An Open, Encouraging Letter To Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck, the rumors are swirling that you want to give up playing Batman.  Please don’t.

The Internet can be a beautiful, wonderful place full of information, inspiration, and innovation.  Unfortunately, it can also be a putrid pit of negativity.  It certainly seems as though only those with vile complaints take the time to make their voices heard on the Web.

Well, Ben Affleck, it’s time to spread some positivity.

I’m a lifelong Bat-fan.  As a forty-year-old high school English teacher (and, yes, I am working on a novel—it’s mandatory), Batman has been a constant in my life since 1980.  For the English teachers out there, that’s thirty-seven years.

I’ve enjoyed Batman teaming up with Scooby-Doo, I loved the Super Friends, Adam West will always hold a special place in my heart, Michael Keaton and Tim Burton blew my mind, The Animated Series proved itself a masterpiece, Frank Miller scared me while aweing me, Val Kilmer didn’t scar me, George Clooney kinda did, and then Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan took Batman someplace both old and new in a way that felt important.

But you, Ben Affleck, you’re doing something that’s never been done before.  You are laying the groundwork for a cinematic Batman that must play with others.  No one else had the guts to do what you guys are doing.  No one else dared put Batman’s dark costume on the same screen as the Flash’s, Wonder Woman’s, or Superman’s only slighter less dark costume.  You dared take Batman back to his vigilante roots, and you are brave enough to depict his evolution not only into a team player, but the heart and soul of the Justice League.  Batman has endured a long and illustrious cinematic life, but you are truly breaking new ground.

I know the trolls have been really tough on you.  I understand you are sick and tired of fielding questions about a movie you haven’t even started filming yet.  I recognize that the expectations are impossible to meet.  In the here and now, you have a thankless job.  But please keep the big picture in mind.  You have a vision for where you want to take this character.  You see the end result, though it may be years away.  In time, people will appreciate you and your efforts.  You will win over the haters, trust me.

How do I know this, Ben Affleck?  I’m a diehard Batman fan, and you won me over immediately.  I am being totally honest when I say that I loved Batman v Superman.  I acknowledge it as the initial step in a marathon.   Of course Batman and Superman wouldn’t get along at first!  But, with his death, Batman realizes the great ally he’s lost, and with Superman’s eventual return, both men will recognize even further the good they can do.  In a way, Justice League will echo The Lego Batman Movie – Batman is ultimately a family man.   The orphan always builds his own family.  He has an army of Robins and a multiverse of teammates.  The aloof Dark Knight is nothing of the sort.  You are depicting the advancement of a brooding cynical man believing in heroes again and leading those heroes to a better tomorrow.  In the end, everyone will see that.

So, please, don’t step away.  Don’t interrupt the journey you’ve begun.  Anytime you’re feeling blue, get in touch and I’ll build you back up.  Want to know why you’re my third favorite Batman?  (Sorry, you’ve yet to top Adam West and Michael Keaton.  You’ve got to win over my inner child with those two guys and I just don’t know if that’s possible.)  First of all, you’re big, man.  I mean, you’re a really big dude.  Batman is also a big dude.  And, please don’t take this the wrong way, but you can deliver the smug, arrogant Batman/Bruce Wayne for which we’ve all been pining.  There’s an intelligence behind your eyes that make us believe this is the world’s greatest detective.  You ooze charm, both with the mask on and off.  You can look intimidating as hell one minute, and then project a heart-breaking inner turmoil the next.  You’re able to take every dimension of Batman that we love and combine it into your performance.  Furthermore, you’ve got great chemistry with Gal Gadot, and Batman must always have chemistry with Wonder Woman.  It’s geek law.

Ignore the hate, Ben Affleck. Persevere.  Know that you’ve really struck a chord with Bat-fans everywhere.  Sadly, as a society, we’re slow to heap praise.  Well, I’m heapin’, baby!  I believe in your vision, your performance, and your interpretation.  I believe, in the end, you will be the Batman for generations to come.

Of course, this could all just be a power play to gain leverage on the studio for some reason.  In which case, I wish you luck.  Whatever the case may be, my sentiments remain unchanged!

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – A Movie Review

I should explicitly state from the beginning that I am an unabashed Batman fanatic.  I discovered him at the age of three and have loved every incarnation of him during the past thirty-six years.  Furthermore, I’ve always leaned toward DC Comics, home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, etc.

With all that being said, I am certainly bias.  Therefore, it comes as no surprise that I loved Batman v Superman.  I am, after all, a fan boy.  I also want to make it clear that I’m going to work hard to convince you to see this film and ignore the misguided negative reviews it’s apparently received.

I say “apparently” because I’ve read no reviews of the film at all.  I wanted to go in open-minded.  I’ve heard it’s gotten bad reviews, but everyone I’ve personally spoken with, and watched it with, loved it.  So, apparently, someone out there isn’t a fan.

First of all, it’s a visually stunning movie.  Like with  Man of Steel, director Snyder is showing you the characters in all their glory.  Batman looks like he stepped right out of a comic book and uses brutal physicality.  Wonder Woman is portrayed as the intelligent warrior we all know her to be.  Superman does the things only Superman can do.  Snyder knows these characters and shows us what we want to see from them.

I found myself surprised by the acting in the film as well.  Affleck nailed Bruce Wayne.  He’s got the intensity, the size, and the anger, but he also shows us the kindness and compassion we know Batman has deep down.  Irons’ Alfred is a delight and unlike any other film adaptation of the character – he’s no longer just the butler.  Amy Adams plays an identifiable, respectable, capable Lois Lane worthy of being called a hero as well.  Gal Gadot captured the enigma that is Wonder Woman – I can’t wait to see more!  Diane Lane provides a very necessary Martha Kent whom grounds the movie amidst all the spectacle. Holly Hunter also delivers a lower profile but instrumental role that had to be performed subtly.  Laurence Fishburne is always great and gets some of the best lines in the film.  Henry Cavill had the unenviable task of playing Superman.

Though no one will every capture the charisma of Christopher Reeve, Cavill is giving us a conflicted, pained Superman – a Superman that is probably closer to what would really happen in the real world.  He can’t be everything to everyone, and Cavill works hard to show us that nuanced inner turmoil.  I believe Superman is a nearly impossible role because he’s such an international icon.  Cavill will never make everyone happy – but that’s not on him.  I think he lived up to the story and the script, and, in the end, he gives us a very heroic Superman.  His Clark Kent/Superman is very much a partnership with Lois Lane, and Cavill shines when he’s with Amy Adams.

But Jesse Eisenberg clearly got to have the most fun in this film.  His Lex Luthor is also unlike any other depiction we’ve seen.  Quirky, twitchy, weird, and creepy, Eisenberg made me squirm in my seat.  His Lex Luthor is not a savvy businessman, he’s not an elegant speaker, he’s not charming, he’s not even charismatic – he’s just disturbing.  I liked this iteration of the character very much.

Honestly, in my opinion, Snyder’s strengths do not rest in directing actors or conveying story, but due to the sheer caliber of actors he worked with, they all shined in their own unique way.  I think the fact that so many well-regarded actors joined this film confirms the faith they had in the plot and Snyder’s vision.

So let’s talk about the story.  For a film titled Batman v Superman, it has far more story than I ever expected.  It plays heavily off of Man of Steel’s greatest failure – Superman’s apathy toward the destruction of Metropolis.  (The visual of Superman kissing Lois Lane with human ash floating around them will never leave me.)  This destruction fuels Batman’s distrust of Superman, which is totally consistent with the character.  It sets up the very concept of the film and provides motivation.  Of course, as all great comic book stories must, the two heroes slug it out, but, again, as all great comic book stories do, they eventually make their peace with one another.  Was there ever any doubt?  I personally loved the reason they make amends – I thought it was a brilliant bridge between the two characters.  And, of course, now that the heroes are pals, they have to come together to defeat a common foe.

This is a very simplified version of the plot.  The movie takes its time establishing character, setting up the conflict, providing lots of motivation for everyone involved, and, thankfully, doesn’t rush the ending.  Does this make for a long movie?  Absolutely, but it didn’t feel long at all.  I thought it went by really quickly.  I was never bored, the multi-faceted story kept me engaged, and I didn’t once look at my phone to check the time or notifications.

You also had to keep on your toes because the film constantly offered little hints of things to come.  For a fan who’s followed DC Comics for over thirty years, these hints were a delight.  The DC Universe is a very big place, it’s not even confined to one plane of existence, and Batman v Superman definitely laid the groundwork for many characters and concepts to come.  Best of all, it gave the heroes a good reason to stick together at the movie’s end – it provided them both motivation and inspiration.

Is this the greatest movie ever made?  Of course not, but it lived up to its title, it depicted the characters they way I wanted, it provided far more story then I ever anticipated, the actors known for acting well did just that, it flew by despite its running time, the visuals were mesmerizing, and the comic book nerd in me delighted at the little hints of things to come.

The negative reviews are wrong.  This film will satisfy.

DC Movies, String Theory, Parallel Worlds, and You

Ezra Miller confirmed on MTV News that he will indeed play Barry Allen and The Flash in 2018’s film.  This troubles some because the CW already has a very successful, much loved television show of the same name starring the same character played by Grant Gustin.

Of course, if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll realize that television already has versions Deadshot, Katana, Amanda Waller, Alfred, Bruce Wayne, and Jim Gordon (to name only a few), and all of these characters are due to appear in film within the next few years.  Furthermore, the upcoming Supergirl TV show is said to have a brief appearance by Superman himself!

But do not fret.  DC Comics publishes these characters – Superman since 1938 and Batman since 1939 – and parallel worlds featuring characters of the same name is all part of the lore.  In fact, at present, I believe there are 52 distinct worlds within the “DC Universe.”  Most of these worlds have some kind of a Superman, some kind of a Wonder Woman, and some kind of a Batman, but they may not necessarily be the mainstream characters for whom you are familiar.

Of course, as a kid in the early 1980s, this sort of thing sent my imagination into overdrive.  Seeing two men named Flash from different worlds teaming up … man, it influences me even to this day.  Little did I realize back then that the comic books were making use of String Theory and ideas concerning parallel dimensions.  As is so often the case, science fiction leads the way in those things that will one day be considered conventional.

I’m personally heartened to hear Ezra Miller say that they are not shying away from this bastion of the DCU – it even sounds as though they are embracing it.  To love DC is to love the fact that you are allowed to have Christian Bale, Adam West, Michael Keaton, and Ben Affleck all  inhabiting a world where they are the one, true Batman.  Christopher Reeve will always be Superman on his world, just as Henry Cavill can be Superman on his.  The TV show Gotham can exist in its own reality, just as CW’s The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow do, and it can be distinct from Batman v Superman’s Gotham City.

I believe the viewing audience is astute enough to accept these different planes of reality concerning these beloved characters.  Why should we hinder ourselves to only “one” version of a character when multiple actors and productions can do that character justice in different, distinct ways?

Batman v Superman – Actions Have Consequences

After the initial trailer released for Batman v Superman, I felt excited.  Very excited.  But that excitement cannot compare to the sheer exuberance I experienced while watching the latest trailer the other day.  Why so very enthusiastic?  It’s not merely the sight of Wonder Woman in all her Amazonian glory.  It’s not just watching Batman moving from building to building like Batman should.  It’s not only Batman and Superman squaring off, jaw to jaw, after Superman rips off the doors to the Batmobile.

Yes, all of that was … is … mesmerizing.

No, the best part proved to be the idea that actions have consequences and that they matter.  What bothered me most about Man of Steel was the fact that Superman seemed oblivious to the loss of human life occurring during his fight with Zod.  Buildings literally fell during this climatic battle, and Superman didn’t seem to care.

Batman v Superman addresses that concern.  Watching Superman stand before politicians touched upon the problem, but seeing Bruce Wayne running into the dust as others fled, watching Wayne glare into the skyline as Superman and Zod recklessly fought one another, that provided the emotional resonance I so desire.  That look on Wayne’s face laid the groundwork for why he and Superman have conflict.  That expression exceeded even my disdain for Supermans’ actions. I understood Batman’s anger – I even related to it.

We, of course, know that Batman and Superman will eventually resolve their conflict, but they’ve found the one thing that validates the entire premise of the film, and they’ve done a masterful job setting up the confrontation through the latest trailer.  Take a look below, and please do share your thoughts.

My First Thoughts Concerning the Batman v. Superman Trailer

First of all, if you haven’t yet seen it …

This was a very good couple of days for me, and the premature arrival of this trailer played no small role in that fact!  I am very excited for this film and all it portends, but that doesn’t mean I can’t remain objective about it.  There are some things to gush over, there are some concerns.  Humor me as I expound …

1.  The Tone – I like the tone.  Batman appears menacing, society seems both enamored with and distrustful of Superman, and everything looks cinematic.  The music is brooding yet epic.  I’m sure the movie will be as well.  If nothing else, visually speaking, it’s beautiful.

2.  False God – As stated above, I very much think our present day society would have a field day with Superman if he truly existed. We love our larger-than-life figures, and you can’t get bigger than Superman.  I have no doubt our celebrity culture would deify him, and this looks to be the case according to the statue.  However, as is so often the case, we always tear down our celebrity heroes, it’s only a matter of time.  Again, the graffiti scrolled across the statue would suggest as such.  Superman appears to be no exception to our base behavior.

3.  Kneel Before Superman – But what if he’s more than just a celebrity?  I’ll be honest, Superman looks pretty malicious in this trailer, and when the soldiers dropped to a knee before him, I saw shades of the book and video game called Injustice.  Could this be a world where Superman has sworn something awful like Zod can never happen again?  Has he lost his sense of justice and become a world enforcer? I can’t imagine that’s the Superman they want to build a franchise around.  I’m still troubled by the role he played in the decimation of Metropolis a few years ago.  To be fair, though, it could make him psychologically more interesting …

4.  The Voice – I like the armored Batman voice.  It’s gravely, yet metallic.  It effectively hides Bruce Wayne’s real voice, as one would expect in the real world.  Is it the same voice even when Batman isn’t armored up?  Only time will tell.

5.  Dark Knight Returns Returns – The armored Batman calling out Superman on the street … straight out of The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.  This is a good thing.  I can’t imagine the movie will end as did the book, but the mere fact they are paying homage to such an iconic moment … it’s thrilling.

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.