25th Mar2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/25/16 (“Do You Bleed?” Edition)

by Will

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This week, I decided to tackle the Marvel Netflix series that was on everyone’s lips…4 months ago. In order to catch up so that I could start Daredevil season 2, I finally finished Jessica Jones. If you remember, I had only gotten 3 episodes into the season, when technical difficulties sent me packing. Once everything was resolved, I just didn’t feel like getting back on that horse. Now that I’ve finished the season, however, I’m glad that I did. It truly was a great season, and I loved every minute of it. I’ve been a fan of the Jessica Jones character since the Alias comic debuted, and I’ve followed her development over the years from hard-edged private eye to doting wife and mother. She’s probably one of the rare characters to actually experience *growth* in comics, as she wasn’t looked upon to sell lunchboxes and Underoos, so Marvel let Bendis have a bit more control over her destiny.

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First up, I’ve got to admit that I was wrong. I didn’t like Krysten Ritter’s casting because I felt like the role would’ve been better with someone a bit older, like Yancy Butler. Well, Ritter handled herself well in the role, and by the end of the season, I pretty much believed that she was Jessica. The rest of the cast members were great, too, like Power Rangers RPM‘s own Eka Darville as Malcolm.

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And the world-building was great, as they introduced characters that seamlessly fit into their world, even if you wouldn’t initially think it would work (I’m looking at you, Nuke!). I will say, however, that it really bothers me how Marvel treats the television shows in relation to their films. I mean, they Netflix shows are better at showing links than the ABC shows. At least Netflix refers to “The New York Incident” and “the big green guy”, but that’s about it. Would it KILL them to put Stark Tower in the background of a scene? If there’s a delivery truck driving down a street, couldn’t it have “Stark” plastered along the side? It’s the little things that help to remind us that everything’s connected. Marvel does the shared universe concept like no one else, but they do it a lot better in the comics than in the live action. Oh, and the Netflix series sure do love killing off kindly, old, retirement-ready Black men. What’s that all about?

Anyway, now that I’m caught up, I’m ready to dive into Daredevil‘s second season. I’m currently on Spring Break, so I should be done with that in the next day or so. Tune in next week for my thoughts on it.

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So, let’s talk about the elephant in the universe: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I was talking to a friend recently, who said that even saying “I loved it/I hated it” constituted a spoiler. I’m not sure I agree with that, but if you’re of that mindset, you should stop reading now. I mean, I already got your click, so we’re pretty much done here. I promise not to post any story spoilers, but I am gonna tell you what I thought.

Dawn of Justice suffers from the crime of trying to do too much. It wants to introduce Batman, redeem Man of Steel, introduce Wonder Woman, establish Lex Luthor, and set up the Justice League film all at once. And it really only succeeds at one of these. At 2 and a half hours, you’d think they had mastered the pacing to accomplish all this, but you’d be wrong. This is 2-3 movies all crammed into one.

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Ultimately, I don’t feel like Warner Bros understands their own characters. For instance, it seems like they can’t seem to get away from the Christ allegory of Superman. This has been a theme in the films since Superman Returns, and it has never worked. It’s too obvious of a comparison, so when they go there, it just feels hamfisted and lazy. I mean, just look at how he hovers, reaching out to his believers. And if you look closely in some of the debris, you’ll see crucifixes haphazardly made out of detritus. This is not a coincidence, and I feel like there are other facets of Superman, even as an outsider, that don’t take him in the Jesus direction. I really felt like they didn’t have a grasp on the characters during the main fight between the titular heroes. It seemed like the desired effect was for fans to take a side, and to root for the hero of their choosing. I, however, found the whole enterprise made me uncomfortable. If making the audience uneasy was the goal, then the film succeeded. The fight should’ve been amazing, but Out for Blood Batman vs Just Trying to Save a Loved One Superman didn’t work for me. Is this how they want their characters to be seen? As the start of their film initiative, is this how they wanted to introduce this world to the audience?

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I hate to go into the Marvel vs DC aspect of the matter, but it’s got to be done. Like them or hate them, there’s still a sense of humor to Marvel films. Even the darker ones, like The Winter Soldier, still have lighthearted moments. I appreciate that about those films. This world that Snyder has built, however, is just so goddamn bleak. There’s no hope and no humor. In fact, there’s a really bad joke that doesn’t land because it doesn’t fit the tone of the movie at all. Taking a step back from things, I would probably be fine with that if this were a one-off movie. The problem, however, is that this is essentially the foundation of DC’s Cinematic Universe. Everything that comes after will be based on this world, and I HATE that. Why am I to root for any of these characters? Batman isn’t necessarily a Batman we’ve seen before, nor am I sure he’s a character I like (which is hard for me to say, as a die-hard Batman fan). Superman basically deals with his own Benghazi in the movie, and you’ve kinda got to question his motives. Lex Luthor is so over the top that he makes Cesar Romero’s Joker look like Heath Ledger’s Joker. Seriously, Jesse Eisenberg debuted in one of my favorite movies of all time (Roger Dodger), and I know he’s got range, but here it’s like he heard someone say “comic book”, and he decided to go balls to the wall insane. There have been many Lex Luthors over the years: mad scientist, businessman, president of the United States, etc. This is none of those, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing if it felt like he even knew anything about the character whatsoever. At the end of the day, this is not the movie that DC needed. These are trying times for the company, as they’re trying to get their publishing house in order via the Rebirth initiative, at the same time as trying to build a cinematic universe. I don’t, however, feel like they put their best foot forward with this effort.

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Then, Wonder Woman showed up (that’s not a spoiler, as it’s been in every trailer and on every magazine cover). And SHE was a delight. I never really cared much for that character, and I wasn’t supportive of the casting of Gal Gadot, but she stole every scene that she was in. I will say that it goes kinda overboard when she joins the fight, as the movie briefly seems to turn into Sucker Punch (Cue rock music! Flying fighting females!), but you don’t mind because she injects life into some of the most boring scenes. And there are some boring scenes. After all, the thing is almost 3 hours. There were moments I’d look up and think “Man, this fucker’s still going?” The movie succeeds in not only introducing the character as a badass, but also really makes you look forward to her solo film.  Anyway, it pretty much wasn’t even a contest, but Wonder Woman had the West Week Ever.