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May 2, 2016 / tietze

DC Films: Dawn of the Rushed Superhero Mashup

The transformation of Warner/DC’s inevitable and immediately mooted Man of Steel 2 into the franchise team-up Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice has led to a peculiar online shit storm. Critics have almost universally impaled the production on the most uncomfortable figurative phallic symbol they’ve collectively been able to think of. ‘Fans’, on the other hand – of what, specifically, I’m not sure, since some of the film’s harshest critics describe themselves as fans of DC superhero comics – have dashed to the film’s defence, hailing it as a superior superhero picture that stands with the best of Marvel Studios’ recent output.

The comparison is significant, because Batman vs Superman (hereafter BvS) in its embryonic form was a straight sequel to Zack Snyder’s 2013 Man of Steel (MoS from now on). So what led to the transformation? The best of Marvel Studios’ recent output – and the success of their ‘linked franchise’ approach. The difference is, Marvel weren’t in a hurry to get to their first team-up, Joss Whedon’s 2012 The Avengers. Nobody else was trying this linked-narrative approach; roll forward to 2016 and it is obvious to even the least perceptive superhero fan that DC are keen to make their way to a Justice League movie before the team-up bubble bursts.

Have they moved too quickly? As go the business decisions underlying the content of quarter-billion-dollar productions, not at all. The safe money is in team-ups, in linked narratives: what worked for Marvel should surely work for DC. BvS’s box office, despite the oddball fan/critic war at the time of its release, suggests most (credit) card-carrying fans are keener on team-ups than on a well-paced buildup. Where DC may have erred is in the longevity of their collected franchise. Without a proper setup, it will be harder for their writers and directors to fashion characters an audience will care – or even know anything – about.

(Perhaps this is why DC are putting so much effort into TV superheroes they apparently have no desire to link into their cinematic continuity: so cinema goers not au fait with these characters will have been briefed, prior to their recast turns in Justice League movies, on how they function.)

A more patient approach would have emulated Marvel’s early strategy to a degree, albeit without the need for embedded trilogies. It would use a transitional film like BvS to pave the way for a full-blown Justice League entry, setting up the two franchise figureheads of Superman and Batman as the ‘stars’ of the series. It could then, like Marvel’s films, lead to TV spin-offs, though this is probably an area DC are less interested in, given the parallel universes they have already put those (and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy) into. By the judicious incorporation of the topicality and political commentary one might expect of the simultaneous involvement of Argo’s director/writer duo Ben Affleck and Chris Terrio, any DC/Warner bean counters actually worried about what the critics are saying should be able to sleep easily as well.

maxresdefaultTo properly reconstruct the road to Justice League necessitates some cosmetic retooling of MoS –not a problem, since this exercise in hypotheticals also rewrites the already released BvS. Since MoS is basically the first two Salkind Superman movies horribly squished together – origin story and Superman vs Zod – it would do to strip Zod out of the first instalment entirely. Sparing him for inclusion in a second Superman movie might make the ‘homage’ to the Salkinds’ almost-diptych just a little too close to the bone, but the Krypton-set opening of MoS is expendable in plot terms and arguably only exists to pay lip service to the 1978 movie anyway. Lose this extended prologue and MoS opens with the first instance of screenwriter David Goyer’s occasional nonlinear plot – a real asset if played with confidence as it allows us to share in Clark Kent’s journey of self-discovery. By film’s end, Clark should be see to defeat some home-grown menace – controlled by an as yet unseen Lex Luthor – to establish himself as Superman the hero. The narrative breathing room provided by keeping the complexities of a Kryptonian enemy out of the picture gives us time to get to properly know all the franchise’s supporting characters, whose lives will inevitably be threatened in the fight against Zod that demolishes half of Metropolis. In the next movie.

Man of Steel 2 can then open with the Krypton prologue pinched from the real MoS to establish Zod. He knows Kal-El was sent to Earth, we go “Oh fuck, there’s an anti-Superman on the way!”, and Clark is on the back foot from the start. Clark’s journey in the sequel is then as much about working out who he was as it is about learning what he can about Zod, by contrast with the first MoS which is about Clark working out who he is. The movie culminates in the demolition derby that concludes the real MoS, and we care about the humans whose lives are threatened because this time around we know them as people. We also care that this is personal for Superman because we’ve now had two movies to get to know him – as Clark, Superman and Kal-El. Lex Luthor is introduced in a subplot as the mastermind behind the enemy from the first movie. He’s a wealthy man with a keen interest in weapons R&D – a professional supposition I’m grafting on to the billionaire industrialist who, by all accounts, has little intrinsic motivation in BvS beyond being an overpaid mischief-maker. Lex is pissed with Superman because his creation in the first film was intended by Luthor to incapacitate and capture our hero so the billionaire could use him – dead or alive – as weapons research. But by the end of this sequel his disappointment is quelled by his acquisition of Zod’s mortal remains – and he’s nothing if not a man with a Plan B.

DC uber-franchise Movie #3 is a standalone Batman adventure designed to establish the grizzled old, impatient, Trump-voting Batman of the post-Nolan DC shared universe. Basically the one in Frank Miller’s seminal Dark Knight Returns, but updated for the 21st century. His body is raddled from years of undiscriminating vigilantism, so he uses enhanced armour when he’s the Bat. He’s been doing this so long he’s like a Sontaran from Doctor Who: he fights for reasons his ancestors might have a hope of remembering. Fans will know the reasons, of course, but there’s absolutely no reason to re-establish his backstory in this or any other entry in the series because it makes him more interesting to be a vigilante for the simple reason that it’s who he is. He stands for justice, but it’s a hardline, socially conservative style of justice, and it shows in this movie when he has no qualms about killing his enemies – in stark contrast to the Nolan Batman or any Superman ever. He is Batman as anti-hero.

Most importantly, his movie is a prequel to the MoS films. If anything, it ends with the first news reports of this Superman guy who rescued some people in Metropolis. Bruce Wayne is suspicious from word go.

Roll on Batman vs Superman: Dawn of a Better Subtitle than This (because Superman doesn’t do trilogies), and Bruce Wayne has an “I told you so” hard-on after the Metropolis-pummelling events of MoS:2. Personal vengeance of the sort used in the real BvS to excuse his direct interest doesn’t even come into it: he’s a protector of the old school, and he (ironically) thinks Superman is what he fails to realise Batman has become: an indiscriminate machine of destruction. This is a menace to be stopped, a foreign terrorist who is his own WMD – and loads of conservative politicians and mouthpieces agree. Here’s where bringing Chris Terrio in as a writer pays off: the franchise becomes political and topical.

Meanwhile, Lex develops Zod’s corpse into Doomsday, and he fully intends to test it out on Superman – not because he agrees with the anti-Superman crowd but because he knows it’ll put said crowd in his pocket, which could be good for business. And if Doomsday fails, or is a PR disaster, he can deny responsibility by shouting the loudest about “what this great country is turning into”, etc.

The audience of this alternative BvS thus gets a double whammy: topicality and complexity, and a massive ‘clash of the titans’ with an even more massive team-up finale. Not that the film’s heroes team up immediately: Batman is initially happy to watch Doomsday potentially slaughter Superman. But Superman finds the Batman who once was, finds the young Bruce Wayne who just wanted justice in the wake of personal tragedy, and convinces Batman through the commission of genuinely good deeds that they stand for the same thing. And nobody has to mention their mothers’ given names once.

On a pragmatic level – and this is what would give any subsequent Justice League movies a frisson of tension – Bruce realises that he has to work with Superman to overcome a greater evil. So it’s with the resources of the Batcave, Lucius Fox, etc, and Superman’s might that they’re able to defeat Doomsday. Or subdue him, probably, since he’s destined to kill Superman, per the comics, and because it could help Superman prove his point about avoiding killing where possible. Then, because Bruce Wayne’s money talks just about as loudly as Lex Luthor’s, Bruce goes public in a massive turnaround and fully supports Superman, going on about how the Kryptonian was misunderstood, how he made a personal connection when Superman rescued him (in an engineered PR stunt or similar), and so on.

DC uber-franchise Movies #4–6 are a Flash movie, a Wonder Woman movie and an Aquaman movie (not necessarily in that order), a franchise-expanding strategy that keeps two of those superheroes out of the already overcrowded BvS. The events of these series entries give the Superman and Batman public relations disasters time to blow over, with both heroes seen to be doing really positive things in the public eye. WayneCorp’s media wing helps out too, and we hear about it in the background of these movies. Lex Luthor takes an interest in some of these adventures, but he shouldn’t be seen to be the mind behind every adversary. His own media arm tries to do damage too, but he’s preaching to the pro-Superhero demographic – geeks and geek chic alike – since he’s more into social media domination. Which I’ve invented as a cheap shortcut because Jesse Eisenberg is DC’s Luthor du jour, but we might as well get some story value out of star association. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is slowly convincing and converting the more conservative, old media types.

e7b8f6c23ba9b614f4a2282e4d818286By the time we’ve gone through this cycle of six movies, approaching the evolution of the franchise with slightly more patience than Marvel, we’re ready for Justice League. It starts by focussing exclusively on Batman and Superman, who work separately but network regularly. They know each other’s secret identities because it serves their purpose – and indeed Bruce has bought the Daily Planet to streamline the PR machine still further. They’ve been observing a rise in superheroes, and it puzzles them that this is happening all of a sudden. Here’s the plot undercurrent for this movie: where are they all coming from? They also see an advantage in this, and try to actively recruit the competition into some sort of league that could fight for justice. The reason for the rise of the superheroes should be something off-Earth (I’d like Darkseid or Brainiac, please), and it turns out to be this movie’s villain. Maybe it’s as simple as a being that thinks it’s an impressive combatant and needs a team of superheroes to clash with in what it perceives as a fair fight. This, however, I leave to greater DC fans than I to figure out.

Even with this arc structure it isn’t immediately apparent what point of difference there is between the Justice League and the Avengers, save the dynamics produced by their different characters. Both supergroups have one alien member (Superman, Thor), both have a guy in armour (Batman, Iron Man), both have someone from a world war (Wonder Woman, Captain America), and I’m sure DC would want to squeeze in someone who’s basically a regular human but just really skilled at something, just to compete with Black Widow and Hawkeye. (Green Arrow springs instantly to mind for some reason I just can’t fathom…) Perhaps the key is that DC’s team would have a clear figurehead in Superman, superhero of superheroes and the only member to have been granted a self-contained sequel. Even Marvel’s Iron Man, despite having been the first Avenger to get his own trilogy and despite the fact that it’s Tony Stark who bankrolls their assembly, is subservient to the supporting character of Nick Fury. Significantly, Superman would be a well-defined figurehead, given the time he deserves to be properly developed as a new spin on a classic character in this most recent version of an oft-told story.

January 1, 2014 / tietze

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,200 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 31, 2012 / tietze

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 9, 2012 / tietze

Iron Man Key Scene Worksheets 4-5

The remaining Media Studies worksheets for a key scene analysis of Iron Man (2008).


‘Iron Man’ Key Scene Analysis #4: Heart Theft

1. What do we learn about the character relationship between Tony and Obidiah Stane in this scene?

2. This part of the story is a turning point: it includes a crucial event that shapes how the rest of the story will go. What is that event? What happens because of it?

3. How do the shot types and camera angles change as the scene progresses? What aspects of the story are being reflected by these changes?

4. What kind of lighting is used? How does it reflect the setting and the events of the scene?

5. Is any music used? Why or why not?

6. A very important sound effect is heard in this scene. What is it, and why is it important?

7. What kind of tone is the dialogue spoken in? What does this tell us about the relationship between the characters?


‘Iron Man’ Key Scene Analysis #5: Freeway Fight

1. What do we learn about the character relationship between Tony and Obidiah Stane in this scene?

2. What part do the events of this scene play in the story of the battle between Tony and his enemies?

3.    a) What does the lighting tell us about the setting?
b) What kind of mood does it establish for the scene?
c) Is Tony the only person in danger in the freeway fight? The background lighting suggests he isn’t. Describe how it does this.

4. What shot types and camera angles are used in this scene?

5. How is music used? Compare it to the way music was used in the other action scenes we analysed: how is its use similar and how is it different?

6. What kind of tone is the dialogue spoken in? What does this tell us about the relationship between the characters?


This task can of course be adapted to suit the study of any film. Also emphasised during the course was the way Iron Man functions as part of the superhero genre, and how an awareness of this has influenced the filmmakers’ approach to the production and story elements analysed. By way of contrast, the horror genre and its traits were explored via vampire movie trailers and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Buffy Vs Dracula”.

December 2, 2012 / tietze

Iron Man Key Scene Worksheets 1-3

Last week I posted a sample essay analysing five key scenes from the film Iron Man (2008). It has been used in a Media Studies unit exploring film technique in genre cinema to demonstrate required structure to students – albeit when they were required to analyse a different film.

To provide an idea of the groundwork involved in getting students to focus on useful aspects of the scenes, this and the next post will consist of the question sheets provided to the classes that actually studied Iron Man. Throughout, the focus of the analysis has been on use of camera, lighting and sound as production elements, and characterisation alongside cause & effect as story elements.


‘Iron Man’ Key Scene Analysis #1: Desert Attack

Complete your answers to these questions in your workbooks. You can begin making notes while the scene is playing, and there will be writing time afterwards.

1. This scene introduces Tony Stark, the main character. Describe what we learn about his character, especially in contrast with the way the soldiers are portrayed.

2. What story elements happen in this scene that set up later story events?

3. What does the lighting tell us about the setting? Compare the lighting inside and outside the jeep.

4. How is music used in this scene? Is it diegetic, non-diegetic or both? Are there any parts without music? Why do you think that is?

5. What especially important sound effects are in this scene? What do they add to our understanding of the story?

6. Describe the way different camera shots and angles establish Tony Stark.

7. Do the types of shots and angles change when the scene moves to outside the jeep?
a) Describe some of the changes.
b) One reason for this change is because the setting has moved from interior to exterior. State a story reason why the camera style might have changed.


‘Iron Man’ Key Scene Analysis #2: ‘Operation’

1. What do we learn about the character relationship between Tony and Pepper Potts in this scene?

2. What story elements happen in this scene that will be important later?

3.    a) What shot types and camera angles are used in this scene?
b) Thinking about what happens in this scene, why do you think these shots and angles were chosen?

4. Describe the lighting in this scene. Which parts of the image is our attention drawn to by the lighting?

5. Is there any music in the scene? Why or why not?

6. What kind of tone is the dialogue spoken in? What does this tell us about the relationship between the characters?


‘Iron Man’ Key Scene Analysis #3: First Fight

1. Why is this an important moment in the movie for the character of Tony Stark?

2. What part do the events of this scene play in the story of the battle between Tony and his enemies?

3.    a) What shots and angles are used throughout the scene? How do they reflect the type of scene it is?
b) Are any particular shot types or angles used to visually define Iron Man in a particular way? Describe these.

4. What does the lighting tell us about the setting? How does it tell us that we’ve seen this kind of setting earlier in the movie?

5. How is music used? Compare it to the way music was used in the first action scene we analysed: how is its use similar and how is it different?

6. Some of the dialogue is spoken in another language. What effect does this have on the story and on how Tony understands the events that are unfolding?


The question sheets for the two remaining key scenes to follow.

November 25, 2012 / tietze

Iron Man: A Key Scene Analysis

Written originally as a sample essay for Media Studies, this review is a story and production element analysis of five key scenes.

Jon Favreau’s Iron Man (2008) is a suspenseful, action-packed comic book adaptation with strong comedic touches. It explores arms magnate Tony Stark’s transformation into a superhero and the effect this has on his relationships with various colleagues. Favreau explores these themes by employing a variety of story and production elements appropriate to the superhero genre, while maintaining a consistent style. Favreau’s use of these elements will be analysed through five key scenes that represent the film.

The film opens with Tony (Robert Downey Jr) being transported through a desert setting with a military team, before they are attacked by unknown forces. The soldiers’ admiration of Stark is made evident by the casual tone of the dialogue and their playing diegetic music (a rock song) in the jeep. Tony is further depicted as an impressive figure by being introduced through close-ups of his whiskey glass and suit before he is fully revealed. When the enemy strikes, the style of the scene changes completely to reflect the shift in mood. Heavy sound effects are used to represent gunfire and explosions, their impact accentuated by an absence of music. Lighting, previously subdued, is harsh and bright, exposing us to the unforgiving desert conditions. The road to Tony’s transformation into a heroic figure comes with specific production techniques. The revelation that the enemy’s weapons bear his name is reinforced with a quick zoom in, and the impact of his injury from it is depicted from Tony’s point of view, the soundtrack hollowing out and a bird’s eye view of him receding as the image flares to white, giving the impression of an out of body experience.

As Tony refines the technology that has kept him alive since the attack, he calls on his personal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to assist in replacing his miniature arc reactor with an improved model. The scene is an intimate one, reflecting the will-they-won’t-they nature of their relationship. The camera is principally limited to close-ups and mid shots, emphasising the connection between Pepper and Tony, and the results of her efforts. Lighting concentrates on Tony’s exposed chest and the faces of these friends, emphasising their emotions and the actions that bring them about. Sound effects and dialogue delivery lend the scene a sexual subtext, underlining the potential consequences of the characters’ closeness. By scene’s end, Pepper decides to keep the old reactor, a decision that will later prove vital.

Towards the film’s midpoint, Tony tests his newly built Iron Man suit in the field for the first time by attacking the very terrorists who attacked him. Another action sequence, this scene plays out more conventionally than the jeep attack while maintaining a similar style. Music is conspicuous in its absence, except where a non-diegetic heroic theme (accompanied by low angles of Iron Man) signals Tony’s victory at scene’s end. Lighting is bright and overexposed to reflect a return to the region the opening scene was set in. Dialogue is reduced to subtitled chatter and a few phrases from Tony, visuals emphasised by the wide variety of shot types and angles used. Sound effects become crucial in emphasising the impact of the violence depicted.

An ironic counterpoint to the earlier ‘operation’ scene is an equally intimate moment that serves as a turning point on Tony’s journey. Obidiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), his business partner-turned-traitor, paralyses Tony and steals his arc reactor v2.0. The lighting is ominously dark, an open fire casting sinister shadows across Obidiah’s face, while the blue-white light from the reactor accentuates Tony’s deathly pallor during this life-threatening event. Tony, unable to speak, listens as Obidiah explains his motives in a sinister tone, the reactor removed to the accompaniment of a rending crunch that emphasises the seriousness of the act. Tony here finds himself with his greatest uphill battle: Obidiah has the reactor and intends to power his own suit with it, and Tony is dying, powerless to stop his former friend.

The film concludes with a massive action sequence, Tony having reclaimed the reactor Pepper had saved so he can fight back. Tony still has many challenges ahead of him: Obidiah’s suit is bigger, Tony’ reactor is less powerful, and Obidiah has threatened to kill Pepper if he wins. The danger of the situation is made clear during a freeway fight in the final battle. Most of the lighting in this night sequence comes from car headlights, constantly reminding us of the peril faced by innocent bystanders. (This peril is emphasised by sound effects like car horns and screeching tyres playing in favour of music.) Inside his suit, Obidiah is cast in red light, making him look evil. We only hear him speak through the suit, so he sounds robotic and inhuman; whereas Tony’s few lines are heard from inside his suit, in his normal voice. Low angles make Obidiah’s impressively large suit look even bigger. The overall effect is that Tony has a hard road to victory.

While an entertaining superhero movie, Iron Man ultimately fails in spending too much time developing its superhero before he is seen in action. The cause and effect of the story is often too obvious, and Obidiah becomes a stereotypical villain. However, Favreau’s unusual handling of the film’s production elements, together with the excellent characterisation of Tony and Pepper, make this a film worth seeing.

Next week: Additional teaching resources to accompany this sample essay.

November 11, 2012 / tietze

Sydney: The Vegan Eating Adventure

Melbourne is a great place to live vegan. Of all the concerns to befall a vegan, the one we need to think about the most – three times a day, to be precise – is what to eat. When you’re going out, that translates to ‘What to Eat’. Luckily, a wide variety of delicious food options exists in Melbourne: ranging from swanky dining to burger joints, from the exclusively vegan to the surprisingly vegan-friendly.

So if things are this good in Melbourne, a quietly confident vegan has got to assume Sydney, de facto capital of Australia, has got to be laying on its vegan friendliness with a shovel.

Well, that’s what I and my partner put to the test on a recent four-day stay. We didn’t seek to push the envelope, particularly. The moderately well equipped kitchenette in our hotel room put paid to that notion. But it was important that we could find viable eating options for most lunches – and, on our more lazily spent evenings – deliverable or close-at-hand dinners.

Day #1: Saturday. Breakfast at ‘home’. A fry-up, consisting of Sanitarium vegetarian sausages, mushrooms, tomato, baked beans, fried bread… All the things to set the cholesterol racing! Sanitarium, while not exclusively vegan, are a handy standby, as their entire sausage range is okay, and there was a conveniently placed Woolworths a couple of blocks from our hotel. Coco Pops somehow factored into our breakfast as well; a nostalgic indulgence for the sake of being on holiday.

We met family at Bodhi Restaurant | Bar, a hidden gem of a vegan Yum Cha tucked down a flight of stairs off College St, just to the side of St Mary’s Cathedral. This wasn’t our first visit and it’s unlikely it will be our last. The Yum Cha experience is authentic, random Asian delicacies being strolled out on a semi-regular basis for diners’ selection. A lunch menu is available for advance perusal on their web site, but the dining experience is made all the more rewarding for just keeping one’s eyes and ears open, and making impromptu selections. The only real danger is not knowing when to stop!

For dinner, my partner and I had already decided on a quiet dinner at home for that first night – though what it would be, we were unsure. Our preference was for Basil Pizza: not a dish but a restaurant operating out of Newtown. Ostensibly an independent pizzeria of the sort familiar in many cities, Basil take things one step further by offering a fairly extensive range of vegetarian & vegan pizzas, plus an exclusively vegan gourmet pizza range.

Why we thought they might be problematic is the distance. While they’re in Newtown, we were staying in the CBD, which we suspected was outside their delivery radius.

A quiet negotiation later and they were amenable, especially once the delivery driver knew what sort of parking conditions to expect on arrival. Our order consisted of a large Animal Lovers – various mock meats, smoked tofu, BBQ sauce – and, once their garlic bread proved elusive, a large Garlic Pizza with faux cheese. I hummed and harred about the cheese at first, preferring something more closely resembling garlic bread, but I’m glad I opted to include it as it kept the pie moist and flavourful. Both pizzas were so good they were demolished that night. Because Basil’s large size isn’t enormous and equally since the pies weren’t overflowing with toppings, this was far from a chore.

Day #2: Sunday. Breakfast as per Saturday, with minor variations.

Lunch was a tough one. We’d been spending the day wandering around Sydney with a local friend, and when our hunger suddenly dawned on us we realised satiety was not going to come of a quick jaunt to the nearest Lord of the Fries. The night before we’d investigated Mad Mex (cue polite laugh), a national Mexican eat-in/takeaway chain that had us keen after we observed its superficial similarities to a magnificent Melburnian Mex joint, Trippy Taco (cue even politer laugh). Describing themselves as ‘Fresh Mexican Grill’, they weren’t doing a fabulous job at their Harbourside restaurant of proving their case on two of those three fronts. By default, none of the vegan options particularly tested their ‘Grill’ capabilities, but neither was their food especially ‘Fresh’. I’m renowned for talking the legs off donkeys when in the company of our local friend, but the effects of that lunch – botched in the first place by a member of staff unfamiliar with the actual menu – had me in near silence.

(At least some long sought after vegan honeycomb toffee turned up at a nearby British Lolly Shop.)

Consequently, dinner for me was instant noodles with Massel chicken-flavoured stock powder.

Day #3: Monday. Breakfast is getting repetitive by now so I’ll stop mentioning it.

Fair weather took us to Bondi Beach, where several lunch options presented themselves. Following a small amount of deliberation and some online research over a lemonade, a decision was made. Funky Pies, on Glenayr Ave, is a few streets away from the beach but worth hunting down. The pies, available in Melbourne via such outlets as the Radical Grocery Store, are of the gourmet variety and exquisite. They’re even better served hot and fresh on the premises of their manufacture. I ordered an apparently off-menu pie whose name escapes me but which was Tandoori-influenced and delicious. Accompanied by mashed potato, mushy peas and a first rate gravy, it made for a very satisfying meal. My partner’s selection was the curiously named Eezy Chick ‘n’ Cheezy, a mock-chicken/mock-cheese/broccoli combo I’ve tried previously and recommend, and she had it served with fresh garden and potato salads. (The garlic dressing on the latter is very nice without being overpowering.)

My appetite restored this day, I felt free to indulge in a more substantial dinner, but it was a home-made effort as we had quite a few fresh ingredients to finish up.

Day #4: Tuesday. A quick walk through Sydney Tower on Monday familiarised us with the building’s Level 5 food court. Here, my partner ordered the vegetarian spud at Spuds & Crepes, with some substitutions. The process was fuss-free and the serve a healthy size. Meanwhile, I ordered two items from the all-vegan Iku Whole Food – though, like Bodhi, the word ‘vegan’ is nowhere to be seen on premises. The Pocket is an oversized Inari roll, open at one end, stuffed with brown rice, green soy beans and a few spices. With it I enjoyed their Millet Ball, containing sweet potato and a few other goodies alongside the titular millet.

To go with these delightful health stuffs I bought a salad from a neighbouring outlet. The name was beyond my ability to pronounce – as well as that of the woman serving me, given her quizzical look – but the ingredients were unmistakably tasty. Roast pumpkin, rocket, sultanas, red cabbage and giant cous cous. The only drawback were the slight amounts of salad onion that managed to sneak their way in. Cheeky.

Each morning to accompany our breakfast we visited Liquidz Cafe + Small Bar. Friendly service accompanied our slightly tricky coffee orders (one decaf, both soy, one large, and in Keep Cups), along with very reasonable city prices and tasty coffee. On the fourth day we drank in, and later than usual. While the service remained top notch, prices and quality were less good than usual. Nevertheless, we do recommend the place.

No doubt we’ve barely scratched the surface of what Sydney – even the CBD alone – has to offer vegan diners. One thing that is certain is that our initial hunch was right: eating vegan in Sydney is pretty easy.