It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my review of Batman: Mask of the phantasm and apparently in that time I forgot that Warner Bros deal with these movies. It just boggles the mind that the same people that made the looney Tunes brought these epic stories to life.
The opening scene in which Manchester Black watches various news reports on TV is impressive because it quickly and simply introduces us to the main conflicts of the movie and in a fashion where the viewer doesn’t even realise it. Also if we’re talking about TV within a movie then I want to say that I really liked the Superman cartoon. It was adorable and frankly despite not liking cheesy superheroes (I couldn’t stand the old Batman show with Adam West) I really wish Superman would make more puns it’s a much better waste of time than all that neck snapping.
Lois isn’t awful but this is probably my least favourite interpretation of her character.
I didn’t think about it much till I watched The Flash (the TV series) where the good guys name most of the villains but names are important to these characters. Dr Phosphorus and Atomic Skull these are cool names for frightening bad guys. I think they’d be much less threatening if the media under protection of Superman and the Justice league gave them silly monikers like ‘The Mighty Butt’ to take away their edge. But then again that doesn’t really sell comics. Not to mention The Mighty Butt is presumably trademarked by some gay porn-star so I’d let that one slide.
Despite being pretty hardcore Atomic Skull doesn’t really feel like a threat for a man who can shatter a street apart with a shout. That’s the problem with superman though his only limitations are self made or tiny little green rocks.
Now as fights go the Atomic Skull was fairly low level but what it did was become a focal point for the issues raised throughout the movie. The straw that broke the camel’s back as it were. The fight is important because it shows the fine line that supes walks. How he’s always fighting to use that immense strength to do more than lock criminals away. It shows that he’s fighting always to avoid tearing his enemies apart because there’s a better way.
Let’s talk about Manchester Black for a second as foes go he’s simultaneously both very powerful and not quite powerful enough. I guess he’s all brain and no brawn. And I respect him a lot not many ‘superheroes’ can pull off a Union Jack as a logo. Well with the possible exception of the superhero I created in second year at school who was pretty much a British Captain America. Also while we’re on the subject of Manchester his team if a little ragtag are quite unique. We have The Hat as an alcoholic sorcerer who can pull a whole lot more out of his hat than a white rabbit, Coldcast a man with the power to emit destructive energy as powerful as a supernova, Menagerie is a super heroine with a symbiotic relationship with alien creatures which she can use for a variety of pursuits and the hots for superman (and pretty much every other man) and finally the telepathic and telekinetic Manchester Black who rounds off the superhero team without rules called The Elite.
Now I can understand their point Gotham and Metropolis and pretty much every other fictional city in comic books would be a much safer place if the villains were killed rather than just imprisoned in the frankly inefficient prison systems. But they stopped being heroes in my books as soon as the dumb snake lady (Menagerie) attacked or was even implied to have attacked a dog.
Now as I mentioned this movie is a crash course in the ethics of superheroes. Should superheroes kill. Would we want them to and should Superman? Several times throughout this movie we see Superman struggle with an opponent I mean this guy can break planets with a punch there should literally be no conflict. But of course he wouldn’t be relatable at all if he didn’t have conflicts even if they are internal.
Superman is the original superhero. The biggest….and the best. He’s just cool. So it’s adorable that Manchester and crew respect him. I mean not enough not to try and kill him but still. The team effort between Superman and The Elite was one of the better parts of the movie and unlike most of what superman does this was actually a challenge. The Elite are very powerful and they do kick ass but I like that their their biggest threat to Superman was that they questioned his morals and showed him that their way works and he might even be applauded for his actions.
I think the realest thing in the entire movie was this exchange:
Efrain Baxter – “What if the Elite come after you?”
Perry White – “Why would they do that to me? I’m American, we’re the good guys”
It shows first of all the the delusion that the western world is the moral centre of the planet and secondly the bias of the media.
Another exchange which is far too real is as follows:
Superman – “you can’t murder people and call yourselves heroes”
Manchester Black – “why not your government does it all the time?”
Overall the message is a bit pondering and heavy handed but I really get what it’s trying to say about oversight and the nature of heroes. Now Superman is a god among men, but his visit to Smallville show that despite all his incredible powers he draws his real strength from his roots. Plus I always love a little bit of Ma and Pa Kent time.
Superman has and always will represent the ideals of humanity after all he isn’t just a man he’s a super man and nowhere is it clearer than here. The movie makes a point of dealing with the belief the while we aren’t perfect we can be good. The important thing is that we try. Manchester Black might be right that he who has the power makes the rules but he seems to have forgotten that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Except in the case of Superman of course.
Overall I think this film earns a 7/10 for being entertaining, and making me think deeply about the meaning of heroes, and justifiable murder.
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