Justice League (Full Review)

Dreary, uninspired, and virtually tone deaf to the decades of phenomenal source material that came before it… the more you think about it, the more Batman v Superman feels like a train wreck. But Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman showed that DC and Warner Bros. has some footing. Now comes Justice League, the original super team of marquee heroes hoping to keep the DC Extended Universe from completely derailing.

Justice_League_film_posterFollowing the events of 2016’s Dawn of Justice, Justice League begins with Batman (Ben Affleck), his trusted butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) struggling to pick up the pieces following the death of Superman (Henry Cavill). When an alien god (Ciaran Hinds) who was once thwarted by Amazons and warriors from Atlantis returns to conquer Earth, Batman and Wonder Woman must recruit more metahumans to oppose him. Joining them are nerdy speedster Barry Allen aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), macho half-man, half Atlantian Arthur Curry aka the Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) a former football star who is fused with alien technology by his father (Joe Morton) after a near fatal accident. But to prevent the apocalypse, they’ll need to quickly gel as a team and find a way to resurrect the Man of Steel himself.

Justice League is by no means a polished movie. After an untimely and unfortunate exit from Director Zack Snyder, Avengers helmsmen Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the job. It is pretty noticeable in a few cringeworthy scenes where the reshoots and edits are glaringly obvious and out of place amidst the finished product. Not helping matters is the generic plot and somewhat rushed together opening act that attempts to pull together several characters never fully introduced on screen before.

But since when does having a flimsy plot make a superhero movie not entertaining? Audiences collectively gushed over Avengers even though it was about a random alien invasion bringing together a rag tag group just the same. And several of the touted Marvel films involve finding a magical mcguffin to thwart a megalomaniac. So the overarching narrative shouldn’t distract from the excitement when the tone is balanced, the action is intense, and the chemistry between characters works.

Justice League succeeds in the most important aspects of the genre. The chemistry between the heroes works wonderfully without compromising the more serious tone of the established universe. Affleck is brooding, but slyly exuberant and more balanced as Batman this time around. Fisher brings toughness and soul as Cyborg. Miller and Momoa are both boyishly comical in their roles and Gal Gadot is just as sophisticated and elegant as she’s been in every role as the Amazon warrior. Even Henry Cavill’s Superman, who swoops in as the team’s resident cheat code in the climax (it’s not that big of a spoiler. Trust me), manages to feel like a welcomed fit amongst the group. His charming boy scout routine works well in its small dose and manages to elevate another dull showing by Amy Adams as Lois Lane.

The action, though heavy on the CGI, is well paced and exhilarating with each team member getting a moment to flex their muscle. Several sequences, including one involving Connie Nielsen and the Amazons from Wonder Woman, are downright show stoppers. More importantly, characters finally feel true to their comic cores, so DC fan boys who have been waiting for the big screen films to be as engaging as the studio’s animated properties will have enough to feel satisfied. So while Justice League doesn’t break any new narrative ground and may only be wholly memorable to comic purists, it succeeds in rectifying the wrongs of Batman v Superman and showing that the DCEU does know how to put something fun together without completely losing its knack for spectacle and an emotional foundation.

FINAL GRADE: B

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Wonder Woman (Full Review)

In baseball, when you’re losing, you don’t always need a homerun to restore the hope in your fans. Sometimes, you just need a solid base hit to get your team back into a rhythm. 2016 had two strikeouts for the DC Comics Extended Universe. Batman v Superman was the most dreary, self-indulgent superhero movie ever and Suicide Squad was a sloppy mess that had to rely on a seasoned cast to make it watchable. But now Wonder Woman is up to the plate, and after being one of the few bright spots in Batman v Superman, the most iconic superheroine in comic book history looks to get DC and Warner Bros. back in the cinematic game.

Wonder_Woman_(2017_film)Gal Gadot returns as Diana, the youngest of an island of Amazonian women created by Zeus to defend mankind from Aries, the God of War. Trained by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright), Diana becomes the fiercest Amazonian warrior, much to the dismay of her protective mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). When a World War I spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on their hidden shores, Diana embarks on a mission with him and his friends (Lucy Davis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock) to find Aries and end the war before a German General (Danny Huston) and his chemist partner (Elena Anaya) can release a deadly gas on all of mankind.

From the beginning, when we see Diana as a starry eyed little girl, the movie has a charming tone to it that never ceases. All of the supporting protagonists are likable and the chemistry between Gadot and Chris Pine always comes off as genuine. Both Diana and Steve Trevor are wonderfully layered characters that uplift each other. Diana is portrayed as a strong but naïve fish out of water who learns the nuances of mankind from Trevor while he is a brave soldier who lacks faith until being inspired by her strong willed and unyielding nature.

Great chemistry between the cast is coupled with a strong dose of well timed humor that, unlike Suicide Squad, never feels forced. It should also come as no surprise to anyone that saw the character in Batman v Superman that the battle scenes are thrilling. So despite being over two hours, the movie paces beautifully with only the beginning feeling a tad slow.

Wonder Woman isn’t without some glaring flaws. There is an overuse of CGI which often clashes with the more tangible scenes in the film that feature well choreographed fights and gorgeous costumes and scenery. The movie also has some hokey moments and lacks a strong central antagonist (The final reveal seems a bit forced). So while it isn’t quite a homerun, Director Patty Jenkins does manage to make it DC’s first film that feels smart, fun, exciting, and endearing throughout. And that makes it a solid double off of the back wall and enough to give us faith in the studio again.

FINAL GRADE: B

The Lego Batman Movie (Full Review)

In case you were unaware, I love Batman. And like most Batman purists, I find enjoyment with every iteration of the character, from the campiness of Adam West’s 1960’s version and the 90’s Joel Schumacher films to the darker Christopher Nolan trilogy and the critically acclaimed animated series. A spinoff of the Lego Movie, Lego Batman combines all of the different incarnations into a fun, family friendly story about a brash, brooding hero whose greatest fear is being part of a family again.

the_lego_batman_movie_promotionalposterWill Arnett returns as the voice of Lego Batman/Bruce Wayne, a talented but arrogant hero whose prideful life as a loner is turned on its head when new Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) starts to steal his thunder. While the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) plans a scheme to take over Gotham City and prove to Batman that he is his one true arch nemesis, the Dark Knight struggles to share his mansion and crime fighting lifestyle with his butler, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and his adopted son Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) who is both skilled and overtly dorky.

Like The Lego Movie, this film is filled with sight gags and enough puns to play a drinking game to if you’re my age. Hilarious easter eggs that hearken back to all of the different incarnations of Batman are enough to please fans while the goofy tone and wholesome message are perfect for families with young children. Each character plays a fun role and the growth experienced by the titular character is arguably the most nuanced of any Batman character on film to date.

The animated film genre has long been one that works best when a film can entertain children and adults alike. Lego Batman manages to encapsulate old fans and young ones with a film that mixes the quirkiness of legos and the action of a comic book film. With loads of cameos and jokes for all ages, Lego Batman is proof that the Dark Knight doesn’t always have to be dark to be entertaining.

FINAL GRADE: A

Suicide Squad (Full Review)

Batman v Superman left many of us with a bad taste in our mouths. Not because it was glaringly awful, but because it was wildly disappointing considering how good it could’ve been and considering how good we wanted it to be. But because we love superhero movies (more than the films critics who wish the most profitable film genre would die off), we are able to get excited about the next one as if we were never scorned. Suicide Squad is the latest attempt by DC Comics and Warner Bros. at getting audiences fully on board with their cinematic universe.

Suicide_Squad_(film)_PosterForget Batman v Superman, although it takes place in the same world, Suicide Squad delivers a drastically different tone and feel. The film tells the story of Task Force X, a group of criminals assembled together by ruthless government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), to carry out a deadly mission to stop an out of control sorceress (Cara Delevingne).  If they succeed, they’ll get time off of their prison sentences; if they don’t, they’ll be blamed for everything… or die. Included in the squad are Deadshot (Will Smith) an assassin who never misses; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), right hand woman to Batman (Ben Affleck)’s arch nemesis, The Joker (Jared Leto); El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) a fire spouting former gang banger; Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Australian thief; and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) a reptilian, man eater. Wrangling the team of degenerates is U.S. Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman).

DC’s last film failed partially because it was far too dreary, and it seems here as if they tried to make this one as much like a 90’s music video as possible. Sometimes this works, adding flare and humor. Other times, it just feels disorienting. But it isn’t a big issue. The horrendous narrative structure, however, that’s a completely different story.

Suicide Squad ends up being a fun mess, but a mess nonetheless. First, let’s address the messy elements. There are plenty of colorful characters with fun backgrounds and personalities here, but it appears as if Director David Ayer has shiny toys he doesn’t quite know how to play with. Some characters, like Smith’s Deadshot and Robbie’s Harley Quinn, are given plenty of moments to shine and breathe life into the sloppy story. But the majority of the Squad just seem like random pawns that are barely necessary. Characters like Katana (Karen Fukuhara), an assassin bodyguard to Rick Flag, are both irrelevant and useless. And the entire objective of the movie feels out of place and uninspired, like something out of a video game, which leads to a relatively hokey final act.

Then there’s Jared Leto’s underdeveloped and hardly pertinent Joker who’s really only here to give origin to Harley Quinn. Leto misses the mark partially because the character is poorly designed. He doesn’t need to be Heath Ledger, Jack Nickloson, Mark Hamill, or even Caesar Romero… but the Joker HAS to be charismatic and menacing to not feel annoying. This version is neither and just comes off weird for the sake of being weird. But it isn’t necessarily the actor’s fault, because The Joker should never be used as a sideshow.

But beyond the poorly placed flashbacks and inefficient juggling of characters, there is a ton of potential where something great could’ve and should’ve formed. Viola Davis is deliciously wicked as Amanda Waller. From snappy dialogue to just being a bad ass, Will Smith is phenomenal every time he’s on screen as Deadshot. Margot Robbie is perfect as Harley Quinn, and even Jai Courtney and Jay Hernandez’s characters are great when given their seldom chances. Suicide Squad isn’t a disaster, unless you expected it to be something groundbreaking. But it is a missed opportunity to create something that could’ve been DC and Warner Bros’ most exhilarating moment. Instead it’s a chaotic two hours of weak plot and a few poor attempts at endearment, saved only by a collection of talented actors.

FINAL GRADE: C+

10 Must-Watch Batman Films

In honor of the release of Batman: The Killing Joke, and also in honor of my excitement for Suicide Squad and love for Batman in general, I’ve compiled a list of ten exceptional animated Batman films to check out if you haven’t seen them already. No hero has been put on the big screen as often as Batman and yet, some of the hero’s greatest adventures on film are ones that aren’t live action. So here is a list of movies to indulge in if you are a new or casual fan of the Dark Knight.

 

10. Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)

Set in the same universe as Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy, this movie is actually a set of short films created by the minds behind the Animatrix. While every story isn’t great, each one is done in a beautifully unique style of Japanese animation.gotham knight

Best Moment: It’s hard to choose which short film is the best, but the opening act is a fun story involving a set of teenagers who encounter the Batman and each have a very wrong, but very interesting take on what the hero is like.

9. Justice League Doom (2012)

The plot centers around immortal villain Vandal Savage, who with the help of some of the Justice League’s arch nemeses, breaks into the Batcave and steals Batman’s secret files on how to defeat each member of the League should they ever go rogue. While it isn’t a Batman movie per se, Justice League Doom highlights Batman’s relatively tumultuous relationship with the rest of the Justice League (Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, and Cyborg).Justice_League_Doom_BD_1_1330426979

Best Moments: At the film’s conclusion, the Justice League meets to vote whether Batman deserves to stay a member. Before anyone can even cast a vote, the unapologetic Dark Knight voluntarily resigns.

8. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)

I was a quasi fan of the animated series Batman Beyond. The show was weighed down by new Batman Terry McGinnes’ mediocre turn as the Dark Knight. But this film finally highlights the unique character while also bringing back Mark Hamill’s iconic Joker from the 1990’s animated series. With a bit of a mystery that also features flashbacks to the old animated series, this dark story is captivating even if you were never a fan of Batman Beyond.

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Best Moment: New Gotham commissioner and former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, reluctantly tells Terry about the dark night (no pun intended) when Tim Drake/Robin was kidnapped and tortured by the Joker and Harley Quinn.

7. Batman: Assault on Arkahm (2014)

Not so much a Batman film as it is an animated Suicide Squad movie, this film features the team of villains (including soon to be household names Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Captain Boomerang) as they break into Arkham Asylum, under the direction of shady government agent Amanda Waller, to recover an item stolen by The Riddler. Meanwhile Batman searches for a bomb placed somewhere in Gotham by the Joker. If you want a taste of the Suicide Squad, and are a fan of the Arkham Asylum video games, then this movie is perfect for you.

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Best Moment: Brief Suicide Squad member KG Beast tests Amanda Waller’s patience after she tells them that she’ll kill them if they disobey. There are so many to choose from, but this one is certainly the funniest.

6. Son of Batman (2014)

The first film to introduce Damien Wayne, the son of Batman and grandson to villain Ra’s Al Guhl. Batman takes his vengeful and violent estranged son under his wing as Robin and attempts to track down the assassin Deathstroke. Damien is a great character and the element of Bruce Wayne having a dangerous offspring to mold into a hero drives this fantastic story.

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Best Moment: Damien goes on his vengeful quest to kill Deathstroke despite his father’s wishes, only to be interrupted by Nightwing, Batman’s first sidekick.

5. Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998)

An offshoot of Batman: The Animated Series, this movie is what Joel Schumacher’s panned Batman & Robin movie should’ve been. Telling the tragic story of Victor Fries, this well animated film features Batman and Robin’s emotional mission to rescue Batgirl as Mr. Freeze prepares to kill her in hopes of reviving his terminally ill wife.

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Best Moment: Dick Grayson/Robin pursues Mr. Freeze on a high speed chase after he kidnaps his girlfriend Barbara Gordon/Batgirl.

4. Batman vs. Robin (2015)

The movie introduces the Court of Owls, a deadly ancient society of rich Gotham elites (and the best thing to come from DC Comics’ New 52), as their lead assassin Talon, attempts to sway Damien to leave Batman and join them.  A direct sequel to Son of Batman, this movie continues the development of the captivating, morally ambiguous Damien Wayne character.

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Best Moment: Refusing to condemn Talon, young Damien Wayne goes toe to toe with his father. The exceptional fight scene highlights both Damien’s superior raw talent and Batman’s incredible intelligence and experience. It’s a young Lebron James vs. a 38 year old Michael Jordan if the two were animated vigilantes.

3. The Dark Knight Returns (2013)

This one is a little lengthy and is actually split into two DVD’s, but it brings Frank Miller’s iconic graphic novel to life like no other. An old, rusty Batman comes out of retirement to battle the Joker and a new gang that is taking over Gotham. When his antics get out of hand, the President of the United States sends Superman to shut him down. If you’re wondering where Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice got the inspiration to pit the two iconic heroes against each other, it’s right here. The movie also features Carrie Kelly, the first female Robin.

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Best Moment: With an armored suit, a carefully crafted dose of Kryptonite, and a little help from Green Arrow and Robin, Batman goes up against The Man of Steel in a much better skirmish than what we got earlier this year.

2. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

The first theatrical animated film featuring the minds behind Batman: The Animated Series is a beauty. Form it’s animation to its writing, it features everything there is to love about the character and his world. When the mysterious Phantasm begins killing off mobsters, the Joker is hired to kill off this new masked vigilante. Batman must stop both of them, while also coming to terms with the return of his ex-fiancé, a woman he actually intended on giving up crime fighting to marry.

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Best Moment: The day after proposing to Andrea Bouemont, Bruce Wayne receives a letter from her, breaking off their engagement. Heartbroken and with nothing else to keep him happy, Bruce Wayne officially becomes the Batman.

1. Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

The movie tells the story of Jason Todd, the second Robin, who is kidnapped and murdered by The Joker. After mysteriously returning from the grave, Todd returns as the vigilante Red Hood and goes on a murderous path that brings him to blows with his old mentor. Mask of the Phantasm could easily be #1, but after careful contemplation, no animated Batman film is filled with as much action and emotion as this one. John Dimaggio channels his inner Heath Ledger as The Joker, and the film features a fun dynamic between Batman and his first partner, Nightwing, voiced perfectly by Neil Patrick Harris.

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Best Moment: The climactic fight between Batman and his old partner that culminates in Jason Todd finally breaking down about why he resents, but still loves his old mentor.

 

Honorable Mention: Batman/Superman: World’s Finest (1997), Batman: Mystery of The Batwoman (2003), Batman: Bad Blood (2016), Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)

Batman: The Killing Joke (Full Review)

There are hordes of people who love Michael Keaton’s Batman movies or Nolan and Bale’s Dark Knight Trilogy, but not as many are aware that some of the best Batman films (Mask of the Phantasm, Under the Red Hood) have been animated ones. I fancy myself a Batman connoisseur. And when it comes to animated films about the caped crusader, there are few I don’t own and even fewer I haven’t seen. So when I heard that Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic novel The Killing Joke was being adapted for an animated film, I immediately prepared my blank check. The excitement only grew when it was announced that the film would be DC Comics’ first ‘R’ rated animated feature.

Batman-The_Killing_Joke_(film)The Killing Joke, is a controversial classic for numerous reasons, but mainly because of the “definitive” back story it gives to Batman’s sadistic arch nemesis, The Joker. This animated version reunites the iconic voices of Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (Joker) who worked together for over a decade on the Emmy Award winning Batman: The Animated Series as well as the popular Arkham video games. Tara Strong also heads the cast as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl.

The plot to this animated feature is split into two parts. The first (not included in the original graphic novel) follows Batgirl as she tries to prove herself to Batman and take down a mobster’s nephew  (Maury Sterling). The second half features the Joker as he injures Batgirl and kidnaps her father, Commissioner James Gordon (Ray Wise). His twisted goal is to torture the Commissioner and prove to Batman that one tumultuous day can turn even the nicest people into maniacs like him.

All of the great philosophical questions about the sanity of both Batman and the Joker remain from the graphic novel and if you’re a fan of the Dark Knight, then it’s hard not to find some enjoyment in anything where those characters are done justice. That being said, it’ll be hard for casual fans and purists not to consider this Killing Joke film to be a bit of a disappointment. There are several reasons why.

The first, and most glaring, is its hardly relevant first half. A film about the Joker and named after the Joker should probably not go roughly half of its runtime without the character even being mentioned. And sure, the original graphic novel alone would hardly span the course of a feature length film, but instead of making the first half of the film a Batgirl mini-movie (that also makes the character seem juvenile), why not expand upon the flashbacks about the Joker’s supposed past? Limiting the actual Killing Joke portion of The Killing Joke to what was originally on the page just makes those elements feel rushed.

Then there’s the fact that this movie is supposed to be Rated ‘R’ and yet characters repeatedly say watered down swear words like “F’ing” instead of using actual profanity. This is especially unusual because other profane words that would be okay in a PG-13 movie are used several times. That might be a small gripe to some, but don’t promote something to be hardcore if it isn’t. Take away a few scenes with point blank gun shots to the head and one inference of rape and the movie could easily have been PG-13. In fact, if you’ve seen the PG-13 rated Batman: Assault on Arkham (a fun animated film about the Suicide Squad), you’ll notice that it is barely less extreme than Killing Joke.

The animation, while fine, only does Brian Bolland’s original artwork justice in spurts. The ending may also be anticlimactic and unsatisfying, but anyone who’s read the graphic novel knows what to expect. At the end of the day, I’ll add The Killing Joke to my collection and it’s certainly worth a watch for casual Bat fans. But if you were one of the people who paid more than the normal price of admission to try and catch the film on the big screen… sorry if it didn’t live up to the hype.

FINAL GRADE: C+

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Full Review)

batman_v_superman_dawn_of_justice_ver8Forget the ‘v’ for versus, the idea of having Batman and Superman, two of the most iconic superheroes in all of pop culture, on the big screen together for the first time is enough to make even the tiniest of action movie fans giddy. As for me, you don’t have to know me, personally, to know who I side with. Simply skim through my favorite superhero movies and the love for the Dark Knight becomes pretty apparent. As for the overpowered Superman, my feelings toward him have always been the exact opposite. I respect the character, but I’ve always found him boring. That being said, I am on the side that thoroughly enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. While most found its story dry and its action over the top, I appreciated the story’s ability to make Superman relatively relatable and I enjoyed the Dragon Ball Z-esque action sequences. So, needless to say, I was incredibly excited to see Snyder step into the director’s chair again as DC Comics attempts to create a cinematic universe akin to their rivals over at Marvel.

If you aren’t as familiar with the various comics as I am, then you’re probably unaware that Batman and Superman have always had a rocky relationship usually stemming from their conflicting styles: Superman, the boy scout and Batman, the fear mongering aggressor. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice sews the seeds of that conflict early by placing Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) at ground zero of Metropolis during the climactic battle from Man of Steel as buildings are destroyed and countless people are killed in the crossfire. From there, the world splits between people like Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) who either love or worship Superman (Henry Cavill), and the people like Bruce Wayne or Metropolis billionaire Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who fear his power or loathe him for his constant collateral damage.

For starters, put your worries of Ben Affleck’s Batman aside. He is good, albeit brutal, in his portrayal of a weary and war torn Bruce Wayne. Good enough to warrant another solo Batman outing. The action sequences featuring the caped crusader are some of the best in the movie, and I’m not just saying that because of my obvious bias. Jeremy Irons is also a fantastic addition as Wayne’s butler, Alfred. Even the Dawn of Justice elements are not as shoe horned as some might have anticipated. Gal Gadot provides a perfect appetizer for the Wonder Woman character that will be expanded upon in future films.

Now let’s address what doesn’t work. I gave Snyder a pass for his pacing issues in Man of Steel, but here they are even more glaring. From the opening sequence that reminds us of Batman’s origin it is clearly evident that we are watching a Zack Snyder movie thanks to operatic music and overkill on slow motion graphics. There are seven live-action Batman movies in existence (eight if your’re counting this), not to mention countless animated films, television shows, and video games. Do we really need a long opening montage to remind us of the hero’s origin? Things like this coupled with some dragging scenes regarding Lois Lane researching a stray bullet, could’ve been noticeably shortened or cut to make the film less than three hours and make it feel less sluggish. The movie attempts to break the dragging tone with Jesse Eisenberg’s quirky portrayal of Lex Luthor, which mostly misses with the exception of one or two really riveting moments.

But pacing isn’t the biggest problem with the movie. My biggest gripe is the one fans and casual movie goers will likely have as opposed to film critics, and that is the relative false advertising. Instead of calling the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it should be called “The Philosophy of Superman’s Existence… featuring Batman… with a few Justice League Cameos”. Instead of focusing on the conflicting nature of the two iconic heroes and highlighting their greatest strengths and flaws, the movie meanders through its first half while wallowing in its own philosophical ideals. Sure, several excellent points are raised thanks to some great quotes from Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch and some solid banter between Clark Kent and his boss, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), but that’s not what the studio spent two years marketing to potential audiences.

We were told that it would be, as Lex Luthor puts it, “God vs. Man. Day vs. Night. Son of Krypton vs. Bat of Gotham”. Yet, when the fight finally does come around, it goes by too fast and its set up seems so forced that the film could almost exist without it altogether. And because of that, even though the last act is full of eye popping action, it seems so thrown together that it isn’t quite enough to justify the weight of the buildup.

It isn’t quite fair to compare this film, or any DC film, to what Marvel has built. DC is attempting a more serious tone to establish a unique feel and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you’re going to be gloomy, wake us up here and there with some action (ala Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy). And if you’re going to have action, give it more purpose. Otherwise you end up with a film like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie so hell bent on being thought provokingly serious that it doesn’t stop to appreciate its iconic heroes and revel in the fact that we’re watching a fantasy. There are some great shoutouts to classic DC Comics and the hints at things to come should give purists hope for DC’s cinematic future. But a movie featuring arguably the most popular superheroes of all time deserves better than sub-par.

FINAL GRADE: C-

My (UPDATED) Top 15 Favorite Superhero Movies

Two years ago, I posted a list of my Top 15 Favorite Superhero films. With movies in the genre coming out left and right, that list is passed due for a revamp. A quick reminder on the criteria of being considered a “Superhero movie” in my eyes:  A) The movie must have a costumed hero or heroine lead … B) be based off of a TV show, graphic novel, or comic… no video games movies or teen novels… and C) Need to have been watched at least 50% of the way through. There are also movies based on comics that I left off of this list, because I consider them a different genre (Guardians of the Galaxy is more Star Wars/Star Trek sci-fi than superhero film). Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, here’s my (emphasis on my) list of the Best Superhero movies of all time…

15. Batman (1989)

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Long before Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, and Heath Ledger came along, it was Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, and Jack Nicholson who made the Dark Knight cool and dark again. Nicholson’s performance as Joker is just as memorable as any film villain and Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is still arguably one of the best.

Favorite Moment: As Batman saves Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) and uses a series of gadgets to escape, Joker replies “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”

14. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

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The amount of people that don’t like this film is stunning to me. Yes, I know it takes a while to get into the action scenes, but I enjoyed every minute of the set up. Chris Evans does a great job of making us forget about that other Marvel superhero he played by giving us a fine portrayal of the scrawny good guy turned muscled hero. Hayley Atwell and Tommy Lee Jones are equally good in their supporting roles. My only gripe is how little Hugo Weaving was able to bring to the role of the Red Skull.

Favorite Moment: After the rest of the platoon struggles to crawl up a flag pole to retrieve a flag, the crafty Steve Rogers simply unscrews the entire pole. Brain > Brawn.

13. Batman Returns (1992)

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Much respect to Anne Hathway, but the best portrayal of Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman is in this movie. Michele Pfeiffer’s hauntingly sexy performance is the cornerstone for this film. Danny DeVito also strikes the perfect chord between charismatic and creepy as The Penguin.This was one of the first movies I ever saw in theaters. How it didn’t give me nightmares is a mystery to me.

Favorite Moment: I know I just talked about how great Catwoman is, but it’s Penguin’s takeover of the Batmobile and using a kiddie-ride to remote control it that I can’t help but love.

12. Watchmen (2009)

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Zach Snyder may be hit or miss with some of you, but I loved him here. I was only vaguely familiar with the critically acclaimed graphic novel, about a darker take on superheroes, before I saw the first trailer for this film. That trailer, complete with a rendition of Smashing Pumpkins’ The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning, was so good that it prompted me to read the source material. I immediately realized why it was so lauded. The film version is perfect, matching some frames from the comic shot for shot while also managing to make the necessary tweaks to make the source material a bit more believable.

Favorite Moment: The noir inspired beginning in which Rorshach (Jackie Earl Haley at his best) investigates the death of his fallen comrade.

11. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

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The plot of this movie sounds like it was written by a 10 year-old fan boy. Nevertheless, Joss Whedon deserves major props for actually pulling this movie off. What it lacks in story, it easily makes up for in action and humor. Not to mention the fact that it revolutionized the genre by bringing together heroes from multiple superhero films.

Favorite Moment: Anyone who grew up loving comics and cartoons has to get goosebumps when the camera first pans around all six heroes, but I specifically love the throw down between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) while on the Hellicarrier.

10. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

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Unlike most people, I didn’t care much for the first Spider-man. I wasn’t a fan of Toby Maguire as Peter Parker and William Dafoe was just too cartoony as Green Goblin. Part 2, however, completely changed my outlook on this series (Too bad Part 3 brought it crashing down again). The reason for the upswing was undoubtedly Frank Langella as Doc Ock. The charisma and heart that he brought to the role set the tempo for the movie and the rest of the cast managed to follow suit with their best performances of the original trilogy.

Favorite Moment: Spidey and Doc Ock’s fight scene atop a moving train is still one of the best on-screen brawls to date.

9. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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The third installment in Christopher Nolan’s Bat-Trilogy has its flaws from a storytelling standpoint, but few can argue that it’s the best Part Three of any movie in the superhero genre. This is due less to the story and execution and more to the villains. Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway are both scene stealers as Bane and Selina Kyle.

Favorite Moment: Several to choose from. I love the opening highjacking scene as well as Bruce Wayne’s first pursuit of Bane’s henchmen on the Batpod, but the best scene has to go to the first showdown between Bane and Batman that ends in the Dark Knight’s back being broken.

8. V for Vendetta (2006)

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Few actually realize that this movie is based on a 1982 DC Comics graphic novel (written by the same genius who wrote Watchmen). The theatrical version is nothing short of brilliant from its action sequences to its cast led by Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman. Produced by the same team that developed The Matrix, Vendetta is certainly one of the most thought provoking films in the genre.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Before taking out some thugs, V gives an introductory monologue using seemingly every word in the dictionary that starts with the letter V.

7. X-Men: First Class (2011)

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X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine nearly killed the X-Men franchise. Luckily, Director Matthew Vaughn came along to bring us a well-acted, James Bond-like prequel/reboot to rejuvenate one of the best series’ in the genre. The story, which mingles the usual mutant drama with the Cuban missile crisis, is good but even better is the chemistry between James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Michael Fassbender’s young Magneto uses a small knife and a gun that is never actually in his possession to kill a few former Nazis in a bar. Bad. Ass.

6. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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Bryan Singer (X-Men 1 & 2) blessed us with a return to the X-Men film franchise he helped create. Singer managed to mold the great tone that Matthew Vaughn established in First Class with the amazing visuals and storytelling that he perfected with X2: X-Men United. The result was a brilliant adaptation of one of X-Men’s greatest storylines that helped solidify a new X-Men film universe while subsequently paying homage to the original cast.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Anything involving Blink (Fan Bing Bing) is visually amazing, but nothing beats Quicksilver (Evan Peters) helping Magneto (Fassbender), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) execute a daring prison break using his super speed.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Captain America’s second big-screen adaptation was far more exhilarating than what was already a great first film. It also managed to solidify Chris Evans as a lead action star. With a story that molds elements of a political thriller with eye-popping action sequences, Winter Soldier manages to feel like much more than a superhero flick. It’s easily my favorite in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2.

FAVORITE MOMENT: A street action sequence that features Hydra attempting to take out Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Cap. The ensuing fight between the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and Captain America has some of the best fight choreography I’ve ever seen in a superhero film.

4. The Dark Knight (2008)

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Surprised that it isn’t in the Top 2? This is a fantastic movie, but it does get a little long in the tooth around the two boats with detonators part. And I can’t help but be underwhelmed by Two-Face’s untimely demise at the end. That being said, this movie is still an absolute classic… and we all know why. Heath Ledger’s incredible performance as the Joker is the best portrayal of a villain in any movie… ever. Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent is no slouch either.

FAVORITE MOMENT: The vehicle chase seen with Joker in a truck and Batman in the Batpod is good, but the scene where Joker walks in on a meeting between mobsters is better. “Want to see a magic trick?”

3. Iron Man (2008)

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Kudos to Robert Downey Jr. for making Tony Stark as much of a household name as Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. In the movie that started the Marvel Cinematic revolution, Downey Jr. is at his snarky best. His chemistry with Gwenyth Paltrow also gives us one of the best hero/girlfriend relationships ever on screen. All of that aside, it’s the groundbreaking special effects that help this movie’s cool factor exceed almost anything we’ve ever seen. Still waiting on Iron Man to have another solo outing as good as this one.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Iron Man shoots a small missile at a tank, then walks away as it explodes… like a boss.

2. X2: X-Men United (2003)

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One of the most re-watchable movies of all time. It’s got a better plot than nearly every movie on this list and also manages to bring together a deep cast of characters and give each one their moment to shine. I have a hard time believing there will ever be an X-Men movie better than this one. The opening scene with Nightcrawler (Allen Cumming) in the White House is still the best opening to a superhero movie ever.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Too many to choose from… so I’ll just give them all:

1) The aforementioned opening scene.

2) Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) going berserk on soldiers in the mansion.

3) Magneto (Ian McKellen)’s escape from an all plastic prison.

4) Pyro (Aaron Stanford) fighting off the police.

5) Storm (Halle Berry) creating tornadoes while also piloting the X-Jet.

6)  Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) flipping Stryker (Brian Cox) the bird while sneaking into his underground facility.

7) The fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike (Kelly Hu).

8) The ending that sees Jena Grey (Famke Janssen) “sacrifice herself” to save the team.

1. Batman Begins (2005)

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Can you tell who my favorite superhero is? Not only did this movie manage to make Batman cool again after Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin nearly ruined him, but it also brings a more realistic flare to superhero films. Christopher Nolan does a magnificent job using non-linear filmmaking to tell the ultimate superhero origin story while Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Cilian Murphy are perfect as Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and The Scarecrow.  The two sequels may get more attention, but both posses more flaws then this movie, which in my opinion has none. Some might dislike the fact that the Batman himself doesn’t make an appearance until an hour in, but I argue that the scenes where Bruce receives his training from Liam Neeson are just as good if not better. The plot twist that involved Liam Neeson’s Henri Dukard actually being the mastermind main-villain, Ra’s al Guhl, is still arguably the best in the genre.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Batman makes his first appearance in the film, roughing up some mobsters while scaring the pure Hell out of them at the same time. The ending exchange between Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman is a close second…

Gordon:  “I never got a chance to thank you.”

Batman: “And you’ll never have to.”

… Cue Fan boys tears and applause.

HONORABLE MENTION: X-Men (2000), Man of Steel (2013), Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Blade (1998), The Wolverine (2013), Dredd (2012), Kick Ass (2010), Thor (2011), Ant-Man (2015)

Ok, that’s my list that I will undoubtedly be changing in another 2 years after the hoard of superhero movies that arrives in 2016. Check out my disgruntled list of the Top 15 worst superhero movies and feel free to comment or follow me on Facebook.