Ben Affleck … I’ll Miss You

You may remember that I’m a strong supporter of Ben Affleck’s Batman.  In fact, I wrote a lengthy article a few years ago encouraging Affleck to stick with the role.

While Michael Keaton will always be my favorite Batman, with Adam West coming in second, I thought Affleck playing an older, beaten-up Batman worked really well within the context of an inexperienced Superman and a fledgling Justice League.  It was a side of Batman we hadn’t seen on film before, and I thought it was largely successful due to that originality alone.  Plus, as an added bonus, Affleck is a physically imposing man who can pull off Batman’s impressive stature, inherent arrogance, and undeniable charm.

Unfortunately, Deadline is reporting that Affleck is not on board to star in the 2021 movie obviously titled The Batman and even went to so far as to wish whomever will play the Dark Knight Detective good luck.

Remember that Affleck was originally tapped to write, direct, and star in this film, but things changed for a multitude of reasons.  Matt Reeves is now directing, and they have yet to cast a younger Bruce Wayne.  Apparently, this movie will try to play up the “detective” aspect of the character.

If we’re being honest, I’m not even sure this movie is necessary if it doesn’t build upon the Batman that Affleck established.  I only say that because we don’t really need yet another Batman origin story.  That’s been done to death.  I also don’t want a grim and gritty solo Batman trilogy, either, because Christopher Nolan already did that about as well as it can be done.

There’s only one direction that I feel would warrant a new Batman series.  With the financial success of Aquaman and the critical success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, I think it’s time they go all in on the “comic book” aspect of the hero.  Audiences seem far more willing to embrace the more fanciful aspects of these characters.  They should take a deep dive with all of the Robins and their complex stories, his stranger villains like Man-Bat, Killer Moth, Blockbuster, or Firefly, and even draw in the entire city of other heroes that he’s inspired.  I’m not suggesting a campy Batman like from the 60s, but one that is more in line with the two movies mentioned above.  The Dark Knight doesn’t always have to be so, well, dark.  Otherwise, I think Reeves will be destined to come up short in comparison to Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton.

At any rate, say what you will about Ben Affleck, I will always appreciate what he did with the character and I’ll miss his performances as the Caped Crusader.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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Aquaman – A Movie Review

If you’re looking for a classic hero’s quest story with incredibly innovative special effects and a great sense of fun, Aquaman is for you.

Jason Momoa absolutely shines in this third appearance as Arthur Curry.  He seems to be having a blast, which brings a certain level of mirth and joy to a character typically not known for such attributes.  His Aquaman is brash, tough, a smart-mouth, physical, and arrogant, yet Momoa plays him with such a subtle sense of nobility and goodness that you can’t deny his charisma.  Watching Momoa play Aquaman alone makes the movie worth checking out.  He’s having such a great time that we can’t help but join in the fun.

However, if you’re a fan of the classic hero’s quest story, Aquaman will delight you as well.  With a name like Arthur, the search for a mystical weapon, and a right to the throne, it’s almost a given that a hero’s quest must ensue.  I love that they did not shy away from Aquaman’s obvious similarities to the legend of King Arthur.  Almost every classic archetype is addressed in Aquaman, which is partly why I believe this movie will be a huge success.  The mysterious bloodline, the search for identity, the reluctant king, the quest into parts unknown, the need to unite kingdoms, the monster, the mentor, the loving mother, the wise father, traitorous siblings–it’s all there.  Like with Star Wars, Superman, and the Matrix, Aquaman hits primordial beats that we unconsciously desire.

If it’s action you crave, though, Aquaman will not disappoint.  Director James Wan is mostly known for action and horror movies.  This experience serves Aquaman very well.  There is very little downtime in this movie.  It’s almost nonstop action, and that action is so stimulating, so interesting, and so frenetic that you cannot refuse its brilliance.  Our first encounter with Aquaman occurs in a submarine, and while it’s not the most lavish or extravagant in terms of effects, it’s most definitely my favorite action scene in the whole movie.  The scene is tight, compact, and brutal.  Can you imagine having a fist fight in a submarine?  Now imagine that one of the combatants can rip the hull apart with his bare hands.  James Wan leans into this circumstance and creates an intense fight unlike any other.  There’s also a point when Aquaman and Mera must enter a place called “The Trench.”  This part of the movie is pure horror.  Even so, it’s also oddly exquisitely unique.

In fact, Aquaman is unlike any other movie that I’ve seen, and I mean that literally.   You will see special effects in this movie that you’ve never before witnessed, specifically in regards to the underwater scenes.  I still have no idea how they did it, but they have the actors talking underwater and it looks so real that their hair is actually flowing in conjunction with their movement as though they are actually underwater.  We all know that water exerts a certain force upon objects moving through it–one does not move underwater as one moves on land.  They captured this very well, too.  The actors don’t walk, they float.  They don’t run, they swim.  Part of me wants to watch the “making of” features to find out how they did this, but part of me also wants to just enjoy the movie magic as it is.

Incredible as the special effects are, the real beauty of Aquaman is in the details.  If you care to notice, you will see detritus floating in the water around the actors.  You will see creatures on the rocks, wreckage in the background, and tiny bubbles emitting from various sources.  And when Aquaman walks out in his “super suit” … it’s breathtaking.  They’ve done the impossible–they’ve made Aquaman’s gold shirt look freaking cool.  They zoom in tight on it, too, and when they do you’ll see every little scale, every overlay, every tiny piece of craftsmanship.

On that note, James Wan and the rest of the creative team have not just made a world for Aquaman to exist within, they’ve developed an entire universe.  They have birthed specific kingdoms, and each has it’s own appearance, technology, and history.  After all, most of the planet is covered in water.  James Wan seems to be taking full advantage of the possibilities this environment provides.

If I’m being objective, though, the movie has some issues.  While I appreciate the “hero’s quest” story, it never really pulled me in.  Does anyone truly doubt Arthur will win out in the end?  Some of the performances fell a little flat with me as well.  While Amber Heard looks great as Mera, I never felt any real chemistry between she and Momoa.  In fact, I think Momoa had more chemistry with Nicole Kidman, his on-screen mother!  Furthermore, the movie runs a tad long.  At two hours and twenty-three minutes, some of the spectacle began to feel like too much.  There are plenty of places they could have trimmed the movie up a bit.  I also found the music really distracting.  I love music scores, so I always pay attention to that aspect of a film.  The music did not suit this movie well … at all.  Truthfully, there were some odd choices in terms of actual songs–it all seemed to be a big of a hodgepodge.  Finally, there are some flat-out goofy moments in this movie–pure cheese.  You’ll know it when you see it, but there’s no refuting that it’s there.

But you know what?  That goofiness is part of Aquaman’s charm.  This movie wanted to have fun.  DC movies have been knocked for being too dark as they tried to recreate Christopher Nolan’s tone.  Aquaman is anything but dark.  It’s fun to watch a hero being a hero while having fun.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Justice League – A Movie Review (Spoiler-Free)

I attended Justice League on Thursday night at 10:00 p.m.  As you may remember, I felt very excited and had very high hopes.

With great relief, I report to you that Justice League exceeded my expectations.

First of all, I will freely admit that I am incredibly bias.  I love these characters.  I’ve been reading them for thirty-seven years, and that’s not an exaggeration.  It has been a dream for a long, long time to see them together on the big screen.  Frankly, the movie would have to be a total failure to disappoint me.  I acknowledge that.

But it wasn’t a total failure.  It was a legitimate success.

Let us first address a pressing issue – this is a movie based on comic book characters.  The movie never had the potential to change my paradigm regarding the human condition.  I sought no enlightenment from this movie, I did not expect Oscar worthy performances, nor did I anticipate a terribly complex plot regarding characters undergoing significant change.  We had a little bit of those things, more than I expected, but those things aren’t really what this movie was supposed to address.

What I did expect, however, was to see my heroes working together to defeat a bad guy in an entertaining fashion.  Guess what?  I got it.

Let’s do this  …

The actors playing our heroes had great chemistry with each other.  I truly believed these heroes were, at their core, friends because I felt a warmth and camaraderie from the men and women playing the roles.  The Justice League is not a family, but the members are super friends.   It was fun to see these actors interact with one another.

I also appreciated that Justice League is essentially a direct sequel to Batman v Superman.  I don’t want to get too much into it, but it resolves some conflict from its predecessor, addresses some dangling plot threads, and fully embraces what came before it.

Justice League makes no apologies in that it is made for Justice League fans.  There is so much DC lore in this film, so many blatant nods to both the League’s history but also the shared universe’s past.  Amazons?  Check.  Atlantians?  Check.  References to the 4th World?  Yep.  Mother Boxes? You know it.  There’s much more, but I don’t want to spoil anything …

Best of all?  These are heroes.  I know things were a little murky in Batman v Superman, but that was all by design.  Batman had grown cynical.  After all, they depicted him as 20 years into his career.  You can imagine the pain and heartbreak he’d endured by that point, especially with a troubling hint concerning Robin.  And Superman?  I don’t feel he had quite established himself as a hero in Batman v Superman.  He struck me as on his way to becoming a beacon to the world, but not yet there.  Justice League addresses all of that, and lights the way for both of these men.

Furthermore, Aquaman, Cyborg, Flash, Wonder Woman – they are natural born heroes.  They do good deeds because it is their nature.  As dark as Batman v Superman was in terms of theme and tone, Justice League is the opposite.  Justice League is fun, hopeful, uplifting, and even, at times, funny.  Is it still visually dark?  Well, yeah.  That’s just Snyder’s style.

Can we talk about Batman?  I adore his depiction in Justice League.  This is an old man compared to everyone else.  He’s breaking down.  However, he’s also the group’s mentor.  He gives every hero in this movie a pep talk at some point, and this is totally consistent with his character.  Remember, it’s been established that he’s worked with a Robin in this cinematic universe.  He wants to teach, he wants to encourage.  There’s a great moment when the Flash is having doubts and Batman helps him find his way.  So great to see that Batman instead of the grizzled, pessimistic neurotic isolationist.  And, man, does he have some great character moments regarding Superman.

Wonder Woman is, of course, amazing.  She’s got some mesmerizing action scenes, some hilarious one-liners, and is obviously the glue of the group.  When Gal Gadot stands next to Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill, she towers.  She is the icon.  What I appreciate most about this movie regarding her character is that she is a Justice League member.  She is no one’s mother, no one’s love interest, and no one’s caretaker.  She’s doing her thing just like every other teammate.  As well she should.  Her solo movie has received the most critical acclaim, after all.  They better never reduce her to someone’s “damsel in distress.”

After the movie, a friend and I were talking and he mentioned the guy playing Cyborg.  He said exactly what I was thinking – Ray Fisher was the best actor in the film.  The moment he appeared on screen, he had a weight to him, a gravitas.  His voice held almost a power.  It’s hard to explain, but Fisher’s got what I can only describe as presence.  That’s hard to achieve when only half of a face is showing.  I wasn’t excited about a Cyborg movie before, but I am definitely looking forward to one now.  Fisher won me over.

Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is the absolute bad-ass you’d expect.  Funny, charming, and tough, I think he’s going to convince a lot of people that Aquaman is no joke.  They also managed to pull off some really cool underwater scenes with him and Atlantis, by the way.  Honestly, I was a little worried they were going to make him like a surfer dude with all the “My man!” and “Yeah!” from the previews.  But those scenes were pretty infrequent.  He had some real moments to shine, and shine he did.  Like with Cyborg, I’m excited for a movie featuring Aquaman by himself (but I always have been).

Finally, we’ve got to talk about the Flash.  Ezra Miller brought much of the film’s lightheartedness, warmth, and fun.  Though a hero from the beginning, we got to watch him become a better hero throughout – a more confident hero.  Miller plays Flash with a bit of a twitch and a fun lack of common sense that makes you believe this guy is really just figuring it out as he goes due to his youth.  They avoid the melodrama of the CW show with this iteration of Flash, they just make him likable and a little awkward.  Seriously, Miller’s expressions are so much fun throughout the movie.  His eyes tell the audience everything they need to know in virtually every scene.

I’m going to avoid discussing Superman, because there’s no way to do so without spoiling things.  You obviously know he’s in it, so I’ll just say that I’m beginning to see Cavill portray a hero that could win the world’s heart.

I’m a total fan, as you can plainly see, but I did have a few things I took issue with.  The biggest was Steppenwolf.  While I don’t mind a warm-up from Apokolips before Darkseid arrives, I wish they could have made him appear a little less CGI.  He lacked a certain tangibility that really stood out to me.  I didn’t feel like he was actually filling any space, which took me out of the moment a few times.  But, he made a great villain for the League to team up against, which was really his only purpose from a storytelling standpoint.  I wouldn’t say he was as flat as Doomsday from Batman v Superman, but he wasn’t nearly as interesting as Heath Ledger’s Joker.  So, take that for what it’s worth.

Also, when the Flash ran, that also never quite looked right.  I should say, his legs never quite looked right to me.  Everything else looked perfect – the electricity, the blurring, the sheer speed, but his legs did not actually look to me like they were propelling him at nearly the speed of light.  Small complaint.

In the end, I highly recommend Justice League.  In my opinion, if you don’t like this movie, you just don’t like the Justice League.  I think if you’re a fan of the characters, though, this film will absolutely satisfy.  Personally, I found it a magical, breathtaking experience.  Like I said earlier, it exceeded my expectations.

Oh, and stay through the credits.  The mid-credits will have your inner-geek cheering out loud.  The after-credits will leave you with your jaw on the floor.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

All In With Justice League

Tomorrow night the moment finally arrives.  The Justice League debuts.

I have literally loved these characters since the age of three.  I loved Super Friends, I loved the subsequent Super Powers, I loved all of the Batman, Superman, and Aquaman cartoons in-between.  I’ve followed their comic book stories from the Detroit era to the Bwa-ha-ha era to the Big Seven era all the way to modern day.  I have studied them, dove into their backstories from years long past, even researched the creative minds that spawned them.

I have longed to see these characters, together, on screen.  I am not joking when I tell you that this is a dream come true for me.  It seemed like such a simple thing, such a no-brainer, and even though it almost happened a while back, I feared this moment would never actually arrive.  Not an actual Justice League live-action, big-budget, Hollywood movie.  But it has.  It’s happening.

These heroes were with me in elementary school, junior high, high school, and college.  They were there when I started my career, when I married my wife, during the birth of both my children, and throughout my Master’s.  They have been with me as I made new friends, lost loved ones, experienced tremendous joy, as well as awful lows.  Though they are fictional characters, they have always existed within my imagination, and they have never stopped being my heroes.

When I soon see them bigger than life, it will not be as actors wearing costumes.  It will not be just a “comic book” movie to me.  I will not dissect every line of dialogue, nor will I critique the likely plot holes.  I will love this movie unconditionally, because I love these characters unconditionally, because, in my mind, they have always loved me unconditionally.  That may sound silly to some, but to others, you know exactly of what I speak.

This will be more than just a movie to me.  This will an experience.  This will be a realization.

I’m all in on Justice League–always have been, always will be.

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Aquaman: Rebirth #1 – A (Comic) Book Review

I happen to really dig Aquaman.  Peter David’s unprecedented run on the title in the early ’90s won me over due to the sheer originality and complexity of character, and I’ve followed the character ever since.  Of course, as he does with everything he touches, Geoff Johns returned Aquaman to his classic greatness while keeping him just as interesting over a decade later.

Since I found myself in the comic book shop anyway, I figured I’d pick up Aquaman: Rebirth #1 to see what new approach DC and Dan Abnett would take with our favorite Sea King.

Unfortunately, of all the Rebirth titles I’ve read so far, Aquaman struck me as the least innovative, revolutionary, or even interesting.  That’s not to say Abnett wrote poorly – he didn’t.  The dialogue flows well and is consistent with the characters.  The art is fine as well.  Both script and art progress the story resulting in a crisp, pleasurable read.

My issue with the, well, issue is that I didn’t notice anything new of consequence added to the character or mythology.  This installment seemed purely intended to catch up someone who has never read Aquaman before.  We’ve sailed these waters before.

So while the writing and art is well executed, the story itself offers nothing new and, consequently, makes this issue irrelevant.

 

Aquaman Confirmed For Batman v. Superman, and You Better Not Laugh!

So this will be the most geeky post you read today, if not the entire month.  Jason Momoa (of Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian, and Stargate: Atlantis) has been confirmed at Aquaman in the new Batman v. Superman movie, which is sort of the sequel to Man of Steel.

I can’t claim to be a Jason Momoa fan.  I’m really not that familiar with his work.  However, I am an Aquaman fan.  Yeah, I said it.

Aquaman gets no respect, and for the life of me, I don’t know why.  Peter David’s run on Aquaman completely won me over in the early ’90s.  This was when he grew a beard, lost a hand, replaced the hand with a hook, and donned gladiator armor.  Because it was Peter David, it worked.  (Check it out if you haven’t.)

Then, slowly but surely, they brought back the orange scale armor and green pants, lost the beard, shortened the hair, and even gave him his hand back.  But they kept the warrior attitude.

All too often people think of Aquman only as the guy who can talk to fish.  But let’s run down his powers and characteristics.  He’s the son of both a human and the queen of Atlantis.  He was raised by the father, but discovered his heritage as a young man.  After his father died, he went in search of Atlantis, and was named rightful king.  He is the king of the Seven Seas, which, as you know, accounts for 75% of the planet.  He can telepathically push aquatic life to do his bidding – this includes sharks, whales, etc.  His body is super dense which enables him to withstand the ocean depths, this gives  him incredible strength and also makes his skin impervious to most human weapons.  Furthermore, because of the dense muscles that allow him to swim hundreds of miles per hour, he can also leap incredible amounts of distance while on land.  Plus, during his current incarnation, he has an unbreakable trident which is a relic form ancient Atlantis.  Aquaman is more than capable of living outside of water for long spans of time.

Aquaman wants nothing more than to bring peace to both the surface world and his kingdom.  He is an environmentalist, a warrior king, and a hero when serving with the Justice League.

Let’s not forget Aquman’s queen, Mera.  Mera is a warrior as well, also an outsider of Atlantis, and a woman for whom you do not want to trifle.  She can control water, shape it as she wishes, move it as she wants.  She is a formidable character in her own right, a character more than capable of carrying her own series.  When coupled with Aquaman, they are irresistible.  I sincerely hope they cast Mera in Batman v. Superman as well, for she would amaze movie goers.

So, are you convinced?  Do you now see Aquaman as more than the guy who talks to fish?  A few years ago, DC Comics (sort of) rebooted their universe.  Geoff Johns, who is known for revitalizing old favorites, decided to make Aquman his pet project.  I’ve read the first four volumes, and I loved them.  Johns is building a mythology around both Atlantis and Aquaman like never before.  Check out the first volume – it’s called Aquaman: The Trench.

If done well, Aquaman could be like Lord of the Rings under water.  There is an epic story just waiting to be told.  If someone dedicated themselves to building a world for Aquaman like James Cameron did for Avatar, the potential is limitless.

 

 

 

DC: The New Frontier, Volumes I and II – A Graphic Novel Review

Note: This review refers to DC: The New Frontier Volumes I and II.

If you are a DC fan-I mean a hard core, DC or bust fan-you will love, and I mean LOVE DC: The New Frontier Volumes I and II.

I remember seeing the first issue of this series when it came out in single-issue format and thinking that it seemed a bit remedial. Overly simplistic. I made this deduction based off of looking at the art alone, not by reading any of it. However, I later discovered this book had been receiving critical acclaim from many established publications such as the New York Times, so I had to give the trade paperbacks a shot. I’m glad I did.

You see, the art is supposed to look a bit unpretentious because the story is set during the Silver Age of comics. For you non-comic book people, that means it takes place basically in the late fifties, early sixties. The Silver Age was when old characters from the thirties and forties received major revamps, such as the Flash, the Atom, and Green Lantern. It also introduced new characters such Adam Strange. DC: The New Frontier takes this Silver Age era and delivers a story with modern day sensibilities. For instance, Superman and Wonder Woman are trying to clean up Korea while maintaining some sort of autonomy from the US Government for whom they work. The space program is in full swing with Hal Jordan desperately wanting to be a part of it so he can reach the stars. A horrifying Batman realizes he may need to lighten up a bit after a disheartening experience with a child. J’onn J’onzz is unexpectedly transported to Earth and must acclimate or perish. We get traditional appearances from Hour Man, Aquaman, and Green Arrow. We see the Challengers of the Unknown, the Sea Devils, the Suicide Squad, and other favorites from the sixties, as well as re-imagined characters like Steel.

You see, in the comics, originally, all these things were spread out over decades, but now, the author and illustrator, Darwyn Cooke, has blended them all together into one cohesive plot line that culminates with all the heroes joining forces in a very non-traditional manner against a foe that could destroy the world.

This collection honestly feels like if heroes were real, this is how they would act with each other and how our government would react to them. DC: The New Frontier is a captivating read and I urge you to give it a try immediately. It will quickly become one of your favorites.