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Man Of Steel Review

man_of_steel_dc_comics_superhero-wideWith the Dark Knight trilogy over, the disasters that were Green Lantern and Superman Returns, and the desire for Warner Bros. to get a Justice League movie off the ground, to say that there is a lot of pressure on Man of Steel is a bit of an understatement. Fortunately for the WB, Man of Steel rights all of the wrongs of the last Superman movie, and creates a world worth building around for future installments.

The first thing I noticed while watching the movie is how good it looks. From Krypton to Metropolis it is a very beautiful film. Colors are vibrant and is it just shot well. In some parts I was reminded of Thor’s design, but it adds a depth that is all its own. I would not recommend the 3D version though, as it seemed to have very little impact or immersion.

More than any Superman movie before it, Man of Steel is a true origin story of not only Superman, but Clark Kent as well. Using flashbacks throughout the first half of the film, we see how Clark made his way to the Kent house in Kansas, the scrutiny and hardships he went through while discovering and learning to control his powers, and deciding the type of man he wants to become.

That last part is especially key, as Superman is constantly faced with moral choices from his Earth dad, his Kryptonian dad, his enemies and the world around him. The way he comes to these decisions gives us a clear vision into not just what makes Superman so good and pure, but how he got this mind state in the first place. In this way, Man of Steel is more about Clark than it is about Superman.

Russell Crowe is very good as Superman’s biological father from Krypton, Jor-El. He urges Superman to be something great, and is believable in everything that he says,which isn’t easy considering some of the plot points he has to deliver, and makes you care for people you know are doomed. The opening of the movie could have been a movie on it’s own (hello prequel!) as we see what makes Superman (Cal-El) so special in a Krypton that we get to see (albeit briefly) as a vibrant world that is on the way to self destruction. There are a couple of scenes where Jor-El overstays his welcome, being extremely important to the plot even after his death, but he does push things along. He is critical in grounding this movie in any sort of believability. Meanwhile, Kevin Costner is practically typecast as the farmer Jonathan Kent, who wants to protect Clark from the world by having him hide his powers. The way both Jonathan and Jor-El affect who Clark is with similar yet totally different ideals is very interesting, despite Costner’s presence being much less felt than Crowe’s.

At the heart of the conflict is General Zod. Zod leads an army of banished Kryptonians to earth in order to find Superman and used him (dead or alive) to help save the Kryptonian species by destroying and recreating Earth as the new Krypton. Zod is well represented by Michael Shannon, who gives us a Zod that can be related to in some aspects. He’s not just out to kill Superman. Instead he is looking to save his people’s existence in the only way he knows how. This makes his dialogue with Superman even more compelling as Supes is forced to choose between the planet he’s from and the planet he’s lives on (it reminds me of the Transformers episode “The Ultimate Doom” where Optimus Prime has to choose between Earth and Cybertron). The confrontations between Superman and Zod bring all of the movie’s themes to the forefront.

Speaking of confrontations, remember how Superman Returns has no real enemy for Superman to face? Well forget that. Man of Steel knew it had to make a big impact and it did, taking perhaps the most famous formidable enemies that can physically challenge Superman and created some fantastic fight scenes and other action sequences. A fight against a couple of Zod’s top soldiers was specifically entertaining, while the final fight between Superman and Zod ended things with a flourish, ending in a way I definitely did not expect, showing once and for all how far Superman is willing to go in order to save lives.

With most of the supporting cast out of the way, I’ll bring up now the fact that Henry Cavill is a pretty damn convincing Superman. He certainly looks the part physically, and while he’s is all action for the fight scenes, he also shows a gentle nature that is just as big of a part of Superman’s character as flying is. His emotional vulnerability is on display as he travels the country tying to help people the best way he feels he can, hiding in obscurity whenever his deeds are noticed by too many. He is truly a Superman in training.

On the other end of the spectrum is Lois Lane, which I feel Amy Adam’s just wasn’t right for. She plays Lois tough, but somehow she comes off as too sweet to me. She is just missing a certain edge. I did however appreciate the liberties taken with Lois trying to find this mystery hero, instead of Clark just starting at the Daily Planet for no reason. No complaints from the rest of the cast, as Lawrence Fishburn (Perry White) and Rebecca Buller (Jenny, yes JENNY Olsen) are mostly just window dressing but do provide a human element that is needed when watching alien gods duke it out.

I do have a few issues with the story. Lois and Superman’s eventual relationship got going a little too quickly for my taste. The plan to save the world seems a little corny and it was pretty heavy for a Superman movie. A little more levity could have gone a long way. I’m also curious how Clark was able to keep faking his resume to get jobs under false names. Also, this movie was so big that I worry about leaving little room for sequels. Metropolis has already been torn apart once so doing it again wouldn’t be as menacing. If it is indeed Lex Luthor in the opposing corner, it could be a more psychological move that this one (just spitballing). This is nitpicking though in what is easily the best Superman movie in over 30 years. It had action, drama, character development, and just enough easter eggs to satisfy nerds and give us an essence of what could be on the way if they continue with this series (which I fully expect).

By the way, I’ll save you the trouble and let you know now that there is no post credits scene.

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The Dark Knight Returns, Pt 2 Panel Highlights (NYCC)

I attended the panel for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 at the New York Comic Con with executive producer Bruce Timm and dialogue director Andrea Romano. Together they have basically built the entire animated universe and have done an outstanding job in doing so.

The panel led off with the trailer for the movie. A sequel to the Dark Knight Rises, Part 1 (obviously) it picks up right where the first left off. Batman is back, the Joker wants a piece of him, as does the Gotham Police Department. The government is against Batman as well, which is why they put Superman (who is basically the President’s lackey) into action to stop him. Check it out for yourself:

When talking about the decision to make this story into two separate movies, Bruce Timm said that there was no way this could ever be done right as one film. Furthermore, both movies had to be green-lit at the same time. He didn’t want to make the first part and see how it did before working on the second. It was all or nothing and thankfully the studio agreed to produce both movies at the same time.

Three addition scenes were shown during the panel. The first showed Batman attacking the Gotham Police on the rooftop. The music was top-notch, although to me the action seemed slightly off. Up close all the hits had impact and looked great, when they broadened the shot however the movements and speed just didn’t click for me. Next was Batman rallying his troops to not use guns, fighting with their fists and minds instead. It was referred to as the “Braveheart” speech. When you see it you’ll know why. The final clip was of the talk show scene where Joker is interviewed by David Endocrine. Endocrine is played pretty well by Conan O’Brien of all people. Romano said that he nailed getting affected by the Joker’s laugh gas in one take. What we were shown was a very tense scene that got creepier and creepier until the Joker finally went into action.

Timm noted that while he could have cast Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to reprise their famous roles as Batman and Joker, he knew that this was a much different type of film and that he needed to reflect that tone in the voices. Peter Weller (Robocop) was an absolutely perfect fit for Batman. He was also fond of Michael Emerson’s (Lost) work as Joker. He said he doesn’t sound anything like Hamill, or Jack Nicholson, or even John Di Maggio. Romano was also impressed with his ability to do his performance through Skype, as conflicting schedules made it impossible for him to record in studio.

A couple of other notes from the panel:

-Bruce Timm revealed that Jim Gordon chews nicotine gum instead of smoking cigars because smoking in cartoons equals an automatic R rating (film is PG-13). Interestingly, swastika’s on naked women do not have the same impact (you know where I’m going if you read the comic).

-Timm also hinted at working on some films based on Grant Morrison’s work. Could this mean Arkham Asylum? R.I.P? Final Crisis?

-The first thing actually seen in the panel was the trailer for LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes United. It’s essentially Joker and Lex Luthor getting all the villains together while Batman and Superman do the same with the Justice League. The trailer was legitimately funny and will appeal to both adult comic book fans and their children. The Justice League they assemble is the New 52 version and it will be released sometime in the spring of 2013.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is set to be released in the winter of 2013.

The Character/Writer Comic Conundrum

Rick Remender’s run writing Venom came to an end this week with issue #22. It has been one of the surprise series of the last couple of years, bringing back a character that was left behind in the 90’s and remade him into a modern anti-hero that was interesting and fun to follow. Eddie Brock was fine, but Flash Thompson? Back from war without his legs and now he’s a military styled Venom clouded with guilt and rage? Loved the idea from the start. When I started getting back into comics Venom was one of the series that kept up with and it was well worth the ride thanks in large part to Remender’s vision.

But now Remender is leaving Venom for greener pastures and it brings up an interesting question. Do I still follow the same books with a different writer at the helm?

What’s more important? The character…

Back in the day this would have been a non issue. As a young reader I was drawn to the characters and the action. The art was more important to me and I wasn’t smart enough to know if what I was reading had any depth to it. All I knew is that Spider-Man kicking Vulture in the face was awesome! But I need more than that now. Yes the artwork is very important, as it often can make or break a book. However I need that writing to draw me in. This is especially the case as I get into more dramatic book, that are more about espionage and emotion than explosions and fight sequences. I love the current Venom character, but I specifically love Rick Remender’s writing of the character. Would you read a Harry Potter novel if it wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling? Of course you wouldn’t. That might as well just be considered fan fiction.

Remender is still working on X-Force, Captain America and Secret Avengers (which has Venom!). The Dark Phoenix Saga was amazing and the others have been good as well. Would I be best served leaving Venom behind and just following around writers that I like? Could the same go for artists? What if Remender takes on something like the Fantastic Four, which I’ve never been interested in?

Naturally a lot of this also depends on who takes over Venom.

…or the man writing the character?

People will always buy Batman and X-Men and Spider-Man. They are so popular that even if you mess them up badly you will still get at least some people who just need their Batman fix (of course Scott Snyder is doing a great job with Bats and that helps too). But Venom is a little bit more of a niche character. He is still a work in progress that can go either way. Mark Waid has done similar work in remaking Daredevil into a fantastic read again but he did have more to work with. The better comparison might be what Geoff Johns has managed to do with Aquaman. Did anyone thing he would ever be cool again? Will he remain as cool if someone else takes over writing him? Like the King of the 7 Seas, Venom can lose its audience a little more easily. Cullen Bunn is taking over for Remender full time with issue #23. He had been co-writing this recent arc with Rick and has been very busy doing work on Captain America and a miniseries, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, which all point in the right direction for what would make a good Venom book. The other books circulating are getting mixed reviews, but thanks to the run so far I am emotionally invested in this symbiote wielding maniac. Can I just drop it because I don’t like the current author? I guess I’ll just have to read it and find out for myself.

What do you think? How much does the writer influence what you buy? Am I a fool for thinking of ditching a book just because it’s being written by someone else? Sound off in the comments below.

Read comics!

Warner Bros Animation Does the DC Universe Right

While misguided attempts at putting the Justice League in theaters and a Superman reboot cautiously on the way, Warner Bros. Animation has been producing classing stories from DC Comics time and time again. If the trailer is any indication, The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1 won’t be any different. If nothing else it has Peter “Robocop” Weller as Batman! Your move creep! Check it out:

Looks amazing right? This is nothing new for Warner Bros. Animation as they have been doing this for decades now (if you count Batman: The Animated Series). They have succeeded in all of the areas they have failed with their big budget action movies (except Batman of course because anything Batman is good). They take chances and stretch their wings. Different animation styles, different voices to fit those styles, and most importantly they tell the stories we want to see.

How many origin stories can there be? Instead of taking up and entire film introducing every single DC character, they are getting straight into the good stuff with the comics that we love. Doomsday, Red Hood, Tower of Babel, they’ve all been done and done mostly well in these movies. WB tapped into a market of real comic book fans and knows that they are the main audience of these animated features. It’s not like the major films that have to pander to everyone. Marvel took a gamble on giving everyone an origin story and if they didn’t luck out with Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark I’m not sure any of the last few years of success actually happen. Green Lantern tried to do the same thing, but Ryan Reynolds can only take you so far and unfortunately their were so many plot holes and other story issues that the most realistic looking live action take on the Green Lantern and Oa that I could have asked for got completely wasted.

Green Lantern done right

I have seen the Green Lantern movie that works though. Check out Green Lantern: First Flight, the animated feature that came to Blu-ray and DVD two years before the failure in theaters. It’s very similar in theme and hits a lot of the same notes. Hal Jordan gets the ring from a fallen Lantern and has to learn how to be a better man while the universe is in jeopardy and so on. Yet it does it so much better. First of all thanks to it being animated, most of it takes place in space, which is where he belongs. Second, Hal gets his training on the job throughout the entire movie instead of a five minute sequence followed by a bunch of crap. Third, instead of pacing it so poorly because they want to save Sinestro for a sequel, they throw the kitchen sink out there at once. The lack of limitations and big names make it so that there are just some things you can do with animation that you can’t attempt with a blockbuster movie. Want to see how a Wonder Woman movie should be made?  Go to WB Animation again. Don’t even get me started on Jonah Hex. The characters we know less about get their due, while the ones we already know (Superman/Batman) get spared of introductions and instead we get their best stories shown as we know and love them.

As far as films go this is the one area that DC clearly trumps Marvel. Marvel Animation does what they can, but it just isn’t on the same level as DC. They do a fair job, specifically with Hulk vs, but the overall quality and quantity just isn’t there. Eight films in six years, along with some poorly received anime just aren’t going to cut it. Not when DC has almost doubled their production and done so with such high quality. All this while making Justice League and Young Justice TV series that have critical acclaim as well.

DC has plenty of very good movies aside from the Dark Knight trilogy. They are just being shown on the wrong screen. Hell they even nailed it with The Flaming C!

San Diego Comic Con Recap

CON!!!!!

Yes boys and girls, it’s that time of year again. San Diego Comic Con. Unless you’re a bum, you know what Comic Con entails. Kick ass movies and TV shows being revealed to blow our minds, breath taking video games that will change our playing experiences forever, and yes, scantily clad women who know nothing about comic books showing up to try and become famous. I personally have to say, this was my favorite Comic Con in a while. I’m a sucker for funny shows, bad ass superhero movies, and shoot em’ up video games. So this suited all of my geek needs. Since this was such a huge event with so many things. I’m going to split up the Con into three categories; Movies, TV shows, and last but not least, Video Games. I’m going to showcase one thing from each category that stood out to me the most. So let’s dive into this thing.

I guess a good place to start would be movies. The only movie at the Con that really stood out to me this year was “The Man of Steel” set for release some time in 2013. This is a complete reboot of the old Christopher Reeve Superman films in a more modern tone. Producer Christopher Nolan of Batman/Inception fame tells us that this new film will deal with current events such as political unrest, War, and economic turmoil. I for one am completely pumped to see this newest installment in the iconic Superman franchise. While Superman isn’t my favorite Comic Book hero, I do love his story. After his planets death, an alien outcast must join our society. When called to duty, every day normal nerdy guy Clark Kent must put on the legendary red and blue spandex threads to battle evil in our world. From what Nolan has said about the picture, it’s really going to be about Clark finding himself among the humans of Earth. As for me, you can find me at the midnight release. P.S. I hear Russell Crowe is playing Superman’s dad, so that’ll be sweet!

I’m surprised this logo isn’t black, considering Chris Nolan’s involvement.

Guess the next logical thing to talk about would be TV shows. This section is going to be kind of short because I just want to touch on one subject. NBC’s comedy “Community”. The “Community” panel at Comic-Con introduces the viewers to showrunners David Guarascio and Moses. This has been confirmed to be the final season of Community, and I am personally sad to see it go. Being a college student, it’s funny to watch a bunch of adults pursue higher education. This show may not have had a huge viewer following, but its fans will remain faithful to it in its final season. That’s all I really have to say about that. Except, does anyone else smell a Community movie?

I’m gunna miss these guys!

Our third category is video games. MY FAVORITE! Since I pretty much summed up all of my top choices in my E3 coverage blog a little while back, I decided to cover a game that I forgot. The game is called “The Last of Us” being released exclusively for the PlayStation 3. This game is set in the post-apocalyptic eastern United States. The plot of the game is still under wraps, but developers have set the story follows two survivors of some sort of mass natural holocaust, as they make their way from Boston to Pittsburg. The game was developed by the “Uncharted” series creators, so you know were in for a treat.

Gotta love the post-apoco themes.

As for the women, there’s only one thing to be said. But I won’t say it here because were clean over at KMItv. So I leave you with this picture:

You’re Welcome.

Coming Soon! Monster Mania coverage! Stay Tuned!

“The Dark Knight Rises” Review

Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy comes to a close with The Dark Knight Rises, and while it may not surpass the masterpiece that was The Dark Knight, it is still a pretty fantastic movie and a fitting end to a memorable saga.

Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham is enjoying a state of peace due to the Dent Act as we find Bruce Wayne staying out of the public eye, retired as Batman and watching Wayne Industries endure money struggles. All of this begins to change of course as Bane comes in to restore his brand of order to Gotham, as well as break the Batman in both body and soul.

It’s that last part that sets the movie apart. Where Joker and Scarecrow and Two Face either wanted to kill Batman or drive him crazy, Bane is out to break his spirit. He is Batman’s physical superior and can not be taken down with any of the old tricks we’ve seen. At the same time he is cold and ruthless and most importantly smart, making Batman seem as weak as he has ever looked before. We get a very desperate Batman. Tom Hardy does a fantastic job making Bane every bit the badass he is supposed to be (once they fixed the voice issue) and makes it believable and emotional watching him strip Bruce Wayne of everything he knows and loves, which is where the “Rise” part of the movie kicks in. It is the theme of the movie and is taken both literally and figuratively, as each character has their own demons and challenges the must rise above. They lay this theme on very thick. Almost too much so.

Better than Batman and Robin

In this age of cinema you can’t increase the stakes and the scope (and the budget) without  increasing the number of characters too, and Nolan obliges with a number of additional characters. At the forefront is Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle, who is never referred to as Catwoman (good move), and does well in playing the anti-hero. She has good chemistry with Bale and is played very close to the Year One version of the character. Her acrobatics are sometimes a little too flashy and once you start getting her, Batman and Bane on screen at the same time it’s starts to get very comic book-ey. Not to ruin the final act for you, but it’s kind of like this. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does counter what Nolan had been working toward this whole time by grounding Batman into reality. This also applies to the heavily promoted “Bat” flying vehicle which, while it is awesome to see in action, takes reality to the limits.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard also do well as John Blake and Miranda Tate respectively, but the talk about their roles was never about how they would perform, but who they’re characters were supposed to be. ***SPOILER ALERT: To put it mildly all of the rumors we heard about them and the how the movie ends turn out to be true and if you know they are coming you see it from a mile away. However they wait as long as possible to actually confirm everything and do it in such a way that it doesn’t really matter that you know in the first place. A great job in dealing with such a difficult task.***

Make no mistake about it, this is definitely the end of the Bale/Nolan Batman saga and they tie a nice and neat bow on everything to make sure there is nowhere else to take it. Everything that is promised through the trailers and throughout the movie is delivered and done so in spectacular fashion. The movie takes the trilogy full circle, taking you through very similar progressions and set pieces as Batman Begins. The difference is that it does all of these much bigger, and in some cases better. No, this isn’t as good as The Dark Knight, but it is an intense movie with huge set pieces that keeps you on your toes from beginning to end and puts a fine cap on the mother of all blockbuster comic book trilogies.

The Amazing Spider-Man Video Game Review

If you liked Batman: Arkham City, it will be hard for you not to at least like The Amazing Spider-Man game a little.

After Beenox produced a pair of more linear Spidey games with Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time, they put the wall crawler back into an open world with the the movie tie-in to The Amazing Spider-Man (which you can read more about here). The game picks up right where the movie left off, and considering that it came out before the movie did, it was quite spoiler filled.

Essentially Oscorp is trying to recover after all of the bad press they got with Curt Connors turning into a Lizard, and they are eliminating all of his research and moving on to nano technology. Then wouldn’t you know it, all hell breaks loose and the city is running rampant with mixed species monsters and psycho robots out to hunt the monsters, and both parties have it in for our red and blue hero. It’s not Shakespeare, but it is enough to keep you going through the game.

Like I said before, this game goes back to what people loved most about the older Spider-Man movie games, specifically Spider-Man 2, and that’s open world web slinging through Manhattan. Like the games before it, this is where the most fun is to be had. Physics kind of take a back seat as you can throw a web in the air and latch on to something no matter how high you are, and soar through the city. There are plenty of side missions and mini games to do, and while they can get repetitive after a while, it’s still fun to just get to all the points on the map via jumping and swinging through the city. There are also collectables to find throughout the game, but for me the best by far are comic book pages. Scattered around the game are pages of comic books. 500 in all. For every 20 or so pages you collect you get access to an old Spider-Man comic. The full issue. They range from Spidey’s first appearance to the first time he encountered Rhyno and so on. I find myself completely ignoring the missions and just looking for more pages.

The game works best when the action is kept outside

Speaking of the missions, this is probably where the game suffers most. They are very straight forward, and also very easy. Half of the stages turn into beat ’em up sessions while the others are stealth based. Sound familiar? Both tactics are almost identical to Arkham City. There are stealth take downs from above and enemies that are equally aloof. The combat system is exactly the same. Hit the attack button to build combos, web shooters act as batarangs to stun enemies, and your spidey-sense kicks in for dodging much like the caped crusader (although I think we can all agree RockSteady took that from Spider-Man first). That’s all fine and still fun, but it is just too easy. First off the game really spoon feeds you everything. It will tell you when to use your web, when to attack, when to stop, everything. There are bosses that I beat using just the attack button. I didn’t realize he was the final boss of the level until the end. In a word, it’s anticlimactic. I recommend using the hardest difficulty setting if you want any challenge at all. The other problem with most of these levels is that it sticks Spider-Man inside, away from where the game is at it’s best. Not enough of the game is in the open world, which is a shame.

The Amazing Spider-Man game also lifts Arkham City’s navigation and upgrade system among other things. You have physical and tech upgrades that you earn points toward individually. The map is in the same style, with locations marked off to continue the story, then side missions marked in other areas. There are random muggings to stop as well. Snipers on the rooftops. Audio logs to find through out the game. I can go on and on. I know Arkham City didn’t invent any of these ideas, and they are all used in some fashion in most games, but it looks so similar and works in such a way that it has to be mentioned.

Graphically the game is a mixed bag. Spider-Man looks great, and when you are running around the city does too. The major New York land marks are there, with comic spots like the Daily Bugle and Oscorp tower thrown in as well. However when you look too closely you see how it is a little dated. Again, this is a movie tie-in so I can’t expect too much, but it is just one more thing that holds this title back.

Despite it’s shortcomings, The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun game to play. Much like the movie, this game brings Spider-Man back to his roots and mostly succeeds in spite of it’s flaws. If you aren’t a comic book fan it’s worth at least a rental. If are a comic book nerd like myself, it’s worth your money just for the comic books you can collect. You’ll spend more than enough time after finishing the main story looking for all of the comic pages in New York City.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” Review

Be prepared true believers, The Amazing Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man film to date, and might even be better than The Avengers. Yeah, you read that right.

Not everyone was exactly anticipating it like the Marvel string of movies or especially The Dark Knight Rises, but the reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise is here and it is superior to the old model in virtually every way. You just have to kind of forget the old model exists to fully appreciate it.

I would normally say something about spoilers here, but if you saw any of the Sam Raimi movies or read any Spider-Man comics in the last 50 years, you pretty much know exactly what to expect here. Peter Parker is a dork who gets bit by a radioactive spider, gets powers, learns responsibility and everything else you know. The early stages of the movie can almost be swapped frame for frame with the previous series. Parker gets denied by women, Flash Thompson is a jerk, Peter embarrasses Flash in school, Ben Parker teaches life lessons about responsibility just before dying in a way that Peter could have inadvertently prevented (c’mon you had to know that was coming, right?). On the surface there is very little new. This is inevitable considering we know the characters and the story so well. However when looking closer, you’ll realize that the reboot handles all of these things a lot better.

Flash Thompson has more depth than just being a one note bully. Uncle Ben and Aunt may are much more detailed that before. Ben doesn’t just spew out one liners about being a good person. It comes out more organically. When Peter starts to develop his costume you see the transition from ski mask to the full suit. It makes it become almost believable that it could exist.

Then there is the new. Where we all scoffed at the tagline about “the untold story,” The Amazing Spider-Man does look deeper into Peter’s parent’s, who are scientists who knew too much about whatever it is they knew. The science background lends itself to make Peter the genius that we know from the comics, providing another difference from the trilogy. This reboot is much more faithful to the comics than anything before it. Peter is able to develop the web-shooters on his own, just like in the comics. The background of his father combined with some good timing make it seems much less impossible when he figures out all of the things he pulls off. The photography is there, but just as a hobby instead of going straight to the Daily Bugle. Why doesn’t he go there? Because he’s in high school! Where he belongs!

The other two main differences in the reboot are that he is in high school for the entire film, and Mary Jane Watson is nowhere to be seen. Again staying true to the comics, the love interest in this film is Gwen Stacey. Peter’s first love. This is important as to have one less thing to directly compare to the original films. The other thing it does is let the characters have some fun. Where things got awfully dramatic for Spider-Man the first time around, this time he is a lot more fun loving, and a lot of it has to do with Andrew Garfield.

Where Maguire looked like Peter Parker right off the page of the comics, Andrew Garfield shows much more of Parker’s personality, while still maintaining that look. Not that it was all his fault, but Maguire’s Parker was more of a nerdy man. He wasn’t specifically clever, just corny. Garfield is legitimately funny and interesting as Peter, and is pretty noble and cool well before he ever gets bitten by a spider. Being a high school student definitely helps as it let’s Peter just be an awkward teenager. The only critique I have is that Peter comes off as a bit of a horn-dog. Like I’m talking creepy at times. I can give him a bit of a pass though since he’s supposed to be a teenager, and he’s creeping on a Gwen Stacy being played by Emma Stone. Even Uncle Ben agrees she’s a looker. Stone plays a solid Stacy. Her and Garfield have good chemistry together and work the high school relationship tension as well as they can. I think we are at the end of the rope though for Emma Stone playing a 17 year old girl. I don’t care how good of an actress you are, you can’t make me believe you’re not legal with those stockings young lady. Martin Sheen and Sally Field due Uncle Ben and Aunt May justice as well. As I said before, both characters have more depth than they previously did. May is much less fragile this time around, and Ben can handle himself too. Someone finally realized that they are Peter’s aunt and uncle, not his grandparents.

Of course what superhero movie is complete without a villain. To keep things fresh we have the Lizard, who had been teased throughout the Sam Raimi movies. He, more than any other character, follows the same path as the previous movies. Like every Spider-Man movie villain before him, Lizard is a sympathetic character who chooses the wrong path in pursuit of success. There isn’t much to the Lizard, who isn’t exactly at the top of Spidey’s rogues gallery, but he also doesn’t overshadow Spider-Man, who is the real star here. His alter-ego, Dr. Curt Connors, is played by Rhys Ifans. Ifans essentially takes the place of Norman Osborn in the first film (for now). Connors becomes a father figure to Peter, which creates drama on both sides when they have to fight each other. There isn’t much too him, but he does enough to move everything along and give Spider-Man someone to fight.

That is where The Amazing Spider-Man separates itself from movies like Iron Man. Tony Stark had a very engaging introduction to his character, but he never really had a challenge on his hands. Here, Spider-Man has some great fight scenes with the Lizard, and the action comes off looking really well in 3D. Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man spends a little too much time retelling a story we have already seen several times before, but they have enough additions and revisions to put this among the best movies (not just superhero movies) of the summer.

Every Batman Comic is the Same – Why Doesn’t It Matter?

I just finished reading the newest of “Batman” and like the previous 5 issues before it, is top notch. The entire story arc has shown Batman at his most vulnerable, most insane and most beaten, yet somehow he fights through and wins anyway just because he can’t allow himself to ever fail at anything.

That is all fine and good, however isn’t that like almost every other Batman story (and most other comics while we’re at it)?  Batman had his back broken by Bane. Came back and beat him. He’s been drugged an left for dead by the Black Glove. Nothing a mind trip to bring out the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh can’t fix. He’s even come back from the past after being blown away by Darkseid. I recently reread an old comic that I had found. “Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight” #34 from 1992. It’s the concluding issue to a story where Batman has become increasingly ill and weak while in pursuit of a criminal. Alfred tries to get him to rest. Batman’s mind keeps moving as he dreams about his parents being killed and he is eventually able to overcome his physical issues to defeat the bad guy. Sound familiar? Check out this except from that now 20 year old issue:

I'm so defeated right now

“Can’t think about how I feel. Focus…my vision doubling…blurring…can’t let it — Can’t think about — Have to move. Move”

Now here is a section from “Batman” #6 that came out Wednesday:

“No…no strength left. Blood f-filling the wrong…all the wrong places. Whole body…every bone…saying let go. Let go…and let them take you. Let it end. The pain. The fight. Become a ghost, a face behind the glass. A face…his face…Alan Wayne. His face…so scared. Begging…calling out for someone. Someone to help him…to help him stop…them. Enough. ENOUGH!”

While the writing is certainly a bit more detailed, the theme remains the same. Somewhere in every Batman comic you will find something to the extent of “So much pain…can’t breath…can’t move. Have to move. Good, I’m moving” followed by Batman then beating the tar out of whoever pummeled him in the first place. It’s the comic book version of Hulk Hogan “Hulking up” and no selling at the end of every match to win. Now I’m not trying to pick out a flaw with Batman here. Like I said before, pretty much every comic book, and when you think about it every action movie as well, hits the same point. Hero gets damaged seemingly beyond repair, yet fights the odds to succeed anyway. Heard it a million times. What I am asking though is why doesn’t it matter with Batman? Other comics go through similar motions yet the quality waivers. Daredevil and Spider-Man for example go through periods of pour reviews only to return to our good graces without changing too much of the general tone. Every Batman issue isn’t considered a masterpiece, but they do seem to be held above anyone else.

Sweet! I can totally move again!

You could say the writing and production is just better. It would certainly make sense that the biggest brand would get the best staff to work on it so naturally the final product is better. If that is it then DC must really hate Superman. You can also argue that since he has no powers he is more relatable to the readers. Wouldn’t that make Punisher more popular too? A case could also be made that Batman’s rogues gallery add something different than any other book. Each villain attacks him from a different angle. Sure they all attack him physically, but Joker goes after his sanity, Scarecrow goes after his fears, Two-Face on his own duality and so on. The Court of Owls now moves in on what he thought he knew about his family and city, taking away his security. It’s never a question of can Batman beat someone in a fight. It’s usually more about dealing with the stress each battle puts on his mind. Is there a villain Wolverine has faced that doesn’t want to just punch him in the face?

I like to think that that’s the reason Batman is different. But at this point it could just be because he’s Batman, and we know him. By now we’ve had 8 movies, a ton of TV shows, and countless epic comic book adventures. We know what Batman is about. As long as the new books continue with the formula of him being smarter, tougher and better than everyone else at everything, will any of us complain? Maybe Batman gets away with repeating same formula because he did it first, and he did it best. It may not be much of an answer, but maybe we keep buying the same stories over an over just because he’s the goddamn Batman.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” Preview

***UPDATE: See the new trailer here***

Today I attended a special preview of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” the reboot to the Spider-Man franchise that is due out on July 3rd. Right off the bat let me tell you that the early impressions were very good.

The main tag line that they are running with is “The untold story begins.” Is it me or is this kind of funny considering it’s a reboot, which would technically mean that it’s a RE-telling. Anyway we were first shown a new theatrical trailer in 3-D. Any worries about the costume based on stills can be put aside. While there are some differences, once Spidey is in action, you can barely tell the difference. It’s Spider-Man in all his glory. It is darker, but definitely not the “Dark Knight” type of dark. We also got a full look at the Lizard. Aside from being totally naked, there isn’t a whole lot to complain about here. He is definitely larger than Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). Perhaps twice as big. Based on everything I’ve seen they could be going the same route as “Batman Begins” and “Iron Man,” where the movie is more about the journey to becoming a hero, not necessarily the big villain. There may be only one big fight with the Lizard, as Dr. Conners (Rhys Ifans) would progress to his full form just as Peter Parker learns what being a hero means (or something).

Believe it or not, this works

After watching the 3-D trailer we were treated to some unfinished scenes from the movie. Basically these were all extended scenes from what we saw in the trailer. It opened with Flash Thompson bullying a kid while trying to get Peter Parker (a school photographer) to take a picture of it. He refuses, and gets beat up by Flash for it. This Peter is definitely more bold and less of a dork than the previous model. He’s also not a complete weakling. Reboot Parker is essentially an average awkward teenager. We then saw Peter fighting back (possibly after his spider incident) and needing Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) to come get him from school. Uncle Ben appears to play a much larger part in this movie than any of the previous ones. It’s possible he could even make it to the end (to get killed off in a sequel). Let me also add that it’s really nice to see an Aunt May (Sally Field) that isn’t 103 for a change. This scene ended with Parker asking Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) out on a date “or whatever.” Garfield is 28 and Stone is 24, but they definitely play the awkward high school roles well here. It’s adolescence at it’s most painful.

Next Parker discovers his dad’s old briefcase in the attic. It turns out Peter’s dad was a scientist who worked with Dr. Conners at, wait for it, OSCORP (cue Green Goblin for the sequel). This prompts Peter to go to Oscorp in an attempt to learn more about his father from Dr. Conners. It is in this facility that Peter stumbles into an questionable area and gets bit by a radioactive spider (but you knew that already didn’t you?). Revealing his father to be a scientist gives at least some explanation to how high school Peter is able to solve an equation that all the Oscorp staff couldn’t, and how he is able to make web shooters on his own. It turns out the equation Parker solves plays a large part in turning Conners into the Lizard, as Parker later says that he created this mess and he has to clean it up.

Now more than just a plot device?

Don’t worry, there was plenty of Spider-Man action as well. Peter begins to notice his powers at home, crushing his alarm clock and pulling all of the fixtures out in the bathroom (think bathroom scene in “Wolverine” (actually wait, never think of “Wolverine”)). Parker then experiments with his leaping abilities at a construction site, eventually deciding to make web shooters when he sees a spider using webs. No reason is given at this point for why he decides to fight crime, but what we do get is pretty awesome. Where Tobey Maguire Spidey is mostly all business in fight scenes, reboot Spidey is definitely more of a wise ass. He does a lot of toying with the thug he takes out, not having the same rage as the old version. He’s also just more clever in general. We see glimpses of this early on when Flash is beating him up, but with his powers and the mask on he takes a whole new personality. Reminded me a little bit of Deadpool (only a little).

There is also a scene where Peter goes to Gwen’s house for dinner, with her father George Stacy (Dennis Leary), a police captain who is out to apprehend Spider-Man. It is a much different tone than the J. Jonah Jameson character as Stacy has legit reasoning behind wanting to stop Spider-Man (a masked vigilante), while Jameson was only out to sell papers. It displays a lot of what George’s character is about, and leads to another scene where the police surround Spider-Man, and even unmask him, before he breaks lose and presumably gets away without his face being seen.

Things wrapped up with some footage of the Lizard and Spider-Man in action. A little bit in the sewers, a little bit on a bridge where it looked like Lizard was flinging cars off the bridge for Spider-Man to have to catch. All classic Spidey action. Overall I think the movie is definitely going in the right direction. It will be a true origin story and will certainly be more accurate to the comics than Sam Raimi’s version. Now a lot of the changes Raimi made made sense in the movie and Marc Webb’s reboot has a lot to live up to. Whether a more accurate take translates better to film or not is still anyones guess, but this early look gives me a lot of hope.