Monday, June 20, 2016

Thoughts on the DC Rebirth

Honestly, if push comes to shove, I'm more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy. The first comics I ever bought were Marvel, and it took a few years for me to actually start buying some DC titles as well. (Keep in mind that I started reading regularly back in the sixth grade.) This doesn't mean that I think that Marvel is "better", it's just that I've gravitated more to the House that Stan and Jack Built more than the Distinguished Competition. With that said, it's strange that I've written more about the various developments at DC several times now while not writing too much about Marvel.

And this brings me to DC's latest initiative, which has been called Rebirth, which is kinda making me hate DC Comics. Is it because  the last major relaunch was a mere five years ago? Is it because it feels gimmicky? Is it due to the confusing continuity?

No, it's because I pretty much want to read everything that they're publishing. While I'm certain this problem will not be able to sustain itself for a long period of time, I'm finding myself intrigued by everything I've read so far, and I'm still looking forward to some titles. Oh, and did I mention that most of them come out twice a week? There's still plenty of stuff from Image, Boom, and IDW that I want to buy, not to mention the offerings from some random company owned by Disney. (And I should mention that company is still turning out great Star Wars comics.)

For those who aren't currently reading comics, or haven't been following the news of the relaunch, here's the brief synopsis of what's going on:

Less than five years ago, DC canceled its entire line and relaunched absolutely every title along with a bunch of new titles. There were 52 total, hence the name The New 52. It was a controversial move, and while there were definitely a lot of great comics to come out in that period (particularly Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo) overall a lot of fans, like myself, started to lose interest. While it might have helped to bring in a lot of new readers, I think that it might be safe to say that a lot of us felt like this new continuity was missing what we loved about DC Comics (even though we might not have realized that this is what we loved) and that's a sense of history. Or better put, the legacy of many classic characters had pretty much gone up in a puff of smoke. (The Flash is probably the one character who suffered the most from this.)

Rebirth isn't completely rebooting continuity so much as bringing back what was lost with the previous relaunch. It all started with a one-shot titled simply Rebirth, and I think that Mavel's Tom Breevort said it best: "I thought it was -- and I mean this in a good way -- the most 'DC' comic that I'd read in a long while." From there, a bunch of new Rebirth special issues and new #1's hit the stands, and I've read pretty much all of them. I picked up the usual suspects with the Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman titles, but I also revisited Green Lanterns and gave Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Titans a shot.

And I can tell you, there isn't a weak link in the bunch. I'm obviously going to have to stop dropping titles simply because I won't be able to afford everything, but I think that it's just going to come down to sticking with my favorite characters.

Anyway, here are some highlights:

Batman #1 - I don't think that I've read anything by Tom King before, but holy crap that's the way that you start a first issue. I don't want to give away too much, but it's really one long and well-constructed action sequence. However, there's a real emotional heft to it, and the last page has me dying to find out what happens next.

Green Arrow - I don't know if I'm going to be able to stick with this one, but I like the interaction between him and Black Canary. One of my oldest comics is a Green Lantern/Green Arrow reprint, so I always associate her with Ollie. I haven't been following either one of them in the New 52, so I didn't even realize that their history had been taken away. I imagine that longtime fans will be really happy with this.

Mick Gray, inker on Superman to the left, me babbling on at the right.
Courtesy of Flying Colors Comics.
Superman - Geez, but I can't think of a time when I've been this excited to pick up every Superman related title. Maybe it was back when Kurt Busiek was on Superman and Geoff Johns was on Action Comics? Anyway, I'm not sure how much this one will appeal to people who are totally new to comics, but I can't be the only veteran fan who's intrigued about what's happening here. In a nutshell, Superman is dead. But Superman, from the pre-New 52 continuity is very much alive, and he's ready to be the Man of Steel for the universe he now inhabits. He has some problems though as Lex Luthor had ideas about doing the same thing. Oh, and this Superman is married. And he's got a kid who doesn't know his own strength.

And Gene Yang has a book with a Chinese Superman? I'm down for that one as well.

The Flash - I'm doubly excited about this one since Joshua Williamson is writing it. He's currently writing two of my favorite Image books, Birthright and Nailbiter. Hopefully he'll be given the freedom to really bring his best to the Scarlet Speedster, as he's great at writing about personal relationships.

Wonder Woman - I lost interest in her adventures shortly after the conclusion of Brian Azarello's run, but this one has me back on board. This one really exemplifies what Rebirth is all about, as her origin underwent a heavy revision in the New 52. The Rebirth one-shot didn't do much other than set up a story to come, but it looks like the theme is "Who is Wonder Woman?" which has a lot of potential considering the heavy symbolism that is inherent with the character.

Green Lantern - I am a huge fan of what Geoff Johns did with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern mythology. I kinda lost interest in the title when there was that whole New Gods business, and I really just didn't think that Billy Tan was a good fit for the title. I like the setup for the new Green Lanterns series, as it focuses on the two newest recruits for Sector 2814: Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. The setup is a pretty good one, as the two of them have to share a lantern battery, and the Justice League will have to do their training since the Green Lantern Corps is missing in action. I don't know what they have in store for Hal Jordan in his book, but I'll at least check it out.

The Green Lantern concept already had a rich history and mythology to it, and that only became even more true under Geoff Johns. Hopefully this will continue the tradition.

No doubt I will have more to say as this reboot plays itself out. In the meantime, I'm excited and a bit daunted as to how much good stuff there is to read.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hopes for Episode VIII

I've had the idea for this particular blog entry swimming around in my head for several months now, but after watching The Force Awakens yet again last night, I thought it was time that I finally sat down and wrote it. Another bit of motivation is that the movie is coming out next year, and no doubt some actual plot points are going to start being revealed soon.

Just to make one thing clear, I'm among the fans who loved Episode VII. I could nitpick at some things, but I'm really not interested in doing that. I also didn't have a problem with the fact that the movie's plot echoed the original as much as it did, as I thought that the characters and their personalities were all so very different from what we've seen before that it didn't matter seeing them go through the same motions that the original characters did.

I'm obviously looking forward to Episode VIII, and here are some of my hopes for what we can see next, some of them bordering on concerns.

1. Let's go in a new direction - Again, I have no problem with the plot echoes from The Force Awakens. But I want to see this take the audience into some unexpected places. I think it's safe to say that it will be darker, just as The Empire Strikes Back was to its predecessor. There will probably also be some revelations involving family relationships. With that said, we can definitely go somewhere new with this considering we have entire galaxy to play in. I have a feeling that the masterminds behind the saga have the same idea in mind.

2. Throw Rey for a loop - I have a feeling that we'll see this happen anyway, but one of the complaints about Rey in the previous movie was that she was a bit of a "Mary Sue" and was pretty much good at anything. Perhaps they were overcompensating now that there was a female protagonist? Maybe, but I don't think so. If we look at the previous two protagonists, Anakin and Luke, they both had it relatively easy compared to Rey. Sure, Anakin was a slave, but he was raised by his mother, and his slavemaster, Watto, was about as benevolent as one could possibly be. Luke had foster parents. Rey? She was an orphan, and it seems like she had basically been on her own on a junkyard, desert world ever since she was a little girl. She's had to fend entirely for herself, and it was not so strange that she would already have some grasp on the Force once it became "awakened".

Still, she did manage to take on each challenge quite well, and much of the fun was how surprised everybody was by her. Who the hell was this girl who could do so much and was channeling the Force like a boss? (Anybody else get the feeling that Han knew who she was? He kept giving knowing looks, and the camera cut away right after Maz Kanata asked him, "Who is this girl?")

With the next film, the bad guys need to be ready for her. And she just needs to barely escape with her life, perhaps with the help of her friend, Finn.

3. More new stuff to look at - Say what you will about the prequels, but they gave us a whole lot of new stuff to look at as far as different planets and spaceships were concerned. Yeah, we have different planets with the current trilogy so far, but is Jakku really all that different from Tatooine? Maybe they're running out of ideas, but I have to imagine that there are some things that nobody's done yet. Maybe we can even revisit one of those planets that we barely caught a glimpse of during Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith.

And while it's not a big deal, why the heck are they still flying X-Wing fighters and TIE fighters? Sure, they're a little bit different, but I would have to imagine that some new spaceship designs have come along in thirty years time.

4. Who is Snoke? I sure hope that they figured this out when they first wrote him into the script. If he's just some run of the mill dark Jedi, that would be pretty lame. If he's a Sith, he violates the Rule of Two. There has to be something behind him, and I really think that his origin needs to be backdated at least before the original trilogy, if not the prequels.

5. Lightsaber battles - The best lightsaber battle,visually, was the one in The Phantom Menace. Sure, it didn't have as much at stake as the one in Empire, so ultimately it's not quite as engaging, but it was finally a taste of the Jedi when they were in their prime. Obviously, Rey and Kylo Ren wouldn't be on the same level, but I think that they need to start approaching it in the next one. Personally, I would like to see a full restoration of the Jedi order, minus their dogmatic approach, by the time we get to Episode IX.

6. Kylo Ren is finishing what Vader started - This is just pure speculation. What, exactly, did Vader "start"? Is Ren referring to Vader's desire to "bring order to the galaxy"? Or could he be talking about how Vader tossed a Sith Lord down a pit, and with the rise of Snoke, somebody needs to finish wiping the evil force practitioners out of the galaxy? Then why join Snoke in the first place? Perhaps it's to get closer to him. Maybe only a true master of both the light and the dark can defeat the ultimate evil. I don't know, but I wonder if there is more to his plan than what we've been told so far.

7. Lando. Lando system? Lando's not a system, he's a man. And we need to find out what he's been up to. I'd like to think that he's living comfortably and having a nice retirement.

8. Lobot - Whatever happened to him? C'mon!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse - movie review

There was a lot that I liked about the recent installment of the X-Men franchise, but it was also missing something important that would have let it rise above just being average. It's certainly not the downturn that the third movie was (although I don't think it was as horrible as everybody says it was - the first Wolverine movie was far, far worse). However, it also is a bit of a letdown after the stellar Days of Future Past.

The major problem is that there simply wasn't anything interesting about the villain, Apocalypse. I could get over the fact that he looked kinda lame, but other than that there just wasn't anything very compelling about him. One thing that has always been good about these films is that there were always conflicts between the good guys and bad guys where things went beyond just the physical and were downright personal. With Apocalypse, he basically just has a god complex, but his ill-defined powers pretty much justify them.

That said, all of the good guys were interesting, and it was cool to see the character arcs for Mystique and Magneto get carried through into this chapter. Sure, it's not doing exactly what the comic books did, but by this point they need to do things that make sense in context of the previous films and not force the characters into predetermined roles.

Speaking of making sense though, I probably should point out that by this point, the continuity of these films make absolutely no sense at all. There are things that happen in this film that flat-out contradict what happened in the previous films. I'm pretty sure that they don't even really care, and they figure that maybe the time travel hijinks of the last film can miraculously explain it all away. Whatever, that's not very important to me, but I know that it will bug some people.

Anyway, there were a lot of great moments and highlights of this film, but I don't want to give away too much. I'll just say what I knew going in but yet still managed to thoroughly enjoy. For one, Quicksilver comes back, and they do a super-speed scene that might very well rival the one from the last film. Wolverine gets a brief scene that essentially undoes the damage from his lousy origin film, and it's a good one. However, I have to wonder if everything leading up to that scene detracted from the main plot, and we could have given Apocalypse more motivation. We also get to see a bit of Phoenix, and that's always cool.

One thing that I also liked was how Alexandra Shipp was a big step up from Halle Berry as Storm. Berry is a fine actress, but I never really felt like she did very much for that part. Shipp managed to hold an accent, and I was slightly surprised to see that the actress is from Phoenix, Arizona. (I figured that they might have gotten an actual African to play her.)

Speaking of Storm, it should also be noted that the ladies definitely get a lot to do in this story. They get some of the biggest moments and they're some of the most powerful players. While I think that The Avengers franchise is better overall, Marvel Studios could take some notes from what's going on with the X-Men movies.

If you've generally enjoyed most of the X-Men movies so far, you're probably going to like this one just fine while not being blown away. If they've never done anything for you, or you've been overall pretty ambivalent about them, this one won't change your mind. Brian Singer has done a fine job with this franchise, but I'm personally pretty eager to see some new blood show us what they can do.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Calm down about Hydra Cap

I don't think that anybody would argue the notion that I love comic books. I've been reading them regularly for nearly 30 years now, and I've never gone more than a month without a trip to the comic book store during that time. It's a basic part of my life, and to quit reading them to me would be as strange as it would be for some people to quit watching TV or attending sporting events. I'm always excited to talk about them when I get the chance, to the point where I do a whole lesson on comics and superheroes with both my freshmen and senior English classes. (And from the comments I get at the end of the year, that's easily my most popular lesson.)

With that said, I really can't stand comics fandom sometimes. I've already written about this once, but the recent brouhaha over Captain America has prompted me to return to my blog and give my two cents. For those who don't know, the controversy is over a recent revelation in the new Steve Rogers: Captain America series. It turns out that Cap is a member of the evil Hydra organization, and this has been true ever since he was a child. (Flashbacks show his mother being recruited by a Hydra agent.) The reveal came at the end of the issue, and we don't know much else.

And fans are freaking out. Many of them are saying that this completely destroys the character. Some of them are saying that it's a slap in the face to his Jewish American creators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, since Hydra had ties to the Nazis. (In the sense that any fictional organization can have ties to a real organization.) Even those who aren't letting it upset them are dismissing it all as a cheap gimmick - merely a stunt to bring in new readers.

Here's my response:

ONLY THE FIRST CHAPTER HAS COME OUT.

Is it possible that this story will be a slap in the face to the character? (Funny how fans don't seem to lob this comment at Frank Miller, who craps all over Superman's legacy in his various Batman stories.) Sure, it very well could be. But as of right now, all we know is that he's been a member of Hydra all along. At least, it seems like that's what it is. We do not know the circumstances. Maybe he's trying to destroy it from within and has some kind of master plan? Maybe they're mind-controlling him? Maybe he thinks that by being part of the organization, he can somehow contain it? The point is, we don't know. The explanation may turn out to be really horrible, and later those fans will feel justified. However, there's also the possibility that there's a really good story behind this that will make Cap stand out as an even greater hero than ever before?

What about the charges of this just being a gimmick? I don't see why that's necessarily a problem. It certainly is a gimmick, but so what? It's bad if it's a gimmick and a poor story, but being a gimmick doesn't necessarily take away any artistic merit from a work. A lot of superhero comics are based on gimmicks in the first place because the publishers were trying to sell stories. What do you think inspired team books like Justice League of America and The Avengers in the first place? How is that NOT a gimmick? I even think that Paul McCartney would be the first to admit that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band was a gimmick, but that's one of the greatest rock albums of all time. Shakespeare wrote about what people wanted to see and no doubt employed what then would have been seen as a gimmick in his time. (He did make a living off of his art, ya know. I doubt he would have done that if he ignored what the masses wanted to see.)

Lastly, can we give the writer, Nick Spencer, a little bit of credit here? The man has shown that he understands Captain America's value as a symbol with the Sam Wilson: Captain America comic. I had said that I wouldn't be too interested in that series if they made Sam (The Falcon) the new Captain America and made it so all of America was fine with the idea of there being a black Captain America. Spencer went with that idea, with a whole lot of parallels to the national freak-out that happened when Obama became the Commander in Chief. He even managed to get the Fox News talking heads all discombobulated. In other words, he has earned the benefit of the doubt.

As for me, I dug the first issue, as there was a lot more going on than the "gotcha!" ending. And it should be noted that the art by Jesus Saiz is awesome. I'm looking forward to how this all plays out. If you are a comics reader and don't find it interesting, then that's fine. However, stop making sweeping judgments based solely on the first chapter of what will no doubt prove to be a lengthy saga. When it's all said and done, then let's evaluate it as to whether it's a highlight or a low point for the character. And even if it is a low point, the character will survive. If he could survive the cancellation of his series at the end of World War II, he'll get through this.

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Captain America: Civil War - movie review

The most significant thing for me about seeing this latest Marvel Studios film is that it's the first one that my wife and I brought my son to see in the theater. He's five, and he's seen pretty much all of them on video. When he sat through Captain America: Winter Soldier, and was absolutely fascinated with the brainwashed Bucky Barnes, I figured that he'd be fine to see the next installment in the theater.

How did he do? He got a bit fidgety during the long bouts of dialogue, but he was pretty riveted whenever somebody was in costume, and he was definitely enthralled every time there was a battle - especially if it involved The Winter Soldier. (Not sure why that character fascinates him so much.)

Here's my son's short review: "It was great and a lot of things happened."

As for my thoughts, anybody who reads my reviews knows that I'm going to find something to like in pretty much every comic book movie, especially the ones coming from Marvel Studios. Sometimes I add special caveats. With this one, let's just say that if you've enjoyed most of them, then you will probably like this one as well and might even include it in your top three. (Which is where I put it. Is it as great as the first Avengers film? Not sure if I'm willing to go there just yet. I'm not even sure if it's better than The Winter Soldier. But I have an easier time saying it's better than pretty much every other one.)

For those who don't know, this film borrows a story right out of the comics, while shifting around some details in order to make it fit a new storytelling format. The basic concept is that the governments of the world want to crack down on superheroes and basically make them accountable to the United Nations. Captain America, burned by his experiences with SHIELD, isn't willing to do that. His good friend Iron Man is, and the two wind up fighting with each one recruiting their own mini-army of like-minded heroes.

This movie does a nice job of picking up threads from both the previous Cap movie and Age of Ultron. Not only that, but there's a real arc with Captain America, who has gone from being a loyal boyscout in the first film to downright cynical of authority. Iron Man has made almost the reverse trajectory, as he's grown such a conscience that he's more than eager to have himself restrained. One could easily see each one of them fighting on the opposite side of this issue in each of their first films. (Think of the scene in Iron Man II where Tony Stark speaks before Congress.)

Another thing that was handled well was all of those characters. Did it make the movie a bit longer than it should have been? Perhaps. But I also enjoyed the big superhero fight where you got to see Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Spider-Man, The Black Panther, etc. all go at it. Did all of this make it feel more like an Avengers movie than a Captain America movie? Maybe. But the focus always came back on Cap, with Iron Man taking a close second.

Anyway, here are some random thoughts:

Spider-Man - Tom Holland is getting a lot of praise in his turn as the webslinger, and it's well-earned. While I wouldn't go so far as to say his appearance in this makes it the "best Spider-Man film" (that still goes to Spider-Man 2) I will say that the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming has the potential to be the best Spider-Man film. It was great to see him as a kid, and even better, a guy who talks way too much while fighting. (And just like in the comics, the other characters are keen to point out that he needs to shut up.) Was his role totally necessary in this film? Maybe not. But just like you could cut out the bit in Hamlet where the Danish Prince interacts with a gravedigger and not have it affect the plot, I can't imagine this film without it.

The Black Panther - King T'Challa was a welcome addition to the story as well, and unlike Spider-Man, his role was far more necessary to the story. He functioned as somebody who was looking at everything from an outsider's perspective, which by this point the audience isn't going to be at. I don't want to say much more in fear of spoiling the plot, so I'll conclude this bit by saying that the action scenes were top-notch. He definitely has a style all his own. Also, he had a character arc that didn't feel forced despite his limited screen time.

Zemo - As an old fan of The Thunderbolts, I'm particularly fond of Baron Zemo as a villain, and I don't feel like this character was close enough to his comic book counterpart to even justify having the same name. Was this guy a decent villain? I suppose, and he certainly could have had more to do. I'm just hoping that maybe he can evolve into something closer to his comic book counterpart.

Ant-Man - Upon repeated viewings of his solo film, the character has grown on me. He was a welcome addition to this one as well. Even though his role was a small one, he nearly upstaged Spider-Man, which isn't an easy feat.

Batman v. Superman - Is it fair to even compare this film with that one? I think so. It's a superhero film. It's part of a bigger franchise. It features a lot of characters and hints at an even larger universe. But here's the deal - even though I gave a fairly decent review to BvS, the more I think about that one, the more I think about its flaws. I still insist that it had a lot of good stuff going for it. (And I'm excited that Ben Affleck is moving forward with his solo Batman film that he will direct.) However, it was a mess. Basically DC/Warner is trying to do what Marvel is doing, only they're not willing to do the legwork that's involved with this kind of universe building. Imagine if Civil War was the film that came out right after the first Iron Man. It's hard to have a lot at stake with Batman fighting Superman when it's their first film. However, it was heartbreaking to see Captain America and Iron Man pound away at each other because we've seen a friendship grow, develop, and evolve before it all went south.



Monday, March 28, 2016

Berkeley Rep - Macbeth

Lady Macbeth
Didn't I just review Macbeth? Indeed I did, but that was the recent movie version starring Michael Fassbender. I also got to see Berkeley Rep's production yesterday, so here's what I thought about that one.

Overall, I thought it was really good. It's a bit hard for me to evaluate this play, I realized, because I know it so well after having taught it for so many years. I constantly find myself anticipating lines and even thinking which act and scene we happen to be on at any given moment. Still, I found myself getting lost in the story, and this really zipped by. (The entire show was over two hours, which is actually one of Shakespeare's shorter plays.) My wife agreed, and she really liked it a lot. The two ladies sitting next to us seemed to enjoy it too, and I got a chance to talk to them a bit about the play when one of them said to me after the show, "You seem to know a lot about this play." (She overheard some of my comments to my wife during the intermission.) So, I answered some of their questions and got to give a bit of subtext and some of my own interpretation of what's going on.

It was a pretty straightforward telling of the story, keeping the historical setting (anachronisms and all). It made good use of Berkeley Rep's stage and even incorporated some video during the scene where the apparitions deliver their prophecies to Macbeth, but other than that, there was no modern twist. That's neither good nor bad, but I figure worth noting. And while I don't necessarily have the play memorized line-by-line, I know it well enough to know that they really didn't cut out a whole lot. Little bits were trimmed here and there, but it had every scene - minus that one with Hecate that Shakespeare probably didn't even write.

Macduff
One particular wise move that I caught was when Macduff asks Ross to not hold back the truth in the fourth act. The actual line is, "Be not a niggard of your speech." They changed it to "Be not a miser of your speech." That's pretty smart considering that: 1, most people don't know the word "niggard" and don't know that it has no connection to the word "nigger" aside from an unfortunate homophonic coincidence; and 2. both Macduff and Ross were played by black men. Sure, Shakespeare nerds like myself would know that nothing racial was said, but much of the audience would no doubt get distracted by that and taken completely out of a colorblind interpretation where black men can be thanes of Medieval Scotland.

Here's what I thought of the key players in the production:

Conleth Hill as Macbeth - I definitely got to see something here that I haven't seen before. He was actually a pretty jovial guy, which might seem like an odd choice, but Hill was able to also fill him with a nervous sort of energy at the same time. It was like his jolly nature was a cover for the dark thoughts that were constantly percolating deep within him. I did feel like some of his lines toward the end felt more recited than acted, but overall it was a really good performance and he created a believable dramatic arc.

Macbeth, the witches, and an apparition
Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth - She was one of the main reasons why my wife and I wanted to see the show, and I'm pleased to say that she did the entire part in her Fargo accent. Nah, just kidding. She was great, of course. McDormand didn't do anything surprising or risky with the performance, but it was still one of the best parts of the play. The one thing that I did like, which might not have been entirely her but part of a collaboration, was how her madness seemed to stem from the fact that her husband was shutting her out of his plans once the first murder was complete.

Korey Jackson as Macduff - This is an important part to get right. Obviously, Macduff is key to the plot, but you also need to have somebody who contrasts sharply with Macbeth. I don't know if the choice was deliberate, but I love the fact that he wore a red cape throughout the story, which might make a modern audience think of a superhero. Because in many ways, that's what Macduff is. If you ever watch some of those old episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, the story will follow the villain's fall from grace, and then it's up to Batman to come in and stop him (or her). That's Macduff's purpose here as well, and he should carry a certain nobility and sense of decency about him. Jackson was the right choice if that's what they were going for.

Honestly, there wasn't a weak link in the entire production. It was cool seeing a lot of familiar faces from Calshakes as well, and these actors always deliver. Was it cool to see some big-name celebrities? Sure, but everybody else was up to the same level.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Movie Review

I was going to wait a few more days to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but I found myself getting involved in too many online discussions about it that I was getting bombarded with spoilers. So, I seized the opportunity to see it this afternoon and just got back home about an hour ago.

I wasn't in too much of a rush to see this one, honestly. I was disappointed with Man of Steel and this looked to be more of the same from director Zack Snyder. I didn't think that I would hate it, just that it wouldn't live up to its potential. When I started to see the reviews pour in, I really started to fear the worst (actually, that started with a few somewhat lame looking previews).

Basically, I'm disappointed in the direction that DC/Warner is taking with their shared cinematic universe. They're trying to catch up with Marvel Studios, but they're not necessarily learning the right lessons. They see that it's cool to have a bunch of superheroes in one movie, but they don't want to take the time to build up those characters in their own movies first before rushing to the Avengers goal post. Plus, they got off to a rocky start with the aforementioned Man of Steel and the trainwreck that was Green Lantern. (Which I'm pretty sure is considered apocrypha by now.)

So, what did I think now that I finally saw it? I actually really liked it a lot, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. This isn't to say that it doesn't have problems - because it definitely does. It also doesn't mean that I'm going to echo the cries of "the critics don't know what they're talking about!" Most of the criticism that I read was pretty fair, and while the negative points don't bother me as much as they did some people, I can see how they might detract from somebody's enjoyment of this film.

Here's what I thought about various aspects of the movie, in no particular order. Oh, and SPOILERS.

Batfleck - Unlike a lot of fans, I did not bemoan the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. I thought it was an interesting choice. This doesn't mean that I thought it was a good idea, but I have been surprised by so many unconventional choices (Heath Ledger as the Joker anybody?) that I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Now it sounds like a lot of people are praising him for his performance. So, what's my verdict? I definitely lean more toward the praise than the lamentation. I don't know if this is the "best" Batman, but I can't say that it's worse than either Christian Bale or Michael Keaton. He certainly looks the part more than Keaton, and his Batman voice is less over the top than Bale's. Overall, good job, Ben. If I ever see you while crashing the movie set to Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season, I shall shout: "Affleck, you were the bomb in Batman v Superman, yo!"

Gal Gadot - I had a good feeling about this casting choice, and those feelings were justified. While I might have preferred a bit more of a muscular Wonder Woman, I can overlook that. (If I can overlook Michael Keaton as Batman, I can get over a more slender Amazon Princess.) Aside from that, she's exactly what I wanted in a Wonder Woman - beautiful and yet totally convincing that she could kick your ass. I also got a bit more than I hoped for, as she has an accent (the character isn't American, after all) and she actually looks Mediterranean. Props to Linda Carter, but we don't need another Wonder Woman who looks like she's of Northern European stock. (Personally, she's one character where I wouldn't mind if they cast a woman of any ethnicity.) Oh, and the best part of her performance was how she clearly relished being in combat. Now THAT'S Wonder Woman.

Luthor - I actually think that this was one of the weak spots of the movie. I was actually pretty excited that an unlikely choice like Jesse Eisenberg got to play the part, but I feel like he's just doing "Generic Super Villain" with this role. I was kind of hoping that he'd basically do what he did in The Social Network only more menacing.

The Story - There's a lot that works. For one, Batman is given a really good motivation for wanting to take down Superman. I'm not sure if his sudden change of heart was all that believable though unless one takes in the entire Batman mythology as a whole. Aside from that, this movie did suffer from trying to cram too much into one movie. The fight with Doomsday would have felt totally anticlimactic if it weren't for the chance to see Wonder Woman kicking some serious butt. I'm sure that with subsequent viewings, I'll notice more plot holes and inconsistencies, as that sort of thing happens when you try and put too much into one movie.

And yes, much of this was a setup for the future Justice League movie. Do those parts work? Yeah, sure. Could the movie have done without them? Yeah. All they needed to do was make a brief mention of the fact that other metahumans exist. We didn't need a whole scene that served as a preview of franchises to come.

I guess I felt the same as I did with Man of Steel. There were parts where I felt emotionally invested, and then there were parts where it just felt like it was dragging on.

Final note - I don't think that it's possible to give an "objective" movie review, as the nature of the beast is subjective. However, when reading my reviews of superhero movies, one should always keep in mind that I'm always going to be partial to them and find something good to say for the sheer fact that they put superheroes up on the screen. Perhaps a good gauge is for me to put it on my list where I rank the comic book adaptations. It would definitely be in the top half - but perhaps not too much higher than that. Time will tell if it rises or drops.

But I will say this - it currently ranks below Affleck's rendition of Daredevil on Rotten Tomatoes. That's crazy. Maybe it's just because the bar has gotten really high since then with the various Marvel studio movies and Christopher Nolan Batman films. But there is not a moment in this movie that's worse than Affleck and his wife fighting on a swingset.