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Man of Steel: the Grumpy Fanboy review

15 Jun

Man of Steel is thrilling, audacious and sometimes even touching. But it’s too damn loud for its own good. 

Henry Cavill as Superman

Man of Steel is the re-telling of the origin of Superman by director Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen). It reboots the Superman franchise with a new hero played by the impeccably-cast Henry Cavill (The Tudors) and a grittier tone, possibly one that sets up a series leading to a Justice League movie. Man of Steel is filled with the impressive cinematography and special effects one would expect from a superhero-genre film.

That’s not to say Man of Steel isn’t without its tender moments. The flashback scenes between Clark and his foster parents Jonathan and Martha Kent (played by Kevin Costner and the eternally-beautiful Diane Lane) are genuinely touching. Cavill also convincingly portrays the tragically lonely but gentle alien trying to find his place in the world. But ultimately, this film suffers from being too imbalanced, toggling awkwardly between otherwise well performed character-development scenes and the obligatory action sequences of a ginormous summer blockbuster.

Despite its intense buildup, action and moving origin story (the scenes with the Kents were by far my favorite moments), I found myself looking at my watch midway through the film. Characters talked about their motivations rather than acting them out. Supporting cast members ate up large amounts of screen time without moving the story forward. And after seeing it for the third time, even watching an invulnerable Kryptonian being punched through entire office blocks gets old really fast.

Superman’s ability to fly, the feat that captivated audiences’ imaginations when the character debuted on the big screen in Richard Donner’s 1978 film, is relegated to motion blur and sonic booms. It’s hard to feel a sense of awe and majesty when Superman simply bends his knees and disappears from view in a split second.

This is a very loud movie. Its action sequences are bombastic to the point of distraction and feel unnecessarily extended. It’s as if either the studio or Snyder himself was under constant pressure to outdo last year’s superhero summer blockbuster Marvel’s the Avengers. (That film’s climactic action scene was also an alien invasion in the heart of a major city. Coincidence?) Man of Steel‘s response is simply bigger explosions, more buildings destroyed and people being killed on a disaster movie scale.

In the end, Man of Steel may be a credible addition to Superman lore but it is sadly unrewarding. The arrival of the world’s greatest superhero is no triumph when it happens amidst the deaths of tens of thousands. As the credits roll, you find yourself wanting more. Not more super-powered battle scenes but more character.

I really wanted to see more Clark. And much more heart.

End of Days

1 Dec

City of Heroes, the world’s first superhero-based MMO, shuts down for good today.

J

29 April 2007: the Justice Jabs assemble in Talos Island.

If you’ve never played a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, it may be hard to imagine what thousands of die-hard City of Heroes fans are going through. After eight years, a beloved world of custom characters, city-sized maps and online communities will be switching off its servers for good today.

MMO role playing games differ from any other form of entertainment because, unlike even story-driven single player video games, you spend thousands of hours inside the game’s virtual world. Try to imagine a favorite long-running television series, except rather than follow the story of the hero, you are the hero. You design your character from the ground up, choose how the character looks and how his abilities develop over time, explore more and more of the world through missions and play alongside other players just like yourself.

080427 Wolf Boy night patrol - crop

27 April 2008: Wolf Boy on patrol in Steel Canyon.

COH was a breakthrough on so many levels. At launch it was hailed as “a super powered gust of fresh air into an increasingly stale sword-and-sorcery MMO world” (Computer Gaming World). While most MMOs immersed you in fantasy settings, the COH world offered the familiar backdrop of a large, meticulously detailed and bustling city complete with traffic, skyscrapers, garbage-strewn alleyways and innocent citizens to rescue. And you had super-powers.

By design, the game captivated you instantly. A new character could jump into costume and battle villains within minutes, unlike other MMOs that required you to spend hours doing mundane tasks to scrounge up enough gold to buy yourself a sword. Its character design engine offered an unprecedented amount of customization, making it virtually impossible for you to encounter another character with a costume and character features identical to yours. COH was also the first to introduce the “sidekick” system, where you could pair with players several levels apart from your own. (You either moved up close to their level or they moved up to yours, making the formation of temporary teams so much easier.)

But, most of all, COH was a game that was lovingly nurtured by its developer team, constantly refreshing the content through 24 Issues (major game updates) over the past eight years that introduced new missions, characters, enemy and ally factions and maps. It was a game that constantly reinvented itself, giving players like myself reasons to keep coming back for more.

24 May 2004: SPEED (center) patrolling the streets of King’s Row while on one of his first team missions.

I have been playing City of Heroes since its launch in April 2004. Not only did I spend hours in the game’s character design engine, the frustrated comic book writer in me insisted that I conceptualize and write a back story for each new character I created. I would even take the time to chronicle (screen grab) memorable missions, some of which are displayed on this blog. (You can see more screen grabs here.) Eight years is a long time to build fond memories.

You never forget the first time your character hits Level 14 and earns a “travel” power. (You could choose from Flight, Super Jump, Super Speed or Teleportation.) I spent hours flying through the skies about Atlas Park, first swooping to the top of the Atlas statue globe, then looking down at the city from above the tallest building and finally flying alongside the Atlas Park blimp — close enough to hear its engines! Six months after launch, COH would introduce capes, which your character could earn by completing a special mission at level 20. Flying was never the same again. A few years later, the game would add the option to equip your character with fully animated wings.

26 June 2005: Queen Maleficent in flight.

In 2005, the Winter Lord attacked, freezing lakes and spawning random ice monsters all over Paragon City. But the best part was forming teams to take down the Winter Lord himself, which meant tons of XP!

Most of all, I will remember Sundays with the Justice Jabs. We formed an all-Controller super group (guild) with real life friends Nic, Angie, Stefan & Simon (players based in Singapore and Sydney). At the same time every Sunday we would chat over Skype and play through task forces (extended mission story arcs) and take down roaming monsters over several hours at a time.

Towards the end, my time in COH would taper off. Eight years is a long time for a game and there would be other shinier, more attractive gaming options. Sometimes, I would stay away from the game for up to 10 months at a time. But COH was the game I would always go back to. It was familiar surroundings, like returning to your home town. Like visiting an old friend.

In a few hours, it will all be over. No more Paragon City. No more Rogue Isles. No more Imperial City.

This post is dedicated to the developers of City of Heroes and its loyal player community. Thanks for the memories.

2012-12-01 01:11:25

30 November 2012: waiting for the End of the World. G0LDSTAR joins other players as they hold vigil at the steps of the Paragon City Hall.

Top 5 Most Improved Superhero Franchises

5 May

Can you imagine David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury? Yes, it really happened. Be happy Samuel L. Jackson replaced him for the Marvel movie francises.

Super hero franchises don’t always get it right the first time. A number of comic book franchises today flopped miserably in their first forays into television and film. Through some trial and error (Captain America with a plastic shield? A Batman suit with nipples?) , various comic-book movies and television shows have gotten their acts together and delivered incarnations that audiences have finally come to embrace.

See the full list published in Yahoo!

 

Here are clips from the Captain America TV movies:

 

Here’s a clip from that awful Justice League live action pilot:

 

And finally, here’s “The Hoff” as Nick Fury:

Join the Avengers!

14 Apr

SingTel allows you to create your personalized Avengers Priority Card

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Get your very own Avengers identity card that grants you access to special offers at retail partners right here in Singapore, including the SingTelShop.

This is for a limited time only so better sign up for one now! Only at SingTel’s Facebook page.

The Avengers opens in Singapore on 1 May 2012.

Amazing Spider-Man Trailer!

7 Feb

Okay, okayyy … all scepticism aside, this does look pretty cool.

Why the next Batman movie should be in CG animation

5 Nov

The time has come to make a full-CGI / motion capture Batman movie. To make it work, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill have to be in it. Batman: Arkham City proves that it would be all kinds of awesome. Who’s with me?

With the Christopher Nolan series of Batman movies coming to an end, the opportunity will arise again to reboot the Bat franchise on film. But does it really have to be live action?

My vote is for an CGI / Motion-capture Batman movie in the tradition of films like Beowulf and Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within. But to make this work, the film must feature the voice talents of two men who have brought these classic characters to life for almost two decades: Kevin Conroy as the Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker.

What? A “cartoon” Batman feature film? Here’s why the idea isn’t all that crazy:

First, Batman the Animated Series is regarded by many Batman fans as the best incarnation of the Dark Knight in any medium. Conroy and Hamill have been fan favorites ever since they first starred in the series in 1992. Since then, they have been brought back in a number of animation projects featuring Batman and the Joker, including Superman, Justice League, Batman Beyond and two direct-to-DVD feature films. They are also both marvelous actors, as this scene from one of the animated series shows.

Most recently Conroy and Hamill reprised their roles in the hit video games Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. The latter has already sold over 4.6 million units since its release on 18 October. (That’s about US$230 million in gross revenue after only two weeks, which puts it in the same league as any Hollywood blockbuster film.)

Finally, technology is now able to give us the dramatic performances we need to make this an excellent film. Both actors will not only be able to voice but to fully perform these characters. With CG, whether or not the actors resemble the characters in real life is no longer an issue, as the following clip from the making of Beowulf shows.

We’ve all seen how full CG characters — from Yoda to Gollum — can command emotional performances onscreen. I am very excited at the prospect of both Conroy and Hamill fully performing these iconic characters. Plus, the action should be spectacular. Take a look at this trailer for Arkham City.

If you would like to see this film made, please Like this page on Facebook and help spread the word!

New Batman: Arkham City trailer!

16 Mar

The trailer for the sequel to my favorite super-hero game of all time, Batman: Arkham Asylum, is out! This time the action leaves the confines of Arkham Island and now plays out in a city-sized map. At least, that’s what the folks behind Batman: Arkham City promise!

Not only was Arkham Asylum one of the best stealth / action games of all time, it was one of the best Batman incarnations of any medium. This Batman may be considered an extension of the one we saw in Batman The Animated Series and Justice League cartoons, complete with voice talents of Kevin Conroy as the Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker.

Can’t wait to get my hands on this sequel!

Batman: Arkham City will be released on 18 October 2011.

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights trailer

27 Feb

Take a look at the trailer for the upcoming DC Universe animated film, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. The format appears to be similar to Batman: Gotham Knight, in the sense that it’s made up of inter-connected stories following six “legendary” Green Lanterns. Fans will finally get to see (or at least hearNathan Fillion — a fan favorite for the lead in the upcoming Green Lantern live-action movie before Ryan Reynolds was awarded the role — play the role of Hal Jordan. Also joining the cast are Kelly Hu (X2), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter series).

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights will be out on DVD & BluRay on 7 June 2011, 10 days before the theatrical release of the Green Lantern feature film.

10 Future Scenarios Worse than a Sarah Palin Presidency

5 Nov

Does the prospect of Sarah Palin in the White House scare you? Comic books show us it could be much, much worse.

Following gains by the Republicans in the US House of Representatives during the recent mid-term elections, there is renewed speculation that Sarah Palin will emerge as the GOP’s presidential candidate in 2012. While there are many who are elated by this prospect, the possibility of a Palin presidency is causing concern both from within the Democratic Party and the GOP itself.

Relax, people! Let’s put this possible future into perspective. Those of us who have read comic books all our lives are no strangers to disastrous futures. Here’s a list of my favorite future scenarios … all of which are far worse than having a self-described “Mama Grizzly” as leader of the world’s most powerful nation:

10. The Kamandi future

Sometime in the future, most of the human race is wiped out in a calamity known only as the “Great Disaster”. Intelligent animals (who now walk upright like humans) become the dominant life forms, including gorilla, tiger, lion, rat and dog men. Humans regress into a more primitive state and are used mainly as slave labor by their animal masters.

This is the world of Kamandi, the last boy on Earth, first published in 1972 (DC Comics).

9. The Judge Dredd future


Following nuclear holocaust, mankind is forced to live in over-crowded “Mega-Cities” because what’s left of the US is an irradiated wasteland called the “Cursed Earth”. Crime is rampant and the cities are policed only by “Street Judges” (like the hero) who have the power to arrest, sentence and even execute those they deem criminals on the spot.

Judge Dredd first appeared in the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD in 1977.

8. Days of Future Past

A group of mutants assassinate a US Senator, prompting the government to activate the Sentinels, deadly giant robots, who then decide that the only way to eradicate the mutant threat is to take over the government. Thousands of mutants, super-powered humans and ordinary humans alike are slaughtered in the process. The survivors are herded into concentration camps.

We saw a glimpse of this future in “Days of Future Past”, X-Men #141-142, published in 1981 (Marvel Comics).

7. The Hellboy Apocalypse 

The elder gods known as the Ogdru Jahad invade the earth from their hellish dimension and sweep over the planet, killing everyone. Hellboy fulfills his role as the Anung Un Rama (the Beast of the Apocalypse), ushering in the End of the World.

Hellboy’s role in the Apocalypse was first foretold (though not actually played out) in the first miniseries Hellboy: Seed of Destruction in 1994 (Dark Horse Comics). We also got a glimpse of these scenes in the first Hellboy movie.

6. The Dark Knight Returns future

The Cold War never ends, criminal gangs run wild in the cities and the US government is a fascist state with Ronald Reagan as President. All super-hero activity has been declared illegal, except for a certain blue and red-clad Kryptonian who operates in secret on the orders of the government.

This future was seen through the eyes of an elderly Bruce Wayne, forced out of retirement in The Dark Knight Returns, published in 1986 (DC Comics).

5. The Kingdom Come future

Super-human activity reaches its apex. Battles between meta-humans spill out daily onto the streets of America’s cities, without heed to property damage or civilian casualties. The conflict erupts into full civil war, prompting the United Nations to order a nuclear bomb dropped on American soil.

These events were chronicled in the miniseries Kingdom Come, published in 1996 (DC Comics).

4. The Y: The Last Man future

A mysterious plague wipes out every living mammal possessing a Y chromosome — including embryos, fertilized eggs, and even sperm. The only survivors are a male New York resident and his pet monkey. The survivors (all women) must deal with what remains of the world, including humanity’s impending extinction.

This future was depicted in Y: The Last Man, published in 2002 (Vertigo / DC Comics).

3. The OMAC future


Sometime in the future, a catastrophe puts an end to civilization as we know it. Cities lie in ruin and zombie-like monsters roam the subways. The world is policed by the Global Peace Agency and its single super-human operative, code name: One Man Army Corps (OMAC).

OMAC: One Man Army Corps was first published in 1974 (DC Comics).

2. A Better World

Lex Luthor is elected President of the United States and then assassinated by none other than Superman. The Justice League then decides to take over the United States government, running the country as a police state. They then change their name to the Justice Lords.

This alternate future was shown in the two-part “A Better World” from the Justice League cartoon TV series in 2003.

1. The Old Man Logan future

In the not-too-distant future, the United States is taken over and divided between a number of super-villains, namely Doctor Doom, Magneto, the Red Skull and the Abomination. (The latter’s territory is then seized by the Hulk.) Most of the population, including the super-heroes, is dead and most of the US is now a barren wasteland.

We saw this future through the eyes of an elderly Logan (aka Wolverine) in the miniseries Wolverine: Old Man Logan, published in 2008 (Marvel Comics).


Grumpy Fanboy’s Top Legion of Super-Heroes On-screen Appearances

5 Sep

Toyfare #158 announced that DC Direct will soon be launching 12 new action figures from Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes. I’ve always had a soft spot for teenagers with super-powers – Captain Marvel, the Teen Titans, the X-Men – but I love the Legion most of all.

Since they first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), the Legion of Super-Heroes has rarely had more than cult-status success, never quite achieving the popularity levels of other comic book teams like the Justice League, the Avengers or the Fantastic Four.

So if you’re a long-time Legion fan like myself, you’ve waited breathlessly for any appearance of the Legion outside the pages of the comic books. Here’s a quick look at all their on-screen appearances so far:

“New Kids in Town”, Superman the Animated Series

Aired in 1998, Cosmic Boy, Chameleon Boy and Saturn Girl travel back in time and team with young Clark Kent. Although these three get the most air time, other Legionnaires make cameo appearances, too.

You get no more than a glimpse of the Legion but seeing these familiar characters for the first time in animation was a real treat. To my knowledge, this is the first time the Legion appeared in a story outside of the printed page.

“Far From Home”, Justice League Unlimited

Aired in 2006, Brainiac 5 and Bouncing Boy travel back in time and bring Supergirl, Green Arrow and Green Lantern to the 31st century to rescue the rest of the Legion from the Fatal Five. You also get to see Blok, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy and Wildfire in action. At the end of the episode, Supergirl decides to stay behind and fulfill her destiny as a full time Legionnaire.

Overall, a satisfying story though I wish it had focused on more of my favorite Legionnaires. (I mean, why Bouncing Boy???) I also particularly enjoyed the emphasis on  Kara, who appears in her more familiar blue & red outfit for the first time in the series.

Legion of Super-Heroes animated series

Aired in September 2006, the Legion with a core team of Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Superman and Timber Wolf were introduced with its own full series. Other Legionnaires such as Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Colossal Boy, Ferro Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, and Triplicate Girl would also appear in later episodes. The series lasted two seasons, the longest ever on-screen run of the LSH.

The extended exposure was terrific and the series even revisited familiar events in Legion lore, such as the death of Ferro Lad at the hands of the Sun-Eater. I did not like that Brainiac 5 was turned into a machine and that (again) Bouncing Boy was selected to be a central character. The introduction in the second season of Superman X, a clone of the original, to fight side-by-side with the original Superman was a strange choice. What were they thinking???

“Legion”, Smallville

Aired in January 2009, the Legion of Super-Heroes appeared in live action for the first time ever.  Reprising their first appearance in the comics, the original Legionnaires Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl travel back in time to rescue Clark from a time-displaced menace.

As much as I hate Smallville for its low production value, lousy acting and – most of all – its penchant for shitting all over DC Universe continuity, I couldn’t help but download this episode. Seeing the original three Legionnaires raise their flight rings and say “Long Live the Legion!” still makes this appearance worth seeing.

Check out my Youtube channel for more appearances of the Legion of Super-Heroes in my Virtual Action Figure Collection. LLL!