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Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics [Blu-ray]
THE JOKER, LEX LUTHOR, CATWOMAN, DOOMSDAY, BANE. What makes them so thrillingly watchable? So terribly wonderful? So extremely vital to our super heroes and their worlds? This new feature-length documentary explores these questions across seven decades of DC Comics' hallowed Rogues' Gallery of infamous evildoers.
Superman vs. Batman, as it was colloquially called, is really actually not that bad of a movie idea. I actually would like to see this film, despite several problems, unlike the JJ Abrams "Superman" script.
In an ideal world, where we all had a good sense of recreational time, and where movie theaters were able to show a multitude of good movies, and where most good ideas where given a chance, there would be three Superman movies of superlative quality coming out every year. A world where experiment to convention is allowed without modifying the whole structure of a franchise, and where failure doesn't mean suits killing your creative momentum for twenty years.
In that world, this film would have ruled.
Alas, in our world, it can never be. If not only for that, for the fact that this movie actually allows for assumed knowledge of the comic world, and allows the audience to actually fill in the blanks on their own or be left in the dark on a number of cool concepts, including the Toyman, Barbara Gordon, Lana Lang, and others.
It also explores concepts that are "CONTROVERSIAL" and in that, would never pass suit muster.
We start out with Superman, saving the day. A terrorist has attacked the "Freedom" monument, and Superman swoops in to stop the death and destruction. A bit symbolic of what's going on with the "war on terror" much? Methinks yeah.
Elements from the Singer movie are even present, including the "glass" problem solved with heat vision, and the elevator costume change.
Amusingly, this occurs after he tries to change in the closet and finds two clerks making out.
The "terrorist" presses a button on a remote, and his tire blows out. A man yanks him out, recognizing that he attacked the Freedom monument, and begins beating him to death.
Superman intercedes, telling them that he won't allow them to kill the man. He deserves justice, and he'll get justice, Superman assures them of that.
This drives a political thematic (and also a literary theme, but obviously, in today's U.S. this would be the major point of contention or being beloved) that the best response to someone attacking you and hurting you is not to act in revenge in response, killing and becoming like the terrorist or villain, but instead, bring justice to the evildoers without sacrificing what makes you who you are.
I personally like this theme, but it would be given a healthy dose of propaganda hate on Fox News and with people who support the war on terror without any restrictions as to the cost in death, no doubt. It's bold, and I respect that.
My normal thesis is to keep Superman out of politics, and I stand by that. This is different, because he never directly addresses the war on terror, and the idea that taking a life and vengeance in response to evil are both wrong has been Superman's credo for pretty much his whole run. Any conclusions drawn from that based on that fact that the baddie is a "terrorist" would be the viewer's own, which makes it better in my eyes.
Superman carts him off to jail, but as he does, the terrorist presses a button, opening his lead watch and spraying them with Kryptonite dust. Superman crashes into the water, finding only a mask with the terrorists face in it.
Major flaw here being, why didn't Superman x-ray the guy. Later, we find out the facemask has K in it, but then, wouldn't that stop Superman from hurting him? At any rate, small device in a bigger picture.
At the Daily Planet, the holographic globe on the top spins in a near-future for the DC universe of characters. Clark is married to Lois, but she's nowhere to be seen. She's divorcing Clark, and no longer around the Daily Planet.
I hated this idea at first glance, and still kind of do, but in the script, hard to say exactly how without you reading it, but it actually kind of works. Not because I like the idea of Lois and Clark breaking up, but because it actually makes a plausible and good reason to explore Lana. Maybe it's just because I miss a decent, kind Lana so much, and this movie, in many ways, taps into everything that Lana can be.
Clark is asked out to the bar by the other guys, and declines. He's well regarded, treated like an ordinary human being, atypically to the traditional movie portrayal and more common with the Byrne era.
Cut to Bruce Wayne getting married to a woman named Elizabeth, with Clark as the best man and Barbara Gordon in attendance with Aunt Harriet. Alfred, Commissioner Gordon and Dick Grayson are all dead, presumably at the hands of the Joker or old age. Definitely Joker in Dick's case.
Batman hasn't been Batman for five years after the death of the Joker and Dick. He's ready for a happy life, giving up his old self, because after Joker murdered Dick it became more about revenge than justice. Again the subtle thematic on the "war on terror."
At the honeymoon, Elizabeth, seemingly the perfect wife, drops dead from Joker Smilex.
Batman goes back to being Batman, but brutally, nearly killing villains in a montage of returning to form.
They figure out that the terrorist was really the Joker, trying to drive Batman and Superman to fight, given that had he killed Joker, Elizabeth, Bruce's new wife, would still be alive.
Batman returns to the cave, activating the "Alfred" program, who helps him through the movie. This serves two neat purposes... giving Alfred a role and also eliminating the fact that he can't always be around, because he's old when Bruce STARTS being Batman.
This movie knows the comics, and is informed. It's a great seeming Elseworlds.
Smallville's population is 1,644. Of all the things in this film, that's potentially the most awesome. Smallville is NOT larger than the big city I live in, heh.
Clark visits the farm, haunted by the ghost of Ma and Pa Kent, and missing Lois.
Batman engages in stopping a robbery that includes a great scene that culminates in Batman telling them to tell Joker he's a dead man. He's obviously over the edge, but still clinging a bit to who he is.
Superman gets lead, forms a box, and meets up with Lana. On the Smallville bridge, some kids find themselves trapped in the wreck of a car at the bottom of the water. Clark saves them, then feels guilty, as it's a car that Lex Luthor sent off the bridge when he was a boy trying to get him to admit that he had powers.
Batman visits the Toyman, questioning him about the dart that killed his wife, and finds out that the Joker is still alive.
Batman digs up the Joker's grave, finding only a paper mache corpse. In a fit of anger, he takes the crowbar to bash in the head, which is ironic, given that in the comics Joker kills Robin with a crowbar to the head. NICE, symbolic gesture.
Clark bonds with Lana again, and they spend the night together. I know that sounds cheap as I write it, but there's a LONG scene which makes it sensible. They talk of early days in Smallville, and with Lois absent in this script, it's believable in most ways.
Clark takes his spaceship and analyzes the mask, finding it made of Kryptonite, a very specific Kryptonite that Lex Luthor manufactures.
Apparently, and here's another flaw, Clark's ship runs on Kryptonite. When it was sent before Kryptonite was created?
Batman battles the Joker as he steals the Bat signal, and an armored car chase ensues that ends with the Batmobile destroyed and Joker victorious, nearly killing Batman, then leaving him for the final battle.
Joker kills his goons, and reveals that he knows Bruce Wayne is Batman to no one in particular.
Batman and Barbara speak in the cave about his vengeance over her old suit. She advises him to calm himself. He dismisses her.
Clark determines to give up being Superman, but a twister in Smallville brings him back from the brink. We see him undo a twister and save the town.
He goes to Luthor, in a cell with sharpened nails, and asks him what's going on. Luthor explains that Project Achilles Heel was a government idea to stop Superman, and the only reason Luthor is in jail is because he tried to kill Superman before the government did it officially.
Batman uses a neat Bat-o-flage suit and a rocket pack to sneak into a facility and steal Kryptonite, knowing that Superman won't let him kill Joker.
At Elizabeth's grave, Clark tells Bruce to let it go. Batman tells him that if he gets in the way, he'll kill him.
This I don't buy. I can see wanting to kill Joker, but threatening to kill Superman over it seems beyond the pale. Nonetheless, it's clear from here the conflict is on.
Luthor escapes by piercing the brain stem of the guards with his sharpened fingernails, turning them into obedient zombies (?). Yeah, I balked when I read it, too. It felt as if I'd jumped into the JJ Abrams script for a moment. But the point being, I guess, Luthor escapes.
Superman and Batman square off, with Batman in a Kryptonite based suit that will weaken Superman but not kill him. They beat each other senseless. That's five words, but it's twenty pages of script, all of which is just an incredible fight. Think Dark Knight Returns kicked up to eleven, with Superman blowing Batman through parks, Batman pummeling Superman nearly to death, and in the end, an ascent to the sun (per Singer's movie) before flying back at Batman and being hit with a K arrow.
The only bad part is when Superman flips Batman off mid-fight, which is very off-character.
Batman goes for Joker, who has arrived on the scene with the Batsignal. They do battle high above the city, as Superman climbs to stop Bruce or aid him, mortally wounded.
Joker tells Batman that Elizabeth was working for him, and Batman loses the heart to fight. Joker is about to kill him, but Superman saves him. They battle, until victorious, they corner Joker over a great height.
Luthor appears, pushing Joker off, wearing the battlesuit the government designed to kill Superman. He begins winning handily, and fails only when Superman, renewing his powers, knocks them all off the building. Luthor survives, they find no body, but the two friends forge a new friendship despite the plot, and forgive each other.
All in all, not a bad plot. Very good action scenes. It lacks a lot of the traditional superhero ideals, and a lot of the best characters, but it moves the story forward a bit in interesting ways and makes some natural extensions. It has a very "Kingdom Come" and "Dark Knight Returns" feel.
Would it be a benchmark movie? No. Would it be neat? Yes. Would it be JJ Abrams? Not by a long shot. Far better. Worth a read, even. I'd love to see a fan version of any of these scenes.
All in all, fun, but I can see why they chose Singer, easily. 6.5 of 10.