5 of the Best Fight Scenes in Superhero Movies

Mostly when I talk about superhero movies, I’m talking about one of two things. One, the X-Men, with all that goes along with a superhero story featuring characters analogous to persecuted minorities. Or two, Zack Snyder’s work, filled with philosophical questions and allusions to mythology, art, and literature. But the most recent superhero movie I saw was Justice League, which while credited to Snyder, screamed studio interference so loudly, most of it didn’t feel like his movie anymore.

I’m still disappointed about that. I had a good time watching it, I did, but for me, it didn’t come close to measuring up to Batman v Superman or Man of Steel. But in the spirit of positivity, I figured instead of talking about why Justice League disappointed me, I’d instead discuss something I think we can all agree on: modern comicbook movies have awesome fight scenes. And everyone loves a good fight scene, right? So in no particular order, here are five of my favourite of such scenes.

1. Nightcrawler in the White House (X2: X-Men United)

A fantastic demonstration of Kurt’s mutation, set to Mozart. I loved this scene. X2 and Days of Future Past are my two favourite X-Men movies, and by a huge margin. None of the others even come close. This opening sequence was one of the contributors to that. It’s absolutely stunning. A great choice in music, beautiful choreography – what else is there to say?

2. Batman Warehouse Fight (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

Brutal.

This is the most Batman fight scene ever. This is a version of the character that’s lost everything that’s mattered to him, and he’s just found something worth fighting for again. This was just a no-holds-barred beatdown. And it was the precursor to him saving Clark’s mom, which just makes it more awesome.

3. Quicksilver at the Pentagon (X-Men: Days Of Future Past)

Does it count as a fight scene if it’s really just Quicksilver running around the room and moving things to less dangerous places? Probably not, no. But I’m counting it anyway, because it was close enough, dammit, and  it was awesome. Quicksilver got a couple people to hit themselves in the face – that’s good enough for me. It showed off his powers well. It had great music. It was a whole hell of a lot of fun to watch. In short, I love it for the exact same reasons I love the Nightcrawler scene.

4. Batman vs Superman (Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice)

So I know I probably shouldn’t give the same character in the same movie two of the slots on my list. But everything about Batfleck in BvS was so awesome I had to.

This was the fight we all signed up to see. I adore Batman v Superman. I could make a case for that being my favourite movie ever – I can’t think of a single other film that has impacted me as much as BvS. The reason for that wasn’t the fight. But the fight was what got most people to the theatre in the first place, and as divisive as the rest of the movie still is, it delivered.

This fight is why Batman belongs in the League. He’s smart enough and skilled enough to disable Superman. His superpower is sheer determination. We got to see Batman prepping. We got to see how dangerous he really is when he has a goal. We got to see Superman not initially wanting to fight, but Batman being so unwilling to listen that he had no choice. We got the brilliance of the moment where Superman loses patience with the guy that keeps attacking him when he’s trying to ask for help. It was fast paced, violent, horrifying, and absolutely amazing to watch.

5. No Man’s Land (Wonder Woman)

The last one was a tough slot for me. A large part of me wants to go with the Superman Zod fight from Man of Steel, or maybe the one with Clark facing off against Faora. I could fill this list with Superman scenes alone. But in the honour of the first live-action Wonder Woman movie, and because Clark already has a role in one of the fights on this list, I thought I should show some appreciation for the Amazon princess.

The No Man’s Land sequence is the most instantly recognizable scene from Wonder Woman, and I loved every part of it, from the colour palette to the music to the slow climb out of the trenches. The other action scenes in the movie are fine. They’re good. But this one is by far my favourite.

When it comes to the DCEU, Clark had his first flight, Bruce had the warehouse scene, and Diana has No Man’s Land. It’s easy to see why. This scene is fantastic. It might be too soon to call it iconic, but I suspect that’s what it’ll become. It’s spectacular, and it absolutely deserves to be remembered for being as  brilliant as it is.

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X-Men, Avengers, and Discrimination

In both the comics and the movies, Marvel has spent years pushing the idea that Captain America is a righteous hero that stands up for all that’s good about the United States. From my perspective? Captain America doesn’t represent the best of America, he represents it as it is. He simultaneously represents white liberalism and American imperialism.

In Avengers vs X-Men, he invaded a sovereign country that was also a sanctuary of mutants that had faced relentless persecution with an army because of the Phoenix Force, which he knew nothing about, to arrest a teenage girl that hadn’t committed any kind of crime. He says a lot of pretty words, but never does anything to actually help the mutants that need it. He talks a big game about freedom, but that never applies to people that oppose him and American interests. He supports mutants – but not mutants fighting for their rights in a meaningful way.

Steve has killed people. One of the people he brought to Utopia was Logan, who has killed hundreds of people and never faced any consequences for it. His team includes Black Widow, a literal assassin. He forgave Wanda for decimating the mutant population no questions asked. But Scott? Scott, while possessed by the Phoenix Force, killed one man that was attacking him and his nation full of a persecuted minority. For that, Steve decided he was a criminal and a terrorist that deserved to go to prison for his so called crimes. Steve seems to honestly believe that the life of one single soldier on his side is worth more than those of sixteen million children and civilians. He uses mutants as tools and only likes those that take his side or don’t actively work to make the world a better place for other mutants. That’s why he likes Beast, Wolverine, Scarlet Witch, Professor X – they’re either on his side directly, or ignoring the fact that their methods to “help mutants” aren’t helping.

He claims to not be a bigot because he sometimes has mutants on his team. But that’s a question of power, not giving a damn about mutants. He only cares about damage caused by mutants by mutants that stand against him. The damage that he and his team cause don’t matter, because they’re government sanctioned. They can go wherever they feel like and wreak whatever havoc they want, because they’re doing the right thing. That there has been the American justification for military intervention for decades.

Scott has called Steve “Captain Hypocrisy”, and that there was one of the truest statements anyone has ever said. Steve reminds me more than anything of all the times the US has propped up dictators around the world for supporting American interests, of the coups staged by the CIA. Of the proxy wars and illegal actions carried out due to a lack of regard for minorities and people from different countries. Of the way politicians that approve said actions are still looked at positively, praised, and admired for doing it with charm, or being likeable, because too many citizens don’t empathize with the people being harmed.

Maybe Steve’s actions in stories solely about him or the Avengers show a more positive side of him. But the way in which he acts in all the stories involving the X-Men or mutants in general paints a picture of a character that I can’t bring myself to like or respect. His actions don’t support humanity, they support a specific subset of people in one country. And it horrifies me that this is the character we’re expected to believe is the pinnacle of morality.

Thanks For The Ride: An Open Letter To Zack Snyder

I saw Justice League for the first time last night, and for a solid hour after I got home, I couldn’t stop smiling because of the joy of having my childhood brought to life, of having finally seen the movie I’ve been waiting for for years. I still need to gather my complete thoughts about what I actually felt about it, but before I can do that, I need to express how thankful I am for the DC movies that came before this one.

Batman v Superman came out when I was in my first year of college. I was stressed, I was lonely, and I was having a lot of moments of apathy towards everything. I was home for spring break that week, and I watched it on opening night with my best friend. What that movie did, more than anything? It made me feel less alone.

I barely remember the theatrical cut now. I haven’t seen it since the movie was in theatres. I have no idea what scenes don’t exist in the movie I first saw. I know I prefer the ultimate edition, and that’s the one I always watch, but I also remembering loving the theatrical when it first came out, because even though I don’t remember what specifically the ultimate cut included to make it a more fleshed out story, I know that the spirit of it was the same in both incarnations. And the spirit of that movie was exactly what I needed. Every single time I watch BvS, I love it more. Every single time, it helps me appreciate Man of Steel more. It helps me appreciate that no matter how often it feels like I’m alone and like the state of the world is overwhelmingly bleak, there’s still good out there, if I’m willing to help fight for it.

I hate the way film criticism has become about a select group of people trying to turn their subjective opinions into something perceived as objective truth. It’s a strange form of gatekeeping. Film critics seem to have declared themselves the arbiter of good when it comes to all movies, not just the ones of which they are the target. They seem to have decided that they get to decide what means something, and that if it doesn’t appeal to their perceptions of what a comic book movie should be, it’s objectively bad. But that’s not how art works.

Art is a human experience. I’m an engineer. I appreciate the need to quantify things. But that does not apply to fiction. I don’t appreciate having things that have made an impact on my life diminished to how many jokes they had, or a number on an arbitrary scale. Film is subjective. Something that matters to me won’t necessarily matter to someone else, and vice versa. That’s okay. I fully support people not liking things, and even discussing why. What I hate is people dismissing others as being completely wrong about a subjective medium and claiming that anyone who likes a work they don’t is stupid. BvS matters to me in a way that few films can touch. No amount of critic snark is ever going to change that.

 

Through your films, you inspired me – the atheistic Hindu STEM girl that can’t string words into a sentence to save her life – to not only research Christian philosophy, but write a detailed analysis about how it pertains to a superhero movie.  BvS is one of those stories that reminds me why I love stories. It’s full of rich, beautifully layered and complex ideas and characters, but beyond that, it’s real, it’s honest, and it has more heart than any other comicbook movie I’ve ever seen. Watching your movies – especially BvS -makes me happy. It makes me feel safe and valued as a person. It helps me believe in a better world.

I’ve been a fan of DC since I was six years old. My fondness for it began with Nightwing, and through him, I discovered everyone else. Seeing these characters brought to life so well is like a dream come true. That alone would have made me love your movies forever. But you didn’t stop there. The way you handled BvS made me feel seen. As a woman of colour from an immigrant family, you let me see myself in Superman in a very real way. Your version of the character will forever be my Superman. He’s a superhero that’s completely relatable, because for all his powers, for all his alien heritage, he’s human. He’s an immigrant and a refugee. He’s adopted. I’ve never loved any version of the character as much as this one. In Man of Steel, for the first time, all of those aspects of his character that have always existed and been taken mostly for granted are explored in depth. In Batman v Superman, you acknowledged that struggles that immigrants face and confronted prejudice with tact and compassion. In a time when so many people question our humanity, that means a lot.

So from the bottom of my heart, Mr. Snyder, thank you. Thank you for making great movies and telling wonderful stories. Thank you for refusing to choose between awesome, epic, entertaining superhero flicks and intelligent art. Thank you for always being graceful and classy, even in the face of bloggers and critics attacking your work and your character constantly for years. You’ve worked to create wonderful, lasting stories, and I’m forever grateful for the chance to have seen them. I can’t wait to see what you make in the future. Thank you.

The Home Stretch: Why ‘Justice League’ Is Coming At The Perfect Time

Justice League is coming out in just a few days, and it still doesn’t feel real. I’ve been avoiding the clips and TV spots, because I want to save as much as possible to see in the theatre. I’ve been avoiding Twitter because I’m terrified of spoilers. There has been a huge amount of debate and worry and irritating think pieces putting every aspect of production under a microscope. And yes, I don’t like everything I’ve read. But when I put all of that aside and think about how in less than a week, I’m going to be sitting in a theatre to watch the first ever live action Justice League movie, I feel both excitement and a sense of relief.

This has been a rough year. Personally as well as in terms of the state of the world. But Justice League is my childhood being brought to life, and it’s almost time to see it. As I’ve talked about time and time again, Batman v Superman was the dark, serious story that highlighted a lot of the bad in the world while offering a positive way forward. Justice League will be the hopeful light, and I can already tell it’ll give me a wonderful feeling of catharsis. It’s a warm, optimistic story coming at a time when we all really need it.

We’re jaded. All of us. We’re so used to wars, mass shootings, bigotry on all levels, horrible abuse, corruption, lies. The world is filled with so much hate and negativity, every positive story feels good for a split second, before we forget about it to wallow in misery again. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Justice League is a story of heroes coming together and making the world a better place. The first word that enters my mind when I think about the DCEU is compassion. Clark’s story is that of an immigrant and a refugee, perceived differently and feared because of what he is. He wants to use his abilities for good, but people hate him just for what he is. I’ve talked about him and why he matters again and again and again. It can be summed up by pointing out the fact that he keeps trying to do good. He sees the bad. He’s affected by the bad. But he never stops believing in a better world. The Justice League itself forms in his honour, to fight for that better world. And everything about that story reminds me that we can do the same.

It may be fiction, but it matters. There’s a lot of bad in this world, and I’ll take my inspiration where I can get it. Real people are horribly flawed and exhausting. But in fiction? That can be simple. That can show us people coming together, people struggling to overcome evil. We can’t ignore or forget about the bad in the world. If we do, we can’t improve it. But we also need to remember the good, because that’s what we’re fighting for – to make the world a better place in whatever ways we can, for all the people t hat we can. It’s not easy. But nothing that’s worth having comes easily.

Martha, Martha, and Motherhood: Maternal Love in the DCEU

I’ve never cried during a movie in my life, but the Martha scene in Batman v Superman? That’s about as close as I’ve ever come. I don’t know what I expected before walking into that theatre to see BvS for the first time. Whatever it was, it wasn’t what we got. But when you think about all the build up in Man of Steel, in BvS itself, it seems so fitting that it was Clark’s desperation to save his mother that brought him and Bruce together. The DCEU is about family. It’s practically an ode to mothers, and that can  be seen from the very beginning.

The opening of Man of Steel is set on Krypton, with Jor-El and Lara, and even though much of the scene centred around Jor-El, Lara was still a significant player. Her devastation at having to give her son up so he could live was palpable. She was terrified for him, but she did it, because at least he’d have a chance on Earth. Even after they launched the pod containing their infant son, even after Jor-El’s death, the scene continued with Lara. We saw most of the destruction of Krypton through her eyes. She even got the last line before the end of the planet: Make a better world than ours, Kal. He was long gone and never heard those words, but that’s what he did.

Clark never knew Lara. The mother he knew was Martha Kent, and she is one of the two most important figures in his life. He loves his mother to bits. We saw that all throughout Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. The sheer warmth of the scene where he came back home. The fury when Zod threatened her. The terror and anguish when he learned that Lex had had her kidnapped. The way he called her late at night just because he wanted to hear her voice. The quiet comfort of the two of them standing in the fields under the stars after he flew to visit. Clark adores his mother. Martha grounds him. She can get through to him when he’s overwhelmed, and there are times when she’s the only one that can bring him peace of mind. She’s his family, and from the time Jonathan died to the time he met Lois, she was all of it.

Just as important is Martha’s love for him. Martha’s love for Clark is beautifully pure and unconditional. We see that every time the camera is on her, from her expressing her fear that someone would take him away from her in MoS to her dropping the coffee pot when the Capitol blew up with him inside. He’s her only son, and we’ve seen again and again that she’s always there for him when he needs her. She rushed to his school to help him through his sensory overload. She picked up the phone immediately when he called. Her biggest fear is something happening to him – he’s all but invulnerable, but the thought of him being hurt terrifies her.

Bruce’s relationship with his mother isn’t as positive. Not because he doesn’t love her or because she didn’t love him, but because he’s haunted by her. When he thinks of his mother, he thinks of the most traumatic experience of his life, of a person he couldn’t save. His parents were murdered in an alley right in front of him. He never had the chance to really get to know them. Martha put herself between Bruce and the gunman, just as Thomas did – Bruce had to watch both of his parents die to save him while he was helpless and scared, just like he would feel helpless and scared in Metropolis all those years later, unable to stop the devastation.

That mugging scene focused on Martha. Not Bruce, not Thomas. Martha: his mother’s name, his father’s final word. The only thing that could get through to him, through that haze of anger and fear. Bruce couldn’t save his own mother, but he could damn well save Clark’s. Bruce embodies regret. He couldn’t save his parents. He couldn’t save Jason. He couldn’t save all those people that died in Metropolis. All those people in Bruce’s life he couldn’t save, and Clark reminded him that there was someone he could. And  it was thoughts of his mother that made him understand that. Thoughts of one dead woman that mattered to him more than any words could describe.

For all the action and bombast and fantastic elements, BvS remains a gentle, very human story. It’s a story about love, fear, and the human experience, disguised as an action flick. It feels peaceful in a way that no other superhero movie I’ve seen has matched. It’s a story about the Power of Love, but not in the romantic sense. Yes, Clark’s love for Lois played a major role, but beyond that, it was the story of Clark and Bruce’s love for their mothers.

I’ve never loved a superhero movie as much as I love Batman v Superman. The first time I watched BvS was the first time I ever really felt seen by a director of a superhero movie. Zack Snyder cared about telling a real story. BvS isn’t glib or flippant. It never shies away from dark, serious moments through quips or away from real feelings through macho posturing. Superman is universal. He’s a story that we can all relate to. So many action heroes just become white male power fantasies. That’s not what Superman is, and not what Superman should ever be.

Snyder recognized the universality of Superman, and instead of making him a generic, nerdy “nice guy” that Lois doesn’t see outside of him as Superman, he focused on the fact that Clark is deeply and truly loved. That he’s a hero that loves his mother, loves his girlfriend, experiences self doubt, cares about doing the right thing and struggles to figure out what that is. Snyder embraced the idea of Superman as an immigrant, as a refugee. He depicted with loving care that Clark’s adoptive parents are his family, and that the lack of blood ties does not in any way mean they’re unimportant. Superman isn’t just unrelenting optimism no matter what – he’s finding ways to be resilient and push forward in the face of adversity. He’s love and compassion and human decency.

The running theme of love for and by mothers is a huge part of what makes the DCEU special. It’s the very heart of the universe, and it contributes to the creation of one of the most beautifully heartwarming fictional universes ever brought to film.

‘Designated Survivor’ and Political Optimism

Courage, my friends, ’tis not too late to build a better world.

Tommy Douglas, an icon of Canadian progressivism said that. Designated Survivor  embraces this concept completely – no matter what bad things happen or how scary the state of the country and world looks, Tom Kirkman doesn’t give up. He keeps fighting for a better tomorrow. Fitting, seeing as Douglas was Kiefer Sutherland’s grandfather.

We don’t have to agree upon everything, but we do need to share common values and believe in the principle that all people have a right to equal treatment and protection under the law. Kirkman is a registered independent that leans left in his political views, but his most important ally during the first season was a Republican Congresswoman. And the reason that’s important is that they disagreed on policies. Not issues.

The polarization of politics isn’t bad if it’s about actual issues. Of course not. We shouldn’t compromise on core values. There are things in this world that are a matter of right and wrong, with no room for debate. Discrimination, gun violence, abuse, workers rights violations – we might not agree on how to fix them, but if the disagreement is over whether or not they are problems, then someone is wrong. Polarization becomes a problem when it’s over superficial differences. When it’s a matter of, it’s okay when we do it.

There was a fantastic moment in the second season when the Kirkman administration was trying to get approval to launch a military strike on American soil against Patrick Lloyd, an American citizen. Senator Hunter challenges it, and when Aaron questions her and asks her to trust Kirkman to not abuse his power and to not ask for this if he had any other choice, she says that she does, but that she still can’t let him to order the strike, because a time will come when there’s a president she doesn’t trust to make that decision.

That is something I wish we had today. One of my issues with the Democratic Party over the past several years was the blind Obama worship. I touched upon it in this post. I do believe that Obama did good things, while also finding some of his positions abhorrent. But now, every time someone criticizes Obama or the Democratic Party, people jump in with the same whataboutism they rightfully criticize when it comes from Trump or the Republican Party. Saying that I disapprove of the Obama administration’s prosecution of whistleblowers or his extrajudicial drone strikes does not take away from my disapproval of Trump and his travel bans and incitement of racist violence. We have to hold everyone to the highest standards, otherwise there’s no point.

Congress does not exist to blindly support any president and be a yes-man. It exists to separate the judicial and executive branches of federal government. It exists as part of the system of checks and balances required for a functional democracy. It exists to police the executive branch and force it to make the best, most ethical decisions it can.

I loved that Designated Survivor actually shows what a government should be. It’s not perfect, because the world isn’t perfect. There are bad politicians that care more about their own agendas and prejudices than about helping people. There are hard choices that need to be made. But Kirkman is a good man that wants nothing more than to do the right thing, both in and out of the country. Senator Hunter sometimes opposes him, but she’s also a good person, just with a different role to play. And together, they worked to rebuild a devastated country.

The world is messy. Not all choices will be easy. But it is possible to make better ones and improve the world we live in.

The Realistic Optimism of Zack Snyder’s DCEU

As a woman of colour and a child of immigrants and even as a female engineering student, I know that racism and sexism exist. I know that there is vast inequality in the world that can be seen everywhere. And I also know that I have it a hell of a lot better than most.

Maybe it’s a sign of my relative privilege that I don’t have to constantly engage with that fact, or maybe it’s just that life is stressful enough without having to face the fact that the  world can be an awful place, but for whatever reason, I love escapist fiction. I like comedies that I don’t have to think about. I like fantasies that let me focus on problems that aren’t mine and that don’t exist in my universe. Zack Snyder’s DCEU movies don’t let me do that.

Snyder’s movies handle real problems, and handle them seriously. They don’t make jokes about genuinely awful things, because we shouldn’t find them funny. Bruce Wayne’s obsessiveness and paranoia and the way that he copes with his trauma by dressing up as a bat and beating up criminals in the night aren’t funny. They’re tragic. Snyder helps us feel for Clark, because he’s a person, not just some fantasy for people to project onto. These movies are thoughtful, not flippant, and they’re told compassionately enough that I can enjoy them, rather than feeling worse.

They don’t force me to confront things that I’d rather not think about without offering me any support, because they tell me that while there are things to fear, I don’t have to face them alone. That the world is tough, but it’s all of our problem. They never embrace cynicism. Characters aren’t mocked for idealism or naivete. They’re proven right. They’re the people we’re supposed to aspire to be like. Growing up doesn’t have to mean becoming jaded. It means being able to do something. In Batman v Superman, Jenet Klyburn told Lois that what makes her a good reporter is that the bad in the world still surprises her. That’s true. We cannot make the world a better place if we’re resigned to the fact that bad things will happen. We should prepare for the worst while still hoping for the best, and believing in the good of humanity.

Man of Steel and Batman v Superman are serious stories that force the audience to confront the issues that exist in our world through a fantastic lens. Despite that, they’re never pessimistic. They’re grounded in reality, but maintain a sense of optimism. The immigrant refugee can be accepted. The smart, decent guy that feels like an outcast can find a purpose and a place where he feels a sense of belonging. The unethical billionaire can be exposed for crimes and prosecuted. The innocent man can be proven innocent. The bigot can see the error in his ways and change for the better. The journalist can still be unjaded enough to be shocked and horrified at learning about corrupt officials or businesspeople. Oftentimes, these things don’t happen in our world. But Snyder shows us a world in which they can, a world that we can work together to create.

Snyder gives us a genuinely hopeful perspective of the world. He doesn’t try to tell us that the world is just fantastic the way it is, or that we have to love and forgive everyone to be good people, or that . He tells us that despite all the bad, the world is full of good people and decency. That it’s worth fighting for, because it can be better, and it’s up to us to improve it and be our own heroes. Cynicism isn’t maturity. It’s the easy way out. It’s a defence mechanism against disappointment, and it’s understandable, but it’s not the way forward. Nor is blind positivity. We have to recognize that, hey, the world is far from perfect, but we can and should make it better, and that the day we give up on that idea, the day we get too worn out to be shocked and angry about what’s going on in the world, is the day we all lose.

I don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to watch Batman v Superman every day. That’s not a bad thing. There are movies for different times, and there are going to be times when I need to see something less intense. Man of Steel is magical. It’s warm and makes me feel better all the time. It’s comfort food. But Batman v Superman? That’s different. It’s thought provoking. It’s  not the reassurance I want when I’m just having a bad day and I want sympathy, but it is what I need when I’m looking for someone to be both real with me and compassionate about the state of the world.