Sunday, December 11, 2011

DVD Review of Captain America: The First Avenger

It wasn't bad. It wasn't bad at all. I think Chris Evans turned in a pretty good performance as "Cap", allaying my fears that he'd play Steve Rogers in the same crappy manner as he did Johnny Storm in both lousy Fantastic Four movies (2005 and 2007 respectively).

By the way, if you haven't seen the film yet and want to be surprised, stop reading now. I'm jumping right into some major spoilers. Here we go.

I was initially dubious about changing Bucky from a teenage sidekick to a "big brother" character, but there'd be no way to realistically introduce a 14 year old onto a World War II European battlefield. The main point of Bucky anyway is to provide Cap with plenty of guilt and post-war angst over how he should have prevented Bucky's death, but didn't. In that sense though, the separation between the time of Bucky's death and Cap's going into deep freeze diminishes the impact (at least as far as I could tell). If Bucky had died just seconds before Cap crashed the plane, it would have been the last, horrible thought on Steve's mind when he was flash frozen and the very first when he woke up almost 70 years later. Oh well.

I thought the pre-Cap Steve Rogers was handled pretty well. The film was a little light on why Steve wanted to enlist so much or for that matter, why he was always so courageous, even when getting the living snot beaten out of him, though. After getting a brief look at his medical records early in the film and noticing he had heart problems, I'm a little surprised the repeated beatings he alluded to didn't put him in the hospital or even kill him. It's one thing to be a 98-pound weakling with asthma and another to be extremely medically fragile.

I know Director Joe Johnston wanted the character of Captain America to be less about being a patriotic symbol and more about how nice guys make better heroes, but Cap is all about being the American hero at a time when we are all about symbolic inspiration to help us endure the sacrifices of war. I found Steve, both before and after his transformation, to be a little too humble. Captain America is a decisive leader of men. His character started developing in that direction but Evans never took it quite far enough. To be fair though, it's a difficult balance to strike between being heroic and always being portrayed as a "nice guy" (as opposed to an arrogant ass like the guy Colonel Phillips [Tommy Lee Jones] wanted to put through the experiment).

I still can't believe that douche politician turned Cap into some sort of cheesy performer. How many millions of dollars were poured into the experiment to turn Steve into a Super Soldier and yet, his only options were being a lab rat or a USO actor? What a waste of resources. I'm stunned the military went along with it. I suppose this was the only way Johnston could figure out how to put Steve in a red, white, and blue outfit in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) and then get him into action. I still wish he'd have found another way to do this.

I loved how Dum Dum Dugan, Gabe Jones, and the rest of the Howling Commandos (minus Sgt. Fury for continuity reasons) became Cap's "team". In the 1960s Marvel comic books, Cap would sometimes team up with Fury and the "Howlers" for one mission or the other. I didn't expect this and it was a welcome addition to the film.

I did expect Howard Stark to be in the film and he was depicted in a way that it's easy to see why Tony ended up being such a womanizing, arrogant playboy. Like father, like son. I was a little surprised at a few of the "miniaturized" devices Stark was able to create in an age when vacuum tubes had yet to be replaced by transistors (which were still bulky but allowed Marvel to justify the comic book Tony Stark creating the Iron Man armor in 1963). I thought the levitating car (even if it didn't work) was a little over the top. It's much more "real" to imagine Howard being part of the Manhattan Project and creating "the bomb".

The whole Steve Rogers/Peggy Carter relationship was interesting if expected. They never really "hooked up" (and for that matter, never got to that dance Steve had promised her), but they were really hung up with each other (sometimes to Peggy's surprise), adding the required "romantic relationship" to movies like this. I found myself wondering that if Steve didn't know how to talk to a woman and had never danced with one (because he was so puny at first and then too busy as Cap later on), what else had he "never done" with a woman? Does this mean Steve Rogers wakes up in the 21st century still a virgin? Maybe the Black Widow would be able to help him out later on. Either that, or Peggy's granddaughter or great-granddaughter (Sharon Carter AKA Agent 13 is bound to make an appearance sometime or another) will finish what Peggy started.

There is one, really big plot hole (not the only one, but I can live with the others). Why did Steve have to "die" at the end of the film in order to save New York from the Red Skull's "doomsday" plane? He'd already exited and re-entered the plane in flight by using one of the on-board "mini-planes". Couldn't he have just set the big plane into a dive and then escaped using one of the smaller modules? This was pointed out with great panache by the gang at How It Should Have Ended.



When the Cosmic Cube "short circuited" or whatever it did when it "ate" the Red Skull (great job by Hugo Weaving, by the way), Cap should have "discovered" that the energy discharge destroyed the mini-planes or fused the controls that opened the bomb bay doors or something, but it was just overlooked by Johnston. Steve didn't have to die/get frozen at the end of the film.

In spite of my bitching, I really enjoyed the movie overall. It wasn't exactly what I would have expected out of Captain America, but it was still good. Musical score had a hard time trying to figure out if it wanted to be 1940s nostalgia or modern hero theme music. Credits at the end (none at the beginning of the film at all) were straight up lame. The end and then the real end (after all the final credits) were good, which brings me to my last point.

Captain America and the Avengers. In the 1960s Avengers comic books, there was no one, permanent leader. Each Avenger took a monthly rotation as far as leading the team. Having said that, whenever Cap was around (and always when he was leading Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye), he ended up being the de facto leader and the unofficial "heart" of the Avengers. Nice guy aside, even when he was the weakest member of the team, having no "real" superpowers, he always had the soul and the vision of a leader. He was used to being obeyed instantly, not because he was some kind of dictator, but because he was just that good at taking command, sizing up every combat situation, and taking decisive action in deploying his "forces". In the Silver Age comics, this was pointed out again and again by the other team members. I hope that he gets to fulfill that destiny in the upcoming Avengers (2012) film as well.

Unfortunately, based on the trailers I've seen so far, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is more likely to dominate any screen time he shares with Rogers (Evans) and Cap will just be another guy in a costume, probably more spectacular than Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) but trailing behind the other Avengers (the Black Widow will attract more attention only because she's played by the very beautiful Scarlett Johansson - yowza!).

Back to the current review, I would definitely watch this film again...and again and again. It's not perfect, but it's still Captain America. In an age where we have no one to look up to anymore, we need an American hero like Cap.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Went Wrong with Star Trek Enterprise?

In the wake of Jonathan Frakes' recent declaration that for him, Star Trek: Enterprise's series finale was "an unpleasant memory," actress Marina Sirtis has also come out on the controversial final episode. But instead of blasting it, she defends it as a fitting finale for ... The Next Generation.

In another of Star Trek.com's lengthy interviews, the 56-year-old actress—who had to slip back into one of Counsellor Deanna Troi's skintight uniforms after 18 years in the role (and three years after Star Trek: Nemesis) in May of 2005 for the controversial Enterprise final episode ''These Are the Voyages''—said about the finale.


-Nathalie Caron
"Marina Sirtis defends Enterprise finale as a fitting end for TNG"
blastr.com

I've tried repeatedly to create a comment in reply to this blastr blog post but I keep getting an error message. Guess I'll have to write a wee blog of my own about it. First off, here's part of what I was going to say in my comment:

Wow! She's 56?

Anyway, I guess this means I'll have to get around to watching the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise one of these days. Actually, I stopped watching the show at the end of the third season. It just failed to hold my interest the way that the rest of the Star Trek franchise shows did.

I don't think this was the fault of the cast or crew. The producers set it too early in history and created too many plot holes in terms of the already established "Trek" history. They introduced things like view screens and transporters when, according to the "official" time line, they shouldn't have existed yet. Then there were the desperate attempts to revive interest by introducing Romulans, Ferengi, and Borg when humanity hadn't met them yet, either. "Enterprise" could never create its own niche because it lacked most of the elements the Trek audience had come to know and love. The producers should have set it in the Romulan-Earth or Klingon-Earth wars or even when Capt. Pike 1st took command of the Enterprise. Now that would have been a riveting series, if handled correctly.


To continue, I think Berman and Braga just became arrogant and complacent. They assumed all you'd have to do is stick the title "Star Trek" on a show and everyone would spontaneously "nerdgasm" all over it.

Wrong.

They should have put a lot more thought and research into the concept of a "pre-STTOS" show. Instead, they goofed and shot Bakula, Blalock, Billingsley, and the rest of the cast in the collective foot. They also assumed (probably thanks to Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager, that a pair of really large breasts would make up for good stories, consistent plots, and character development. Wrong again. Big boobs aside, my favorite character was "Trip", played by Connor Trinneer. I found him very human in his struggle to apply his personality and preconceptions on a rapidly unfolding interstellar exploration.

I could go on and on about what went wrong with the show and what could have been right, but I don't feel like writing a novel today. Like I said before, the one big thing I'd change, if I could, would be to set the show later in history but still before Kirk's time.

Point's moot because with the full Star Trek reboot, history is up for grabs again.

Set course for the Talos star group. Time warp, factor five. Engage.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Fantasies: The Women 2011

Last year at about this time, I published my most popular (by number of visits) post, Halloween Fantasies: The Women. It was a "response" to my own Halloween fantasies and costumes I'd like to wear (assuming I had the body for it) on Halloween. Naturally, they all have a superhero theme. I thought that since hot women in costume seem to be a really sought after topic, I'd repeat my "success" of last year.

The first entry isn't exactly "hot" but it is interesting. I found this image at Wikipedia under Mxyzptlk's Superwoman (scroll down). The storyline doesn't look that compelling and I'm not interested at all in "Superlad", but Superwoman and Batwoman definitely look like my kind of fantasy.

Of course, I've always been a sucker for a superhero with a busted secret identity. I have no idea what the deal is behind this "revealing" pose for Supergirl, but it definitely got my attention. I wonder how she'll get out of this mess or at least, get out of something.

Wonder Woman is probably the most obvious superhero fantasy for most guys but I've always thought she was kind of overkill. First of all, women with boobs that big probably just can't fight. Those triple-Ds would always be getting in the way. WW's real power over men would be the fact that, the minute she showed up, all the straight guys would just be paralyzed with lust and completely distracted by her cleavage.

I found an interesting pic of her at scifiwright.com (there a lots of compelling images here) with WW at the subject on the cover of Rolling Stones magazine. It's another secret identity switch that makes me think Diana's best power is when she changes clothes. The parallel image is one that really goes with the previous paragraph. Oh my but how in the world could she fight or do just about anything that requires movement without a serious wardrobe malfunction?

The last in my series of super women for Halloween 2011 is of Mystique from the original X-men films (as opposed to the reboot). What really "makes" Mystique for me isn't the costume but actress Rebecca Romijn. Not only is she classically beautiful, in costume or out, but standing at almost six feet tall, she is every tall (or short) man's dream woman. She's got legs.

Happy Halloween.

Oh, click on the images to see their original sizes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Star Trek 2: The Klingons

No, no, no, no, no! I have no idea about what the next Star Trek film will be like. I have no idea who or what will be in the next Star Trek film. This is just my imagination. Never, ever say that I told you that Klingons will be in the next J.J. Abrams Star Trek film. It would be a lie. I haven't the faintest idea what's up his sleeve.

I did just read the latest blastr.com blog on the next Star Trek film including a quote by Zoe (Uhura) Saldana:

"I know it's gonna be amazing. We still haven't gotten a script yet," she said of progress on the film, which Access has confirmed with a source will begin shooting in mid-January, and won't be called Star Trek 2. "We're very excited to read it and get back into space."

"I know it's gonna be amazing. We still haven't gotten a script yet." Cute.

So, who or what should be featured in the sequel to Abrams' 2009 runaway hit? I once read an article about Star Trek that said its success rose and fell by the use of its villains. That's probably true. When a Trek film or TV episode doesn't have a definitive "bad guy", it isn't nearly as interesting. I think that's what made Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) so much fun. It's not the best film in the world, but Ricardo Montalban must have had an absolute blast playing Kahn.

So who are the 23rd century's best Star Trek baddies? The Romulans and Klingons, of course. Don't even suggest the Borg or any of Picard's other playmates. For lack of anything better to do, the rather disappointing Star Trek: Enterprise series threw in a bunch of races that weren't supposed to even be a whisper in the 22nd century, and it screwed up the Trek continuity even more than it already was. The idea of a Star Trek reboot is to wipe away all of that stuff and start from scratch.

But not completely. One of the things that "Enterprise" did right was to bring back cool races like the Andorians and the Tellurites (see the STTOS episode Journey to Babel for details). I think that's at least a portion of what the Abrams films should do, preserve the best of the original and clean up the leftovers.

OK, I'm tossing the Romulans out of the second film just because a bunch of futuristic Romulans were prominently featured in the first film. That leaves the Klingons (and remember, I know nothing...nothing). This would be a good time to try and get Klingons straight. For instance, when first seen in the original Star Trek series, they were a bunch of swarthy thugs with no redeemable social qualities. No honor. No glory, No Bat'leths. They were just interstellar jerks (although Michael Ansara as Kang was pretty good). Romulans were a lot more compelling (especially since Mark Lenard played a Romulan before he ever became Spock's daddy).

By the time the first (awful) Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) came along, somebody decided to change their appearance to make them seem more alien, probably because the film had a $40 million budget and they had money to burn on a little extra latex (and Mark Lenard cameoed as a Klingon in the beginning of the film...cool trivia bit). But no one ever explained the change in appearance.

It came to a head in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Episode Trials and Tribble-ations where Worf and the DS9 gang travel back in time and invade the original series episode The Trouble with Tribbles. Worf is a 24th century Klingon. The original "Tribbles" episode is full of old, 23rd century TV Klingons. The two look nothing alike. The only comment Worf makes is: "We don't like to talk about it."

Thanks to reboot city, all of the inconsistencies that have built up in the Star Trek timeline just go bye-bye. Any mistakes that happen now belong to Abrams and company (and they already screwed up by "disappearing" Jim Kirk's older brother George Samuel Kirk).

The Klingons and Romulans were introduced in the original series as a parallel to the cold war era and the U.S. "relationship" with the Soviet Union and Communist China. If Abrams keeps the same basic history (and Klingons were briefly mentioned in the first film), then there was a Federation/Klingon war at some point. It didn't go well for either side and a rough truce was formed. There's a neutral zone between the two "empires". It's the cold war all over again with border skirmishes, spies, political intrigue, and all that cool space 007 stuff.

Or the war hasn't happened yet. Abrams could decide to go big and have the Earth/Klingon relationship start off hesitant and untrusting but not outright hostile...until the second film. Then all Sto'Vo'Kor...uh, hell breaks loose. Either way, rewriting history and reinventing the Klingon race into a more complicated, not entirely evil but always dangerous enemy would be fabulous.

Of course, that's only one possible option. If Kirk meets and has a relationship with Carol Marcus this time around, maybe there'll be a future David to be killed by the Klingons all over again in 30 years or so. In the meantime, Kirk could still get to kick some alien ass, make plenty of enemies, and seduce his way across half the quadrant like in the good old days.

We'll just have to wait and see. None of the principal actors have even seen the script yet.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: Batman, the Return of Bruce Wayne

An odyssey for one of the most iconic figures in comics stretches from prehistory to the end of time, revisiting and reimagining Batman's mythology through a complex narrative. Writer Morrison and a team of artists pick up from the end of Morrison's Final Crisis and Batman: RIP. Bruce Wayne is lost in time after killing Darkseid, a godlike being of pure evil. Piecing together the memories of his past that he's lost and slowly realizing he's been turned into a human booby trap meant to destroy the universe by Darkseid, Bruce is pulled through eras of Gotham City's history that include confrontations with cavemen, witch hunters, pirates, cowboys, and 20th-century cultists. These adventures culminate in a return to the present where he must rely on his fellow superheroes to save him from Darkseid's curse. Morrison's story is designed to add to Batman's aura as a timeless, mythical hero, but the time jumps and Bruce's amnesia sometimes create an uneven narrative. The story also asks readers to possess a wealth of familiarity with the character's decades-long history, making the book not as accessible to newer fans. Different artists—all strong, colorful storytellers—give each time period its own mood.

From the product description of
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne
at Amazon.com

I had originally intended to review the graphic novel Final Crisis and "Return" back-to-back, but "Crisis" had such a vast scope and such a twisted plot to follow, that I felt that reviewing it would be an injustice. I didn't like it very well. It assumed that the reader knew just about everything there is to know about the DC Universe going back decades (although I actually knew about the Miracle Machine from the old, silver age Adventure comics (featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes). For the first half of "Crisis", I had no idea what was going on, if I was seeing events on different "Earths" or just different places on one Earth or whatever.

However, reading "Crisis" was necessary to get the background for understanding how Bruce Wayne ended up in the stone age in The Return of Bruce Wayne. I love time travel stories and I love time travel mysteries. I figured this was going to be good.

It was. But it had its flaws.

I hadn't intended to read it all in one sitting, but a bout of insomnia changed my plans. My review is based on going through all of the pages of Morrison's product well after midnight and, writing this the following evening on three hours sleep, I'm still a bit punchy. But I digress.

The storyline is much more straightforward than "Crisis" but it's not completely straight. There is the little "side-trip" to Vanishing Point taken by Superman, Rip Hunter, and a few other JLA members to try and figure out where and when Batman is/was. I must have missed something, but Vanishing Point was on the verge of being destroyed at the heat death of the universe, so there wasn't a lot of...time (yeah, I know...that's going to come up a lot) to investigate.

There was mention made of the clues in history Batman left behind but no mention of how the JLA knew even to look. As far as they knew, Batman was dead. Why suspect that he was really back in time and how convenient it would be to suddenly start finding suspicious cave paintings just after his disappearance into the past? It would have been cleaner if we were told how and why anyone thought to look for a time traveling Bruce Wayne and what told them that A.) he was capable to traveling forward in time and B.) that he was accumulating Omega Energy as part of Darkseid's plot to posthumously destroy Earth.

Of course, maybe that was in the book and I was just too tired to pick up on it.

I liked the stone age. I'm still wondering how the rocket ship (which did not contain Bruce's body but just his stuff) ended up in the exact time and place that Bruce's body did when zapped by Darkseid's Omega beams. I may have missed the connection in "Crisis", though. There was so much going on in that book, it was hard to keep all the details straight.

It was a little campy to have "Boy" of the Deer People become "Boy" (Robin) of the Bat People, but endearing nonetheless. I did find it really incredible to believe that someone who probably lived about 10,000 B.C. could have started a legend that would be remembered by a small tribe native Americans in 1640 A.D., but it was also kind of cool.

I kept wondering why Bruce took such a big leap in time at the first event, tens of thousands of years, and afterwards, jumped forward only a few centuries or a few decades? Of course, there was all that time in between when he wouldn't have had any sort of adventure and we do want to keep the action moving.

I enjoyed all of his time leaps, but my favorite was when Bruce "played" private detective investigating the allegation that his father murdered his mother (the man with her that fateful night wasn't supposed to be Thomas Wayne). Batman was originally created in the late 1930s, so pulp fiction dieselpunk is his natural element. I did have a tough time figuring out the year though, since there were video stores in existence, which would have placed him in the late 1970s or early 80s, but his grandfather was in an iron lung, which would have put it more in the 1950s.

Oh well.

When Bruce showed up at Vanishing Point and stole Rip Hunter's time machine, stranding Superman, GL, and the others just minutes before the end of the universe, I was definitely thrown a curve ball. It's all eventually explained, but I'm still trying to figure out who that guy Carter was, how he invented a time machine and why, if this was supposed to be in the 1940s or 50s, he was wearing a "Have a nice day" t-shirt, complete with smiley face.

A few things really bothered me. One was how many times Bruce came really close to death. If he was that easy to kill, he would have died a hundred times over just by being Batman. Of course, he didn't have his memory and he was way out of his element, but as the book says, Batman is a survivor. That's what he does.

The one thing I hated more than anything happens when Bruce steals Hunter's time machine and strands the JLA members in a force field (which turns out to be a time machine in the making). Superman panics. He has a real look of fear in one panel followed by him pounding impotently on the force field while practically wailing. No one else loses their cool, not even Booster Gold. Superman would not have panicked, no matter what. He'd be the one everyone else looked to for courage. I felt sorry for him.

I kind of liked it that a 17th century witch put an everlasting curse on one of Bruce's ancestors (and in this book, his ancestors were less than noble). It kind of explains why his life and his family is always in such a mess. He's got a lot to make up for.

Like the "Crisis" story, there's a bad guy and a worse bad guy. In this case, Wayne arriving in the 21st century and blowing it up isn't the only problem. There was also that evil thing in the Bat Cave in 1640 that passed on an "infection" of evil (hey, I don't make this stuff up). It definitely plays a part in why Bruce is so messed up when he finally reaches the present, mentally and physically, although I'm not sure how it ended up becoming the "bat-thing" Vandal Savage killed in the stone age right before Bruce arrives (and which becomes the basis for Bruce's first "costume").

"Return" is a book that assumes you know what's going on. Although it's still exciting and compelling all by itself, there are too many questions it raises if you don't buy 50 DC comic books every month for ten or twenty years in a row and memorize all of the details. In spite of what I just said, it's still more or less a "clean" story that contains most of the answers to the questions it raises. It held my attention and was even a page-turner when all I wanted in life was to get a few hours sleep.

There's a lot I left out of the review, but if you haven't read "Return" yet, you'll need to get a copy and find out about the other connections that have now become part of the Legend of the Dark Knight. Despite all of my "complaints", I really liked it. I'm glad it was at my public library and it's a shame I have to return it. On the other hand, I have to give the next person a chance to experience the dilemma, the mystery, and the anguish of "the Return of Bruce Wayne."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Superman: The Man of Yesterday

I frequently see updates on the filming of both The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Superman: Man of Steel (2013) in my twitter timeline. Most of the time, I cave in and have a look at the latest spoilers and set shots, but occasionally I get a spine and resist, out of the desire to let the films surprise me by what they are as finished products. Having every little tidbit and nugget about the making of each film crammed down my throat on an almost daily basis is a kind of death.

I think Christian Bale's interpretation of Batman has made the transition into the 21st century quite well. Both Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) have done extremely well and avoided the terrible curse of campiness to which many past superhero films have given way.

Then I think about Superman.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but I've always been disappointed with the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Granted, the first film was released in 1978, but it wasn't the lack of CGI or 3D technology that was at fault but the attitude of the film makers. Superman was played completely for camp. There was some taking him seriously in the first film but with each sequel, he became more and more silly. Here's an example.

Remember the first appearance of Superman in the original film? Lois's helecopter is disabled, the pilot is knocked unconscious, and Lois is suspended a hundred stories over the streets of Metropolis, hanging only by a seat belt and screaming for her life. Clark makes his magical transformation into Superman and lifts both her and the falling helecopter back to the safety of the roof of the Daily Planet building. Afterward, Superman gives Lois a supportive talk about how air travel is still the safest way to fly. Boy Scout as always, right?

The gag is, as Superman turns away from Lois and as he's walking out of the scene, he gets the biggest grin on his face. The whole Boy Scout speech was just an act. He's totally having her on (she passes out a few seconds later).

Cut to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1981) which was horrible and total anti-nuke propaganda. Superman narrowly prevents a total subway disaster which would have killed hundreds. After the rescue, he gives an impromptu speech to the passengers he just saved about how Metropolis's subway system is still the safest in the world.

The problem is that here, he's totally serious. The campy "mask" he wore in the first film became his real "face" by the last movie. Superman became a clown in a cape. It didn't have to be that way. But what went wrong?

Part of it was that Hollywood never took comic book heroes seriously and it showed in the writing and directing. The actors did their best, but you can only work with the script in hand and those scripts made superheroes seem like...well, comic book characters. If you actually read a comic book from 1978 or before, they really did sound campy and sappy. The dialog could be terrible if said outloud in real life. Comic books don't translate into reality without a lot of massage work. Christopher Nolan was willing to take a completely different approach with his Batman films and it paid off magnificently. Let's hope Zack Snyder can pull it off with the next big screen incarnation of the last son of Krypton.

There's another problem, though.

Both Superman and Batman were originally created in the context of the 1930s. They both represent two sides of the same Depression-era coin. Batman represents the pulp fiction heroes popular during that time period and the darkness and dispair experienced by victims of street and corporate crime. The original Dark Knight had an almost "it takes a thief" approach to crime fighting, by becoming as menacing and as fear-provoking as the people he battled.

Superman was almost as "dark" in a sense. I once had the opportunity to read the first appearence of Superman in Action Comics #1 (June 1938) online (this was years ago and I'm sure it's been taken off the web by now). Superman was pretty heavy handed back then, extorting confessions out of crooked politicians by hanging them off the rooftops of tall buildings, threatening to drop them to the ground (sounds more like Batman). I understand that young, 21st century comic book Superman is doing similar things in the 2011 version of Action Comics 1. The original Superman fought rampant political corruption and criminal gangs by overwhelming them with his power. He was like everyone's big brother and protector. If a helpless person was victimized by a big, tough "bully", Superman was bigger and tougher than the "bully" and he'd beat the snot out of him. The victims were saved and they had someone who would always look out for them.

Times changed.

If you look at the development of Superman and Batman across the 1940s through the 1970s for example, you'll see their very natures and characters changed dramatically. Batman and Robin really were as corny as their 1960s TV show counterparts (it really wasn't Adam West's and Burt Ward's fault after all). The tough, action oriented, no-nonsense heroes of the 1930s became the clowns in capes of the 1950s and 60s. No wonder the movie Superman of 1978 acted the way he did. "Darkness" in comic books didn't return until the 1980s and 90s and certainly by the 2000s, it was time to try and take them back to their roots.

With Batman, that's certainly possible, but will it work with Superman? In 1938, there really were "great metropolitan newspapers" which were a force for "truth, justice, and the American" way. It was completely realistic for Clark Kent to work as a reporter to get the inside scoop on the latest emergencies and crimes happening in Metropolis and beyond. Today, newspapers are dying, and instead of being beacons of truth and information (OK, I'm exaggerating, there's always been "yellow journalism"), they're now (for the most part) propaganda machines, selling a single social and political vision of the world that hardly resembles the lives we really lead (kind of like "reality TV"). Who would Clark Kent be today, where would he work, and how would he act if we didn't have the model of the 1930s Man of Steel?

What would happen if we just tossed the 21st century into the trash can as far as Superman goes? What would happen if the next Superman film was set in 1938? Little Clark's spaceship would have crashlanded in a Kansas wheat field during or near World War I. Clark would have grown up in a world without the Internet, without TV, without microwaves, or iPhones, or Lady Gaga. In that place and time, his adoptive parents, the Kents, would have almost certainly been Christians, so Clark would have been raised with a specific set of attitudes. He would have grown up in a world where Chicago was completely dominated by the mobs. Tales of Capone and Dillinger would have been all over the news as would Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and Joe DiMaggio.

The tough part for modern film makers would be to capture the essence of the era and the people living in it, including Clark Kent/Superman, without imposing 21st century politically correct attitudes on the movie. Superman would have to be a Superman who was completely a child of his environment. Who would he be like? The Superman of Action Comics 1, June of 1938? Certainly. But could we relate to him? Could we even stand him?

Maybe or maybe not. I love the time period and am a big fan of dieselpunk, so I think he'd work out just fine for me, but how about you?

Will Superman, the iconic image, the "greatest American hero", be able to survive, let alone thrive, in the 21st century and be taken seriously? We won't find out until 2013. I certainly hope so. I'm still hoping that someday the film studios will become bold again, groundbreaking again, and make Superman 1938. I think it would be a blast!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I am Number Four DVD Review

That was horrible.

Well, maybe not horrible, but I wouldn't have rented it had I known I'd be watching an extra-long version of Smallville.

Here we have high school alien from another planet whose powers are developing as he's getting older. He has to keep his secret and, being raised on Earth, he feels more human than alien. He just wants a normal life with a normal girlfriend. He doesn't want his powers or to be hunted down by every evil alien with an ugly face and destructive energy weapons.

Except for the fact that the guy was blond, he really could have been Clark Kent. The majority of the film took place in "Paradise, Ohio", which certainly could have doubled for Smallville, Kansas. Lots and lots of high school angst, being bullied by the Captain of the football team, wanting to take him apart with his super powers, wanting to play "smootchy-face with his cute, blond girlfriend (everyone is so blond..at least his best friend Sam has dark hair), and so on.

I know a lot of fans of the now-ended Smallville TV show wanted a Smallville movie made. Wish granted. Just watch I am Number Four. In fact, since the film ended just begging for a sequel (or sequels), you could have Smallville-like film experiences for years to come.

OK, Clark didn't have a "Krypto" dog on Smallville, but John, our friendly, hunky, handsome (funny how people who have evolved on another planet can look so human) alien has a beagle who, when the chips are down, morphs into a big alien critter who takes on the bad guys' alien critter. Also, another last minute save is the appearance of a motorcycle riding British "Number Six", blond counterpart to surfer-alien John.

I could go on, but why bother. I wasted a perfectly good bowl of popcorn on this movie. It can't get it back to the rental store fast enough. I will not be watching "I am Number Four-Two".

Batman: Under the Red Hood DVD Review

First of all, this is loaded with spoilers, so if you haven't seen this video yet and you want to preserve the mystery, don't read any further. You've been warned.

OK, it was fabulous, and I don't give out compliments lightly. The suspense in this tale had even me twisting in my seat. I was actually nervous about how it all would come out. Go figure.

Several major pieces of Batman comic book history are adapted for this story.

First, Jason Todd, the second Robin, being killed by the Joker. That happens right at the beginning and is the set up for everything else. Jason is beaten to a pulp with a crowbar, left for dead, and then, before Batman could get there, the place blows sky high. No fake death. Batman gets to the site of the explosion less than a minute later and picks Jason's broken body out of the rubble. He's dead. No faking it.

Second, we have the "Red Hood" origin of the Joker. There are a number of different twists on Joker's origin, but one of them...one that I hate, is that the Joker was a petty crook trying to reform. He was married (the back story wasn't in the film, but I thought I should fill you in) and his wife was pregnant. His "honest" work wasn't going so well and some of his old pals convinced him to help pull off a heist. The catch is that he had to dress in some stupid looking red mask and cape, pretending to be a crime lord or something.

Naturally Batman shows up. It's in a chemical plant. The "Red Hood" tries to tell Batman that he didn't want to do wrong. It goes bad. "Hoodie" slips and falls into a vat of chemicals. The Joker is born.

Oh, the entire movie starts with Ra's al Ghul. Yeah. Thousands of miles away from Bosnia, which is where Jason buys it, Ra's knows somehow that Joker is beating Robin to death and, get this, that Batman will be too late to stop it. The film never explains how Ra's knows that but it does explain that Ra's hired the Joker...but not to kill Jason.

OK, that's out of the way.

Five years after Jason's death, a crime lord named Black Mask has taken over all of Gotham's mobs. Unfortunately, he's just Captain America's Red Skull with a black paint job and a bad temper. Nothing really special. I was disappointed.

The interesting part is when a guy in an adaptation of the Red Hood outfit (without cape, thankfully) takes over the mobs with the promise to protect the gangs from the Black Mask and Batman. He cuts himself into Gotham's drug profits but with one odd demand, "Sell drugs to kids and you're dead." He means it.

It was immediately apparent that the new Red Hood was Jason (although it takes Batman a little longer to figure out). Even with Nightwing's help, the Red Hood is always one step ahead of Batman. He knows all of Batman's moves. He can counter all of Batman's toys. The clues are all there. Jason wants Bruce to figure it out. At one point (and Bruce has to analyze the voice recording of their encounter to hear it), the Red Hood...Jason, even calls Batman, "Bruce".

The mystery isn't really why Jason would kill. Bruce knew right from the day he recruited Jason that he was both gifted and dangerous. Part of turning Jason into Robin was to control him, to keep him from going "dark". It almost worked until he died. Yeah, he really was dead. I'm getting to that.

Red Hood uses guns and explosives. He doesn't have a problem with killing. He does what he thinks Batman is afraid to do and he thinks that while it's impossible to get rid of crime, it can be controlled. In some ways, Jason walks a finer line than Bruce, few morals and no inhibition about killing, but he's not in it for the profit or even the thrill. He has a plan.

The mystery is how Jason really came back from the dead and ultimately what he wants with his new life. The first was hard to figure out because I never thought Ra's would go that far. The second was a bit of misdirection.

Batman wasn't the only one who felt guilty for Jason's death. Ra's hired Joker to be distract Batman while Ra's was working elsewhere. He never thought Joker would kidnap and kill Robin while Batman was chasing him in Bosnia. Ra's took Jason's dead body from the morgue after Bruce left the country and transported him to a Lazarus pit (Ra's replaces the body with a very convincing replica..and Bruce is too guilty to look at the body a second time). Oh crap. It worked. That green slime really can bring someone back from the dead. It can also drive them crazy, as it always threatens to do with Ra's.

It would be easy to say that Jason stayed crazy, but he didn't. He escaped Ra's al Ghul's compound and managed to make his way back into Gotham. Funded by drug profits, Jason decided to become a better Batman than Batman. Now that the mystery of how a dead guy comes back to life has been solved, what about the next mystery: what does Jason really want?

To kill the Joker? He almost does. To kill Batman for failing to save him? It looks that way. But looks can be deceiving. I won't tell you the details. Watch the DVD and find out for yourself. I absolutely promise it will be worth it.

Stuff I liked:

I liked the various flashback scenes when Bruce recalls Jason first becoming Robin and even when they first met in "crime alley", when he caught a 10 or 12 year old Jason trying to steal the hubcaps off of the Batmobile. Batman is Batman. Hard as nails, but inside, he really loved that kid. It humanizes Bruce and yet lets him keep the darkness and pain of being Batman.

I liked Alfred, probably because he's always Alfred. He's part of what anchors Batman and keeps him Bruce. He's the guy who gets to tell Batman stuff no one else would dare. He knows all there is about Bruce and he can be trusted. He's the closest thing Bruce has to a father (it never happens in the film, but if Jason really wanted to get to Bruce, all he'd have to do is mess with Alfred..fortunately Jason doesn't take it that far).

Stuff I didn't like:

I could get past Bruce Greenwood doing the voice work as Bruce/Batman. I certainly think that Kevin Conroy is *the* voice of Batman, but Greenwood (and I like Greenwood as an actor...a lot) wasn't half bad. I really hated John Di Maggio as the Joker, though. He sounded just like any other thug, especially in the beginning of the film when he was killing Robin. He communicated nothing of the dangerous insanity that Mark Hamill brings to the role. He was just mean and sarcastic.

That is until Di Maggio laughed. It's creepy, which it should be. Di Maggio redeems himself somewhat as the film progresses, especially when Black Mask springs him from Arkham and hires him to kill the Red Hood. The sequence of Joker going from broken prisoner to multiple-murderer in just a matter of seconds was brilliant.

I still think Hamill was better.

There was a scene where three out of four assassins trying to take Red Hood/Jason out were using variations on one and two-bladed light sabres. Oh c'mon, we've all seen Star Wars. Can't you be more creative? The action, suspense, and danger held up, but it took the edge off the scene just having light sabres there.

Batman: Under the Red Hood. I was impressed. Very impressed. Very few flaws, at least that I noticed on a first viewing. Lots of little homage pieces to other films and the comic books. Very little Jim Gordon, which there wasn't time for in the story (too bad). Frankly, I loved it. If you're a Batman fan, or maybe even if you're not, you'll love it too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Smallville is Dead!

I realize this is difficult for many Smallville fans to accept, but the series is over. It's over. Repeat after me: "The Smallville series has ended." Please try to accept it.

OK, OK, the Smallville Complete Series DVD Set won't be released for several months yet, but no new episodes are being made. While you will still be able to thrill to each and every telecast of the show online, on the DVDs you own, or after the complete series DVD set is released, those are old shows. Tom Welling, Erica Durance, Michael Rosenbaum, Allison Mack, and all of the other Smallville actors have moved on.

So should you.

Oh I'm not saying you can't continue to be a fan of an old TV show. I'm very fond of the original Star Trek series with Shatner and Nimoy, but I don't obsess about it on twitter or Facebook, either. I know, STTOS is decades old while Smallville died just last spring, but the principle is the same. What's dead is dead.

I've heard exactly one loose rumor on twitter about a possible "Metropolis" series, perhaps starring some of the other superheroes who originally appeared on Smallville, but I can find absolutely nothing credible on the web to say that it's even a possibility. As far as anyone can tell, there will be no Smallville spin-off. If there were, they'd have to be filming by now and news like that would be impossible to keep secret.

Face it. It's over. Clark Kent is dead. Long live Superman: Man of Steel. Starting in 2013, Henry Cavill will be the Last Son of Krypton (no, the photo isn't really Cavill in "the suit", just a photoshopped simulation).

Now please go watch a different TV show and let Welling and Co. get a well-deserved rest.

Peace, out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The End of Smallville: A Review

I know. I'm terrible. I didn't watch the series finale of Smallville until last night. I almost didn't watch it at all, even though I had the time and opportunity. Let me explain.

My wife isn't a Smallville fan in any way shape or form. She's not a Superman fan. She's not into science fiction and fantasy (well, she does like Star Trek and the Indiana Jones films). We don't watch a lot of TV.

Here's another confession. I didn't start watching Smallville in 2001 when it first came on the air. I can't remember when Smallville first registered on my radar. I think I saw a friend's collection of DVDs of the early seasons a few years ago and started watching them just to see what they were like.

I was hooked. I blew through his DVD collection and then started renting the rest of the DVDs (up to the 6th or 7th season I think) from the local video store. Even then, I couldn't really make the time to try and watch the actual TV broadcasts. In fact, I stopped watching Smallville again until the summer before season 10 came out.

I had to go back to the video store and rent the rest of the videos, supplementing them with whatever I could find on the CW Smallville site. Eventually, I made my way to almost the "present" last fall. I was watching new season 10 episodes on the CW site and watching season 9 episodes on disc. I never got to see the last two episodes of season 9 because that set of discs was always rented out. Oh well, I might get to them some day.

I managed to watch most of the season 10 episodes via the CW but my schedule didn't allow me to watch the last two episodes, "Prophecy" and "Finale". Last night, opportunity arrived.

I figured I'd just sacrifice "Prophecy" and pursue "Finale" since that's where the whole answer to "How does Clark become Superman?" lived.

How did I like it?

The episode was sort of a rollercoast ride of "I like this" highs and "this sucks" lows. The experience reminded me of the patchwork Lex clone that Lionel (OK, he probably had some evil doctors do the work) put together (funny how he managed to find a "working" brain with all of Lex's memories, but he couldn't manage a heart). It was a bit of this and a bit of that and a bit of the other thing.

I can't blame the Smallville writers too much for this. Michael Rosenbaum took forever to sign up to play Lex for the final episode, so I'm sure the writers had to scramble to move things around and figure out where and how to use him. It's pretty likely that they had a similar task to perform relative to Allison Mack, since she was originally scheduled to play Chloe in only five episodes in season 10, not including the finale.

I thought it was pretty lame that the show opened with Lois "suddenly" having doubts about her marrying Clark and then on the heels of her concerns, Clark resurrecting his own doubts (remember, I haven't seen "Prophecy", so maybe that's all explained in that show). I thought they'd gotten past all these worries. The "conflict" felt like so much filler material, written just to take up time until the actual wedding was supposed to happen (and Clark and Lois never got married on the show...so much for "Clois" fans).

A big pet peeve for me was how a planet-sized body could enter our solar system completely unnoticed. Depending on how fast Apokolips was traveling, the gravitational effects should have been observable on the various objects in our system for months. It couldn't possibly "sneak up" on the Earth. In fact, Apokolips didn't seem to cause any demonstratable tidal effects on Earth until it was inside the Moon's orbit! Amazing (though as someone on twitter pointed out, how can I bitch about all this if I'm willing to believe an alien from another galaxy with a perfectly human looking body can fly?)!

One of my other frustrations with the finale is that it seemed like Clark was going to talk everyone to death. Long conversations with Lois, his Mom, Lex, Darkseid (inhabiting Lionel's literally heartless body), Jonathan's ghost, and finally Jor-El. Oy. Just shut up, put on the f*cking suit, and stop Apokolips, you moron!

OK, Ok. What did I like?

I really liked the framing sequence with Chloe and her little boy, reading the "Smallville" comic book and with "Mom" explaining how Clark became Superman (if DC in her world really published this story, Clark's identity must have been completely sanitized from the magazine). Mack even successfully pulled off looking like a woman in her early 30s rather than her actual age of 28 (29 this coming July). OK, not much of a stretch here. She probably just cut back on the makeup.

I did like how the suspense managed to build until after about 80 minutes (including opening credits and commercials) I was about ready to beat up Clark around the head and shoulders with a kryptonite baseball bat while screaming "Just become Superman, already!" (the flip side is that if the writing had been tighter, the entire finale could have been compressed into a single, regular-length episode).

It could have been better. I felt like a lot of loose ends had to be quickly tied up in the last hour and a half (even with commercials, the running time of the finale was less than 90 minutes, at least as broadcast on the CW site) and how it was done was really uneven. In many ways, I'm just glad it's over. Smallville is a story about Clark's journey to become Superman but sooner or later he actually has to be the Man of Steel. Either that, or Smallville goes on forever and Clark becomes the only 75 year old "almost-but-not-quite-superhero" in history.

I did think that Smallville did nearly nail my biggest expectation for the finale in the last few minutes. An emergency is announced at the Daily Planet. Clark manages to get to an isolated area (in this case, the roof). He takes off his glasses and tie, the camera moves in on his chest, he opens his shirt, the Superman shield is flashed. Fade to black.

Good-bye Smallville. Hello Superman.

The end.

Friday, April 8, 2011

From Smallville to Superman: Man of Steel

The cast for Superman: Man of Steel (2012) is forming and boy are the Smallville fans pissed. Well, at least some of them are pissed.

After all, Tom Welling wasn't cast in the role as Clark Kent/Superman and Erica Durance wasn't picked to play Lois Lane. What's worse, the actors selected aren't the names that were being tossed about the Superman/Comic Book/Fantasy blogosphere. The producers chose to select actors we never saw coming over the horizon. Let's see what we have.

(Click the photos below to see larger versions. I had to shrink them down so they didn't overwhelm the text)

Tom Welling vs. Henry Cavill. I'm not going to attempt to compare these individuals as actors. Welling has played Clark for ten years and that's (as far as I know) the only role he's been playing. Sad to say, I've not seen a single thing that Cavill has acted in, so I have no idea about him at all.

But how to these two guys compare as far as "the look"? Do you see either one in the big red cape and long blue tights? That's where it at least has to start. You have to "look" the part. We've all gotten used to Welling defining his own "Clark look" but we'll have to wait and see about Cavill. Unlike Welling, he'll have to pull off a convincing Clark and Superman. That's not easy.

Let's take Christian Bale as an example. Of all the actors that have played Bruce Wayne/Batman over the years, Bale was the only one (in my opinion) who was convincing as both. All of the other actors did a good, or at least decent Batman and a lousy Wayne or vice versa. It's hard to be both. That's Cavill's challenge. Welling will be "Superman" for maybe a few minutes screen time in the tail end of the last episode of Smallville, just to fulfill his destiny...not to really play the role.

Moving onward, how about Lois Lane? We have Durance vs. Adams. A lot really depends on how Adams will be playing Lane. I didn't like Margot Kidder's Lois because she was both an airhead and frankly, not very tough. Durance's Lane can be an airhead but at least she's got a lot of fight in her (and she looks great in a tight tank top). I think Adams has the moxie to pull off Lane, but I hope she plays her as both tough and smart. In the comic books, Lois is smart (but for most of her history, not smart enough to figure out that the guy she works with every day is really Superman).

The roles of Jonathan and Martha Kent probably generate a lot less angst than those of Clark and Lois, but since those roles have been cast in the film, we might as well examine them.

Annette O'Toole vs. Diane Lane. O'Toole is beautiful and she's able to communicate "Mom" on the screen. How about Lane, who's not that much younger than "sonny boy" Clark? Of course, she could play Martha when Clark is a boy and not appear in the film when he's a (Super)man, or she can be artificially aged, either by makeup or CGI. The main thing is that she has to convince the audience that she really is Mom. She practically has to be our Mom. I always thought of O'Toole's Martha as Mom.

John Schneider vs. Kevin Costner. I've never liked anything I've seen Costner in. I don't know. Maybe I just don't respond to his style of acting. He kind of bores me. When I first started watching Smallville, I didn't connect Schneider with his role in the Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985), thank God. Let's just say I'm not a fan of that show.

At first, I thought Schneider was a little too young and active to be Jonathan. I got used to thinking of Glenn Ford (from Superman the Movie 1978) as "Dad", but Schneider's portrayal of Jonathan as the loving but hot-tempered, hard-headed Kansas farmer quickly appealed to me. I just hope Costner can make me feel like he's the same "man of the earth" kind of guy as Schneider's Jonathan.

Oh...that's it. No more cast members (so far). I guess we still need a few other primary roles filled, such as Perry and Jimmy. Then, of course, there's the villain(s) whoever that/they will be.

I know that Smallville fans will have a difficult time making the transition. Thanks to DVD technology, they can continue to experience Welling and Durance as Clark and Lois for years to come and even ignore the new Cavill/Adams film that will be released next year.

But for this up and coming generation, especially for those people who are really young now, Smallville will be an "old" TV show and Superman: Man of Steel will be Superman. That's not evil, that's the passage of time.

One more thing. This is for Tom Welling fans. I found this photo at a fan website and thought I'd share. Oh my! Tom Welling with long hair, a beard, and carrying a few extra pounds around the middle. See? He can look like any other guy. Looking like a hero takes a lot of work. Welling's only human after all.

Just thought I'd add a bit of perspective.

Peace.

Friday, March 11, 2011

We Are the Heroes!

All of the news and social networking outlets are flooded with information about the magnitude 8.9 earthquake in Japan. A significant part of my twitter community is involved in comic book, TV, and movie superheroes. It's almost too easy to imagine Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman racing to Japan to put out oil refinery fires, stabilize "at risk" nuclear reactors, and evacuate the thousands of injured victims.

Would the Martian Manhunter and the Flash show up and help cities like San Francisco prepare for the arrival of the quake-created tsunami (and thankfully, Hawaii survived its passing)? Which heroes would be patroling the Pacific, keeping ships and the populations of the many islands in harms way safe?

But we live in the real world. There are no superheroes...

...except us.

I'm not suggesting that we can put on a costume, exercise heretofore unknown super abilities, and "save the day", but we can do something more than sit around and watch it all happen on CNN.

For instance, New York City will help direct local donations to quake and tsunami victims and there is very likely a local or national group you can donate to, as well. Google has already pitched in by launching a person finder for Japanese quake victims, so if you work in technology, you may be able to leverage your skills and your business to assist.

Text "Red Cross" to 90999. $10 will be automatically charged to your phone bill as a donation to the disaster relief. Please Text "Red Cross" to 90999.

This is a link to a Reuters.com page containing links to a number of ways you can help the Japan quake victims.

And, if you are a religious or a spiritual person, you can pray.

Whoever you are, where ever you live, you don't have to turn into someone else and use fantastic, metahuman powers to make a difference. You can help by being just who you are. The only power you need to have is the power of compassion and the will to act on your humanity.

Be a hero. Help.

The Japan Earthquake Seen by Millions of Digital Cameras (Updating Live)

Save Me!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What Will You Do After Smallville Ends?

What will you do after Smallville is over? It's ending, you know...forever. On May 13th, 2011, the two-hour Smallville series finale will air. Less than 120 minutes after the opening credits, it will be gone.

And you Smallville fan...what will you do after it's over?

I suppose you could hope, pray, scream, threaten, and beg for a Smallville spinoff series. Maybe a JLA or JSA show is in the works for this fall. After all, if the CW can squeeze a few extra bucks out of Smallville's ten-year run by appealing to it's rather large fan base, I'm sure they will. We've seen how quality always takes a back seat to profits (although in my opinion, producing a quality show would be the best way to ensure profits), so if you swear to buy enough junk that the sponsors sell during the commercials, your hopes (dreams and fantasies) may come true...or not.

Dear Clois fans, what will you do with no new Clark and Lois banter, bickering, and bedding? Superman fans, will the last few seconds of Tom Welling on the small screen, finally dressed in "the suit" really be enough for you? Once the final credits end and the screen goes black, will you still crave more Clark, Lois, Chloe, Ollie, Tess, Lionel, and ... Lex?

Too bad.

Of course, if you don't already own the entire series on DVD, you could go out and buy it. I'm sure after the series ends, there will be a commemorative full ten-season package you can buy at inflated prices. Then, you can start all over again, beginning with the series pilot, and watch each and every episode over again...and again and again.

And keep doing it until you finally get sick of Smallville.

I know I sound harsh, and many of you actually grew up with the series, but keep in mind, popular TV shows have been coming and going for decades. You're just not aware of it. Gunsmoke was one of the longest running prime time shows in the history of American television, having been aired from 1955 (virtually the beginning of television for most U.S. households) through 1975 (this was back when the western was king of TV and films). Star Trek: The Next Generation ran for only seven-years and deliberately ended while they were still producing high quality material (something I wish Smallville would have done) and no one wanted the ride to end.

But those shows and a many, many others, which were loved and cherished by their fans, just as much as you adore Smallville, ended.

And their fans moved on.

Don't worry, though. While there may not be any new Smallville episodes being created, there is always ComicCon and similar venues. Superman: The Man of Steel (2012) is right around the corner, so there'll be plenty of Superman buzz in the months to come. I'm sure, along with the cast and crew of the new Superman movie, Smallville luminaries such as Welling, Durance, and others will proudly appear on stage to thrill the fans. Heck, Shatner, Nimoy, Spiner, and Beltran are still showing up at conventions, years and even decades after their shows ended.

Naturally, they're doing other work that's completely disconnected from the Star Trek venues that made them famous. So will the Smallville actors. In fact, they already are. Allison Mack only signed up for five episodes in the final season and has already appeared on stage. Michael Rosenbaum has been doing other things in the almost four years since he's appeared on the show, and Annette O'Toole continues to act in non-Smallville shows and films.

They've moved on. Welling and Durance will move on. It was fun while it lasted, but it's over now. Savor the sweetness of the departure, miss it a little, and then find something else to do. Smallville was a story about the fictional life and development of the person who would eventually become Superman. That's right, a fictional life. You live a real one. Time to get back to living.

Say good-bye, Clark.

What will you do after Smallville ends? Time to start answering that question. If you want, you can answer the question here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Inconsistent Smallville

I'm so confused. In the recent Smallville episode Masquerade, two important (I think, anyway) events occurred. The first is that Clark officially took on "the glasses" as part of his "disguise", to prevent people from connecting him too closely to the Blur. He also agreed to take on a sudden personality transplant from dynamic, courageous Clark, to "mild mannered reporter for the Daily Planet." Oddly enough, it worked...at least in the one encounter he had to test the change, the guy he (literally) ran into bought it hook, line, and sinker. Even though the guy probably had known Clark for months, if not years, he didn't blink at the fact that Clark was acting in a very "unClark-like" manner. Oh well.

The second big event in this episode was we see, under ultraviolet light, that the Omega symbol is on Ollie's forehead, indicating that he's now an "agent of the darkness". Yeah, when he was beating the living crap out of Desaad (which that jerk totally deserved), the darkness took him over.

Now, in the very next episode, Fortune, two things happen that virtually un-create the events created in Masquerade.

First off, Clark isn't wearing glasses. Yeah, he was just among his friends and who would care, but if he's really serious about establishing Clark as separate from the Blur, and if the glasses are part of that disguise, he should wear them all the time, except for when he's being the Blur (or in the shower, asleep, being "conjugal" with Lois, and the like). It is a foregone conclusion that after he got smashed on the magic booze, he'd probably dump the glasses anyway, but he should have been wearing them at the very beginning of the episode (and by the way, if I were Clark, when all was said and done, I would track down Zatanna, spank her nasty, fishnet-covered ass..which would be fun..and make her wish she'd never heard of words like "magic" and "cigam").

The next is just weird. At the end of "Fortune", Ollie and Chloe apparently have a "happily ever after" moment, realize that, while under the influence, they really did get legally married (even though when Chloe called the wedding chapel, they told her the whole thing had been a gag and no one had gotten married), and (again, apparently) left Metropolis (and the show "Smallville") to go live in Star City, where Chloe would be a reporter by day and hero builder by night, and Ollie would...I don't know, practice archery or eventually be a stay-at-home Dad (once they start having kids).

But if Ollie is "evil", his evilness is a total waste as a story element if he's just left the show, unless off camera, the gang at Watchtower hear a few episodes down the road, that Ollie went on a rampage, skewered his blushing bride with his favorite arrow, and then mysteriously died.

It's like these two different episodes of Smallville didn't happen in the same universe or at least in the same year. I know that different writers write different episodes, and different directors direct different episodes, but they're supposed to at least create the illusion that they're telling one, large, overarching story about Clark and Co.

Is this just another Smallville writer's fubar or can Smallville pull these inconsistencies together in the final reel?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Batman is Real!

And I can prove it:



OK, I found it at Reddit.com but it was so retro and cool, I thought I'd share it will all of my fans (all seven of you).

If by some miracle it became practical, I'd love to own it. I have no idea what I'd do with it (besides summon Batman, of course), but it would be fabulous!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Should Tom Welling Actually be Superman?

No, I'm not asking if Tom Welling should portray Clark Kent/Superman in the upcoming Superman: Man of Steel (2012) film. Henry Cavill already won that role. Let it go, rabid Tom Welling/Smallville fans. Let it go.

I mean, should Tom Welling actually portray the Man of Steel in full Superman costume in the last reel of the two-hour Smallville series finale scheduled to air on May 13th? In other words, should Tom Welling actually be Superman on the small screen for any length of time at the end of the series?

My answer is "no".

OK, here's my take. The entire series is based on the audience watching Clark develop his abilities and his personality, from a 15 year old kid who, at the start of the series, is just beginning to become aware of his powers, who he is, and (gasp) where he really comes from ("You mean you're not my real Mommy and Daddy?") to a 25 year old (plus) young man who is just a heartbeat away from donning the red cape.

For ten years, it's been "no tights and no flights". The "no flights" part has become tiresome lately, but once you etch it in stone, that's that.

The show is called "Smallville" because this is the time in Clark's life before he's Superman. This is where we see what happened to him in all of his "pre-flight" experiences that eventually turns him into earth's greatest hero.

It's not about him actually being Superman. That's what the movies are for. Making Clark Superman (and the Smallville writers have come dangerously close on more than a few occasions) completely trashes the premise of the series (not that season 10 hasn't been sufficiently trashed already).

The best...the very best I think should happen in the last 30 seconds of the series, is that some emergency should occur, Clark ducks into a storage room or something, we get a close up of his chest as he opens the shirt (iconic moment, please), and reveals the Superman shield.

Fade to black. End of series. Run the closing credits and play the show's theme.

Disappointed?

Probably...but that's where the show demands to end. Anything more hopelessly blurs the line between Clark's journey of self-discovery and the realization of being Superman. Clark's adventures in Smallville lead him to become Superman but they're not about actually existing as Superman, even for a few minutes.

Tom Welling is Clark Kent; a sort of "diamond-in-the-rough". He's "Superman-in-the-making", but he was never meant to really be Superman. It's time for Welling to pass the torch. We've already learned that it will be Henry Cavill who receives that torch and who carries it as the fully realized Man of Steel. Smallville is dead. Long live Superman: Man of Steel.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Why So Panicky?

By now, anyone who gives a rat's arse knows that British actor Henry Cavill has been cast in the role of Clark Kent/Superman in the upcoming film Superman: Man of Steel (2012). Yesterday morning, I woke up to twitter ablaze with this news and many of the Superman and Smallville fans were more than alarmed...they were enraged.

Why?

Well, first off, a significant number of the fan base, at least those I'm aware of via twitter, are either Tom Welling or Brandon Routh supporters and would rather have seen one of those gentlemen wearing the big red cape. The Smallville fans (at least the rabid ones) are having a very difficult time letting go of the series, which ends this coming May, as well as the vision that Tom Welling is the "only" Superman (and Erica Durance as the "only" Lois Lane).

History lesson.

The very first Superman ever to grace the silver screen was a former ballet dancer named Kirk Alyn in the 1940s. Even then, he didn't star in a single full-length motion picture. Back in the day, when you went to see a movie, there were things called cartoons, news reels, and those wonderful serials. A serial was sort of like a television series ...a set of short episodes describing a continuing story that cycled once per week. If you wanted to keep up with the story, you had to go to the theater every week to see what happened next. Often, each serial episode ended in what's called a "cliffhanger", which could be literal but otherwise meant that the hero or the "damsel in distress" was caught in some sort of trap or situation that looked like certain death. It was part of the hook to keep the fans coming back for more and to see how the hero or the damsel escaped (which they always did).

For those into trivia, Noel Neill, who later played Lois in the 1950's Superman series opposite George Reeves (I'm getting to that) also played Lois to Alyn's Clark Kent/Superman. If you want to think of the "first Superman" in motion pictures, it was Kirk Alyn.

Television's first Superman was George Reeves. For people in their 50s and 60s today, Reeves is Superman, or at least the nostalgic Superman of their childhood. Like the Kirk Alyn serials before it, the Adventures of Superman was filmed on a very tight budget with the characters often wearing the same outfits over and over, episode after episode, and making liberal use of stock film footage and repeated scenes (for instance, the same scene was used in most episodes showing Clark dashing into the Daily Planet's storage room while taking off this glasses and then leaping out the window as Superman).

The next time we see Superman, he is portrayed by Christopher Reeve (no relation to Reeves) in Superman: The Movie (1978). Even for younger audiences today, Reeve is their Superman. Nostalgia makes this, and the three film sequels seem better than they were, but Reeve remains a favorite among the fans and has a warm place in many hearts. Even in real life, his memory remains that of a true hero.

Dean Cain was the next television Man of Steel in the 1990s in the program Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. I rented the first season on DVD, but it was so horrible, I returned it without watching all of the episodes.

2001, the beginning of the 21st century, saw the rise of an intriguing reboot of the Superman legend. Tom Welling became the new Clark in Smallville. Smallville departed significantly from the accepted canon and, for the most part, did a good job at reinventing the legend before Clark becomes a legend. Unfortunately, a show that probably should have lasted only seven seasons, tried to stretch its life expectancy to ten with disappointing results. Nevertheless, Tom Welling is the (pre) Superman for many people in their 20s and 30s today. Hence the angst at Welling not being cast as Superman in the upcoming Man of Steel film.

Superman Returns (2006) is the most recent film version of the Last Son of Krypton, as played in a rather lackluster manner by Brandon Routh. I've seen this film exactly once and, when I tried to watch it again, I just couldn't get past all of the scenes where Superman is stalking Lois and her lover Richard White (James Marsten). It was just so amazingly boring (though I liked the Superman saves the plane sequence in at the start of the film).

So here we are. How many Supermen have there been? Did you count?

  1. Kirk Alyn (1940s)

  2. George Reeves (1950s)

  3. Christopher Reeve (1970s)

  4. Dean Cain (1990s)

  5. Tom Welling (2000s)

  6. Brandon Routh (2006)


Six Supermen, and each and every one of them was beloved by the fans of their generation.

And now comes Henry Cavill as Superman number seven; the Superman of 2012 and beyond. Each actor who's played the role has had their day in the sun and each one has eventually passed the torch to the next generation. For 70 years, Superman has appeared in one form or the other in motion pictures and television. He also had a radio show in the 1940s and has appeared in various animated cartoons, stage plays, and musicals. The comic book version of Superman has changed a number of times since his inception in 1938 (and if you've ever had the chance to read any golden age Superman comics, the comparision to the current version is rather striking).

Do not panic. Bitch and whine if you will because your idea of Superman isn't presupposed by Henry Cavill, but try to hang onto the fact that this has all happened before...many times. Cavill is simply the latest in a line of "Supermen" that stretches back seven decades. If you don't think you can let go of Reeve, Welling, or Routh, don't worry. If Henry Cavill isn't going to be "your" Superman, he'll be the Superman of the generation that's coming up after you.

Up, up and away.

Now, who should be cast in the film as Lois Lane?