Justice League + Star Wars – Trailers Galore

Coming off Thanksgiving weekend and the multitude of trailers that were released, I am going to focus on two in particular and those would be the Justice League and Star Wars trailers.  In preparation for writing this post, I spent a solid half an hour of my morning routine watching and re-watching both trailers to have them both fresh in my memory. So let’s dive right in.

JUSTICE LEAGUE

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This Justice League trailer  showcased each of the Heroes in their own little spotlights. It also included some more spot on humour courtesy of Ezra Miller as Barry Allen. But the meat of the trailer comes from the showcasing of the invasion.

The trailer starts off with Lois looking out of the Kent farm and seeing Clark standing in the field looking towards the sun. He remarks about how the fact she has the ring on her finger means yes, but then Lois wakes up alone from her dream, in a world without Superman.  News is played in the background citing that terrorism and war are at an all time high and that the world is without hope now that Superman is gone.

As the voice over from Bruce begins talking about his nightmare (the Knightmare sequence from Batman V. Superman), we are shown close ups of the Parademons as well as an ancient battle in which a man is being turned into a Parademon. We also get to see some of the power the big bad Steppenwolf can toss down when he decimates what appears to be a scouting party of Amazons, with one strike of his weapon (hammer/axe) on the ground. We also get another shot of what I assume to be the opening battle between the forces of Apocalypse and the united armies of man, Atlantis, and the Amazons.  We are then shown snippets of each of the respective heroes, most notably Wonder Woman standing on a Statue of Lady Justice. Snippets of the final battle begin with intermingling dialogue from Bruce Wayne and inter-cut humour and jokes from Aquaman and Flash.  This movie does appear to bring the colour out of the darkness and is shown to be very rich in reds and oranges as colour tones. We get to see the Justice League doing battle with some Parademons and the Batmobile in action as it smashes through a blockade set up. The trailer also shows us shots of each member of the league failing to fight the enemies by themselves while the narration states ” Alone we are weak… Together we are strong”. The final scene is great bit of humour from Flash when the Bat signal is thrown in the air and helps to make this movie a lot lighter in tone than the previous entries in the DCEU.

WHAT THIS TRAILER TELLS US

As an avid comic fan, the story is pretty clear when you look at all the trailers and teasers that have been released.

An ancient battle took place on Earth in which the Amazons, Atlanteans, and Man had to unite against the dark forces of Apocalypse. The alliance was victorious and as such each race claimed a motherbox. The motherboxes were hidden without the other races knowing their locations. Steppenwolf is sent to Earth to find the motherboxes and activate them which will allow the Apocalyptan army to invade Earth.

Batman and Wonder Woman are trying to recruit other meta humans to fight for humanity should the need arise and to honour the sacrifice of Superman. Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg are thrust into this team up in order to save the world from destruction.

Regardless of what all the promotional work might say Superman will be showing up in this film. I don’t think he will appear until the final act, but I could be wrong. The fake cop-out of Superman’s death in Batman V. Superman was the biggest waste of time for any movie goer because there can’t be a Justice League without Superman, there just can’t.

 

Here is the trailer that was released on Saturday for those that haven’t seen it themselves yet.

Let’s move on to Star Wars!

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

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This trailer was a little more cryptic than that of the Justice League movie. While it still does showcase a lot of what the potential plot could be, it still leads quite a bit up to the imagination.

The trailer starts with an individual staring out some windows while water is running down them and we can see some sort of machinery in the background. We are shown different cuts of new footage like the Gorilla walkers for the first order and what looks to be Kylo Ren leading a large contingent of storm troopers into a cavern where the floor in made of volcanic looking rock with red highlights.  While all of these shots are appearing one right after the other we are told by Snoke that ” When I found you, I saw raw untamed power and beyond that something truly special”. It’s unclear who he is referring to but it is led to believe he is talking to Kylo Ren. We are then quickly transferred to Rey’s training at the hands of Luke, where he is amazed at her raw power (she is able to crack the rock upon which she is meditating by using the force). Luke quickly tells her that he has only seen power like that once before and it didn’t scare him then, but it does now. As he delivers this line we are shown what can only be Luke’s temple he was training the new generation of Jedi in up in flames as he collapses beside R2D2.

The trailer pans up to space battle and we are shown Kylo Ren’s personal fighter ship as he destroys the defenses on a Resistance Frigate and prepares to target the power core to blow the ship. He hesitates as his mother is on the ship. We see the Millenium Falcon in action evading some Tie fighters as Chewie performs his trademark Wookie call and one of the new creatures (pooko?) screams in surprise. Poe delivers a line of hope saying “they have the spark that will light the fire that can burn down the First Order”, and we see Finn in a First Order uniform battling Captain Phasma with one of the shock batons. We are shown more training by Luke while he says “This isn’t going to go the way you want it to”. The First Order and the Resistance do battle, and Snoke is shown to be torturing Rey while she is suspended in the air by the force. The trailer ends with Rey saying she needs someone to help her find her place in all of this and then we switch to a cut of Kylo Ren in what appears to be the same scene holding out his hand.

WHAT THIS TRAILER TELLS US

This trailer is a lot harder to read than the Justice League one, only for the fact that this story is 100% original whereas the Justice League Story was based of the New 52 Justice League Origin by Geoff Johns. It appears that Rey is deep in her training with Luke and Kylo Ren has recovered from his wounds he received during the Force Awakens. My guess is that story is going to take a left field turn. It would be a refreshing change of pace for the Star Wars universe and would bring a more realistic approach by making it less black and white and adding a few shades of grey into it.

My guess is that Kylo Ren is going to be unable to kill his mother and she will survive until the end of the movie when she will be killed by her ship being blown up in a space battle. It’s not a very fitting ending for Carrie Fischer but with her passing I don’t think they would disrespect her memory by having her face added digitally to a different actor’s body.  Luke and Rey are going to grow frustrated with each other because of Luke’s unwillingness to train her for fear of making another Kylo Ren.

Snoke is going to try and take Rey as his apprentice and induct her into the Knights of Ren. This is going to sever the tie between Snoke and Kylo and I think Kylo and Rey are going to forge their own path as Grey Jedi instead of the typical Sith and Jedi.

Poe and Finn are working heavily for the resistance and it looks like Finn is going to go undercover in an attempt to steal secrets/sabotage a base. He will obviously get found out by Phasma which will lead to the showdown with the stun baton and Poe having to rescue him, furthering the bromance.

Here is the new trailer for those that haven’t seen it.

 

All of this is obviously just speculation but I can’t help to hope that Star Wars might do something other than the typical good vs. bad for once.

 

Any comments leave them below! Otherwise see you next week!

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Defenders – The Marvel Team Up We All Needed

*This will be a spoiler free review of the Netflix series, The Defenders*

The first season of Marvel’s Netflix team up, The Defenders, released on Friday. Unlike with most of the other series I was unable to watch it all right away as I was catching up on my Game of Thrones and visiting a good friend. I started by watching the first 5 episodes on Sunday night and I can honestly say that I was blown away by how good the series is. I had a discussion with a good friend of mine, Malcolm, once we had both finished watching the season and we both agreed that Superhero media works best as a season of TV as opposed to big blockbuster films. When you strip away the massive green screen and the exorbitant CGI you are left with a story and characters that don’t really do anything. Let me explain…

 

Let’s take Avengers (2012) the first instance of massive team up for either major comic company in a live action big screen film, it was a great film but was it? I will be the first to tell you that Avengers is amazing and I love it to death but there are definitely some major problems with it. It focuses solely on 2 characters and their growth throughout the film and the rest are there to add diversity and change of pace. It’s not question about it that Loki, Iron Man, and Captain America are the focal points of that movie, even Coulson who’s murder unifies the Avengers is relegated to secondary or tertiary character and plot device. None of the characters grow as people or even as heroes, they do what they always have and that’s it. Age of Ultron is a different story altogether, but that’s for another time. The reason that this happens is not on the fault of the writers solely, it’s the fact that they only have so much time to work with. You can’t have massive character growth and everything else to keep the plot moving in a 2 hour movie. stretch that out over 10 or even 13 hour long episodes and you sure can. Marvel’s Netflix universe has used this idea and ran with it delivering amazing shows since Daredevil first aired in 2015.  Critics didn’t really like Iron Fist, but I have already talked about that in a previous post so I won’t repeat myself.  With that being said, back to the topic of this post, The Defenders.

 

Plot

The story from the season of Defenders is amazing, it works with all the characters and brings their specific traits and quirks into a perfectly melded series. The main story is a little Daredevil and Iron Fist heavy, but that’s understandable when you find out who the main villains are and what they want. Sigourney Weaver is particularly well cast as the main villain Alexandra, with Scott Glenn making an appearance as Stick. The supporting cast are amazing as well, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Claire Temple, Foggy, Karen Paige all make appearances and help to push the story forward.  One thing that I will say as a fan of comics is that I HATE when they mix and match story arcs just to fit. They did this a little bit at the end of the season but for everything else it was a small nit picky thing that really only irked me. The main story revolves around Sigourney Weaver’s character Alexandra and her crusade to bring the city of New York to it’s knees. With only the team of Defenders standing between her and the destruction of the city, the heroes must learn to trust each other before everything they know and love is destroyed.

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Camera Work/ Editing

One of the coolest things that I found when watching the series is that when all the heroes are together they use a standard shot and standard lighting, etc. When each hero ventures off onto their own side quest you get the shooting style of each individual show.  In the first episode when we are introduced to each character as they go about their lives, we are shown 4 distinct filming, editing, and musical styles. The Jessica Jones shots use a much more stark and blue hue to the shots she’s the focal point of along with the patented scene changes involving camera shutters, Luke Cage uses a much warmer and yellow filter to the shots and the trademark psychedelic/funk music played in the background grounds him with his staunch sense of right and wrong. Daredevil/ Matt Murdoch uses a very standard filter but makes sure to pop out the colour of red and black whenever possible, and Iron Fist uses a stark filter which focuses on yellow and green for their colour pops. I really liked the way they blended each individual show’s styles together and moved flawlessly between them. That aspect alone put it far above anything the MCU or even the DCEU has put out thus far.

 

Character Development

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The series starts off where all of the others have left off plus several months. Jessica is trying to blend into the background and not be made a celebrity or what happened with Killgrave. Luke is just being released from Seagate for time served and is coming back to New York. Danny and Colleen have been roaming the world trying to find the central HQ of the Hand and end them, and Matt has given up being Daredevil and focusing on doing pro-bono work. Each member of the team is fighting in their own right against their failings and sins of their past as they forge ahead together on a crusade to save the city. IN my opinion the one who does the most growth is Jessica. She goes from wanting to be a nobody in behind the scenes to accepting that she can be a hero and help people. Danny does a lot of growth himself not just as the Iron Fist but as a person in general. After his debacle of a return in his solo series he is starting to learn the corporate world and the power he wields as one of the most profitable CEOs in the world. There is one scene in particular where Danny flexes his corporate muscle and shows the viewers that he isn’t some naive kid anymore that he is learning to navigate the corporate world and play the Game of Companies (doesn’t have the same ring to it as Game of Thrones…). Most of the development that is shown in this series comes from the relatively lone heroes learning to trust each other and work together as a unit. Let me tell you, in the finale when they start working together and functioning as a singular unit they are unstoppable.

 

Costumes

There isn’t much to say about costumes for this series. The only person who gets a costume that’s different from the one in their solo series is Danny, and even then it’s more just clothing for the appropriate climate where we first find him at the start of the show. The Black Sky does get a pretty awesome suit that is a lot more comic accurate than anything else, but even then it’s not 100% accurate. Matt Murdoch, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones all wear their normal outfits and the Daredevil suit is the same one as in the finale of Season 2.

 

Choreography

The fight choreography impressed me very much. It blended all the styles from previous shows and there are several instances where puns and jokes are made by the team members based on what is going on. One particular instance is when Jessica remarks (after stopping a drone in the employ of the villain) “Am I the only one who doesn’t know karate?!”. The choreography that is displayed is very martial arts centric and focuses mostly on the fighting abilities of Daredevil and Iron Fist. It does seem to be a lot more brutal in the fact that there is less finesse to it than there was in Iron Fist, but the visceral and brutal fighting adds to the credence that these aren’t your typical superheroes that these are people of the streets. Danny also has greatly improved his fighting style and character since the end of Iron Fist. It was not done as a response to fan backlash but as general growth as a fighter and a person. Iron Fist aired roughly around the same time they were filming the final episode of Defenders so there really wasn’t time to address most of the critiques raised about the show. Danny has been fighting with Colleen against the hand for several months so it makes sense that his fighting style and character would progress naturally to the point he was at during the opening of the Defenders.

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Conclusion

The Defenders show is the culmination of the four character seasons that Netflix have released thus far and boy… does it show. They took the best parts of each show and blended them together into the perfect piece. The only gripe that I have against the show as a fan was that they combined comic arcs and made them mash together. I can’t tell you which comic arcs they mashed together without spoiling the finale so I won’t but just know it’s nothing major. The only other kind of issue I have is that it’s only 8 episodes. Every other season that marvel and Netflix have produced is 13 episodes and this one was cut to 8. I understand that the production value is higher with a show like this but come on, at least give us 10 episodes!

My feelings on the number of episodes aside I would highly recommend this show to anyone who is a fan of gritty grounded drama. The Marvel Netflix Universe has crafted itself a dark and visceral identity separate from the MCU and that is what give it the distinction it has. I would rate this series 91/100 and recommend that anyone who is a fan of the Netflix universe binge this immediately!

Top 10 DC Animated Movies

With the animated movies on Netflix growing every single day, I thought I should drop what I believe to be the top 10 DC animated movies of all time. I will confess that I haven’t seen all of them (a travesty in and itself I know), but I have seen the vast majority of them. You’re not going to find any Superman titles on this list frankly because I think he is a horrible hero, but his character is essential for the League if that makes any sense.

So let’s start this list off at #10!

#10 – Justice League Gods and Monsters

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Coming in at #10 is none other than Justice League: Gods and Monsters. Taking place in  an alternate universe this movie is a great change of pace from the classic heroes we’ve grown to love. The League is only composed of the three core members: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Batman is no longer Bruce Wayne but Kirk Langstrom (Man-bat in normal continuity), a college student who took an experimental serum and became a vampire. Superman is now not opposed to lethal force and is no longer the son of Jor-El but that of general Zod. Wonder Woman is not the princess of Themyscira and Greek Olympian but wife of Orion son of Darkseid. The three of them operate as a kill squad and have a reputation for maximum casualties. When scientists around the US start dying and the Justice League is framed, it’s up to the trinity to clear their names and find the culprits. The movie was created by Bruce Timm who is famous for Batman the Animated Series which is probably why I enjoyed this movie as much as I did.

 

#9 – Batman: Bad Blood

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Taking the #9 spot is none other than the most recent addition to the Batman arc of the DCAU Batman: Bad Blood. The reason that this story didn’t come in higher on the list is because it falls into the same problem many big blockbuster superhero films have, too many plot lines and villains. The main villains of the film is a squad of fairly (in my opinion) B and C list Rogues along with Talia Al’Ghul and the Heretic. The movie also introduces us to Batwoman, Batwing and a VERY brief time of Dick as Batman. When Batman is missing and presumed dead after an explosion at a warehouse where he saved Batwoman, Dick must take up the mantle of the Bat and find out what is going on in Gotham city. With Batwoman, and Batwing getting 10 minute introductions, and the Heretic being the main villain of the film none of their origins are fully explored and if you miss a couple lines of dialogue then the story falls apart.  That being said the final act of the film is great and the choreography is astounding as with all the entries on this list; the only issue is the convoluted and excessive number of plot lines.

 

#8 – The Dark Knight Returns Part I & II

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There is no secret why these movies are on the list, Batman V. Superman. The reason they are lower on the list than some might put them is the one off nature that they have. Yes, they were made of a comic book from the late 80’s and it was a direct to film adaptation, but they came out around the same time the first Avengers movie came out and DC Comics had launched headlong into the New 52. The story is great, an aging Bruce Wayne retired after the death of Jason Todd. A ruthless gang called the Mutants has taken over Gotham City, and begins to terrorize the people. Batman comes out of retirement which causes problems for some villains Two-Face and Joker. The drawing style is very iconic of Frank Miller and the animation team kept as close to the source material as possible. The first part concentrates on Batman’s battle to take out the Mutant gang and the introduction of Carrie Kelly to the title of Robin. The second part is centered around the use of Superman by the US government to end conflicts and to remove stubborn superheroes who refuse to retire. The final confrontation between Batman and Superman is iconic and was a major influence for the Batman V. Superman film by Zack Snyder.

 

#7 – The Batman Vs. Dracula

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This movie is not that well known, at least among comic fans that I know. I was a huge fan of The Batman series that aired on teletoon for 5 seasons. The villains were excellently drawn and it brought a newer younger inexperienced Batman to the front. Rino Romano did excellent as the voice of Bruce Wayne and Kevin Michael Richardson added a new darker voice to an already more animalistic Joker, the series also featured Adam West as Mayor Grange. The movie takes place after the fifth season of the show but without any of Batman’s supporting cast i.e. Batgirl or Robin. The movie focuses on a young woman being pursued by Penguin through a Cemetary who accidentally awakens Dracula. Dracula then hypnotizes Penguin and turns Joker before making an army of vampires to try and take over Gotham. One of the scenes that stands out is when Batman and Joker fight in a blood bank after Joker has been turned. In order to get away with the EXCESSIVE amounts of blood, they had the lights knocked out in the film. This allowed for a pale blue light to illuminate the fight having the blood appear as a black liquid; although it was very obvious what the substance was. The movie used the exact same animation style and choreography from the show and kept all the subtle nods that made the show great.

#6 – Justice League Vs. Teen Titans

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One of the newer additions to the DCAU is Justice League Vs. Teen Titans. The movie itself is pretty generic but what sets it apart from the rest is that chemistry that is shown between the Titans. This movie introduces us to a new version of the team consisting of: Starfire, Beast Boy, Blue Beetle, Raven, and Robin (Damian). Initially Damian is placed on the team to learn to work as part of team and during his first sparring match with Blue Beetle he is horribly burned. Raven uses her magic to heal him and the team begin to bond and trust each other. The Demon Lord Trigon uses his power to take over the League and forces the Titans to combat those that they idolize while trying to find a way to stop Trigon and save the League. As with all the newer additions to the DCAU the choreography  and animation is top notch and even the limited GCI is used well. The true heart of the film comes from the carnival scene where the Titans learn to bond and become friends. The Sequel Teen Titans: The Judas Contract was good, but it wasn’t as good as this one or the rest on the list.

#5 – Justice League Crisis on Two Earth

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Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is the second DC animated movie that I ever watched, the first being Batman Beyond the Return of the Joker. This movie solidified the DC multiverse and brought some of the greatest voice actors in to voice characters. Gina Torres delivers a stellar performance as Superwoman (evil Wonder Woman), but the standout role for me was James Woods as Owlman (evil Batman). The story is that on Earth-3 the roles are reversed, the heroes are the villains and the villains are the heroes. Earth-3 Lex Luthor steals a Quantum Trigger from the Crime Syndicate (Earth-3 evil Justice League) and  teleports to Earth-1 and requests to meet the Justice League. When the League discovers he is telling the truth they agree to help him and are teleported to Earth-3. the final confrontation comes between Batman and Owlman who have both travelled to Earth Prime (the center of all reality). In the ensuing fight Batman delivers one of the most chilling lines from any DC animated movie “You’re right, we both stared into the abyss… but when it stared back at us… you blinked”. Like I said before the voice acting on this film is spectacular and the story does a great job of introducing new viewers to the extended DC multiverse.

#4 – Justice League Doom

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Justice League Doom is based on the Tower of Babel story. In this story Ras Al’Ghul breaks into the Batcave and steals plans that Batman has prepared for taking down individual members of the Justice League should they become rogue. The plans are referred to as Agamemno contingencies (in case you are curious). In the film version it is Vandal Savage and a group of villains that become the Legion of Doom who steal the plans. Savage plans to direct a massive Solar Flare to the earth cooking “2/3 at most” of the planet and becoming tyrannical leader of the remaining 1/3. In order to do this he needs the Justice League incapacitated and recruits villains from a multitude of Rogues galleries to aid him in his fight. Some of the dialogue in this film is quite exemplary and several voice actors were perfectly cast (looking at Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan). The overall story and each individual members’ personal growth and acceptance of the plans makes for a very compelling movie that ends in what can only be termed as obvious. This movie definitely has replay value just like every movie on the list and the recording of some of the Agamemno Contingencies that are on Youtube is just amazing.

#3 – Batman V Robin

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I will be the first to admit that I really don’t like Damian as Robin. He is a pompous arrogant child who thinks that he is entitled the world because of who his parents are, and he needs to be taken down a peg (like they did in Batman Inc. #3). This story brings in one of the greatest Batman arcs since Knightfall and that would be the Court of Owls. This is the starting point of Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder’s run on Batman that also included Death of the Family and Endgame.  In this film Batman is pitted against the mysterious and legendary Court of Owls while he struggles to bond with his son. Damian believes that Bruce will never trust him and lashes out by frequently running off into the night on his own where he encounters Talon, the hitman for the Court of Owls. Batman must not only save his son from Talon, and his city from the clutches of the court; but he must also save his own mind from the assault of the Owls. This movie continues into the modern DCAU which is heavily influenced by the New 52 and features Jason O’Mara again in the titular role as Batman.

#2 – Flashpoint Paradox

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The Flashpoint Paradox is probably the best Justice League movie ever to have been made. The movie follows the comic of the same name which helped to restart the DC comic universe into the New 52. In this film Barry is taunted by Reverse Flash that no matter how fast he is, he can never save the one person who mattered. Barry then uses his powers to travel back in time and save his mom from being murdered, and in doing so creates an alternate timeline. One where everything is almost the same but slightly different, for example… Bruce Wayne was shot in the alley that night, and his father became Batman while his mother went insane and became the Joker. Barry must find a way to get his powers back, unite what heroes he can and stop the global extinction. While I am not a huge fan of the animation style of this film (the males look like HUGE V’s with all their muscles and thick necks) it does have an original quality to it. The dialogue amongst characters is top notch and it’s interesting to see just how if things had played out slightly different how much everything changes.  I have personally watched this movie over 10 times and I’m still entertained by it to this day.

#1 – Batman Under the Red Hood

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This movie right here, this is the best DCAU movie to ever have been made. I could spend an entire post talking just about this movie alone (and I might in the future). It’s no secret how much I like this movie just based on the number of times I have referenced it in the past on other posts. The movie follows the Death in the Family story line and continues with it. It opens with the murder of Jason Todd and ends with a confrontation that went down in history. A mysterious figure known as the Red Hood shows up in Gotham and starts taking over the drug trade, no matter what Batman does his adversary always seems to be one step ahead of him and knows his every move.  This movie features Jensen Ackles as the voice of Red Hood and Bruce Greenwood as the voice of Batman. Greenwood would later go on to continue voicing the Bat in the animated series Young Justice of which I am also a huge fan (and super excited for season 3). The choreography in this movie is astounding and it highlights one of the darkest times in Batman’s past making him appear even more human.

 

There you have it my top 10 animated DCAU movies of all time, agree or not it’s all relative ,but if you have any good comments post them below!

Most Underrated Heroes: Vol. 1 – Ghost Rider

I’ve decided to add a segment to my blog wherein once a month I will outline a hero that I believe to be woefully underrated by most people. These are my own personal opinions and don’t reflect on any of the companies in one way or another. I had to restrain myself from talking about Moon Knight first because it would more than likely become an angry rant at the Marvel Netflix universe for not including him (yet… I have hopes!).

The first hero that I have chosen to talk about is none other than the spirit of Vengeance himself, Ghost Rider.

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The first Ghost Rider in publication, not in Marvel history, is stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze. Blaze is arguably the best known Ghost Rider right behind Danny Ketch and now Robbie Reyes.  Blaze was portrayed by Nicholas Cage in the 2007 film titled Ghost Rider and in the 2012 sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I will be the first one to say those movies are terrible, absolutely horrible. But because of my love for ‘ol Flamehead, I watch them over and over again. Recently in Agents of SHIELD Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider appeared as an antagonist and then ally of the team. Let’s start off with a little bit of background on the character.

BACKGROUND

Blaze was a stunt motorcyclist with his father in the Quentin Carnival alongside Craig “Crash” Simpson. His mother walked out on his father when Johnny was young taking his two other siblings Danny and Barbara with her. Johnny’s father was killed in a stunt and he was adopted by Crash Simpson and his wife Mona. The Simpson’s fabricated a story as to help shield him the pain of coming from a broken family. Johnny and the Simpson’s daughter Roxanne grew close as kids and as they grew older their friendship turned to romance. The Simpson’s began their own stunt show of which Johnny was a part, when Johnny found out Crash had life threatening cancer he was devastated. Johnny turned to the occult in an effort to save Crash. One night Johnny recited a spell and summoned who he thought was the devil, really it was the arch demon Mephistocles (Mephisto). Johnny sold his soul to Mephisto in an effort to stop Crash dying of cancer. Crash awoke the next day cured of cancer, but he died performing in the stunt show a few days later. Johnny confronted Mephisto and declared that he had cheated him. Mephisto said he had stopped him dying of cancer, not dying any other way and thus the deal stood. Roxanne arrived in time to save Johnny’s soul by declaring her love for him which drove Mephisto away. Mephisto, out of rage of not being able to collect Blaze’s soul because of Roxanne’s love, bonded Johnny’s soul with the demon Zarathos making him the Ghost Rider. A leather clad being that controlled Hellfire to punish at Mephisto’s bidding, but due to the fact that he still retained his soul, Blaze would also help the innocent whenever he could.

POWERS & ABILITIES

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In addition to controlling Hellfire and being impervious to damage as Ghost Rider, Blaze also has the ability to control hell chains with his mind. He utilizes a shotgun imbued with Hell energy to fire mystic blasts at his foes that can incinerate instantly. He is strong enough to be able to fight toe to toe with Green Scar Hulk (World War Hulk), and uses the penance stare. The penance Stare is a Ghost Rider’s most powerful weapon. When using the penance stare the Ghost Rider can force you to feel the pain of all the hurt you caused to other and burn your soul inside your body. If you have dealt enough pain to others than the penance stare will fry your whole body from the inside out. There are very few people in the Marvel Universe that the penance stare doesn’t work on, those being Punisher, Deadpool, Venom and Mr. Hyde. Punisher doesn’t regret any of his kills, Deadpool’s biggest victim is himself, Venom is immune from the symbiote and Mr. Hyde is immune because of his transformation.  In addition to controlling hell chains with his mind Ghost Rider also keeps a length of chain which he can use as a whip or he ignites it on fire and can spin it fast enough to create a flame vortex.

FEATS

Ghost Rider has performed many great feats over his long career in publication. Due to the nature of the character they haven’t always been Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider, but for the most part they have been. One of the best feats he accomplished was during the World War hulk story arc.

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During World War Hulk the Green Goliath returned to Earth rather pissed after having been banished to a distant planet by the Illuminati. The Illuminati are a secret group of the greatest minds in the Marvel Universe (Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Charles Xavier, etc). The save the Earth from having to deal with another Hulk catastrophe the Illuminati tricked Bruce Banner onto a satellite and then launched him into deep space.  Hulk crash landed on the planet Sakaar and fought in the gladiatorial ring until he eventually was crowned king. He ventured back to Earth pissed off and ready to make the Illuminati pay for what they had done to him. Hulk had claimed a battleground in downtown New York where he waited for the group to show. Ghost Rider was hunting down pieces of Lucifer that he had inadvertently let loose from hell. He encountered the Hulk and they began to fight, a very destructive fight through the NY battleground. Hulk punched Ghost Rider through several buildings and dropped another one on top of him. Ghost Rider then grappled on hulks back and nearly choked him out with his hell chain. The fight ended in a stalemate when Ghost Rider attempted to use his penance stare and was shown that the Hulk was the victim and the Illuminati were the guilty ones.

In the early 90’s Fantastic Four cartoon there was an episode where Galactus attacked the earth. The Fantastic Four had tried everything they could to stop him but nothing was working. The Fantastic Four had run out of options and were trying to think of a plan to get rid of Galactus. In rides Ghost Rider, and tells the Fantastic Four that he will help. He rides up Galactus’ body and delivers the penance stare right to him. Galactus being a world eater, had consumed a lot of people and had a lot of guilt and pain stored up. This act was enough to banish Galactus at least for the time being while he healed from his wounds.

Circling back to why Ghost Rider ran into the Hulk in World War Hulk, he was in the process of hunting down and killing Lucifer.  Long story short is that Satan had trapped Ghost Rider in Hell (go figure!). Lucifer disguised himself as a worm helping Johnny to break the barrier between Hell and the normal world. When Johnny broke through Lucifer split into 666 pieces and fell to the Earth. Each piece took on a persona/possessed someone and began wreaking havoc.  Angels were dispatched to help Johnny but slowly one by one, Johnny killed all the pieces of Lucifer until only 1 remained. The trick was that with each piece Johnny killed the remaining pieces would get stronger. The two Angels that were sent to help Johnny ended up sacrificing themselves to provide Ghost Rider with the power he needed to destroy Lucifer and banish him back to hell.

REASONS HE IS UNDERRATED

There really is no definitive answer here besides the fact that he is a dark character. When people think of Marvel comics they think of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, X-Men, etc; all very colourful and for the most part family friendly characters. Ghost Rider isn’t a hero, he’s an anti-hero; one of those guys like Deadpool, and Punisher and Wolverine who are willing to kill to make sure their mission is accomplished. Not only that but once a Rider uses the penance stare there is no going back. it will inflict the maximum amount of damage to you that you deserve. There is no settings knob on the penance stare just like there is no setting knob on Ghost Rider’s morality. Ghost Rider like Punisher is very black and white, they both punish evil doers. Will they kill you for stealing a candy bar from a convenience store? absolutely not. Will they put the fear of God in you? absolutely.  The rider knows when it’s true evil like a serial killer or just minor evil like a vandal spray painting a building, and can adjust accordingly.

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Ghost Rider has a high kill count, not as high as say Deadpool or Wolverine, but he definitely is not a nice guy. Ghost Rider is very much a character aimed at an older audience. The humour and content of the Ghost rider comics tends to lean towards a mature audience and some of the content can be rather gruesome. In the family friendly MCU there really isn’t a place for someone like Ghost Rider. The Netflix universe however… that’s a whole different story, but in all fairness he wouldn’t be my first choice for that… my first choice would wear more white.

 

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Best Spider-Man film to date

*This article will contain some Easter Egg spoilers. You have been warned!!! *

If you’re like me, an avid Spider-Man fan, then you’ve probably been to see the latest installment to the MCU which is Spider-Man: Homecoming. I will flat out say that while the original 2000’s Sam Raimi films hold a very special place in my heart, this film is the best Spider-Man movie ever made.  They took Spider-Man back to his roots without forcing another origin story down our throats. Gone are the days of Peter Parker being a struggling photographer for the Daily Bugle. Back are the days of awkward teenage flirtation and social awkwardness we all experienced in high school. Tom Holland was amazing in his role as Peter Parker, he brought all the charisma and hilarity of his Civil War role into his full length role.

In addition to Tom Holland killing it at Peter Parker we were also given Michael Keaton in the role of Adrian Toomes aka. The Vulture. The story does a great job of maintaining the seriousness of a superhero flick without getting too over dramatic. In addition to the vulture there are several great nods and cameos of some other members of Spidey’s rogues gallery: The Tinkerer, Shocker and Prowler. One of my personal favourites was the inclusion of Mac Gargan into the MCU. Mac Gargan is the real name of the villain Scorpion who is one of Spider-Man’s most prominent foes. He hasn’t gotten his exo-suit yet and right now he just has a small role, but it’s obvious that this movie is meant to set up a larger Spider-Man universe.

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One of the best Easter Eggs from the movie comes from Donald Glover’s character, Aaron Davis. Fans of the Ultimate universe of Marvel comics will note who this character is and his significance to the story. Aaron Davis is the Prowler, a thief who likes to steal tech from major companies. In the ultimate universe he has a nephew, Miles Morales. Miles is bitten by the same spider that bit Peter all those years ago (Oscorp kept the spider for unclear reasons). While Miles gets roughly the same Power set as Peter he is also given the ability to camouflage himself and his clothing into his environment, his spider sense is weaker and only warns him of immediate danger as well as a “Venom Sting” in which he can paralyze anyone with just a touch. In the film Aaron actually goes as far as to say that he has a nephew in this neighbourhood which is why he will help.  This one scene gave so many people what they wanted which was the inclusion of Miles in the MCU, though now we will not be able to see fan favourite Donald Glover portray the character as he is far too old and he was cast as his uncle.

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One of my favourite Easter Eggs in the film comes when Peter is trying to track down some bad guys and disables the “training wheels protocol” Tony installed in his suit. When preparing to apprehend some bad guys the suit asks Peter if he would like to ” Instant lethal”. When the suit asks this the eyes turn red and narrow, and the placement of the shadows make the blue of his suit look red. This Easter Egg will be familiar for fans of the 90’s Clone Saga comic run. Kaine Parker, one of the clones made by the Jackal took on the moniker of Scarlet Spider, after the original Ben Reilly Scarlet Spider died. Kaine suffered from murderous tendencies and due to him being an imperfect clone he was supposed to die, but he didn’t. He healed and left New York moving down to Texas where he became the vigilante of Scarlet Spider with a precondition to lethal force.  Of all the Parker Clones that came out of that convoluted mess of a story arc, Kaine undergoes the biggest character development and is in my opinion the best one.

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Without giving any of the plot away I will say this, Michael Keaton played Adrian Toomes so well! there is a scene where he and Peter are i n a car and Toomes is laying down how things are going to play out and it is one of the best scenes of the entire MCU to date. Keaton has such a demanding presence in the film without being over dramatic. This might just be my personal opinion, but his time as Batman (however brief) provided him with a stoic ability to express his point without using many words. The Vulture suit is also just awesome. The studio moved away from a pair of bird winds on a green leotard and made him a rig which is basically a personal jet engine that straps to his back. They also gave him gripping claws for picking up large amounts of weight which is important to the plot of the movie.

The supporting cast of the film was stellar as well. Peter’s best friend Ned played by Jacob Batalon is one of the funniest characters in the MCU. This is coming from a guy who thinks both Deadpool and Rocket Raccoon are comedic gold and memorized most of their lines the first time I saw their respective movies. Batalon and Holland have a great chemistry that most actors try to emulate but few ever can. He is situationally funny as well as delivering some killer one liners throughout the film. I am very excited to see some more of him in the future installments of the Spider-Man stories as well as possibly a cameo or two in some upcoming Avengers movies. A shown in the trailer for the film Ned learns pretty early on that Peter is Spider-Man which leads to some great shenanigans on his part and some of the most hilarious grilling Peter could ever receive about his night time endeavours.

All in all the film ranks (for me) as one of the top 5 films in the MCU so far. It’s a great family film with some very serious undertone. I would rate this movie as a 9 out of 10 and recommend everyone goes to see it. It’s not just your typical good guy wins and everyone is happy story. It’s about Peter becoming the hero he wants to be and the hero others believe he can be. He has to find the balance to his life as Peter and his responsibility as Spider-Man. After all, we all know… with great power, comes great responsibility.

 

Marvel Knights – The Failed Productions

With the success of the MCU as a whole, it’s hard to forget that Marvel made some pretty left field choices when they were still a struggling company. From the selling of some of their most major characters ( X-Men to Fox, Spider-Man to Sony, Namor to Universal) they also tried some hit and miss productions, mostly miss.  Daredevil from 2003 was the beginning of the slump for Marvel which lasted until the release of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in 2011. Strangely enough this slump was also during some of their greatest success, which begs to ask… what caused the slump?

The slump was caused by an off shoot subsidiary production company of Marvel titled Marvel Knights. This production card appeared in only 2 marvel films to date Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Punisher: War Zone.  For obvious reasons (critical reception and failure) the Marvel Knights banner was scrapped and the darker heroes that they had focused on were moved to other forms of media. Punisher found success in the Netflix universe being a secondary character in season 2 of Daredevil and receiving his own show later this year, and Ghost Rider moved to Agents of SHIELD and was widely regarded as the best part of the series thus far.

For those unfamiliar with the Marvel Knights, it was actually the name given to the superhero team formed by Daredevil in order to take down and capture the Punisher. At the time of it’s printing the team consisted of: Daredevil, Black Widow, Dagger, Moon Knight (who acted as the Bank Roller for the team), Shang-Chi and Luke Cage. The run didn’t have it’s exclusive title (like Avengers or X-Force), rather each hero on the team had it’s own title with the sub imprint of Marvel Knights. That alone makes it very hard for collectors to get every issue as they never made it to graphic novel form with the exception of the Marvel Knights 2099.

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Let’s look at the two films produced under this banner to get a better idea of why it failed.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

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The first Ghost Rider was produced under the main Marvel studios banner and it wasn’t until they decided to give GR another shot that it was dropped under the Knights production banner. Where to start with why this movie failed… Let’s start with the obvious answer, Nic Cage. Nicholas Cage tends to be hit and miss with his movies (mostly always a miss) and this was no exception. His overacting and butchery of the character are second to only Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (in case you haven’t noticed I really don’t like that casting). The story also falls pretty flat on itself by trying to incorporate too much into the film all at once. Rather than focusing on the redemption of GR they brought in Danny Ketch (who takes over the mantle of GR when Johnny Blaze dies) as the son of “Satan” really Mephisto, but they call him Rourke in the movie? Not only that, but they brought in the whole fallen angel aspect to the Zarathos mythos as well as Blackout being a poor two bit villain that lasted all of 20 minutes. I will say this, apart from the weird idea to have him piss as a flamethrower? the CGI for Ghost Rider was pretty spot on. They did away with the horrible CGI skull and flames from the first movie and gave him a much more burned and charred look which I think works better for the character. He is supposed to be a fiery demon from hell after all. If he can melt metal with his hands it would make sense that his clothing gets a little charred when he changes. The scene where he takes control of the massive digger in the mine and turns it into a hell machine is also just badass no matter who you are. They also really brought in the fact that Ghost Rider is pretty much indestructible. He takes a javelin rocket right on and keeps coming, he swallows an entire magazine of bullets and then spits them back out and demolishes an entire crew, and those are just a couple of the badass things he can do. Regardless of how much I love the character, I can recognize that both Ghost Rider 1 & 2 are horrible movies, but I will continue to love them none the less.

Punicher: War Zone

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For anyone who saw the 2004 Punisher film starring John Travolta and Thomas Jane this movie felt like a knife to the back. In the 4 years it took between this one and the previous movie the production was plagued with problems. From script re-writes to the star (Thomas Jane) walking off the set and tearing his contract up 3 weeks into shooting, to directorial issue the movie was doomed to fail from the start. Once Jane had walked off the set the casting team scrambled to find someone who could replace him as Frank Castle, enter Ray Stevenson. Now for the record Stevenson did a great job with what he was given to work with. When the studio got a new actor to play Castle, they treated the entire production as a soft reboot and went back to the original comic roots for his origin. While I did like the updated massacre they used in the 2004 movie, the comic roots are still the best when trying to adapt any movie. The story alone was ridiculous at best and sometimes brought in outrageous elements just for shock value (Looney Bin Jim ripping out the orderly’s kidneys and eating them while he was still alive?). Dominic West was another actor who did well with what he was given. He played the main villain mob boss Billy Russo who later after a run in with Castle gets disfigured and takes on the moniker of Jigsaw. The supporting cast was great and offered some comic relief when sought. The main problem with this film was the stagnant plot until the last 20 minutes of the movie for the final assault. I will say that the final assault conducted by Castle is still one o the best action sequences I’ve seen in any comic book movie.  In addition to the stagnant plot and the gratuitous violence comes the gore. You can still make a badass movie without throwing in ridiculous amounts of gore, the 2004 movie is a prime example. The main problem for this movie’s success was all these factors combined gave it a solid R/18A rating making it impossible for most of the population to view it.

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So following the release of the Spirit of Vengeance, Marvel Studios scrapped the Knights banner and absorbed all that property to be used at a later date (see Netflix Marvel Universe). The one character from the Knights that I’m holding out on getting his own solo series is Moon Knight. As one of my all time favourite characters, his brutality and narrative would be at home in the Netflix universe and would compliment the other characters in that medium very well. I won’t hold my breathe though, Marvel doesn’t like to take risks when it comes to not so well known characters.

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Wonder Woman – What the DCEU Should Have Started With

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that this past week the third installment for the DCEU, Wonder Woman, was released in theatres. Wonder Woman stands as the first female led superhero movie to ever have been made, and boy did it knock it out of the park! The following will be a spoiler free review of the movie.

 

Background

The movie opens up to show Diana working at the Louvre and receiving the original copy of the photo from Batman V. Superman, along with a note from Bruce requesting the story behind the photo, cue a trip back in time.

Wonder Woman is an Amazon from the mythical Island of Themyscira which has been hidden away from the world for thousands of years. The Amazons were direct descendants from the Olympain Gods and made to guard the world of men. After they were enslaved by man their queen, Hippolyta, led them to freedom and they vanished onto their island. Depending on which continuity you follow, Wonder Woman was either sculpted from clay and struck by lightning from Zeus in the classic continuity, or in the New 52 she was birthed the old fashioned way with no knowledge of who her father is (she was still told the story about the clay and lightning). When an American pilot crashes on the island, Diana saves him and he urges the Amazons to rejoin the world. Diana leaves the island and goes with the pilot, Steve Trevor, to join the world of man. Shenanigans occur and she meets the other major DC heroes and becomes a founding member of the Justice League.

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Thoughts on the Movie

It was amazing. Honestly the film DC should have used to kick off their expanded universe instead of the abysmal assault of Batman V. Superman ( Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? Really?). That being said there are obviously going to be knit picky things that some die hard fans are going to find fault with, but this movie has very few of those. Patty Jenkins did an amazing job as director and the story keeps you on your toes for the whole film. One of the better aspects of the movie is that the colour really pops at you. I love Zack Snyder’s movies, but he has a very specific style with his colour selection that doesn’t work for lighter toned superheroes like Wonder Woman and Superman. If he had directed a Batman movie the way he had directed Watchmen, I think it would compare to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, but that’s just me personal opinion.

Patty Jenkins used her keen eye to blend humour, loss, action, and love seamlessly to illustrate just how awesome a superhero movie can be when done right. What makes this movie stand out from the rest is that it doesn’t follow the cookie cutter formula that most movies have fallen into. Marvel has become notorious for their cookie cutter origin movies and when asked about it, Kevin Feige had this to say “… we make these movies for the heroes not the villains, we’re all about hero growth rather than villain growth…”; I’m obviously paraphrasing, but the point is made regardless. When you go see a Marvel movie you get a great story but every other character that isn’t the main hero feels very under developed.  The supporting cast of Wonder Woman from Queen Hippolyta, General Antiope, Steve Trevor and General Ludendorff, are all developed even in the short screen time they get next to Diana.

The time frame that the movie is set in works really well for the character progression of Diana as well. Being set during WWI allowed for the characterization of Diana to expand more than it maybe could have had it been set in modern times. Keep in mind that Amazons were taught from a young age that they were created to safe guard the world of man and by placing this movie during the Great War aka The War to End All Wars, provided Diana with a concrete reason to leave the island. It also provides for some great interaction with Diana as she is continuously learning about man’s world as she leaves the island; from fashion, to social customs, and even ice cream, Jenkins takes you into the time frame and makes you feel like you are with Diana learning all of these things for the first time.

The supporting cast also really shine in their own right. Chris Pine does an excellent job as Steve Trevor and Robin Wright as General Antiope is just amazing. I don’t want to talk about the other characters because who they are and what they do is a big part of the plot of the movie and I said this would be spoiler free.

The villains. The villains were awesome. With the movie being set in WWI it obviously shows that the villains would be the Germans, because Germans are always the villains in any historical war movie right? That being said it also shows you a new take on why the war happened and what the driving forces are behind it. I will say this that the character of Dr. Poison I was not a big fan of and once you see the movie, you may agree with me or you may not as one of my best friends did (there was a heated debate and tempers flared but it’s all good now). Ludendorff is great as the typical villain but you can’t help but sympathize with him because of what he wants, which is what a lot of people wanted back then. The Third act of the film brings to heel all the themes of the movie and really hammers home the core aspect of the movie.

The overall theme of the movie is that mankind is easily corrupted, whether by each other or by other forces, mankind cannot exist without being in conflict. This is explored through the corruption and the dialogue from some of the side characters on the topic of the War. But the them Diana brings to the movie is that, while man might not deserve to be saved, they need to be saved. This theme is hammered into Diana’s core from the moment you first see her on screen. Diana truly believes that mankind can be good if given the chance and she will fight to ensure that they will get that chance, which helps to speak to her character as a person as well as a superhero. She never gives up, even when everyone is telling her she can’t do anything she finds a way to stand her ground and do what she thinks is right. During her scenes as Wonder Woman she has a magnetism about her that you haven’t really seen since Captain America first came to our screens. The magnetism that urges you to fight for them, that you want to fight for them because you know they’re doing right, it’s a compelling aspect of her persona and it is felt by numerous characters throughout the movie.

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The combat scenes in the movie were on point and had a fluidity that is rarely seen in such a grand scale. One of the coolest scenes comes almost directly in the middle of the movie when Diana decides she has had enough of being told to wait. The scene where she goes “over the top” as shown in the featured image of the article illustrates the point i mad earlier about her magnetism on the battlefield.  The scene immediately following that is the first time you hear her theme song from Batman V. Superman and it followed with the shots and choreography will make the hair on your neck stand on end.

Overall this movie was amazing, I would wager probably one of the best ever made, not just for DC but ever. My top (with interchangeability) are The Dark Knight, Avengers 1, and now Wonder Woman. If you haven’t seen it already or at least gotten your tickets to see it soon I would highly recommend you do it; Gal Gadot delivers a stunning performance as Diana and truly shows how she has embraced the character of Wonder Woman. This is the movie that DC should have released first. It would’ve set the tone for the DCEU on a much lighter note and shown just how awesome superheroes can really be.