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Friday, 29 April 2016

A History of Ice and Fire: Aegon's Conquest
War has ravaged the lands of Westeros over the last few years. The War of the Five Kings had caused a wave of destruction and a countless loss of life from Winterfell to Dorne. To the north of the Wall Wildlings have made bloody battle against the Night's Watch and, apparently, there are rumors that the dead has started to walk the land. Meanwhile in Slaver's Bay Daenerys Targaryen has caused a war in her attempt to free the slaves that they hold. However, centuries ago war ravaged Westeros and a kingdom was forged through blood, steel and dragon flame. This was the kingdom of Aegon Targaryen, (the ancestor of Daenerys Targaryen), and this is how he conquered Westeros with two sisters and three dragons.

Before the Conquest
Centuries ago the Valyrians held a great empire which encompassed much of Essos and even stretched as far as Dragonstone, an island only a few miles off the coast of Westeros. It was an empire forged with dragon fire and the will of their Valyrian masters. However, this all changed during the Doom of Valyria where a great cataclysm, still unknown to this day, destroyed Valyria. Valyrian colonies across Essos became free cities, the dragons were almost wiped out and the last Valyrian noble family, Targaryen, remained on Dragonstone. Around 112 years later Aegon Targaryen, Rhaenys Targaryen and Visenya Targaryen were tied between heading east to reconquer and reunify the former Valyrian cities or head west and begin the difficult task of conquering Westeros. Although they had a small navy and army they had the advantage of three fully grown dragons: Vhagar, Meraxes and the largest of the three Balerion the Black Dread. In preparation Aegon had a painted table made of Westeros showing no borders, this was an indication that he wished to conquer all of Westeros. The king of the Stormlands, Argilic the Arrogant, offered to marry his daughter to Aegon but Aegon refused deciding to carry on the Valyrian tradition of marrying siblings, to keep the bloodline 'pure', and married both Visenya and Rhaenys. He did offer the hand of his close friend, and possible brother, Orys Baratheon but an enraged Argilac cut the hands off of Aegon's messenger saying 'These are the only hands you will receive'. Aegon sent ravens to each kingdom calling them to yield to him. None did. Thus Aegon, Rhaenys and Visenya in 2 BC (Before Conquest) landed on Westeros.

The Landing
It was likely that Aegon had been to Westeros before despite what maesters used to claim. With fewer than 1,600 men the king and queens started the construction of Aegonfort where they would plan their future conquests. House Velaryon, (who were also Valyrian), aided them and soon houses Celtigar and Massey joined the Targaryens. Rhaenys quickly subdued House Rosby while Visenya subdued House Stokeworth. Lord Darklyn of Duskendale and Lord Mooton though gave the Targaryens their first challenge when they pulled resources and marched south. Orys Baratheon led a land assault against them while Aegon rising Balerion set upon them from above. both lords perished in dragon fire and their heirs quickly surrendered to Aegon. However, the Targaryens saw a setback when the navy under Daemon Velaryon was destroyed, (and Daemon killed), by a hastily assembled Arryn of the Vale fleet. Visenya riding Vhagar quickly burned the Arryn fleet which caused the Three Sisters (three islands off the coast of the Vale) to declare independence.

Burning of Harrenhal's_Conquest
It would be Harren Hoare, the King of the Isles and the Rivers, that would give the Targaryens their first major conquest. Harren Hoare controlled vast amounts of land and ruled over a large chunk of Westeros. His expansionism had caused Argilac the Arrogant to offer Aegon the hand of his daughter as a defensive maneuver. The brutality of Harren Hoare was well renowned for his brutality and he had forsaken the modest home of his father for a much grander home. By the time of Aegon's conquest it had been completed: Harrenhal. It was a virtually impenetrable castle. Harrenhal was built close to the Gods Eye which served Hoare well, House Hoare could utilize their impressive longboats this way. Although initially defeated at the Battle of the Reeds they dealt extensive damage to Aegon's troops at the Wailing Willows. Two of Harren's sons using muffled oars had managed to sneak up to Aegon's troops and then a massacre started. However, Balerion soon burnt the longboats and Harren lost his two sons. Following this Harren summoned the River lords to defend him but under Edmyn Tully of Riverrun they refused to do so and joined Aegon. Afraid Harren held up in Harrenhal. When Aegon arrived Harren refused to exit saying that 'Stone does not burn'. Harren underestimated the power of dragonflame. Stone may not burn but it did crumble under the intense heat of Balerion's breath. Flammable materials like straw took alight and soon the line of Harren Hoare was disintegrated. Today Harrenhal is supposedly the most haunted castle in Westeros and rumors say that it is still possible to hear the screams of Harren and his sons as they burnt to death. For his loyalty Edmyn Tully was made Lord Paramount of the Trident. Aegon would later invade the Iron Islands (the Islands in Harren Hoare's title) and make the ironborn bend the knee. Lord Vickon Greyjoy was then made Lord of the Iron Islands and a vassel to the Targaryens.

Conquest of the Stormlands
Next to fall would be the Storm King Argilac the Arrogant. As Aegon was battling House Hoare his sister Rhaenys riding Meraxes and Orys Baratheon went to conquer the Stormlands. So eager was Argilac to defend himself from the Targaryens that he had all his vassels meet him at Storm's End while allowing pirates and the Dornish to raid part of his land. While the Targaryens crossed the Wendwater a bannerman of Argilac, Lord Errol, set upon them and managed to kill a thousand Targaryen soldiers. However, Rhaenys retaliated by having Meraxes burn the forests where the attackers were hiding in resulting in Errol burning to death. Eager not to result in more loss of life the Targaryen forces bunkered down at Bronzegate to wait for Argilac who had left his castle after hearing what happened to Harren Hoare. The next battle was named the Last Storm. Argilac's forces crashed against the Targaryens. Argilac thought he had victory when he managed to break through Orys's center until he came face to face with Rhaenys rising Meraxes. His personal guard perished in dragonfire and he was thrown from the saddle. He refused to yield and in single combat Orys killed Argilac. They then went to Storm's End. Argilac's daughter, Argella, sealed the gate and was willing to share the same fate as Harren Hoare. Her soldiers were not and handed her over to the Rhaenys and Orys. Orys ended up marrying her and he adopted her family's motto (Ours is the fury) and sigil (a stag on a yellow background) for House Baratheon. Orys was soon made Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. Meanwhile at Crackclaw Point Visenya subdued the local lords with no fight who became direct vassels of the king.

The Field of Fire
Seeing two of the major kingdoms conquered, arguably, two most powerful kings, King Mern IX Gardener of the Reach and King Loren Lannister of he Rock, made common cause. They assembled an army of 55,000, where 5000 were knights, and marched to defeat the dragon king and queens. Aegon, Rhaenys and Visenya met up from their various conquests and went to battle against the two kingdoms. Mern Gardener led the center of the giant army while his vassel House Oakheart led the left while Loren Lannister led the right. At first it seemed the Targaryens would lose the battle. They were heavily outnumbered and the knights had penetrated the Targaryen army. This all changed when the Targaryens riding their three dragons descended onto the field. Spewing fire they cooked the opposing army. It was a massacre. In the end five thousand were burned alive and a further ten thousand were injured it what has been called the Field of Fire. Among the dead were Mern Gardener and all of his kin. The Gardeners had perished in dragonfire. Loren Lannister yielded the next day and Aegon allowed him to become Warden of the West. The Gardener steward, Harlen Tyrell, surrendered the capital castle of Highgardern and was made Lord Paramount of the Mander, a position that the Tyrells have today. However, they could not celebrate. The North had joined the war.

The North, Vale and Dorne's_Conquest
Aegon was initially to conquer the south but the King of the North Torrhen Stark had crossed the Neck with an army of 30,000. Aegon summoned all of those who had yielded and by the time Torrhen Stark had reached the Trident Aegon had an army consisting of men from the Reach, westerlands, riverlands and stormlands and, the army was twice the size of Stark's. Naturally Stark was not eager to replicated the Field of Fire with his northmen. Some lords suggested he retreat to Moat Cailin and fortify it while his illegitimate half-brother, Brandon Snow, offered a more secretive and daring plan. Brandon wanted to sneak into the Targaryen camp during the night and slay the dragons. However, Torrhen knew that the plan would fail and chose to negotiate a surrender. Earning him centuries later the mocking title the King-Who-Knelt Torrhen Stark became Warden of the North. However, doing this spared the lives, and the power, of the North. While this was happening Sharra Arryn, Queen regent of the Vale, fortified her cities and held herself up in the mountain fortress of the Eyrie with her son. For an invading army to conquer the Eyrie it would mean battling through three heavily fortified gates, up a mountain and brave high winds while being fired upon. Arryn felt safe that the Targaryens could not get her. That is until Visenya landed in the courtyard with her dragon. She let the young king Ronnel Arryn fly on the dragon as Visenya and Sharra discussed the Vale's surrender. By the time he landed he was no longer King of the Vale. Rhaenys had less look subjugating Dorne. She flew castle to castle on her dragon only to find them empty. She could not be secure conquering Dorne if no one surrendered to her. Finally at the capital of Sunspear she met the Princess of Dorne, the aging Meria Martell. Much of the Dornish nobility are descended from Princess Nymeria from Rhoynar so they use the Rhoynish terminology of 'Prince' and 'Princess' over the Westerosi 'King' and 'Queen'. Princess Meria Martell simply told Rhaenys that Dorne had no king and that 'Your words, Ours are Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. You may burn us, my lady, but you will not bend us, break us, or make us bow. This is Dorne. You are not wanted here. Return at your peril.' She did that and Dorne remained independent.

The Last Conquests
Only Oldtown and the Iron Islands remained. Oldtown was important as it was where the maesters were trained and where the High Septon, the leader of the Faith of the Seven, sat. Capturing it would remove the last obstacle to Aegon's unchallenged rule. The High Septon prayed for seven days and nights until supposedly he was visited by the Crone who told him to surrender. The High Septon told the leader of Gulltown, Lord Manfred Hightower, he decided not to follow his master King Mern Gardener into battle. Lord Hightower immediately welcomed Aegon to Oldtown when he arrived and the High Septon crowned him Aegon of House Targaryen, First of His Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. Although this was inaccurate as Dorne was still free and the Iron Islands were still free but in disarray. A year after he was crowned he invaded the Iron Islands (explained above). His kingdom was complete.

During his reign Aegon would create a more centralized kingdom but he would crave Dorne. From 4 to 13 AC (After Conquest) he would lead an invasion of Dorne and true to her words Meria Martell remain Unbowed, Unbent and Unbroken. Rhaenys and her dragon Meraxes were both killed in the war which resulted in Aegon going into a stupor for years. Dorne would not be permanently incorporated into the kingdom until 187 AC via marriage and not conquest. Dorne remains out of all the kingdoms to have the most sovereignty, other than possibly the North. Aegonfort was eventually expanded to become an actual keep and is now known as the Red Fort surrounded by Westeros's capital King's Landing. Aegon knew though that a monarch could not be complacent. He had the swords of all those he surrendered gathered together and forged together to form a throne. That throne is the same throne that has been contested by so many over the years: the Iron Throne.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

History in Focus: The Easter Rising
As of writing it is the centenary of the start of the Easter Uprising. From April 24 to April 29 1916 in Dublin, (and a few minor skirmishes in Meath, Wexford, Louth and Galway), Irish nationals rose up. Although the leaders of the uprising knew full well that they would fail they decided to martyr themselves for the cause of Irish independence. The Easter Uprising had a massive impact on not just Irish history but the history of the British Isles. Over the last hundred years the memory of the Uprising has ingrained itself in culture; the band The Cranberries in their song Zombie make reference to the event with the line 'it's the same old team since 1916'. Today we shall look at the Easter Uprising and see why it is so important.

Since 1169 Ireland had been in some way or another a possession of England and, following 1603, Scotland. In 1800 though the Act of Union forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland ,(union between England and Scotland forming Britain happened in 1707), was passed. This dissolved the Irish Parliament and Irish MPs went to sit in the Westminster government. However, Ireland was a subordinate partner in the Union and, many social, economic and political grievances took years to be addressed if they were addressed at all. Starting in the 1840s movements calling for the repeal of the Union started to grow which became far more popular in 1846. A fungus named phytophthora wiped out three quarters of the potato crop which was a staple in the diet of the poor Irish. The lack of response from Britain caused one million to starve and a further 1.5 million to leave the country. It was so bad that Ireland's population has still yet to recover. Grievances over Union membership and land ownership caused various groups to become a driving force in politics. In 1848 there was even a small uprising by a nationalist group called the Young Irishmen. In the 1850s a group called the Fenians started a campaign of terror which spread to the mainland. The British government started mixing coercion and conciliation to stop the Fenians. For example, they passed in 1871 a Coercion Bill giving Irish police special powers to arrest people while in 1869 they passed the Irish Church Act which ended the dominance of the Anglican Church in Ireland, (80% of the Irish population was Roman Catholic). However, the idea of Home Rule was wanted. Home Rule in Ireland would have resurrected an Irish Parliament which would be able to decide anything bar defense and foreign affairs which would remain in Westminster's hands. In 1874 the Irish Parliamentary Party would be founded by Isaac Butt to achieve this but it would be under the tutelage of Charles Stewart Parnell it would become a major party holding the balance of power in Britain. In the 1885 elections he managed to get 86 seats in Parliament despite being imprisoned only four years prior. In 1886 Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone tried to have Home Rule passed but was defeated. 

Following the Bill's defeat Parnell's image was tainted and, Home Rule was set back when the Liberal party split between those opposing and supporting it. In 1891 Parnell died and his successor John Redmond continued the cause. However, by the 1890s there was a divide in Ireland. In the largely Catholic south there was a revival in Gaelic and Irish culture with the Gaelic Athletic Association and Gaelic League becoming popular. In the province of Ulster (modern day Northern Ireland) with a largely Protestant population the Gaelic revival and Home Rule was opposed. Some opposed it as a Home Rule Parliament would be located in Dublin and they feared a 'Rome Rule' while others would only support it if the Parliament was located in Ulster as they saw themselves superior to the Catholic Irish. Those who opposed Home Rule became known as Unionists and consisted of figures including future Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law and Joseph Chamberlain (the father of Neville Chamberlain who used Appeasement against Hitler). In 1906 the Conservatives (largely Unionist) were defeated by Asquith's Liberals (largely in favor of Home Rule) who soon allied the Liberals with Redmond's Irish Party. Irish society then became militarized. In 1912 riots broke out in Belfast opposing Home Rule and in the south a militant group named the Volunteers were formed. Northern Protestants formed the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) which clashed with the Irish Republic Brotherhood which had been around since the 1850s. Both sides started smuggling in weapons from abroad and in 1912 250,000 people in Ulster signed the Solemn League and Convent opposing Home Rule, (the Solemn League and Convent was a Puritanical group from the English Civil War so they decided to use history for their cause). In 1914 Unionists even bought guns from Germany saying 'If Protestant Georgie won't then Protestant Willie will'. This meant if King George would not intervene then the German Kaiser Wilhelm II would. In 1914 Home Rule was passed but implementation would be postponed. Through a complex alliance system the UK had been drawn into a European war against Germany and Austro-Hungary. The government expecting a short war and hoped the war would create a bond in Ireland. Redmond also thought this and called for the Volunteers to enlist. Out of the 210,000 Irish who went to war 24,000 of them were Volunteer members. In 1914 there were 190,000 members of the Volunteers and 150,000 had supported the war. As the war proved to be longer than expected the calls for Home Rule or even independence started to grow.

The Leaders of the Uprising
 The Easter Rising was partially planned by seven people (left to right): Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Mary Plunkett, Se├ín MacDiarmada, Thomas Clarke, James Connolly, Eamonn Ceannt and Patrick Pearse. When the rising took place there was around fifteen key figures. Countess Markievicz would also play a massive role becoming the unofficial female leader of the rising. All of these men had Irish ancestry although many were not born in Ireland. I live in Edinburgh and are quite close to where one of the leaders were actually born; James Connolly was born on the street of Cowgate in Edinburgh's Old Town. All the leaders were associated with militant organizations; mostly with the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Volunteers although Connolly was associated with the socialist Citizen Army. Each had different backgrounds as well: Patrick Pearse was a poet and barrister, Sean McDiarmada had a long association with nationalist groups, Markievicz was a suffragette and socialist, Thomas Clarke was another revolutionary leader who's father had been a sergeant in South Africa and James Connolly had been a socialist activist. They were drawn together due to their connections in nationalist groups and their wanting for an independent Irish republic. Not all nationalists had wanted Home Rule as Redmond and Parnell had wanted. Many wanted an independent, Gaelic Irish republic.

The planners wanted to this Ireland and decided to orchestrate a popular rising with a twist. This rising would not be an Irish equivalent of the Battle of Lexington and Concord or one of Toussaint L'Ouverture's spectacular battles in the Haitian Revolution. They knew that they would fail and they knew that they would die. A rising would be classed as treason and during the war they knew that they would be executed. However, they wanted to inspire the Irish people. Catholics and Protestants would fight together and be executed together to create a feeling of unity and, revitalize the campaign for independence. This appealed much to the poet Patrick Pearse who spoke often of a romanticized 'blood sacrifice'. They decided that the uprising should take place largely in Dublin, they knew that if it happened in Belfast it would descend quickly into sectarian violence, and that there should be smaller risings in surrounding areas. Thomas Clarke wanted to get international support by having feelers sent to the USA for support and to India in the hope that Indian nationalists could simultaneously rise. Both of these ideas did not work. One of the leaders, Roger Casement, in 1915 though went to Germany for support. Although he failed to get Irish POWs to support him he did managed to get the support of the German military who supplied him with guns. However, the British navy intercepted the ship and Casement was tried and executed in 1916. Finally the group planned who would rise; the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army (Connolly's socialists) and the Cumann na mBan (a nationalist paramilitary group for women). 

The Rising
 Initially planned for Easter Sunday it was moved to Easter Monday instead (which caused much confusion for some people who planned to join in but could not in the end). On Easter Monday, April 24 1916, 1200 members of the Volunteers, Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan seized key buildings in Dublin. The General Post Office (GPO) was seized and became the base for the leaders. Shortly after the Irish flag was raised over the GPO and, a Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read out and signed by the seven earlier mentioned. At the time it was one of the most liberal documents proclaiming equality of the sexes, promising to end social injustice, ending sectarianism, equality in the eyes of the law and securing citizen rights. In the early hours of the rising many of the 1200 learnt that this would be their only battle but fought on anyway. Some thought it was better to fight and die than not fight at all. Others saw the conviction of the leaders and became convinced. There are many accounts in the Irish Military Archives which has first hand accounts of those who met the leaders and saw their conviction. Pearse for example has been noted as being very convicted and when asked about the chances of success Connolly simply said 'none whatever'. Among those who took part in the rising included one of the architects of Ireland's independence Michael Collins and the future Irish President Eamon de Valera.

Many women took part in the rising thanks to Cumann na mBan. Pearse actually said: The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally… Countess Markievicz was a suffragette and a socialist who has often been overlooked when talking about leaders of the rising. Both a Protestant and a woman she perfectly emphasized that the risers wanted a united, equal Ireland. Markievicz was responsible for setting up barricades in Dublin and, was responsible for shooting an unarmed Dublin police officer (which killed him) and a British army sniper (who survived). Rose McNamara led a battalion comprising of only women and was one of the last people to surrender. In fact the last three occupying the GPO were three women: Winnie Carney, Elizabeth O'Farrell and Julia Grenan. However, during the rising often the egalitarian Proclamation was ignored and women were forced to act as nurses or cooks while men did the fighting, this happened at the GPO. Also Eamon de Valera ignored direct orders from Pearse and Connolly to allow women fighters in his area.

In the end the rising was crushed, as they had expected. The risers had little public support as they had disrupted life in Dublin. Many mothers got money from the government to live off of when their husbands were at war. They got the money from the GPO which was unavailable to them now. Also the risers would shoot looters earning them fewer friends. John Maxwell, the person sent by the British army to stop the rising, was extremely brutal. He viewed the risers as dishonorable by rising up during a war and, he believed many rumors of the risers using human shields (possibly untrue). His brutal repression was at the time, and today, was compared to the repression that the British army had done in the colonies. This caused many in Ireland to question their place in the UK: how could they be British citizens if this level of brutality was enacted on them by Westminster? When the fighting had stopped on April 29 66 risers were killed and 143 police and soldiers were killed. However, around 260 civilians had been killed over five days.

Dublin's Four Courts bombed in the Civil War:
The seven signers of the Proclamation and nine other key figures were executed. These included Connolly and Pearse. Countess Markievicz was almost sentenced to death but was let off because she was a woman. Eamon de Valera was also going to be sentenced to death but was instead incarcerated due to his American citizenship. Ninety others were sentenced but soon were incarcerated instead when the government was fearful of creating martyrs. There is little evidence that the rising directly created martyrs but it did create much sympathy for those in the south. The Unionist, British press and politicians accused a republican party, Sinn Fein, of causing the rising and arrested many members including its leader Arthur Griffith. This alongside 3500 men and 80 women being sent to Fron-goch Camp in Wales and arbitrary arrests drew more support to republicanism. The arrest of Sinn Fein's leaders caused the party to adopt a support for armed militancy. In 1917 the passing of the Conscription Act in Ireland caused outrage. This, the treatment of the risers and the arbitrary arrests caused a shift in the south from supporting Home Rule to supporting republicanism. In 1917 Michael Collins helped form the Irish Republican Army and when the arrested were released Eamon de Valera was elected as Sinn Fein's leader. In the 1918 election Sinn Fein won 73 out of 105 Irish seats but instead of sitting in Westminster on January 21 1919 they formed their own Parliament, the Dail, in Dublin. Thus started the Irish War of Independence. 

Westminster sent armed veterans called the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries in 1920 who started committing various atrocities. In 1920 they basically burnt down Cork city and following the IRA executing fourteen spies while they slept the Auxiliaries shot at a crowd watching a football match associated with the Gaelic Athletic Association. In 1921 various Irish politicians and the British government realized tit-for-tat killings by the IRA and Black and Tans/Auxiliaries were making matters worse. They decided to create an Irish Free State in the southern Catholic provinces while leaving the largely Protestant Ulster in British hands. De Valera opposed this and the Irish Civil War broke out between Pro-Treaty forces (who accepted the split) and Anti-Treaty forces (who opposed the split). After almost a year of fighting the Pro-Treaty forces won. Ulster instead would get Home Rule and a parliament was established in Stormont. However, what the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland governments were like was nothing similar to what the Proclamation of the Irish Republic had claimed. In 1937 the Free State became a Republic while the north saw years of sectarian violence and a removal of a parliament in 1972. Today the Republic is one of the most egalitarian and democratic countries in the world while Northern Ireland has a power-sharing Assembly slowly working to end sectarianism.

The legacy of the Rising has shifted, as with many historical events, over the years. In 1926 with the ten year anniversary in the Free State celebrated the Rising as the birth of Ireland. The Rising was seen as their equivalent of the Battle of Bunker Hill where Irish blood forged an Irish nation. In 1946 this image changed again. The world had just gone through the trauma of the Second World War and democracies (for western Europe and Japan that is) had triumphed over dictatorships and fascism. The Rising was then seen as a battle for democracy and equality. With the Proclamation this was easy to claim. The Risers were fighting to end sectarianism and bring equality for all of Ireland. During the Troubles in Northern Ireland the Rising changed from being seen in a positive light to being something to be ashamed of. With sectarian violence in the north the violence during the Rising was linked to it. In the north at the time the Rising was seen by the more vocal nationalists as being something that should be celebrated and had to be continued whereas unionists saw it as something bad. The Cranberries song Zombie perfectly shows this view. The band came from the Republic and their song was about the IRA killing some children in a bomb blast. In 2016 the rising's legacy is not clear. Both Ireland and the UK have worked together to create events commemorating the Rising. In Ireland several documentaries and docu-dramas have been released to mark the centenary. Some have faced criticism because the audience disagreed with what was said in the programs. One hundred years on the Easter Rising still means very different things for different people. It is really up to the individual to decide what the Rising means to them.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-Ireland 1798-1998 by Alvin Jackson
-The Two Irelands 1912-1939 by David Fitzpatrick
-Modern Ireland 1600-1972 by Robert Foster
- The lectures of Doctor Jeremy Crang and Doctor Niall Whelehan of the University of Edinburgh

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Comics Explained: Doctor Strange
Earlier this week the trailer for Doctor Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch was released. Dr Strange is a prominent but not well known member of the Marvel universe. Since his debut in 1963 he has battled the forces of evil either by himself or, with other heroes, such as the Avengers. Today we'll look more closely at the Sorcerer Supreme.

Dr Strange would make his debut in Strange Tales #110 but it would take until issue 115 for his origin to be revealed. Stephen Strange was a very successful but arrogant surgeon. That is until he was in a serious car accident. He managed to survive but the nerves in his hands were badly damaged which meant that he could not continue as a surgeon or, even as a consultant or an assistant. Strange would travel all over following rumors about cures which left him destitute. He started depending on alcoholism and, to pay off his bar tabs and quests for cures he began performing back alley surgeries which would later come back to haunt him. Eventually he heard about someone called the Ancient One living in the Tibetan mountains who could potentially fix his hands. Using what remained of his money he traveled to the Ancient One's temple. The Ancient One, however, refused to fix Strange's hands; instead he offered Strange the opportunity to learn magic and become his apprentice. Strange initially refused as he did not believe in magic. However, before he left he saw the Ancient One's apprentice, Baron Mordo, secretly summon skeletons to attack the Ancient One. Mordo then cast a spell on Strange which prevented him from telling the Ancient One about what he saw as well as stopping him from physically harming Mordo. He realized the only way to stop Mordo was to train under the Ancient One and eventually become his successor. The Ancient One started training Strange and removed the restraints on him (he knew that Mordo was treacherous but kept him around to control/reform him). Over several years Strange learnt the ways of magic and learnt how to use the power of powerful magical beings, such as Dormammu and the Vishanti, who he would later battle against. When Strange passed his final test he was given an ageless life (which allowed the Ancient One to live for over 600 years) and became the new Sorcerer Supreme. After travelling the world meeting other mystics he created a home called the Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village, New York.

Strange v Dormammu:
Alongside his servant and friend Wong Dr Strange would fight users of dark magic in order to save the world. Quite often this would lead him to mystical, surreal dimensions (his creator Steve Ditko would be inspired by a mixture of Salvador Dali, pulp-magazines of his childhood and the contemporary Beat culture). In 1968 he would so popular as a character, perhaps due to the surrealist images being popular with the counterculture of the 1960s, that Strange Tales would be renamed Doctor Strange just for him. Dr Strange would remain aloof from heroes such as the Fantastic Four choosing instead to battle figures like Baron Mordo alone. That is until he was tricked by Loki into attacking Thor. Strange soon learnt of the trickery and aided Thor in defeating Loki. From then on he would ally himself with more heroes. For example, when Baron Mordo trapped several people in a mystical realm he teamed up with a young Spider-Man to help save them. This eventually led them to become close friends. In Marvel Feature #1, released 1971, faced with an invasion by the Undying Ones (a Lovecraftian like race of demons who once ruled Earth) he formed the Defenders with the king of Atlantis Namor and the Hulk. The group continued with Silver Surfer quickly joining the roster and over the years the group would go through many members including Hellcat, Luke Cage and Valkyrie. However, in 1964 he would face for the first time one of his most persistent enemies and one of Marvel's greatest villains: Dormammu.

Dormammu first appeared in Strange Tales #126 in 1964. Dormammu ruled over the Dark Dimension and wished to conquer the realm that Earth inhabited but had been thwarted by the Ancient One. It was on Dormammu's orders that Baron Mordo had plotted to overthrow the Ancient One. While Dr Strange was acting as Sorcerer Supreme Dormammu detected that the Ancient One's health was failing. Seeing this as his chance to invade he invited Strange to the Dark Dimension for a magical duel. If Strange fell and with the Ancient One growing ill no one would be able to oppose him. However, a mystic named Clea, (who was his sister's daughter), wanted to prevent the duel as she knew that if Dormammu won Earth would be destroyed but, if Dormammu lost his fall would weaken the dimensional boundaries which would allow the Dark Dimension to be ravaged by the Mindless Ones, (unstoppable magical killing machines). The duel happened regardless and Strange was defeated (but not killed). However, Dormammu's victory had depleted his energy which allowed the Mindless Ones to break into the Dark Dimension. Wanting to save the inhabitants of the Dark Dimension Dr Strange gave Dormammu some of his power in return for sparing Earth's realm and Clea. Reluctantly Dormammu accepted but vowed vengeance on Strange.

Clea would enhance her powers under the tutelage of Strange. Eventually she would become a mystic as powerful as he was. Simultaneously Clea and Strange fell in love. Together they would fight evil as part of the Defenders becoming integral members of the team. Eventually though they fell apart and Clea returned to the Dark Dimension to oust her mother who had taken the throne following the disappearance of Dormammu. She managed to rekindle her relationship with Strange when she became the queen of the Dark Dimension where they even married. However, Dormammu and her mother eventually returned forcing Clea to become the leader of a resistance. Since then she has balanced her time leading the resistance against Dormammu and aiding the Defenders.

During the Kree-Skrull War Dr Strange alongside Iron Man, Professor X, Mr Fantastic, Namor and, Black Bolt formed the Illuminati to share information in order to safeguard the planet. This ended up resulting in the exile of the Hulk to the planet Sakaar (and the Hulk's furious retaliation during the World War Hulk storyline) as well as a covert Skrull invasion of Earth. The Illuminati had visited the Skrull homeworld to warn them against invading Earth but this led to their brief capture. During that time the Skrulls took DNA from them which was later used for them to accurately blend in with humans. During the Civil War storyline he opposed the Superhero Registration Act in an Illuminati meeting but went into exile in the Arctic as if he had taken sides it would have influenced the evolution of superhumans in society which went against his role as Sorcerer Supreme. Following the end of the Civil War he was given immunity but he chose to harbor heroes who refused to register. When the Skrulls finally invaded the Sanctum Sanctorum was invaded by a servant of Dormammu called the Hood and the battle against the Hood (and the Hood's lackeys) caused Strange to use dark magic to repel them. This caused him to reject the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme and search for a new Sorcerer Supreme to replace him. Brother Voodoo was chosen by a mystical item called the Eye of Agamotto and the spirit of the Ancient One. When Brother Voodoo (who had changed his name to Doctor Voodoo) sacrificed himself to destroy Agamotto Strange was given back his role as Sorcerer Supreme. Since then Dr Strange has been the Sorcerer Supreme. 

Thanks for reading and please leave any suggestions for a future Comics Explained. 

Friday, 8 April 2016

What If: Godzilla Was Real?
This post will be the 100th post on this blog! To celebrate I'm remaking my second alternate history scenario. I am a massive fan of the Godzilla movies and this original scenario was released to coincide with the 2014 remake of the series. Godzilla has been one of the most endearing movie characters appearing in over twenty films, having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and, having two remakes to his name (a bad one be Roland Emmerich and a good one by Gareth Edwards). With a new film being released this year in Japan by Toho it is more fitting to revise what the world would be like if he existed. The existence of a giant monster (kaiju) in real life would fundamentally change world history and Godzilla would seriously change the course of history if he existed. Although Godzilla could not exist in real life, (this very good VSauce video explains why:, we'll overlook this issue and do two scenarios: one following the Toho films and one following the 2014 film.

The King of Monsters Rises
The first Godzilla movie was released in 1954; the world was gripped in the fear of total nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union, the occupation of Japan had mostly ended and, the economies of Japan and the United States were booming. Japan is peaceful until one day one of the Bonin Islands is attacked by a 50 meter tall creature. The world press soon learn of the existence of the kaiju Godzilla: a giant dinosaur which can breathe fire as well as leaving a trail of destruction and radioactivity in its wake. Soon Godzilla attacks Tokyo completely destroying it. The Japanese Self-Defense Force is powerless to fight the kaiju and it is only stopped when scientist, Daisuke Serizawa, sacrifices himself to kill the creature with a new weapon called the 'Oxygen Destroyer'. 

Following Godzilla's rampage Japan is devastated. Most of Tokyo is destroyed and the area, as well as the surrounding area, is bathed in radiation. One scene in the film shows fish dying from the residue of Godzilla's radiation so we can assume that the same would happen in Tokyo. In 1955 Tokyo had a population of around 8,037,000 so following Godzilla's attack millions would die due to there being little time to evacuate the city. Thousands more would go on to die of radiation poisoning. Everyone who was not killed through Godzilla or his radiation would be left homeless. Japan would face a major refugee crisis with thousands fleeing inland or to one of the other islands, like Hokkaido. Some may flee abroad to the United States and Australia, especially those who had family. Hawaii and California would have a massive influx in the Japanese population. The politics and economy of Japan would collapse. With Tokyo an irradiated wasteland the capital would have to move to Osaka and the government of Shigeru Yoshida would be discredited. Far right and far left politics would flourish in the turmoil of Godzilla and, Shigeru would likely be forced to resign over it. The Post-War Economic Miracle would collapse. Many major companies like Sony and Casio were located in Tokyo so they would likely disappear thanks to Godzilla; not to mention how the withdrawal of foreign investment and high unemployment (created via refugees and collapsing companies) would place so much pressure on the economy. Finally we would see large amounts of anti-Americanism in Japan. Through US nuclear bomb testing Godzilla awoke so people would blame the US for their suffering; the USSR, China and North Korea may even use it as propaganda to criticize the US. Riots would occur on Okinawa where the United States still held military bases. In modern day Okinawa there is still large amounts of resentment to the presence of US forces on the island so following Godzilla's attack this would be greatly escalated. Clashes between Japanese citizens and US forces would exacerbate already frayed tensions.
Just a year after Godzilla Toho released the (much weaker) Godzilla Raids Again. Here a new Godzilla emerges and fights another kaiju called Anguirus in Osaka. In this scenario just a year after Godzilla's attack a new Godzilla duels another giant monster in the new capital. Like what happened in Tokyo Osaka is destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people are killed and many more are left as refugees. Here the world makes three realizations: the weapons that did so much damage just ten years prior are useless against kaiju, kaiju attacks are becoming common and nuclear weapons had now created three monsters. Full blown anti-American riots break out in Japan as soldiers are lynched in Okinawa, American aid workers are attacked and, stores selling US goods are vandalized. The Japanese people are angry that America's carelessness had destroyed their two largest cities, killed millions of their family members and had destroyed their economy. The Communist Party gets thousands of members among the unemployed while the (then newly formed) far-right Ishin Seito Shimpu gets just as many with ultra-nationalists driven to the edge thanks to the kaiju. Between 1955 and 1975 (the last of the Showa Godzilla films) thirteen Godzilla movies would be released as well as thirteen other kaiju films including Mothra, Rodan and Varan the Unbelievable. With the constant kaiju attacks Japan would fundamentally change. Cities near the sea like Kobe and Yamato would become deserted as people flee inland with there being a reduced chance of kaiju attack. Hawaii, Australia and California would become heavily influenced by Japanese culture due to the amount of people fleeing there. Sydney, Los Angeles and San Diego would have large numbers of Japanese citizens living there and Japanese would become an everyday language in these cities alongside English. 

As the years drag by and Godzilla (and other monsters) ravage cities more frequently the Pacific world would change. Most of Japan's economy would be devoted to the Self-Defense Force in order to fend off the monsters. Conscription for all adults for several years would be implemented early on and coastal cities such as Yamamto would become virtually military bases preparing for the inevitable attacks. Tokyo would slowly be reclaimed although food and water would have to be imported as the land (and Tokyo Bay) would still be too unsafe to take food/drink from. The coastal cities would be lightly populated with the military comprising the largest residents although there would be civilians to cater for the army like store owners and teachers for a soldier's family. Many aspects of Japanese culture now big in the west, such as anime, would never even develop never mind leave Japan. With a total war economy Nintendo, for example, would never be created so there would be no video game industry, anime got big in the 1970s so we would not see anime outside of Japan and, many domestic appliances were developed in Japan so they would not be created in this timeline. In the Heisei era films it is implied that kaiju attack cities as they are heavily populated. In real life cities cannot be instantly rebuilt as they are in the films so likely many future attacks would happen on cities on the Pacific. Due to the fact that the initial attacks only occurred on Japan these cities would be instantly taken off-guard. Darwin, Seoul, Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore just to name a few cities would be demolished by Godzilla, Mothra and various other kaiju. Like Japan, countries bordering the Pacific would spend millions turning coastal areas into defensive areas against giant monsters. Richer countries like China and the US would build coastal walls to prevent monsters ravaging their lands. Military technology, however, would become something equivalent to that of a sci-fi movie, almost like the film Pacific Rim, as the world realizes they have to upgrade warfare as tanks and planes prove ineffective against kaiju. Inevitably wars between countries would become ever more devastating. However, as nuclear weapons had created the monsters and proved to be effective the campaigns against nukes would be universally supported. In 1998 Roland Emmerich created an abysmal remake of the King of Monsters but, in a Toho movie (Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack) made a reference to that film. That means in this scenario there is a monster attack in the Atlantic and New York is devastated. The world then realizes: nowhere is safe from kaiju.

2014 Godzilla
In this new scenario Godzilla awakens to battle the two MUTO where the 1954 attack never happened. Like in the film the three kaiju battle leaving Las Vegas, Honolulu and Los Angeles devastated in their wake. Following the battle America would be in crisis. Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Honolulu have a combined population of 19,528,146 people and we can assume all three cities were devastated thanks to the MUTOs and Godzilla. A good few million of this number would manage to make it out okay as Los Angeles was mostly evacuated. However, Honolulu and Las Vegas received no warning so it is likely that there was a high casualty rate. Worse case scenario and only a quarter of this number survived that means around 4,882,036 would be displaced. North Korea would use the kaiju rampage as propaganda hailing it is a great victory against the United States. The economy would be seriously hit. All three cities offer huge revenue in regards to tourism but, the loss of Los Angeles would be especially hard on the USA. Many major companies are located in Los Angeles, such as 20th Century Fox, so the stock in these companies would plummet. Naturally unemployment would skyrocket and billions would have to be paid to rebuilt what was destroyed. Unlike the last scenario Godzilla did not emit radiation in the 2014 film so rebuilding Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Honolulu would be an easier task (although still extremely costly). Sanitation, rubble clearing, road surfacing and fire control would be the main tasks although in Las Vegas and Honolulu the job would be harder. Honolulu was flooded by a tsunami created by Godzilla surfacing and Las Vegas is in a desert where the nearest water source is many miles away. Rebuilding could take generations but the immense loss of life (through displacement or death) would leave a toll on the cities. Nuclear issues, however, would be a much less controversial case. In the UK General Election in 2015 there were intense debates about whether to keep the UK's Trident program (the UK's nuclear weapon program). In the light of nuclear weapons attracting the MUTO and awakening Godzilla the general consensus would be they have to go. World populations would be fearful if the nuclear weapons of their countries would attract other kaiju. Three had appeared virtually out of nowhere so the feeling would be that there could be many more. The campaign for nuclear disarmament would get a new lease of life.

Thanks for reading and staying with me over 100 posts! Did you like the two alternate history scenarios? Please leave any comments.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Review: Batman v Superman (2016)

Warning: Spoilers
Batman v Superman has been one of the most controversial comic book movies for several years and for good reason. Today I'll review and discuss my thoughts on the movie. This review contains lots of spoilers which will ruin the movie for you if you have not seen it yet. 

Action, Cinematography and Effects
The action is phenomenal in this film. Particularly the scenes where Batman and Superman fight they are true cinematic wonders. People who have read my other reviews know my overall dislike for too much CGI but, in the case of the fight scenes at least the CGI enhanced the movie experience. Many critics who I have seen who blasted this film loved the fight scenes so this is some prime evidence to show how good the scenes were. There is one particular scene, (which to my knowledge actually does not heavily rely on CGI although I could be mistaken), where Batman fights a group of armed thugs and it is fantastic. Zack Snyder's signature style plays very well in this scene and it is very captivating. The fast pace of it all makes it seem like it is an actual fight. Although I loved the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan Batman films I always felt that the fighting was too rigid. They had good fight scenes but it always seemed somewhat restrained compared to the Batman of the comics or the excellent Batman: Arkham games. One thing that this film has going for it is how well choreographed the fight scenes with Batman (and Wonder Woman) are. It is fast, fluid and brutal which you want from a superhero movie. 

Although the effects are done extremely well and are perfectly enhanced by Zack Snyder's film style I would have loved to see less CGI and more practical effects. I expected Doomsday to be CGI, some things are extremely difficult to create with practical effects with this style of film, but some practical effects could have been used. For example, in The Lord of the Rings the cave trolls were created by using practical effects in some scenes and then relying heavily on CGI in the rest. I felt that they could have done this for Doomsday (incidentally both my friend and I thought Doomsday initially looked like a cave troll). Another thing to mention is how Snyder's style is good for action scenes but not the rest of the movie. Several scenes seemed to go by quickly and felt shoehorned in, the main reason why I believe this will be discussed later on but again Snyder has to be partially blamed for this. The artistic flare and quick shots may have worked well in films like 300 and Sucker Punch but with Batman v Superman it felt too much which hindered the effectiveness of it.

Cast and Characters
One thing I must give the film credit for is how well it is acted. I thought all the actors in the film did a good job and if it was with a different script there would be no complaints whatsoever. Henry Cavill as Superman is very good. He perfectly captures what I imagine Superman in his early days to be like. Not only that his interaction with Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Diane Lane (Martha Kent) and Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent) created my personal three favorite scenes in the film. They are so emotional and well acted. My friend loved the the emotive scene between Superman and his mother and one of my favorite YouTubers, Angry Joe, said he almost cried during the scene between Superman and his dad. I personally got very emotional during the scene between Superman and Lois Lane, how it was acted and written (David S Goyer and Chris Terrio outdid themselves) reminded why I became a comic book fan and why I loved them so much. Ben Affleck as Batman is fantastic also. He effectively plays a scarred Batman, one who has strayed from the light and has descended into a brutal self-hatred. After seeing him in this I cannot wait for his three solo Batman movies. This is the bitter and angry Batman that I imagine at the end of The Killing Joke and Death in the Family (especially fitting as Robin's costume is seen with graffiti from the Joker scrawled on it). Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is phenomenal as well although my biggest problem is how little she is in the movie. I would have loved to see her more in the movie.

Although the acting is good the characters themselves are complete morons. Lois Lane went from being quite a smart character in Man of Steel to being brainless. At the end she throws the kryptonite spear into a pool for some reason instead of doing the smart thing and giving it to Superman, only for five minutes later for her to realize the spear could be useful and her attempt to retrieve it led to her almost drowning. The reason why Batman dislikes Superman is stupid. Judging by the start of the film he seems to have a solid reason but that quickly dissipates, even ignoring Alfred who was saying what the audience was screaming at the screen. Although it would remove the main part of the film when Superman asked for Batman's help he could have literally just have listened to Superman instead of going antagonizing him. Finally we have Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Again it was well acted but it was disappointing. Angry Joe said that he was more Joker than Luthor and he's right. Eisenberg's performance is similar characterization to that of Alexander Luthor in the comics (Lex Luthor's son from a parallel dimension in the comics) and, people keep saying he's technically not Lex Luthor because he's Alex instead. However, it is clear that this role is Jesse Eisenberg playing Jesse Eisenberg and not Jesse Eisenberg playing Luthor. If we had got Bryan Cranston as initially planned (and as many of us initially hoped) we would have likely got the cunning, cold and genius Lex Luthor instead of Eisenberg's eccentric mad genius. Also his reason for hating Superman, and wanting Batman and Superman to fight makes no sense. The idea would have worked if the entire world worshiped Superman, Luthor in the film talks often how Superman is an idolized god who has blinded the people, but many people hated Superman so it makes no sense. In the film Luthor uses the corpse of Zod from Man of Steel and his own blood to create Doomsday to kill Superman in case Batman failed to do so. However, it makes no sense. Luthor knows Doomsday is a killing machine but he seems to have no way to control him. In fact the first thing that Doomsday does is go to attack Luthor. Most of the plot holes in this film could have been removed if Luthor was not in the film.

Also I felt Batman and Superman acted out of character at times. Superman less so but definitely with Batman. To start off with Superman possibly kills a terrorist holding Lois hostage. It is somewhat ambiguous if he kills the terrorist but I strongly believe that the terrorist was killed. The entire point of Superman snapping Zod's neck in Man of Steel was for Superman to truly learn the fragility of life and why he feels he has to never take a life. This seemed to be a step back. Batman is unusually brutal in the film. I don't mind that Batman disarmed and then stabbed a thug in the shoulder, smash a few cars up or use someone as basically a wrecking ball. I liked the brutal Batman and it is made better with how good the fight scenes are. What I am against is how readily Batman kills. I did not like Batman killing in Tim Burton's and Christopher Nolan's films (choosing not to save someone is still killing Nolan!) and I do not like it here. Admittedly I will give this some leniency as it seems that this Batman has been broken and strayed from the edge. However, I loved how Superman figuratively saved Batman. His sacrifice seems to have reformed Batman (judging by the last scene) which is a very good touch. I also liked the Martha link. I felt it was a dawning moment for Batman: he realized Superman is just like him. I've seen it mocked quite often but to me it seemed that it helped Batman realize that Superman is a man and not some alien.

References and Tidbits that I liked
This is a film definitely for the fans where the writers Goyer and Terrio did a good job in pleasing fans. First off I practically cried in joy when the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg appeared. Their cameos did seem very forced but at the time I did not care (to be honest I still don't). I was very pleased to see Aquaman as I love Jason Mamoa. Perry White mentions to Clark Kent that it is not 1938, a very nice nod to the comics as 1938 is when Superman made his debut. Also there is a poster in one scene which features Superman lifting a car, this is a direct copy of the cover of Action Comics #1 where Superman first appeared. The suit Batman wears while fighting Superman is exactly the same as the one that he wears in his battle against Superman in the excellent Dark Knight Returns which is a must read for any Batman fan. One of the dream scenes is very reminiscent to the excellent DC video game Injustice: Gods Among Us and the comic spin off where Superman became a repressive ruler following Lois Lane's murder by the Joker. Also in the same sequence Batman wheres what seems to be his costume from the very good Superman: Red Son story, (which I highly recommend). That same sequence also hints at the future of the DC Cinematic Universe (it feels nice saying that). The large omega symbol that you can see in that scene, and the flying bug like creatures called Parademons, are the work of Darkseid. Darkseid is an extraterrestrial who is basically a god and is one of the Justice League's most prominent opponents. There are two things about the Congressional hearing that I liked and must applaud the writers for it. The first is the jar of 'Grandma's Peach Tea'. It is something very clever and can only be appreciated by watching the film. The second is a little joke at the expense of the Westboro Baptist Church. Outside Congress one of the protesters has a sign reading 'God Hates Aliens' written in the same style with the same imagery as the infamous group. It was something that may have passed many by (it is tucked in the corner) but it shows how much effort did go into the film.

There are many issues with the film that I need to discuss. I've already discussed some of them but there are many others. My main one is Lex Luthor's motive. If the entire world regarded Superman as an infallible icon with a few naysayers slowly coming up this would make sense. People regard Superman though as a danger, at the Congress scene the amount of people protesting against him shows that this was not the case. What I feel should have happened was that the world loves Superman bar Luthor who sees him as a false god and was badly affected by the Superman/Zod battle in Man of Steel. He then finds people who also are antagonistic to Superman and gets them a voice. Batman, going by what happens in the first scene, also turns against Superman and is provoked into fighting Superman. However, Batman has caught onto Luthor's more illicit dealings so Luthor decides to provoke a fight between the heroes thinking that it will kill two birds with one stone. Superman kills Batman removing the person investigating him while Superman gets discredited for killing Batman. Simultaneously Luthor develops Doomsday with the intention that a Superman/Doomsday fight would wreck huge damage, kill thousands and when Superman is killed Luthor could come in to save the day by incapacitating the monster somehow. However, his plan goes AWOL when the two heroes make an alliance and, his way to control Doomsday fails and the beast gets loose. While this thread is happening Lois Lane starts investigating Luthor's illicit dealing instead of that asinine one in the film where she found out that terrorists were killed by Luthor's men and not Superman (something that should have been obvious as for some reason no one questioned why Superman shot terrorists with bullets!). I felt this could have removed so many plot holes.

Also the way they showed future movies was done appallingly. Marvel shows future movies but they do it in a far better way. They do an after-credit scene, casually name drop a character or a plot point for a future film is started. What they don't do is have two dream sequences which somehow exactly fits future events that seem out of place for the audience. The Darkseid one was so out of place my friend and I had no idea what was happening until Superman disintegrated two people confirming that it was a dream sequence. The Flash one was more aggravating (although I did like his costume). At first I thought it had something to do with the end of the film but no it has something to do with a future movie. You have both restricted yourself to follow this particular path now as well as aggravating the audience. Finally I need to discuss the ending. Why? Superman dying this early on is so ridiculous. First half the world still hated Superman. If you had showed the people who had hated Superman mourning his loss then this would have been more acceptable but you never see them. Hence, it is likely they still see Superman as evil rather than good. Second, they have used one of the biggest comic arcs in thirty years in the second movie! Death of Superman was one of DC's biggest events since Crisis on Infinite Earths and they used it in the second movie! It's like Batman Begins doing the Knightfall story or Avengers doing Civil War. Marvel has waited five years to do Civil War and DC has already used up one of their biggest stories ever. As a fan this has aggravated me so much. Finally, the stakes aren't high any more. The final shot implies he's coming back to life so the danger is no longer real. It is good that they've shown that they are willing to kill off characters but now Man of Steel 2 and Justice League will no longer be high staked. Bringing back one character means that every character can do so which makes the threat less daunting. DC has really shot themselves in the foot here. 

Other thoughts
I feared this would happen. DC has wanted to catch up with Marvel and in doing so has messed up their chances of making this film as great as Avengers. Goyer and Terrio did well for the constraints that the studio put them under. As of right now the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be done by 2019. What Warner Brothers and DC has done is try to compete with an established franchise instead of waiting to let Marvel wrap up before taking their spotlight. 2016 could have been the year where we saw a Wonder Woman, Aquaman, a second Superman and a Cyborg movie which built up to a 2017 release for Batman v Superman and a 2018 release for Justice League. Doing this they could have built on characters and tied up some loose ends without having to ram it all into one film. The dialogue is bad because they had to establish so many characters. Scenes are too short to have an impact because they have to fit so much into one film. Wonder Woman has barely half a dozen scenes because they have to tie up loose ends from Man of Steel. The DC Cinematic Universe could have gotten big when the curtain was closing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead we could have gotten George Miller's (the director of Mad Max: Fury Road) film. In 2007 George Miller was going to make Justice League: Mortal. It was going to feature an already established Justice League fighting the forces of evil but was cancelled. If they wanted to catch up with Marvel they could have done this instead. Bring in the Superman of Man of Steel, Wonder Woman, Batman, Cyborg and the rest. They could have used the cast of Arrow and Flash as well. 

Despite my rants I did enjoy the film. Mostly this was because of how much of a comic fan that I am. I could not put into words how ecstatic that I was to see Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman standing together in live action. I am getting chills saying DC Cinematic Universe and knowing that this is happening. When Batman v Superman does something right it does it spectacularly. The critics have treated this film too harshly but it could have been something far greater. I am looking forward to Suicide Squad and Justice League. Both seem to be wasting less time on establishing characters and more time on building a good story. I will say my guess for Suicide Squad: I believe the Joker/Harley scene in the first trailer in the car will be after the murder of Robin and Batman kills the Joker. Most likely now this will be disproven in the first five minutes of the film. Overall the fan in me would give Batman v Superman 7/10 but the critical side of me would give it 6.5/10

Thanks for reading. Did you agree with my score? Am I talking a load of rubbish? What did you think of the film? Please leave any comments down below and I'll see you next time!