Posted in Comics n Stuff, Films

Defending the DCEU part 4 – Suicide Squad: The Extended Cut

This was the one I was least looking forward to. I have reservations regarding some of what became known as ‘Snyderverse’ but a lot of that were questions about plot direction and overall feel. The actual film making wasn’t real problem. I had problems with what the film did, not how they did it. With this film, it was quite honestly both, but we’ll get to that.

Suicide Squad was a 2016 film written and directed by David Ayer and had something of a stellar cast playing villains and bad guys from DC’s stable of characters. The cast included Will Smith as Floyd ‘Deadshot’ Lawton, Margot Robbie as Dr. Harleen ‘Harley Quinn’ Quinzel, Jai Courtney as Digger ‘Captain Boomerang’ Harker and Viola Davis as Amanda ‘The Wall’ Waller. We also have Jared Leto playing the ‘Joker’ and cameos from Ben Afleck’s Batman and Ezra Miller’s Flash.

The plot involves Amanda Waller recruiting members for Task Force X as she manoeuvres and manipulates events to have this team in place for when it’s needed. From maximum security prisons she recruits Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Slipknot, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Killer Croc and the Enchantress and has Rick Flagg, the one ‘good’ guy riding herd on them, with Katana having his back. The team is then set out to rescue someone from Midway City after Enchantress frees her brother and the two powerful magical beings work to do ….. something and the task force is sent along with two teams of special forces operatives and chaos ensues. Whilst all this is going on the ‘Joker’ (I am using quotation marks for reasons that will be clear later) is trying to find and liberate Harley Quinn.

I will be honest internet people, I was dreading this particular section of this DCEU rewatch. I don’t have fond memories when I first watched the film and in particular it’s use of the ‘Joker.’ That said, there’s a lot to like about it.

Viola Davis inhabits the role of Amanda Waller, giving her a sense of power and of menace that previous portrayals have lacked. She plays the character as a person who fully commits to doing that job and as a result has no compunction with whatever needs to be done in it’s service. She lies, manipulates, blackmails and at one point cold-bloodedly murders and seems to not at all care about it. You can’t help but hate her, but know that what she’s done could save others. Some of the cast have a lot of fun with the role, Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomering is a lot of fun and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje breathes life into Killer Croc. We also get the revelation of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, who plays crazy with such wild abandon that it’s hard not to watch her flit between sharp psychologist and unhinged lunatic. The moments with her and the action scenes are true high points of the films. There are a few lines that stick with you long after the rest of the film fades away like the taste of popcorn. There’s also an interesting point in how people feel after metahumans become and thing and then Superman is killed. People in power are scared and the Suicide Squad is a reaction to that.

But sadly there’s only so much you can say that’s positive. Will Smith phones it in, Joel Kinnaman mustn’t have needed to eat during most of the shoot, since he feasts on the scenery. I’ve been to butchers where there was less ham and much of Jay Hernandez’s Diablo’s story seems to not land for me. But in such an ensemble cast, not everyone’s going to either deliver or be given the screen time to deliver and it’s hard to be too harsh, but we don’t stop there. From the video game menu style captions, to the disjointed tone and the weird balance of exposition where we get lots of lots for some things and almost none for the others. The editing and direction seem wrong in a way that I can’t describe as a lay person, but don’t like as a viewer. The final act with the ubiquitous blue sky beam is just not very good, despite the drama and characterisation that the film tries to deliver at the end of it.

There’s little in this film that seems well done, I can see several of the actors doing their best and the second unit people don’t come up short, but overall this film is something of a lukewarm mess. This wasn’t a failure of concept because some things work and it would lead into a sequel which proved that. This was a failure in execution on several levels. I’ve watched it now, so it can go back into the the DVD storage thing for a few more years now.

I know, I didn’t mention the ‘Joker’ in this, but I’ll be honest I didn’t want an additional 600 swear words in an already rambling mess of a post. I will say two things 1: I like Jared Leto as an actor, he was great in Requim for a Dream and other roles and I have enjoyed his musical efforts 30 Seconds to Mars, so I mean no slight to this actor. 2: We’ve had Mark Hamill, Cesar Romero, Tim Curry, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Joaquim Phoenix play the character, plus several others and each one doing something quite different from the rest. How far off the mark do you have to go to not be recognisable as that character. I use inverted commas because I honestly don’t see this guy as the clown prince of crime, I just don’t.

The positives I can see is that the some of the things in this film that worked survived into other, better films and they are ahead of me.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Films

Defending the DCEU Part 3: Wonder Woman

After the rise and fall of the past two films, we get a bit of a more cheerful and uplifting one, set against….the trenches of World War One?

This 2017 film directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston and David Thewis capitalised on Gadot pretty much picking up the previous film and walking off with it and moved that goodwill into it’s own film.

It is the story of Diana Princess of the Amazon island of Themiscyra and how when a pilot from ‘Man’s world’ called Steve Trevor crash lands near the island and is in need of help, she goes with him against her mother Queen Hippolyta’s wishes and finds herself in a very strange world, our world in 1918.

We get a good look at the island full of warrior women who have no war to fight and how Diana, the only child there is loved and cared for, provided she doesn’t do anything the queen doesn’t like. Like most kids, she rebels and chooses exile from her home over ignoring the danger that exists from the war and who she feels is responsible, Ares the god of war.

Along the way we get some good perspectives on the horrors of war, the abject cruelty of those at the top and the wreckage left at the bottom. We also get some decent performances from the supporting cast and one or two great action set pieces from the attack on the beach, to the liberation of Veld to the by this point iconic No Man’s Land scene.

This isn’t a perfect film, it’s a bit preachy, overlong and it’s sort of fitting that the male lead’s name is Pine because the word of the day here is wooden. But this is a film that has a lot of heart and does it’s best to be showcase a character that often is mishandled, but when done right is a fantastic heroic figure and this film does have it right.

The point of these posts was defending DC’s recent films and to be perfectly honest, this film doesn’t really need defending. It’s fun, action packed and a good way to spend a couple of hours, it’s just a shame it’s sitting in between other films that don’t handle the material so well.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Films

Defending the DCEU Part 2 – Batman vs Superman – Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition

After the flawed but promising start of Man of Steel, Zack Snyder followed it up with Batman vs Superman in an attempt to jump-start a MCU style shared universe. It.. didn’t work out like that.

Starring Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck as Superman and Batman 🦇 respectively with supporting roles by Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot as Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman and is a film bristling with ambition.

The plot is that in the wake of the Kryptonian attack, the world doesn’t really know what to do with Superman. Many fear what he can do and just as many see him as the symbol of hope he can be and he is equally bereft as his rescue of Lois (now his girlfriend) has become this juggernaut of unforeseen consequences. This is both helped and complicated by Lex Luthor who sees Superman as another in a line of abusive authority/father figures and an aging Batman who recognises the threat that Kryptonians pose and can only see Superman as something to get rid of, unable to see the man in the Superman.

Herein lies the films big problem. Its not the different version of Lex Luthor played her as a scares little boy version of Mark Zuckerberg, or ‘Batfleck’ being not what the fan boys wanted. These are interpretations that for the most part work. No, the biggest problem is that this film doesn’t get Superman. They play the isolation of this strange visitor and how people have their doubts about him well enough. But at heart Superman is a well meaning guy who doe the right thing because it’s the right thing and that is oddly missing from this film. It suffers an oft encountered problem with the character which in an inability to find the core idea of humanity’s big brother who wants everyone to be okay and doesn’t need to elevate himself. Whenever you see him silently floating overhead you are missing the point of him and that shot happens a lot.

But this is not Denouncing the DCEU, so I need to point out the positives. The film’s reliance on talking head clips is actually a useful narrative device to show how the world is reacting to Superman and quite a lot of it rings true. Amy Adams gives a degree of weight to the often unlikeable character of Lois Lane without trying to make her more likeable. She’s hardnosed and determined and these are shown as reasons to respect her rather than reasons to like her. It’s the most believable iteration of Lois I can think of, this is a successful reporter for a reason. The visuals are also quite striking, this version of Superman doesn’t hold true but it is beautifully rendered. There’s also a lot of moments that work, Clark Kent investigating the Batman is an interesting look into the Superman movies we could have gotten, his crusading journalist mode being a real person rather than a disguise and Cavill pulls it off, without pulling off the playing different characters thing. Also the scene were Lois has a gun to her head and is scared for her life, becoming calm and relaxed as soon as Superman shows up. This added to the very well executed action set-pieces (including Batfleck’s star turn in the warehouse scene) make this an exciting and engaging film to watch, despite the bum-numbing 3 hours run time (seriously had to split this over 3 nights so that SuperSam could watch it with me) and at time bizarre plot points.

As part of the attempt to do a Marvel, this film includes introductions to Aquaman, Cyborg, Flash and Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman herself appears periodically throughout the first two hours before arriving in the 3rd act to just walk away with the rest of the film as a woman who doesn’t seek to fight, but enjoys the hell out of it when it arrives. Gal Gadot’s smile as she is knocked on her ass is a joy to behold and her blasé remark of “I’ve killed things from another world before.” just shows how overqualified she was as a guest star in this film. Something that can also be said of Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth who is the best live action version of this character I’ve seen to date.

So yes, this film fails to accurately capture the spirit of the title character(s) and fails in it’s goal of launching a successful and coherent shared film universe and this ultimate edition is long. All of these are true and fair criticisms of this film, but it’s well put together, has stakes and ultimate is fun, even when it’s taking itself far to seriously.

It’s a solid 3/5 with some of the wrong lessons learned from Man of Steel, but I was glad to have watched it and am more committed to doing this rewatch than before.

Next Time: Wonder Woman

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Films

Defending the DCEU – Part 1: Man of Steel

I have decided internet people that 2023 is the year I start being positive. Instead of constantly looking at a half empty glass, I will try to view things from a more rose-tinted lens. This came into severe focus yesterday morning as my son SuperSam was failing to find his school tie. Whilst it’s disappearance (and later discovery) brought up some issues to discuss later as a family, I tried to cool him down from getting in a flap with the following 3 questions.

1: But did you die?

2: Was anyone severely hurt?

3: Did you s**t your pants?

Since all three was a no, it wasn’t worth getting so upset.

Now that’s easier said than done, but it showed me that I could look at things in a different way than I used to and that became even clearer when the other night we started watching 2013’s Man of Steel.

Now I have been less than kind to DC’s movie output over the last decade or so as they’ve tried to replicate the success of Disney’s multi-media powerhouse franchise the MCU. Sadly DC haven’t done the work that Marvel did for the first 4 years of it’s existence and so it’s been a series of mixed bags, rather than a shared movie universe full of interconnectivity and multi-layered storytelling.

So lets ignore than comparison, let’s leave the MCU juggernaut to one side and look at DC’s efforts as their own thing. Are the films good? Do they get the spirit of the characters? I thought this is something to look at and decided to start with Man of Steel.

This film had a story by Christopher Nolan and script by David Goyer and the whole thing was directed by Zack Snyder and featured Michael Shannon as Zod, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/ Superman.

Rather than take the 1978 movie’s pattern and show the story of Superman in order, the origin of Clark’s life on Earth is given in flashback. The story opens with the destruction of Krypton and the efforts of scientific cassandra Jor-El to save his son and preserve something of his race, his world and culture. We see Clark living on the road, constantly moving as he often uses powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men to save lives. During this part of the film we also see the difficulties in his early life and how his desire to hide was informed by his father, who wanted his son to do good and be great, but recognised the flaws in this world. Eventually he learns of his origins, encounters a villain (Zod) and does everything he can to save this world that adopted him.

Now there are several complaints about the film that whilst valid are understandable and easily explained and they became clearer to me as I watched it this time. Now I’m going to spoil this ten year old film, so be warned and stuff.

The main complaints I see online and from people I know seem threefold:

1: Superman kills Zod. Now for me this was an easy thing to accept. The version of Superman I am most fond of and familiar with is the Post Crisis/John Byrne version. There was a famous story where he had to execute Zod and two other Kryptonians to prevent further atrocities and genocides from just these three. This messes him up for years of stories to come and the audience learns why he has such a code against killing.

2: The massive amount of damage and body count that the Kryptonians cause. Again, this makes sense, when you have a big budget film you need big budget stakes and consequences. These are people with years of combat experience up against a guy raised as a farmhand during his first day fighting anyone. Honestly, I think he did okay.

3: The take on the character and story. Now this is two separate things. Yes the film does have a dour and grim tone. The fear that permeates it does go against the cheerfulness and optimism that the character is based on. Maybe its the times we live in and fear and suspicion would be a much stronger element in this story that it would have been in what we often think of as ‘simpler’ times. That is true. This is a valid and completely understandable criticism. But then we look at the character of Superman himself. He’s a guy who instinctively does the right thing as he is travelling the world trying to stay under the radar. When he learns about his past it’s a lovely moment. He also has a fun and loving relationship with his mother and he puts his faith in humanity in the hopes that it will work out. I mean it doesn’t, they throw him under the bus almost immediately. But he still does the right thing. Trying to keep everyone out of the line of fire, saving lives and when the 3rd act kicks off, he tries to save the world, despite the high level of risk to him. The fact that where he needs to be will drain him of his strength, putting him at risk of death is pointed out to him and his response is simply “I can’t let that stop me trying.” Well at that point, Superman was in the film. His battle with Zod is skill versus determination as the stronger and more skilled fighter is held at bay by a man fighting for the world that has adopted him.

The film ends with a bit of a standoff between Superman and the US Army and establishing the identity of Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter. This is a springboard for a more traditional Superman franchise that acknowledges we don’t live in 1978 anymore but this is a very recognisable Superman. No matter what people think of what happened next, this was a solid story that was let down by some stylistic choices and an uneven tone.

I genuinely enjoyed this film and it’s worth a bit of a reappraisal.

Next Time: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice – the extended edition.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Films

5 Under-Appreciated Comic book films

This time I raid my dvd collection and go back to a time before the MCU and the clamour for shared universe franchises.

Before I start, I want to say these are not the best, nor am I believing that any of these are great movies, but they either deserve more love, or certainly less scorn.

The Phantom

1996’s the Phantom had a solid B-list cast with Billy Zane, Kirsty Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Treat Williams and dependable mid-carders James Remar and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. It even got Patrick Magoohan in as the last Phantom. It was set in the 30s and had a very republic serial feel to it. It was a saturday afternoon movie that doesn’t pretend it’s not more than a little silly.

The Shadow

Another 30s set pulp story, this 1994 gem boasted Alec Baldwin, Sir Ian McKellen, Penelope Anne Miller and Tim Curry at very different points in their career. Again it was silly and pulpy, but again it was fun and a nice bank holiday film.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

In 1993 Batman the animated series had a theatrical release, much as the live action series did in 1966. This doubled up as a year one story and a mystery story with an excellent voice cast including the definitive voices of Batman and the Joker, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. This is a great Batman story and I am not a fan of Batman.

The Specials

Closer to the present is this little beauty. 2000’s The Specials is a mockumentary about the 7th best super-hero team. Funny and jam packed with an amazing cast including Rob Lowe, Thomas Halden Church, Paget Brewster, Tim and Sean Gunn, Jamie Kennedy and Judy Greer, it pokes fun at the Super hero movie genre when it’s in its infancy.

And finally…


An oddball Russian take on the Avengers, this film is more than a little bit silly. But it’s high action, interesting use of superpowers and the fact that one character changes into a bear, makes it an entertaining mess.

In an age of linked multi franchise event movies, films that are just silly fun can become more valuable. They are worth checking out, provided your expectations are low enough.