STAR TREK CAPTAINS: BEST TO WORST
By Jeff Burns
Okay it’s our first list! Who doesn’t like lists? I’ve listed in order my rankings of the Star Trek Captains of the five series (I’m writing this before Discovery comes out). I tried to put a bit of fun into my write-ups and also chose whatever episode first came to mind when thinking of a standout episode for each character. There are obviously many other episodes that could be chosen.
Like with any list, I’m sure some of you will think I have no idea what I’m talking about, and that’s totally cool! The Star Trek franchise is my favorite thing that’s ever been on TV, so I’m very passionate about it. And I know you are too! So I’d love to hear how you would rank the Captains, why a certain one is your favorite, and what are the standout episodes for that character.
One thing I always stress on Super Geeked Up is that it’s great that we have different opinions and different geeky loves. That’s the way it should be. So no matter how you rank the Trek Captains or series or whatever else you’re super-geeky about, I want to hear about it. Thanks for reading!
1. Jean-Luc Picard (The Next Generation)
Picard is everything you want in a Captain. His diplomatic skills are unparalleled, he has empathy for his crew and other races, he’s intelligent and incredibly knowledgeable, he has no problem handling himself in a physical confrontation if it comes to that, and he’s French! Though for some reason speaks with a British accent. He’s also an expert rider (he keeps his own saddle on the Enterprise after all), plays a mean flute, and knows his tea. Perhaps most importantly, he knows how to always keep his uniform perfectly straight! There’s no question why he always had the complete respect and trust of his entire crew. Just don’t ask him if he’s seeking jamaharon without getting to know him first.
Standout Episode: Starship Mine (Die Hard on the Enterprise!)
2. Benjamin Sisko (Deep Space Nine)
Sisko brings more warmth than Picard and is more at ease forming friendships with those under him and being more a man of the people. This warmth is also very well displayed with his relationship with his son Jake and makes Sisko instantly relatable. In fact if you haven’t seen DS9, at least watch “The Visitor” (Season 4 – Episode 3), my favorite Star Trek episode of all time and a Sisko-Jake focused episode. Sisko is the man I’d trust in a battle more than any of the Captains. Having fought in both the Borg conflict and the Dominion War, there is perhaps no one in Starfleet more battle-hardened. However, he doesn’t lose who he is through all of that and even comes to accept his role among the Bajoran Prophets. It’s this role of Emissary and father that makes Sisko much more layered than the other Captains on this list and why I’m such a huge fan of him. And if you want to get in good with him, just buy him a Raktajino and treat him to a baseball game in the holosuite.
Standout Episode: In the Pale Moonlight
3. James. T. Kirk (The Original Series)
If you want a man of action, whether in a fist fight or in the bedroom, Kirk is your man! Of course, Kirk didn’t always leap into action right away (well, unless a beautiful woman was involved). He wasn’t too shabby at working out differences between different alien races and he truly cared about his friends. He also has the best sense of humor of all the Captains and was even good natured about the joke being on him. And if you have to send someone to fight a giant bipedal lizard, there’s no better choice than Kirk. Just keep your pet tribble away from the Captain’s chair.
Standout Episode: Arena
4. Kathryn Janeway (Voyager)
Okay so I know there’s many of you who list Voyager as your favorite series and Janeway as your top Captain. That’s totally cool and I’m glad you enjoyed the series and her character so much. It’s not that Voyager is a bad show. I just never felt it was up to the level of TNG and DS9 and the main reason for that were the characters. Outside of The Doctor and Seven, I could never get into any of the other characters, so it was hard for me to fully invest in the show. Now Voyager did some amazing episodes and Janeway certainly had some great moments. And Kate Mulgrew was a good choice for the role and I had no problem believing her as the Captain (in fact, I want to see many more female Captains in Star Trek, so I’m glad the lead character of the upcoming Discovery is a woman). But I feel they were inconsistent with her character and they never knew for sure who they wanted Janeway to be. That being said, Janeway was never one to back down from any confrontation, had the closest relationship with her First Officer, and perhaps cared more about her crew than any other Captain. And getting her ship and crew across 30,000 light years in seven years in nothing to sneeze at! And the mother-daughter (mentor-mentee) relationship she had with Seven worked well. I just wish they were more consistent with her character and gave her better enemies to deal with earlier on.
Standout Episode: Endgame
5. Jonathan Archer (Enterprise)
So Enterprise is a much-maligned show by many Trek fans. And yeah it wasn’t that great, though it did show some signs of improvement in its final season. And even though I love Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap!), they gave him pretty much the blandest Captain ever to play. Archer just wasn’t very interesting. He knew his way around a Starship (having being intimately involved in the NX program) and could handle himself in a fight. But he was kind of a hothead and it was kind of hard to believe he was really the best choice to be Starfleet’s first starship Captain. It didn’t help that the Xindi were a pretty crappy choice for enemies for him to face off against. Too bad Sam Beckett couldn’t have leaped into Archer’s body and brought some more fun to the role!
Standout Episode: Cold Station 12
By Jeff Burns
I just learned the terrible news that Carrie Fisher passed away. I just finished her new book The Princess Diarist last week and just saw her on The Graham Norton Show being her usual funny self. When it comes to entertainment and pop culture, there is nothing I love more than Star Wars.
So Princess Leia has been a huge part of my life from a very young age. And yes like many others, she was my first crush. Well I'm not sure if that's the right word, but she and Lynda Carter (as Wonder Woman) were the first ones who made me realize that, gee, girls were kinda cool. But much more important than the sex appeal of the slave girl outfit (though yes it's still the sexiest thing ever) was that Leia kicked ass! She took charge, didn't take any shit from anyone, risked her life to protect others, and was still able to be compassionate through all of that. I love that she was always the one to leap into action first. Like in A New Hope grabbing a blaster and blowing a hole in the detention area to escape the stormtroopers. Or in Return of the Jedi when she leaps onto the speeder bike to chase the Biker Scout.
I've also noticed recently the progression and arc Leia goes through in the Original Trilogy and how Carrie Fisher progressed in her portrayal of Leia through the three films and it's pretty cool to see that progression. Yes Leia was probably the woman you wanted to date, but she was also the woman you wanted at your side with a blaster (or thermal detonator), who you wanted to rescue you when things went to hell, and who you wanted to lead and inspire others through example. Bottom line Leia is not just one of the most amazing female characters to grace the screen but one of the greatest characters period.
So thank you Carrie Fisher for bringing her to life and making such an impact on my life. And oh yeah my younger self (and okay my current self too) definitely thanks you for being willing to wear the slave girl outfit :) But much more importantly thank you for bringing to life a kick-ass female character that everyone can look up to! You will be missed.
By Jeff Burns
Hey fellow Flash and Arrow fans! Here are some random thoughts after watching the season premieres of both and on the series in general. If you're not up to date on either show, there are some slight spoilers in this.
The Flash has been my favorite show on TV the past two years. I can't imagine them doing a better job with that show. I am not totally sure if the whole Flashpoint changing timeline thing is going to work this year but I think the Flash writers are pretty much the best in the business right now so I have faith it will be another great season!
Tom Cavanagh is amazing as Harrison Wells, especially Earth 2 badass Wells!
What's not as amazing is The Rival's costume in the Season 3 premiere. It looks kind of like it was just purchased from Wal-Mart. Okay, I'm definitely exaggerating, but i just didn't dig it. And usually the costumes are spot-on and look kick-ass in the series.
TNT has been airing Seasons 1 and 2 of Arrow and I was reminded how damn good those seasons were. Especially Season 2. It's also a reminder that the series hasn't been as good since then. I haven't been down on it as much as a lot of people. I've still been enjoying it and was hoping the Season 5 premiere would be totally kick-ass!
Well the very beginning of the Season 5 premiere was kick-ass! The fight scene was awesome and intense: probably one of the best they've ever done and reflected the new intensity Oliver has. But overall the premiere didn't give me a ton of hope the show will get back to its earlier brilliance. And I'm not super-excited about the idea of bringing in this new ragtag band of heroes to be Oliver's new team but maybe it will work.
The one very good thing about the Season 5 premiere is that Felicity is finally getting back to how she used to be. Felicity used to be my favorite character. She was super-smart, quirky, funny, and her constant unintentional sexual innuendos were hilarious! But in the latter parts of Season 3 and pretty much all of Season 4, they totally destroyed her character. I can't remember the last time there was a character I liked that much that became so unlikeable. So I really hope they continue this trend from the premiere and get Felicity back to being awesome!
What I hope they don't get back to is having Oliver and Felicity together. I've never wanted them to get together and not sure why so may people wanted that relationship. It worked so much better when they were friends and colleagues.
Same with The Flash. I've never been a huge fan of Barry and Iris getting together, though I've come around to it now. Personally, Barry and Patty from last season were perfect. Patty Spivot was my favorite part of The Flash last season. But of course since Barry and Iris are destined to be together, they had to come up with some nonsensical reason for Patty to leave.
I'm glad to see that this season on Arrow so far that Oliver isn't apologizing for everything. He always puts the blame on himself (which is a very heroic thing to do) but last season I felt it got to a point where everyone was shitting on him for everything and he was just taking it. I kind of wanted Oliver to just tell them to fuck off and point out if it wasn't for him, the city would have gone to shit about a million times.
I think the Arrow flashbacks probably should have stopped a couple of seasons ago. For the first two seasons when the flashbacks were on the island, they totally worked. But after that, they just weren't working as well. I'd like to see everything focused on the present now. Based on the timeline, this should be the final year they can do the flashbacks.
Speaking of timelines, since The Flash and Arrow are both Earth 1, wouldn't the changes Barry is making also affect the timeline for Arrow? Well it should but they're pretending it isn't I guess because they obviously don't want to get into all those time travel shenanigans on Arrow. Though I will say I usually love time travel shenanigans!
Okay that's it! The Flash is still my favorite show. And I still dig Arrow, even though it's certainly had some flaws the past couple of seasons. I'll watch just for Stephen Amell's great portrayal of Oliver Queen!
What do you guys think of both shows? Sound off in the comments!
The finale of Person of Interest
By Brett DaSilva
Person of Interest goes out with a bang not a whimper. I am so sorry to see the show go, but I am glad they got to go out on their terms, even if they had to speed up the story a bit to accommodate the short 13-episode season. The finale is titled Return 0. The episode starts off with Michael Emerson’s character, Harold Finch, seemingly suffering from a gunshot wound, talking to The Machine he created. Harold asks The Machine if It had learned anything since he had created it. This conversation should earn, Emerson, and Amy Acker, the new voice of the machine an Emmy nomination. The machine was built to predict acts of terrorism and stop them before they happen. In this episode we get to see what the machine goes through to be able to do this. It first had to understand human behavior. Try taking that on.
The scene turns to show news footage of mass chaos happening as the results of Harold releasing the Ice-9 virus to try and take down the evil AI Samaritan. Unfortunately, it took out the internet quicker than a selfie of Kim Kardashian. There is a lot of action in this episode, but the best moments are the moments with the machine. For the machine to understand life it had to exam death.
There is a lot of time jumping in this episode. The episode is basically telling the events that lead up to the scene of Finch’s conversation with the machine at the opening. Character is what has made the show since it began. There is no loss of it now. Team Machine, consisting of Shaw, Reece, Fusco, and Finch, meet back in their underground subway lair. They agree to split up. Reese and Finch have to go to the Federal Reserve where Samaritan has stored a backup copy of itself, while Shaw and Fusco stay behind in the lair to protect the Machine. Before Reese leaves he tells Fusco not to die. Fusco answers, yeah I love you too. Their relationship is boiled down in that exchange, two men that respect each other, but don’t exactly say it. As I said in a previous column, Person of Interest is full of redemption stories. None have been more fulfilling to see than Fusco’s story, going from being a dirty cop to being a heroic figure.
In the abandoned subway station Samaritans goons start their attack. The machine has a plan and they turn on the power to the subway car that houses the machine and Shaw and Fusco make their escape with the assassin Jeff in tow. This is the same guy that killed Root. While on the subway there is a quiet moment between Shaw and the machine. The machine tells Shaw that Root loved her because she was different and if Shaw was a shape it would be a straight line, like an arrow. This is the first time I have ever seen Shaw get emotional at all in any of the seasons she has been in. It was a very touching scene.
Meanwhile at the Federal Reserve Finch and Reese are able to break in. Harold tells the guard that the fitbit on his wrist is a heart monitor attached to a nuclear bomb. They make their way to Samaritans last hiding place and start uploading the Ice-9 virus to take it out. As Harold starts to upload a Samaritan agent shoots him in the gut. I guess this is why he had the bullet wound in the beginning scene. As Reece is uploading the virus Samaritan makes an escape to a building with a satellite dish on it. The virus has to be uploaded to this dish to take the last vestige of Samaritan out for good. One slight problem. Samaritan has a missile aimed at the top of the building. Whoever uploads the virus will not make it out alive. This is when Finch decides to lock Reese in the vault and sacrifice himself. One of the most heart wrenching scenes in an episode full of them happens as Finch says goodbye to Reese. He tells Reese, “I always knew you would make a great employee, but what I didn’t expect is that you were an even better friend. Then he leaves.
Finch arrives on top of the building. The computer actually takes on the form of Root now, as well as using her voice. It adds an extra weight to her presence. As Finch and the computer are talking, Finch realizes that the machine sent him to the wrong rooftop. This is when he hears Reese come over their coms. He is at the correct building. Reese is the one that is going to be sacrificing himself. He tells Finch that he hired him for a job. As Samaritans agents start attacking the machine starts telling him where to fire, it is a scene made even more poignant as the machine in the form of root puts a hand on Reese’s shoulder as he is getting overwhelmed by the agents. She is not really there, but it is a great scene. The Machine has always watched over them. I think this is a good death for Reese, and one that his life had been leading up to. The virus gets uploaded and Samaritan dies, along with Reese.
Fast forward, we have Finch being reunited with the love of his life Grace, though there may be some awkward conversations, as she has thought him dead for quite some time. We have Shaw finding Jeff the assassin who killed Root and stabbed Fusco and exacting her revenge. We also have Shaw meeting with Fusco and having some closure there. At the very end we have Shaw walking down the street and a phone rings. She answers it hangs up and smiles. The Machine is back online and that is where the show leaves off.
This was a very emotional season. We saw a lot of long time characters die this season. The conversations with The Machine that the characters have in the final episode make the machine one of the central characters of the show. It was also the most human, which seems strange talking about a machine. All in all, this was a great ending for a great show that will be sorely missed.
Would love to hear your comments. You can follow me on Twitter here.
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Person of Interest Episode 100
By Brett DaSilva
The show Person of Interest is in their final season, and a shortened one at that. They were renewed for a 13 episode half season to be able to wrap their story up. Last week they celebrated their 100th episode and frankly, it left me gutted. With a short amount of time to get the show wrapped up, things are happening very quickly. This is doubly true for episode 100-“The Day the World Went Away.”
What had initially started out as a crime procedural, has morphed into an awesome sci-fil show about two rivalling AI’s fighting each other using human agent’s. The two AI’s are separated into the good AI simply called The Machine, and the bad one trying to take over the world is called Samaritan.
One of the main themes I see running through this show is about redemption. Whether it is about John Reese trying to make up for the things that he did while he was in the CIA, or former dirty Detective Lionel Fusco making up for his sins. We also have former villain Root, who actually tried to kill Harold at one time, as well as former organized crime Kingpin, Carl Elias. They all find redemption saving the lives that the machine tells them to, believing in something larger than themselves, as well as saving lives.
Ok, here is where I will put in the spoiler warning, for those who have not seen last week’s episode.
This episode the stakes are raised when Finch’s number is given by the computer. A big distinction to make, especially for this episode, is that the team does not know whether the person is going to be the victim of a crime or the perpetrator when they receive the number. Team machine sees Finch’s number come up and immediately goes into action. Let me state that Finch does indeed have, as the kids say, “Squad Goals” Reese, Root, Shaw, Lionel, and Elias, all move into action to protect him and the machine without a second thought.
The team splits up. Finch is sent into hiding with Elias, while the rest of the team try to go after Samaritan’s operatives. This is a culmination of a lot of seasons work. Elias takes Finch back to where they first met in a dilapidated apartment building. Root and Shaw stay at the safe house to fend off Samaritan operatives and have a really great moment where Root tells Shaw that with being with Team Machine is the only time she ever felt like she has ever fit in. She has come a long way from when she believed that humans were just bad code.
Meanwhile the Machine tracks down Finch and Elias at the apartments due to the gangs located there not fighting. Go figure. They almost make it out when Samaritan operatives appear and shoot Elias in the head. This is the first major death of the episode, but I like to think that this would be the way that he would have wanted to go out. I also think this is the point where Finch starts to lose all hope. Finch is captured and taken to an underground parking garage where he meets the man behind Samaritan Greer. Finch is informed that Samaritan no longer wants to kill Harold, but wants to have him work for it.
As they are moving Finch into the car to take him to his lockup Shaw and Root track them down with some information provided by a person loyal to Elias that saw him killed. They come out guns blazing and rescue Finch. What follows is one of the best action sequences that I have seen on a TV show. To run down all of it would not do it justice.
There are however some takeaways from it, as well as some possible foreshadowing. Root and Shaw have a great moment together where Root saw that real world is essentially a simulation anyway. That people don’t really die. They live on in The Machine. They two get separated where Root takes off with Finch and Shaw holds off the Samaritan Operatives. As the Finch and Root take off, Root tells Finch that she hard coded the machine to remove all of the restrictions that they had put on it, but could only be activated by Finch.
Unfortunately the car with Root and Finch in it gets followed by an SUV with a machine gun turret on it. As they are making their escape Samaritan is directing a sniper to intercept the car. As they turn a corner the sniper fires and kills Root. Harold is captured by police and taken to a prison where he is questioned by a fed. It is there where he learns Root’s fate. He is not even paying attention to the Fed when he looks at the surveillance camera and says “I’m going to kill you, but I need to decide how far I’m willing to go, how many of my own rules I am willing to break. “ this is a message for Samaritan, and it gives you chills. It made me think back to a previous episode where Elias and Finch are talking and Elias tells Finch that he is the scariest person on the whole team. It is always the quiet ones you have to look out for.
It is at this moment when the fed gets called out of the room and the phone rings. Finch answers it. Through the line comes Roots voice. The machine has decided to take her voice to communicate with them instead of the usual text. Finch asks the machine if it can get him out of there. The Machine’s answer. “Of course I can. You created me.” Then the lights go out.
The episode ends with Reese and Fusco showing up at the prison surrounded by cops. The cop in charge tells them that they have hundreds of escaped prisoners due to the power outage. This leaves Reese to question whether Finch’s number came up because he was a victim or because of what he did at the prison.
This was a heart breaking episode. The body count was really high, and some of my favorite characters got killed off. But it was also the end of Root’s redemption story. She gave her life for Harrold and The Machine that was her God for all intents and purposes. We saw the death of Elias, who had lost most of his friends in the last few episodes and died protecting the one that he had left. The characters in this show are so deep and layered, I am not sure what is going to take its place,
By Cody Pestana
When I first heard about the Han Solo standalone movie I was not happy. It was the dumbest Hollywood cash grab in a long time. Ever since… well we’ll get to that. The character is a classic, the performance is iconic and so far the only way to make a bad Star Wars movie is to make it a prequel.
To write, Disney hired Lawrence Kasdan. A good decision but also kind of an obvious one. He is the only person other than Lucas who has ever written Han, he knows what he is doing and he is generally a reliably good writer. But I was still unimpressed, figuring the idea was just so bad that there was no way even he could pull it off.
But then they hired directors specifically Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Lord and Miller are fantastic directors who have yet to make a bad movie. They have a history of turning bad ideas around. Both Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street looked like stupid film ideas on the surface but both are well-liked and successful. And that isn’t even touching The Lego Movie.
I remember hearing about The Lego Movie a year before it came out. I was livid. This was the stupidest franchise idea I had ever seen. A movie about Legos? Seriously? How dumb did they think we were? But of course the movie turned out to be a sublime piece of pop art. And that’s the thing. The Young Han Solo Movie is the dumbest idea I’ve heard since a movie about Legos.
But still, you can’t recast Harrison Ford as Han Solo. It doesn’t matter how good the directors are. You don’t have a Han, you don’t have a movie. I spent a good chunk of time sitting around with my friends trying to think of a single person who could fill the role. We came up empty.
I recently saw Hail, Caesar and was blown away by Alden Enrenreich. He stole scenes out from under experienced actors and he had an odd charm that made me eager to see more. When he was announced as a contender for the roll of Han, I was surprised to find I could picture him playing Han Solo. Luckily they gave him the part.
So here we are with an actor who can fill the role and directors whose entire careers are based on making bad ideas into great movies. I still kind of can’t imagine it being good. But I just keep thinking I felt the same way about The Lego Movie. I think we all did. And look how that turned out.
Cody Pestana is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
being inclusive as a nerd
Lately there has been a lot of nerd on nerd bullying in the news. The release of movies like Batman V Superman and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has brought these feuds to the forefront yet again. If you don't agree with someone else on a fandom you're shouted down. Not to mention the attacks on female nerds that are still going on, especially in the cosplay community. I wrote this on my own blog back in April of 2012. It is still relevant today.
There is a war going on and we don't even know it. How is that for a first line? The war I am talking about it between the nerds and the so called "fake nerds." It is being fought on the interwebs, on message boards, social media sites, and blogs. Since when have nerds complained about having people that are attractive coming into our fold? Why would somebody who is attractive want to face the life of a geek if they did not want to? A lot of my life had I been faced with ridicule and socially awkward situations that come from being a geek, or nerd, or whatever the term is these days. People admit to liking gaming or comics because they like them, not because they think it will make them cool. It is quite the opposite. So to call them posers is ridiculous. What do they have to gain? Being a nerd who has been excluded from most things in their life, we of all people should be the ones saying come on in, the water’s fine. I know we have been hurt, we know the derisive looks that people give us and the patronizing, “Oh you read comic books.” So our first instinct is to want to lash out at the beautiful people, and say “Hey you can’t be a member of our club.” But we need to get over that. We of all people should be accepting of anyone, because we know what it is like to not be accepted by pretty much anyone.
I know a lot of us are socially awkward and have problems having conversations with other people. We would much rather be left alone to read comics or do some gaming. I know for me, years of ridicule and loneliness have gotten me kind of jaded on the whole people thing, and sometimes the old high school insecurities come out when I least want them to, and I am 41. I know what it is like not have many friends. I had one friend through elementary school, through junior high. Before starting high school my parents moved and I started a whole new high school not knowing anyone. I really don’t remember many of the people that I went to high school with. I had more friends when I started working than I ever had at school. But I got through it. I still only have maybe one friend that I hang out with on a regular basis. I am not sure why. Maybe I don’t try hard enough to meet new people. Maybe it is still that feeling that I am not good enough. Anyway the point of this is that I know exclusion, and I have promised myself not to exclude other people, because I would never want them to feel like I did. We of the nerd community need to be accepting of all comers, no matter what they look like or what their geek cred is. Come on in. The water’s fine
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By Cody Pestana
I went into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on opening night expecting to dislike it. I am not a fan of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, and by and large I agree with critical consensus on the quality of films in general. I was already dubious about the film and the mounting bad reviews convinced me that it was a lost cause. I expected to enjoy the moments for the comic fans, and to have fun with my friends, but also to see a poor story badly executed. As the movie progressed I slowly stopped looking for problems and enjoyed the movie more and more. While it was not a perfect film, it was very good. And as a film that consistently swung for the fences, when it succeeded (which was often) it did so in spectacularly epic fashion.
I left the theater confused by the poor reviews from critics and by the negative reactions from some fans. I went home and perused the negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes trying to figure out what I got from the film that others did not. The first thing that I noticed was the fact that there is no consensus on what is wrong with the film. Is Lex Luthor too over the top or is he a highlight of the movie? Is there too much action or too little? There seems to be very little agreement on the actual mechanical problems with the film as a whole. And if everyone is not seeing the same problems then perhaps they were missing the real problem altogether.
The most consistent criticisms were not in fact criticisms, but observations made in a derogatory tone. Reviewers call the film serious and dark, which is an absolutely accurate description of the film’s tone. However, many films have these qualities and they are not all doomed to a life of ill repute for their trouble. In the reviews these comments are often linked to the assertion that the film is boring and plodding. The idea that these traits are interrelated seemed nonsensical to me, but for some reason reviewers seemed to link the film’s seriousness and darkness to boredom. I still felt as though I was missing something.
Looking at the particulars of these comments it seems that the issue is, to a certain extent, tonal. In general, superhero films tend to steer away from some of the more fantastical elements of the comic books upon which they’re based. For instance, Superman’s vulnerability to kryptonite is excessively exploited for dramatic material in films and television, but his weakness to magic has never come up in adaptions despite being a valid part of the comic book canon. The X-Men don’t get involved in alien wars in their movies and until we get Doctor Strange later this year, we have yet to see a spell caster as a superhero.
At this point I started thinking about the term “comic book movie.” In reviews this term doesn’t just mean that the film is an adaption of a comic book, it implies tone and content as well. Movies that are described as such tend to move more in a science fantasy direction. Something like The Avengers, which is the story of a Norse god using an ancient artifact to open a sky portal to facilitate an alien invasion. At the opposite end of the superhero movie spectrum is The Dark Knight, which approaches its story as more of a crime film than hard sci-fi. The Dark Knight is also often described as less “comic booky.” Measured against these two examples, Batman v Superman is very much a “comic book movie”. It has alien monsters, prophetic dreams, and the implication that time travel will crop up later in the series. In a dream sequence we even see Parademons, the foot soldiers of the alien god Darkseid.
The fantastical nature of the film alone in no way explains the film’s unpopularity. After all, Marvel has pushed into the more fantastical aspects of their superhero canon to great success. Thor leans into its fantasy elements and Guardians of Galaxy has more weird aliens than JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. Clearly this is not where the disconnect lies. I think there is another side to superhero films that are labelled as having more of a “comic book vibe”. Films that get this descriptor tend to be tonally lighter and more easily digestible. In essence, a “comic book movie” takes itself less seriously. Going back to the comparison of The Avengers and The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight is more self-serious and moralizing whereas The Avengers is thematically lighter and tonally funnier. This is where Batman v Superman fails. It splits that dichotomy in half. While it is fantastical and bordering on science fantasy, it is also dark, self-serious and moralizing, in some ways perhaps even more so than The Dark Knight.
The most successful modern superhero films all seem to fit neatly into their place within this dichotomy. The Dark Knight Trilogy is on one end. A little closer to fantasy are the X-Men movies, but even these have abandoned their source material’s more overt sci-fi elements in order to focus on a more thoughtful civil rights metaphor. Further in the other direction are the Marvel Studios films with their lighter tone and less preoccupation with human social politics. Even within the Marvel Cinematic Universe this continuum is respected. The films with a more political slant, such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, have all-human casts of characters and do away with their more fantastical elements, whereas the more fantastical films like Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy lack the more relevant themes thus allowing the audience to take them a little less seriously.
Ultimately I suspect that that is what this is about: the more fantastical sci-fi and fantasy elements the film asks the audience to accept, the less willing the audience will be to take the film seriously. This is the unexplained element in the overwhelming poor reviews and in the assertions that the film's darkness and seriousness are negatives. Looking ahead at the unreleased Captain America: Civil War you can see that Marvel, in approaching similar themes of the morality of superheroes, has pushed aside its non-human heroes and villains and even seems to be avoiding the fantastical infinity stone MacGuffins that are such a significant part of that particular cinematic universe. This is all in contrast with actual comic books, which not only tend to be more fantastical than the films, but run a broad tonal range- from light and fun to deeply serious and politically and morally relevant.
This all, of course, harkens back to the misguided notion that comic books are inherently childish and silly, a lowbrow form of literature unworthy of higher themes. Even now as they are at a peak of acceptance in the mainstream, a superhero film that asks the audience to accept a fantasy world of aliens and magic, while simultaneously using that world as a backdrop for an operatic epic about the morality of power is roundly rejected. The film’s flaws are blown out of proportion by confounded reviewers who want to see charming movie stars make quips in brightly colored costumes while they punch aliens. The reviews for Batman v Superman lack consensus and are unsure of themselves because no self-respecting reviewer would admit to themselves that they didn’t like the film because it overturned their expectations and asked more of them in terms of engagement than they were willing to give. But after careful consideration and reading many negative reviews I am convinced that that is the reality of what happened here. Batman v Superman stood as an invitation to expand our idea of what a movie starring superheroes could be allowed to do, but it seems that in the end it was an invitation many were unwilling to accept.
Cody Pestana is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. You can contact him at email@example.com.
Espionage on a Budget
I have said it once, and I will say it again. Web series folks are some of the coolest people around. You would not be reading this column if I had not met Jeff Burns the owner of this here site, and host of the Super Geeked Up web series on Twitter some years back. This past week on We Be Geeks the podcast that I co-host we had the honor of getting to talk to more cool web series creators. This time it was the cast of the web series Get Spy. Episode one of the second season of their web series just dropped last Tuesday. The tag line for the series is “Espionage on a Budget.” With great writing by lead actor and writer David Beatty, and direction and filming by the talented Lorin Davis, the show looks anything but low budget. They also have a great cast with Eric Davis, Chelsea Alden, and Alyson Daniel, as well as others. You will be sure to get a chuckle out of every episode. It is also a great time to hop on with season two just starting.
You can watch here
You can also find out about the series and cast at the site here . The site also has links for the casts Twitter pages as well. Give them a follow. They are very interactive with their fans.
Until next time this is Brett DaSilva signing off.
You can follow me on Twitter here
Comics worth reading for 3-23
Batman #50 comes out this week. In it we see the end of the “Superheavy” storyline and the return of Bruce Wayne to the mantle of the Bat. All of this gearing up for DC’s “Don’t call it a reboot,” Rebirth. Most of the major storylines in the DC comics are coming to an end at issue 50.
Next is Teen Titans #18. I have been a Titans fan since the mid-eighties. It is the comic that started me collecting. The Titans have been through some creative rough patches, but I think writer Greg Pak and penciller Ian Churchill have got them going in the right direction. Also we have Wonder Woman as a guest star.
On the Marvel side we have Star Wars #17. Jason Aaron has been doing a great job on this comic. It takes me back to when I was a kid and seeing the movies for the first time. The storyline takes place between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.
We also have another Comic by Greg Pak in this week. The Totally Awesome Hulk #4. I was not sure how I would like this series with Amadeus Cho taking over for Bruce Banner as The Hulk, but it has been a fun ride so far. Issue #4 does not let up on the action or fun.
Well that should get you started for the week. Let me know what you guys are reading.
Until next time this is Brett DaSilva signing off.
Follow me on Twitter here @geek_happenings
JEFF - I love Star Wars, Star Trek DS9 and TNG, The Flash, Arrow, Equilibrium, anything Christopher Nolan does, The Terminator, Back To The Future, RPGs especially Mass Effect and Dragon Age, martial arts movies, and Bantha Milk!