland as our new MCU Spider-Man (spoiler alert, he’s spectacular), the rumors have been flying about his upcoming solo movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, a title that just exudes Marvel’s fun sense of self-awareness. Set to come out next year in July—the seventh, to be exact, if you want to be like me and mark your calendars and set up countdowns on your electronic devices—the movie hasn’t really released a ton of information about its plot or the comic book sources it may or may not be drawing from. Thus, rumors have gone everywhere from a weird pseudo-adaptation of The Clone Saga to an entirely new story straight from the MCU. As an avid Spider-Man fan, I can’t help but dive into these rumors and unsubstantiated claims and voice my opinions. Seeing as I am an admin on a genre-based blog, you all get to read these ramblings! So let’s look at some of the rumors and wishes circulating around our new web-slinger.

Kraven’s Last Hunt

This is a storyline that fans of Spider-Man have been clamoring for since Toby Maguire was under the mask, even though reports leaked in years past have shown that Morbius was a more likely villain for Raimi’s fourth entry than Kraven. And as a huge fan of DeMatteis’s story, I am personally holding out for a Kraven appearance in the years to come under the MCU. But let’s be honest here, folks: Kraven’s Last Hunt makes absolutely no sense for a year one Spider-Man.

Kraven's Last Hunt

Join with me in hypothesizing this proposed idea for a movie: for the first Spider-Man entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kevin Feige is going to introduce a villain never before seen in a movie, let him apparently kill the titular hero and steal his identity, and then have (in cinematic terms) a rather anticlimactic ending with Spider-Man fighting an entirely different tier-3 villain as the aforementioned bad guy commits suicide. You are gonna have a lot of confused people in that theater. Even if MCU writers mix things up with the storyline, the whole idea of Kraven’s Last Hunt is that it is a climax from the other encounters that Spider-Man has had with him in the past. It’s the conclusion to big life phases for both Kraven and Peter alike. Making it into Kraven’s First and Last Hunt loses the real meaning of the story and just doesn’t make sense. Maybe for Spider-Man three or four. But not for year one.

Remake Raimi’s Spider-Man (How Green was My Goblin!)

A lot of the ideas for Marvel’s new Spider-Man franchise surprisingly circles around remaking older movies. While this idea makes a bit of sense—there’s perhaps no villain more essential to Peter’s history than the Green Goblin—we have already gotten three different Goblins since Raimi’s first entry. The villain, while undoubtedly will be seen soon enough in the MCU, needs some time off, and I doubt Marvel wants to associate itself so closely with any memories of the Sony franchises. We do know that Michael Keaton has been approached to possibly play a villain in Homecoming, and he would make for an excellent Norman Osborn, but I for one have serious doubts that he will be the main baddie in the movie or that he will even have his villainous origin this early in the game. There’s just too much baggage from Sony that Marvel is trying to avoid.

Birth of Venom

Story-wise, this rumor makes the most sense for inspiration. While not taking place in year one Spider-Man lore, the Birth of Venom could pretty easily be modified to fit as a first big bad for a young Spider-Man. The presence of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 just a couple of months before Homecoming even gives Marvel a chance to briefly introduce the existence of symbiotes in the universe, leading into one ending up on Earth due to the abundance of alien presence on our planet over the years in the MCU. Introducing Eddie Brock (quick plug for my fan-casting of Tom Hardy) as a reporter for the Daily Bugle, Peter’s new part-time job, offers a good opportunity to give fans a villain they’ve been asking for while not forcing an ill-fitting storyline. Add Michael Keaton as Norman Osborn in the background, and you have the groundwork for a Spider-Man mini-verse. If Marvel does use an existing story as inspiration, this one is probably the most likely.

The Death of Jean DeWolff Death of Jean Dewolff

I’ll be honest, this is my own personal rumor that I am officially starting. For anyone who has read a lot of Spider-Man—and I mean a LOT of the comics—this story sticks out to you as the moment you start to wonder if Spidey is going to actually kill someone. Go read the story for yourself; it is absolutely fantastic and stands as one of my personal favorite comic books arcs of all time. I like the idea of Homecoming being inspired by this story because it gives the MCU the chance to do a lot of new things: the tone of Spidey hunting down a serial killer could offer a crime thriller tone new to Marvel movies, it could introduce the Netflix TV universe by bringing in Kingpin and Daredevil like the comic book story, and it could give Marvel the chance to set Spider-Man apart in the cinematic universe as being the hero who doesn’t kill despite being pushed to his limit by the Sin Eater. While this is probably a long shot for Homecoming, I am going to remain hopeful we see this storyline down the road either as a future Spidey movie or as a subplot in a future season of Daredevil.

Spider-Man: Blue

This is my favorite Spider-Man story, and it would definitely make for an interesting movie. The idea is that Gwen Stacy is already dead by the time Civil War takes place; thus, Homecoming would be a set of flashbacks for Peter as he details what he has done up to now. This would show some scenes of him fighting the Green Goblin, meeting Mary Jane, encountering Eddie Brock (again, cast Tom Hardy!), hanging out with Harry Osborn, and getting into tussles with several members of his rogues gallery. Peter narrates all of this as he stands talking to Gwen’s grave, ending in a flashback to Death of the Stacy’s and a final farewell message to the girl he loved but could not save. Again, this would be a different type of movie style that Marvel could try to add variety to their roster, and it would be a fitting metaphor for Spider-Man saying goodbye to a former presence in his life—Sony—and hello to his new companion, the MCU. Again, a bit of a long shot, but intriguing nonetheless.

The Clone Saga

Stop. Just Stop.

A Totally New Story

This will probably be what we get, and I am totally fine with that. While Marvel has always drawn some inspiration from the comics in their movies, they have also definitely not been afraid to play with canon a little bit to make a unique adventure (see Civil War, Iron Man 3, and Winter Soldier as primary examples). Michael Keaton is tagged to play someone, and the popular theory is the Vulture. For the life of me, I cannot name one big Spider-Man story that features Vulture in anything more than a side role. But hey, I’m down to see what they do! Marvel is in an interesting position: Sony has already done a lot of groundwork over the years to set up Spider-Man’s world. People have a pretty good idea of who Norman and Harry Osborn are, and at least some idea of Peter’s love interests (Gwen and MJ). We have also seen the death of Uncle Ben far too many times, so no need to rehash that. Marvel gets a rare opportunity to introduce a character who has already been introduced, letting them do whatever they want with a year one story. Let’s see what they do!

Whatever it is, please Marvel, for the love of God, no more sidewalk dancing.

-Admin Red Lanyard

“I Remember all of them” Civil War’s Perfect Finale

*I can’t stress enough my major spoiler warning for this article. I will most likely be talking about every important thing that happens in the last 30 minutes of Captain America : Civil War.*

You’ve Been Warned.

As I’ve already said in my actual review, I loved this movie…so why write another article talking about it? Well one reason is that it’s worth it but the main reason is that I couldn’t talk about the fantastic finale. I believe it to be the greatest finale of any superhero film. Yes, I know what that means…better than Iron Man 3…better than The Dark Knight…better than The Avengers. I understand that many of you already think that such heretical thoughts should never be written but hear me out on this.

Civil War was the culmination of 11 different films(12 if you count Guardians Of The Galaxy). Marvel had built these characters up in a way that humanized them and made us fall in love with them. No matter how old you were or where you came from there was a certain magic whenever you saw the 6 Avengers in that line-up or when Winter Soldier caught Cap’s Shield or when Hawkeye made his speech about “If you step outside those doors, you are an Avenger.” Marvel had made these characters leap off of the page and most importantly in this case…set up the friendship between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. They’re not old friends with each other like they are with Bucky Barnes or James Rhodes, they’re not contemporaries like Sam Wilson or Bruce Banner but they are the two leaders of this team that want to do what’s right. Steve and Tony both reinvented themselves to become the heroes they are, they’re both heroic outside of their alter-egos and they both suffer from severe trauma and loss. So what would cause these two men to fight?

Unfortunately, their own heroics is the cause of it. The battle against Ultron in Sokovia has made many people throughout the world view the Avengers as a group that brings nothing but destruction wherever they go. So the government comes up with a solution: The Sokovia Accords. Basically they want to make the Avengers a team that is sanctioned and controlled by the United Nations. Tony is all for this because he wants to protect people as much as he can. Steve is against this because he doesn’t want to be told when he can save people and he realizes that if someone does get hurt then all it’s going to do is shift blame to whoever gave the orders.

This is enough to cause a split between the two factions. Some of the Avengers are for it and some are against it. The initial fight is gradually built towards from here including the return of the Winter Soldier and the introductions of Black Panther and Spider-Man. I’m skipping over a lot to get to the finale so forgive me for that, I’m not exactly sure when the fight takes place time-wise but it is absolutely brilliant. It’s a 6 Vs. 6 match-up that we’ve waited to see since the first Avengers film and it’s finally happening. The reason this fight works is because it’s been set up so well and because it doesn’t get boring, we see scene after scene of superhero action for a solid 15 minutes and it’s still incredibly entertaining. I also love that they’re not trying to kill each other or anything Steve is just trying to catch up with Zemo and stop him and Tony is just trying to bring Steve in. The fight ends with Vision accidentally shooting down War Machine and severely wounding him while Steve and Bucky get away on a quinjet.

This is where the last 20-30 minutes become flawless. After making sure that Rhodey is safe, Tony goes to the raft, a prison for superpowered beings and speaks to Hawkeye, Ant-Man and Falcon. Scarlet Witch is basically catatonic when we see her, presumably due to the fact that Strucker kept her and her brother in cells and now she’s back in one. Hawkeye kind of steals the show in this part because he gets to take Daredevil’s part from the comic, he’s so angry with Tony and Renner pulls it off perfectly. Falcon tells Tony where Steve was heading because Tony finally believes him about Zemo and just wants to help him.

Once they all end up in Siberia, they realize that Zemo’s plan wasn’t what they thought and he shows them a video, a video of the Winter Soldier killing Tony’s parents. This showcases phenomenal performances from Stan, Downey and Evans. The battle between the three starts and it’s incredible. It has some great action moments but it’s the drama behind it that makes it perfect. The title of this article refers to one of my favorite lines

Tony : “Do you even remember them?”

Bucky : “I remember all of them”

This is some incredibly clever writing because we get everything we need to know about Bucky right there. He feels remorse and anger over the fact that he was nothing but a weapon for over 60 years.

While this is going on, Black Panther has followed them and he has learned that it wasn’t Bucky who killed his father, but Zemo. He tracks down Zemo, who explains that he lost his entire family in the Sokovia attack and that he planned to destroy the Avengers but how could he if Ultron and Loki couldn’t? He broke them from within. Zemo is the most underrated part of this movie. He’s manipulative and patient, which is terrifying. He has a definitive reason for hating the Avengers and his story works perfectly as the backdrop to the accords. He wasn’t just a recreation of the hero and he wasn’t just someone else to beat in a punching contest. He was fantastic and he’s also the only villain to win.

This leads to Black Panther’s shining moment where he “Won’t let revenge consume me” and instead of allowing Zemo to kill himself, he stops him and captures him.

Meanwhile you have one of the most brutal fights I’ve seen in a superhero film, Bucky gets his arm blown off, Steve is beaten bloody and Tony is just an emotional wreck and you can’t really blame any of them. Of course the now classical gut wrenching line is in there of :

Steve : I’m sorry Tony but he’s my friend.

Tony : So was I.

It honestly carries even more weight in the actual scene. The fight ends at a standstill and Steve and Bucky leave with Tony just lying there on the ground.

It ends with Tony returning to The Avengers compound and with steve breaking his team out of the raft. Tony receives a letter and a phone in the mail, the letter is Steve apologizing for the way things went down and saying that if they ever need him then he’ll be there.

It’s such a perfect ending and I love that this film hits every major point you need from a Superhero film. It still has it’s fun moments and it’s action moments but it’s a film that deals with accountability and remorse for your actions. It ends on a higher note than the comic and for me, it’s actually a better note to end on. Everything about this film balances well and it shows especially in it’s perfect finale.
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My Wonder Woman

If I live to be a hundred years old, I will never forget this moment:

I had just come home from work and was on the phone with my brother. I went up the stairs to say to my mom and when I entered the room she was crying. I asked her what was wrong and all she could get out was “He’s so brave!” I looked and saw that my mother was watching “Captain America : The First Avenger” and Steve was in the chamber becoming Captain America. She cared so much for a characters well being and it had reminded her of the bravery of true heroes in the world and it built an emotional connection for her. Most people can watch or read something and not feel anything but not her. To her, everything was emotion.

This was Linda Hardesty. My Mother. My Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman was her absolute favorite, but she loved all of the different characters. We went and saw Iron Man in 2008 and went to Free Comic Book Day and then from that moment on, My mother would start reading comics with me. She always wanted to be in Jane Foster’s shoes and be whisked away to Asgard, she wanted to be inspired by a man of steel over metropolis and she wanted to stand up for what’s right and never back down from darkness like Wonder Woman. She lived her life in a way that people only dream of, every moment she lived with the wisdom of a woman who had seen the world change over the years but she still never lost the child-like wonder of finding something new. That wonder is something that we could all stand to appreciate and enjoy.

She loved and was loved in return. She always pushed me to be the very best at what I was doing and I probably wouldn’t be writing if it wasn’t for her guidance. Every article and every story has a piece of her in it. I’m not writing this article to just relive moments of her life and my memories of her, I’m writing this so that you understand that although this is my second Mother’s Day without my mother, she’s always still with me. She’s the reason this site is here and she’s the reason I write. Everything I do is in the hopes of living up to her memory.

Linda Sue McCarty Hardesty 1953-2015

-Jacob Vance Hardesty(Vance McCarty)

“Whose side are you on?” Captain America : Civil War Review

Last night, I felt like a kid again. I really did. I haven’t been this happy about a film since Star Wars : The Force Awakens and I can’t even remember the last one before that. Civil War is what films can be and what they should be. Now, I didn’t just say superhero films, I mean all films. The Russos, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeeley and Kevin Feige have crafted something that is absolutely amazing.

I’m going to do my best to make this a coherent review and not just me fanboying about it for an entire article. I’m just going to go subject by subject on it.

Story

The story in this film is incredibly Air-Tight. Markus and McFeely have done it again, every point happens in a way that it needs to go down and nothing was left unanswered. My cousin asked me something about the finale and I explained it to him about what the villain did just a few minutes prior, if you’re staying focused then this film will explain everything that it needs to and the questions that are left will surely be answered in the near future.

Many of you should know that the original Civil War comic is one of my favorites. It was the first comic that showed me that these stories weren’t just for kids. They had pathos and rich storytelling surrounding these phenomenal, classical characters and this film is no different. It handles the source material well in a way that every screenwriter needs to study for future adaptations. No character felt left out, even characters who had limited screen-time like Vision, Ant-Man and Hawkeye all have prominent roles to play and you don’t feel cheated at all.

On the other end of that spectrum, the film never feels cluttered or preachy which were two factors that I had mild concerns about going in. Instead, we got an adaptation that wasn’t scene for scene straight from the comic but we got to see the ideas of Civil War placed into the grander overarching story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I think that this was the right play, we still got many of the great scenes from the comic and it’s tie-in issues and we got a moral conflict where no matter who you side with on the subject you can still see that both of the men just want to do what they think is right. In the original comic they set up the main characters in a more black and white setting with Captain America as the hero and Iron Man as the villain. This isn’t to say that Iron Man wasn’t still a sympathetic character in the comic…he just didn’t really feel like that until Civil War : The Confession came out. In the film, you can see both sides a little easier and for me, it made it even better than I expected.

Acting

As I said above, no one was cheated in this movie. Every character had at least one great memorable scene and of course there are a few standouts. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. have been working towards this over 7 films and it shows. They are at their prime in these roles and I never want them to stop playing these characters. Sabastian Stan’s return as the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes is well worth the wait, he has some great moments particularly with Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie. Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow never ceases to amaze me, if she doesn’t get her own movie soon then I will be incredibly upset.

The true standouts of this film were Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Their solo films are setting up to be absolutely phenomenal.

Boseman was great from the moment we see him as T’Challa the ambassador to when we first see him in the Black Panther armor. He can be regal and kingly in one scene and then switch to wild and vicious the next.

Holland brings an energy to the character of Peter Parker that you could only get from someone who is clearly having the time of their life on set. He’s a perfect balance of being occasionally awkward but always fun when he’s on screen.

Direction

The Russos have a vision that is exceptional and a big part of why it’s great is you can see that they have a reverence and love for the source material. They love these characters and this universe and they only want to make it bigger and better with every outing. I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do with the next Avengers films.

Their fight scenes are as tight as you can get them. Everyone has a very distinct fighting style that showcases their powers and abilities in ways that remain entertaining and exciting. It never becomes dull and even after seeing it twice there were things that I kept picking up.

Overall

It’s clear that Marvel knows what they’re doing, they’re making films for fans because they themselves are fans. I love what this company is doing with their stories across all mediums and judging from what I’ve seen it’s only getting better from here.

Make Mine Marvel.