Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

PG-13, 151 Minutes, 2016

uRUJzQY.jpgI grew up watching Batman and Superman. First it was The Superfriends, the quasi-Justice League show full of cheese. Then reruns of TV’s Batman and its corniness. As a pre-teen and teen I was a huge Justice League comics fan with a variety of super-heroes teaming up to fight world shattering human and alien villains. As an adult, I read fewer comics, but have seen nearly every DC comics animated, live action TV, and cinematic incarnation and have appreciated stories from the lighthearted to the more intense. You might say I’m the perfect candidate for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the bridge movie from Man of Steel to The Justice League.

Except I’m not. Reflecting the darker comics of Frank Miller and other writers, the current incarnation of DC Superheroes is very dark. The Dark Knight by Christopher Nolan was absolutely brilliant, but by The Dark Knight Rises, the widespread civilian causalities and lack of any humor made for a bit of a slog.

Now DC is trying to jump start its late-to-the-game movie empire by having Zack Snyder continue this dark trend he presented so mediocrely in Man of Steel. First, let’s be honest. Zack Snyder isn’t such a great director. 300 was an unexpected action fest, but hardly a classic. Watchmen didn’t live up to expectations. He is serviceable. And he loves long and dark films.

If you love the dark tone of Man of Steel with hundreds (but realistically thousands) of innocent lives lost and the ridiculous ending of Superman out-and-out murdering Zod, Batman v Superman may be for you. But if you like your superheroes to be heroes – praiseworthy exemplars of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, than this movie will disappoint.

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Man of Steel – Review Without Joy

Man of SteelIn the past 10 years, I’ve seen 27 superhero movies. Only one, Green Lantern, got a thumbs down from me. That means I found enough redeeming features to marginally recommend such mediocrity as Iron Man 2, Spider-Man 3, Hancock, The Amazing Spider-Man, Watchmen, and even Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Until today.

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#BlogElul via the Movies 29 – Justice Justice

“Justice, justice shall you pursue.”

This Torah verse from Deuteronomy 16:20 is the inspiration for the name of the synagogue that I am honored to lead through the High Holidays starting tonight. They chose the name Congregation B’nai Tzedek (Children of Justice) inspired by that verse noting, “Our sages pointed out that the word tzedek is repeated in the verse to show us that justice must be our goal and that our means of achieving that goal must also be just.”

The United States is certainly no stranger to the challenge of doing justly while seeking justice. The amazing George Takei’s musical Allegiance, which premiers this month in San Diego, tells the shameful story of the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Abu Ghraib torture, Guantanamo, and even the arguments to enter in the war in Iraq are all examples of the striving to balance justice, the challenge of the end justifying the means. America – who has rightly been a champion and model of justice in its history – is also confronted by the huge lapses in it to this day – our dealings with people unlike those in power – race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, country of origin, etc. – are littered with attempts to make a difference, but often fall short of doing so justly.

Such is the theme, obvious or underlying, of most every courtroom drama ever made. I cannot type these words without hearing Al Pacino shout, “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order!” from …And Justice for All. But outside the court and its structure, justice gets even murkier.

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#BlogElul via the Movies 28 – Responsibility

“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Uncle Ben (Click for video)

When the topic is “responsibility” and the vehicle is “movies,” this is the inevitable outcome. Uncle Ben cautions his nephew Peter with this famous phrase without even knowing the incredible burden or power that secretly Peter struggles with. Then Uncle Ben is killed as a direct result of Peter’s inaction and apathy. And thus Spider-Man is born.

The meta-source of the quote is unknown although some speculate where Stan Lee might have have been influenced.  But for Jews, we recognize that we all have great power. While Spidey-Sense and super strength are one kind of power, the influence we hold over others, the example we set, the opportunity to do mitzvot, and the power we hold over own selves are all tremendous responsibilities.

The High Holy Days are a time to reflect on that innate power and do something with it. Hopefully our inaction, apathy, or poor choices will not result in someone’s death. But it will result in our own soul being trapped from blossoming and thriving.

You have great power. Now use it to make a difference in your life and others.

#BlogElul is the brainchild of @imabima who blogs at imabima.blogspot.com. For the 30 days of Elul, the spiritual preparation before the Jewish High Holy Days, many Jews will be reflecting on the themes of the season. My posts will all be through the lens of movies. You can see all the themes in the graphic. Follow all the other excellent postings through Twitter at #BlogElul along with related items #Elulgram and #PopCultureElul.

#BlogElul via the Movies 4 – Number Your Days

Reaching a goal of numbers is a standard writing device. In fairy tales, things are divided into three – ex. three tasks to achieve (look at Goldilocks and the Three Bears or The Three Little Pigs for ample use of three). But any counting will do. Countdowns are popular. Will they defuse the bomb before it counts down to zero? (The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises). Or counting up: Can Scott Pilgrim defeat the seven evil exes? Will Julie be able to cook all 524 of Julia Child’s recipes in one year? Even now, Rabbis are reluctantly counting the days left in Elul to Rosh Hashanah.

Judaism, of course, wants us to count our days. “So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) I have a countdown clock on my iPhone that I used to note how long until I moved. It kept me more honest about how much time was really left in reality. Websites like numberyourdays.com allow you to easily count up or count down. Continue reading

Remakes and Re-Marks

I have recently tried to upgrade myself – call it a mid-life crisis, Mark 2.0 (or 5.0?), a renovation, an adjustment, or whatever you wish – I left my job, moved to the other side of the country, and took a position that only lasts for 12 months. My life is full of changes – now we’ll see if I am full of transformation worthy of the remake.

This journey was on my mind as I saw The Amazing Spider-Man. It has only been 10 years since Sam Raimi’s superb big screen film on the web-slinger came out and 5 years since the painful 3rd installment. Perhaps a bit soon for a full-on remake. But the Hulk was remade after 5 years – albeit as a loosely related sequel rather than a complete remake. And we learned from The Incredible Hulk, adding an adjective – “Incredible,” “Amazing” – is not necessarily a sign of all the wonder that is to come. Continue reading