Archive for PopMatters

Whedon Need No Stinking Branded Entertainment

Posted in comics, criticism, literature, movies, philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2015 by drayfish

avengers_age_of_ultron_team

IMAGE: Avengers: Age of Ultron (Disney/Marvel)

Don’t you hate product integration?

You know, when you’re watching a film and it becomes painfully clear that some company or piece of merchandise has been shamelessly shoehorned into the scene. Like when Spiderman uses every object ever stamped with the Sony name in both his private and crime fighting life. Or when a character (maybe in a teen horror film), searches for information online (perhaps for the dark history of werewolves), and decides to inexplicably ignore the existence of Google, bouncing instead straight over to their to Microsoft PC to load their Microsoft Internet Explorer program and type ‘Werewolf’ into Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

Also, later in the film that werewolf will be using a Zune.

It’s just cheap and tacky, and always so blatantly obvious that it ends up insulting its viewer, who is suddenly ripped out of the film/television show to realise, in a disorienting rupture of the fourth wall, that what they are watching is an insidious, corrosive ad. A narrative experience compromised (or at least uncomfortably massaged) by the need to shill for more cash.

Anyway. Apropos of nothing, I went to the movies the other day to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron.

[WARNING: Mild, mild spoilers for the first five minutes of Age of Ultron to follow]

I was (as most of the world seemed to be) a big fan of the first one. Writer/Director Joss Whedon had danced a merry, impossible jig: wrangling multiple, franchise-carrying stars; blending wholly disparate genres (Iron Man’s playful action snark, Hulk’s body horror, Thor’s Shakespearian Sci-Fi, Captain America’s unapologetically hokey heroism); he gave the world a proper Black Widow (seriously: where is her solo movie, Marvel?!); and he wrapped it all up in a smart, snappy, romping spectacle that insulted neither the film’s audience nor its material. He validated the universe building of the Marvel movie franchise – something so audacious and unprecedented that I find it somewhat extraordinary how infrequently it gets mentioned.

An interconnected web of big budget franchises shouldn’t, on any rational level, be possible – but Avengers defiantly, proudly proved it could be.

So obviously I was keen to see the next one – the next major tent pole in the Marvel bid for world domination film franchise, written and directed by Joss Whedon while he sits on his surprise announcement of Serenity 2 (DON’T TREAD ON MY DREAMS!)

The cinema lights went down, I weathered the previews dancing at me like I owed them something, and the film began. And straight away, there it was: the party from the first film still raging. No, ‘We have to regather the team to face the encroaching blah blah blah…’ Just, ‘Everyone, keep doing that thing you’re doing…’ And it was great. Perhaps a little jarring straight out of the gates, but that’s clearly the point. I’d joined them mid-climax. A cohesive team. Game ready.

Avengers gif

IMAGE: Avengers: Age of Ultron (Disney/Marvel)

I watched happily, already lost in the deceptively effortless interplay of the characters. Saw them carve through a soviet base full of cartoonish bad guys and crack wise. Saw that same frenetic ballet of ‘splosions and bons mots. And then, in the middle of the fray, Tony Stark – Iron Man sans the suit – was creeping around a lab, looking at a giant behemoth hanging from the ceiling. When suddenly the creature roared awake, tore through the roof, and shredded everything in its path of destruction!

And oh, no…

There they lay, all of the Avengers, dead and dying. Stark looking down as they each eased out their last breath, the broken detritus of a dream for colourful heroism scattered.  Defeated.

No doubt it was just a dream. That woman who looked like the Olsen twins seemed to have worked some dark magics on Stark before he freaked out (one might even say she was a Witch, some sort of scarlet-hued witch), so he was probably just having a twisted prophetic vision.  But still, all appeared to be lost…

And then the whole cinema switched off.

The projector died, the sound dissolved, and the lights reduced to a lone emergency globe, a feeble gleaming above the exit.

Controversial choice, I thought. Make a film that runs only ten minutes. Don’t have the villain show up at all. Brutally kill off all of the titular Avengers. And most egregious of all: there was no after credits scene. …There weren’t even any credits!

Joss Whedon seemed to be making some bold choices in this, his final Marvel franchise film. No wonder critics have been childishly snitty and whining about this sequel. No wonder ‘fans’ have been throwing heat at the movie online.

Eventually we were told by a weary cinema attendant that the power to the building had gone out, and that they weren’t sure when, or if the movie was going to be able to continue.

Wow, I thought, this Scarlet Witch hallucination is really elaborate. Joss Whedon has gone super meta this time.

Turns out there really was a power outage. The whole complex was down and I would have to return another day to see what would come of this dire hallucination, to know what carnage was wrought from Tony Stark’s existential dread. But as I sat in that darkened space, the narrative stalled so unceremoniously in a state of murky, unresolved anticipation, I suddenly wished that I had something to read – something to help pass the time that might offer me insight into Joss Whedon’s oeuvre, and his numerous experimentations with genre and form.

And it was then that I remembered the new publication from Titan Books, The Joss Whedon Companion (Revised & Updated Edn). Oh, how I wished I had a copy of such a fine collection to while away the hours, waxing lyrical on Whedon’s many triumphs.*

‘But, aren’t you published in that book?’ said a voice in my head. I think his name was Shame. ‘Yeah, haven’t you got an article on Cabin In The Woods published in that? …So isn’t this all just a brazen, insulting, misleading plug for your own work?’

Shut up, you! I said to myself, and sat twisting in self-loathing in the darkness.

Product placement, I thought. What an insidious, underhanded practice it is.

And then I went out and bought all of the Stark Industry products I could find.

It just seemed the right thing to do.

So, anyone want to buy a War Machine suit, slightly used?

Joss Whedon Fully Revised Cover

IMAGE: The Joss Whedon Companion (Titan Books)

* Isn’t it funny how people confuse the phrase ‘while away’ with ‘wile away’? The correct usage means to fill up time, to spend a ‘while’; the other means to be cunning or sneaky, to use your ‘wiles’ to disarm or dissemble. Don’t know what made me think of that. ALL THE COOL PEOPLE READ BOOKS!

Moore Nitpicking: The Killing Joke

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2014 by drayfish

batgirl new costume pic

IMAGE: Batgirl’s New Costume (DC)

Last month I wrote an article on Batgirl (published over at PopMatters). Inspired by her new costume redesign, it was really just an excuse to talk about how fantastic the character of Batgirl is, despite being too often overlooked as just an extension of the Batman franchise.

As an opinion column I guess it was serviceable – if a little shambolic. To use a truly tortured analogy, it was meant to be much like the new outfit itself: all concise and sleek lines. Clean. Clear. Snappy. I was going to bring up the outfit; use it to talk a bit about why Batgirl is profoundly cooler than she’s traditionally been given credit for; try to resist the urge to make snotty comments about Aquaman; sign out. Bip bop boom.

Instead (as so frequently seems to occur with my work) it became rather more rambling. Not necessarily in a bad way, it just took a few indulgent meanders. To continue stomping the outfit metaphor to death, I mentioned the character of Spawn in there at one point (I held back on the Aquaman, so he got a blast), and the further I got along, the more it felt like what I was actually writing was a version of his ensemble: all extraneous cape, superfluous chains, and over-stylised logos all over the place.*

And ARGH! Lookit! I’m doing it all over again! Apparently I can’t help my little self.

In any case, the point is that there was a section I cut out of that piece that I wanted to quickly discuss here. During the article I reference one of DC’s most famous graphic novels, The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore, a near-universally beloved work that has had an indelible impact upon all subsequent depictions of the Batman mythos, and the character of the Joker in particular.

Except… I’m not its biggest fan.

I don’t think it’s bad, or anything. I can absolutely see why it retains such special place in people’s hearts. But there are elements of that book that do bother me, that ultimately get in the way of me considering it one of the great Batman tales. And yet for some reason it keeps drawing me back, keeps asking me to reconsider it as something more.

As I explain in the article, foremost amongst my issues with the comic, is the problematic way in which it treats its female characters. The Batgirl character in particular is completely marginalised, turned into a victim to be savaged, thereby ‘motivating’ the real heroes of the story: her father Commissioner Gordon, and her vigilante ‘father’ Batman.

For fairly obvious reasons, I’m not a huge fan of how that narrative mechanic takes a strong, proud, capable and autonomous character like Barbara Gordon, and reduces her to a casualty – particularly so as she’s not even punished for being Batgirl, but rather just Jim Gordon’s daughter. From serving her father tea and complaining that he’s getting his laundry dirty, she’s paralysed, stripped naked and photographed; literally turned into a gruesome art-object to titillate the Joker, torment Gordon, and (although the Joker doesn’t realise it) enrage the Batman.

And when you dig further into the tale, she is not even the only woman cynically discarded to further the plot progression for its principle male cast. In flashback, the Joker is shown to have had a wife and unborn child. It is presumably for them that he gets involved with some mobsters who want him to help them break into a chemical factory, to ‘prove [himself] as a husband … and as a father’. However, both Joker’s wife and child die, unseen (an electrical fault in a baby bottle heater), only to be reported dead after the fact. They become just plot beats used to legitimise the fracturing of his psyche – even though, weirdly, this new widower’s response isn’t shown to be much more than, ‘Well, I don’t need to pull that heist anymore, guys…’ In an uncomfortable way, it almost feels like, in death, the narrative is blaming his wife even more for his circumstance, since he was only apparently turning to crime to support her.

That might well sound like petty nitpicking – he is the proto-Joker, after all. Human empathy may have never been one of the principle features of his personality. And it’s also true that if this is indeed all meant to come across as psychologically devastating, I would prefer quiet understatement to him throwing his head back in a William Shatner-style roar to the heavens. But it does consequentially undercut exactly how far he ‘falls’ from grace if you are trying to read his narrative arc as a tragedy. If this is a guy who can slough off the decimation of his entire family with little response (only later that day while going through with the robbery anyway, albeit against his will, he remarks how surprising it is that he should still be remembering his wife) then it is difficult to empathise with him or feel much pity. It’s only after he takes a bath in a toxic soup and he is personally, physically effected that his psyche seems to snap, which risks making him seem all the more selfish, and his family all the more redundant.

Of course, the other, far more interesting interpretation (the one that I prefer to believe) is that none of this is true anyway. This curiously emotionally subdued back story of lost love and a reluctant descent into crime is just a fantasy that the Joker himself has made up, one of the many lies that he has told himself to graft some semblance of self onto the twisted, irrational void of his personality. It would explain why the wife and child are so peripheral and disposable; they are just ciphers in his playacting. ‘Jeannie and Junior’, names so rote and alliterative that they really are just (imaginary) baby steps away from the real, unwavering focus of his egotism: Joker. We don’t see or feel their deaths because they are just manufactured excuses for his behaviour. And we wouldn’t want them drawing focus away from the real star: the guy wandering around in the bright costume and permanent stage-smile.

But if that is true, if Joker’s ambivalence is a sign of his blind selfishness, then it makes the treatment of Barbara even more important. And sadly, she too is dismissed when its plot convenient. In the present, real world of the story, when Batman arrives on the scene to save the day, Jim Gordon doesn’t even ask about his daughter – who as far as he knows might well be dead. At that moment, as far as Jim knows, his daughter has been shot through the gut, brutalised by sociopaths, and left to bleed out on their carpet.** Literally the last time he saw her she was naked, surrounded by a gang of lunatics, and screaming in pain. And yet as Batman swoops in, his first line is not ‘Barbara?’ (indeed, we never see him ask that); instead he’s preoccupied with warning Batman not to step over the line, insisting, ‘I want him brought in by the book’. Although trying to tamp down his shock, his primary concern is that Batman not lose his composure, do something crazy and prove the Joker’s crazed pessimism right.

Now, that may just be some heretofore undiscovered Jim Gordon superpower – Mega-Stoicism? Emotion-dampening? Hyper-suppression? – but for a human being, the whole ‘Don’t let the Joker win this moral debate’ would probably take a momentary backseat to, ‘Hey, is my daughter – you know – alive?’ Particularly so if this final confrontation, as Gordon’s dialogue suggests, is about disproving the Joker’s dispassionate narcissism.

The response to much of this criticism will be, of course, that this is ultimately not a story about these women. Barbara, Joker’s wife, the ‘Fat Lady’ who recurs throughout as a background gag (a poster featuring her at one point even reads ‘Gals, Be Glad It Ain’t You’ – which for all the women in this narrative seems profoundly true); they are all, by necessity, subservient to the psychodrama being played out amongst the three leads. But again, if the point of the story is to draw a distinction between the Joker and Jim (if not the Joker and the Bat), then having them both seen to be forgetting their loved ones in pursuit of some ethos seems an odd, counterintuitive choice.

But, again, I freely admit: I’m being fussy. It’s a powerful story, even if it has to sideline or undermine characters I love in service to its end.

And speaking of that ending, I guess before I go I probably should offer my opinion of the issue of its contrary interpretations. Because in recent years, whenever the subject of The Killing Joke arises, the inevitable question of what exactly is happening on that final page rears its head.

The debate, largely fuelled, as far as I can tell, by writer Grant Morrison, is that the traditional reading of the story – that Batman catches the Joker, restrains himself from enacting revenge as Gordon implored him, and then the two of them, Clown and Crusader, share a morbid laugh over a deranged joke that the Joker decides to recount – is wrong.

The Killing Joke end

IMAGE: The Killing Joke (last page) by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland (DC)

Morrison believes that this is a misunderstanding of the ambiguity Moore intentionally left in his story. For him, and for those who share his reading, when the comic panels tilt focus down to the glistening puddles in the street, Batman actually does finally snap and strangles the Joker to death, ending their perpetual war in a ghoulish failure.

To be fair, the pun title of the book can be seen to lean toward this interpretation. The Killing Joke – not just a joke that cracks up its audience, but a joke that kills, that finally sends Batman over the edge.

But I just don’t see it.

Firstly, more than anything else, it would just seem like lazy plotting in service of a cheap shock tactic; after all, Batman spends the latter portion of the book rubbing it in the Joker’s face that he didn’t win, that the Joker is the only broken savage in the story despite inflicting the worst that he could on others. To then arbitrarily change his mind and kill him anyway not only undermines the agony of that stoicism and proves the Joker right, it seems weirdly antithetical. The reason that grim denouement exists is because they’ve both already lost. The Joker failed to drag anyone else down to his level; the Batman realises that he’s never going to be able to pull his enemy out of this inevitable death spiral; so faced with the inescapability of their intractable, unchangeable path toward ruin, they share a laugh – a joke about two other lunatics trying to escape, but too lost to madness to help themselves. Killing him after they both came to that realisation would not only be cheap, it would actually make the opposite, less tragic point.

Obviously the focus shifts away from the action and the noise fades out, but that just seems more about Moore trying to evoke that sense of cyclical quietude than an implication of murder. The reason that the panels tilt down, returning us to that very same image of the light reflected in the rain puddle, the image with which this whole story begins, is because is it, ultimately, about these two lunatics in their irresolvable cycle. It becomes a narrative ouroboros, starting all over again – Batman and Joker, trapped together forever. The people around them continue to get chewed up, but the heroism and tragedy of their circumstance likewise continues to fuel more stories. Neither of them can change, but neither will stop trying to change the other either.

It’s no doubt why I keep coming back to this tale myself, despite my reservations. Because there really is a marvellous magnetism to these two characters that is perhaps best encapsulated in this gloomy vignette. It’s just a shame that an arguably even more interesting character had to be sacrificed in order to render that portrait in its most potent form.

Batman and Joker laughing

IMAGE: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland (DC)

* And even then I left out a cranky old man rant about how the youngins today don’t know what it was like before comic book films were legitimised. What with their Captain America: Winter Soldiers and Guardians of the Galaxies… They never had to live through the nightmare of Steel or the artery-clogging cheese of Superman 4: The Quest for Peace or f**king Batman and F**king Robin. And don’t even make me bring up Howard the Duck! That’s a whole other parcel of emotional horror I dare not unpack. …Although I guess they did have to contend with Green Lantern and X Men Origins: Wolverine, so maybe we have all seen some soul withering stuff.

** More specifically, he actually shoots her in the pelvis, which opens up a whole other potentially loaded assault on gender riff that I shall leave unexplored.

Sequel Corpsing: Comedy Zombies

Posted in movies, stupidity with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2014 by drayfish

anchorman 2 cast

IMAGE: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Paramount Pictures)

Ahem.

You’ll have to excuse me. I just need to scream for a little while.

I just fell down a rabbit hole of filmic trauma.

See, these past few weeks I was writing an article about Anchorman 2 – a film that, despite arguably not being as funny as the first (which would be near impossible), I think is in many ways far more impressive, particularly for the way in which it exploits its own comedic legacy to a thematic end. Sure the first film might have that element of surprise that can never really be replicated, but the second – almost unlike any other sequel I can think of – builds upon that history to elicit both grand nonsense and pointed social commentary.

If you’re at all interested in seeing how quickly I can swing from playfully recollecting ‘I love lamp’ to scrambling up on a soapbox to shout at the sky about the infantilised redundancy of the real world 24 hour news media, then you can read the article here.

But that’s for another time, because right now I want to talk about pain. And horror. And the gnashing of teeth. Because hopefully amongst my fog of blatant self-promotion you caught that admission that is the cause of all my recent agony – the sentence that has caused me so much distress:

‘Almost unlike any other sequel I can think of…’

That’s right. Because in order to talk about Anchorman 2 and the way it deals with the fact that it is a sequel, I actually had to let myself think of a couple of examples of other comedy sequels to give the discussion some context.

You know:

Here I am, typing, typing, arguing that comedy sequels are usually hard to do… Gee. I guess I’d better cite a film just to establish that there is some truth to that claim. What could I use? Ah, yes. Of course. The Hangover.

Done.

…But I guess I need another one, just so it doesn’t seem like I’m picking on a specific franchise. Okay, how about Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blue? Waste of a film; suitably stupid name. Perfect.

Done and done.

And then the screaming started.

Because suddenly a trapdoor in my mind kicked open, and I was inundated with memories. Tragic, harrowing, flooding memories. I was astronaut David Bowman staring into the cryptic abyss, maddened by the chaotic, unfathomable sprawl.

Yes. That’s how traumatised I was; I couldn’t even think up a better analogy to use than 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Suddenly there was Mannequin: On The Move, the Big Momma’s sequels, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Weekend at Bernies 2 (although to be fair, the originals of each of these films were abominable already). There was Be Cool and Shrek The Third and Look Who’s Talking Now and Men in Black 2 and Ghostbusters 2 and Evan Almighty and Teen Wolf Too (poor Jason Bateman) and Father of the Bride 2 (poor Steve Martin) and Blues Brothers 2000 (poor John Goodman) and Son of Mask (you think about what you’ve done, Jamie Kennedy!) and Caddyshack 2 and Dumb and Dumberer.

And in case those don’t quite fit your definition of emotionally traumatic assaults on good taste: did you know that there was even a sequel to The Jerk? A sequel without Steve Martin.

No – I’ll say that again. I want that to sink in.

Without. Steve. Martin.

The Jerk.

Sure, it was a TV movie, and history has largely forgotten about it; but a crime is still a crime. And if I have to know that, then you do too.

So I apologise if it feels, at this point, like I’ve just been punching you in the heart with each of these film titles. If it helps, just think how hard this was for me to recollect them all. To see them come flooding in to my psyche all at once. I was starting into the abyss. Into a hellscape of franchise fatigue and overstayed welcomes. A bunch of half-animated corpses, shuffling through the motions, each dragging its wasted potential and rote redundancy along in its wake.

In the case of sorry re-treads like Blues Brothers 2000 or Dumb and Dumberer I just keep thinking of that Simpsons joke where Homer, dressed as Krusty the Clown, misunderstands a bit of playful pantomime and tackles a man dressed as a burger-thief to the ground. As you hear the wet thud of Homer pounding the burglar’s face repeatedly, the camera pans across the faces of a gaggle of horrified onlooking children to find one boy sobbing:

‘Stop… Sto-o-o-o-op… He’s already dead.’

…And yes, I’m aware of the sad irony of using The Simpsons to criticise the beating of a franchise into a sorry, unrecognisable pulp. Dear gods – has it really been 25 years? Over half of its lifespan it’s been unwatchable?

I mean, I understand the impulse. I get the motivation. Audiences loved the first film, and they instinctively want to revisit that world – even if the joke they loved has already been told. I can even see why the creators of the original work, either wanting a victory lap or with some leftover ideas that they still want to try out, might want to risk taking a second plunge. And there are – as I say in the Anchorman article – the occasional exceptions. The ones that work. Anchorman 2 is definitely one of them. The second Austin Powers also manages to stick the landing (although the third is rather more shaky and indulgent). From everything that I am hearing (and I want to make clear, I am not speaking with any authority, as I have not yet seen it myself) 22 Jump Street is apparently a delightful surprise – which seems fitting, since that first film was far, far funnier than it had any right to be.

But too often you get Grown Ups 2 (sigh …or for that matter, Grown Ups 1) which at this point in Adam Sandler’s career may has well have been advertised with a poster of a stick, a dead horse, and a whole lot of tacky product placement splattered with gore.

I just think it’s a shame that we don’t see more examples like Hot Shots Part Deux or the Muppet films, which have a central premise, a cast of returning characters, and the same creative team, but that are willing to spin out in wild new directions – to try whole new genres and styles.

After all, one of the most interesting examples of a film sequel that I can recall is actually only a pseudo-sequel: the follow up to A Fish Called Wanda called Fierce Creatures.

Fierce Creatures cast

IMAGE: Fierce Creatures (Universal Pictures)

Now, I’m by no means holding up Fierce Creatures as a great sequel. In fact, it defies that definition both as a technical ‘sequel’ and by virtue of not being universally considered ‘great’. But it’s good. It’s funny. It’s made by talented people, and most importantly in a cinema landscape lousy with derivative regressions: it feels fresh.

Perhaps the happy product of John Cleese and Michael Palin’s sketch mentality days in Monty Python, although staring the principle cast of A Fish Called Wanda, and with largely the same creative team working on the production, Fierce Creatures is a film set in an entirely new time, location, and narrative. The script and conceit is different; the actors play different roles. Whereas the first film was a heist caper with a lot of social satire about English class consciousness and American cultural stereotypes – a collision of stuffy Brits and uncouth but passionate Americans (with some accidental Terrier assassinations thrown in) – the second is a wild farce about a zoo becoming despairingly over-commercialised and compromised – the crush of amoral corporatisation upon a gaggle of fervent, but disorganised caretakers.

And yet, despite their superficial dissimilarities there are some notable thematic ties between the two. The Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis disproportionate romance returns. Kevin Kline gets to play a another (albeit less charismatic) swaggering dullard. Palin returns with an alternate take on a socially dysfunctional figure with accidentally murderous powers. It is still fundamentally concerned with non-conformity and constraint; with greed and deception. It plays out a continuation of the familiar tropes and tones of the first film, just delivered in a new, and by virtue of their revitalised format, unique way.

It also contains a scene where Kevin Kline assaults a panda.

So there’s that too.

Again, Fierce Creatures will never be heralded as one of the all time comedy classics (nor does it strive to be). In comparison to its forbearer Wanda it’s more a broad, playful jaunt. But it finds something novel to say while still retaining the idea of a sequel, not stripping the original of its lustre by shoving its way back into a world that had already reached its natural comedic resolve.

It does what comedy is meant to do. It takes risks. It’s willing to look at things from a new, unexpected angle. To surprise.

Because it’s a whole lot harder to surprise your audience if there’s a numerical symbol beside your film’s title already telling them exactly what to expect.

Fierce Creatures panda

IMAGE: Fierce Creatures (Universal Pictures)

Shift Change: ‘My’ Doctor Who

Posted in criticism, movies, television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2013 by drayfish

Doctor Who the TARDIS

IMAGE: Doctor Who (BBC)

It’s been a good year to be a fan of Doctor Who.

From the introduction of a new companion in the character of Clara Oswald (okay, technically she was ‘introduced’ last year through a bit of tricksy foreshadowed storytelling, but she took her place in the TARDIS properly this year), to the command of the role that Matt Smith now effortlessly brings to his portrayal of the Doctor (by the way, early-Matt-Smith-critics: he was always this good), to the rollicking, world-record breaking fiftieth anniversary special, ‘Day of the Doctor’ (which has become the highest rating drama on BBC and BBC America this year; is the first dramatic program to have screened simultaneously in 94 countries; and was running over with fan service and love for the series), those who love Doctor Who and all its glorious, sprawling wonder and goofiness have had much to revel in.

On the other hand, for those who just don’t see the point of Doctor Who the past couple of months were probably wearyingly tedious…

After all, there has been a veritable onslaught of retrospectives and news broadcasts and spoofs devoted to anticipating this birthday event.  There was Mark Gatiss’ love note to the series and its original star, William Hartnell, in the historical drama An Adventure in Space and Time (the hypercritical part of my brain acknowledges that it was all highly romanticised and at times clogged with self-aware exposition; but the emotional part of me was charmed utterly, and even choked back a tear in that final scene when the echo of this actor’s legacy was met with a warm smile from his latest successor).  There was Peter Davison’s (the fifth Doctor’s) playful, homemade spoof The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot; there was Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide; there were hours and hours of talking heads espousing their love and recounting the minutia of the show in specials.  Google even changed its homepage in an enchanting homage.

For anyone not a fan of Who, all of this fuss must have started to seem like a waking nightmare.  And considering that these people are already very sick indeed (their crippling medical condition, Being Terribly, Tragically Wrong (BTTW), affects innocent people the world over) my heart really goes out to them.

(Incidentally, donate now to the BTTW fund.  Your small donation can help get DVD box sets to baffled viewers who desperately need them.)

But for anyone not sick to death of hearing about all things Who (and who can stand to hear me pontificate further), this past week I published a retrospective on the Doctor over at PopMatters.  I discuss the history of the show; how its ingenious conceit allows it to regenerate itself along with the needs of its medium and its viewing audience: how week to week it can bounce between genres and plots, from science fiction to historical drama, from parody to tragedy, philosophical think-piece to screwball fun.  I gush about how vital and innovative the show has always been; ramble shamelessly about how grand every single little bit of ‘Day of the Doctor’ was; I even get in a petty dig at K-9.

…Also, I liken Colin Baker’s costume to something ‘hosed out of a unicorn enclosure.’

So there’s that.

In any case, it’s my quick (for anyone who has ever read anything I have written, you know ‘quick’ is a thoroughly misleading word) love letter to the most unique, and most brilliant television-y television show that has ever been.

Despite all of my self-indulgent waffling, however, the one element I didn’t get to discuss was my own relationship to the show…

Because that’s the great thing about Doctor Who.  It’s generational.  Enduring.  You can stumble upon it while channel surfing.  You can inherit your devotion to it like you would a football team.  You can watch it change and grow – revel in the good years, gnash your teeth at the bad – all the time knowing that your opinion, like everyone else’s, is relative.  It is a show to fall in love with and grow alongside.  Watching it as a child you can be wonderstruck by all the gizmos and daring-do; as an adult you can marvel at the boundless imagination on display, at the ideological and philosophical debate being dressed up and played out in colourful metaphor.

It’s why many fans have a ‘my’ Doctor.

‘Sure, all the other Doctors are great,’ they will say, ‘but [INSERT NAME HERE] was my Doctor.’  And at that point they will twiddle the tassels on their floor length scarf, rock in place in their Converse All Stars, or take a bite from the celery stalk on their lapel.

Frequently, this favoured Doctor is the one that the viewer grew up with – the first incarnation that swept them off on an adventure, who they first saw repel a Cyberman invasion, who they first saw stroke the TARDIS console tenderly.

That wasn’t really my experience.  To be honest, my earliest memories of watching Doctor Who were hardly love at first sight.  I remember I was about five years old, watching it at my grandparent’s place in black and white…

The television!  The television was black and white!  The show was in colour.  It was the eighties.  And… and… it was probably a rerun (it wasn’t).

How old do you think I am?!

Anyway.  It seems extraordinary to say now, but at the time neither the show nor its principle character made much of an impression upon me.  There was no ‘my’ anything.  In fact, if I recall correctly, I spent most of the time thinking that he was the Riddler (it was Colin Baker, and the question marks on the collar threw me off); I kept waiting for Batman to turn up and kick him in the neck (again: it was Colin Baker).

It was only when I returned to the show years later that I became enamoured with what I found.  Here was a sprawling, discordant text colliding against itself in reruns, shifting and mutating with every tale.  The Doctor I first watched properly was multiform.  He bounced between a youthful, puffy-haired cricketer, to a Victorian dandy in a vintage roadster; from a velvet voiced hippie to a skittery, conceited explosion of light and sound.  I leapt about in his lives the way he leapt around in time, liking aspects of some, abhorring elements of others (Hey Doctor, Y U strangle Peri?!), but appreciating them all as part of one great potpourri of splintered sci-fi selfhood.

And even when I caught up to the show itself, I still saw them all as one.  Sylvester McCoy had a lovely wellspring of cunning under his sunny exterior that I found arresting; despite the tonally disjointed mess of the Doctor Who television movie, I was charmed by Paul McGann’s romantic Doctor; I admired (even if I didn’t completely embrace) Christopher Eccleston’s haunted soldier; and I swooned (in a totally manly way) at David Tennant’s heartsore, lonely wanderer.  Each had new inflections that brought further depth to this amorphous creature, but for me, no single face could hope to encapsulate it all.

And then Matt Smith happened.  And then I got it.

Doctor Who Matt Smith

IMAGE: The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)

Because here, suddenly, was my Doctor.  The Doctor I hadn’t realised I’d always wanted.  Goofy, awkward, all limbs and hand-gestures and muddled lexicon.  Sombre and soulful, with eons of pain in his eyes; this marriage of Peter Pan and a sad old god clicked with me from the moment Matt Smith scrunched up his face and said, ‘Must be a hell of a scary crack in your wall…’

So for three seasons I finally watched the show as if I was seeing it all for the first time.  I finally saw the Doctor – my Doctor – send the Cybermen horde on their way.  Saw him outwit the Daleks, and the Sontarans, and the Weeping Angels, and… well, pretty much everyone by the end of that first year.  I saw him grieve the loss of his companions.  Saw him reaffirm his abiding romance with the TARDIS.  I saw all of time and space, and the eternal sartorial flair of bowties.  And best of all, in ‘Day of the Doctor’, I saw him restore hope to the heart of the Doctor Who mythos: to save the Doctor from himself and undo his greatest mistake…

But there is one more Doctor Who rite of passage that all fans of the show must endure, and that I am now about to experience for the first time.  Because eventually, everyone’s Doctor dies…  Their ‘my’ must give way to the communal ‘our’.  And as has already been announced, this Christmas it will be Matt Smith’s time to surrender the role to another.*

I would never, of course, do anything so asinine as declare the show ‘cannot go on without him’, or ‘it’s best years are over’.  That is abject nonsense.  Peter Capaldi will be great, the adventure will be grand, and many exciting new wonders have yet to be explored; but I am still going to reserve my right to observe an utterly self-indulgent moment of celebratory sadness.

My Doctor – the Doctor I had waited for – is going to die.  However, as innumerable other fans before me have already experienced, in spite of the sorrow, what is about to happen becomes one of the greatest gifts that is built into the heart of the show.

Because Doctor Who will endure.  It will be different, sure, but even though it won’t have this Doctor anymore, it will take the best parts of his narrative, his portrayal, his quirks, and fold it into the whole.  The journey will be cosily familiar and exhilaratingly new all at once, and there will be a whole new universe to explore, and adventure to be discovered, through brand new eyes.

Because even though my Doctor will be gone, someone else’s is just about to be born.

It’s a good year to be a Doctor Who fan.  It turns out it’s also a good year to become one too.

the eleven doctors copy

IMAGE: The Eleven Doctors (BBC)

* And considering that this is a Christmas story, and is the culmination of the ‘Silence will fall’ arc, I’m guessing I will never be able to hear the song ‘Silent Night’ again without wistfully peering into the middle distance and sniffling.

The Phantom Drone: Prelude To A Rant…

Posted in comics, criticism, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2013 by drayfish

Seriously, I am about to rant in the lead up to another, equally tedious rant.  If you loved Man of Steel, have an understandable hatred for futile whining on the interwebs, or just generally care for your own mental health, I suggest you don’t bother reading the following post. 

The TLDR version is: other people liked Man of Steel – and that’s fine.  I resoundingly did not enjoy it (which is also fine, by the way) – but I foolishly tried to analyse why, and almost lost my mind in the process. 

This is that story…

man of steel general zod

IMAGE: General Zod from Man of Steel (Warner Bros.)

I made a mistake.

Two months ago, the granddaddy of all super heroes, the original man-in-the-tri-colour-onesie – Superman – returned to cinemas.  It had been decades since the Richard Donner vision of the prototypical comic book champion was so watered down by his progressively inferior sequels that the franchise had faded into a mockery of itself.  A new millennium had come upon us since the (thankfully) stalled Kevin Smith/Tim Burton/Nick Cage ‘dark’ re-visioning of Krypton’s son, Superman Lives, was jettisoned into the whispers of movie studio lore.  And it has been years since Bryan Singer (leaving the X-Men franchise to collapse in on itself under Brett Ratner’s profoundly mediocre directing*) had seen his resurrection of the saga stalled with a lukewarm (to hostile) audience response.

Superman had certainly lived on in comics (been killed and reborn, had his powers altered and gotten married), and he had thrived in the phenomenal animated Superman and Justice League programs (executive produced by Bruce Timm who likewise helmed the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series**), but it took until this year for Kal-El to return to the silver screen in Man of Steel, a big budget spectacle designed to reintroduce the Superman tale to a whole new audience, restarting the narrative from the beginning.

I was warned ahead of time that this version of the tale would probably not appeal to me – that I might, in fact, get quite angry at this depiction of the character.

I didn’t listen.

But that’s not the mistake bit.  Not yet.  The mistake comes later.

‘Pish-posh,’ cried I, when I heard their cautions.  ‘Why, adaptation is the lifeblood of all mythologies that seek to remain valid!  It is the responsibility of each new generation to re-contextualise the elements of these adventures to speak to their own experience!  Ergo, the details will change, the tone will fluctuate, and the familiar will be remade anew!  Forsooth!  Egads!  Harrumph!’

Flinging my martini into the fireplace, I then repositioned my monocle, bid everyone a good day (‘I said, Good Day, sir!’), and clambered up onto my penny-farthing, to pedal as swiftly as I could to the nearest moving-pictures show and pay for a ticket – keen to discover for myself how this new-fangled Superman was rejuvenating the stuffy and old with a fresh perspective.

…Okay, to be honest I wasn’t quite so philosophical.  While I desperately hoped that the film would deliver a rollicking, triumphant and introspective journey (Superman is a character that can frequently be dismissed as cheesy or old-fashioned, but I legitimately believe him to be more important in our current cultural climate than he ever has been) there had been some major warning signs hanging over the production that gave me pause.

Namely, Jack Snyder.

To put it mildly, I am not a fan of Zack Snyder’s work.  To me it has consistently been the very definition of cinematic style over substance – and considering that I’m not really a big fan of his perpetually washed-out-metallic-sheen aesthetic either, there really is really very little to endear me to his canon.  I know many loved the film (and I am glad for them) but beyond its faithfulness to the source material’s bold visuals (and near-fetishistic masculinity), I saw little to love in 300.  The Watchmen likewise perfectly recreated the page layouts of the comic, but its characters and symbolism fell flat (again, just my opinion).  And the less said about what I consider to be his grotesquely misguided (and mystifyingly tone-deaf) ‘feminist’ treatise Suckerpunch, the better.  So far his filmography has seemed to me to be stylistically thumping but narratively scattershot; emotionless, inhuman, and lacking anything that even vaguely resembles subtlety, character depth, cohesive narrative, or the capacity to linger in a moment of meaningful quietude.

Having said all that, however, I legitimately went in to Man of Steel hoping to be surprised.  Under the presumably watchful eye of producer Christopher Nolan, the man who rescued the Batman franchise from Joel Schumacher’s neon fever dream, and the screenwriting potential of David Goyer, who (sure, while he also wrote Ghost Rider) collaborated with Nolan in the Dark Knight trilogy to turn it into one of the most diverse, multifaceted explorations of terrorism yet committed to film, there was every reason to believe that this could be the project that would give Snyder the guidance he needed to finally evolve as a storyteller.

Similarly, I am not some slavish fanboy of the old films (so however the following criticisms may sound, they truly do not come from a ‘They did it better back when…’ place).  I know that to many this will sound like heresy, but aside from Christopher Reeves’ masterful shape-shifting double-duty playing both a mythic god and a bumbling country boy, I find little in the original films worth salvaging.  Superman’s 4 and 3 are cheap (really, really cheap) goofy kitsch; film 2 (no doubt due to its drama behind the scenes) feels slightly schizophrenic in tone (and what was with that cellophane symbol Superman Frisbees about?); and even the original (admittedly the best of the bunch) is at times plodding, contains that mystifying anti-musical number when Lois sing-speaks ‘Can you read my mind?’ in her head, and most egregiously of all, is marred by possibly the laziest piece of deus ex machina drivel ever committed to film in the narrative’s climax, as Superman spins the earth around the other way  to turn back time (!!?!!).***

And while I’m not a pure hater of the Superman Returns – it did attempt to recapture some of the wonder of Donner’s original – Singer’s soft-reboot never quite carved out an individual identity beyond its almost-plagiarising homage.  …Not to mention that, when looked at objectively, Snyder’s vision of Superman was both a dead-beat dad, and something of a creeper.  I’m almost certain these two lines of Lois Lane’s dialogue were cut, last minute, from the theatrical release:

‘Wait, is that someone floating outside my window x-ray visioning into my most private family moments?  Oh, no. It’s just the guy I used to date – a dude who dumped me, ran off, and was leading a double life so elaborate it was like he was two different people…’

‘Hold on, has someone sneaked into my house so that they can leer over my sleeping child like a psychopath?  …Oh no, it’s just an omnipotent, moody alien with boundary issues wearing skin tight lycra.  It’s fine.’

So while it may not sound like it, when the house lights of the cinema went down, I truly was eager to believe – given the subject matter of the narrative and the pedigree of its actors and producers – that perhaps both Man of Steel and its director could ultimately soar…

…I was wrong.

But again: this too is not the mistake of which I speak.  That’s still to come…

No doubt many others did and continue to enjoy Snyder’s take on Superman a great deal (in fact, I know they have; I scarcely remember a time I’ve seen such vitriol directed by supporters of a film back at those who criticise it), but for me it was a resounding miss.  Indeed, a completely baffling miss.

Illogical, over-wrought, weirdly tonally jarring; the makers of the film seemed to hit every cliché in the narrative with over-earnest pretention, but simultaneously remained almost belligerently ignorant of the subtext they themselves were ordering the audience to embrace.  Between the incongruous religious allegories, the hackneyed terrorism analogies, the completely nonsensical way it cannibalised its own mythos rather than communicate a coherent plot, the whole thing seemed to thrash about wildly, a cluster bomb of clichés.  Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Even the action, which I have heard many people celebrate, struck me cold – eventually leaving me utterly, stupefyingly numb.  Sure, there was spectacle (after all, aside from Singer’s more restrained vision, this is the first time special-effects technology has been at a state where the guy in the cape can really let fly with the ‘splosions and feats of strength), but after about fifty unbroken minutes of it, the carnage tipped over from breathtaking epic clash to indulgent, meaningless noise.  I do recall involuntarily shaking my head as the film gormlessly telegraphed Superman’s decision to slaughter his enemy, but even then, I felt almost nothing.  The whole thing seemed like little more than a CGI tech demo, with cardboard cut-outs of beautiful people danced in front of the screen, and dialogue so stilted it was like placeholder notations for a second draft that never came to be.

And so, when I left the cinema I was surprised to find that I wasn’t, as my friends had warned me, angry.

In truth, I was mostly just bemused.  Sure, part of that was probably just a product of being stunned by the film’s aimless sensory overload.  That final hour really does wear you down.  Indeed, through some kind of unnerving magic, it becomes a hyperactive tantrum of punching and crunching so monotonous that the countless deaths it depicts actually transmogrify from horrifying to utterly boring.  But overall, between the hysterically rampant product placement, the creaking script, and the asinine allusions the film was ham-fistedly trying to employ, it was all far more humorous than aggravating.

Yes, there was the immediate vulgarity (that many others have already cited) of Superman arbitrarily killing his enemy and having the narrative implicitly celebrate it – but even this was handled in such a clumsy way as to become absurdly comedic, an act of scriptwriting laziness more than any kind of moral statement.  After all, Superman had, until that point, been nonplussed to watch countless people crushed and blown up and stomped on (often as a direct consequence of his own blind fury) – but suddenly, in the final ten minutes, Zod threatens a family escaped from an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue and he is so tortured that he both snaps Zod’s neck (mortal damage that he has magically been unable to do before that very second) and rears back to unleash a Darth Vader-style ‘Nooooooooo!!!’ scream to the heavens?

To give Snyder the benefit of the doubt for a moment, he may well have been thinking of Superman’s reckless and willingness to resort to murder in his first outing as a hero in the terms of an origin tale such as Spiderman, where Peter Parker had to start by being irresponsible (let the mugger go) so that he could learn to be responsible in future (to stop other innocents like Uncle Ben dying as a result of his apathy).  Sure, it would still be the laziest of possible resolutions (aside from spinning the Earth back around the other way, of course), but Snyder might have been thinking that by indulging such extremes you can later cobble together a tale of heroism and moral fortitude out of remorse and redemption.  You know – like Spiderman’s guilt…  Except, of course, that Spiderman didn’t personally gun Ben down.  He didn’t plunge his hand through his chest and shout, ‘Responsibility!!!’ into the sky as lightning crackled overhead.****

But I digress…

No, ultimately the whole of Man of Steel felt too tacky and self-indulgent to get mad about.  From the derivatively mopey emo tone they tried to slather over every scene (even though there was never any specific reason offered for why being superhuman, good-looking, popular with the ladies, and awesome, should be such an onerous drag); to the endless expositional pontificating by poor Kevin Costner’s (apparently suicidal) Pa Kent;  to the embarrassingly insincere attempt to manufacture pathos by ripping off the origin stories of other heroes.  The whole thing seemed to be so desperately trying distinguish itself – to shout ‘This isn’t your grandma’s Superman!‘ – that it collapsed over into a weirdly joyless farce.

Nonetheless, when I got home from the cinema, I decided that the whole experience should not be for nothing.  There had to be something worth talking about in the shambolic mess I had just witnessed…  The film certainly seemed to want to say something, even if it kept contradicting itself and indulging all of its laziest impulses.

And here comes the mistake bit…

Hmm, I thought.  That messiah stuff was kind of weird.

That fundamental contradiction between the sacrificial analogy the filmmakers were ponderously trying to draw and their character’s own behaviour, seemed so preposterous, so juvenile, that I decided to write a short, playful response to it.

And that was it.  That was the mistake.  The white rabbit had scampered by, and the moment that my fingers touched the keyboard to start unpacking that obnoxiously irrelevant Jesus imagery I was tumbling down a nonsensical hole that felt like it stole weeks from my life.

man of steel dream sequence

IMAGE: Dream sequence from Terminator 2 Man of Steel (Warner Bros.)

Suddenly, all those once-humorous contradictions started piling up.  The aimless, artless, facile equivalencies the film tried to evoke, all while belligerently ignoring the implications of its own message, steadily began overtaking me, started rubbing me raw.  Now it wasn’t just the Kal-El-is-Jesus comparison (which, to be fair, was stolen from Donner’s film, Donner just handled it far more elegantly), it was the clumsy endorsement of Nietzsche’s notion of the ubermensch; the exploitatively cowardly sensationalising of 9/11; the terrorism analogies that ironically embrace rather than discredit the use of ideological horror; the pretentious hypocrisy of all the film’s rote philosophising about ‘restraint’ (they even throw in a Plato reference, despite going on to wholesale contradict everything Plato was arguing); the way that the empty rhetoric of ‘hope’ and moral fortitude that gets vomited up in stilted dialogue but never validated by the plot; the complete nonsense of having characters drone on and on about what Superman is ‘meant’ to represent, only to then show him embodying the complete opposite of these qualities at every significant moment…

I tried to remain rational, tried to stay as detached, and objective and analytically unbiased as I could manage – but a strange gravity kept pulling me in.  Perhaps it was the realisation that, despite what people who scoff at comic books might think, super heroes have a substance, have an inspirational mythos that they carry with them; and to see it so callously maligned kind of stung.  Perhaps it was irritation at the film’s faux-philosophical self-satisfaction, despite the fact that even it didn’t seem to know what it was saying.  Whatever it was, I found myself spewing out a tedious analytical screed so lengthy it felt at times that it would never end (I literally checked the word count at one point to find, with horror, that I was already over eight thousand words in) all while trying to comprehend a film that I had previously sloughed off as inordinately expensive B-movie cheese.  (Not to mention that here I am doing it all over again…)  At times, when I allowed myself the egotism of such hyperbole it felt like I had spent more time thinking about the plot and its themes than the film’s creators ever had – and then that thought (petty as it was) got on my nerves too.

There is a Phantom Zone in this film (though they don’t call it that), where time and space are immaterial, where the void swallows you whole, where logic and physics are meaningless.  It is a prison, one that Zod gets thrown into for being arrogant enough to question the social order – the Kryptonian council who want to pretend that things are great, and that no one need worry about any of it.  In scratching the surface of Man of Steel’s themes I shared Zod’s fate; I felt I had stared into that same abyss.  It was an impossible, immaterial vacuum, where images at first appeared to have substance, but remained disturbingly, nonsensically one dimensional.  Where words like ‘honour’ and ‘hope’ and ‘sacrifice’ were hollowed out and stripped of context, but still flaunted in a vain display.  It was an act of analysis that, of I’m honest, left me feeling peculiarly grim – something that I most recently remember feeling when trying to discern the ‘feminist’ message of Snyder’s repugnant Sucker Punch.

The result of this foray into critical madness – following Snyder’s Kurtz into a superhuman heart of darkness – can be found on the PopMatters journal website: ‘A Man of Steel That Sinks Like Lead’.  If you are particularly self-loathing, you can inflict it upon yourself there (although I will probably republish it here sometime in the future).  Upon its publication it was immediately torn to shreds by fans of the film as being needlessly nitpicking and of taking the film too seriously.  ‘It was just a film’, seemed to be the overwhelming catch-cry.

And although I did (and do) say to those commentators that my experience is in no way meant to discredit their interpretation – that I am glad for them that they enjoyed Man of Steel, I just did not share their point of view – perhaps there is some truth in what they say.  After all, it was long, and exhausting, and frankly I feel only worse having written it; and like the film itself, there is an inescapable stench of futility hanging over the entire enterprise.  The people who love the film will continue to love it no matter what (and they are more than welcome to it); meanwhile the people who hate Snyder’s vision will no doubt find nothing within my screed they have not already noticed themselves.

As I look back on this little purge of mine, I realise that the word that keeps resurfacing is ‘Indulgent’ – and I think that’s where I personally land on Man of Steel.  To me, it is the exemplar of lazy and indulgent filmmaking, in all of its gaudy excess.  It gratifies only the most fleeting of superficial desires for bombast and spectacle; its characters are no more than mouthpieces to advance the most flimsy of plotlines; it wallows in adolescent nihilism; it affects subtext in order to ape significance but follows through on nothing it evokes; and it shamelessly trades on the good will of its predecessors, offering nothing new to an audience itself.

But there was one further indulgence that I hadn’t considered: that of my own unwillingness to just walk away.

After all, I don’t like writing long, boring, tracts of criticism that dig for meaning and come up empty.  It’s a chore that, believe me, is even less fun to write than it is to read.  So why – when there have been plenty of other shallow action spectacles that have pilfered iconography they didn’t understand to ape gravitas they didn’t earn – why was I unable to shake loose of this one when I saw that analytical Phantom Zone open before me?

Perhaps it was some selfish affection for the Superman character, who I felt was being twisted into something unrecognisable; perhaps it was some personal contempt for Snyder himself, and his hackneyed, empty symbolism; perhaps it was just sanctimonious reprisal, petty revenge for feeling that I had been tricked into digging for substance where there was only exploitation.

In any case, whatever it was, it was a mistake.  One that I vow I shall never make again.  I free myself both of the burden of hoping for something better in Snyder’s work, and of tilting at his windmills in critical analysis.  Superman has weathered worse than him, and there are far more substantive texts still out there to explore…

You have no more power over me, Man of Steel.  Do whatever you wish, because I won’t let you plague me any more.

All right.  Good.  Now that all of that is out of the way, let me move on with my life and get back to checking the internet blog-o-sphere to see what’s going on in the world.

Let me just click on this first link here and –

Hmm?  What’s this?  The next Superman film is going to have Batman in it?!

Wait.

…Snyder is going to do Batman?!

And played by Ben Affleck!?!?

Oh, gods no…

No…

Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.

Sigh.

All right.  Fine.  You win.

Just let me kneel down on the ground here and…

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

man of steel scream 600x338

IMAGE: Emotions from Man of Steel (Warner Bros.)

* Who used his extraordinary reverse-Midas powers to turn one of comic books fiction’s most celebrated  dramatic arcs (and the gathering propulsion of the preceding films) into a muddled, affected soap-opera, sprinkled with poorly-staged CGI explosions.

** Truly, his smack down with Captain Marvel alone nails every epic note that Man of Steel failed to hit, and the debate over his political and social responsibilities in the Cadmus story arc make a joke of the clumsy military posturing in Snyder’s tale.

*** …Also: ?!??!!!?!!?!!

**** Not to mention that I think it’s fair to say that in superhero terms, committing an act of murder is usually considered to be in the wheelhouse of ‘letting the toddler  touch the stove top’.  It’s enough to just tell them no, and let them figure out for themselves why it was the right thing to avoid.

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