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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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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5 Reasons I’m Excited About That Justice League Trailer

Yesterday fans rejoiced as the first sneak peek arrived pertaining to the Justice League movie.  In case you somehow missed it …

 

I’m a 40 year old die-hard DC fan, so you knew I’d love it.  I won’t even pretend to be objective about things.

Here are 5 reasons I’m delirious with excitement …

1.  The Look –  I love that the costumes are all very distinct from each other, yet, when seen together, they mesh perfectly.  It’s so important that Batman’s costume looks plausible next to the Flash’s, and I believe they’ve accomplished this perfectly.  Yes, it’s true that some of the costumes are radical departures from the source material, yet in this new shared DC Universe, they are consistent and cohesive with what’s already been established.  Best of all, they appear as though a comic book has come to life without looking “campy” or overdone.  In fact, other than the Flash, I think all of the costumes are fairly restrained.  Is the Flash’s look a bit too much?  Maybe, but I have a feeling it’s going to be the result of Barry Allen’s technical prowess displayed in the trailer.  Remember, he has to deal with incredible friction and debris as he runs.  The comics rely on an “aura” to protect him as he runs, but the movie counterpart may not be so fortunate …

 

2.  The Theme –  Man Of Steel established a theme that was also on full display during Batman v Superman – loneliness.  Batman is forever the orphan.  Superman suffers alienation due to his extraterrestrial origin and his resulting abilities.  Wonder Woman has chosen to leave mankind behind for over one hundred years.  Heck, in the new trailer, the Flash comes right out and says that he needs friends.  I think it’s fitting that the Justice League movie seems to be as much about uniting and overcoming loneliness as it is about an overwhelming threat.  It is by no accident that Batman is the one on the recruitment drive.  Though he touts himself as the ultimate loner, he actually has a rich history of trying to construct a surrogate family.  Plus, it builds off of the end of Batman v Superman.  Batman wants to honor Superman by bringing heroes together to continue what Superman started and defend humanity.

 

3.  The Tone –  While I loved Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, I’m the first to admit that they were serious, perhaps even dark, movies.  Other than Perry White and Alfred, nobody cracked wise very often.  Of course, we have to keep in mind that neither Superman nor Batman are known for their one-liners.  With the Justice League trailer, the tone certainly feels epic, but it also feels substantially lighter.  Not a comedy, of course, but willing to offer a bit of levity every now and again.  Truthfully, even Shakespeare realized the importance of throwing in a chuckle or two for the audience.  I think it’s great that Bruce Wayne had some of the most entertaining lines.  The fish comment to Aquaman, the exchange with Wonder Woman – Bruce seems a man more willing to enjoy himself.  But, obviously, Barry Allen steals the trailer.  To fans of DC, Barry Allen is the light of the DC Universe.  He’s a good man with a good heart.  He tries to do the right thing.  He does not take himself too seriously, and though he’s not outright funny, he’s willing to look at the lighter side of things.  The Flash is greatly needed in this shared DC Cinematic Universe, as the trailer clearly establishes.  His impact is immediate.

 

4.  The Actors –  My wife, who is in no way invested in these characters, actually commented today about how Gal Gadot seems perfect to play Wonder Woman.  Besides her obvious beauty and the fact she served in the Israeli army, she seems to possess an air of royalty befitting the character.  Ben Affleck has the sheer size of Bruce Wayne, but he also encompasses the anger, arrogance, kindness, and intelligence of the character.  Jason Momoa’s take on Aquaman seems perfect and I personally love the direction he’s taking the  king of the seas – he’s a true force of nature.  Ray Fisher clearly shows the man under the metal with Cyborg, which is key to the character.  We didn’t see much of him, but I can’t wait to see more.  Truthfully, Ezra Miller had the greatest feat to accomplish in my mind.  The world loves Grant Gustin’s Flash, as it should.  In his few moments of the trailer, Miller depicts an equally likable Barry Allen.  His Allen seems far more erratic and twitchy, but just as endearing and charismatic.  Though Gustin has had far more time to establish himself, Miller seems to have captured the genuine goodness of Barry Allen.  I love how Miller is constantly looking around as he talks.  Remember that the Flash can live between the gaps of a second.  As he looks away while speaking, I think Miller is establishing that he’s thinking about a great many other things as he’s trying to carry on a conversation.  This take on relativity will be really fun to explore.

 

5.  The Potential – Leaving Superman out of this trailer seemed a wise decision.  The ending of Batman v Superman obviously leaves a great many things to reconcile, and I’m hoping Justice League not only addresses the looming threat of Darkseid, but also the unresolved Superman story line.  Allowing the Justice League to thrive without the ultimate ace in the hole (Superman) is the perfect way for these new heroes to prove their mettle to the audience and, consequently, garner interest in their solo adventures.  Forcing them to work together without the aid of Superman will allow for great conflict and chemistry.  Plus, when Superman returns, as you know he will, there is potential for him to even once again feel alienated as the team is already established and he must play catch-up.

There is no doubt that Marvel has clearly won the world over with their comic book movies and wrote the book on sharing a universe for their icons.  And while I wish DC and Warner Brothers had gotten their act together sooner, it may be a blessing in disguise.  By taking their time and making sure the right people are involved, they appear to be swinging for the fences with each outing.  Personally, I am ecstatic for what the future holds.  But remember, like I said earlier, I’m a lifetime DC fanboy and am in no way objective about these characters.

 

 

Justice League: Rebirth #1 – A (Comic) Book Review

I am absolutely a fan of Bryan Hitch’s art.  I remember first encountering it way back when he worked with Mark Waid on another Justice League title.  I recall it impressing me much the same as when I saw my first X-Men cover by Jim Lee.  Since that moment, Hitch has never let me down when it comes to art.

That being said, I’ve never experienced Bryan Hitch the writer.

I’m not a big fan of that Bryan Hitch.

Justice League: Rebirth had a sound, even necessary, plot.  A giant alien menace arrives, the Justice League, stunned by the death of the New 52 Superman, seems ineffective against the behemoth, so therefore the pre-New 52 Superman suits up to help out.  As you can imagine, a cautious partnership consequently develops, one that will apparently be mired in distrust from both sides.

The art is very pleasing to the eyes with dynamic, fluid movement and thrilling sequences.  The dialogue, unfortunately, did not go so smoothly.  Characters were redundant, verbose, and even awkward.  They often felt as though they were speaking to me rather than to each other.  The writing proved a bit distracting and because of the lackluster writing, the alien plot ventured into fairly cliche territory.

Hitch is an artist worthy of rendering these icons and, despite the writing, I will certainly pick up the collected editions of his work on Justice League and Justice League of America.

Justice League: Rebirth is visually a joy, but the writing did not quite live up to my expectations considering this is the first interaction between the League and an unknown Superman.

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman – A Book Review

I somehow missed the boat on this series that began in 1988.  It ran through 1997, and some believe it is the greatest comic series to have ever existed.  I finally-FINALLY-decided I needed to check it out.

Gaiman himself has admitted in the past that Preludes and Nocturnes was a bit of a rough start to a series that would later garner much acclimation, and he was correct.  Don’t misunderstand though-I still thoroughly enjoyed it.  If it is considered a rough start, then I’m greatly looking forward to the more “polished” volumes!

The character of Sandman has some sort of intangible appeal that I can’t put my finger on.  For those who don’t know much about him, he is the God of Sleep, an entity who often takes the form of a tall, thin, nearly translucent-skinned man with black eyes and black, unruly hair.  However, I absolutely understand what I like about his story potential.  In the first volume alone, his story unfolds over decades, he visits Hell, he walks the Earth, he rules in his dream kingdom, and he even spends some time with his cheery, charismatic sister Death.  The only thing about this first volume that struck me as almost too awkward was when Sandman interacted with the then-present incarnation of the Justice League.  This was before the Vertigo imprint was born and Sandman was given his own universe to play in.

Sam Kieth was the original artist, but he left after only a few issues.  Some people love his work, others don’t.  Personally, I enjoyed Mike Dringenberg’s incarnation of Sandman much better.  Also, keep in mind these stories were produced in the late eighties, so the coloring isn’t quite up to today’s technological standards. 

However, it’s obvious this is a very smart series and I can’t wait to read the entire set.  I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to give it a chance.