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The Punisher (2004)
Critics can pan, but the fans have spoken!
17 April 2004
I heard a lot of negative reviews from mainstream critics and believe it or not, they're comparing "The Punisher" to the "Death Wish" movies.

I think there will be some negativity from people who were expecting a flashy superhero, AHnold-like action flick. But this plays more like a tragedy, the way it's intended.

Those not familiar with the Punisher may think this is just a gore-fest between two sadists, and by the end I could see why those people would react this way. But it isn't.

In the comics, Frank Castle is an ex-Marine (a Vietnam vet, but I won't quibble with that since it's been 30 years since the Punisher first appeared) whose wife and *two* children stumble onto a mob killing, who then shoot the Castles with Frank the only survivor. Did we need this to be a massacre at the Castle Family Reunion? I don't think so. I didn't see DC/Warner wipe out the entire Wayne clan for Bruce to be motivated to become Batman.

I always like it when John Travolta plays the heavy, and I think he did well with it. He didn't go all Green Goblin/Joker on it. Thomas Jane is excellent as the traumatized Castle, who now only finds satisfaction in "punishing" the evil in this world. Some said that he seems wooden, but it is like the comic, where Castle considers himself dead (and sometimes damned) inside and falls back on what he knows, being a soldier in a war. He's not doing the secret identity thing. He only wears that skull as a harbinger of death to his enemies. Will the sequel turn that t-shirt into almost-spandex? Who knows?

If you want to see the Punisher, watch this movie. If you want a feel-good-or-at-least-ok superhero/comic-book movie, see "Hellboy." (I liked that one, too.)
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I'm just glad he wasn't a surfer dude or a crusading D.A.
17 April 2004
Like many Cap fans, I eagerly waited for the Captain America film and was disappointed when it went direct-to-video. When I finally saw the video, I was disappointed with the story. I did like the physical acting with Cap in costume, and I think that was the one true thing about Captain America. Rather than rant on about what was wrong, let me tell you Hollywood scripters how to do it right;

1. The first movie must spend a great deal (if not the whole movie) in WWII, where his legend will start. No urban legend in the 21st Century.

2. Steve Rogers is a NEW YORKER! He kept his optimism despite losing both parents to disease (alcoholism, pneumonia) during the Great Depression. Even in the new millennium, he loves listening to big band and 40s music and anything that sparks such nostalgia. He's still a BROOKLYN Dodgers fan.

3. What the hell was that with the plastic ears?! (Sorry, had to get that one out.)

4. Get that shield back...it was way better than not having one in the serial (a gun?) or a clear one in the TV movie.

5. Don't forget that the costume has a star on the front *and* back.

6. If you make the Red Skull (most likely villain) Italian again, so help me...

7. I wouldn't mind seeing Bucky, but you can do like the Ultimates storyline and have him non-costumed in the war if it'll help. But please don't make Cap's costume like the one in the Ultimates (either version).

8. Don't try to combine love interests (Bernie was the girlfriend during the 1980s, Sharon was the girl in the 60s and 70s, but it was wrong to make them mother and daughter.).

9. I gotta say it again...don't make him an urban legend like Batman! Captain America was created to be a symbol and INSPIRE American public and forces as a response against the Red Skull. He can't do that if he's skulking the shadows.

Thanks and good luck.
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Hulk (2003)
True to the comic (sorta), but shouldn't have been a summer flick
27 July 2003
I think one major mistake about the film was releasing it as a summer blockbuster. This wasn't one of those hyperactive action feel-good movies like "Spider-Man." This was a science-fiction drama/tragedy, but was marketed and hyped like the former. Anyone who was expecting to have a lotta laughs like Spider-Man would be disappointed. They should have released it in the fall or winter. The marketing was overboard as well. The studios made a lot of bad decisions regarding that.

The Hulk was never meant to be a "superhero" film. More like a Godzilla film with more depth. As a comic collector, I can say that in many ways the film was true to the comic. The self-centered insanity of Bruce's father, his mother's death at the hands of her husband, Bruce's sacrifice to save a colleague (the gamma accident), Talbot's obsession leading to his death, etc.

I appreciate Ang Lee's interpretation of the Hulk (the CGI Hulk looked good to me). The Hulk has always been the id of Bruce Banner and doesn't have much personality or vocabulary of his own. If there is a sequel, the events of the ending may give the Hulk more dialogue and personality. In retrospect, I think the other characters were done well, true to the comic. Only Nick Nolte, though, seems to have stretched it and become the standout in the film.

So, either you love it or hate it. Those that hate it I think only know the Hulk from the TV series, and I heard of one comment exclaiming it's "nothing like the TV show." That irks me, 'cause the TV show is almost nothing like the comic, and I don't just mean they didn't have a big enough budget for more accurate FX. Watch the UPN cartoon on ABC Family. The first season was awesome, the second was lousy, though.
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Steel (1997)
Um, this was based on the comic book character, right?
18 January 2003
That's what I kept thinking all through this movie. I've been following John Henry Irons from the start in the comics. Here's the deal; Remember when Superman died? In the wake of that battle, four people arose wearing the "S" and resuming the neverending battle. There was "The Last Son of Krypton" (actually a computer program who believed he was Superman and took an extreme approach to fighting evil), the Cyborg Superman (actually a villian who took advantage of the opportunity), the Young or Teen Superman (a clone given a semblance of Superman's powers, now known as Superboy in the coming soon TEEN TITANS comic), and an armored man called "The Man of Steel."

The Man of Steel was John Henry Irons, an inventor who was recruited by a weapons manufacturer to design for him. As in the movie, these designs are stolen from him and planned to be used as weapons of mass destruction. He destroyed his work and went underground, ending up in Metropolis. While saving a falling worker, John himself is saved by Superman. John tells him, "I owe you my life," to which Superman replies, "Then make it count for something." Shortly after, Superman died in battle. John soon learned that his weapons were being used by Metropolis' gangs, sold on the black market. Inspired by Superman's example, John Henry creates a suit complete with cape and "S," armed with rivet shooters, super-strength, flight, and a mean sledgehammer. He was the only one who never claimed to be Superman back from the dead. After Superman's return, John modifies his armor and shortens his code-name to Steel.

Now, I can understand why the legal matters won't let them use Superman in this movie, but what is this with a motorcycle, no cape, no flight. This was just a terrible rendition. It needed better writing, better budget to at least get him flying, and they need a much better actor than Shaq. Where was Michael Clarke Duncan when we really needed him?

Among the comic-book movies of 1997, the winner goes to Spawn, IMHO.
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Human Target (1992– )
Didn't match much of the comic
18 January 2003
As mentioned, this series was based on a small comic-book character who mostly appeared as a back-up feature in Detective Comics and Action Comics, among others. I think most people heard, "based on a comic book" and immediately thought, "What, a character wearing spandex and a target on his chest."

Christopher Chance's real story is that he is a private detective and master of disguise whose specialty is impersonating people who believe they have been marked for murder, thus taking their place in the crosshairs and earning the nickname, "the Human Target." His motivation comes from the fact that he failed to protect his father, who was gunned down. Chris tried to take the bullet for his dad and swore he wouldn't fail to protect others.

I guess Bilson & DeMeo thought that was a little too ordinary, so they made his disguise skills the part of a high-tech setup in a stealth jet with assistants. In the comics, Chance lived in a studio above a Boston restaurant, whose owner acted as his receptionist of sorts.

The stories were not too shabby, but the problem with a series about a master of disguise is that the guest-star does most of the big moves and heroics to maintain the illusion. Rick Springfield sat around while John Wesley Shipp or Scott Paulin kicked ass. ;)

I simply thought the high-tech angle wasn't necessary or cost-effective.
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Vast improvement
15 January 2003
After "Worlds Greatest Superfriends," I had pretty much given up on the Super Friends. But they brought back a new series which introduced Firestorm (a very popular character in comics) and Darkseid (major villain). There had been a lot of updating with some characters, such as the return of DC villians like Lex Luthor and Brainiac, a little more detail in characters (Wonder Woman and her boyfriend Steve Trevor), etc. It wasn't perfect, but it was a step in the right direction and a welcome relief.

The Wonder Twins were pretty much gone, I think. By the way, the Twins were introduced in mainstream comics in 1995 in a Justice League-related title, EXTREME JUSTICE, with a revised origin and (thank God) no Gleek. They were last seen in YOUNG JUSTICE.
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It didn't last long enough
15 January 2003
This was an even better season, with improved art and animation. With the introduction of Cyborg to the TV, the stories seemed to improve both in characterization and plot. For Batman, it became less about the utility belts and more about the man. For Wonder Woman, she finally got to flex her muscles (I think she did last season, too.).

And some of the stories were risque for the time, most notably in "The Fear," which retold Batman's origin and the murder of his parents (The writer of this and the Fox/WB Batman series says he can't believe TPTB let him do it), and "The Death of Superman."

Why they let this series end after one season is beyond me. I truly loved this show and I'm glad Cartoon Network has been rerunning them, even if they *are* on the thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
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Only a few brief moments in an otherwise lousy season
15 January 2003
What I remember most about this series was "bitter disappointment." The extended members of the JLA (Flash, Green Lantern, etc.) were all but gone, leaving the main team of Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman with the Wonder Twins and that damn Gleek! I was getting bored. Most of the episodes involved darker menaces, but they made up one-dimensional throwaway villains that I couldn't care less about.

There were a couple of bright moments, such as the one where the SuperFriends powers were stolen for a Super-Frankenstein Monster. To stop him, the remaining portion of the heroes energies were transferred into Robin, who used it to single-handedly defeat the monster and save his comrades. This was great because it finally featured Robin as more of a sidekick dependent on Batman, which was the way he had been portrayed in the comics for years. There was another which introduced the mirror universe, with the evil Super Enemies. But did they have to add the mustaches and eyepatches like if they didn't wear them they couldn't possibly be evil? ;)

All in all, I avoid this series most of the time.
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One of those "had to see" series
15 January 2003
After watching all these heroes I had never seen before (Green Lantern, the Flash, the Atom, Hawkman and Hawkgirl), the thought of an ongoing series which regularly featured them thrilled me. I had to be on my best behavior or risk being banned from the TV and therefore missing an episode.

I enjoyed the show, but looking back on Cartoon Network reruns saw quite a few flaws in the characterization and details. For example, Green Lantern was able to deflect some of the yellow-colored attacks posed against him, and sometimes he could. At the time, as GL fans know, his ring was always powerless against anything colored yellow. They also committed the same offense as in other series'; for Batman and Robin, it was all about the devices in the utility belts. For Wonder Woman, the jet and Magic Lasso. Lose these things, and they're helpless? Please!

Whatever. Just bring on the whole JLA and I was happy. Still a classic.
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This is where I first got into comics
15 January 2003
I had seen a couple of the 1973 Super Friends cartoons, but don't remember enough about them from that time. There was Superman, Batman and Robin, and the first time I had seen Wonder Woman and Aquaman. When this series premiered, I had noticed that Wendy, Marvin, and Wonder Dog were gone (In retrospect, an improvement). The series had several formats. The first story was a team-up between the central Super Friends (Superman, Batman *and* Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman), followed by a solo Wonder Twins story, an extended story with the entire main cast of Super Friends, and the part I lived for...a team-up with a Super Friend and another super-hero...this is how I first learned about the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Rima, the Atom, and other "made-up" heroes like Black Vulcan (who should've been Black Lightning), Samurai (whose wind powers reminded me of the Red Tornado), and Apache Chief (can you spell stereotypical?). I might have the line-up mixed up.

The art was pretty good even if the stories were simplistic (again, in retrospect). When I found out many characters had their own comics, I had to read about them, and the dominoes rolled...I hope to see those team-ups again.
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Super Friends (1973–2011)
Kind of a corny start
15 January 2003
OK, it was a kids show. I accept that. That's why they didn't want to scare kids with bloodthirsty villains like Lex Luthor and the Joker and instead used well-intentioned mad scientists so that kids could learn about right and wrong. ;-)

I only remember a few scenes from the first season before they were rerun years later. First introduced to Wonder Woman and Aquaman. During reruns, I saw that there were guest appearances by Green Arrow and Plastic Man. There was even one with the Blackhawks, but I haven't seen it yet.

The thing that really irks me was Wendy and Marvin. Never really liked them. And Wonder Dog was a Scooby-Doo wannabe, let's face it!

Some think it's a classic, some think it's crap. I like to think of the first season as a prototype for the real thing to come, right up to "Justice League."
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