Property Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Snyder Cut rights a grave wrong

Sometimes, setting a precedent is a necessary evil.

The theatrical release of Justice League in 2017 was an unmitigated disaster. The plot was all over the place, the editing was unpolished, and it generally didn’t seem ready for release. But, the rumors began of another cut by the original director Zack Snyder. Snyder, who had stepped down for personal reasons, was generally regarded as someone who knew what they were doing when it comes to comic book film adaptations (see Man of Steel, 300 and Watchmen). This cut was much longer but supposedly closer to the original vision of what Justice League should have been.

The Snyder Cut was that and much more.

Putting together a coherent feature, the Snyder Cut is infinitely more watchable than the original cut of the film. Character motivations make more sense, important details are emphasized, and subplots and sometimes even characters are restored. Snyder’s delicate touch and worldbuilding are vital with an ensemble picture such as this, and it shows in the many changes made to correct.

One of those material effects is the origin story of Cyborg. With Snyder’s vision restored and more of the important details of his transition from human to cyborg, Cyborg is more present than he ever hoped to be in the original cut. Actor Ray Fisher is a force to be reckoned with in the film, and through this re-characterization you can immediately see why. Fisher must balance the nature of humanity versus machine after Victor Stone’s accident, and he does so with stunning aplomb.

Also of note, The Flash, as portrayed by Ezra Miller, is also superb with the restoration of his character in Snyder’s version. Miller takes the character from jokester to serious world-saving hero with several amazing scenes, including one that eventually won an Academy Award. Though this is not a review of Warner Bros.’ failures, take note that the scene that won the Oscar was among quite a few that the studio and theatrical director Joss Whedon cut from the original final product.

Snyder’s final cut blows away the original theatrical cut and makes good use of the extended run time. It’s almost as if an ensemble film should be this long and this good on purpose. While we’re not fans of the precedent set in having multiple releases of the same film, the original cut of Justice League was an abomination that necessitated the Snyder version’s release. Trust us when we say the film only has room for one abomination in the form of Darkseid.

Story: 8
Acting: 10
Like the comics?: 9

Total score: 27/30 or 9.0

 

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Property Review: Iron Man

The first coming of Tony Stark is one of the best MCU origin stories

Iron Man
Marvel Studios, 2008

The one that started them all. The metaphorical start of Robert Downey Jr.’s comic book-like redemption arc. The birthplace of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The beginning of the beginning. All of these titles are appropriate for Iron Man, the 2008 origin story of veteran Avenger Tony Stark. Another title to throw in there? Magnificent.

It’s not just the tight story telling or excellent acting chops of the main cast. It’s also seeing Stark make his turn into the Avenger we all know and love. Stark starts out super hedonistic and self-serving. Through his wounding and subsequent capture by the Ten Rings organization, little by little, you see Stark have the needed epiphany that he was, in fact, War Machine, not Iron Man. Half of its fun ride comes from this need to see him come to that realization. The other half is, of course, learning that Stark can apply his genius for good and productive ways while still being the billionaire philanthropic playboy he declares himself to be to Steve Rogers in the later Avengers film.

Where Iron Man particularly succeeds, however, is the parallel Stark shares with perfect portrayer Robert Downey Jr. What most new generation Marvel fans don’t realize is, is when Iron Man was casted, Downey Jr. was not the bankable star that he is now. The man’s past is well known to older fans and caused several — including himself — to pause.

But the single most compelling thing about Downey Jr. is his will to better himself, work every day like most others to redeem himself and grow. That indomitable will shows in every second that Downey Jr. is Tony Stark/Iron Man. He is Iron Man. He is the living embodiment of the character who struggled to redeem himself and be a team player. Downey Jr. is such perfect casting that there is no one else that could ever step into the role. He became the character.

And for all that Iron Man succeeds in doing bombastically, it quietly sets up the rest of the cinematic universe perfectly. Iron Man in its stumbling glory is what we now know as the standard for a Marvel movie. It makes Stark relatable, tells his superhero origin story and sets up future films with a deftness that reminds us that there is, in fact, a plan for all of this. Now that we’ve seen that plan unfold, we can come back and praise the beginning for all that it is. The heart and soul of the MCU lives on.

Like the comics: 8

Acting: 8.5

Story: 8

Total: 24.5/30 or 8

HOW WE GRADE

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Property review: Transformers (2007)

Transformers 2007 main review

Transfomers

Dreamworks Pictures, 2007

Transformers rolls out in uneven debut

Let’s get one thing clear from the beginning: We at GI are not huge fans of the Transformers. Yes, we watched the original cartoon from the 1980s, and yes, we know the difference between an Autobot and a Decepticon. However, we did not revere the creatures who have more than meets the eye going on. Really, the only reason why we even bothered going to see the original film was because a certain former GI editor made demands. So, we indulged. It was not exactly the most fun two hours we’ve suffered through, but it wasn’t a total wash, either.

Transformers takes itself seriously, we’ll give it that. It’s based off of the original cartoon about the warring robots, but it tries hard to downplay its cartoon roots. With Michael Bay as the director, you know what you’re probably going to get: Lots of loud explosions and maybe some exposition that refers to the source material. Or maybe not. In this case, there are references such as Sam Witwicky and most of the Transformers’ names. But there’s this uncomfortable pall cast over everything that signals a struggle to be Transformers yet not be Transformers at the same time. It’s as if Bay wants to use the name to lure in old heads who love the franchise, but he doesn’t want to tread too much in the realm of giant talking robots who take the forms of common everyday objects because just who could believe that? While the premise is a bit much, you can take it because you more than likely took it back in the day when Transformers was still a thing.

Pushing the film along is the extensive use of live-action mixed with CGI. The mix is decent and mostly seamless, and it’s handled well. Usually, CGI and live action do not mix well at all, but this is well done enough that it’s not distracting. The acting is hit or miss, but the humor more than makes up for the stilted nature of the film. And while the acting is a little wooden, the chemistry between Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox is obvious and welcome. It’s more than obvious that these kids got together at some point during the making of the film, so it helps that it comes out in their scenes together.

While it manages to get some things correct, Transformers does miss a few beats. Firstly, it’s a tad too long. It’s nice to have the military realism in the film because you’re going to want to know exactly what the government is doing throughout the film. But the film drags in too many places and that’s one of the them. Secondly, it’s a little hard to figure out and keep up with the different Transformers, especially because while some of them look exactly like their original series counterpart, some do not (i.e. Megatron and Starscream). Though Optimus Prime is voiced by the immeasurable Peter Cullen (again!), it’s hard to follow what’s going on when you’re constantly trying to figure out who’s a Deception and who’s an Autobot. Some of the lesser characters feel a little throwaway. Lastly, it’s a Michael Bay film so some of the logic is missing and you’re tasked with making spurious leaps in logic that assume you watched the original show religiously. Not everyone did, and that’s a terrible assumption to make. And what bothers us the most about that is, parts of the movie deviate from the show and the comics.

While it has its share of problems ranging from too much going on to too much deviation from source material, Transformers isn’t that bad. Just make sure you that you do know the difference between an Autobot and a Decepticon before you sit down to watch.

Casting: 8.5
Writing: 6
Like the comics?: 6
Total: 20.5/30 or 6.8

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Property review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Marvel Studios, 2014

 

Winter Soldier strikes cool balance

There is no such thing as not believing in the magic of superhero films. Marvel has proven that a ridiculous number of times over by this point, and you can’t deny the impact that a good action flick about beautiful people with super powers has over the general buying public. But then there comes along a solid title that takes things a step further in terms of technical details, action, acting and writing. That film manages to open a new path in terms of presentation and overall packaging that makes you, the viewer, believe that anything is possible in terms of the improvement in quality for all comic book-based properties. That film is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Let’s stop for a minute and take stock of the storyline, because this sets up just how well the movie makes its point about being a comic book property. Captain America is living life in the S.H.I.E.L.D way two years after the events of the Avengers. Things are good, he’s doing his job and all seems right in the world though he’s chafing a bit under the S.H.I.E.L.D rule. And then all hell breaks loose. In short order, Nick Fury is shot — apparently fatally — in Steve Rogers’ living room by an unknown assassin, S.H.I.E.L.D seems like it’s out to kill Rogers and he’s on the run while trying to figure out who and what can he trust. That assassin? It turns out this assassin isn’t really unknown but is the Winter Solider, someone that Rogers has encountered many a time before who’s fundamentally opposed to Rogers’ mission to stop the chaos.

There’s so much tight writing and story exposition jam-packed into two hours of Winter Soldier that it’s impossible to accurately describe the synopsis without giving away major plot points. Everything is a major plot point and the pacing at which it’s revealed is perfect. At no point did Winter Soldier give away the fact that it’s a two-hour film centered on political intrigue. At no point did it drag so much that details were lost. It’s the kind of movie that requires multiple viewings just to catch the little things that will be lost on the average moviegoer.

It’s a bad thing that the film doesn’t drag, though, because it’s the movie of the ridiculously good-looking (and great acting) people. Like every movie released in the Marvel cinematic universe, Winter Soldier seems to be casted with and directed by people who were secretly born to play their roles. Even the newcomer — Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon — fits this role so well that it’s as if he were always there, just waiting in the wings to be introduced. The acting is superb and it’s done in such a way that you really get behind the motivation of each individual, forgetting for just a moment that this, indeed, is a comic book come to the big screen.

Winter Soldier probably suffers from only one flaw and that’s the obviousness of the formula. It’s a great formula, and a great problem to have, but it’s pretty obvious by now that Marvel has its ducks in a row and they know how to put together a good crew and storyline for their movies. Winter Soldier slightly seems to fall into that complacency, but it quickly recovers and doesn’t stand for resting on its laurels for long. Just when you think there’s not enough action going on, there’s a distraction in the form of a great set piece or storyline push that remedies the problem. That’s the mark of a good movie.

Even if it is based on a comic book property.

Like the comics: 9

Acting: 9

Plot: 8.5

Overall score: 26.5/30 or 8.8

 

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in the case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of maximum of 10 per category, and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Otaku Corner: Robotech Remastered Vol. 2

Robotech Remastered Vol. 2 continues classic trend

Brandon-2012-cutoutWelcome back to another installment of Otaku Corner. Instead of manga reviews this time, we’re going to the movies to relax with another review of the space anime series Robotech. Robotech is considered by most anime aficionados as one of the great space anime series not only because of its groundbreaking mecha designs, but also because of its universal appeal in presenting various issues in the backdrop of war.

As an anime viewer, I give high praise to series like Robotech that can keep action and comedic elements while presenting mature subject matter to its audience. Robotech Remastered: The Macross Saga, Vol. 2 continues this trend.

When we last left the Earth battleship SDF-1, Rick Hunter, Lisa Hayes and their companions Ben Dixon and Max Sterling were captured by Zentradi forces seeking to obtain knowledge of the energy source known as protoculture. However, they were able to escape back to the SDF-1 and returned to a hero’s welcome, which caused Rick to have feelings for Lynn-Minmei and Lisa that were more than friendship. At this time, the battle fortress was able to land on Earth and was ordered by the United Earth Government to prohibit the civilians of Macross City from leaving the ship.

Robotech Remastered Vol 2-fixed

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

As the battle between aliens and Micronians continued, life aboard the SDF-1 did became more normal with the release of the first martial arts movie filmed on the ship. This begins to bring Rick and Lisa closer, and also catches the eye of Miriya, a Zentradi ace pilot who was reduced to Micronian size to get revenge against Max, who unknowingly defeated her twice. Elsewhere, Lynn-Minmei faces a dilemma of her own when Lynn-Kyle asks for her hand in marriage. Despite being at war, the SDF-1 and its inhabitants still face battles, battles that require different strategies to fight.

Robotech Vol. 2 has kept the mixture of action, comedy and mature subject matter together. You will become emotional when you see Claudia Grant’s and Rick’s simultaneous grief at Roy’s death. At the same time, a funny moment comes when the three Zentradi spies Bron, Rico and Konda travel back to the Zentradi fleet and reveal various smuggled objects such as a refrigerator and become street vendors sharing and trading their loot with other Zentradi soldiers.

There is plenty of action with the SDF-1, and the Veritech fighters mix it up with Zentradi ships in a way that will make viewers feel as if they have front-row seats in an intergalactic dog fight. The voice acting is top-notch since Robotech has launched the careers of voiceactors such as Tony Oliver, Barbra Goodson, Richard Epcar, Robert Axelrod and Dan Green to name a few. Overall, Robotech Vol. 2 is a great way to spend a lazy weekend, rain or shine, with a classic anime that will never get old.

Robotech is a masterpiece. I say this despite other great anime space series such as Gundam that are more well-known; Robotech is in a class by itself with a good mix that does not dumb down its audience. Producer Carl Macek left the world with a classic series that continues to be relevant and will remain for years to come. I encourage you, fellow otaku, to pick up this series.

Brandon Beatty is editor-at-large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at brandonb@gaminginsurrection.com

Property review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

 X-Men: Days of Future Past

20th Century Fox, 2014

 

 X-cellent return to form

Set aside any preconceived notions you may have had at the announcement of a new X-Men film. We’ll wait because we know just how hard that may be to do. Now that it’s out of the way, let’s get down to business.

X-Men Days of Future Past is phenomenal.

Everything that went wrong with The Last Stand (editor’s note: See 2Q2014’s property review) has been corrected. See, the acting wasn’t the problem; it was the storyline and the execution. Days of Future Past manages to take the bleak problems of its predecessor and turn them into bright spots, ironically, because Days of Future Past is a bleak and dark turn of events for the merry band of mutants.

Days of Future Past, while different from the Animated Series and the comic book original, is a solid adventure for the X-Men. The story posits that a single assassination is the linchpin that leads to the extinction of mutants by the Sentinels, aggressive mutant-hunting robots of the future. By stopping the assassination of Dr. Boliviar Trask, the X-Men will prevent the genocidal Sentinels from ever coming into being and, more importantly, prevent the slaughter of millions of humans and mutants, alike. To do this, they send Wolverine back into time to the point of divergence and hope that he can convince estranged friends Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr to work together for the common good once more.

The story takes some twists and turns, but by the end, you realize that this is a story of redemption and broken dreams healed. That’s not just for the characters, but also for the movie franchise. Let’s face it: Last Stand was horrible and a desecration of all that stands in the X-Men universe. Days of Future Past gets everything right and then some, starting with the re-emergence of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Next comes the healing of story butchering. Events that take place in Last Stand (no spoilers!) are erased throughout the film, but in particular the last five minutes of Days of Future Past quickly place a stake through the heart of Last Stand. Finally, comes the attention to detail, which is a major component of any comic book adaptation. Sure, Days of Future Past takes some liberties with the source material, but we’ll allow it if it means the story will flow better. Here, it does and the changes make sense. There’s no half-baked change for the sake of change.

Something else that Days of Future Past manages to accomplish is a sense of clarity. A time-traveling tale can be confusing with the lack of the right amount of distinguishing features to differentiate between eras. However, the film has a stunning amount of clarity, which makes everything obvious as to which time period is at the forefront. We had no trouble understanding the chain of events of the film — despite a lot of jumping between 1973 and 2023 — and additionally, the powers of all mutants involved were correct and instantly clear. That’s what happens when there is an obvious and immense level of detail paid to the source material, something Last Stand sorely lacked. And, unlike its predecessor, we had few gripes. We would have liked to have seen more Quicksilver and more of the newer mutants who joined the cause. Also, a little elaboration on the answer to the question of how the Sentinels evolved to the future state would have been nice, considering that original version’s answer of Mastermold was left out of the film entirely. However, those are small quibbles and a small price to pay for such a large love letter/apologetic note to fans.

Days of Future Past serves a multipronged purpose: pacify the veteran X-Men film fans; fix the problems of Last Stand; continue the story of the uncanny mutants through the First Class cast; continue the reboot of the film franchise; and serve as the swan song of the original trilogy’s cast. Days of Future Past manages to complete its tasks and usher in a new era of prosperity and promise for one of the most recognizable comic book franchises ever. Days of Future Past is an x-cellent return to form.

 

Like the comics: 7

Casting: 10

Plot: 10

Overall score: 27 out of 30 or 9

 

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in the case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of maximum of 10 per category, and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Strip Talk #19: Sometimes it’s OK to reserve judgment

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineBefore we even get started, let’s not even question my TMNT legitimacy, OK? I am what you would call a superfan. Check my credentials: I have most of the 1987 cartoon seasons on DVD, have had the theme song of said show memorized since the beginning of 1988, had loads of merchandise and wrote a freaking play about Leonardo falling in love with April. Oh, and that 2011 GI issue devoted to TMNT? My idea. So, when I render a verdict on this new contraption that Michael Bay has dared introduce, you can best believe I do know what I am talking about. Except … that’s just it: I haven’t rendered a verdict and I’m not going to. At least, not just yet.

Yes, I’ve seen the epic original trailer (and I use that term loosely here), and no, I don’t have much to say about the overall film. The trailer is just that: a trailer. You can’t just go around supposing anything from a trailer. From what I saw, it’s supposed to be a retelling of the origin story of the four turtles and their first meeting with Ms. O’Neil. Beyond that, I’m not really expecting much other than the rumbling that I’ve heard over the hills that the Turtles are supposed to be aliens this time around. Not so fast there, Bay. That isn’t canon and that one change? Yep, you guessed it: The fanbase isn’t buying it. At all.

There comes a time, though, when everyone needs to step back and keep a clear head about things. This is one of those magical times. Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the boys in green, even agreed with that righteous statement from Bay. Keep in mind, however, that Eastman isn’t even directly involved with the rights to the Turtles anymore and has only recently gotten back into the Turtle game. So take it for what it’s worth. Meanwhile, other co-creator Peter Laird is telling anyone who’ll listen that the concept is being watered down and probably will hurt the standing of the franchise. My reaction: As if the third movie, subsequent 80 million series after the 1987 cartoon and rampant merchandising didn’t already do that? I mean, let’s not forget that at the height of the series’ popularity, you could find the Green Machine on everything from bookmarks to toilet paper practically. So, what’s another movie to potentially push the franchise again to a newer generation of kids that don’t know the black-and-white history of the Turtles?

I’m no Bay defender or apologist but all of the knee-jerk reactions to the trailer need to descend right back down to the sewers whence the third movie came from.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Property review: X-Men: The Last Stand

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

X-Men: The Last Stand
20th Century Fox/Marvel Entertainment, 2006

 

X-cruciatingly bad x-ecution

 

We get that the X-Men film properties reside in a different universe than the comic book version. And we have no problems suspending disbelief when asked. But we will never sit idly by and watch a film take so many liberties with source material that entire comic book arcs are destroyed in one fell swoop.

So it begins with X-Men: The Last Stand, the third in the trilogy of films centered on our favorite mutants of Marvel fame. Last Stand was riding high on the fumes of X2: X-Men United, and rightfully so since X2 did a pretty decent job telling the tale of (the previously reviewed) God Loves, Man Kills and starting the Phoenix Saga. And that’s when things take an ominous turn. We should have known something was up when Bryan Singer didn’t return to the director’s chair. We really should have known something was up when Last Stand’s synopsis came calling. While X2 did a passable job with sort of mixing arcs together, Last Stand attempted to mesh Dark Phoenix Saga and the Gifted arc with little-to-no success. The film, while technically sound and well-paced, is riddled with errors and unnecessary changes that detract from the overall viewing experience.

To explain just what we find fault with in Last Stand, let’s start from the beginning. And bear with the spoilers here; they’re integral to explaining everything wrong with the film and are a great example of why Last Stand should have never been made. If you don’t want it spoiled — though you should have seen it by now — stop reading here.

First, Cyclops was never killed by Jean Grey, either as the Phoenix or Dark Phoenix, at any point in their history together. The Phoenix entity made sure that Jean was kept alive and healed so that she could reunite with Cyclops at some point. The Phoenix understood and knew that Cyclops was important to Jean. So, killing him made no sense.

Second, Phoenix would have never and never, ever killed Professor X. Charles Xavier was a mentor to Jean and was one of the few people on Earth that the woman trusted. She wouldn’t have killed him. Also, Wolverine was angry with Xavier about erecting the psychic blocks in Jean’s mind, but Cyclops was actually the person who had that particular scripted conversation with Xavier.

Third, Beast was a member of the team for many years and didn’t just return during the Phoenix Saga. He was there the entire time.

Fourth, while we’re on the subject of team members’ appearances in the film, we should point out a long-standing issue we’ve had with the X-Men films: Rogue and Iceman were NEVER a couple. Likewise, Kitty Pride and Iceman didn’t flirt with each other. Kitty was actually interested in Colossus — which was outright ignored in the film — and Iceman was a frequent makeup/break up paramour of Lorna Dane (Polaris). The made-up romance triangle with de-aged characters is an insult.

Fifth, Juggernaut is not a mutant. If the writers had bothered to do some research, they would have come across Cain Marko’s origin story that stated in detail that Juggernaut is a mystical avatar given his powers by the Gem of Cyttorak. He was an ordinary man mystically transformed by the Gem. Thus, when Leech’s powers activated near him at the end, he should have been completely unaffected. And, Juggernaut should have immediately recognized Magneto by this point and Magneto should have known who Juggernaut is — stepbrother of Charles Xavier. No aspect of that important relationship was ever mentioned.

Sixth, Dark Phoenix never joined the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She didn’t need to. She was, however, manipulated into joining the Hellfire Club, which was also conveniently glossed over by X-Men: First Class (see the real origin for Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost).

Seventh, Rogue never took the cure. She was interested in it, but never took it. That’s something that’s touched upon in the Animated Series episode of The Cure (first airing, Feb. 20, 1993). Also, her given name is Anna Marie, not just Marie. See this quarter’s Marvel Character Highlight.

Eighth, Psylocke was present in the movie, but if you blinked, you missed her. She is killed at the end along with several other characters. She also is not a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Callisto (the leader of the Morlocks in the comics) isn’t either, and neither is Jamie Madrox aka Multiple Man.

Ninth, Jean does not have split personality as the Phoenix. She IS the Phoenix. The entity that is the Phoenix is part of her, not some different side to her. Basically, the Phoenix possesses her and bonds with her. It doesn’t just show up randomly. In the comics, the real Jean was sealed under Jamaica Bay while the Phoenix manifested her in reality.

Finally, Wolverine doesn’t kill Jean during the Dark Phoenix Saga. He was completely in love with her. Given that several of his love interests over the years have died, there was no way that he would have killed her then. He does kill her in New X-Men, but Dark Phoenix Saga that is not. Also, Sabertooth is not present, which doesn’t make any sense, either.

That’s just barely touching on what’s wrong with the film. It gets so many little things wrong with the “loose” adaptations that you have to wonder what exactly did it get right. One of the few things that does go right for the film is the casting. The lead characters are still perfectly casted, and the choice of Kelsey Grammar as Beast/Hank McCoy is one of the best castings we’ve ever seen. He was the perfect and only choice for that role. However, there’s still no fan-favorite Gambit — which would have solved the Rogue/Iceman problem — and there’s still way too much emphasis put on Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is comfortable as well he should be since he’s the perfect Wolverine. But a little less emphasis on him and little more on the story might have helped. Alas, James Marsden was wasted in the film and the character of Cyclops paid the price. That’s a shame, really, because Cyclops is supposed to be a centerpiece in the Dark Phoenix portion, not Wolverine.

Last Stand isn’t a good movie, in the sense of being an X-Men film and in the sense of being an adaptation telling a story of the X-Men. It seems Marvel has trouble whenever it gets to three (see last quarter’s review of Spider-Man 3), and that’s a problem when you’re telling two of the biggest arcs of your most famous group of not-so-ordinary folks.

 

Like the comics: 1

Casting: 7

Plot: 2

Overall score: 10 out of 30 or 3

 

How we grade

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in the case of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory, and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

Top 5 on The Strip: Batman films

Dark Knight

The Dark Knight (2008): Visually, this wasn’t much to look at, but the acting is what takes center stage. Heath Ledger stole the show right from under Christian Bale, and Aaron Eckhart is no joke as Harvey Dent/Two Face. Everything about it screams serious and dark, which is fitting.

 

Batman 1989

Batman (1989): As the first in the movie franchise, Batman set the course for the first two films and showed why the Dark Knight is a force to be reckoned with. Yeah, so people complained about Michael Keaton. He more than shows that he was a more-than-competent Batman. Also, Jack Nicholson’s malevolent Joker was a scene-stealer, which shouldn’t be hard to do as the Clown Prince of Crime.

 

Dark Knight Rises

Dark Knight Rises (2012): The finale in the second Batman trilogy of films is well-worth the price of going to the movies these days. Anne Hathaway was a serviceable Catwoman and Tom Hardy was perfect as Bane. Christian Bale was still good, and we even could get with the plot despite never having read the Bane-particular parts of the comic. Engaging is the right word for the final Batman with Christopher Nolan at the helm.

 

Batman Forever

Batman Forever (1995): Sure, it’s cartoony and could use some cheesiness grated out of it, but the one turn of Val Kilmer in the tights actually isn’t that bad. It’s obvious that he didn’t really want to be Batman, but the atmosphere is interesting and the visual style is a welcome change from Tim Burton’s previous efforts. Jim Carrey was perfect for the role of the Riddler, too.

 

Batman Returns

Batman Returns (1992): We’ve thrown around the term “Too Many Villains Syndrome” a lot in The Strip, and Returns is the progenitor of that affliction. However, Burton’s dark gritty style is all over this, and it makes a great deal of difference between a marginal effort and something that shines despite its problems. And, Michelle Pfeiffer is hot as Catwoman.

Property review: Spider-Man 3

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Spider-Man 3

Columbia Pictures, 2007

Webcrawler stumbles a third time

Let’s get something straight from the beginning: Tobey Maguire, in no way, failed the Spider-Man franchise. There’s plenty of blame to go around outside of the cast of the once-juggernaut film property featuring everyone’s friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, but none of it needs to ensnare Maguire in its web. No, the blame game needs to be played like a who’s who gathering of spin the terrible film bottle with Sam Raimi and whoever was his casting director.

Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 had quite a bit going for each film, especially the first film. But by the time the third film rolls around, there isn’t much here to be seen that hasn’t been done before. That is the unfortunate nature of a trilogy.

There’s Peter Parker, Maguire’s lovable underdog that has as much rooting power and likability to carry a film from start to finish. Then there’s Mary Jane Watson, the heroine. While Kirsten Dunst does an admirable job of being the redheaded damsel in distress that is early Watson, she was kind of playing it by the numbers by the time the final piece of the puzzle was in place. For some reason, Bryce Dallas Howard is thrown in as longtime Spider-Man girlfriend Gwen Stacy. Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace and James Franco round out the villainy, which is a rather numerous rogue gallery.

The fact that we’ve just typed three names in one sentence to describe the lineup of villains is a major problem and, quite frankly, the worst issue with the film. The story is fine and we like the origin story told here for Venom. The problem is there isn’t enough time to showcase Venom’s story properly. The reason? Too many villains. We’ve said it time and again: Too many foes for the protagonist can and will ruin a film. Spider-Man 3 is easily the worst offender of this practice.

The film feels overly long and bloated to start with, but when Sandman turns into New Goblin who turns into Venom, it’s just too much to deal with. The pacing suffers immediately after New Goblin makes his first appearance, and once Eddie Brock takes on the symbiote/“black suit,” the film swiftly devolves into unmitigated chaos.

Another problem was the terrible effect of dragging in villains for the sake of having a villain. Venom immediately suffers the brunt of the pain here and it’s appalling what’s done to the character. First of all, in the comics, a pumpkin bomb from the New Goblin does not kill Venom; cancer eventually does the job. Second of all, if you’re going to bother doing Venom at all, do him justice and get it right. Venom is arguably Spider-Man’s most lethal and engaging foe, a lot like the Joker is to Batman or Lex Luthor is to Superman. Venom deserved his own film, and pairing him up to fight the wall-crawler is an immediate injustice to the character’s history. Venom doesn’t need anyone else to carry his movie if done right. Finally, Venom looked terrible. The character CGI was awful and looked cheap. If this is the reason why it took so long to get Venom in a film against Spidey, they could have kept him and saved him for the eventual reboot we all knew was coming.

And that reboot? It was apparent with the rote aura surrounding the film long before its release. What is especially angering is the dumbed-down approach to the film itself. In the months leading up to the film, the mainstream appeal to the basic filmgoer was pandering at best, highly insulting at worst. Seriously? The advertising and trailer appeal of a “black suit” that makes Peter Parker flip out was terrible. Trust us when we say the average movie viewer had no idea what the alien symbiote was about let alone cared. So when the comic knowledgeable saw that, it caused a chuckle for what it was worth. Spider-Man had become a “movie event of the year” type of thing, and indeed, his cash sense was probably tingling. Too bad he had to sacrifice quality to do it.

Terrible pacing, too many villains, a tired subplot and an overall lackadaisical feel? Thanks but no thanks. The spider had done all that a spider can and it was well past time for him to move on.

Like the comics?: 7

Casting: 7

Plot: 5

Overall score: 19 out of 30 or 6

How we grade

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in the case of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory, and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.