Monday, June 28, 2010

CanadaQuest Continues!

For anyone who reads this blog and follows my Canada vlogs (all two of you :P ) here are the last few episodes.





And the piece de resistance...



Keep watching!

Weirdly Awesome Amnesia Zombie Dream

There must be something in the Canadian water.

For years, my good friend Parker's been regailing me of tales from his elaborate subconscious. His dreams are so incredibly elaborate and vivid that it would be a crime for me to try and do them justice. Ask him yourself.

Well, ever since I've hit these shores I've been getting very intense, life-like dreams almost every night. Last night was the wildest one, though.

It started with me waking up in my apartment-room bed and looking around. My bed was the same, but something was wrong. My desk was no longer there. In its place was another bed, with all my stuff (my laptop, hard drive, etc) on top. Who had performed this mystery-switch and what had I done to wake up in this strange however oddly familiar place?

Traipsing out of the room, I discovered that I was absolutely not in my apartment building however similar my bedroom may have appeared. I was in some sort of shared house shared between a bunch of stereotypically nerdy guys and a bevvy of buxom beauties. In spite of the ethereal trappings of my environment, the irony absolutely wasn't lost on me. However, much like real life, the nerds were quite happy to listen to my plight, while the babes were not.

So, with great haste, I packed up all my things (which conveniently disappeared after I put the bag on my back) and set out into the town.

Only one problem.

ZOMBIE INVASION.



We're not talking slow-moving, flesh-eating Romero zombies, we're talking fast-paced, talkative, intuitive, brain-thirsty Return of the Living Dead zombies. I was in deep shit. Valiantly staving off a horde of the foul undead beasts, I came to a pulsing, organic red orb that sort of looked like a spherical heart. I instinctively realised that this orb was what had caused the dead to rise. I throttled it until it burst, spewing foul-smelling blood everywhere. How and ever, while the zombie-creator was dead, the remaining zombies were not and were chanting "Brains! Brraaaainsss!" hungrily, behind me.
I made a run for it, but unlucky for me, I was heading straight toward an army of armed forces, who ended up accidentally shooting me in the head. Thus ended my life on this other plane of existence. Perhaps it was the best way to escape this post-apocalyptic warzone in which I had woken. I had died a hero's death. And after all, death is only the beginning of the next adventure.

Then I woke up unemployed, with a bitch of a hangover and watched a few episodes of "How I Met Your Mother". Real life is lame.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

More Obscure Superman Tie-In Comic Success!

...which is in the running for the weirdest-sounding post-title, ever.

Today, while job-hunting in the bustling city of Toronto, I poked my nose back into the comic book store where I found the aforementioned, legendary comic book adaptation of one of my favourite "movies that no one else likes" Superman IV. Sure enough, they had the guts of the entire (extremely hard-to-find because so few people actually care about it) series of Superboy: The Comic Book, the tie-in to the little-known Superboy live action show of the late eighties and early nineties. Each issue was of course, dirt cheap.

I recently acquired the whole series of the show as well, so hopefully in a few weeks, I can do a mass review of the series and the accompanying comic (at least the sixteen issues I managed to find).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CanadaQuest Part II: The Bombshell

We hit a rather sizeable snag, today I'm afraid.

(If you're reading this, Dad, you'd better sit down)...

...It turns out we neglected to prepare bank drafts for a whopping $940 that we owe our accomodators for 9am tomorrow. We hadn't really prepared to have to owe this much money so soon (a day into the trip) and this more or less cripples our budgets and any possibility of us being able to plan ahead in terms of our living costs (not to mention the repayments on the various loans we've all had to take out). We've got enough to get by for a little while, but we are now basically banking on getting jobs, and soon, and if that doesn't happen, it's Homeward Bound time...




We can do it.

In a world where I can coordinate an election in the midst of controversy and steer it clear in the direction of democracy away from students-who-aren't-actually-students... In a world where I can communicate with Cheb train conductors (without a word of English) in my native language of Irish... In a crazy world where I can find the near-mythical comics adaptation of the unedited, ultimate cut of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace...


FOR LESS THAN THE COST OF TESCO VALUE COLA...


...we can get jobs and survive the entirety of this trip into which we've so lengthily poured our collective hearts and souls.

Say a prayer for us.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

CANADAQUEST!: The Arrival

Feelers of Fury, I give to you this e-mail which I sent to my family:

"Dear Family,

I'm pleased to report that I arrived safe and sound at 9pm last night. Unfortunately, Parker and his friend weren't able to collect us because they thought our flight was arriving direct from Dublin earlier on in the day, but we got a Taxi and we were happy enough.

The place we're staying in is close to Chinatown; an area that fulfills all the Hollywood stereotypes of "dodgy and run-down". Broken down shops and ramshackled buildings are neatly located beside shiny, sparkling Hummers and Escalades that probably belong to drug dealers. To say the area doesn't have character would be a lie.

The rooms are quite nice, spacious and have all sorts of drawers and cabinets, so I doubt I'll ever run out of space. The only problem is the lack of hangers and bedclothes (not even a duvet). Last night's "sleep" wasn't the best, in that regard. The back wall is very wide and very grey and utterly unpainted. Adds a sort of rough, loft-like bravado to the place. Our rooms are all beside each other, downstairs from our apartment kitchen. Curiously enough, there's another room beside the kitchen in the upstairs section, belonging to an individual who has not checked-in yet. The individual's name? See for yourself.

There are loads of free classified freesheets advertising jobs
, so we're looking through them as best we can. The only trouble is that a lot of them are taken up by ads for training courses, etc that aren't much use to us. Nothing much in them in the way of waitering jobs, so we'll probably just have to hunt those places down.

Right now, we're getting ready to head to a USIT Orientation Meeting, and of course The Odd Couple have started arguing already because Diarmuid is insistent that we stay and enjoy some sort of soccer competition that is taking place and that we are cultural philistines and that he can't believe us, blah, blah, blah. Dónal's just eager to get to work, methinks! Personally, I think it might be better if we take this day to relax, given how exhausted we all are and the USIT Swap Centre is 5kms away.

My phone's not set up properly yet, so I haven't been able to use it to call anyone, but I'll let you know when I can.

My very best wishes to one and all,

Rob"

BONUS FEATURE:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bonus Round!: Why I Don't Like Batman Returns (a movie that everyone else likes)

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As an extra special sequel to yesterday's cracking post, I decided to outline why it is that Tim Burton's sequel to his 1989 Batman movie (one of my favourite films of all time and something I have watched upwards of seventy or eighty times) only serves to annoy the bejesus out of me. I was originally just going to post this as part of yesterday's article, but seeing as how I have a LOT to say, I figured I'd give it its own existence.

First of all, I should give you a bit of background on my relationship with this film. I first saw it when I was very young (in and around five years old) when my Dad very thoughtfully saw fit to tape it for me because he knew how much I liked Batman (at that point I was watching the animated series or the Adam West repeats at least once a day and Batman Forever had just been released and had taken over my life). Unfortunately, the taping was about ten mintues into the film and the very first frame of the film I saw, was the Penguin brandishing a bloody, dismembered hand at Christopher Walken's character.

So...yeah. Even from an early age, it was pretty obvious to me that this was a pretty sick film.

To be fair though, I did love this film as a child and it never really actually scared me (which was one of the biggest complaints parents had about it when it was first released); especially considering how much the 1989 film did when I eventually saw that a year or two later.

Over the years, it was the Batman film that was shown on television the most, for some reason. Maybe it's because it's the most "user-friendly" of the Batman films, maybe it's because (for a while at least) it was the darkest and the least childish of the Batman films (at least from a superficial point of view) or maybe because it's just a typical Tim Burton film. It used to be shown on Sky One a lot, especially during (of all things) World Cup time, where they'd show what they described as "manly action films" when there wasn't any matches on.

Personally though, having rewatched it a lot over the past few years, I've really grown to hate it. First and foremost, the main problem with this film is that Batman is not the main character in it. He makes practically no growth in the film, whatsoever and really only exists as an observer and a right-wing, straight-laced antagonist for the schemes and plots of the other characters in the film (Catwoman, Penguin and Christopher Walken's Max Schreck). Even worse, Batman kills a bunch of people in this film. To be fair, he killed people in the last film (the Batmobile machine-gunned two guards, Batman fought a black guy to the death after nearly being killed by him and he kind of killed the Joker at the end), but those killings were nothing compared to what he got up to in this film:



I mean, that entire sequence is played for laughs and is never even mentioned again. One of the main aspects of interest where Batman's character is concerned (at least in the comics and the animated series) is that he does not kill. When you so casually disregard and aspect like that, you're really holding your middle-finger up to the fans.

Anyway, the whole "Batman killing" thing has been discussed to death on other forums. The other problem I have with this film is the production design. The film lacks the grand scope the first one (and the later ones) had. Instead of the chaotic, dystopian urban Hell that Anton Furst created for the first film, all we are treated to is a cramped, miniature suburban village. I might be able to accept this sort of look for a TV show, but this is a blockbuster film. Gotham City needs to look vast and incomparably massive (*cough* The Dark Knight *cough*).

The film's third act sees Batman (aboard his made-to-sell-toys "Bat-Ski-Boat") de-activate a bunch of penguins with rockets on their backs. Yep. That's the plot of this film. The movie is also severely lacking in actual action. The first film wasn't great in this regard, but it definitely had its moments and at least showed Batman moving around a lot more. When Batman is seen in this sequel, he is relegated to walking stiffly around and occasionally throwing a gadget or an awkward punch or karate kick. It's really uncomfortable to look at and only furthers the obviousness of how awful that suit must have been for Michael Keaton to wear (which is strange because the suit in this film looks a lot lighter and less cumbersome than it did in the last film). The only really cool action scenes in this film involve the Batmobile and the various things it can do.




When discussing Batman Returns, you have to talk about the villains. I still can't really make my mind up about them, to be perfectly honest. Both Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer do a fantastic job as far as acting is concerned (and they are given an awful lot to do), but Tim Burton's choices to portray the Penguin and Catwoman as weird, gothic almost vampiric villains always leaves me scratching my head. I guess he felt there wasn't much else he could do other than to completely revamp them. Also, I really, really don't get how people find/found Catwoman so hot in this film. I find her completely repulsive and quite sickening to look at, throughout and is absolutely the last femme fatale in cinema I would ever fantasise about (I take that back, as Helena Bonham Carter's played some mingers in her time as well. Who's she married to again?).

The villains pretty much epitomise what's wrong with this film. It's not a "Batman" film. It's a Batman-flavoured Tim Burton film. Part of the negotiations that took place to convince him to make the film involved giving him more creative control. The producers even suggested that the film be "A Tim Burton film as opposed to a Batman film". Fail.

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There are some things I do like about this film, though. Christopher Walken as Max Schreck is awesome in a cheesy way. He's basically playing generic-villain-played-by-Christopher-Walken and has his usual array of imitable lines. Pretty much any time he says "Power Plant!" is awesome and warrants an impression by someone watching the film. Probably my favourite line in the film is "Bruce Wayne...what are you doing dressed up like Batman?".

Danny Elfman's musical score is also top-notch in this film and he really does a great job of continuing the Batman themes he established in the first film. At times they're a little bit more overblown and cartoonish in this film, but they're never too over-the-top. I particularly love the opening credits, which is probably the most powerful opening credits to a Batman film (even if the camera is on the damn Penguin for the whole thing and not Batman!)

Also, on a superficial level, while Batman isn't given much to do in this film in the way of action, he still does some pretty damn cool things when he does show up (which isn't very often). It can be argued that this film portrays the "hyper-competent know-it-all" Batman the most. In his few short appearances, we see him jamming Penguin's speech with his superior DJ skills (don't ask, it's just cool), transform the Batmobile into a Bat-missile, blow a fat guy up (see above) and use the Batmobile's exhaust to set fire to an arsonist. Badass. The batcave and its various entrances are also explored in greater detail and I always get a kick out of watching Batman use an ancient Samurai casket as an emergency hatch into the batcave. That shit is real.

Also, there are a bunch of really definitive shots of Batman like this one:

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So, even though I consider this to be the second-to-worst Batman film, I should stress that Batman at least looks cool in it. Which is something that cannot be said about the worst Batman film which came five years later:

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So in conclusion, I'm not a fan. I guess I understand why people are, especially Tim Burton fans; but my allegiance is to the Dark Knight first and wacky filmmakers a very distant fifth. I'd never go as far as to say that I "hate" the film, but it really is a chore to watch, compared to the first and third of the original Batman movie series.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

5 Comic Book Movies I Like (that nobody else does)

Ah, comic book movies.

In the short space of thirty years, it has become one of the most talked-about and profitable cinematic genres, with both Oscar-Winning masterpieces and thundering shit-storms of awfulness owing to its formula. Sadly, the die-hard fans of these films are usually of the mind that there is no middle-ground. Comic-book movies are either the greatest or worst films ever made. What's even worse is that over time, people's opinions of films change as a result of superior or inferior sequels. This chart more or less defines how these movies are looked at.

Anyway, there are a number of these movies that I find to be unfairly ridiculed. They have a heart, soul and message in them that survives an otherwise misguided direction. On the other hand, there's a number of them that are absolutely fairly ridiculed, but like the kid who can't stop looking at the dead bird, there's something I still really like about them. I felt it necessary to discuss them a little bit and how I'm able to look past their flaws and enjoy them. Also, y'know, I just like making lists of junk.

So here we go.

5. Spider-Man 3

By the time ol' Petey's third film rolled around, I'll admit I was getting a little bit bored with this particular franchise. Having rewatched the first two films in the run up to this new one, I realised that they really were a bit too mopey. There were too many times when I just couldn't identify at all with Peter and got angry with him for not growing a pair (which he absolutely did in the comics, about thirty or forty years ago). After two films, Tobey Maguire's performance of Peter was still the same dreary, doughey-eyed skulk he was in the opening scene of the first movie. He hadn't made any of the character development his comic-book counterpart had made, from a timid, whiney weakling into a strong and confident man who would always look on the positive side of things, even if his life stank up the joint. 

I'm not arguing that Spider-Man 3 had some sort of supremely subtle, intelligent character development and that its critics are horribly wrong, but Peter did at least grow some balls, even if he also grew a greasy emo-fringe so black it would make Mr. T cry.

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The scene where he lays the smackdown on Harry Osborn after a whole film-and-a-half of Ozzy swearing revenge on Spider-Man for murdering his father (which Spidey didn't actually do) was very satisfying. Maguire really put into words the frustration I had with that whole sub-plot. While watching the second film, throughout, I kept thinking "Couldn't Spider-Man just sit down and tell Osborn that he didn't kill his father instead of tip-toeing around the whole thing? Even if he didn't believe him, it would at least be a better than just letting him continuously plot his revenge."

On the subject of Harry Osborn, it is the performance of James Franco as Peter's maddened best friend that absolutely saves this film. Franco is one of my favourite under-utilised actors and he steals a very busy show in this film. Check out this scene after Harry exacts his Shakespearean love-triangle-revenge-plot on Peter:



Bitches leave.

That last wink is so James Dean, I could cry. (unsurprisingly, Franco played Dean in a very decent TV movie biopic). Probably the biggest problem I have with the film is how they turned him into a quippy, buddy-cop sidekick for the finale. There's nothing wrong with redeeming him, but they completely and utterly castrated the character, removing all of the darkness they had built up over the course of the three movies.

As for the rest of the film, it certainly is a mess and is justifiably hated for being so. There is absolutely no need for Sandman in the film and the only real benefit to his inclusion in the film is that we have a scene in the climax where Spider-Man battles a giant sand-monster and gets to pose in front of the American flag beforehand, in a delightfully cheesy bit. Venom is entertaining enough and Topher Grace does the best with what he was given, but again the character has been completely neutered from the complicated schizophrenic, symbiotic creature of the comics to a 2-dimensional muscle villain.


4. Fantastic Four

In all honesty, the only reason I put this one here and not at number 5 is because I thought it would be funny to put Fantastic Four in Fourth Place. Heh. [/fail]

Anyway, the reason I have this in the list is because for the life of me I can't really understand why people hate this film so much. Fantastic Four only really works as a fun-filled family comedy in the comics, anyway and that's exactly what this film is. It sacrifices all of the grit and grim darkness of modern day comic book movies for 100 minutes or so of silly fun.

Also, my deepest darkest secret is that I secretly love this film's version of Doctor Doom. Dr. Doom in the comics is a dictator with no real set shtick, so he's just sort of the jack-of-all-trades master villain of the Marvel Universe. Unlike Magneto, he doesn't really stand for anything, he's just evil for the sake of it. They put all this effort into portraying him as the master villain, when really he's just a goofy joke. I just...don't get it. Therefore, I far preferred his movie incarnation, where he's completely self-aware, campy image-oriented. You can never go wrong with a villain that has electricity-powers, either. Plus, Julian McMahon is a badass in the long-standing tradition of Australian Badasses.

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3. Superman IV

Ah, Superman IV. Next to Batman & Robin as the most reviled of all comic book movies, this film is one of the great train wrecks of superhero cinema. And as co-scribe Mark Rosenthal even says in the movie's DVD commentary, it's evident from the very first second of the opening credits (which look a bit like something you might be able to make with an older version of Windows Movie Maker) that something is terribly wrong. The movie was infamously made on a budget of whatever loose change they could find in the pants Richard Pryor left on the set of Superman III before running off in a drug-inspired streak. The special effects are exclusively awful and there are large sections of the films that don't really make any sense, because of the producers' cataclysmically stupid idea to trim (read: rape) the movie's running time from two hours to a mere 90 minutes. Some of these deleted scenes survived onto the recent special edition DVD release, but they're rough and incompleted and there's still enough of them missing that the film wouldn't make any sense if you put them back in.

But do you know what? I like it. There are a number of films why I still dig this film in spite of its massive obstacles. First and foremost is Christopher Reeve. Even though the film as a whole is pretty terrible, it gives a Christopher Reeve plenty to do in the way of acting. Superman is faced with a very real dilemma in this film and the pressure he suffers having to deal with the disappointment of millions is evident on Reeve's chiselled face, in a few key scenes. One of Reeve's best scenes in any of the films is the scene where Superman announces to the U.N. summit that he will rid the planet of all nuclear weapons. There's just such a sense of cheer and wonderment in that scene (even if it was filmed in a convention centre and not the actual U.N.) that it's impossible not to like it. A similar scene is that where Superman restores Lois Lane's memories of his secret identity and they share a touching scene together where she restores his confidence, before he is forced to erase them again. Throughout the film though, it is apparent that she still remembers everything, albeit on a subconscious level.

The second thing that saves this film and makes it actually entertaining is the legendary Gene Hackman's reprise of his role as Lex Luthor. Unlike the previous films, Luthor didn't have his duo of sidekicks; the hilariously retarded Otis or the busty Miss Tessmacher. In this film he only had his similarly bumbling nephew Lenny (played by Jon Cryer - an obvious attempt by the producers to cash-in on the popularity of Pretty in Pink) and this character's role in the film was wisely toned down in comparison to his predecessors'. This meant that finally, Hackman never featured in a scene that was stolen from him. Luthor in this film is truly, devilishly menacing and utterly hilarious in a darkly comic way. Hackman's performance suffers a lot from the sheer amount of scenes he featured in that were ultimately deleted from the film. Some of the deleted Luthorisms are worth the price of the DVD alone (tragically, none of them exist on YouTube).

Probably my favourite bit in the whole film is where Luthor explains to Superman how for the first time in his life, he had found himself without a truly devious plot other than to kill Superman. He says it so matter-of-factly and with such relish, there's nothing about him that isn't awesome.

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Also, I like Nuclear Man. I think his suit is actually kind of cool (mega 80s) and makes him look like an evil Superman. As a kid, I thought he was the coolest villain of any of the Superman films. That's all I have to say about that. Sue me.

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2. X-Men Origins: Wolverine



Like Superman IV, I know that this film is quite bad (maybe even terrible) and it certainly craps all over a bunch of really great comic stories involving Wolvie's classic origin. There was never really going to be any way to squeeze all of those great stories into one movie though, and on paper, this flick does a decent enough job of it (especially in the first ten minutes or so).

What stops this movie from being the popular definition of "good" is the sheer wealth of "What-the-fuck-did-that-seriously-just-happen?" moments in it. Like Spider-Man 3, the main reason for this is the studio listening to the idiot fanboys and shoving characters (like Gambit) into the film unneccessarily so that they can show them off in a snazzy trailer, ensuring a money-making opening day.

But...seriously...this. I want to know who thought that was a good idea. So I can put my hand on his shoulder and pity him.

So why do I like this movie?

Well, that's just about the easiest question I've had to answer all day.

This:

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This:

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And of COURSE this:

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In short: The reason why I like this film is because Hugh Jackman is so completely awesome in it. I'll admit it with my hands in the air: I'm gay for Hugh Jackman in this film. Throughout the film, he radiates sheer, animalistic, testosterone-charged badassery in a way that hasn't been seen since Stallone in Rambo II. The veins pulsing in his biceps are bigger than my entire arms (I actually joined a gym shortly after this film was released as a result of this). His beard is sharper than a knife. And seriously guys...that hairstyle. I badly need my hair to be like that.  Finally they got Wolverine's hair right, so that it doesn't look like he's some kind of Bart Simpson-inspired Village People enthusiast, like it did in the other films. I can't express how awesome Hugh Jackman looks and is in this film. I love him so much, I can't stand it.

I should mention that his acting is second-to-none in this as well. We really get a sense of the misery Logan has had to go through and we genuinely feel for him, for the first time since the first X-Men film. Also, for the first time, Wolverine is really allowed to cut loose and exhibit the feral beserker rage of the comics. It's very easy to look incredibly stupid while roaring your head off angrily in a movie, but Jackman manages to do the exact opposite. People go on and on about how great Robert Downey Jr. was as Iron Man, but really what did he have to do for that role other than show up and just be himself in front of the camera? Hugh Jackman puts sweat, tears and a whole lot of blood into his performance as Wolverine, overcoming the fact that not only is he not Canadian (or even American), the fact that he's over six feet tall (Logan is quite short in the comics) and the fact that he's a singing and dancing thespian that's pretty much completely unlike Wolverine in real life (unlike RDj compared to Tony Stark).

hugh jackman wolverine origins Pictures, Images and Photos


1. Batman Forever

(I'll be damned if that's not the coolest superhero movie-title, ever)

Batman Forever Pictures, Images and Photos

The Holy Grail of unfairly under-rated comic book movies; this is a deceptively good Batman film contrary to popular belief. Unlike the other films in this list, this a genuinely entertaining film in every regard that fully stands up on its own merit. It is still extremely flawed as far as films go, especially Batman films but there's far too much to love about this film. First and foremost is the way the film delves deeper into Batman's origins and the "Whys?" of his weird mission. Throughout the film, Bruce delves through some repressed memories of the aftermath of his parents' death, ultimately culminating in a flashback where he remembers why he became Batman in the first place, in one of the coolest scenes in any of the Batman films (that more than certainly paved the way for the majestic triumph that was Batman Begins).

Chris O'Donnell: Batman Forever -1995, Batman & Robin -1997 Pictures, Images and Photos

Also, people forget how great Chris O'Donnell was as Robin in this film. The incarnation of Robin used is indeed Dick Grayson, but his personality celebrates and incorporates elements of all three comic-book Robins: the determination and eagerness of Grayson (as well as the circus background), the anger and vengeful nature of Jason Todd (as well as the hatred of Two-Face) and the wardrobe of Tim Drake. There's really nothing I don't like about Robin in this film, except that they completely destroyed everything good about him in the film that came afterwards. 

The film suffers from weak villains (Jim Carrey is decent as the Riddler but is too similar to Nicholson's Joker. Tommy Lee Jones apparently plays Two-Face in this film, but aside from one or two scenes, he's pretty forgettable) and an overall emphasis on whimsy and light-hearted action instead of prioritising the darker character explorations I mentioned earlier. Like Superman IV, Warner Bros. decided they wanted a more easy-going, breezy popcorn flick instead of what could have been the greatest superhero film ever; so once again they deleted a whole mess of brilliant scenes (including Bruce finally finding his father's journal). And yes, this film premiered the nipples on the Batsuits, but whatever. You don't really notice them that much until the next film.

Unlike Superman though, the film is still very much coherent and even enjoyable. So much so, that this Summer my friends and I are getting together for a Cult Viewing of it, where we may actually recite every line.