“Am I an outlier?” or “I loved Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. What’s wrong with me?”

While I was away in Asia, Batman Versus Superman came out in cinemas. Despite my expectation that it would be a great addition to the DC filmic universe, the reception of the movie was broadly negative. I made my peace with that and thought that at some point I would pick up a cheap DVD and make my own mind up. I rather put it to the back of my mind.

While we were away I did not buy physical media; region coding is a hit an miss issue and I did not want to have even a handful of Bluray discs that were going to be useless to me once we got back to the UK or indeed ended up somewhere else. As such when the longer cut of Batman Versus Superman came out on Bluray I hoped to be able to buy it from iTunes, based on the much more favourable response this version received. Again I was thwarted; the UK iTunes Store only offered the “Ultimate Edition” as an iTunes Extras, streamable only, version, which received very poor reviews for being hard to watch, low quality and just generally disappointing as it could not be watched offline. As such, once more I put it to the back of my mind and tried not to be disappointed that while most people were still quite down on the new DC offering, several of my friends were much happier with the extended version of the film. For what it may be worth, and expecting to be derided by many, I had some faith even after the initial disappointment, that if allowed to release his actual vision, Zack Snyder would be able to pull off the ideas and plot and that the film would stand. My defence of Zack Snyder is a MUCH longer post than I want to make right now, but maybe one day I will get around to it.

Anyway, we arrived back in the UK in March, and there was a flurry of house-hunting, starting a new job, lots of business travel for me and before I knew it I was killing an evening on one of my trips to London by taking myself to see Wonder Woman on the big screen. Wonder Woman exceeded my expectations and I think those of many other viewers as well, proving not only that DC could produce a great super hero movie, but that a woman could carry one and a woman could direct one – not that I had been in any doubt on either score, but the industry being what it is / was…

So finally, after another six months I had the time and the inclination last night to catch up with the DC Universe and so I was coming to Batman versus Superman after having already seen Wonder Woman, and having the added benefit of only seeing the extended version.

My verdict?

I do not know how people have fun any more… I thought that the film was fantastic. Amy Adams is Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne completely persuades as Perry White, Jeremy Irons is the best Alfred we have seen yet, and for my money by a great, great margin despite my abiding love for Michael Caine. And then there are the principles…

Henry Cavill is every inch the Superman in my head, dragged bodily from the pages of comics I have read, completely believable as a conflicted hero, aware of his insane power, aware of not belonging, aware that he will always be slightly the wrong shape for one aspect of his world or another. Ben Affleck, an actor that I have always felt has been unfairly punished by critics and the populace alike, entirely embodies the late-career Bruce Wayne / Batman of the Dark Knight Returns. He is exactly note perfect, for an older, grizzled, disaffected Bruce Wayne, searching for meaning, for a legacy, burdened with a looming understanding that just pulling up weeds is an endless and thankless task. Diana Prince is also completely on-point, but I think that I may be seeing her in a different light to the original cinema audience, as I felt that the portrayal was completely in keeping with the film I saw about her first. Finally there is Lex Luthor. I can remember criticisms of the characterisation and performance that he was too manic, too self-assured, too geeky and so on and so forth, but honestly I felt that as a portrayal of a young Lex Luthor, filled with anger and hatred for Superman, utterly driven to unmask the dangerous alien and cement his place as the pre eminent force in the modern world by force of intellect was pretty much spot on. I think that people just don’t like Jesse Eisenberg and have some narrow belief that Lex Luthor can only be Gene Hackman, but I suppose that I may be over simplifying things.

The machinations of the blame plot, to persuade Batman that Superman is dangerous and must be dealt with and the wheels within wheels that Luthor goes into in order to put the pieces into play while retaining a reasonable shot at having apparently clean hands and have all the blame fall upon Batman is actually really well done, even if there is a hubris in Luthor’s final actions as there would be people that knew that Luthor had been given access to Zod’s body. The arc that Superman takes, and the evolution of his relationship with Lois, both as Superman and Clark is believable and satisfying, and in keeping with the years of to-ing and fro-ing in the comics. Even the conflicts that Clark has with Perry over what they ought to be doing as a newspaper speak well to the larger internal conflicts he is dealing with about purpose and accountability.

All in all the film delivers and it does not shy away from the darkness that has long since been the territory that DC has occupied by comparison to Marvel.

I can’t single the film out as the best Batman movie of all time, simply because I love the “early years” of the character and feel that the Nolan trilogy does an excellent job of exploring the genesis and early experiences of Bruce Wayne and Batman, but for me, as a comics fan that came into comics through The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke and Death of Superman, here were familiar, compelling representations of some of my favourite characters in fiction, doing what I would expect them to do, and ultimately saving the day, though at great cost. As such it’s a firm 9.5/10 from me, and I am excited to see Justice League when it hits Bluray later this year. I expect, based on the spoiler-free reviews I have seen, that I will continue to be in the minority, that I will continue to warm to Batfleck, that seeing more of Wonder Woman will be a good thing(tm) and that adding in other exciting and very DC characters can’t really hurt at all.

I await your flame-war with joy in my heart…

P.S. If I had one criticism of Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice, it would be this; “WTF, Jimmy Olsen is CIA and you let him take a bullet to the head in the first 5 minutes! DUDE!”. Look I am a photographer, a nerd / geek and a guy; if I am honest with myself Jimmy Olsen is the only DC character I have any hope of really identifying with. Well that and Olsen was my nickname at work for a while, long ago…


I cannot wait to see this movie…


Another week…

So, it turns out that I did not manage to write anything here last week at all!

What did I get up to, I hear you ask? Oh hold on a minute, I can barely hear you there at the back my one reader 😉

Anyway, the week was a busy one; is there any other kind I have begun to wonder to myself..?

The week got off to a running start with many, many meetings at work, a trend that continued for most of the week, one way or another… We (in my team at the BBC) spent last week in the last round of planning for the next release phase, i.e. to get ready to do the work I was hired for, and as such, what with the Beeb having adopted SCRUM methodology there were certain processes to go through in order to make sure that all of the features we are going to approach in this release were storied, prioritised and scored. It may sound like a painful process, but by the time the end of the week came I felt as though we had a REAL sense of what we were going to do, how much work it was all going to be and that there was a real sense of scope and expectation. I have to say, without coming off all “SCRUM-evangelist” I hope, that it feels like a good way of working so far.

Friday was a little bit of a blip, a blip that ate into Thursday as well… Friday was the first public / out-of-team demo for the product that I am working on, and my colleague Mike and I had to scramble to get the thing ready. As with anything prepared in snatched moments and without a clear plan, something went not-quite-according-to-plan, but the overall reception was good and the people who matter – our project owner, his boss, and our project architect were all perfectly happy. More to the point, people from other teams were really supportive, and in the end all the wait-and-hurry-up was worth it.

I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings with Lee-Anne, and we had a lovely time.. I’m consciously not going into minute detail for two reasons; I am not deluded into thinking that you all want to know what we cooked together, or what we talked about, but also because I am enjoying it being “just for us” a little bit too…

On Thursday evening I went, with Lee-Anne to see an old friend of hers in a pub off Tottenham Court Road and I think it went well; I really enjoyed meeting him and the others that he brought along. We spent the better part of the evening putting the world to rights(tm) and then headed back to Sevenoaks to crash out before the last schoolday of the week.

Friday was a “girls’ night out” for Lee-Anne, seeing some good friends that she’s not had a chance to catch up with for a while now, so I made my own plans, and we caught up again on Saturday afternoon evening, as I made my way over to Sevenoaks with Suzie (the Secteur – my bike). Saturday evening we went out to the movies to see Inception. No comment for now (as I am formulating my ideas for a longer post on the subject), beyond: AWESOME!

Sunday Lee-Anne had some more studying / writing to do for her OU course, so I made myself useful doing the shopping (on Suzie) and then going out for a nice long ride through the Kent Countryside. The hills around where she lives are still pretty f’ing tough, but I am getting better at dealing with them, which is a good sign I think.

And so it was Monday again before we knew it, and I was up early to get Suzie on the train to London before the cut-off for full-size bikes and in work for eight 🙂

More to follow – this week should be better for blogging…


Warning: This post may offend (Apologies to LJ subscribers who got it twice)

I’ve come to a startling and yet satisfying conclusion. While a large proportion of my social circle will (I expect) take untold glee in bashing seven shades of shit out of the new Transformers film (“Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen”), I have come to a liberating realisation; it’s not art, so I can just enjoy it.

I’m not afraid to admit that I like to read so-called “great” poetry, I enjoy (yes genuinely enjoy) watching Shakespeare, at least when his work is well staged I do, and I am well and widely read in what many would refer to as ‘the classics’. I love attending the Opera, art exhibitions and quality live music across many genres. Bluntly I am cultured, and when I want the intellectual satisfaction of indulging in culture I am fitted for the task. There are times, nonetheless, when entertainment can be honestly and openly garnered from less subtle sources, and I feel duty bound to remind my peers that this may well be one of those times.

I have no desire to protect Michael Bay from his detractors – you are right he is the King of cliché visually and in terms of the way he directs actors – nor do I wish to make the case that his most recent film should in any way be discussed as though it were art. No, my desire is to encourage my friends and acquaintances that there is nothing so utterly self-defeating as holding a film like the new Transformers movie up to the harsh light of our shared intellectual scrutiny. You have two options; either watch it and revel in its banality and inconsistency, its sensationalism and it’s accomplished superficiality, or don’t watch it. There is no third option…

You may think that there is a third option. You may mistakenly think that there is a place in this world for you to watch this film and then turn your undeniable analytical skills to the task of dissecting it, attempting to put meat back onto the bones of this paper butterfly so that you can complain that it is poorly done. You may, as has so often been the case before, feel that there is something clever in pointing out what some of us had already taken as read; that this is mindless, unconvincing almost entirely plot-free drivel with little or no characterisation and the worst dialogue one might be able to imagine. You see there are those of us who knew that going in, who decided quite rationally that there is a place in our lives for the entertainment equivalent of candyfloss (cotton candy to our American friends), and we are OK WITH THAT!

Time after time after time I have been forced to put up with facetious, knowing critiques of entertainment, be it film, tv, books, comics or whatever, that I already knew were intellectually sub-standard, and been made to feel as though I am anything from an “easy to please doormat of taste” through to an outright imbecile for enjoying them and yet I am quite aware of the fact that I am neither of these things. When I don’t like something I say so, and as for the imbecile thing… Oh what’s the point, I __do__ know I’m not an imbecile.

If you want to look clever, give me a well rounded and stimulating discussion on the film π by Darren Aronofsky, or let’s have a chat about why Citizen Kane may be a great film, but it has long since lost the title of ‘the Greatest Film Ever Made”. Let’s hear why you think “American Psycho” is an over-rated pile of horse-shit, but you’d better know your onions about the American novel of the late 20th Century before we get going down that route, because I do…

Here’s the bottom line; an end to all hackery, right here, right now. Until you’ve made your own multi-million dollar film you don’t get the spotlight while you tell the rest of us the bleedingly obvious as to why a film about giant robots from outer space that can talk and turn into mundane forms of human transport turned out to be an intellectual and artistic failure. We know it’s not Art, you don’t look clever telling us why it’s shit because it fails to be Art.

Quickly, before I finish, I think I ought to own up to the fact that until I was well into my late twenties I was just as much a part of this smug culture of armchair intellectual dilettantism for the middle classes as anyone else I know, and I want to say two things about that. One “I’m sorry; for every time I trespassed in this manner, and to everyone who won’t get back the time they had to spend listening to me using big words to tell them shit they already knew and had already decided did not matter to them”. Two; I’m pretty certain that what changed for me was genuinely trying to create something and realising that it’s nowhere near as easy as it looks… Oh experience how thy fruits are naught but humility and peace…

P.S. In case you were wondering (or worse still thinking of embedding the Kermode review in a comment) I’ve got a lot of respect for Mark Kermode, and I will admit that I found his “video review” for TROTF on the Kermode Blog genuinely funny, but then I know him to be a clever and insightful man and he did all of that to play to his audience. That being said, if he really wanted to impress me, he’d say something like my thoughts above to his ‘devoted followers’ if only to remind them that sometimes a movie is __JUST__ a movie…
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EOT


Thoughts on the concert I attended on Good Friday…

I went to a concert on Good Friday, at the O2, and on the way back I wrote down my thoughts in a notebook, and I have only now “got around” to writing it up:

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There is something amazing about the power that exists in music. I was four years old when I first saw “Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope”, and now, almost thirty years later, the mere music from that and the subsequent films can bring up such emotion and whimsy in me as to leave me dazed.

The majestic sweeping strings, the powerful declarative brass, the drums, imposing and bold… This is the stuff that adventure, honour and boyhood dreams are all made of.

As I sat in my knee-injury incompatible seat I was even able to forgive Anthony Daniels who was hamming it up for the serious fanbois and fangirlz. In his defence, there was one particularly nice touch with a golden waistcoat in the second half that __was__ funny. Yep I just sat there and lost myself in the memories.

All of us that forgive (or try to forgive) Lucas for his failures (I mean he seems to define the term ‘bad dialogue’ pretty well), and embrace the simple joy of an epic tale well told can relate to the truth that this evening’s entertainment has once again affirmed; George Lucas owes John Williams and the London Philharmonic. Bigtime.


Holy Christ!

I just watched the new (trailer 2) Star Trek Trailer on the Apple Site…

Click Here to see it too…

OMG

I __REALLY__ cannot wait to see this…

*wibble*