Friday, 29 May 2015

Enter the Fray: The Last Vampire Slayer

"In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone shall stand against the vampires, demons, and forces of darkness. She is the Slayer."

I'm of course talking about Melaka (Mel) Fray the Vampire Slayer. While most will be able to recall the awesomeness that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, not many are aware of the comic book series sequel, Fray.

Written by Joss Whedon, geek overlord, Fray was a continuation of the Slayer mythos set in the Buffyverse, just several centuries after the events of the television show. It follows the story of Mel as she learns that she is the Slayer and has to accept her destiny. Of slaying undead things.

Not to mention getting to grips with her innate Slayer ability to strike cool posses while making impassioned speeches.

Fray has all of the usual Whedonisms: relatable characters, snappy dialogue with an interesting vocabulary and inventive vernacular, a strong central female character who resists the destiny she is told she must fulfill, the death of an enduring secondary character as motivation for the main character to spring into action in the final act [SPOILERS, I guess], great writing with a couple of questionable or awkward moments, and a rollicking good time.

Whedon has recently come under fire in the Twittersphere from incensed fans for the direction Black Widow's character arc took in Avengers 2: Age of Ultimately How Many of These are There Going to Be Exactly?.

"Uh... what? Come again?"

Now, minor spoilers here, but a number of people didn't really get into the, admittedly rushed/forced, romance between Black Widow and Bruce "I'm always angry" Banner, with one scene in particular causing a certain sectors of fandom to cry (no hyperbole) misogyny.

Before I get into the details, let's just put this in perspective. This is Joss Whedon we are talking about. A prominent and outspoken feminist. A man who has repeatedly been praised for his efforts in addressing the issues facing feminism and gender equlaity, whether through his own actions or the support of other vocal feminists.

A man, who when asked why he constantly writes strong female characters, responded, "Because you keep asking that question".

That's who we are talking about here.

"And people said what, now?"

However, as this wonderful article by Todd Van Der Werff for Vox points out, while Whedon is personally and politically a feminist, his creative work doesn't always fit that label, at least not wholly. This is not to attack his work but rather an acknowledgement that it sometimes not always occasionally isn't as feminist as it could/should be.

This has to do with Whedon's creative priorities, or as Van Der Werff puts it:
Whedon's work trends toward feminism, but his true great cause is storytelling, and he always prioritizes the latter if it makes for a better story. Whedon likes to tell stories that test the strength of communities, stories where horrific actions are often forgiven and written off because the larger community requires it. And though this is why his stories are so frequently good, it also has a tendency to clash with his fictional feminism.
Essentially, if it fits the type of story he wants/feels compelled to tell, he will occasionally write his (still strong and relatable) female characters into narrative tropes that aren't particularly feminist and verge on old gender stereotypes for the sake of the greater story.

"I don't like where this is going,"

Where this relates to Avengers 2: This One Has Robots In It is that Black Widow's character arc has been sacrificed to an extent for the greater story being told. Not sacrificed really. More like poorly handled with a not so well-written scene which seems to suggest a far more stereotypical (and almost insulting) trope than I think was intended.

The scene in question involves Natasha (Black Widow), played again to perfection by Scarlett Johansson, and Bruce Banner discussing their (somewhat forced) feelings toward each other when all of a sudden the topic of having children comes up. I'm sure it's completely normal for that topic of discussion to come up before you even go on a date, right guys? That's what normal people do. It's not jumping the gun at all.

"Was that too soon? It was too soon, wasn't it?"

So in this completely normal discussion about having kids and a 'normal life', Banner describes how he can never have or offer that since he's a monster or something because he gets a little green sometimes. Then Natasha retorts with her back-story and how the procedure that made her so badass and top secret spy-y was terrible and that Bruce isn't the only monster on the team.

That would have been fine but, unfortunately for the scene and Whedon, it's rather clumsily written and this is where the whole thing kinda Hulk-busts apart. The graduation for the hardcore spy training was an infertilization procedure. Therefore, it makes it sound like Natasha is saying that it is her inability to have children makes her a monster.

To be honest, that's how I initially interpret that scene and I did take some issue with it, purely on the basis that the inability not to reproduce isn't at all monstrous and it was sorta odd hearing a character who never before displayed any interest in having children saying it.

"Hulk confused..."

However, having thought about it, I think the scene was supposed to convey how being subjected to the procedure and having her agency to choose taken away is what made her a monster. But something obviously got lost in the translation, which is something Scarlett Johansson knows all about. If that had got across, it obviously would have avoided the "women are limited to or defined by their reproductive abilities" trope. But it didn't. So it kinda doesn't.

Also, for the record, I also can totally see why out of all the Avengers, Black Widow would be romantically involved with the Hulk because in him she sees the same dilemma she sees in herself, of controlling the monster and not giving into her darker impulses.

Of course, the fact that they never had never had anything more than friendly flirty and little to no full blown romantic chemistry kinda derails that, but I can kinda see why they went there.

Oh yeah, I was supposed to be talking about Fray.

How could I not be talking about Fray?!

As stated way up above, Fray is about a vampire slayer... in the future! There are blasters and flying cars! In this timeline, vampires and the other demons have been expelled from Earth for centuries because of something Buffy did in the past (I think she might have locked the door preventing them from coming in).

Our protagonist is a thief who doesn't realise that it isn't common for normal people to survive falling from a building while crashing into a bunch of flying cars (they have flying cars!). Anywho, she meets a demon who wants to train her so she can become the Slayer and prevent the lurks (what vampires are now called) from reopening the portal to the demon dimension.

What's most striking reading this again after seeing Whedon's Avengers movies is that this comic is essentially the blueprint for the script of the first Avengers movie, just minus the multiple superheroes in brightly coloured tights and with vampires instead of aliens. All the same narrative beats can be found within the pages of Fray.

The Avengers never had the hero shoot a horned demon with a blaster however.

Like The Avengers, it takes a good chunk of the beginning to just establish the world and characters before the plot even gets going or the characters interact (it took 40 minutes or so before the Avengers are actually assembled). Then the protagonist(s) mistrusts their new comrades and/or Nick Fury-father figure because they're a rebel or don't work with well with others.

They will then get into a fight with the bad guys and kinda get their asses handed to them. However, the death of an endearing secondary character motivates the protagonist(s) to go into serious mode and they approach the climactic battle with more determination and unrivaled badassery ensues.

However, there was something that both The Avengers and Fray had in their climactic battles. Something that proves my point Whedon used Fray as a bluepoint for The Avengers script. Something that is far too amazing not to share.

This something was not simply a narrative beat or similar story arc repeated again (since most stories do tend to follow common narrative beats which form the building blocks of storytelling). No, this was something far more tangible and concrete. A repeated element that suggests that Fray pretty much inspired the climatic battle in The Avengers.

Yes, that's right. There is a giant worm dragon thing that flies over the city in the final battle.

Almost identical to the giant alien dragon things that fly over the city in The Avengers, Fray has to kill the Gateway demon in the climatic battle. True, she gets swallowed by it and kills it by going for its brain opposed to just hulking out and punching it in the face, but you get the idea.

Also, there are twins in Fray and there are twins in Avengers 2: Ages 12 and up, so those movies are practically identical.


Fray Wikipedia page

Buffyverse Wikipedia page

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Wikipedia page

A guide to the growing controversy over Joss Whedon’s Avengers and Marvel’s gender problem

How Avengers: Age of Ultron dropped the ball with Black Widow

Friday, 15 May 2015

The Most Murderous Monster is an Invisible Man

When discussing the greatest movie monsters of all time, Dracula, Frankenstein (and no, I'm not going to call him Frankenstein's monster as some pedantics since in the original novel, he takes on the name Frakenstein), the Wolfman, zombies, and Bella Swan come to mind.

All these monsters have a distinctive visual aesthetic, something about the way they look that is striking and captivating. Dracula's famous pointed cape (and boob hair) or Frankenstein's neck bolts and stiff gait. The Wolfman's wolfiness or the rotting flesh of zombies, not to mention the dead vacant eyes of Bella Swan. Each of these iconic monsters have a striking visual image to stick in the imagination of the viewer.

It's like she's trying to emote to me, I just know it.

Which is probably why the topic of my post this week has probably suffered in terms of popularity or cultural resonance as a horror movie monster. Mostly because you can't see him at all. Being invisible and whatnot.

I'm speaking, of course, of the Invisible Man, created by science fiction icon, H.G. Wells (you know, the guy who basically invented the time travel story and alien invasion narrative), in his novella, The Invisible Man. I've spoken (well referenced) the Invisible Man before in my post about rape in pop culture.

That was because the Invisible Man in Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen uses his invisibility to rape young women/girls in the "Correctional Academy for Wayward Gentlewomen" resulting in 'immaculate conceptions', or rather, children conceive in immoral violation.

Although I left out the part how he is raped in turn by Mr Hyde.

The character of the Invisible Man as a concept basically explores what is now a pretty common assumption, that if someone was invisible they would get up to crazy shit, yo. Therefore, it's no suprise that Alan Moore being Alan Moore would make the character utterly reprehensible and a psychopath.

Essentially the thought process is that the ability to be invisible and get away with things without getting caught will inevitably cause someone to become evil and drunk with power, specifically the power to get away with things. That does kinda ignore that Invisible Woman from the Fantastic Four is a superhero though.

To be fair, even the other members of the Fantastic Four forgot about Invisible Woman before she developed force field powers and become badass.

However, I'm not going to focus on H.G. Wells' novella but rather the 1933 movie adaptation by James Whale, who also directed Frankenstein. Unlike his adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which took a number of liberties with the source material, The Invisible Man is a relatively faithful adaptation with some minor changes.

And by minor changes, I mean changes which if they were made today would probably result in a number or angry tweets and blog posts about how it was so much better in the book. But before I get into that, I'd like to go back to the changes they made for the movie version of Frankenstein I mentioned.

For example, this shot of the monster reciting Shakespeare.

I don't know about back in the day but today we have a lot of book snobs who criticise any and all changes made in the transition from novel to film. This is despite the fact that some of the most iconic and memorable things we associated with a cultural object can come from that film adaptation.

Case in point, everyone knows Igor, right? Victor Frankenstein's hunchback servant with the slight speech impediment. Well, he is wholly a cinematic creation. There is no Victor in the original novel. Nor is there in James Whale's film for that matter. There's a hunchback alright but his name is Fritz, not Igor.

The hunchback Igor would only appear in a much later sequel but somehow the name stuck in the popular consciousness and was retroactively attributed to the first movie by people not paying attention. He's probably the most popular hunchback in pop culture and he wasn't even in the book.

"Hey... I'm the most popular hunchback in pop culture."

Now with The Invisible Man, most of the changes are cosmetic changes, essentially giving the character some back story, a support base (girlfriend and mentor where in the book he was basically on his own), and a first name.

Much of the plot remains the same aside from minor details, like having a colour-removing drug in the invisibility process causes Griffins (the Invisible Man) to go mad where in the novel he's just bad because he's bad.

On a completely different note, what is rather refreshing watching this movie is that in an age where we are quite figuratively drowning in origin stories, the plot just starts with him already invisible and bitchy.

We are giving the details of how he become invisible in the dialogue but it's so nice not have to go through the whole origin narrative because I think we're all getting origin fatigue at this point.

Remember when people were upset that this was an origin story?
Yeeaaah... the new Marvel reboot will be an origin story. The third once within 15 years or so. 

But what is really interesting about the Invisible Man, for me at least, is just how unrelentingly murderous he is. Especially in regards to the other horror movies made by Universal Pictures at the time. In the Frankenstein movie, the monster only kills one little girl (by accident) and while Dracula definitely is menacing and presumably kills a crew of sailors, his murders are off screen.

However, the Invisible Man is utterly ruthless. He strangles a policeman to death just because he can in the first half of the movie. But it is in the second half of the movie, particularly in the final act when he goes on a killing spree that he truly shows what a monster he is.

He calmly declare that he will begin a reign of terror with "a few murders here and there" but when he goes on the lamb, he goes on a murderous rampage that Dracula could only dream of. He causes the derailment of a train killing hundreds and forces volunteers looking for him off a cliff without a care in the world. A true psychopath.

I know it's hard to believe. He looks like such a reasonable fellow.

Frankenstein is mindless aberration whose mere existence is terrifying but his intentions aren't actually evil. And while Dracula's actions are creepily menacing, he lacks the ambition to really use his dark powers to their full potential, mainly terrorising a single family for some reason.

The Invisible Man however fully intends to use his invisibility to gain dominion over others and commit heinous acts of murder. His ambitions probably exceed the opportunities given to him by being invisible but nevertheless makes the most of it to become one of, if not the, most murderous monsters of his time.

Definitely among the most fabulous and well-dressed.

It's the utter glee and exuberance with which he carries out his evil that truly makes him a psychopath. He deals out pithy one liners and makes grand speeches about the world succumbing to his power, every word tinged with mad-eyed gleam.

It's a fantastic performance by Claude Rains, who endues Griffins with real force and malice that makes the Invisible Man even more terrifying since you can tell how unhinged he is due to the power granted to him.

Oh, to sign off, just a thought. Just remember that whenever he's out strangling people to death with his bare hands or causing the death of hundreds due to public transport, he's completely naked.

His balls could be inches from your face and you would never know.

You would never know.


The Invisible Man Wikipedia page

The Invisible Man (film) Wikipedia page

Hawley Griffin League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Wiki page
Frankenstein Wikipedia page

Friday, 8 May 2015

Who Put the Glad in Gladiator?

Hercules is often considered one of the weaker movies Disney put out in the 1990s and came towards the end of the Disney Renaissance started with The Little Mermaid in 1989 that continued with such classics as Beauty & the Beast and The Lion King. While not seen as terrible or boring, it seemed to be missing that extra bit of magic that most Disney movies had in the early to mid-1990s.

The thing with Hercules is that it's kinda hard to know where to start with it since it isn't a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination and is rather enjoyable but something just doesn't seem to work. Like staring a piece of art for a while before you realise you've hung it upside down, there's just something about Hercules that just seems off.

"Wait... do cities normally do that?" Ellen Page's character, probably.

Actually, that's not fair. It's more that the individual elements of the film don't really come together into a cohesive whole. Or that there are meh elements of the film that detract from the great parts so the film seems less than the sum of its parts.

No, that's not it either. There are things that just feel out of place and don't mesh. That's what it is. Things that just stick out as being odd or raising the question "why?" a lot. I'll get to that in a sec but perhaps I should start with those meh elements before I go onto the stuff that works or doesn't (Hey look, I find a place to start. That wasn't so hard after all).

I guess the first thing is Hercules himself. He's okay, I guess. Nothing wrong with him, he isn't annoying or obnoxious, nor is he a jerk. He is perfectly likable and nice. And that's about it. He's not particularly funny or witty, doesn't crack any wise or supply any of the film's more memorable lines.

"But I can go the distance"

He's just a nice guy. Although he is endearingly naive, nothing really sticks out about him or makes him notable as a character. To be fair, just how nice he is is itself rather interesting, or at least somewhat unique. He is so completely nice and agreeable that it's literally the only thing that is notable about him. Which isn't really something I think can be said of most movie protagonists, so he's got that going for him.

That said, this doesn't mean I don't like the character or think he's character arc is lacking. He still has a character and expresses desires and goals, gets excited and disappointed, hits some dramatic moments and conveys realish emotions effectively. And you do want to follow his hero's journey even if the hero on the journey is just the nice guy next door.

Because that's kinda who this version of Hercules is, the nice guy who's slightly sly but has a good heart and is just so nice, you guys. Like the nicest guy.

"I hope you don't mind but I'm going on this hero's journey and would like you to come along.
But, you know, only if you want to. No pressure either way, whatever you want to do is cool with me."

Moving past the character, the story itself isn't particularly unique. It's a pretty straightforward hero's journey without that many thrills. Especially since the more dramatic elements such as the betrayal by a brother with Hades plotting Zesus' downfall and trying to kill his nephew aren't actually portrayed with any melodrama, there isn't much weight to the story.

I mean, there are a couple of little touches here that differentiate it, such as giving the protagonist a literal reason to become a 'hero'. Most hero's journeys give the protagonist a oblique reason to get going and drive the narrative forward, usually dead parental figures. Think Luke's uncle and aunt being killed in A New Hope, Peter Parker's uncle Ben, Batman's parents, Superman's parents, the letter from Hogwarts to Harry (who has dead parents), and so on.

However, Hercules is expressing trying to become a hero in order to be a god again and get back into Olympus with his family. That is his motivation. Become hero to become a god. Not because he is driven by words of responsibility from his dead uncle or holographic father. He needs to prove himself a true hero to become a god, so that's what he sets out to do.

"Eh, it's as good a reason as any."

But let's move to the things that don't work or at least seem to be an odd choice, like the Muses. Now, I like the Muses, I think they serve as good narrators and their songs are great. By why do they sing gospel music? Who made that call?

Who thought, "Hercules, fantastic classic Greek tale, needs more gospel singing though"? This is the first little touch that just seems a bit off. There's nothing wrong with it per se, and the songs themselves are enjoyable, but the question is why?

And this question continues to pop up throughout the film. Why are there so many pop cultural references? Like everywhere in the film. During the training montage, Hercules rides Pegasus through the stars or something and a constellation of a woman holds her dress down in a very familiar way...

Oh, hi there, Marilyn. Didn't know you were a constellation.
Maybe think about pants though, since having something blow up your dress seems to happen a lot to you.

There's also the scene when they arrive in Phebes and Danny DeVito's character Phil yells "I'm walking here" echoing Dustin Hoffman's famous line from Midnight Cowboy (and I think the first time I ever heard the line).

Now, none of these pop cultural references are really obtrusive or ruin the film but when you watch the film as an adult, they do kinda feel out of place. Like they belong more in an episode of The Simpsons or Family Guy than a Disney animated feature.

I think they were trying to go for the feel of Aladdin in that sense but where the pop cultural references in Aladdin seemed to work since they were tied mostly to Genie (who is magic and possibly a time traveler), there's no such reason for the references here.

Oh, and I can't forget the merchandise. Oh, holy Zeus, the merchandise. Why does Hercules have his own merchandise in the movie about him? Is that supposed to be a comment on the rampant commercialisation of our heroes? That's a pretty neat idea but why in tale based on ancient Greek mythology?

"Rampant commercialism?"

Also, it makes little to no sense. How can they have shoes and bottles made out of plastic and synthetic materials with Hercules logo slapped on them in Ancient Greece? That might sound like I'm thinking about this too much, but it makes no sense in the world of the film, doesn't it?

If they have plastic, while does anyone bother with pottery? Since there is a lot of pottery in the film. I know that it's supposed to be just for a joke... and you know what, I can actually forgive all that just for this short scene with Hades:

That is a brilliant scene. Which brings me to the things in this movie that really work, namely Hades and Meg. James Wood is so delightfully excellent and entertaining as Hades it's incredible. Again this is another point where the film makes you ask "why?". 

Why does Hades talk like a used car salesman at a hundred words per second? When has Hades ever been portrayed in such a way? What suggests that he ever should have been? Absolutely nothing and yet we have been truly blessed Woods decided to go with used car salesman Hades.

He's just so funny and engaging in the role. The only reason every scene he's in wasn't stolen by him is because it was always his to begin with, you just didn't know it yet. You can just tell he is having so much fun with this character and that excitement is infectious. 

"Hey, what can I say? You remove the traditional approach to a character and bada bing bada boom, you're away."

Hades is great and Meg is perfect. She truly is one of Disney's greatest (and most underrated) female characters. Not a princess or girly girl, Meg is her own person. Her whole presence and character is a big comment on previous Disney female characters. Not that I'm knocking earlier Disney princess since there are a lot of great female characters among them despite their limitations.

However, Meg is such a strong and independent character. I know that's a bit rich saying since she is enslaved to Hades because she gave up her soul for a man. But that already differentiates her. How many previous Disney female characters, princess or otherwise, had an existing romantic relationship before the start of the movie? With someone other than the male lead?

I guess Duchess from the Aristocats since she has kittens if we are gonna split hairs, because of course we are, but they never discuss or mention that reality although it must have happened. With Meg, they actively discuss her past romantic relationship and it helped shaped who she is when we see her in the movie. It is an integral part of her backstory.

"It's been a slice." - Actual dialogue

Beyond that, Meg is a confident and no nonsense type of character. She holds her own with any of the male characters and probably has the best lines aside of Hades, cracking the wise while Hercules can only splutter and stutter in reply.

While she may be bound into servitude to a god because of a man, she doesn't let it define her and often actively resists Hades despite the fact he is a literal god. Also, her song (the best song in the movie by quite a large margin) is all about not falling in love due to how much she's been hurt in the past but that she might be willing to for Hercules since he's so nice, you guys.

And to be honest, the lyrics and tone of her song provide the perfect example of why I really like Meg as a character, she is a woman and has a back-story. She isn't a girl or young adult but a full-grown woman with a past experiences that have shaped her into the person she is now. She's been in love in the past and been hurt before which lead her to become rather skeptical and a bit cynical.

Meg being skeptical and cynical.

However, that also explains why she would be drawn to Hercules since he is so sweet and so nice, it makes a change from the jerks in her life and something that would attract her. He's sensitive and when he says he would never t do anything to hurt her she believes him because he is so sweet and sincere.

Meg furthermore takes an active role in the story with her actions effecting the narractive, not serving as trophy for the protagonist or just have things happen to her. She even saves Hercules by pushing him out of harm's way and sacrifices herself for him since, you know, she dies (it's okay Hercules brings her back from the dead - SPOILERS, I guess).

"You had a movie that came out in 1997 spoiled by a blogger on the internet? How terrible that must be for you."

There are other things in the movie that seem a bit off, like the goofy Looney Tunes sound effects that pop up in a couple of scenes or Phil's oddly sexual jokes and slightly misogynistic attitude but maybe that's a satyr thing. And there are other things that are meh like the young Hercules scenes. There are other things that are great too like the unique character designs (especially for the gods) and the fast pace of the animation.

But mostly I wanted to say that Hercules is an odd movie that's great yet somehow less than the sum its parts but one that I love with some of my favourite characters from any Disney movie. And I guess that's more then enough for it to be a true hero or something.


Hercules (1997 film) Wikipedia page

Hades - Loose Canon

Friday, 1 May 2015

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet, More Heroic in Full Colour

I'm gonna talk about Superman because of course I am. The Batman V Superman: Yawn of Justice teaser trailer landed a week or so ago and the time is ripe for me to talk about Superman once again. It's not like I've talked about Superman that often before on this blog...

Well, aside from my first ever post, that one time I argued Nicolas Cage would have given us the greatest Superman movie of all time, or those other times I discussed how Superman and Captain America are similar icons and why it's okay he killed Zod in the movies. Oh, I also wrote about how Wonder Woman is the perfect balance between Superman's light and Batman's dark.

I think my point is that I've written about Superman quite a bit on this blog and often in regards to the same theme: that Superman is a symbol of hope and inspiration, embodying our most noble ideals. I've repeatedly belaboured this point since I don't think people realise just how important having icons that we can aspire to are in terms of the types of stories we tell ourselves and narratives we weave in our culture.

"I don't know how to put this, but I'm kind of a big deal."

When I was younger, I always seemed to be more geared towards more flawed superheroes like Spider-Man and saw more idealistic superheroes like Superman as boring since they were perfect. However, as I've gotten older I've come to truly appreciate icons like Superman and Captain America who are fearlessly good and true.

Whereas Spider-Man and the majority of Marvel's superheroes are characters we relate to and feel we are like, Superman and the majority of DC's superheroes serve as aspirations to what we could be. This isn't an original observation but I think it's an interesting one and also highlights how Zack Snyder has no idea what to do with DC's iconic characters.

"I just don't know if they're dark and gritty enough." - Zack Snyder, definitely.

As many people before me have pointed out before me, notably Patton Oswalt, you can't have different superheroes bouncing off of each other if each character is brooding because then they aren't bouncing off of each so much as they having an angst party with a colour theme of gray-scale and a platter of self-important cake.

What got me thinking about this yet again is that I saw someone do the impossible, make Man of Steel look like a Superman movie. Now, don't get me wrong, despite the many issues I have with the film, there were brief moments where Man of Steel almost got it right and felt like a Superman movie.

The best example of that sense of hope and awe that Superman is supposed to inspire the movie ever got to was when he learns to fly for the first time. It is one of the few legitimately awe-inspiring moments in a film desperately needing such hopeful moments.

That actually feels like Superman. Going beyond what should be possible and inspiring some sense of wonder. Russell Crowe's overwrought and on-the-nose narration aside, it is a great scene and possibly my favourite in the movie.

Superman flying across the sky. Such a simple image yet one that seems to carry more weight and inspires more awe than should be possible. Just the idea that a man in a cape could soar amongst the clouds overhead seems to stir something in the imagination.

Now, what made Man of Steel look Superman-y was a video by VideoLab which restored the natural colour to a film which had been heavily desaturated to the point it looks as though it was shot in gray. It is, in all honesty, a revelation to see what could have been.

That first flight scene I mentioned above would have been truly awe-inspiring with the contrast of Superman's bright red cape streaking across the blue sky, solidifying that simple but powerful image. But even more so than that scene just seeing the bright primary colours of Superman's costume in all their glory is such a pleasant sight.

Superman is a bright and hopeful character. He isn't Batman. He doesn't live in the shadows nor is he morally ambiguous. He lives in the sun and is wholly good. He isn't self-important or angsty. He is self-effacing and optimistic.

I have nothing against gritty superhero movies as long as the source material is gritty. Batman is a gritty character in the comics and works perfectly for gritty movies. Superman is a light character in the comics and works terribly for gritty movies.

Well... that's not a nice thing to say.

That said, they could still have made a gritty Superman movie and that could have worked... if they had made Superman the one beacon of light in that movie. A symbol of hope in a world shrouded in gray and cynicism. That could work since then the character of Superman remains constant and expresses the ideals he should while people can get their gritty fix or whatever.

However, I'd like to move backwards in time to a more simpler and less desaturated era when Superman fought giant dinosaurs and mad scientists on a regular basis, mainly to save Louis Lane since she routinely and recklessly put herself in danger.

I'm talking, of course, about the 1940s animated Superman serials. Did you know you can see all of these 10 minute clips in one single YouTube video? Because you can and it's wonderful.

Every episode follows the exact same structure:

-A mad scientist or antagonist does something evil which will cause destruction to Metropolis
-Louis investigates the story on her own and gets captured or in danger's way
-Clark Kent says, "This looks like a job for Superman" and changes into his costume, flies over to the scene
-Superman beats the bad guy or monster and saves Louis
-Louis writes an article about the incident
-The episode ends with Clark Kent winking at the camera while someone says it's all thanks to Superman.

Essentially, they found a formula that worked and ran with it, and to be honest, due to the short length of the clips and pace of the story, coupled with the fantastic old-timey animation, this formula works really well.

It might be repetitive but that repetition isn't really annoying and I actually think works somehow. Maybe because with such a simple set up, merely changing the details of the scenario is enough for an episode to work. Also, I think the repetitiveness gets a pass since they nail the character of Superman so perfectly.

I mean, they got the pose down and everything.

But more than that they got the ideal of Superman, that he will never stop trying to save the day, no matter the odds or how hard it may be. That he will suffer or struggle through anything in order to protect everyone and will always come flying across the sky to help anyone he can (mostly Louis).

There was a moment in [SPOILER] The Avengers: Age of Ultron where Captain America is faced with saving a city full of people or the rest of the world. So of course, he resolves to save everyone in the city and the world and won't leave until everyone is saved even if it means he would die trying.

Steve Rogers: Perfect human.

That is exactly the type of ideal character that Superman is. Where characters like Batman would consider the possibility of not being able to save everyone (even if only for a moment), Superman would never even entertain that option.

For example, in an episode of the 1940s cartoon, Superman needs to hold two bunches of broken cables in order to create a current that runs through his body to complete the circuit so a giant magnet can repel a comet hurtling towards the city (it's kind of as silly as it sounds). And he holds onto those cables despite the fact they are causing him serious pain since he won't let nothing stop him from saving everyone.


And that is who Superman is. That is what he stands for. He is a symbol of hope, of inspiration.

That's why I don't want to see Batman make Superman bleed in Batman V Superman. I want to see Superman fly up above while Batman scales rooftops before they hang out later in a cafe.


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