Tag Archives: DC Comics

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman movie posterOver the last decade and a half DC have, for the most part, missed the target with their attempts to get a movie ‘universe’ off the ground. Superman Returns and Green Lantern were total misfires while Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice felt overburdened by a sense of their own importance while being overlong and just a little to ‘dark’ (Suicide Squad remains a bizarre anomaly that while far from successful at least tried to do something different).

Wonder Woman then follows on from these, in the same universe and MoS, BvS:DOJ and SS (as, possibly, no one is calling them), but once the brief modern-day prologue is done with we are launched into one of the most entirely enjoyable comic movies in some time (though Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel still top it).

The opening scene setting is a little laborious as we are introduced to Diana, Princess of Themyscira (Gal Gadot) and said island paradise, it’s race of Amazon warrior women and Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and the fact that we have flashed back to 1917. In this though there are some impressively flashy action beats and the design of Themyscira is excellent.

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

Gadot in Wonder Woman

From there though things soon pick up and we follow Diana And Steve as they, respectively, try to destroy the God of war Ares and foil a plot that would see Germany win the First World War.

While this is fairly standard and leads to the inevitable big battle scene (albeit a better staged one than any of the previous films in the series) two things set it apart.

First is that, unlike pretty much any other mainstream comic book so far, and certainly unlike any of the DC predecessors, Wonder Woman embraces the inherent ridiculousness of the form in the best of ways.

This leads to moments of humour in odd places but at no point did I feel like I was laughing at the film but more laughing with it, while in other movies similar moments either fell flat, got lost in cliché, or just felt laughable. This really begins with the first time we see Diana as Wonder Woman (though she’s never named as such) in ‘the real world’ and culminates in the big reveal of the main antagonist.

Chris Pine and Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

Pine and Gadot

Secondly is that, for the most part, the lead is Diana and its her who leads the action scenes and is the hero of them while the male characters are sidekicks or, in the case of Trevor, the love interest in the way the female character usually would be, though he gets to have his moments too.

While this does falter somewhat towards the end, with one moment in particular, it wasn’t so much that it spoilt the rest of it for me and fits the general conventions of the style, and I hope Diana’s position remains strong heading into the upcoming Justice League as she is so far, by a long way, the best leading hero of the current DC films which is also testament to Gadot’s excellently pitched performance.

Themyscira - Wonder Woman

Themyscira

While the film does have its flaws, mostly where the cliché goes a little too far or where it gets a little lost in cgi video game-style territory (though this is far less than in either MoS or BvS:DoJ), it has given me some hope for the future of the franchise, if Zack Snyder can take some of the stylistic notes laid out here by Patty Jenkins and roll it into his work (Watchman proved he’s more than capable of making a good comic book movie after all).

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The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Movie posterWhile the initial idea of The Lego Movie was, at first, somewhat of an odd one, the final product was one of the highlights of recent family cinema so it wasn’t surprising when a sequel was announced fairly swiftly.

The fact that this sequel would be The Lego Batman Movie, focussing on the Lego version of the DC superhero, a highlight of The Lego Movie but ultimately a bit part, just added to the surprises around the franchise.

Opening with Batman foiling one of The Joker’s schemes to destroy Gotham, all the tropes of Batman are quickly established, but added to this is the knowing, post-modern humour that made this Batman such a highlight of the previous film.

The first chunk of the film relies heavily on this and, while the action, animation and characters are well done it’s the reference heavy humour that is its strong suit.

Lego Batman and Robin

Lego Batman and Robin

After this of course a plot is required to fill out the rest of the movie and really this is the film’s weakest element. It tries to balance a further nefarious plan from The Joker with a focus on Batman’s ever-present loneliness including the introduction of a new cinematic Robin, but all with a suitably lighthearted tone (this certainly isn’t Ben Affleck’s dark and brooding version of the character from Batman Vs Superman).

While it’s still fun the slightly forced plot causes the middle section to drag a bit and it is more predictable, both in terms of story and jokes, than it could have been.

The final act brings the same feel as the first back, closing things on a high point with nods to all the previous screen versions of Batman, including the often overlooked 1960s Adam West incarnation, along with guest appearances from pretty much every villainous character Lego have licence to use from Daleks to Voldemort and way beyond.

The Lego Joker

The Lego Joker

As a whole the voice cast are very good with Will Arnett’s Batman being an excellent standout. However, while Zach Galifianakis does a good turn as Joker, it’s hard to escape the fact he simply isn’t Mark Hamill who has been the most consistently effective versions of the character, vocally at least.

While it doesn’t quite live up to The Lego Movie, I’m not sure how it could as that film’s inventiveness is of course being replicated here to some degree, The Lego Batman Movie is none-the-less great fun with enough to appeal to all the family on various levels and with enough surprises to, mostly, keep it going along very well if not quite being the standout many had hoped for.

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Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad posterAround 18 years or so ago the perception of comic book/superhero movies changed, seemingly forever, from slightly naff, campy b-movies to genuine blockbuster contenders thanks to the likes of Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man leading into Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and the ongoing (now somewhat inconsistent) Marvel Cinematic Universe behemoth.

Now, with Suicide Squad – the latest instalment in DC Comics’ attempt to set up their own ongoing series like Marvel’s, following Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – director David Ayer (of End of Watch and Fury fame) and the various shadowy studio figures behind him, seem fairly intent on taking us back to the superhero movies of the mid-90s.

Describing the actual plot of Suicide Squad is a challenge, but in broad strokes it deals with the formation of a new super team that, rather than being made up of heroes, is made up (mostly) of second level villains and, in its better moments, deals with them coming together and working together.

In it’s not so good moments the story follows them as they face off against an ancient evil force, supposedly with the ability to destroy the world, embodied by two rather un-inspired, at least partially CG creatures.

The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad

The first stumble the film makes is in trying to be an origin story for a number of characters. This is very inconsistent as Deadshot (Will Smith) gets about three versions of his origin story while Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) gets a very short montage.

Certainly this shows their relative places in the movie, but it feels imbalanced and the lack of exposure for a few becomes problematic as they have relatively pivotal moments later on.

Along with these we get the loose origin of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) threaded throughout, providing as much an introduction to her as to her ‘Puddin’, ‘Mr J.’ – Jared Leto’s new take on Batman arch-nemesis The Joker – during which the duo proceed to steal the show. Though Smith gives them a run for the their money.

It is these characters that are the film’s highlight – while the dialogue is fairly awful, the charisma of the performances and the essence of the characters that has made them favourites in the comic for, in some cases, decades, shines through.

The Joker (Leto)

The Joker (Leto)

Robbie is exactly the kind of demented fun that was promised, though I agree some of the more gratuitous camera angles smack a little too much of Michael Bay’s framing of Megan Fox, but aside from that she provides the nearest thing this film manages to emotional weight through her fabulously deranged relationship with ‘The Clown Prince of Crime’.

Smith’s Deadshot is far from the stone cold killer assassin he is built up to be as he provides some more emotion through his relationship with his daughter that plays as a pivotal motivation throughout, even if I couldn’t help but feel this kind of good guy/bad guy balancing act was added in to get a ‘name star’ such as Smith to play the part.

As is obligatory I should give a few opinions on Leto’s Joker… as he only appears relatively briefly its hard to have a full view but I liked what I saw with the modern ‘gangsta’ style echoing past versions who echoed gangster styles of their time – particularly Jack Nicholson’s version and the original comic book version.

Harley Quinn (Robbie)

Harley Quinn (Robbie)

Aside from that the relationship between him and Harley added a new dimension to the character and led to one of the film’s most striking images during a flashback involving the two and I can’t wait to see a more fully fledged version of the character, hopefully squaring off against Affleck’s Batman who was such a highlight of ‘BVS:DOJ’.

The rest of Suicide Squad unfortunately can’t escape feeling like it’s stuck in the mid-90s. A slightly poorly realised, special effects based, big bad with a fairly non-specific plan to destroy/rule the world is the epitome of this leading to a hugely unsatisfying denouement while being reminiscent of Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Russell Mulchay’s The Shadow.

Added to this is the fact that once again it has far from succeeded in establishing the DC comics universe on-screen in any meaningful way with a tone so different from the two previous films that, other than the presence of Affleck’s Bat and a couple of flashbacks, this could have been an entirely stand alone piece.

Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)

Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)

All that said I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun, certainly some could have been trimmed from the first third to up the pace and the apparent main villain was at once too much and too little, but as a fan of the aforementioned Batman Forever and The Shadow I couldn’t help but enjoy Suicide Squad on a similar level to them.

So, really it’s not a ‘good film’ but I still had a good time… make of that what you will, and I can’t wait to see more of The Joker and Harley Quinn.

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Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice – Ultimate Edition

Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice coverWith the imminent release of the next instalment in the DC Comics expanded movie universe, Suicide Squad, I thought it was time I catch up with the previous one, the clumsily titled Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

For clarity I watched the extended ‘Ultimate Edition’ of the film, a kind of director’s cut that includes an extra half hour not included in the theatrical release and, judging by other feedback, I’m glad for it, despite the needlessly lengthy three-hour running time.

Zack Snyder’s first foray into the DC universe, Man Of Steel, was an uneven beast. Somewhat unusually this film starts out with the climactic scene from that, shown from another angle and instantly gives Man Of Steel’s overblown conclusion a bit more weight and meaning.

We see Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne racing through Metropolis apparently to try to save the staff in his Wayne Enterprises building there. Ok, so it doesn’t make total sense but it works well for what it is and, by and large, the same could be applied Dawn Of Justice as a whole.

The story is a mishmash of what feels like three movies worth of ideas loosely tied together, so we get the world’s (i.e. America’s) reaction to Superman’s (Henry Cavill) arrival, we get Lex Luthor’s (Jesse Eisenberg) machinations around ‘meta-humans’ (i.e. Superman and others), and we get the introduction of Batman as an older vigilante now pushed beyond any measure of restraint we’ve come to expect.

Batman (Affleck) and Superman (Cavill)

Batman (Affleck) and Superman (Cavill)

On top of this is the introduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and other future members of the Justice League and we see Lois Lane (Amy Adams) investigating an apparent conspiracy against Superman within the US military. As I said there’s a lot going on.

So the story is an undeniable mess, even with the extra 30 minutes to try to tie it up, but it hangs together just enough to be a decent ride as long as you don’t ask too many questions, hanging on the actions of Luthor and the titular face-off between the two figureheads of DC’s set of superheroes, which we get in three different scenarios.

What helps save it, beyond the promise of those two characters going head-to-head are a couple of the performances, most notably Affleck’s.

His Bruce Wayne/Batman is one we’ve not seen before, strongly modelled on the version created by Frank Miller for The Dark Knight Returns; older, angrier and apparently having given up many of the moral qualms that existed in all the other screen versions so far.

Superman, Wonder Woman (Gadot), Batman

Superman, Wonder Woman (Gadot) and Batman

With this Affleck is clearly relishing getting to be both sides of the character and as such steals pretty much every scene he’s in with a performance far more convincing than any other in the movie. Added to this his back and forth with slightly a reworked Alfred (Jeremy Irons) is pitch perfect.

The other performance that really worked for me was that of Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Every bit the stereotypical mad scientist, in many ways he feels like a throwback to the kind of characters seen in 1950s b-movies or 1930s horrors, right down to creating an uncontrollable monster.

On top of this the Luthor of the comics also comes through as his scheming and hyper-intelligence drive the most coherent aspect of the plot forward – although even that becomes slightly too convoluted by the end.

This convolution centres around the monster Luthor creates that isn’t introduced until the movie’s third act giving the totally CG character a sense of being simply tacked on to provide the apparently obligatory big explosions and fight scene climax.

Lex Luthor (Eisenberg)

Lex Luthor (Eisenberg)

While this serves to bring the heroes back together in an even more obvious way than a preceding event, I couldn’t help but feel it was some kind of contractual obligation to include yet another city destroying superhero fight scene, the like of which we’ve already seen countless times thanks to Marvel and, even if this is well delivered, can’t help but be repetitive.

As always Snyder makes the film look great with moments feeling very akin to his still great version of Watchmen and making the CG characters have weight even as they throw laser blasts from their eyes at each other, something other films still often struggle with.

As a whole though the film doesn’t do what I think it needed to or was hoped it would do, in cementing the DC cinematic universe in the way Marvel did with a much slower build approach in their ongoing series that started way back with Iron Man (even if that has become somewhat repetitive of late). While it’s not the disaster some had proclaimed, it remains far from the film many thought and hoped it could have been.

I never give star ratings but this is one to which I could easily apply such as it feels very much like a three-star film, far from essential but watchable and distracting enough to not feel like a waste of three hours.

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Preacher

Preacher - Gone To TexasWith all the recent talk around DC Comics characters slowly but, seemingly, surely making their way to the big and small screens, from John Constantine and Sandman to The Flash and Batman Vs Superman, I thought I’d take a look back at one of their Vertigo imprint titles that I had particularly enjoyed, Preacher.

Across nine ‘trade paperbacks’, some 75 issues including one-shot specials and spin-off mini series, Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a Texan small town reverend and his adventures as he becomes possessed by an angel-demon hybrid and fights off Armageddon while hunting down an absent alpha-and-omega.

Along the way he encounters everyone from conspirators bent on ending the world through the second coming to hideously deformed rock stars to vampire wannabes, all while flanked, for better or worse, by his on/off girlfriend Tulip and an Irish vampire called Cassidy.

While a lot of this sounds not that out of the ordinary for a comic book series, particularly one put out by Vertigo, what does set it apart is the framework within which Ennis places his story, that of a western. In this western Custer is the Man With No Name like hero, riding into town to save the day while doing his utmost to battle his own, in this case literal, demons.

Jesse Custer and Tulip

Jesse Custer and Tulip

It’s this view of the western and the epic myth of America that really is the underlying theme of the whole series and it is something that, much like the spaghetti westerns of the 60s and 70s can really only come from outside the USA and Ennis, being Northern Irish, fits the bill to add to this thematic history.

So we get a lot of stereotypical touchstones, from New York City to The Alamo via Monument Valley, but, on top of this, rather than Clint Eastwood riding in, we get Ennis’ misfit band.

Mixed in with this is something of Kerouac’s mythic America, as seen in On The Road as well. The presence of Cassidy being something of an obvious reference and otherwise in the road trip sense that the whole series has as well.

What marks them out from much of what has gone before is a few things. First is the time period, this is very much a millennial tale set in the late 1990s, but general with a sense of the vague (again mythic) now.

Cassidy

Cassidy

Second is the humour which is the kind of thing you could see Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson come up with if teamed with the writers of Viz and let lose without any restrictions. And thirdly is the level of sheer ultra-violence that ties all this together with liberal doses of blood and a whole hell of a lot of killing.

Another thing that sets its apart is the characters as well as the excellent lead, Jesse Custer, and his aforementioned entourage, we get a supporting cast that really are both fascinating and, at times, truly demented.

High up among them is the Saint Of Killers. An ex-legendary gun fighter now taking on the role of the Angel of Death and seemingly one of the few beings even the almighty fears. In some hands The Saint, a seven-foot cowboy with ever loaded pistols that never jam and never miss, could be a dull super human presence but Ennis provides him with a back story that makes this being hell-bent on destroying all in his path genuinely sympathetic.

In the villain department Herr Starr of The Grail starts off as a something of a hyper-devout Christian zealot and grows into a genuine monster who, in the tradition of much action adventure fiction, becomes more physically deformed as he becomes more evil – much like the rest of the comic it may not be politically correct but it makes for a compelling story.

The Saint Of Killers

The Saint Of Killers

Then there is the ever-present side story of Arseface that frankly has to be seen to be believed.

It being a comic seeing, of course, is as much a part of things as the story and it is here that any disappointment really comes.

While Steve Dillon’s artwork gives a good sense of the characters and the places it is, at best, perfunctory with a style that is often very flat, though in this it does let the story and the words work their magic.

The cover art by Glenn Fabry, however, is a totally different story. With a depth that sometimes goes too far it is here that we find the striking images that would normally come as splash pages in the comics and, if these are kept in mind while reading, serve to expand what is actually show on the page.

How (and if) anyone ever manages to translate the sprawling story of Jesse Custer and co to the screen remains to be seen, but, before that happens I would urge anyone to check out the comics, but don’t go in unless your prepared for some at times harsh, brutal and funny in the most wrong of ways action all wrapped up in an epic Western context.

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Man Of Steel

Man Of Steel posterHaving heard some opinions and read some of the reviews of Zack Snyder’s new take on DC Comics’ Superman, it is clearly something of a ‘Marmite’ movie with some really liking it and some, well… not so much.

I think I fall more into the liking it camp, than not, but that’s not to say it isn’t flawed in some fairly major ways.

Retelling the origin of “The Last Son of Krypton”, this movie’s promotion seemed to suggest that this would be to Superman what Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy was to Batman – Nolan’s name being attached as producer and being credited for the story only served to back this up. However, I think this is hugely misleading as this feels somehow like a very different version of the DC Universe.

The story though, in general terms, was certainly one of the movies high points as it tells of both the end of Krypton and the development of ‘Superman’ from misfit Kansas youngster to the titular Man Of Steel through trials and tribulations both earthbound and beyond.

Battle of Krypton

It’s the “beyond” element that particularly impressed me with Man of Steel as, other than possibly Green Lantern and Thor (one more successfully than the other), this is the first comic book movie of the current generation that is really more sci-fi space opera than any other and gave the movie, on one level, a very different feel than any other.

Unfortunately, while Man Of Steel is packed with good story ideas and some interesting notions of taking this sort of movie into a more sci-fi universe, it is hampered by the most crucial element of movie making, its script.

Henry Cavill as Kal-ElWhile I will say it does have something of the cheesy, stereotypical comic book dialogue that still appears on the printed page from time to time, which is in a way fitting, when that appears in a film context, it feels even more out-of-place and seriously hampers any aspects of character development or buying into the world of the movie. This meant that when it came to any scenes where we were meant to feel anything for any of the characters, or any of the sense of jeopardy, this was often quickly lost by an ill-fitting piece of dialogue.

Laurence Fishburne and Amy AdamsIt wasn’t only the script that caused issues but also the fact that Snyder and co seemed to be trying to cram too much of the Superman universe, in terms of characters and references, into the 2 hour 25 minute run time which left many characters and angles underdeveloped – so while it was clear Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Kal-El were meant to have a romantic relationship building, to me it never felt more than a friendship and when we saw more minor characters in peril, I honestly cared no more for them than any of the other anonymous faces who appeared in the Metropolis scenes (and were most likely caught in the crossfire).

Michael Shannon as General ZodThis also made it very hard to tell how good the performances of the actors really were as many were simply not given enough screen time to make a mark.

Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Superman/Clark Kent did what needed to be done and made a convincing Superman and Kal, though Clark really didn’t get much time and, provided there is a sequel, it will be interesting to see if he can pull of the alter-ego as well as he fits into the blue tights.

russell crowe as Jor-ElRussell Crowe puts in a great showing as Jor-El and, despite being dead for much of the film, seems to steal a lot of screen time helping give the story what heart it has, alongside ‘Clark’s dad’, Jonathan Kent, played by Kevin Costner who provides the opposite side of the same coin.

The movie’s other main character is its antagonist, General Zod, as played by Michael Shannon. With a reputation for intense performances, Shannon hits all the necessary marks in his portrayal of the leader of Krypton’s fighting forces but, for me, never really hit the level of being the classic villain Zod has been known for in the past.

Henry Cavill Man of SteelWhile feeling very different from the world of Nolan’s Dark Knight, Snyder and co firmly place this film in a DC universe with references to both other Superman characters such as Lex Luthor, but also hints at the wider world with Wayne Enterprises popping up as well. Whether this implies DC are planning on doing a Marvel and developing their movie universe still remains to be seen, but it appears the seeds are being planted.

So, in the end, Man of Steel is a flawed movie with some interesting things crammed into an over busy film with, what I can only describe as, a very ropey script and an overlong series of action sequences that don’t always hold together in terms of the universe’s internal logic, but, for fans of comic book movies (and I’d say other movies in general) it is worth a watch as, despite all of the above, I still enjoyed it and it looks great.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Nolan, Bale and co do it again on film number three and genuinely round off the trilogy in both surprising and satisfying fashion.

For anyone who reads or listens to my ramblings on this blog it will probably come as no surprise that I’m something of a fan of comic books and their associated movies (yes even some of the really bad ones… see Captain America 1990).

So, it was with a major sense of excitement and anticipation that I ventured into the cinema to watch the third installment of what has become known as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.

From the start this was clearly pretty much the opposite of Marvel’s big summer offering, The Avengers, but at the same time managed to be equally as engaging and enjoyable, just in a very, very different way.

The thing that strikes me most about the film, that doesn’t involve massive spoilers, is the way it at once manages to be one of the most comic book like movies I’ve seen in a long time, in terms of plot, structure and style, while also delivering the something different that has become the mark of Nolan’s Bat-movies, with a genuine sense of reality around the comic book tropes.

While the first in the Dark Knight Trilogy is an origin story and the second goes off the rails (in a good way) in many ways thanks to The Joker and Two-Faces mayhem, this is an exploration of post 9/11 terrorism as well as being a great story about the Batman.

The notion of exploring terrorism is an interesting one because throughout the movie I got the sense that this was something of a comment on religious fundamentalist terrorism, particularly dealing with the notion that such things can come from anywhere, but, as ever here they do come from a ‘foreign’ land despite what seems to be an English accent under Bane’s mask.

However, upon talking to a few other people, they saw the ideas and ideals of Bane as being a criticism of the Occupy and 99% movements. While I can see how you could reach this conclusion, personally, I saw Bane’s actions as, if anything, being a criticism of those who have used the Occupy movement for their own gain, twisting ideas and ideals, in much the same way as religious fundamentalist terrorism arguably twists its religious basis.

Christopher Nolan on set

Away from the issues, which also continue the standard Batman thread of dealing with loss, my only thought on the story (which won’t take us into spoiler territory) is that, for those less involved with the DC universe than myself, I wonder how much sense a lot of it might make.

While I was able to revel in the references and pick up on the details relating to characters back-stories from both the film and the comics, and the clear references to three of my favourite epic arcs in Batman comic book history, to those less initiated I wonder if some of the exposition may have been confusing and somewhat over the top and too many characters introduced without necessary explanation?

Though that would be for less initiated Bat-fans to let me know…

Tom Hardy as Bane

In terms of the new characters, when it comes to main ones, Nolan once again delivers some excellent interpretations that may well actually out do his takes on Joker and Two-Face from The Dark Knight.

Most obviously there is Bane.

While in the comics he is a mercenary who is clearly hyper intelligent and both a physical and mental match for Batman, he also, somewhat bizarrely, seems to be wearing a pro-wrestling outfit with luchdore mask.

Here he is transformed into a mercenary/terrorist who is on a par with Batman and, thankfully, has replaced the spandex with body armour, combat trousers and a fantastic fur-lined coat, along with a face mask which makes him look like some kind of monster, creating an almost direct opposite, both in terms of appearance and mentality, to The Batman.

While The Joker also presented an opposite to the Bat, that was in terms of control and chaos, here it is terms of how someone with the same ‘powers’ would come out if their moral compass was flipped, which creates yet another interesting antagonist, following on from Ra’s Al Ghul and the aforementioned Clown Prince of Crime.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle

The other new character we meet is Selina Kyle, known more commonly in the comics as Catwoman.

Here, Anne Hathaway creates a version of Kyle clearly referencing elements of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, which has had a strong influence on this whole trilogy, and keeping alive the idea from the comics that Kyle is not just a villain.

In fact, she has an almost Han Solo type arc here, which is refreshing and, much like Bane, The Joker and Two-Face, serves to highlight elements of the Batman/Bruce Wayne character.

Speaking of The Batman, and the other returning characters, they are all once again expertly portrayed and build on the foundations laid in the previous two movies, but there isn’t much that can be said about their developments without directly referencing the plot and, therefore, spoilers.

So, in the end, for me, The Dark Knight Rises is an excellent piece of cinema combining comic book conventions with big blockbusters with that extra something that Christopher Nolan has become known for and it winds up the trilogy excellently… does it out do the original Star Wars as my favourite trilogy?… just maybe!

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Captain America (1990)

One of Marvel’s earlier attempts to bring their heroes to the big screen fails on pretty much all counts and shows why it took another 20 years to make its way back.

In the late 1970s, through the 80s and into the early 90s, while DC Comics were turning their big superhero characters into multimillion-dollar movie franchises and TV series, Marvel were scratching and clawing their way onto the screen with a string of misjudged (and almost inevitably straight to video or TV) efforts.

Captain America was one of the bigger of these films following on from the successful Incredible Hulk TV show and TV movies and less successful Spiderman outing, it was released on video in 1990 and, in doing so, became something of a cornerstone of my childhood viewing (or so my memory tells me).

So it was with some sense of nostalgia that I came to re-watch the film as I had found a copy on DVD, though I will admit that my expectations weren’t high.

Well it turns out my expectations really should have been lower and to be honest I’m amazed this even made it to video back in 1990 and wasn’t relegated to the unreleased status of the Fantastic Four movie that was made a couple of years later.

Sticking loosely to the plot of the comics (Cap is a sickly kid who volunteers, gets super powers, fights his Nazi nemesis the Red Skull, ends up trapped in ice and is woken up to get confused in the modern day still fighting Red Skull), the delivery of this is done in such a shambolic way that at no point is it particularly clear what the Red Skull wants as his aim veers from world domination via the Nazis to brainwashing the President of the US to destroying the entirety of southern Europe with a previously unmentioned atomic bomb.

While Skull is up to his diabolical ways Cap is left defying geography trying to find out what’s going on in the world as he walks from Alaska to Vancouver in a few hours and then drives down to California before realizing what’s going on and seemingly forgetting any confusion to fly to Italy with his ex-girlfriend’s daughter for the climactic scrap.

Throughout the film there are three major action scenes, all of which take place with no sense of threat to anyone involved, including when Skull hacks off his own hand, and the confused motivations of pretty much everyone leave the whole film feeling like it doesn’t know where its going until it happens – almost as if the script were an unedited stream of consciousness project.

As well as having no threat the action scenes are remarkably short and illogical with Cap always winning, of course, generally by remembering he has a shield and throwing it at someone.

Away from them there is the genuinely pointlessly upsetting and odd moment when Cap’s ex from the 1940s gets killed along with her husband in a pretty graphic way, for what is clearly meant to be a kid’s film.

This leaves the whole film feeling tonally imbalanced throughout.

Production value-wise the film is pretty shoddy with the general air of being a superhero movie set in the world of a cheap soap opera like Crossroads with flimsy clichéd set designs and music provided by what sounds like a battery powered 80s Casio keyboard.

The best (or worst) moment in this area is Cap’s costume which seems to have a built-in six-pack as evidently simply spandex and Matt Salinger didn’t quite do Cap’s physique justice.

On the other hand, and one of the few good things that could be said about the film, is that Red Skull’s make up in the post war scenes is, while clearly rubbery and fake, not as distracting as it could be and even his actual Red Skull make up is half decent considering the film’s budget (maybe that’s where all the money went).

Cap gives us the thumbs up mid-fight!

Acting wise there isn’t really much to say that you couldn’t work out from the rest of my comments, but, a particular low is Matt Salinger’s attempt at playing “a frail boy with polio” by limping inconsistently while still looking like a relatively beefy chap.

Thankfully the late 1990s saw Marvel find the right formula for their movies, with Blade and the X-Men leading the way, and they have clearly since made amends for this with Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011 and The Avengers in 2012.

That said this is the sort of film that if you like bad movies (which I admit to having a soft spot for) is worth a watch, just don’t expect much from it (though any film where the main character gives a thumbs up direct to camera can’t be all bad right… well ok).

Trailer:

The whole film also seems to be up on YouTube if you are foolish, brave or interested enough to want to check it out and don’t want to fork out a couple of quid for the shoddily transferred DVD version:

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