Dark Justice

       4810718-7340774645-the-b_Arl6x9k I don’t read comic books; the drawings v. words are too visually distracting for me. The ones I hold tight in my file cabinet you’ve probably never heard of. But I love Batman. Adam West Batman. Super Friends Batman. Keaton, Clooney, Kilmer, Bale, I like them all. And yes, I had no problem with Affleck’s performance. Nine Batman films have raked in a combined profit of more than $2.2 Billion – no small change. I like Wonder Woman, and Spiderman, and don’t get me started on how much I love the Avengers.

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But I don’t like Superman. Never did. My favorite would be Super Friends Superman, and after that it’s Chris Reeve or nothing. Perhaps he’s too squeaky-clean – far more than Captain America, and too powerful. Krypton is one of the rarest gases, one part per million of our atmosphere. You would have to sift an awful lot of air to gain enough Krypton to affect him. Barring Lex Luthor, Superman is more or less invincible, and no one likes a prissy Lawful Good (this is the same problem fought in the X-Men series, Watchmen, and Captain America: Civil War). What good is a hero who has no faults and can’t be harmed?

51omO8G3K-L._AC_US160_Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – due on DVD July 16 – didn’t grab me from the start, but I went to see it because – well, Batman. If you haven’t seen the last reboot of the Superman franchise, Man of Steel, be prepared for confusion, for BvS takes up right where Man of Steel left off. Batman is mighty ticked at Superman for all the damage he wrought in lives and property, and takes it upon himself to curtail Superman in a surge of animosity that seems to come out of nowhere. Batman’s good for a simmering revenge, not a sudden “You need to be taken down, I don’t like you” petty vindictiveness. Batman, a mere mortal with cool toys, tries to take down a superbeing who cannot be stopped. Needless to say, it does not go well.

Batman v. Superman seems lost in its own purpose. It’s a fair Batman film, a wooden and flat Superman film (Spider-Man has more lines in Civil War than Superman did in BvS), and if Batman-V-Superman-Zack-Snyder-Trinitythere’s any shining hero here, it’s Wonder Woman. If anything, it’s merely a clunky prequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman movie. In fact, you probably could have cut the whole rivalry down to 30 minutes, then began the Wonder Woman movie, and had a much better film.

My biggest gripe with the film, writing and directing aside, is that Batman breaks character. Guns are not Batman’s forte. Batman does not carry them, Batman does not shoot them. Batman is about outsmarting the villain and bringing them TO justice, not carrying it out himself. Batman is the thinking man’s hero. Batman never even kills the Joker. But here’s  Batman, shooting and killing like Rambo. That was my breaking point. And it is quite established that Batman is well-versed in martial arts; Batman’s moves in BvS are poor at best; slow and unconvincing.

batman-vs-superman-dawn-of-justice-movieIf you hunt for it, there are enough good bits to make the film worthwhile; all the Wonder Woman scenes among them. It is certainly nowhere near the abysmal level of 1992’s Batman Returns, with Danny DeVito as a deformed demented Penguin – surely the lowpoint of his career. Forbes magazine nails the issues with the film quite nicely here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2016/05/09/captain-america-civil-war-shows-exactly-why-batman-v-superman-failed/#6dda5e6446bb.

If you really love the superhero genre, then by all means watch it. There are far worse superhero films out there – Green Lantern and Eric Bana/ Incredible Hulk (2003) come fast to mind. But if you really want to see superheroes eating their own and winning at it, wait for Captain America: Civil War.

Front Row Seating

“The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”     – Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2

Back in the 80’s, when we still had a Shakespeare Theater down in Stratford, CT, there was a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth that was put on for all the high schools to come and see. Of all the plays, Macbeth seemed like it would be the most interesting, with witches and murder and blood, and big velvety Elizabethan costumes. I was excited – anything for a field trip and a day out of class. Until we got there. Some idiot had decided the best way for 1,500 rowdy high school kids to understand Shakespeare was to imagine it, with a play that had no scenery and no costumes – the entire set was draped in billowing soft blue nylon fabric, like the green-screens of modern movie-making, and the actors all wore tight-fitting outfits of the same blue, as if they’d just escaped from some monochromatic ballet. That was it. It was a total disaster. The audience was so bored and riled you couldn’t hear the dialogue for the catcalls. That is NOT the way to introduce children to Shakespeare.

The good thing is, you don’t have to be a Shakespeare scholar to enjoy a good play. Whether you’ve had to suffer through drudging high school productions of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town or been dazzled on Broadway by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan performing Waiting for Godot, a play is not a bad thing. Perhaps your only exposure to waiting-for-godot-ian-mckellen-patrick-stewarttheater has been dragging yourself through Oedipus or Antigone in school, not caring a flying duck about the role of the Chorus in Greek tragedy, just glad you scraped by and passed the test. The real tragedy of teaching plays as literature is that they are meant to be performed, not just read in a monotone like a stumbling seventh-grader who has no idea how to pronounce 15th century British comedies, let alone understand them. When performed, they come alive, like listening to a good movie on the television from the next room over. Even my five year old, with occasional explanations, could follow the movie version of Romeo and Juliet.

drama-collection_FRONT_349x349-300x300So if you’re a theater lover, or just a student struggling to understand Ibsen, Cheshire Library is ready to help! Our newest precious addition is a 25-volume audiobook collection of 250 plays and dramatic adaptions by L.A. Theaterworks. You won’t just hear the play, you’ll feel it, as you were meant to. The plays aren’t just read to you, but fully performed by an all-star cast of more than 1,000 actors you are probably familiar with – George Clooney, Calista Flockhart, Dan Castellaneta, Mark Ruffalo, Richard Dreyfus, Jean Stapleton, John de Lancie (who also wrote one of the Doyle adaptions), and so many, many more. Leonard Nimoy performing War of the Worlds with fellow Star Trek actors? Yeah, that’s in there too. Neil Simon, Chekhov, O’Neill, Miller, Shakespeare, Sophocles – they’re all here, ready to keep you entertained for a solid year of performances. Listen to one or listen to them all – you’ll be glad you did.

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