The …um… other Spider-man Movies! (Part Two)

So we covered the flawed, yet still pretty awesome, trilogy of Spider-Man films here, and while there was still plenty of room for stories to tell with the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man and the universe Sam Raimi crafted, Sony Pictures decided that Spider-Man 3 was to be the last installment in the series. They rebooted the franchise, and drafted director Marc Webb (kind of ironic) and cast Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man for the new series. The new franchise improved on the work the previous group did in a lot of ways, most notably casting and effects, and had some missteps of their own, which we will try to cover below.

 

Amazing Spider-man poster

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012)

Directed by: Marc Webb

Starring: Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker / Spider-man), Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Rhys Ifans (Dr. Curt Connors / The Lizard), Dennis Leary (Captain Stacy), Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben), Sally Field (Aunt May), and Chris Zylka (Flash Thompson)

Plot: Peter Parker is bit by a genetically modified spider gaining the proportionate strength and agility of a human spider. When his Uncle Ben is killed by a robber he could have stopped, he learns that ‘with great power must come great responsibility’. Now, as Spider-Man he must battle the monstrous Lizard to save the people of New York, and as Peter Parker explore his new relationship with Gwen Stacy while working with Dr. Curt Connors to learn more about the mysterious death of his parents and his father’s work they may have been killed for.

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The Amazing Spider-Movies! – Part One

Tobey Maguire / Andrew Garfield

Because you demanded it, we’re back with more breakdowns of the super hero movies you love, hate, and love to hate! Last time we covered the terrifying highs and gut wrenching, suicide inducing lows of the Batman franchise. This time we’re going with something a bit lighter, the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb Spider-Man franchises. That’s right, five movies of web slinging, cool villains, not so cool villains, great character moments, horrible character misfires, great casting, worst case scenario casting, all of it. From Raimi to Webb, Dunst/Howard to Stone, Maguire to Garfield, we’ll cover it all.

First up, the one that started it all, and really kicked the super hero movie craze of the early 21st century into gear…

 

Spider-man Movie Poster

Spider-man (2002)

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Starring: Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Willem Dafoe (Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Cliff Robertson (Uncle Ben), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May), J. K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson), Joe Manganiello (Flash Thompson), Elizabeth Banks (Betty Brant), and Bruce Campbell

Plot: Peter Parker is bit by a genetically modified spider gaining the proportionate strength and agility of a human spider. After his Uncle Ben is killed by a car jacker and he learns the killer is a man he could have stopped before, he tragically learns the lesson ‘with great power must also come great responsibility’. Now, as Spider-Man, he tries to balance fighting crime and the new menace of the Green Goblin with his personal life, which includes his now widowed Aunt May, his best friend (and son of his new enemy) Harry Osborn, and the girl he loves, Mary Jane Watson, as well as a new job taking pictures for J Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle.

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Holy Bat-movies! – Part 3

We did it! We made it! I was worried for a second…

In Part One – we covered Batman ’66, Batman ’89, and Tim Burton’s Batman Returns

Then in Part Two – we tore apart Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and the god awful Batman and Robin

Now it’s time to review Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy!

Batman Begins

Batman Begins (2005)

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale (Batman), Liam Neeson (Ra’s Al Ghul), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Ken Watanabe (fake Ra’s), Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes), Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Tom Wilkinson (Carmine Falcone), Rutger Hauer (Mr. Earle)

Batmobile:

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Plot: A true origin story following Bruce’s life periodically from the murder of his parents to his travels around the world making himself into Batman, one step at a time. He becomes a member of, and eventually turns against, the League of Shadows, who come to Gotham to get their revenge and destroy the city. As Batman, he must face the Falcone mafia, the Scarecrow, and Ra’s Al Ghul, while trying to rekindle his relationship with childhood friend turned assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, establishing a relationship with Jim Gordon (one of the only honest cops in Gotham), and working to get his company back from Mr. Earle.

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Holy Bat-movies! – Part 2

Last time, in Part One: we covered Batman ’66, Batman ’89, and Batman Returns, now for our descent into Hell…

BATMAN FOREVER poster

Batman Forever (1995)

Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Val Kilmer (Batman), Chris O’Donnell (Robin), Jim Carrey (Riddler), Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face), Nicole Kidman (Dr. Chase Meridian), Michael Gough (Alfred)

Batmobile:

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Plot: Batman and his new sidekick Robin must face the combined forces of Two-Face (former district attorney Harvey Dent, who blames Batman for the courtroom incident that scarred his face) and the Riddler (Edward Nygma, a former employee of Bruce Wayne seeking revenge for being justifiably fired), and their device that is going to steal all of the information from all of the brains in Gotham. Or some stupid crap.

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Holy Bat-movies!

All the Batmen

Batman has had a number of incarnations over the 75 years he’s been around, and many of them have been captured on film in the last 50 years. Depending on which movie you watch, he can be either part of the campy, ridiculous dynamic duo to the dark, brooding, badass dark knight. Depending on which version you prefer you can find at least one film that is to your tastes and is a totally valid interpretation of the character. Unless you like Batman and Robin, in which case go fuck yourself.

Erik and I will break down each of the Batman’s feature films, beginning with the 1966 adaptation of the television show and ending with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises, and will attempt to convey what is good and bad about each, and which ones we liked (Batman), loved (Dark Knight) and straight up went into murderous hatred over (Batman & Robin).

Animated features were left out this time, as there are so many we feel like they deserve their own article.

Batman '66

Batman: The Movie (1966)

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The Not-So Great Debate vol 3- Lex Luthor v Dr. Doom

Here we go again…

Dr. Doom vs Lex Luthor

Both Marvel and DC Comics are chock-full of twisted, evil, monstrous villains. Some are unbeatable killing machines, some are twisted serial killers, some are mad scientists, some freaks of nature, and some are cosmic level baddasses. But each company has one dude that is kind of all of those things, and then some. For DC Comics it is undoubtedly Lex Luthor; Superman’s greatest foe, one of the richest and smartest men in the world, completely ruthless, and utterly brilliant, he routinely goes up against Superman AND the Justice League and still lives to tell about it. For Marvel, it has to be Victor Von Doom; one of the smartest men on the planet, has his own kingdom, and has the 2nd most badass suit of armor in the world (behind Iron Man) and is the 2nd most powerful sorcerer in the world (behind Dr. Strange), he routinely goes up against the likes of the Avengers, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and of course the Fantastic Four, and the dude is still standing strong.

Both are total, unquestionable badasses, but which one is better? Is it Luthor, with his chrome dome head, xenophobia, and suit of armor with the Simon (from Milton Bradley!) chest plate? Or is it Dr. Doom, with his gross face and his penchant for being beaten up by a walking, talking pile of rocks? Let’s begin!

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The Not-So Great Debate – part 2: Alternate Batmen?

Click here for the First Great Debate: Battle of the Rogues!

Alex Ross - Batman

One of the go-to moves for editors in comics that want to bring a lot of attention to an established property is to replace your main character with a new version of that character. For instance, Hal Jordan was replaced as Green Lantern by John Stewart, then Guy Gardner, then Kyle Rayner, and most recently Simon Baz. Barry Allen was replaced as the Flash by Wally West. Steve Rogers was replaced as Captain America by John Walker (aka USAgent) and Bucky Barnes, Tony Stark as Iron Man by James Rhodes, Peter Parker as Spider-Man by Ben Reilly… hell, for when Superman ‘died’ it took 4 (!!) people to replace him.

This really hit a head in the 1990’s, when Green Lantern, Spider-Man, Flash, Superman, Batman, and a host of others were replaced by newer versions. Even Wonder Woman!

For the sake of this column, we’re going to be focusing on Gotham City’s dark knight: Batman.

Battle for the Cowl

It goes without saying that Bruce Wayne IS Batman. That said, there have been a surprising amount of times when someone else was wearing the cape and cowl. Hell, Dick Grayson has been Batman twice!

So, who is the best replacement Batman? Is it Dick Grayson, Jean Paul Valley, Tim Drake, Terry McGinnis, Damien Wayne, Thomas Wayne, or someone else?

 

COMICZOMBIE: For my money, the best replacement Batman is Jean Paul Valley, aka Azrael, an assassin for a holy order descended from the Knights Templar.

Azrael as BatmanHe replaced Bruce Wayne when he was taken out of commission by Bane during the “Knightfall” trilogy. Jean Paul has a complicated past, to say the least, and his grasp of sanity was tenuous, at best. A man that was just beginning to understand his inner demons, let alone conquer them, he was given this humongous responsibility and tossed into the deep end: a Gotham overrun by half of the inmates of Arkham Asylum, plus Bane and his goons. Yes, the weight of the mantle of the bat caught up to him quicker than he would have liked, and he went crazier than hell,  but while he was Batman it was incredibly interesting to see him slowly, and yet all too quickly, crumble under the weight of the conflicting missions of Batman and Azrael. Both dark avenging creature of the night types, but Azrael’s role was as a destroyer, and Batman’s role has always been a protector. The dichotomy made him very intriguing, even if he never felt like the ‘real’ Batman. That said, he existed in Bruce Wayne’s Gotham. He argued and fought with Tim Drake as Robin, he strained the relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon, and he fought guys like Bane and the Joker.

Jean Paul Valley: best replacement Batman.

ERIK SMASH! : Bruce Wayne is and always will be Batman. Even in 95% of the Elseworlds tales Bruce is still Batman. He’s one of those character-archetypes that simply transcends the decades. That said, there are plenty of kick-ass, Batarang-throwing, Bat-replacements.

When looking at a line-up of potential Batmen, Terry McGuiness is the natural choice for Bruce Wayne’s replacement. Why? Well, part of it might be because when Bruce retired and put up the cowl for good, it was Terry who he finally deemed worthy of the mantle, the other reason might be because it was later revealed that Terry McGuinness was in fact Bruce’s illegitimate son/clone via Amanda Waller (long story…)

Batman Beyond intro clipsFor those of you that don’t know (hand over your nerd cards, you know who you are), Terry McGuinness was the main character in “Batman Beyond”, the sequel series to Bruce Timm’s 1990’s “Batman: The Animated Series”. “Batman Beyond” picked up decades after Bruce Wayne gave up crime fighting when he was nearly killed by a couple of low-life crooks, and was forced to use a gun to defend himself, something he swore he would never do. “Never again,” he states coldly as he shuts down the Batcave forever (it’s really an amazing and emotional scene).

Then in the somewhat far-off (unspecified) future, where Bruce is an old fogey, Gotham looks more like Neo Tokyo from Akira, and the legend of the Dark Knight has been reduced to urban myth, rebellious teenager Terry McGuinness picks a fight with a pack of ‘Jokerz’ (gangster punks ripping off The Clown Prince himself), and gets cornered at the front gates of Wayne Manor where Bat-hermit Bruce ironically happens to be taking a stroll outside for the first time in apparently ever. Bruce then manages to fight off the wannabee thugs with his cane. After helping Bruce back home, Terry accidentally stumbles upon Wayne’s secret, which leads him to stealing the Bat-suit, and then eventually realizing the error of his ways and convincing Bruce to train him to become Gothams’ new protector. (‘Mask of Zorro’ style)

Now I do realize that Terry is very different from Bruce in several aspects. He’s a much more flawed individual, and his personality more closely resembles a cross between Nightwing and Spider-Man in a bat-suit. However, part of that is because he is still young, and never experienced the kind of psyche-shattering tragedy that Bruce was unfortunately subjected to. Instead, Terry’s inner demons compel him to make up for past mistakes.

You get to see Terry struggling with the duel lifestyle in a way that Bruce never had to face, because let’s face it, for Bruce, Batman was his life, and for Terry, he still has a chance to have a life of his own, and carry on the never-ending war on crime. Regardless of the mistakes he makes, you can tell from the get-go that Terry has it in him, he has the potential to one day live up to Bruce Wayne’s standard, and eventually impart the way of the Bat to his apprentice and so on.

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Unlike Jean Paul Valley, Terry possesses the perfect mix of badassery, and a good heart.

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The Not-So-Great Debate #1

The Not-so-Great-Debate: Battle of the Rogues
Batman / Spider-man

One of my favorite things about reading comics is the sheer amount of debates you can have about them. Who is cooler: Batman or Superman? Who is faster: Quicksilver or the Flash? Who would win: the Hulk or the Thing? Burton Batman or Nolan Batman? Married Spider-Man or single Spider-Man? Cyclops’ X-Men or Wolverine’s X-Men? Captain America or Iron Man? Avengers or X-Men?

I’ve always been interested in these conversations. When I worked at a comic book store, one of my favorite things was to listen to the arguments customers would have (especially the younger ones). The best one I ever heard was between three brothers: One was about twelve, the next probably 9 or 10, and the youngest was 7-ish.

They were debating which Robin was the coolest. The oldest loved Jason Todd, the second Robin that was murdered by the Joker, but mostly because of his time as the Red Hood since his unfortunate resurrection. The youngest was ALL ABOUT Tim Drake, and thought the other two were insane to even entertain this notion that there could ever be a Robin that measured up (for my money, he’s right, but that might be a topic for another day). The middle one had a strong argument, as he thought the best Robin was the first one- Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing (and replacement Batman). They went back and forth for probably twenty minutes, and it never devolved into shouting, or name calling, or anything like that. It was really just each kid making their case (“Tim beat the Joker! Without Batman!”). I remembered that conversation recently, and thought that there could be some entertainment value in something like that.

So, I called up Erik Slader (of EpikFAILs.com) and we settled on a topic that we come down on opposite sides of. We’re going to go back and forth, at least until we have each made our cases. If one of us can convince the other that we’re right, all the better, but I wouldn’t hold my breath…

Our first topic of discussion:

“Who has the better villains: Spider-Man or Batman?”

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ComicZombie: The best super-heroes always have awesome villains. Superman has Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Bizarro, and Doomsday; the Flash has Professor Zoom and the Rogues, whereas the X-Men have Apocalypse, Sinister, Magneto (sometimes), Sentinels, the Marauders, and just about every human on Earth; Daredevil has the Kingpin, Bullseye, Lady Bullseye, the Hand, Mr. Hyde, the Owl, and Mr. Fear, while the Fantastic Four have Dr. Doom; and the list goes on and on for the Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and so on and so on.

However, I don’t think there is any debate that the heroes with the greatest villains are: Batman and Spider-Man. I also don’t think there’s any debate that Spider-Man edges out Batman for the title, but that’s why we’re here.

Batman has awesome villains, yes. But the real appeal for his rogues is really all at the top of the list; the heavy hitters, for lack of a better term. Spider-Man’s group of freaks is awesome all the way from the real bigs, like the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom, etc to the guys that are practically hopeless, like the Shocker, Hydro Man, Boomerang, Cardiac, and a whole host of others. Granted, most of the appeal is at the top as well, but Spidey has more “A-list” villains than Batman does. His rogue’s gallery as a whole is just better.

ErikSmash!: So the duel Begins… 

Of course both of these dubious super-villain team-ups have their own merits, but on behalf of all Fan-boys and Geek-girls out there, I’m going to have to side with BATMAN’s rogues gallery as the best in all of comic-dom.

I might be a DC loyalist, yet even I can admit that your friendly neighborhood SPIDER-MAN has an all-star cast of costumed crazies, and perhaps even the best rogues gallery.. in the MARVEL universe that is!, but you have got to be shitting me if you think for a second that Spidey’s baddies are anywhere near the archetypal greatness that are the foes of the Dark Knight! Two-Face, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, The JOKER! All these characters are so awesome they often overshadow the hero. It can be argued that as cool as Batman is, it’s his villains that make him legendary, these are tales so psychologically metaphorical they will last the test of time and have already proven their versatility in their various reincarnations over the ‘Ages’ (Gold through Platinum).

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are tonight’s entertainment! I only have one question. Where is Harvey Dent?” – the Joker

I’m not going to even bother defending guys like CALENDAR MAN, MAXIE-ZUES, KG-BEAST, KILLER-MOTH, or VENTRILOQUIST, for example, but even those guys have had their moments, and can cause some serious trouble for Gotham’s Knight. However, when it comes to Batman’s rather extensive (and ever-growing) rogue’s gallery, the numerous heavy hitters far exceed those of the bottom of the barrel rejects. So let’s start with the one that is more acclaimed than all of Spider-man’s bad guys put together:

THE JOKER! From his first eerie introduction in Batman #1 to Heath Ledger’s terrifying portrayal in Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy, this agent of anarchy is the essence of nightmares. Not only that, but as perhaps Batman’s ultimate arch-enemy, you’ve got a perfect foil for one dark and brooding, ever-stoic, crusader of justice, versus: an unstable, unpredictable, laughing terrorist, dressed in a purple suit with makeup and green hair, whose only out to prove that life is meaningless, and doesn’t even care if you get his inside jokes. Denny O Neal once claimed that the Joker is not only one if the greatest comic book villains, but that he’s right up there with the other great villains in all of literature. My favorite thing about the character is that almost everything he does has an ulterior motive, or worse: not motive at all. For instance, when the Joker brutally murders your best friend in a most horrific (albeit humorous) manner there’s a 50/50 chance that it was either a spur of the moment idea that conveniently presented itself, or was simply an elaborate plan to drive you over the edge of sanity itself. Check out ‘The Man Who Laughs’ by Ed Brubaker (featuring a retelling of his first encounter with the Batman, following ‘Year One’), ‘The Killing Joke’ by Alan Moore (one of the most acclaimed and pivotal Joker tales), or better yet: Brian Azzarello’s chilling graphic novel simply entitled, ‘JOKER’!

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