Tuesday, 30 August 2016


Alright, so you all know I do this as a hobby to talk about stuff that interests me. I also want to expand and get more content out to all of you. And so I shall! An opportunity has come up and I have thrown my hat in to be a blog contributor over at HeroMachine. What is HeroMachine, you ask? Only an amazing resource for creating your very own characters and artworks! Once you get a feel for the program, you can do literally anything you want, with a little bit of imagination. Don't believe me, look at some of my own pieces. 

Here are some of my first pics with HM3:

  See the this picture above? It's the third pic in my HM folder. I redid her a earlier this summer:

 And a couple other recent works:

 And if you head over to the site itself, you'll see people that blow me out of the water. It's truly a remarkable program and resource for anyone wanting to make art! I have been using this program since HeroMachine 1, but didn't get involved in the community until the most recent version (HeroMachine 3).  And found a friendly, welcoming group whose awesomeness is only matched by their ridiculous talent. So after thinking about it, I wanted to give back to the HM community, and so I'll be starting weekly (at least to start, and hopefully more) posts over there that I will cross-post here (that being said, head on over say hi, and support the 'Machine!). So hopefully you'll be seeing a lot more of me. I'll still be doing movie reviews for big releases, but lots of other stuff as well. I just put up an editorial on R-ratings in comic movies, and coming up are reviews for the new Sabaton album, first impressions of Fallout 4's Nuka World, and much more! So stay tuned, and tell me if there's anything you want to see me cover! Looking for serious and silly subjects, just to keep things interesting. Want me to talk about the slow progress towards more female characters in comic films? Want me to bare my ridiculous unpopular opinions and talk about all the bad movies I love? Let me know!   

As always, 

The Scholar 

Rise of the R Rating

            For comic book films as they exist now; in a world of extended, expanded, and shared universes, one ceiling had yet to be truly broken through. The R-rating. That all changed with the release of Deadpool earlier this year. This is not to say that Deadpool was the first to garner this rating, as films such as the Punisher and Blade films, Sin City, and 300 had all earned that rating in the past. But Deadpool was the first to truly take it to the mainstream and to make it cool. Now studios are clamoring to take advantage of that success and to push out their own films in that style. While I applaud this, I really think we should exercise caution going forward. 

                The world, post-Deadpool, has presented us with a double-edged sword in the making of comic book and superhero movies. On one hand, there is a breath of new life and diversity into the genre at a time when superhero fatigue is becoming an ever-increasing possibility (although other types of diversity are still something that needs work, but that’s another discussion). It opens up new storylines and characters that would otherwise be impossible without severe alterations to the source material. There are two excellent examples of this; one that is being made, and one that I would love to see be made in the future. The one that is in production is Wolverine 3, which is using the Old Man Logan story. Doing that PG-13 would be like making Mad Max PG-13. It would result in losing much of the tone of the world and of the story, watering down the brutality integral to the setting. In this case, you would lose a lot of what makes that story feel the way it does, and what it makes you feel to watch or read it. The one I would love to see get made with an R-rating is a standalone Batman film using the storyline of Death in the Family. In the DCEU, you don’t want to see how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. We all know how that happens already. What we should see instead is how he becomes this Batman, and that could all relate back to that Robin costume in the Batcave. This is a perfect story to address it and that can be successful with an R-rating while also utilizing the dark tone the DCEU has cultivated so far. Win-win, and at the very least opens the door for Jason Todd/Red Hood later on, if not a full-on expansion of the Bat Family.

                There is of course a second side to this: while the option is nice, not all stories and films need that R-rating. This is something we should be careful not to lose sight of for the sake of being edgy and/or trendy. PG-13 (or less) superheroes can still exist and be every bit as powerful and fascinating as those rated higher. There are two excellent examples of that. The first is a PG-13 spy thriller that was not only one of the best superhero movies ever, but a legitimately excellent and excellently-made movie that raised the bar across the genre. I refer of course, to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In fact, the three Captain America films are some of the best not only of the MCU, but of the genre as a whole. They have smart action but also humanize the characters and make them far more interesting as people than they are often portrayed. I cannot think of what would legitimately be gained from tweaking them into an R-rating. Especially after the extended version of Batman vs. Superman, which added runtime but almost nothing to the story, and the R-rating added even less. This leads me to my other example, which is also probably the best incarnation of its property: Batman: The Animated Series. This was a show for children, a cartoon about as far from an R-rating as it gets. And yet it was everything that the DCEU is striving for: dark, compelling, excellently acted, mature, and sophisticated in its storytelling far beyond what one would expect. The emotion and gravitas of the plots are much more evident as an adult, and yet it still appeals to kids even today. 

                In summation, the rise of the R rating in modern comic book movies is a momentous occasion. In giving greater acceptance to this higher rating, we open the door to ideas that would have been scoffed at or heavily edited and watered down before. We can now take a greater look at themes and ideas too ‘mature’ to fit into the PG-13 world of current cinematic universes (although not Netflix series!) and dissect them in greater depth. What a time to be alive, right? But as we celebrate this accomplishment, we should not discard all that came before, should not toss away all that can still be done within the framework that has already been created. Not every character can or needs to fit into an R-rated world, and that’s okay. That’s what makes these stories so great, that they can exist on multiple levels and are accessible across all ages. And we should take care not to forget that. 

                So what do you guys think? Do you feel that there are superheroes/comic book characters that should only exist in a more mature setting? Are there ones that definitely should not? What kinds of R-rated comic films would you like to see? Let me know what you think! 


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Suicide Squad SPOILER Review

So, here we are once again. A new DC film hit theaters, and so did we. Today we're going to talk Suicide Squad. To be honest, this wasn't one that I was really anticipating. I planned to see it, but I wasn't terribly excited for it. The first trailer for had seemed pretty cool, but everything after that had appealed to me less and less. So I didn't really go in to this one with too many expectations. I figured it would be something similar, story-wise to 2014's Assault on Arkham and left it at that.

And.... it was okay. I had fun with it, which is more than I can say for the last DCEU film I went to the theaters for. In fact, the first thing I wrote in my notes was (and I quote) 'the tone is already less depressing lol'. The film actually starts with a nod to the end of Batman vs. Superman* and the events of that film lead right into this one with a seamlessness that surprised me. So definite points there. In fact, that opener, and the mid-credits stinger between Amanda Waller and Bruce Wayne were handled with a deftness I was up to this point not sure the DCEU was capable of. Even cameos from the Flash and Batman were organic and related to the story, not dumped on you as exposition. That is not the say the movie was free from such a thing. Far from that, in fact. The whole first twenty minutes or so is one loud, colorful explosion of exposition laying out each character and what their powers are as Waller tries to get approval for her plan.
Literally this
  For each introduction, a different song was used that would illustrate the character's personality. The film, and especially the first part, is peppered with various songs. While I liked this in the sense that each one was 'personalized' for the character it introduced, and the fact that it started off with a strong classic rock vibe, it was jarring, especially as the movie progressed and it no longer fit as well. For the introductions, I liked it, but otherwise it was too much of a distraction. And the vomiting of exposition to get you up to speed on each character was enough on it's own, even without a cartoon feel more akin to that of The Ultimate Spider-Man.

Once we got into the story, it was pretty much what I expected: team assembled to do job, team hates situation and each other, shit happens, teams pulls together, team saves day. I don't really have much to say about the plot, to be honest. It was more or less straightforward and nothing terribly unexpected. Really, when it comes down to it, you aren't here for the plot, you're here for the characters because they are the interesting part. Or they're supposed to be, at least. So let's dive into the characters.

Deadshot- In my notes, I have written a few times things like 'is that the old Will Smith?' and 'welcome back, Will Smith!'. Because, for the first time in a long time, it felt like we were getting that guy back. Remember back in the days of Independence Day, Men in Black, and even the much-maligned Wild, Wild West? Back to the days of the cocky, snappy-one-liner action hero Will Smith that oozed charisma even without saying a word? It felt like we got some of that back. Deadshot is one of the most developed characters, with the balance between the relationship with his daughter and the enjoyment of who he is and what he does. He's also the closest to a 'good guy' on the team, or at least depicted that way.

Harley Quinn- Probably the most anticipated character in this movie, due of course to this being her big-screen debut. And Margot Robbie did an awesome job of getting the character and personality of Harley. The only complaint with her performance could be that her accent wasn't consistent, but with a character like this, it's not too big an issue. No, Harley was really well done. But her costume.... her costume was awful. I have hated this costume since day one and it was no better in context. I hate everything about it, from the heels to the collar to the shorts that so short they might as well just call them underwear. Even 'Daddy's Little Monster' splashed across her shirt is so cringingly on the nose. And it didn't have to be this way. In a flashback, we see Harley in the harlequin costume, and she even picks it up and hugs it at one point, only to put that other shit on.

They actually recreated this for five beautiful seconds. And it was glorious. And a cocktease. 
Amanda Waller- At first, I'd kind of hoped to see CCH Pounder in the role, as she'd voiced Waller in several different cartoon and game adaptations. That being said, Viola Davis killed it. She was hard, tough, powerful, and scary as hell. There's nothing really else I can say. She nailed it.

Captain Boomerang- I've heard all the jokes about Jai Courtney, but never really seen him in anything. And here, he was pretty good. He didn't have a lot to do but kill things, slur words, and be generally obnoxious. And it worked for him. So good on ya.

El Diablo- The guy with probably the most tragic backstory gets very little time. At least what he gets, he makes use of. This includes a surprising final form at the end which has a throwdown with Enchantress' brother, Incubus.

Enchantress- Turns out, she's the big bad of the film that the Suicide Squad ends up going after, along with her brother. Incubus, there's nothing to say about because he didn't do a whole lot. There was some set up for Enchantress, but once she was doing her magic thing with the big, swirly hole in the sky, she didn't do much other than stand in front of the thing and gyrate. She made a few villainous declarations, but that's about it.

The Rest- Killer Croc has very little to do and even less to say. The only noticeable thing about him is when he took his jacket off, his head seemed disproportionately large compared to his body. Katana gets a few lines of setup from Rick Flagg and has one very small scene before the battle but otherwise is hardly there. Flagg himself is okay, and they tried to make an antagonistic relationship with him and Deadshot that turned into something a bit friendlier, but it was meh. The Stephen King fan in me kept wanting to call him Randall, as well. Slipknot is in the movie for about five minutes and does almost nothing before taking his exit, and the only reason I remember his name at all was because I told myself 'Slipknot, same as the band'. That just leaves one more thing to talk about:

Yeah, this guy
The Joker- Let's not kid ourselves, a lot of people were looking forward to seeing the newest incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime. From the first promotional image, and then through the trailers, they really played up The Joker without showing a whole lot of him. And we took that for a clever marketing ploy. But the truth is, he isn't really in the film all that much. He shows up in a couple of flashbacks, and has exactly two interactions with Harley Quinn in the story of the film and that's it. Which I'm not terribly upset about. I'll be honest with you all, I did not like this Joker. I didn't like the bling, the grills, the tats, or the wardrobe choices. But more than that, I just didn't like this Joker. Every time he spoke it was reminiscent of Heath Ledger's version from The Dark Knight, but with less volume and zero charisma. He had no menace about him, and worst of all, I felt no sense of fun. There was none of the manic, psychotic, enjoyment of what he was doing. The only thing they got right was that he and Harley had the right kind of fucked-up, unhealthy relationship, even if he did seem to actually care about her far more than most Jokers. He was horribly bland, and he had the worst laugh of any Joker I have seen. Definitely bottom of the list for incarnations of the character, and no where close to the perfection that is the Joker as voiced by Mark Hamill.

And he's a snappier dresser

Overall, the action in the movie was good and the fight scenes were a lot of fun. The pacing was quick, if a bit choppy in places, and the plot never dragged. This time, the movie actually remembered to be entertaining. And it definitely was. There were even some heartfelt moments, especially when they're sitting at the bar in a moment of low morale. There does seem like there was more to this movie, and I don't know how much of that came from reshoots or if there was just that much cut out of the film in editing. If there is an extended cut, I'd be up for watching it, even if just to see if some of the more underutilized characters get some more time to develop.

In conclusion, Suicide Squad was a fun movie. It wasn't game-changing, and it's attempt to mix Batman vs Superman darkness with Guardians of the Galaxy off-the-wall humor was a bit of a strange brew. But overall, it was a definite step in a better direction for the DCEU. I'd seen that it had gotten rather bad reviews leading up to release, but ended up breaking records in its first weekend, so I guess we'll see where we go from here. Because in the end, I had a lot of fun with it and it turned out pretty good. So, I'll take it.

Join me next time, as I will have a Batman: The Killing Joke review up in the next day or two. It was supposed to come before this one, but I ended up switching the order, so I hope you'll forgive me. I'm also looking at ideas to expand the content of the blog, so I will try to get out more reviews, as well as perhaps start looking at other media. In that, I may move into books/comics, video games, maybe music, or toys/collectibles. I'll see what happens.

Until next time,

The Scholar 

*I know it's called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but that's long, unwieldy, and stupid so Batman vs. Superman it shall be in the interests of keeping it more concise.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Batman Vs. Superman: Buttfleck (Ultimate) Edition (Potential Spoilers)

Well friends, we're talking about this one again. The Ultimate, ie. extended,  cut is upon us and so let's revisit this one and see how and if the extra half-hour of footage and bump up in rating to R has an effect on the film overall. If you want to read my thoughts on the theatrical cut, you can read the original review I did for this film here.

So the real question here is this: does thirty extra minutes of film and a bump up in rating change the film? Does it answer questions that were left after the theatrical cut? Does it improve upon things that were found to be problematic the first time around? Does it make the film better and add to the story? The answer to these questions is sadly, crushingly, and almost unsurprisingly no. My opinion of this movie remains unchanged from what it was after seeing it the first time in theater. What I enjoyed about the movie I still had a great time with, and what I didn't like about the movie was still painful and shitty the second time around. I wish it were different. I really do. But that's the hand we've been dealt, I'm afraid.

One thing that was held up about this version was its R rating. And it was held up pretty high as a selling point: the darker, the grittier, the down-and-dirtier version that you all wanted to see. And yet, for an R rating, it really doesn't venture far inside the border. I wasn't expecting this to be to Deadpool or Predator, but I was expecting a little... more, I guess. The R-rating seems to stem mainly from a slight increase in blood (the only instance where it was noticeably added was an unfortunate henchmen in the warehouse leaving a rather impressive blood smear on the wall), and a quick, heavily shadowed shot of Ben Affleck's naked backside in the shower (hence 'Buttfleck Edition'). Indeed, as far as butts in a Zack Snyder film, this is downright tame in comparison to the lingering shot of a naked Gerard Butler near the beginning of 300.

This is a much clearer shot than anything you get from Buttfleck
So, what did thirty extra minutes add? Not a whole heck of a lot, I'm afraid. One of the things it does do is make it more clear than someone is behind the scenes manipulating things to frame Superman. There are a couple of scenes between Lois Lane and Jena Malone's character that flesh things out a bit, including a part I like where they reveal the wheelchair bomb was lead-shielded and that Wallace Keefe didn't know even know it was there. It really does add something to know that he was as much as victim as everyone else, and that he had no idea what would happen. Some of the jarring cuts were blunted by the extra footage, or perhaps I was just ready for them this time. I still found it too jumbled, and cramming too many storylines into the film was going to make the cohesion suffer either way. An extension of the post-Knightmare scene where Batman sees The Flash is supposed to foreshadow upcoming stories. What stuck me was 'Lois Lane is the key'  and 'you were right about him' and 'find us' which struck me less as 'assemble the Justice League' and more 'Injustice storyline'. That might just be me, though.

I was hoping for an improvement to the pacing of the story. Alas, again not to be. It was still a strange mix of overstuffed, plodding, and dragging. It just chugged along, as if oblivious to it's own lethargy. This film should have, by rights, had us on the edge of our seats the entire time, if not in suspense then in sheer, overwhelming excitement. Instead, it seemed so smugly pleased with how 'deep' and 'dark' and 'grownup' it was that it forgot to be interesting, or entertaining. It still squandered two famous comic storylines, plus others that could have all made great, nay excellent, films in their own right (the whole government investigation into Superman could have easily led into a Batman vs. Superman showdown that would have made a hell of a movie) had they been given the chance. And it brings me great pain to say these things.  As it was, the Cynic and I found ourselves giving our own commentary over scenes, often using bits from How It Should Have Ended's episode on the film. Because with a three-hour runtime, we needed to do something. 

Why so serious?
Let's quickly run through the characters and see what the Ultimate Edition did for them:

Batman- Still one of the best parts of the movie. It's nice to see him not only kicking ass in an Arkham-game style warehouse fight, but actually see some detective work from the World's Greatest Detective. The fact that much love is given to the grappling gun makes me happy as a Batman fan. It really needs more use in live-action and I love how much more dynamic it was than other films.

Superman- I think Henry Cavill can be a really good Superman. I just think he needs a better movie. Let the guy be Superman, let him be who Superman is supposed to be, and I think he'll knock it out of the park. At least the guy smile once in a while FFS.

Wonder Woman- The other best part of the movie. What time she got, she made use of. I love her in the Doomsday fight; Bats and Supes might be heroes, but Diana is a warrior. She gets knocked back, she smiles and jumps right back in. Love it.

Martha and Jonathan Kent- Who are these people on the screen and what have you done with Superman's parents? These two are flabbergastingly out of character. Superman does what he does and believes what he does because of the values instilled in him by his parents. Supes is the DC version of 'with great power comes great responsibility', and to have his parents be so negative about him using them, to have his mother say 'be their hero, be their monument... or be none of it' is so... wrong.

'Lex Luthor'- Now look, I'm sure Jesse Eisenberg is a perfectly nice guy and nothing against him personally. I also know he's not a terrible actor. So why, why is this performance so excruciatingly atrocious? There was no reason on this earth for 'Lex Luthor' to be so cringe-inducingly awful. So for the next movie, can we somehow have him mutate into Clancy Brown or Bryan Cranston and call it a mulligan? There was no threat in this character, no cold, calculating menace, nothing intimidating. This was a spoiled, petulant child with daddy issues. Superman's great adversary this was not. 

I know full well what that X is supposed to mean. I just like my interpretation better.

Alfred- I wasn't totally sold on Jeremy Irons as Alfred going into this the first time. And I thought he was okay. I liked him a lot better the second time. His 'getting to old to put up with Bruce's shit' attitude and general snark provided some much, much needed levity in the film. I want to see more of the interaction between these two, see more of Alfred tooling around the Batcave working on things.

Lois Lane- If there was any character I liked less following a second viewing, it was Lois. Ugh. They try to make her out like a plucky, independent reporter, but it's just a gloss. She's classic damsel in distress, classic helpless/unhelpful female character. Especially in the last fight once Doomsday shows up, it's like, why are you even here? Why are you so useless? Why are we cutting away from this fight scene so you can make eyes at Superman after he's saved you yet again. Bleh.

I know this sounds negative, and I wish I could have had better news, folks. It didn't change the film for me. If it does it for you, if it was everything you wanted it to be, then congratulations. I'm glad, I really, really am, no sarcasm. And despite the fact that I'm still lukewarm on this one, and not much more excited for Suicide Squad, I've hardly hung up the towel on DC. I am super excited for Wonder Woman. The trailer from San Diego Comic Con was easily my favorite of any trailer or footage shown at SDCC this year, and I cannot wait for that one. Honestly, if somehow Wonder Woman is not a good movie, I will cry. Legitimately, on the sidewalk, outside the theater. This is my most anticipated live action DC film since.... The Dark Knight Rises, I guess. And it already looks better than that disappointment.

Aw yiss....
So, there it is, my thoughts on Batman vs Superman: Buttfleck Edition. Hopefully you'll join me here again, I have a Batman: The Killing Joke review in the works now and we'll also be heading out to see Suicide Squad tomorrow. So until then, what did you think of the BvS Supercut? Did it do anything for you?

Until Next Time,

The Scholar