Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

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“I’m not gonna kill you…I’m just gonna hurt you…really, really bad.” – The Joker

That line really encapsulates Suicide Squad. After the Batman v Superman mess, DC/WB delivers us this film, which spares the DC Expanded Universe the bullet to the head, only to riddle it with the pain of knowing that folks in high places don’t know what they are doing.

First of all, Suicide Squad is miles better than Batman v Superman. Not even close. Suicide Squad actually gives us characters we care about, some awesome big screen debuts of iconic comic book characters and clear character motivations (mostly). The acting is also generally solid (like BvS). But that all gets bogged down in issues that come from the top down, namely the directing, editing, and writing. But good before bad, right? SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Good Stuff. 

  • Acting. Will Smith’s Deadshot was the best part of this film. We get some great scenes, including an amazing background flashback and some awesome action sequences. The script really undercuts his performance at times, but that’s not Smith’s fault. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is gold at times, and the voice she uses actually works, minus the couple times her British accent gets in the way. Everyone else does their job well, although the jury is still out for me regarding Jared Leto’s performance as Joker. Sometimes it was brilliant, and sometimes not.
  • Easter Eggs. As we all knew, Batman’s around for a little bit of the film, and another hero drops by as well. That hero’s interaction with a particular Suicide Squader is direct from the comics in its feel, look, and atmosphere. Also, seeing Joker dancing with Harley in her red and black harlequin outfit was magical. One of those “This is straight from the comics and I can’t believe how it is on screen!” moments.
  • Effects. Ok, no. Not the SFX used in actual action. Those were cheesy as all get out. The opening montage of sorts kicked off the film just how you want it to, with attention grabbing backstories and flashy letterings. We get to see where some of the Squad came from, and their run-ins with their superhero counterparts. Harley’s origin wasn’t her classic one, which was lame, but that didn’t take away from the film.
  • We Actually Care! In BvS we didn’t care about anyone on screen. Superman is mopey and broody and he dies…for no reason…because Wonder Woman could have been the one to kill Doomsday. Lois is a jerk, Batman wants to kill people, and well…you get the idea. In SS, the story and characters give us enough to care about. Yes, these are bad guys, but we actually can sympathize with their struggles, we care about Deadshot primarily, but also El Diablo, Harley, and even a bit for Flagg and Killer Croc. Its not just a bunch of villains running around that we have no emotional attachment to.

The Bad Stuff. 

  • The Script. I get that Ayer only had six months to write this (for some inexplicable reason), but boy is this screenplay a stinker. You can tell that they tried to shoehorn some comedy in, because almost every one-liner sticks out like a sore thumb. This is unfortunate, especially when Harley Quinn’s character should have made this easy. Robbie’s comedic timing actually seems pretty good, but there are some spots where a poor script and choppy editing render that skill useless. There are several groan-worthy lines that feel like they were written by a 5th-grader, and they are bad enough to take you right out of the film.
  • The Editing. Very jumpy. It chops up the story rather than progresses it.
  • The Pacing. There are several scenes that could have been used for emotional gutpunches and or profound moments, but these scenes were really rushed through way too fast. There was very little time to process things before the next scene was already there.

The other problem, the main problem, is the plot. Though generic, it made sense as it stood. But once again, motivations and decisions made by characters within that plot too often make little to no sense. This causes a real lack of depth that really twists things into nonsense way too much, because there’s nothing beyond the surface activity. This is a carryover from BvS (although it was much more handicapping in that film. Nobody even knows why Lex Luthor was motivated to do anything in that film). So here are some questions this lack of depth caused.

#1) Why send the SS into an American city under a blatant super-human attack?

The main concept behind Task Force X is using super-villains instead of soldiers so that other countries will believe the U.S. government when they say “we had nothing to do with this action that would be usually interpreted as an act of war.” Basically, they are black ops mission runners who are expendable. So why send the SS into an American city under a blatant super-human attack, when none of the Suicide Squad members actually have powers that would be better than ordinary soldiers? Deadshot, Katana, Captain Boomerang, yeah, they are good with their weapons, but are they really any better than just sending in more soldiers. The only one that actually has superpowers is the only one that refuses to use them. I know Waller wants to hide her connection to the Enchantress, but she already sends in ground troops with the SS! Its no secret that there’s tons of debris floating above one of the biggest cities in the U.S. No reason to choose volatile criminals in this case.

#2) Why didn’t Waller destroy the Enchantress’ heart?

She specifically finds and keeps the heart to control the Enchantress. The understanding is that if the Enchantress steps out of line, the heart gets destroyed. So why does Waller just stab the heart instead of destroying it.

#3) Why did Waller kill all her “co-workers.”

The obvious reason is that it would make her look more like cold, cruel, BA woman. The reason Waller gives is that they have seen too much. But Waller brought those very same people in. The room is militarily labeled in the building. This all goes back to the fact that if all Waller wanted was an extraction, why send in Task Force X? And there are plenty of folks that work for top secret military functions. They all don’t get shot.

#4) Why didn’t Enchantress notice that the only weapon that could cut her heart out was sitting right in Harley Quinn’s reach?

#5) Why does the Joker get jealous of the guy he “gives” Harley to when he’s the one who “gave” Harley too in the first place?

Yeah, I dunno the answer to either of those either. Basically, this films could have been great, but suffers from way too much dumb decision making. The actors did their best with what they could, but it wasn’t enough to make a flawed film great.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars.

(The remainder of this post is the usual weekly TWIC features.)

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Suicide Squad: Adaptation of the DC Comics comic book series.
  • Nine Lives: Original film written by Dan Antoniazzi and Ben Shiffrin.

Original: 34

Adaptation: 22

Sequel/Prequel: 23

Remake: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY.

This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Zootopia ( +2 )
2) Sing Street ( – )
3) Love and Friendship ( –2 )
4) Hunt for the Wilderpeople ( – )
5) Captain America: Civil War ( – )
6) Finding Dory ( – )
7) The Jungle Book ( – )
8) Indignation (NEW)
9) Eye in the Sky ( -1 )
10) Don’t Think Twice ( -1 )

 

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Usually when a major comic book character gets replaced, its a difficult challenge for a writer to come up with something that doesn’t seem like a ploy to sell more comics. Superheavy isn’t in the “usual” category.

In the previous collection of Batman, the Joker’s endgame leads to Bruce Wayne vacating his role as the Caped Crusader. His successor is none other than Jim Gordon. The twist here is that Gordon is actually working for the city, officially, rather than partaking in the usual shadowy comings and goings Gotham is used to dealing with.

Gordon’s Batman is a mechanical behemoth operating much like a Starkian suit of armor rather than just a man in a cape and cowl, and this Batman actually has a boss.

In this volume, we see a Gotham where Batman is an employee, with supervisors and responsibilities to folks ranking higher than he. This makes for a very interesting dynamic, because Jim Gordon is still classic Jim Gordon, a good detective with a nose for catching the bad guys. So when his Batman is removed from a case, how will he respond when he’s not in agreement with his supervisor?

I try to keep things mostly spoiler free, so you’ll have to find out that answer for yourself. But regarding the actual composition of the books, you’ll find that this is not just your standard “replacement superhero” story. Scott Snyder continues his great work on the Batman title and delivers a creepy new villain (Mr. Bloom), along with a solid plot. It deals with some heavy issues, and lays the groundwork for a good conclusion and for Bruce Wayne’s return.

Final Grade: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

News is rolling out this week that the “special edition” of the DC fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us will be out later this year, which is a sure sign that there will be no more DLC, which is unfortunate. Its a great game made even better by the added content. However, whenever I play it, I wonder one thing. Why Scorpion? In a DC Comics fighting game, why waste a DLC character on someone who isn’t from the DC Universe? As best I can tell, it was just the developers trying to get one of their Mortal Kombat characters into another game. But there were plenty of fantastic DC characters that would have been amazing to play as. Here are 10 of them, in alphabetical order, accompanied by a potential super move (you’ll know what this is if you’ve played the game).

1) Darkseid

Darkseid does appear in the game, but only as a non-playable character in one of the stage transitions. He is an unlockable character in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, but it would have been great to see him in Injustice. With power and strength that parallels or exceeds characters like Superman, Doomsday, and Shazam, he’d be a great brawler, but thanks to his other powers, he’d have great range attacks as well.  

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Darkseid’s main claim to fame is the Omega Beam, shot from his eyes with concussive or disintegrating results. He can teleport, shoot energy blasts from his hands, is extremely fast, and can manipulate matter with his mind. Plenty to work with here.

Supermove: Darkseid plunges his opponent into the Omega Sanction, a succession of painful alternate realities, each getting progressively worse.

2) Etrigan

If you know anything about Scorpion, it’s that he uses lots of fire attacks, and he’s pretty much a demon in ninja garb. Well, how about using an actual demon from DC?  

Etrigan

Etrigan was fused to his human “host” Jason Blood by Merlin (yes, that Merlin), and they share a life. It’s similar to the Hulk, but the transformation is made willingly, and the two entities aren’t the same person, or even different personalities. Etrigan is a savage fighter who breathes and commands mystical fire. He’s been known to use a sword on occasion, and aside from his fangs and claws, his mastery of magic, superstrength, and enhanced agility make him more than a match for anyone (and he’s much more powerful than Scorpion).

Supermove: Etrigan impales his opponent on a flaming sword, opens a portal to hell and throws him in a lake of fire.

3) Gorilla Grodd

There is nobody from Flash’s rogue’s gallery in the game, and who wouldn’t want to play as a talking, mind-controlling gorilla? Grodd is a conqueror, raising up apes from Gorilla City in numerous attempts at world conquest. It might sound corny, but there have been some great story arcs featuring Grodd, and if you look close at the Stryker’s Island battle stage, you’ll see him in the background.

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Grodd can fire off telekinetic force beams from his helmet, and he is known as a genius, building a variety of weapons to use in combat. His favorites are laser guns and knives. He also is able to create illusions in his opponents minds, tricking them into attacking something that isn’t there. Grodd is much stronger than a normal gorilla, although his thought processing speed is about the same as a human.

Supermove: Grodd grabs his opponent by the arm and flings him high in the air. This is followed by a bevy of blows, culminating in a huge laser to the face.

4) Larfleeze

One of my personal favorites. I know we have two colors of Lantern already in the game, but Larfleeze is different. Plus, he’s a bit of a comic relief, something the game doesn’t have (aside from Joker).

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Larfleeze is an Orange Lantern (the only true Orange Lantern). He controls the orange light of avarice, which has completely consumed him to the point where he kills anyone who tries to get close to his lantern or ring. He then creates a hard light construct of his victim, and adds it to his growing army. He’s a pretty pitiful character, saying “Mine!” a la Daffy Duck quite frequently, but he is super powerful and hilarious, plus another alien in the game can’t hurt anything.

He has very similar powers to Green Lantern and Sinestro, except he has an entire army of constructs to himself. All of these constructs retain the powers they had while alive, meaning that Larfleeze has a variety of attacks at his disposal.

Supermove: Larfleeze teleports his enemy to his cave, where an army of orange constructs converge to attack. Afterwards, Larfleeze dumps his opponent into the orange power battery.

5) Mirror Master

Yes, he’s not much in the way of achievements, but think of the cool stuff you could pull off with this guy!

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Mirror Master has access to an alternate dimension that he can access by passing through any type of mirror. Once in this dimension, he can return to Earth through any mirror anywhere. He also possesses a “mirror gun” that can turn any surface into a mirror, making getaways easy. He can also bring people along with him into the mirror world.

Mirror Master would make for some great fighting moves. Along with teleporting, imagine range attacks that are actually punches, with Mirror Master using a mirror to get his fist close to his opponent. Attacks from below become super powerful as Mirror Master dives through one mirror and up through one just in front of his opponent.

Supermove: Mirror Master opens a mirror below his opponent and tackles him into it. His opponents head bangs around on mirrors in the mirror zone, and Mirror Master keeps him falling until letting him drop, at a high speed, onto the ground.

6) Mr. Miracle

Aside from the brief Darkseid cameo, we don’t hear from any of the citizens of New Genesis and Apokolips. Mr. Miracle was one of these residents, who now is a hero on earth. His real name being Scott Free, he is the greatest escape artist in the universe. But that’s not what makes him fun to fight with.

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Being a New God, Mr. Miracle has enhanced strength, agility, and speed. But what makes him stand out are his gadgets. Sure we’ve got Batman for that, but Mr. Miracle is different. He has access to a Mother Box, a sentient computer from Apokolips. Mother Box can open Boom Tubes (wormhole like tunnels used for fast travel or attack), and run quick scans on any situation. Aero discs are Scott’s favorite mode of transportation, but they can be used for attacks as well, his gloves are able to shoot lasers and produce sonic waves, while his boots are equipped with laser jets and knives.

Supermove: Mr. Miracle opens a boom tube, which sucks his opponent through to Apokolips, where he is attacked by Darkseid’s minions before getting boomed back to Earth.

7) Mr. Mxyzpylk

Mxy is an imp from the 5th Dimension. Most people know him as the trickster who frustrates Superman/Clark Kent until Clark can get him to spell or say his own name backwards (Klypzyxm).

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As crazy as he looks, Mxy is extremely powerful. He can control the laws of physics and transform matter with a thought. He could make himself as big or small as he’d like, and his only limit is his imagination. He’s not really evil, he just enjoys tormenting Superman. In fact, Mxy will protect Superman when he can, because he wants to make sure Superman will still be alive to tease.

Supermove: Well…anything you could think of…literally. How about he turns himself into a baseball bat and his opponent into a baseball and smacks them into deep space.

8) Nekron

The unliving entity behind the events of Blackest Night and master of the zombie Black Lanterns. Nekron is the embodiment of Death in the DC Universe and is the most powerful dark force in DC lore. So basically, you’re playing as Death itself? Yeah, sweet.

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Nekron’s powers are nearly limitless. He can warp reality, raise the dead, kill with a touch and fire black lighting from his hands. His Black Lantern Scythe is a formidable force in hand-to-hand combat and can also fire blasts of dark energy.

Supermove: Nekron rips a hole in reality and knocks his opponent through it. His opponent is beset by dead souls until Nekron impales him with his scythe, dragging him back into the land of the living.

9) The Sandman

Really either version would be fine, but Sandy Hawkins (the most recent Sandman) would be best. Both Hawkins and his mentor Westley Dodd, were members of the Justice Society of America. Donning a gas mask and a noir suit, Sandman uses his street smarts and skills to bring criminals to justice.

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Besides being an excellent hand-to-hand combatant, Sandy uses gas guns, a harpoon/grapple gun (called the Wirepoon), and other gadgets in his crusade against crime. He also can control the earth in a limited way, using seismic waves to create small quakes and manipulate the ground. Sandy has a psychic connection of sorts with Morpheus, the real “mythical” Sandman, and he can use this connection to utilize a certain deal of precognition.

Supermove: Sandy blasts a shot from his gas gun into his opponent’s face, causing a deep sleep in a dreamworld where he is battered around by the Endless as Morpheus looks on.

10) The Shade

With this list, I’ve tried to pick out characters with powers different than those featured in the game already. Mirror Master and Sandman are the best examples of this, along with this final character, the anti-hero The Shade. The Shade (AKA Richard Swift) is over 100 years old. Trapped in the middle of an unexplained magical phenomena in England, Swift became immortal and found himself able to control the forces of the Darklands, a world of shadows and semi-sentient darkness.

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The Shade uses the Darklands to create constructs of darkness, much like Green Lantern would. He can also use the Darkness to create corridors in time and space, making transportation a breeze. He wields a old walking cane that he can use for combat or to direct his forces of the Dark.

Supermove: The Shade plunges the fighting arena into darkness, confusing his opponent, who is then raised high above the stage, along with the Shade, on pillars of darkness. The Shade knocks his opponent off with a leap, and batters him on the way down with his cane.

Admittedly, I am a completest. I typically need to start at the start, and do things in order. I won’t skip things, even if they aren’t so great. I still haven’t seen any of The Walking Dead because I want to read all the comics/graphic novels AND start at episode one of the show.  So, all that being said, after DC Comics started out on their New 52, I was ready to start with #1 (or #0, I guess) and read ALL of it. Naturally, it took awhile, as I have neither the money or interest to buy every issue, and needed to resort to library availability, but I’m enough through Volume 1 at this point to make a judgement (the only ones I haven’t read are VoodooCaptain Atom, and The Shade miniseries). Before I do that, here’s my breakdown of the titles.

The Best – Titles I really liked

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Justice League
Aquaman
Batman
Batman and Robin
Action Comics
Green Lantern
Green Lantern: New Guardians
DC Universe Presents

The Good – Titles I liked, but not as much

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Batman: The Dark Knight
Detective Comics
Batgirl
Batwing
Green Arrow
Green Lantern Corps
Blue Beetle
Blackhawks
Men of War
Animal Man
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Birds of Prey
Huntress
(miniseries)

The OK – Titles that have some good things, but are mostly nothing special.

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Justice League International
The Savage Hawkman
Batwoman
Nightwing
Superboy
Supergirl
Red Lanterns
Hawk and Dove
Legion Lost
Deathstroke
Stormwatch
Grifter
Justice League Dark
Swamp Thing
Demon Knights
Resurrection Man
The Fury of Firestorm
Teen Titans
Penguin: Pain and Prejudice 
(miniseries)
Legion: Secret Origin 
(miniseries)

The Ugly – Avoid at all costs

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Wonder Woman
The Flash
Mr. Terrific
Catwoman
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Superman
Static Shock
Legion of Superheroes
Suicide Squad
OMAC
All-Star Western
I, Vampire

The Verdict

The New 52 was DC’s big plan to revitalize their universe, it came along with a new logo and everything. And at some level, it was a good idea. A massive ret-con chance to line things up and make them smoother. But as I was reading through all of volume one, things were generally stale.

Aside from “the best” and some of “the good,” they told the same old story. New villain, need to fight, the hero learns something new about himself, etc. It was boring. The books that broke that mold were the ones that were the best, but they also had previously established supporting casts to use (Green Lantern: New Guardians and Batman for example). Aquaman was really the only character that came “out of the blue” to have a great story. The Batman, Action Comics and Green Lantern titles leaned heavily on past history, and DC Universe Presents did as well, with a great expansion of Deadman’s story, and a fun new origin to the Challengers of the Unknown.

The really sad thing here is the awful comics. DC has virtually no clue how to write a strong female character. If Barbara Gordon was around (BatgirlBirds of Prey) it was alright, everything else was bad, bad, bad. Wonder Woman was boring, stupid, and uninteresting, Catwoman was completely devoid of everything that made Ed Brubaker and Will Pfeifer’s run on the character so great: a Selina Kyle that was not one dimensional, that was struggling with her conscience, with protecting her friends and her child, and with starting a new life. OMAC, Static Shockand Mr. Terrific tried really hard, but were just boring attempts at sci-fi. The Flash and All Star Western promised much, but delivered recycled plots and thin characterization, and Legion of Superheroes threw literally, a legion of characters at you and expected you to know all of them. I was lost, and I don’t get lost easily.

At the end of the day, even with a new idea like this, things do stay pretty much the same. There are good stories, there are bad stories. Once they get out from under the “reboot” umbrella, which they are already starting to do, things will be better. We won’t have the need for new introductions to characters we may already know, and we’ll get some freedom to see some new things (I just finished the new Dial H volume, part of Wave 2 of the New 52, and it was great). But for the first wave, stick to the classics and you’ll be rewarded. DC will get back on track, and even though I’m a Marvel guy, I’m excited to see what folks like Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison have in store.

With the new trailer for Iron Man 3 out today, the buzz around the first Marvel Studios Phase 2 film is increasing. Interestingly, so are the voices comparing Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin with Tom Hardy’s Bane, from The Dark Knight Rises. And while it is somewhat understandable that these parallels are drawn, as they both are terrorists, and (oh my gosh), there is an exploding plane in Iron Man 3 AND in The Dark Knight Rises, that’s really where the similarities should end, because I tell you what, the Mandarin, from the look of these trailers, will completely blow Bane out of the water. Here are five reasons why:

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#5) His voice

No, I’m not that guy who thinks Bane was lame because of his voice. I thought it was a good touch, unique and menacing. But did it scare you? I was never scared by Bane’s voice, it was his look that was creepy. The way the Mandarin says “You’ll never see…me…coming” in the last trailer gave me goosebumps. And it was just his voice. Plus we will have the added benefit of being able to understand the Mandarin.

#4) He attacks a country, not a city.

Bane’s vendetta takes him to Gotham, his whole focus is bent on the destruction of Bruce Wayne’s city. Obviously the President knew about Bane after this happened. In Iron Man 3, the Mandarin is a Bin Laden type character, and he’s causing enough damage to make the President of the United States take notice and start a manhunt. These are international incidents. Bane, not so much. He’s en route to Gotham, wanted by the CIA yes, but he’s never the source of widespread media attention, and he is only addressed by the White House after he attacks Gotham. Mandarin is addressed as a global threat while remaining in the shadows, Bane isn’t the media’s concern until he arrives in Gotham and shows his face.

#3) He’s been there the whole time.

We’ve had hints that the Mandarin has been Stark’s nemesis for perhaps the duration of three films. The 10 Rings pop up in the first film as behind the terrorist cell that kidnaps Tony in the first place, and in the second film, it appears that the 10 Rings also got Ivan Vanko the paperwork to get into the car race that Stark had entered. Bane, he’s there for one film, and he hasn’t been behind the scenes in any of the other ones. Does that make him less tough? Not necessarily, but the Mandarin has been a thorn in Iron Man’s side without being seen for years. Bane can’t say the same.

#2) He (probably) won’t rely on plot holes

As great a job as Tom Hardy did as Bane, and he was great, his character relied on too many plot holes to do his damage. My favorite is that a terrorist can walk into a major stock exchange, with dozens of witnesses, and trade away Bruce Wayne’s wealth. This much is plausible, but if you’re trying to tell me that the U.S. Government wouldn’t reverse those trades within 24 hours, especially considering they were all done through Wayne’s account, and not some secret one that required hacking, then I have some seaside land in Kansas I’d like to tell you about. Put it this way, if that happened in real life to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, the feds would certainly step in. And then the GCPD inexplicably sends all their manpower into the sewers at the same time, making it easy for Bane and his minions.

#1) He’s not a lackey.

Ok, and this is where my worry comes in if DC/Warner Brothers are letting Christopher Nolan change essential parts of characters and stories. It WRECKS them. In the comics, Bane is a master tactician who carefully plans Batman’s downfall. He exhausts Batman, who is at the top of his game, and then comes in and breaks him. In the film, Bane shows up when Batman is a pansy, hiding away for eight years, who has a wrecked body. This is the Batman that Nolan’s Bane breaks, an out of shape Batman. Any Batman villain with any strength could have broken him – Killer Croc, Clayface, maybe even someone like Hush or Prometheus. That is a major watering down of a huge comic book moment.

Side note, it looks like Marvel might actually have a similar storyline to Knightfall (the Breaking the Bat storyline mentioned above), but instead of Bane breaking Batman, the Mandarin will be breaking Tony Stark. That’s embarrassing. Having a great storyline, having a chance to execute it, missing that chance, and letting your main rival walk right in and use a similar story in their next big film. Fail. 

Even worse than wrecking Bane’s ‘Breaking the Bat,’ was his treatment at the end of the film. It turns out, Bane was just Talia’s lackey all along. So much for his being a master tactician. There’s no way this happens with Mandarin, just as there is no way War Machine will show up with a bazooka and kill him like Catwoman did to Bane, as if the screenwriters just said, “Dang, the end of this film is coming up quickly, we better bump Bane off!”

So there you have it. Mandarin wins. Yes, all these reasons come with just under two months before Iron Man 3 comes out, so I may be assuming some things. But I’m coming off a 20 for 24 night of picking the correct Oscar winners, so I’m feeling good about my predictions. Maybe if Nolan had respected the source material it would be different.

I really love this time of year. Christmas is coming up, there are great movies coming out and the awards season is upon us. I went to see Lincoln last night, and I’ll have a review of that coming next week in tandem with the first Hobbit film, which I will be seeing tomorrow. I always wait until the end of the calendar year to make official predictions and Top 10 lists, but in a truly great year for cinema, I feel the need to break the following news to certain people.

Jennifer Lawrence: Silver Linings Playbook, not The Hunger Games.

This happens every year. People think the Oscars, Golden Globes, etc. are all just a popularity contest. And although one shouldn’t deny that the Academy has their favorites, it is important to realize there are no teenagers involved in Oscar balloting. No, Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t deserve any nominations for her outing as Katniss Everdeen. I’d be surprised if The Hunger Games receives any nominations at all. It’s outclassed by plenty of more deserving films, and it can’t stand up to other blockbusters, who routinely snag the “lesser” awards in special effects and art direction. From an artistic standpoint, it hasn’t a chance, and films like The AvengersThe Dark Knight Rises, and Prometheus will bury it in the blockbuster categories. It was a decent outing for Lawrence, but really nothing amazingly special. 

No Major Awards for Bond, Batman, or the Avengers. 

While they did plenty of things right, there’s no way The AvengersThe Dark Knight Rises, or Skyfall will be taking home major hardware. The Bond flick could procure some nice nominations, as Javier Bardem and Judi Dench have seen already, but nothing in the manner of Best Screenplay or Best Picture. The Avengers, the movie of the year at the box office and the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater ever, isn’t the type of film the Academy likes, although it should get some special effects love. And Batman? Sorry, but your movie just wasn’t that great. I enjoyed it sure, but too many plot holes and stupid death scenes. Plus, I wouldn’t nominate any of the actors, even the supporting ones, because they didn’t have enough to work with. Again, we could see some “minor award,” but  nothing big, and that’s fine.

Argo and Zero Dark Thirty Could be Sneaky

Don’t be surprised if these two sneak up on everything and snag some major hardware. Nominated for five Golden Globes, Ben Affleck’s Argo has flown under the radar since its release, and Zero Dark Thirty is just starting to pick up the pace, and could challenge films like Lincoln and Les Miserables for some key awards, especially in the acting department.

The Special Effects Race will be Tight

The special effects awards could break any which way at this point. Prometheus was mesmerizing, The Avengers was done very well, and Life of Pi has been getting rave reviews in this department. And as disappointing as it was to many viewers, Cloud Atlas has been kicking up some dust as well. A lot of deserving candidates out there now.

That’s all I have for now. Feel free to respond with some input or predictions you have. My Top Ten Films list will come out at the end of this month, and I always like discussing it with folks, so let me know what you think.

P.S. I’m as baffled as you are by the attention given to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. The book is good though.

When The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters this weekend, we will be seeing the end of a amazing movie trilogy. Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale have confirmed that this will be the last time they will be filming a Batman movie or anything related (Justice League for example). So what’s next for the Caped Crusader? Here are some things I’d like to see.

#1) The Riddler. After the debacle of Jim Carrey in this role, it needed some time off. Some people don’t seem to get that the Riddler is actually not really similar to Joker at all. What would a good version of the Riddler entail? A fall from grace for one. Let’s say Eddie Nashton discovers his employer’s dirty laundry, get’s axed, and changes his name to Nygma. You’ve got to really play the OCD card, as that is Riddler’s malady. He has to leave riddles, and he has to show he is smarter than everyone, and let’s face it, he is REALLY smart. This is Holmes/Moriarty stuff we’re dealing with.

2) Robin. This needs to be set up very carefully. It can’t be a joke, it does need to be Dick Grayson, and it does need to be circus related. Bruce Wayne needs to see something after Dick’s parents are killed that motivates Bruce to save Dick from the downward spiral and darkness he has subjected himself to from his own parents death.

3) The Long Halloween. A perfect Batman mystery. Holiday is a serial killer who kills once a month, on the holiday from that month. Suspects abound and for help, Batman turns to Julian Day, the Calendar Man, who also had a crime theme with days of the month. Day doesn’t want to be forgotten, so he helps Batman track down the Holiday Killer. Very Lecteresque.

4) Hush. You can’t just bring in Hush on his own story, it needs to be set up. And that means you need Killer Croc, Joker, Riddler, Two-face, Clayface, and Catwoman. This is a huge, wonderful story to build up to.

5) Gotham as a ‘Mecca for the Insane.’ It’s reference in the comics and animated shows numerous times, the idea that the presence of the Batman attracts the crazies to Gotham. In order to maintain a realistic film world, you probably need a reason that all the crazy people are in Gotham.

6) New gang wars. Going along with idea #5, a new breed of gang needs to show up in Gotham, one more extreme and a little more unbalanced. I’m thinking Penguin and Black Mask here, with maybe some help from the Great White Shark and Scarface. Also, this could lead to the chance to throw the rogue’s gallery wide open as the gang leaders stage a huge prison break at Arkham and recruit the former inmates, outfitting them with special equipment and suits to fight the Batman and match their neurosis. Possibilities: Firefly, Killer Croc, Dr. Death, Professor Pyg, Crazy Quilt, Eraser, Headhunter, Jane Doe, Tiger Shark, Onomatopoeia.

7) A live action Sub-zero. A great animated film that showed what makes Mr. Freeze tick. Change some things and bring it to the big screen.

I could go on and on all day, but I’ll say this instead: enjoy the new Batman film this week. With DC Comics recent ‘success’ with movies, I don’t know how soon another good Batman flick will come our way.

By now I’m sure a lot of you have seen The Avengers. Some more than once. It’s a wonderful, exciting film that has Hulk-Smashed box office records. Comic book/superhero fans everywhere are loving this. The best opening weekend of all time and the first $200 million opening weekend in history belongs to The Avengers and Marvel Studios. Not Marvel Comics and some place like FOX or Sony/Columbia, but Marvel Studios. This has huge implications for not only the superhero genre, but for filmmaking in general.

From the 1950s on, superheroes were generally considered second rate at the movie theater. They may have made for fun movies and solid serials (I’m thinking Batman and The Adventures of Captain Marvel here), but in feature length film, they were nothing to speak of. From 1950 to 1999 we have such works of art as Condorman, Swamp Thing, Supergirl, Captain America, Darkman, Batman & Robin, Batman Forever, The Punisher, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spawn, and Steel. There were only two superheroes to have decent films made about them during this time: Batman and Superman. But with Batman, you get the luxury of having a story that is as much crime/mystery/thriller as it is comic book. When that formula was departed from in Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, Batman flops along with the rest of them. Superman was good, Superman II solid, but sequels to those were very poor. And four above average comic book films in half a century isn’t a good track record. (I’m counting Superman, Superman II, Batman and Blade).

The success of Blade in 1998 paved the way for the X-Men and Spiderman to have successful big screen debuts. X-Men, Spider-man, X2, and Spider-man 2 were financial and critical successes. Then the money grabbing started. Smelling a get rich quick scheme, Hollywood execs salivated at the chance to bring more comic book characters to life, in return for millions in box office profits. The results? Daredevil, The Punisher, Catwoman, Blade: Trinity, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Superman Returns, Spider-man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Ghost Rider. And before we jump on Marvel for flooding the market with poor efforts, we need to realize that Marvel DID NOT MAKE those films. Separate studios, such as FOX, Columbia/Sony, New Line and more had bought the big screen rights from Marvel Comics hoping to make a quick dime, which they did at the cost of making a good film.

The rescue of the superhero movie came in two phases. The first was when Christopher Nolan and David Goyer penned Batman Begins. Going for realism and not camp, Nolan helmed the first step forward in years in comic book movie land. The Dark Knight followed a few years later, the first true superhero masterpiece. But remember, this is Batman. Batman is believable, Batman is a detective, not a man who can fly.

The second phase was when Marvel Comics finally put their foot down. Enough with other people playing with their toys. Iron Man, the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was a hit. It was followed by The Incredible Hulk, the first modern reboot of a superhero franchise, and a definite improvement on Ang Lee’s version. Comic book fans got a look at Nick Fury in Iron Man and Tony Stark in The Incredible Hulk and began longing for the grand prize. Was this going to be a world where superheroes co-existed? A sequel to Iron Man was green lit, and in it we see not only Fury, but the Black Widow and nods at the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Namor, and the Black Panther. Thor and Captain America movies followed in 2011, both reasonable successes financially and critically, but neither matched Iron Man’s pizzazz. The critics came out wondering if it was possible to make a superhero movie that was both great and not grounded in ‘reality.’ Both Batman and Iron Man were tech and human based, not magical or alien. Punisher: War Zone, Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a Ghost Rider sequel/reboot, they all came and went, ranging from average to bad.

Then there was the question of diluting the market. With Warner Brothers making DC films, FOX, Colombia, and Marvel Studios making Marvel films and whoever else making other comic book films, people were questioning if there were too many superheroes. That all changed the moment that The Avengers hit the big screen. This was it. This is what Marvel was prepping for for five films and four years. Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Loki, and yes…Thanos, all in the same movie. And Joss Whedon kept to the source material. Yes, there was no Antman or Wasp, but Nick Fury’s shadiness, Cap’s leadership, the Hulk’s rage and Loki’s schemes were all brought beautifully to the big screen with fantastic results. And this should send waves through Hollywood.

Look at the two best comic book movies of all time: The Dark Knight and The Avengers. What do they have in common? They were directed by people who read comics as kids, who are comic fans at heart. The actors read comics, the producers read/wrote comics. This goes against what Hollywood does: find things to make money with. Nolan and Marvel Studios are making films about heroes they love, keeping them faithful to their source and making money off them because they love them and want to share them with other fans, who also love them. There’s really no argument anymore that you can’t make money by sticking to the source material. Not only are there over 40-60 years of material to delve from (in Marvel and DC’s cases), but now a film written and directed by a fan and acted out by (mostly) fans is the first film in history to make $200 million in one weekend.

And it goes on from there. Now, all of a sudden, there isn’t enough room in the year for all the movies people want to see. The Dark Knight Rises comes out this year still. Next year we have  Iron Man 3 and Thor 2. In 2014, we have Captain America 2. They already announced there will be an Avengers sequel. There are talks of new Black Widow, Nick Fury and Hulk solo films, and before The Avengers came out, Marvel Studios was already mulling over movies featuring Antman, Black Panther, the Inhumans, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Dr. Strange. Christopher Nolan is co-producing a new Superman film: Man of Steel. This is it. There is no room for poor efforts. The bar has been raised. What comic book fans have been saying all along is proving true. You can make good films by staying true to our favorite characters. No more mute Deadpools. No more skinny Venoms. No more Catwomen not named Selina Kyle. This is it. And this is it for all films. Hollywood, stop meddling with classic stories, stop adding things that don’t make sense. Do it right. Christopher Nolan did it. Marvel Studios has done it through six films ranging from good (Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger) to excellent (Iron Man, The Avengers). There can be no more excuses. Either do it right, or fail miserably. That is the ultimatum.