With Great Power Comes Great Cynicism

I take super heroes and the media surrounding them entirely too seriously. This is why I get so worked up over comics and movies. It doesn’t take much for me to launch into an hours-long tirade over the finer points of caped continuity. However, there is some method to my fanboy madness.

The super powered stories we see played out on movie screens and comic book pages represent our modern mythology. And like the legends of old, these tales reflect the values that our society holds most dear.

Truth. Justice. The American Way.

Truth and justice are fairly universal in the super hero genre. But what exactly is the “American Way?” What are the values that we as Americans hold most dear?

There are two characters that come instantly to mind when I hear those words, Superman and Captain America. For the longest time, I thought of them both as the biggest Boy Scouts in all of comics. They were the clean cut heroes that would defend freedom whenever our nation was in peril and still have time to rescue a cat from a tree. We think of the eras in which both were created as a more innocent time in our nation’s history. But we’re not so innocent anymore.

In reflecting upon the latest films starring these two heroes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Man of Steel, I’ve come to suspect that today’s notion of “The American Way” is far more cynical and dark than it’s ever been.

The First Revenger

What better way to examine modern American values than through the eyes of Steve Rogers, a man out of time. When Captain America first threw his mighty shield, fighting bad guys was straight forward. They were easily identified with their jack boots and Nazi arm bands. All the war department had to do was point Steve in a direction to punch.

Today’s enemies are more difficult to spot. Today’s war on terror pits us against enemies who span border lines, who wear civilian clothes, who attack us in secret. Still, they are punchable. And even though this is a new kind of warfare, bad guys are still bad and good guys are still good.

Or are they?

From his very first mission in Winter Soldier, a seemingly simple rescue mission, Steve learns that even his allies are hiding things from him. It turns out that Natasha has different orders. She’s there not to back him up, but to obtain data from the ship’s computers.

If the people who are ordering him to punch people are hiding things from him, how does he know he’s punching the right people?

Throughout the film, Steve grows to distrust those he once counted as his closest allies.

This feeling of unease, the notion that those who are meant to protect us are doing anything but, the idea that the watchmen need watching, we certainly feel that in today’s America. It doesn’t take a fancy pollster to know that few of us truly trust our leaders. From Snowden’s revelations that the CIA is spying on us to the recent disturbing string of police related deaths, there’s a growing fear that those in power are not to be trusted.

When Captain America – the embodiment of all that was good about America – doubts the morality of those who are meant to protect and serve us, how absolutely fucked are we?

In the end – and I suppose I should have mentioned that there might be spoilers – Steve manages to punch the right bad guys in the face. But my feeling of unease remained. There was no hope in the final punch, only the knowledge that indeed, we can never truly trust those who wield power in our name.

Man of Punching

Where Winter Soldier examines our distrust of absolute power, Man of Steel explores what it’s like to wield absolute power.

The iconic Superman of the Golden Age is the ultimate Boy Scout. Certainly, he punches bad guys. But he also makes time to help gran across a busy intersection and rescue little Timmy’s cat from a tree. Truth. Justice. The American way.

That’s no the Superman we meet in Man of Steel.

In this version, Pa Kent teaches his son that power is something fearful that should be kept hidden at all costs. This is actually a dangerous lesson for Clark to internalize because he withdraws from the world as he grows up. He never learns the now cliche’d lesson, that with great power comes great responsibility. He never learns to wield his power in a responsible manner. So when he’s confronted with an unstoppable force, he explodes.

Clark’s first fight with Faora in Smallville is one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen in a comic book film. Golden Age Clark would have punched Zod into the neighboring corn field far away from any possible collateral damage. This new Clark seemingly cares nothing for collateral damage and runs right in to punch all the things. Fortunately, the damage is somewhat contained. But the scene is a prelude for the horror to come.

The final fight between Superman and Zod is a glorified orgy of destruction. Metropolis is virtually punched into rubble not by the world engine, but by Clark’s fists. This is no protector. This is no Boy Scout. This is absolute power unleashed.

The truly disturbing thing was not Clark’s final sanction against Zod. It was the loud cheers from the audience.

Fear and Punching

Like I said, I read way too much into these things. If we were to measure the America by these two films, we’d see a fearful nation that applauds unbridled power. We’re so scared that the only way to save us is to punch the thing into oblivion.

That’s a bit cynical, even for me. Sure, trust in our government is at an all time low. And certainly, there’s way more fear than I’d like. But we’re all still here, punching the days as best as we can.

And really, I don’t think think Cap or Supes are enough to represent modern American values. For that, we turn to the Guardians.

A New Hope

To me, Guardians of the Galaxy more closely reflect the modern American experiment than Winter Soldier or Man of Steel. Here are a bunch of self-centered assholes who literally crash into each other and are forced to work together to live another day. Basically sounds like everyone’s morning commute.

There’s a tremendous feeling of hope when the end credits roll, something that was sorely missing in both Winter Soldier and Man of Steel.

We don’t all like each other. But we’re in this together. So might as well have some fun while we’re doing it.

That’s the America I see around me.

See? I take this shit way too seriously.

Hey Nerds, Ease Up On Gal Gadot

Talk shit, get hit!

Talk shit, get hit!

Short of giving everyone in the theater an bone shattering orgasm as the end credits roll, I don’t think Warner Bros will ever satisfy us nerds with Batman vs. Superman.  The announcement that Ben Affleck would don the bat cowl was met with venomous criticism.  And last week’s reveal that Gal Gadot would be strapping on the golden bracers and magic lasso was viciously lambasted.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • She’s too skinny for the role.
  • Maybe if she gets on them horse steroids, she can fill out.
  • She talks funny.
  • We haven’t seen enough of her yet to step into such a prestigious role.
  • She not good enough to carry a franchise.
  • Ah, she’s just a model.
  • She needs to eat a burger or two or three.
  • Maybe if we complain hard enough, she’ll back out.
Facepalm Piccard


This is why we can’t have nice things.

You know who else we hadn’t seen do anything at all unless we were fans of Australian musical theater? HUGH FUCKING JACKMAN who has gone on to play Wolverine in seven fuck movies.  As shitty as I think many of those movies are, he’s been an amazing Wolverine.  I actually think that the fact that we haven’t seen much from Gal Gadot works in her favor.  Casting relative unknowns as comic characters has paid off in spades.  Had any of us in ‘Merica heard of Tom Hiddleston before he put on Loki’s horned helm?  And now look, every fangirl in the world swoons at the mere mention of his name.

Now it’s true that we haven’t really seen her act in anything.  The Fast and Furious franchise basically asked two things of her: be hot, kick dudes.  I think she did both marvelously well.  Wonder Woman does require a little more on the acting front.  But I’m willing to give her chance.  Remember how Chris Evans stunk up the theater twice as Johnny Storm in those ill conceived Fantastic Four things?  By nerd law, there was no way he should be cast in anything based on a comic book ever again.  Yet I think he’s a great Steve Rogers.

So fucking ease up on Gal Gadot and let put on a damn costume.

If we want to nerd rage, let’s nerd rage about the fact that this isn’t a solo Wonder Woman film.  For fucking serious, it’s been far too long since we’ve had a proper live action Wonder Woman.  Linda Carter is getting lonely out there.  I can’t believe Gal Gadot is only the second woman to put on the golden tiara when we’ve had umptysquat numbers of Bat and Super men.

DC considers Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to be their holy trinity, yet Warner Bros can’t figure out how to make a goddamn Wonder Woman film.  So instead, they take the lazy ass way out and shoehorn her into someone else’s party.  It’s a disservice to the character.

My fear is that Gal Gadot won’t really have a chance to shine as Diana.  She’s competing with the titular characters of the film and when push comes to shove, they’re going to be cutting a lot of her out of the thing to make room for the two super dude bros.  It’s their movie and there’s a real danger that Wonder Woman will just be a footnote much like Colossus in the X2.

Remember who the real enemy is.  It’s not Gal Gadot.  It’s fucking Warner Bros.

We Got Us a Fast and Furious Woman of Wonders

Kamen Rider Wonder Woman

Kamen Rider Wonder Woman

Whether or not it’s been in the works all the while, it seems that Warner Bros is finally giving us a live action Wonder Woman.  Sort of.

Gal Gadot will be gearing up with magic lasso and gold bracers when she joins Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in Batman vs. Superman as Wonder Woman.  The only thing I’ve seen her in is the Fast and Furious series.  I thought she was a great addition to the cast and was pretty badass driving like a monster and shooting like a pro.  I think she can handle action scenes very well and it’ll be great to see her portray Wondy.

But honestly, I wish she had her own film.  I don’t really think there’s room for her in this Superman/Batman thing.  Bats and Supes have had individual movies so we know their filmatic origins and we’ve spent some decent amount of screen time with them.  We haven’t met Wondy in film yet so unless this film is Wonder Woman’s origin story, I have a bad feeling that she’s going to be a sidekick to our two super bros.  Unless the titles changes to Batman vs. Superman vs. Wonder Woman, I’m a little worried.

Still, I like Gadot as Wonder Woman just fine.  And it might end up being a Tom Hiddleston thing where she steals all the scenes she’s in and becomes the cult star of the film.  That’s what I’m hoping for.

From: Coming Soon

Look at the Fucking Smile On Batfleck’s Face

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I wasn’t entirely certain I wanted to keep doing AZM on the regular. But then someone came up to me at SPX and said they’ve been reading this horrible thing since high school (WHAT THE WHAT) so I will endeavor to do my best to bring my take to all the nerdy shit that’s going on. It won’t be pretty, but that’s not what you come here for. So let’s get back into it starting with the news that Ben Affleck is going to play Batman in the sequel to Superman: Man of Steel.

To be honest, I didn’t nerd rage nearly as hard as some of my friends.  At this point, I don’t care who plays Batman.  Though I thought he was really compelling in Batman Begins, by the time The Dark Knight came around, I was getting sick of Christian Bale’s weird Batvoice. I found Heath Ledger to be much more interesting.  And in the third installment, I found the surrounding characters much more interesting than Batman.  Batman is more of an idea, a force of nature, than any one character.  The Bat himself somehow became the least interesting part of the franchise.  I was drawn in because of the way he affected the lives and loves around him.  The Bat doesn’t matter as much as the way he touches the lives around him.  So in that view, really anyone could put on the suit.

Superman/Batman must deal with a more fundamental problem that reared its ugly head in Man of Steel.  Max Landis does a brilliant job of articulating my biggest problem with the movie:

For me to give any shits about the sequel, Superman needs to answer for the destruction of Smallville and Metropolis.  I’ve heard the argument that these are his first two big fights so he hasn’t quite figured out the best way to punch villains without destroying towns.  I suppose that’s true.  But they spent the entire first act of the film showing us how much Clark cares about humanity, how far he’s willing to go to save people.  And yet when it comes to punchy time, he suddenly forgets that there are innocents near by?

No.  That is not the character they set up.  That is not Superman.

I think the second film needs to deal with this and I think it would be a great way to introduce Lex Luthor.  I could easily see Lex coming in and saying something like, “Do you see the destruction this so-called savior caused? He’s no hero! He’s a monster!”  And then Lexcorp swoops in to do reconstruction while Lex begins a campaign to demonize Superman.  And Clark spends a good portion of the film trying to reconcile the damage he’s done.  Do I stay to help protect humanity against other threats knowing that this could be the result?  Do I leave and hope that they can take care of themselves?  I think that could be a really interesting setup and a perfect way for Lex to make his entrance.

Or better yet, Waynecorp comes in to do reconstruction.  Bruce calls up Clark and basically says, “Listen, asshole. You can punch villains without blowing up a city, you know.”  Just snarks the shit out of him.  If we get asshole Bruce, I really think Affleck is the guy.  You remember this scene from Boiler Room?

How awesome would it be to have him bust Clark’s balls like this!  Yeah, yeah, super flying powers FUCK YOU! Don’t punch villains in Metropolis!  He could even do the whole “act as if” thing to Clark.

Hey fucker, act as if you’re a fucking super hero!

I don’t know which way they’re going to go with the sequel, but I hope to the comic gods that they address the destruction of Smallville and Metropolis and that Ben Affleck gets his asshole on and trolls the shit out of Clark as Bruce.  Then I’ll believe DC is ready for a Justice League film.

Actually, scratch that. Smallville, Metropolis, asshole Bruce, WONDER WOMAN and THEN I’ll believe DC is ready for a Justice League film.

The Fate of the Justice League is in the Hand of the Man of Steel

The Man of Grey

The Man of Grey

According to this report in Variety, Warner Bros will be watching the Man of Steel box office numbers very closely.  If the reboot performs well, they’re all set to break out their OA Battery and greenlight a Justice League film.  If it performs badly, we’ll probably never get to see Wonder Woman on screen.

I don’t like the way Warner Bros is approaching this project.  It feels like a blatant cash grab.  Marvel planted the seeds for The Avengers across five movies, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger.  Though each movie was a complete entity of its own, they all felt like they took place in the same universe.  Warner Bros hasn’t established any connection between any of their super hero films.  From the previews, I can believe that Man of Steel takes place in the same grey universe as Dark Knight.  But how does Fail Jorden (Ryan Reynolds) fit in?  The Green Lantern version of Coast City has way too many colors.

Filling out the rest of the Justice League lineup are Flash and Wonder Woman.  This means at least two origins will need to be told.  And honestly, since we don’t know what version of Bats or Green Lantern we’re getting, we might need refreshers on those two jabronis as well.  Two origins is kind of pushing it.  Four would be a fucking nightmare.

My biggest problem with all of this is the appalling lack of a proper live action Wonder Woman movie.  DC’s trinity is Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  So many Bat flicks.  So many Supes flicks.  Both have had reboots, refreshes, recasting, refuckeverything.  Wonder Woman, not so much.  We got Linda Carter and that aborted TV pilot and that’s it on the live action front.  There’s CW series in the works which sounds bloody awful.  But no movie!

This is a crime against nerdom.  We’ve had Ripley, Sarah Connor, Buffy, Leeloo Corban Dallas Mooltipass, Selene, Jane Smith, Nikita, but we can’t have the baddest badass woman of them all?  Bull. Shit.  In general, I’m dismayed at the lack of women in super hero flicks, but it’s an absolute travesty that we haven’t had a live action Wonder Woman film yet.  In the new damn millennium.  We get new Star Wars but no Wonder Woman? How does that shit make sense.

From: Variety