Tag: DC (page 2 of 2)

Why So Serious?

Courtesy Warner Bros.

The new trailer for the upcoming Man Of Steel film is available. If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend taking a look. If you’re a DC fan, you’re probably pretty psyched. Personally, I find myself wondering when Superman became so dour and sullen. The endeavor looks to be steeped in darkness and carrying a current of realism that, unsurprisingly, seems to be cast by the shadow of the bat.

I’m not sure how much my readership these days is familiar with comic books, but most readers would agree that Superman and Batman are very different heroes. Batman comes from a place of pain and weakness, motivated by a very tangible need for justice and vengeance more than anything else. With no superpowers or magical artifacts to aid him, Batman pursues his enemies with only his wits, his martial prowess, and the unlimited funds of a wealthy international corporation. Every night is a struggle, and many situations he survives are near-misses that nearly take his life.

Superman, on the other hand, is an alien from another world. Yes, his world was doomed, but here on Earth he has god-like powers, and discovers new ones on a regular basis. Impervious to physical harm, faster than man’s fastest technology, strong beyond mortal reckoning… the list goes on. He’s the sort of hero that lends himself less to a gritty, down-on-the-streets sort of story and more to the kind of yarn where he punches ten-story-tall steam-powered robots in the face so they stop hosing down Main Street with disintegration rays.

Part of the reason Superman seems appealing to people is because of his outlook. For all of his powers and knowledge, he comes from a place of genuine concern for his adopted planet and its people, wanting to fit in more than he wants to rule or even protect as a pet owner protects their beloved animals. He tries his best to relate to people, allowing himself to be goofy or clumsy if it will both get their attention and cover up what he really is, and even when he’s showing his true self, he speaks to the innocent with a sort of ‘aw, shucks’ charm that, when presented right, does make him a bit more endearing.

Both Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh were in productions that got this. Back in the Donner days, Superman had a winning smile and did his utmost to be humble in light of everything people saw him doing, and Clark Kent often came off as oafish or shy, despite the opposite clearly being the case if you looked hard enough (Lois Lane did). And in Superman Returns, both identities of the character remain consistent. Clark is still apparently timid, while Superman still has those pearly whites and still wants to remind you that, statistically, flying is the safest way to travel. For all of its problems, Superman Returns not only gave us a fantastic Lois Lane, but also ‘got’ what made Superman a somewhat more interesting character.

Man of Steel, on the other hand, feels like it’s going in another direction, one I’m not entirely sold on.

From Pa Kent apparently being a less than upstanding guy to Clark sporting what is colloquially known as a “beard of sorrow,” Man of Steel is looking to be a super-serious take on Superman. It’s plying more towards a realistic look at the superhero and his world. I can’t comment on the quality of the work nor on the writing of it, but when it comes to this theme and premise, the big question I have is: Why? Why do away with the whimsy and charm? Why, indeed, is it so serious?

Over the last few years this trend has emerged, in which some familiar stories and characters get a “dark and gritty” reboot. Thankfully, they’re not as dipped in darkness and gothic architecture as they were in the 90s, but I find myself wondering why this keeps happening. Taking an old story in a new direction is something I’d definitely advocate, but does it always have to be in this serious a direction? There’s a reason the Flash Gordon TV series from a few years back failed, other than the writing problems: you lose a lot of the magic when you take out some of the more fantastical elements of a story. I haven’t seen more than a couple episodes of Once Upon A Time, but what I did see looked to be trying a balance between real-world storytelling and a fresh take on a world shared by all sorts of fairy tales. It’s one of those things I’ve been recommended to watch, and I admit I’m curious.

I can understand why some people don’t like camp, why going completely headlong into the otherworldly and fantastical turns some people off, but to me, this is too far in the other direction. It can and should be possible to balance a realistic grounding of well-rounded characters with greater flights of fancy and a bit of the pure escapism we seem to have lost in the last decade or two. Sometimes we want to see our heroes be upbeat folks who face their challenges without fear and maybe buckle a swash or two. They don’t always have to be sad sack sentinels of What Is Right And Wrong with a heavy moral decision to make. In other words, not every superhero movie has to be The Dark Knight.

In fact, I’m pretty sure Batman would give Superman a Kryptonite kick in the balls for stepping on his turf.

Regarding Ms. Lane

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Laundry nights at the Sheppard’s1 have become a good place to get caught up on movies, especially in the superhero genre. Being brought up as a nerd, I do have at least a passing familiarity with many a costumed crimefighter, and recently our friends reintroduced us to the cinematic renditions of one of the most famous. I don’t want to actually talk about the Man of Steel himself, though, as he can be a tad ridiculous at times.

I still can’t get over the absurdity of his three Kryptonian mates having vocal conversations on the surface of the moon. Even if they don’t have to breathe, how will their words reach each other’s ears if there is no air to carry the sound waves? Ahh, but I digress.

We only watched the first two Christopher Reeve & Richard Donner films, as the second two are abominations of cinema. I did, however, enjoy seeing the Donner cut of Superman II, especially the scene where Lois Lane gets Clark Kent to reveal his secret identity by pulling a gun on him. It can be easy to forget, especially on the parts of the writers of said funny books & big-budget movies, that when she isn’t getting rescued by Superman or pining after the cut physique poured into those tights, Lois Lane is an intrepid reporter.

You don’t see it as much as you might think, as apparently Superman battling giant robots, space monsters and a bald maniacal businessman is more interesting. But a great example of bringing this aspect of the story and this character to the forefront is Superman Returns.

While the film is a bit more somber and character-driven than its early 80s predecessors2, and most of its plot is lifted directly from the first movie, one thing that stood out at me is how we see Lois Lane. We see her as not just the token damsel in distress. We see Lois do some actual reporting. We watch her fight for what she feels is right, be it with her boss or the man who left her behind without a word. We get to know her as a mother. And while she does get into peril from which Superman must save her, she puts herself in peril to save him.

I know there are going to be people who disagree with me, but I think this Lois Lane, the one brought to us by Kate Bosworth, may be the best one put on screen. I’m not sure exactly how much Lois is supposed to be a sex symbol in comparison to, say, Catwoman, but the decision to keep Kate’s looks and fashion somewhat understated was a good one. Her moments of strength, vulnerability, doubt and resolve come across as more uncontrived and genuine because we’re not distracted by her looks.

This speaks to a strong script as well as good acting and mature costume & makeup decisions. Now, a lot of the good lines from Superman Returns were recycled from the first film along with most of the plot, but the emotional talks between Lois and her preternatural paramour felt new and real. Superman is a good person who’s made bad decisions. When confronted with the fallout from those decisions, he owns up to his mistake and seeks ways to make things right. Lois does not immediately forgive him and fall into his arms. She’s conflicted, a thousand emotions competing for her focus and running all over her face. I know there’s a lot of Superman Returns that rips off Donner’s work, but there’s a scene or two where we catch a glimpse of some really interesting things that could have (and perhaps should have) happened with these characters.

In a world where DC’s rebooted most of its female characters to be vehicles for cleavage and consequence-free sex, I’ll take Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane over a thousand Catwomen3.

1 Not to be confused with the Shepard’s place. How cool would it be to do my laundry on the Normandy?
2 Actually, the original Superman is as old as I am. How about that!
3 Of course I make an exception for Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. She’s pretty much perfect.

Iron Bats

Tony & Batman

The real world is a chaotic and disheartening place. Once again a steady stream of work has kept me from being able to get my thoughts out as expediently as I would like. The major flaw in establishing a schedule is the feeling one gets when falling behind. However, rather than allowing that feeling to defeat me, here’s a little something that combines Wednesday’s comic content with Thursday’s thoughts on writing.

Let’s talk about Iron Man and Batman.

It’s undeniable that there are similarities between the Armored Avenger and the Dark Knight, so allow me to get those out of the way. Both characters dress up in self-designed suits to punch out bad guys, act like your typical celebutard to rival any of the Kardashian sisters whenever anybody’s looking, and actually use their fortunes to undermine the more dastardly uses of their companies’ resources. Oh, and both maintain disturbingly large amounts of data about the other superheroes around them, just in case one of them does a face heel turn and decides that reducing the nearest city to rubble is more fun than saving the various kittens stuck in its trees.

This is where the similarities end, however, and while Batman is one of my favorite superheroes of either major universe, I’m still a Marvel True Believer at heart. The reason I prefer Iron Man to Batman has to do with the depth of Tony Stark. It’s something that’s existed for quite a while and only recently exploded into the mainstream, and it’s based on a different foundation than Batman.

Bruce as a young boy sees his parents get shot and killed, and as a result is driven to become a force of vengeance and natural justice. His wounds are internal ones, deep mental scars that border on psychosis. He’s badass, to be certain, but he’s also not quite right in the head. As the Christian Bale version says in Batman Begins, he “clearly has issues,” a funny observation coming from the same person who played Patrick Bateman.

Tony, on the other hand, grows up knowing his father and instead of being vengeful from a young age is genius-level smart. He carries on the family business of making things that blow up for the men & women who carry such things around at the behest of tax-paying conservatives, and it’s only after a brush with the dark and bloody world he helped create that he snaps himself out of a haze of booze, broads and Bentleys to do something about it. So instead of being a driven character that is motivated by the loss of family, we see a man who is struggling to change not only the world around him, but himself as well.

Batman has only ever been Batman. While this by no means makes him a shallow character, it does necessitate a certain single-mindedness in his character. His quest for justice in Gotham City may weary him at times, as he is only human, but as he doesn’t let a personal life or much of anything short of severe injury stand between him and his goals, he’s never out of action for long. There’s also the fact that according to some authors, Batman’s had ninja training, and we all know what unstoppable killing machines ninja are, even if Batman refuses to kill.

Iron Man isn’t made of iron. When he removes his suit, it’s difficult for him to be seen as heroic or even admirable. He’s an alcoholic, a womanizer, and something of an arrogant, selfish prick. And unlike Bruce Wayne’s public face, it’s less of an act and more of who he really is. He wants to be heroic, to live up to the deeds and accolades associated with Iron Man, but outside of the armor it’s all to easy for him to fall short of those high expectations. He’s a study in duality, even moreso than Batman, and that, to me, is what makes him so compelling.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the goddamn Batman. But Iron Man, to me, is a more interesting character and keeps me coming back to the Matt Fraction-penned ‘Invincible Iron Man’ title every month. There is, essentially, more to write when it comes to Tony Stark, and that’s without even mentioning his association with the Avengers or his own dark pantheon of villains.

There’s also the fact that his name is the cue for a Black Sabbath song. This is awesome.

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