Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review of DC Universe Rebirth Special

Jason Book and I share a few of our thoughts on the landmark DC Universe Rebirth Special #1, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez (80 pages for $2.99!).

This was a satisfying issue and one that points to an exciting time ahead for the DC Universe, and if things live up to the potential set by this issue, 2016 might mark the beginning of a new era 30 years after Alan Moore and Frank Miller prompted the deconstructionist approach that has held sway until now.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Scenes 19 and 20

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Scene 19, Bruce and Alfred's "invited" interaction, and Scene 20, Bruce's walk through the batcave and drive to Lex's party.

  • Plot developments from Knyazev's phone data
  • Why was Lois's scene inserted in the middle of Bruce's morning?
  • Bruce and Alfred interactions and character development
  • Bruce is pointed toward Lex Luthor (and the audience is onto him more than Bruce is)
  • Why does Bruce go through the Batcave before heading out in his civilian car?
Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco for his help with this analysis.

Man of Steel Answers, Suicide Squadcast


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Themes and Character Arcs in Captain America: Civil War

I usually write about DC and Warner Brothers media but I am taking this post to share an analysis of Captain America: Civil War. I have previously stated that it is possible to be fans of both DC and Marvel (no need to pick sides) and we should all be respectful of one another's opinions. In that spirit, I am going to focus solely on Civil War rather than bringing in needless comparisons to other movies -- I will just treat Civil War on its own merits. Additionally, I will attempt to include only points that I can support with evidence from the movie. And I am very open to counterarguments and differing opinions, as long as the responses are shared in a respectful manner with evidence provided whenever possible.

Because my style of movie-watching tends to focus on deeper themes and character arcs, my analysis below focuses primarily on the themes of Civil War, the major character arcs, and then I conclude with a few brief comments about a few other aspects of filmmaking. (I also enjoy tracing motifs through a movie, but I didn't see any in Civil War so I probably need to watch it a few more times.) I understand that many people do not view movies with an eye toward the themes and arcs, which is completely fine, and if you don't watch for those things, you will very likely have a different opinion of the movie than me, which is also fine.

TLDR: The themes established in Act 1 are worthwhile but are not carried through the remainder of the movie and the major character arcs are disjointed and not coherently resolved.


The beginning of Civil War includes an African incident that involves some loss of innocent life and heroes who are clearly disturbed by the turn of events. This leads nicely to a scene where the Secretary of State literally lectures the Avengers on the collateral damage and destruction that has accompanied their past efforts. These scenes, together with the personal face of loss that Tony experiences through the grieving mother, set up a clear theme that can be phrased in different ways: Exercising power has a cost, or Those who exercise power must be prepared to handle the guilt they may feel due to negative repercussions. This theme is a solid set-up for the movie because there are two distinct ways the theme can be resolved, and neither resolution is inherently better than the other--it's a matter of debate: (A) Those who exercise power can accept the responsibility of wielding that power and attempt to minimize the repercussions for which they might feel guilty, while recognizing that things won't turn out perfectly. Or (B) they can submit to the oversight and influence of a higher power which may lead to better (or worse) outcomes but, more importantly, allows for much of the blame to be shed or shifted onto that higher power. To phrase it as a question: Does submitting to oversight allow one to hide from his own guilt?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Scenes 17 and 18

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses Batman v Superman:Dawn of Justice, specifically, on Bruce's dream of visiting the Wayne mausoleum and Lois's visit to Secretary Swanwick in the restroom.

ALERT: At one point in discussing Scene 17, I said Jonathan and Martha Wayne instead of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Please forgive the error.

  • Why did the filmmakers include several dream or vision sequences?
  • What is the significance of Bruce's visit to the mausoleum?
  • What are the main takeaways from Lois's first visit with Secretary Swanwick?
  • BONUS: How would BvS have been different if it followed the typical three-act blockbuster movie structure?
Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco for his help with this analysis.
Man of Steel Answers, Suicide Squadcast, Pulpklatura

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Action Comics 52: Meeting of the Supermen

Jason Book and I discuss Action Comics #52 where the New 52 Superman finally meets the pre-New 52 Superman (who has been featured in Superman: Lois & Clark recently, following Convergence). This is Part 6 in the "Final Days of Superman" story arc.

We enjoyed the issue and we speculate at the end of that video about how things might turn out for Superman in the upcoming Rebirth.

Also, it's not covered in the video above but here are some of my thoughts on the next issue: Superman Wonder Woman 29, which is part 7 of 8 in the "Last Days of Superman" story arc. It was another pretty solid issue from Tomasi. There is still a lot of ground to cover in the 8th issue (Superman #52 this coming week), but S WW 29 featured some great team-up action from Superman (New 52) and Wonder Woman as they threw down with the energy Superman imposter. The other big event was Superman (Pre-New 52) took his Lois and Jonathan to his fortress of solitude and Jonathan finally got to learn the truth about his parents. The big questions still remain, to be addressed in Superman #52: What will be the final fate of Superman (New 52)? What's the full story behind the energy imposter? Is there going to be a hand off of the Superman mantle to the Old School Superman (Pre-New 52)?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Scene 16

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast covers scene 16 of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is Senator Finch's visit to Lex Luthor's father's room.

  • Luthor and Finch's verbal battle. Why is the dialogue disjointed?
  • The "Granny's Peach Tea" setup.
  • When does Lex shift from Plan A to Plan B?
  • We know about Lex's father, but what about his mother?
  • What are the thematic interpretations of turning the painting upside down?
  • BONUS: A list of thematic connections between Man of Steel and BvS.

Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco for his help with the analysis.
Man of Steel Answers, Suicide Squadcast, Thesis on Man of Steel

Batman 52: End of the New 52

Jason Book and I review Batman #52, by James Tynion IV and others.

This is a one-shot that gives some nice character moments between Bruce and Alfred and closes out the New 52 era of Batman -- a great run.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Looking Forward to The Killing Joke

Jason Book and I discuss the trailer for the new DC Animated feature from Warner Brothers animation, Batman: The Killing Joke.

Overall, we are excited for this movie because the voice acting seems strong and the story by Alan Moore is compelling (if a bit disturbing), though we are concerned that the animation style might not be able to live up to Bolland's original art.

Monday, May 9, 2016

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Scenes 14 and 15

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on scenes 14 and 15 of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is Bruce's visit to an underground MMA fight and the Daily Planet pitch meeting with Perry, Clark, and Lois.

  • How does the underground fight fit with the falling motif?
  • What do we learn about Batman's fighting style?
  • How are we supposed to react to violence in BvS?
  • What does the Daily Planet pitch meeting tell us about Clark's character arc and the theme of absolute right and wrong?
  • Why does Lois pursuing the bullet story represent a new version of the Lois/Clark/Superman love triangle?


Batman 51: End of Snyder Capullo

Jason Book and I discuss Batman 51, which is the final issue in the modern classic run by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on the Batman main title.

This is a great issue that closes down their run, with lots of nods back to all that's happened over the last 4.5 years, and it also puts things nicely in place for the new creative teams led by Tom King and James Tynion IV. (Also check out the DC Comics interview with Snyder and Capullo.)


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Comparing Batman v Superman and Civil War Ratings

I am a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and a super fan of the WB/DC Justice League Universe films, so I will be thrilled if Captain America: Civil War goes on to have a huge opening weekend, just as I was overjoyed to see that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice pulled in the largest March opening ever and the 4th largest worldwide opening of any kind.

But as the general consensus forms around Civil War, this is a good time to contemplate the limitations of the various metrics that are used to calculate critical reception. An unfortunate feature of today's movie culture is that the Rotten Tomatoes "freshness" score has come to be the most prominent indicator of a movie's critical reception. This is unfortunate because the RT "freshness" score is probably the worst amalgamation metric, operating in a completely binary fashion (registered critics enter a review and a numerical rating but the freshness score is only calculated based on whether they pick fresh or rotten... that's it).

As I explained when Batman v Superman first came out, the story about those reviews should have been about the fact that they were mixed or polarized, with many people rating the movie positively, a lot rating it right around 5 or 6 out of 10, and then another chunk rating it below average. The problem with the RT freshness score is that if a movie has lots of 5's or 6's out of 10, those all count as rotten. A movie with 100% ratings of 5/10 would have the same freshness score as a movie with 100% ratings of 1/10.

Batman v Superman had a lot of reviews around the 5/10 mark and so, even though its average rating was around 5.1/10 on its opening weekend, its freshness score headed toward 28%. The average was a better measure, as confirmed by the MetaCritic rating of 44/100, which is considered a moderate-category rating (MetaCritic regularly has movies come in below 40). But unfortunately, much of the media and social media narrative latched onto the freshness score and it became functionally true that BvS was hated by critics because it was repeated and cited so many times.

What does this have to do with Civil War? Well, currently the new MCU film has a Rotten Tomatoes freshness rating of 92%. So wow, it must be one of the best movies of the year, right? But actually, the average rating on RT is 7.5/10. Now, that's still a solid rating, and it's definitely a better critical consensus than Batman v Superman (even though I personally think BvS is a masterpiece, if not a crowd pleaser), but my point is that a 7.5 isn't exactly blowing people's minds. Corroborating things over at MetaCritic, Civil War currently sits at 75/100. Positive, but not crazy good. It's just able to take advantage of the freshness score limitations, where a lot of 7's out of 10 translate into all fresh rather than rotten (the same as if it were all 10/10's).

The sad thing will be if the media and social media narrative becomes fixated on the misleading 92% number rather than the more meaningful 7.5 number. Of course, this is not sad for Civil War but it's just sad for BvS because the latter was unfairly tied to the misleading 28% number, and the two will seem to be widely apart in critical reception when really it's a situation of BvS being reviewed as moderate quality (with divisiveness) and Civil War being reviewed as slightly above average (lots of consensus around 7/10 or 8/10).

EDIT 5/6/2016: Here's an academic look at what's going on between film critics and the anti-Snyder, pro-Snyder fans.

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Batman v Superman Scene 13

Below is an episode from the Justice League Universe Podcast that focuses on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Scene 13 -- the conclusion of Lex Luthor's meeting with the Senators (Lex's "wish list").

This episode includes the following topics:
  • Returning to the scout ship from Man of Steel
  • Lex's glory -- manipulating people to get what we wants
  • Zod's fingerprints and Lex's cherry Jolly Rancher
  • Possible interpretations of Lex's character
  • Lex's musical theme, his hair, and his clothes
External Links: