Wonder Woman

Open on a beach on the island Themyscira.  It is raining, lighting striking…we see a young woman, Hippolyta, sculpting something.  As we close in, we see it is a baby.  The woman steps back, looking to the sky…lightning strikes the clay form…she steps forward and starts to wipe away clay, revealing a little baby girl beneath the clay.  The skies clear, the rain stops and the seas calm.  The woman is smiling and crying, speaking a name (Diana) as the camera pulls in close to the baby’s face.  We pull back to a girl of about five, face covered in clay as she makes a lopsided statue.  Her mother (the woman from before) is relating the story of how the Amazons left behind the world of man, a world incapable of peace.  We jump ahead to fifteen year old Diana sword fighting.  Hippolyta is continuing the tale of the Amazons.  The fight comes to an end, Hippolyta and Diana walk into a temple.  There we can see a floating orb.  As Hippolyta speaks, images of war and destruction.  Diana stares.  Hippolyta leaves and and young Diana reaches out and touches the orb.  The images of war dispell in ripples.  She sees peace protests, people sacrificing themselves for others, feeding children, etc.

We then would jump to the present.  Steve Trevor is part of a meeting with Lex Luthor.  Luthor is trying to convince them he has assembled the most advanced plane ever.  Trevor is being enlisted to test fly it for the military.  In this meeting is also General Swanwick from Man of Steel.  Trevor is visibly unimpressed with Luthor.  As he and Swanwick are walking away, he expresses distrust of Luthor and that working with him is a bad idea.

Of course, the test flight goes wrong, Trevor and the plane are lost.  He crashes, of course, on Themyscira.  He is discovered by Amazon warriors who bring him before Hippolyta.  He is taken by Diana, who is standing in the back.  She looks to be about 25.  He responds respectfully to Hippolyta.  She is unsure he can be trusted.  Is he part of an invasion?  After he is taken to a cell (unlike any prison he has seen, this is almost a hotel suite).  Diana is more curious.  She looks at the possessions taken from the plane…trying to figure out things like an iPad, cell phone, iPod…  Trevor is only honest.  He is not a neanderthal, instead treating his captors as hosts.  Addressing them with titles.  It is intriguing for both Hippolyta and Diana.  Diana is sure Steve is proof that the Amazons do not need to be hidden from the world.  Hippolyta is not as sure.  But she decides she trusts Steve enough to send an ambassador, so to speak.  Someone to look into the world.  To see if the world of man has truly learned it’s lessons and is moving towards peaceful resolutions.  After some debate, Hippolyta reluctantly allows Diana to be this ambassador, to return Steve to his world.  Hippolyta gives Diana a gift.  There is a formal Warrior attire (which would look something like this), bracelets a sword and a golden lasso.

At a few points, we would meet professor and archeologist, Barbara Minerva, who has passionately been trying to prove Amazons were real.  She ends up in a seeming dead end.  She finds the remains of a village in Greece.  Oddly, the tribe seemed to be full of idols of Cheetahs.  She takes the most ornate idol, and several scrolls.  As she works to translate them, she discovers a ritual.  She works out the incantation and the ritual…only to merge herself with a “cheetah demigod/spirit”.

Steve helps Diana find a way to fit in, helping conceal where she truly is from.  In the meantime, she is forced to reveal herself as a person of a super-powered nature.  She enjoys the adventure and saving people…she starts to show up in costume, saving people, stopping crimes.  She is Christened the Wonder Woman.  At the same time, there is something romantic growing between them.

After Wonder woman reveals herself, Professor Minerva desires the Bracelets and Golden Lasso.  She starts to devise a plan.  She attacks Wonder Woman to learn more about what she is up against.  There is a penultimate fight between Wonder Woman and the Cheetah.

The film would end with Wonder Woman meeting with Hippolyta.  While they agree mankind may not be ready for the Amazons, there is a value to Wonder Woman being present in the world of Man.

In the background is Aries.  He is not prominent… maybe we learn who he really is in a post credit moment.

I threw this together over the course of half an hour.  Of course, maybe folks will think this super rough treatment sucks.  But the point is…it just is not that hard DC & WB.

Metal Bikini Party

So, the talented and funny Gail Simone is taking on Red Sonja.  Which means she gets asked about the impractical armor.  If you know nothing about Red Sonja?  This is just ridiculous.

Colleen Doran Really Made This Boobaliscious

And normally?  I would totally agree.  In pretty much any case, this kind of armor is totally ridiculous.  Simone lists a number of good reasons why people can let it slide with Red Sonja…but her first reason is the one that makes the most sense to me.  Red Sonja spun out of this universe:

conanListen, if you shot an arrow at Conan and one at Red Sonja, she has about a 30% better chance of surviving.  He is wearing fur briefs.

Gail Simone offers:

But I also have that feeling in the back of my mind that there are always people who want to tell women what to wear, how to present and display themselves. It doesn’t seem out of character to me for Sonja to be wearing something light and unrestrictive. I keep hearing people say she should wear more armor, and I think, maybe for war, if she was prepared, but the barbarians we are talking about aren’t knights or Gondorians, it’s a different level of technology. Some of that does appear in Howard’s Conan but to a much lesser degree.

In the case of Red Sonja, I think  Gail nails it:

To me a much bigger problem has been the posing. If she’s posing like a Penthouse pet, something’s gone wrong.  Sexy and powerful is fine, sexualized beyond context is not.

You can read her thoughts here.  The Red Sonja image is an upcoming cover by the very talented and cool Colleen Doran.

Spider-Man and Aunt May…

I feel like one of the strangest and unfair portrayals of Aunt May throughout the history of Spider-Man was that of the woman scared of Spider-Man.

For a long time, in the world of comics, Aunt May was one of the people who thought Spider-Man was scary and or untrustworthy.  This really seemed to last a long time.  It would either come up or be ignored until needed for a story point.

Image

It was only after Aunt May made a shocking discovery that she became a fan of Spidey…

ImageYeah, once she knew Spidey was Peter…all was good.  The story where she writes a letter to the editor expressing her change of heart is actually a wonderful story.   But May functioned solely to be a plot point for Peter.  There were many reasons that she was fearful and could not know…but it always came down to how frail and generally weak she was.

And I just find the portrayal hard to believe.  Aunt May raised her nephew for years, she and Ben were perfectly capable and loving stand ins for Peter’s parents.  Peter is the man he is because of the influence of Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  Yes, it is Uncle Ben’s words at the heart that drives Peter…but it was both Ben and May that taught Peter right and wrong.

And I find it hard to believe such a weak, fearful and frail person could have managed to raise someone who puts their life on the line for strangers.  This is one of those areas where Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Clark Kent/Superman meet.  They are the product of their environments.  They are who they are because of their parents.  Not in spite of that parenting.

It would have been nice if May got to be shown as a source of Peter’s strength from day one, instead of an impediment for it.  Spider-Man exists in part because of her…the idea that she would be frightened of Spider-Man is silly.  I noticed in the Sam Raimi movies, May gets over her concerns about masked vigilantes quickly, becoming the voice of Peter’s conscience.  It is May who speaks to the importance of Spider-Man in the second film.  May recognizes heroism in those movies and has no fear of it.

Raimi gave us the Aunt May we should have had the whole time.

Miracles and Warriors

Big Barda & Mr. Miracle by Hoa PhongI always loved the characters Mister Miracle and Big Barda.  My first real introduction to them was in the pages of Justice League in the eighties.  I knew they were part of Kirby’s Fourth World characters.  But it was in the Justice League International books that I was hooked.

Mister Miracle-Scott Free-was a super-hero and escape artist.  His wife was a warrior hero.  But the truth is, they were born of the worlds of Apokolips and New Genesis.  Son of the good High FatherIzaya, Scott Free was traded to Darkseid as part of a truce.  Orion, son of Darkseid was raised on New Genesis and Scott was raised on Apokolips by Darkseid and his minions.  Scott grew up, unaware of who he was, always feeling out of place.  He joined underground opposition, where he met Barda, who was trained to be a Female Fury by Granny Goodness.  They fell in love.  They escaped to earth where Scott was trained as an escape artist.  His manager Oberon knew of their past and was ultimately a cohort in their adventures.

What stood out to me about Scott and Barda is that they sought domestic life.  They did not want to lead lives of action if possible.  But their strengths were constantly at odds with the attempts at living a domesticated lifestyle.  Barda and Scott wanted to do normal and mundane things, even if their skill set was not necessarily cooking and house cleaning.

It made them such charming characters.  Scott and Barda depend on each other…support each other.  They find strength in they other.  Barda is a skilled and superior warrior.  She does not need Scott to rescue her.  She wants to be with him-not because she cannot get by on her own-but because she is drawn to his noble and heroic qualities…qualities that compliment her.  Scott is devoted to Barda not because he needs to protect her.  But rather, he is drawn to her forceful nature-her desire to do right.  It is a beautiful portrayal of marriage.  Plus, I have these images in my head of Barda using things like a vacuum cleaner as a weapon.  Maybe it never happened…but if it has not?  I want to see it.

So far, the Nu52 has avoided the fourth world characters for the most part.  Have they appeared outside of the first Justice League story arc?  The Nu52 has been mostly a combination of disappointment and crushing disappointment.  Fans have rightly expressed frustration with choices regarding Superman, Lois and Wonder Woman (Superman and Wonder Woman are an item not, according to DC?  IT’S AWESOME!!!  But people who like Clark Kent and Lois Lane are…less pleased).  So, maybe we are lucky Scott and Barda Free are not around.

Lil’ Wolverine: X-Men Origins-Wolverine (2009)

No doubt, the fan favorite of of the X-Men films was the comics fan favorite Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman held his own with some top talent in those first two films… a solo Wolverine film was kind of a no-brainer.  And putting it in the hands of the director of the stunning Tsotsi, Gavin Hood seemed like a terrific idea.  Then casting started to leak… Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool (what a good choice), Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth-wait…what?  In the first X-Men Movie, Sabertooth was played by wrestler Tyler Mane.  Now, the change in actors is no big deal,  It happens.  But the first movie played off the characters as unfamiliar with each other.  Wolverine’s memory loss is his easy defense…Sabertooth’s?  Don’t know.

The film begins in the 1800’s with a sickly young boy.  Sitting with him is a slightly older boy who is whittling with his fingernails.  The sick boy’s father steps in to tend to his on when there is a sudden commotion downstairs.  The father leaves, and there is some yelling followed by a shotgun blast.  The boys rush downstairs…the sick boy sees his dead father and the shooter, who tries to tell the boy something, but the young man (who we learn is named James) is enrage…he realizes there is something happening with his hands…he becomes horrified as claws of bone protrude from his hands…the rage returns and he lunges at his father’s shooter-killing him.  In the shooter’s dying breath, he says he is James’ true father.  The young boys run.

This leads into a really nice montage of the young men growing to adult hood as soldiers in a series of wars, world war one, two and so on…finally settling on Vietnam …Jame’s brother Victor goes ballistic and kills civilians, as James tries to stop him…they end up being court marshaled.  They are recruited by Stryker (Danny Huston) who is putting together a special ops team comprised of mutants.  After a mission snafu, James, now called Wolverine walks.

Wolverine hides out in the wilds of Canada where he meets a beautiful young woman named Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins).  They fall in love and live in a cabin.  After she is killed (as super-hero girlfriends are prone to do) by Sabertooth, Wolverine seeks revenge.  After Sabertooth trounces him, Wolverine is approached by Stryker with an offer to make him stronger.  Agreeing Wolverine is subjected to a painful experiment, giving him the famed adamantium skeleton.  Then they try and double  cross Wolverine.

He escapes and meets up with surviving members of Stryker’s crew, discovering that Stryker has a secret plan to build the ultimate mutant soldier that he can control.  Wolverine finds out that Stryker is kidnapping young mutants and using his brother to do the deed.  Wolverine runs off to the secret base with the help of Gambit (who doesn’t do much beyond fly Wolverine there and wish him luck.

A final confrontation results in Wolverine and Sabertooth fight Deadpool to the kind of death, Wolverine losing his memory via a magic Adamantium bullet and Kayla’s death-but not before sending Stryker for a long walk, and a digital Professor X who needs no chair.

The truth is, this film is what you call a major mess.  By setting it in a vague “the 70’s” you start forcing the films into a specific timeline.  The first three X-Men films all took place in the near future.  The film features a high school age Psyclops.  Making him in his mid to late 40s.  Actor James Marsten was about 27 at the release of the first X-Men.  And there are the confusing aspects of why nobody seems to remember this moment of history.  It is hard to believe that Professor X new where to pick up all those kids and yet is oblivious to Wolverine.

The real positives of the films are the strong casting choices (Lost’s Kevin Durant is great as the Blob…Danny Huston, Liev Schreiber and Ryan Reynolds are strokes of genius).  Jackman shows why he owns the character on screen again.  The performances are mostly good…but they are in a story that seems overly convoluted and needlessly confusing-even by comic book standards.  It has a nice beginning, but it falls apart quickly.  It has some very goofy action set pieces and some legit humor going for it.

Going to War: The Punisher: War Journal (2008)

Third times the charm!  While I enjoyed the second shot at the Punisher starring Thomas Jane, it appears a lot of people did not agree.  The Punisher is one of those tough characters.  He is brutally violent and that is where his entertainment comes from…how far will he go to take out the underworld?  So, for the next attempt at the Punisher, much like the Hulk, they tossed aside the prior film.  They dumped Director Jonathan Hensleigh and lead Thomas Jane.  They replaced them with Director Lexi Alexander (Green Street Hooligans) and the new Punisher Ray Stevenson (Rome).

Like the Jane version, they draw from a variety of eras of the Punisher.  While the plot feels very Garth Ennis, the choice of villain is a character he never used.  That being the Len Wein/Ross Andru creation Jigsaw (Dominic West, 300 and the Wire).  But they do borrower characters he brought to the series, like the Punisher Task Force-Detective Martin Soap (Dash Mihok, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the Day After Tomorrow) and Paul Budiansky (Colin Salmon, Resident Evil & Strikeback).

The film opens with Punisher playing with some adorable kittens…just kidding.

 

 

 

 

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Super Dull

Watch one (or both) of these trailers (they are pretty much the same with different voiceovers).

People have hit on all sorts of problems with it, such as no women appear.  Truthfully?  I get why they do not have shots of Lois Lane or other female cast…it is mostly a montage of images meant to evoke a nostalgic feeling.  There is not really a lot of room for other cast in the teaser (no Jimmy Olson or Perry White-so I do not think it was a conscious excising of women).

The real problem here?  The teasers are generic and dull.    It is trying so hard to look meaningful, it forgets that it is about a guy who can bend steel, fly into space, shoot lasers from his eyes and pound mountains into dust.

A superman teaser should build anticipation…it should swell to a smashing crescendo of amazing clips that let us see the hero…being heroic.  It should make us want to see the film and become absorbed it the characters and the adventure.  These trailer, instead, feel like they are for some ponderous World War II film.  Truthfully, it feels like they are rehashing the Dark Knight trilogy, exploring the Hero as symbol and an ideal to inspire.  Because that is what we need…a Superman movie where Superman is played by Christopher Nolan’s Batman…he even has a super scruffy beard.

Truthfully, I would have rather seen a teaser with Pa Kent working in the barn…fixing something.  Talking with his young son.  He could be saying similar things to the trailer.  The camera could close in on young Clark and then pull back revealing gown Clark Kent with Lois and Jimmy (or something) in a crowd…swiftly we see they are witnessing some tragedy, maybe a construction problem-somebody falls from a great height…suddenly Lois and Jimmy are wondering where Clark is-Superman swoops in and saves te person with only seconds to spare.  Maybe Superman makes some friendly light jest about flying.  Then we get a rapid shot of superman saving people/everting disasters…solid action shots that do not reveal to much…maybe a brief glimpse of of the villain from behind…something mysterious…then a short jump back to the barn, with Pa Kent hunched down, looking his young son in the eyes and making some allusion to the man he hopes his son to be.  Final shot?  That one shot at the end of the trailer with Superman in flight.  Logo and cut.

The Jor-El version could have shown Jor-El watching his infant son on Krypton, saying similar things to Pa Kent-then use the same middle, then jump back to Krypton, where Jor-El could make some comment about his hope for the man Kal-El will become, and maybe even a comment regretting that he will not get to witness it.  And same closing shot of superman in flight, go to logo and cut.

Maybe those would suck to…but they would be less boring.  What would you have hoped for in a Superman teaser trailer?

(of course, I just remembered there is no Jimmy Olson in this film.  Make it Perry White or some unknown reporter from the Planet.)

Hulk Angry! Want Reboot!: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

So, Ang Lee’s Hulk just did not quite work. With no sequel on the horizon, the rights reverted back to Marvel, allowing them to add this film to their budding extravaganza. Gone were the stars of the original and director Ang Lee. In was director Louis Leterrier and star Ed Norton. A part of me was disappointed we lost Bana and Sam Elliot…but it is hard to complain about actors like Norton and William Hurt.

The film starts out with Bruce Banner on the run. The credits hint at an experiment gone wrong, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) getting hospitalized and General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) both threatening Banner and looking pretty heartbroken over his daughter’s condition. (there is a nice nod to the television show in this sequence)

Banner is now hiding in Rio De Janeiro, working at a cola bottling plant. He is trying to learn different techniques to avoid overstimulating his system and becoming the Hulk. He is corresponding with someone codenamed Mr. Blue (who is stateside) and going by Mr. Green. They connect via encrypted internet and mail. He is also trying to learn the language watching Sesame Street.

He is using his science smarts as a handy-man for the plant, trying to stay under the radar. The owner of the plant does not understand this-recognizing that Bruce is working way below his skill level. While fixing some equipment, Bruce cuts his thumb. Bruce freaks out and actually stops the plant so he can catch his blood. He ends up missing some that mixes with the soft drink. It gets shipped to the U.S. Bruce notices an attractive co-worker being harrassed by three rather tough looking guys. They start to push Bruce around. In an amusing moment, he tries to tell them not to make him angry…but his grasp of the langauge leads him to tell them that they “would not like him when he is hungry.” The potential crisis is averted and no mayhem occurs.

Bruce received a package from Mr. Blue that contains a plant that might cure his condition. Unfortunately, the experiment fails.

Meanwhile, in the states, someone drinks the infected softdrink and is hospitalized for gamma poisoning. The amount of it gets the attention of Thunderbolt Ross. The General assembles a team that includes Russian born elite soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), on loan from Britain. They set out for Rio De Janeiro based on tracing the soft drink shipment.

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Batman Vs Bain

So, Rush Limbaugh and his crack research team have discovered the latest Liberal Hollywood Anti-Republican Attack:

“The movie has been in the works for a long time, the release date’s been known, summer 2012 for a long time,” he said. “Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?”

He added, “This movie, the audience is going to be huge, lot of people are going to see the movie. And it’s a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop-culture crowd. And they’re going to hear ‘Bane’ in the movie, and they are going to associate Bain. And the thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year, and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, not Bain Capital, but Bain, Romney and Bain, that these people will think back to the Batman movie —’Oh yeah, I know who that is.’ There are some people who think it will work…Others think — “You’re really underestimating the American people who think that will work.”

Of course it is not accidental that the character (who does not breath fire or have four eyes that I am aware of) is names Bane, Rush.  He was intentionally named Bane because that is the name of the character who debuted in the comics in 1993.  As created by a conservative!

Limbaugh’s logic (not to mention the assumption that only the supposed brain dead, entertainment, the pop-culture crowd-whatever the hell that means*) is that kind of base logic that fuels most wacky conspiracies.  It takes a loose connection and runs with it.

The truth is, Bane is a character nearing 20 years old.  The movie was announced-along with it’s villain, long before Mitt was running for the nomination or anyone brought up the issue of Bain Capital as a controversy for him.  People are not going to suddenly think Bain is bad because of character in a Batman movie, Rush.  They might think Bain is bad from your defense of Romney though.  I mean, who would trust a candidate that Rush Limbaugh endorses?  Afterall, Rush and his crack research team cannot even do a quick search on Wikipedia, a place where you can learn all about Batman villains like Bane.

 

(Rush walked this back a bit…he claims he was not saying that the filmmakers were intentionally trying to make that connection…except he is pretty clear that he thought the name was not an accident or coincidence)

*For people who love America and complain about dividing America, Conservatives sure love to divide America.  I know a lot of pop-culture, entertainment types…none are brain dead…some liberal, some conservative…the majority far exceeding Rush’s brain power.

The Iron Age: Iron Man (2008)

Simply described as: How to start building your bigger, badder franchise.

Iron Man has a history going back to 1990 in attempts to bring it to the screen.  Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) was on board for Universal…years later, Nick Cage and Tom Cruise sought the role of Tony Stark.  When They announced Director Jon Favreau as director and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, there seemed to be a collective “Meh.”  I get why Favreau was not instantly met with a cheer.  He had three films to his credit as director.  The idea that he had the chops as director to take on something of this level certainly was at least hinted at with Zarthura… but I was more perplexed by the indifference to the ever talented Downy Jr.  He seemed all to well suited for the role of a care free playboy that is Tony Stark.

The film opens in Afghanistan, with Stark riding in a Humvee.  He has some playful banter with the soldiers, before they fall under attack.  The film does a terrific job of switching the tones from the casual goofing off at the start to the harrowing action and destruction that follows.  After diving behind a rock, Tony is surprised as a rocket lands next to him… Stark noticed his logo on the side of the rocket as it explodes.  We see rough shots of men holding him captive before jumping back in time.  We discover that Stark lives a pretty carefree life…he pays little attention to time, does not worry about losing large sums of cash while gambling and has a way with the ladies.  He seduces a reporter only to leave dealing with her the next morning to his personal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).  He’s a genius who is constantly trying to occupy his mind (playing with cars) but also a terrific pitchman.

When we get back to Afghanistan, Tony discovers he is a prisoner of the  Ten Rings, along with Dr. Yinsen (Shaun Toub) who saved Tony’s life.  The Ten Rings want Tony to build them a new weapon.  For parts, they show him a massive collection of Stark weaponry.  Tony refuses to help.  Once alone, Yinsen compels Tony to use his talents to fight back.  Under the guise of agreeing to make the new weapon, Tony starts designing and building a means of escape.  First, he builds a new version of the magnet repealing shrapnel from his heart.  One that does not require a car battery.

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