Film Review: Superman II (1980)

Release Date: December 4th, 1980 (Australia)
Directed by: Richard Lester, Richard Donner (uncredited)
Written by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman
Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Music by: Ken Thorne
Cast: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine, Terence Stamp, Susannah York, Jack O’Halloran, Marc McClure, Sarah Douglas, Marlon Brando (appears only in the Richard Donner Cut)

Film Export A.G., Dovemead Limited, International Film Productions, Warner Bros., 127 Minutes (original cut), 116 Minutes (Richard Donner Cut)

Review:

“Come to me, son of Jor-El, kneel before Zod!” – General Zod

In all honesty, I like Superman and Superman II just about the same. II gets a bit of an edge though just because I like the story better and the threat in the film is a credible threat, as it pits Superman against an adversary that matches his power level.

While I love Lex Luthor, the character, and I also love the mind versus might rivalry, the Gene Hackman version of the character just doesn’t hit the right mark. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Hackman and his character in these movies but he doesn’t feel like the Lex of the comics I grew up with. He is to Luthor what Cesar Romero was to the Joker. He’s damn entertaining and enjoyable but he’s lacking the darkness that’s needed to truly be villainous.

General Zod, however, is an incredible opponent. He was created for this film series but he was so damn good that he would go on to be in the comics. Terence Stamp really brought some much needed testosterone to the table and his minions, played by Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran, were pretty cool villains as well. Man, I was crushing hard on Sarah Douglas when I was a kid.

I also really liked the romance in this movie and usually I don’t care about that crap in these sort of films. I just like how Clark and Lois’ relationship blossomed and how it was really tested and pushed Superman into having to make an incredibly hard decision, which he then had to try and fix because saving the world is his destiny, even if that means he can’t love a human. Yeah, the story around this was actually weird and nonsensical but the point of it and the challenge made me accept it.

Getting back to Lex Luthor though, his role in this film seemed pretty pointless. Once again, he was the top billed star but it’s like they had nothing for him to do. He breaks out of prison, leaves poor Otis behind, breaks into Superman’s house and then aligns himself with Zod, who didn’t need Luthor’s help at all, let’s be honest. Luthor is just sort of wedged into the film just because they had to have a name as big as Gene Hackman’s, after Marlon Brando’s Jor-El was killed off in the first picture. I should note that Brando did film footage for the film but he wanted more money than the producers were willing to pay, so it was edited out of the final cut. He does appear in the Richard Donner cut of the film though.

This chapter in the Superman movie saga is a great extension of what the first movie was. Really, they just feel like two halves of a whole. The movies did a lot of their filming simultaneously because the producers knew there would be a sequel. Some of the filming on II got put on hold though, as it was holding up the production of I and the studio wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to miss its Christmas time release. There was a lot of conflict, behind the scenes, and Richard Donner was fired after directing most of II. He wasn’t given credit for his work and Richard Lester took over. Lester would also go on to direct the terrible Superman III, showing that he wasn’t as skilled as Donner. On a side note, the Richard Donner Cut was released years later, which most people seem to enjoy more.

Despite the backstage politics, this still ended up being my favorite film in the franchise.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Superman: The Movie, the 1980 Flash Gordon.

Comic Review: Dark Nights: Metal

Published: June 12th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Greg Capullo

DC Comics, 204 Pages

Review:

I didn’t read this as it came out. I also was much more frugal about how much I spent on comics at the time. I’m less frugal now, as I’m spending more time reviewing them. And to be honest, while this is $30 for the collected edition at my local comic shop, I found this on a brief Comixology sale for $5.99. So at that price, I figured I’d give it a go. If I ended up really liking it, I would’ve gone back to buy the single issues. But I didn’t really like it all that much. I’ll explain.

To start, I typically like Scott Snyder’s writing, especially in regards to anything with Batman in it. As far as Greg Capullo goes, he is one of my favorite artists of the last few decades. So seeing them reunite for this was definitely a selling point, even if what I knew about the project’s story didn’t peak my interest.

The biggest problem with Metal is the same problem with most mega events in comics, it is chock full of so many characters that the plot loses fluidity and the story seems to placate more to wedging in as many cameos as possible, as opposed to keeping the train on the rails.

This wasn’t a bad idea for a story but it should have been kept fairly simple. People just kept showing up on nearly every page, though, and it becomes distracting. New twists and turns are thrown in as often as characters and this just loses its focus. It also introduces a whole horde of villains, most of whom will just be one-offs in this story anyway. But this reads more like a sketchbook than a coherent story. What I mean by that, is that this feels like Capullo trying to fit in every cool design that he wasn’t able to wedge into Spawn throughout his run on the book in the ’90s.

Another thing I didn’t like was how wordy this was. While there are good action scenes, sometimes these characters felt like they weren’t surrounded by villains but instead, were surrounded by word balloons, trying to wedge their way into the panels and asphyxiate the characters. The word balloons were the real villains of the story. At least, that should be a twist whenever this gets a sequel.

I did like how the ending looked into the future as a way to tell you what stories would be coming out from DC Comics over the following year. But, at the same time, this was disappointing to some degree, as a main reason why I picked this up was to see the introduction of DC’s “New Age of Heroes”. I always see mentions that this is where they debuted but their appearance here is limited to one panel where we see into the future.

Anyway, this at least kept my attention over the six issues, even if they felt like twelve due to the dialogue and having so much detail to drink in. I wouldn’t say that this is a waste of time and I can see where this will be a lot of people’s cup of tea. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, really. But I also don’t regret reading it simply because I liked seeing Capullo have fun and get really creative with the art and character design.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other DC Comics mega event of the last decade or so.

Comic Review: Green Arrow: The Outsiders War

Published: November 6th, 2013 – May 7th, 2014
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Andrea Sorrentino

DC Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

This is the biggest story arc in Jeff Lemire’s run on Green Arrow.

This was also pretty damn intense. But as Lemire’s run on the title rolls on, I have developed a love/hate relationship with it.

For one, I’m not entirely sure of why this version of Oliver Queen lives in Seattle as opposed to Star City and it’s never really been explained within Lemire’s stories. It’s a weird setting for a DC title and maybe trying to ground this in some sort of gritty reality is why they use a real world city but Seattle is hardly some dark and gritty metropolis like Star City has been in the past.

Also, this started bringing in characters and concepts from the TV show Arrow. I’m not sure if that’s because this came out just after the show started and was at its height in popularity but the comic doesn’t need to follow the show or be a comic book version of the show. That show is its own thing and what works on TV isn’t always what works in comics, and vice versa. This is why the show has changed some things but Lemire’s run is adopting some of those changes and characters. But it is also an attempt to make this more accessible to the fans that have only watched the TV series.

The stuff between Oliver and Komodo is really good though. I like the Komodo character, what he represents and how he’s completely altered the course of Oliver’s life.

I like the mystical elements of the story, as well, and it reminds me of old school Iron Fist comics in a lot of ways.

The best thing about Lemire’s run on Green Arrow isn’t Lemire though, at least not for me. The best thing is the art. Andrea Sorrentino has such a unique and incredible style that it breathes more life into these tales. His ability to showcase action in new and exciting ways is really refreshing.

All in all, this is fun if you are a fan of the character, whether through the comics or just from the television series.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The other story arcs in the Jeff Lemire run on Green Arrow.

Film Review: Batman Vs. Two-Face (2017)

Also known as: Batman and the Face of Crime (working title)
Release Date: October 8th, 2017 (New York Comic Con)
Directed by: Rick Morales
Written by: Michael Jelenic, James Tucker
Based on: Batman (the ’60s TV show) by William Dozier, Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, William Shatner, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Steven Weber, Thomas Lennon, Jeff Bergman, William Salyers, Wally Wingert

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 72 Minutes

Review:

“I always knew you’d make an asp of yourself, Batboob.” – King Tut

I was really happy with the first film in this duology of animated features that have resurrected the Batman ’66 universe. So when I saw that there was a second film, that it introduced Two-Face and that William Shatner would be providing the voice, I was pretty stoked.

If you are a fan of the first film, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, then this one shouldn’t disappoint. Plus, you don’t just get the addition of Two-Face, you also get Bat-villains Harley Quinn and Dr. Hugo Strange.

I love that the voice cast is comprised of the original actors. Sadly, Adam West passed away before this was released and that probably put the kibosh on a third film getting made, but this was a great final outing for him.

They also brought in Lee Meriwether, who was the original film version of Catwoman. She shares a few scenes here with the original TV Catowman, Julie Newmar. While Meriwhether doesn’t play her best known Batman character, there is a nice in-joke in the film where her character gets put into the cat suit and likes it.

One thing that is always fun about these modern versions of the Batman ’66 universe, whether in these films or the comics, is that they are able to dip really deep into the villain well and have a myriad of them in scenes together.

I was really excited to see Bookworm get his own sequence in the film, as he was my favorite villain created just for the classic television show. You also get King Tut, Egghead, the Clock King and a bunch of others.

William Shatner did a fine job as Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-Face and I liked how they handled the character in this universe and I thought his big evil scheme was pretty good and entertaining, even though it wasn’t something wholly original.

These are just fun movies and much more family friendly than the other animated DC Comics features.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The film before this one: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, as well as the 1960s Batman TV show and movie, the Batman ’66 comic and other DC Comics animated films of the last decade.

Comic Review: Preacher: Crusaders

Published: October 31st, 1996 – March 31st, 1997
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 156 Pages

Review:

Since I just finished Preacher‘s third season, I am really happy because the show is in a spot that I remember really fondly from the comics: the six-part Crusaders story arc.

No longer owning the Preacher comics I had in the ’90s, as they were lost somewhere along the years and after several moves, I had to round up these issues again. Luckily, my local comic shop had all six issues and in pristine condition, I might add.

It was great revisiting this series and if you haven’t read the comics but are a fan of the show, you can jump right into this story and know where you are. It has some of the stuff from the back end of season three in it and it also goes into what I assume will be the early parts of season four. Ultimately, this is just a badass chapter in the long epic that is this superb series.

Cassidy, the vampire, is captured by Herr Starr and his minions. Jesse has to leave Tulip behind as he goes on an insane mission to rescue Cassidy from The Grail’s fortress. We meet the Allfather, get to learn about the angel that is imprisoned with Cassidy (seen in the season three finale of the show), get some awesome action when the Saint of Killers takes on The Grail in their stronghold and get to see Starr in all his evil greatness.

As much as I like the show, I still love the comic and this just made me realize that I need to give the entire series a revisit.

Garth Ennis was on his A-game here but any fan of comics from the ’90s knows about how great this series was. Steve Dillon’s art still looks incredible and frankly, I wish more comic books had even half of the style that Dillon did here. I also love the Glenn Fabry covers and some of them have become so iconic over time that I may frame a few of these issues.

Preacher is an exceptionally great comic book. Even with a television show, there are just too many people that haven’t delved into the source material. It’s fucked up, twisted and delightful.

For fans of the series, this arc is a high point and ’90s comic book perfection.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Comic Review: Green Arrow: Shados

Published: July 3rd, 2013 – October 2nd, 2013
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Andrea Sorrentino, Marcelo Maiolo

DC Comics, 85 Pages

Review:

This is the second story arc in the Jeff Lemire run on Green Arrow. What I’m reviewing here is the Shado story, as well as the couple single issues right after it that lead into the next big arc. The issues reviewed here are numbers 22, 23, 23.1 and 24 of Green Arrow (2011-2016) a.k.a. The New 52 run.

So reading these issues made me a bit confused over what The New 52 is to DC Comics continuity. Reason being, Count Vertigo is a new villain in the way that this story is written and the event within brought me to the realization that Oliver Queen a.k.a. the Green Arrow is really friggin’ young here. Clues to his age were in The Kill Machine but I guess it didn’t dawn on me fully until his interractions with Shado in this book. Or maybe Lemire is just writing him so that he comes off as a twenty year-old.

Ultimately, this Lemire run feels much more like it is in the tonal vein of the television show. I mentioned in my last review of Lemire’s run that this is pretty gritty and very different than what Green Arrow has been in the past. Sure, he’s had some darker, serious stories but Lemire has brought Oliver into the modern gritty reboot age with gusto.

I really like this run. However, this string of issues wasn’t as badass as the ones that preceded them. This isn’t so much filler, as it is more about fleshing out Lemire’s vision for the series.

The bulk of the story here is about Oliver going to a small European nation to find the next “dragon”. He rescues Shado from the lair of Count Vertigo, who is a dictator over the small country. We also get an origin story for this incarnation of Vertigo, which was pretty interesting.

So far, I’m happy with this run and can’t wait to get into the story arcs after this one.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The other story arcs in the Jeff Lemire run on Green Arrow.

Film Review: Justice League Dark (2017)

Release Date: January 24th, 2017
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Written by: Ernie Altbacker
Based on: Justice League Dark by Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin
Music by: Robert J. Kral
Cast: Matt Ryan, Jason O’Mara, Camilla Luddington, Nicholas Turturro, Ray Chase, Jerry O’Connell, Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, 75 Minutes

Review:

“I expect the worst, so I prepare for the worst, and when the worst happens, I’m ready. But my outlook doesn’t alter the reality of the world.”- John Constantine

I started reading the current run on Justice League Dark and I really love it, at least one issue into it. I figured that I’d give this a watch because of how much I was into the comic and because I’ve liked a lot of the modern DC Comics animated features.

This was a pretty cool film.

I loved the tone, I liked the choice of characters for the JLD team and is it possible that someone was cooler than Batman? Why, yes! His name is John Constantine.

It was neat seeing Constantine take center stage, where he outshines Batman and shows how cool of a character he actually is.

It mostly made me upset that the live action Constantine TV show was cancelled after a measly thirteen episodes because it could have kept growing and got as epic and awesome as this animated feature. Hell, had it gone on into multiple seasons, it could have expanded like the other DC Comics TV shows on the CW and Constantine probably would have had a whole squad, thus making that show a live action version of this film sans Batman.

Anyway, this had solid animation, a great voice cast and I liked how the regular Justice League characters were used in this.

This is one of the better DC animated features that I have seen.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other recent DC Comics animated features.