Collision Course: Captain America vs. Superman vs. Batman

superheroes

There are plenty of reviews for Captain America: The Winter Soldier that opened last weekend to kick off the summer movie season (in April?) and pocketed a tidy $93 million dollars even before I sat down in my seat. This isn’t another one of them. It’s just a few thoughts I had that aren’t spoilers, but one might be “spoilerish.”

Saw the fuck out of the flick on Sunday. It’s really good, though I wouldn’t go so far as some to call it “Marvel’s Dark Knight.” Pump ya brakes and slow ya roll.   It is a fun time in the dark, but there’s no Heath Ledger performance anywhere in sight. Certainly not from the Winter Soldier.

If Kevin Feige reads this, it is time for a Black Widow movie. I was surprised by how much screen time Scarlett Johannson had but this was far and away her best turn as Natasha Romanoff. If we wait for DC to finally give Wonder Woman her shot, we’ll be waiting around for another five years or so. I’m convinced the audience will turn out for Black Widow kicking ass in her own movie.

Come on, Kev. Make it happen!

DC/Warner Bros. is in a completely reactive mode where they have squandered their advantages of having a line of iconic super heroes, yet have utterly and completely failed to exploit that edge into successful franchise films without Batman or Superman.

Over the next two years movies featuring Marvel properties include The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past and the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man(?!) and The Avengers: Age of Ultron all up and taking swings at box office supremacy before Superman vs. Batman finally get up to deck in 2016. Two years with nothing to offer is an eternity for a genre of films that has to peak sometime (but hasn’t as of yet).

Oh, and Captain America 3 is already claiming the same 2016 opening week as Supes vs. Bats (does Cap die and Bucky/Winter Soldier pick up the shield as it played out in the comics?). You would think Marvel has to be nuts to go mano a mano against DC’s biggest guns, but they claimed the release date first.

Both of these 500 pound gorillas can’t occupy the same weekend without one being severely wounded by the other. Someone is going to blink and move out of this opening week and I’m willing to bet it will be the one that already moved once already.

Cap ain't afraid of no Superman and his Bat-Buddy either.

Cap ain’t afraid of no Superman and his Bat-Buddy either.

I would expect in a head-to-head competition, Captain America 3 would falter against the joint might of Superman-Batman-Wonder Woman and whomever else the hell DC stuffs into the movie, but if blunts their box office momentum and it doesn’t open to somewhere in the $100 million range, Warner Brothers will need real superheroes to catch all the falling bodies being tossed out of hi-rise office towers.

The trap DC is in is they have bet their entire superhero film future on one movie. This movie can’t underperform or fall short the way Man of Steel did which barely edged out Thor: The Dark World in profitability.    If you’re a Superman fan, how does a Thunder God most people associate with their high school class on mythology give the Last Son of Krypton a run for the money?

It’s because Marvel has followed a plan to build a universe where even it’s “B”list characters can battle DC’s “A” list heroes to a virtual draw.

Marvel has been able to load its gun with several bullets so even if  Thor misses they still have Iron Man, Captain America, and The Avengers locked and loaded with more possibilities for The Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and the Falcon. Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige says they have their movies planned out to 2028! The fact that actors like Sebastian Stan (Bucky/Winter Soldier) are signed to do six to nine pictures makes it clear than when Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and others “age out” or are done slipping on the spandex, the franchises will go on and on and on…

I don’t see a similar game plan from DC/Warner. They are dealing with a recast Batman, David Goyer and Zack Snyder turned loose without a Christopher Nolan to reign in their worst excesses (and Nolan disagreed with their decision to have Superman kill Zod).

Nolan is gone to pursue his own vision and while the hope is Snyder/Goyer will successfully set up a Justice League franchise it all hinges on Supes/Bats doing billion dollar business.

It could all come together as planned. But if it doesn’t DC isn’t as well-positioned as Marvel to overcome a cinematic setback.

As for Captain America: The Winter Solider, it’s really good. Easily the best superhero movie I’ve seen since The Avengers. Chris Evans has really grown into the role of Steve Rogers/Captain America. Anthony Mackie’s Falcon is good. Samuel Jackson finally gets to do more as Nick Fury than stand around and glower. Scarlett Johannson surprised me in how central her role was in my enjoyment of the flick.

I give it a solid “B+” and I’d take my wife with me for a second viewing.

"Let's tell Disney to give you your own film right now!"

“Let’s tell Disney to give you your own film right now!”

 

 

 

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Superman Had To Destroy Metropolis To Save It

“You talkin’ to me?”

As far as summer blockbusters go, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the relaunching of the Superman movie franchise by the Zack Snyder directed and Christopher Nolan produced Man of Steel.   Among the movies of the summer it falls only slightly behind Iron Man 3, but leaps with a single bound over the bloated and soulless Star Trek: Enter Darkness.

For a 75-year old hero, Henry Cavill’s Superman doesn’t quite charm the way Christopher Reeve did when he slipped on the red-and-blue uniform, but Cavill will definitely get a second and probably more chances to slip on the suit (sans the red undies) in future sequels.   Warner Brothers and DC Comics desperately needed a big hit to get them back in the game against the multitude of Marvel movies and with Nolan done with his Batman trilogy,  Man of Steel gets them back in the game.    The trick will be to have as much luck in getting other DC comic book heroes onto the screen, but with the big box office grosses of Man of Steel it should be up, up and away for future franchises.

Between the men of steel and iron, once again comic book movies dominate at the box office.   There are a lot of things I love about Man of Steel,  but boy does it take itself seriously.  That’s the Nolan touch at work because the Dark Knight flicks didn’t have much of a sense of humor either.   If Superman Returns was ripped for being boring as hell, Man of Steel goes for jaw-dropping spectacle and an extended showdown between Superman and his nemesis, General Zod (a glowering Michael Shannon)  that ups the ante for sheer devastation that The Avengers‘ trashing of New York City can’t begin to touch.   That’s where my big problem with Man of Steel begins and be warned that there are major SPOILERS from this point on, so if you haven’t seen the movie, bail out here.

Even fantasy flicks have to follow logic, if not necessarily realism and logic says if two superhumans go to war in the heart of a city and wreak massive devastation and destruction in the process, there will be a body count and you would run out of toe tags and body bags once  you pulling them out of the ruins of Metropolis.

“You like prison movies, Zod?” “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO….”

Merely because we are discussing/debating a fantasy character in a summer popcorn flick, it doesn’t mean we can totally suspend disbelief.  Tom Clancy said it true when he observed, “The difference between truth and fiction? Fiction has to make sense.”  The bloodless catastrophe that befalls Metropolis in Man of Steel makes no damn sense.

Rather than referencing Man of Steel a much more relevant comparison would be Superman II when Zod gets ready to throw down in the middle of Metropolis, Superman retreats rather than tear up the city.

That’s Superman making the smart move instead of being a dickhead with blood in his eyes and dead bodies everywhere.   I am not the target demographic for this film.  It was made for teenage boys who either do not know of Superman’s moral code against killing or could care less about it.  Youth must be served and because technology has come so far in 33 years when the tagline for Superman was “you will believe a man can fly.”  There are all new ways to make shit blow up real good and maybe that’s good enough for those with no sense of history.  Yet even these movies are designed not only to attract kids, but the parents of the kids as well and they are the ones most likely to be familiar with the original source material and still respect it.

Stuff blowing up real good is not enough for me. Superman not only does not kill, he does not willingly permit innocents to die, but this one does both.  Zod is the one who considers massive expenditures of human life to be “collateral damage,” not Kal-El. If neither of them care then there are no good guys and bad guys here. It’s just bad guy and worse guy.

This is supposed to be a more “realistic” Superman who has no choice but to kill in the absence of any better option, but that’s because Snyder and David Goyer’s screenplay didn’t give him any.

After he snaps Zod’s neck, Supes lets out a “NOOOOOO!!!” but he gets over it real quick.    There’s no consequences to trashing a major city and no remorse for killing his enemy.   Batman tells Ra’s Al Ghul, “I’m not going to kill you, but I don’t have to save you” in Batman Begins.    Superman says,  “Guess I have to kill you since I can’t figure out any way to stop you.”

Superman’s philosophy used to be “truth, justice and the American way” when it was Christopher Reeve with the “S” on his chest. When did it become “I had to destroy Metropolis to save it?”

Superman is a super hero and super heroes find another way. He can do what takes some imagination or say “ain’t nobody got time for that” and just snap the bastard’s neck. Problem solved, right?

Except I don’t want Superman killing Lex Luthor, Doomsday, Bizarro, Brainiac or anybody else that decides to mess with the “S” because it’s the quick and easy fix and Superman just really digs snapping necks.  Wolverine and The Punisher already exist to put bad guys to sleep permanently, but neither are “heroes” in the classic sense.  Superman is and he is a hero who does what others can not do or will not do, not just what is expedient.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child and I read comic books that appealed to me as a child. When I became a young man I put away childish things including Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and superheroes like that because it stopped making sense to me why someone like Batman would do this endless, repetitive dance with The Joker where the guy escapes from Arkham Asylum (again), kills a ton of innocent people (again), Batman beats him up and throws his ass back into Arkham (again) and six months later we start the whole damn thing all over again.

It was an endless cycle of stupid that made no sense. Garth Ennis’ character of Tommy Monaghan, the Hitman took on a contract to kill the Joker and blamed Batman for enabling the Joker’s murderous sprees because he wouldn’t kill the Clown Prince of Crime saying, “A sensible man would have done it years ago.”.

Superman is blessed with enough powers and abilities that he doesn’t have to kill his enemies. He finds another way because that’s what he does.

That has worked for 75 years. One movie with a revisionist streak doesn’t mean what always worked before doesn’t work anymore.

“Bring me The Avengers and I’ll kick all their asses!”