Uncollected Thoughts: Batman vs Superman – Dawn of Justice


He’s not in this one, but you sure wish he was.

I spent most of the Easter weekend avoiding specific spoilers for this film, but I’d have needed to lock myself in a monastic cell to have avoided picking up the impression that the general reaction to Batman vs Superman – Dawn of Justice was that it was dull, overlong, tedious and an incomprehensible piece of crap.

Never let consensus, or the critics, get in the way of you enjoying a film, so I took Easter Monday afternoon out to watch it (in 3D, natch) at Grand Central, Stockport. And my take on the film is that it is dull, overlong, tedious and an incomprehensible piece of crap.

This from a comics geek who has known these characters for a lifetime, who is a DC fan who desperately wants to see his age-old favourites soar on film the way that Marvel’s lot do. I confess that I was bored after thirty minutes of this two-and-a-half hour long film, yes, bored, complete lack of interest in the story, would have switched it off had I been sat at home and gone and done something more interesting instead: the pots need washing, for one thing.

What makes this film suck so? There are several factors: in no particular order it’s the acting, the direction, the dialogue, the story: no, it’s unfair to drag the story in on this, since there was none, just a never-ending succession of scenes with no logical succession, interplay or sense of cohesion, no more so than in the ending, which never came because the film didn’t have one, and kept coming up with more and dumber scenes to try and hide the fact that it had no idea, not one, about how to stop without the actors having to band together and back off-set, shuffling their feet and whistling to conceal the absence of an end-line, like a sketch in a Spike Milligan Q series, except that he was making a deliberate point.

Let’s try to make some sense of this, though if I do, it’s more than Director Zack Snyder ever tried. His is the bold, dominant supervening vision for the entire DC Cinematic Universe, which suggests the whole of it is going to be shitty, dark, uninspired splodge.

The story is as I said: no story at all, just a collection of scenes in some form of sequence, but without connection or progression. It starts during an extended sequence set in Man of Steel, which I did not watch, where Bruce Wayne goes tearing around Metropolis, trying unsuccessfully to rescue his employees from the Wayne Building. This makes him very much not-friends with Superman, who he leaves alone for  eighteen months because he’s so concerned about the danger a Kryptonian could be to the world.

Then he decides to go after him by stealing the kryptonite that Lex Luthor intends to use against Superman, and for exactly the same reason. It takes forever to get to in the film, and when it finally happens, long after the point when it was getting hard to take how this thing was being dragged out by jerky shit and stupid dream sequences, Batman whups Superman’s kryptonite-weakened ass and is all set to stab him through the heart when – and everybody has pointed out just how risible this is so I won’t go on about it – Supes happens to mention that his mother is called Martha.

Batman staggers back in shock. “That was my mother’s name” he cries, a la Rupert Holmes in the deliberately silly song, ‘Our National Pastime’ and just like that they’re pals and best buddies.

Which is when Luthor scares up a Kryptonian monster out of nothing and Snyder, having made a ham-fisted attempt to do ‘The Dark Knight’, now crosses over into a ludicrously inept retread of the ‘Death of Superman’. Wonder Woman appears out of nowhere to help take down the bad guy, but it doesn’t stop Superman getting killed (though with Henry Cavill’s ‘acting’, who can possibly tell?)

That’s about as much logical sense as the movie contains, to be frank. Superman’s death is the cue for Batman to enlist Wonder Woman in putting together the future Justice League: because he has ‘a feeling’. It’s going to be an utter disaster, I know it.

It’s a sludgy, horribly slow film with no narrative direction, it’s murky in nearly ever scene and the CGI is so OTT that in any vaguely realistic estimate, there should be no more than about 4% of Metropolis and Gotham collectively left with one brick on top of the other.

Cavill is a bust as Superman and Clark Kent. He can’t act: neither character has any life in him and Superman’s habit of just standing there, letting destruction go on around him until he feels he’s given his pose enough burn time is stupid. Gal Gadot does an efficient job as Wonder Woman in the climactic fight but everywhere else is wooden and artificial. Jesse Eisenberg, as Luthor, is no Luthor I ever saw in my lifetime, and I will need to do a hell of a lot of work to remove that performance from my memory: it was the single biggest idiocy in the film and believe me, that’s saying a lot.

In contrast, Ben Affleck gave a perfectly good performance as Bruce Wayne. I was less impressed with him as Batman, but then Batman was an old car crash and the costume was nearly as bad as Adam West’s.

I refused to watch Man of Steel three years ago, for what seemed to me to be very good reasons, and the same reasons applied to this film. To paraphrase what I paraphrased then, characters like Superman and Batman have been around for decades. They have been interpreted in many different ways as the world develops about them, ways that are mutually contradictory in multiple ways. We each of us, mostly unconsciously, pick out certain aspects of the characters that form our acceptance of them, a core that we us to decide if a performance ‘is’ or ‘is not’ Superman.

‘My’ Superman does not kill, deliberately. He is too conscious of the extent of his powers and he eternally believes that there is a better way, to win without killing. That’s why I didn’t watch Man of Steel.

When it comes to this film, ‘my’ Batman doesn’t kill either, especially not indiscriminately, and he does NOT pick up guns. And ‘my’ Alfred never – never, never, never – appears unshaven. And no Lex Luthor under the sun behaves like this one.

Put it all together, the film sucked. For once, the critics who turned up their noses and sniffed got it dead right. I’m one of us, I’m on the inside, these films speak my language, I get them, I’m not missing the point. And I thought it was shite, it was a waste of my money and of the hours I have remaining to me, and if Zack Snyder is to stay in charge of the DC Cinematic Universe, if this is what it’s going to be like, then every one of them lined up to come, all down the line, are going to be wastelands, disasters, horrendous mistakes.

I will never again, except under the most strict of duress, not even with a promise of extraordinary sexual reward, watch this heap of crap again.

The Fall Season: Gotham 2


It wasn’t.

Well, I’ve can’t remember when I last saw a show fall that far down a cliff so quickly.

‘The Fall Season’  wasn’t intended to be a weekly blog of every American show I watch this season, but the way that Gotham through everything off the bus this week demands a comment, even if it’s only that I’m now one episode away from dropping this show.

We are no longer a Police Procedural with Gothic elements. We are a cartoon with extensive use of fake blood and a serious uplift on the OTT dial. Enter the Maniaxx, which is the name of the new team of villains broken out of Arkham last week by new smoothie rich guy whose name I’ve already forgotten. Smoothie Rich Guy has kidnapped the Mayor and is keeping him prisoner with a leather-bound box on his head in Scene 1, threatening him with death or disappearance.

Scene two features the Maniaxx throwing strait-jacketed bodies off a roof so that they all land in a neat little line, unsquashed by their fall (though still deadly dead) so that the spray-painted letters on their torsos read, neatly spaced, ‘Maniax!’

I don’t know where we are, Toto, but this is not last season’s ‘Gotham’.

Now it may be popular, and it may be good, in its own, high-voltage crazy-shit psycho Batman villain, New 52 style, but the disconnect is too abrupt. Before the issue is out, Young Master Bruce has sacked Alfred and reinstated him (making the whole division feel pointless), the One-Who’s-Going-To-Be-The-Joker has killed two of the other Maniaxx, and the whole of GCPD has been slaughtered, except for Jim Gordon, Lee Tompkins and the future Riddler and his retro-fashion squeeze, Miss Kringle.

The newly-installed Commissioner Essen however bites it, a la Barbara Gordon/Killing Joke.

Basically, it’s saying that every single idea the producers had about Gotham was crap, and we’re going to not merely switch horses in mid-stream, we’re moving to an entirely different river, and you’d better leave the vestiges of sense behind.

Actually, I don’t think I’ll bother with that one more episode: I’ve bailed. Can’t stand any more of that laughing.

The Fall Season: Gotham


The first out of the block for the superhero series, Gotham has shifted a few cast members around and re-tooled itself for season 2 with a sub-title: Rise of the Villains.

For those not in the know, Gotham is the Batman-before-the-Batman series, beginning with the street murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, which more or less neatly coincided with the arrival in Gotham City of the idealistic, fanatically honest Detective James Gordon. Over the seasons, we will see Gotham develop into the kind of town the Batman will need to clean up.

Season 1 was always the marginal one amongst my featured series, capable of some interesting elements, especially Robin Lord Taylor’s magnificent performance as the nascent Penguin, and some real crass stupidities (anything Jada Pinkett Smith was involved in). I always found it extremely questionable to give so much time to young Bruce Wayne, if this was to be the Batman-less years.

So, season 2. As you might expect, this was something of a scrappy, rearrange the furniture effort. Pinkett Smith’s gone, leaving the scenery relatively safe from chewing, as is John Doman as the magisterial Don Carmine Falcone. Also gone are the two least relevant cast members who were so well woven into the story that they disappeared completely in the back half of the season.

Morena Baccarin gets promoted into cast as Gordon’s new girlfriend, Lesley (Lee) Thompkins and James Frain and Jessica Lucas come on board as evil masterminds building a super-villains team out of nutters broken out of Arkham Asylum. In what may or may not prove to be a good idea, these included Gordon’s ex-fiancee, Barbara, played by Erin Richards.

To be honest, my ability to take this in was severely hampered by a mis-aligned sound track, with the dialogue and sound effects arriving a good four seconds ahead of the visuals, but it left me a bit cold. Gordon was demoted to traffic cop, kicked off the force (Bullock has already quit, to become a bartender and sober person) but got back thanks to a Deal with the Devil with Penguin that has already seen him kill a man (a gang boss, to be sure, but still…)

And Bruce took the entire episode to discover the Batcave beneath stately Wayne Manor, last season’s least baffling cliffhanger.

If there’s any of the returning shows I can see myself giving up on, Gotham‘s the favourite. For now, let’s see what develops and how quickly they can get Erin Richards showing off her legs again.

Uncollected Thoughts: Gotham


There’s getting to be a lot of comic-book based shows on TV all of a sudden, and it’s interesting to see that Channel Five have taken up the two newest, taking a gamble on both The Flash and Gotham. I’ve already given my opinion on the former, which has yet to start in the UK, but Gotham‘s already made a heady start, pulling down an audience that exceeded Channel Four and BBC2.

Of course, the one word reason for Gotham‘s pulling power is, ironically, the one word that will never ever be spoken on the series (not unless they do something incredibly stupid, that is), and that word is *Batman*. Because the point of Gotham is that it’s not about Batman. It’s about the city that creates him, about the years that lead to his first appearance, about the slow disintegration of the city to where it needs Batman, and about the Police and villains as they slowly grow or deteriorate into the people who populate Batman’s world.

Which makes Gotham pretty much a Police-procedural, albeit it with a difference. And instead of Bruce Wayne being at the heart of it, the centre is – and had better remain if this is going to work at all – Commissioner Gordon. Or, as he currently is, newly-promoted, new-to-Gotham Detective James Gordon.

Before watching the pilot episode, I did read one or two responses, one of which pretty much nailed to the wall the total absence of Batman as the over-riding weakness in the concept. Certainly, a lot of the comments I’ve read on the actual episode do ring with the disappointment of it not being about the Caped Crusader, even though that’s the whole point.

However, watching it for myself, I’m certainly ready to give it a few weeks’ extra chances, my main reason being Ben McKenzie’s determined and direct performance as Jim Gordon, which I enjoyed. The episode – which begins with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and the orphaning of their twelve year old son Bruce – throws a hell of a lot in, too much to be honest, mostly aimed at giving the naive and honest Gordon an idea of where Gotham stands and what he and the audience has to expect.

Basically: the Waynes get murdered and Gordon, and his senior partner and potentially corrupt guide to hell, Harvey Bullock, catch the case. When it goes nowhere, Bullock enlists the aid of rising gangboss Fish Mooney who sets up a patsy. This set-up is leaked to Major Crimes Detectives Montoya and Allen by Fish’s underling, Oswald Cobblepot. When Gordon learns of this, he insists on challenging Fish, who has him and Bullock set-up for a grisly death that is only halted by Carmine Falcone, the crimeboss of Gotham. Falcone wants Gordon in the ‘programme’: he can live provided he executes Cobblepot. Gordon is smart enough to make it look like he does so whilst letting Cobblepot live.

So far, so(deliberately) unspectacular, but promising. The tone is set, the challenge laid down, Gordon’s path shown to be incredibly difficult to walk. The fun, we hope, will be in watching him walk it.

Where the episode was OTT was in its rush to throw in as many future supervillains as it could, at least a decade before Bruce Wayne can possibly become that person we’re not going to mention but can’t stop thinking about. Oswald Cobblepot is already being called the Penguin by Fish and her thugs. And coronor Edward Nygma, with his fetish for riddles, is too blatant. A young street/rooftop woman thief doesn’t even have to speak for us to know her as the future Catwoman, and the nervous stand-up comedian is apparently just the first of mny hints as to who might become the Joker.

That’s where I feel Gotham is betraying a serious weakness. As long as they don’t go too overboard with the city-crying-out-for-someone-to-save-it stuff, making the absence of Batman into too much of a theme, this can work. But if Batman truly can’t arrive for, say, another decade, then it seems very short-sighted to be setting up major villains with their key characteristics so fast.

How Gotham intends to deal with time, I don’t yet know. As we’ve already got a 12 year old actor playing the 12 year old Bruce Wayne, I assume each season will represent a year. That’s why Walt had to be written out of Lost: because show-time was so incredibly slow in comparison to child-actor-growing-up-and-I-do-mean-up! time. To accommodate David Mazouz,something of that sort will be required.

It’ll also be interesting to see the core audience react to Gotham packing in Batman supporting characters whilst not being strictly faithful to their roles in the comics. Especially Alfred.

Basicaly, though, I enjoyed it and thought it has potential. If I change my mind, I’m sure I’ll let you know.