comics

Movie Review: The Fantastic Four (2015)

MV5BMTk0OTMyMDA0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzY5NTkzNTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_So, I know I'm particularly late to get to this rant, but Wednesday I had the...um...unfortunate experience?...of seeing the Fantastic Four reboot. (Look, in my defense, I've been under a lot of stress, it was cheap and I just needed to get the hell away from Kickstarter for a couple of hours. Don't judge me.) When I left the theater, I was pissed. Many are the reasons for my ire. Alright. Where to start?

Let's start with the simple problems. This movie is FULL of shitty writing.

(I would warn you about spoilers, but I don't think anything is spoiled here.)

 

 

Relationships

First off, the relationships are all half-baked. Sue and Johnny Storm don't come across as siblings at all. When they're on screen together there is no chemistry, let alone any sort of familial bond. Reed Richards and Sue? Eh. Weak sauce. It comes across that Reed thinks she's pretty, but there's nothing there in terms of romance. Reed and Ben Grimm? No depth. Ben's devotion to Reed has nothing behind it. Ben and Johnny? They don't start quipping with each other until the last 3 minutes of the film. And then there's Victor Von Doom. His relationships with--well, everyone--are flaccid. We get that he is a creeper for Sue the way he stares longingly at her, but that's all performance. That's the actor. Doom and Reed partner up well, but don't develop any sort of bond. Doom and Ben? They meet five minutes before Doom falls into a pit of green lava. And Johnny? Well, Johnny and Doom do seem to have a decent playfully antagonistic relationship. This is only shown in a single line exchange that happens to be the solitary line in the movie that is a true Johnny Storm character moment.

 

Johnny: This is Borat. Borat is a Dick.

borat_great_success

And that was it.

Basically, these 5 characters are supposed to be the crux of the film, but instead, they are pawns just being moved around by plot rather than their own motivations. Their relationships never get the opportunity to form, and their own personalities never get to develop. They are all, at best, two-dimensional characters.

When your characters have no arc or depth, when their relationships have no meaning, there is no human element to latch onto. The story becomes little more than a vehicle for CGI effects and mass destruction sequences.

Events

And let's talk for a moment about the plot, such as it is. The plot is that Reed (with Ben's pocket knife and .... I guess his silent presence and free reign of his family's salvage yard?) has created interdimensional travel without realizing just what he was doing. When his school science fair (a scene totally ripped out of Disney's "Meet the Robinsons", I might add) DQs him for being smart, Dr. Franklin Storm and his adopted daughter Sue show up (random!)

Jordan > Sue Storm

From there, in a move from 80s classic "Real Genius", we see a group of college students working on a major project that the military wants for itself. Doom, a brooding emo drop-out, is pulled in with the promise of seeing Sue. Johnny is coerced by his father to join the team so that he can get his car back and return to a life of illegal street racing. They build the thing. They succeed. They fail. They get powers. Doom is left for dead. The military gets their fingers in, weaponizing the people involved as well as the technology. They rebuild the teleporter. They find Doom. Doom goes apeshit. Four people--one of whom has been absent for a year--suddenly know how to power stunt with one another to defeat Doom.

Weak. Fucking. Sauce.

The pacing of events is also strange. We spend too long getting to "Planet Zero", the alternate dimension where the plucky smart kids will get their powers. And in all that time, we're not building relationships. We're not DOING anything but watching construction montages and Franklin having arguments with Doom and Johnny about how much potential they have. (Basically, Franklin spends the whole movie thinking he knows what's right for other people.) Again, there's nothing human to latch onto during this time. You want them to succeed because you're told you want them to succeed. The audience has no skin in the game. By the time we get to the second act--all events that happen AFTER the ill-fated trip to Planet Zero--we're snoozing. (Literally. My friend that saw it with me fell asleep. Multiple times.)

Human-Torch-in-Fantastic-Four-Trailer-2Act 2 is a lot of showing how the military are responding (poorly) to the development of four kids coming from Planet Zero and having pyrokinetic powers or fluctuations outside the visible spectrum. We see Sue being left to fluctuate on a table. They're just watching Johnny burn. Reed is being stretched to his limits and seemingly tortured while Ben is left alone to be a rock. And Franklin can only watch as his children--biological and adopted--are in dire straits. We see more training montage action, but again, there's nothing to grasp.

There's a lot of wasted potential in Act 2. We should be seeing Ben trying to cope with body dysmorphia and how the government is using him to kill. We should see his depression, his loneliness. But we don't. It's all flat. It moves quickly, but jerkily, into the third act which, like many films these days is riddled with problems. Most of those problems though are because of the poor set up with characters.

Characterization Issues

In my review of "Star Trek: Into Darkness", I told you about the Hollywood Formula of characters. Protagonist, Antagonist and Relationship Character. A satisfying story comes when we like our protagonist and can root for her, when someone clearly presents obstacles (antagonist), and there is a person who has been around the block who can help bridge gaps between protagonist/antagonist and protagonist/audience. For a story that "works", all three of these roles need to be clearly related in the film or text.

635640150236937897-56-FANTASTIC-FOUR-MOV-jy-5566-We get that Reed is our main protagonist. We follow him. He leads the audience into the story. His goal is also pretty clear: make a teleporter. However, for most of "Fantastic Four", we don't have a clear antagonist.

You would think it would be Doom, right? I mean, we've read the comics...or we've seen the first attempts at bringing the Fantastic Four to screen. Even if you haven't, the name DOOM kinda outs him as the baddie, right? But that's the thing...he's not the antagonist. He's not the one getting in Reed's way of his goal.

In fact, for most of the movie.... no one is. No one is trying to make things more difficult for Reed. Only once the team has succeeded in making their device does an antagonist show up.

I am Government Man. Come from the government. The government has sent me. *chews gum*

Government Man. (Does he even have a name?) Anyway, this is the military liaison who wants the project. He shows up and is the face of evil, not just because he's trying to keep the kids from finishing their work (going to Planet Zero), but he represents everything DOOM hates. Everything Franklin is working against. The Government Man is the antagonist. Which, to me, says that Doom or Franklin would be the best choice for relationship character. They share the role.

However, it seems that "Fantastic Four" writers didn't learn from my rant about "Star Trek: Into Darkness" because what happens in the third act? Doom, our relationship character, takes a leaf out of Khan's book, squishes the head of the antagonist and then assumes the role.

doomfantasticfour-146710The writing is bad. The story is not satisfying. STOP DOING THIS STORYTELLING BAIT AND SWITCH!!!

Beyond that, the characters? They're all wrong. Again, this could be due to poor pacing and just lazy writing, but the characters are little more than namesakes of the original Fantastic Four.

Ben Grimm looks like Peeta from the Hunger Games. He's silent and just kinda plods along with Reed. He doesn't have his own strength, even though he's supposed to be Reed's rock (Watson to Richards' Holmes.)

Doom is emo, and while he does have a bit of a vibe of "I'm smarter than you, and I don't need you", he's not egomaniacal enough to be DOCTOR DOOM.

Johnny? Oh my god, I jerked at one line because the wrongness of it slapped me in the face. Johnny Storm--our adrenaline junkie--is afraid to go repelling on the surface of Planet Zero. BULLSHIT. Johnny would've been basejumping. Doom says, "We need an anchor." That anchor SHOULD have been Ben Grimm. It always was. Ben had no place to go into the fissure and no motivation to do so. Poor choice, writers.

And then there's Sue.

Sexism

Pretty. Script says I come from Eastern Europe now. Could be an assassin. Look, I'm just like Black Widow!

The original comics are rife with sexism. Sue Storm is the Invisible Woman for a reason. She's a commentary on what men at the time thought a woman should be: pretty, silent, come when I need you. Unfortunately, while this movie seemed to ignore the source material for, well, almost every other character's motivations...they kept this tidbit in tact.

In the film, Sue Storm is portrayed as smart, but cold and distant. She is pretty, an object of both Reed and Doom's affections, however that seed--like most planted in this film--doesn't grow to anything resembling fruition. And her role in the team is to MAKE THE CLOTHES they'll wear when they go to Planet Zero. Yes, environment suits are important, but they've literally got the woman MAKING THE CLOTHES.

When the experimental teleporter works, Government Man walks into the room with Sue, Reed, Johnny and Doom and this is his line:

"Gentlemen! Everyone! Good work."

*jaw drop* SHE's standing right there! I get that you're trying to punctuate "Invisible Woman" but there are better ways to do it, assholes!

And, when the guys decide to go to Planet Zero, does Reed call Sue? The person who's been working on this project just as long as he has? Nope. He calls Ben, his buddy from back home. None of them even bother to let her in on things, thinking that maybe she's just as upset as they are. Sue is left out of this midnight recon entirely UNTIL SHIT HITS THE FAN AND THEY NEED SOMEONE TO BRING THEM HOME!

She doesn't get much better treatment in the next acts. She bails everyone out with force fields as long as she's not falling to the ground and flailing prettily.

Sue's treatment in this movie is sickening. And she's the only woman with more than one line. It's abominable.


There was very little that this movie did well. I liked the visual effects of the Human Torch. I loved how they presented Doctor Doom after his year on Planet Zero. That was nicely done. Beyond that? Nope. This movie fails on every level. The writing is worse than poor, it's lazy. And the sexism is disgusting.

I'd rather watch the one with Chris Evans and Michael Chikliss. The guy might be wearing a foam rubber suit, but at least he's actually Ben Grimm.

I'm Not A Whore

the_avengers_black_widow-wide-1024x1022Let's talk about superheroines. Badass women saving the world/galaxy through sheer grit and guile. There are tons of them in comic mythos, in books, but very few have made the transition to big-screen film. As it stands, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is strides ahead of its competition, so everyone's been patting Kevin Feige on his back for that. Thing is? While Agents of SHIELD boasted five very intriguing, strong female characters (May, Skye, Gemma Simmons, Mockingbird and Reina), Marvel's films have enough female characters that I can count them on both hands and need only one to grow on. There are eleven twelve*. Eleven Twelve women who are forces to reckon with in the MCU. And of those eleven, there are three who are not immediately defined by their relationship to someone else. (Of the remaining 9, only one of them is not defined by her relationship to a man, and that would be Jane Foster's intern/quirky bestie Darcy.)

And of those three, two of them are called whores.

And that's a problem.

(THERE ARE AGE OF ULTRON SPOILERS BELOW)

11194533_10155580380045457_1395141953812237329_oA few weeks back, actors Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and Chris Evans (Captain America) made comments calling Black Widow a "slut" and a "total whore". Yes, I get that the two actors were probably exhausted and press junkets suck and it's a joke and (as Renner kept pointing out) the character is fictional. Evans apologized, but Renner's all but doubled down on it, harping on the fact that Black Widow isn't real, so why is everyone making such a big deal about it.

And when we were discussing it, my friends asked me if I was just as pissed about their comments as I was about Gamora being called a whore throughout Guardians of the Galaxy.

Honestly, no, and here's why: The character herself dealt with that. Gamora is called a whore (but has no relationship at all with any character--on screen or implied--that would warrant the epithet) and when it's said, SHE deals with it. She responds and says, "ENOUGH!" (Also, it's coming from Drax, a character known for his awkward relationship with words.)

The Black Widow thing is different. Does that mean I feel a fictional character needs someone to defend her from real dude-bros calling her a slut? No, the point is this:

I'm not fictional. 

When Anthony Mackie got the role of Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he made a brilliant comment. He said he was so proud that now a young black kid could look at the screen and see himself there as a hero.

agent_carterWhen I go to a Marvel movie, I have the opportunity to see myself reflected in one or two (of a possible eleven twelve) female characters per film. In Thor, it's usually Darcy because Jane is treated like a plot point rather than a person and Frigga gets knifed for being a badass...and then treated as a plot point to galvanize/bring together two estranged brothers. In Cap, it's Peggy or nothing, and that's fine by me. Peggy is agoddamnmazing. (And while we're on the subject, why did it take a virgin sacrifice, two goats and the horcrux of Rupert Murdoch to get Agent Carter renewed as a series? HUH?!)

But if I want to see myself in a MCU hero, it's Gamora, Black Widow or the newly minted Scarlet Witch. These are the three I mentioned above who are not defined solely by their relationships with other characters. And based on their actions in the films, each of them is a hero.

Gamora? As stated she spends the whole film telling Drax to quit calling her a whore. Scarlet Witch? Well, in the comics she's fucked up. Like bag of cats/Loki would tell her to seek help for her daddy issues fucked up. She's not had enough onscreen time to go one way or the other really, so while I dig her fashion sense and new powerset, I'm not sure if I'd want to identify with her.

No, the heavy hitter among the girls is our dear Black Widow. In the films, she is the one who is no man's daughter/wife/girlfriend. She is not the one who will be used as bait or a plot device...she kicks the shit out of people and then saunters away with a couple of runs in her stockings. Widow is the real deal from the first moment we see her in Iron Man 2.

black_widow_67396In the first Avengers film we are led to believe that she is in a romantic relationship with Clint "Hawkeye" Barton**. (This isn't really debunked until we see Barton's family in Age of Ultron and Natasha comments that Clint is her "best friend". Still, that doesn't rule out polyamory as a possibility, however, I believe it's the intent of the writers to tell us, "Oh no, she's not with him and hasn't been. See? Barton's been married with kids for all this time.") In Cap 2, Nat flirts with Steve and we see that it's just to egg him on a bit. This is the same kind of ribbing friends do to one another. Until the scene they're trying to actively evade HYDRA agents in a mall full of civilians. Natasha relies on her Red Room training and puts on the act that she and Steve are a couple. That's all this is. Training. Subterfuge. Everyone involved in the scene knows it, and so does the audience.

So why is it that the one time she is falling in love with someone onscreen, Natasha Romanoff is called a whore?

Why are you calling the strongest woman I can identify with a slut?

She is me on screen. No I'm not a spy, but she's my chance of representation. She's my surrogate hero, the one I'm most likely to understand... and you think it's okay to call her a trick and a whore because why? She's fictional?

The characters we see in books, television shows and movies are more than just fictional characters. They are avatars of ourselves. They are opportunities for individuals to imagine, dream and be more, to experience a different life through someone we understand.

And this is why representation matters. This is why we need diversity in our media. We need black, Asian, trans, queer, bi (please god do we need bi), native, Muslim, female... we need it all. We need points of view that are different than our own. We need fiction that reflects the diversity of our reality.

CD4i6jjW0AA12jEAnd it needs to be celebrated. Rather than calling Gamora a whore for an entire movie, talk her up, give her action figures and put her on the goddamn t-shirts with the rest of her team. Likewise with Widow! Put her on the merchandise! Hell, the girls in Big Hero 6 couldn't even get much merch love and it's a fucking DISNEY FILM!

The three female characters that are strongest are still getting kicked down a few rungs. If the story isn't turning them into damsels in distress, the characters are bashing them, or the actors are. They can't get equal time onscreen or on t-shirts.

That tells me--and other women and girls and minorities--that we aren't worthy. The people Black Widow represents are getting shafted. Girls seeking a heroine are left wondering how they fit in when their character isn't included in the boxed set of dolls.

For christsake, Marvel, get it together. Give us a Widow movie. Give Agent Carter a full season rather than just the mid-winter hiatus. Give us more strong women writers, characters that we can sink our teeth into. We are your audience.

And you're calling us whores.

 

*The eleven women of note in the MCU are Darcy, Frigga, Gamora, Jane Foster, Laura Barton, Maria Hill, Natasha Romanoff, Nebula, Peggy Carter, Pepper Potts and Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch). And, sadly, I wouldn't normally count Laura on this list. I was feeling generous, and I think that if it came to it, she would kick some serious ass to protect her family. 

**Go back and watch the Loki/Widow interrogation scene from the first Avengers flick knowing what you do about Barton's family after Ultron. How much does that change that whole scene!?! It's delicious! 

EDIT: I originally said there were 11 women of note. I forgot Lady Sif from the Thor flicks. An egregious error on my part. I blame my lack of chai and ask forgiveness. Yes, she absolutely counts.

 

I'm A Marvel Girl

art by Greg Pak  

...in a Marvel wo-o-rld.  *grooves to Aqua*

Anyway, all kidding and filking of techno earworms aside, that's a fact. Generally, I'm not one to pick sides when it comes to geek wars. Star Wars and Star Trek are awesome. Pixar and Dreamworks both have killer flicks that I'll dig on. But when it comes to this one--Marvel vs DC--I cannot remain neutral. I am a Marvel Girl. When it comes to my comics and movies, I rarely give a damn about DC heroes or stories.

Bearing that in mind, I'd like to share with you some things my husband and I discussed recently. We were talking about the new Supes vs Batman movie DC is pimping, and how they've announced they want to go with an older Bruce Wayne for that flick. This decision in and of itself isn't all that bad, but when we got into the meat of things, Sean and I came to the consensus that DC is bad at business. Here are some of our points.

Timing; Or, Getting a Megaton of Bang For Your Buck

magnetoSo, unless you are Amish, a recently thawed caveman or someone with memory problems worse than that dude in Momento, you've probably heard of this thing called San Diego Comic Con. Not only is this a place for fans to get their collective geeks on, but it's a place where vendors and studios can pimp their wares. Considering it's gotten to be such a huge media event, this is a time when most producers will make big announcements or shill exclusive content to generate more buzz for their books. (Captive audience in Hall H? They're salivating for awesomeness, may as well tease them, right?)

And we saw Marvel do just that with spectacular flare. Bringing out Tom Hiddleston as Loki for no other reason than to introduce exclusive/extended trailers of their coming movies...? That's brilliant. (Take away my love of Hiddleston for like 2 seconds. Seriously, that's an amazingly inspired bit of showmanship right there.) The minute Hiddleston took the stage, the cameras and phones were out en masse. The Internet nearly died from that level of kickassitude in motion. To say it went viral would be an understatement. So, mission: accomplished. Marvel reached people who couldn't be at the Con and got THEM psyched for product as well.

Not only did Marvel pimp its sequels to Thor, Captain America and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film, the studio also confirmed the plotline of the 2015 Avengers sequel (Age of Ultron. WOOT!) Also, they paid much service to their print factions by teasing upcoming content in the comic books, and continued to play up the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D television series. (The Son of Coul lives, bitches!)

Okay, so let's check out what they did on the other side of the Comic spectrum. DC? What do you have? There's some talk about getting artists for the Harley Quinn series coming out in comics this November. Okay. And there's some follow-up to the Man of Steel release. Oh, and there's the announcement of a Batman/Superman movie.

Hubba wah?! Seriously? Both... dude! My geek heart palpitates at this. And (AND!) this serves as a segue for a Justice League movie.

But they didn't do much else. There were mentions of the CW television series Arrow, and a trailer for Batman: Arkham Origins (debuting this fall), but really the big egg in DC's basket was the Supes/Batman flick. And that announcement got buried beneath Marvel's blitzkrieg of content.

Now, here it is 2 weeks later and DC is leaking info about a Flash television series to go along with Arrow. Rumors are also swirling that they want an older Batman for the team-up flick. With Frank Miller on staff as a consultant, this screams that they're doing some adaptation of Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. (Which I loved, btw.) But again, this information came after the Con with very little fanfare behind it.

All in all, Marvel captured the flag that is San Diego Comic Con.  DC had an opportunity to do so much to tease and entice its audience, but they did nothing to exploit that opportunity.

But that's all flash and spectacle, right? I mean, what about the content?

Marvel is winning there, too. And here are just a few reasons why:

Digging Deep

Since the 1960s, DC has poured its capital largely into two particular franchises: Batman and Superman. We saw it with the 60s television series of both. Then we had the Christopher Reeve films in the 80s. (The first two of those were golden. Do not try to sully them because my 3-year-old self with a crush on that beautiful man will cut a bitch.) The Batman films of the 90s (Tim Burton and otherwise) took another crack at the Caped Crusader's mythos.  Batman had a strong showing in animation--and still does--while Smallville carved out a niche on the WB network. Then both series got reboots in the new millennium. (And, as stated above, the CW network--formerly the WB--carries on the tradition with Arrow, and now a possible Flash show.)

But, really, DC hasn't diverted from these two major franchises. The Halle Berry Catwoman movie was abysmal. We saw a feeble attempt at a Green Lantern flick a few years ago. The budget went towards the visual effects rather than creating a stable story that could survive outside of a computer. And the Wonder Woman movies/television shows have been in developmental hell for at least a decade now. The studio--such as it is--has not taken the risks to push beyond Batman or Superman. Now, throwing both of them together--while geekishly delicious--also seems like the hackneyed Freddy vs. Jason or Alien vs. Predator. Fun on paper but lousy in execution.

Alan Cumming

On the other hand, Marvel has gone all-in. Even when Fox/Sony ran the show, the X-Men movies upped the game of the superhero genre. In fact, I'd say that the Raimi Spider-man heralded this new era of comic book film. While I definitely have my beefs with X-Men: The Last Stand (that's a whole new rant), the movies of the early 2000's hold up. (I think X-2 is one of the top 5 comic movies of all time. Yeah, I said it.) When Spider-man and X-men proved that super hero movies have a place and following in the market, Marvel ran with it.  While they may have been commercial flops, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Ghostrider, Elektra, films and the first couple of Incredible Hulk movies helped Marvel to dial in not just what their audience wanted, but also refined their talent pool of writers, directors and producers. This has propelled Marvel toward the inevitable awesomeness that came out of their own studio with Phase 1.

While Spider-man, Wolverine and X-Men: First Class films continue to play with those characters, Marvel reached further into its lists with Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor to herald The Avengers, an unprecedented ensemble film that built up over multiple movies. And now, they're not stopping. With Phase 2 we'll see a less-popular franchise brought to the screen: The Guardians of the Galaxy. There are talks of Hawkeye and Black Widow getting a film, as well as on-screen adaptations of Doctor Strange and Ant-Man.

Marvel hasn't played it safe or pushed the reset button. When one thing doesn't work (Fantastic Four), they've moved forward to try something else and dial it in until they hit the target.

DC seems to be afraid of pushing outside of the known. Green Lantern didn't work. So what? Try again. Go in and listen to your audience. For instance, when they're clamoring for a Wonder Woman, give her a shot. Which reminds me...

Girl Power

How I want to see Wonder Woman (by Rahzzah on deviant art)

Oh, DC.... we need to talk. It's about your take on women. Don't get me wrong, you have some solid ideas when it comes to power sets and backstories, but your execution needs a little work. (Especially after your recent across-the-board revamp.)

Let's start with Wonder Woman. You've got this dominatrix/Greek Goddess saving the world. When you let her kick ass, she does. She's amazeballs and has all this potential. And yet, you throw her in a metal corset and bikini briefs time and time again. Speaking of dominatrix fantasies, Catwoman? Really? Showing her in the skintight vinyl is one thing but you've turned her into nothing but sexual temptation. She is underused and exploited for her boobs and sex appeal. Starfire? Harley? Poison Ivy? Your heroines and villains have turned into the "Slutty ___" section of a Halloween costume shop.

Not that Marvel is totally off the hook on this. Look at Golden Age Sue Storm for some disgustingly misogynistic shit. Tygra? Don't get me started. However, Marvel has (as stated above) rolled with its audience. As times change, more women pick up the books and attitudes shift, the women in Marvel comics and films have taken on stronger roles.

Black Widow. Elektra. Maria Hill. Take your pick of the X-Men (including the current run where the whole team is made of up of female mutants). Sure, they don't have a stand-alone movie with a female protagonist (why is that, Marvel?) the studio has done a lot with their recent films to ensure that girls have a representative role-model that is not over-sexualized. *edited to add: Yes, I realize there was an Elektra movie, but Marvel Studios proper hasn't put out a movie with a woman at the helm...yet.

While The Avengers might fail the Bechdel Test, it's mostly because Maria Hill, Pepper Potts and Black Widow are too busy saving the world to have conversations with one another.

Access and Adaptability 

Along the lines of DC not listening to its fans, the backstories in their universe haven't changed over time. Jonathan and Martha Kent are still simple farmers in Smallville. Bruce Wayne's Gotham still has a mid-20th century feel to it. Nothing has changed for these characters--much--even though there have been massive shifts in the world.

Iron_Man_1080p_www_yify_torrents_com_2_largeOne of the things I thought was truly inspired in the first Iron Man film was the studio's decision to update Tony Stark's origin story. They moved up the timeline so that rather than being captured in the Vietnam War, Stark was kidnapped in Afghanistan. Much like Vietnam, the US's wars in the Middle East have defined this generation. There's a cultural well of fear, pride and visceral emotion there. What did Marvel do? Like any good storyteller, you sink your hook THERE. Those strong emotions we all carry about 9/11 and Afghanistan then pull us into the story just that much further. Marvel did so many things right with Iron Man. And part of that came from bringing these iconic stories into the modern version of our world.

Furthermore, it does something when you see aliens destroy Grand Central Station that you just don't get watching Bane blow up a fictional football stadium. Gotham and Metropolis--while we all know they are supposed to be certain American cities--lack that emotional connection. We aren't invested in them in the same real way we are to Chicago, New York or San Francisco. For me, at least, watching Marvel films carries with it that extra sense of reality while DC's movies are like watching events happening in a snow globe. They're pretty, but we're ultimately disconnected from them.

I think the truest difference between Marvel and DC is audience participation. While Marvel reaches out, draws in and listens to its audience, DC seems to carry on in a vacuum allowing the us the privilege of watching it work. And so, while DC churns on and continuously tries to redefine these two aspects of itself, Marvel brings out one of its most beloved characters to surprise the Comic Con audience into submission.

184016_522623534420527_588593471_nThis is why I'm a Marvel girl. Because they, like their mutants, evolve and adapt to the market, to the audience and to the world around them. They don't give up when something flops. They push on and do better the next time. Which means by 2015, DC is going to have a problem on their hands. The Avengers was amazeballs. The sequel? Well, if Marvel delivers, Batman and Supes might need to team up. And even then... well, you saw what happened to Loki. And he had an army.

*I've credited art where I can. A lot of these were things I downloaded without tagging or crediting, so I apologize. If you know who the artist is, please let me know so I can offer proper credit.*

A Friendly Reminder

This weekend I was reminded that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I did my self-exam and there is a spot of ow on my left breasticle. Now, this isn't the first time I've felt a disturbance in my Force. About two years ago I found a lump. It was tender and roughly the size and texture of the average grape. My doctor, she felt around and zeroed in on the spot. She ordered the mammogram, and after a month of waiting, I got my boops smooshed for science.The lump turned out to be nothing more than some dense breast tissue, but for the month between finding the lump and the mammogram, I was more than a little worried. So, now that lefty has another anomaly we'll be monitoring my ta-tas. I suggest you do the same. Not mine, obviously, but yours. If you have them. Gah! Anyway, the point is, you need to do a self-exam. Regularly. You have to get to know the topography of your own glorious tracks of land before you can sense if there might be something rotten in Denmark. Have a glass of wine, feel yourself up and make sure you and your boops have a nice long life together.

It's important. YOU are important.

He's Just a Boy

So, after the episode of Romper Room Presidential debate last night, my friend started channel surfing and came across one of the two Batman movies that I've tried to pretend never existed. You know, the one where Tommy Lee Jones is grossly underused as some watered-down bullshit version of a cool villain and Jim Carrey makes Frank Gorshin spin in his grave. Anyway, we came in right on the scene between Bruce Wayne and his shrink/love interest (because everyone should sleep with their shrink or use sexual relationships to mop out the guano-soaked caves they call a psyche) and my friend said, "At least in this movie someone asked if Bruce had ever had therapy!" (I should note that this friend is his own Comic Wikipedia. It's scary sometimes.)

Anyway, this got me to thinking about the Dark Knight's origin and comparing him to other characters in comic mythos, pondering the variations of this particular hero through the decades and it led me to this question:

Has anyone ever explored the idea that everything Batman comes from the psyche of a traumatized child rather than a functional-yet-brooding adult?  Meet me after the jump and we'll talk....

Humble Beginnings Okay, I admit that I am by all accounts a Marvel girl. Most of my in-depth knowledge is in the X-Men Phoenix 'verse (up through Endsong...everything after that is non-canon in my opinion, but that's another blog), and my DC is shaky at best. What I know of Batman comes from reading Frank Miller's Year One, watching all of the movies except the newest Nolan installment and discussions with friends. So I'm not able to spout of issue numbers passage and verse, but I know enough about the character to know that Batman was born of a double homicide. Hell the Amish probably know this part of the Batman mythos! However, in case there is a recently thawed caveman reading this, I'll go into it...

...at its barest bones, Batman is a story about a man seeking to right the wrong done to him when his parents were murdered in front of him. This has been tweaked, embellished and exaggerated to fit various incarnations, however this is the root. A child witnessed the senseless killing of his mother and father.

Now, as the years have gone on, we've seen how this single event pushed Bruce Wayne to become a vigilante. He's super rich, so he has had the time and resources to put together his arsenal of wonderful toys. He's well-educated and in various incarnations skilled at physical combat thanks to martial vision quests in the east. However, all of those portrayals make the assumption that the Goddamn Batman comes from the mind of a grown man.

Knowing what we do about psychology, though, I want to posit that no, all of these things we see Bruce Wayne doing as the spirit of vengeance come not from the rational standpoint of an adult but that child who is still screaming over the corpses of his parents.

A Bit of Reality Let's think for just a moment about what we know. Mom and Pop Wayne choked on bullets when Bruce was somewhen in the 6-10 year age range. For a moment let's forget the trauma and focus on this little tidbit.  Bruce was in grade school at the time. Sure, it was probably a prep school where he's learning to dissect griffins whilst eating foie gras to the sound of Stephen Fry lecturing on the merits of Balzac, but at the end of the day, he's a six year old boy. A kid more comfortable with Captain Underpants than cap-and-trade no matter how affluent the Waynes may have been. Take away the butler and the mansion and the Romney-esque silver spoon and you're dealing with this:

One night, he goes to the movies--yay!--and his parents are shot. The rock of his world is shattered. Think about what that scene must have been like. We see it in movies or comics as this silent, swift death. Mother's pearls spilling over a frozen sidewalk. Father's blood splattered on roses. A child kneeling between them as their killer runs away.

That imagery is powerful, but it's probably not what happened. Gunshots--especially those fired quickly and carelessly like those from a mugger--tend to be wild. They don't always hit in a way that kills instantly. Therefore, it's safe to say that Bruce watched his parents bleed out. He had no knowledge of what to do, no cell phone to call 911, and no earthly clue how to help his parents. Can you imagine what sorts of things Father Wayne tried to intone to his son with his last breaths? Did his mother try to hold him one last time? It's even more heartwrenching to consider this aspect of Batman's story, but (in my limited experience) it's glossed over. There's story gold to be mined here! It's drama. It's gut-twisting horror! And it's happening to a kid!

The adults had knowledge of their situation. If they tried to get Bruce to go for help, though, it never came. Why? Because he was just a child. Paralyzed with fear and helplessness because he's a boy.

And, since I'm guessing Alfred's first task after his employers snuffed it was not "Get Bruce to therapy", the kid had to deal with this and process it on his own. I don't care how brilliant the kiddo was, his world was shattered and he didn't have the innate tools to deal with the guilt and rage that followed the collapse. If you think that I can't know this, that this is blind supposition, it's not. My evidence is that we have a comic book at all to talk about. Batman is the result. He IS the rage personified. Every night he gets the shit kicked out of him to assuage the guilt over what happened when he was still in training wheels.

Bruce Wayne--gagillionaire playboy tech mogul--has untreated PTSD. Which means, the guy with all those gadgets swinging around the city? Yeah...

Imp-lications 

If we think of Batman as a kid in a Halloween costume, we can easily explain some of the quirks that should leave people going, "Dude, where's your sanity?"

First off, the gadgets. Seriously, Bruce has all that money and he makes some killer toys. All of them with bats on them, by the way. Helloooooo fixation! He's the kid that got the keys to the coolest candy shop ever and now he has real rocket launchers that make explosions and boomerangs and a wicked awesome car. Kick ass!

Also, everyone always tries to play the "Batman and Robin are gay" card, but psychologically there may be a better explanation for Dick Grayson's appearance. Robin isn't a sidekick, a ward of Mr. Wayne's estate and therefore a tax write-off... he's a playmate. He's another kid. Another orphaned kid. Sure, adult Bruce has his reasons for taking in Young Master Dick, but for the Bruce that is clearly still in control of the show, Dick is a kindred spirit. He's a buddy that gets to come into the treehouse and be part of the creepy nighttime shenanigans.

Then there's Selena Kyle. Okay, so her skin-tight vinyl and whip-work may have more to do with Grown-Up-Bruce's proclivities than I'd care to delve into, however, Mr. Wayne's inability to have a functional relationship could be rooted in the fact that he's running at an emotional level where girls still have cooties.

Think about it. When you imagine that Bruce Wayne's actions (and therefore Batman's) are being controlled by a terrified kid, so much becomes clear.

And Now We Exploit It...

If you think I'm going to talk about how we should get this poor child the psychological counseling he so desperately needs, you'd be wrong. Fuck that, that's not good story. No, we exploit the shit out of this and go to town tormenting the adult he has become.

If you play Batman as some PTSD-stricken rage monster with bottomless pockets, you've got yourself something way more interesting than a dark-and-brooding Christian Bale. It has worked before. No, not with Batman, but with someone from the other side...

In Thor, everything Loki does is motivated by childhood hurts and jealousies. He is a child seeking Daddy's love and trying to push his brother to the side for one moment in the spotlight. Everything he does is to meet that child's needs. And it's written superbly. (And Tom Hiddleston plays it to the hilt so beautifully I can't stop geeking about it.) By the time Loki shows up in Avengers, however, we see a hungry adult who has accepted his role in life as a force of chaos, disorder and dishonor. We see someone comfortable in that shadow. It's a lovely arc and thus shows that taking such an angle with a character can work.

How could you use it in Batman? What are the terrible things that could befall him and what are the angles you could play with if you take off the restrictions that come from functional adulthood? One could argue that you'd simply get The Joker with a different outfit, but I think you get something darker.

And it's something I'd love to see those with a deeper knowledge of the character play with.

It gets even more fun if you throw in that some of the Rogues Gallery know Batman's true identity and then dig in their claws. In this situation I think Hugo Strange becomes one of the top choices for villain. Catwoman's involvement as love interest dies down and we can see her more for her brains and skill than for her propensity for broken zippers. And I think it would put Batman on more of an even keel with the Joker than it does already. Fuck, the story might even put them together on the same side.

I would love to see DC fingerpaint with this for a while. How much fun would it be to take a tortured hero and give him that little push that leads into madness?