In an ugly, grey and corrupted world, Wonder Woman impresses Owen Hughes to be one of the best comic book movies we’re likely to get this year. Read his full review below.
It might not be the podcast you wanted, but it’s the podcast you deserve. It’s the proper critics in one corner, the audience in another corner, and your hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes with special guests Brian Plank and Andrew Brooker in the other corner. The final corner is where Sad Ben Affleck is hanging his head in disappointment, next to Henry Cavill’s pile of gold.
That’s right, this week we’re reviewing DC’s latest $250m mega-blockbuster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Divisive amongst those who’ve watched it, as well as on this episode. We’ve a full spoiler-free review where the team discuss everything they liked (mainly Batfleck) and didn’t like without giving away much, before Spoiler Alert Returns towards the end.
Also on this episode: Owen reviews freshly released found-footage horror JeruZalem (that’s with a capital ‘Z’ and no lower case ‘s’); Brian prepares for Zack Snyder’s superhero movie in the only way he knew how… by watching Kramer vs Kramer…; Brooker revisits Failed Critics favourite Kill Your Friends; and Steve finally catches up with our third best film of last year, Disney Pixar’s Inside Out.
Join us again next week for any episode that’s probably not going to be 50% comic book oriented.
This isn’t the film you wanted, but it’s the film you deserve.
I’ve seen that line totted out recently in relation to Zack Snyder’s latest offering in the newly established DC cinematic universe. Often by folks that I’m dubious as to their claims of having actually seen the movie yet.
Nevertheless, to quote Steve Coogan’s fantastic fictionalised autobiography I, Partridge, as an adolescent Alan is called ‘Smelly Alan Fartridge’ by his school tormenters, it’s a line that is “about 3% as clever as it thinks it is”. Or I guess maybe it’s 1%. But if there’s a 1% chance, then it should be taken as an absolute certainty, right?
It’s mainly a statement repeated in relation to the bleak, cold, depressing realisation of the world that Superman – and now also apparently his nemesis Batman – inhabits, where humour, warmth and vibrant colour are secondary to moody, dreary greys, suspicion, paranoia and snarling teeth.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t an AC/DC soundtracked flash of electric-blue, pyjama-clad heroes, comic-book niceness. Nor does it ever try to be anything but what it is. Nor should it even try to be anything else.
This is a place, as established in 2013’s divisive blockbuster Man of Steel, where an alien descended from a dying world to be raised amongst us, as one of us, to love us and protect us until he was old enough to decide whether to make the ultimate sacrifice to save us from ourselves/angry aliens. By, er, destroying half of the largest city in the US during a fist fight with said angry alien that resulted in thousands of collateral deaths. Deaths that an angry billionaire human dressed in a bat costume now wants to avenge. As does another psychotic billionaire by the name of Lex Luthor, with slightly more suspect motivations.
If the unremittingly desperate and sullen tone for this first live-action, big screen clash between DC’s iconic superheroes is what we deserve, then I’m OK with that. It sure as Hell is exactly how I wanted it to be in a number of different ways.
That isn’t to say the whole movie is exactly what I wanted from Snyder’s second foray into the often unforgiving spectrum of comicbook fanboy elitism. Just as Man of Steel left millions of steaming big blue boy scout fans loudly exclaiming “that’s not my Superman”, as if that was at all relevant, then just wait until the masses get ahold of the virtually unrecognisable character traits of their beloved caped crusader. If the internet could be fitted with a blast screen, now would be the time to assemble it.
The Dark Knight has always been, well, dark. Cracking bones, smashing skulls, practically crippling criminals for the rest of their life, all in the name of justice as he carefully tiptoes along the delicate line of his moral conscience, never straying into the territory that there’s no coming back from. But here, there are some rather extreme and remorseless attacks by the Bat that will please fans wanting a more grown up comic book film, as well as pop a few pulsating veins on the temples of outraged viewers.
Personally, I think it’s precious to perceive only one possible interpretation of a character that has seen hundreds of writers and dozens of actors portray him. Who’s to say that the kooky Adam West version is not the definitive creation? Or what about Tim Burton’s criminal-burning take in Batman Returns? Why not use Frank Miller’s portrayal of a grizzled old Bruce as the only measure?
The best versions of Batman in the comics in recent years have been, to my mind, when he went insane during Grant Morrison’s series that began a decade ago this year, and in writer Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics run – when it wasn’t even Bruce Wayne who was Batman, it was Dick Grayson. So really, it just doesn’t matter which you prefer, or what you think makes Batman the character he is; there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of representations of the character that are as valid as each other. This movie is no exception to that rule.
However, I feel like I’m explaining myself around the issues with this movie, of which there are plenty. Much like when George Clooney put on the cape and cowl (and nipple-plate), it’s hard to separate Ben Affleck from Bruce Wayne. Maybe that’s an unfair criticism as it’s a fine performance, but whenever he’s out of the mask, it’s hard to see past Ben Affleck. He also acts the chops off of his opposite number, with Henry Cavill caught in the headlights of a crash-bang-wallop barnstorming Batman movie where he is playing second fiddle in what should be his sequel. His story. His character’s atonement.
Ignorance is not the same as innocence, or so we’re told, which leaves the film to question how the red-caped Übermensch can continue to separate his private life from that of his heroic exploits. A hole was ripped through the centre of the planet not 18 months ago thanks in no small part to his own quest for knowledge, yet here he his saving children from burning buildings and being heralded as a messiah. I would not be the first person to scratch my head at the hypocrisies of the DC universe, but it at least tries to answer some of the questions it poses. Admittedly, Democracy v Superman would probably not have been a snappy title for the film.
And therein lies its biggest issue. I do like Man of Steel. Very much. In fact, Thursday evening, I saw a double-bill of it followed by a Batman v Superman midnight screening, and quite happily endured it. The dialogue is blunt, to the point and often without ambiguity, but the narrative structure combined with the character development of the wandering drifter Clark Kent, discovering his true identity as Kal-El, and subsequent trial by fire at the hands of Michael Shannon’s exceptional performance as General Zod; the more I see it, the more I like it. The religious symbolism is perhaps heavy handed as he floats off into space in his Jesus Christ pose to save the Earth, but there’s depth beyond merely a superhero smashing a villain’s face in. Zod’s pitiful plea and loss of identity, or his “soul” as he claims, at a time where a triumphant Clark struts across a city blown to smithereens to victory-snog his girlfriend; its complexities are frequently lost in a tide of criticism because it just happens to take place during a mass of CGI destruction. I hesitate to make further comparisons between the two, but compared to some of Marvel’s third-act fight sequences (The Incredible Hulk, Age of Ultron and Thor: The Dark World to name but a few) which serve absolutely no narrative purpose other than “beat-the-baddie”, it just further increases my opinion that it is a vastly underrated movie.
Now, Batman v Superman, as you might expect, spends forever building towards a climactic fight sequence between (you guessed it) Batman and Superman. By contrast, yes it looks cool and yes Snyder’s fingerprints are all over it, but it is as shallow as a paddling pool during a hose-pipe ban. It merely gives the fans what they think they want and not what they deserve.
I’m not going to spoil who wins the fight for you! Needless to say, the victor was inevitable. And yes, the allegories to religion, domestic and international terrorism threats, and playing God, are all there. But they are in much broader strokes than seen previously.
As for the rest of the 2.5 hour run time, a huge proportion of it is a confusing, sprawling mess that I kept trying to pretend was still good, like a buttered piece of toast that had fallen on the kitchen floor. Alas, you could probably scrape it off and it’d still be edible, but why would you? There’s bound to still be a mystery hair or unrecognisable piece of grit to crunch sickeningly between your teeth. What I’m getting at with this confused, sprawling metaphor, is that you can dust off all the crap from Batman v Superman and see just the delicious slice of warm toast underneath, but as you chew, you will secretly feel a little ashamed and embarrassed.
There’s just one dream within a dream sequence too many for my tastes. There’re more Easter eggs littering this film, distracting from what should be an interesting concept of man vs God, than you will find in the Sainsbury’s Petrol Station reduced isle next week. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is a passenger whose presence merely exists to pay fan-service for the Trinity and set up future Justice League movies so the other two can get on with battering each other.
I’m not going to sit here and say that the fault with Batman v Superman is that they didn’t follow the blueprint so successfully laid out by Marvel. I do not subscribe to that theory at all. The Marvel blueprint was laid out to make the audience more susceptible to expanded movie universes, that doesn’t mean DC, by not copying the exact format of individual introduction movies building to a crossover event, have failed. What will make Batman v Superman a relative failure is the cramming of about seven different story strands (that I counted) into one single film. It’s convoluted and each one (or maybe two or three together) would have been better served if held back for individual movies.
That, plus Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was either incredibly poor casting, or the right casting for the wrong film. His twitching peculiarities and eccentric ranting about his father only weaken what should make a menacing focal point for the story. He’s a raving lunatic with an unoriginal fiendish plot to, I don’t know, get in the way, or something. He shouldn’t have been in this film. Or, rather, it should have been Batman or Lex Luthor.
The rest of the supporting cast are as expected. Laurence Fishburne returns as Daily Planet head-honcho Perry White to probably the highest degree of competence out of the lot. Folks worried about Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s casting as Thomas Wayne, concerned it might mean yet another origin story, need not panic as his role is squished into a Watchmen-esque opening segment. Amy Adams as Lois Lane is not as integral to the plot as she should be, although her performance is slightly more assured this time around. Jeremy Irons as Alfred is just Jeremy Irons. No more, no less.
Batman v Superman is bloated, convoluted, full of inconsistencies and lacking in focus. As many suspected might be the case, Superman is reduced to merely a concept rather than a character as Batman takes centre stage.
But Affleck does do a great job carrying the burden of this movie. On more than one occasion, his skulking in the shadows alluded me for a few moments, which gave me a giddy thrill when I spotted him (mind you, it was nearly 2am by this point). Make no mistake, when you read articles online about the actors and creative people behind this movie claiming that it is not designed to win over critics, they’re not lying. This is a Superman movie designed for Batman fans.
Arguably self-sabotaging in typical DC fashion by trying to introduce Batman to what is perceived as a flagging franchise or series, it might simply be too much, too soon. Yet, I still kind of got a kick out of it on some base-levels and I’m sure plenty of others will see through its many foibles too.
Welcome to the Week In Film! No Steve this week, as he’s holding epic house parties in his gran’s flat in Marbella. No, really. Instead, Carole Petts takes you through the week’s news.
by Carole Petts (@DeathByJigsaws)
Richard Kiel Passes Away at 74
First up, some very sad news that one of the truly great Bond henchmen has left us. Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, has died a few days before his 75th birthday. The gargantuan actor was also famous for his role in Happy Gilmore, and was a regular on the convention circuit. Even though he is turned into something approaching comedy relief in Moonraker, he was a genuinely menacing presence in The Spy Who Loved Me, and was an actor who used his imposing physicality to great effect. He will be sadly missed.
Guns? Where we’re going, we won’t need…oh
Zack Snyder revealed the new Batmobile in full this week. It’s a slightly more evolved version of the Tumbler, and Batman purists won’t be pleased to learn it has a small arsenal on the grill. But it’s a Snyder film – wanton destruction is guaranteed. The issue of not being able to see a dammed thing out of that windscreen remained unaddressed at the time of publication. Somewhat less staged was the reveal of an X-wing fighter and a partially-built Millennium Falcon on the set of Star Wars Episode VII by a flight school in Berkshire.
A feeling of Dredd
Owen will be particularly excited to hear that there is a possible second Dredd film on the way – but it will be a prequel. Speaking at Chicago Comic-Con, Dredd himself (or Karl Urban, as is his civilian name) said: “Why yes, there is a definite possibility. But, it is more likely that we will do the origins story with Dredd trekking through the cursed earth to find the first Chief Judge Fargo.” Sounds exciting, and let’s face it, it will be a refreshing change from the endless conveyor belt of sequels we are currently being subjected to. It’s also really good to hear we are getting a second Dredd film at all, as the excellent reboot scored a respectable but not groundbreaking box-office total of $41m worldwide.
And finally, disciples gathered in Toronto to celebrate the inaugural Bill Murray Day on September 6 (personally I feel every day should be Bill Murray Day, but there you go). The great man held court on the subject of the recently-mooted all-female Ghostbusters 3, and gave the project his blessing. Also in Toronto, there have been good reviews for Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything and Nightcrawler, middling reviews for Jon Stewart’s directorial debut Rosewater, and pretty bad reviews for Anna Kendrick musical The Last Five Years. But altogether it seems to have been a decent year for the festival.
Join us again next week, where we will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news.
by Callum Petch
I honestly don’t think that anybody involved with the creative side of 300: Rise of an Empire is a bad person. OK, maybe Frank Miller, but other than this being a very loose telling of his unpublished Xerxes series he has nothing to do with the film in question. This sign of good faith, admittedly, is because I prefer to try and see the good in most people (I may physically be 19, but my mental age and naivety is a lot lower) and also because I don’t know anybody involved with the creation of 300: Rise of an Empire personally, so I’d feel kinda bad calling them bad people sight unseen. What I don’t think anybody involved does have, however, is any kind of self-awareness. Like, none. At all. See, if they did have some self-awareness, then they might have realised that the movie they were responsible for making is actually horrifically misogynistic, racist and supportive of doomed offensives.
I’m going to stop for a second here before I get down to business. This review is not going to talk much about the film in the way that you may typically see films reviewed. You know: I give a plot summary, point out some good stuff and some bad stuff, praise or trash the acting and wrap up from there. Purely technical terms, “[x action scene] was pretty exciting, [y actor] was as convincing as a cardboard standee of [y actor]”. No, that’s not happening here and if that’s what you’re looking for, I am sorry to disappoint you. Fact of the matter is, how this film is as a constructed product (and that constructed product is “boring meeeeeeeeehhhhh”) is but a distraction from the more problematic undertones that this film seems to unintentionally peddle. I will eventually talk about the film as you would expect me to, but that’s only if there’s still time. Take this info how you may and either keep reading or don’t.
OK, into the breach.
The major problem with 300: Rise of an Empire, the problem that left me leaving the cinema feeling dirty for having experienced it, is that it doesn’t think. It’s so determined to be cool, to be action-y and manly and exciting and violent and “LOOK, THAT GUY’S RIDING A HORSE IN A NAVAL BATTLE THROUGH FIRE!!” that it never seems to just stop and think about what it’s actually doing. It has noble Greeks facing off against eeeeevilll Persians… where the Greeks are all white or tanned and the Persians are of a foreign persuasion. It has a badass female character who actually has the most developed backstory of anyone else in the film… and then makes her a villain with The Tragic Backstory (the one tragic backstory that all male writers, without fail, will saddle their Dark Action Women with to justify their behaviour) and a quirk that I can’t talk about because it constitues a spoiler but OH MY GOD. It has a hero who fights for democracy and knows that Leonidas and the 300 Spartans are doomed for their hubris… except that he’s counting on it failing because it will unite everyone behind their senseless sacrifice and milks that for all its worth.
This is the issue. On paper, divorced from further context, these sound fine. Good vs Evil is the basis for most every story, well-developed and badass female characters need to be more of a frequent presence in action movies and having characters recognise that the Spartan march isn’t as romantic a notion as it sounds are all great ways to go. There’s a lot you can do here. But, for some utterly bewildering reason, the film keeps making the worst decisions with these ideas simply because it sounds cool. And at no point did anybody stop anyone else involved and explain to them the wider implications of what their decisions entail.
Take, for example, Themistocles (Strike Back’s Sullivan Stapleton rarely showing the charm and charisma he showed in Strike Back) and his attitudes towards the Spartan march on Hot Gates. He knows it’s doomed and he knows it’s foolish, as you can tell because every so often he voices his concerns that they’re going to get slaughtered, yet his entire plan revolves around lionising the 300 as martyrs to the cause of Greek democracy, thereby uniting Greece against the Persians. I take issue with this because this, to me at least, gives off the impression that those involved are supportive of doomed offensives against enemies because of the propaganda material they provide. Having the lead character very occasionally state his belief that the Spartans’ offensive will fail is not enough of an offset for the scene in which he gets said news and reacts with (thanks to the very limited range of emotions characters display in this film) what one can charitably describe as glee. I’d like to see Themistocles’ take on The Battle Of The Somme, he’d likely grumble a bit about its doomed-to-failure-ness but then base his entire plan around claiming it to be the greatest piece of tactical mastery the British Forces ever came up with. Because that’s how you unite the peoples.
Quite honestly, though, that’s nothing compared to the film’s two female characters. Yes, two. Admittedly, I’m pretty sure that’s one whole person of the female orientation more than the original 300 provided us with, but it’s still a man-run show, despite Eva Green as Artemesia trying her damndest otherwise. Despite her ever omniscient narration, Queen Gorgo of Sparta (Lena Headey who I really wish would star in an action flick that knows how to use her for once) is otherwise in the film only three other times and two of those involve her sulking and refusing to help the Greeks. I’m not saying that she needed to spend the majority of the film fighting alongside the Greeks and slaughtering people left and right; what I am saying is that she needs a character. Because she doesn’t have one. She has the Obstructive Bureaucrat archetype and that’s it.
As if to make up for this, Artemesia is easily the most developed character populating Rise of an Empire. But, yes, said development involves a childhood where [x] happens and then she spends the next several years [y] before being left for dead, found by That One Persian Guy From The Last 300 Who Was Also In (The Much, Much, Much Better) Spartacus: Blood And Sand. Assuming that those of you reading this are relatively seasoned movie watchers, you should already be able to figure out what x and y are. But although it left a bad taste in my mouth (because I am so sick of lazy filmmakers always going for [y] when they want to justify their Dark Action Women), it wasn’t derailing the show and especially not Eva Green’s performance, which I can basically equate to a ham and cheese interpretation of Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Of everyone else in this film, she’s the only one who’s having any fun and not just relying on their physical presence to carry them through.
Except then the film frames her insane lust for violence down to not having a good strong man fighting alongside her. It’s hinted at early on, when she notes that she’s “surrounded by thousands yet I feel so alone” (or words to that effect) about her underlings’ lack of success in bringing down the Greeks. Then it becomes all but full-blown text when she invites Themistocles to neutral ground, turns into a temptress and… No, I’m not going to spoil it. Needless to say, it frames all of their actions afterward, including the final battle, in a much uglier light and culminates in an action that, the very second the inadvertent subtext that the film had amassed up to that point joined up with the action in question in my head, caused me to unintentionally shout out “JESUS H. CHRIST” in the crowded cinema. I was that disgusted by what I saw. And my leading to this realisation and outburst wasn’t on purpose, I wasn’t trying to see the action as something awful, my brain had simply applied what the film had inadvertently told me about Artemesia beforehand to that action and the reaction unfolded. I felt dirty for having witnessed it and, if you too pay attention to the subtext, you will know it when you see it.
Quite honestly, on any other day, the fact that the Greeks black up for the finale would have been the headline, here. OK, their faces are supposed to be painted like that of a white skeleton on a black back-nope that looks even worse written down. Not to mention the fact that, again, we have a predominately white cast representing absolute good fighting a predominately non-white cast representing absolute evil. That was a problem in the first 300, it was a problem in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender and time has not made it any better. See, the problem with doing cool things without thought is that stuff like this happens. You get across a tonne of unfortunate implications and enough of them can make the whole film a slowly more repulsive experience that gets harder to tolerate the longer it goes on.
Stepping away from the subtext, now, although, quite frankly, discussing the film removed from it feels pointless. See, Rise of an Empire, which takes place before and during and after 300 and depicts Themistocles’ attempts to unite Greece against the invading Persian army and navy, is a competently made and forgettable action flick. If its various bits of inadvertently horrendous subtext weren’t there, this review would not currently be halfway through its third page. That’s how dispensable this film is. Excepting Eva Green, nobody turns in a particularly noteworthy performance. After the first particularly exciting and interesting naval battle, the rest blend into one anonymous amorphous blob. The hand-to-hand fight scenes are “meeeeh” and the copious CG is clearly going for stylish but too often seems to use that as an excuse for just plain sloppy switches between live-action actors and CG models handling the more exciting moments (pretty much the entire opening battle is done in CG, to an extent that makes me wonder why the actors even bothered coming in that week). And the signature Zack Snyder “slo-mo-speed-up-super-slo-mo-speed-up-slo-mo-again” visual style that’s perfectly aped by director Noam Murro is still really stupid and nowhere near as cool as it thinks it is.
In other words, it’s an inoffensive product. A bland, average and dull movie that doesn’t have anything bad happening on the surface or within its individual components. All of the film’s big, giant, offensive, enjoyment-killing problems come from the inadvertent subtext that it presents with that big, dumb, loud, violent and inoffensive surface. More forgiving critics or fans of the film will insist you need to “turn off your brain to appreciate it”. I’m sorry but fuck that. Firstly because it presents the incorrect notion that fun movies don’t need to be smart (and I wouldn’t even call this one fun, in all honesty, unless “mind-crushing dullness” sounds like your idea of a party) but also because it gives off the idea that it doesn’t matter what kind of horrible ideology and iconography a film can slip by as long as the surface is cool enough, and that is a concept I refuse to abide by.
Words and actions carry unintended meanings and consequences and for every 10 people (most likely men, in all honesty; this is a film made for straight, hormonal and possibly teenaged men) who watch the war room sequence that I started describing earlier with glee, there will be at least 1 other person horrified by what they are seeing because they aren’t distracted by the pretty lights. They paid attention to the undertones of the film’s cool sequences and they started getting uneasy. The film shouts “Look at these beefy white men slaughtering all of these evil baddies! Isn’t this fun? Pay no attention to their skin colour, if you do you’re thinking way more than we did when we made it!” “Isn’t this line we gave Eva Green badass? She’s so strong and powerful and sexy! Just divorce it from everything else that surrounds it as, in context with what surrounds it, it may be kinda disturbing but who cares BADASS FIGHT SEQUENCE! COOL COOL COOL!” but that person is having none of it. They’re disturbed, offended, worried that the slightly sickening undertones are being played off for fun. Just another gory, dumb action romp. You can’t read too much into these things(!)
No. Fuck that. The idea that I should let 300: Rise of an Empire off for its accidental racism, misogyny (dear Maker, I will never get that action out of my head, and if you’re dying to know what it is tweet me and I’ll tell you) and whatever-the-word-is-for-attitudes-towards-senseless-sacrifice-that-I-don’t-agree-with because it’s supposed to be a big dumb action film and I shouldn’t read so much into these things is deplorable and I refuse to accept it. We shouldn’t let films off for being “good enough given the circumstances” or to state that “turning your brain off” will somehow increase your enjoyment for a film. No, we should just demand better goddamn movies and take films with as disgusting an inadvertent subtext as 300: Rise of an Empire to the same task as we do genuinely racist films like Birth of a Nation. Being a big, dumb action film should no longer be an acceptable pass-grade excuse for a problematic film such as this one.
When I left 300: Rise of an Empire, I felt like I had set cinema back several years. Do not. Spend money. On this.
Callum Petch is outta control but he’s playing a role and he thinks he can go to the eighteenth hole. Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!
Earlier today we discovered that Ben Affleck has been cast as Batman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel sequel, where the rumour is the long-awaited onscreen battle between Superman and Batman will finally be realised. There was a storm of protest over the decision, followed by a backlash to the backlash, followed by the rest of civilisation laughing at two groups of people arguing over a casting decision. The Failed Critics have happily jumped on the Batwagon of debate, and here are their reactions to the news:
James Diamond: Site editor who stands by his assertion that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was better than Man of Steel
Don’t like Ben Affleck being cast as Batman? In the words of Alan Arkin’s character in Affleck’s Oscar/Bafta/Golden Globe-winning film, Argo fuck yourself.
I was genuinely surprised by the level of the backlash to Warner Brothers/DC’s announcement this morning. My wife happened to mention to me that Affleck had been cast as Batman, and I replied “yeah, I can see that” (I’ll be honest, it’s a sadly very rare incident of my wife and I discussing comic book adaptations and their casting before breakfast). When I stumbled onto Twitter I was taken aback by the level of abuse being aimed at Affleck, with everyone throwing Daredevil and Gigli back in his face as if the last 10 years haven’t happened.
I’m grown-up enough to admit when I am wrong about an actor, with my increasingly uncomfortable man-crush over Matthew McConaughey being just the most recent example. The fact is, Affleck has grown and matured into a very fine actor, but even more importantly for me, an excellent director. This level of experience on the set of the next Superman film will be vital in my opinion, especially with Christopher Nolan apparently taking a back-seat in the day-to-day side of the production. As someone said a little cruelly, at least it means there will be one director on set.
I believe Affleck will be a great Bruce Wayne, and I am excited about seeing if he can pull off Batman. There were similar scenes of fan annoyance when Michael Keaton was cast as the Caped Crusader, and again when Heath Ledger landed the role of The Joker. They didn’t turn out too badly.
Armageddon really annoyed with the Domga-tic opinions of everyone with no Good Will (Hunting) towards this upstanding resident of Hollywoodland. [That’s enough terrible puns – Ed. Wait, that’s me]
Owen Hughes: Podcaster, film addict, and resident neeeeerrrrd
It was going to be the film that fans have wanted for the longest time. To finally see the caped crusader, the dark knight, the world’s greatest detective, coming up against the big blue boy scout, the man of tomorrow, the last son of Krypton. Batman vs Superman. The nerdgasm to end all nerdgasms.
Not only that, but director Zack Snyder hinted that the clash of these comic book titans would resemble their encounter from dark, edgy, 80’s game changing graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. We were going to see a grizzled and older Bruce Wayne donning the cape and cowl before coming to blows with the Man of Steel. It opened up a world of possibilities over who would be cast as Bats.
Would they go all out to bring Christian Bale back? Maybe try to shoehorn some semblance of continuity into the series following the Nolan trilogy and bring in Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Or would Warner Brothers start looking at actors like Bruce Greenwood (who has played Batman in an animated film already), Josh Brolin, Max Martini or even Karl Urban? I’ve even seen Russell Crowe linked with the role, which would’ve been brilliant if not for the awkward plot twist that would’ve endured when Kal-El finds his father running around Gotham City in spandex.
Well the answer has finally arrived, and it seems to be a rather uninspiring ‘Ben Affleck’.
I don’t have a problem with Affleck as an actor, he was excellent in Argo. But with all the exciting avenues that could’ve been explored, of all the names linked with the role, it’s… OK. I’m sure he’ll be a competent Batman, probably a better Bruce Wayne, and with Snyder at the helm I’ll probably enjoy the film on some level. It’s just something of a safe choice which is disappointing.
Steve Norman: Podcast host, and real-life crime-fighting vigilante
So Ben Affleck has been cast as Batman for the 2015 crossover movie Batman vs Superman and sweaty nerds worldwide seem to be up in arms about the decision.
Bloody hell nerds, calm down.
Their main issue appears to be that Affleck once made a film called Daredevil and it was a bit rubbish. In fact it was very rubbish. It is that bad that I cannot remember much about it after seeing it many years ago.
However this film was made ten years ago. We all make mistakes, I make them almost daily, and in ten years a lot can change. You can grow as a person, you can improve and develop your craft.
Since Daredevil, Affleck has starred in some good films while starring in and directing The Town and the Oscar winning Argo.
I would go as far to say that Affleck should have been allowed to direct the film as well seeing as Zac Snyder’s attempt at Superman was pretty average while Affleck’s directing has been impressive and his career has had somewhat of a resurgence.
Gerry McAuley: Podcaster, Batman fanatic, and phoning it in from sunnier climes
This is total bullshit. Affleck directing = win. Affleck as Batman = epic fail.
I’m very disappointed by that news. I think he would’ve made a more than competent director (and indeed we talked about him as a potential director for Batman, Star Wars and others on the podcast last year) but I just don’t think he has the charisma or the right attributes to be a good Batman. Daredevil was garbage, we all agree on that. Bale is going to be a very hard act to follow but Affleck will have a lot to do to convince me – and hordes of others – that he is a suitable replacement for the cowl. I really, really hope he does though. I bloody love Batman. I want him to be good!
What do you think? Let us know below, or tweet us at @FailedCritics
Site editor James Diamond presents his picks for the best films on terrestrial television this week in increasingly inaccurately titled blog.
If, like me, you were disappointed by Man of Steel and Zack Snyder’s by-numbers impressions of Christopher Nolan and Terence Malick, then sit back and watch the film that really announced him as an exciting director to watch. Viscerally violent and almost comically homoerotic in equal measure, it’s also fun to spot the now-very-recognisable actors on display here including a young Magneto, a brunette Cersei Lannister, and a particularly shifty McNulty.
Tuesday 25th June – The Outlaw Josey Wales (5USA, 11pm)
Clint Eastwood’s second Western as a director (after 1973’s High Plains Drifter) and although he was clearly still learning the craft at the time, this film owes more than a passing resemblance to Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy. Set before and during the American Civil War, Eastwood also stars as the farmer who joins a Confederate guerrilla unit and pledges to take revenge on the Union soldiers who killed his family.
Wednesday 26th June – The Rock (BBC3, 10pm)
BBC3 continue their screenings of one of the most impressive purple patches in cinematic history, known by historians as the ‘Cage Action Era’. This week it’s The Rock, starring everyone’s favourite bonkers anti-hero, alongside a suitably grumpy and charismatic Sean Connery. For tenuous and barely explained reasons, Ed Harris is the army general who has gone rogue and is holed up in Alcatraz threatening to release chemical weapons across the western seaboard. A stark reminder that Michael Bay used to make quite fun films.
Thursday 27th June – The Blair Witch Project (Horror Channel, 9pm)
For all my usual aversion to the found footage genre, I actually really enjoyed this film on release, and it’s staggering to think of the hype surrounding a film made for less than $10k back at the end of the nineties. Obviously the success of the film lead to over a decade of mostly poor and badly made imitators, but for a few brief moments a horror film shocked the mainstream cinema-going public and moved the goalposts in favour of young film-makers with tiny budgets.
Friday 28th June – The Talented Mr Ripley (More4, 9pm)
I’m sure everyone will have already seen The Running Man (Film4, 11.20pm) and Starship Troopers (BBC1, 11.25pm) more times that I’ve said I don’t get ‘found footage’ films on the Failed Critics podcast. So I am going to recommend this thriller from the late Anthony Minghella, starring Jude Law and Matt Damon. Damon plays the titular Mr Ripley, an underachiever who blags a job to retrieve a millionaire’s son (Law) from his Italian sojourn in the 1950s. The fantastic central performances are matched only by the beauty of the Italian locations, and Minghella’s change in tone midway through the film just about holds together. An art-house ‘guilty pleasure’ in many respects.
Saturday 29th June – Stardust (Film4, 1pm)
This Matthew Vaughn adaptation of a Neil Gaiman book is about as close as this generation has got to its version The Princess Bride. A classic tale of a simple young man drawn into a fantasy world in the 1800s when he retrieves a fallen star, only to discover the star is a young woman (Claire Danes) being pursued by three witches (led by Michelle Pfieffer). Rober DeNiro steals the show as a crossing-dressing pirate, while even Ricky Gervais manages not to grate too much during his cameo.
Sunday 30th June – Dr Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Film4, 11am)
I recently lauded this as my one of my two favourite Stanley Kubrick films on Failed Critics Podcast (along with A Clockwork Orange) and every viewing always seems to make me love it more. Despite Kubrick’s reputation for cold and harsh direction of his actors, he famously said that directing Peter Sellers in this was easy, as all he had to was make sure he always had at least three cameras pointed at him. A fine example of how satire and comedy can sometimes be the most frightening way to confront our worst fears.
Also on television on a brilliant day for film is Groundhog Day (5*, 2.15pm), Fantastic Mr Fox (Channel 4, 4.55pm), and Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (Sky One, 8pm).
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s three nitwits holding court on all things Superman! In this week’s extra-special bumper podcast (weighing in at over two hours) we celebrate the release of Zack Snyder’s reboot of the Superman series, Man of Steel. Prepare for it to kick off as two of the team nearly come to blows over their experience and expectations of the movie.
As well as a review of the film, we look under the bonnet and get our hands dirty in an extended Spoiler Alert look at Man of Steel. Not only that, but we discuss every Superman film ever made in What We’ve Been Watching, and choose our favourite performances by the Man of Steel main cast in Triple Bill.
Join us next week as we review new releases World War Z, Now You See Me, and This is the End.