2009-03-30

i14 crashes Rikti Ships!

Apparently nobody told the Rikti of the changes coming for Issue 14... because they keep on crashing into the Architect Entertainment building!

This is similar to the instance that Battlerock X faced not too long ago when he single-handedly took down a Rikti ship by knocking it into the hospital.

Watch more videos of CoH & CoV

Second Video

The Captain got some pretty good reviews of his modest appearance, so he did another video.

What did he do to get community service, you ask? Well, that's for the next video.

2009-03-29

Captain Catastrophe's First Video

Team-killer Captain Catastrophe has done his first YouTube Video! And it features many of the characters seen in the Chronicles.

Check it out!

2009-03-27

Issue 14 - pre-loading now

NCSoft officials have announced that Issue 14 is being pre-loaded to all existing accounts.

What that means is that the bulk of the software changes for Issue 14 are being loaded to all computers now rather than when it goes live... which should be in just a few weeks.

Issue 14 is still in open beta-testing, still getting as many bugs out as possible.

NCSoft officials do this because it cuts down on the loading time for gameplay, so once they do decide to go live with the issue all they have to do is send a code to activate the new features.

The pre-loading takes place automatically after you finish your game and quit. Hopefully your computer will not crash during that time, but if it does you can hit the "Verify Image" button once you start the game again.

Pre-load takes time, so please do not be in a rush to shut down your computer once you see the automatic update kick in.

Paragon Wiki has the skinny on the changes being brought in with Issue 14 besides the much-celebrated Mission Architect, including the infamous BUTTCAPES! (Not a rumor, not vaporware, for real!)

2009-03-25

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #14


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#14: Batman Begins

After Joel Schumacher and executives at Warner Brothers pretty much destroyed the Burton-inspired “Batman” series in 1997, the studio struggled with a way to restore trust with disillusioned Bat-fans. There were several ideas toyed around, which mirrored the attempts to salvage Superman from the camp graveyard.

Eight years later, Batman made his triumphant return to the silver screen, and he did so by going back to square one.

“Batman Begins” was released by Warner Brothers in 2005, directed by Christopher Nolan and features an all-star cast consisting of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freman, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, and Ken Watanabe.

The film starts with a boy named Bruce and a girl named Rachel playing at the grounds of a huge mansion. Rachel finds an arrowhead, which Bruce steals and tries to hide, but he falls through an abandoned well. The noise disturbs the creatures living there, and the bats start flying out.

This turns out to be a nightmare for the adult Bruce (Bale), who is in a Bhutanese prison, where he is holding his own against local prisoners, which he considers to be “practice”. He defeats them, but then is sent to solitary for “their” protection. It is there that he meets Henri Ducard (Neeson), a man who represents a group and a benefactor seeking to bring real justice to the world. Ducard says that he knows that Bruce is really Bruce Wayne, millionaire orphan, and that his benefactor, Ra’s al Ghul, can show him how to become more than just a man, but a legend.

The next day, Bruce is let go by a dirt road, and he climbs a mountain to bring a single blue flower to a mountaintop compound, where he meets Ra’s (Watanabe) and Ducard and is quickly knocked unconscious.

While Bruce is unconscious, we see more of his flashbacks, how he was rescued from the well by his father, Thomas Wayne, and that the event caused him to deathly fear bats, even though his father told him they were more afraid of him. Later, Thomas and Martha take Bruce into Gotham City, and his father explains the impact his family had in the city’s recovery from economic depression, including the rail line that would play an important role in the movie. Going to a theater show, Bruce was scared of the bat-like actors on stage and asked that they leave early. Leaving out a side-door, they are confronted in an alley by a man with a gun… and what happens next is legend.

The only kind faces to the young traumatized boy are Officer Jim Gordon (Oldman) and Alfred Pennyworth (Caine). Years later, Bruce returns from Princeton to appear at the sentencing hearing of Joe Chill, the man that killed his parents. Chill has his sentence reduced for testifying against mobster Carmine Falcone (Wilkinson). Bruce joins a now grown-up Rachel Dawes (Holmes), who works with the District Attorney’s office. Bruce refuses to speak up at Chill’s hearing, even though doing so could keep him behind bars. Chill is released, but then is killed by one of Falcone’s men. Bruce feels cheated, because he was there to kill Chill, a turn of events that Rachel discovers and is disgusted at hearing. After meeting with Falcone, though, Bruce discovers that he can’t do anything for the city, and thus leaves.

This brings us to the present, and Bruce’s training by Ducard. Ducard trains Bruce to overcome his fear and to use the skills of the League of Shadows to be stronger and more cunning. But when Ra’s reveals to Bruce that his plan is to destroy Gotham, Bruce confronts his master and defeats him in combat, setting the compound on fire in the process. He drags an unconscious Ducard back down to a nearby village and returns to Gotham, wiser and with a plan on how to make a difference.

Bruce goes to Wayne Enterprises, run in trust by Bill Earle (Hauer), who just took the company public, and through that connection learns of an underused research arm run by Lucius Fox (Freeman), who has a warehouse full of workable unused prototypes, including a military-style all-terrain armored vehicle, protective body-armor, and a parachute cloth that could be used to create bat-like wings. Bruce also returns to the abandoned well to explore the cave where the bats live. Using foreign contractors to supply the crucial trademarked headgear, he creates a series of bat-shaped devices, explaining that he still fears bats, but now he wants criminals to share his fear. He also reaches out to Jim Gordon, now a sergeant, and gains his trust and tells him to trust Rachel.

Showing up at the docks, Gordon’s corrupt partner meets with Falcone to supervise the latest drug shipment, and points out that half of the drugs would go to him, and the other would go to the crime-controlled slum known as the Narrows. Falcone’s men are quickly picked off one-by-one by a masked man wearing a cape and using ninja-like skills. Falcone tries to escape, but is confronted by the masked man who quickly identifies himself as… BATMAN! Batman ties Falcone up on a nearby searchlight, with his shadow crudely resembling a large bat.

As Gordon and the others arrest Falcone and are awestruck at the symbolism, Batman saves Rachel from being attacked by Falcone’s men. He also gives her compromising photos of a judge for her to use to make sure that the charges against Falcone stick in court.

Falcone tries to use the insanity defense, only to discover that the Arkham Asylum psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Crane (Murphy), is the contact Falcone was working with, and he uses his special fear drug, along with a Scarecrow mask, to make Falcone really crazy.

While interrogating Gordon’s partner, Batman discovers where the second half of the drugs go, and soon he’s face-to-face with Scarecrow, who sprays the caped crusader with the drug before setting him on fire. Batman escapes, but he recognizes the effects of the drug as something he encountered before.

As Bruce recovers, Rachel investigates Crane’s activities and discovers that he’s pumping the water supply with the drug. Batman goes to rescue her, now immune from the drug’s effects through an antidote that Fox developed. He confronts Crane again and gives him a full dose of the drug to get him to talk. Crane reveals that he is only the point man for someone much more dangerous… Ra’s al Ghul, a man that Bruce Wayne believed was dead.

From here the movie becomes a roller-coaster of twists and turns where all secrets soon come out, where the true motives for Joe Chill’s crimes are revealed, and where Batman is transformed from a vigilante into an urban legend.

The movie is a welcomed departure from the earlier approaches of the Batman franchise. This is not a surreal look at Batman, nor is it the childish cartoonish camp that Warner Brothers execs previously turned it into. This is a REALISTIC Batman. Gotham City has the look and feel of a REAL city. Batman relies on more state-of-the-art REALISTIC devices instead of day-glow bat-utilities custom-designed for any specific threat. There are no bat-skates or bat-lasers or fake nipples on the costume. If Batman were to exist in the real world, THIS is how he would look.

Christian Bale’s approach to both Bruce Wayne and Batman is almost night-and-day when compared to the actors that wore the cowl before him. Bale gets the point that Bruce Wayne is the act, and that Batman is the real person. Coming from movies such as “American Psycho” and “Equilibrium” and “The Machinist”, Bale brings both a suave and dangerous look to the legend that is just a step beyond Michael Keaton’s portrayal in “Batman” and “Batman Returns”.

At first Michael Caine seemed out-of-place as loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth, but he does a good job taking ownership of the role. Sadly the same could not be said of Katie Holmes as Rachel. Quite simply she comes off as looking too young for the role.

Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Jim Gordon is a welcomed surprise. Oldman is normally known for playing the bad guy, so it’s good to see him for once playing one of the few honest cops in Gotham. Cillian Murphy’s role as the Scarecrow was also a welcomed surprise. He gives off that kind of “nice quiet guy” look that you know holds something really deadly under the surface.

Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman both own their respective roles as Henri Ducard and Lucius Fox from the moment you see them. The characters are a perfect match for the actors.

The realistic look and feel of the movie keeps the cheese factor down and it does what it needed to do… it revived the Batman legend, and it set the stage for an even better sequel. This should be on the list of any hero’s must-have movies.

Capes: All five capes. A realistic Batman along with some clearly-defined villains… or at least they BECOME clearly-defined by the time the movie ends.
Cheese: Nothing but American Cheese (0) here. The realism kept the cheese factor at bay.
Books: This movie earns all five books. It has a realistic story, based on two classic Batman tales that established the legend, and it doesn’t serve as either a music video or an overhyped toy commercial.

2009-03-24

Issue 14 teaser

With Issue 14 on the horizon, here is a teaser of what to expect.

And yes, I COULD have used the video supplied by NC Soft... except that Captain Amazing reminds me too much of Captain Catastrophe. Plus Samuraiko is a class act and she does a kick-Rikti job with these things!

Why NC Soft hasn't picked her up on retainer is a mystery for everyone.

2009-03-11

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #13


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#13: Superman III

At the credits of “Superman II” there was talk about yet another sequel to the Superman series. If anyone hoped that number three would be better than the Academy-award winning first movie or the action-and-cheese-filled second movie, they would be sadly mistaken.

“Superman III” was released by Warner Brothers in 1983, and it would be the last Superman movie produced by Alexander and Ilya Salikind, although they would later produce the spinoff “Supergirl” and the 1988 TV series “Superboy”. Richard Lester, who assimilated the work of Richard Donner in the previous movie, directs this feature by himself. It stars Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Annette O’Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephensen, Robert Vaughn, and with brief appearances by Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, and Margot Kidder.

The movie starts with a sad sack named Gus Gorman (Pryor), who discovers he has a knack for computers and computer programming. When he discovers a way to get one-half of a penny off every financial transaction, it makes him filthy rich, and it catches the eye of his company’s boss, Ross Webster (Vaughn). Webster realizes that Gorman’s skills at computer hacking and programming could make him the richest and most powerful man in the world.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent (Reeve) decides to attend his high school reunion in Smallville. It helps to have Lois Lane (Kidder) out on a foreign assignment as well. On the way to Smallville, he extinguishes a chemical fire, discovering that one of the experimental chemicals would destroy the whole East Coast if it heats from liquid to gaseous form. (Yes it will be important later on.) Superman saves the day by freezing a whole lake and then dropping the ice over the plant. Jimmy Olson (McClure) is injured during the event and thus he’s relegated to the storyline bench.

At Smallville, Clark becomes reacquainted with his high school crush, Lana Lang (O’Toole), who by this time was divorced with a young son. Brad, who tormented Clark in the first movie, is now Lana’s loser ex trying to humiliate Clark and win back Lana’s heart again.

Webster sends Gorman to hack into the government’s “weather satellite” to create storms to destroy Columbia’s coffee crop. Gorman does it, but then tells Webster that for every disaster he created, Superman managed to thwart, including turning a tornado upside-down (don’t ask how). Webster tells Gorman that he has to come up with a way to neutralize Superman, and the only way possible is Kryptonite. Gorman researches what makes up Kryptonite and discovers that part of it is “unknown”. Since his pack of cigarettes has the same percentage of tar as the “unknown” element, Gorman uses it to fill in the blanks. Gorman then dons a phony military uniform and joins Webster’s ugly sister Vera (Ross) and convenient arm-candy Lorelei (Stephensen) and the three of them hand Superman the green crystal, which seems to have no apparent effect on Superman, but there is a change in him afterwards.

Gradually Superman becomes Super-jerk as he commits random acts of mischief. Realizing that Gorman has actually succeeded, Webster gives him the green-light to construct his “ultimate computer” as he sends Lorelei to seduce the corrupted hero to get him to sabotage the world’s oil supply.

The fully-corrupted Superman is now reduced to being a drunken loser, smashing bottles with peanuts and melting mirrors with his heat vision. When Lana is talked by her son into seeing him, the drunken Superman flies away, although visibly shaken by what he has become. He crashes into a junkyard, where he splits into two people… the corrupted jerk with a cape, and the innocent and na├»ve Clark Kent. Only one of them can win out.

Sadly, this movie is a super-disappointment. For starters, it focuses heavily on Richard Pryor’s comedic skills rather than on any kind of actual storyline. Let’s have Gorman show up in the middle of corn country just so he can hack into a secret government weather satellite which can actually CHANGE THE WEATHER! Let’s have Gorman pretend to be a general so he can hand Superman a paperweight that looks just like kryptonite! Let’s have Gorman slide off an artificial ski slope and off the side of a building so he can be rescued by Superman!

The cheese factor is pretty high as well. Turning a tornado upside-down in and of itself will do that. And then there’s the “super-split” trick and blowing oil out of the ocean and INTO a tanker, and then welding the hull closed without igniting the oil. Then we have the whole “MX” missile scene which literally turns the biggest action scene of the movie into a computer game. No, really, it does; with cheesy coin-op arcade music to boot.

Annette O’Toole’s portrayal of Lana actually makes her more approachable than Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane ever was. She comes off almost as sweet and innocent as Clark pretends to be, even after being divorced from loser Brad. She also manages to conveniently forget that Clark was the “weird-o” water-boy in high school that could outrace a speeding locomotive but doesn’t explain how. It should also be noted that O’Toole would later go on to play Clark’s adopted mother in the TV series “Smallville” where she also reunites with Kidder in one episode.

Then we have Robert Vaughn as the token bad guy of the movie. Once again we have a rich guy that isn’t evil per-se, just amoral and greedy. And also someone who apparently needs to keep himself socially isolated. Big multi-national, multi-conglomerate empire and he only hangs around with his ugly sister and arm-candy. Why does that sound so familiar?

Christopher Reeve again tries to play Superman and Clark Kent as straightforward as possible, but it doesn’t help that the storyline isn’t there. Just like “Superman II” was really about the three Kryptonian criminals, so too is this movie really all about Richard Pryor playing Gus Gorman.

In short, guys, Warner Brothers should have stopped while they were ahead. Unfortunately, they would end up going to the well two more times after this one.

Capes: The corruption subplot is a nice twist but the lack of an actual bad guy brings this movie down to three capes out of five.
Cheese: Extra-sharp cheddar (4) brought to you by an evil computer designed by an everyman buffoon.
Books: Only two books out of a possible five. This isn’t really a movie as it is a comedic vehicle for Richard Pryor.

2009-03-09

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #12


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#12: Superman II

After the release of the 1978 motion picture “Superman: The Movie”, there was a lot of talk about doing a sequel. In truth, producers Alexander and Ilya Salikind shot most of the material for both the movie and the sequel at the same time so that the actors would already be in character. Unfortunately a dispute between the Salikinds and director Richard Donner about the direction of the movie forced them to bring in Richard Lester and re-shoot many of the scenes, as well as make some changes to the storyline so they could completely write out Donner of the credits.

“Superman II” was released in 1980 by Warner Brothers and stars Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terrance Stamp, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, and with brief appearances by Valerie Perrine, Ned Beatty, Susanna York, and E.G. Marshall. Marlon Brando, who played the role of Jor-El masterfully in the first movie, was unavailable for re-shooting under Lester’s direction, so his scenes were replaced with those of York. They would later be restored when the “Richard Donner Version” of the movie would be released on DVD in 2006.

The movie starts with a return to Krypton and the re-telling of the scene whereby the three criminals Non (O’Halloran), Ursa (Douglas), and General Zod (Stamp) are captured and put on trial by the Council. Now, instead of sniveling and begging for forgiveness, Zod is pledging eternal vengeance on (the unseen) Jor-El and his heirs as he gets whisked away to the Phantom Zone.

We then watch the credits and recap of the scenes in the first Superman movie, with a high emphasis on the green crystal which originally guided Kal-El’s ship to Earth and created the Fortress of Solitude. It should be noted that Jor-El’s face is never seen in this recap.

After the credits, we see Clark Kent (Reeve) showing up for work at the Daily Planet. Perry White (Cooper) and Jimmy Olson (McClure) inform Clark that terrorists have taken the Eiffel Tower hostage and claim to have a hydrogen bomb ready to level Paris. Perry also says that Lois Lane (Kidder) boarded the first Concord flight overseas once the story broke. This sends Clark back out of the building and into the nearby alley where he can change into Superman in a comic-style blur and fly across the ocean.

In Paris, Lois manages to make her way past the police cordon and climbs under an elevator car, not knowing that this would be the same elevator car used to hold the bomb. She also doesn’t know that the Paris police are about to sabotage the elevator, thinking that the terrorists haven’t had time to “prime” the bomb, which they already did. The elevator cables are cut, the car falls, and the bomb is activated. Superman shows up just in the nick of time to save Lois, and then to fly the car up into space where it can safely explode. The shockwave knocks Superman back to Earth, and it also collides with the Phantom Zone, releasing the three Kryptonian criminals.

Back on Earth, we see Lex Luthor (Hackman) and his henchman Otis (Beatty) talk about the circumstances that led them to be in prison for “life plus twenty”. Otis comments that nobody knows where Superman goes after he saves the day, only that it’s north. Luthor says that whatever is up there, it has the secret to beating Superman.

On the Moon, a joint US-Soviet lunar expedition is picked-off one-by-one by Zod, Ursa, and Non. The three discover that as they get closer to Earth, which they think is called “Houston”, they develop more abilities. (Never mind, of course, that they can carry on conversations without any air.)

Back on Houston… I mean Earth… Lois and Clark are sent to Niagara Falls to investigate a newlywed scam. Clark thinks it’s romantic, but Lois couldn’t care less. After a boy falls into the waters and is saved by Superman, Lois begins to speculate that Clark and Superman are one and the same. She tries to put herself in danger, forcing Clark to prove she’s right, but Clark uses his heat vision to break off a tree limb and talk Lois into rescuing herself, much to her embarrassment.

Luthor escapes from prison, thanks to Miss Teschmacher (Perrine) coming in with a hot-air balloon, and he eagerly leaves Otis behind since his excess weight was bringing down the balloon. Using his “little device”, Luthor steers the balloon north.

As the three Kryptonians arrive in Midwestern America and start causing trouble with the locals, Luthor and Taschmacher arrive in the Fortress of Solitude. Luthor thinks it is the greatest technological find in history and it has everything that he could ever need. Miss Teschmacher says it’s missing one thing… a bathroom. After figuring out how to use the control panel, Luthor discovers a message from Kal-El’s mother Lara (York) who warns of the three Kryptonian prisoners and how the Phantom Zone MIGHT be cracked by detonating a hydrogen bomb in space. (Well it’s a good thing that nobody was that stupid to… oh, wait, never mind.) As Luthor ponders the possibilities of having three evil versions of Superman, Miss Teschmacher announces that she has found (what she hopes is) the bathroom.

Back at Niagara Falls, Lois tries to console herself about her embarrassing debacle. At that point, Clark trips over a bearskin rug and his glasses fall into the fire. Lois sees him reach into the fire to retrieve them and thinks that Clark has seriously burned himself. When she coaxes his hands out of his vest and notices that they’re not even warm, Clark confesses that he is in fact Superman.

As Superman and Lois fly up to the Fortress, the US Military shows up to confront the three Kryptonians. Zod allows Non and Ursa to have fun with the soldiers and their weapons and devices. Then he interrogates the general in charge and asks in front of the local media if anyone would dare challenge him.

At the Fortress, Superman gives Lois a quick history of “the green crystal” and then the two enjoy a dinner that he cooked from things he hastily collected from around the world. As Lois announces that she’s going to “put on something more comfortable”, Superman visits the hologram of Lara. Lara’s spirit tells him that he cannot love a human without first being human, so she asks Superman to give up his powers. He does, and Clark and Lois go to bed as the three Kryptonians spread a path of devastation (including defacing Mount Rushmore) on their way to Washington DC.

As Lois and Clark drive back down (how they managed to get a car nobody knows) to civilization, they stop at a rest area, where Clark is soundly beaten by an obnoxious trucker. They watch as the President of the United States (Marshall) announces that he has turned control of the planet over to General Zod and begs Superman to help. Clark realizes that he made a mistake in giving up his powers and vows to go back to the Fortress.

Meanwhile, Luthor arrives in the White House and offers Zod a chance for revenge against the son of his jailer. In exchange, he wants Australia.

As Clark returns to the now-darkened Fortress and begs his dead parents for help, Luthor leads the Kryptonians to the Daily Planet building, telling Zod that taking Lois hostage will bring Kal-El to them. As Zod reneges on his deal with Luthor, a sharp wind blows through Metropolis…

Sadly this film did not match up to the quality of the first one. While the action was intense, especially when Superman finally takes on the three Kryptonians, we have to first go through even more cheese than the first film.

Let’s see… amongst the cheese samples… we have the Phantom Zone being destroyed and ONLY three prisoners are freed. We have Paris police supposedly “watching” the terrorists but not realizing that they’re arming a hydrogen bomb as they prepare to sabotage the elevator car CONTAINING said bomb. We have the three Kryptonians talking on the Moon without air. They later develop a unique ability where they can project their powers through their fingers in a beam of white light. This is a power that Superman doesn’t have, but he can project illusions and use his S-shield as some kind of temporary net. He also possesses another power that I can’t reveal without spoiling the ending. Oh, and let’s not forget the three Kryptonians can also change the faces on Mount Rushmore with but a glance. We also don’t know what happened to Miss Teschmacher prior to Superman and Lois arriving at the Fortress. Was that REALLY the bathroom that she found? And how did Lois and a non-powered Clark manage to make it back to civilization?

I should point out that the “Donner” version of this movie had a few significant changes. First, no Paris. The Phantom Zone is destroyed by the nuclear missile from the FIRST movie. (If you didn’t see the first one, it was covered in the recap during the credits.) That actually makes sense. Second, the scene where Lois discovers that Clark is Superman is still in the hotel, but it doesn’t have to do with a fireplace and a bearskin rug. (The scene is actually the original screen test between Kidder and Reeve. Donner liked it so much he put it into the story.) Third, Jor-El is in all of the Fortress scenes, including one where he physically interacts with Kal-El. And fourth, the resolution at the end of the second movie (which I won’t give)… is the same as the FIRST one!

Gene Hackman’s Luthor is once again the narcissistic sociopath with a hunger for real estate and has no qualms leaving his lone henchman to rot in prison or getting rid of his eye-candy so he can go suck-up with General Zod. If anything he sees himself as being better than Zod, which makes the back-stabbing and the groveling that much more comical… and cheesier.

Speaking of Zod, apparently the Kryptonians not only speak English, but they speak with a British accent. That’s a charming little piece of non-sequetor that nobody ever thought about. But then again you have French citizens speaking in English with French accents when they’re amongst themselves and then switching to French when an American like Lois Lane shows up, so, go figure.

Terrance Stamp plays the role of Zod quite pompously, although he seems almost one-dimensional at times, especially when Zod supposedly has everything. Likewise for the role of Ursa, as played by Sarah Douglas. Ursa is supposed to be a venomous man-hater, but she doesn’t really demonstrate it. She comes off as a trinket-stealing lackey with a fixation on badges and insignias. Jack O’Halloran’s Non is about the only one who fits the role well. Non pretty much is the Otis of the bunch, and he doesn’t even say anything to come off as comical.

Margot Kidder’s Lois takes an even weirder turn in this movie. At some point in Niagara she develops a southern drawl when she feels snubbed by Superman. Thankfully it disappears, but the rest of the time she comes off as frazzled. Maybe it has to do with those “freshly-squeezed” fruit juices.

Finally there is Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman. As with the first movie, Reeve plays Superman pretty much dead-on, which is not hard to do since most of the movie was done along with the first one. Unfortunately he pretty much plays second fiddle to Lois, Zod, and Luthor.

Sadly the Superman series doesn’t get any better from here. In terms of a hero movie, this is the best you can get with this series. Fortunately, at that time there weren’t too many superheroes on the big screen for it to be pitted against.

Capes: Iconic good guys and bad guys. Even with the higher cheese factor, it still gets all 5 capes.
Cheese: Extra Sharp Cheddar (4) thanks to extra “powers” of the three Kryptonians and the comic relief by Luthor and his vanishing cohorts.
Books: The cheese factor really affected the storyline here, so I can only give three books out of five and I’m being generous.

2009-03-03

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #11


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#11: Superman: The Movie

In the 1970’s filmmakers Alexander and Ilya Salikind were given the green-light from DC Comics and Warner Brothers to film one of the biggest superhero films of all time.

“Superman: The Movie” (or just simply “Superman”) was released in 1978 by Warner Brothers. The all-star cast includes Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper (from “The Little Rascals), Glen Ford, Phyllis Thaxter, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine, Ned Beatty, Susanna York, Terrance Stamp, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, and then-relative newcomer Christopher Reeve playing Superman. Special cameo appearances were made by Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill the original 1950’s “Superman and the Mole Men” movie, and by “I Dream of Jeannie” star Larry Hagman and film critic Rex Reed.

The movie starts with a little kid opening an issue of “Action Comics #1” (where Superman made his debut) and reading the first page. As the narration talks about the Daily Planet, we see a 1930’s representation of the physical building, complete with its globe. We soar past the rotating globe and ascend to the sky, where we travel across time and space as the opening credits come in to a powerful orchestral cadence.

This is how the movie BEGINS, folks. If you’re not pumped up by the time you see the big red “S” go racing past you with the surround-sound effects and the music, you need CPR!

After the credits, we arrive on the planet Krypton, which is a cold and desolate icy world with apparently only one dome structure. Inside this dome we see three Kryptonians on trial. Jor-El (Brando) describes each of the acts perpetrated by Non (O’Halloran), Ursa (Douglas), and General Zod (Stamp) and asks for a verdict. The bodiless faces projected inside the dome each say “Guilty” before disappearing. Jor-El is then threatened by Zod before he casts his silent vote and leaves. The three criminals remain and the dome opens up to the atmosphere so a mirrored object (presumably the Phantom Zone) takes them away.

Afterwards, Jor-El debates the issue of Krypton’s survival with the Council members. They unanimously oppose his idea that the planet will be destroyed and force him to promise to stay silent and not leave the planet. Returning home, Jor-El finishes the construction of a small device, which his wife Lara (York) puts their infant child Kal-El inside. We get a tearful message from Jor-El about how his son will never be alone and that he will see through his son’s eyes as his son will see through his own. The object closes up and then ascends into the stars just as the planet starts violently shaking apart. We see several minutes of mind-numbing disaster and chaos, people falling into an endless abyss, and then the whole planet explodes, followed by its red sun.

We spend several more minutes watching the ship travel through space, overtaking the mirrored device holding the three criminals as they repent their sins, and we hear Jor-El’s voice explaining several of Kal-El’s future abilities and clearly states that he is forbidden to change human history. The ship crashes in a corn field in Kansas, nearly hitting the old truck containing Jonathan and Martha Kent (Ford and Thaxter). They quietly adopt him, especially after the young boy saves Jonathan from being crushed when the truck’s jack fails.

Years pass and we see a teenage Clark living a life of quiet desperation. He’s not allowed to try out for the football team, even though he could kick the ball across the county and run faster than a nearby passenger train. (Alyn and Neill are seen as passengers and play parents to a young Lois Lane, who witnessed Clark running at super-speed.) As Clark arrives home, much to the confusion of his schoolmates who show up in their car, he is given a talking-to by Jonathan about responsibility and how he was put on this planet for a reason, and it wasn’t to kick footballs. As Clark heads (at normal speed) to the farm, Jonathan has a heart attack and dies.

After the funeral, Clark mourns the fact that he has all of these powers but he could not save his father. He later receives a strange message from a glowing crystal, which was in the middle of the remains of his ship. He leaves his mother and heads to the Arctic, where he throws the crystal a few miles away and it forms a massive crystal chamber. Once inside, the spirit of Jor-El explains that the “Fortress of Solitude” will give him all of the answers he would ever need about who he is and why he is on the planet. Again we are witnessed to another space-travel scene as Jor-El again goes over Kal-El’s abilities and what he can and cannot do. Once done, we see a crystal version of Jor-El’s face, and through his eyes we see for the first time the blue-and-red form of Superman (Reeve) before he quickly flies away.

From here we go to Metropolis, where Jimmy Olson (McClure) is taking pictures with his camera. One of those people he focuses on is Lois Lane (Kidder). She walks into the editor’s office, where Perry White (Cooper) introduces her to Clark Kent and tasks her with showing him the ropes. She balks at the idea and tries every way possible to ditch Clark, who acts like a clumsy lost puppy.

Meanwhile, two police detective start trailing a bumbling man named Otis (Beatty), whom they think will lead them to his boss. Following Otis into the Metropolis Subway system, their progress is monitored by an unseen man, who use the various mechanizations and the passing subway cars to separate the detectives and send one of them to his (unseen) doom. At that point we see that the unknown man is Lex Luthor (Hackman) along with his sultry aid Miss Teschmacher (Perrine). Teschmacher hates the fact that they have to live in the massive underground complex, but Luthor notes that it’s far more than what anyone is shelling out above the surface. Otis arrives and hands Luthor a copy of the Daily Planet, which has the banner headline of a future nuclear missile test, much to Luthor’s pleasure.

Later that day, Lois finally ditches Clark so she could get ready to meet with the President of the United States when he arrives on Air Force One. She arrives at the rooftop helipad and boards the helicopter, but a loose cable snags the copter and crashes it into the side of the building. Clark initially is clueless about what is happening as he leaves the building, but then looks up and sees who is in trouble. He runs to the nearest phone booth, only to find that they’re not really BOOTHS (old cartoon joke), and ends up using a revolving door to change into Superman. His first act is to fly up, save Lois, and catch the falling helicopter and bring them both back to the helipad. As Lois faints upon what she just witnessed, Superman flies off to stop a cat-burglar, arrest four bank robbers, save a kitten from a tree, and then save Air Force One when its engines are struck by lightning.

The story at this point goes into the public reaction to seeing Superman, and how Lois ends up calling him “Superman”. Meanwhile, Luthor and his bumbling duo carry out his master plan, and then bring Superman to their lair so they could prevent him from stopping it. What? How? Why? You’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.

This movie is a HUGE blockbuster, and I don’t just mean by the number of stars and the special effects. The original theatrical release ran just shy of two-and-a-half hours, and the 2001 restored version on DVD exceeds the 2.5 hour mark. The movie won an Academy Award for visual effects, which at the time were spectacular and really set the bar for subsequent superhero films.

Unfortunately the cheese factor is also pretty high. Bear in mind that we’re talking about the 1970’s, following the campy “Batman” series of the previous decade, and the run of the animated “Superfriends” series which had Superman and the other DC greats working alongside “Wendy, Marvin, and WONDER DOG!” This was how Hollywood saw superheroes, as corny campy characters that work hand-in-hand with half-intelligible dogs and trouble-hunting teens.

Still, this movie does manage to carry on through with some serious scenes, such as those involving Krypton, and with Superman doing everything possible to save the day. These are the moments that save the movie from the same fate that befell “Batman” a decade earlier.

Marlon Brando played the role of Jor-El so well that he became the mold for future Superman projects. Terrance Stamp, who played Zod in this movie, would later copy Brando’s style when providing the voice of Jor-El in the TV series “Smallville”. Brando himself would make an artificial cameo in “Superman Returns” thanks to the wonders of computer animation. Glen Ford’s brief appearance as Clark’s adopted father was equally well-played and aptly cast.

Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane was more reminiscent of the 1940’s and 50’s version, complete with the hair style and clothes. A curious twist to her character, which was used in subsequent incarnations, was to have Lois Lane being a hard-hitting investigative reporter that could not spell to save her life!

Unfortunately, the bulk of the cheese in this movie comes from Gene Hackman, Valerie Perrine, and Ned Beatty as Luthor and his associates. Although inferred through most of the second half, we don’t see Luthor’s trademark bald head until the very end of the movie. Hackman, who was on record as saying that he didn’t know HOW to play a bad guy, played Luthor as a narcissistic sociopath who has money to burn for his “master plan” and all of his technology and toys, but still only hangs around a bumbling oaf and love-struck eye-candy. This is a villain that is a villain only because he CALLS himself one, which is the standard mark of campiness.

That, of course, leaves us with Christopher Reeve and his spot-on portrayal of both Clark Kent and Superman as being true to the comics as you could ever get. You not only believe that a “man can fly” (as the film’s tagline went), but you can even believe that Reeve IS Superman because he carries himself so well in this film. Sure Clark comes off as clumsy and hokey, but in the 1970’s, that was how he was seen in the comics.

If you can put up with some of the slow scenes, and some cheese, I think you will agree with me that this is one of the best hero films ever.

Capes: Even with the cheese factor, this movie gets all five capes.
Cheese: High cheese factor… Sharp Cheddar (3)… courtesy of Lex Luthor, Incorporated.
Books: Solid origin story with only a handful of flaws once you look past the cheese. Four books out of five.

2009-03-02

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review - Special Comment


Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
Special Comment on Burtonverse Batman

There have been some comments of late regarding my review of the last two Tim Burton-imagined Batman movies that I thought I would address.

First of all… yes, there is no doubt that both “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin” were done in camp format. The latter was even admittedly done in the same vein as the 1966 “Batman” movie and TV series. Even the Bat-killer himself, director Joel Schumacher, said that he was inspired by Adam West’s campy portrayal of the Caped Crusader when coming up with the last movie.

That still doesn’t excuse two simple facts:

(1) The last two Burtonverse Batman movies SUCKED.

(2) The use of camp for superhero portrayals SUCKS.

What makes a good superhero movie is not comedy, but a sense of realism. You want to feel like what you see COULD happen.

When Tim Burton did his original 1989 “Batman”, he showed a Gotham City that was SLIGHTLY surreal. Sure the colors were simplistic and often dull, the architecture was slightly exaggerated, and many of the characters looked like they haven’t slept in a week, but it still had the air of reality. Sure Batman would glide off balconies or ascend to the skies, but you also saw the ropes and the grappling hooks that showed that there was a science to doing it. Compare that to the UN-realities of “Batman and Robin”, where you have Batman and Robin air-surfing from an exploding rocket and ascending up skyscrapers through an infinite number of bat-lines, and you’ll see a distinctive difference.

When “Superman: The Movie” came out in 1977, the original movie tagline was “You will believe a man can fly!” And he did, and we believed it to some extent. But by the end of its four-movie run with “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”, we all said “Can you believe this ****?!” (By the way, that movie run is on my to-review list.)

What changed? The use of CAMP in subsequent sequels. The first Superman movie had SOME camp to it. The last one was nothing BUT campy.

Oh, and for the record, I do not count “Superman Returns” as part of the four-movie series. Different director, different style, and different cast altogether.

Another movie series that has done a much better job of keeping the quality-levels up (and also on my to-review list) is “Spider-Man”. Yes, Spider-Man is a wise-cracking comedian, but that’s the way that he’s always been, even in the comics. He has a sense of witty flair when he captures bad guys and leaves them tied up for the police, or when he muzzles J Jonah Jameson for running his mouth. That has always been a part of his character. You see those movies and you can BELIEVE those kinds of things COULD exist in the real world. That makes all the difference.

The differences between the Burtonverse Batman and the one imagined by Christopher Nolan (“Nolanverse?”) will be pretty clear once you see my reviews of “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”.

Camp and action do not mix well. Camp has its place, but it’s not in the kind of movies where you are supposed to BELIEVE what you are seeing is real.