On Batfleck and Superman

(Warner Bros)

(Warner Bros)

I can’t have been the only one.

Walking out of the cinema with a huge grin on my face, still reeling from the formidable slice of cinema that is Man of Steel, to say:

“Boy, they could only better that if they had Ben Affleck as Batman in the next one!”

Batman totally breastfeeds now, didn't you hear about it?

Batman totally breastfeeds now, didn’t you hear about it?

I am of course being facetious. Man of Steel was not a terrible film but no one actually walked out of it with anything other than a headache and slight motion sickness, let alone a demand that the star of Gigli should don Batman’s famed cape and cowl.

Indeed the very idea of a Batman/Superman smackdown seemed strange even before Affleck was cast as Bruce Wayne. The presence of two iconic characters in one film demands that the principle question of why they are together is answered with panache.

I fear that this fundamental imperative will be ignored. I fear that it is economic considerations on the part of Warner Brothers that are driving Batman/Superman towards its July 2015 release date, instead of what ought to be the prerequisite of making such a picture: a great idea for a story.

Films have to make money – I get that, but cherished characters like Bats and Supes have to earn that showdown, just as Marvel did with The AvengersMan of Steel certainly did not lay the groundwork for such a clash and director Zack Snyder and studio Warner Bro’s have not yet created a cinematic universe big or interesting enough to explain the presence of these two icons in one movie. This is the equivalent of making The Avengers after the first Iron Man

Marvel’s massive success at universe building has probably disturbed the suits at Warner. It ought not to though. They are after all the studio that gave us Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the only sequence of films in the whole superhero genre that might be called definitive, thematically interesting and perhaps even imperishable.

The reason the announcement of Affleck has been met with such consternation across the internet is because it is very difficult indeed to imagine anyone playing Bruce Wayne other than Christian Bale. The latter was an utterly ferocious Batman imbued with a physical and emotional intelligence that will be hard for Affleck (or any other actor for that matter) to emulate. God help them when they try and cast a new Alfred after what Michael Caine did with the part.

This doesn’t mean casting Affleck was wrong. Or that nobody can ever be cast as Batman again. On the contrary, he may be a good Batman. The decision to put Bats in the next Man of Steel is wrong though, simply because instead of respecting both the work of Nolan and the intelligence/wallets of cinema goers, Warner are content to chase the quick buck that Batman/Superman represents. I guess some men just want to watch the world burn, or they’re really, really impatient. For me the whole thing stinks of desperation.

The aforementioned Mr. Caine has a very wry observation on Batman and Superman:

“Superman is how America views itself. Batman is how the rest of the world views America”

In other words if Superman was an American politician he’d be a bullshitting and mythologised emulsion of various founding fathers and Batman would be Richard Milhous Nixon, a man with a crozzled and blackened heart whose very existence taints the American dream.

Good luck Ben, I think you’re going to need it.

Man of Steel – The Frankly Vulgar Review

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Check out the ol’ stars and stripes in the background – see how they did that! #wellclever

I don’t really like Superman. I never really understood how a character who is totally invulnerable could be involved in stories with real jeopardy, real stakes – something reinforced by the fact that before Man of Steel was even released a sequel to it was already announced.

As a reboot MoS really does suffer against its obvious blueprint, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Just as Nolan tried (and succeeded) in taking Batman away from the kitsch, campy nightmare of the franchise in the late 1990’s, director Zack Snyder  (in conjunction with Nolan) here attempts to give us a raw, almost unrecognisable Supes – away from the smiley, twinkly Christopher Reeve iteration or the moody self-conscious Brandon Routh era.

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Superman, back when primary colours where proper cool.

What they give us in Man of Steel is a film that confronts head on the sheer power of Superman. His initial struggles to hide these abilities as a child and an adolescent, the fears of his step-father (wonderfully played by Kevin Costner) that his adopted son will become a hunted, shunned outcast. Eventually audiences finally get to see Kal-El properly loose it: bowling through buildings like a hijacked airliner, he screams and gnashes and brawls his way through this film a jumped up, jacked up, flying Mike Tyson.

I promise that for about ten minutes you’ll sit there saying shit like “woah” or “shit” or “awesome” or “fucking hell” – but enduring 45 minutes of CGI Kryptonians beating the guts outta each other was more than this correspondent could endure. This is not a film to see with a hangover. I stumbled out of the auditorium feeling as if I had been strapped in one of these for an hour.

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Anyone else remember this badass…

Where MoS falls down is (as is almost inevitable with these big summer tentpole movies) during it’s stodgy last hour. Take away the red capes and this could be any other ‘epic’ action movie. Hans Zimmer’s ubiquitously grandiose score doesn’t help in this regard, although in fairness to him it must have been incredibly difficult to live up to the legacy of this. The Clark Kent/Lois Lane romance is fumbled and feels out of place which is especially unforgivable for a Superman movie. In fact the characters of Lois Lane and Perry White feel as if they have been shoehorned into the piece simply because its a Superman movie.

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More like Lois LAME. (sorry).

Man of Steel is not the film it was sold as. This isn’t a dark, contemplative and rejected Superman, feared and misunderstood by the world. None of the promise of that idea (which is present at the start of the movie in a conversation between Clark and his step-Dad) pays off. Instead by the middle of the film ol’ Supes is, aside from a bit of vague curiosity, essentially accepted by everybody as the flag wavin’ American icon that he is.

But hey, at least it has Russell Crowe in it. No he doesn’t sing unfortunately.