Film Review: Aquaman (2018)

Release Date: November 26th, 2018 (London premiere)
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall, Geoff Johns, James Wan
Based on: Aquaman by Paul Norris, Mort Weisinger
Music by: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, Djimon Hounsou, Julie Andrews (voice), John Rhys-Davies (voice)

Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films, The Safran Company, Cruel and Unusual Films, Mad Ghost Productions, 143 Minutes

Review:

“You think you’re unworthy to lead because you’re of two different worlds? But that is exactly why you are worthy!” – Mera

People talked this movie up quite a bit when it came out but I didn’t see it in the theater because the holidays are busy for me and this is not a Tolkien movie.

But I had high hopes as several people I tend to trust told me that I’d like it. Well, they were wrong. I mean, I didn’t hate it and if you are comparing this to the other DCEU films, it’s actually the second best. However, that’s not a high threshold to try and beat.

First off, I like Jason Mamoa and I like Jason Mamoa in this movie. However, he’s basically playing Jason Mamoa and not Arthur Curry a.k.a. Aquaman. Well, at least not how Aquaman has been written for decades. And couldn’t he have gone blonde? He could’ve kept the long hair and beard, as Aquaman has had that look before but I guess Arnold Schwarzenegger did a good job of once playing Conan without brunette locks.

But the thing is, he doesn’t feel like Aquaman and he really just feels like a badass buff dude with similar powers to Aquaman.

I thought that Amber Heard was pretty on point as Mera, though. She needs a bit more confidence if she’s to be the tough as nails future queen but this was a good start, assuming they make more of these, which they probably will.

Most importantly, though, Mamoa and Heard had damn good chemistry and that’s what had to carry this movie and it was certainly a strength when everything else around it felt like aquatic Candyland.

Other than a handful of good actors, mainly Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Patrick Wilson and Temuera Morrison, the rest of the film was pretty lackluster and underwhelming.

It had action, it was fun for the most part, but a lot of the film felt too dragged out once you got to the middle. It had really good pacing for about 45 minutes but then the plot just seemed to be a mixture of different genres and this didn’t have a clear identity as to what it was. Some of these genre twists seemed like they were more in conflict with the film as a whole than being a collection of interesting ingredients there to make the dish taste better.

I didn’t like how Black Manta was handled and he’s just sort of a henchman and an afterthought in this film. He’s much more badass than that. Read Dan Abnett’s first few story arcs on his run of the Aquman comic. There, Black Manta was a dangerous terrorist that had Aquaman and Atlantis in the palm of his hand. I know that they introduced him in this film to build him up for later but I just don’t feel like they did it effectively and it’ll be hard to take him seriously as the big baddie when he was just portrayed as Mr. Laserface and then get knocked down a cliff. Plus, with his helmet on, the effect they used on his voice mixed with the actor’s line delivery, reminded me of Dark Helmet from Spaceballs.

Patrick Wilson was pretty good as the Ocean Master but the way he was written was confusing. He’s willing to do pure evil to maintain his throne but he doesn’t seem to commit to the bit and he just sort of accepts his fate when his mom shows up and tells him to love his brother.

This film is an example of something being fun and entertaining but not being good and not being something that I particularly like. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again and that goes for all the films in the DCEU. But that also doesn’t mean that I won’t watch the sequel, I probably will but I doubt I’ll see that one in the theater either.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC Comics movies within the same shared universe.

Comic Review: The Flash: Flashpoint

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Andy Kubert

DC Comics, 166 Pages

Review:

This is the best Flash event that I’ve ever read. Granted, I’m not a hug Flash fan in the comics and I haven’t read a lot of his big events but this wasn’t bogged down by too much Speed Force bullshit, which is typically a bone of contention with me, as it’s used to explain every random ass weird thing that happens in modern Flash stories. It’s also why I lost interest in the TV show, which started out pretty damn good.

The Speed Force does play a factor here but it doesn’t make this a mental clusterfuck like the plot of The Flash: Rebirth.

And while The Flash does fight another speedster, this isn’t just about a guy with speed fighting another guy with speed because that shit also gets tiresome and is another reason why I stopped watching the show.

There are a lot of characters and the fact that this takes place in an alternate reality where things are different enough to make the world interesting, makes this feel different than the standard Flash event.

Granted, I wish this featured more of the regular rogues that aren’t speedsters but when most of those villains have become jokes, that was probably for the best. At least we get small cameos from Captain Cold and the Pied Piper, even if they don’t have much to do with the story.

The thing that makes this so good, is that it just grabs you and holds on. It’s a quick read, as it takes place over just five issues but there is a lot to absorb. But in the end, this will hit you in the feels from a few different angles and frankly, that took me by surprise. But the final moments in this made this whole journey worth it.

Geoff Johns is one of my favorite writers of the last decade or so and this is the first Flash story that I felt was on the same level as his best Green Lantern work. Plus, Andy Kubert’s art was incredible and it wasn’t too far of a departure from the style I’ve come accustomed to seeing in Johns’ biggest stories, which were mostly drawn by Ethan Van Sciver.

Flashpoint is an action packed and legitimately emotional ride through two men’s tragic journeys. It was well executed and a visually stunning piece of work.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Geoff Johns era of The Flash, as well as other major Flash events.

TV Review: Titans (2018- )

Also known as: Teen Titans (informal title)
Original Run: October 3rd, 2018 (New York Comic Con) – current
Created by: Akiva Goldsmith, Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters from DC Comics
Music by: Clint Mansell, Kevin Kiner
Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Anna Diop, Teagan Croft, Ryan Potter

Weed Road Pictures, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 11 Episodes (so far), 40-50 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I finally got DC Universe, as it became available on the Amazon FireStick after months of dealys. So that being said, I have now checked out Titans, the streaming service’s first big attempt at original content.

While this wasn’t a total waste of time and shows some promise, it was still a pretty drab attempt at getting me excited for spending $7.99 per month on yet another video-on-demand service.

The biggest issue for me is that the characters don’t really act like the characters in the comics. Dick Grayson a.k.a. Robin a.k.a. Nightwing just straight up murders people the first time we see him confront some thugs. Then everyone else in the show kills or maims people pretty quickly and it’s fairly easy to see what we have here, which is another live action DC Comics property giving itself fully over to their gritty, edgy boy formula that only worked for Christopher Nolan, ten years ago, and Zack Snyder once with Watchmen, also ten years ago.

Also, Gotham does a good job of being gritty but it takes tremendous creative liberties and took awhile to really find its footing.

So Titans could definitely improve, as Gotham did. In fact, there are signs of better things within this first season. However, there isn’t much here to make me care about the main characters. Dick and Rachel, who will become Raven, are emo to the point of cringe but at least Starfire is interesting and Gar, who will become Beast Boy, is charismatic and could potentially be the best thing on the show.

The real problem with Titans is that the best episodes are the ones where the title characters aren’t the focal point. My two favorite chapters out of the eleven here are the one that’s all about introducing Doom Patrol and the one that serves as the origin story for Hawk & Dove. So what does it say when I’m more interested in secondary characters with minor screen time or characters who are getting their own spinoff?

I’m actually excited about Doom Patrol based off of what I saw here. And if I’m being honest, I’m not all that interested in a second season of Titans, even though I will watch it in hopes that things improve.

The season also suffers from not telling a good, self contained story. We get the season’s cliffhanger ending in the second to last episode and then the final episode, which should have been a resolution to the ten episodes before it, is nothing but a hallucination that ends leaving us exactly in the same spot that the previous penultimate episode did. It’s an absolutely terrible conclusion to a mostly mediocre season.

On the positive side, at least this moves more briskly than the Netflix Marvel shows and even though it has its filler episodes, they at least have action and progress the story in some way.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the upcoming live action DC Universe shows, as well as the DC Comics shows on the CW and Fox’s Gotham.

Comic Review: The Flash: Rebirth

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver

DC Comics, 158 Pages

Review:

I love Geoff Johns work at DC Comics and I have always loved his collaborations with artist Ethan Van Sciver. Their work on Green Lantern got me back into comics during a time when I had sort of faded away from the medium due to no longer being as engaged by it.

Green Lantern: Rebirth was one of my favorite comic book stories of all-time. It made me love Hal Jordan and I was pulled in by Johns’ writing and Van Sciver’s wonderful art. Since I also liked Johns’ Flash stuff, I figured that The Flash: Rebirth would be something that I would also love. But sadly, it just didn’t do it for me.

The biggest problem that I have with Flash stories is the damn Speed Force. Also, in recent years, the Flash pocket of the larger DC universe is overloaded with too many characters with the same lame set of powers. There are so many damn speedsters that it’s really f’n redundant.

In an era where people are screaming for diversity, even though it has existed in comics for decades, maybe there should be a call for diversity in powers in the Flash titles. I mean, if you’re going to cram a dozen heroes and villains into a plot, why are they all similar? And why is that exciting? And to be frank, this is why I lost interest in The Flash TV show, which I loved when it started.

Anyway, the art in this is damn good but Van Sciver hits the right note stylistically speaking when it comes to how this era of DC felt. He was a premiere architect in DC’s visual style from 2007-2014 or so. This book lives up to the standard one should expect from his work but apart from that, there wasn’t much here for me to enjoy.

The premiere villain is the Reverse Flash, another f’n speedster. And really, this is all about the weird, mystical Speed Force that is capable of anything a writer needs it to do. I don’t know, Speed Force heavy stories bore me to tears and they’re hard to keep up with because it’s all pseudo-science mumbo jumbo made up on a whim to explain random ass shit. I prefer stories where one Flash takes on one of his many awesome rogues that aren’t speedsters.

This is probably really good if reading about a dozen speedsters and Speed Force stuff is your thing. For me, it numbed my brain and made it hard to get through.

And fuck… this had so many damn cameos. I felt like it partially existed just to wedge in as many characters as possible.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: The Geoff Johns era of The Flash, as well as his era of Green Lantern.

Documentary Review: Necessary Evil: The Super-Villains of DC Comics

Release Date: October 25th, 2013
Directed by: Scott Devine, J.M. Kenny
Written by: Scott Devine, Jack Mulligan
Music by: Kris Dirksen (as Methodic Doubt)
Cast: Christopher Lee (narrator), Neal Adams, Clancy Brown, Kevin Conroy, Guillermo del Toro, Dan Didio, Paul Dini, Richard Donner, Marc Guggenheim, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, CM Punk, Michael Shannon, Scott Snyder, Zack Snyder, Peter Tomasi, Marv Wolfman

DC Comics, mOcean, Warner Bros., 99 Minutes

Review:

This was just a really cool documentary accented by the narration of the legendary and superb Christopher Lee. It also had a fantastic cast of interviewees.

A great retrospective on the darker half of DC Comics’ long history, Necessary Evil was delightful. I enjoyed it so much and wish that it was actually a lot longer. The DC mythos and it’s rich history could easily fill up a season of a documentary series. I could sit through a Ken Burns’ Baseball length documentary on this subject and maintain the same level of excitement. Assuming its as well produced as this is.

You can’t have a great hero without a great villain and this does a fantastic job at making the audience understand how these characters truly are a “necessary evil” in how they make the heroes better and how they make these stories last for decades. Comic books are America’s mythology and a good villain with a good story is at the forefront of the most memorable moments in these epic tales.

This film analyzes a lot of key villains in the DC universe. Unfortunately, you can’t cover every villain in 99 minutes and frankly, this probably only touches on like one percent of them, as there have been so many in the 80 years since the first Superman comic was published. One of the interviewees mentioned that DC’s villain count was into the thousands and really, that doesn’t seem too far fetched in the grand scheme of things.

I really enjoyed hearing from Jim Lee, Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder. These guys have been at the forefront of many of the stories I’ve enjoyed since the ’90s. We also get to see movie directors Richard Donner, Zack Snyder and Guillermo del Toro chime in.

A lot of comic book documentaries are done on the cheap and can’t round up a very solid cast of people to interview. In the last few years, we’ve gotten some really good documentaries on the subject, though. This is one of the best out there and really, who doesn’t love the f’n villains?

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other recent comic book documentaries: The Image RevolutionChris Claremont’s X-Men and Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously.