Tag Archives: Man of Steel

On Superhero Movies, Ben Affleck as Batman, and Book Editing!

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Hey, that’s my sword! Okay, Wolvie. You can borrow it.

Yes, I own the actual antique version of the historical reproduction sword used in The Wolverine. (In the script, Yukio claims the blade itself is hundreds of years old like the clan Yashida sword in the comics, but the repo is of a Japanese officer’s sword from World War 2.)

This probably surprises just about nobody who follows this blog, right?

I was planning on reviewing The Wolverine and Man of Steel separately and including a melange of spoilers and opinionated statements (kind of my thing), but my second job has kind of gotten the better of me lately. I have just under 100 pages of The Dream Box left to edit for TZPP, and my deadline is swiftly approaching. I also had to grade hundreds of papers over the last week for my gig as an English teacher. I’ve kind of had my head under a rock.

Then I heard the news. Ben Affleck is Batman.

This is exactly what I saw in my mind:

Batman and Robin

Holy MATT DAMON, Batman!!!

I even tweeted that Matt Damon was playing Robin, and everyone is so enraged about this casting decision that some people believed me. This was my first experience being a troll. I rather enjoyed it. Given the memes that are circulating around Google right now, I’m not the only one who thinks this is ridiculous.

Why do I think Affleck as Batman playing against Cavill as Superman is the worst casting decision in years? Let’s look at the two (good) superhero movies that came out this summer. And let’s begin with the physiques being presented to us, the audience, as superhuman:

The Wolverine

When Hugh Jackman first landed the part of Wolverine in the X-Men franchise, I was, frankly, pretty disappointed. Comic book nerds are some of the hardest people on the planet to please, and Wolverine is, by far, my favorite comic book hero. Jackman, first of all, wasn’t big enough for the role, which is why you almost always see him wearing three shirts in the X-flicks. (He obviously fixed this issue by taking on the Rock’s training regimen and diet for the new movie.) He also didn’t manage to get the whole berserker rage thing down until X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which I actually enjoyed because I don’t really care for either Gambit or Deadpool as characters, and I thought Liev Schreiber, despite lacking Tyler Mane’s physique, played a mean Sabretooth.

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But even here, the shot works because Jackman, who at this point is already huge, is wearing that coat… expect a lot of tricks like with with Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck.

Still, X-Men Origins: Wolverine suffered from being subject to the continuity of the other X-flicks, which were pretty far off from the comic books. The Wolverine, on the other hand, is relatively self-contained. True, Jean is dead, and Logan has to deal with that vis a vis his psychological issues that are reminiscent of Rick and Lori in Season Three of The Walking Dead, but other than that it’s a side story pulled from two of the best arcs in the Wolverine comic books: 1) Wolverine in Japan, which was written in the 80’s, and 2) Wolverine sans his healing factor after losing his adamantium in a death match with Magneto, which happened in the 90’s. While the second story arc is less prominent than the first and the first has been updated to exclude some Japanese stereotypes present in the source material (re: “The Hand”), many scenes and allusions throughout the film were straight out of the frames of those comic books.

I should know–I own them.

The scene that stood out the most to me is when Logan is shaving and cuts himself–and he’s surprised he doesn’t heal right away. I remember him explaining in the comics that this was when reality set in for him. His healing factor was “tuckered out, darlin'”. He was mortal, and everyone who ever wanted a piece of him was going to be gunning for him now. I also appreciated that in The Wolverine, Yukio had Lady Deathstrike-esque hair, which I took as an allusion to that other Japanese character of great importance who should have showed up in this movie but couldn’t because she died without back story or explanation in X-2. Viper, another of Wolverine’s ex-wives, was probably worked into the script as a substitute for Lady Deathstrike, and what they did with her character held water. Small additions like these reward loyal fans because we know the writers are taking the source material into consideration as opposed to arrogantly believing that–because they work in Hollywood–their ideas must therefore be superior to those of the folks at Marvel.

The Wolverine is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the finest entry in the X-Men movie franchise for this very reason. The Wolverine I know from the comics would return to the wilderness like an animal after suffering a great loss, befriend a bear, and avenge that animal just as he would a human being–whether the statement made by these actions is mainstream or popular or not. He would also throw Mariko’s cheating bastard of a fiance out the window of a skyscraper because he doesn’t like what the man has to say. And he would absolutely need to rip his own heart out (we’re in the meta-narrative now) before being able to get over Jean Grey, a metaphor that was not wasted on true fans and hopeless romantics like me.

I’d personally like to thank everyone involved with this movie because at 31, Wolvie is my hero again.

We could also discuss all the cool samurai action in this flick, including the flaming two-handed swords that looked like something out of Machine Knight, but I’m obviously biased. I’m the intended audience. I can’t say the same, however, for Man of Steel.

Now picture Affleck, at 41, standing next to Cavill, who's younger than me! And keep in mind it isn't the suit that makes Cavill look like that...

Now picture Affleck, at 41, standing next to Cavill, who’s younger than me! And keep in mind it isn’t the suit that makes Cavill look like that…

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Superman. I went to go see this movie because I saw an interview with Russell Crowe, who is one of favorite actors. Crowe explained how his part of Jor-El in the film somewhat parallels his relationship with Cavill, whom he mentored. Still, I was expecting the film to be a lot of flying around, theme music, and men in tights like the other disasters that weren’t much like the comics and–much like some of the earlier Batman flicks–didn’t seem intended to be taken seriously.

Then, I heard that Christopher Nolan had written the story for Man of Steel along with David Goyer, who is getting a bum rap from a couple of my nerd friends on Facebook (as we speak!). I went into Man of Steel with high expectations because I’m a huge fan of how Nolan brought depth, sympathy, and realism to the character of Batman. If anyone could make Superman less of a two-dimensional character, it was certainly Nolan.

I wasn’t disappointed. I hadn’t enjoyed anything having to do with Superman as much as Man of Steel since the Doomsday arc from the 90’s and the New Supermen arc that followed it. The movie focused more on the Superman’s origin story than Hollywood’s typical Clark Kent at the Daily Planet trying to drop game on Lois Lane, and I think for some people who didn’t grow up reading comics and apparently were never bullied as children, this formula failed to satisfy. I, on the other hand, cried when Clark saved the bully on the bus because doing it was right. I cried when Kevin Costner got sucked up by a tornado to keep Superman’s identity a secret. I cried when Superman was finally able to cut loose on another person for the first time after a lifetime of bottling abuse and injustice, of being the cursed and undervalued freak, because Zod, who killed his real father and now threatened the only family he had left, was finally a worthy opponent.

This is the movie you take your son and your father to go see. I went with my daughters and my mother, and the experience was still exceptionally rewarding, but I would argue that Man of Steel is the father-son film of the year.

Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe probably agree with me.

Now, when I think of Ben Affleck and superheroes, my brain doesn’t immediately go to Daredevil, although let’s take a look at Affleck in his prime, 10 years ago when that piece of crap came out:

Is it just me, or is that stick just about the size of his arm?

Is it just me, or is that stick just about the size of his arm even after they stuck him in a textured suit?

Okay, so he’s not quite as wimpy as Orlando Bloom (getting some hate mail from his fans lately, so I must be doing something right), but the difference between Affleck at his best and Jackman/Cavill should be obvious at a glance. Is Affleck going to go through the same kind of training Jackman (also in his 40’s) did to be The Wolverine? I’m not holding my breath on that one. Maybe he’ll bring excellent character acting to the role like Liev Schreiber did with Sabretooth, but I’m not holding my breath on that one either. When I think of Ben Affleck in a superhero context, I think of the Kevin Smith films, and quite specifically, Chasing Amy.

This is Ben Affleck--the co-creator of Bluntman and Chronic, a comic book running gag.

THIS is Ben Affleck–the co-creator of Bluntman and Chronic, a comic book running gag.

As a fan of everything involving Jay and Silent Bob with the exception of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (not Smith’s finest work), I can’t help but appreciate Ben Affleck in a comedic role that, for the most part, involves the comic book industry and fandom. It’s not that Ben Affleck is the worst actor out there, but he isn’t a character actor/method actor. Better thespians than he have tried to take up the cape and cowl, including Val Kilmer and George Clooney, who both failed miserably as Batman.

The one potential positive I do see is that Affleck might take the role more seriously than some of his predecessors due to his previous work with Kevin Smith and the “furor”, as Crow put it, following this casting announcement. But one thing is certain: following Christian Bale and starring opposite Henry Cavill, who seems to play Superman effortlessly, is going to be the biggest challenge of Affleck’s career. I personally like the guy, so I hope he rises to meet it like a proper Dark Knight.

Okay, it’s back to editing The Dream Box for me. For those of you who are new to the blog, The Dream Box is the first novel in a three book Cyberpunk series I’ve sold to the Zharmae Publishing Press that will be available in both print and electronic formats. The book is currently scheduled for release on Black Friday, and my editor (@daniellecromero), has been teasing me with the opportunity to peek at the first cover this week. I won’t be allowed to release the image, unfortunately, but stay tuned for more information as the marketing crew at TZPP makes it available to me.

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Filed under Education, Fantasy, My Writing, Publishing, Rants, Reading, Science Fiction, Writing

On Fitness (and Superman)

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As my students would say, time to get jacked…

About six months ago, I asked what I thought was a pretty legitimate question on my Facebook. “How do I get Tom Hardy’s traps?” I received a slew of responses from the gym rats and the military crowd, which was pretty kind in retrospect. After all, at the time I looked like this:

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Man, I wish you bastards would quit tagging me in these kinds of photos…

My weight has been Oprah-esque for most of my life. During my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I wrestled at 119. By the end of my senior year, I was about 210. Destroying my metabolism by fasting for wrestling and then eating Domino’s pizza like it was going out of style (it was!) after I quit the team probably had a lot to do why–at least for awhile.

Then there was a horrific car accident from which I was lucky to have walked away, and the resulting inactivity that came with rehab. Then there was Atkins, which worked until I decided that I like bread and beer. Then there was my brother, who put me on a fitness regimen that shocked me into shape for awhile. Then there was P90X, which was turning me into the kind of Dwarven warrior you’d see in Dragon Age, but wasn’t really doing much for my waistline. Then I went Vegan, which worked until I decided I like meat so much I would have killed a friggin’ mastodon with a spear and eaten it raw if it meant some real protein.

You get where this is going, right?

I even tried Hydroxycut. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you like heart palpitations and being really, really dehydrated.

These days, however, I look like this:

Dan Mirror

Yeah, it’s still me. You’d recognize those chipmunk cheeks anywhere, right?

So how did a teacher with almost no summer vacation pull this off in his spare time? Some crazy fad diet? Liposuction? Jenny Craig?

None of the above, kids. I eat pretty much whatever I want these days, within reason.

The truth is, I met Superman.

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Superman is a 48-year-old dude who works out at the local gym. He has the right physique, the right haircut, the right friggin’ jawline. He knows it too. He even has a gold chain with the “S” symbol.

Every time he’s in there, he’s doing some weird ass exercise no one has ever seen before. Last week, he had scaled the fitness equipment and was hanging from a harness he must have brought to the gym himself, from which he did the kind of crap you’d only see in a Rocky montage. I’ve also seen him, strangely enough, using the low impact equipment–the kind of stuff you’d see advertised at 3 AM on basic cable.

Okay, so I understand it’s more likely that this guy needs professional help than that he’s from Planet Krypton and absorbs energy from the yellow sun, but I’m not going to be the one to tell him.

The day came when I got up the courage to ask Supes what his secret is. Granted, I’d already lost about 20 lbs. by this point, but I was still in that frustrating phase where only I could really tell that anything was different. I was expecting one of two possible outcomes when I approached the Man of Steel: 1) complete and abject shunning or 2) a trip to the Fortress of Solitude for training as a proper superhero sidekick.

It didn’t really go either way.

Supes explained that he started building his body when he was 18 years old. His physique is nothing less than the culmination of 30 years of physical training. The cartilage in his knees are stripped from running, so he has to do cardio a bit differently than he did in his youth–hence the low impact equipment. And cardio, he admitted, is mostly what he does now because he’s in the maintenance phase.

Cardio, Supes explained, is the most important part of both body building and working out for overall fitness. You can have all the muscle mass in the world, but no one will be able to tell if you don’t “lean out” enough to have definition.

Heh. I thought that drinking protein shakes and lifting 3-4 times a week with some cardio mixed in would do the trick. I switched to running 4-5 times a week and lifting just twice, and my results got better.

But, you say, cardio for weight loss takes forever! I only burn 300 or so calories when I run! That’s like a soda and a bag of chips!

Not really. Looking at the calories you’ve burned on a treadmill is deceiving. Running regularly changes your whole metabolism. This week, I ate chipped beef on toast for breakfast instead of a protein bar (twice!), and I could care less. Pizza is back on the menu. I just don’t eat anything heavy around the time I’m planning to run because it screws up my workout. In fact, if you do cardio regularly, you’ll eat less naturally because you don’t want to feel like you’re wearing lead sneakers. The other thing you’ll do naturally is drink water, which none of us do enough as it is.

Superman taught me that there’s really no secret formula to this. You just have to make a real commitment, get in there, and do it. The rest becomes habit.

The other day, and this was day four of running for me, Superman saw me walking on the treadmill. He gave me this look like I was the puniest mortal that ever crawled the face of the earth and jumped on the machine beside me. I cranked the treadmill up to 7.5 mph and ran until my lungs shriveled like raisins. Hell, I might even have flown. I mean, I couldn’t let Supes down.

When I was done racing the Man of Steel and I felt like I was going to die (he, of course, didn’t break a sweat), I realized I’d only been at it for about 45 minutes, all told.

45 minutes a day, kids. Seriously. You can do anything for 45 minutes a day.

I still don’t have Tom Hardy’s traps, but I am getting there:

See, I'm a badass. Just ignore the finger painting in the background... -.-

See, I’m a mini-badass now. Just ignore those finger paintings in the background… -.-

Just remember, it’s not me that’s telling you to get off the couch and take care of yourself. It’s THIS guy:

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Yes, I’m totally stoked for Man of Steel. But that has nothing to do with the content of this blog post.  🙂

Stay tuned for my review of Zharmae’s Irony of Survival. It’s taking me awhile to get through the anthology, and I’m not rushing it because I’m really enjoying the stories. I haven’t read a bad one yet.

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