Wednesday, April 27, 2016

10 MUSINGS ABOUT MOVIES SO FAR THIS YEAR

We’re only four months into the new year, but there have been some stories in the world of entertainment that have gotten me thinking. Here are my observations about ten of them:

Original caricature by Jeff York of Prince in his musical video "Kiss" (copyright 2016)
PRINCE'S LEGACY ON FILM  

So soon after the loss of David Bowie, the world has lost another icon of music, art, film and fashion. He only made a handful of movies, but Prince’s screen debut in PURPLE RAIN and his concert film SIGN O’ THE TIMES were revelatory. They showcased his singular and brilliant talent. Each brought his music to life in filmic ways. And judiciously, he won an Oscar for his musical score written for the former film, his movie debut. It’s just a shame that he didn’t star in more films. UNDER THE CHERRY MOON wasn’t great, and ultimately, his talent and persona may have been just too much for the movies. How do you play a fictional character when you're bigger than life in the real world just being yourself? Prince did demonstrate some truly delightful acting skills in his music videos though, notably “Kiss.” In that song that lists what he was looking for in a friend and lover, Prince demonstrated that he could be dramatic, hilarious, charismatic, and even childlike, sometimes within seconds of each other. And at least we have such permanent record of those mini-film performances like that. We also have his TV appearances and interviews that were always fascinating, and never less than entertaining. Watch him banter and volley the conversational ball back and forth with Larry King during a full-hour 1999 interview here: http://bit.ly/26jsk2v What a giant Prince truly was in so many mediums.

IS LEMONADE BY BEYONCÉ A MOVIE?

And speaking of music videos, Beyoncé just dropped an incredible mini-movie called LEMONADE which is a very personal and vivid concept album/film about marriage, love and betrayal. It may very well be a new way of presenting movies, in shorter lengths, that don't have to go through all the studio channels. A lot of artists and platforms, from iTunes to VOD to Louis CK are redefining what is a TV program, a movie, or an entertainment event. The lines are blurring and yet, for audiences, such landmark work could not be more clear.

THERE IS NO SUMMER MOVIE SEASON ANYMORE

When you have big summer movie’s like BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and THE HUNTSMAN: WINTERS WAR opening in the spring, we’re in a permanent summer movie season, no matter what the month. This has been happening for the last few years, but now it seems like studios are opening a big summer movie every month now at least. DEAD POOL in February. Yes, in February. So does that mean on the opposite end of the spectrum, we might get more niche movies aimed at adult audiences from Memorial Day through Labor Day? I'd like to think so, but I won't be holding my breath.


 WHY THE HUNTSMAN FAILED TO HUNT 

The reviews weren’t stellar, as the 17% fresh rating demonstrates over at RottenTomatoes.com, and the opening weekend’s box office was lower than even the modest expectations. So why did the sequel to Universal’s big hit for 2012 do so poorly? Could it be because the sequel forgot to star half the equation from SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN? Yes, Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman is a terrific creation, but where was Snow? She’s only got a cameo in the movie, filmed from the back, because Kristen Stewart didn't come back to play her. So why not cast anew and make the female lead part of the tentpole? Come to think of it, why was Charlize Theron on screen for only a third of the time as she was in the original where she was such a vital villain? It seems obvious to fans of the first, like yours truly, but somehow these simple needs of a smart sequel evaded the powers that be at Universal. 

GAME OF THRONES IS BUDGETED LIKE A BIG MOVIE BUT IT MAY BE HURTING HBO

Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid GAME OF THRONES fan, and HBO, but the ginormously budgeted show with its huge cast, expensive and ever expanding production over how many continents, as well as its state of the art special effects, are costing the premium cable channel an arm and a leg. The worldwide success of GAME OF THRONES is a rare thing and shouldn't be expected for everything at HBO. Thus, they shouldn't be greenlighting more and more projects that have similar budgets.  Their multimillion dollar plans for a series about Lewis and Clark was scrapped, and a costly series based on the 1973 movie WESTWORLD ceased production to get costs under control. True, it’s not TV, it’s HBO, but not everything needs to be as big to be as bold.

THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE IS A DARK COMEDY, BUT WHO’S LAUGHING?

And speaking of HBO, as good as the new season of VEEP is already, or Netflix's HOUSE OF CARDS was last month, neither can compare to the crazy narrative at play in this year's political season. One is tempted to say that the Trump show is playing out like some kind of real-life dark comedy. But how many of us are laughing as he seems to be poised to be one of the two majors candidates for the general election? More like a horror movie, no? 


 HORROR IS BEING SERVED UP SHORT & SWEET

And while we’re on the topic of horror...
I've been reviewing horror films for the Examiner online for five years now and seen many a movie struggle to maintain the terror for 90 minutes to 2 hours. It's one of the reasons that anthology horror movies have really taken off with franchises like V/H/S and THE ABC’S OF DEATH. Even Edgar Allan Poe's short stories got their due last Halloween with the animated EXTRAORDINARY TALES (http://exm.nr/1NBjTt5). And now, there’s HOLIDAYS, available in theaters and on VOD. In this anthology, eight holidays are each given their own short horror film, and most of them are very good. They're fresh, funny, frightening...and they'll keep you on the edge of your seat for 15 minutes until the next one starts the scaremongering all over anew. What's not to scream about there?

TIME MAGAZINE’S 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL LIST

One can argue about the worth of who made the list and who didn’t, but isn’t it wonderful that such a versatile and compelling actor like Oscar Isaac was featured?  He has absolutely been killing it in project after project on the big screen these last few years, from INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS to A MOST DANGEROUS YEAR to EX MACHINA to STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. And on the small screen, like in HBO's SHOW ME A HERO, he's been doing work that has already won him a Golden Globe and an Emmy may be next. I’ve written about him here before on the blog (http://bit.ly/1OeOjNF) but it’s always nice when others recognize the singular sensation that a talent like Isaac is as well.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL IS JUST THAT

Think there are too many superhero movies out there? Well, there are. And though some are truly excellent, like this year's DEADPOOL, it's nice to see smaller films with minuscule budgets get good reviews and do decent at the box office too. One of those movies is this April's MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, written and directed by Jeff Nichols. It's a small, intimate character-driven thriller that prove that a great vision and script can trump most monolithic tentpoles. Sticking to similar stories focusing on middle Americans dealing with crisis' of faith and family, like MUD and TAKE SHELTER, his latest again proves that three-dimensional characters are the always the best special effect in any film. That being said, he does conjure some pretty good CGI in the final act of this one, but the acting and story is what you'll be talking about long after the film has ended. Go see this thought-provoking and well-acted film starring Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher and Adam Driver.
THE BARE NECESSITIES OF CGI

I don’t think actors have to worry yet about losing roles to CGI. I still laugh when I think about how the female lead’s hair in FINAL FANTASY gave a more moving performance than her face did 15 years ago. I'm not sure how much better humans look by computer animation these days, but I can tell you that the CGI animals in the new JUNGLE BOOK look spectacular. So much so, that they may even give SAG some pause. Still, if you're going to do such special effects, they're only truly that if they serve the story and not the other way around. Director Jon Favreau and his colleagues have told their tale exceptionally well here, and its priorities are clearly in order. 

And here are two extra bits of personal news that I hope you followers of The Establishing Shot will find interesting:

ADVENTURES IN PODCASTING 

Did you know that I’ve ventured into the world of podcasting? Indeed, the International Screenwriters Association asked me to host a weekly review program for them that concentrates on the screenwriting aspects of current movies playing in the cinemas. I’m a budding screenwriter and ISA member, as you may know, and the hook of our show is that each week a different fellow ISA member is my guest. It's called "Page 2 Screen" and you can listen to our conversations for free at networkisa.org or on iTunes. And they're downloadable too. We’ve completed 20 podcasts so far, and we're getting a lot of listeners, so hopefully it will continue on for some time. We're no Siskel and Ebert, and our discussions tend to be longer (about 45 minutes) and more script driven, but I know you'd enjoy them as movie fans, so please give "Page 2 Screen" a listen.  

THE START OF THE CHICAGO INDEPENDENT FILM CRITICS CIRCLE 

I’m also proud to tell you that I'm a new member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, founded by fellow Examiner critic Don Shanahan. You can follow him and read his articles and reviews on his blog: http://www.everymoviehasalesson.com, or at the Examiner. My reviews are there too, of course, and you can link to them here: http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-chicago/jeff-york. Its great to be part of this new critics group and I'll try to keep you informed of what we're up to here and on Facebook as well.

Well, that's it for now. So much going on in such a short time. I'm looking forward to the other eight months this year. How about you?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

WAS THE REAL VICTIM OF NEGAN'S BAT ON "THE WALKING DEAD" ITS AUDIENCE?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan in THE WALKING DEAD.

The power of an outraged people can be seen everywhere this election season, giving rise to candidates that most of the press and powers-that-be-wrote off early on. And the same can be said of audiences stymied by what’s going on with beloved franchises on both the big screen and small. The outcry over how misguided and tin-eared BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE was has tainted the entire DC docket slated for the next few years and is causing worry inside Warner Bros. A box office drop-off of 81% from first week to next will do that to a studio. And on television, the outcry over Sunday night’s cliffhanger on THE WALKING DEAD has turned the producers'  season-end victory lap into a real PR problem.

Those responsible for the show probably thought that it would be exceedingly clever to hide the identity of which recurring character was killed by the wrath of the big bad bat of its new villain character Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and that they'd be able milk the guessing game across the summer months. Unfortunately, the tease has resulted in blowback that has been swift and brutal. 

Negative reactions trumped positive ones on Twitter by 9 to 1 in the aftermath of Sunday night's finale. And the web has lit up with even more outrage since then. Fans and press alike have taken the producers to task all over the web for yet another egregious taunt this year, after the fake-out of Glenn’s death earlier in the season, and it’s left showrunner Scott Gimple complaining about the lack of trust from the fans.

Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reeds) on THE WALKING DEAD
It may have been one tease too many. When Glenn’s fate was toyed with for a few episodes, the ruse even went so far as to expel the name of Steven Yuen, the actor who plays Glenn, from the opening credits until his beloved character returned. It was great for creating buzz, but it started the show down a dangerous course of playing a PR game and not playing fair with its storytelling. Fans started to feel they were being trolled. 

At times, it has seemed that this season of the show has been specifically designed for the program THE TALKING DEAD which follows each episode on Sundays. There, host Chris Hardwick discusses what happened on the proceeding episode with various cast members, producers and special celebrity guests. The coy attitudes of those from the show has continued the trolling in its way and again, the drama should really be on the show, not in how information is parsed out to fans afterwards. 

THE TALKING DEAD on AMC network
And with all that, the show continues to seem to be more and more designed for talk value rather than disciplined narrative. In the penultimate episode this season when Daryl (Norman Reedus) was shot, his blood splattered all over the camera lens, breaking the fourth wall. The fact that the makers of the show chose to do the exact same thing with Negan’s bat in the season finale added insult to such injury. Not only was it the same camera trick, but now it served its intent of turning our POV literally into that of Negan’s victim. Even more so, it became a metaphor for how the show has been brutalizing its audience with all the tricks and scams.

Now, audiences will have to wait some seven months until its return on October 9 to see whom Negan has clobbered. As it turns out, the death scene hasn’t even fully been shot. The showrunners say that they’ve chosen who died but apparently, the cast members are just as much in the dark as we are. Are the actors now being trolled too?

Wouldn’t it have been easier to show the death scene, be honest about it, and show everyone's reaction on the season finale to make it truly eventful rather than such a shocking letdown? And wouldn't season seven benefit from starting with the aftermath, and the new life that the survivors will now have to forge under Negan's rule? Why go over the same material again, especially when it's an awful murder scene? 

Granted, a show like THE WALKING DEAD has never pretended that it wasn’t mean, cynical, and ferocious in its depiction of the ruins of a world overrun by a zombie apocalypse. And week in and week out, it pushes the limits of violence on television. But as the last few seasons have started to push the zombies more and more to the background, preferring instead to paint man as the true monster threatening survival, it seems the show was truly moving forward. Now, with this fake-out, and that of Glenn's death earlier in the season, the show's producers seem too preoccupied with parlor tricks.  

Negan wields his bat in the original comic book of THE WALKING DEAD.
And do the producers think they can truly keep the identity of Negan's victim a secret  for six months? On-set spies and paparazzi will be watching closely to see which actor is no longer on the call sheets. And if you don't think such things can be readily found out these days and quickly spill out all over the web,  check out the spoilers Reality Steve has been ruining ABC's THE BACHELOR with over the course of the last few years. 

Those making THE WALKING DEAD may have miscalculated on what how much the fan base is willing to take, particularly when it comes to PR stunts versus cogent storytelling. The cautionary tale of how quickly an audience can turn is there in the debacle that was BATMAN VERSUS SUPERMAN two weeks ago. We'll see how the ratings for THE WALKING DEAD are affected it returns in autumn, and whether or not the furor will take a toll on the ratings.


And if Daryl is the one who bites the dust because of Negan's bat, then the makers of THE WALKING DEAD will have really stepped in it. And their fans will eat them alive. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

20 SCRIPT MISTAKES THAT MAR "BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE"


One of the year’s most anticipated movies opens today, and those who have already seen BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE have given it reviews that veer from the sublime to the ridiculous. It’s below 40% at RottenTomatoes.com so clearly those who were depressed by the clash of titans are outweighing those who were impressed by it. Sadly, the movie has some very large plot holes that make it even more disappointing.

Indeed, there are far too many head scratching moments in this DC Comics outing to let slip as just poetic license. Bad writing is bad writing, and director Zack Snyder should have been more diligent about what he placed on the screen. And no matter whether you like your superhero movies dark or light, and this one is as dark as a dirge, it’s hard to argue with some very misbegotten plotting that mars so much of the storytelling here. Here are 20 blunders that should’ve been cleaned up after the first draft, and will be quite evident to fan boy and even casual movie watcher alike. (Warning: major plot spoilers are about to be revealed.)

1.) Let’s start with the very big set piece towards the end of the film. When Superman (Henry Cavill) must confront the Caped Crusader (Ben Affleck), he could tell him he’s being forced to fight by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who’s kidnapped his mom (Diane Lane), and it would simply avoid all chaos afterwards. Instead, he fails to get the words out, even though there is plenty of time to, and the big battle royal thus ensues. The screenwriters, Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, and Snyder should’ve found a better way to engage the two in their fight without tossing logic out the window.


2.) And speaking of tossing, despite Batman’s kick-ass body armor, his jaw is still exposed and there is a normal human being underneath all that metal, so why is he able to withstand being thrown through buildings like a rag doll? He’s not General Zod (Michael Shannon). His open-aired jaw should be broken as well as just about every other bone in his body.

3.) Plus, Superman isn’t a fighter anyway. He would not be so ready to pummel an inferior like Wayne, and it’s woefully out of character. Did the writers realize this?

4.) To that point, it wasn’t in Superman’s character to level buildings fighting Zod either, obliviously killing thousands in their wake in MAN OF STEEL, and yet the filmmakers make the same mistake here with Superman creating all kinds of collateral damage everywhere he goes. Heck, he can’t even land without blasting the pavement to smithereens. Superman has more control than that, why don’t the writers?

5.) And when Superman stops Batman from stealing the Kryptonite from Lex Luthor, why doesn’t he also thwart his henchmen? They’re shooting at Batman, after all. So Superman stops vigilantes, but he won’t disarm or round up bazooka-toting criminals?


6.) Luthor equip his thugs in Africa with unique, one-of-a-kind bullets that are then traced directly back to him. It’s convenient for one of the story’s “Aha!” moments, but it’s too dumb logically for a supposed criminal mastermind. He’d know regular bullets could not lead back to him.

7.) And why would anyone think Superman took out the rebel forces in that African gunfight? He doesn’t use such weaponry. In fact, his body is his only weapon.

8.) And why does Luthor set off a big explosion in the congressional hearing that kills everyone except Superman, including his comely assistant Mercy (Tao Okamoto)? It doesn’t implicate the Man of Steel because Wallace Keefe’s wheelchair is identified as the source of the bomb. And again, Superman wouldn’t kill like that, nor would he need a bomb, so all that bloodletting on Luthor’s part serves little purpose to the narrative other than for shock effect. Cheap shock effect.


9.) One could also argue that the wheelchair detonated with the explosives would never have made it past security checks either, but that is the least of that scene’s ills.

10.) Perhaps the dumbest thing Luthor does is create the Doomsday monster. How does he know it will go after Superman and not just run away in fear after being birthed into a foreign planet?

11.) And why does Luthor put his blood into the mix to create Doomsday? Does he think his DNA will inflict his vengeful will on Doomsday’s psyche who’ll then be driven to destroy Superman and Batman? How convenient that it turns out exactly that way, but not due to any logic, merely the screenwriter’s whims.

12.) Why is Luthor tracking those others who have super powers, like Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg? It’s never explained and plays unfair in this movie if it’s merely designed to tease the coming Justice League film.


13.) Batman has a lot of bad dreams here, so perhaps he should take some NyQuil PM, but the real reason the nightmares exist here is so Snyder can psych out the audience with a couple of scenes where Batman dies. That’s wasteful storytelling.

14.) And why does the Flash (Ezra Miller) appear in Wayne’s last dream? He doesn’t know him, or vice versa, and he’s warned about the safety of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) which then never comes up later between Wayne and her character.

15.) And since when is Gotham a mere stone’s throw from Metropolis? These aren’t the Twin Cities. Instead, it’s perhaps the height of lazy screenwriting as the scribes here couldn’t figure out a way to get the heroes in each other’s cities without traveling across multiple states and time zones, so they conveniently have it play like Newark to New York City.


16.) When Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, in a sly and welcome break from all the testosterone) shows up to fight Doomsday, she manages to wound him quite effectively, as well as hold her own against him without sustaining injury herself. So why don’t Batman and Superman let her defeat him by delivering the Kryptonite spear to his heart? Having Superman do it is only there because it redeems him in the screenwriters’ minds, but it makes no sense logically since it weakens him to fly with it in tow.

17.) And speaking of that spear, how did Lois know that it could kill Doomsday anyway? She’s never told he’s a monster created from Kryptonite DNA.

18.) There are little flaws that stick in one’s craw too, like the fact that Superman doesn’t use his X-ray vision to see what Wayne is up to at Luthor’s party. Instead, Kent follows him on foot.

19.) And why is Luthor’s hair shaved at the very end? It’s certainly not normal procedure in most prisons, even maximum security ones. So is it just to make him finally strike that iconic baldheaded look of the Luthor we all know. Yes, that’s the only reason.


20.) And why does Daily Planet editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) assign Clark Kent puff pieces when there is precious little about that reporter’s persona to suggest that he’d be a natural for such light fare? 

The real issues, beyond these 20 mistakes, are more big picture. Why does Superman feel like a supporting player in what is essentially his story? And why is there no connection between the DC movie universe and that on TV? (Grant Gustin, who plays The Flash on TV, doesn't reprise the role here, so I suppose the twain shall never meet even if it’s as fast as a locomotive.)


The real question for most fans is why DC continues to do brilliant work on the small screen and yet repeatedly has such struggles on the big one. Yes, Christopher Nolan succeeded spectacularly with his first two Batman films, but the Caped Crusader films have been marred by the two tone-deaf Joel Schumacher versions, as well as a revolving door of actors playing the lead. And the two attempts to re-launch Superman before this outing were both plagued by excessive violence and a dour tone that belies the essence of the sunnier superhero that Superman is.

If only these Superman reboots could exhibit some level of joie de vivre like one can find in the DC television programs. Even the dark DAREDEVIL on Netflix is still a ton of fun, and very funny. There’s a big funeral at the end of BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and it’s almost ironic, considering the whole of the film is just as glum. Perhaps the biggest question for Snyder and his writers is, as the Joker queried, “Why so serious?” It’s a good question to ask before they start filming the Justice League movie, as well as asking if the writers have run it through the typewriter a few more times to erase lapses in logic.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

WHAT SUPERMAN CAN LEARN FROM SUPERGIRL

Original caricature by Jeff York of Melissa Benoit as SUPERGIRL (copyright 2016)
BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE sneaks into theaters tomorrow night before its official opening on Friday, March 25th, and the buzz from fan boys and early critics’ screenings is already painting a less than glowing portrait. When terms like “burdensome slog” and “joyless” get bandied about, a good time at the ol’ Cineplex on opening day seems unlikely. Sadly, this is the second Superman movie directed by Zack Snyder and starring Henry Cavill that has garnered such negative reactions. (MAN OF STEEL only accumulated a 56% fresh score there.) It’s a shame too, because the DC universe doesn’t have to be played so dark, especially in Superman’s world. Even more of a shame is that DC is doing things so right on TV with ARROW, THE FLASH and SUPERGIRL. In fact, it would be wise for Snyder and company to study how they’re nailing it on SUPERGIRL each week as it proves characters from Krypton don’t have to carry gravitas worthy of a funeral dirge.

Throughout 17 episodes thus far, CBS’s version of SUPERGIRL has maintained a terrific sense of drama and conflict, yet it never forgets that its main character is sunny and bright, not dark and dour like Bruce Wayne. And Melissa Benoist, the lead of the series, brilliantly brings out all the positive and light in her character to make for one of TV’s most compelling leads. Not since Christopher Reeve has someone made earnestness so utterly fun and attractive. She, as well as the showrunners and writers, realize the essence of her character is an innate sense of goodness. It’s in Superman’s nature too, but you wouldn’t know it these days as portrayed on the big screen. 

Superman, lest anyone forget, is a constructive force who should not be spending oodles of screen time doubting his mission. It’s the fight for truth and justice, that simple. After all, this is a man who doesn’t disguise himself to be a superhero as most others do, like Peter Parker or Matt Murdock. Instead, his disguise is that of Clark Kent, the average Joe he’s trying to play to fit in with the rest of the world when he isn’t being all heroic and godlike. 

That’s the biggest difference between Superman and most other comic book heroes. The son of Krypton is not a vigilante. He doesn’t work surreptitiously outside the law. And he isn’t tortured by his profession. He certainly doesn’t have trouble with his prowess. In his world, if others have an issue with his skill set, that’s their problem. Both Superman and Supergirl come to this planet with the purest and most noble of intentions. And the control over their ego, id and physicality is rarely in question. 

So why is Snyder’s world of Superman so dark, literally, and figuratively? Is he trying to emulate the dark world of Batman so vividly created by Christopher Nolan in recent years? Perhaps he’s more of an imitator, after all for all the acclaim that 300 yielded him, he was essentially doing the color version of what Robert Rodriguez did years earlier in black and white with SIN CITY. The doom and gloom from Nolan’s Batman lingers all over Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL. It’s painted with a palate over reliant on gray skies, gray buildings, gray everything. 


And the big, half-hour battle sequence towards the end was so excruciating in its destruction of half of Metropolis, it was as depressing as anything this side of a month’s stay in a hospital. Where was the exuberance, the sense of the possible, the feeling of the joy that should be part and parcel of Superman? 

Now, in the new film, it appears that once again Superman is throwing down with excessive violence, toppled architecture and a tortured psyche. Most of the action sequences appear to be played at night too, and while that may be Batman’s domain, it really shouldn’t be that of Superman. The son of Jor-El is no shadow dweller anymore than Kara is, only the TV show SUPERGIRL knows it and those putting Superman on the big screen don’t. If you watch SUPERGIRL week to week, you’ll see that most of her action set pieces take place in daylight.

Superman should also be clever and sly, with his confidence showing in his words as well as his deeds. Benoist’s Supergirl gets lots of funny lines, as did Reeve in his day, but one would be hard-pressed to find such fun in most of Superman’s dialogue in MAN OF STEEL. We’ll wait to see how his character fares in the new film, but the trailer showcases more tight-lipped tension than any breezy banter. 

And speaking of funny, it’s no longer amusing that the movies continually trot out Lex Luthor as the main villain for Superman. Even though Jesse Eisenberg appears to be playing him differently from many Luthor’s in the past (Mark Zuckerberg on speed, it would seem), why is Luthor always the default bad guy on the big screen? Where are Brainiac, Lobo or Mister Mxyzptlk, for starters? They all were prevalent in the brilliant Paul Dini and Bruce Timm SUPERMAN animated series 20 years ago, so why can’t the film’s foes be more varied? Today’s SUPERGIRL series has a different villain practically every week, so there should be more than Luthor in the A to Zod of Superman villains on the big screen.


Another aspect of SUPERGIRL that seems lost in Snyder’s work, is the abundance of humor in its storytelling. More and more superhero movies are demonstrating a flare for comedy with the likes of ANT-MAN and this year’s huge hit DEADPOOL, but most DC films seem t struggle with being funny. Dark is in the Dark Knight’s moniker but it doesn’t need to be so prevalent in Superman’s world, even if he’s sharing the big screen with him.

Part of the success of SUPERGIRL in how it uses humor is evident in Benoist’s body language. She has an inherent sense of comedy and could easily be the lead on a sitcom. Her ability to hesitate on a line responding to the bullheaded Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) is often as funny as her Kara answering a comically absurd directive from her prickly media boss Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). Cavill can do so too, as evidenced by his cheeky performance in the big screen reboot of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, so why can’t he show some of that as Superman? Reeve made Superman funny. Heck, so did George Reeves back in the fifties. Why is Cavill being held back on the big screen? 

Cavill is surrounded by actors who have demonstrated some great comic chops too, like Amy Adams, but as Lois Lane in MAN OF STEEL she was given little opportunity to play with the part the way Margot Kidder did throughout the earlier SUPERMAN movies. One questions even how much screen time she gets in the new film as the ads and press seems far more interested in the introduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Again, it remains to be seen, but the numerous trailers and commercials don’t promise many sparks between Cavill and Adams. It seems entirely focused on Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and his flirtation with Diana Prince, Wonder Woman’s alter ego.

Finally, one of the great things that SUPERGIRL does week in and week out is present her with conflicts that need brains as well as brawn. Perhaps the biggest mistake that has been made in the last decade or so of big screen Batman and Superman movies is a distinct lack of ‘detective’ in their characters. Christopher Nolan did many great things with Batman, restoring some serious mojo in dire need after the Joel Schumacher debacles, but his Caped Crusader was mostly a brawler. And Superman in Bryan Singer’s SUPERMAN RETURNS, as well as in MAN OF STEEL, seemed to find more crime fighting answers with his fists than in genuine sleuthing. 


On SUPERGIRL, she’s shown thinking as much as fighting. She usually has to alter her strategy on how to stop one villain to the next. Sometimes it requires speed, or surprise, and often it requires a chess-like mind, but rarely is it driven purely by violence. Sometimes her words alone have talked a baddie out of doing a bad deed. Is anything like that evident in Snyder’s latest take on Superman? We shall see. 

The trailers promise the extremes of light versus dark, according to dialogue delivered by Luthor,  but one of the reasons that so many Superman fans rejected MAN OF STEEL was that it played too dark. It was almost like he was as tormented as Batman. Superman should not be just another brawler. Let’s hope this new film shows some light before Wonder Woman arrives. If it doesn’t, and it drags her down into the muck too, there simply will be no justice.