Black Widow Bites

Standard

(This article contains major spoilers for the Avengers; minor spoilers for Captain America, Iron Man 2, and Thor; informed speculation for Captain America: the Winter Soldier; and wild speculation for Avengers: Age of Ultron)


Black Widow Crosshairs

I’m sick of the Black Widow.

Heresy, I know: talking smack about everybody’s favorite breakout character of the Avengers –the same character who looks like she’ll be kicking ass in Captain America: the Winter Soldier, and will no doubt kick even more ass in Avengers: Age of Ultron. I know, I know:

What the hell is wrong with me, right?

Let’s get a few things out of the way. First, I consider myself a feminist, and I applaud good representation of women in media. Secondly, I LOVE good storytelling, and I know my way around a script. Like, “have done script coverage for 5 years for major companies and have written several feature scripts” know my scripts. Structure and character are DEEPLY important to me. Thirdly, I enjoy me a good comic book, but if it doesn’t tell a good story, I’m out. Just that fast.

So what’s wrong with Black Widow in the Marvel movies? Nothing, beyond that Marvel seems to be handling her the wrong way.

Black Widow Captain America

1.         Shoehorning Focus

Let’s work our way backwards here, shall we? First, superherohype.com reports that the Black Widow will play a key role in Captain America 2 and in Avengers 2, and might even get her own movie. Cool stuff, huh? Looks like Scarlet Johanssen’s character is going to be a MASSIVE part of the Marvel cinematic universe. Putting aside her stand-alone movie for now, why is she “the key” parts of Captain America 2 AND Avengers 2?

It makes some sense in Captain America 2. By the looks of the trailers, it’s easy to assume that Captain America’s under terrorist attack AND has his suspicions about S.H.I.E.L.D.S.’ goals and motivations. Again in the trailers, Black Widow looks to be his mission partner, so fine: organic reason for her to be a big part of the movie, not to mention the possibility of romantic entanglement. But here’s the thing–

We can reasonably assume from Captain America’s “Winter Soldier” arc in the comics that this is (spoiler only if you follow the link) MAJORLY personal, character driven, and extremely transformative for him. This is THE story that changes his worldview, and in the movie world, will lionize him as the legendary leader of the Avengers that said movie only hinted. That’s a lot to accomplish in a movie that’s also rumored to have WWII flashbacks, the Falcon, at least two major villains, and very likely a love subplot.

It ain’t no Thor: The Dark World, that’s for damn sure.

Less is known about Avengers: Age of Ultron, but from what little we do know and can wildly speculate upon, it’s got its hands full.

First, the villain. Ultron, an omnicidal robot with daddy issues. While in the comics, Ant-Man/Giant-Man/Who-Cares-Man created Ultron, in all likelihood, the movie version will likely have been engineered by Tony Stark, or by S.H.I.E.L.D. If the former, making the Black Widow a key role in this whole thing seems like stretch. If the latter, maybe not so much, unless Captain America and Black Widow decide to quit S.H.I.E.L.D., which after the events suggested in Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s trailers, seems likely.

I mean, I’d quit if I knew I was on the same team as the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. yahoos.

"Wait, we're supposed to be secret agents?"

“Wait, we’re supposed to be secret agents?”

Just as Captain America’s balancing an insane amount of characters, so promises Avengers: Age of Ultron, which reportedly includes ::takes a deep breath:: Ultron, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, the Vision, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, the Falcon, War Machine/Iron Patriot, Nick Fury, Mariah Hill, Baron Von Strucker, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Agent Coulsen showed up.

A single frame from Avengers: Age of Ultron

A single frame from Avengers: Age of Ultron

Dear GOD is that an insane amount of characters, even assuming a 2.5-3 hour run time. And the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Vision are deliciously complex and will require a lot of time to establish personalities and motivations.

Besides, the Black Widow already got to be “the key” character in The Avengers.

Black Widow Avengers

2.        Johanssen’s The Avengers

No, seriously, the Black Widow was the MVP of The Avengers and it wasn’t even her movie. She got the third most screen time of the main heroes, and all but stole the show, when she’s all but a glorified background character, even in the comics.

To a certain extent, that makes some sense. She’s an ass-kicking sex toy in Iron Man 2 (more on that later), so the audience knows her; she’s a perennial member of the Avengers comics; somebody’s got to put this team of superheroes together, and Nick Fury apparently had to growl at talking heads; she had the awesome gender-subverting scenes; she took on aliens without the aid of super powers; she stopped the alien-space-portal-device-thingie; and let’s face it, the team was a sausage fest up until that point.

The problem? I couldn’t care less about her as a character. Again, don’t get me wrong. For all of the above-described reasons, she’s a badass, and she’s in the movie’s most interesting scenes. However, I didn’t care about Hawkeye (whose character introduction in Thor sucked) and Black Widow because I hadn’t paid to see them. Yes, a movie is supposed to surprise me, but this is the Avengers’ story, not wannabe heroes  S.H.I.E.L.D. agents’  story. It’s flat not their story.

"How... How could you?!"

“How… How could you?!”

I know that’s harsh, but we enter the movie immediately after Captain America, where its titular character very nearly has a mental breakdown when he discovers that New York’s changed a bit since 1943. This is a guy struggling to adjust to the millennium, when he’s asked by Sam Jackson to put together a team of super-powered nuts to fight a kooky space Viking.

If that’s not a fish out of water, I don’t know what is.

From there, it’s mostly organic: Cap learns not to be so trusting of shadowy military organizations; Iron Man learns the meaning of sacrifice; Hulk learns to accept his rage; Thor continues to hit things with hammers; the Avengers themselves learn to work as a team… And Black Widow and Hawkeye give expository dialogue about their dark past. Presumably their arc is triumphing over said past, but I’m not really sure.

"Wait... You mean we could've hashed out our past in a way that was organic to the story? No wonder they didn't give us costumes."

“Or… We could just sit here. Talking. Some more.”

You see, the movie goes out of its way to tell us how important both characters are, when we’ve got no evidence of it. Evidently we’re supposed to care that a military sniper selected a bow over a rifle to maybe shoot Thor’s titular character. In The Avengers, he’s kidnapped from a S.H.I.E.L.D. installation; he stalks around the bad guy’s place; and he nearly takes down the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. Other than the aforementioned expository dialogue with Black Widow about a shadowy past, we know nothing about this guy or why some random archer is a big deal in S.H.I.E.L.D.

Assuming, for a moment, that we came into The Avengers blind, the focus on Black Widow undercuts the role of Nick Fury, whose entire mission is to put together a superhero team to stop Loki. Having Black Widow recruit key members of the Avengers in his stead, in addition to her saving/rehabilitating Hawkeye, directly deprives Nick Fury of the character arc established in the opening scenes, generic as they were.

"Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking Chitauri on this motherfucking planet!"

“Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking Chitauri on this motherfucking planet!”

To be clear about Nick Fury: HIS base was attacked; HIS men were mind-controlled; it’s HIS goal to stop the badguy; HE’S been assembling the team; and it should’ve been HIS coup de grace to stop Loki. What’s more, knowing that he’s been in nearly every Marvel movie, we can also presume that this goal is DEEPLY personal.

As such, insofar as they’re characterized, there’s no reason to care for Black Widow or Hawkeye.

After the critics got through with them.

After the critics got through with them.

3.        Iron Man 2: Missed Opportunity

Iron Man 2 shouldn’t have happened.

Don’t get me wrong, I know why it did. Narratively and financially, it played a major role in solidifying the Marvel universe after Iron Man’s runaway success. That said, it wasn’t as necessary as the Incredible Hulk or Thor for establishing key players in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was a throwaway story, and it was pretty mediocre.

Even its inclusion of Black Widow was at best, tepid. I mentioned earlier that her role in Iron Man 2 was that of a badass sex toy. She’s sexually objectified in her opening scene, but –as will become her calling card- she subverts this by beating people after they patronize her. Still, she fawns all over Stark, because this is still a male fantasy. Her character is one of inconsistencies, rubberbanding between sexual interest and disinterest, objectification and characterization, incompetence and competence so much that it’s hard to get a read on who she is beyond “WHOA! Sexy chick who kicks ass! That’s DEEP!” The “strong female character” is a common cliché, especially if there’s no character depth behind it.

Going even further, Black Widow, as handled in the movies thus far, seems a little patronizing as her entire character revolves around people underestimating her because she’s a girl, as opposed to having talents and a personality not outright dictated by her gender and appearance.

So what could’ve been done with Black Widow? What could’ve made her better than “good enough?”

Well, what if Iron Man 2 didn’t exist? What if Thor’s end -credits stinger wasn’t Nick Fury asking Dr. Selvig to study the cube, but was instead Dr. Selvig warning Fury that the cube had been recovered by a terrorist organization, only for Fury to reply…

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. We’ve got our best woman on the job.”

Black Widow Cover

4.         Damn right I would’ve made a Black Widow movie.

Cracked already beat me to it, but I would’ve made Black Widow into one hell of an espionage movie. I’m talking Casino Royale’s slick action, character, and pacing meets Metal Gear Solid’s antiwar themes and batshit crazy villains. Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, would be a one-woman infiltration machine against the millennium’s iteration of Hydra, lead by Madame Masque. She’d use her wits and wiles to sneak past and outwit Hydra’s super soldiers, and recover the Cosmic Cube before they figure out how to use it… and before a captured Hawkeye gives up its secrets. As the only person without superpowers… one wrong move, and the Black Widow’s dead. The makings of one TENSE movie.

Just like that, we’d care about Black Widow and Hawkeye just as much as the rest of the Avengers. Furthermore, their arc –which would be learning to question S.H.I.E.L.D.’s methods (perhaps they know the truth about Agent Coulsen?)- would actually matter and have weight upon the script. Further, it’d make even more sense for her to destroy the space-portal-device-thingie. Not only would she be the most-underestimated member of the Avengers, but the one who ALWAYS got shit done.

“But Sad Cyborg,” you say, “Nobody would’ve known about Black Widow going in. They wouldn’t have cared.”

Hellboy, Constantine, and Blade” I reply with a smile. “Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen,” I add, anticipating the next question about female protagonists.

The market is there and hungry. You just have to cook for them.

Black Widow Kick

5.         Too Little Too Late?

“So if all this is true,” you might challenge. “Why does everyone care so much about the Black Widow? Looks like Marvel was pretty successful.”

Again, the market was starved for a decent female superhero movie. Anything better than these turds. So what happened when we got a strong female character with great dialogue? We ate her up. Even if she wasn’t unique outside of a subversion and even if she didn’t make a lot of sense in her own universe.

If we’re looking at success and profits of The Avengers and the predicted success of Captain America: the Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron, then take this for the fanboy ranting that it certainly is. I’m just not convinced that the movies crafted Black Widow well enough to merit her fandom or integral roles in other peoples’ movies. There’s a far richer and more interesting version of her character out there that we may never see.

So what about Black Widow’s solo movie I mentioned earlier? As this article wonderfully states, nobody knows but Kevin Feige, and he seems to think that she’ll have gotten plenty of exposure playing second fiddle in 3 other movies. For whatever reason, it isn’t as high a priority for Disney/Marvel as making an Ant-Man movie (the weak link of the Avengers).

Black Widow Toys

6.         So am I sick of the Black Widow?

Not exactly.

I like the idea of what she could do for the superhero genre, but her execution just didn’t impress me. It annoys me that she’s relegated to playing the token female character when she could’ve been so much more.

And that goes for all of Marvel’s female characters: their –Rogue, Storm, Jean Grey, Jubilee, the Scarlet Witch, etc.- are all stuck on teams or are sidekicks. They’re rarely, if ever, heroines in their own right.

What few stand-alone female characters Marvel has remain so much untapped potential: there’s a great kung fu movie to be had from Elektra; a detective movie to be had from Jessica Jones; a political thriller to be had from Silver Sable; a superhero movie to be had from Captain Marvel; a jungle adventure to be had from Shanna the She-Devil; a horror movie to be had from Victoria Montesi and so much more.

I grew up a Marvel fanboy, and I can claim an emotional connection to most of their characters. It’s just a shame that their tradition of forcing all their most interesting female characters onto teams or into sidekick roles has followed into their cinematic universe.

But hey, at least Hawkeye isn’t getting shoehorned into everything.

Next time: something not superhero or comic book related.

Official photos owned by Marvel, Disney, and Marvel Comics.

Advertisements

Avengers 2: Age of Silliness

Standard

So here’s our first look at Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron and…

Dumbfounding even Hawkeye.

Dumbfounding even Hawkeye.

"Whoa... I didn't even, like, get a full costume?"

“Whoa… I didn’t even, like, get a full costume?”

Holy crap, they look goofy.

Yeah, I know that a guy who can run really fast and a girl who can make wishes come true who are the son of a guy who can bend metal with his mind is an inherently silly concept, but even in the context of the Avengers world, their designs just don’t make a helluva lot of sense.

For starters, check out how dissonant they are. Quicksilver seems to be in full-on wannabe superhero mode with his cyclist uniform and peroxide-dyed hair while Scarlet Witch is just an emo-goth. Even if their story is “one wants to be a superhero and one wants to be normal,” it all feels a little on the nose. Besides… They look a little more like Spike and Willow.

"Are the Avengers hiring for a nervous mage and an impotent vampire?"

“Are the Avengers hiring for a nervous witch and an impotent vampire?”

I much prefer their comic book Ultimates versions. Sure, they’re pretentious, incestuous eurotrash, but their costumes are better, they’re subcharacters, and their backstory is written off in a single page.

Digression aside…

Consider this: For us to care about these bizarre-even-in-the-context-of-their-own-world characters, you’ve got to establish who Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are, why they’re the rebellious children of a badguy, how they discover their powers & what they mean to them, and how they join the Avengers. Bear in mind that movies operate by a different set of rules than comic books. You HAVE to establish this stuff. That’s a full movie in and of itself, and that’s all being crammed into a movie containing 14 other major characters and when this is ostensibly not their story.

All of this could’ve been explained better if they’d gotten their own movie. Surely such a movie could’ve taken the place of Thor: the Dark World or Iron Man 3.

…And that’s all I got.

Next time: a rough and tumble discussion about someone else who deserved their own movie.

Black Widow Web

Retconning Man of Steel

Standard

Superman Handcuffs

(This article contains major spoilers for Man of Steel)

Man of Steel isn’t a great movie. It’s got a disjointed script of emotionless characters; on-the-nose theming; overlong action scenes; scattershot pacing; and more holes than a chain-link fence.

Perhaps the greatest stir came from the movie’s reimagining of Superman -the idealistic paragon of truth, justice, and the American way- into a gritty, sociopathic murderer. Initially, I, like so many others despised these changes. Why make a Superman movie if you’re not going to use Superman?

Still, just as many people seem to prefer the dark Superman, citing that they’d never liked the original character, and that he’s unrealistically pure and upstanding for our modern world.

Divisive, to say the very least.

With Man of Steel not being the $1.5 billion dollar success they’d anticipated, WB seems to have all but pulled the plug on the fledging franchise and has called in Batman to save the box office day. Maybe even Wonder Woman. Hell, it’s not like they’ve got Marvel’s level of foresight.

But what if they’d followed up Man of Steel? What kind of sequel could possibly reconcile fans of classic Superman purists with those of the dark-and-edgy new version?

Get ready- this proposed sequel is going to blow your freakin’ mind.

If you want to cut to the chase, I guess you could just jump to section 3.

Superman Sad

1.            The movie’s story.

To help understand the tools I’ll be working with, here’s a summary of Man of Steel. If you’ve already seen it, feel free to jump ahead.

On the dying planet Krypton, Jor-El helps thwart the crazed military leader Zod’s insurrection, putting him in the Phantom Zone, an extra-dimensional prison. Simultaneously, he sends Kal-El, his only child, loaded with the Codex (a record of all of Krypton’s genetic information) into space just as the planet explodes. Why he didn’t send himself and his wife on this ship is beyond me.

Discovered and raised by the Kent family on Earth, Kal-El grows up as Clark Kent. His parents teach him to hide his powers from society, even at the cost of human life. This culminates in Pa Kent allowing himself to die in a tornado while Clark watches.

Clark Kent travels the world, finding himself, using his strength to do “good things.” Sometimes this involves saving people on an oil rig, other times, it means skewering a lecherous trucker’s rig with logs. Still other times, it causes him to go to church and equate himself with Jesus. No, really.

Discovering a Kryptonian space ship buried in the Arctic, Clark and Lois shoehorned-into-this-movie Lane, inadvertently send a signal out from it, bringing Zod and his insurrectionists out of the Phantom Zone. Zod’s bent on terraforming Earth into the new Krypton, presumably because Mars doesn’t have enough genocide opportunities. Problematically, he also wants to use Clark’s genetic material for repopulation.

Ewwww…

Also activated in this Kryptonian space ship? A holographic personality recording of Jor-El on a handy-dandy USB drive, who provides a Superman suit for Clark and tells him how important he is. Why Jor-El didn’t let his wife in on the holographic-personality-recording action is anyone’s best guess.

Clark/Superman sets out to treaty with Zod, but winds up having a series of smackdowns with him that leads to the destruction of Smallville and play a massive role in leveling Metropolis. Saving the day? Not for hundreds of thousands of civilians.

At the apex of their fight, Zod, in Superman’s headlock, uses his laser vision to threaten murdering some civilians. Ignoring the fact that he could do a million other things to prevent this, Superman snaps Zod’s neck.

“Triumphant,” Superman flies away. When the U.S. military deploys surveillance drones on Superman, he takes them down, warning the government to leave him be.

…And that’s sort of the end.

"Or we could just hug it out."

“Or we could just hug it out.”

2.            The Tools:

As stated earlier, everything in Man of Steel sets Superman up to be a sociopathic menace. Let’s unpack that.

Pa Kent repeatedly gives young Clark mixed messages about basic morality. To paraphrase…

“It’s ok to let a bus full of people die if it protects your identity.”

“Here’s your space ship! You were destined for greatness, and everything about you is special.”

“I’m going to awkwardly die in a tornado because your freedom is more important than anything else.”

The arrival of Jor-El, holographic ghost from an ancient flashdrive (bad script, remember?), complicates this with more mixed messages, which I’ll also paraphrase:

“You’re the first being to be naturally born on our planet, and you’re (theoretically) its only survivor. You’re special.”

“Also, you carry all of our genetic information, making you the most important person in our history.”

“We deliberately set you to this planet to be a God among men.”

“Wear these Kryptonian long johns that I somehow perfectly tailored for you 20,000 years ago to show how special, important, and godly you are.”

Torn between two some of the worst parents ever, Clark becomes a sociopathic super-powered being with a messiah complex, which again culminates in (1) a destroyed Smalltown, presumably at the cost of a hundred lives; (2) a leveled Metropolis, presumably at the cost of several thousand lives; (3) a slaughtered villain; and (4) a threat against the U.S. military.

I suppose we can add ‘fascist’ to the list.

Superman Collateral

Bear a few things in mind: (1 & 2) We never see Superman save anyone during these fights, and there’s no indication that either city has evacuated in any real capacity. When Superman slams Zod into the train station, the civilians had no idea what was happening outside. With this, by slamming Zod into buildings, there’s reason to believe that Superman was complicit in mass murder, at least by omission. (3) Yes, villains die in superhero movies all the time, but notice a common thread: they usually die by their own hand (ex: Spider-Man’s Green Goblin), or by the hero’s inaction (ex: Batman Begins’ Ra’s Al Ghul). What few times the hero DIRECTLY murders the villain are often extremely fantastical (ex. Iron Man 2’s Whiplash). Contrast this to Superman’s actions in Man of Steel where, on camera, he outright snaps Zod’s neck. Brutal and direct. (4) Superman’s cheeky and unchallenged threat to the military codifies him being above the law. Perhaps to the point of BEING the law. They are afraid to take measures against him.

Superman Evil

“…with justice and lobotomies for all.”

3.            The Sequel Idea

So Superman is a sociopathic, murderous fascist with a messiah complex, huh? Gee, I wonder where I’ve seen that before.

Superman’s got a long history of being the bad guy in alternate universes, either by leaning to far in a radical direction or by just being outright villainous. Hell, even within the mainstream DC universe, he’s got to deal with evil Supermen like Bizarro, Ultraman, Eradicator, Superboy-Prime, and Cyborg-Superman.

So what if Man of Steel’s Superman was actually an alternate/evil Superman from another dimension?

Superman vs. Man of Steel

4.            The Retcon/Sequel…

“Man of Steel 2” or whatever you’d like to call our proposed Superman sequel, would take place a few months after the events of Man of Steel.

Things have been quiet. Real quiet. Superman’s been dealing out justice with an iron fist. You break the law –anywhere in the world- you die. Simple as that. Crime drops 100%. Hell, there IS NO crime. That done, Superman turns his eyes to war, stopping every national and international conflict. Effectively, he becomes Earth’s dictator.

Superman broods in that ancient Kryptonian warship in the Arctic (his Fortress of Solitude), waiting to detect the slightest tremor of human aggression. Little does he know that the Phantom Drive Device that summoned Zod’s ship is on the fritz…

Earth’s governments band together in a desperate mission to overthrow Superman. Prodigy genius and strategist LEX LUTHOR leads them. This guy’s studied Superman for months, and he’s convinced he’s got a plan…

A seemingly endless wave of military forces siege the Fortress of Solitude, guns blazing. Superman soars out to meet them, cutting through their ranks like butter. He prepares to kill them, starting with Lex Luthor, when Luthor’s true attack comes into play:

A low-orbit satellite fires a kinetic bombardment missile, hitting the Fortress of Solitude with the force of an atom bomb, inadvertently sending that Phantom Drive device into hyper drive. This creates a vortex in space and time that rips Superman into it.

Here’s where things get really interesting.

Superman lands in the Arctic, right outside his Fortress of Solitude. Geographically, nothing much has changed, except the military’s gone… And there’s something else…

In Man of Steel, the dying planet Krypton looked dark and corroded, foreboding and hellish. That made sense; it was on its last legs. But Earth… Earth looked much the same, its colors washed out, its people existing only in grays and blues. People were short, curt, and passionless. The world felt empty and ready for ruin. But now… everything’s HIGHLY saturated and clean…

The sound of mayhem in the distance –Superman zooms after it with lightning speed, the prismatic world blurring past. He finds himself in Metropolis –a city so beautiful and strong to give him pause- and it looks like a major catastrophe never happened there –well, except for the GIANT ROBOT currently demolishing 5th avenue. Before Superman can intervene, a blur of blue, red, and yellow whooshes past him—

IT’S SUPERMAN.

Superman Mind Blown

Superman watches in wonder –or is it horror- as another him zips around the robot, using a clever mix of heat vision, frost breath, super-speed, and super strength to reduce it to scrap –leaving its pilot unharmed to be delivered into police custody –all without any collateral damage.

As this other Superman helps clear away the robot’s mess and rebuild, Man of Steel Superman notices differences in their costume: while his costume is dark and washed out, other Superman’s costume is bright and cheery … and he wears a red speedo outside of his spandex. Man of Steel Superman? Meet CLASSIC SUPERMAN.

Alerted to the sounds of a bank robbery,  Man of Steel (MoS) Superman zooms off in its direction –Classic Superman notices and shoots off after him –nonchalantly passing the LEXCORP Building, where a terrified Lex Luthor gawks out the window. MoS Superman slams down, preparing to deliver his brand of justice –only for Classic Superman to stop him, apprehending the criminals effortlessly. MoS Superman yells about how they’ll just cause more crime, Classic Superman tries to calm him down, but it’s all too much for MoS Superman… the noise of crime, the chaos of the world, and of the presence of another him… he flies into the upper atmosphere until Classic Superman can talk him down, and take him to a place where he can get his head screwed on straight.

MoS Superman wanders the Fortress of Solitude. It’s brighter. Cheerier. There’s a zoo of Kryptonian animals, things he’d only seen in data records, and trophies of colorful villains he’d never (but we might!) recognize. Classic Superman sits down with him, hashing out the world. Classic Superman is what we, the audience, would know as “the real” Superman from the DC comics. Idealistic, wholesome, pure… you get the picture. MoS Superman can’t get over how calmly Classic Superman’s taking this. Classic Superman shrugs “After Toyman, Brainiac, and Parasite, it’s pretty hard to surprise me.” The two talk vaguely at first, both sizing up the other, not sure what to do. MoS Superman asks Classic Superman why his world is so chaotic. Classic Superman replies that he’s a hero, not a dictator. He saves humanity; he doesn’t rule it. It’s just not how he was raised. At one point, it becomes clear to MoS Superman that in this universe, Classic Superman’s parents are still alive. He flies out of the Fortress of Solitude at hypersonic speed, leaving Classic Superman to follow.

MoS Superman lands in Smallville at the Kent farm and sobs, hugging Pa Kent. Classic Superman lands. “I’m sorry, Dad. You died when he was just a child.”

Seeing the farm and Smallville in all of its glory before the Kryptonian attack on his world (in Man of Steel), MoS Superman agrees to help Classic Superman defend his world until they can find a way to send him back.

superman Farm

Together, they save people from natural disasters, and stop crimes, always stopping back to the Fortress of Solitude to work on the Phantom Zone Drive together. Still, this lingering doubt hangs in MoS Superman’s mind as they pass over battlefields, and as he sees political strife causing inequality and human suffering. It’s slowly driving him mad. Just as they’re putting the finishing touches on the Phantom Zone Drive, a series of major rumblings draw their attention—

They fly to Metropolis where they’re too late to save thousands of people from collapsed apartment buildings. Classic Superman mourns their loss, hating himself for not being more vigilant; but MoS Superman with glowers with a fiery vengeance for those responsible. Classic Superman sweeps over the ruin with his X-ray vision, discovering the buildings’ cornerstones: they’d been made by Lex Luthor.

The Supermen burst into Lex Corp, but Lex Luthor is ready. He assaults them with kryptonite, and prepares to kill them. The collapsed apartments? All to get both Supermen to come to him after his robot trick failed the first time. No one should have the kind of power they have; especially aliens from another planet. Earth deserves better. He levels a gun at Classic Superman, who struggles helplessly under the kryptonite… MoS Superman just uses his heat vision to kill Luthor. Just burns a hole right through his heart.

Luthor sinks to the ground, confused, “But… but you’re Superman…” and dies.

Superman on Killing

Classic Superman’s beside himself with horror, screaming at MoS Superman that he can’t just murder people –that they have to uphold the law. MoS Superman argues that in letting people like Luthor live this long, he’s let thousands die. If he hadn’t have snapped Zod’s neck, how many others would die? Classic Superman broods. “So you’ve killed before.” MoS Superman argues that Luthor slaughtered innocents just in the hope of killing Superman. Of course that justifies murder. He goes on to argue that this is the same man that united the Man of Steel world against him. Classic Superman wonders if maybe that world’s Luthor had his head screwed on straight. MoS Superman flies off to “correct the world” that’s grown too chaotic and allowed too much human suffering. Classic Superman tackles him out of the sky, refusing to let him kill again.

Commence epic Superman-on-Superman fight, Classic Superman in defense of justice and Earth’s sovereignty, and MoS Superman to save it from itself –at any cost. However, at multiple points during the fight, Classic Superman breaks off from combat to save people from collateral damage. MoS Superman screams at him to just surrender, starting to notice how terrified civilians are of him.

Classic Superman draws the fight away from people as best he can… which allows MoS Superman to maneuver him into a headlock. Classic Superman asks him if this is how it’s going to go… if life means so little to him. MoS Superman prepares to do it… but his eyes keep meeting those of terrified civilians… and Classic Superman isn’t struggling. He’s just waiting. Scared of himself, MoS Superman lets him go and falls to his knees, shaking. Classic Superman stands, telling him that they’re as much a part of the world as everyone else. Their talents are used to inspire humanity to greatness and to catch them when they fall. “We’re Superman. We’re not better; we’re held to a higher standard.”

Mos Superman helps Classic Superman rebuild what was destroyed in their epic battle, learning that final ounce of compassion… learning that people can sort themselves out, if he but gives them a chance.

Humbled, MoS Superman returns to the Fortress of Solitude with Classic Superman. There, he uses the Phantom Zone Drive to travel back to his Man of Steel universe. Classic Superman wishes him good-bye, telling him to shape up. After all… He could always pay him a visit.

MoS Superman returns to where he’d been without skipping a beat: the militaries of the world surround him, Lex Luthor in his grasp… MoS Superman lowers Luthor to the nearest ship. He relinquishes his hold on the world, pledging to make it up to them. Then, he flies away, leaving them all in wonder.

He lands in the crater of Metropolis, now a memorial to those lost. Somberly, he begins to rebuild.

Superman Destruction

6.            What the hell was that?

At the end of the day, just like Warner Bros.’ forthcoming “requel” tentatively named “Superman vs. Batman,” “Man of Steel 2” would be about rebuilding: literally in Metropolis’ sense, but figuratively in crafting a Superman that’s a happier medium. Rather than wallowing in a cold, apathetic world as Man of Steel does, “Man of Steel 2” makes MoS Superman a fish out of water in his own world and redeems him through the power of compassion and humanity.

With my pitch, you get a surprising, creative story; an emotional arc; moral grayness; metaphysical wonder; and a few kick-ass, character-driven fight scenes all for the price of one. At the end of the day, you’re left with a Superman who’s got a closer, more genuine connection to humanity, with a greater understanding of what might be done to save it.

And really, that was all we needed from the first movie.

Nice try, Warner Bros.

Official pictures courtesy Warner Bros. & DC Comics.

Original and edited pictures courtesy the Nerd Bastards & headside.

Sad Cyborg?

Standard

Deux Ex Smoking

Well, aren’t we all?

We’re increasingly connected to an information network ballooning in scale, power, and effect, always compressing our time until the simple act of waiting in line in the grocery store has to be several other simultaneous online tasks. God forbid we give our brains a chance to think for one solitary second. For some, this might be the culmination of Bradbury, Dick, and Gibson’s nightmares.

I leapt into those authors’ worlds for refuge from my own, only to find the life I escaped relentlessly closing the gap between science fiction and science fact … to render fantasy reality. Sure, this is mostly for progress’ sake, but technophobia is so fun, isn’t it?

To be more concrete, we live in an age with 24/7 access to the internet resting in our pocket, capable of achieving dizzying feats of global communication. For some, that’s been lowering the world with their bigotry, for others, it’s been fostering the real beauty of the human spirit.

In my case, it’s mostly been about researching pop culture trivium. …To hopefully foster the real beauty of the human spirit.

See, for me, it’s always been about those adolescent fantasies of saving the lives of billions in an imperiled galaxy or defending my realm against the forces of darkness. I want that power fantasy. I want to be a superhero. I want to be a vampire warlord. I WANT to be a cyborg… just not on anyone’s terms but my own.

And that’s the rub; the world’s convinced that it knows better what I/we want better than I/we do. Like mindless automatons, they’ve calculated to the smallest percentile to manufacture what they think we’ll care about, what they think we’ll want, and what they think we’ll buy when art -real art, of any medium/genre/style- can be infinitely more sincere.

And that’s why I’m here: to talk about pop culture –Movies, Video Games, Comics, and more- in a more genuine and human way than systematic reviews. The yes/no dichotomy of Metacritic and Rotten Tomato only get so far when trying to address the real questions: What’s human about the fantastic, and what’s fantastic about being human?

We’re stuck together in this limitless world of communication -as inseparably as a plasma-injected cybernetic arm to my central nervous system…

…but at least we’re connected.