We Deserve Better, DC Comics

Let’s imagine a world where Christian Bale was still Batman and Zack Snyder stuck within the realm of the Dark Knight universe. I would be happier, you would be happier, hell even Christian Bale would be happier. and we wouldn’t have to endure the two and half hour shitfest that was Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. DC Comics always has been dark when it came to its films, but there was an underlying feeling of hope on the horizon. Unfortunately with Batman v Superman, there is no hope.

Let’s Talk About Characters, Baby

From the opening scene of Batman v Superman, it was clear that this was Batman’s movie, not Superman‘s. That’s great and all, but even from the glimpse into Bruce Wayne’s parents’ death, it was clear that this wasn’t a Batman that would be recognizable to fans. It bothered me how Thomas Wayne attempted to punch the attacker before he made a move because it changed the whole dynamic of Batman’s quest for the underlying good. And boy, did it change it a lot. Don’t get me wrong, how could you cast Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a movie and not have him be a macho man, but that isn’t who Thomas Wayne was. Due to this turn of events, Batman became a superhero everyone feared, not just the guys lurking in the shadows. He used extreme brute force and even seemed to take joy in his excessive cruelness. He stance on justice was that “real men fight for it,” not aliens who come down and play god. While I’m aware that Batman is a vigilante, this was like a step too far into Snyder’s dreamland. I mean, when the people he saves identify him as a “devil,” then we have to know someone went wrong somewhere. Nothing against Ben Affleck, he did fine and it was the best fighting from Batman we have seen to date. I just don’t want him anywhere near the Batman character, plain and simple. (Please Ben, go take your script and get someone else, preferably Bale.)

As for Superman, can this guy be anymore of a wet blanket? He wants the same thing as Batman, and he will be just as pouty to prove it. When he isn’t too busy saving Lois Lane, who was painted as a glorified damsel in distress, he is wondering why people don’t like him. As Martha Kent pointed out in the Comic-Con trailer, “be anything they need you to be or be none of it.” Superman is the ultimate vision of good, but he is also idealistic and it that idea is killed a little bit when he just seems so down and negative about everything. We never see a side of Clark Kent where he isn’t brooding in a corner, complaining about the bat. And maybe that’s the problem, there wasn’t enough of a difference in moodiness between Batman and Superman, and their triumph to friendship felt forced and too quick. Understandably, I guess you have to speed up things when Doomsday starts attacking. But there has to be a way to personify who Superman is as a character. Look at Smallville, they successfully captured the essence of Superman growing up and becoming a hero. Why can’t a major motion picture do the same?

The Golden Age of Television

DC Comics is dominating the television game. With Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl, they are literally setting the stage for comic book stories to be told. The disappointing thing is, Zack Snyder doesn’t want to use the television version of these superheroes because it doesn’t match his “tone.” These series already have a decent size following, and if they incorporated them into their movie multiverse, people would be even more drawn to catching up on what they missed out. Marvel did it with their show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and that show isn’t even as highly reguarded of as any of the holy trinity. People are more interested in characters that they know and trust, and Grant Gustin is that when in character because he fully embodies Flash.

Truly, I feel like DC Comics and Warner Brothers is missing out on a huge opportunity by not incorporating these shows. They are established and well written, and even with the different “tone,” Snyder’s Flash sounds a lot like the television show. Greg Berlanti has brought some much life to DC Comics with these three television series, and I feel like he could do even more if he could incorporate them into the movie multiverse. Part of the reason we are in the second or third Golden Age of Television is because of series like these, and it is a disappointment that they won’t be transferred over to the big screen.

Zack Snyder’s Obsession with Frank Miller

Much of Snyder’s career has been over Frank Miller‘s work, such as 300 and Watchmen. Batman v Superman seems to carry a lot of influences from ThDark Knight Returns, especially Batman’s costume and the ultimate showdown between the two heroes. Unfortunately, that is where the comparisons stop. Kevin Smith said it perfectly when describing Snyder with Batman v Superman, “he read one comic once, and it was Dark Knight Returns, and his favorite part was the last part where Batman and Superman fight.” The thing is, every time Snyder adapts a film for Miller’s source material, it always has a feel like this. He takes what he likes, but he forgets the heart.

Miller is a brilliant writer and there is a reason everyone wants to adapt his stories, but imagine if Snyder had dug deeper for a story in both Batman and Superman’s lore. What if Snyder took from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo‘s current Batman masterpiece to build his Batman? Or John Byrne‘s Superman: Man of Steel to shape the dynamic between Batman and Superman? Ultimately, Snyder had so much material to build off of, but he stuck to his safety belt and relied on watered down renditions of Miller’s stories.

Who Run the World? Girls

If there was one saving grace to Batman v Superman, it is Gal Gadot‘s take on Wonder Woman. Her entrance as the amazonian princess is electrifying. Any minute Gadot was on the screen, I was captivated, which is really unfortunate because she barely had any screen time. You’re biggest take away from this film should be your pure, unadulterated excitement for the Wonder Woman film coming to us in June 2017. While Batman has to dodge Doomsday attacks and Superman is off saving Lois Lane, Wonder Woman is facing him head on. She is the female superhero we have all been waiting for (and who we deserve), and I hope she marks the beginning of more female superheroes being transitioned to film.

Now on to Lois Lane. I want to begin this simply: Amy Adams deserved more from this film, and so did we. Lois Lane is a badass character, and Adams shined when she got to show off that side of Lois. Regrettably, those scenes were usually met with her somehow getting captured and Superman having to come and save her. This happened three times, THREE TIMES. Lois is way smarter than this, she even figured out that Lex Luthor was behind these crimes before anyone else (which, come on Batman is a super detective, and I’m supposed to believe he fell for Luther’s tricks, give me a break). Before she could even have a chance to save the day, they would have her do something out of character and that didn’t make sense, which ended up creating huge amounts of trouble. Still, Lois Lane was central to plot of this film. Even if they didn’t get the time or story they deserved, Adams owned her role and Gadot owned this movie reminding us that girls truly do run the world.

 

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Why I’m Supporting Bernie Sanders

Before we get started, let’s get some preconceived notions out of the way: Yes, I am a young millennial, a recent college graduate and a female. Unfortunately, this formulaic assumption leads to comments like, “Of course you support Bernie, you naive little thing.” But like most millennials, I grew up in a broken system.

This broken system was lead by the Clinton and the Bush family. We grew up watching the system fail before us, 9/11, the housing market crash, bailouts galore and now we are going through one of the biggest racial divides our country has ever seen. Even seeing all of this, we aren’t negative, we’re distrustful. Maybe I am being presumptuous and speaking for a generation who doesn’t feel the way I do, but look at the support gathered around Bernie Sanders.

If you are younger than 55, you tend to lend your helping hand to Bernie Sanders, a self proclaimed democratic socialist who wants to fix a broken system. Based on that alone, we are drawn to his idealistic ways, even though we were skeptical when he first announced his candidacy. Then how did he attract the younger crowds, you might ask? His record, his history, his approval rating in the senate. Unlike many politicians, he isn’t afraid to go out of his way to voice an unpopular opinion because the thing is, it isn’t so unpopular.

Our drive is for a candidate who is open and cares about our voice, the voice of the working class. Take a peak into how politics is being ran right now, the voice of the public rarely turns out real results. And now comes along a senator who stands up to “Big Brother,” and we flock to him. It’s the same reason Republicans are drawn to Trump. The system is rigged, and we want someone who we feel can change it. The only difference between the two lies between “telling it like it is,” and someone who actually listens to the people and wants to make a difference.

Sanders is leading a political revolution, he is funded by the people and has voiced his distrust of the establishment. The same distrust I mentioned earlier, the one that strikes a chord with millennials and turns them against main stream media. We want the American Dream in the sense that we want a government that provides equality for all and cares about the betterment of society and its people. It makes sense why younger generations are attracted to someone who is anti-establishment because we want to restart and build something better, like FDR with the great depression.

And that’s really the meaning of democratic socialism, right? Providing people with the opportunity to succeed without capitalism getting in the way. Big money shouldn’t be in our politics, our medical care or our schools. The graduating class of 2015, my graduating class, will graduate from college with more debt than ever before. We are being set up to fail before we even get into the business world, so Sanders’ message of cutting the bullshit resonates with a lot of us. It is resonating so well, that even Hillary Clinton has started adapting his stump speeches into her own. And this is not to bash HRC, but to show that she recognizes the power Bernie has tapped into.

Millennials biggest concern with Hillary is her indecisive nature. Six months ago, Hillary wasn’t running the campaign she is today. I’ve always struggled with the Clintons’ simply because I remember them growing up, I remember her campaign in 2008 and how she has a very fear heavy tactic of deeming the GOP as our biggest enemy, and clinging to people like Obama and Henry Kissinger. It makes me afraid that she cannot work across the aisle and won’t be able to pass through a lot of the ideas that she is now promising. It makes me afraid that she will say what people like to hear to get elected, but not follow through when it comes time.

To quote The Dark Knight (2008), Bernie Sanders is the hero America deserves, but he is also the hero America needs right now. For those put off by his plans to uproot the political system, research his policies, look through his history and how he has always championed social issues. Maybe this is a “rose-tinted glasses” view of the Sanders’ campaign, but it fits the candidate I choose to support and the idea of what I want the country to become.

 

 

Batman (1989) vs The Dark Knight (2008)

I recently had to write an essay for my film and media studies class about a movie and it’s remake. In honor of my deep and passionate love for Batman I dedicated the paper to his stories in film through the eyes of Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan. I hope you enjoy the paper as much as I enjoyed writing it.

A common man made hero, Batman is a cultural icon taking a stand for true justice in the wake of a city that is built on just the opposite. In Tim Burton’s 1989 version we explore a crime heavy Gotham City that is taken by surprise when local gangster Jack Napier is remade into a beloved criminal better known as The Joker. Throughout this film we watch as Batman and The Joker battle in hopes of revenge while making Batman a symbol of justice. Christopher Nolan tackles a different view in 2008’s The Dark Knight where an unknown villain wreaks havoc through the streets of Gotham leaving them desperate for a hero. The battle throughout this version focuses on Batman, whose moral foundation is eroding away with every fight The Joker throws at him. By using a post-Cold War setting, Tim Burton’s Batman highlights the strength of an immutable symbol, while in contrast Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight explores the breaking point and moral foundation of a man that reflects the moral confusion of the late 2000’s.

In the comics, the evolution of The Joker always center on the time period. Burton and Nolan take that into account when creating a man descending into madness. In Batman The Joker mimics the Soviet Union by having a strong leadership coming to the end of its time as a power player, and yearning for the days where it still had authority. Batman examines this by playing off of his perfect purple suit and orderly makeup to showcase his insecurity. His desperate need to wear makeup shows his longing to appear as his former self. The Joker uses this as his driving force of revenge, targeting both his former crime boss and Batman. Burton heightens this by shooting The Joker from high angles to make him appear more vulnerable despite him being the head of crime in Gotham City. This is seen in a scene featuring The Joker and his henchmen destroying art in the local museum, when they stumble upon a dreary and depressing picture of a man he tells them not to destroy it because he “likes this one”. The painting reflects The Jokers inner turmoil, and how he feels after his transformation.

Nolan plays this out by having The Joker that has no true identity. The Joker’s lack of identity is common in today’s culture; his anarchist views are not driven by motives or reason, but for the thrill of pure chaos. With his lack of story, his disheveled appearance enhances his lack of sanity with a battered purple suit and disorderly costume makeup. The mutinous Joker uses fear to exploit man’s moral foundation in trying times. In The Dark Knight, The Joker is constantly trying to erode Batman’s strength by destroying the things he holds dearest. His true power is exemplified through Nolan’s extreme low shots of The Joker. It is especially exposed when Batman is hurling full speed on a motorcycle, and The Joker shoots at him while constantly repeating, “Hit me”. The extreme low angle emphasizes the mayhem that lurks inside him, while making his scars prominent with dark shadows. The Joker has always been the binary opposition to Batman’s driving forces, giving Batman a reason to fight.

Batman is the face of a neutral good vigilante, but Burton and Nolan add a symptomatic layer to his complex character when exploring the idea of how much Bruce Wayne needs Batman to survive. To highlight his needs for the cape, both directors use Alfred as a resounding voice of reasoning throughout Batman’s encounter with The Joker. Burton uses Batman as a representation of the United States in the post- Cold War period as a sturdy and dominant figure in who people could find safety and protection. In Batman we are offered a limited scope into the life of Bruce Wayne, making it clear that Batman is the object we care about. This is explored when Vicki Vale and Alexander Knox, who are completely enthralled with Batman, wander the Wayne mansion and talk about the joke that is Bruce Wayne. Separating the man and the costume gives off the impression that he is nothing more than a symbol to the people of Gotham City. Furthermore, Batman is tempted several times to kill The Joker, even having The Joker encouraged him to do it while he is flying the Batwing. Ultimately Batman succumbs to revenge and exterminates The Joker which makes Gotham City a safe town. At the end, Batman prevails as a symbol of justice by presenting the town with a call signal to ensure the town feels like they have security at all times. Burton uses Batman as a symbol for justice and safety within Gotham City. He captures Batman in high angles to present the symbol as a superior and dominating character to villains who choose to terrorize Gotham.

Nolan’s interpretation of Batman showcases the struggle of being true to one’s self, despite the overwhelming qualms pushing you in unfamiliar directions. In The Dark Knight we meet a man who desires to retire the cape due to the lure of being able to lead a normal life. Bruce Wayne is so desperate for this he causes the death of a loved one and the demise of a friend. He dons the mask to protect the people and city he loves, but is slowly losing himself and his moral footing. The Joker tries to exploit this by using fear to create chaos, but Batman prevails with his people as they both shun The Joker’s tumultuous ideology. When faced with killing The Joker, Batman denies this opportunity because it would take away his sanctity and moral code. This highlights Bruce Wayne and Batman as more than a symbol– also as a human being. Nolan acknowledges this fact and shoots Bruce Wayne/Batman from high angles to heighten his vulnerability, but switches to low angles to contribute to his sense of strength when he rediscovers the meaning of his quest.

Although Gotham City provides a home to Batman, the atmosphere of the town is bleak and leaves a sense of hopelessness to those who enter it. “Decent people shouldn’t live here, they would be happier somewhere else,” (Nicholson 1989). Although a prosperous town, Gotham City is known for being run by criminals and mobsters. Burton hints at this early on by forecasting Gotham in dark hues and ominous shadows that lurk through the alleys. The townspeople seem devoid of emotion, as most townsfolk are dressed in greys, blacks, and whites, giving them a gloomy appearance. The buildings reflect Burton’s German Expressionism style which is reminiscent of the set of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Nemesis 2010).  This shines through with the architecture, where the buildings appear overstretched and distorted.  The crime that takes place in Gotham City revolves around dirty cops and gangsters; their desperate need to coexist gives Batman a reason to look over and protect this city.  Burton’s portrayal of Gotham City falling apart asserts that Batman is needed in Gotham City.

Nolan carries over some of this same sentiment with his version of Gotham City. We are first introduced with this city through a large aerial overview that paints Gotham City in dark light. Gotham is covered in towering skyscrapers that make it appear thriving, but the looming darkness hints that it is not a happy place. The streets are buried in crime with henchmen and police men working for the dominating mobs who offer them protection and money. They even downplay Batman’s importance by asserting that, “Gotham needs heroes like you, elected officials, not a man who thinks he is above the law” (Rosen 2008). Nolan takes away Batman’s importance by showing how people can protect Gotham without wearing a mask. This complicates Bruce Wayne’s role in Gotham City by showing how the town needs a true hero not a dark knight. Both directors, respectively, make their story of Batman come alive through their unique directing styles that are reflected throughout the films.

Directing is an important part to any movie, but the directing that takes place in these movies help further Batman’s storyline in their respective universes. Burton carried over his darker style when painting Gotham City, but his underlining story of The Joker and Batman further the plot of his dark tale. In Batman The Joker is the only character to wear color, and by having the purple suit reflect against the dark tones in Gotham City it helps intensify the unstable demeanor of his character. The inspiration of Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs helped to create a sinister smile for The Joker that aided his villainous role. While the Joker turns the tables on Gotham City’s style, Batman compliments Gotham City’s style by wearing black when fighting for its people. Burton’s use of non-diegetic music, such as the Batman theme song, highlights the action and heroism throughout the film as it reflects the high points of his character. Burton use of dark lighting reflects how Batman mimics a bat by lurking in the shadows and only comes out when something startles him.

Nolan uses parallel editing and various camera angles to heighten the need of a character in a moment. In Nolan’s establishing shot, he uses parallel editing when introducing two separate sets of criminals robbing a bank. The editing allows the audience to assume these actions are occurring at the same time, and that these characters are working together. Nolan continues this illusion by having quick shots to intensify action scenes. This is especially crucial in the final battle scene between The Joker and Batman where it amps up the thrill by providing moments where Batman’s technology cuts out and right as it comes back on we are met with The Joker scurrying towards him. The camera angles are a crucial part of The Dark Knight because they allow the audience to see the character’s true state in a scene. The best example of this is in the final scene where Batman is shot in a medium, low angle shot as he takes the blame for the damage made to preserve the hero Gotham City wanted. This highlighted the need for Batman in Gotham City because it underlines the idea of a true hero.

Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan created two different images of a hero, but both exemplified Gotham City’s need for Batman. Burton’s portrayal gave us an image of a prevailing symbol that provided audiences with a sense of hope and security. His use of a Post-Cold War era gave an Americanized feel that was supported through complex stories of his character and camera angles to showcase their importance. Nolan’s interpretation gave the audience a glimpse of a struggling hero who was trying to rediscover his meaning. This ideology compliments the moral confusion experienced throughout the late 2000’s due to a failing economy. Both films exemplify the need of a hero while using symptomatic layers to depict their meaning.