Shanlian on Batman episode 125

 

The time has finally come! Justin and Kyle have both seen Aquaman in theaters and are having a sit down to talk about what they liked and disliked about James Wan’s new film.

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Shanlian On Batman: Episode 124 wsg Daniel Alter

 

 

Episode 124 is now LIVE! Listen to Kyle and Justin chat with special guest Daniel Alter about Aquaman, which is in theaters now! The guys muse about the future of the DCEU, The Joker origin film, Green Lantern the upcoming Matt Reeves “The Batman.”

Aquaman Keeps DC Afloat

by Drew Kiess

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It feels like an eternity since Justice League landed with a thud last November, the film that introduced us (officially) to Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry. Irrespective of your opinion on that film (I still watch that movie with a stupid, childish grin on my face, despite its flaws), we all knew coming out of it that the landscape of DC on film was going to be changed forever.

The Snyder era, in practicality, was over (The Snyders are listed as producers for Aquaman, but likely had very little creative control). Aquaman is the first true post-Snyder DC film and the first film who’s post-production (and some production) overseen by Walter Hamada. This is the new DC Films, for better and worse.

By the time my “early” screening started, it felt like everyone in the world had already seen the film. In fact, it had already become a smash hit in China and had many screenings around the world. The word-of-mouth on the movie felt really strong, but the critical reception was lukewarm. Heading in, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was in for.

Ever since Geoff Johns took over the book in 2011 at the beginning of the “New 52” era, Aquaman has remained at the top of my favorite comic books. There’s been something exciting about the character for me for some time, and I have long wanted to see what the world of Atlantis would look like on the bigscreen. Finally, James Wan has brought this dream to life.

Aquaman looks gorgeous. Yes, it’s a CGI heavy film, but there’s probably a good reason for that. Rumor has it that Jason Momoa and Amber Heard are not actually fish-people. Once we accept the world, then hopefully we can acknowledge just how well crafted it is visually. But CGI always has a way of drawing criticism, warranted or not.

The cast of Aquaman, from Momoa’s Arthur to Heard’s Mera, and from Wilson’s Orm to DaFoe’s Vulko, are all pitch-perfect castings and seem to have good chemistry. It is an overused trite of film criticism to say that actors seemed to have a fun time making a movie (who cares? So long as it’s a great performance, they can be miserable for all I care), but Momoa had an energy about him that was absolutely infectious, and Heard played Mera with a light-hearted royal air.

Aquaman, however, squanders its cast’s chemistry with some fairly cliche’ emotional writing. There’s nothing wrong with a conventional Joseph Campbell-esque hero’s journey, but the writing needs to be less conventional and on-the-nose. Too often, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall’s screenplay held the hand of the audience through emotional beats, and some of these beats were delivered in flashback, without our heroes. Much of the humor falls flat as well, which falls square at the feet of the screenwriters The break-neck pace of the film and the consistency and quality of the action make up for much of what is lacking in the screenplay’s dialogue, but script-wise, it may be the weakest of these DCU films for me (remembering, of course, that I haven’t disliked one outright yet).

That hero’s journey is well-plotted. Arthur’s journey from reluctant hero to king is about as classic as it gets, and is a quintessential part of who this character is. He shows us that being heroic isn’t about whether we are worthy of our heroic stature, but it’s about what we decide to fight for–ourselves or those around us?

In a better world, this would have been a two-part film, giving some of the ideas and character development room to breathe. But because superhero movie sequels are not a guarantee outside of the mighty MCU, this film had quite a bit of ground to cover. The result is a fast-paced, wacky, and action-packed adventure. For the most part, it’s fun. It brings a comic book character to life in a way that I had not thought possible. Wan certainly deserves a chance to direct the sequel, and all signs point to him getting that chance. Aquaman is poised to become Warner Bros.’ biggest box-office superhero success since The Dark Knight Rises, but even if it falls short of that billion dollar mark, it should land happily in the neighborhood of Wonder Woman‘s $822 million dollar hull. The new DC Films is here, boys and girls. Let’s hope it sticks around.

Final Grade: Comics Code Approved Approved_by_the_Comics_Code_Authority

 

Aquaman is in U.S. theaters December 21st

Facing the Kryptonite: Taken Down by Anxiety and Rollercoasters

by Drew Kiess

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In most contexts, feeling like Superman would be a fantastic thing. Absolutely invincible—a man of steel. But what happens when some two-bit thug pull out that dreaded green rock? Steel turns to water and no amount of positive thinking seems to be good enough to get you back to normal.

 

That’s a bit what it’s like going through life with anxiety. I am claustrophobic and a agoraphobic, which means I am afraid of two things: Being in tight spaces and being seen being afraid of being in tight spaces. An anxiety or panic attack is bad enough on its own, but being seen having one is such an extraordinary dose of embarrassment that it has kept me from doing a lot of things that I would normally consider fun (or, at the very least, an improvement on doing nothing at all). For this reason, I drive separately to places. If I feel anxious, I’ll make up an excuse and drive home.

 

And so the prospect of riding with a group of friends to an amusement park three hours away to be strapped into a rollercoaster is about as kryptonite as it gets. I am trapped and have made some promises that I have no confidence in my ability to keep.

 

But, like Superman, it was “up, up, and away” anyway.

 

A mere fifteen minutes after arriving at the park, I found myself being strapped into my first coaster. I doubt it made much noise, but in my head, the vest restraints coming down sounded something like prison bars slamming shut. I was surprised at my ability, despite the tight restraints, to adjust in my seat.

 

Deep breath. And we’re off.

 

The climb began and I look down to see my feet dangling. My anxiety is hitting the level that if I were a cartoon, a steam whistle would have been going off. We hit the top of that hill and gravity takes over. Loops, twists, falls, climbs, banks, and two minutes later the vest comes up and I’m done.

 

And you know the strange part? I had fun. My anxiety spiked and I had fun. Perhaps, eventually, I could do another. But not right away, right? Only an idiot would do a second coaster that quickly.

 

Ten minutes later I was being strapped into my second coaster. This time, my reaction was quite different. The vest restraint included a skin-tight vest that pinned the rider into the seat. The moment that was secured on me, my chest began hurting. The sensation felt like I was a pencil being shoved through a straw. I couldn’t breathe, and it took everything I had not to rip the thing off and just get as far away from every living thing as fast as I possibly could.

 

The ride started, and for the minute and a half I was riding the coaster, I didn’t think much of the restraints (and may or may not have had a little bit of fun, but I will never admit to that), but when the car came to a stop, it felt like I was waiting for hours while this vest tightened its grips on my body, threatening to pop my head like a cork. My anxiety was through the roof and I was utterly and entirely embarrassed. I came with a mission to conquer this monster and I failed.

 

I rode only two more rides my time there. One was one of those classic log drop rides where your thrown over a waterfall and get drenched just because its fun. The other was a swing that took you twelve stories in the air at a 100 degree angle and swings you to the other side at nearly seventy miles per hour. Both of these were exhilarating and exciting, but I knew my anxiety wasn’t really in a place to take much more of a beating. If I did much more, I didn’t know that I would even have been able to enjoy being around my friends anymore.

 

Anxiety, in that way, is like a loose change jar. You can fill it with as many quarters, nickels, and dimes as you can, but sometimes all it takes is a few pennies to make a dollar. I was about at ninety-nine cents and had no desire to cash-in.

 

Attacking the things that scare is all about taking that one step further than we thought we could. If you think you can only take one step, take two. If you don’t think you can take any, just take one. You’ll be further along than you ever imagined. The only person you ever have anything to prove to is yourself. How far do you think you can go in conquering your fear? Let’s take one step further together.

 

In all honesty, I don’t know that I would call my trip a success. I faced some demons and lived, but I feel like I let them get to me more than I would have liked. But here’s the rub: I can honestly say that I enjoyed spending time with people I care about despite the fact that they saw me have a panic attack. And I left with a chip on my shoulder. Next time, I can go just a bit further. And maybe it’ll be just one more step than last time. But I am completely over letting anxiety tell me what I can or can’t do, and what I should and shouldn’t do in my life. Next time, I’ll be ready. Next time, I’ll take one more step.

 

Next time, I’ll leap tall buildings in a single bound.

The Death of Superman: Best Superman Movie Yet?

by Drew Kiess

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The Death of Superman is the latest film in the DC Animated Universe directed by Sam Liu and Jake Castorena from a script from comics writer Peter Tomasi. The film stars Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Rebecca Romijn as Lois Lane, and Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor. The Death of Superman is the first part in a two-part release adapting the Death and Return of Superman story arc from Mike Carlin’s Superman writing team in the early 90s, with The Reign of the Supermen hitting stores next year.

 

If you’ve been reading this blog for any significant amount of time, you will know that I have been critical of many of the recent DC Animated releases. I think that one of the many benefits of this format for the DC characters is the ability to take a concept directly from page to screen. Recently however it would seem that these films are less interested in showcasing our heroes acting out the stories we all love and more interested in pushing them into adult-like scenarios, and I say adult-like because I don’t think there is anything remotely grownup about excessive blood splatters and fetishizing lesbianism (here’s looking at you, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay). Most of the time, these harder edged updates come across tacky and out of touch with the characters and quite possibly the fans. Many of these films have been written by veterans in the DC animated worlds, so the disconnect hasn’t made a ton of sense, but perhaps they’ve just run out of things to say about this world.

 

Enter Peter Tomasi.

 

For my money, Peter Tomasi is the best thing to happen to the DC Movies in quite some time. His recent run at the beginning of DC Rebirth on the Superman title (opposite of Dan Jurgens’ Action Comics) has ushered in one of the greatest eras in the character’s 80 year publication history. Being tasked to bring this story to life is no small task, as the book itself is marred in a messy continuity and is impenetrable to anyone who is not familiar with that era (why does Lex Luthor look like a troll doll? And who the heck are these superheroes?) Don’t get me wrong, I love that time period, but there are good reasons why it hasn’t quite been elevated to the status of The Dark Knight Returns like it probably should have been. It’s weird and is very much a product of its time.

 

Placing The Death of Superman within the Justice League War continuity makes the story much more accessible (Let’s be honest: Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash are much more popular than Thorn, Gangbuster and Guardian). Dropping the Superman-Doomsday fight into a world we recognize allows Tomasi to draw out Clark’s personality.

 

The best parts of this movie don’t involve Superman punching Doomsday (although that stuff is great), but involves Clark and Lois. Clark is struggling letting Lois in on the big secret. It’s an incredibly well written plotline that humanizes Superman and gives him a weakness that is much more relatable than an alien killing machine. When the titular event finally does happen (this isn’t a spoiler… we all know Doomsday wins), you feel the Lois’ loss.

 

And this emotional weight that doesn’t rely on shock, gore, or sex to make the film stand apart is actually what makes it stand apart. It is emotionally resonating, visually exciting, and well-written from start to finish, with so many references from Superman’s history that I lost count. This has everything I could have ever wanted from any Superman movie, be it animated or live action.

 

I said after seeing the Deluxe Edition of The Dark Knight Returns (DC’s other two-part release, re-released as one movie) that it was the greatest Batman film ever made. I think we could be on the precipice of the same thing being said by me about Superman films if the second half pays off (and we get a Deluxe Edition, which I am hoping that we do), because I think I just saw the first half of what could be one of my all-time favorite comic book films.

 

As it stands, this is clearly among the best, if it is not the best, DC Animated Universe movies sense the relaunch. It is nothing short of spectacular and I hope that this raises the bar for this studio on what it means to adapt these characters and these beloved stories. They can be updated and adapted with love and accuracy. And they can be done with excellence.

 

This one certainly was super.

 

Final Grade: A+

 

The Death of Superman is on Blu-Ray and DVD August 7th, 2018

Episode 118: Mario Robles

Episode 118 is now live! For a third time in recent months we welcome Mario Francisco Robles onto the podcast. Justin and Kyle sit down and chat the ongoing Henry Cavill situation and what that could mean going forward for “Man of Steel 2.” Additionally, the guys chat the recent news on #TheBatman and what Matt Reeves has in store not just for the script and story, but for the role of The Caped Crusader!