A bit of post-Christmas fun, occasioned by a list of Marvel movies ranked in some sort of order that seemed to me to bear no resemblance to anything I’d ever write down. That’s cool – taste and enjoyment are subjective. 

Still, here’s how I’d order the movies, from least favorite to most. 

Again: highly subjective, and I put a lot of value on repeat viewing as a “turn my brain off and just have fun” activity.

So, here we go. There are twelve Marvel Movies. And I’m going to split the voting up into three tiers.

The Bottom Tier

The good news for Marvel (at least from my perspective) is that these are all watchable. The not-so-good news is that for some of them, once they’ve been seen, you’re quite done with them.

12. Iron Man 3 – This one I saw once, and I own the Blu-Ray but I don’t think I’ve ever re-watched the movie. It just never really grabbed me. That being said, there were some fun bits in it, including Tony struggling with his post-Avengers brush with death.

11. Iron Man 2 – The highlight of this one was really the introduction of Black Widow, and the spectacular fight scene with her beating up, well, everyone. They played up Pepper’s role a bit, which was good, and Tony gets his new element to help power his suit. The interaction with War Machine was a fun scene, but still overall not enough to lift it out of the top.

10. Thor: The Dark World – Also known, I think, as Loki 3 (the first two being Thor and Avengers). Tom Hiddleston is such a compelling Loki that it’s worth watching almost just for that. Plus, the pageantry of Asgard is something I love watching. Objectively, I should put this one lower than 10, but I will rewatch this one before the 2nd and 3rd Iron Man movies, so it moves up in my book. Plus: Zachary Levi as Fandril. Boom.

9. Hulk – This one is a good movie, but it’s basically a stand-alone, and the fact that Edward Norton was replaced by the excellent Mark Ruffalo in Avengers and Avengers 2 means that it tends to stay on the shelf. Still, as a self-contained story, it does very well. Norton is a good Banner, and the Hulk is, of course, the huge green rage-monster we’ve grown to know and love.

The Middle Tier

Neither my favorite nor least favorite, these are solid hitters for me. The closer you get to 5 and 6, the less real distinction between them in terms of enjoyment.

8. Ant-Man – This was a heck of a lot more fun than I thought it would be, and a better movie in many respects than my choices for 9-12. I liked the old/new continuity with Michael Douglas as Pym, and the new actors for Ant-Man and Wasp. The Tommy the Train scene (not a spoiler – it was in the trailer) was and is laugh-out-loud amusing, especially for a parent. The interactions with Falcon at the Avenger’s base were well played, and proved Ant-Man can be a serious player, as well as played for laughs. 

7. Thor – A controversial choice, I’m sure. Most people didn’t care for it. I, however, never get tired of it. Chris Hemsworth owns the role as Thor, and I’m not sure it was Anthony Hopkins playing Odin so much as it was Odin playing Anthony Hopkins – he’s just that good in the role. Loki gets a smaller but still critical role here, and the tale of the arrogant boy becoming a man – proving his worth by realizing how unfit he is to rule – is enjoyable as hell to me. The movie is simply gorgeous as well, and while Academy Award winner Natalie Portman is underutilized (as she was in Thor 2), she doesn’t make me want to take a screamin’ leap off a cliff by playing scientist. This one moves way up as a movie I will pull off the shelf and just watch. Bonus awesome: Idris Elba as Heimdall? Brilliant.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy – I didn’t really groove on this one personally, but I can see that it’s a good movie, with an interesting plot and characters, each played well. The overall movie is deliberately much more shades of grey (something good? something bad? bit of both?) than the rest of the movies, but that’s not always a selling point for me. I rewatch Thor more frequently than GotG, but I can also see that for most, it’s a better movie. 

5. Avengers 2: Age of Ultron – The opening battle sequence, Hulk’s rampage and fight with Veronica, and the final battles are great film-making. The focus on Hawkeye and his vulnerability relative to the other Avengers – plus his hidden home life – is a nice touch. Still, I heard that the movie lost something like 20-40 minutes on the editing room floor, and it shows. Rewatching the movie last night was still fun, though – the interaction between the characters, especially Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, sets up both this movie and Civil War quite well. 

The Top Tier

These are my top four Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, which means they’re some of the best superhero movies ever made, in my opinion. For me, there are two groups of two movies, the merely awesome lower half and the ‘best movies ever made’ top two.

4. Iron Man – What? Fourth? Well, yeah, for me. This was, for a while, simply the best superhero film ever made. The introduction and construction of the first suit was a fantastic beginning, and while Don Cheadle is a great actor, Terence Howard did a great job in this one as Rhodey. The only thing that makes this one fall down a bit is that Jeff Bridges really does chew the scenery in the final confrontation. Oh, sure, the battle itself rocks on toast. But “My suit is more advanced in every way!” is just arrogant crap, delivered badly. And frequently. But overall, Iron Man was the foundation of the entire line of movies, giving the runway – deservedly – to some of the blockbusters that followed.

3. Captain America: The First Avenger – This one ranks among my favorite movies of all time, and it’s only number three on my list. I enjoy every moment of this film, from Steve’s recruitment and training, to his first moments as a super-soldier, to his eventual adoption of the Howling Commandos and the fight with Red Skull, and his eventual sacrifice. The movie also gave us Peggy Carter, a wonderful heroine who deservedly got her own TV series. Solid entertainment that was deeply respectful of the patriotic themes of WW2 America, portraying them in a way that could have been corny, but was not.

Truthfully, Iron Man and Captain America could go either way. I find Cap a bit more compelling as a hero than Tony, but Robert Downy Junior and Chris Evans both utterly own their roles. And i truly, deeply respect the work both have done bringing the joy of their characters to fans everywhere – especially their work with sick kids. Chris Evans (and Chrisopher Platt) have both travelled to children’s hospitals in costume to spread cheer, and of course RDJ donned his Tony Stark persona to gift a boy with a missing arm with a new Iron Man-themeed prosthetic. Chris Evans has said that Captain America is the kind of man he has always wanted to be – and apparently he’s taking that up as a challenge.

2. Avengers – This is a real candidate for #1, actually. It has the highest rewatch value of all of these movies, and if a brilliant ensembe piece that takes the best from each character. Plus, of course, Loki being so delightfully Loki. From start to finish, this movie defines the superhero ensemble piece. 

1. Captain America: Winter Soldier – Simply brilliant, and to bring such moral and ethical complexity to a red-white-and-blue hero that is Captain America was a deft touch, well executed. The big reveal of the movie rippled through the MCU, and Captain America, Black Widow, and relative newcomer Falcon carried the movie quite well. The reintroduction of Bucky as the Winter Soldier was very well done, and the film manages a level of tension that is visceral. So much so that it’s rewatch value is lower than Avengers, but overall it’s the better movie.

Parting Shot

For me, I’ll gladly re-watch any of my Top 7 at any given moment. The jury is still out on Ant-Man for me, but I’m sure it’ll make it’s way into my collection.

I love superhero movies. Great fun, good effects, and a sense of escapism and fantastic immersion that is hard to beat. The best of them have, in the past, made me “believe a man can fly,” and with some of them, can inspire one to better things like the modern Gods they are. 

In particular, the pairing of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers stand out as well acted, supremely well cast, and flawlessly executed. Tony, other than his origin story, seems to require the others around as a foil to his gigantic personality. I can watch Captain America – and have – in anything he’s in. 

In fact, I’m about to play in a GURPS Superheroes game, and my character, Commander Samurai, is accurately described as Captain America Lite. Oh, sure, some differences, because if i’m going to play Cap I’ll actually make and play Cap (though he’d be hard in GURPS; I might have to do that just to see if I can).

But I started off with “I want to play a character like Captain America” for a reason. And I simply cannot wait for Captain America: Civil War.

Ok, so it’s pretty well known I’m a big Superman fan. Super-anything, really. Especially with my daughter devouring every animated film, TV show, comic book, or movie about the House of El. Sniff. So proud.

I was . . . deeply torn about Man of Steel. Henry Cavill was very convincing in the Big Blue Suit. Well, the muted blue suit, due to color palette tuning – and you really need to see The Color Version of the movie to understand how deeply it was cranked to the dingy grey. But the point is that while I found MoS a very watchable movie, I didn’t find it a terribly high-fidelity Superman movie. 

Of course, one can easily say it’s not a Superman movie – after all, it’s called Man of Steel, not Superman. And that was deliberate, I think. He’s not Superman yet. He starts to get there at the end of the film, and I suspect we’ll see more and more of that through Batman vs. Superman.

OK, enough prolog

So I just saw the new trailer. It confirms a lot of things that I’d seen speculated about in the past. 

So let’s get started.

The first bit is some sort of gala that frames the central conflict of the film (well, one of them, probably), which is the views of Clark and Bruce regarding their respective roles.

It also features a very . . . animated?  . . . Lex Luthor. I’m not a huge Affleck fan a priori, but give the man credit – the tired-sounding “Lex . . . ” given when Luthor interacts with Clark for the first time (and the presumption that these guys (Bruce and Lex) run in the same circles? A good one – like the Batman/Superman Lego movie, where Bruce/Lex are both in the running for Man of the Year.

Anyway, Lex as ferret-on-crack is going to have to take some getting used to.

I strongly suspect that the initial conflict between our polychromatic capes will potentially be resolved in the first half of the film. We clearly have a lot going on, just between the first few trailers. 

Things we can expect to see?

Superman rescuing people and being heroic

While there’s a good point to be made that Clark saves all of humanity about three times over during the course of the movie, the kind of up close and personal heroics we saw in Superman Returns (much maligned, but I like it well enough) were absent. At least once he donned the cape. 

The early clips and trailers show him, at the very least, saving the crew/payload (probably crew) of a rocket launch, rescuing people from a flood, and likely other things.

Some serious issues with cult followings

It very much looks like the initial issue between Batman and Superman will revolve around a cult following that has sprung up around the Man of Steel. Based on the initial image, complete with Nazi helmets, someone’s taken Nietzsche’s Ubermench quite literally. 

Not sure where in the world it happens – we see Bruce/Batman decked out in desert gear – so it could be Africa or many places in the American Southwest (I find that particularly likely for several reasons) – but Batman thinks it enough of a problem to intervene directly.

The shots of Superman walking past kneeling . . . Nazi-menchen? Uber-Nazis? Meh. Superfans? . . . is interesting, because again it highlights that he doesn’t seem to deal with such threats one-on-one. Beneath him, maybe? Perhaps it’s like the recent episode of Supergirl: there’s no percentage to be gained by a Kryptonian twisting the arms off of a human, no matter how much he deserves it.

Power Corrupts, and Absolute Ultimate Power is Kinda Neat

I’ve noted before that the clash in Metropolis and Smallville between Kal-El and Zod was akin to several events the size, scope, and nature of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. One estimate I’ve seen before pegs physical damage at 750 billion and total impact at $2 trillion. 

The hyping of the “Superman is an illegal alien” thing, while done for both true impact as well as a decent pun, makes no small degree of sense here. You can’t send him a bill. The damage and dead are real. There’s nothing, or at least very little, that anyone can do about him.

So there are hearings and tension between Superman and the government. If Clark maintains his “you won’t control me, but you can’t get any more American than being raised in Kansas” position, this is guaranteed to Not Go Over Well.

Certainly you’re going to have factions. And some sort of program that says “we need a way to control/deal with this guy” is going to happen. 

I have to wonder if Cyborg is the US government’s answer to that, while Lex Luthor’s answer is . . .

Doomsday. Why’d it have to be Doomsday?

Yep. Confirmed, I think. He grabs Zod’s body, and creates something terrible. This will obviously be the final (and likely epic) conflict of the film.

We have also seen an image of Lex with Kryptonite  So I have to wonder if one or more of the following will occur:

  • Lex uses Green-K to mind-control or influence Superman
  • Lex uses Green-K to create Doomsday from Zod’s body
  • Both A and B
  • Lex and Batman both use Green-K for various purposes in the film

We’ve Seen Three. We will see more.

The highlight reel shows Superman, Batman, and Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman facing off against a very angry, very powerful Doomsday in the final clips. But we also know that Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash have been cast. That’s six major heroes, some of which are almost always considered part of the founding seven of the Justice League, some not so much. The one that’s usually there is Green Lantern, and there’s a “Carrie Ferris” cast in Man of Steel (and BvS) with a highly suspicious last name

Parting Shot

There’s absolutely no question in my mind that this is an ambitious film. It’s a Superman sequel. It introduces the entire Trinity in one film (though Wonder Woman looks to only show up in costume at the end – though more scenes could happen that we’ve not seen yet, of course). It borrows heavily from Frank Miller’s excellent The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, including, word-for-word, one of the juicy bits of dialog from the Batman v Superman fight in that book.

We will see Superman’s role in the world and with the US government (not to mention its people) evolve. We’ll see the emergence of no fewer than six, and maybe more, heroes. We’ve got Lex Luthor. We’ve got Kryptonite. We’ve got Doomsday – and let me tell you, the decision to combine the Doomsday figure and the Dark Knight Returns and maybe some of Justice League:War (in that the good guys all band together vs. a major threat, Doomsday instead of Darkseid) all in one movie means that as much as I noted that the Supergirl pilot jumped from high point to high point with breathless pace, this movie could feel equally rushed.

But perhaps not. Certainly, it’s possible that this movie, with all the seeds of awesome liberally sprinkled throughout, will deliver its full potential. As a fan of all three of the main characters (and Green Lantern is growing on me), I certainly hope so.

And a Better Version!

Someone has already re-cut the trailer to be more suspenseful and reveal fewer plot points.

OK, not as thorough on my review as for the pilot, but a second episode that was stronger than the first. 

Training with the DEO. Good. That was a nice scene, showing her using her powers.

The Oil Tanker. Nice “getting used to the powers” thing, but unfair to Kara with the leak coming from the bow of the boat. Ripping off the front would have been bad enough.

The Lord guy references that since Superman came to town, there’s a sequence of bad guys causing major property damage in Metropolis. OK, borrowing from Man of Steel/Dawn of Justice.

Huh. Alex Danvers is a redhead (or has red highlights). Nice.

Content meeting. Cat is still a hard-ass. This sets up some of the pressure later. Then “reading glasses and a good slouch” sets up the same line as Superman Returns, as Cyclops notes how Clark and Superman look alike, and then he and Lois laugh it off. 

Reasonable “moment” between James and Kara. “Really good pep talk.” 

Alien monster-face scared my 6yo, but not too much. “It scared me. Um. Whew.” Worrying about bleach and fertilizer base. Ooo. A Kryptonian flashback. Military guild. The “heart of a hero” line is a bit in contrast to something that comes later, but I like that they’re emphasizing that Kara had 13 years on Krypton with a reasonable wealth of experience. 

OK, “prove you can take ’em down without getting killed.” Turns into a training montage with a convenient kryponite radiation emitter set to 18%. That’s not a good call by the show’s writers – the DEO can weaponize Kryptonite into a broad beam, then Lex Luthor or some other super-genius can take out Superman/Supergirl in one blast. 

Cat and Kara and “calm the hell down” and get into things slowly. Ham-handed, but Cat’s line about big responsibility requiring time, training, and working hard with practice actually rang true. “Work twice as hard, etc” God I hope they don’t do this every episode. Reasonable scene between the two men, but I’ve got 5 bucks on James, because there’s zero appealing about Winn.

And now we have Bug Boy and what seems like at least two Kyptonians . . . and Kara’s aunt makes an appearance. 

Practice heroics. “Mad sewing skills.” Nice shotgun stop at the robbery. Too much geek from Winn, and a “kitten” up a tree. Great facial expression from Melissa.

Alex: you revealed your secret! Supergirl: Deal with it. I like this – it cements that the “team from the start” is the new way. Good exposition on the sisters. 

Back to the DEO. Goodness gracioius, DNA built on chlorine? PLEASE read GURPS Space. You know, it wouldn’t take much consultation (five to fifteen minutes with someone like me would do it) to fix all of those issues fairly easily.  

Backbones could be Si or C to have the plausible number of bonds, at least. 

“Uses Cl in metabolism” would explain why they have to EAT it. 

Something not from this episode, but a crutch I’m tired of:

“This doesn’t correspond to anything on the periodic chart!” (Predator 2 had this one, and I’ve seen it before over and over). 

that could be replaced with at least one technobabble phrase such as “I would have no idea how to blend these elements into an alloy to begin with! And the only limitation I can see from the perfection of the structure comes from my instruments! It’s like every atom was placed in this entire piece, by hand (except no hand is that precise, and our thermodynamic models say it’s impossible!”

It’s a common flaw, and it’s lazy. Very lazy.

Pressure on James to get an interview of Supergirl out of Superman. Do it or you’re fired. Heavy handed, but in character. Not a compelling character, but in character. 

The trap goes awry. Fires crystalline shards. Captures Alex (I don’t fault this – there are only so many principle actors available). 

Kara and James – “I’ll do the interview.” Some interesting insight to the Krypton in this series. “Be my own man” turned into “on Krypton, it’s no shame to accept help.”

The “S” means “Stronger Together,” apparently (rather than Hope). “I don’t want to be a hero like him.” OK,, the differntiation starts. I’m not sure I like the group hug characterization of Kryptonians, but they get to define it. 

I was reminded in another forum of the Roman symbol of authority: the fasces. An axe surrounded by a bundle of sticks – each weak individually, but capable together of delivering conquest and inspiring strength. If that’s what they’re going for, I’m all in.

Kara’s pissed at the DEO boss. “Do you have a family?” “I did.” That explains a lot. Nice.

They formalize Alura’s sister, Astra. General Astra. Her goal is to “save you all.”

See . . . as soon as Kara hears Alex say “Supergirl,” she rockets off. That explains the overuse of Superman as pronoun.

Astra fights Kara in Episode 2. Hrm. I’d have waited. 

She was a prisoner on Fort Rozz . . . and a conflict over what the truth of Krypton was. For “being a hero, trying to save our world.” Hrm. I wonder if Jor-El or Zod was on that same faction.

Nice joint manipulaton by Alex for the win.

Pretty good superfight and wire work for a TV show, and a lot of Kara getting her butt kicked, then a reversal . . . and cold breath from Astra. And a Kryptonite knife from Director Henshaw. Nice move – no one fails to duck so much as a cocky Kryptonian. 

And there’s the request for training for Kara like I asked for last review. Nice.

Parents got mentioned again – but they still don’t talk about them in the present tense. And Alex worked up a Jedi Holoron (Kryptonian memory matrix?) for plot exposition in the future. I like how the supergirl golden belt is echoed in Aluras outfit – because it’s something of Krypton she’d have been familiar with. 

And we have glowing red eyes from Henshaw. Again, that’s pretty bold for the second episode.

Astra doesn’t know bout Kryptonite either. And there’s a mysterious male voice that Astra seems to feel the need to explain herself to . . . perhaps it is Zod. Though Braniac might be a better guess. 

“Your interview with Supergirl has already started.” This was fantastic. Kara puts Cat off her guard by flying to the top of a mountain or cliff, conducting the interview while she’s flying, and in the dark. Game, set, and match to Kara.

My daughter picked up on several of the devices:

  • She noted the repeated uses of “Stronger togehter” and “heart of a hero” to set the themes
  • The aliens were pretty scary
  • She predicted that Henshaw’s family was killed (when I asked if Henshaw had any family, she said ‘not anymore’) and he was replaced by a robot or alien
  • She initially thought that he got his red eyes from the bug-creature, and Alex was an alien too
Parting Shot
Very much improved over the pilot. The second episode had much better pacing, though I worry they’re blowing the reveals too early. The Astra-Kara fight, Director Henshaw’s eyes, and the mysterious ober-general. 
They need to take their own advice: slow down. A few episodes more of monster of the week, perhaps, with a couple more non-monster episodes, and that’ll set the tone. 
I’m sold on Benoist as Supergirl, and Brooks as Olson, and Leigh as Alex. I’m not yet compelled by Flockhart as Cat (the character is necessary, the characterization needs work) or Jordan as Winn, who seems to spend all of his time whining, pining for Kara, and sewing.
That being said . . . Schott is the last name of Toyman, so there are interesting things in the future there.

So, this was a show I’ve been anticipating for a while, now. I’m pretty much a fan of Super-anything, and my family shares the appreciation.

My eldest is also a voracious reader (at almost-6) and has been devouring the New 52 “Last Daughter of Krypton” compilations ever since we started our tradition of encouraging reading through comic books. She’ll eagerly sit down with all six volumes now (the last one was called “Crucible”) and get lost in them over and over. There’s a bit of a thing here, though, where we occasionally insist she read what we call “imagination books” where the visuals aren’t provided for her. She’s doing OK there, but gets bored more easily – even so, she’s read chapters 7-14 of Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three on her own, bit by bit.

Further, we’ve both read, either in whole or in part, the amazing “All-Star Superman,” which captures the pure heart of Superman better than most other medium that I’ve seen. Though “Superman and the Jumper” comes the closest to what I love about the character in short form. If you haven’t seen this short bit, go here and do so. I’ll wait.

Why do I bring this up? Just to note that I’ve anticipated this since I heard about it. I’ve seen Lois and Clark (great), Smallville (solid but extended and tiresome at parts), the Superman movies (1, 2, and “the movies that should never have been”), the Supergirl movie (wow that was poor – “why is she crawling across a broken stone floor? She can fly!” – my five-year-old asked me this), Man of Steel. Various comics. Justice League and the Adventures of Superman.

And of course, I have a young daughter that loves superheroes, and will casually wear her Supergirl (and Wonder Woman) costume around the house.

So, how did they do?

Quick summary: good but too jam-packed. I would have appreciated a 90 or even 2-hour pilot episode with the same basic points hit, but spending more time on each. The pilot hit all the notes at the pace of a game of whack-a-mole.

My review will be a rewatch of the entire episode, and I will make no particular effort to avoid spoilers. Be warned . . .

Opening Sequence

They hit the journey of Kal-El to Earth fast and effectively. They establish the young Kara Zor-El quickly as a brave, mission-oriented young teen (13) who shows up on earth having drifted asleep in the phantom zone. She arrives, of course, to find Kal-El something like 25 or more.

She’s placed with the Danvers’ – “scientists who once helped him understand his own super abilities,” and you get the first awesome fan-service of a Pilot filled with it. The Danvers’ are played by Dean Cain and Helen Slater – Superman from Lois & Clark and Supergirl from the eponymous movie.

Helen Slater gets a single line, Dean looks on, and you get a brief shot of the sister – Alex – from a window.

And we’re done – the stage is set.

Personally, I would have liked a bit more with Dean, Helen, and young Alex and Kara (thats KAH-rah, thank you very much). They established some good “learning to use the powers” things in about 80 seconds in Superman Returns, and given some of the dialog later, with Kara suppressing her powers purposefully to have a mundane life, it would have better established why this young girl, who ‘is not afraid’ and ‘will not fail’ her duty to protect her cousin, decides not to do extraordinary things, as her mother says she will – even must – do.

Working for Ally McBeal and All-Star Jimmy Olsen

Earth didn’t need another hero. Coulda fooled me. Especially since this happens in the same universe as Flash and Arrow and . . . but that’s not been established yet, even by reference. So we’ll let it go.

The sequence is fast-moving and sincere, but cursory. Kara (Melissa Benoist – I’ve never seen Glee so this is my first experience with her as an actress) the exec assistant for Cat Grant, played by Callista Flockhart – Cat Grant has appeared in many other places, too – most notably for me by Captain Lochley (Tracy Scoggins) in Lois & Clark.

They quickly establish the basics: Kara is single and dating. Aliens have been sighted but are disbelieved (though disbelief in Aliens with Superman around as a legendary illegal immigrant for two dozen years stretches credibility as much as an atheist character in a D&D world with an active godly pantheon does). The not-terribly-masculine IT guy has the hots for Kara. Cat Grant is an arrogant cold-hearted bitch, but her spouting of stats for the Daily Planet suggests a certain amount of market savvy, as does mention of the paper – The Guardian – being her first acquisition. Kara makes all the proper noises about downsizing the paper. And there’s a new art director – go meet him.

That entire bit? Roughly three minutes of screen time. Maybe a bit more.

She goes. The new guy is Jimmy – James, thank you – Olsen. Calm, cool, collected, and very influenced by what is clearly a close relationship with “The Big Guy.” OK, 2min and 20s later, we’ve established him, and paid that off with a funny bit: “You look a little like him, around the eyes.”

The Competent Sister

We meet Alex – played by (the stunning) Chyler Leigh – who is dressed for a business conference in Geneva. She’s played as smart, decisive, and the clear emotional superior to the uncertain and (at this moment) a bit whiny Kara, who is stuck in the “who am I going to be while fleeing my suite of superpowers” rut. After brief bonding over “blue is your color,” Alex is off to catch her plane, and Kara is off to her date. Again this sequence is something like 90s or 2min long. While not necessarily done in one long shot, the touch-points are each in very short segments.

The Rescue

This made up the largest part of the long trailer released some time ago, and is the first truly compelling bit of the show. Again, though, the trailer hit nearly the entire rescue scene.

The “date” goes immediately poorly, with Mr Self-Absorbed checking out and getting the phone number of the waitress. A bit over-the-top, but it quickly establishes that yet another date has gone badly. Benoist is capable of conveying a lot with a frown and a sigh, so kudos to the actress there.

And then hark! Sister in danger, and a great “whip off the eyeglasses” classic superman shot. Nice X-Ray vision effect, and she’s relearning to fly – and they get that just right. Much more Superman Returns or Man of Steel in the flight effects. This whole bit is a great pastiche of the original Superman and the 777 rescue that is one of my favorite bits of Superman Returns.

This is the longest shot before the first commercial break at 3.5-4min long. It was well done, and Kara speaks with authority and confidence (“OH, COME ON!”) for the first time. Little Miss Uncertainty is gone, and she takes to the rescue like a duck to water.

I don’t think this one could have been extended that much without ruining the pace.

Guardian Angel or Human Wrecking Ball?

That’s a bit of a nod to the question that will be asked over and over in Dawn of Justice. Heroes make a mess.

Kara is ecstatic. Alex is terrified of the reaction of the rest of everyone, and counsels Kara to pack it all in and not be super again. Kara is disappointed and they part.

This is where a bit more backstory with Alex and Kara would have paid off. Things they could have done?

  • A rescue gone awry when Kara was young
  • Showing younger kids making fun of the super-freak for being “too good” at athletics, and having Dean Cain explain how Superman disguises his powers by acting all bumbling and Clark Kenty.
  • A few short scenes of the development of Kara’s indecisive streak. I chalk it up to the fact that at every instant, she’s flooded with sensory input. She can’t not be Kryptonian. But every time something needs to happen, she’s caught between the need to hide. Perhaps Alex has hammered that in – parents say ‘you need to help your sister blend in! – and she takes it to her advantage. They even allude to this later.

Anyway, I think this one didn’t hit the right notes. Especially since in the very next scene . . .

Edit: Following a comment from another forum, and re-reading my own summary, I think I overstate my reaction. In retrospect (I’ve seen it three times now, including the very long watching that I did while I wrote the review) the scene after the rescue hits the wrong tone for me because I’m not prepared for the gravity of it, though they pay it off later after the DEO reveals itself (and Agent Danvers) to Kara.
I still think they could have done that one a bit better, with a bit more foreshadowing, but it is a powerful scene that shows the pressure on Kara to stay normal. Part underpinned with real peril (which we don’t know) and part sisterly rivalry (which we can infer, and is then explicit later).

“It’s what they do”

Then we get the post-rescue reaction. We get “a rookie hero with no suit?” James fibs a bit, and between the new hero being the best thing that’s happened to the paper and his insistence that if this new hero is anything like Kal-El, she’ll be back. “It’s what they do.” 

This clearly – and quite deliberately (“It’s funny. That was the first thing He did. Saving a plane.”) – pushes Kara over the edge on coming out as a superhero – an analogy they make rather explicit (but which showed in the trailer, so it wasn’t surprise-funny in the fifth watching) as she tells her friend her secret.

Frankly, I’m cool with this. The “hiding the hero secret from your friends” thing has been done and done and overdone in ten seasons of Smallville, one season of Flash, and several of Arrow to the point where we get it already. Pulling in a small circle of close friends in the pilot? Thank you.

Let’s not Say His name

One thing that is noticeable about the show thus far is they say the name Superman precisely once, in the first thirty seconds of Kara’s voice-over on Krypton. After that, it’s “the man in blue,” or “The Big Guy,” or even just “Him.”

Capital letters intentional.

I like that – it’s good at a meta level, in that we know it’s a Super-show, and they don’t have to beat us over the head with “yeah, yeah, Superman.” But also, it seems right to me, especially coming from people that know Superman well. It’s a bit like “when you say Superman, it’s like shouting FIRE,” especially for people Clark knows. “I hear everything”

If they’re borrowing at all from Man of Steel (and the casual reference to ‘not everyone feels that way,’ or ‘plenty are scared’ or whatever, then people may well not speak his name out of respect, fear, etc.

I could also totally see Clark/Superman saying “please try not to say my name. I’m always around, always listening. And I don’t want to sort out the needful from the fact that for an instant I’m eavesdropping on your conversation from a planet away”

Hero Practice

She goes up to the roof, and her IT friend (Winn Schott, played by Jeremy Jordan) steps up on to a strangely echoing helipad (sorry, I couldn’t help but notice that that set was so purpose-built for the scene. The wooden construction, the pointless and likely illegal extension of the raised platform to the edge of the building . . . ). She comes out to him, he disbelieves, she throws herself off a building, he isn’t nearly freaked out enough, and boom. “You’re HER.”

One interesting thing – she says she’s going to tell Winn something only three people in her life know. Three. An interesting number – Two parents, Alex, and Him. That’s four. Mistake? Or did something happen to one of her parents? Or is she not counting Superman because he’s not in her life – hasn’t been for 20 years?

The Bad Guys Emerge

They hit some fan service early on: “A female hero. Nice to have someone for my daughter to look up to.” Well, yeah. That’s why we’re having the special exception to “no TV on school nights” for this show.

They hit “the female” thing a bit hard for my taste. But there’s a lot of subtext there. The General’s arrival (Zod? We’re clearly meant to suspect so). The reference to “she will pay for our mother’s deaths” and the casual mention of the history of the escapes of the children, and that Jor-El and Alura (wife of Zor-El, her dad – recall Jor-El’s wife was Lara) were Major Players. The existence of “operatives” from the humans and that the plane was downed deliberately.

A bit of scenery chewing. And an axe. A good start.

Quilting Bee, and No Capes! – “It’s not an S”

Immediate nods to some of the worst of the worst Supergirl costumes, though I could not find that particular one in a search. I’m told it’s a composite of bad trends through the decades. The “capes are lame” line from the trailer is still funny.

They quickly settle on a small variation of the classic costume. Low boots, blue top, red skirt, and gold highlights on the belt. And we learn why “no capes” for flying heroes isn’t necessarily the rule that Edna Mode says it is.

Frankly, this is one of the places where they could have spent more screen time. The same way that Superman (in a combination of deleted scenes and actual footage from the original Superman movie with Christopher Reeve) went rescue-crazy when he first hit the Metropolis scene, I felt a bit more time could have been spent on some of the heroics. The way it was played wasn’t bad – the point was the evolution of the costume – but I love watching superheroics.

The echo of “it’s not an S” was well played.

The Allies(?) Emerge

Low-grade Kryptonite. OK, and now we have Hank Henshaw and Agent Danvers of the Department of Extraterrestrial Operations. They have her ship, they were started when Kal-El emerged, and we see hundreds of super-powered aliens from Fort Rozz, a Kryptonian Super-Max prison in the phantom zone, that was for some reason pulled out when Kara crashed.

Flashback reveals hundreds of prisoners – maybe thousands – of prisoners escaped. They’ve been hidden for two decades, but they’re emerging recently. And they touch on something that’s strongly echoed in Man of Steel (yes, I know the shows aren’t related to the movies; thematically echoed) that Superman is feared by many, though it’s unpopular to say so. Henshaw is openly hostile and dismissive of Kara.

That seems unwise, dontcha think? If Kara turned all Red Lantern on him, his entire division would be toast pretty fast. Though the kryptonite tranqs would help, hell hath no fury like a Kryptonian scorned.

So we get “sad Kara” again. And Alex is sorry, Kara is insightful about why Alex was recruited, and her background. Kara’s dangerous, etc.

Second commercial break.

Supergirl and “Good night, Wesley, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

We get the “what’s wrong with girl” speech. But they’re still basing that name off of the grainy image. And Cat claims by branding her with someone else’s brand she’s tied to Cat forever. Kara almost gets fired, James saves her with a photo. Cat turns on a dime and scolds her for not taking credit for the good stuff.

I think it would have been better for Cat to have named her Power Girl, as a nod. Then, if the whole Earth 2 tie-in with Flash is pulled in later, you could actually have a Power Girl show up (costume ad all? Probably not. Family show. Go with New 52 costume instead.)

After all – Superman might have been pissed at someone giving that name away, and one does not piss off Superman. And at that point, though Kara had started wearing it, no one had a picture of her with the S, or even in the color scheme that was presented by James in the picture he has for Cat.

Once she shows up with the crest, though . . . Supergirl is obvious. Again, with a bit more screen time, they could have done this. Cat says Power Girl. You still get the “what’s wrong with girl” speech. And then when she sees the outfit, cape, and color scheme, maybe Kara suggests Super Woman, and Cat says Supergirl and it’s done. And there’s a nice interplay showing how Cat might chew up her employees for showing weakness, but she can be influenced and is impressed by confidence and calm. They already do this every time Mehcad (James Olsen) is on set, so it’s in character.

Want to Fight? Fight me!

Kara gets an ultrasonic nasty-gram from misogyny central (“on my planet, females bow before males”), and flies off immediately to confront the sender, despite having just been informed that a small army of powerful foes has been kicking around for two decades.

We also see that they’re not going to skimp on the super special effects, which I like. These guys are throwing each other around like proper supers.

And Kara hasn’t learned to fight just yet. Gets tossed around and actually cut by atomic axe guy. But our villain flees when confronted with an angry blackhawk helicopter. Hmm.

Alex shows up, too, fast-roping from the helicopter to help her sister.

Note I have no problem with this. If she’s a few years older, a 28-30yo Alex could easily be the equivalent of an army Captain (average age about 27, I think) and be giving orders like that.  I got my Ph.D. at 26, and plenty get them faster. So this doesn’t strain credibility for me even a little – many special ops forces are very strongly cross-trained (SFOD-D, I’m looking at you) and having an elite unit expected to defend against super-powered aliens insist that their operatives – all of them – be field trained? That’s just good sense. She’s not “Doctor” Danvers, or “Miss” Danvers. She’s Agent Danvers. Also, for her to be credible as more than a pretty face in the lab, she needs to be field trained, so I applaud this characterization decision. It also adds to the facet of why she’s always decisive and in command – she started that way and was trained to emphasize this.

They rapidly establish the super-healing shown in Smallville, where wounds disappear in the blink of an eye. Smart. Easier for TV continuity from shot-to-shot if you don’t have to remember where wounds are unless it’s plot relevant.

And Henshaw’s still an ass. The team has a lot more knowledge of Alura than Kara does. She walks off again. This is getting a bit Hunger Games here. But Alex has a change of heart, and gives the jealousy monologue, and decides they need her. And gives her a very special message from her mom – a Kryptonian hologram in Kryptonese.

I’ve seen a bit of flak over this (Kryptonese rather than Kryptonian), but I don’t see how Kryptonian/Estonian is that much more right/wrong than Kryptonese/Japanese – in fact, this Stack Exchange question/answer muddles it too. Here’s a note from 2006 decrying the -ese usage as “other” and a derogatory suffix, which since Krypton is emphatically exactly this, would make Kryptonese the preferred term for Terrans that do not like aliens, and Kryptonian a more embracing one. Huh. Who knew?

She gets a 24-year old pep-talk . . . and suits up.

The Sister from another Planet

Great line, by the way. Lots of dots on that radar screen. 

She head out, and puts the literal in “could stop a truck with that outfit.” She does better with the fight, and again they did not skimp on the super-strength effects. A bit heavy-handed with the “just a girl” and “not strong enough” thing, though I get that this is the fundamental conflict of the episode – Kara deciding that she is, in fact, a hero that the planet needs. It’s also somewhat central to a lot of the old dialog on the character historically, though they avert the hell out of that in Last Daughter of Krypton and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, so there are other ways to go there. But none of those have Kara on Earth for 24 years learning restraint, so that wouldn’t have worked.

She also displays some very trained fight responses – this is actually not out-of-canon, since 13yo Kara may well have studied martial arts. The Kryptonian Trials feature prominently in the backstory for the Last Daughter of Krypton comic books. Again, one could have a quick flash-back here, or even better (though it doesn’t work with a scene at the end), we could have:

Kara is shown flying in, landing on frozen plain. A gleaming solitary fortress shines in the background. A footstep is heard, and a familiar voice (Tom Welling, Brandon Routh, or Henry Cavill would all work, though Routh exists in this universe, so perhaps he’s out) says with no trace of sarcasm: “Hello, Kara. It’s been a long time. I love your outfit.”
She smiles, and  says. “I trained for the Trials. That was years ago. I need a sparring partner.”
Superman’s Voice: “Are you sure?”
Kara takes a deep breath: “I am.”

They lure in the bad guy, engage in a bit more moments of believe in yourself, and boom. “You have no idea what’s coming.” Still, victory.

We’re not calling ourselves that

So we get to the end, and a great joke about an old Saturday morning cartoon. We find out that James was in on it the whole time, which makes some of the lines from before even more funny. She gets his baby blanket – her new cape. And it’s Up Up and Away!

The Villain Revealed

We are then treated to a very surprise ending. One I did not see coming even one bit. The villainess is played by the same actress as Alura, and refers to Kara as her niece. Alura’s twin sister? Yep. Confirmed by other sources and the Supergirl Wiki. She’s apparently the General, not Zod. I wonder if she were married to Zod in this back-history? That would make nine kinds of sense, given her monolog about ruling Krypton.

Parting Shot

So, with all that “they should have done this differently,” I didn’t like it, right?

Nope. I enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to more. Why?
This was a pilot. A full episode designed as a trial balloon and sales pitch. Many are choppy and rough. Babylon 5? In my opinion the reigning champion for awesome Sci Fi? Remember how scene-chewing that pilot was? That was 90 minutes long, too.
They also got a lot of potentially crappy stuff out of the way. 
  • She already has a name and a costume.
  • She has a circle of people that know her identity so she doesn’t have to play the “lying to my friends” game for five seasons of painful scriptwriting
  • Hopefully she’s already got the “no, no, I can’t do it” out of her system
A lot of strong positives to play on
  • There are a LOT of bad guys out there, and a Big Bad with real bite
  • There is guaranteed to be a lot of good role-modeling for my daughter(s) here, though this comes with a caution.
  • The superpower set is well established, and they can work with her exploring her role as a hero, rather than the power-of-the-week trap many Super-stories (and a few seasons of Smallville) shows fall into
  • The supporting cast is good, with a group of somewhat-allies in the DEO. Alex is a compelling character in her own right.
  • More Dean Cain and Helen Slater, please. If they’re not involved with the DEO somewhere I’l be shocked. Scientists that helped Superman with his powers not recruited into this organization? Please.
  • The legacy of Man of Steel – heroic battles cause real heroic damage, and so there will be some of that going on too.
And that’s without even touching an expanded universe that includes all the comics, Arrow, and Flash. Look for a name-drop of Star City or Central City in addition to Metropolis as a signal there. 
What I hope they avoid? They beat on the “oh, I can’t do it, why me, I’m only an Earthbound God” thing pretty hard. Also the trope that other than Strong Jimmy and beta-Winn, all the guys are misogynistic evil lecherous humps (to quote Captain Tightpants). 

I very, very much enjoyed this characterization of Olson, by the way – it’s a new take on the character, but “Gee, Mr White, golly!” has been done to death. Brooks has real screen presence and I will enjoy watching him work the part.

Again, though, this has film precedent – the 1984 Supergirl movie has the Trucker Fight. But I hope they move past this as a constant theme. Hell, Linda Carter played it straight in the most feminist of all shows, the Wonder Woman TV show – everything was positive. They showed WW doing awesome things, and leading by example. They did not, paraphrasing the words of Alex from this very episode, need to make the hero strong by making the baseline weak. We need men and women worth saving here, and the hero is heroic by setting an example in action.

So: I can’t wait for the next Episode, and neither can my daughter. Some of the clips look interesting, some give some pause.
Part of the issue here is that most shows aren’t Firefly. Fourteen very, very strong episodes that pretty much hung together from moment one. Or, for another example. Agent Carter, which again was strong from the get-go. I found Daredevil similarly well done, though I know some (cough +Jeffro Johnson cough) will take issue there. That’s OK.
Most are Season 1 of, say Next Generation (uneven at best) or Babylon 5 (great but uneven). Even Arrow took a while to hit stride, and I think most shows are like that, as the actors and scriptwriters find their groove. As the poster child for a female-lead hero-in-a-cape series, one with a history going back to 1972 (I did not realize she was a year younger than I was!) as a stand-alone comic, and her original first appearance in 1959 (OK, that’s more like it). So there’s a lot of history, canon, not-canon, and burden that this show (and its actors and writers) carry.
Having seen Arrow and Flash, I know the team can do it. Let Kara be Kara, teach don’t preach, and we’ve got a real shot. Remember – Super-anything hasn’t really been on TV since Lois & Clark ended. Smallville ended where Super started, so that doesn’t count.

So, there’s a 6 minute trailer out. I like it, or more specifically, my daughter will freakin’ LOVE it. If you’ve watched this blog, you’ll know my family kinda has a thing for Superman.

So, I’m not going to talk much about the bulk of the trailer. However, I was chatting with a coworker, and he was asking – what happened to Superman? How did he not know and show up?

Well, if you feel like breaking out the frame-grabber, you can see it. Between the launch of Kara Zor-El’s spaceship and a furious set of near-subliminal images, you can see a few things, some of which are known already.

So there you go. Superman is well aware, thank you very much, of the existence of his cousin Kara. The house in the background, you see it in the next frame with the Danvers’ in front of it. 
Who are the Danvers, you ask? Dean Cain and Helen Slater, for a spectacular bit of symmetry.
And Dean Can is awesome. Just sayin’. 
My coworker also noted that Kara pretty much “tells everyone” the Secret in the trailer.
Hmm. Don’t think so. Her stepsister? She already knew, obviously. And her parents.
And Kal-El. He delivered her to the house, as a little girl – well, maybe not so little. Ten to twelve years old, I think. 
So . . . I’m betting the only person that didn’t know the Secret was the guy who asked her out, and she told after she rescued the plane. James Olsen? 
I bet he already knew. Superman sent him to watch over Kara. 
Anyway, I hope the show is good, though it’s clearly a bit too close to the Black Widow Parody SNL did. But that doesn’t bother me because while that’s spectacularly out of character for the freakin’ Red Room assassin, it’s not out of character at all for Supergirl. Go look at her brief encounter with Nightwing in the Last Daughter of Krypton run.