Leaked script for JUSTICE LEAGUE

ACT 1, opening scene: BRUCE WAYNE drives up in a classic black car to a black tie event. He opens the passenger door for a leggy model in Little Black Dresses and Zack Snyder makes sure the sky is an appropriately grim shade of black. In the middle of the charity ball, as Bruce is giving a speech, he notices a flash in the sky and makes an excuse to leave.

BATMAN rolls up to an industrial part of Gotham where all is not right. An alien war machine nearly kills him.

Over at Arkham Asylum, LEX LUTHOR won’t tell COMMISSIONER GORDON or BATMAN what he knows about the alien war machines. He simply gloats and says they aren’t ready for the invincible army that’s coming, though he will make popcorn and watch from his prison cell. LUTHOR does reveal the invasion of alien war machines is not being sent by the Purple Man Who Does Not Like To Stand, because that villain only attacks Earths populated by Marvel superheroes.

On the rooftop, WONDER WOMAN arrives to tell BATMAN they can’t fight this war alone, and without SUPERMAN, they won’t last ten minutes, and this movie has another 105 minutes to go, so that won’t do at all. This is war. They need an army.

In a montage, a series of would-be heroes are approached by BRUCE WAYNE and reject his suicide mission.

One exception is a pebble-faced man in a hoodie, who says if they both snagged their other costume, they’d bring a total of four superheroes to this fight. BRUCE WAYNE tells the man, “This is D.C.–we don’t do irony.”

Meanwhile, the alien robot army pauses to consolidate its grip on North Dakota for some reason, instead of taking over the world already.

 

ACT 2

BRUCE WAYNE wears steampunk goggles to brave the cold of GREENLAND, which is not green at all, to get his butt kicked by AQUAMAN in a bar.

AQUAMAN refuses the call to adventure and says this isn’t the proper way of doing things. He’ll wait for his own solo movie before joining any ensemble as a sidekick.

FLASH eagerly joins up because he’s this movie’s dorky version of Peter Parker, nerding out about being allowed to hang with a billionaire playboy with a cave full of armor and technology.

The growing crew finds CYBORG fighting off a gang of alien robot warriors. CYBORG interfaces with a dying alien robot to uncover the truth: they’re scouts for DARKSEID, a villain whose superpower is that you’ve never heard of him.

Alien robot warriors grow bored in North Dakota and descend upon the village bar where AQUAMAN is scowling while he drinks his mead, which spurs him into wearing a costume that, sadly, looks better than the Batsuit we’ve been looking at for three different movies.

 

ACT 3

Wave after wave of CGI alien robots flit through the sky and swarm the ground.

AQUAMAN leaves the fight for some made-up reason so he can sulk before coming back again. CYBORG seems to get taken down by a horde of alien robots and BATMAN gets trapped in a cave, which is as close to ironic as D.C. dares.

Meanwhile, WONDER WOMAN looks amazing in slow-mo as she destroys legions of glowing alien robots, because slow-mo is her motif, if you haven’t seen the trailers for her movie yet. But it’s a losing battle. No daughter of Zeus can single-handedly win this kind of war.

It takes a son of Krypton to help out, so SUPERMAN rises from his real grave, not the fake one in D.C., to fly around in a black suit which also looks better than the weird, short-eared Batsuit we’ve been looking at for three movies.

BATMAN finally escapes the cave and CYBORG reveals that he interfaced with another alien robot to learn the location of their secret server farm, and that they’re not using https yet.

WONDER WOMAN, BATMAN, AQUAMAN, FLASH and CYBORG pile into the Batplane to do battle, but only after BATMAN finally puts on an armored Batsuit that actually looks like it was designed for, I don’t know, fighting. SUPERMAN flies solo, because he’s still getting over being dead.

Even more endless waves of alien robots fly into battle to get smashed into glowing bits until we get a glimpse of DARKSEID, a special giant clump of dark, glowing CGI with an impossibly deep, gravelly voice based on Christian Bale’s growl in THE DARK KNIGHT, and yes, this is daringly ironic for D.C.

DARKSEID throws around the heroes until he gets bored. Nothing they do hurts him.

Finally, SUPERMAN gets tired of puny punches. He picks up DARKSEID and flies him into space, past our sun, past another sun and finally into a black hole, though when he flies back CYBORG reports that this alone won’t kill the villain. DARKSEID is still communicating with his network with a 2400 baud moden. He’ll return, stronger than before.

A bloody BATMAN picks himself off the floor to say, “We’ll be ready.”

You’ll stay to watch the credits. They will be long. At the end, there will be no post-credit scene, making you remember this isn’t a Marvel movie, though the plot of AVENGERS: INFINITY CRISIS I and II will be roughly the same thing–big bad guy leads alien invastion–with the exception that IRON MAN, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA and the Hulk only beat the villain by sacrificing themselves and becoming trapped in another dimension or timeline at the end of the second movie, because their contracts are all up.

 

What Thor was doing during CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

thor during civil war

I like it, I love it, I want some more of it. So why does this short bit with zero special effects work so well?

Let’s take it apart.

Comedy is incredibly hard. Even the pro’s at Saturday Night Live fail more often than succeed. The tough part of a short skit like this is variety.

Saturday Night Live and other skit shows tend to find one joke that does work, then beat it to death, making a five-minute skit feel like five hours.

The other path–multiple jokes that may or may not work–is much harder to pull off.

You won’t know if it works while writing or rehearsing it, and unless you film in front of a live audience, you won’t get feedback until you put that short film out there for the world to embrace or trash.

This bit about Thor works because they don’t rely on a single, repetitive joke. They had the guts to try a ton of different jokes, big or small, and to include little details that reward multiple viewings. Continue reading “What Thor was doing during CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR”

Top 7 ways SUICIDE SQUAD went epically wrong—and could have gone right

suicide squad cast

Marvel and DC have taken comic books for kids and turned them into an unstoppable machine, designed to entertain the masses while making massive profits.

When all the pieces fit together, it’s memorable and magical.

When they don’t, as in SUICIDE SQUAD, everybody notices. (Warning: this is packed full of spoilers.)

It’s like making chocolate chip cookies: Marvel and DC have well-known, well-liked ingredients that people have loved consuming for decades.

Mix it up, put them in the oven and serve them warm and hot. People are going to eat them. It’s not rocket science.

HOWEVER: your average person has eaten a lot of chocolate chip cookies, and seen a ton of these comic-book movies. They’ll know, right away, if Marvel burns the whole batch or DC forgets to add any chocolate chips at all.

Continue reading “Top 7 ways SUICIDE SQUAD went epically wrong—and could have gone right”

Quirky and Fun versus Weird for the Sake of Weird

In my sacred quest to watch Every Decent Thing on Netflix, I’ve seen a lot of quirky movies that make fun of the action and superhero genres.

All good, right?

Well, no.

Let’s watch three trailers, then take apart two movies with huge promise that both fall flat and one film that nails it.

Spoiler Alert: This entire post is one giant spoiler. Sorry. Can’t help it. Palpatine told me, “Do what must be done.”

First up: TURBO KID

Good trailer, right? And it seems like it’s not trash, since critics apparently blessed it.

SUPER

Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page are the best. Come on. This should be amazing.

KUNG FURY

This is a production with no-name actors and virtually no budget. But the trailer looks funny.

Dissecting all three movies

TURBO KID and SUPER both suffer from trying to be two things: they both want to be cartoonish and child-like while subverting the whole comic-book genre with massive amounts of gore, violence, nudity and profanity.

You expect blood, bullets and every one of the FCC’s Seven Dirty Words in an R-rated action movie. No big deal.

These two movies are trying to be two things at once, though. You can be innocent and fun or you can be gritty and gross. Pick one.

The worst B movies splatter you with f-bombs and blood. The best pick their shots.

How you end a movie also kinda sorta matters, if you care about the audience.

TURBO KID jumps the shark in the end when it turns out not only is his sidekick / girlfriend a robot, but so it the bad guy, despite there being no hint of this at all. The bad guy just isn’t believable as an evil machine. I can completely buy a friendly robot that’s programmed and designed to be a companion. I can’t buy a bizarre, twisted villain actually being a robot beneath all that flesh. How did he get to be that way? It doesn’t fly as a last-minute revelation with no setup.

SUPER lost me in the climax when Ellen Page, playing the sidekick, Boltie, gets shot in the face and killed. She was the heart and soul of the movie, the best part. This film felt like a French existentialist number, with the hero killing the bad guys and saving his wife, but not really winning. It’s not a true a tragedy, either.

You can do stories with mixed endings, if you do them right. A hero can get what he wants, then decide he doesn’t want it. A boxer can lose the championship while earning self-respect and a girlfriend named Adrian.

You can do it. But it has to be carefully constructed.

TURBO KID and SUPER both felt weird for the sake of weird.

KUNG FURY is happily retro, cheesy and creative. There’s still swear words and nuttiness, but it remains fun instead of weird or sad.

With TURBO KID and SUPER, there was a mix of cartoonish surrealism and gritty realism, as if the writers and directors couldn’t choose which direction to take. KUNG FURY has the same tone throughout, but it still surprises you again and again.

VERDICT: Go ahead and fast-forward through the boring bits of TURBO KID and SUPER, if you’re curious about either, but skip the stupid endings so you don’t throw things at the screen. Watch all of KUNG FURY.

7 secret ingredients to cook up a Bad Superhero Blockbuster

We live in the Golden Age of comic book movies, with Marvel and DC pumping them out as faster than you can swipe your VISA for $14 tickets to IMAX 3D and $9 bags of popcorn.

Here’s the secret recipe for mediocre superhero movies and its two sequels, each of which will costs at least $250 bazillion to make and $150 gazillion to market, and no, those insanely high numbers are not why you have to pay so much for tickets and kernels of dried corn that have been exploded. That’s a coincidence.

Note: I strongly deny the theory that this post is suggesting movie studios spend more than 1 percent of the budget on the actual story, because diverting that amount of money would eliminate the CGI budget for the skyscraper that explodes and falls down in the middle of the seventh fight scene, the one in that city that sort of looks like Vancouver, B.C. after the villain kidnaps the love interest and has a creepy dinner with her in his lair, but not the explode-y fight scene where the villain crashes the mayor’s birthday party to announce his plans for doomsday.

Secret Ingredient #1: A hero is born, which means Mom and Dad better have life insurance

Sorry, moms and dads of the world: if your son or daughter is destined to put on a mask and cape to fight evil, there’s a price to pay. Which means you’ve got to go.

Superheroes with dead parents are incredibly common, for these good reasons.

Here are those reasons: (a) any villain with a brain in their noggin could simply kidnap mom and dad whenever they wanted something, forcing (b) every movie or comic book starring a superhero with actual parents to spend precious time explaining exactly how mom and dad are hiding and surviving, (c) dead parents are an easy way for writers to give their superhero their motivation to fight crime and evil and (d) how else would you get Superman to fight Batman except by leveraging his human step-mom?

The list of superheroes with dead parents is so long I don’t even have to start, but I will: Batman, Superman (his real parents, not Martha), Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther—you get the picture.

Secret Ingredient #2: Our hero is a total loser

This is a necessary step to the first movie, which tells the hero’s origin story.

You have to show how lame the hero is before he gets his powers. The bigger the contrast, the better the story.

Peter Parker is a nerdy little high school kid who gets bullied.

Steve Rogers is so small and scrawny, they won’t even accept him as a volunteer to fight in World War II.

Tony Stark is a billionaire playboy who invents and sells weapons when he’s not busy trying to poison his liver and catch every STD known to man.

Finally, here’s an example that shows how going halfway doesn’t work AT ALL.

Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) is a billionaire playboy who’s totally not a copy of Batman, and though Arrow’s rich father is dead, his mom is still alive, and living with him (?) and his kid sister (??) in the same mansion, even though he’s a grown man. Yeah, that’s the setup. It is as soap-opera-ish and stinky as you could imagine.

Secret Ingredient #3: Power up

A superhero needs talents and powers, whether they come from (a) a science experiment gone wrong (Spiderman, Hulk), (b) a science experiment gone right (Captain America, Ant Man), (c) years of training and (Black Widow, Falcon, Arrow) or (d) being a playboy billionaire genius who invents his own suit and arsenal of gadgets (Batman, Iron Man and a dozen other copycats not named Arrow).

Then there are weird powers that we do not, cannot and will not accept, like gills to breathe underwater combined with the ability to get whales to act like underwater taxis whenever Batman and his buddies in the Justice League don’t feel like using in the Batsub or Wonder Woman’s invisible plane.

Secret Ingredient #4: An old mentor who eventually MUST DIE

Sorry. It’s a thing.

The same clause in Sean Bean’s contract that requires him to die in every role is included for any actor playing the mentor to our superhero.

This is also necessary, because eventually (a) the screenwriters will write themselves into a corner and need the ultimate motivation for the hero to go beserk or the aging actor playing the mentor will (b) get sick of being a glorified sidekick and do other roles or (c) demand insane amounts of money to be in the sequels.

Before he dies, the mentor needs to be wise, charming, helpful and funny.

This is almost always a male role, whether we’re talking about a hero or heroine. Sorry. That’s how the Bad Superhero Blockbuster rolls.

Our old and grizzled mentor also needs to own many hats, because he’ll be wearing them all: sidekick, martial arts trainer, tech support and father figure.

But his death serves another purpose, because it opens up the way for five different sidekicks to pick up those hats, dust them off and put them on in the sequels.

Secret Ingredient #5: A dash of young love

Didn’t expect this in a movie with capes and explosions, did you? But it always happens.

Captain America had Agent Carter and now her niece.

Iron Man has Pepper Potts when they can afford Gwyneth Paltrow.

Thor has Princess Leia’s mom.

Batman has Rachel, or he did for a while, though I’ve always said it’s a lot like Harry Potter winding up with his best friend’s sister instead of Hermione: wrong, wrong, wrong. Batman should be forever linked to Catwoman, who rocks.

The new Wonder Woman will have Captain Kirk, which is pretty cool. Great actor. Good choice.

Arrow has–actually, I don’t really care about Arrow’s paramour, and don’t even make me think about what Aquaman does on Friday nights.

Back to our recipe: Preferably, this relationship should (a) start as early as possible, maybe even childhood, and (b) it should be a love triangle, with the third person also a friend from childhood.

That third person, ideally, should be our next ingredient.

Secret Ingredient #6: A delicious nemesis

Not a villain.

No, a villain is common and boring.

A nemesis last. He or she endures.

But this takes time. Like fine wine and good whiskey, a nemesis must ferment. Because they start out good before turning sour.

The hero and nemesis were once friends, if not best friends. Maybe they both wanted the same girl, the same achievements, the same powers and status.

A true nemesis is the flip side of the hero, showing what happens if you take the path less travelled.

Or you could take the easy way out and cast an aging Hollywood has-been as the villain, somebody who used to be box office gold. Give them a terrible foreign accent, a little backstory and let them chew up the scenery until the hero punches them into oblivion and locks them inside a chamber that gets flooded with radiation from the superweapon our big baddie intended to use to nuke LA.

Also: a quick, Cheaty McCheatypants way of creating your nemesis is to give him or her the same powers or power source as the hero.

This so lazy and bad, it rarely happens except for Iron Man 1, Iron Man 2, Thor, Man of Steel, Batman Begins, Arrow and fifteen other movies and TV shows I won’t look up right now.

It’s not enough for your villain or nemesis to steal every bar of gold from Fort Knox or crown himself Lord of Canada after unleashing his army of mind-controlled badgers with steel-tipped claws and industrial lasers strapped to their heads.

To be a truly clichéd superhero movie, the villain must threaten to destroy planet Earth, or at least nuke Gotham or Metropolis, which is the same thing for DC movies.

You can blow things up however you like, though nuclear warheads were only used as a plot device in every other Bond movie, spy film and TV show since 1953.

What gives you enough pop to make the third rock from the sun go bye-bye? Here are your choices: (a) an bio-engineered super virus, (b) alien invaders, (c) an army of killer robots / sharks / zombies or (d) manipulating or mind-controlling a hero so the other heroes have to fight them, especially if the hero is somebody unstoppable like Superman.

Secret ingredient #7: Clean up the kitchen and start prepping for sequels

To be a truly Bad Superhero Movie, you must follow the recipe exactly. To the letter.

That means Movie #2 has two villains, two sidekicks and two love interests.

It also costs twice as much. Batman Returns, Spiderman 2 and The Dark Knight all follow this formula.

Movie # 3 has three villains and three sidekicks. The number of love interests is your choice. Spiderman 3 and The Dark Knight Rises are good examples. We’re not even going to talk about the Batman movies starring Val Kilmer and George Clooney. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

The budget for Movie # 3 is also triple the original.

Despite all the big name stars and big budget for explosions, the story is a mess and entire thing collapses under its own weight, with the only hope of bringing it back being a reboot with a new actor and director.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR does the impossible

What’s hard? Ice skating uphill. What’s impossible? Flying to the moon in a Cessna or making people love a character who’s about as inherently lovable as AquaMan, which is saying, not lovable at all.

Batman is easy to love. Captain America, not so much.

Never read his comics. Never liked him.

So more than anything else, I’m impressed with how Marvel has turned Captain America into one of the most likeable and enjoyable characters on screen today.

This is just about impossible. Robert Downey, Jr. is an incredible actor playing a great part. Iron Man is far more fun on paper. I’m pretty sure Chris Evans hasn’t been nominated for Oscars and he’s a pretty good bet to never be seen as a Serious Actor.

Yet he’s perfect as Captain America.

Instead of taking a role that could easily come off as self-righteous, he makes it human.

WINTER SOLDIER was the darkest and deepest Marvel movie, yet it still had humor and joy. And of all the Marvel movies, it had the most developed relationships. They didn’t feel like cardboard characters reciting lines before more things exploded.

More than the fights, I remember moments like Cap doing laps around Falcon in the beginning, and driving with Black Widow in a stolen truck. The whole thing was beautifully done.

With CIVIL WAR, the Russo brothers out-did themselves.

It would’ve been easy for a movie with so many Avengers to fall apart from the weight of all those characters. Everybody got their time on screen, with interweaving setups and payoffs.

And the relationships are the strong point. Any film or TV show can have amazing special effects today. But can you make us care about the characters?

I cared about all of them.

And one of the best moments in this film is a kiss, I kid you not. That’s an achievement.

CIVIL WAR brought up big questions that don’t have easy answers. It was surprising, fascinating and fun.

Fun is the most important part. As a huge fan of the Batman movies, I have to say Marvel beats DC in the fun department. Every single Batman movie (except for the George Clooney disaster) has been dark and grim.

WINTER SOLDIER and CIVIL WAR prove that you can mix dark moments, tough choices and betrayals while still having an incredibly fun movie.

It’s an impressive achievement for what’s really an Avengers movie, since everybody except Thor and Hulk are in this thing. And I liked it better than either of the Avengers films.

Verdict: A+. I’ll buy it on Blu-Ray and would happily watch it again tomorrow.

BATMAN VS SUPERMAN is 10 times better than I expected

After hearing about all the reviews, I expected Batman vs Superman to stink up the joint, to be Gigli with capes and masks, somehow worse that George Clooney’s turn as Bruce Wayne–which would be very hard to top.

Nope.

I enjoyed it far, far more than Avengers 2: James Spader Chews Up the Scenery, But Never Makes You Care.

In fact, it’s better than the last of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, which I saw in the theater and own on Blu-Ray with the rest. Batman Begins is actually the most solid and rewatchable of the Nolan’s films.

The Dark Knight has an amazing beginning, and the first five scenes with Heath Ledger rock, but it gets weird toward the end with the random Wayne employee trying to out Batman and the two ferries that are supposed to blow each other up. Meh.

The acid test for any movie is very simple. Would you pay cash money to see it in the theater again? I’ll go see Batfleck in the theaters at least one more time, then buy it on Blu-Ray.

Gal Gadot rocks as Wonder Woman, setting up that solo movie. Batfleck reportedly wrote a script for the solo Batman film he may direct. Aquaman was, for the first time in history, not entirely lame. And I’m crazy stoked for Suicide Squad, which has the best trailer in the history of trailers that don’t feature wheels.

Batman vs Superman performs a minor miracle: though I love Bats and dislike Supes, it made me feel for Superman during their fight. Believe me, this is just about impossible, and Zack Snyder pulled that off.

So yeah, the movie worked, both as a fun time and as a setup for the whole DC Universe to compete with the Marvel Machine to see who can gather the most dollars from us before the Antarctic Ice Sheet melts.

Verdict: Go see it in the theater with popcorn and such.

Superhero movies: Golden Age or insane glut?

batman-v-superman-poster-ben-affleck

You can’t escape the marketing blitz. Superhero movies have targeted your local multiplex and they WILL. NOT. STOP.

Ever since Hollywood took a risk by turning Tim Burton and Michael Keaton loose on BATMAN, studio execs in Hollywood figured out yes, you can make mountains of money on superhero movies–if you do them right.

Marvel perfected the formula of interlocking movies, and now DC is trying to copy it with BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN leading up to 5.6 bazillion movies with Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Aquaman (what?) and 16 other superheroes only fanboys would know.

Here’s a look at the six comic book films I’m aware of so far. Somebody will point out strays I’ve missed. By the year 2019, every weekend there will be a new Marvel or DC movie opening up, competing with Star Wars and Pixar sequels. All other movies will be relegated to Netflix.

Continue reading “Superhero movies: Golden Age or insane glut?”

Top 6 reasons why Batman must DIE!

Bruce Wayne and the Batman may or may not die in BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT.

(Google that and the volume of fanboy speculation will make your head implode).

But he’ll die soon enough. It’s guaranteed.

So will Superman, Spock, Wolverine, Captain America, Sherlock Holmes and 93 other major fictional characters you know and love.

Why will Batman and other great characters die when Jar Jar Binks is apparently invincible?

Because of reasons.

Let’s get into the guts of why this works while still Bothering you, and the answers will involve dead poets, the suspension of disbelief, the quarterly earnings reports of corporations and The Three Movies = Reboot Rule of Superheroes. Continue reading “Top 6 reasons why Batman must DIE!”

What you need to know before seeing AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

Unless you live in an ice cave, you know that AVENGERS 2 opens on May 1.

When it does open, all your friends will go see it, then ask what you thought about it, and What This Movie Means for the next 10 Marvel movies. Those films will feature Thor, Iron Man, Loki, and 16 other characters, and they will make $18 billion dollars.

Let’s get you educated on the whole Marvel shebang, then talk about why Marvel, against all odds, has taken over movie theaters for the next century.

Before you spend $42 on Imax tickets, 5800 calories worth of popcorn with fake butter drizzled on it and 72 ounces of Diet Coke, watch this video to refresh your knowledge of all things Marvel:

And now I’ll get serious for a moment.

Why have the Marvel movies rocked the box office so hard? Continue reading “What you need to know before seeing AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON”

Many Bothans died to bring us this teaser for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS teaser

Long ago, in a galaxy named after a candy bar for some reason, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced–because the Mouse had bought the entire Star Wars franchise.

Everybody who grew up on the original Star Wars movies felt this pain.

I prepared myself for Disney princesses with cute neon pink lightsabers, then endless straight-to-video sequels and prequels that would make STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE look like THE GODFATHER. (Related: Why new STAR WARS movies by Disney are an achy breaky big mistakey)

However: this was before they announced that JJ Abrams would direct the first new movie.

Also: Disney also owns Marvel now, and Marvel is on an insanely successful roll.

 

All of the Marvel movies since IRON MAN have rocked. I figured the Captain America ones would stink, since it would be easy to make those corny and uber-patriotic, but they nailed both of them. WINTER SOLDIER is darker than dark. Loved it. On the other hand, FOX studios proves you can take a great character and great actor and absolutely blow the thing with two horrible Wolverine movies.

Marvel can’t do wrong. And now JJ Abrams, after rebooting Star Trek into awesomesauce, looks like he’s doing the same thing with Star Wars.

The only way this trailer could look and feel better is if the new Sith uses his wicked lightsaber to make a clean break with the Lucas prequels by slicing Jar-Jar Binks in half.

Was Episode 2 of GOTHAM an epic fail or glorious win?

the many moods of batman

The pilot episode of GOTHAM tried to pack three hours of characters, action and material into one hour, which is more like 42 minutes with all the commercial breaks.

Did I like it? Absolutely.

Was it 10 pounds of plot shoved into a 5-pound bag? Yes. And part of that couldn’t be helped.

However, we now have Episode 2, in capital letters, to reflect upon and answer the question: Can the writers and showrunners keep this thing exciting while slowing it down and giving key characters more screen time?

Here’s the trailer for the pilot, and while this trailer is well done, it doesn’t do justice to how much they tried to pack into it.

And for comparison, before we chat, check out the promo for Episode 2:

So how did they do? Just fine.

In fact, this is one of the rare shows where Episode 2 is better than the pilot.

Why? This time was slower in a good way. They gave villains time to chew the scenery, with the best bits being the slowest scenes.

The second show reminded me of how Quentin the Tarantino ratcheted up the suspense, higher and higher, with the opening scene of INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

And that’s only a taste of that scene. It goes on and on, and you don’t care that nothing seems to be happening, that’s it’s simply two men at a table with a glass of milk, talking. Because there’s crazy tension and conflict there without a single gunshot or explosion. Michael Bay would go deep into withdrawal, right?

But slow can work. Slow burns are often the best burns. Gunfights and making things go boom doesn’t mean anything unless you give it meaning.

BREAKING BAD understood this perfectly. There was no shortage of blood on the floor of that set, yet Vince the Gilligan and his creww always took their time to carefully plant setups and build up that tension before finally paying them off.

One of best examples of Chekhov’s Gun ever comes from a literal gun, an M60, they planted in the trunk of Walter White’s car, not knowing when, why or how that gun would go off later in the last season. Brilliant!

 

Why ARCHER’s arrows are hit and miss

Cast of ARROW tv show

Cast of ARROW tv show

ARCHER — the TV show about a dude with arrows, not the cartoon spoofing James Bond — isn’t horrifically good or amazingly bad, which are the two types of things that are worth discussing and dissecting.

Yet this middling show about a middling superhero is worth taking apart to see the good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s also a good test case, a chance to learn a few lessons from where ARROW works and when it doesn’t. Useful less for anyone who ever wants to write stories, novels, TV shows and movies — or become a masked avenger who lives with his mom.

On the mark: Constant action
There’s no lack of fights, chases and conflict. The opening scenes are often quite good, sometimes starting in the middle of a battle without any boring exposition at all, making you wonder, “Who are those guys Archer is ventilating with green arrows?”

Off the mark: Constant special talks
The fights aren’t bad. The dialogue, though, can kill you.

Every conversation is a special talk that ends in zingers. It’s like the showrunners hired some guy who helped choreograph fights on Jason Statham’s last movie to handle all the fights, then kidnapped the entire writing room of THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS to provide the dialogue.

On the mark: A big bad guy
At least in Season 1, the show avoids the Villain of the Week problem, even when it usually has a different villain of the week, by overlaying the entire thing with a conspiracy headed by a Big Bad Guy who tends to sneak into the bedroom of Arrow’s mom to talk smack about their evil plans.

The big villain also happens to be the billionaire father of Arrow’s best friend, who happens to be sleeping with Arrow’s ex-girlfriend. Also, Arrow’s underaged sister has a thing for the best friend. It’s all rather complicated and weird.

Off the mark: A sea of sidekicks
Read that last paragraph again, because it’s the tip of the iceberg. Arrow does live with his mom in a version of Wayne Manor, and his mom (a) ordered Arrow kidnapped earlier to find out what he knew about (b) having Arrow’s dad killed in the same boat sinking that (c) killed the sister of Arrow’s ex-girlfriend and (d) stranded Arrow on an island for years.

It’s weird enough for any adult character to live with their mom. The show gets even weirder with Arrow’s new step-dad also living there and running his dad’s old company, plus the detective who keeps trying to catch Arrow is his ex-girlfriend’s dad.

So yeah, it’s a hot mess of a soap opera, and when Arrow isn’t fighting, he’s having special talks with EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE CHARACTERS.

On the mark: Island flashbacks
I hate flashbacks. They’re usually lazy, useless bags of exposition. Info dumps.

The scenes on this show about the island are fun, because there’s all kinds of conflict, suffering and growth as a spoiled rich kid tries to survive and eventually learns the skills to become a superhero.

Off the mark: All dialogue is on the nose
This was the second reason I thought the showrunners kidnapped the entire writing room of THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS.

There’s no subtlety to the dialogue, which beats you over the head like a sledgehammer. Everybody says exactly what they mean and they do it in the meanest possible way.

It’s a cornucopia of melodramatic zingers and overwrought angsty nonsense.

The melodramatic dialogue makes the plot veer off all over the place. Characters will throw epic hissy fits, then reverse course in the next episode — or next scene. Archer goes all Bruce Wayne by pretending to be a drunken playboy and telling his ex-girlfriend to stay far, far away from him. Then he shows up at her apartment with a pint of ice cream for them to share while curled up on the couch.

If you fire up Netflix and binge-watch three episodes, Arrow will have a major falling out with his mom, ex-girlfriend, best friend, sidekick, sister and five other people, then make up with all of those people only to piss them off again by the third episode.

Final verdict
Though this is not high art, and middling superhero trash, I like my trash to be as watchable as possible. It’s fun, but could be far better, not by increasing the budget for costumes and sets, but by simply ditching the melodrama and killing off most of the sidekicks.

Special note to showrunners: “More villains! Fewer special talks! Also, don’t have Arrow live with his mom, because that’s creepy for somebody who’s gotta be closer to 30 than 15! Kthxbai.”

Why THE LEGO MOVIE works like magic

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

Movies based on toys, or cartoons from the ’80s designed to sell toys, tend to suck like Electrolux.

THE LEGO MOVIE is a happy exception to this rule. It’s worth talking about how they accomplished that trick.

They didn’t do it with snazzy special effects and big-name actors. Just about every film based on toys has great CGI explosions and big actors who aren’t so big that they won’t cash a giant check: BATTLESHIP had Liam Neeson, TRANSFORMERS had Megan Fox, G.I. JOE movies have had the Rock and Bruce Willis.

What makes this movie about interlocking bricks any different?

Reason Number 1: The Humility to Make Fun of Yourself

You don’t see the other toy movies doing this. They try hard–too hard–to be serious, and real, and only tangentially related to all the toys they want your kids to buy.

THE LEGO MOVIE has the guts to poke fun at itself, not once or twice, but during the entire film. Relentlessly. Brutally. Hilariously.

Reason Number 2: Subverting and Smashing Conventional Storytelling

This is the real secret. THE LEGO MOVIE picks up typical Hollywood structure by the throat and body slams it to the asphalt.

A normal action movie features a cartoon hero (Schwarzenegger or Stallone, Bruce Lee or Bruce Willis) who’s tough and cool in Act 1 and doesn’t change by Act 3. In fact, this hero doesn’t change, suffer or grow in any of the sequels.

Instead, the writers of this movie picked a hero who’s an Everyman that the prophecy says will become great and powerful, and save the world … except he never really gets those powers, and the prophet (Morgan Freeman!) admits in the end that he made it all up. There is no prophecy.

In parallel, the screenwriters take Batman, who stands in for your typical cool/tough hero, and show that he’s actually a hot mess. Is he still tough and capable? Sure. But you see the real man behind the façade, and it’s funny and insightful.

The villain is where the writers truly nail it.

In a typical action movie, there’s a cartoon villain doing evil things for no apparent reason other than he’s a villain and that’s what they do. Then in the finale, the hero kills the villain in a dramatic one-on-one gunfight, swordfight or fistfight.

Not this time.

The villain in the Lego world is President Business, whose secret identity is Lord Business, and his evil plan is to freeze the Legos into position with his super weapon, the Kragle (Krazy Glue) while the hero is the only one who can stop him with the Piece of Resistance (the cap to the Krazy Glue).

The writers make the bold choice to break POV here, to switch over to the real world for the first time, showing a little boy playing with a city of Legos in the basement. It’s a museum that his father set up, with signs everywhere warning against not touching what has been perfectly constructed based on the exact instructions.

These aren’t toys, his father tells him. They’re interconnecting plastic construction modules.

In real life and the Lego world, the hero doesn’t win by killing the villain, who has the upper hand. There’s no miracle comeback by the good guys.

The Lego hero echoes the language of the little boy and convinces Lord Business / Dad in Real Life that he doesn’t have to do this, that he’s the most amazing and talented person, who could build anything, and that it doesn’t have to be this way.

There’s an acid test for any story, when you’re trying to figure out who’s the hero. Sometimes, it’s not obvious.

In this movie, the person who makes the biggest leap is the villain, who gains insight and makes the decision to reverse course and allow his son (and daughter) to play with what had become a Lego museum, a no-fun zone.

A brave and brilliant choice, and to me, that’s what makes the movie different.

Bonus featurette:

A montage set to music: The best movies of 2013

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

Movies are all around us. Kind of like the Force, before George Lucas ruined it with all that claptrap about midichloridians or whatever.

Films live inside your TV, your iPhone, your laptop. They’re sitting on shiny metal disks and even being celebrated in these insanely large and dark stadiums where you pay $12 for popcorn and a Diet Coke that costs 20 cents.

And if you’re anything like me, movies are something magical.

So there’s this professional movie critic, David Ehrlich, a man you’d think only takes joy in ripping apart SMURFS 3: ARE WE THERE YET, PAPA SMURF while praising some black-and-white existential French movie where the hero finally kisses the girl and promptly gets hit by a bus–well, you’d think critics like him wouldn’t create something so joyful and beautiful as this.

Except of course he would. Why does anybody become a movie critic, book reviewer or rock journalist? Because they love nothing more than movies, books and making fun of Axl Rose and Vanilla Ice trying to stage a comeback.

THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2 skips right to three villains, which is nuts

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

So, it’s the second movie in the series that already had three movies in its previous incarnation. Let’s skip the usual insane pattern of having two villains and go straight to three: Electro, the Green Goblin and Rhino. Seriously?

This is getting a smidge ridiculous. Will we see four villains in the third movie and five in the fourth? The original trilogy of Spiderman movies starring Tobey Maguire went like this:

SPIDERMAN: one hero, one villain (Green Goblin, played by Sergeant Elias from PLATOON). Well done.

SPIDERMAN 2: one hero, two villains (Doc Octopus and James Franco, who likes to write novels while going back to college, plays the angry Son of Green Goblin by using all of the acting range of that dude who played Anakin Skywalker).

SPIDERMAN 3: one hero, three villains (Sandman, Venom and grumpy Son of Green Goblin).

THOR also followed this silly formula, with one villain in the first movie (Loki) and two villains in the second (angry pasty space elf plus Loki again).

The first movie that started our current comic-book movie craze, the original Batman directed by Captain Crazypants (love you, man), had one hero (the Batman, by Michael Keaton when he had hairs), one villain (the Joker by that dude from THE SHINING) and Alec Baldwin’s ex-wife No. 2 or whatever as the girl for Batman to kiss.

BATMAN RETURNS had two villains: Danny Devito in a fat suit, munching on raw fish, plus Christopher Walken with crazy hair, while the love interest was Michelle Pfeiffer rocking a catsuit.

BATMAN FOREVER featured Val “Top Gun” Kilmer as Batman, some man from Grays Anatomy as Robin, Jim Carrey going insane in a green bodysuit as Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones trying to camp it up as Two Face–so yes, so technically, this third movie in the series didn’t have three villains, but it’s a hot mess of a reboot directed by Joel Schumacher, so all bets are off.

BATMAN AND ROBIN gave us two sidekicks (Robin again and a Clueless blonde famous for being in Aerosmith videos) plus three villains: Arnold in a neon suit spouting his worst one-liners ever, Uma Thurman wasted as Poison Ivy and Bane as a walk-on. This film was also directed by Joel Schumacher and is an even bigger mess than his first one.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The rebooted and awesome Christian Bale-Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman movies wisely veered away from the Hollywood formula of “For every new movie in a superhero series, pile on more villains and sidekicks until we have to reboot this train wreck.”

BATMAN BEGINS had two villains: Qui-Gon Jinn as Ra’s al Ghul (nobody can pronouce either name, so don’t even try) and Mr. Pretty Face himself, Cillian Murphy, doing an amazing Scarecrow, and yes, he was rumored to be in the running to play Bruce Wayne in the first place. Keanu Reeves would say, “Whoah,” except guess who turned down THE MATRIX to do some other movie? Will Smith. DOUBLE-WHOAH.

THE DARK KNIGHT gave us the two best acting performances for comic book villains ever, with Heath Ledger nailing the Joker and Aaron Eckhart rocking as Two Face.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES could have three villains, if you count the cameo by Scarecrow, but let’s go with two and say Bane plus the sneaky Miranda Tate, daughter of Qui-Gon Jinn, and let’s give credit to Anne Hathaway as the best love interest ever for Batman.

So what can we learn from all this?

Hollywood executives, please pour your energies and not into hiring three different screenwriters for $2 million apiece to rewrite these train wrecks, but focus from the start on a simple truth: the more villains and sidekicks you throw into a script, the less you get out of them.

Why Hollywood is plagued by The Invincible Hero problem

Now that the Avengers have assembled into a giant machine that prints dollar bills, the X-Men are getting rebooted and Batman/Superman are teaming up to create billions more for an entirely different set of studio executives who live across the street from the Marvel folks, there’s something we need to discuss.

Because there’s a common problem with all of these movies–except for Batman, and we’ll get to that.

The Invincible Hero problem.

I’ve seen all three movies involving Thor and his hammer, and yes, the hammer has some crazy Norse name, and even though I’m a Swede nobody knows how to really pronounce the thing. IT’S A HAMMER.

Those movies are fun, and great, but tell me this: how do you hurt Thor, or kill him?

Because I don’t have a clue.

So there’s hundreds of millions of dollars in CGI explosions happening, and Iron Man grabbing Thor to fly him into trees and a cliff and such, but all amazing special effects that cost more than my house and your house and every dollar we’ll ever make in our lifetime, well, they don’t really move me, because I’m never worried about Thor being injured or killed.

You can throw the man around, blow him up, stab him with Loki’s sneaky dagger, punch him with the Hulk, and none of that really matters. The only proven way to hurt Thor is to remove Natalie Portman from the picture.

The first Thor movie was better than the sequel because for a good chunk of it Thor didn’t have his powers. He was just a man who could get hurt, lose a fight or even die, and it was his willingness to sacrifice himself and die that made Odin restore his powers.

See, when a hero is invincible, you don’t worry about them. And when you don’t worry about them, you stop caring about bullets and thugs and whatever else the villain is throwing around.

Superman is the worst offender. When you look at heroes on the screen like Wolverine and Captain America, they don’t seem to get hurt, since both guys regenerate and such. But they’re powers aren’t crazy like the boy from Krypton, who can (a) run faster than a speeding bullet, (b) fly, including going into space without needing to breathe, (c) shoot heat rays from his eyes when they’re not (d) busy taking x-rays of your bones, (e) ice anything with frost breath, (f) move so fast he GOES BACK IN TIME and (g) 17 other powers I don’t have time to list.

When you’re so powerful and invincible that tank shells bounce off your skin (Superman, Hulk) or armored suit (Iron Man), it’s hard to ramp things up without jumping the shark. Should we have Hulk get hit by a comet, or throw Superman into a black hole to see what happens? Also, no barber could cut Superman’s hair or trim his beard, right? He’d look like the lost fourth member of ZZ Top.

Batman is a better, more interesting hero because he’s simply a man. You know his bones can break, that the villain can truly hurt or kill him. It matters.

Hollywood could fix this problem, if it cared to, by setting up in each of these bazillion-dollar stories not just how cool the hero is and what amazing things he or she can do.

Tell us, up front in Act 1, what the hero can’t do. Show us a few weaknesses and how they can get hurt or even killed. Because then in Act 2 and 3, we’ll care a lot more about those CGI explosions and bullets as part of the story instead of eye candy that doesn’t really affect the story.

MAN OF STEEL and the Invincible Hero Problem

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

As a non-fan of the Superman, I can honestly say this: MAN OF STEEL is far, far better than expected.

It’s like Zack Snyder took the only good parts of PROMETHEUS (cool spaceships and outfits!), stuffed it into a blender with INDEPENDENCE DAY (aliens are coming to blow up the planet!) and added with a dash of Wolverine (hairy shirtless tough guy wanders planet, doing random good deeds).

Russell Crowe is surprisingly awesome in MAN OF STEEL. Who knew?
Russell Crowe is surprisingly awesome in MAN OF STEEL. Who knew?

I mean all that in a good way.

HOWEVER: The world doesn’t need another review of Soupman’s latest reboot. What the world needs is a real discussion of a real problem that Superman and other heroes can’t seem to shake.

They’re invincible. And that, friends, is crazy boring.

Iconic heroes made of flesh and blood already have a serious problem, since everybody sitting in the seats, munching on $9 popcorn, knows they’re icons. We know the producers of James Bond movies would never wake up one day and say, “I know — let’s kill off Bond and start some other kind of film, maybe with a 200-year-old sparkling vampire who’s into whiny teeangers.”

Hollywood wants franchises, and you don’t kill off the foundation of billion-dollar juggernauts. Ironman will never die. Batman, Sherlock Holmes, Spock, Kirk (new young Kirk, not Shatner, who they did kill off), Wonder Woman — hey, they’re all safe.

But they’re not invincible. They can and do suffer. They can bleed and die. We know that.

Superman is never really in trouble. Stuff happens to him on screen and you shrug, because hey, that’s Superman.

It’s not the same with Batman, who’s been stabbed, knocked out, set on fire and generally abused. One of the great things about the Dark Knight trilogy is how much Batman really does suffer, sacrifice and grow.

MAN OF STEEL does a good job, and it’s a fun movie. The problem is the character of Superman, who’s a lot like Neo after the end of THE MATRIX, when Keanu Reeves can do anything.

Where do you go from there? Turns out you wander around and get lost for two movies that got progressively worse until something perfect turned into something meh. Which is sad. THE MATRIX was brilliant … right up until Neo went all Superman on us.

Here’s an ironclad rule of storytelling that I’m inventing right now: The villain has to be more powerful than the hero. Always.

Not equally powerful. Not less powerful. The villain has to be superior.

Otherwise, we’re sitting in a dark room watching Chuck Norris swivel around on his cowboy boots as he kicks 59 random henchmen in the face. Does it look pretty? Sure. Is it dramatic and exciting and good story? No. We know Chuck — or Jason Statham, or whoever — is better, and that our hero is gonna win.

When your hero is invincible, like Superman and Neo, the villain can’t be more powerful. It’s impossible.

Think about every Boring Action Movie you’ve ever seen: the villain is less powerful and scary than the hero, which is why he needs an army of thugs to protect him from the big bad scary hero, who starts out the story as an amazing tough guy and ends the story … as an amazing tough guy. Most of the bad Bond movies are like this.

Same thing with every Failed Comic Book Movie, like the lame Hulk films. The Angry Green Thing is basically invincible. Bullets bounce off him. Tank rounds go clang off his green skin. How can you worry about the guy getting in trouble, or having a tough time with a bad guy? This is why comic book movies tend to have hordes of villains. That’s compensating for the weakness of each villain, and it doesn’t work.

Two little movies we all remember reverse this beautifully. The villains in ROCKY and THE KARATE KID seem invincible to us, don’t they? Apollo Creed is the heavyweight champion of the world. He’s crazy strong, insanely fast, in incredible shape and everybody with a functioning brain cell in their noggin would bet the farm on him, not the slow, plodding loser they lined up for a publicity stunt of a fight. Johnny also seems like a teenage nightmare, a giant bully who pummels Daniel-san relentlessly.

Rocky and Daniel-san start out as serious underdogs, and they get their butts kicked in all sorts of ways throughout the movie. It’s only at the very end that they eke out a little moral victory. But we don’t care. That little moral victory is more important to us, the audience, than all the beat-downs administered by the tough guy in your average action movie.

Bigger isn’t better. It’s the distance traveled from the beginning to the end. And when you start out cranking it up all the way to 11, and end at 11, you’re not really taking us anywhere.

Honest trailer: THE AVENGERS

Oh, this is well-done.

I liked THE AVENGERS and THOR, along with CAPTAIN AMERICA and IRON MAN, though I do agree that IRON MAN 2 was smothered in useless sidekick nonsense.

Favorite line: “Witness the excitement … of Iron Man fixing a spaceship for 20 minutes.”

Here’s how that movie should have ended

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

You’ve been there: sitting in a dark theater for two hours, with sticky unknown substances on the soles of your shoes and your wallet $23 lighter, and you’re thinking, “If the director and the seven different screenwriters given credit for this movie had spent FIVE MINUTES on the major plot holes in this stinker, it would’ve been a fine movie.”

All true.

This is why the folks at How It Should Have Ended have jobs.

Here are my favorites, and these are movies that I actually love (except for SPIDERMAN 3).

Big honking bonus: A recurring thing is cutting to Batman and Superman, sitting in a cafe while sipping coffee and talking smack about these movies and each other. I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.

How It Should Have Ended: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

How It Should Have Ended: THE DARK KNIGHT

How It Should Have Ended: THE AVENGERS

How It Should Have Ended: SPIDERMAN 3

Storytelling secrets from a 4-year-old boy pretending to be Batman

writing meme spiderman dear diary

There’s a funny little post on reddit that actually gives us (1) a nice laugh and (2) a great little lesson in writing.

Here’s the story:

At the grocery store he’s running around doing superhero moves with a fierce expression and making kind of a spectacle of himself. A lady says, “Hello, young man, what’s your name?”

In a little kids’ version of a growly voice, he says “I’m Batman.”

The lady laughs. “I mean, what’s your real name?”

Again: “I’m BATMAN!”

“No, what’s your actual real name?”

(long pause)

“Bruce Wayne.”

As a father and a fan of Batman, I love this.

As a writer, I see a story in 66 words. How many words could you kill without hurting the story? Not many.

Everything has a purpose.

If you read this silly blog, you know about setups and payoffs, which are essential tools for writers of all sorts, whether you’re a blogger, a journalist, a speechwriter or a novelist finishing a 242,000-word epic about elves with lightsabers riding dragons. (Sidenote: I keep waiting for somebody to actually write this Jedi elf saga as a parody, or send me a link to the actual books, because THEY MUST EXIST.)

This little story has multiple setups that all pay off with the last line. It’s beautifully done and the laugh comes not just from the surprise, but from all those careful setups.

Bonus Video: little kid instructs adult in proper Batman voice

Bonus Photo: The many moods of Batman

the many moods of batman

Top 5 reasons Batman crushes the nancypants known as Superman

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

Now, I’m not saying that Batman would kick Superman’s keister in a fist-fight. No.

Though there is a hilarious series of posts over on The Correctness where they have Batman, Superman, Wolverine and other super heroes fight to the death, tournament style, each time debating who would win and why. It is amazing. Go read it.

I’m saying something different: that Batman is more far more interesting, cool and entertaining than the man who wears blue and red pajamas.

On to the reasons:

5) Batman movies rule, Superman movies drool

Comic books are a separate shebang, and the comic book nerds dive so deep into the Batman and Superman policy weeds that they Confuse me, because when it comes to the comics, I am a Bear of Little Brain.

Movies are something we all know and love, and it doesn’t take a lifetime of reading back issues of Detective Comics to say that THE DARK KNIGHT is 5,982 times better than all of the various Superman movies combined — plus every Transformer, G.I. Joe and My Little Pony movie ever created. (No, there is not a My Little Pony movie yet. At least I hope not.)

Superman movies are lame. Batman movies are fun.

Yes, there is that one exception, the George Clooney version of Batman with that blonde actress who was in a bunch of Aerosmith videos. Alicia Silverstone? Something like that. I hope she’s got a sitcom or reality show now, and that she burned that Batgirl costume, because her wearing it was an abomination. Even so, I’d rather watch the Clooney movie six times in a row than any random Superman flick.

If we throw out the one semi-decent Superman movie — the first one — and the one bad Batman with Clooney, you’ve got zero great Superman flicks versus a whole pack of good Batmans, a few great ones and three brilliant ones.

No contest. Batman wins.

4) Batman is dark and dangerous while Superman is a self-righteous ninny

We know exactly what Superman will do. He’s Mr. Perfect, completely predictable, completely indestructible and completely boring.

Batman keeps on surprising us. He’s got that one rule, but other than that, hey, watch out. Think that Superman would break a thug’s leg to find out where Joker hid a bomb? No. That would be wrong, boys and girls. Superman will use his X-ray vision to find the bomb. Or he’ll fly really fast to go back in time and prevent the bomb from ever being planted in the first place. Ugh.

3) The outfits, they are not comparable

Sure, early Batman looked little different than a five-year-old in pajamas who used a towel for a cape and put on a mask. Adam West’s costume is hilarious.

Superman’s red-and-blue pajamas, though, haven’t really changed over the years. They started out kinda odd. They’re still kinda odd. There’s nothing cool about them.

Batman’s costume has only gotten better and better. Michael Keaton looked amazing, years ago, and the Christopher Nolan movies turned the Batsuit into a work of art.

2) Alter-egos

Superman’s alter-ego is a bumbling reporter who wears glasses. Otherwise, he’s also a goodie-goodie two shoes just like Superman and nothing to write home about.

Batman’s alter-ego is playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne, who is entertaining all by himself.

Who else has a playboy billionaire alter-ego that’s endlessly entertaining? Tony Stark. Does this work as a movie? Oh yes.

Batman wins again.

1) Super powers get old, while gadgets and skills are always good

Invincible powers, like being bullet-proof and invincible and able to fly so fast you go back in time — those stink, because it’s unfair to the bad guys and unfair to the audience. We know who will win, every time.

Powers are also inherently bad because the average person reading a comic book or watching a movie can’t get (a) bitten by a radioactive spider or (b) decide to be born on a different planet and sent to Earth in some kind of spaceship aimed at a cornfield in Iowa.

Batman doesn’t have super powers. He has gadgets that he designs and makes, plus skills that he earned through hard work, study and sweat.

No matter how hard you try, you couldn’t become Superman, Spiderman, the Hulk or the other 927 super-powered heroes floating around out there.

Batman is achievable, given enough money, motivation and training.

Skills beat super powers every time. Also: girls like guys with skills.

ALSO-ALSO: Batman’s gadgets are so interesting and fun, Daniel Craig is jealous. What’s an exploding pen and a Aston Martin with machine guns compared to the Batsuit and the Batmobile? He’s got the grappling gun to zoom around, the cape with memory cloth to fly around Gotham and seventeen other amazing toys that you and I would love to have.

It’s also more interesting to watch somebody solve crimes and defeat villains using skills and brains rather than super powers that you inherited through no effort of your own. How did Superman prevent that comet from destroying the Earth? Oh, he flew out there and pushed it out of the way. No big deal. Didn’t even break a sweat.

If you’re watching a movie or reading a book, even a comic book, you want to identify with the hero. I don’t identify with Superman, not being an alien from another world with invincible powers.

I can identify with Batman, and every man alive would happily trade their two-car garage for a fully equipped Batcave.

Sidenote: By the way, Batman would wipe the floor with Superman.

BATMAN MAYBE by random funny peoples

music video meme sound of music

CALL ME, MAYBE is a simple little summer pop song, something that’s easy to take apart and mess with.

This is my favorite mashup: BATMAN MAYBE.

They get the actors and costumes right. I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.

Just because I can, here are the lyrics:

I rang your Wayne Manor bell
Your secrets I’ll never tell
But things aren’t going so well
Oh yeah and by the way,

This Harvey Dent day is crap
I know that you took the wrap
Its been eight years and no bat
And so I gotta say

Your dread was holding
Smoke bombs you were throwing
Dark Knight, cape was flowin
What the hell you doing lately!?

Hey, when I met you
It was crazy
A Lamborghini
And two hot ladies

You tried to look like
You were happy
But you were batman
And really angry

Hey, when I met you
You were crazy
You drove a Tumbler
Through Gotham City

And all the orphan boys
Tried to haze me
I know you’re batman
So stop being lazy

They say you’re pissing in jars
You got long nails and weird scars
And that you don’t drive your cars
Oh yeah and by the way

I think this cat lady steals,
She’s doing back flips in heels
Acting like its no big deal
And did I mention bane.

His fame is growing
Weird mask muscles showin’
Almost killed Jim Gordon
What you gonna do about it!?

Hey, When I met you
It was crazy
You drove a Tumbler
In Gotham city

It’s hard to walk right
With a bad knee
Go see a doctor
A leg brace maybe

Hey when I met you,
You were crazy
You used a sky hook
To kidnapp Chinese

This Harvey Dent day
It don’t phaze me
We need the batman
So quit being lazy

Before you were the Dark Knight
Gotham was so bad
It was so bad
I mean like so so bad

Before you were the Dark Knight
Gotham was so bad
Now we miss batman
So just be bat bat-man

It’s hard fight crime
From the east wing
So ride your bat pod
And shoot that gun thing

Hey when I met you,
You were crazy
You drove a Tumbler
Through Gotham City

And all The orphan boys
Tried to haze me
I know you’re batman
So stop being lazy

Before this Bane guy steals your cash
Just shave your mustache
shave off your mustache
Just shave off your mustache

Don’t put on the batman mask
With a mustache
Just shave your mustache
There is no bat-man-stache

 

The Red Pen of Doom dissects every Batman movie IN HISTORY

Here is my take on every Batman movie known to man except for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, because I don’t want to spoil that for folks who haven’t seen it yet.

Fire up the time machine.

BATMAN

Do you remember the hype for this first Batman movie? It was insane.

Just seeing the intro, where the camera zooms around something that looks cool and immense, and turns out to be the bat symbol — it blew our little minds.

Looking back at it, the thing seems incredibly cheesy and low-budget. But still fun.

The fight scenes were the best thing around aside from movies involving (a) Bruce Lee, (b) lightsabers or (c) Bruce Lee wielding a lightsaber.

Jack Nicholson was also on fire.

HOWEVER: Tim Burton did go a little wacky with the mix of time periods, cars, costumes and musical choices. This movie was a combination of cheesy, trippy, awesome and weird.

Grade: B

BATMAN RETURNS

The Michael Keaton sequel followed the iron-clad law of comic-book movies, which says: “The first movie must have the origin story of the hero plus the best villain, then the second movie must have two villains and the third movie THREE FLIPPING VILLAINS, then you reboot the franchise with a cheaper star and cheaper director.”

Bad news: the sequel had Danny DeVito instead of Jack Nicholson, though Danny did a pretty decent job of being creepy and threatening.

Good news: the sequel had much higher production values. Darker, grittier, less Prince-flavored and cotton-candy colored. Dark looks good on Batman.

Best news: Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, which is glorious.

Grade: B+

BATMAN FOREVER 

Now we’re talking: bring on the craziness.

BATMAN FOREVER goes first. I actually didn’t mind Val Kilmer as Batman, or Tom Cruise’s 5th wife as whoever she was supposed to be.

And shockingly, Jim Carrey does a great job as The Riddler while the more honored actor, Tommy Lee Jones, was boring as Two Face.

HOWEVER: The movie is kind of like Lindsey Lohan: a good-looking mess.

I did like the ending, though. The final confrontation with Jim Carrey in tight pajamas, and the choice Batman has to make in saving his friends — good stuff.

Grade: C+

BATMAN AND ROBIN

BATMAN AND ROBIN is where the franchise jumps the shark.

This may be the most expensive mistake George Clooney ever made as an actor. He’s a tremendous actor, one of the best ever, but he’s completely wasted in this film, which is a bit like IRON MAN 2 in that we have 14 subplots involving sidekicks (Robin, Batwoman, Alfred, whoever) along with another 8 subplots involving Uma Thurman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and whoever else was one of the villains in this mess.

Bane is in here as some kind of wrestler thug. Big waste.

So, this is the movie that gives us Batman on ice skates and batsuits with nipples. This movie should be nuked from orbit.

Grade: F

BATMAN BEGINS 

The Christopher Nolan / Christian Bale movies are obviously the best.

This movie is under-rated. Seriously. I just watched it again last night, along with THE DARK KNIGHT, and it’s rock solid.

The beginning is hard core. Bruce in a Chinese prison, his parents getting shot during the mugging, Liam Neeson showing up with a lightsaber and talking about how the Force helps you be a ninja for justice or whatever.

Loved every second, especially when Bruce rejects the League of Shadows and their plan to destroy Gotham for the 14th time, and instead destroys their base. Beautiful.

The middle is great, especially since you get to watch Bruce Wayne tinker and try out new things. He doesn’t just flip a switch and turn into Batman: he evolves into it, painfully, and it doesn’t happen in a Rocky montage set to the music of Prince, Usher, Eminem, Rihanna or Justin Bieber, which is a possibility if you handed the reigns to this franchise back to Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher.

Liam Neeson actually being Ra’s – a great surprise, as was Liam burning down Wayne manor and leaving Bruce for dead, just like what happened to him back at his Jedi ninja lair in the mountains.

The ending is also satisfying. Every payoff has a setup, and things tie together perfectly.

Grade: A+

THE DARK KNIGHT

Now, THE DARK KNIGHT is both more brilliant and more uneven. The beginning scene with the Joker robbing the bank is shocking. Every scene with the Joker is shocking and brilliant, to be honest.

But this film — as genius as it is — is uneven compared to BATMAN BEGINS. The beginning and middle are better than the end, though the closing bit is awesome.

I’m not saying its a bad movie. Love it. I’m saying the beginning and middle are awesome and the end is merely great, and the genius of the whole thing completely overshadows the parts that are a bit talky or slow.

Grade: A+

ELECTRIC AVENUE, as interpreted by the Red Pen of Doom

music video meme sound of music

A classic, and the first video I remember seeing on MTV, and one of my favorites.

Great song. Great video.

As a special bonus, I found the lyrics.

All of them.

And yes, the Red Pen of Doom couldn’t resist taking a shot at interpreting each line.

Boy!

(My friend, who doesn’t need to be named, and is a male, though possibly not a man, and definitely not a boyfriend, but a buddy.)

Boy!

(I say this twice to reinforce my greeting and to use it as a shout, sort of a combination of “Hey!” and “Man!” and “Can you believe this nonsense?”)

Down in the street there is violence

(There are sometimes assaults and murders that I did not commit, or authorize, and this worries me.)

And a lots of work to be done

(I have things to do, people. I don’t always  hang out in my living room singing at the TV or ride my motorcycle around empty streets.)

No place to hang out our washing

(The economy is so bad, and living quarters so cramped, not only do I fail to own a washer and dryer, I don’t even have enough space to hang my clothes out to dry.)

And I can’t blame all on the sun, oh no

(The fact that the weather here is glorious doesn’t cause anyone to be unsuccessful. There are other reasons.)

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