Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #10

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#10: Superman: Doomsday

When Warner Brothers launched their new “DC Universe” animated movie series, they wanted the first one to be big. Well, you can’t get any bigger than the story that shocked the world.

“Superman: Doomsday” was released by Warner Brothers as a direct-to-video movie in 2007. It was re-released as a Special Edition version in 2008. The movie stars the voices of Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters (who plays Brainiac on “Smallville”), Swoozie Kurtz, and a guest voice of Kevin Smith.

The movie is based on three interlocking storylines in DC Comics involving the death, mourning, and resurrection of Superman. Unfortunately, Warner Brothers executives insisted that the film be just long enough to fit into their Cartoon Network schedule, so much of the intense drama of the whole “Doomsday” series had to be abbreviated.

As the movie begins, we are introduced to scenes of Superman (Baldwin) doing heroic deeds. As he is seen saving the day time and time again, we discover that the person narrating his life is none other than Lex Luthor (Marsters), who comments that even though Superman is worshipped as a god, even gods can die.

At the Daily Planet, Lois Lane (Heche) argues with her editor over her story attacking a charity that serves as a cover for yet another Luthor plot. After having her story nixed, she sees Clark Kent preparing to leave for Afghanistan. She acts cold towards him, but after he leaves she gives him a longing look.

Later that night, a team of LexCorp scientists unearth a strange alien device. Luthor is alerted to the discovery as he postpones the discovery of yet another medical cure. It is inferred that Luthor has the cure to almost every ailment known to man, but that he is intentionally withholding them so he can turn the treatments into perennial fortunes.

Meanwhile at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman tries and fails to develop a cure for cancer. He is comforted by Lois, and it’s pretty clear that their relationship is more than just “professional”.

The LexCorp workers crack open the alien device, letting loose a destructive monster that kills everyone there before moving on. The scene is witnessed by Luthor through a video camera. He comments that the aliens that put the monster there did so because they couldn’t kill it. Out in the open, we see that the monster is huge, with bony protrusions coming out of its body. It also demonstrates that it is quite capable of killing anything it sees, including helpless animals.

Back at the Fortress, Lois talks with Superman and alludes that she knows that he’s Clark Kent, but still tries to get him to actually admit it. He continues to play coy. Superman is alerted to the monster’s attack and is told that it is a genetically-engineered “Doomsday” weapon that cannot differentiate between friend and foe.

Doomsday arrives in Metropolis as the military tries to stop it. Superman drops Lois off at the Daily Planet rooftop and then rushes to take on Doomsday, who is at that time decimating the soldiers. We see several minutes of tremendous fighting between Superman and Doomsday, with Lois and Jimmy Olson watching in person, and with the rest of the world watching through TV, including Clark’s adopted mother Martha Kent (Kurtz). Superman gives everything he has, only to find Doomsday giving just as much in return, if not more. When Doomsday turns his attention to a crying little girl, Superman uses the last of his powers to put the monster down once and for all. The monster is finally stopped, and then Superman collapses and dies in Lois’ arms. She whispers “Clark” as she cries.

Superman is given a brief but immense funeral service. Jimmy’s photos covering the battle and Superman’s death make him a media celebrity and he is soon hired by a gossip magazine. Lois, still grief-stricken, visits Martha and lets her know that she knows the truth, and that she really needs someone she can talk to. Luthor is perplexed by the injustice of not being the one to kill Superman. He makes sure that his assistant has cleaned up any connection to his company releasing Doomsday, and then he kills his assistant.

Time passes, crime escalates, and soon Lois is putting herself in danger again, this time trying to rescue a bus full of kids from the Toyman and his mechanical spider. (Note to Toyman: take a few tips from Lord Recluse on how to build a menacing spider.) As the bus falls, with Lois inside, a fist punches up through Superman’s grave. Superman is back, but it soon becomes clear that he is not the same man as before.

The story at this point deals with the revelations surrounding Superman’s “return” and who is really behind it. But as Superman makes some shocking new changes, another figure appears at the Fortress. Could he be the REAL Superman?

If you ever read the “Death and Life of Superman” book or read the whole comic series, or even heard the audio drama “Superman Lives” (this Pundit did all three), then you probably would be disappointed by the heavily abbreviated story. There were multiple elements from the original comic book series that were not conveyed in this movie. Gone was any mention of other heroes such as Batman, Supergirl, or members of the Justice League. Superman appears to be the only superhero in this world. Also missing was Jonathan Kent, Clark’s adopted father, who played a significant role in Superman’s return in the comics, not to mention the four men that would be considered Superman’s “replacements”, including the one that would be his new enemy. All of these things were lost in the name of time constraints and had an effect on the scope of the story.

As an end result, the battle between Superman and Doomsday, though spectacular, was far from epic. The loss of Superman was not as emotional and seen as almost a footnote. And his return, along with the final battle, seemed almost anti-climactic.

As a stand-alone story, presuming that your understanding of Superman is restricted to the TV series “Smallville” or what you’ve seen in the motion pictures, it has some entertaining elements. There is still enough emotion in the battle with Doomsday for you to feel the sense of loss when Superman dies. The resolution with Lois at the end of the movie (which I won’t spoil for you) was good, but seemed somewhat contrived.

The characters seemed to be adequately cast, and that’s really not much of a compliment. Adam Baldwin did an okay job doing the voice of Superman. Anne Heche seemed out of place, though, as Lois. She does a good job doing the voice of Lois as a hard-hitting reporter, but it’s hard to connect the voice to the character during the emotional scenes. James Marsters makes Luthor sound more of a psychopath than as a Machiavellian corporate villain. Marsters probably should have gotten some pointers from his “Smallville” co-star Michael Rosenbaum on how to portray Luthor.

As mentioned earlier, Kevin Smith does have a cameo appearance as a “grumpy guy” that exclaims “Like we really needed him to bust up a mechanical spider, right? - lame.” The line is a studio joke as Smith balked at the idea of Superman fighting a giant spider in his failed attempt at doing the story for “Superman Returns”. That probably explains why Toyman’s spider looked lame.

The biggest mistake made on this movie, though, was that Warner Brothers executives insisted that the story fit their Cartoon Network timeframe. This left a story that seemed rushed at times. Had the studio thrown out the clock and left Director/Producer Bruce Timm to really develop the story the way it should have, it probably would have been a guaranteed blockbuster.

This movie is rated PG-13, and not just because of the violence. The personal relationship between Lois and Superman really is designed for a more mature audience than the kind that watches Cartoon Network. Plus we have blood and the destruction of certain “genetic creations” which I won’t mention too much because that would be spoiling things.

In terms of a hero movie, this one is good. Not great, but good. The cheese factor is thankfully low, the heroes and villains are iconic, but the story left a little more to be desired.

Capes: It earns all five capes. This is, after all, SUPERMAN!
Cheese: Psycho-Lex gives the movie some cheese… but only of the Swiss (1) variety.
Books: Sadly, only three out of five books. Studio-imposed time restraints left the story lacking in many places.


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #9

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#9: Batman and Robin

There have been many that have wanted and tried to kill Batman. The Penguin, Joker, Two-Face, Bane, Ra's al Ghul, various parents groups… but the honor of killing the Caped Crusader has always been reserved for the gods. No, not just demigods like Darkseid. We’re talking writers like Grant Morrison and John Byrne, editors like Dan DiDio, and a certain movie director name Joel Schumacher. And of those that managed to kill off Batman, it is Schumacher that earns the most notoriety, because he did it from the inside-out.

“Batman and Robin” is the fourth and final film in the Tim Burton-inspired movie series. It was released by Warner Brothers in 1997 and starred George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, and Jeep Swenson. Guest appearances include John Glover, Elle Macpherson, Elizabeth Sanders, Jesse Ventura, Coolio, Pat Hingle, Vivica A. Fox, and Vendela Kirsebom.

At this point, of all of the people involved with the Burton series, only Gough and Hingle remain in their roles as Alfred and Commissioner Gordon. There is nothing else left of the original 1989 Batman movie. The cowl has once again been passed to a new leading male, George Clooney.

As we start this movie, we see Batman (Clooney) and Robin (O’Donnell) gearing up for action, including showing unnatural displays of their groins, butts, and (again) the fake nipples on their outfits. As yet another Batmobile appears rises to over-dramatic music, Robin complains that he wants his own car. Batman responds by saying that this is why Superman works alone. After Batman leaves, Robin’s bird-bike rises up, and he quickly follows.

The two show up at the Gotham Museum, which has been turned into a giant ice-rink by Mister Freeze (Schwarzenegger) just so he could steal the prized diamond on display. As Batman and Robin arrive, Freeze orders his goons to attack. Batman and Robin pop out ice skates from their bat-boots and we have an overhyped Ice Capedes show for about five minutes, until Freeze tries to escape in a rocket. Batman follows, but Freeze escapes from that, leaving Batman trapped inside. Robin manages to follow on the outside of the rocket and frees Batman so Batman can blow up the rocket with (yes) a Bat-bomb, and then the two of them sky-board down to Freeze. They all manage to fall into a factory smokestack, where Freeze turns Robin into a bird-cicle and gets away.

Back at the Bat-cave, a now thawed Robin is briefed on how Mister Freeze was once Doctor Victor Fries and his feverish attempt to save his wife (Kirsebom) from a disease called MacGregor's Syndrome turned him into a frozen man. Freeze needs diamonds to power his suit which keeps his body temperature cold enough to keep him alive. Batman asks Alfred to get the Wayne Family Diamonds, although we know at this point that Alfred is clearly in pain.

Meanwhile in South America, a liberal scientist name Pamela Isley (Thurman) is complaining about the lack of funding and supplies for her environmentalist research. She peeks into the neighboring lab of Dr. Jason Woodrue (Glover) and discovers he is holding a huge auction with a huge collection of known (and admitted) criminal masterminds. Up for bidding is the means to transform a small-time local hood into a super-powered bulked-up evil luchador named Bane (Swenson) by the use of the super-soldier serum known as Venom. Isley threatens to report Woodrue to the authorities, but he knocks her down and dumps a rack of chemicals over her. Minutes later, she returns as eco-nut Poison Ivy, whose kiss is lethal. She frees Bane and destroys the lab, vowing to go after the company that supplied them, which of course is Wayne Enterprises.

Back in Gotham, Alfred’s niece Barbara (Silverstone) arrives at Wayne Mannor for a visit. Bruce wants her to stay, much to the pleasure of Dick Grayson. Barbara pretends to be cute and innocent, but when the sun sets and she thinks everyone has gone to bed, she runs into the garage and borrows one of the motorcycles that she claims to dread.

Ivy arrives (with Bane in tow) and disguises herself as Isley to propose a new environmentalist project at the same time that Bruce Wayne is donating a telescope to the Gotham Observatory. This is a huge facility set on top of an equally huge statue of Atlas. (Yes, just like the Atlas statue in Paragon City, only without the globe.) Wayne rejects Ivy’s proposal, which leads her to ramble on about enslaved women and Mother Nature before walking away in embarrassment.

That night, Batman and Robin make an appearance at a charity event in the observatory. At that point Poison Ivy makes her official debut and seduces every man in the room, including Batman and Robin, who then engage in a millionaire bidding war, with Robin bidding money that he would borrow from Batman and Batman pulling out his Batman Express card. This stupidity is thankfully interrupted by Freeze, who is immune to Ivy’s pheromone spray. Batman and Robin give chase in their vehicles, but an over-protective Batman shuts down Robin’s cycle, and Batman takes the credit for defeating Freeze with seemingly a wave of his cape.

Normally at this point I would stop and leave you hanging to watch the movie. However this movie is so abysmally bat-bad, I’m going to save you the trouble.

After being sent to Arkham Asylum so Freeze can give out some more rhetorical repertoire to the guards (one of them played by Schwarzenegger’s friend Jesse Ventura), Ivy and Bane break him out and offers up a partnership. It is a partnership that apparently doesn’t include Freeze’s wife, and Ivy lets Freeze believe that Batman had killed her.

Bruce tries to patch things up with Dick, but the young man refuses to accept his apology. They then go into dude-denial about falling for Ivy. Dick finds out that Barbara has been doing illegal bike racing in the streets of Gotham to raise money to get Alfred out of the mansion. She knows that Alfred is dying from MacGregor's Syndrome, and so does Bruce.

Ivy talks Robin into meeting with her alone. Batman tries to talk Robin out of it, but he still goes. Meanwhile, Freeze and Bane take over the observatory. Barbara, searching for a way to help, hacks into her uncle’s computer and discovers the “Bat-Secret”. She makes her way to the cave, where a simulated Alfred has something “appropriate” for her. We then see a montage of her gearing up... with a cape covering her bottom and no fake nipples!

Ivy gets Robin close enough to kiss, but the poison in her lips don’t work on him because he had his lips coated in plastic. Enraged, Ivy orders her man-eating vines to drown Robin. Batman arrives and is immediately attacked by the vines and held up. Then Barbara, dressed now as Batgirl, arrives and has a brief acrobatic display with a knife-wielding Ivy, who gloats about killing Freeze’s wife before being kicked into the man-eating trap and is encased as she screams “CURSES!” (No, I’m not exaggerating.)

As the Bat-trio exchange pleasantries, they find out that Freeze has used the observatory telescope as a giant freeze gun to freeze the whole city. They engage in a rather lame winter-themed chase through Gotham in a winterized Bat-mobile, a Bat-bike, and a Bat-sled, defeating Freeze’s henchmen and his prized Freeze-mobile in the process. They reach the observatory and try to use the satellites to beam sunlight to the telescope so they can use it to thaw out the city. Freeze interrupts them, though, and Batgirl and Robin descend to a lower level of the frozen statue, where they encounter Bane.

Batman and Freeze engage in a tug-of-war with the controls of the telescope, until Batman plants a Bat-heater on Freeze and knocks him away. Freeze then detonates his Freeze-bombs that surround the telescope. Robin and Batgirl defeat Bane by kicking out his Venom tubes, which force him to revert back to his skinny self. As they do so, the explosion knocks the telescope and Batman and the thawed-out observatory workers down to their doom. Batman rescues the workers, then drops them off safely before picking up Robin and Batgirl, and they go right back up to the observatory floor. The telescope is gone, but Batgirl programs the satellites to beam sunlight directly to Gotham to thaw out the city before the deadline.

Batman then confronts Freeze and shows him footage of Ivy admitting to killing his wife. (HOW he was able to get that footage is not known, since he was hanging upside-down and covered with vines.) He then gives a speech about how he saved Freeze’s wife and she’s still in suspended animation and how Freeze has a greater power to give life. He then asks for the cure to stage 2 of MacGregor’s Syndrome, which Freeze supposedly discovered. Freeze pulls out two neon-blue vials from his gauntlet and tells Batman to call him in the morning.

Bruce administers the “cure” to Alfred’s IV. Back at Arkham, a frazzled Ivy discovers that Freeze is her new cellmate, much to her regret. The next morning Alfred appears to be completely cured, which pleases Bruce, Dick, and Barbara. Bruce tells Dick that he has always trusted him to do the right thing, even if he doesn’t say it. Barbara then asks if she is officially part of the “Bat-family”, which Dick and then Bruce agree, with Alfred saying that they’re going to need a bigger cave. And we finish this mess with a scene of Robin, Batman, and Batgirl running in silhouette away from the Bat-Signal.

And thus ends not only the movie, but also the Batman franchise.

Obviously the cheese factor is overwhelming here. “Batman and Robin on Ice” in the first few minutes of this movie is proof of it. A Bat-bomb, sky-boarding without a parachute, gun-shaped Bat-lasers capable of generating super-heat, henchmen forced to sing “He’s Mister Freeze-Master” as Freeze struts around smoking a cigar… oh, and a cabal of international villains actually ADMITTING they’re villains? And we haven’t even gotten to the overacting!

We have the return of NIPPLES ON THE BATSUITS, but now with a twist. There are only nipples on the MALE Batsuits! No gratuitous displays of Batgirl’s outfit. The guys get codpieces, she gets a bustier built into her spandex. So much for “equal rights”, huh?

Gotham City looks like Paragon City now; complete with giant statues at every corner, including one holding up the Observatory in a way that is completely unrealistic even for Paragon City.

The future governor of California was absolutely the WRONG person to cast for the role of Mister Freeze. This is a character that requires a cold and inhuman demeanor, not wise-cracks and cigars and bad Christmas songs and women (specifically Ms. Fox) dressed in ice-bikinis.

Patrick Stewart was originally asked to play Freeze. This came fresh from his role in “Star Trek: First Contact”, and if Schumacher allowed Stewart to play Freeze as the role should have been done, it would have been a completely different (and better) movie. Instead, Schumacher and Warner Brothers were enthralled with having “Mr. Big Box Office Draw” play Freeze, complete with all of the wise-cracks and bad acting.

George Clooney was properly cast as Bruce Wayne, but he was out-of-place as Batman. The great mistake with casting actors for Batman is they cast actors that look good as Bruce Wayne, but not as Batman. They don’t understand that Wayne is the real disguise. This also marks the first time that Bruce doesn’t have a woman pining for him. He has arm-candy, but that’s all that he has.

Chris O’Donnell comes off as somewhat bratty as Robin this time around. Instead of getting the hang of the superhero business, he is eager to get equal billing when he’s using all of Batman’s equipment and money. Robin’s outfit also gets a makeover in this movie. Gone is the green and yellow from the previous movie, and now he looks like a red-tinged version of Nightwing with a cape.

Alicia Silverstone seems to master the role of Batgirl TOO well. Barbara doesn’t seem phased to learn who Batman and Robin really are and she eagerly jumps into the form-fitting spandex that was made by the Virtual Alfred without a second thought about it. She also masters all of the bat-gadgets like they were second-nature. Again, not realistic.

Uma Thurman’s portrayal of ultra-liberal Poison Ivy is a severe contradiction. As Pamela Isley, she’s a flaky feminist, but as Ivy, she’s a sultry eco-tease. She has mastery over plants and yet she caries a knife?

Bane was just plain WRONG. He looked and sounded and acted fake. This is the character that in the comics would break Batman’s spine, and yet they portray him as a Frankenstein luchador.

This movie was just plain WRONG. The casting, the writing, the costumes, the special effects... you kind of wish that they would have buried this like studios buried Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four” movie. But then again, that would have hurt their merchandising, wouldn’t it? And we can’t have that!

All of this, of course, falls on the head of Director Schumacher and the executives at Warner Brothers. They wanted a family-friendly campy box-office blockbuster which would be perfect for their toy sales, and they got it. They also lost any interest in doing another live-action Batman movie for eight years.

Capes: Three out of five, and that’s being generous.
Cheese: Full-blown runny smelly Limburger (5) with fake nipples. This film was so stupid it makes the 1966 Batman movie look good.
Books: None. Zero. There’s no story here. This is a very expensive and overhyped toy commercial.

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #8

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#8: Batman Forever

The end of the Batman movie series begins here, with the third in the Tim Burton-imagined tales of the Dark Knight Detective.

“Batman Forever” was released in 1995 by Warner Brothers, directed by Joel Schumacher, and stars Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar, Michael Gough, and Pat Hingle. Special guest appearances were also made by Elizabeth Sanders (wife of Batman creator Bob Kane), Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Ed Begley Jr., and Rene Auberjonois. The movie is available on DVD either alone or in a box set, and it appears on occasion on cable channels such as TBS.

After the release of “Batman Returns”, too many people complained about the “dark overtones” of Batman. So the studio forced some serious changes. Gone was the slightly-surreal feel of Tim Burton’s Gotham. Instead we have a Metropolis-style mega-city with sharp neon colors. Also gone was Tim Burton in the director’s chair. He was forced to turn the reins over to Schumacher, although he did keep the title of producer. Michael Keaton also rightly abandoned the franchise, especially since it was his portrayal of the brooding and dangerous vigilante that served as the chief source of complaints from parents groups. He passed the cowl over to Val Kilmer.

The movie starts with Batman (Kilmer) being summoned to a crime scene full of police and crowds. He makes a very dramatic entrance, much to the delight of Commissioner Gordon (Hingle) and Doctor Chase Meridian (Kidman). They tell him that Harvey Two-Face (Jones) has taken a bank guard hostage on the second anniversary of his scarring. Batman takes the elevator (no, really) up to the middle of the bank building, where Two-Face and his goons are waiting for him. We are given a few seconds of confusing and chaotic fighting before Batman goes into the vault and is trapped with the guard. Two-Face then appears with a helicopter to haul the vault into the sky as it starts spewing “boiling acid”. Batman escapes the vault, and in a feat of absolute unrealism, manages to return the vault BACK to its original place in the bank building before climbing up the chain to the helicopter. Two-Face escapes, but not before he flies the helicopter into a statue of Lady Gotham. (Gotham’s version of the Statue of Liberty, complete with a green copper skin.)

The next day, Bruce Wayne visits one of his Wayne Enterprises labs, where he encounters Edward Nygma (Carrey). Nygma tells Wayne he has a special device that allows people to beam television signals right in the brains of viewers. Wayne rejects the notion, saying that the idea of tapping into one’s mind to affect it raises too many ethical questions. Nygma vows to prove Wayne wrong. Later that night, he ties up his supervisor (Begley) and turns on the device, which then magnifies Nygma’s mind exponentially. When threatened with being arrested, Nygma then kills his boss and fakes the footage on the surveillance camera to appear that the man committed suicide. He then resigns from the company.

Meanwhile, Wayne is getting mixed signals from Meridian. As Batman, he is summoned by the Bat Signal by Meridian so she could use her knowledge of Two-Face’s coin fixation as a way to seduce Batman. Once he starts getting strange messages, he is referred to Meridian, and asks her to accompany him to the Gotham Charity Circus, but it’s clear that she’s still fixated on Batman, even though she doesn’t know his secret.

At the circus, we are witnessed to a spectacular trapeze display by the Flying Graysons. Immediately following, though, the circus is taken over by Two-Face and his henchmen, all while televised and watched intensely by Nygma. Two-Face strings up 200 sticks of T-and-T to a rope and gives Batman two minutes to reveal himself. Wayne tries to shout out that he’s the Batman, but he’s drowned out by the noise, so he tries a more direct approach. The Grayson family try to reach the bomb, but Two-Face shoots out the ropes, killing everyone except young Dick Grayson (O’Donnell), who does get the bomb away from the building and into the water before it explodes.

Wayne takes Grayson into his manor, but Grayson clearly has revenge on his mind. As the young man gets settled in, he reveals to Alfred (Gough) his fascination with birds, and how he once “swung in like a robin” to save the day.

Inspired by the circus antics, Nygma decides to dress up in a green bodysuit and call himself “The Riddler”. He convinces Two-Face and his henchwomen Sugar (Barrymore) and Spice (Mazar) that they need him by getting him hooked on his “Brain Box”. While getting a crash-course in criminal actions from Two-Face as Riddler, he’s using the money to build his own business and sell “Brain Boxes” all over the city.

Meanwhile, Grayson discovers that Wayne is Batman and steals the Batmobile for a little joyride into the city. He insists that Batman train him and make him his partner so he could kill Two-Face, but Batman refuses, saying that killing Two-Face will not make the pain go away.

As the movie progresses, secrets are discovered, as Wayne learns more about the event that turned him into Batman, Meridian learns who she really is falling in love with, Grayson learns what it’s like to be a hero, and our villains discover that there IS such a thing as “too much”, especially when it comes to certain accessories. (I’d say more but that would be spoiling what’s left of the movie.)

Let’s just go ahead and admit it… this movie REEKS of cheese! The idea that Jim Carrey’s Riddler should be over-the-top, much like Jack Nickolson’s Joker and Danny DeVito’s Penguin were before him, was understandable given the circumstances of the story and the actor’s skills. But Tommy Lee Jones playing Harvey Two-Face over-the-top was WAY too much into camp. The people behind the film also took great pains to avoid calling him Harvey DENT, because that character was originally played by Billy Dee Williams in the first movie.

Let’s see… what else? How about NIPPLES on the batsuits? How about having Robin actually saying “Holy Rusted Metal, Batman!” and finding a lame way to make it fit into the story? How about a Bat-Jet carrying scuba gear, but not the Bat-Boat? How about the Batman making a very public appearance instead of lurking in the shadows? The safe-jacking was lame, faking the surveillance tapes was lame, the “two-hundred sticks of T-and-T” in a giant round ball was lame, driving the Batmobile like a low-rider pimpmobile was lame…

And did I forget to mention the NIPPLES ON THE BATSUITS?

There were two stories in that unforgivable mess of commercialized cheese. The first one was the story of Dick Grayson becoming Robin. The second was of Edward Nygma’s obsession to finally be a winner. Sadly, Nygma’s story got lost in the neon lights, but at least the story of Robin followed through. That was the only thing that saved the film from being a complete disaster. That dishonor, of course, would be saved for the next film.

Capes: Three capes out of five. Easily recognized characters, both good guys and bad guys, but real heroes don’t have fake nipples on their outfits.
Cheese: Extra Sharp Bat-Cheddar (4) with fake nipples included.
Books: Two books out of five. There were some good story elements, but most of the movie was pretty much fodder for overhyped music videos by Seal and U2.


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #7

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#7: Hulk Vs

Get ready true believers, because now the Pundit is delving into a recent hero movie that went straight to DVD.

Our latest hero movie entry is “Hulk Vs”, which is an animated video released this past January by Marvel Comics and Lions Gate Films.

“Hulk Vs” is really TWO separate short movies combined either into 1 or 2 DVDs, depending on whether or not you bought the Special Edition. Each one has the Incredible Hulk battling two of Marvel Comic’s biggest characters. If you bought the Special Edition, each short movie has its own disc and goodies. If you bought the standard edition, both movies are on the same disc.

“Hulk vs. Wolverine” – This movie is supposed to re-tell the epic battle between the Hulk and Marvel’s most recognized mutant, Wolverine. Wolverine made his comic debut in 1974 in the pages of “The Incredible Hulk #180” as part of a three-man dance with the Hulk and Wendingo. This was seven months before he would become part of the new X-Men.

In this movie, we start with Wolverine waking up after being squashed by something big. We find out that the “something” was The Hulk. We then go through some flashbacks of Wolverine, in his civilian attire, as he is brought over to the destruction of a Canadian town. We are told that the destruction and loss of life were all caused by the Hulk. He suits up into his classic “yellow spandex” outfit (sorry, “X-men” movie joke) and goes hunting. Then he encounters a skittish half-naked Bruce Banner, whom Wolverine sniffs out and realizes that he is the Hulk. His “Canadian charm” forces Banner to change into the Jolly Green Monster, and thus we are brought back to the present.

Wolverine and Hulk spend the next few minutes engaged in a heated battle, with Wolverine spilling plenty of blood with his metal claws. Their battle is interrupted, though, by the arrival of a whole team of Wolverine’s old enemies and rivals (Sabretooth, Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, and Deadpool).

From here the story takes a boring trip down Wolverine’s much-recounted past, showing how he was “recruited” to the Weapon X program, giving him his claws and wiping away his memories. From here we have Wolverine finding a way to escape the program again before they wipe his mind again and turn the Hulk into their newest “recruit”.

This half of the story is sadly disappointing. Rather than it being a “Hulk” story, this becomes more of a “Wolverine Origin” story, similar to the forthcoming “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” movie.

“Hulk vs. Thor” – This is an original “Hulk vs.” story which pits the Jolly Green Monster against the gods of Norse mythology, and especially long-time Marvel hero Thor.

We start with a recap of Norse Mythology, with an introduction of Asgard and how it must be defended every year while Odin sleeps against the threats of frost giants. We find out that the story is being told by Loki, the trickster of the gods and brother to Thor, the favored son of Odin. While Thor and the warriors of Asgard celebrate yet another seasonal victory against the frost giants, Loki schemes to change history. With the Enchantress by his side, Loki summons Bruce Banner to his realm, forces him to transform into the Hulk, and then pulls Banner’s soul out from the monster so he could control it.

The Hulk is then sent to Asgard, where he soundly defeats everyone except Thor. During the battle, Loki loses control of the monster and Banner’s soul is lost. Without Banner to control the monster, nothing will stop it from destroying all of Asgard. Thor and Loki must then work together to return Banner’s soul to the Hulk before it kills the still-sleeping Odin.

As with the first short film, this is even more of a “Thor” story than it ever could be a “Hulk” one. A lot of time is spent describing the Norse deities and what they do.

Since this is a package deal, I have to rate both short films as one movie. That’s good for the Wolverine story as this was something of a disappointment for this pundit. I also think that it was a waste to have this spilt into two discs as Lionsgate did with the Special Edition.

In both short films, we are given pretty much the same premise. Someone wants to control the Hulk, the Hulk proves that he cannot be controlled, and the Hulk smashes things. The Hulk is used as a plot device instead of being the central character of the story. The “bad guys” in both stories really are stupidity and arrogance.

Both films try to stay true to the Marvel mythos for the characters, especially with Thor. This keeps the cheese level relatively low. However the Wolverine story takes a serious twist when the Weapon X project is brought in, including characters that were never members of Weapon X to begin with. Plus, Banner is seen more as a flake than as the intellectual counter-balance to the savagery of his monster, especially when Banner encounters Wolverine.

This is a great video to get if you are a fan of Marvel characters, but don’t go into this thinking that you’re getting two Hulk stories, because you’re not. Also, the violence of the Wolverine story is clearly not for little kiddies. I don’t normally talk about price, but in this case, I suggest holding off on getting this until the price is down to about $10, and make sure it’s the standard edition, with everything on one DVD.

Capes: Four capes out of five. Great iconic characters, but the introduction of the Weapon X project keeps it away from that fifth cape.
Cheese: Mild Cheddar (2). One word: Deadpool.
Books: Three books out of a possible five. The Thor story has a good solid story, even if it’s not a “Hulk” story. The Wolverine story takes a wrong turn halfway through when Weapon X is brought up and doesn’t really come back from it.


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #6

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#6: Batman Returns

In 1989, Director Tim Burton saved the legendary Caped Crusader from an eternity of campy stupidity with the Warner Brothers release of “Batman”. After raking in $43.6 million on opening weekend and eventually grossing over $250 million, the studio and the fans wondered how Burton and company could follow up with that. The answer came in 1992 with the release of “Batman Returns”, starring Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Pat Hingle, and Michael Gough.

The movie starts with a baby being born to the wealthy Cobblepot family. But this child is clearly deformed and somewhat animalistic. Out of shame, the parents (played by Paul Reubens and Dianne Salinger – both from Burton’s “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”) hurl the caged baby basket into the river, thinking that the child would drown. Instead, we see the basket floating down the sewer and towards a group of penguins.

Thirty-three years later, Gotham City is awash with tales of a mutated “Penguin Monster”, and its Christmas gala, sponsored by millionaire Max Shreck (Walken) is besieged by a demented circus troop. This forces Commissioner Gordon (Hingle) to fire up the Bat-signal, alerting Bruce Wayne (Keaton) to race to the rescue as Batman.

While Batman is cleaning up the streets, Shreck is kidnapped and brought down into the sewers, where we learn that the carnival gang is being run by that grown-up mutated infant who now calls himself the Penguin (DeVito). Penguin convinces Shreck to help him in his grand scheme, especially after telling the industrialist that he knows about every piece of dirty dealing Shreck has ever done, and has the evidence to prove it all. “You flush it,” he says, “I flaunt it.”

Penguin uses Shreck’s help to get himself out of the sewers and into the media limelight, revealing that his real name is Oswald Cobblepot. While the media buys his story, Batman notes that Penguin is spending a lot of time going over the city records.

Meanwhile, scatterbrained secretary Selina Kyle (Pfeiffer) discovers that Shreck’s plan to create a new power plant would actually drain energy from the city rather than provide it. Shreck shoves Kyle out a window and seemingly to her death. She is brought to life, however, by a group of stray cats, and the shock of her resurrection forces her to change into a more cat-like being. Soon she is wearing a skin-tight leather outfit with claws and a whip and calling herself Catwoman.

When the mayor refuses to give Shreck the green light for his power plant scheme, Shreck convinces Penguin to run for mayor. When Catwoman’s one-feline vendetta against Shreck crosses paths with the Penguin’s orchestrated riot, Catwoman finds herself in a rooftop fight against Batman and falls one more time, this time into a truck full of kitty litter. Catwoman then meets with Penguin and convinces him to join forces to destroy Batman.

Meanwhile, Kyle finds herself being attracted to Bruce Wayne, not knowing why the two of them have so much in common. This leads to the predictable awkward moment when the two of them kiss and both struggle to hide the scars that their alter-egos gave each other earlier on the rooftops.

I would say more about this, but that would give away the ending.

The movie certainly was a big box-office success, bringing in $45.69 million on opening weekend and a total world-wide gross of $266.83 million. But not everyone was happy with the overall violence and sensuality of Catwoman and her “resurrected” alter-ego.

In terms of a hero movie, this certainly has all of the right elements. You have a clear iconic hero (Batman), you have two clear villains (Shreck and Penguin), and one anti-hero (Catwoman). You can’t really call Catwoman a “villain” in this movie, especially since her character is more of a traumatic victim seeking revenge than an actual “bad girl”. Plus you have the return of actors Michael Keaton (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon), and Michael Gough (Alfred) to keep the same feel going for this movie. And this time around, Burton left Prince’s music out of the sequel and stuck with the instrumental score by Danny Elfman.

DeVito and Pfeiffer followed Jack Nicholson’s trend of going over-the-top with their portrayal of their characters, which worked perfectly for Pfeiffer’s role as Catwoman, but DeVito’s Penguin delved more towards the rank of camp, which is NOT something you want to bring into a Batman movie.

What this pundit did find strange was seeing this movie with a clear Christmas theme be released in JULY. Executives at Warner Brothers really got their calendars mixed up on that one. But then again, this was really before studios hyped Christmas-day releases.

Sadly, Director Burton also increased the surrealism in this film, and that had an effect on the cheese factor. The sewer waters that looked cleaner than most public pools, a revolver that could still fire even after being left underwater, an army of penguins carrying missiles striped like the North Pole, Wayne and Alfred acting like MC Bats, and, as Penguin would later exclaim: “Why is it that someone always brings eggs and tomatoes to a speech?” And you would think that after the first movie, someone would figure out that you don’t send a giggling clown to take on Batman!

Sadder still, this would be the last time that Burton and Keaton would put their names to the Batman series. The cowl would be handed over to Val Kilmer, and although Burton would stay on as producer, the series would left in the directorial hands of Joel Schumacher, where it would die of embarrassment two movies later. BUT… those would be reviews for another time.

In all, this is a good hero movie to watch, especially around the holidays. Just be careful of the cheese.

Capes: Good iconic characters. Gotta give it all 5 capes.

The added surrealism right from the start bumps up the cheese factor to Cheddar (3).

Books: A good story with a developed resolution. Sadly the cheese factor affects the quality of the story, so I can only give it 4 out of 5 books.


Love Hurts... again!

It's time for the Spring Fling here in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles.

Although there won't be any superstar weddings like last year's marriage between Manticore and Sister Psyche, Ganymede, emissary of the god Eros, has returned to invite heroes and villains to take part in some more co-operative fun.

Heroes and Villains must complete a two-part task, with the second one REQUIRING either a hero or a villain (depending on your contact) to finish it. Once done, DJ Zero will have one more mission for you to take part in, and yes it does involve that eternal buzzkill, Snaptooth! But you can get all sorts of good seasonal presents, including Greek togas, sandals, laurel wreaths... and some tacky heart-shaped bodysuits. (Personally the bridal version look better... on the women of course.)

Once again this is a limited deal, so don't sit around and miss out on it.


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #5

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#5: Hancock

After going over some past superhero flicks, it’s time to look at a more recent superhero movie. That takes us to “Hancock” starring Will Smith, Jason Bateman, and Charlize Theron. The film was released by Columbia Pictures in 2008 and is available on DVD in both the theatrical (PG-13) and unrated editions.

The film is about a superhero named John Hancock (Smith). He has superpowers, and he isn’t afraid to use them, and he doesn’t care about the consequences of his powers. When bank robbers lead police on a high speed chase, a hung-over Hancock crashes through road signs to get to the “bad guys” (and the debris destroy the chasing police cars), crashes through the fleeing vehicle, and then tears up the highway to bring the SUV to a halt. He then picks up the vehicle and carries it through the city, smashing into the corners of buildings in the process, before impaling it on a building spire for the police to retrieve. Millions of dollars in damage, and that’s all before breakfast. But Hancock doesn’t care, just like he doesn’t care about any of the other complaints made about him when he does good deeds.

That changes when a PR spokesman named Ray Embrey (Bateman) is saved by Hancock after his car is pinned in the middle of a railroad crossing in front of an oncoming train. Hancock flips the car out of the way, then stands in the way of the train to hit it head-on and force a massive derailment. While the crowd is screaming complaints at him, Embrey tells them that they should be thankful that Hancock saved a man’s life. He offers Hancock a chance to change the negative perception and make him respected and respectable again, even though his wife Mary (Theron) disagrees.

We get a chance to see some of the nonchalant ways Hancock has carried himself. For instance, showing up in front of children half-naked to treat himself to some ice cream after putting out a fire. Or him rescuing a beached whale by grabbing its tail and tossing it a half-mile into the ocean. To change that negative image, Embry convinces Hancock to turn himself in to the police for his abuses and let him sit out in jail as crime escalates and wait until the police call for his return. This leads to Hancock hesitantly going along with the plan, including enduring jail, anger management courses, and working on better handling of his abilities.

When he does return at the behest of the city, we see a clean, sober, and clean-shaven Hancock sporting a new designer costume and with greater control over his powers and a more politically-correct demeanor. The city, of course, loves the new look. But not everyone likes the change.

We spend the rest of the movie learning more about Hancock and his past. We find out how he got his name, where he got his powers, and why Mary seemingly doesn’t like him. And at the same time, we find out what Hancock’s real weakness is, besides people calling him a certain word that ends with “hole”.

This movie actually gives a very realistic version of a burned-out superhero and the personal struggles of living with superpowers. When you’re faster than a bullet and more powerful than a locomotive, you can’t really let yourself go in certain “intimate” situations, as the unrated version of the film demonstrates. And taking off and landing are not as easy as you would think, especially when you’re flying in at supersonic speed, never mind drunk.

Sadly, the general story begins to deteriorate after that reform takes hold. The spectacular battle that you see in the trailers where even Mother Nature joins in isn’t the climactic battle. And what causes that spectacular battle is needless. The climax of the film is far from spectacular, although the resolution is very heart-rending.

Will Smith plays the role of the burned-out Hancock quite well, and Jason Bateman plays the eternally optimistic PR spokesman and hero-reformer as though it was his second nature. Charlize Theron’s role as Mary, though, seems a little out-of-place at times. As a housewife, she does the role well, but it’s when the story takes that unexpected turn (you’ll know when that is) that you will see that she seems out of her element.

This is definitely not the kind of hero movie you would want kids to see, but for the grown-up heroes, I think you’ll find it quite enjoyable.

Capes: Only 4 capes out of 5 here. The new costume is good, the bad guy is weak.
Cheese: Very realistic look at superpowers in use keeps the cheese quality down to American (0).
Books: 3 out of 5 books. The general story is good, but the climax needed more work.


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #4

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#4: Batman (1989 Movie)

Following up on my scathing review of the 1966 film, it’s time to take a look at the next attempt at doing the Dark Knight some justice with the 1989 Warner Brothers release of “Batman”, directed by Tim Burton, and starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Bassinger, Robert Wuhl, Jack Palance, Michael Gough, Billy Dee Williams, Tracey Walter, Pat Hingle, and Jerry Hall.

The movie starts with a young family lost in the mean streets of Gotham City. They quickly find themselves lost in an alley and mugged by two thugs. Unbeknownst to them, their actions were observed by a shadowy figure. That figure would become the infamous Batman (Keaton), who tells one of the thugs to spread the word that he’s around.

The story of Batman is easily dismissed as urban legend, though, despite the efforts of investigative reporter Alexander Knox (Wuhl). Gotham Police, split between honest cops loyal to Commissioner Gordon (Hingle) and DA Harvey Dent (Williams) and corrupt cops loyal to Mob Boss Carl Grissom (Palance), both dismiss the reports of the Batman and his exploits. Knox is joined by famed photojournalist Vicky Vale (Bassinger) who believes that Batman exists and the two go off to Bruce Wayne’s party to talk with Gordon and Dent.

Meanwhile Boss Grissom has decided that he needs to get rid of his right-hand man. Jack Napier (Nicholson) has been fooling around with his girlfriend (Hall) and needs to be eliminated. He arranges the corrupt police to have Napier killed.

Gordon finds out about the attempted hit and moves to arrest Napier. His conversation is overheard by Wayne’s elaborate security system, and soon the raid is joined by Gordon’s police, and by Batman. During the battle, Batman confronts Napier, and in a quick gunfire, a ricochet bullet cuts Napier’s face open and tosses him over a railing. Batman reaches out to Napier, but loses his grip and the gangster falls into a vat of chemicals and disappears.

The next night Wayne meets with Vale and the two end up getting drunk and having sex. At the same time, a disfigured and deranged Napier shows up at Grissom’s penthouse and announces that “Jack is dead… call me… JOKER!” Grissom is then shot to death by the perpetually grinning white-skinned lunatic.

Joker assumes control of the whole criminal operation, much to the shock of Wayne. Joker is also smitten by Vale and plans to meet with her, bringing his equally disfigured girlfriend in tow. Meanwhile, people are dropping like flies in Gotham because of the Joker’s deadly drug known as “Smilex”, which causes people to laugh to death as their skin turns white and their hair turns green.

The movie at this point becomes a game of cat-and-mouse as the Joker finds ways to kill everyone in Gotham, Batman tries to find the Joker, and Vale wants to know what the connection is between Wayne, Batman, and the Joker. Oh, and Knox wants a grant. And an admission that he was right.

This movie was a welcomed re-introduction of the Batman legend, especially after the camp buffoonery of the 60’s TV series, the 1966 movie, and subsequent TV spin-offs which cast Batman more as an overly-dramatic Bat-fix-it-man, with a specific Bat-device for any kind of problem. Whereas the campy Batman would pull out a “Bat-anti-thug-immobilizer”, the movie Batman would rather just punch the criminal’s lights out. It helped that the movie was made not long after the publishing of Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns”, which had an aging Batman returning from retirement to reclaim Gotham, and Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke”, in which the Joker cripples Barbara Gordon and tries to drive her father insane. In fact it is said that “The Killing Joke” was the story that inspired Director Burton to take the needed overall dark tone of the story.

The casting of Keaton as the Caped Crusader came a complete surprise, since Keaton was best known for his comedic roles in movies like “Beatlejuice” and “Mr. Mom”. Yet he played the character dangerously and maintained the proper balance between Wayne and Batman. Nicholson, on the other hand, played the role of the Joker as over-the-top as he could, which fit the character nicely.

Burton’s surreal view of Gotham does add a certain level of cheesiness to the movie. But rather than playing up on the surreal elements and going camp, Burton rightly adopted a serious tone to legitimatize the look, and thus kept the cheese factor contained. This is the important element that separated this movie from subsequent sequels, especially coming from people like Joel Shoemacher, who single-handedly destroyed the Batman film run for about a decade. But that is another review for another time.

As a hero movie, though, this stands out as one of the best.

Capes: This film earned all 5 capes. You have a clearly-visible iconic hero and a clear villain.

Burton’s surrealism gives it a necessary Swiss cheese (1), but fortunately it is contained.

Books: A good story with sufficient twists. The very last part could use some work so it only gets 4 books out of 5.

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #3

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#3: Batman (1966 movie)

Tonight the Pundit goes back in time to one of the more infamous comic book movies… the original “Batman” movie from 1966. It was produced by 20th Century Fox and starred Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, and Frank Gorshin. The movie was released on DVD in 2001.

The movie was done following the first season of the ABC TV series, retaining (almost) all of the actors, characters, and overall themes from the series. (Series regular Julie Newmar had other commitments.) Although it pretends to be serious, it truly is the definition of camp.

The movie starts with Batman (West) and Robin (Ward) racing to rescue a kidnapped Commodore Schmidlapp on board his yacht. But instead of finding a yacht, they discover an exploding shark chomping on Batman’s leg. Batman manages to get rid of the shark using his Bat-Anti-Shark-Repellant, which he manages to store in his Batcopter, and gets away before the shark turns into shark bait. Returning to police headquarters, Batman and Robin work with Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara to deduce that the master criminals behind this dastardly deed are the Joker (Romero), the Penguin (Meredith), the Riddler (Gorshin), and Catwoman (Meriwether), and that it is all part of a plot to take over the world.

While the Penguin impersonates Schmidlapp to sneak into the Batcave and use the Bat-resources to his advantage, Catwoman seduces Bruce Wayne by pretending to be a Russian reporter named Miss Kitka. She has no idea, of course, that millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is really Batman, and he manages to use that to get out of their trap… which involves him running along a dock in the middle of daytime as Batman, holding a huge bomb with a lit fuse, trying to find someplace to toss it that doesn’t involve throwing it at ducks, boy scouts, a romantic couple, or a marching band, which all just come out of the woodwork. This leads to one of the lamest lines around… “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

The so-called master plan involves a dehydration machine, a penguin-shaped war surplus submarine, and the United World Security Council (a.k.a. the United Nations). I’d go further into it but I don’t want to Bat-warp your brain any more that it already is at this point.

Sufficient to say, this is how Hollywood saw comic books at that time. If you don’t believe me, then Google up some of the old Filmation cartoons for all of the DC and Marvel heroes. They’re actually better than their live-action counterparts. It would take the release of “Superman: The Movie” to change this view, but that is another review for another time.

This pundit is no friend of camp, especially when it involves superheroes. This whole movie reeks of fermented cheese, and unfortunately it set the stage for future bad hero movies as people like Joel Shoemacher would transform the future Batman movie franchise into pathetic versions of this 60’s movie. Watch it at your Bat-peril.

Capes: I can only give this movie 3 capes. I wish I could give it more, but the cheese factor really did this movie in.
Cheese: Full-blown all-out Limburger (5) cheese with a Bat-order of Bat-Sauerkraut to Bat-boot.
Books: Sorry, but only 2 books here. The story is Bat-weak and the over-Bat-acting really kills it.

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #2

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#2: X-Men

After reviewing “Zoom”, I thought I would give you a taste of what a REAL superhero team would be like, and give you a review of “X-Men”, based on the popular Marvel Comic series. “X-Men” was released by 20th Century Fox in 2000, directed by Bryan Singer, and stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Famke Janssen, Bruce Davison, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Rebecca Romijn, Ray Park, and Tyler Mane. The movie is available on DVD either by itself or in a box set with its two sequels, or on occasion on the FX channel.

The story starts with a young Jewish boy being separated from his family in Auschwitz in World War II. The fear of losing his parents triggers his mutant magnetic ability and almost manages to tear the metal doors open before being knocked out. Fast forward to 2000, and Senator Robert Kelly (Davison) is grilling Dr. Jean Grey (Janssen) about the existence of teenagers with mutant abilities and how the senator feels they should be treated as threats to the nation. The scene is observed by Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart) and Erik Lehnsherr (McKellen), who was that boy from Auschwitz now bitter at what he sees as history repeating itself.

The story switches from there to the plight of a young Southern girl named Marie (Paquin) who kisses a young boy for the first time and accidentally puts him in a coma. Overridden by guilt, she runs away and finds herself in Canada, where she meets up with a scraggly drifter that calls himself “Wolverine” (Jackman) and has razor-sharp claws that protrude and retract between his fingers. It’s here that she calls herself “Rogue”. She sneaks a ride on Wolverine’s truck and manages to get a few words in before they are attacked by a menacing blonde monster later called Sabertooth (Mane). He attacks the two of them, allowing Rogue to see Wolverine’s mutant healing power at work, before they are rescued by Storm (Berry) and Cyclops (Marsden).

The story then focuses more on Wolverine and how he finds himself in the Xavier School for the Gifted and how Xavier was once best friends with Erik, who now calls himself Magneto. Xavier asks Wolverine to stay and offers to use his powers and resources to help him unlock his past. Wolverine stays, partly because out of concern for Rogue, who has developed a crush on him, and partly because of his own attraction to Jean Grey, who is seeing Cyclops.

Meanwhile, Senator Kelly is kidnapped by two more of Magneto’s associates, the grotesque Toad (Park) and the erotic shape-shifting Mystique (Romijn). They take the senator to Magneto’s lair, where Magneto exposes him to a device that would turn normal people into mutants. Kelly escapes because of his new mutant ability and looks to Jean for help. Magneto’s forces overwhelm the X-Men and kidnap Rogue, who was running away after being accidentally stabbed by Wolverine. With the information they get from the senator, the X-Men take on Magneto’s “Brotherhood” at the Statue of Liberty.

There’s a lot that is missing from this summary, and that’s because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen this yet. There are plenty of heroic elements to this movie that make this one of the really best hero movies.

Even though Director Singer said that he didn’t want to do a “comic book movie”, he actually managed to make a realistic comic book movie. Although the costumes lack the “yellow spandex”, they would reflect the kind of realistic outfit that you would see from a group of mutants, and they still had the X-symbols on them. The Blackbird, the Xavier School, even Cerebro are all right out of the comic book. And the music has a heroic feel to it. We’re not talking pre-packaged MTV pop music. We’re talking orchestral music.

The casting is exceptional as well, with seasoned actors like Stewart and McKellen teaming up with (then) up-and-coming stars like Jackman, Paquin, Marsden, Romijn, and Berry (before she won her Oscar). Their characters interact quite well and almost come right out of the comic book. And of course the SERIOUS drool factor goes to Romijn’s Mystique character, who spends most of her time naked except for strategically placed scales and blue bodypaint.

I would definitely recommend this as a hero movie, and if you haven’t already gotten it on DVD, pick up the box set with the other two sequels.

Capes: I have to give 4 out of 5 capes and that only because while the characters are realistic, they’re not really iconic enough for all five capes.

Nothing but American Cheese (0). They really took this seriously.

Books: Definitely gets all 5 books from me. There is a solid story and great characters along with wonderful effects and an original score instead of pre-packaged pop.

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #1

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#1: Zoom

This is the first of what should hopefully be a long series of various hero-related movie reviews.

This first one is “Zoom”, otherwise known as “Zoom: Academy for Superheroes”. It was released by Sony Pictures in 2006 and starring Tim Allen, Courtney Cox-Arquette, Chevy Chase, and Rip Torn. It’s out on DVD or on Cable.

The story starts out with a team of teenaged superheroes led by “Captain Zoom”, whose exploits were made famous by a comic book. It turns out the “Team Zenith” was a military project running out of Area 52 (yes, one better than 51) and the comic book was used for propaganda purposes. In the comic books, most of the team was killed by a villain known as “Concussion”. But in reality, “Concussion” was a member of the team that was driven insane by exposure to Gamma-13 radiation in the government’s attempt to make the team “stronger”.

Three decades later, Dr. Grant (Chase), the original scientist behind the Zenith Project, discovers that Concussion wasn’t killed, but was sent to a different dimension and was on his way back. Grant brings in Zoom, now just a burned-out, bitter and powerless middle-aged man (Allen), to train a new team of superpowered teenagers, but refuses to tell him why. Zoom is only told that he has to train them, or else the Project’s commander (Torn) will dose them with Gamma-13 and let the chips fall where they may.

The new team consists of a lone-wolf character named Dylan that can turn invisible, a telekinetic girl named Summer, a chubby kid named Tucker that can expand any part of his body, and a 6-year old girl named Cindy with superhuman strength. Aiding Zoom is a bookwormish psychiatrist named Marsha (Cox-Arquette) who it turns out is a huge comic fangirl that idolized Team Zenith and the young Captain Zoom.

Most of the movie at this point consists of three things:

1. The eternal torment of Dr. Grant, sometimes for no other reason than because it gives the actor the chance to impersonate a Loony Toones character.

2. The continual dysfunction between Zoom, the teens, and Marsha, mostly done to pop music.

3. The eternal sense of dread from General Larraby about how close “Concussion” is to returning and his insistence that the team be given the Gamma-13, even though he knows that it also was behind the whole fiasco in the first place.

Eventually, of course, everyone gets it together, which brings us to still more pop-music montages.

I won’t give away the ending but you can probably guess how it turns out. The problem is that the story gets progressively bad and cliché once the ending approaches.

My initial thought was that this was a Disney movie. It had all of the look and feel of a Disney-made flick, right down to the hokey pop-music montages and the emphasis on young teens.

In terms of being a hero movie, I have to give it a low score. These aren’t the X-Men. They’re not even the Z-Men. Their costumes aren’t even symbolic. They’re more like sleepwear. And their feared “bad guy” is really nothing of the sort.

You pretty much hit all of the stereotypes in the new “Zenith Team”. If the chubby kid can master his body size part-by-part, then why couldn’t he make himself perpetually thin? Why does the lone wolf get to be the leader, not to mention have a secondary power? Shouldn’t the telepathic/telekinetic chick have that power? And a six-year old girl that dresses herself in pink costumes and has super-strength usually doesn’t have a heart of gold in real life.

But then again it’s supposedly not really about them. It’s about Zoom the wisecracking burnout. And I suppose if he WAS told the truth from the start of the movie, then he would have done more to properly train the new recruits and deal with the enemy that really wasn’t. But then again it wouldn’t have allowed the actor to let loose with his wisecracks.

In all, “Zoom” is a teen story pretending to be a hero story. In fact it almost seems like the superhero elements are forced into the story. Enjoy it for the comedy because that’s really all that it is good for.

Capes: I have to give 3 capes, and that’s being generous.
Cheese: This rates an Extra Sharp Cheddar (4), especially at the end, and, again, I’m being generous.
Books: I can only give it 2 books, because the story is weak and had the potential to be good but traded that for slapstick comedy.

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #0

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#0: The Introduction

Hi guys! Paragon Pundit here.

The editor has given the green light to one of my ideas, which is to give a review of hero-themed movies.

The criteria is simple… any movie with a superhero theme to it is subject to review. That could mean your more traditional superhero characters, or new superheroes. These could be new movies, or more likely movies that are already out on DVD and Cable.

I’ll try to give the big stars, a basic summary of the movie, and then rate the overall movie on a 0-5 scale for three criteria.

Capes: The level of superhero quality. Is it really a superhero movie or is it just pretending to be one? 5 Capes means that it’s an ideal superhero flick.

Cheese: The level of stupidity. Do they take film seriously or is it more comic than comic book? 5 Cheeses means it’s the lamest around, so this is NOT the kind of high rating you want to see. The cheeses are American (0), Swiss (1), Mild Cheddar (2), Sharp Cheddar (3), Extra Sharp Cheddar (4), and Limburger (5).

Books: How good is the overall story? Is there a real story or is it more along the lines of an overrated toy commercial or music video? 0 books means that it’s nothing more than an overrated commercial or music video. 5 Books means that there’s an actual story being told.

Oh, by the way, I promise I will try my best to NOT give away any big secrets or spoil the ending. UNLESS the movie really sucks, in which case I would be doing you a favor.

So let’s see how this turns out, and please be sure to let me know what you think of my reviews by posting your thoughts in the comments section.