The Best Joker Yet!

Good day, everyone! It’s been quite awhile since you’ve heard from me, but I felt it was high time my Batman column here at Sourcerer saw another entry. Today, I want us to talk about Jerome Valeska (played by Cameron Monaghan) from the Gotham television series.

I know; the first season of Gotham was certainly a mixed bag. Personally, I enjoyed it despite recognizing its many weaknesses. I’m happy to see that the second season has started off rather strongly and is set to do greater justice to its source material while still forging ahead with its own story. I would say Gotham‘s greatest strength so far has been in its introduction of the character of Jerome Valeska, the show’s proto-Joker. Please note that from here on out, there will be spoilers for the show.

When Jerome and his bizarre circus family were first introduced last season, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Surely, the episode was visually stimulating and a murder mystery on a police procedural certainly sells, but it still seemed like there was something yet to be introduced. I was not disappointed; this episode ended on a surprise note that made my skin crawl, with Jerome transforming in an instant from a simpering child victim to a laughing psychopath that had any Batman fan worth his or her collection instantly on edge.

And the character has only grown more this season into the role set for him in that simple scene. Jerome’s appearance and demeanor are of a young man constantly on the verge of some sort of outburst, and he tends toward the morbidly dramatic. Further, Jerome cares little for even his own life, but cares a great deal about taking charge in a situation in order to insure that he gets his point across, whatever it may be.

The character’s showmanship coupled with Monaghan’s stage presence are a wonderful combination that plays out beautifully. Jerome isn’t a man who even pretends at a plan; rather, he is a true agent of chaos pursuing the greatest possible shock value with the highest possible body count.

On a final (and much appreciated) note, the writers of Gotham demonstrate that they are fully aware of the Joker’s irreplaceable, mythic role in the Batman mythos. This is worked in wonderfully with Jerome’s father (a blind fortune-teller played by Mark Margolis) reciting a prophecy concerning Jerome’s personal legacy of horror.

I find it a shame that Jerome had to be killed off after only four episodes. He was one of the greatest things about Gotham thus far, and that show has many, many great performances going for it, from Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth, to Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin, and of course Erin Richards as the broken Barbara Kean. Perhaps the greatest tragedy, and appropriately enough, the greatest treat, is that Cameron Monaghan gave us the greatest live action Joker yet, and he wasn’t even playing the Joker. I raise a glass to such a performance.

Cameron Monaghan as Jerome in Gotham. Image taken from https://www.facebook.com/CameronMonaghanOfficial?pnref=lhc

Cameron Monaghan as Jerome in Gotham. Image taken from https://www.facebook.com/CameronMonaghanOfficial?pnref=lhc

That’s it for this installment, everyone. Thanks for reading and welcoming me back. I plan on doing several more guest posts as the year wraps up, most especially once Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello’s Dark Knight III: The Master Race hits shelves. As for reading recommendations, I suggest that, Batman: Europa, and Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles once all three see publication. Each should offer up a different take on the character from what is currently enjoying mainstream publication.

I hope you enjoy those reading recommendations, along with Gotham. And please do check out my other posts on the Joker here, here, and here. Heh. See you all next time! Tweet me @quaintjeremy.

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Fantastic Four — Collaborative Review

Hannah: Melissa and I have now both seen the Fantastic Four reboot, and, well… We’re underimpressed.

Fantastic Four

Melissa: I don’t think we’re the only ones either, and that’s a shame. To be honest, I was hoping the movie would prove me wrong – I had my doubts from the beginning. And I tried to be objective, I really did. But I’m a fan of the original movies and I couldn’t help comparing the two. That said, I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would, but I still left the cinema feeling disappointed with the remake as a whole.

Hannah: I also enjoyed it but left disappointed. There were things I really liked, but I couldn’t help feeling like it was a “pre-MCU” movie. It had the same feeling as the Sam Raimi Spiderman movies, for instance. I loved those movies at the time, but in retrospect, they give off a strong feeling of “not quite there yet.” Not as focused or polished or confident, and without the idea of a larger universe, they don’t feel as expansive.

But let’s talk about the good parts.

Melissa: The idea of an alternate universe had huge potential. It was certainly an interesting divergence from the original story, and an accident in space.

Hannah: Yes, I was really into that idea, and how it might streamline things or allow for variations on their powers. I enjoyed the five characters and how distinct their powers were. The transformation sequence was positively harrowing!

Melissa: I agree with you about the transformation, it was brutal. So let’s take a closer look at the main players:

Human Torch – I thought Michael B. Jordan did a pretty good job in the role. He struck me as a bit of a loner, someone who wanted to carve out a path for himself instead of living in his father’s shadow. He had a subtle humour, and a confidence which suited the role. But Chris Evans is a tough act to follow; a hot-head with impulse control issues – the perfect combination for Johnny Storm.

Fantastic Four Johnny Storm

The Thing – Jamie Bell was great, and I enjoyed the development of his relationship with Reed Richards. I particularly liked the glimpse into their childhood; the bonds they formed early in life. But when he became the Thing, I was oddly detached from the character. It was bizarre that Reed left the group to fend for themselves for a year. I get he was scared, desperate to turn things around, but to leave without a word. What does that say about his commitment to his friend? It just didn’t sit well. I waited the entire movie to hear ‘it’s clobbering time’ and was ultimately disappointed. The line had no personality, and I was left feeling disappointed. To be fair though, it’s always hard when CGI kicks in, and there’s bound to be layers of separation between the audience and the actor playing the role.

Dr. Doom – I liked Toby Kebbell’s portrayal of Victor; the dark tortured personality – a result of being a genius with limited social skills. But then he disappeared for half of the movie and his motivations fell short. Julian McMahon (in the 2005 movie) did the manipulative, ego-centric billionaire really well, and so his transition into a monster made sense.

Hannah: Invisible Woman – Sue is a better female character who gets better treatment than ANY FEMALE MCU CHARACTER. She’s smart and independent, but not cocky or with a chip on her shoulder. She has her own vital set of powers, and isn’t defined by anyone else in the movie. And I really appreciate that even though some romantic elements were present, they’re kept in the background and never a major motivating force. Reed and Sue are an established couple in the comics and have been all along, but that wouldn’t have fit yet. There’s room for it later.

Fantastic Four Sue Storm

Melissa: I agree. Sue was my favourite character. I loved her – Kate Mara brought everything I thought she would to the role; intelligence, morality, and a strength which bound everyone together.

Hannah: Mr. Fantastic – I was so pleasantly surprised by this character! I was expecting “awkward nerd turns out to be the best at everything and gets the girl.” But he was actually shown perfectly comfortable conversing with everyone in the movie. He was pleasant without being annoying. Welcoming and encouraging, with no prejudices, and a kind of “leader from the background.” Smart, with a real comic-book-hero outlook on teamwork. But he still does monumentally stupid things sometimes, and makes interpersonal mistakes like the rest of us.

Melissa: Yes, I think that’s true for most of the movie, which is why I was so disappointed by the change in direction. Instead of stepping up, being the leader they needed him to be, he bailed. I might have accepted a few days, weeks at the most, but he only came back after he was captured. Then, when he did return, he did little to build those bridges.

Fantastic Four Reed Richards

Hannah: Yeah. It just didn’t make much sense, and that’s the main “negative” of the movie. The motivation wasn’t there for any of them.  Doom started out so interesting, but like you said, that just disappeared. I loved Reed and Ben’s friendship, especially when Reed sends Ben that selfie, because it shows how close they were and that Reed wasn’t just dumping him (which would be the plot of any other college movie). But then Reed runs away for a year.

That directly ties in to my other biggest problem, and that’s the pacing. Right when it was getting good, they cut it off entirely and jumped ahead a year. All the investment in the characters, gone, because we don’t actually see this part of their development. We never get the emotional payoff afterward, either. The gap created a major conflict between the characters, a fascinating choice, but that’s just waved away at the end. This should be a movie about constructing families, and all the bones are there to make it work, but we don’t get to finish it. Instead there’s a fight scene and an uninspiring speech from Reed and then a textbook “We’re a team, we need a name!” finish, all devoid of connection.

Fantastic Four

And the “science.” Don’t make me laugh. It was too ridiculous to be sci-fi, but not quite tongue-in-cheek enough to brush off as comic-book craziness.

Melissa: That sums it up perfectly, Hannah, especially your points about connection and lack of emotional payoff.

Hannah: Thank you, thank you.

There was a lot of potential here, and it was an enjoyable watch, but it would’ve benefited from another half an hour of runtime and a few more goes with the editor. Cut the weird timeskip, and tie the second half closer to the first. Then it could’ve been raised from a “fun” movie to a really good fun movie.

What do you think – did Fantastic Four pull it off? And here’s the question on everyone’s mind… Does it deserve a sequel? Let us know in the comments.

Netflix Tag-Team Review: Daredevil is Awesome

You might have guessed that I enjoy to collaborate, and given the fun I had with Hannah on the Age of Ultron review, I’ve been dropping some major hints! So when our Instigator-In-Chief, Gene’O, suggested a collaboration on Daredevil, I jumped at the chance.

Daredevil_netflix_cover

First, we’ll start with our overall views before we break it down a little and end on a verdict!

Mel – As a television show, Daredevil works for a number of reasons. It has a dark, edgy comic book feel to the production; great characters you can enjoy even if you don’t know their history, and a hero who is fighting his own personal demons while taking out the trash! I’ve always been a fan of Matt Murdock and, although I was nervous about how the character would be represented, I had high hopes for the show. I wasn’t disappointed.

Gene’O – I’ve always had a soft spot for Daredevil myself, and I was not disappointed either. In fact one of the things I like about the show is its “dark-but-not-too-dark” tone. It manages to be a serious show without taking itself too seriously. I think that’s mostly in the acting, and I have to say, the casting is phenomenal. Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk is an especially inspired choice . . . but let me not get ahead of myself in the intro.

The Good

Mel – The differing points of view. It is especially powerful when the audience is allowed to see through Matt’s eyes; what he hears, feels, experiences.

The fight scenes – the choreography is wonderful; some of the best I’ve watched. An example of that would be the corridor scene from Episode 2 ‘Cut Man’. It reflected the character beautifully and, to me, was a personification of Matt’s fighting spirit.

Gene’O – I agree about the fight choreography. It’s beautifully done. The two I find most memorable are the final showdown and this one, which is absolutely epic. [WARNING: BIG-TIME SPOILER HERE.]

I also think the points of view work well, but the thing that stood out the most for me were the relationships. This is a well-scripted and superbly acted show. The characters are complex, and there are a lot of emotional moments in this series that just feel genuine. That’s not something I expected in a Netflix superhero series. It was a welcome surprise.daredevil_netflix_claire

MelI have to jump in here, Gene’o because I completely agree about the relationships. I particularly enjoyed the character-centric episodes, “Nelson v. Murdock” being my favourite. The acting in that episode was superb; raw and extremely moving. Matt and Foggy’s relationship is one of the highlights for me – their dynamic works so well. I also enjoyed Matt and Claire’s chemistry, especially when we got to see his vulnerable side.

Gene’O – And I have one more. I like the way they handled the Daredevil costume. You know it’s got to be coming from the beginning, but it’s very late in the season before it’s even developed, and it’s an important element of the plot. I thought the reveal, when we finally got there, was a huge payoff and worked well.

Mel – I agree. The build up to the reveal was particular well-timed. I was so excited that, by the time we saw the suit, the tension was killing me! So cool.

The Not-So-Good

Gene’O – I had a hard time coming up with any of these, but this is a review, so we must find something to criticize 😉 If the show has a weakness, it’s in some of the supporting cast. Even though Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk is so good, he could almost carry the show on his own, I thought some of the villains could have been better.

daredevil_kingpin

I don’t think there are any poor performances or terrible casting choices here, I just thought a lot of the bad guys were . . . well . . . forgettable.

And I may take some heat for this one. Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson annoyed me at times. I thought he overplayed some of the more serious dramatic moments, but that may be as much about direction as about Nelson’s technique. And he does get props for doing well with the occasional comedic bits.

Mel – You won’t get any heat from me about Foggy, though I loved his character I will admit. If I have a criticism it’s that, after the emotional roller coaster of “Nelson v. Murdock,” his ultimate acceptance felt a little rushed.

As for Vincent, he was superb. My favourite scenes were when he lost control. I loved his sinister energy, and the fact he turned into a rage monster. It was bound to happen, given how much he suppressed. That said, there were times he reminded me of Goren from Criminal Intent.

In an effort to be constructive, because I’m also having a hard time finding fault with the show, I did feel the transitions were a little lacking at times. I also agree about the villains in general, which is why I’m really looking forward to the next season and keeping my fingers crossed we get to meet ninja cult, The Hand.

Gene’O: LOL. Criminal Intent. I didn’t pick up on the Goren vibe, but I agree about the transitions. A few times, as I was starting a new episode, I went and scanned through the last 10 minutes of the previous episode to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I’m also hoping we get to meet The Hand, and I like the supernatural undercurrent that seems to be developing.

The Verdict

Gene’O — If you like action/drama with plenty of grit and the martial arts turned up to 11, give Daredevil a look, even if you don’t typically go in for comics characters. On a five-point scale, I give it a solid 4.5. I’m tempted to rate it higher, but it’s not quite perfect, though it is one heck of an entertaining series.

Mel – I’ll concede to the rating for an overall score, though there are some episodes (such as “Stick”) I would give a 5. Matt Murdock is a compelling character, and it’s not only his tremendous skills, it’s his heart, the vulnerability that pulls you in. He’s a hero who is struggling with his own dark side which, granted, is not a unique trope, but the show handles character conflict exceptionally well. Add in the action, the dark comic-book feel to the show, and the strong relationships and it’s a hit in my book!daredevil_netflix_charlie

Gene’O – Yes, some of the individual episodes are 5’s all the way. I agree about “Stick,” and I’ll add “Cut Man” to the list. There was absolutely no chance of me not finishing this season after that episode. Did we just write an entire review of Daredevil without mentioning Charlie Cox??? I’m a bit of a Charlie Cox fanboy, but even if I weren’t, I’d still have to say. He is pitch-perfect in this.

Mel – I could wax lyrical about Charlie Cox all day! You’re right. He’s perfect for the role, so colour me a fangirl for Charlie and Matt both!

Gene’O – Thanks, Melissa! This is so much fun!

Mel – It’s my pleasure. I think it might just be my favourite way to review! Fair warning though, I’m hoping to convince you to make it a feature. With all the great contributors here on Sourcerer, it should be a blast. I appreciate the chance to work with you on it.

But now we’ve had our say, it’s over to you. How would you rate Daredevil? What are your highlights from the show? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Shows which will rise in the Fall

Being as I’m from the UK I have to experience Comic Con vicariously (at least for my favourite shows). There is so much to look forward to this year. Supernatural returns for its eleventh season, and who can resist the Winchester Brothers? This time the producers are stripping everything back, so Sam and Dean will have the kind of relationship they had in season one; two brothers fighting against evil. I’m sure there will be help from an angel or two, and more laughs from the King of Hell, Crowley. It says something about Mark Sheppard when you’re rooting for a demon!

A few shows had their debut this year, and perhaps my favourite is Sense8, which Gene’o reviewed here. The concept of a group, or cell, being connected telepathically – that they can somehow channel each other’s skills and abilities – it’s pretty exciting. Mix that with powerful themes and our most basic need for connection and, in my opinion, you’ve got yourself a hit.

DC

DC and Marvel continue to shine, and both introduced new shows this year. We’ll start with DC. It won’t surprise you in the slightest that I’m eagerly awaiting the return of Arrow. Having spent some quality time with Felicity Smoak, Olly will have plenty to smile about in this season – it will be interesting to see a lighter side to Oliver Queen.

The Flash also returns for a second season; a relief considering the dramatic finale. I really enjoyed the introduction to Barry Allen, and the show is one of my favourites. It is the light to Arrow’s dark, which works perfectly. There will be more opportunities for crossover between the shows – episodes I particularly enjoy.

Olly and Barry will also be ‘popping over’ to the all-new Legends of Tomorrow, which is set for release early 2016. The cast includes Ray Palmer (The Atom), Rip Hunter, Mick Rory (Heat Wave), Sara Lance (White Canary), Leonard Snart (Captain Cold), and Dr Martin Stein.

But that’s not all, in October this year Supergirl premiers. The pilot episode was recently leaked on the internet, so it’s a safe bet many fans already have an opinion about the show. I haven’t seen the pilot, but I’ve heard plenty of good things, and it was this show which prompted the post. Considering Greg Berlanti is on board, it certainly has potential. We need a strong female lead, and I’ve always liked the character, so I’m reserving judgement until October.

It’s an interesting cast. Melissa Benoist, who starred in Glee, plays Kara Zor-El (Superman’s cousin). Calista Flockhart plays Cat Grant, and Chyler Leigh (from Grey’s Anatomy) plays Alex Danvers. It tickled me that Dean Cain is also credited, and I will admit to having a weakness for Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

The trailer didn’t blow me away, but it interested me enough to want to give it a go. Here it is, I’ll let you decide!

So that leaves us with Marvel, who brought us Daredevil this year. I loved the show; it’s dark and authentic, and I have high hopes for the next season. There is also Agent Carter, and Agents of SHIELD.

marvel

There are other great shows, new and existing. But I’d like to hear from you. What are you most excited about? Which are your favourites?