Friday, 27 June 2014

Superman Lives But He Could Have Been Nicolas Cage

I've already written about Superman several times, from my initial reaction to seeing the Superman with a hobo beard, to how he and Captain America exhibit similar ideals, to how it was totally okay that [Spoiler] he killed Zod in Man of Steel. But rather than focus on all the things that make him a wonderful icon and expression of the best humanity can strive for, this post is all about one of the great tragedies of recent history: that we never got to see Nicolas Cage as Superman in the 1990s.
This almost happened but we flew too close to the sun and it was taken away from us.

Now Cage gets a lot of hate on the internet, or rather, is the butt of many a meme. He is alternatively derided for just taking any role for the paycheck or just deemed as insane as the many, many crazy characters he plays with a sort of unrestrained manic energy that no sane person could ever muster.
Also, it might be because his face can do this.
Most people's faces cannot exhibit this much crazy without imploding.

A lot of this also has to do with the fact he has been in quite a large number of terrible movies over the course of his three decade career. Like, a lot of terrible movies. And a large percentage of them have happened in the past decade which has coloured people's perceptions of Nicolas Cage somewhat.

His highest rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes is Red Rock West with 95%. His lowest is Deadfall with 0%, with 20 movies since 2000 not cracking 40%. That's a lot of suckitude to be true. But he has also appear in nine 'fresh' movies in that same period that have scored over 60%, with four of those scoring over 80%. So, somewhat of a hit-or-miss ratio...

In fact, his movies are so sporadically great or unbelievably awful, that some thoughtful person designed a Nicolas Cage Movie Roulette site, where you can be just as indiscriminate in your choice of a Cage movie as he appears to be in choosing the roles he plays.

Unfortunately, the posters alone won't quite enlighten you to which movies are good and which are bad.

And that's the thing about Nicolas Cage, he doesn't care what movies he's in. Not because he's just in it for the paycheck, although that can't hurt, but because he just takes whatever role is offered his way with no consideration of whether the film will actually be good, or what the role will do to his reputation. And that's because Nicolas Cage is the Neil Young of movies.

According to the guru of defending celebrities who get more hate than they deserve, Adam Todd Brown: "Just like Neil Young, we tend to forget that, even back when it seemed like he was doing nothing but great work, a quick examination of the facts reveals that there has never been a time when Nicolas Cage wasn't shitting on his body of work by making movies so terrible that they border on self-sabotage."

Just to belabor the point, let's jump back to that 95% rated movie I mentioned earlier, Cage followed that up with buddy comedy about race relations with Samuel L. Jackson that currently has a 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
How could this possibly go wrong?

But Cage is actually a fantastic actor. No, seriously. People forget he's been nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won it for Leaving Las Vegas. Speaking at an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit last year, Ethan Hawke, himself consider a decent actor, praised Cage, calling him "the only actor since Marlon Brando that's actually done anything new with the art of acting". This before adding that he has "successfully taken us away from an obsession with naturalism into a kind of presentation style of acting that I imagine was popular with the old troubadours." Simply put, Cage acts a performance where he makes you aware you're watching a performance because of its over the top quality.

He wants to you experience a visceral reaction to what he's doing, where the lines of reality are blurred such that even his most measured performances have a surreal quality to them. You can't tell what elements are part of the performance and what are real.

Like that time he actually ate a cockroach in Vampire's Kiss. Yes, he really ate a cockroach in the most artificial of circumstances, a movie scene, just because he wanted people to be pulled out of the immersion of the movie by his performance and the grossness of the eating a cockroach.
That's an actual cockroach which he totally ate.
Did I mention he has a fear of insects?

Furthermore, scientists estimate Cage's face can express around 300,000 expressions. Simultaneously able to display nearly every conceivable emotion at once through the superb nuances and elasticity of his face, Cage could have perfectly conveyed the sadness, loneliness, despair, and anger, that an alien living among humans would feel. While still expressing the hope, honesty, strength, and compassion that Superman exudes from every pore of his being.

His Superman would have been alone and awkward in a crowd but with a wry smile for everyone. An alien never fully at home but willing to protect his adopted home with all his might.
Plus City of Angels showed his aptitude at silently stalking his love interest without them knowing, a pivotal Superman trait later displayed by Brandon Routh in Superman Returns.

This is all assuming they were going to make what would be the greatest Superman movie of all time, the one where we realise that Superman can't save everyone and he has to choose which people to save. Any time Superman fixes a dam or saves a factory from burning down/blowing up, he's letting someone somewhere get mugged. And he knows he that they're getting mugged. Because of his superhearing he can hear everything around him for miles and miles, but he made the choice to save the people he is saving now. And he has to do this all the time. Constantly weighing up which people to save, how important different disasters are, deciding where he is needed most but always wanting to save everyone because he's Superman.

Clockwise from top left:
1) "Is that so Lois? I'm sorry I have to go put out a fire in Boston before stopping a homicide in Manhattan."
2) "I can save them all!"
3) "There's a little girl crying that her alcoholic father is beating her again back in Metropolis but I have to stop this nuclear missile from striking Washington!!!"
4) "I stopped the missile but I couldn't save her..."

That's not the Superman movie we were going to get though. No, the Superman movie we were going to get was based off the biggest (although sadly not the best) Superman story of the 1990s, Death of Superman. And it would have been written by Kevin Smith and directed by Tim Burton. Just imagine that for a second...

A Superman movie written by the man who at the time had brought the world only good things like Clerks and Chasing Amy, where characters exchange swear word peppered language while aimlessly discussing pop culture tidbits like the politics of the independent contractors that worked on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. And he is basing this story on the best selling Superman comic of the 1990s, where Superman and Doomsday literally punch themselves to death.

Directed by the man whose gothic sensibilities and uniquely weird take on Batman produced the two best (and most commercially successful) Batman movies at the time, who was on something of a creative hot streak that sadly would not last into the 2000s. Starring Nicolas Cage as Superman. Could a more perfectly weird and eccentric actor fit such an idiosyncratically quirky and oddball director?
Wait, don't answer that.

Their collective take on Superman would have been balls to the wall crazy and delightfully offbeat. Nicolas Cage with all his Cagerisms as Superman. Snappy comic book dialogue from a well-established geek Kevin Smith.

In a plot where

-Brainiac comes to Earth because Lex Luthor invited him and he wants to find some Kryptonian power battery or something,
-there is a political subplot with a bill to outlaw superheroes (beating The Incredibles by eight years)
-Superman doesn't 'fly' but moves as a red blur from place to place
-Lex Luthor and Brainiac team up
-Superman wants to marry Lois but she's worried that he cannot commit to her when he needs to be out saving people
-Brainiac blocks out the sun to weaken Superman, creates Doomsday to fight him
-Superman and Doomsday punch each other to death
-Superman is brought back to life but without his powers by a black suit created by the Eradicator, something his father built that helps him or whatever
-the Eradicator destroys the satellite blocking the sun
-Superman saves Lois from a giant spider-like thing called the 'Thangarian Snare Beast' controlled by Brainiac
-defeats Brainiac in the process
-takes evidence to the police that shows Luthor was in cohoots with Brainiac the whole time
-Luthor goes to jail

Directed by the man who brought us Edward Scissorhands. Why did this not happen?

In this sort of Superman movie, Cage could have done his best Adam West impression, adding an appropriate level of camp to a story about an alien who wears bright tights and a cape, and it would have been amazing. And I'm not joking about the Adam West impression, remember how awesome Cage was as Big Daddy in Kick-Ass? That performance was West all the way, in the best possible way: staccato delivery punctured with dramatic pauses and over the top line readings. Also, he was a fatherly and a caring paternal figure, a role Superman occupies for humanity.
"Wait, repeat that last part. I couldn't hear you over all the camp."

That would have been a Superman I'd like to see. Not someone paying reverent homage to Christopher Reeves' Superman (because as great as those movies are, Superman Returns felt like an, at times admittedly beautiful, eulogy in its reverence) nor a dour gritty Man of Steel with a taste for destruction-porn. Rather an actor acknowledging the campiness inherent in superheroes, embracing it but not letting it become the defining feature or not taking the subject matter seriously.

So, we were denied the opportunity of seeing Cage at the commercial peak of his career and at his most emphatically quirky show us his take on the Man of Steel.

But we did get to see Ben Affleck as Superman (well, playing the actor who played Superman back in the 1950s), so it evens out, I guess?
And now Affleck's going to be Batman before he's later cast as Wonder Women five years down the line.

Yeah, it totally evens out.


Nicolas Cage Movies On Rotten Tomatoes

5 Celebrities Who get More Hate Than They Deserve (Part 4)

Nicolas Cage Explains His Acting Style and His Legacy

Nic Cage's Method: Nouveau Shamanic Explained
The importance of Nicolas Cage’s facial expressions in Face/Off: an academic essay

9 Movie Characters Who Are Undeniably Stalkerish

3 Reasons It's So Hard to Make Superman Interesting

Superman Wiki- Superman Lives

Nicolas Cage’s ‘Kick-Ass’ Character Pays Homage To Adam West 

"Death of Superman Lives" Trailer

Nicolas Cage Talks Tim Burton's Superman Lives


Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of the Convoluted Everything

I know it's late to the party but I have some thoughts about Amazing Spider-Man 2 that I 'm gonna share because I can do that since it's my blog.

Sure Spidey acts like a bit of a dick, but most superheroes are dicks really. I mean, the only reason we put up with Iron Man's ass-dickery is because Robert Downey Jr. is so charming and charismatic and chill in the role. Even when he's behaving like a total tool. So, we not only forgive him but actually love him for it.
Tony Stark. Corporate tool.

Okay, I guess you could say that Spidey's dickery is a bit different because of Electro. When he was being kind of a dick by telling Max that he was his 'eyes and ears', this douchey behaviour ultimately led Max on his path from obsessed creepy comb-over stalker to obsessed creepy light bulb super villain who thinks the superhero wronged him.

I mean, Tony Stark sorta kinda maybe created the villain in Iron Man 3 when he acted like a dick by saying he'd meet Killian and listen to his science stuff and then didn't. But hey, that guy was a loser scientist with bad hair no one took seriously that is obsessed with the hero. Which is completely different to Electro, who was a loser scientist with a comb-over no one took seriously that is obsessed with the hero.

But there's no way Spider-Man could have known that of all the millions of people in New York, he was telling the one obsessed fan who will take those words too strongly to heart and then turn into a supervillain who can throw electricity, right? I mean, it's not like ol' Webhead had any reason to believe that the fictional universe he inhabits seriously believes in karma and would punish him severely for being a dick or lying to someone?


Some critics, like the good people over at Cracked, have noted that there are several aspects of the Amazing Spider-Man movies which make little sense. Like the way in which Spider-Man doesn't seem all that beat up that uncle Ben died, perhaps because he was kinda bad at dealing out advice since he avoided a certain phrase which could have easily distill the importance of being responsible with power? Or how terrible Peter Parker is at picking up on obvious foreshadowing. Or how he completely lacks the ability to be be part of a coherent series of events, kinda like how the paragraphs in this blog are arranged in no real order. 

For instance, while interviewing 'Spidey' for Amazing Spider-Man 2, an interviewer noted that "last week you fought Electro, who was mad at you for missing his birthday. After you defeated him, you went
home and watched TV for a while. Then you decided to investigate your father's disappearance because you were mad at his briefcase."

Which is like starting at A, then jumping past to 29, before skipping back to Q, stopping around Y, and then heading off to llama, because fuck coherence or trying to give any reason for why things are happening. They just happen, deal with it.

"I have no idea why any of this is happening. Or what even is happening. Am I the bad guy yet? Do I still have to become the bad guy? Was this comb-over necessary to highlight my character was originally a loser or just a cruel joke? 

Now, I actually enjoyed the movie despite its many, many, many flaws. It was fun. It was Spider-Man. Like the aspects of Spider-Man that make him who he is. He was funny. Like actually funny in the way he stopped crime.

That scene in the beginning where he's trying to stop the canisters from falling out the truck, trapping them with webs, grabbing them with any limb he can, saying "oh, no you don't" and "come here". Hilarious.

And it's exactly how Spidey, the Spider-Man I have in my head that makes him different to all other superheroes, would do it. With humour and fast quips.

"Gotcha! ... Okay, now what?
I'm dangling from a web here with like a bazillion canisters of something... radioactive? I don't know."

And Spidey moves like he does in the comics, limps twisting and body contorting like a spastic ballerina in the sky as he swings over head, while a couple of the fight sequences were possibly some of the best in a Spider-Man movie, and yes that includes the original Raimi trilogy (I know of the blasphemy which I speak).

I even liked the now-loathed Electro soundtrack which I thought was an interesting decision that actually tried to do something different in terms of soundtracks in superhero movies. Maybe that's why people didn't like it, since it was kinda weird and sorta broke your immersion in the movie by having lyrics relating to how the character was feeling sung progressively louder as he got angrier over dubsteb, but it was nice to see them try something different even if it didn't quite work.
Sorry, it didn't work out Electro, but hey you can put the lyrics, "No one likes my music, they're making fun of me" in your next soundtrack.

The relationship between Peter and Gwen hit a number of solid emotional beats and felt more 'real' than Weepy Parker and Mary-Jammed-Stiff, although their relationship seems really unhealthy and at times, Peter is pretty much a dick to her. That's because he kept alternating between pinning over her and loving her in an obsessed fashion or just blowing her off because of a half-arsed attempt to keep his promise to her dead father. Which, by the way, is a promise he doesn't really plan to keep anyway because like he says, the best kind of promises are those that you can't keep. Because that's supposed to be endearing and cute, not a full-on confession that he is a guy who can't keep promises he doesn't want to and therefore, his word doesn't really mean all that much, which is an odd character trait for a superhero to have.

But that's not really a problem is it?

[Oh, I get it! These paragraphs were meant to be the opening paragraphs and this leads on to the paragraphs  about being a dick he actually put first. But why would he arrange it like that? It makes no sense.]
This picture of Spider-Man holding a loudspeaker and standing on the roof of a police car is presented for some reason.
We think. Possibly.

So, Spidey probably should have known that being an asshole or breaking your promise, like promising to pick up your aunt but then not picking up your aunt, only ends with karma making you its bitch [Oh, now he's back to the dick thing, it's like trying to pick up the plot-lines of a movie that doesn't really care how or when different parts of the story are told. Why is he writing it like that? Is that a veiled comment on the movie?] and the death of a loved one.

Didn't he see the first movie? I mean, it's based on his life.

And since karma is apparently a real thing in this fictional universe, Harry Osborn must have done something terrible for what happens to him. And I mean, like just horrible. He must be, like, the worst person ever. In the history of things existing. Because how else do you explain why this happened to him?
Wow, um... wow. Ah, I am so sorry, Harry. If there is anything I can do to alleviate your suffering let me know.
There's um, there's a shotgun in the trunk...

And all of these bad things, of which there are so many it's not really possible to elaborate on them all (we haven't even got to the Peter's Golden Token to the Subway of Anti-Climatic Revelations or how Rhino looks like he got lost on the way from his trailer on the latest Transformers movie), ruined what really could have been a great Spider-Man movie.

But wait, let's go back to that point about Rhino just because. Rhino is just a guy in a giant mechanical tank that is shaped like a rhino for reasons, I guess. Because there's no reason it needs to be shaped like a rhino in the movie since it's essentially just a tank with legs.

In the comics, his suit gives him super strength and thick skin with a horn on his head that he uses to smash things. Of course, there is no real practical reason for him to be a rhino other than to give Spider-Man more animal themed villains but at least his suit had rhino-like qualities. Even in the Ultimates line of comics, where his suit is also essentially just a big tank with legs, he uses it like a rhino- to smash things head on with his horn.

Paul Giamatti's Transformer-Rhino has guns and shoots missiles. So, why does it need to look like a rhino, again? It could just be shaped like a tank. Since that's what it is. It has machine guns. Why would he ever need to use his horn when he has machine guns?
Seriously, though. What about this screams 'rhino' to the Oscorp evil scientists who made it?
He has guns on top of his guns!

Yes... so, The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of the Clusterfuck could have been a great Spider-Man movie, if they let it be a Spider-Man movie. Andrew Garfield is a great Spider-Man despite his character being an asshole. No, really, he is. He trades quips as he's trading punches, mocking the villains and talking incessantly in order to confuse or frustrate them. All good things. But they didn't let it be a Spider-Man movie.

Instead, as many people have pointed out, it was instead supposed to kick off the Spidey-verse megafranchise, leading on to a Sinister Six movie, because it would be awesome to watch Spider-Man's rogue's gallery shoot the shit while they discuss how they're going to kill Spider-Man, and then potentially a Venom spin-off because Venom. And this scuppered the film's chances or ever telling a proper story because it tried to juggle a bazillion different things and failed miserably.

Not even failed spectacularly, when there is some redemption in the attempt even if it didn't work. It failed so hard it makes people sad. Because there were elements there, like Spidey being a wise-ass, like Peter and Gwen's twisted but heartfelt relationship, like the better parts of the fights scenes, like the nice little touch of the web reaching out like a hand to catch Gwen when she's falling, that could have been awesome and actually amazing, finally delivering on the promise explicit in the very title of the movie.

But it wasn't.

Also, Gwen died.
I won't lie. Even though I knew it was coming, I cried.

Actually that was a better part of the movie.

But you know, whatever, something something Sinister Six.


Friday, 6 June 2014

Thor Loves His Hammer But Loki Has a Thing For Horns

Harken, o wary internet traveler. Cease thy cat video watching for but a moment to hear a tale sure to shake the senses and lift the spirits with wonder and amazement. For verily, few tales can stir the soul like those which feature that most powerful of warriors, Thor the Thunderer, and his most evil step-brother, Loki the Trickster.

This guy.

Since time immemorial, Loki has sought to defeat his half-brother through any form of deception, sorcery, and manipulation available to him in order to gain dominion over Asgard. Yet Thor's mighty father and liege, Odin the All-Father, ruler of Asgard, still kept Loki in his counsel because of reasons no mere mortal could ever hope to comprehend.

Once, knowing full well of his evil and trickery, Odin the Wise deemed Loki to be the perfect steward to hold rule in his stead while he ventured to Midgard to forbid Thor from loving the mortal, Jane Foster.

"Odin All-Father, dost thou think it wise to let Loki the Evil One, who swore vengeance on myself and the whole of Asgard, to take thy place in your absence?" - Thor
"Of course. I see not why it worries thou so, Thunderer. Verily, my son, thou ought to learn to chill." - Odin

For though this undertaking itself was made at the suggestion of Loki, perish the thought that all-knowing Odin could be fooled so easily by a known liar. Especially not directly after the god of mischief sought to destroy Thor by convincing the noble Odin to use the Enchantress' beauty to conquer the Thunderer's heart so he wouldn't fall in love with Jane Foster...

The Enchantress knows that Loki tricked Odin because of course he did.

But surely, Odin the supreme ruler of Asgard punished Loki once he learnt of his trickery, I hear thee ask? And so he did. Befitting such a just ruler, wise Odin oft times punished Loki with stern consequences for his heinous crimes and constant betrayal.

For a terrible fate awaits those who plot treason against Asgard, a fate such as,

Doing chores until your father tells you otherwise.

Yes, bear witness to the wisdom of Odin the All-Father. Only he could devise a punishment so appropriately fitting for the act of treason. Bear witness and count yourself lucky that thou did not raise the ire of Odin and be doomed to do laundry for a week!

Odin the Wise oft devised punishments which the evil Loki could never hope to escape from, despite all his cunning and guile,

Well, that was easy.

Tremble at the harsh, yet just, punishments Odin gave Loki for his repeated villainy, such as forbidding Loki to leave Asgard but putting no measures in place to ensure that he remained in that holy citadel,

Never give up. Never surrender.

For lo, with Odin's judgment still ringing in his ears and his captivity only just begun,  

Well, that was easy.
Is Odin even trying to enforce his punishments?

But let us leave the vile Trickster for the moment, and cast our attention to that most noble of warriors, Odin's favoured son and the god of thunder, Thor!

Firstborn to Odin and heir to his throne, Thor is Asgard's mightiest and bravest champion, a more honest and steadfast soul could not be found in any realm.

With his mystic hammer, Mjolnir, Thor is able to control the elements in a manner befitting one named the Thunderer!

Tap your handle once, tap it twice. Lo and behold, tornado and ice.

Thor's might is second only to his father, the all-powerful Odin, but his courage knows no bounds. However, despite the god of thunder's might and prowess in battle, the jealous Loki sought nothing more than to defeat his step-brother. Knowing that a frontal attack would prove folly against the strength and power of Thor, Loki would oft disguise himself in order to trick the Thunderer.

Once, the god of mischief infiltrated the office of Dr. Don Blake, Thor's alias on Earth in order to goad Thor into battle so that he can separate him from his hammer, the source of his strength.


Once deprived of the mighty hammer Mjolnir, Thor reverted back into the mortal Don Blake and Loki took the shape of a pigeon and flew away, as an Asgardian is wont to do.

But using cunning of his own, Don Blake tricked Loki into releasing his hold over Mjolnir, so that he could gain the power of Thor once more. However, Loki yet again transformed into a pigeon for he is truly a mischievous fiend,

Do not fear. Thor figured out which pigeon was Loki because he was the only one that didn't eat the peanuts Thor gave them.
Little known fact: Loki is allergic to peanuts.

Though constantly bested by Thor and spurned by Odin, Loki never ceased in his jealous rivalry with the god of thunder, as he was convinced it was he that deserved to be Odin's heir. Eternally craving the favour that Odin all-too-readily bestowed on his first-born son but denied to him, he became twisted in his jealousy and pride.

Thus he cared not for the mortals of Midgard that Thor loved so, seeing them no more than subjects to be ruled, or worse, playthings to be toyed with,

"Whateva. I do what I want."

But at the root of all Loki's villainy and jealous pride, lies a son who wished for naught other than to be accepted and praised by his father. Who, instead of confronting his feelings of rejection, instead displaced them on to an external foe, turning them into a self-righteous rage against he who would call him brother.

Thus he used that burning hate to fuel his own mad quest for power and the dominion of others who so long dismissed him in favour of his eternal enemy.

For such is brotherhood in Asgard, intrepid internet traveler. But hark, the tale is concluded! For now...


Thor Wikipedia page

Much of this was based on Thor's adventures in

Journey Into Mystery #85
Journey Into Mystery #88
Journey Into Mystery #103
Journey Into Mystery #104

Read them for Stan Lee/Jack Kirby fantasty awesomeness