How to Fix Superman

superman

Some Batman v Superman spoilers!

 

Ever since the disappointment (to most) of Batman v Superman I have heard lots of talk (oh so much talk…) and one thing I’ve heard repeatedly is ‘Superman is a boring character. You can’t do him right in a modern movie’.  When I first heard this I agreed.  On the surface it seems obvious.  He’s a near-Messianic character (especially in the Snyder movies) who only has one physical vulnerability of kryptonite.  Perfection can be interesting in a way but it is more about the way that perfection is responded to not the character himself.  But the more I thought about it the more I wondered if this was too easy an answer.  If you think about Superman’s enduring appeal over the years there has to be more to him than his similarities to Jesus.  Surely a boring character can not be consistently popular since 1938? So what went wrong and how do we make Superman interesting again?  I have some ideas.

Now I should start by saying I am not a comic book expert but I have consulted a few, and I have seen all of the Superman movies. I know there are different eras in the comics and my friend at @howtolovecomics  helped enlighten me a little bit on the character, but I am mostly going from a movie perspective.

superman returnsSuperman Returns is a flawed film but one thing I noticed on my recent viewing is he isn’t all brawn, and he isn’t all emotion either.  He has to be smart in order to succeed.  For example, in the great plane sequence he can’t just fling the plane around because there are people on board. And he can’t save each person individually because he’s still only one person.  There are also multiple pieces breaking off and crashing at the same time so deciding what to fix where requires some smarts.

According to my friend, Superman was a smarter character in the 60’s comics.  @Howtolovecomics explained “There were a lot of stories in the 60s where Superman had to use his brains to get out of a situation, which I like. He still used his powers, but he had to use them in a way that solved a puzzle.”

batman-v-superman-trailer-096If you think about it this element of Superman’s intellectual abilities is completely missing in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. In MofS he is confronted with brute strength and barely eaks out a victory. If anything Zod is actually smarter than Superman with some sound logic to what he is trying to do. Superman has the emotional weight of the film but most of the movie he gets advice from people. He doesn’t figure out much on his own (there’s not much to figure out just be bigger and stronger than your opponent and fight/hide at the right time).

With Batman v Superman, Superman is again completely disengaged intellectually.  Lex, who can challenge Superman in terms of brain power, is solely focused on manipulating Batman into confronting the God-like power of Superman. Nearly every time he is confronted by Lex, Superman is caught off guard. For example,  he doesn’t expect what happens to his Mother or put together anything before the Senate incident.  Basically Superman in these films is a ‘big lug’- a sweet, big guy who is very sincere and strong.  He’s like the Michael Oher or the Wreck-it Ralph of comic books. (In fairness Batman can be very easily manipulated in this world also but he is at least putting pieces together).

I guess this type of character can work but again it is usually because the things around him are interesting or the quest they go on is engaging.  None of that happens to this modern Superman.  He stands around a lot, saves people in montages and we are told contrasting views on how to think about him.  No wonder the character seems boring!

smallvilleOne of the things that made Smallville a good show is there were constantly things that Clark Kent couldn’t control despite his massive powers.  In addition, he was confronted with a smart enemy who challenged him in the best portrayal of Lex Luthor by Michael Rosenbaum.  This is obviously easier to do with a Superman who is growing up and going to high school but not impossible as an adult.  There are plenty of things that Superman can’t control as an adult that if we could see into his mind  would make the character very interesting.

For example, in Batman v Superman we get a scene where he is rescuing a woman at Day of the Dead.  Why did he pick that woman?  Why not the surely hundreds of women in car accidents right there in Gotham/Metropolis?  From what we see there is plenty to keep Batman busy.  We are given no motivation and so we assume it is because Zack Snyder thought a Day of the Dead rescue would look cool.  You see what I am saying?  He’s still only one person and this modern version treats him like he can part the Red Sea and bring down plagues upon the entire world. He must make choices and those choices could be really interesting.

superman2Not only can he not be everywhere and save everyone but he can’t control the choices of other people. He can give speeches at the UN (Superman 4 reference! Oh no!) but in the end he can at best be a symbol that hopefully will motivate a ripple effect of good choices.

Last year I did an Adventures in Reading segment over on my other blog.  This was an attempt to dive into genres of literature that I hadn’t experienced.  I still need to do graphic novels but did comic books and manga.  It was a lot of fun and for the comic book segment I came across a Superman issue entitled DC 507 Adventures of Superman Bloodsport.

bloodsport1In this story a Vietnam vet looses a job to a black man in an affirmative action type situation.  This causes him to become very bitter.  He justifies his hatred by claiming those in the in a poor neighborhood called Hob’s Heights are ‘taking not giving people’.  He only see’s them as welfare drains and addicts and thinks the world would be better if they were done away with.

While this type of villain could become very preachy, in the talented writers hands it could be very interesting.  Hate is completely out of Superman’s control.  The man in the wheelchair could have become this kind of character in Batman v Superman, but he is again used more to manipulate Batman than Superman.  The thing that is interesting with Bloodsport also is that he is a trained army sniper, military veteran who takes over an entire project development- making it harder than you might think to get rid of him.

bloodsport3There is also an emotional heft to the story with a little boy who is murdered at the beginning.  The Mother then turns to alcohol and Superman has to try and help her as well.  Again, could be very saccharine but in the right hands it could also be another thing that Superman can’t control.   You have this loss, grief, and addiction that he can’t make go away with his powers.  There’s something there that could be interesting.

Now I can hear you saying ‘Boy Rachel, your Superman sounds like a real downer.  Isn’t that what you didn’t like in Man of Steel?’.  At least to  me, in Man of Steel there wasn’t a moment of inspiration, a moment of hope- which is what Superman is about in the end.  If he is able to use his powers, intellect and empathy to help make things better would that not be a more rousing hero movie?   I mean that is ‘truth, justice, and the American way’ if I’ve ever heard it!

bloodsport2And you can make it a little bit fun as well.  Throw in some quips and give Lois some moments of witty banter with Superman but the film would feel inspirational, heroic, instead of dark and dismal.

superman3So in summary, if someone asked me to fix Superman I would give him obstacles he can’t control.  Make him use his intelligence, not just his powers, to make decisions and win.  I would present him with a villain like Bloodsport who truly hates for definable reasons. Not just being bad for the sake of being bad.  This throws in more elements he can’t control.  Give him characters he loves who make poor choices like addiction and then show him grappling to help those loved ones.   This makes the character interesting instead of simply a God-like edifice we don’t care about.

What do you think of my idea?  Anything there? How would you make Superman interesting or do you think he is an inherently boring character?

Batman v Superman Spoiler Review

batman v superman11I can’t sleep so might as well write.  This will be a spoiler review.  If you want my nonspoiler review click here.

Ah Batman v Superman…the movie that broke a million fanboys hearts. Immediately I got some flack on social media for being a ‘hater’ and a ‘Marvel fanboy’ (probably only time in my life I’ve been accused of being a dude but there you go).  It’s no secret that I am not a big Batman fan and I do prefer Marvel’s brand of movies.  However, I can honestly say that preference has no bearing on my response to this film. It really doesn’t. (I’m not that big a superhero person to begin with)  As you will see in this review none of my issues have anything to do with tone, characters, humor or any of those Marvel strengths.  My issues have to do with the way the story is laid out, Lex Luthor manipulation of Batman and especially the ending.

So let’s get talking!

I was really with Batman v Superman for about the first hour.  I watched all 14 previous theatrically released Batman and Superman films going up to this film so I had just seen Man of Steel.  Some might call it apologetic to address the carnage and destruction caused in that film but I thought it was a really interesting way to set up conflict.

As we all know, Superman and Zod caused a lot of havoc in their fight and what we see in Batman v Superman is this destruction includes Wayne Enterprise’s Metropolis building.  In fact, Bruce is down on the street the day of the fight and saves a friend and a little girl from the falling building.  Seeing such power makes Bruce worried (and maybe a tiny bit jealous) about Superman and he wonders if something should be done to stop him before he turns evil and is unstoppable.

All of this set up works pretty well.  We get to see Bruce as this tougher, more grizzled Batman.  He has been through a lot and has become kind of reckless in the way he treats the criminals, even branding them with a bat when he captures them.  He also is willing to shoot people, which personally I didn’t have a problem with.

But there’s a problem that the movie also sets up with all this good Batman stuff.  He’s sort of shown as a private investigator looking into Lex Luthor and Superman. This makes him seem all the dopier later on when he is played so completely by Lex, which isn’t a good look for our Batman.  I don’t want a dopey Batman.

Meanwhile Clark Kent has some kind of understanding at the Daily Planet where he can get random stories but be gone for long segments as well.  Perry wants him to cover local football and not investigate Batman.  Superman’s beef with Batman is a lot less convincingly developed than Batman’s with Superman in the film. In fact, when it comes to the final fight Batman is a bit of a bully to Superman which is a strange sentence to write…

As part of Bruce’s investigation into Lex, Bruce attends a party at Lex’s house and Clark Kent is there too.  This is a fun scene but problematic also.  First of all, Bruce goes into the food prep area and finds all of Lex’s servers laid out without a lock or guard or anything.  He puts his transfer device on the server and in 7 minutes gets all of Lex’s files…really?

Now the movie tries to claim this is all part of Lex’s plan but Lex doesn’t even know Bruce is coming to party and how does he know that Bruce is Batman?  Same thing with Clark Kent being Superman?  We are given the impression this is the first time Clark has been to such a gathering and yet Lex introduces Clark and Bruce as if he knows who they are but nothing in the files seems to corroborate this kind of knowledge.  This is a major plothole in the film. In a world where Lois and Perry are the only one’s who know Clark’s alter-ego it doesn’t really make sense and they needed some kind of explanation on his super-secret knowledge.

Anyway, we also meet Diana Prince at the party and she see’s what Bruce is doing (everyone see’s what he is doing. Even Lex’s assistant does!).  Clark also figures out that Bruce is Batman at this point because he hears Alfred talking to Bruce (I didn’t realize Superman’s powers included that kind of hearing capabilities).

So, Diana see’s him making the transfer and takes the transfer device.  She tries to look at it later on but it is military encoded.  I liked Gal Gadot.  She’s sexy, strong and I look forward to her getting more time on screen.

At the same time, Lex is throwing the party because he wants to convince a senator played by Holly Hunter to turn over a piece of kryptonite found in the Indian Ocean.

They try to explain that Lex views Superman as the devil but for a dark gritty Batman movie he’s kind of an old school comic book movie villain, which makes it stand out.  He just kind of wants to get rid of the good guys because they are good guys spoiling his bad guy plans.  Like I said, Snyder gives us lots of speeches about God and Godlike power and that’s compelling motivation for Batman to be afraid of Superman but why that bothers Lex Luthor so much isn’t exactly clear, except it stops him from doing bad things. Kind of lame villain if you ask me.

I didn’t really like this version of Lex Luthor (I realize he is Lex’s son Alexander Luthor) but he just became kind of annoying because he didn’t really fit in with the feel and tone of the rest of the film.

But Lex is certainly quite the planner because he evidently had it all arranged that Batman would get the information,  investigate Superman and do everything that he wants him to do throughout the film.  Bruce learns about the metahumans from the files and this gives us some very awkward introductions to Aquaman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman etc.

Lex also seems to be able to predict Batman’s dreams (remember at this point we have no clue he knows Bruce or Clark from any other party guests).  Bruce has a dream of The Flash who can time travel and warn him about an impending threat. (Are you getting the feeling that the story is all over the place?)

Meanwhile, Superman is sad that people don’t like him but yet they do seem to like him.  The  movie is very inconsistent in that regard. Nevertheless, there is a hearing at the Senate with the Holly Hunter character.  Lex again predicts Superman will arrive and blows up the Senate.  This is a horrible act of terrorism and yet it seems to be forgotten by the movie and is never really talked about again…

Evidently Luthor is doing this to make people dislike Superman even more but this seems like an unnecessary step for Luthor.  If the main point of his plan is to get Batman to fight Superman who cares what the public is thinking?  They were already having a hearing.  Isn’t that enough to peak Batman’s interest and you know he has already stolen those files and is looking into it.

And Batman is a pretty lame private investigator.  You’d think with all of this he could find out about Clark, the Kents and everything else.  I mean these files are oddly specific and if Lex knows that Clark and Bruce are Superman and Batman, which he seems to at the party, why wouldn’t he have put all of that information on the files?  Wouldn’t he want Batman to know all about Superman?

If he doesn’t know about Clark and Bruce’s alter egos than his plan is nonsensical and he has the worst security on his home.  It’s hard to believe he has other motives for Bruce to have those files other than that he knows Bruce is Batman. It really makes no sense.   Well, and I guess he knows about Diana because she is on the files so why isn’t he trying to manipulate her?

Anyway, despite being a very suspect person Luthor is able to gain access to the kryptonite, Zod’s spaceship and Zod himself which seemed highly implausible.  And not just that but there are power outages caused by his activities and he is in there for quite some time learning from the Zod spaceship.  Don’t you think someone from the government might monitor that kind of access? I mean call me crazy but I don’t think he would be able to make Doomsday and activate the ship like he does without anyone realizing it.

But there’s also more of his plan…(It’s quite the plan and I remind you this is all in a gritty comic book movie not a Schumacher silliness movie).  He ends up obtaining the kryptonite. Batman tries to stop him in a long car chase but instead they kill lots of people and destroy property.  Whatever it’s a decent car chase.

Then Batman ends up breaking into Lex’s offices and stealing the kryptonite and this is all supposedly part of Lex’s plan to pit Batman vs Superman.  This is quite the plan! How does he even know that Batman knows about the kryptonite at all?I guess there is the car chase but Lex isn’t there.  They are just a bunch of cronies and how did Lex get to take possession of the kryptonite in the first place?  He makes a deal with a lolly rancher guy but this is quite the leap a private citizen would get access to a major radioactive substance, an alien vessel and alien body for no reason at all…

Anyway, Batman gets it and Lex wants him to have it.  That’s the part that makes no sense.  How could he possibly predict all of this is going to happen and that it is all going to lead to the takedown of Superman?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to use the kryptonite himself instead of orchestrating Batman to do it?

But that’s what he does and Batman begins training to take on Superman.  He designs a new suit and does some crossfit.  It’s very exciting.

Then we have Lex further mad scientisting himself in the spaceship and he combines his DNA with Zod’s because evidently the ‘Genesis Chamber’ tells him what to do.  He creates a Doomsday creature which was  a generic kind of crappy looking CG creature. I was shocked at how bad it looked.

He abducts Lois to try and lure Superman out of hiding and she gets rescued for the umpteenth time in the film (I didn’t think Lois and Clark had good chemistry in this version).  But that’s not all he has done.  He has captured Martha Kent, Clark’s Mother (again how he knows Clark/Superman backstory doesn’t really make sense).  This manipulates  Superman to go and confront Batman.

Batman is there in his super duper Batsuit having been totally manipulated by Lex into designing a kryptonite spear and gas pellets to take down Superman.  Superman tries to talk to Batman about his mother but he won’t listen and the two fight.  It’s an Ok fight but more smashing into things than a martial arts style match if that makes sense.

I was a little surprised how close to taking down Superman it got but that makes the ending even worse.  Batman is just about to spear Superman with the kryptonite spear and Superman says ‘Martha’.  Now we saw earlier in the film Bruce’s mother’s name is Martha, as is Clark’s mother.  This is it and he not only stops killing Superman but he agrees to go with him and save his mother.  This is completely ridiculous.

It’s not like this is a spur of the  moment angry fist match and Martha would wake him up.  This is a plan that has been in the works for months.  That he has thought about and weighed out.  He has trained, made weapons, even had that warning from Flash in his dream about the future.  There is no creditable way that Martha would have made him stop killing Superman at that moment.  It makes no sense to this admittedly dopey but dark and gritty character they’d built up to that point.  You can’t have him killing lots of people and branding people and then have something so lame stop the Batman v Superman match.

And then they don’t stop there!  Not only do they work together to find Superman’s Mother but he refers to Superman as his friend!  Are you kidding me?  And he is mourning him later as if they were so close.  I don’t think one word away from killing him is a friend…

When Lex realizes his plan for Batman to take down Superman hasn’t worked he unleashes Doomsday and we get a tedious segment that seemed right out of the Raimi Spiderman movies more than a dark and gritty comic book movie. You’ve got your one note cheesy monster fighting Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.  (Like really how different is Doomsday than Sandman in Spiderman 3?)

And here’s where I really got annoyed with the film.  We all know there is a Justice League coming out in 2017. And not only do we know that but the movie hints at it again and again with all the Metahuman file shoehorned bits.  So with that knowledge…

They kill Superman.  And not only do they kill Superman but they have a long drawn out funeral, processional and mourning process with Bruce, Lois and Diana grieving. This really irritated me because I felt like the movie was trying to invoke phony emotion out of me.  I don’t feel sad about Superman dying because I know it isn’t real.

Now you can make the argument that Zack Snyder knows we know and this is all just a fun little teaser for Justice League but that almost annoys me more! We already know from the earlier dream you have introduced a time traveler in The Flash. I’m not stupid Zack.  I know exactly what is going to happen and it greatly annoyed me.

I think he thinks we are all stupid.  That we are going to somehow find this intriguing and that there is going to be debate about what might happen next, kind of like the ending of Force Awakens did with Luke.  Force Awakens is fun speculation because we don’t know what is going to happen with Luke or what he is going to be like.  We all absolutely know for sure that Superman is going to be in the freakin Justice League! Give me a break!

There is even a shot of the coffin that greatly insinuates The Flash and the time travel and everything else and it all just makes me groan!

So in conclusion, Batman v Superman started out promising with the bounce off of Man of Steel.  The charisma of most of the performances kept me from being miserable.  However, Lex Luthor’s plan has so many plot holes as well as the script as a whole.  How he gets permission for certain things, knows about certain things, and how the Senate explosion is never talked about again.

Batman is cool but he is also kind of stupid if we believe he is a pawn in Lex’s scheme.  Wonder Woman is cool but underused.  Lex is annoying. Lois is a damsel in distress.  Superman stands around a lot and while people are making speeches about God.

But all this would have been fine if they hadn’t had the climatic fight end so unbelievably, bland Doomsday sequences, and the cheap, phony trick of killing off Superman.  That was unpardonable and it really irritated me.

And some people may be inclined to say ‘oh, it’s just a fun popcorn movie Rachel.  Just turn off your brain and have fun with it’.  I poo-poo that idea because don’t try to sell me on darker, grittier realistic Batman and Superman and then expect me to go with such nonsense.  Wasn’t that the whole appeal of Man of Steel is that it wasn’t the man with the red underwear saving people?  It was more than the old school popcorn movies?  Now they want to have it both ways. No way.

Also, someone said would I be as annoyed if they killed off Captain America in Civil War?  No because we’ve had 3 Captain America movies and 2 Avengers.  It is a lot less obvious we need Cap in Infinity Wars as we need Superman in Justice League.  Therefore, such an ending has that debate and feels more authentic and believable. There is no way Superman is dead where I could believe Cap really is dead (hopefully not though as that would break my heart!).

Well, and Zack Snyder has already said ‘I’m a comic book guy. I was trying to be 100% accurate to the comic books’.  I’m no expert on Frank Miller and dark and gritty comic books but I’m pretty sure they don’t involve crackpot scientist with elaborate schemes that manipulate Batman.  Plus, you are making a MOVIE not a comic book, not a video game, not a music video.  You need to tell a coherent story with a satisfying ending for this movie.  It comes off as not only a weak excuse but kind of blaming the comic books for the problems of the film. Not goona fly.

So there you have it.  My long rambling spoiler filled thoughts on Batman v Superman.

Overall Grade- C- although more I think about it the more annoyed I get.

Batman v Superman Spoiler Free Review

batman v superman11I was going to wait to do a spoiler free review of Batman v Superman until I see it Thursday (I ended up getting into an early screening today!).  But I felt I should put a few comments down because some people will want to take their children to this movie and might hope I could give them some guidance in that regard.  This review is spoiler free so I can’t say what happens but something happens that I think could seriously upset small kids.  Just trust me.

Now let’s get on with my initial thoughts.

First I will remind you guys I’m not that rabid a Batman fan to begin with.  The movies tend to focus too much on villains and Batman is usually a bore.  I like my superhero movies to be about heroes rather than villains.

That said, I went to Batman v Superman optimistic and hopeful it would be a fun comic book movie.  And for about an hour in I was enjoying it on that level and then unfortunately it takes a turn I did not like at all.

I will also say that my brother who is a huge Batman fan hated the movie, so take that for what you will. He was very upset and not in a good way.

It’s hard because one of the things that didn’t work at all is highly spoilery but suffice it to say that Zack Snyder thinks we are all stupid.  He somehow thinks he can make a movie with a million hints at the Justice League Movie coming in 2017 and yet expect us to buy the ending…Come on? When you guys see it you will know what I mean.  There is no way the ending is legitimate and it is all done to squeeze phony emotion out of fans and leave you in a phony cliffhanger for those dumb enough to buy it.

Ok. Off soapbox.  There were things that worked quite well.  Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was actually quite good.  If you had told me going into it that one of my favorite things about Batman v Superman would be Wonder Woman I would have said you were crazy but there it is.

Also, I liked some of the character development we got in the first hour of Batman and Superman.  Ben Affleck was good as Batman although he is manipulated rather easily.  But I thought the building off of the destruction of Man of Steel and questioning Superman’s powers was pretty good.  Cavill is fine in the film but I still don’t see any chemistry between him and Amy Adams’ Lois Lane.

Jeremy Irons is good as Alfred although underused and Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White had a few moments of comic relief.  Holly Hunter as a senator was kind of wasted.

Jesse Eisenberg didn’t work for me as Lex Luthor’s son but it’s not entirely his fault.  The screenplay makes some leaps that I found hard to believe.  He is granted clearance to things he really shouldn’t be.  He’s places that don’t make sense for him to be at and he seems to know Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne’s alter-egos when he is first being introduced to both of them.  He also manipulates Bruce very easily.

Let’s talk about the action.  There’s really only one extended fight scene and then 2 dream sequences. The dreams were kind of annoying.  The long fight scene is ok but the way it ends does not make sense for either character.

We all knew they would go from being enemies to friends within the movie.  It’s in the title so I don’t think that is a spoiler but how that happens did not feel authentic or believable at all.   Batman makes such a drastic shift and for a reason that I didn’t buy.

Boy it sounds like I really hated it.  I guess the charisma of the stars provided enough marginal enjoyment for me to give it a ‘meh’ rating.  I can totally see why my brother hated it.

I think a lot of fans will phantom menace this movie.  It has a very low rotten tomatoes score and already I’m hearing defenses and ( if you liked it that’s awesome) but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people come down on this movie once the novelty has faded and they look at it more objectively.  We will see.

Oh and Doomsday looks terrible.  I couldn’t believe how bad the CG was on him.  Usually Zack Snyder at least gets that kind of thing right.

I just don’t know how anyone defends that ending.  Zack Snyder tried to trick me and it’s not going to work! I may not be a huge Batman fan but I’m not stupid either.

Overall Grade- C-

I also don’t think Man of Steel fans will like this movie.  It doesn’t have any of the sci-fi or edgier elements of that film.  It’s a lot of people talking about Gods and God-like powers and not much of the showing like in Man of Steel.

My youtube review.  A bit rambling but say what I needed to say.

All Superman Movies Quick Thoughts

So I did it!  I set a goal to watch all the Superman and Batman movies before Batman v Superman.  Watching Superman movies was interesting because most of them I hadn’t seen in a long time so it was kind of like watching them fresh.  I’ve never been that big of a comic book movie person and Superman was always pretty far down my list, but I do have nice memories of Christopher Reeves.  When I was in high school I read his autobiography and was very moved by his personal story.

Superman is a fun character because he is so pure.  He’s practically the definition of a hero because his mere existence is to help humans and spread hope.  Some of the versions miss this sense of hope and some forget it in favor of ridiculous comedy.  I’d say you get a little bit of everything with Superman.  At his core he should be a hero.

Just like with Batman, the Superman movies have their highs, lows and mehs.  And just like with Batman I am going to do it Best Shot style and pick one image from each film that summarizes my experience watching it.

My thoughts on all the Batman movies here

So here we go…

Superman: The Movie

I’ll be honest this movie didn’t hold up for me the way I thought it would.  Richard Donner’s film was a trailblazer in the world of comic book movies but my problem was how long it took to get going.  It takes an hour before you meet Christopher Reeves’ Clark Kent/Superman and he doesn’t fly until almost the 1 1/2 hour mark.  That was too slow for me.

Some of the origin story is compelling.  I like Marlon Brando as Jor-El and his role as a kind of Savior character is interesting, but it just takes so long.  I got bored.  Now once we get to Christopher Reeves it is wonderful.  He does such a good job differentiating the nerdy Clark Kent and the suave Superman.

I also felt that Margot Kidder as Lois Lane was wonderful and her and Reeves have excellent chemistry.  My favorite scenes of the film was their date and the first time they fly together.  I’m not the biggest fan of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor.  I don’t mind a silly villain but he wasn’t charming silly but just annoying.  John Williams theme is of course iconic and overall it’s an entertaining film, just not quite as great as I remembered it.

superman1-8Superman 2

This was my favorite of the Superman films I watched.  I saw the Donner cut because Richard Lester took over as director and made it a lot sillier. I didn’t have time to compare the Lester version so take that for what you will.

Still I liked that this film focused on Zod, Ursa and Non coming back to have revenge on Superman for their banishment.  They are strong villains but the movie wisely focuses the most on Superman and his inner struggle over saving humanity vs having a loving happy life with Lois Lane.  This gives a nice emotion and Reeves is very good in these scenes. Plus, you still have the great chemistry between Kidder and Reeves.

There is a little bit of Lex Luthor but luckily it keeps it to a minimum and the violence is strong but in shorter bursts.  But mostly this film is great because of the journey of Superman and Reeves strong performance.

superman 2-3Superman 3

Now we get into the bad films.  In Superman 3 Richard Lester is given full control and it’s not really even ‘so bad it’s good’.  For something to be that kind of guilty pleasure it has to be sincerely trying to be good but this is just a boring, lazy, stupid movie.

Right from the beginning you know they are going for total slapstick with a pratfall routine where telephone booths are toppled over.  It gets worse from there.

I felt bad for Richard Pryor because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie where an actor looked more intoxicated while filming.  There were times you couldn’t understand what he was saying it was so slurred together.  He plays a programmer who is used by a CEO to do all kinds of dastardly deeds.

Reeves is fine and there is an entertaining scene with him fighting both sides of himself- evil vs good Superman.  But they remove Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane and give us Annette O’Toole as Lana Lang who he has no chemistry with.

I picked this shot of Richard Pryor because it showcases the problem of the movie with him skiing down the side of a building and then landing with no injuries.  It’s just so stupid.

superman3Superman 4

As bad as Superman 3 is, Superman 4 is even worse.  The production team famously took all the money out of the budget so everything looks horrible.  Everything from the costumes, special effects, script are horrible.

I guess only good thing about it is you get Margot Kidder back as Lois Lane but it sucks that things had to go out this way for her and Reeves, who were so wonderful together.  You have so many cliches with the mean boss at the Daily Planet with the daughter who has hots for Clark (Superman/Clark Kent go on a double date with Lois/Lacy for a long segment).

We get the return of Lex Luthor who creates Nuclear Man which is embarrassing.  Superman gives a speech at the UN and you can’t help but cringe.  Maybe some people find this ‘so bad it’s good’ but it’s hard when nobody was even trying to make something good.

superman4Superman Returns

Bryan Singer took a break from X-men to make his version of Superman in 2006.  It’s not terrible but did we really need to see Lois as a bitter single mother?  Brandon Routh is fine as Superman but he is off screen for long segments of time.  It really could be called Lois Lane Movie because of the focus given her.

We get Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor who I thought was surprisingly flat in the role.  He’s kind of a bully to his assistant played by Parker Posey (who cries most of the film) and not a believable foe for Superman.  Maybe I just don’t like the character of Lex Luthor?  We’ll see if Batman v Superman can change my mind.

It does have a nice look to it and some impressive sequences.  I particularly liked a scene where Superman stops a crashing plane.  I liked it visually but also because it took brains and brawn to make it happen.  That was cool twist for the character.  Overall not a terrible watch but a little bit dry.

It does have many homages to the Donner films and I don’t know if it quite got that balance of originality vs reboot right? It’s tricky.

superman returnsMan of Steel

Honestly it is the most divisive movie in history.  I have grown weary discussing it with people, but I must own I didn’t hate it this time around.  I was more ‘meh’.  It’s takes Superman into a scifi direction and then adds a disaster movie component.  I said while tweeting ‘it’s Superman if you combined Star Trek and San Andreas’ and I think that is accurate.

I hate the flashback structure and it’s not that the destruction exists it’s just gratuitous and repetitive.   Do we need to destroy all of Smallville and then destroy building after building of Metropolis?  Couldn’t the point be made more succinctly?  They also screwed up Lois and Clark relationship. There is not near enough time with them together to believe their relationship or what happens/how she is used.

Michael Shannon is fine as Zod and his motivations are interesting.  He is trying to save his people and I liked that.  I also love Henry Cavill who is a very beautiful man.  I just wish they gave us a few more moments like the kissing scene with him and Lois where he jokes about kissing an alien.  It doesn’t have to be a joke but the whole movie he seems depressed.

Diane Lane is excellent as his mother but I didn’t like Kevin Costner as Pa Kent or how they wrote that character at all.

The breaking of Zod’s neck makes sense in theory but it’s at the end of one building after another and it feels gratuitous after such exhaustion.

Snyder needs to learn the art of subtlety and that sometimes less is more.  This includes his Messianic imagery.  This shot really captured the film for me.  Cavill- great. Snyder’s excess- not so great.

man of steel quoteAnd there you have it.  I oddly had more to say about the Superman films than Batman.  Go figure.  I hope you enjoyed all of them.

What is your favorite Superman movie?  Put in the comments sections and let’s talk! On to Batman v Superman.

My youtube review of Superman 1 and 2.  If you feel so inclined give it a thumbs up.

My Favorite Superhero Movies

Hey guys!

Now that I’ve been thoroughly depressed by the Oscars let’s talk about movies that will never get a live action Oscar- superhero movies.  I have actually not been a huge superhero movie fan.  In fact, in 2011 I wrote a post on my other blog called ‘Thumbs Down to Summer Movies’.  I had recently seen Green Lantern and it was the tipping point. Here’s what I said

“It’s at this point I must make a confession- I don’t like super hero movies.   It’s hard to explain why but I have never liked them. With the exception of Harry Potter, I can’t think of a super hero/fantasy franchise I’m  a fan of (I’m a marginal fan of Lord of the Rings).  I also like the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but they have been sullied by mediocre follow-ups in recent years.

Despite all the special effects I find most super hero movies boring and I don’t like 3D”

So, yes  I had sworn off superhero movies and all their progeny but then Avengers happened and I smiled at these likable fun characters with witty dialogue. And we got 2014 and I saw Captain America 2 which was actually a spy movie, Xmen Days of Future Past which is actually a time travel story, Guardians of the Galaxy which is actually a space opera, and Big Hero 6 which is a movie about loss and grief in the guise of a superhero movie.

It was then I had a revelation ‘I like superhero movies when they aren’t superhero movies’.  Ding, ding, ding! Fortunately for me Hollywood has figured this out and aside from the odious Man of Steel and the cluttered Amazing Spiderman 2 they have had a remarkable track record of late to the point where I’m actually looking forward to superhero movies now (although highly skeptical about Batman v Superman but we will see).  Marvel at least has made me a believer.

I feel like I also have to give a caveat that I am actually not a big Dark Knight fan.  It’s super well made and acted but it was just too violent for me and I found it cynical, dark and Batman is such a bore.  I wanted him to lose the whole way through.  You can all hate me now but it’s really how I felt….

So with all that what are my favorite superhero movies?  Here goes.

superman10. Superman- Christopher Reeves is so charming as Superman and he makes an ok Clark Kent.  It doesn’t get bogged down in exposition but is light and fun with great music and decent if hokey special effects. Gene Hackman is good as Lex Luther . Superman is kind of a boring superhero because he’s so perfect but this film finds the balance of embracing the silly while not being too silly (aka Superman 3 and 4…).  We also don’t get too much of the Savior metaphors like we do with Man of Steel or Superman Returns that take themselves way too seriously.

batman mask9. Batman Mask of the Phantasm- Yep friends this is my favorite Batman movie.  Maybe that won’t be a surprise because I love animation but I honestly think this is the best movie depiction of Batman.  He’s not just a bore but he gets jealous, frustrated, happy, a mixture of emotions.  Kevin Conroy is great as Batman and perhaps it is only in animation that you can pull off the mixture of Bruce Wayne and Batman because you can draw whatever you want it to be where an actor may just be better at one side than the other (same problem so far with Peter Parker).  Mark Hamil is wonderful as Joker. It’s a well written script with a bit of a mystery involved but it isn’t too grim or violent. Now I just wonder when the heck it will come out on blu-ray!

rocketeer-reboot8. The Rocketeer- A movie too often forgotten but a very sweet homage to 40’s action movies. It stars Billy Campbell as a stuntman who finds a rocketpack that was designed by Howard Hughes.  Jennifer Connely plays his girlfriend and the rest of the cast is stellar with Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton as our Nazi bad guy, Terry O’Quin and more.  I defy you to not be charmed by it.

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-Poster7. X-men: Days of Future Past- Of the big franchises Xmen has always been my favorite.  Even when I had sworn off the genre I still kind of liked the X-men movies.  Maybe partly because they are the only franchise to pull of interesting female characters and they almost always deal with something thoughtful and complex without getting mean spirited and who doesn’t like Hugh Jackman?  I think the recent X-men Days of Future Past is the best of the 7 (including the Wolverine movies) to have come out.  It has it all- amazing ensemble (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassender, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McEvoy I could go on. Almost every member of the cast has an Oscar nomination or win. Not bad for a superhero movie).

But its also the Inception of Superhero movies.  The time travel element creates layers of a puzzle to figure out and Quicksilver is an amazing villain with special effects.  It’s great!

spider-man-26. Spider-man 2- For my money it is the only good Spider-man movie that has come out so far.  The others have good elements but this is the only one that fires on all four cylinders. The special effects still hold up, the large set pieces like the train fight is gripping, Tobey McGuire is charming enough to get me to ignore Kirsten Dunst and James Franco and him have good rivalry. But really the reason the movie is special is Dr Octopus who is such a great, engaging villain. He has really positive motivations through a lot of the movie but he has no self control . It makes him very interesting and fun to watch.

capt 25. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier- A great superhero movie because it’s not really a superhero movie.  It’s a spy flick like Mission Impossible with an amazing villain for Winter Soldier, great action fight sequences, a car crash sequence which felt so real, Robert Redford is great (that’s the quality of actors we are getting now!).  The Nick Furry twist was very clever and it is so well paced.  It never lost my interest or got boring.  They build the case with very minimal exposition typically housed within a trip to the museum or some other outing so it doesn’t feel like exposition.  Captain America is likable and Chris Evans keeps the character innocent like a man from the 40s might be while still being tough.

BigHero6Team4. Big Hero 6- I just got Big Hero 6 on blu-ray and watched it and loved it all over again.  It is a superhero movie with real heart.  I loved the connection of the two brothers through Baymax.  It reminds us that those we love never really leave us because the love continues on.  I also loved the diversity of the Big Hero 6 and I thought the motivation of the villain was really clever and surprised me.  Also Sanfransokyo was gorgeously drawn and a fun new setting.  Overall a huge win for Disney.

guardians of the galaxy3. Guardians of the Galaxy- Don’t worry this is my last from last year. Guardians has everything I want in my superhero movie.  It is a likable band of misfits that are gathered together to fight a bad guy. I love the friendship between Groot and Rocket.  Chris Pratt is great as Starlord.  It’s fun, keeps you guessing and has the best soundtrack I’ve heard in years. It really reminded me a lot of Star Wars with a much weaker villain, and that’s really its only mark against it.  I think they actually picked the wrong villain.  Nebula is much more complex than Ronan.  Still I loved it!

incredibles2. Incredibles- Even when I had sworn off Superhero movies I still loved The Incredibles.  What’s so great about this movie is it includes so many of my favorite genres all in one.  It’s a family movie with a stay at home Mom and her 3 kids who all have their struggles, it’s a movie about work and how when we aren’t doing what we are made to do we aren’t happy, and its gorgeous animation.  Every choice they made works.  The villain is very scary with a believable and brief backstory.  Edna is hilarious (no capes!), and the ending is  perfect with everyone learning just the right lesson.  Also love Samuel L Jackson as Frozone! It’s actually the first movie I saw when I came home from my 20 month mission for my church and it was a great choice to get reintroduced to cinema.

avengers1. Avengers- This actually came out when I was in my ‘I hate superhero movies’ phase but it was the biggest movie ever so of course I ended up seeing it and to my surprise I loved it.  What I liked most is it didn’t take itself too seriously.  It was fun without being stupid. I hadn’t seen most of the precursor films leading up to Avengers except Ironman but I don’t think you need to enjoy the movie.  Joss Whedon is such a great writer creating likable characters that we can root for and a team dynamic that is unpredictable.

I like that the destruction isn’t too bad and its not really trying to teach us anything.  Just give us a team we can root behind and see them seriously challenged by a formidable villain in Loki, who I love.  Tom Hiddleston is my favorite performance in the movie.  He has motivation behind what he is doing and he never gets mean or too violent like the Joker can.  He’s probably my favorite comic book villain, maybe because he doesn’t really see himself as a villain.  In the end the script is well written and funny with good action.  That’s enough to get 1 on my list.

So there you go!  What do you think of my list? I know all of you would put the Dark Knight so maybe give me some other one’s besides Dark Knight you would have included?  I’d love to hear.

What are the worst superhero movies?  Well, I haven’t seen all of the worst but I’d probably say (does Howard the Duck count as superhero movie? If so than he’d be 1):

1. Catwoman

2. Batman and Robin

3. Superman 4

4. Green Lantern

5. Man of Steel