Yearly Review: 2016

So it is basically the end of 2016 and it has been a year that has been shouted at to the point I’m starting to wonder if people actually believe that a duration has a personality and that that personality is draconian-evil with paranoid tendencies. With this year like with all concurrent years, of ago and ahead, is the tradition of an array of superhero films based off the characters of Marvel and DC. After watching all seven cinematic-based films I have thought that it would be nice to just summarise the year of super-films in a judgemental yet highly subjective ordering involving what was my least favourite to the ones I found most enjoyable. So lets go for a bit of a build-up by starting on Number 7… i.e. my least favourite:

#7. X-Men: Apocalypse.

It has come to my attention that in my circles of friends I am the only one who found this the most disappointing film this year in regards to superheroes. Now with all this I will say that this year hasn’t been too bad give as though this is what I felt was the lowest film. It’s not like it was Batman and Robin vs. Fantastic 4 featuring Catwoman and Howard the Duck. Yet a lot of the good features in Apocalypse were reflections on past films, like the Quicksilver scene and the bad qualities came with a plot more unhinged than even your usual superfilm. Having Apocalypse rush into a plan of world domination has him set up as poorly developed and non-threatening. Adding to that a good amount of the film shoehorning a new Wolverine origin story for the new timeline bluh-bluh-comics-bluh-bluh … never mind. So yes, the film wasn’t terrible or even unwatchable but it was in a word “off-putting”  and I leave less sure of what I watched and just as less sure of what its point was.

#6. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Sooooo, what was the point of BvS:DoJ? Was it to introduce Batman? Well then have a Batman film. So maybe it was to develop Superman as a better hero and character. Nooo because Superman does nout all in the film, give or take, and still is something of an uninspiring, dull symbol. As well as all this, Jesse Eisenberg’s miscasting of Lex Luthor as an unstable and cracked-minded megalomaniac is perplexing and the overall plot including the DCEUs origin of Doomsday, introduction of other people (somewhat) and the titular event and its dismay of an anti-climatic and unfocused conclusion is something of concern.Even though the film does all this it is only fair to notion that a number of scenes with Batman were really enjoyable and that the easter eggs were something to enjoy in this film. Nevertheless, these are small fix-ups compared to the whole patched up work of Batman vs. Superman. Here’s to hoping that the ‘dawn of justice’ is the only part of the day that is a bit ‘meh!’ We shall see.

#5. Suicide Squad.

Honestly, comprehensively I shall admit that I had so much difficulty in deciding which was better of this year’s two DC live action and I will regret saying that Suicide Squad was the better of the two films. Its villains are lousy and poorly expressed, it lacks the psychedelic-coloured and pseudo-nostalgic elements that were reflected in its trailer and the method of introducing the ‘heroes’ in this film loses its attachment to the enjoyment that the audience needs to make the movie be judged in a positive manner that it does not hold. What Suicide Squad does do is make some fun of the superhero film trope and attempt to turn it upside down and it does well on this to an extent that it almost by showing the means of been a supervillian who is coping in the new world that exists. Still what makes Suicide Squad a bit bleak and disappointing is that there is so much that could be done to improve it and make it interesting, even small details like making it brighter or removing magic, which I hated from the start because you need to show magic in a creative, powerful and fun manner which you can’t do if you’re negating it to equal its level against a crazy woman with a baseball bat. Never mind, Suicide Squad was watchable but as dumb as anything out here. I walked out satisfied mind you which helped with notching it up.

#4. Batman: The Killing Joke.

Now we get to more mediocre in the list and in way Batman: The Killing Joke was this year’s most evenly mediocre film in that the first half was unwanted ‘cringe’ and the other half was wanted justification to Alan Moore’s renowned Batman one-shot. I watched The Killing Joke in the cinema (which is why I’m counting it on this list compared to most other straight to DVD animated movies like Teen Titans vs. Justice League) and felt it a great visual display to watch. Yet its cinematic time did caution the tedious patience needed to real get to the wanted visual of this movie. To make all the ends meet in length and in making the movie appropriate to viewership, before we have the titular story at hand, we have a 40 minutes prequel that seems to show us that the movie crew wanted to get it over and done with just as much as we did in viewing it. The remaining part (the part we wanted as I keep on) was a rather surreal yet enjoyable watch, a treat to those with a feeling of understanding in the liking of The Killing Joke graphic novel and its impact on the Batman stories in the ‘80s and the understandings of the Joker as a person and as a villain. Mark Hamill’s return as the Clown Prince of Crime is also as enjoyable even if it is not is best performance, I’m sorry but that is my honest opinion; I’ve heard him do better.

#3. Captain America: Civil War.

In terms of a Marvel film, Civil War was a fun and easy-to-watch movie which displayed good action, new characters, and the reminder that Marvel’s villain list is so poor and expendable that the best fights are when the heroes are against each other. Civil War encompasses these things in a good amount of detail and lets the knowledge that we have a healthy amount of understanding on each of the characters allow for developing the superhero grouping more holistically. It’s downsides more or less come from the major villain/planner of plot, Zemo. His plan to do some stuff that was improbable to ever happen and then it did happen, like, I dunno, it was scripted to in some predetermined form… yeah, my suspension of disbelief wasn’t really feeling this plan was a goodie. Plus, there’s a villain in it called Zemo and I say this also a poorly sarcastic way to hint that I found the villain a bit forgetful, not like Christopher Malekith forgetful, like barely passable ‘he’s in the shadows forgetful’. At least they did a damn good Spider-Man, Ant Man was a joy to watch and Black Panther was pretty cool. Add some funny moments, mostly with Vision, and some political interests and you end up have a successful Marvel movie. I will say a lot of people said that this was the best superhero film of the year but I feel like it could open up more to standing out and be lighter on the already seen characters, which might be where the final two movies make sense to my likability.

#2. Doctor Strange.

Oh, how I loved Doctor Strange. It’s been a needed staple in comic-based films that we get something of magic. Like real, fun proper .. you know MAGIC! Apart from that Constantine –lite Constantine movie, the Enchantress in Suicide Squad which is a disappointment to count and the fact that the Thor films felt the need to sloppily make out that magic was cold super-science … bluh bluh COMICS bluh bluh. Doctor Strange felt different to these in that it was enjoyable and fantastic in its playfulness, emotion, and it the general wit and charm that seemed to be felt in number of parts to the story. Although Doctor Strange did fall into the trap of sorts that is the generic Marvel movie formula of “this guy or does this thing and meets this evil guy or does this opposite but similar thing and then is expended and the end” it does mess around with a ‘number’ here and there and can be excused for it’s beautiful and try unique visual effects. The so esoteric that you might be playing on both meaning of that word Easter eggs are also a joy to look out for and the way it anchors itself to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whilst also adding to its needed uniqueness is nicely balanced. “Would watch again. 8 out of 10”.

#1. Deadpool.

Deadpool was a film I can watch so much, it was the only film this year I watched more than once in the cinema, if that helps. What Deadpool meant for me was to try something that fans wanted and it feels like a lot of superhero movies shunt in the ability to do this, hey it isn’t perfect in doing this, there are a number of imbalances due to budget and trying to understand that even though Deadpool has cycled into popular culture not everyone can really understand the point of the comedy and meta-based productivity that comes from Deadpool in a number of this mediums. If I am to explain why Deadpool was my number one movie it is more of a personal liking to it more so than to the concept that Deadpool was a great film, based on reviews and grossing success, yes this is true but I like a number of factor in the way that Deadpool is executed. I love meta; a huge fan for ages, this is enough to lead me to love all formats of Deadpool. The humour really got to me and the unusual post-modern method of reflecting the honesty of the superhero is something that really builds into been … well yes, lazy… but if shown off right, fun to observe. Deadpool does well with these, I found, and I hope Deadpool II takes to find a harmony between this film and something different. That is gonna be a difficult task so we will have to await and a-see.

Review: Batman: The Killing Joke

Sometimes in life, there are stories which we read and feel a sense of desire in their animation. Stories which in the end, we seem considerable about the art in front of us be it verbal, graphical or auditory to be made truly visual. Well the DC have been picking up on this a bit more than Marvel with a small number of their animated movies which have become remodelled showings that have transcended more positively than the live action extended universe which has recently manifested in the cinemas. Over a year ago, however, DC decided to be less contemporary in the stories they were animating (mainly New 52 stuff) and decided on something more classical. This was announced as Alan Moore’s ‘The Killing Joke’; a 1988 Batman one-shot whose positive reviewing was reflected by the controversy of a powerfully gritty Joker-orientated story. Nevertheless if has been considered as one of the greatest Batman stories ever written, so much so in fact that it was meant to be a non-canonical story that was liked so much it was made canon to DC’s colourful universe. About a year ago it was also announced that Mark Hamill, who role of voicing the Joker is as renowned as his role as Luke Skywalker came out of his retirement from the Joker calling the Arkham City video game the peak of his voicing work as the Clown Prince of Crime. Yet this was the call he had been waiting for. Fans were excited, Kevin Conroy came back as Batman and now it was official, one of the greatest Batman stories in the DC Universe was been animated and it was also going to get Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy to play their part since what seemed like forever. What made the whole thing even better for me was a one day only screening was in one of the local cinemas and so I went straight in to get my ticket and after waiting a month I was finally able to watch the film. That was a week ago and I feel like I have a few thoughts on The Killing Joke movie on what I liked and how it wasn’t how I was expecting it.

I’m not gonna go into the plot of The Killing Joke like I do with most of my reviews. The story has been out for some 27 years now. I’m just going to say that there are some differences in story in terms of the film and the graphic novel and that a few spoilers even to someone who has read the book would be fair to be stated. So right now I’m going to just do the criticising, the good points, the bad points and the overall feel I felt about ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’. Okay? Okay.

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So, in the end of it all ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ wasn’t truly great, is was quite that bit more underwhelming than I was expecting. There, I said it! I’m surprised to say the least. I was expecting this to surpass or at least par the other DC animated films, like ‘Under the Red Hood’, ‘Superman/Batman: Apocalypse’ or ‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’. To start I thought I just wasn’t feeling it, like it hadn’t sunk in or I was a bit depersonalised from the experience and I needed to see it again. I mean it had Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, even Ray Wise as Commissioner Gordon which fitted quite well. The dialogue was good and I don’t blame it on that. I think in the end it was the level of adaptation. When it comes to the classic stories and making them into film, be that live action or animated, in this case, it has to be delicate to make it alike  what it is based on but also to a grander point make it run in a comfortable manner even if that makes it rough on its connection to originality. ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ seems to be so accurate, in the second part of the film, to the book that my reading and how I remembered it seemed quite out of synch with the watching of it even if it was the same dialogue and context. I number of the Joker’s preaccident scenes felt rushed and it feel like Hamill was not added the element of drama to them. The Joker is more of a dramatic and larger character as a super villain than as a down-on-his-luck husband that you can hear it but it makes the bond with him as a person seem less necessary. Whereas with the book where I could pick on every detail and feel the environment put in front of me, the movie had more of a scene after scene dot-to-dot feel to it.

As for the first half with Barbara as Batgirl, I understand what Bruce Timm is saying based on liking the character and putting more of her presence in this film. Yet to have her just complain that her biggest problem is that she isn’t equal to Batman is something that seemed boring and not needed. The way that she is not respected by the criminals she defeats because she is a woman is one-dimensional and dull. Maybe it is a way to make me feel annoyed by the criminals that I want justice but it feels slabbed onto their personalities and makes the fights feel uncomfortable to watch. Then the overall conclusion to it all as Batman teaches Batgirl a lesson on her been well… bossy for no reason. Then they have not-on-screen sex and Batman just acts all quiet and regretful over his partnership with her which again is something I don’t find enjoyable to watch. The fact that this is how this film start and this is not part of the adaptation part; not at all part of The Killing Joke story makes watching the part I went to the cinema to watch exhausting and heightens the impatience of watching it.

In the end, Batman: The Killing Joke is a worthwhile watch but if you can read the book that is definitively better. It is a short read and the art is a great part of the experience of reading The Killing Joke. All I can say is have an open mind watching it and also don’t take any of the film before Batman goes to Arkham and has his talk to the Joker as true material to the story but as ‘filler’ to make it something of a cinematic duration.

Right that’s all I’m gonna say. A bit short, I know but I’ve made the points that I wanted to make.

News: Can I just talk a bit about the Justice League Dark film?

So about a month ago I was to discover some good news, that the next animated movie that DC was creating, after A Killing Joke, was Justice League Dark and that a sneak peak or trailer was a bonus feature on the Killing Joke DVD and BluRay discs. Hoping that this was a true piece of information, I noticed over an hour from seeing the news for the first time myself that other websites were spreading the news that yes, the Justice League Dark were to have an animated film and it is a thumbs up in development. Now I was doing to write an article about this delightful news, however as I have already stated this news is five days old and has cycled around the internet. So I’m going to write about what this all means to me and also explain the positives of this project.

So who are the Justice League Dark?

First let me just summarise a bit about the JLD since they are a new team up in DC’s timeline. Before DC’s New-52, magic-based character were a mix when it came to team rosters, some were in the Justice Society of America (Doctor Fate, the Spectre), some in the Justice League (Zatanna), even the Teen Titans has Raven. Nevertheless, there was an association in the DCU for the supernatural and bizarre called The Shadowpact. The Justice League Dark was made in 2011 during the New-52; differing from The Shadowpact due to the fact that the New-52 caused DC Comics to merge their comic publishing imprints Vertigo Comics and Wildstorm Comics. This let a number of characters who were seldom DC Universe members to be more canonical. The Justice League Dark has had, over the years that the series has been published, over fifteen members including John Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Shade the Changing Man, Black Orchid and Timothy Hunter. A number of these names are from Vertigo titles like Hellblazer and The Books of Magic. The idea of the team was as a way to deal with supernatural threats and as it is revealed to deal which the team members themselves in the risk they might also be threats to the world if not checked.

What this project has to offer.

To be fair, I know I’m not the only person to find the animated shows and movies DC has made a wonderful watching experience with shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, and Young Justice, as well as films like Justice League: Doom, All-Star Superman, The Flashpoint Paradox, and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse as a small number of examples. When the New-52 came out, DC reflected on the Justice League side with they own personal takes of the New-52 Justice League. Although the Justice League is different from before, we are talking about characters who are iconic characters of popular culture. The fact that the New-52 has brought a new team and also that the members are interesting is something that can help with DC’s development. I think that it is a good time to announce the news that a Justice League Dark film is in development.

So why do I think this?

I actually think that the Justice League Dark is one of the most enjoyable title to have come out of the New-52 and given that DC Rebirth has been added as the new series that DC is trying out with great success, it seems that to have on of the most successful series during one of DC’s more unstable times it would seem like a lovely boon to just have an animated movie of that series to show what it was all about and how it was better than other, either as a reminder or as an introduction to the JLD dynamic that fans enjoyed. One of the things I feel is of interest is that an introduction to magical fantasy that is more magic than super is a very helpful idea to help with DC and I feel that some people who are enjoying of the fantasy more than the superhero genre.

Justice League Dark seems to be released next year. The preview is on the Batman: The Killing Joke extras, released next week.

News: Batman: The Killing Joke Sneak Peak

DC has brought an interesting list of excitement to the year of 2016. For this is the year that it made inertia with its new ‘official’ cinematic sandbox: The DC Extended Universe. What with DCEU having a three year holiday from having to deal with Man of Steel’s ambiguity, it is now back hard at work with the added promise of releasing two films a year. Meanwhile DC Universe is having a rebirth so that their older… more devoted fans … (Hi there!) … can have a taste of the old continuity they had come to love before the time-twister buzzword-driven reboot i.e. The New 52 in 2011.

However with all this happening, the big thing that seems the most important to discuss for DC’s 2016 is the next in the DC Animated Movie series: Batman: The Killing Joke. Based on writing-legend, Alan Moore’s 80s mini-series, it’s fundamentally a story based on the Joker’s insanity and his ideology to the fragility of the stable mind when it comes to having one bad day and its consequences. This idea he uses to torment Commissioner Gordon.

Now DC has brought a sneak peak of the straight-to-DVD film including interviews, animation and clips from the film as well as a look at the voice actors, including the quintessential Batman voice from Kevin Conroy and the quintessential Joker voice from Mark Hamill.

 

And it looks wonderful!

This is a hugely popular Batman story and to see it as an animated movie does seem like a worthwhile treat. I think what makes this story so brilliant in its nature, is that it looks at the Joker and Batman having the same origin story at an elementary degree; both characters are shown to have had one bad day that leads to them having the identity that they use. Yet at the same time, both are different in that they have created the opposite result from what their bad days motivated them towards. Its a brilliant design for both characters and give structure to Batman and Joker been one of the most iconic arch-enemies in modern mythology. Well, saying that, as the Joker explains in the comics penultimate scene “Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another … If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!” Lovely ‘twist’.

The Killing Joke is also a top favourite for Mark Hamill. The star said that he was to retire from the Joker after the character’s death in video game “Batman: Arkham City” stating that he would only return to vocalising the Clown Prince of Crime for a Killing Joke animated film. After fans used Facebook as a petition to make the film as well as have Hamill star as the Joker in 2011, the progression towards the film becoming the real deal have been ongoing since.

“Batman: The Killing Joke” is expected to be in stores summer this year.

Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

SPOILERS…. just to be on the safe side.

Okay, so once again, I’ve ended up watching the next cinematic superhero movie of the year and then procrastinated as the rest of the world spoke out about it’s mixed feelings on DC’s second expanded universe story.

First off I am a bit anxious writing this because I am a big DC fan and I had huge faith for this film at the start. I watched it on the midnight viewing, nervous from the early reviews and wondering if I was going to sleep before the end of the film. After walking out of the cinema at like 2:45 in the morning of Good Friday, I felt an odd sense of something that was between ‘that wasn’t half bad. That was alright in terms of what I was expecting’ to ‘I’m not sure I got all of that story, I have my questions’.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a surreal, complex, unstable story; more a serious pseudo-realism based fantasy (if that makes sense) with gritty elements representing the seemingly severe consequences of power and its price in an oddly placed and undesired location; a movie in which the quintessential symbol of hope fights the archetype of humanity’s sense of justice and achievement. Yet the problem in criticising this is based on the fact that the characters lack reflection to their ‘ink-based counterparts’. Superman is represented in the film as a self-doubting and unfocused gloomy shadow of his recognisable self, whereas Batman is a destructive, unstable and mind-lacking individual who seems to be excused for his out-of-character representation because someone on the desk thought “because he’s Batman, he can do whatever” was enough description to make lots of money with minimum effort; a mantra which seems to have worked given the success of the film financially compared to critically.

Though this does seem to represent the film in a negative way with its Super-protagonists, I did actually quite enjoy the acting of many of the stars in this film. Ben Affleck’s Batman was a strong character that I do forgive for his actions given the difference in this film’s history compared to the comic history, which has lasted many decades. Henry Cavill’s Superman was also enjoyable to watch but is still in need of been a strong-hearted and inspiring superhero. Both actors were also exceptional in playing their more ‘human’ halves, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent and I give a lot of credit for both actors’ attempting to isolate the man and the superhero so brilliantly.

As for the other characters, the film builds itself on there being an unusual blur of activity which puts them in and out of the drama and the action. A favourite for me was Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Diana Prince who later becomes, surprise, Wonder Woman. The Diana Prince moments were a little too simple but felt more necessary than just having Wonder Woman ‘crash the party’. Still although somewhat not needed until later films, Wonder Woman was a fun spark of energy in this slow, serious film. As for Lex Luthor, portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, I found that the times he was charming, Luthor was quite an interesting and appropriate villain. This unfortunately was seldom and what we end up having in huge-pieced scenes is a man who is unsubtly having a mental breakdown because Superman is real. This is manifested in him trying to hold back, from the rest of the world, his capricious tantrum-like need to say that knowledge is power, therefore it’s just not fair that knowledge is not as powerful as been an alien that has superhuman abilities manifested from the multi-decade process of absorbing solar energy. I will also put a small comment about my enjoyment of Jeremy Irons as Alfred. There isn’t that much of him in the movie but he is worth giving a credit to.

As for the film itself, well as I saw it, as a whole, it was an unstable story; poorly directed, with an overload of information and drama sequences. The bizarre feeling the film gives off is there from the start; a somewhat unneeded surrealism. The film’s start plays of with a young Bruce Wayne running from his parents’ funeral whilst having, I guess, flashbacks of the night they are killed, which, to be fair, is so stapled in Batman-based films, television shows, and video games, that someone did make a video showing how many times this has been shown.

 

This then transfers to Master Wayne falling into a cave of bats who fly around him and magically make him levitate into the sky. This turns out to be a dream Bruce Wayne has. Just the magic bats bit not the dead parents bit. There are a lot of dream sequences and scenes of people having prescience that make you think if it’s a premonition, a warning from a higher power or a weird dream. I personal found these scenes annoying and saw them more as deleted scene-material than much-needed drama. They just make the film itself seem like its on acid.

N.B: Before I move on from this paragraph I would like a add, since I’m speaking of deleted scenes, that the deleted scene that WB released on YouTube, same days after the film, shouldn’t have been a deleted scene and was helpful in giving the film a stronger ending instead of the studio acting all smart because they have all the answers and I just have 10 years of comic-book knowledge that I can only use as is needed. Dear WB. You shouldn’t feel like you’re competing against the fans, work for the fans a bit more. Oh and for anyone whose interested here’s the scene that was taken out so we can see Kevin Costner on a mountain.

 

As for the directing and the skeleton of the film, its pulp fiction-style genre-jumping playfulness was unnecessary. Some scenes were flavourless, as suggested previous, which is surprising in a film that attempts all flavours just to prove, in my opinion, that it is just as sharp and attention worthy as Marvel. The fact that the film has a lot of stuff in it is I guess could be somewhat okay because the more I think about BvS: DoJ, the more it feels like watching a storage team move stuff into someone’s house. It’s not that interesting to watch, sometimes there a bit of clumsiness, and then there is a tea break where there is no action (if you can imagine moving a sofa as a cinematic feat of action). Nevertheless in the end you get to look at everything put into place and that was what I felt this film felt like it was doing. The film has a number of satisfying moments which make me want to anticipate this extended universe DC is building yet as a film on its own, Batman v Superman is not great but a bit of interest in the comic community right now until this Civil War stuff gets put on the cinema screens. I do also have to say I walked out of Batman v Superman more positive than I did when I watched Age of Ultron to be honest. Nevertheless, at the end of the year I do see this film been in the list of films which look big but that people have forgotten, just a little bit.

Oh one other thing. This film has a lot of references and Easter eggs which is what you expect from a two and a half hour trailer of what DC comics is doing in its future films so I hope that the Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Justice League films do well once they come to the finishing line.