Label me this, label me that…

… Just don’t call me “insomniac.”

It has come to my attention that a very old medical word is now offensive: “Schizophrenic.” And by extension, any word that describes a person with an illness is now offensive. The reason: people shouldn’t be defined by their disease.

This is labelling theory – the idea that if someone identifies you by anything more than your name, it’s a dehumanizing label that reinforces whatever behaviours are tied to the term. For example: someone who has served jail time is an ex-convict – but if you call someone an ex-convict, they are more likely to re-offend.

So, instead of labeling someone with schizophrenia as “schizophrenic,” it’s better to call them “someone with schizophrenia.” Or “someone suffering from schizophrenia.” But not because calling them “schizophrenic” might make them act like one – it’s because someone’s feelings are hurt. Or someone thinks someone’s feelings are hurt.

You’d think the medical community has better things to do than worry about an entirely subjective construct as “offensive language.” Instead of deciding what to call someone with a disease, maybe worry more about the disease itself? And instead of protecting  your patients’ sensibilities, make sure they’re actually alive long enough for it to matter.

If we’re saying “schizophrenic” is an offensive term, then I’d like to throw in my own examples to show how stupid this concept is. Diabetic? Insomniac? Amnesiac? What about someone who goes into sepsis in the O.R.? Is the surgeon going to give a lecture on not calling their patient “septic?” No, they’re going to fucking fix them. Hypoglycemic? Hyperglycemic? Neurotic? The list literally doesn’t end. And it won’t.

Not using the word “schizophrenic” (or those like it) changes nothing – no truths change, no symptoms magically disappear. The only difference is that we’re using 5 words instead of the 1 word that describes the exact same thing because maybe someone will be offended. Here’s the irony – it’s not the people with the illness who are worried about labels, it’s the people using the labels feeling guilty.

Is someone who can’t see not “blind?” “Blind” is a label the same way “schizophrenic” is. “Deaf?” “Mute?” What about the paraplegic? Quadriplegic? Euphoric?

I can’t help but think that this is straw-man argument. I have friends who identify as “diabetic” – are they perpetuating prejudice and offensive terms? No. They’re diabetic – period. End of fucking story.

I will grant this – there are certainly negative connotations attached to schizophrenia. But you know what? Saying someone someone suffers from schizophrenia doesn’t remove the stigma. It doesn’t change a single goddamn thing.

We don’t control what is offensive – we only control what we, individually, take offensively. Shit, hair colour has negative connotations – should we stop letting people’s hair colour be part of their identity? Because that’s the slope this argument slides down. Let’s not call someone “blonde” or “brunette” or “ginger”  or even “bald” because someone might be offended. Let’s all be self-censoring purists and stop labels altogether. Anyone, anywhere, can take offense over anything. 

In this case, we’re now taking offense at describing the state of the truth. People are upset over labeling someone according to part of who they are.


I will now take offense at the following labels: blogger, ex-smoker, brunette, any word that defines my gender… hm, what else. Canadian? Offensive. North American? Oh you better fuck right off with that label.

And don’t call me sarcastic. Call me “someone who revels in sarcasm.”


So here’s my idea:

Not only has Man of Steel established Clark’s background, but it’s demonstrated the raw power behind his abilities, and set up the moral/social issues he’s bound to confront moving forward with life on Earth.

My ideal sequel would be called “The Last Son of Krypton,” which would pick up on the themes surrounding the world’s acceptance/rejection of Superman; namely, the loneliness that goes along with being the only living member of your entire planet. Though he has his supporters, the animosity that meets him in the media, and through the government, begins to build against him.

CADMUS, a secret government organization that has been investigating and experimenting with the alien materials left in the ruin of the battle in Metropolis, is behind a scaling assault that attempts to discredit and manipulate Superman in their ploy to use him as a glorified weapon.

Herein we meet Pamela Waller, director of CADMUS, and contractor Lex Luthor, who has pledged the full support of his obscenely wealthy company to assist the government in protecting itself from alien threats.

CADMUS approaches Superman, claiming to have discovered a signal from space similar to those that were received when Zod invaded; that they have intercepted the source and believe it to be Kryptonian. Clark senses this “thing,” too, but at this point, his dejection over the conspiracy against his character has left him unsure of even his own senses – he doesn’t trust himself. But the hope that the signal was, in fact, Kryptonian drives him to accept an invitation to CADMUS.

He arrives at CADMUS HQ only to be met by a crippling assault. CADMUS has developed weapons with ammunition derived from Kryptonite, a peculiar element left behind from the World Engine and Zod’s attempt to terraform Earth using massive gravitational spikes and particulate matter.

It turns out that CADMUS did, indeed, discover something Kryptonian in outer space – the Brain Interactive Construct, a remnant of the alien planet’s artificial intelligence that we see in Man of Steel. This particular sentience has “transcended,” like Jor El’s consciousness on Earth but more powerful.

Brainiac reveals himself as a sort of planetary connoisseur, collecting souvenirs from planets before they die. He sees the inevitability of Earth’s destruction (whether our own greed for natural resources, or simply the eventual explosion of our sun) and he wishes to speed up the process. He does, however, want to keep Metropolis in a bottle as his souvenir – just like he did with the Kryptonian capitol of Kandor, which will be revealed to have been saved last-minute by Brainiac.

By infiltrating CADMUS, Brainiac was able to plan scenarios that Superman’s involvement would not only seem to exacerbate (thus shattering his confidence in his ability to protect people), but that also allowed him to orchestrate the disruption of Earth’s core. Beliving Superman to be his biggest foe, Brainiac wanted him softened up before giving him an ultimatum:

Die trying to save a doomed world, or let Brainiac go. Why would Clark ever let him go!? Well, remember the corpse in the ship in Man of Steel? Superman has Krypton’s codex of knowledge encoded in his very DNA, and Brainiac, smartest being in the universe, claims to have the technology that can bring her back to life. Whether or not he does, we’ll never know – Clark simply can’t doom a world for his own selfish desires.

The choice is simple, the struggle is not. As much as this is a Superman film, this is the introduction of Lex Luthor, and goddamn his shiny bald head if Lex Luthor is going to be outsmarted by a machine! He recognizes the correlation between Kryptonite and its effect on alien physiology, augments a weapon, and gives Clark the edge he needs to obliterate Brainiac’s body while Lex himself figures out a way to shut down the artificial intelligence at its source – the ship.

(Cue explosions and techno-babble and another epic fight scene between Superman and the super-machine.)

As the dust settles, he sees his opportunity – he’s ready to take it: why kill one alien when you can kill two? Superman is
kneeling by something, his back turned. Lex inches closer and sees Clark holding the shattered bottle that once held his home of Krypton – the city of Kandor has been destroyed in the battle. Superman is crying. Brainiac might have lost the war, but he wins an important battle; Superman is alone. He is not Lex’s to defeat: Not today.

And there’s your set-up for a third movie with Lex as the main villain.

Obviously it feels weird to shoehorn in Brainiac being a collector of worlds on top of already being a nigh-unrivalled intellect, but the temptation, and ultimate loss of Kandor would be a huge story point that would make the introduction of more superheroes to renew Superman’s faith when they go up against whatever threat approaches them in “Justice League.”

And although they passed on this tease in Man of Steel, my hypothetical, high-minded, budget-ignorant sequel would also
introduce John Corben/Metallo. A secondary villain, the android-journalist is perhaps created and controlled by Brainiac to help carry out both physical and psychological interference against Superman, even doubling as a rival for Lois Lane. He will look badass.

Movie Review: Man of Steel

My first review was kind of an aimless mix of praise and criticism, punctuated with bad Superman puns and lacking any real point. So the world erased it for me. (Technically, WordPress’ crummy Windows 8 app did, but that’s another matter, and I’m not a programmer, so who am I to complain?) But now I have the news I didn’t realize I was waiting for.

It’s official – Man of Steel is just the beginning. Director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) has signed on for at least one sequel, while David Goyer, the man who wrote the Dark Knight trilogy, has signed on to write both the Superman sequel, and the Justice League movie (my thoughts on this are enough for its own post.)

So, Man of Steel is an origin story – in very much more than one way. Yes, it’s the story of Superman, but like the first Iron Man did for the Avengers, it’s the introduction of a world bigger than just one character.

Man of Steel has drawn a lot of unfair criticism; people over forty, for some reason, enjoy the contrived dialogue and hokey facsimiles that pass for crises in the old Christopher Reeves movies. Some people even like the butchery that was Superman Returns. But really, I think it’s more reasonable to compare Man of Steel to another, more recent superhero movie – Thor.

As much as the film is about Superman, it’s also about how the world reacts to discovering the existence of alien life. His origin story seems simple enough: UFO crashes in Kansas, farmer and wife raise the baby inside. But unlike almost every other superhero, Superman doesn’t have one life-altering event that sets him on his path. Until Clark puts on the cape, his life is sort of an aimless search for his place, and the movie represents that.

The prologue on Krypton is as much an explanation of Clark’s journey to earth as it is an introduction of the film’s villain, General Zod. Being genetically bred specifically to defend Krypton and ensure the survival of its people, Zod is banished to the Phantom Zone for attacking the High Council in an attempt to steal the codex that Jor’El ends up stealing himself.

But the story doesn’t pick up chronologically; rather, it skips ahead several decades, to the scene on the oil-rig that’s been in almost every trailer. Yes, it was a scene to show off that Henry Cavill really did build all that muscle, but it was also a decent segue into one of several flashbacks that show Clark’s troubled childhood, struggling against the strange effects caused by the radiation from our yellow sun.

It’s also interesting to note that the oil rig is owned by a company connected to the Aquaman comics, and there just happen to be whales in the ocean after Clark wakes up.

The film’s next big development is also a big reveal for the bigger nerds who ate up everything leading up to the movie – the ship discovered beneath the ice in Canada. In a prequel comic, we are shown the last adventure of Kara Zor’El. Kal’El’s cousin. Supergirl. Considering the changes made to the Dark Knight storylines, it wouldn’t surprise me if we never see her again, but the thread is there to be picked up. I think it works better, however, that Superman truly be the last of his kind.

Clark first meets Lois Lane while they both perform their own investigations on the ship. It’s fleeting, Clark saves her from an automated defense droid and then takes off to establish his Fortress of Solitude. But Lois, ever the intrepid reporter, quickly hunts Clark back to his home in Smallville. This kind of ruins the entertainment value of seeing Lois piece together his identity more slowly, but it progresses their romance to where it should be by the end of the movie.

Lois’ visit prompts one of our own to Clark’s worst memory – the death of Jonathan Kent. Even though he was just a farmer, Pa Kent was a moral paradigm – except when it came to his son exposing his identity. He believes so strongly that the world isn’t prepared to see what Clark can do, that he won’t even risk him going towards a festering tornado – not to save the dog, and not even to save him.

Between Martha “Ma” Kent’s love and support, and the very important sense of reassurance gained from Lois’ positive reaction to his identity, Clark goes back to the Fortress of Solitude, this time with the key that Jor’El sent in his son’s ship. The key is essentially a USB stick with Jor’El’s consciousness on it, which downloads his mental and physical likeness into the ship’s projection system. This reunion finally teaches Clark about his past, and is ultimately the push he needs to reconcile his reluctance to reveal himself to the world.

Now, people are complaining that Clark became Superman way too quickly. “Hello father, nice to meet y- Oh! A cape!” He already knows what he can do – he doesn’t need a long training sequence, and we don’t need petty demonstrations of his powers. In fact, after 10 seasons of Smallville, I am entirely okay with how fast he learns to fly and returns home.

And good thing he did, because the final half of the movie is ready to play out in all of its cinematographic excellence, as Zod and his crew, released from the Phantom Zone, hone in on the signal emitted when Clark found the Kryptonian ship.

Before you get lost in the awe over just how well the fights – and flights, for that matter – are filmed, just know that there are a few more names to be recognized in the background. Pay attention for a satellite branded by billionaire Bruce Wayne, and for the all-more important LexCorp logos on trucks and buildings caught in Metropolis’ devastation.

The film’s first script treatment actually ends with Lex offering to clean up the city on his own dime, so long as he is given full access to the alien materials recovered. Of course, this means Kryptonite, but I doubt the story will be so simple now that the Justice League is all but a sure thing.

The second part of my review, because I can and did before I could really stop myself, picks up on some strands from Man of Steel that I think would make for a stellar sequel.

Star Trek: Into Darkness – Who is John Harrison?

“Space – the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

It seems to be a recurring event in my life that I find myself lauding a JJ Abrams project. Undoubtedly, there are those who don’t much appreciate him having all his fingers and toes in a different pie, yet here I am.

You don’t need to be a diehard fan of the franchise to appreciate the movie – hell, maybe it’s a requirement. I’ve read a couple critiques from people who call themselves Trekkies – they’re mostly upset with how white and British Benedict Cumberbatch is for the character he plays. They also seem to be upset that the movie capitalizes on it being the 21st century, affording them the access to impeccable special effects that immerse you in the movie.

These were the same people, however, who assumed from the previews that there would be no eponymous trekking through the stars. Good thing the directors who are serious about their movies don’t spoil anything in 90 second trailers. Clocking in at over two hours, I’d estimate about 40 minutes’ worth of that action takes place on Earth – otherwise, the rest of the film presents stunning scenes taking place in erupting volcanoes, shattered moons, and of course, the USS Enterprise.

A race of exoskeletal alien warriors, the Klingon uprising is ever a threat that keeps Starfleet wary. After one man stages an attack against the Starfleet high command, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew are tasked with hunting the traitor John Harrison (Cumberbatch) to his death. When they arrive in Klingon space, however, their warp drive fails, and Kirk is convinced by Spock (Zachary Quinto), Dr “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) to take justice rather than revenge, leading them into a conspiracy from which they may not survive.

A play-by-play would be tedious for a movie this long. Same with reiterating how well-chosen the ensemble cast is. The Enterprise crew is rounded out by Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin), as well as newcomer Alice Eve, who plays Dr. Carol Marcus, daughter of Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller), the man John Harrison seeks revenge against.

Except his name isn’t John Harrison. The red-herring name mostly worked to delay the film’s ultimate reveal, one that had been floating around in speculation since the reboot was announced. Arguably the most popular and well-known villain after forty-seven years of Star Trek, Khan Noonien Singh finally awakens from cryogenic stasis.

Many a mad scientist has flirted with the concept of Eugenics – the manipulation of genetics in order to selectively breed out certain qualities while promoting others. Meant to be a mentally and physically superior being, transcendent of the petty causes of human war, Khan was awakened by Admiral Marcus in order to help prepare weapons that would wipe out the perceived Klingon threat.

The ensuing action is an undeniable marvel of special effects, the tension consistently rising as Khan is obviously outwitting his adversaries, but it doesn’t distract from the deeper elements atypical of most things advertised as “Action/Adventure.” The strains between logic and emotion are always at the forefront of Spock’s character, developed through his romance with Uhura, and his friendship with Kirk. Throwing Khan into the mix introduces a character whose motivations are emotional – ie: revenge – guided by his superior intellect and forethought.

Khan is the amalgam of Kirk and Spock without the limits imposed on them by their human (and half-human) heritage. He is loyal to a fault to his crew and dangerously smart – but not separately. Whereas Kirk has Spock to keep his decisions informed and Spock has Kirk to emotionally ground him, Khan has only himself.

And this debate/tension/contrast is introduced in the opening scene, no less! Even in the fictional age of deep-space exploration, Star Trek reflects the optimism that we can venture to the darkest corners of the cosmos without losing sight of strength of the human condition that will bring us there.

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Disclaimer, Prologue

My first toy car was my dad’s Batmobile. I still have it – sleek black metal, blue tinted windshields, a plastic flame that pulses from the exhaust when the wheels spin…  But it’s seen better days – the windshields are broken, the rubber tires have crumbled away, and the little plastic doll of Adam West sits alone. The state of disrepair my Batmobile is in, however, barely casts a shadow over the ruin that was the Batman franchise following the crime against film-anity that was Batman and Robin.

I can’t imagine many happy childhoods without the Batman. Every generation has its own version of the superhero, and everyone thinks theirs is better. Except for George Clooney. If you actually believe the Batman & Robin movie had any redeeming qualities before the credits finished rolling, slap yourself and go away.

No really, go away.

Good, now for some more hard truths: I think Heath Ledger’s death made Batman popular again. When Batman Begins came out, it wasn’t considered for any prestigious awards, it didn’t break any records, and people bitched and moaned about Christian Bale’s ‘Batman’ voice being weirdly different from his ‘Bruce Wayne’ voice. I would be comfortable wagering that 60% of moviegoers did not give a single shit about The Dark Knight until they heard that Heath Ledger died due to speculation that the role of the Joker drove him to overdose.

Here’s the thing: once upon a time, you couldn’t just be a fan of Batman, you suffered being a fan of Batman. As a kid, it didn’t help my social standing at recess that my superhero of choice didn’t actually have any superpowers, never mind that he was a grown man keeping company with an underage orphan. As soon as Batman got rubber nipples, it felt like there was no way to recover – they might as well have given Superman actual underpants to wear over his tights.

`So please forgive – or at least tolerate – my nigh-parental defensiveness of everything Batman – he’s been a part of my life since before words.

The Dark Knight Rises

Memento, The Prestige, Inception. If you’ve seen any or all, you’re familiar with Chris Nolan’s mind-bending directorial style. You’ve seen him play with the dimensions of time, space, and memory. So what business does he have in the gritty city corridors of Gotham?

All the business.

I still stand by what I said earlier this Spring – The Avengers is the best comic-book movie ever. But I don’t consider the Batman trilogy “comic book movies” – at least, not in the same vein. Nolan’s Batman has become more real than a comic book character. More consequential. Gotham City became a microcosm for our fears and our problems – unchecked political corruption, the escalation of violent crime, economic disparity and collapse – it was a place where one man could make the world a better place for everyone else.

But a fire rises.

Bane was the perfect villain to close out the Batman trilogy, and his story was perfectly constructed. While I’m normally not a fan of changing origin stories when there are years of canon that have established a story already, Nolan and his brother have only ever altered, or better yet, enhanced DC’s characters for the big-screen. Subtle additions like Jim Gordon giving solace to Bruce the night of his parents’ murder or the connection between Bane and the al Ghul family gives the story all the more depth.

You’ve heard it a million times by now, but Bane is the man who broke the bat. The Knightfall storyline clearly establishes that Bane is not just a skinhead thug – his time in the inescapable prison hones both his physical and intellectual prowess. He knows Bruce Wayne is Batman just by looking at him. First he burns Gotham down, and then he breaks his back.

Tom Hardy’s interpretation of the character is markedly different than most other representations of Bane. He’s European instead of South American, he’s excommunicated from the League of Shadows rather than being the lone mastermind behind Gotham’s burning, and he wears a mask much more badass and intimidating than a luchador mask. For the sake of the story, they also changed the mechanics of the drug, Venom. Instead of bulking up Bane with the ultimate synthetic steroid, his mask supplies a direct dose of Venom in order to suppress the horrific pain of his injuries sustained long ago.

But back to Tom Hardy. Never getting to see his entire face, I found myself looking at his eyes. Calculating. Intense. Maniacal. From what I can tell he sure as shit had fun in the role – and who wouldn’t with “unprecedented access to extensive stunt training and equipment that he could enjoy knocking around.” You can almost feel the ground shake when he walks. His brutal physique commands your attention already, but when Bane speaks it’s hypnotizing. “You were adopted by shadow. I was born in it.” The new figurehead of the League of Shadows has his own noble origin, and suffice to say, it will break as many hearts as Bane breaks necks.

Which brings us to the next shadow-stalker, Selena Kyle. People never seem to trust Chris Nolan’s casting choices, so I wasn’t surprised to hear some mild outrage over Anne Hathaway putting on her tail and whiskers (not literally) for the role of Catwoman. It’s her chemistry with Christian Bale that really sold me on her performance. Though to intensely different degrees, both Bruce Wayne and Selena Kyle are balancing dual-identities.

While I can appreciate what Michelle Pfeiffer brought to the role in Batman Returns, she didn’t do anything for me. I think it was the crazy cat-lady vibe. And don’t get me started on the Halle Berry movie. It was nice to see her character done justice, let’s say that. A “cat burglar” is much more appropriate than a loner who talks to cats as the prime suspect and love interest for the World’s Greatest Detective.

When Marion Cotillard was cast after the Catwoman role was filled, it didn’t leave many characters relevant to Batman’s endgame for her to play. And when it was announced that Liam Neeson would be reprising his role as Ra’s al Ghul, I was all but certain that her character “Miranda Tate” was just a facade for her true identity: Talia al Ghul. The thing about the al Ghul’s is that they’re not supposed to die. In the comic books there’s a Lazarus Pit – you lower yourself in, take a bath – boom, immortal(ish). But the supernatural holds no ground in Nolan’s arena, and that concept of immortality had to become more than just bodily persistence.

If the movie hadn’t ended the way it did, I’d tell you that Bruce and Talia have a son named Damian who eventually becomes the new Robin when the old Robin becomes the new Batman. But there is no old Robin, just a guy named Robin, and he’s the new Batman… if he becomes Batman at all. I thought his leather jacket indicated his jumping right into the role of Nightwing. (Again, for clarity’s sake: they did not introduce Robin the Boy-Wonder. The new Batman/Nightwing name happens to be Robin – it’s the symbolic passing of a generation, no more than an allusion.)

Joseph Gordon Levitt. I don’t even think I have to say more than that at this point because who doesn’t love this guy? And have you seen the trailer for Looper? Uhh… MAZING! At least you can’t say the GCPD only hires idiots… though they are a weighted majority. With Commissioner Gordon hospitalized for a good chunk of the movie, Officer/Detective John Blake is the only one left on the ground with any idea of what’s going on.

Being set up to adopt the Bat-mantle, Blake makes the necessary discoveries on his own, like finding out Batman’s secret-identity, why he works outside the law, and most importantly, coming to understand his “no guns” rule. And though he isn’t scared to fight without a mask, Batman reminds him that it’s a way to protect those he cares about, not himself. I really wanted to see Levitt in the suit, but we may still get the chance if Warner Bros reboots the Batman franchise as quickly as they say they want to. There’s a definite opportunity to make JGL the Batman for the eventual Justice League franchise that new Superman movie, The Man of Steel, may or may not be building towards.

If there’s another thing I’d like to see in the rebooting of the Batman franchise, it’s the characterization of Batman as a genius detective. Even when all of the enemies’ plans go off without a hitch, Batman has a plan that relies on it. Hell, there’s even the trope called the Batman Gambit to describe the type of storytelling typical of not only Batman comics, but a lot of Western media. When it’s done properly, it’s extremely satisfying.

Otherwise, I think my only qualm about the film is the happy ending. Batman’s conclusions are bittersweet at best – if you can call them conclusions. Even when he’s a grizzled old man, Bruce Wayne mentors the new generation of crime-fighters to protect Gotham. And still, even then – you remember the hydraulics he used to support his knee? Well, he gets his whole Batsuit outfitted with it, then fights and beats (and seriously, fucking beats) Superman one-on-one (with a little help from Kryptonite).

But in order to bring his own story to a close, Chris Nolan had two characters to write a conclusion for: Batman, and Bruce Wayne. In most of his stories, Bruce Wayne disappears altogether into the persona of the Batman – there is no redemption for him. This time around he gets a reprieve, even though only two other people know he’s still alive. Gotham needed to see Batman’s sacrifice, but they also needed his return. Whatever fear Batman struck into the hearts of criminals before, won’t compare to when they see the Batman still guarding the night after getting caught in a nuclear blast.

I realize now that I haven’t said anything about the returning cast. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine can each carry a movie by themselves – hell, they just have to narrate over a blank screen and the world will watch. Gary Oldman, who somehow still doesn’t have an Oscar, is the only Commissioner Jim Gordon in my eyes. That being said, Bryan Cranston’s voice-acting in Batman: Year One makes him the perfect replacement for when Batman is eventually rebooted.

Christian Bale, of course, perfectly balances his part again. As far as the live-action movies go, he is the only actor, except maybe Val Kilmer, to pull off the separation of roles convincingly. Once the mask is on, you should not be able to tell who is behind it. Looking past the obvious voice changes, Bruce Wayne walks, sits, stands, turns, probably even uses the bathroom differently than Batman.

And so ends another trilogy. My new favourite trilogy. Everyone else can keep their original Star Wars and Indiana Jones, they can stay in the Matrix, or herald the Lord of the Rings as the lord of their movie collection. Maybe it wasn’t a perfect set of films (I’m looking at you, Katie Holmes), but it was deliberate. Every character had a purpose, every scene had an internal relevance that always pushed the story forwards.

It was never redundant, and never boring. Forgiving its meagre continuity errors, and some patchy dialogue, the only shitty aspects of the series are its batshit crazy villains. We even get to see Jonathon Crane, The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) one last time, holding trials against Gotham’s police and the otherwise once-powerful. There were also subtle nods to Killer Croc and The Red Hood, two more icons from Batman’s extensive Rogue’s Gallery.

Final Thoughts

If and when Batman gets rebooted – assuming it’s not as Terry McGinnis and the Batman Beyond storyline – the new showrunners will ultimately find themselves faced with the Joker problem. They can’t try and find someone to outperform Heath Ledger – it simply can’t be done. The character needs to be reimagined, and the only way I know how is to introduce Joker Venom. With the right makeup artist, it wouldn’t be hard to bring some horror elements into a superhero movie, and the character could return to the iconic portrayal made popular in the cartoons by Mark Hamill. Only the most close-minded of us won’t give anyone else a chance at the Joker.

But the best way to introduce the Joker is to give him a small part in the Justice League movie. If everything goes according to plan, the Man of Steel movie will somehow reference Wonder Woman / The Flash. The following summer, the next Green Lantern movie will likely come out (hopefully as a reboot, but probably as a sequel); and a movie for one of the two mentioned before. Summer 2015 will be Superman 2, in which they should introduce the Martian Manhunter; the new Batman movie should be ready to go; and whichever one between The Flash and Wonder Woman still needs to be made. Summer 2016 will be the Justice League movie, and DC will finally have some real competition to put up against Marvel’s Avengers.

And all thanks to Christopher Nolan’s standalone Batman trilogy.

When I was Seven, I Came Out as a Werewolf

This photo has been making its rounds through the internet superhighway lately, and I feel like something needs to be said about it.

There is nothing wrong with admitting your sexuality to yourself and others. Scratch that: there’s simply nothing wrong with sexuality.

But is it empowering, or creepy, that a 7 year old kid knows his sexual orientation? Are kids hitting puberty in the first grade already? When did that become the age to decide whether you like ladies or lads?

When I was 7, I openly admitted I was a werewolf. I wore plastic teeth and everything. Instead of fake teeth this boy has trendy glasses and a swoopy haircut.

My inner cynic tells me that the kid isn’t gay: there’s no way a prepubescent anyone is aware of their sexuality – the necessary physiological parts haven’t even developed.

I guess ultimately it doesn’t matter though – the photo’s message is to love and accept unconditionally, and that’s what matters.

Unless the kid turns 13 and finds out that his junk likes girls. Now he has a picture on the internet of his dad calling him gay for the rest of his life.

Film Review: The Avengers

There is absolutely nothing that compares to reading a comic book. Every panelled page moves you through the story in all of its Technicolor glory; only the words that matter find a place on the spread. From front cover to back, heroes and villains engage in an ongoing battle – of fists, of words, and of wits – the fate of humanity ever hanging in the balance. No, there is absolutely nothing that compares to reading a comic book – but The Avengers comes goddamn close.

I’ve been a DC fanboy since before I knew the difference; I don’t care what they say or who says it, Batman wins every time (I’m sure there’s a mathematical theorem that proves I’m right). But when comic books took their fight to Hollywood, everyone started losing: Batman ended up with rubber nipples, Superman weaponized his emblem and became a soap opera star, and Spider-Man was Toby Maguire and temporarily emo (seriously, what the fuck).

The new generation of comic book movies was established, built, and recently renovated through Chris Nolan’s treatment of the Batman mythos. Joss Whedon perfected it.

Best known for almost anything people love (ie: Toy Story 1, Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel, Firefly/Serenity, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) Joss Whedon also knows his way in, out, and around a comic book. From the ominous voice promising the doom of humankind in the movie’s preface, right until the end of the credits (there are two scenes after the credits start to roll) every scene feels as though it was lifted straight from the pages and panels of a real comic book. It makes me wonder if Whedon didn’t make an entire script in comic format – it seems like something he would do. And yes, I know what storyboards are.

Whatever he did, it worked marvellously. Granted, he also had the best possible cast bringing his script to life – a script that makes use of every character as a character, and not a rubber-clad sex object. Which, when you consider that there are only two female leads amidst eight males, is truly an accomplishment. Or not, when you also consider that Joss Whedon’s strongest characters are typically female (Buffy, River, Echo).

The film takes a good hour establishing the impending catastrophe while reminding us of who everyone is. If you haven’t seen Captain America or Thor (recently) it might be a little confusing, so here it is: the Tesseract, otherwise known as the Cosmic Cube, is an Asgardian relic that fell to Earth when humanity was still young. The Cube, an unmatched power source, was recovered by Hydra, an underground Nazi regime bent on harnessing the scientific power spoken of in myth and legend.

Enter Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans). Tasked with stopping The Red Skull from changing the course of WWII, Cap neutralizes the Nazi threat by flying himself and the Tesseract into the ocean. The Cube was recovered immediately, but Captain America remained in cryogenic stasis for nearly seventy years.

Now, a lot happens in those seventy years. For starters, the galactic doorway between Asgard and Earth was reopened, putting Thor and Loki on international defence radars. The demigodly threats posed by just these two brothers spurred the army to redouble their efforts in harnessing the power of the Tesseract for planetary defence. Constant experimentation on the Cube, however, allows Loki, backed by the alien Chitauri army, to infiltrate the Pegasus military compound, steal the Tesseract, and carry out his plans to wipe out the human race.

The Avengers Initiative was originally mentioned in the Iron Man movies. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson have been ‘series regulars’ for five movies each, with assassins Black Widow and Hawkeye making appearances in Iron Man 2, and Thor, respectively. It was questionable whether or not these “mere mortals” were going to bring anything more to a team comprised of a demigod, a super-soldier, a weaponized life-support system, and a Hulk; but it’s immediately clear that Hawkeye and Black Widow can more than hold their own, both with and against these larger-than-life figures.

Speaking his first lines in the role, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is one of my favourite characters from the Marvel universe. He is, anatomically speaking, just a man. But as explained in the comics, his endless training regime offers him perfection; as long as he’s working alongside the likes of the Avengers, he cannot afford to be anything less. His chemistry with Scar-Jo’s Black Widow makes you forget this is their first film together.

Scarlett Johansson plays Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow with an unrelenting badassery that actually distracts from how attractive she is. Though they don’t mention it in the movie, she’s supposed to have taken a modified version of the formula that created Captain America, which explains the near-extreme physical manoeuvres she is capable of. She’s also a master interrogator, constantly lulling foes into a false sense of supremacy in order to extract their tightest secrets. I’ll have to wait until The Dark Knight Rises to see Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman/Selena Kyle, but Scar-Jo’s Black Widow has more than earned her spot as my favourite female superhero.

Dr. Bruce Banner has also attempted to recreate The Cap’s formula on his own using gamma rays, ultimately turning him into the Hulk. Mark Ruffalo takes over Edward Norton’s role with more screen-presence in his human form than his big green alter-ego – which is saying something. Ruffalo was signed on to play Banner/The Hulk six more times less than a week after the movie premiered – some of those appearances are bound to include minor cameos, like with Samuel L Jackson’s nine-film deal to play Nick Fury – but this is definitely a good thing. As much as I want Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark to be my best friend, Mark Ruffalo plays the only real human being on the team. Well, barring that thing where he transforms into a tank-sized green behemoth.

There are really two Hulks that are portrayed in the movie. The first is the one that everyone knows and expects: Banner’s subconscious fear for the immediate safety of others causes him to fight against transforming into the Hulk willfully, thereby causing him to become an uninhibited wrecking-ball with limbs. But when all of existence is truly threatened, and Banner chooses to transform on his own accord, he absolutely owns the last forty-five minutes of the movie, tearing all sorts of new orifices into the Chitauri. There also may or may not be a vehement round of applause following his encounter with Loki (hint: there will be).

Robert Downey Jr. Has never disappointed as Tony Stark, but he’s never been given the chance to demonstrate both his and his character’s true potential. There’s a moment in the film where Steve Rogers (Captain America) tells Tony Stark (Iron Man) that they are soldiers: the fear, the defeat, and the longing to be a better person that RDJ conveys in just a single look is a true testament to the amalgam of great acting, great storytelling, and amazing artistry that pervades all 2 hours and 30 minutes of The Avengers. Stark still gets some of the best one-liners, and it ultimately falls to him to pull off a pseudo-suicide mission to save the world from one last catastrophe, an iconic gesture in all the greatest stories in the comic book library.

(Not one to sacrifice many of his director’s trademarks, Whedon does kill off a somewhat beloved character – if you’ve seen it, you know who, if you haven’t, why the fuck are you reading this? Spoilsport much?)

Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston play Thor and Loki as equally well as anyone else on the screen plays their characters, except with accents. Loki is still just a whiny trickster god, but the psychotic evil that he exudes while wiping out the human race is truly terrifying – his introduction proves just how great of a threat he really is. According to legend, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor-voice induces orgasms – I believe it. Even though Thor has learned some of Earth’s customs, he is still entirely lost in the cultural nuance Whedon’s writing is littered with, giving him an equal opportunity to contribute to the comedic banter between the heroes.

If, gun to my head, I had to choose a weak link in the cast, it would be Chris Evans’ Captain America. I couldn’t tell you why, though. Even though he’s a white Christian man from the nineteen-forties (okay, maybe that’s why), he’s a goddamn super-soldier and he brings the team together under his unshakeable integrity and leadership.

But if there is one issue I have with the movie, it’s a qualm I have with the Marvel universe inherently. The mastermind behind Loki’s invasion is revealed to be Thoros, a Titan warlord from space. Marvel’s Titans were an obvious rip-off of DC’s previously-established “New Gods,” and Thoros is largely Marvel’s mirror of Darkseid. Hopefully his next appearance – be it Iron Man 3, or the sequel to Thor/Captain America/The Hulk/The Avengers – will prove him an even greater force to be reckoned with than an army of robotic-alien hybrids.

If you’re still reading this before seeing the movie, do the people you go with a favour and tell them “Robin from How I Met Your Mother is in this” so that they don’t ask you “Is that her?” during the movie. Cobie Smulders has her S.H.I.E.L.D character on lockdown, getting to partake in a high-adrenaline car chase, and wielding a gun better than her sitcom counterpart could ever dream of. Here’s hoping she gets more opportunities for these kinds of roles in the future.

There’s one particular shot in the final showdown in New York that feels exactly like a comic-book come alive. The integral “two-page spread” is one of my favourite aspects of reading a comic book: minimal dialogue (if any at all) allows for an entire scene to be laid out in stunning, colourful detail. Stationed around the city to quell the intergalactic threat of the Chitauri, each of the Avengers are showcased demonstrating their expertise in one, continuous shot, speeding up and slowing down to capture highlighting moments in the battle for Manhattan.

When I do get the chance to see this movie again, it still won’t be soon enough. Chances are you will / did miss pieces of dialogue lost in the laughter of the crowd because it’s just that good. You’ll be surprised at how often you laugh throughout the movie, especially amidst all the action crammed into nearly every minute of it. Chances are, subsequent films won’t be as good without Joss Whedon at the helm, but he’s certainly course-corrected Marvel’s Hulk franchise, if not every other hero’s from here on out.

Sidenote: Prometheus, Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises were the perfect previews to set the tone for the rest of the film.