Superheroes and a rain of food: TV and movies

Like Manifest, the second season of BLACK LIGHTNING only ran sixteen episodes, but they were better episodes. In the aftermath of S1, Jeff gets demoted to a teacher at Freeland High while a possibly bigoted white takes over the principal’s office; Tobias Whale launches a scheme involving the Green Light metas introduced last season; and Jennifer and Anissa begin grappling with their roles as superheroes.

The family and racial dynamics are the strongest part of the series (besides the acting, which is consistently solid). Rather than treat meta-hating as a thing itself, it’s interwoven with race issues: the Green Light kids are black, so as one preacher puts it, their powers are just another excuse to gun down blacks. Jeff and Lynn’s efforts to deal with Jennifer’s powers run headlong into her teenage rebellion. While Tobias remains the running foe throughout the season, they break things up with shorter arcs, such as Jennifer and Painkiller going on the run, or Jeff and Anissa battling the white supremacist meta Looker (named for a former teammate of Jeff’s in The Outsiders — they use a lot of Outsider elements this season, probably because there’s a lot more to work with than the short run of Black Lightning).

The ending, while satisfying felt a little rushed. We wrap up way too many things too fast (the supposedly terrifying Masters of Disasters go down too quickly), clearing the board for what’s coming next season. Jeff’s clash with the new principal isn’t resolved well and Anissa’s pursuit of her girlfriend Grace seems to build to something but doesn’t. Of course there’s S3, but still. Overall, though, an excellent season. “I’ll say one thing for those child-snatching bastards, they got great taste in watches.”

As I’m giving a presentation on the 1960s Batman TV show (I’ll talk about that next week), I rewatched the film sibling BATMAN (1966), in which Adam West’s Caped Crusader takes on the United Underworld of Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman (Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith and Lee Meriwether, stepping because series Catwoman Julie Newmar couldn’t fit it into her schedule). The film had been planned as a lead in to the series but as The Batman Filmography says, that changed when ABC decided to launch the series as a mid-season January ’66 replacement rather than wait until fall (I think they may have rewritten the film because of that — the opening clearly assumes we’ll know who Batman is). While the camp approach hasn’t worked for me since I was sixteen, the villain casting is excellent (Meriwether makes a tougher Catwoman than I remembered) and despite the camp the show does capture some of the Silver Age comic-book feel. And as the Filmography noted, the Bruce/Selina relationship gets a lot closer to horizontal here than it could in the show. At times, though, the writing falls short: the Dynamic Duo deduce which villains they’re facing, then make the same deduction in a later scene, and they defeat two villainous attacks with the same trick (it felt canned the second time). And even by camp standards, the ending’s always struck me as dumb. Still, this rewatched better than I expected. “I’ve rarely met a girl with such a potent argument in favor of — international relations.”

Like Into the Spider-Verse, the Lonely Nerd opening of CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS (2009) felt cliched to me. Happily the film picked up as it went along, as the nerd grows into a well-meaning mad scientist whose new invention turning rain into food may save his dying little fishery town … until overuse threatens to drown the world in a food-pocalypse of giant edibles. Visually cool and some good voice casting including Anna Faris as a closeted nerd, Mr. T as a cop and Bruce Campbell as the town’s weaselly mayor. “There’s a Venus de Milo that has your face, next to a Michelangelo’s David that also has your face!”

#SFWApro. Cover by Rich Buckler, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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