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Martha (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

batman_v_superman_posterI was listening to some recent episodes of Trentus Magnus Jabs Reality where he, Jon Wilson, and Rebecca Johnson took an incredibly thorough look at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  What is important about this three-part episode (available here, but I will say that it’s a total of six hours, so make sure you have the time) is that all three of the hosts genuinely enjoy this movie and spend their time breaking it down to not only praise it, but also give it the nerdy hyper-analysis that I have come to expect and appreciate from pop culture podcasts.

What’s also important to note is that about an hour into the first episode, I turned it off, went to Target, bought the Ultimate Edition blu-ray (as well as my son’s school supplies), and came back home and watched it.  Furthermore, I watched it and I enjoyed it.

Prior to this, I had only seen BvS once, when it was originally released in the theater in March 2016, and my experience had been less than positive.  I had gone to a matinee showing on a Monday and was only one of a handful of people in the theater.  I walked out feeling very frustrated, a much different feeling than the happy, soaring feeling I had after watching Man of Steel in 2013.  While there were moments int he film I thought were genuinely awesome–every single moment involving Wonder Woman, for instance–something felt wrong.  And that’s because the movie had been ruined for me before I even bought my ticket that day.  I’m not talking about spoilers, mind you–I’m talking about how I had gone into the theater convinced that I was supposed to hate the movie.

When Man of Steel came out in 2013, I loved it but was then dismayed to find out that my opinion was relatively unpopular, especially among critics and a number of hardcore Superman fans.  A couple of months later, at San Diego Comic-Con, the sequel was announced at a DC panel and that sequel was revealed to be a Batman/Superman movie.  This was a full two-and-a-half years before the film would actually be released, and I’m pretty sure that DC, Warner Brothers, and Zack Snyder wanted to build on momentum they had from Man of Steel–and possibly take a shot at Marvel, who seemed to be announcing an entire universe’s worth of pictures every hour on the hour.  What the announcement did, however, was create a wind tunnel of complaining on the Internet.  Every bit of news about the movie–from Ben Affleck’s being cast as Batman to the first look at Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman costume to the reveal of the full title of the movie–was met with ridicule and derision.  Every picture became an obnoxious meme.  Every trailer was picked apart as an opportunity for “everyone” to declare it a terrible movie.  As a result, by the time it came out, a million fanboys had made up their minds and went to the theater just to feel smug that they were right about spending the prior two-and-a-half-years declaring it a failure.

Okay, I’m speculating and generalizing for the sake of making my point, so I may not be 100% accurate here, but what I can say accurately is that I went into the theater with all of that pissing and moaning running through my head.  I was, in a word, prejudiced against the film, so I was never going to actually be able to enjoy it.

Now, that makes me sound easily influenced or perhaps even weak, and I’ll cop to that.  But please also consider how powerful (and powerfully toxic) Internet Groupthink can be.  I should have been pumped to see two of my all-time favorite superheroes on a movie screen for the first time.  I should have been pumped to see the DC Universe, which I had more or less been reading about for 25 years, become more fleshed out than it had been in Man of Steel.  I should have been pumped to see Wonder Woman–a character that was long overdue for a movie–on screen.  And with the exception of that last one (I got very excited when Diana joined the Doomsday fight), I wasn’t.  Instead, I started picking the movie apart from the first frame:  why are the titles simple text instead of logo-tastic?  Why do we have to see the murder of the Waynes again didn’t we already see this in 10 other movies? Why is this movie so dark doesn’t Snyder know where the contrast button is?  Why is Lex Luthor acting like a loon instead of someone a little more collected?  Why is Ben Affleck mumbling every line?

After doing that for two-and-a-half hours and only getting excited for the appearance of Wonder Woman (and to a lesser extent everything that teased the Justice League movie), it’s no wonder I left the theater both frustrated and exhausted.

I had avoided buying the movie since it came out on home video.  It was a combination of factors, really–I had other things to spend my money on, I was buying all of the Marvel movies I still didn’t own, and I only buy movies I liked and I am not supposed to like the movie.  Then, to bring this back around to the beginning, I listened to Magnus and his panel, and in the middle of part one said to myself, “I  really should rewatch this.”  $14.99 at Target wasn’t too bad of a price and I put it in while I hung out on a day off.  Then, I finished listening to Magnus.

Listening to them, even if it was only for an hour before I watched the movie again, was a palate cleanser of sorts.  I was able to put it in and take a moment to consider what I hadn’t seen as well as re-evaluate what I had.  Plus, the Ultimate Edition’s additional 30 minutes flesh out the story in ways that serve the film way more than many “uncut” or “extended” versions of movies that are released on home video.  And while I suppose this comes off as my letting someone’s opinion influence me … again …, I feel like what happened was more like I was finally able to watch the movie on my own terms without 30 months of Internet screaming ringing in my head.

I don’t completely agree with every bit of praise they heap upon the movie and I still think that as a film, it is flawed.  For instance, I don’t see all of the subtlety and nuance that they point out in the episode; I think that Affleck’s “public Bruce Wayne” portrayal could have been a little more O’Bannion; I think that there are times where it’s too slavish to Frank Miller; I still think Snyder could use a lesson in how to use the brightness and contrast tools on his screen; and there were a number of musical cues that were TOO! ON! THE! MONEY! FOR! ME!  But I saw, in clearer view, the themes that Snyder was building both overtly and subtly (despite my previous sentence, there is subtlety in the film).  I thought Lex’s character arc was much better than I remember (even if Eisenberg did still annoy me at times).  I saw how Affleck portrayed Bruce/Batman as someone who was becoming so obsessed with holding onto what control he can that he actually was completely losing it.  I saw how on-the-nose Snyder was in criticizing our culture’s way of building up and tearing down its heroes.  I saw Wonder Woman as still being so freaking awesome.

And much more.  But really, in the very least, I can say that I spent three hours generally enjoying Batman v Superman and am now even more curious and perhaps even a little excited about what’s going to happen in Justice League.

 

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 26: 1994 — The Year in Comics, Part One

Episode 26 CoverAs my look at 1994: The Most Important Year of the Nineties continues, it’s time to take a look at the comic books.  Joining me for this endeavor is Michael Bailey of Views from the Longbox (among other podcasts).  In this two-parter, we’re going to talk about the comics industry of the 1990s, what the big releases were in 1994 as well as what our favorite books were that year.

You can download it on iTunes or listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 26

Mecha, Minmei, and a decade-long fight for the future

While I have extensive experience with superhero comic books, my experience with manga is relatively small.  I know that my local Barnes & Noble has a significant amount of shelf space devoted to manga, and that quite a number of my students are often seen walking around with Tokyopop trade paperbacks.  I once flirted with anime a little bit, but going so far as to dive head-first into that particular world of fandom was never something I even attempted.

That being said, I am sure that I’m not alone in my generation by mentioning that as a kid I had exposure to Japanese comics and cartoons through Voltron and Robotech.  I suppose I’ll get around to talking about Voltron some other time, but Robotech seemed to have far greater reach, at least in terms of manga/anime as a whole.  Of course, I think that “true” fans of the genre and the work refer to it (or at least part of it) as Macross, but considering I have spent my life being nothing but mainstream, I’ll just go with Robotech.

My first exposure to Robotech was when  the animated series ran on WPIX 11 every afternoon when I was in elementary school.  It was an enormous show that had more episodes and storylines than I could count, but to be quite honest I wasn’t interested in the plots or character development when I was eight years old.  I just thought it was awesome because the character flew around in planes that transformed into robots that looked exactly like the Autobot named Jetfire (or was it Skyfire?  There was an enormous debate between my friend Evan and myself about this when I was a kid.  Evan, at one point, even claimed that there were two separate toys and he had the other one … but never produced it).  There was a comic book series put out by Comico that retold the television series verbatim (it even had a little “As seen on TV!” box in the middle), which you can probably pick up in a dollar bin somewhere; and a toy line put out by Matchbox which was compatible with G.I. Joe (I had the motorcycle).

However, Robotech was for the most part forgotten after it went off TV and toys were relegated to that “aisle of random and forgotten toys” in Toys R Us.  None of my friends ever really got that into it and so I was kind of alone in my love of the mecha series and gave it up to concentrate on the Joes, movies like Aliens, and baseball. 

Then, when I was in the ninth or tenth grade, a new store called Bassett Book Club opened up next to K-Mart on Sunrise Highway.  The place was huge, several times bigger than the B.Dalton and Waldenbooks I used to frequent at the mall, and the first time my mom took me there, I went straight for the science fiction section to check out their selection of graphic novels and Star Trek books.  After marveling at the fact that the store had the novelization of just about every movie as well as books that I’d only seen listed in my Star Trek Fan Club magazine, the spine of several books with “Robotech” written on the side caught my eye.

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