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Superman Returns (2006)
Comic Book Fans Beware
I've now watched this film 3 times. The first time it was perfect, the second time it was great. Then I got into graphic novels. And I'm now realizing this is a very badly plotted movie. Make no mistake, this is not a bad film, I'm saying that as a man who's read countless good comic books that this is a very poor story. Bryan Singer should be applauded for his treatment of the characters and settings and tone. It's all perfect. But Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty should be ashamed for such a disappointing story. I have read such genius tales as Superman: A Man for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb. I've read Kingdom Come by Mark Waid. And I think Superman: Birthright it the greatest Superman graphic novel ever created. So, why
why oh WHY did they decide to
instead of creating a purely original story like Batman Begins did, they made this a sequel that's 30 years too late. Richard Donner crafted a masterpiece, but that was his, and it was great for its time.
All right, let's start the erring of grievances: The writers have Superman leave earth for 5 years to search for a rediscovered Krypton without announcing it. Any comic book fan knows that Superman would never leave for a long period of time and he certainly wouldn't leave without saying goodbye to Lois. Also, the writers hastily tell us in a text prologue that this has happened. That is just bad plotting; give us some kind of storytelling device with actors so we can see this happen! And since when does it take 5 years for someone who can reverse time to go out into space and back? And since when does Superman (a God) need a ship to quote William Shatner in Star Trek V?! Don't give me the whole 'he needs the sun to use his powers' crap. If so, how come he can go into the Batcave, the darkest place on Earth and still have his powers?! OK, and here's something else that comic book fans know. Occasionally Lex Luthor has a woman around his arm, but not for such a gigantic trek as trying to take over the world in such a (Boring) way. Kitty Kowalski is beautifully played here by Parker Posey, it's great, but it couldn't be more unnecessary.
Another thing about Lex, and this is something only the books and the 90s animated series has got right. Lex Luthor in the DC Universe is known for owning the second biggest company in the world Lexcorp, or Luthorcrop or whatever it's called in it's various stages. The movie Lexes are seen as underground criminals that the world doesn't even recognize. I thought Lex Luthor was a mad scientist/businessman, here he's seen as a real estate mogul (?!). What ever happened to using weapons and monsters to enslave the world. Birthright uses great ideas for a villainous Lex scheme, aliens, hit men, soldiers and such. And why can't Lex be more like the brooding, almost Bruce Wayne style character that's in the comics? Birthright has him so alone that it's scary as he searches for alien life for as Clark states: 'Someone to talk to'. Lose the henchmen, and since when is Kal Penn supposed to be a menacing and intimidating screen presence with no lines?! The most important aspect going into these comic book movies is casting in my opinion. And here it is done with perfection, except for one grave error. A message to the casting director of this film: Lois Lane doesn't have brown hair, or a forehead that frigging big! The character is written great, but Kate Bosworth I don't think was any fan's first, second, or ninth choice for Lois Lane.
But here's the single biggest problem I had with the film. This could easily have been made into a deleted scene subplot. I've read so many books of this character and I've learned one major truth: HUMANS and KRYPTONIANS are not the same species, hence, can't have kids! And Superboy is not a person at all for those sequel hawks; he's a clone of Kal-El, not his heir. And putting a 5 year old kid in this very dark movie only gives the teenage girl fans a chance to go: "Awwwww!" Jason is a mistake in so many ways and would make for a good kill for Doomsday.
Well, that's my shpeel for this film. The critics love it as I can understand, hence my rating. But as a Superman Graphic Novel fan, this is a sickening display.
Sin City (2005)
Show me a flaw!
If Frank Miller or Robert Rodriguez don't get Oscar hype for this film, then the world is not itself. This is quite possibly the best ensemble piece in the history of cinema (ranking with Ocean's eleven, or even Lord of the Rings. This is what it means to be faithful to your source material. The Sin City books (which I have now read and cherish) are unlike any comics today, and they make for a perfect movie with Film Noir motifs, but enough about the books. Frank Miller did the right thing by getting this movie made, some of his previous dark books (i.e.: Batman: The Dark Knight Series) have been made into successful forms of media, but this film dominates over all. The story of the film is divided into a few chapters actually (being 3 large stories and small opening and closing one) with three (and a small fourth) leads. The first major story is about a stone cold (in many ways) killer named Marv (played perfectly by the only living actor who could have possible have played Marv; Mickey Rourke) who sets out on a quest for vengeance for a hooker with a heart of gold that gave him the night of his life and runs into another killer of a different sort (played by Elijah Wood who is a far cry by the 3-foot tall Hobbit) and a cannibalistic cardinal (Rutger Hauer), this segment is the most violent, yet the best story of the film. The next involves a killer named Dwight (Clive Owen) who gets tangled up in a plot to bring down a band of hookers (led by the exotic Rosario Dawson) and manages to take down a bully cop (played by an unrecognizable in appearance and voice Benicio Del Toro) and a giant of a crime lord (Clarke Michael Duncan). The final story, which starts before the Marv story and resumes after the Dwight story is probably the best-acted and written one. It has a heroic cop named Hartigan (Bruce Willis) and his last day on the job, he rescues a 11-year old girl from the clutches of an untouchable child rapist (Nick Stahl, who goes from the savior of humanity in Terminator 3 to one of the nastiest villains on screen). Hartigan saves the girl, shoots the rapist and ends up being framed for the girl's kidnapping, rape and murder of the guilty rapist and spends 8 years in prison. Hartigan then believes that the girl is still in danger and manages to get released and finds the girl has grown up to be the not so innocent Jessica Alba, an exotic dancer who is now in love with Hartigan. They are then chased down by the surviving rapist who is now a mutant psychotic. This film goes above and beyond in every aspect, especially in the narration. The whole film is shot in front of a green screen so it's loaded with CG sets and environments, but you can't always tell (that's a good thing). If you held the book up next to the screen for most of the scenes you'd find an uncanny likeness that no other film has done as well. The babes are hot, the guys are cool and the writing is for lack of a better word, perfect. This film is the best film of 2005 and certainly the best comic book movie and should be going head to head with Crash at the Oscars this year. Mickey Rourke is the actor they should be handing Best Supporting Actor to. Not for kids, the film is overly (but joyfully) violent and has scenes of sex and nudity but don't let that big (well earned) R stop you from worshipping this film. Only one small problem, doesn't effect the film itself, but the DVD has no special features.
Almost the Best
In 1989 Tim Burton got together a great crew (with one of the best art directors ever), got great actors and a good screenplay and made one hell of a film. After the bomb of a television show that was Batman you'd think they wouldn't give Batman another go, but then they started producing the darker books (the biggest inspiration for the film being the Dark Knight series from Frank Miller) and got people interested in doing a darker, more psychologically complex Batman film and they did it. This film gets most aspects of the film right. They got a more than exceptional actor Michael Keaton to play the title role and he gets it down packed, he looks like a man who needs to do what he does, you can feel his uncomfortable angst as Bruce Wayne sitting in his mansion knowing he belongs on the streets as Batman. Then they must have been blessed by the film gods by getting the only actor who could have played the Joker, the best actor to this day, Jack Nicholson. Only the Babe Ruth of films could play the Joker as the dark, over the top comedic psychopath we see in this film. Jack's fantastic (slightly overplayed) performance simply raises the film's likeness to the books all the more. Kim Basinger does a fine job as an original love interest for the Dark Knight, we see Batman as a normal person would see him, scary and mysterious. The supporting cast is brilliant with Jack Palance as Carl Grisham; Gotham City's biggest mob boss and Michael Gough as a perfect Alfred Pennyworth as the most exceptional. The art-direction and look of this film is taken right from the comics of Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb, Oscars were mandatory for this film's city and Batman's dark, faithful look. The only things that keep me from giving this film a 10 are the small quirks that are sacrilegious to the books. The Joker did not kill Batman's parents (this being crucial to Batman's motivation to wanting to kill the Joker) when he was a kid, it was a street mugger named Joe Chill, and Alfred letting Vicki Vale into the batcave was a tad unprofessional on the usually loyal butler's part. And the Joker, albeit perfect for the film's tone and a fantastic performance receives a bit too much screen time. Having Jack's name above Keaton's on the credits is almost accurate to his role, Keaton, although great in his role, doesn't get the attention he deserves in this film about Bruce Wayne and Batman (hence the title). But if there's only one of the first four Batman films you want to watch, it most certainly has to be this one.