Category Archives: avengers

Man of Steel – My Take

Man of Steel ~ We’ve been on this ride before, a new Superman movie. I remember the thrill and awe of the first two movies with Christopher Reeve, and the disappointment of the following two as well. And then two decades later we got Superman Returns, and while I had huge issues with the ‘super stalker’ and ‘deadbeat dad’ subplots, Brandon Routh wasn’t bad as the man of steel, Kevin Spacey was brilliant as Lex Luthor, and the plane rescue had to have been the single greatest superhero special effects scene filmed up until that point. I enjoyed quite a bit of it. And if I enjoyed it… you know what Hollywood has to do, change it.

I have talked before about how I feel about origin stories, no need to chew on that again. But the fact is they (writer David Goyer and director Zack Snyder) have changed Superman’s origin. If not for the fact that everyone knows Superman’s origin I wouldn’t have a problem with it. It’s the Moses story, the Jesus story, the immigrant story, the perfect origin for a perfect hero, and they had to tamper with it.

In this new version, there is no requisite scene of Jor-El and Lara holding each other as krypton explodes and their son rockets away to safety and his destiny. It reminded me of the latest movie version of Spider-Man where Uncle Ben never says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Why? If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Some traditions should stand.

Instead of a tender tragic moment, Man of Steel delivers the Kryptonian Civil War, General Zod murdering Jor-El, and Lara on the stuffy Science Council (although unnamed as such in this flick). At the last minute, almost as an afterthought, they go, oh by the way, Krypton is doomed, and about to go boom. We spend a good twenty minutes or so on Krypton, not a frozen crystalline weirdness that it’s been on film for decades, but almost something resembling the comics Krypton. I loved the wing machine, Kelex, and the jungles and cities. I would have squeeed if we’d gotten the actual Scarlet Jungle or a thought beast.

Zod here is a military leader who attempts a coup on the council, and with his underlings (the also unnamed Black Zero terrorists, a name only learned from movie affiliated toys), is sentenced to do time in a space singularity. Again, we don’t hear the words ‘Phantom Zone’ until much much later. What is Goyer’s resistance to using correct terms for people and things?

We did get a few little tidbits in the flick. No after credits scene or cameos or even mentions of other DC characters really. We did see a LexCorp truck at one point. I was thrilled seeing the names of real Phantom Zone character names in the credits – had I heard them out loud in the film, I would have loved this movie a lot more. Jax-Ur! Dev-Em! Nadira! We’re talking fanboy heaven here. Comics fans like Easter eggs, why not give us a few?

The cast was surprising, both good and bad. Amy Adams as Lois Lane is the plucky reporter from the 1940s Fleischer cartoons, wonderfully updated not to a 2013 standard but to a respectful current version. She won’t seem dated to audiences a few decades from now as Margot Kidder does in her then highly acclaimed tour as Lane. Watching her performances now just scream 1970s so loud. Adams is amazing for the most part, only briefly falling into annoying mode once or twice.

Henry Cavill, in my opinion, and I know many friends who disagree, is only just adequate. He is suitable alien, and distant, and anti-social. Superman is an alien, yes, but he’s not any of those other things. He is sensitive, and caring. Remember in Superman II when the three Phantom Zone villains discover his true weakness? He cares. Cavill’s Superman never gives me that impression ever. In Man of Steel, when Zod demands that Kal-El be delivered to him, if it was Christopher Reeve, or even Brandon Routh, the Superman/Zod confrontation would have happened in the next few seconds, or however long it would take super speed to get our hero to the villain’s lair. Goyer’s Cavill takes his damned time.

Henry Cavill as Superman lacks heart, he lacks love. Superman loves the human race, he believes in the human race, and he wants to make them better, to inspire them to greatness. I never believed Cavill in the role except for one or two brief moments. Let’s face it, and I’m not saying this to be old school – put Christopher Reeve in this exact film, in this same role, with the same dialogue and direction, and I would believe him, Cavill I would not, and do not.

Kevin Costner will hopefully be remembered come Oscar time because he deserves it for his performance as Jonathan Kent. That said, I hated the character of Pa Kent in this movie. Just the concept that he would tell his son maybe he should have let people die rather than reveal his powers just aggravates the hell out of me, and is so against his character. And his death, his sacrifice that forces young Clark not to save him when he easily could have… I wanted to scream at the screen. Who is this man? Because it sure as hell isn’t Jonathan Kent.

Speaking of fathers, Russell Crowe’s Jor-El leaves the movie early, as I mentioned, a victim of General Zod. He returns later in a method similar to the earlier Superman films, as a hologram, or more accurately an interactive artificial intelligence. What boggled my mind is the fact that Crowe as Jor-El had more chemistry with Adams as Lois than Cavill’s Superman did.

I was a bit iffy about Michael Shannon’s Zod at first. He can be brilliant but sometimes he’s a one note actor. If we’re judging Shannon as if he was playing Terrence Stamp’s general Zod, he fails miserably, but the thing is he’s not. This is a different Zod. He is almost a heroic figure. He is commissioned with the responsibility of continuing the Kryptonian race, and Kal-El actually stands in his way, a war criminal of sorts, the one keeping krypton from flourishing again. Really, how can we root against a man with that new MO and motivation? Despite his methods, this is one of the good guys, right? Shannon’s portrayal is good, only falling into cartoon mode once or twice.

As long as we’re talking about Zod, we come to two of my biggest problems with Man of Steel. Here be spoilers, be warned. Superman has to murder Zod to stop him. At the climax of the film, Zod gets desperate and starts to heat vision a family so Superman breaks his neck. The powers that be behind this flick, Goyer and Snyder, among others, have defended this move, saying that Superman has to learn not to kill by having experienced it.

Hello? Bullshit. I call shenanigans, as they say on “South Park.” I don’t have to kill someone to know it’s wrong. You don’t have to kill someone to know it’s wrong. Why does Superman, the pinnacle of all that is good and right in the world, not already know this like you and me? Superman, the real Superman, would have found a way to stop Zod without killing him. That’s what makes him freaking Superman!

Yes, something similar happened in the comics. John Byrne had Superman execute Zod and two other Phantom Zone villains in the post-Crisis continuity, and I hated it then as I hate it now. With over seventy-five years of source material it hurts me deeply that the hero’s darkest hour is what some people think should be brought to the screen. There are much better stories, people, probably hundreds, if not more.

One thing that superhero movies have brought to the screen recently, especially the billion dollar blockbuster, Marvel’s The Avengers, is the level of destruction. Well, super powers, the wrath of gods, can bring wholesale destruction down on us all, and now with the special effects available and the popularity of superheroes, we can now show combat on a scale similar to what is sometimes shown in comics.

Listen to me carefully. It does not translate to the big screen. I want to see these big smash-ups and slugfests as much as the next guy, but when it happens in ‘real life’ in a movie, it just does not work. We live in a post-9/11 world, and even over a decade later, those images have a blood curdling effect. To borrow the words of comics writer Mark Waid, it’s disaster porn, plain and simple, and I don’t wait to see it. I want to leave a Superman film inspired, uplifted, wanting to make the world a better place – not mourning the dead.

In conclusion, Man of Steel was a good movie, but it wasn’t a good Superman movie. I look more forward to Batman Vs. Superman, or maybe the much anticipated Justice League film, than I do ever seeing this one again.

For other perspectives, including my own, below is the Biff Bam Popcast featuring Andy Burns, JP Fallavollita, Jason Shayer, and special guest, Michael Moreci of the Hoax Hunters comic series, done at the time of the film’s theatrical release:


And then there’s also JP Fallavollita’s review of the film at Biff Bam Pop! here for a very different view.

Thor The Dark World

Thor The Dark World ~ Any Marvel movie at this point is an event, not just a promised blockbuster, but a legitimate mainstream event. Everyone wants to see the next big Marvel movie, and with the news this past week of Netflix’s picking up five different Marvel Comics projects as live action additions to their streaming own line-up that includes “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” and “Arrested Development,” the next Marvel movie is big, and that movie is Thor The Dark World, a movie so big, it opened alone this weekend.

One thing I was happy to see, that even though the Marvel superheroes are now part of everyday pop culture and even your grandmom is aware of Thor, the powers that be aren’t afraid to mine the source material for ideas rather than going off on a weird Hollywood tangent. One of the best Thor runs in the comics, other than the classic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby originals, would be the Walt Simonson run in the 1980s. Simonson did so much in his short run. He brought the character back to his roots, removed Don Blake from the equation, turned our hero into a frog, froze the planet, brought on both Surtur and the Midgard Serpent – and he also created Malekith and Kurse.

These two new characters were among the most powerful and dangerous the god of thunder had ever fought in the comics, making them more than adequate fodder for movie villains. I was more than pleased with former Doctor Christopher Eccleston as Malekith and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje from HBO’s “Oz” as Kurse, but I just wish they had had more to do and less make-up, as they’re both terrific actors. In both cases, Kurse more so, the make up hindered their performances.

Sadly, what I said about source material goes by the wayside quite quickly. In the comics, Malekith releases Surtur and opens the Cask of Ancient Winters amongst other evils, but here, it is a mysterious aether that is the MacGuffin and magical weapon of choice. I really got the sense, especially when seeing that a different group of folks wrote the screenplay than wrote the story, that this was a plot from something else that had been transplanted into this Thor movie – sort of like how 1987’s Masters of the Universe flick was a rewritten abandoned New Gods script.

Nevertheless, I like Thor The Dark World quite a bit. The cast was back in full force, and Chris Hemsworth seemed more comfortable in the title role this time, Natalie Portman was not as annoying, and as always Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki. I did think Anthony Hopkins looked a bit tired, and I was glad to see Idris Elba getting more screen time as Heimdall. I like Kat Dennings more every time I see her, sigh, I guess I’ll have to break down and watch that “2 Broke Girls” show. I was also delighted to see Chris O’Dowd, as well as (spoilers) Chris Evans.

I really enjoyed the movie, despite it sorta taking a lighter, more Avengers tone than the first Kenneth Branaugh directed film. I liked the new language of the Dark Elves, I liked their spaceships, and their weapons, especially the space warp bombs. It was a bit of a distraction to have guns going ‘pew-pew’ and I freely admit to saying out loud at one point, “Coruscant is under attack, where’re the Jedis?” Now, that said, the first movie made a concerted effort to explain that Asgard was not magic, but technology so advanced it appeared to be magic, so this does fit the Marvel Cinematic continuity.

Thor The Dark World was really cool, I’d see it again, and I’ll definitely get it for home viewing when it comes out. I didn’t think it needed much improvement, but female friends we ran into after the flick, as well as The Bride, all commented on the same thing regarding Chris Hemsworth. More bare chest. And butt, more butt. On that note, don’t forget to stay for the after credits stingers, this time there are two.

The Secret of Iron Man Three

Iron Man Three ~ This movie is not what you think it is. The trailers give you something that is compelling, but it’s not the film, not really. We’re not talking about false advertising, no, what you see in the previews you get in the movie, it’s just Iron Man 3 (or Iron Man Three as it’s actually called in the credits) is a different kind of superhero film, hell, it’s a different kind of film, period.

Now I’ve already talked about that fact and more about director Shane Black’s approach to Iron Man Three in my spoiler-free review over at Biff Bam Pop! some months back (read it here). But what I’m going to talk about here is very spoiler special heavy. It’s the big secret of Iron Man Three, we’re going to talk about the Mandarin. Spoilers away, be warned.

Now this is not new territory for me either, I talked about the Mandarin before in my article about the forgotten foes of Iron Man, but this will be very specific to bringing Mandy to the big screen, and in the year 2013, that is not an easy job. Let’s face it, the Mandarin is a piece of history, and a rather nasty piece of history, both outdated and racist.

In the comics, the Mandarin is an Asian villain in the tradition of other such masterminds like Sax Rohmer’s classic, but racist stereotype, Fu Manchu. He was created in an age when in the comics every hero fought against the Red Menace, the Communist threat, and yes, the Yellow Peril. We as a nation were recovering from the Korean War, entering into the Viet Nam War, and in the midst of a deadly game of mutually assured destruction in the Cold War. The Asian race was a direct threat.

The Mandarin was a schemer, a manipulator, a mastermind. He worked behind the scenes, he controlled multiple villains, and sought to overthrow not only America, but our entire way of life. But that was the 1960s, and it was racist. That crap don’t play now, and quite honestly the Mandarin, although Iron Man’s archenemy from early on, has not weathered the storm, one of political correctness, well after all these years.

Enter the phenomenon that is the Robert Downey Jr. and the Marvel Cinematic Universe it started. After two Iron Man movies, and a billion dollar blockbuster Avengers film, where do you go? Is it time for Iron Man to finally face his greatest foe on screen? Yes, but in our politically correct world, with a mainstream audience who may or may not have a background in the comics source material, how do you pull it off.

Easy answer? You lie, you dazzle them with trickery. You get your cake, and you eat it too. Sir Ben Kingsley, first, is inspired casting for the villain. And in the previews, the image he gives us is both Marvel Comics Mandarin and Middle Eastern terrorist pimp daddy, an updating to be awed. This new Mandarin is one who both strikes by surprise like the 9/11 bombers, and announces his attacks like the monsters who have beheaded hostages on video on the internet.

An early interview before the film came out asked if Sir Ben had done any research on the Mandarin character, and he said that he had not, and that he did not intend to. This sent fanboys into a frenzy. The fact is that Sir Ben didn’t need to. His character was not really the Mandarin – in fact, the whole concept, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was a fake, a deception, a farce.

The Mandarin didn’t exist, he was just an actor, a puppet of the real villain. Sir Ben never needed to know anything about the source material, his character was a construct, and one lovingly performed with the proper fierceness, and comedic flair once revealed (loved the Ringo Starr-esque affectation). Kingsley’s performance was golden, in so many ways, he was menacing, and ridiculous, and done right. That’s right, I said, ‘done right.’

There were fanboys who fumed about this as well, but the truth is – it was impossible to transfer the comics character to the screen in our world of political correctness. Sorry, folks who just don’t get it, but wake up, the Mandarin is a racist stereotype. And also be aware, there are folks who think the villain as he appears in the movie is also a racist stereotype, one of our current Middle Eastern terrorist enemies.

And therein lies the problem, as much good will as Iron Man, the Avengers, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe have engendered with mainstream audiences, it would all fall apart tragically if the Mandarin were portrayed as a sneering Asian madman bent on world domination. In my opinion Iron Man Three does it right, giving us the best of both worlds.

Avengers Alliance for iPhone at Biff Bam Pop!

The Facebook game, Avengers Alliance, is now available for iOS and your iPhone. Check out my review over at Biff Bam Pop! right here.

Avengers Assemble? Groan…

I have talked about my issues with the amazing “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” being canceled here before. I had resolved not to bitch about the new series “Avengers Assemble” until I actually saw it.

Here’s thirty-one seconds that have made me nothing but depressed:


“Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” made me excited, every image I saw, every clip I watched, made me so excited for the series. This does nothing for me. And the Falcon talking like a teenaged reject from Jeph Loeb’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” really makes me not want to even try to watch this thing…

A sneak peek of the first two episodes airs on Sunday morning, May 26th, so we can all see for ourselves. I don’t have high hopes…

The GAR Podcast

I know, as if I don’t have enough on my plate, right? This project has been in the wings for more than a few years. My friend Ray Cornwall and I have had long conversations about comics and other stuff, and have talked about doing it as a podcast for some time. I finally bit the bullet, kicked Ray in the butt, and we got it done. It was nowhere as hard as we thought it would be.

The final product can be found here. Yeah, it’s our first one, so it’s amateurish, badly edited, incredibly raw, and so much damned fun.

The topics covered in this inaugural podcast include: Who we are, “Storage Wars,” Man of Steel, Batman ’66, Green Hornet, Mark Waid, Insufferable, Peter Krause, Marshall Law, Ray’s comics childhood, Justice Society, Fantastic Four, Age of Ultron, Iron Man, Hank Pym, Marvelman, Brandon Peterson, Captain America and Bendis.

Links for this episode: Man of Steel trailer, Insufferable, Marshall Law. Age of Ultron, and Age of Ultron Book Six.

Check out the podcast here, and see what a star my buddy Ray is. Enjoy! We’ll be back next week!

Talkin’ ‘Bout the Avengers

There been a lot of talk lately over at Biff Bam Pop! lately about the Avengers and Age of Ultron, most of it coming from me.

But if you’d like to get in there and talk too, this Sunday evening is your chance.

Reaperradio is hosting an Avengers Chat at the LadyNightsRealm Chatroom on Sunday, April 14th at 8:00 PM EST with a second chat wave at 9:30 PM EST.

The Chat will be covering any and all Avengers and Avengers-related comics titles, as well as the Animated Series, the movie, even the toys.

 Hope to see you there. Let’s talk Avengers!

The Avengers on Biff Bam Pop!

For more than a decade I wrote monthly reviews of the current Avengers title from Marvel Comics at the Avengers Forever website. When that site closed up a few years ago, it left a void in my life as well as in the lives in many of the folks who hung out there. A version of Avengers Forever does exist on the Facebook here, but it’s just not the same.

This month at the Biff Bam Pop! pop culture website, it’s Mighty Marvel Month, and to celebrate, I have jumped back onto the Avengers bandwagon with a vengeance.

Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find:

Avengers NOW!, an overview of the Avengers franchise in the Marvel NOW! era.

Age of Ultron: Book One and Age of Ultron: Book Two, writer Brian Michael Bendis’ final storyline for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as their greatest enemy finally wins and takes the Earth.

Avengers Assemble Annual #1, a special spotlight on classic Avenger, the Vision, and his return to greatness.

Avengers #7, and how the New Universe fits into writer Jonathan Hickman’s plans for his eighteen member roster of Avengers.

And finally, there’s the new trailer for Iron Man 3 right here.

It has felt very good getting back into the driver’s seat. If you’re not into the Avengers, or comics, you could also check out my reviews of the latest albums from Adam Ant and David Bowie, and of course, you can find all of my Biff Bam Pop! work here!

Why "Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes" Was Canceled

I have written at length elsewhere about why and how much I love the latest animated incarnation of Marvel Comics’ the Avengers on Disney XD – “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

Much like the comics they were based on, Disney took great care to create and build a continuity and a universe around the characters. They even started before the show even got on the air officially with mini-episodes, detailing the solo pre-Avengers careers of the Avengers, and giving viewers new to the Marvel Universe a taste of how things started and fit together. It was actually a quick short-form, but orchestrated, version of how Paul Dini and Bruce Timm slowly built the DC Animated Universe from its beginnings in “Batman The Animated Series” until it blossomed in the last version seen in “Justice League Unlimited.”

In Marvel and Disney’s case, we had small vignettes that introduced us to Ant-Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and Iron Man (and their various villains as well). The last one there was based solidly on Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and the others more comic book versions shoehorned into that world. This was a good thing, making the show accessible, as many new viewers felt like they were coming in on the ground floor. And while the events seemed a bit out of order in places, most things were pretty accurate to the comics, more so than any other comics-to-TV project previous to this.

I loved this series, and now it’s over. The word is it was shut down because it did not fit in with the continuity Jeph Loeb had set up with his later “Ultimate Spider-Man” cartoon. He had a mad Hulk, a teenage Power Man and Iron Fist, and other bits like that. Have I mentioned how much I hate the “Ultimate Spider-Man” cartoon? It has its merits, don’t get me wrong, but it has more wrong with it than right with it. And maybe I’m just old, but the anime and videogame references annoy me.

So a silly teenaged version of the characters, or one based on the movies and the comics – guess which one gets jettisoned? Bingo, goodbye, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” Mainly because one old man wants all the animated series under his hat to match? Yep, that’s why. Do “Mike and Molly” and “The Big Bang Theory” exist in the same universe, and have to adhere to the same continuity rules? No, but if Loeb was in charge, they’d have to.

This is probably a good time to mention while Loeb has done some good work, like “Hush” and “The Long Halloween,” he is also responsible for ruining “Heroes,” The Ultimates, Superman, and the Challengers of the Unknown. And while he wrote Teen Wolf, any good will there was erased by Teen Wolf Too, which he also penned.

The new replacement series, “Avengers Assemble,” might be a continuation of the “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and then again, it might not. The voice cast is different, and it features new member, the Falcon, joining a team composed of the heroes from the 2012 hit movie, Marvel’s The Avengers. Who wants to take bets that Hawkeye will be in his drab, unexciting, movie uniform? You’d win.

“Avengers Assemble” gets a sneak preview on Disney XD on May 26th, and then premieres in its regular time slot on July 7th. I will withhold my opinion until it airs, but I’m betting there’s no way it can be as good, as one of the best superhero cartoons ever made – “Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” It certainly can’t be worse than “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” Don’t even ask…

My Oscar Picks 2013

My opinion really doesn’t count for all that much this year as some personal issues have kept me from seeing many of the films this year, but folks expect to see my picks, so this year, I will choose by instinct and odds rather than any educated guesses. I still might get lucky. Here you go…

  • Best animated feature – Brave
  • Best animated short film – Paperman
  • Best visual effects – Marvel’s The Avengers
  • Best original screenplay – Django Unchained
  • Best original score, and song – Skyfall
  • Best costume design – Snow White and the Huntsman
  • Best direction – Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
  • Best supporting actress – Sally Field for Lincoln
  • Best supporting actor – Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained
  • Best actress – Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
  • Best actor – Denzel Washington for Flight
  • Best picture – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Yep, that’s right. I’m predicting a complete shut out for Le Miz. Nothing against the flick, but that’s just how it played out as I picked category by category.

    What do you folks think?