Posts Tagged ‘Jesse Eisenberg’

Director: Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

As a comics reader, I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan. The same is true of the movies… for the most part. There have been exceptions to that rule, of course, notably with DC’s adaptations of Alan Moore classics V for Vendetta and Watchmen. The big-screen escapades of DC’s two most popular characters, Batman and Superman, have also piqued my interest on occasion. Of the two, Batman, being a man who has no superpowers to fall back on, is infinitely more relatable than the Last Son of Krypton.  So, of course, when it comes to a showdown between the two, I would always choose the side of the Caped Crusader. Not to mention the fact that I can count seeing Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman at the age of 7 as the event which changed me from a casual viewer to full-blown fan of movies. From 1978 to the present day, each hero’s cinematic ride has experienced the highest of highs, and (extremely) lowest of lows. 2016’s Batman v. Superman falls into neither category.

After a brief opening credits sequence which features what feels like the millionth depiction of the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne (played by “The Walking Dead” co-stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan), the action moves to the climactic battle sequence from the end of 2013’s Man of Steel, where Superman (Henry Cavill) winds up causing more destruction in Metropolis than he is able to prevent in battling General Zod (Michael Shannon). Only, this time, we witness the battle from the perspective of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

One cannot watch this sequence without automatically thinking of 9/11, and that’s what makes this the most effective part of the movie. It also helps to establish a motive for Bruce Wayne/Batman to see Superman not as a guardian of Earth, but as a threat against it. Bruce, who has been at this superhero gig for a while now, is using a much more harshly defined sense of justice these days, which provides Clark Kent/Superman with reason to voice his opinion on the matter via Daily Planet articles.

Unlike the Superman of the 1980s, who somehow was able to convince the leaders of the world to allow him to rid the Earth of nuclear weapons, this version of Superman has a hard time assuring the U.S. government that he has our best interests at heart. He is even compelled to appear before a Senate committee hearing on the subject. Unfortunately, the hearing is interrupted by a suicide bomb, which kills everyone in attendance, including Senator June Finch (Holly Hunter). Everyone, that is, except for Superman. As it happens, this event, along with the seeds of doubt pitting Batman and Superman on opposing sides, have all been orchestrated by the unhinged head of LexCorp, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg).

Behind the scenes, Luthor has been very busy, collecting a Kryptonite sample, acquiring both Zod’s corpse and his spaceship, and also investigating the existence of metahumans. Bruce Wayne acquires both the Kryptonite and the info on meta-humans, the former to be used as a deterrent against Superman. The latter reveals to him four individuals with extraordinary gifts: the super-speedy Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), the underwater-dwelling Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the part man, part machine Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), as well as Amazonian Princess and daughter of Zeus, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Bruce is already familiar with Diana, having bumped into her at a party at LexCorp. He only needs the one meeting to be able to sense that there is more to her than most men would notice.

Diana is also interested in the meta-human file, though only for a specific photo which she claims belongs to her. Bruce shares the file via e-mail, noting that this grainy black & white image from a century ago is not merely her possession, but is in fact a record of her involvement in the events of World War I. I reserve any further commentary on the matter, as the movie does, for 2017’s Wonder Woman.

The film’s promised fight finally gets underway thanks to Lex’s maneuverings, the final piece of which is the kidnapping of Martha Kent (Diane Lane), which will ensure that Superman fights Batman at Lex’s bidding, lest Martha meet a fiery end. So the two heroes fight, with Batman using Kryptonite as a means to level the playing field. Eventually, Batman gains the upper hand, but is startled by the notion that Superman’s adoptive mother and his own dead mother share the same first name. For most who have seen this movie, this scene is one of the most heavily scrutinized. It’s the jarring transition from beating the hell out of each other to suddenly being best buds which earns that criticism.

So, Batman volunteers to save Martha while Superman goes to confront Luthor. Unable to accept defeat, Luthor unveils his Plan B: the Kryptonian abomination known as Doomsday. It takes the combined efforts of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to provide adequate defense against the monster, but only Kryptonite can kill it, and the only fragment left was used by Batman to form a spear. It falls to Superman to find and use the spear, but because of his own weakness to the shiny green rock it leaves him just as vulnerable, and thus Superman and Doomsday simultaneously kill one another.

An epilogue, which is mainly a teaser for the forthcoming Justice League movie, shows Batman confronting a deranged Luthor in prison, who warns of the imminent arrival of supervillain Steppenwolf (whose actual name is never mentioned), leaving Bruce Wayne with the sense that, soon, the meta-humans will be compelled to answer the call to battle. Meanwhile, a funeral is held for Superman, who is recognized in death as the hero he was never fully appreciated as in life. But there are indications that he may not be totally dead just yet…

Batman v. Superman is a fundamentally flawed movie, which is pretty much par for the course with Batman and Superman’s movies (except for 2008’s The Dark Knight). It gives us a terrific Bruce Wayne/Batman (not to mention a decent Alfred as performed by Jeremy Irons), and a not-so-great Superman. The battle scenes are great, but character behavior/motivation is a problem. Particularly depressing is the portrayal of Superman not as the ray of hope he’s been known as through the majority of his existence since 1938, but as a dark, brooding character. That’s supposed to be Batman’s territory! The whole point is for them to have two wildly contrasting outlooks on the world and life in general.

So desperate was DC to compete with Marvel Studios that it got a little too greedy. It’s never a good idea to cross pollinate two completely different comic storylines into one movie. 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand did the same thing. So did 2007’s Spider-Man 3. All it does is undermine both arcs. If you’re gonna throw in “The Death of Superman” right after his first meeting with Batman, that’s fine. A little weird, but okay. What you shouldn’t do is pass off their chronologically final confrontation from the comics (“The Dark Knight Returns”) as their first in this movie. It’s rather jarring.

This movie is neither fantastic, nor fantastically awful, although it is clear that this wasn’t the best way to introduce the DCEU (DC Expanded Universe). One thing that Batman v. Superman got fantastically right is its portrayal of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Even her theme music is badass! The scene-stealing Gal Gadot’s performance is spot-on; so much so that, by herself, Wonder Woman gave hope that her own adventure might just give DC the boost it needed after this misstep. But that, as I said, is a subject best left for another film review.

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Zombieland (2009)

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Amber Heard, Bill Murray

Many people have their own theories as to how the world will end. The way that our news media outlets always obsess over the next big “epidemic,” you’d think they’d actually be happy if the Apocalypse finally happened. I’m not saying that the Ebola virus would just blow over if left unchecked, but you’d be more likely to catch the common cold. Let’s say a contagion did come about so fast-acting that it spreads worldwide overnight. If you’re one of the lucky ones left alive, how do you handle the knowledge that everyone you’ve ever known is probably dead?

In “Zombieland,” one hamburger tainted by Mad Cow Disease somehow led to a massive outbreak of the dead coming back as flesh-eating zombies. There’s no way to tell exactly how many people are still left alive, but we only ever see six surviving humans, only one of which uses his real name. Those who remain nameless are identified, to each other and to us, by their hometown. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is our humble narrator. He’s been a loner since the zombies took over, which is really no different from how his life was before. His first sign that something truly messed up was going on was when the girl from Apartment 406 (Amber Heard) knocks on his door, screaming to be let in. She had been attacked by some homeless guy who tried to eat her. Before Columbus could count his blessings that she’d picked his apartment to crash in, she turns out to have been infected and attacks him, forcing him to kill her.

Two months later, Columbus has developed a system of rules to follow, a sort of survival guide. One day, he runs across another warm body, a Cadillac-driving, Twinkie-loving cowboy from Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and hitches a ride. They make a pretty good team, taking out zombies with relative ease. They can handle the dead, all right, but it’s the living that still give them fits. Con artist sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) lure them into a trap, with Little Rock pretending to be infected, commandeering Tallahassee’s vehicle and all of his and Columbus’s weapons. But don’t think for a second that’s the only time their paths will cross.

Wichita is taking Little Rock to California, where they intend to pay a visit to the amusement park known as Pacific Playland, alleged to be devoid of zombie activity. They’ve been accumulating a decent sum of cash playing their little con game since before the outbreak began. Columbus and Tallahassee find another van, and they find the Cadillac seemingly abandoned. But it’s just a ruse, and the girls are able to trick them once again. There should be a saying to go along with this level of gullibility…

…Somehow, I don’t think that’s quite it. Oh, well. Close enough.

The coolest part of “Zombieland” comes around after the group reaches Hollywood. They realize that, suddenly, they have the option of staying at just about any famous person’s house without having to worry about things like trespassing or breaking and entering. Tallahassee has a specific mansion in mind, the home of Bill Murray. Somehow, Little Rock’s never heard of him. Her excuse is that she’s 12, but I say that’s crap. I was only five the first time I saw “Ghostbusters,” which is the movie Columbus uses to educate Little Rock on the subject of Bill Murray. The great comedian-turned-serious actor has taken to blending in with the herd of zombies by dressing up as one so he can get out of the house when he wants. Probably would be a good idea to take that makeup off and act normally in the presence of other survivors, don’t you think? This sequence is so amusing that the climax, at the amusement park, can’t help but be an afterthought.

“Zombieland” is another case of a horror movie… or in this case, a horror-comedy… which was perfectly cast. Jesse Eisenberg, already a veteran of movies with the suffix “-land” in the title, is perfectly believable as a shut-in loser forced to go out into the world when everything went straight to hell. Emma Stone, one of the great young comediennes of her generation, somehow finds a way to make her character loveable even when she is at her most untrustworthy.

Although this is a comedy, because of its subject matter, there can’t help but be a certain sadness to it all. Everybody’s lost something or someone important to them, or had to do things that they may not have had the world remained as it was. Even a potential relationship between Columbus and Wichita seems to me to be doomed to failure unless she can learn how to trust other people. She would do well to remember Rule #34: When life gives you lemons… throw the lemons away and go hunt for that Twinkie!