Shazam: The Die Hard of the DCEU– A Movie Review

I’m only a casual fan of superhero movies in general, especially the DC movie lineup. I wasn’t really familiar with the character of Shazam beyond snippets of the superhero in shows like Young Justice. So it came as a surprise to me that not only was this movie entertaining and a breath of fresh air compared to the preceding DCEU movies, it had heart and a theme that many Catholics are familiar with: the importance of family and the battle of sin versus virtue.

Also, I’m calling it now: Even though this movie takes a lot of cues from Tom Hanks’s Big, I can already see this movie becoming the Die Hard of the DCEU: An action-packed, somewhat family friendly movie that people will watch as part of their Christmas movie marathon alongside Gremlins and Home Alone.

There’s gonna be spoilers from here on out, so if you just want my two cents, I will say that I highly recommend families see this movie. Just keep in mind that kids younger than, say, 10, might pick up on the bad language and have nightmares for weeks. The director has a background in horror movies and it really shows at times. You have been warned!

Yes, this movie does take place during the Christmas season, which calls into mind the main theme of family. Billy Batson’s main goal throughout the movie is finding his birth mother after the two of them got separated at a carnival. At the same time, he cuts himself off from really connecting with any foster family, including the group home he gets placed into. He would rather look out for number one because to him, as long as he has his mom, he won’t need anything else.

The foster family is awesome, even if I kinda wish they had more screen time so that the bond Billy develops is more believable. The main sibling that Billy connects with is Freddie, the genre-savvy superhero fanboy with a disability. He walks with a modern day crutch a la Tiny Tim. The good news is that he’s not a fragile flower the way Tiny Tim was. Instead, he helps Billy out with figuring out all the Shazam powers.

In the villain corner, we have Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. A lot of critics are saying that his character is unfortunately lacking in depth and I will agree that he doesn’t get any parallel journey the way, say, Killmonger did in Black Panther or even a personal connection with Billy other than knowing the power-granting wizard. However, Dr. Sivana does act as a foil to Billy in a thematic sense. Billy is given the powers of Shazam because he has a pure heart underneath his standoffish demeanor. Also, while Shazam is seen as a hero for the people, Dr. Sivana is literally possessed by the Seven Deadly Sins.

I mentioned before that the director’s background in horror films is alluded to in the movie. The Seven Deadly Sin demons are mostly where it shows. Even though these monsters are CGI and don’t get a lot of screentime, their grotesque, gargoyle-like appearances are the stuff of nightmares.

One thing that gets pointed out towards the third act of the movie is that Dr. Sivana’s primary demon, the one he never lets out, is Envy. Dr. Sivana’s envy is more than just a green-eyed monster. He hates the success of his abusive father and the fact that Billy got the wizard’s powers and seeks their ruin.

The “lively virtue” that combats envy (according to Catholic tradition) is kindness. Billy doesn’t start out as being a kind person all the time. But he’s kind when the situation calls for it, when it matters most. Also, Billy is surrounded by kindness in the form of his foster family. The foster parents unconditionally love him. They’ll discipline him for acting out, but at the same time, they always give him a seat at the dinner table. The siblings also help Billy find his mom.

It only makes sense that the way these demons are defeated is through Billy and his foster siblings. My favorite part of the movie was when Billy shared the wizard’s powers with his family because he trusts them enough to know they can help him fight. It was an awesome sight to see Freddy, Mary, Eugene, and Darla do battle with all the Seven Deadly Sins.

By the end of the movie, kindness wins over envy and Billy finally finds a sense of belonging that he used to push away. It cannot be any more “Christmas” than that aside from having a Nativity play!

Batman vs Superman: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (With Amy Salazar)

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I’ve been a fan of superheroes since I was a kid. I always held superheroes up to a certain standard. While I allow certain levels of cynicism and angst when it comes to Batman, I don’t particularly like it when it applies to Superman. Given how Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Rises left a bad taste in my mouth, I went into Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice with low expectations. Even though it was not as bad as I thought it would be, I still find it to be an overall disappointment in terms of story and characterization. Thomas Aquinas defines evil as having a lack of good, so since I didn’t find Dawn of Justice a complete letdown, I want to go over the good, the bad and the ugly of this movie. Thankfully, I don’t have to do this alone. My friend Amy Salazar from California is also going to give her two cents on this film. (Her stuff will be written in blue.)

I once dated a guy who everyone warned me was, “off-putting, pretentious and simply no fun.” Wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt, I dated him anyway. “What could possibly go wrong?” Well…If there’s one thing that this person and Batman v. Superman have in common, it’s that they both made me want to throw myself in front of a truck. Moral of the story: If everyone warns you that something is going to be bad, they’re probably right.

Prior to the film’s release, I readily defended BvS to my friends who had already decided that they hated the idea. The trailer actually looked promising to me. Rivalry stories are one of my favorite narratives, so I couldn’t wait to be able to explore the ideological divide between the virtuous Last Son of Krypton and the morally-gray Bat of Gotham. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor had the potential to either be a comedic (which, if well-written, can be very enjoyable to watch) or gradually evolve from a harmless weirdo to a sinister foe. Those two hopes alone is what got me to go to an 11:30 am screening of Batman v. Superman.

One hot dog, a bag of Welch’s fruit snacks and a Coke slushie later (to fight off the boredom), I was so disengaged that I turned to my friend and asked, “Am I still alive and watching a movie or have I died and am currently waiting for God’s final verdict?”

The Good

Ben Affleck brings a seasoned, burnt-out Bruce Wayne/Batman. I actually did like how when the robber points a gun at Martha Wayne, the gun catches her pearls. That was a pretty intense camera shot. Putting the destruction of Metropolis through Bruce Wayne’s perspective was an excellent narrative choice. It gave me hope that Bruce/Batman would be the film’s emotional center and the one to guide us through the story. Sadly, that was not the case.

Jeremy Irons and Ben Affleck do have pretty good chemistry. I love Jeremy Irons’ sardonic humor delivered in his epic voice. Any time Affleck and Irons were on screen, I was able to care about what was happening.

Gal Gadot definitely looks the part of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. While the writing of the Wonder Woman role is haphazard, Ms. Gadot does carry her character as a mysterious woman who belongs to a higher social standing quite well.

I’ll give credit where credit is due. Most of the female characters in this movie are actually the most interesting characters. Gal Godot’s version of Wonder Woman plays off like a Bond Girl at first, charming Bruce Wayne while trying to get something back from Alexander Luthor. When she finally made her appearance as Wonder Woman, the people in the theatre and I applauded. She fit in naturally, working with Batman and Superman to take down the real villain of the movie, Doomsday.

I also liked Alexander’s right hand woman, Mercy, played by Tao Okamoto. She’s a good variation of Luthor’s sidekick Tess Mercer and it’s awesome to see Asians play a prominent role in mainstream cinema. I also liked Holly Hunter as Senator Finch. To me, she represented the audience who wanted to know where they stood with this darker version of Superman who is willing to kill and doesn’t take into account the collateral damage that results from his actions.

I agree with Amy about Jeremy Irons’ performance as Alfred and the how Ben Affleck’s perspective of the Battle of Metropolis actually brought something unique to the story. And Ben Affleck was not as bad a Batman as I thought he would be, but I still would’ve chosen another actor for the role.

The Bad

The least developed character, aside from Superman, is Lois Lane. Like in Man of Steel, she doesn’t do much in this movie outside of her designated role as Superman’s girlfriend. I also didn’t like the characterization of the Kents in this movie, especially Martha Kent who tells Superman that he doesn’t owe the world anything. I get that the “Great power, great responsibility” trope has probably been overused, but there needs to be some way to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Batman’s use of firearms felt out of character, given that one of Batman’s central character points is that he never uses guns.

But by far, my least favorite part of the movie is Alexander Luthor, Jr. I refuse to call him Lex Luthor because he doesn’t embody any of the qualities of previous Lex Luthors such as the ones from Smallville or Superman The Animated Series. Jesse Eisenberg plays him more like a mad scientist and a straw atheist and plays the character of Alexander Luthor in a completely over the top manner instead of the more subtle but sinister characterization of the real Lex Luthor.

Jesse Eisenberg’s overacting combined with painfully obvious poor direction makes his performance cringe-worthy at best and insufferable at worst. If this had been a Batman v. Joker origin story of how the Joker became, well, the Joker, then I would have had no issue with Eisenberg, but we already had a better Joker through the late Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight.

At some point, there’s a scene where Bruce/Batman has a dream where he is overcome and taken into custody by Superman Nazis (they have Nazi-esque armbands that have the Superman symbol). We see a chained Bruce looking up and seeing Superman, who approaches him and rips off his [Batman’s] mask. This scene was the straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted me to give up on the film entirely.

What should have been a powerful scene ends up being a weird sequence with plenty of style and no substance. Typically, when a main protagonist has a nightmare about being captured by another character, the implication is that the protagonist is haunted by said character. This usually occurs in a story about rivals or if one character is being pursued by another. This scene upset me because Batman and Superman’s “rivalry” is completely botched. There is no exploration of their differences. Batman and Superman are two angst-filled, bruiting dudes whose only difference is that one wears all black and the other wears a red and blue. Because of this, the dream sequence has no impact and is boring action scene.

Also, I don’t know if anyone else caught this, but Doomsday’s lighting effects seemed seizure inducing to me. I don’t have eye problems, but his lighting effects made my eyes water. There are quite a few camera choices in the third act that made me concerned that someone in my theater was going to have a seizure. My last complaint is that this movie has more endings than Return of the King! The epilogue goes on for an eternity.

The Ugly

While the movie teased at the future Justice League members, the fact that Wonder Woman didn’t get much of a role in the overall movie and the implication that the Justice League is created from the ashes of Superman’s death feels very pandering. Too little, too late, DC.

The other thing I hated most about this movie is the underlying anti-religious themes. The overblowing parallels between Superman and Christ are still prominent in this film, particularly the fact that Superman died saving metropolis and it’s implied at the end of the movie that he will rise from the dead.

Alexander plays the role of the Straw Atheist, determined to defame Superman at any cost. Say what you will about Maxwell Lord in Supergirl, but his motivations are at least understandable. The entire Batman/Superman conflict hangs on the audience believing that Batman, the world’s greatest detective, could fall for Alexander’s clearly over-the-top schemes. I’m not buying it!

I have no flippin’ idea what this movie was about. Yes, things do happen, but there’s no central plot. I guess one could make the argument that the filmmakers were attempting to connect the plethora of storylines, but if that is the case, then their efforts backfired. Instead of interconnecting smoothly, the plot points feel jumbled and convoluted.
There’s a scene that shows a portrait of Saint Michael defeating Lucifer that has been turned upside down so that it looks like Michael is the one who is falling. If you’re a fan of Saint Michael, this might not sit well with you.

As stated before, I hated Eisenberg’s version of Lex because he makes real-life atheists look bad. I have friends who are atheists and I have never once heard any of them say, “Devils don’t come from Hell beneath us; they come from the sky.” Seriously, who talks like that?

Batman v. Superman’s frenetic editing, zero focus and a grossly-neglected rivalry between the titular characters tried my patience and led me to the brink of going back to the snack bar to further drown my sorrows.

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Amy Salazar is also known as Catholic Girl Bloggin’ (CGB for short). She reviews movies, writes biographies about Saints, and posts about pro-life and animals rights. She is also slightly obsessed with Star Wars, puppies and fangirling over Padre Pio.
Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is copyright to DC Comics and Warner Bros. Images relating to the movie are used for editorial purposes only.

How Can We Be Heroes?

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Question from a reader in regards to my previous superhero post:

We all have the potential to live by their example and be heroes in our own ways, but what problems do we face in life that make superheroes important to us? How does their presence on TV, on film, and in comic books help us?


One of GK Chesterton’s most famous quotes goeth thusly: “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

The same can be applied for comic books and all of the adaptations thereof. In Geekpriest, Fr. Roderick Vonhogen (whom you may know for his Star Wars reaction video that went viral last year) has a chapter that integrates his love for comic book heroes with his own coming of age story. I highly recommend you read his memoir because it shows how faith and culture can work together, even in the world of geekdom.

 

Warning: Spoilers for Supergirl, The Flash, and other shows will ensue.

While it’s true that none of us have superpowers or face nefarious villains on a daily basis, we are all given talents, gifts, and special skills that we can use to help make the world a better place. One reason I love Flash and Supergirl is that while the heroes have awesome powers, their real special ability is something that we can all have: the power to believe in the best in people, the ability to empathize and be compassionate towards others.

In a recent episode of The Flash, Barry Allen helps Earth-2 Harrison Wells find another option when faced with the ultimatum of “Drain Flash’s speed or your daughter will be tortured and killed.” In spite of Harry betraying everyone, Barry is willing to help the scientist by offering to save Harry’s daughter, even if that means going to Earth-2 to do so. Keep in mind, Barry basically did all of that without using any super speed. Barry is a selfless person at heart, which means that he’s willing to go the extra mile, with or without his powers.

Another example of ordinary traits being used in an extraordinary way can be seen in the DC Animated Universe direct-to-video movie Superman vs. The Elite. Eric Rodriguez, AKA Channel Awesome’s “Blockbuster Buster,” says that this short movie exemplifies Superman’s greatest power: his strength of will. He does what is right, no matter what.

While we may not face situations where we have to sentence some form of justice on a criminal, we all have the power to try and be compassionate and fair, even towards those who’ve hurt us. In a similar way, we encounter situations where we are called to have conviction and do the right thing, even if it means facing insurmountable odds or a situation where vengeance could be an easier option.

Another reader pointed out that both Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock are not particularly role model material, due to Jessica Jones being an alcoholic with severe PTSD issues and Matt Murdock having Catholic guilt over not being able to save everyone. While Jessica Jones’s cynicism leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I and many other fans of Jessica Jones found her willingness to fight and prevent Kilgrave from hurting anyone else inspiring. And while Catholics are often mocked for having a major guilt complex, some people have used those doubts to find a sense of self-worth. Faith and doubt actually go hand in hand because doubt opens up questions that help further understand ourselves and our beliefs.

I also have a personal belief that nobody is beyond saving or redemption. While it’s true that the characters in Suicide Squad are only doing black-ops missions for the hopes of getting shorter prison sentences, these same villains could’ve been heroes in another universe. There’s a movie in the DC Animated Universe called Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths in which the Justice League find themselves in a Mirror Universe in which the Justice League encountered evil versions of themselves and heroic versions of the villains.

The same can be said for the character of Captain Cold and his complex character development in The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Although Captain Cold started out as a major villain, he developed a more complex personality when it was revealed that he was very protective of his sister and would not resort to killing in order to get the job done. In Legends of Tomorrow, it’s implied that he resorted to becoming a criminal as a way to survive. He felt as if he had no other choice, given that he lived with an abusive father, and never thought that he could ever be a hero. However, DC Comics showed his heroic potential in an event called Flashpoint in which The Flash creates an alternate universe due to actions he did when he traveled back in time. In this series, Captain Cold becomes a hero called Citizen Cold.

But why bring up the villains at all, you ask? As I said: Everyone is capable of being a hero. We can look at the villains and see ourselves in them. We could’ve taken on a dark path if our circumstances were different and if we made different choices in life. However, even if you or someone you know is on that dark path, these same villains show that there could be a way out of the dark.

The Importance of Superheroes

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It’s easy to write off superhero movies as being all the same. It’s easy to get cynical about comic book movies, especially ones that are dark and angsty (*sideglances at Batfleck and Man of Steel*). But the genre of adaptations based on comic books has come a long way from how they started in the early 2000s and despite what some people may think, it’s not a rinse-and-repeat formula. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if there’s one thing that the current lineup of superheros has shown us, it’s that there are many ways to be a hero, just as there are many ways to be a saint.

WARNING: I’ll be making references to both the Marvel Cinematic Universe AND the DC shows currently on TV, so if you’re one of those people who wants me to pick a side between Marvel and DC, this post is not for you. Also, I’m more familiar with the current lineup of movies and TV shows and not with the comics themselves, so apologies to you diehard comic book fans.

I’m gonna start out with what is being called the “Arrowverse,” AKA the current lineup of shows created by Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg. Arrow is the series most similar to the dark and gritty DC movies we’ve been seeing in recent years. It’s not a perfect show, especially with its soap-opera worthy levels of poor communications and misunderstandings, but my brother, who is a huge fan of the show, loves Arrow because of the characters. He says that the Green Arrow represents “the idea of a ray of light to combat a dark town. I think that things may always get worse before they get better, but you shouldn’t stop when it gets either way.”

Similarly, the protagonists in Daredevil and Jessica Jones are more like anti-heroes because these heroes don’t try to do the right thing for the sake of being good, but for other reasons. Matt Murdock wants to reform Hell’s Kitchen and Jessica Jones wants to believe that she can be a hero, even though she doesn’t think that she’s good. Neither of them realize it, but they are being heroes just by being selfless and putting other people before their own personal happiness. Maybe it’s my Catholic bias, but I liked that (so far) Matt incorporated the advice that Fr. Lantom gives him. And while I still have problems with Jessica Jones, I love that Jessica’s motivations throughout the show are for Hope’s safety as well as protecting humanity from Kilgrave.

In contrast, The Flash and Supergirl both have a more optimistic and idealistic view on heroism. Neither of the titular heroes resort to killing their adversaries. Instead, Flash gets help from his friends and mentors and come up with a smarter plan of action. The best example of this was during the Christmas special “Running to Stand Still.” Facing off against two of his deadliest opponents, Flash works together with his friends at S.T.A.R. labs to prevent a mass bombing. He also helps out a police officer who had a grudge against one of the bad guys. Another example can be seen in the crossover episode with Arrow “The Brave and The Bold” (Arrow Season 3) in which Flash’s team worked together with Green Arrow’s team to stop five bombs in the city from going off all at once.

Supergirl relies on her empathy and willingness to believe in the best in people in order to save the day and her optimism and compassion compel most people to imitate her. A recent example was shown in “Strange Visitor from Another Planet” in which Supergirl helped changed the mind of an anti-alien senator simply by saving her from the Monster (or rather White Martian) of the Week. She also helped her mentor take another step in dealing with his personal grief. (I’m applying this to both Hank Henshaw and Cat Grant.)

One other thing I also like about the latest crop of heroes is that they allow for original conflicts and concepts. Movies with superhero teams such as Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers, and Big Hero 6 show that while heroes may not always get along or agree, they will come together and be heroes when the situation calls for it.

What’s even better is that there are even shows out there that center on people who don’t have any superpowers, but are still considered heroes because their actions go beyond the ordinary. Agent Carter is an awesome show for many reasons, but one thing I love is that none of the protagonists (Peggy, Jarvis, or Howard) have any standard comic book superpowers. Instead, Peggy relies on her intuition and quick thinking in order to save the day. Jarvis trains in martial arts and is always willing to lend a hand. And the only superpowers Howard has are his genius mind and his charm.

The most interesting thing I’ve been seeing in the superhero genre, however, is that every character is given the opportunity to be good. Most of the time, villains are too selfish or sociopathic to want to be good. However, there are more complex villains that have a moral. Legends of Tomorrow and Suicide Squad show that even bad guys have the potential to be heroic under the right circumstances.

In Legends of Tomorrow, there are three characters who are morally ambiguous: Captain Cold, Heatwave, and White Canary. In my honest opinion, these guys have been the most interesting characters to watch. I love their snark, but I also like that they’re trying to figure out their own purpose in a team where most of the characters tend towards following rules or morals. While they don’t consider themselves to be good, Captain Cold is more than willing to help out a “crewmember” in need. Back in The Flash, he establishes his own code of honor with the main hero and goes out of his way to protect his sister. And while I’m on the fence about White Canary partaking in cannabis, she’s efficient in battle and wants to be more than just an assassin. Even the characters with typical morals, such as Martin Stein, are becoming more aware of their flaws as people and are making efforts to change in order to become better heroes.

In short, we need comic book superheroes. Why? Because we all have the potential to be heroes, even without the ability to gain superpowers. Superheroes, in the end, are people who have “an increased capacity to act and exert power and to demonstrate agency.” And as David Bowie said: “We can be heroes, just for one day.”

So go be heroes, people!

Daredevil: A Review of Season 1

I’ve said on here before that I’m a casual fan of superhero stuff at best. I never grew up reading comic books and my first introduction to anything superhero related was the very cheesy cartoon Superfriends. That being said, I’m very glad that I watched Daredevil.

Many people compare Daredevil to Batman and Spider-man. I’ll admit that the parallels are definitely there. Like Spider-man, Daredevil has a sort of supersensory powers and fights in just one district of New York City. And like the many Batman films, Daredevil grew into becoming his own superhero with the help of a mentor and has a day job. Granted, he’s not a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, but he wants to do the right thing.

I want to actually talk about how well the villains are written in this series. Like Batman, Daredevil has a very large Rogues Gallery and in the first season, you see them all working together as an organized crime syndicate. It starts with the Russian brothers, Vladimir and Anatoly. They prove to be more than just some Russian stereotypes.

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They’re the first major villains for Matt to deal with and they don’t disappoint. Although the first encounter was kept off-screen, they were able to beat up Matt so hard that he ended up in a dumpster. They’re also the most sympathetic villains aside from Wesley and Fisk because they wanted a better life for themselves and they have a loyalty to each other that a lot of villain duos don’t have. Anatoly’s death was brutal but the gore was kept off-screen.

It was in the early episodes that we were also introduced to Karen Page.

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Karen started out as a damsel in distress who’s way in over her head. I liked that she actually saved herself half the time that she got into trouble and was able to defend herself every time, even with somebody saving her. Her worst flaw is her naivete. She has this unrealistic view of what justice is and she gets tunnel-visioned about what she wants to the point of putting herself and others in danger. I’m all for being idealistic, but the implications of Karen’s dark and troubled past imply that her idealism came from a really dark place, which is a very dangerous place for idealism to come from. She’s ship-teased with both Foggy and Matt, but given that Foggy is now semi-involved with his old girlfriend, Marci, and Matt doesn’t exactly have anything with Claire, it’ll be interesting to see if the show will tease Karen and Matt in the second season.

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Claire wasn’t as major a character as the hype would lead you to believe. She plays a prominent role in the earlier episodes, but breaks things off with Matt when he seems to take things too far for her. Her flickers of romance with Matt were genuine and sweet, but ultimately, it ended because of the usual “It’s not you, it’s my enemies” trope.

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Wesley James turned out to be the most surprising character on the show for me. He started out as a ruthless right-hand man, but it’s shown that he genuinely cares for Fisk, like a brother or a best friend, and was the only one in Fisk’s crime syndicate that supported Fisk’s growing relationship with Vanessa. He is willing to protect Fisk at all costs and makes sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. His death came as a shock because he ranked up so high on the villain totem pole that I thought for sure he’d live to see the next season.

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Vanessa was also an interesting character to watch because villain girlfriends don’t usually get that much development. In fact, the last villain girlfriend I remember off the top of my head who had as much development as Vanessa is Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series. Vanessa, however, has all her sanity intact. She’s a woman who’s attracted to powerful men like Fisk, but her love for Fisk is genuine and sweet. It’s shown that her relationship with him actually improves Fisk psychologically, but I’ll get more into that when I talk about the man in question. As much as I love Ayelet Zurer’s acting, I couldn’t help but imagine Stephanie Romanov playing Vanessa in a similar manner. But maybe that’s just the Whedonite in me.

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I loved Ben Urich’s determination and wisdom throughout the season. It was sad to see that his wife had Alzheimer’s and that he couldn’t really take care of her. He also symbolized the journalists of old, who were there to witness history in the making, enduring in spite of the technology and the seemingly growing disinterest in “real news.” I honestly wish that he didn’t get killed off.

Side note, btw: I’m docking points for having Mrs. Cardenas die just to bring Daredevil out into the open. Women getting killed to provoke men into action is a trope I’m not a huge fan of.

Moving on to Matt’s mentors.

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Stick is a mercenary and I don’t have that much love for him. Little Mattie needed somebody with him growing up and Stick dropped the ball by leaving Matt on the premise that he wanted Matt to be a soldier and not a son. Say what you want about the Ninja Turtles, but at least Master Splinter raised the turtles as his own sons and never abandoned them.

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Fr. Lantom, on the other hand, was a more reasonable ally. I want to personally thank the writing team for creating a great portrayal of a Catholic priest. He is neither corrupt nor shown as a living saint, but just an ordinary man with Catholic perspectives. His perspectives on the Devil are, in my opinion, in line with what I learned about the nature of sin and spiritual warfare. The last time I saw a priest portrayed this realistically was Fr. Jack Landry from 2009’s V.

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At first I thought that Foggy Nelson would be this dudebro character, the slacker stereotype who makes the main character look awesome by comparison. Later episodes develop Foggy to act as Matt’s moral conscience whenever Claire wasn’t in the role. I think having Foggy in on the secret was a smart thing because Matt needed to be held accountable in case he took things too far. Foggy may not be a future sidekick, but he helps Matt out when it matters the most. He’s actually got ideals underneath his desire for money, so much so that he was able to persuade his ex-girlfriend to contribute to the cause at the risk of betraying the well-paying law firm she works for.

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Nobu didn’t contribute much to the series aside from possibly bringing in the ninja order called the Hand. He’s strictly business to the point of being borderline volatile. I will give him credit for being the only villain so far to have almost defeated Matt through usage of some pretty sweet weapons. Go ninja, go ninja go!

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Madame Gao, on the other hand, is a force of nature, like a tidal wave. She starts out being a meek and quiet, if not very self-assured woman who happens to be head of a drug ring. It’s implied that her drug ring was more of a cult and that Madame Gao may not be as human as she appears to be. I hope to see her again in the second season.

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Leland Owlsey was supposedly based off of a major villain in the comics, but in the series, he’s seen as the financial manager who keeps his eyes on the big picture. I pretty much called it that he was behind Vanessa’s attempted murder because of his unusual behavior and he proceeded to make things worse for Fisk towards the end of the series. I understand making sure that Fisk keeps on task, but as stated before, Vanessa was actually helping Fisk in accomplishing his goals.

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I love complicated villains. I also love to hate Fisk. He actually garners sympathy at times, but his brutality and ambitions remind me of what separates him from Daredevil. Fisk is shown to be psychologically damaged. Like many a villain, he grew up with an abusive father and a mother who was weak-willed. Killing his father at a young age was a serious shocker and it’s shown in “Shadows in the Glass” that Fisk is still haunted by it. He wants complete control over his life and his ideals to make the city better fall to the wayside when things spiral downward for him. It really stinks that in spite of everything that happened, he’s still going to get the girl, but I love Fisk and Vanessa together too much to really hate it.

MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL

Matt Murdock aka Daredevil has finally come into his own. Matt is shown to have ideals, but he’s more realistic in what has to get done. I don’t like how brutal he can be when interrogating mooks at times. Some of the violence he’s done seems excessive and unnecessary. However, Matt makes up for his pugilism by having his own moral code. He won’t stoop to killing anyone, he’s willing to work with anyone who can help (see his short alliance with Vladimir), and he embraces the idea of being feared, of being the one to keep people on the path of the righteous. Even though he dresses like and takes on the name of “Daredevil,” his story arc also reminds me of Angel. 

But unlike Angel, the series of Daredevil flows a lot more smoothly. There aren’t any filler episodes or soap opera plot lines that take away from the action and character development. There’s room to breathe in scenes here and there, but I can’t think of a scene that feels dragged out. I also like the action sequences and how some scenes were kept off-screen while others were shot atypical from your usual action shot. Yes, the show is dark and gritty, but it doesn’t have the cynicism of shows that have a similar tone. Nor does it reek of nihilism or even anti-nihilism the way that Angel does. Best of all, the angst in this show is not done for the sake of looking cool or adding drama. It’s all justified and the characters open the lines of communication in a realistic manner.

I would recommend the show to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as casual fans like myself. I don’t recommend anyone who has kids to share the show with anyone under the age of 13, but given that some of my second graders play M-rated games, your mileage may vary. As far as I’m concerned, I can’t wait for the second season!

 

 All screencaps are copyright to Marvel Entertainment and Netflix and are used for editorial purposes only.

Superheroes and Saints: The Ordinary and the Extraordinary

What exactly do saints and superheroes have in common? For the most part, saints are ordinary people who eventually went on to do extraordinary things. Not all superheroes fall into that category, since Superman is an alien and Thor is a mythological figure. But what saints and superheroes have in common is that they inspire and help people. And oftentimes, they are also misunderstood from those who don’t really know them.

One thing saints and superheroes also have in common is that in spite of how out-of-reach or how hard it may be to relate to them at first, there’s always little things that makes us identify with them. I’m not just talking about whatever flaws they might have like St. Augustine’s struggles with chastity or Batman’s chip on his shoulder, but little ordinary things that make the saints and superheroes human. It can be something as small as the fact that Peter Parker is a photographer or the fact that St. Therese of Lisieux got lost in a daydream of being in a ballroom with people in fancy clothes. It can be a certain flaw like Thor’s belligerence or St. Thomas Aquinas’s horrible handwriting. I’m still fascinated by the fact that one sample of St. Thomas Aquinas’s writings included a picture of a doodle. As a college student, I can definitely relate to doodling in the margins.

I always ask people in my interviews who their go-to saints are because I have this fascination with people who are devoted to saints. I love hearing about how a certain saint interceded in someone’s life or how imitating a certain saint changed the life of a person. I think of Fr. James Martin’s “My Life with the Saints” and Colleen Carroll Campbell’s “My Sisters The Saints.” And then I think of the saints who’ve influenced my life.

Back in my childhood, I loved reading about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Kateri Tekawitha. Nowadays, my go-to saints are St. Monica, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Therese of Lisieux. At the start of this year, I also used a couple of saint generators to find my patron saints for this year. I got St. Francis from one and St. Augustine from the other. I’ll go more into all of these saints later on my blog, but for now, I want to talk about my 3 go-to saints and summarize why I love them so much.

St. Monica was my Confirmation saint. Although I don’t ask for her intercession often, I know that she is praying for me a lot. I attribute her from saving me from some really bad relationships. My love for St. Thomas Aquinas came from spending four and a half years at the University of St. Thomas (the one in Houston, TX). I loved his intellect, his devotion to the Eucharist, and how he challenged the naysayers of his day. St. Therese is my current favorite saint because I relate a lot to her. She and I both have a “still waters run deep” going on and I identify with her Little Way so much.

I also feel like St. Therese has a big influence on who I am now as well. Through learning more about her life, I found a lot of stuff that applied to my own life, even though we live centuries apart. She and I both acted as Joan of Arc in a theatrical context (I did a monologue, St. Therese wrote a play), we both wrote poetry, and we both struggled with a lot of scrupulous thoughts and a lot of interior temptations. We also were deceived by people of malicious intent, but found the strength to carry on. St. Therese’s devotion to Joan of Arc is also similar to my love for Buffy because at the time, Joan of Arc wasn’t canonized. Even though Therese couldn’t fight a war and I can’t actually do the cool stunts done on the show, but we both wanted to imitate the courage of the women we admired.

So if St. Therese is my current favorite saint, who exactly is my favorite superhero?

Well, she’s somebody who isn’t exactly a traditional superhero per se. She has super powers, though. In fact, she alone can stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of evil. She is the Slayer.

Screenshot copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and is used for editorial purposes only.

Screenshot copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and is used for editorial purposes only.

While I was scrolling through my Tumblr feed, I came across a psychological analysis of Buffy from The Mary Sue which mentioned something called Superhero Therapy in which psychologists use characters from fiction as part of a process to help their patients go through their problems. The process involves finding a character that the patient identifies with and paralleling a character’s problems with the patient’s. It astonished me, when I read both articles, that I wasn’t the only one who saw Buffy as a catharsis for my personal problems. Fr. Roderick Vonhogen had a similar experience that he describes in his memoir Geekpriest, in which he identifies many heroes such as Luke Skywalker and Spiderman having an influence on his life growing up and using superheroes and other fictional characters as a way to evangelize as a priest.

In a way, Superhero Therapy and having devotions to the saints results in the same thing: finding someone who can understand our problems and carry us through them. Buffy and its titular character played a big role in helping me overcome an anxiety attack I had in October that was triggered by my so-called best friend. I identified with Buffy’s vulnerability, how often people manipulated and used her, and how she overcame so much.

As much as I hate Season 7 of Buffy, a few of my favorite episodes are from this season, one of which was when Buffy said this:

From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

In that moment, even though I knew that vampires weren’t actually real, I felt that I became a Slayer myself.

Just like how all the Potential Slayers gained power from the essence of the scythe, each one of us has the potential to become saints, using God’s grace. And the more you look into it, the more you’ll see that saints and superheroes have a lot in common.