A Week of New Duos: Reviews: Iyer & Smith, Iggy Pop & Homme, Batman & Superman

Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith’s “A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke” is stunning. Seemingly a duet between Smith’s ethereal trumpet and Iyer’s probing piano, Nasreen Mohamedi’s drawings and poetry as inspiration makes for a trio. A trio vastly different from the Iyer trio. Though Iyer commands a pulse here, the music lacks Iyer’s characteristic physicality. The music is introspective rather than expansive. And yet the turn inwards seems to give Iyer more space for movement. The inner infinite inspires Smith as well, searching, as he does, in between the twelve notes of western tonality for the transcendent.

Iggy Pop and Josh Homme’s “Post Pop Depression” certainly feels like a debut album, despite their both being veterans. Aiming for weird in the vein of Pop’s “The Idiot”, there’s nothing too strange here to anyone who has heard Homme’s projects, particularly his latest Queens of the Stone Age album “…Like Clockwork”, which foreshadow the ominous harmonies here. It’s a rocking album, pretty fun, but nothing too startlingly exciting. Homme dabbling in post-punk timbres and hues is a novelty. Pop’s lyrics are for the most part primal and animalistic, which is fine, because the jagged sociopolitical turns feel canned. His treacherously lived voice is always compelling however. The Stooges’ bark has aged well into a growl every bit as nihilistic.

Batman and Superman find out that their mothers have the same name in Batman vs. Superman. Suffice it to say that as that is the takeaway of the movie it was boring, tedious and frustratingly dumb. Affleck’s Batman is a goddamn neocon who practically quotes Cheney in arguing for a pre-emptive strike against Superman. Considering that the first half of the movie Batman just repeats this argument ad nauseam we would think he was committed to killing Superman per reasoned conclusion. False as it turns out, as Batman jettisons his philosophical argument against the existence of Superman when, near-death, Superman struggles to mention his mother by name, Martha, which is coincidentally the name of Bat’s long deceased mother. This inexplicably stops Batman from killing Superman.

One might think that being confronted with his mother’s murder reminds Batman of his opposition to murder, a moral standing he was going to teleologically suspend for a greater non-ethical good, per Kierkegaard, but that won’t work here, because unlike pretty much any other entry in the Batman universe, Affleck’s Batman kills people. He very clearly machine guns some hired goons in a car chase scene before he faces Superman, and kills a lot of people post-brawl. So as to not overwhelm the audience with a moral dilemma on top of the (already laborious) philosophical dilemma, the movie sidesteps having to explain the moral problem of murdering Superman by just making Batman a murderer in general, no deviation from a moral norm necessary. The problem, for one, is that the moral dilemma would make the movie more interesting, something it would benefit from, considering the movie never takes the core dilemma deeper than the exposition given in previews, and so ideologically is quite dull, and for another, without this moral dilemma, Batman sparing Superman is under-motivated. I’m perplexed as to how Superman’s mother having the same name as Batman’s resolved his anarcho-syndicalist position on corrupting power. The most one can say is that it humanizes Superman for Batman, such that it leads Batman to think that Superman isn’t as corruptible as he thought given his being raised by a doting mom like Batman’s. But this doesn’t work because Batman evinces a cynicism about human nature throughout the movie, so seeing Superman as more human would lead Batman to think him more corruptible, and what it more, it does nothing to answer Batman’s original position that no matter how incorruptible, no one should have that much power – Superman’s mom being named Martha changed nothing about his having apocalyptic power. As the central conflict of the movie, at least the one that can’t be resolved by brute force, the resolution to the climax is painfully inconclusive. It really was an awful movie, and I went in trying to like it as a Batman fan.

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