Tagged: Zack Snyder

Box Office Democracy: “300: Rise of an Empire”

300: Rise of an Empire is a movie that made me doubt my own sanity.  I watched that movie and wondered if I had completely imagined the ending of the original movie and, for that matter, the graphic novel it was based on.  I distinctly remembered that story closing with a mass of people being told the story of the brave 300 and how their sacrifice inspired the Greeks to band together and now they would fight the Persians and now their victory was assured.  I had to run to YouTube to find this clip to assure myself that that is how the movie ended.  It’s too bad no one involved with 300: Rise of an Empire bothered to do 40 seconds of searching because they could have avoided completely negating their entire first movie.

300: Rise of an Empire takes place before, during, and after the original film and tells a highly fictionalized version of the Battle of Salamis (for example, in the real battle the light from the sun was not exclusively orange and grey).  Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is leading a rag tag band of a Greek navy against the unbeatable Persian navy led by Greek-born warmonger Artemisia (Eva Green).  While leading the war Themistocles must also help Calisto (Jack O’Connell), the son of his friend Scyllas (Callan Mulvey) become a man and a soldier, a process achieved mostly through meaningful glances that seem to constantly threaten to turn this movie into another kind of Greek affair.

The Greek navy happens to be hopelessly outnumbered in this battle much like the Spartan army to the south but these soldiers, who are called out as being poets and sculptors before the fighting begin, handle themselves just as well as the Spartans do in the first movie dispatching dozens of Persian sailors for every casualty.  It kind of weakens the greatness of the fantastic Spartan army if it turns out that any Greek of the streets with a spear and a shield could have performed about as well.  There’s also the moment when Themistocles and his men find out that the 300 have fallen and rather than be inspired to unite as one Greece like they showed at the end of the first film it inspires everyone to want to give up and have many long conversations about how hopeless they are.  It’s a rare movie that can make me feel bad for trampling over the plot points of its predecessor when I didn’t even like that movie in the first place.

You might have noticed something about all those names in parentheses in the preceding paragraphs, they all play Greeks and they’re all remarkably pale English, Scottish, New Zealanders, Australian, or French people.  It’s whitewashing and it’s offensive, the only dark-skinned people in this movie are on the Persian side and they’re overwhelmingly incompetent or cowards.  Even Xerxes is retconned in to being the pawn of Artemisia and her anti-Greek ambition.  Artemisia is the palest person in this movie, which stretches credulity to the breaking point as they portray her as a Greek-born slave turned Persian admiral.  None of those activities seem like they would be conducive to avoiding the sun.

The worst thing about 300: Rise of an Empire is that it’s going to be used to defend Zack Snyder.   He must be something more than the only person fighting Michael Bay for a seat at the musical chairs of the world’s worst directors if he can leave a franchise and see the quality plummet like this.  Maybe there is some measure of artistry in all that slow motion if someone copying the technique can make it look so much worse.

The Point Radio: Getting 300 Back On The Big Screen

Building a sequel to the hit film 300 wasn’t an easy task, and Zack Snyder talks about the choices he made to get RISE OF AN EMPIRE on the big screen and Lena Headey shares what it’s like to play another tough (but flawed) character. Plus CONSTANTINE gets a cast and Marvel gears up for their 75th.

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REVIEW: Man of Steel

1000296769BRDFLTOAt 75, Superman remains the archetypal superhero and still relevant to comic books and the American people. When created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, he was an amalgam of the myths and pulps both boys devoured, a bit of wish fulfillment given how crappy their lives in Cleveland were. Little did they suspect their hero would become an icon for generations and become one of the most recognized figures around the world.

Zack Snyder attempted to bring that sense of gravitas to the is interpretation of Superman in this summer’s Man of Steel. The problem is, he made such a somber film that he totally drained it of the gosh wow feeling he was always intended to convey. He and screenwriter David Goyer made an interesting decision to make this a first contact story but both men should have remembered the sense of exhalation we got from the four-color comics, the George Reeves television series and seeing Christopher Reeve first appear in the red and blue.

The movie divided critics, fans, and casual viewers most faulting it for its lack of humor and overdone fight sequences. Still, at $662 million worldwide, one can’t ignore its commercial fortunes. We have a chance to revisit the production with the release this week of the film on Blu-ray, courtesy of Warner Home Video.

Superman has always been reflective of the times we live in. These days, we’re more fearful and suspicious of strangers thanks to 9/11 and a constant global threat to our way of life. This film somewhat addresses those fears with a galactic component but then doesn’t really explore it in depth. In fact, the film is entertaining but avoids delving deep when it would be a better film. Instead, things get to blow up with excessiveness bordering on pornographic which someone decided audiences crave. Really, we don’t. We have Michael Bay films and Pacific Rim for that.

man-of-steel-croweThe origin story, to me thoroughly unnecessary this time around but no one asked, has been endlessly told and retold, modified through the interests of the creators at work. This time around, we have a fresh looking Krypton and Science Council, dealing with the death throes of the planet and a coup from General Zod. I can buy that. I can even appreciate the efforts to link Zod and Jor-El more closely because modern drama seems to demand that. On the other hand, this is the first of two occasions where the man bred for war gets his ass kicked by a member of the House of El and that makes no sense.

I disliked Jor-El dying before Krypton because the notion of father and mother holding one another as their son rockets to freedom is indelible.

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the character and began telling stories, they were bringing over a decade’s worth of pulp reading experience with them and wrote from the perspective of poor Jews living in Cleveland. As a result, some of the characterizations and dynamics from the 1930s no longer work in 2013 so I am largely fine with the major alterations.

man-of-steel-amy-adams-henry-cavillKent’s fears for his growing son work because in today’s world, someone with those powers would be whisked away in a heartbeat. The trailer makes him out to be a bastard when it seems he is willing to let others die to protect his son’s secret but the full scene plays far better than I feared. He’s thoroughly devoted to the boy and his sacrifice is an act of love (from a writing standpoint, it’s silly since Clark could have gotten the dog and been back before anyone noticed, but it sure beats poor Glenn Ford’s one and done scene).

When the film lets the characters talk to one another, there is a heart and warmth that I wish was allowed to infuse the remainder of the film. The Clark and Martha scenes are the film’s best and credit to Henry Cavil and Diane Lane for making those work so well.

Similarly, critics have taken the filmmakers to task for letting Lois learn Clark’s secret at the outset of their relationship. Frankly, I think this worked just fine. She is the only one to connect the dots, to find the mystery hero and establishes a bedrock of trust between them before the romance kicks in. I miss the steel Phyllis Coates and Margot Kidder brought to the character and at 38, Amy Adams is a little old for the role, but I bought it.

On the other hand, Clark wandering until he is 33 seems farfetched. Let’s say he began wandering after high school, that’s at 18. It takes him 15 years to get his shit together and do something with his powers? This sequence, lifted from Waid’s wonderful Birthright graphic novel is nicely handled but this symbol of hope is saddled with too much Christian symbolism for my taste. (speaking of Waid, I totally agree with much of his assessment over at Thrillbent.)

michael-shannon-zodSimilarly, when he finally inserts the key into the ancient spacecraft, Jor-El arrives to tutor him. For a film trying to distance itself from Richard Donner’s faithful adaptation of the source material, lifting this bit doesn’t work. We get way too much Russell Crowe from here on out, making him the literal deus ex machina.

The filmmakers talk about this being handled as a first contact story which is a fresh angle and I wish they did more with it. Instead, they give us a few lines here and there and little else when this could have been a far richer segment of the story. Instead, the army and Emil Hamilton are there to serve expository purposes and not dramatic ones.

Zod arrives and informs us that out of thousands of colonizing ships not a single one has endured. That stretches the law of averages and can be easily proven wrong in a sequel, robbing Kal-El of his Last Son of Krypton designation. He then announces that whereas Jor-El saw his son as the bridge between races, Zod would rather be the sole sentient race on Earth. To accomplish that goal, he is ready to annihilate human life. He grows one-dimensional and monomaniacal with each passing scene, reducing him to a standard film villain instead of a complex man.

Which leads me to the action sequences which are really too overly long scenes designed to trash everything Superman holds dear, starting with Smallville Why Metropolis is targeted since he’s not yet connected with the city is a mystery, except it gives us a chance to see Perry White, given little to do other than doubt Lois. Steve Trevor is named way too late and Jenny is never properly introduced for us to care about her predicament during the overblown and thoroughly unneeded trashing of the city.

Before I get to the climax, I do want to note that for two devices battering the planet with some gravimetric hoohah, there is remarkably little mentioned about how this was affecting the rest of the world. I would imagine the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean would be devastating while the seismic waves radiating throughout North America would cripple the power gird among other issues. These are more interesting dilemmas than watching two Kryptonians batter one another with rebar.

Antje-Traue-in-Man-of-SteelSuperman is a symbol of hope. We were all raised to believe that and the film mentions it repeatedly. And yet, when he has Zod in a chokehold and hears the general’s threats that he will never stop, Superman feels he has one choice. Actually, as staged, I sat there considering several other options. If I could do it, so could the Man of Steel. He did not need to kill. But he did and then got over it way too fast, way too easily. We were cheated of a big emotional payoff.

This is a world that now knows there is life beyond the stars and how that colors their perception of these forthcoming heroes will be fascinating, if done right. But first, we need Superman to be what has always been, a symbol of truth and justice, a righter of wrongs and a beacon we want to aspire to be. Henry Cavil makes me want to believe in him and I hope he gets a chance to really shine in what is beginning to look like an overstuffed sequel.

The movie looks and sounds as spectacular as one would expect from the mammoth production. To celebrate its importance, the package comes with two Blu-ray discs, a DVD, and Ultraviolet digital copy. On the first disc comes the film plus several features: Strong Characters, Legendary Roles (25:59) which has the cast eloquently discuss the mythic proportions of Superman but really needed more historic context, tracing his development through the years; All Out Action (26:02), which showcases how hard the performers had to train; Krypton Decoded (6:42), hosted by Dylan Sprayberry (teen Clark) and looks at how they blew Krypton up; Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short (2:03), brilliantly executed by Bruce Timm and making me longer for that sense of wonder to be in the film itself; New Zealand: Home to Middle Earth (6:35), which seems arbitrarily included to promote The Hobbit series.

Disc Two includes the lengthy Journey of Discovery: Creating Man of Steel (2:54:05), essentially replaying the entire film but with actors, producers, and others popping up on screen to discuss elements of the production. At times you get four screens – the film, the speaker, the effects or design, and something else. Highlights include Snyder talking about the importance of Hans Zimmer’s score, and lets a climactic scene play with just the music to demonstrate his point; Antje Traue (Faora) talking about how challenging it was to act in her heavy costume, while Michael Shannon noted his motion capture suit posed entirely different challenges. Richard Schiff’s commentary was lighthearted but mostly superfluous but Russell Crowe’s stories are far more interesting including recounting his first meeting with Cavill. The disc also includes a mocukmentary, Planet Krypton (17:18), which seems to be someone’s vanity project and is easily skipped.

Man of Steel Fan Event let the Audience Ask the Questions

Man of Steel Fan Event let the Audience Ask the Questions

Yesterday, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Man of Steel Director Zack Snyder sat with special host Kevin Smith for an exclusive fan event on Yahoo! Movies. The cast and crew talked all the things Man of Steel, in anticipation of Tuesday’s home video release of the summer blockbuster.

The event also included a featurette of the sit-down discussion between Zack Snyder and Michael Shannon about the making of Man of Steel.

Man of Steel Infographic Traces Route from Krypton to Earth

MOS_LAK_4in1_ALL_PREIn advance of next week’s release of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel on Blu-ray and DVD, Warner Home Video has released this infographic. This tells you al you need to know about Krypton, or at least the world as depicted in this past summer’s reimagining of the Action Ace. The film has grossed over $662 million worldwide, which, given its production budget of $225 million, means it is on the cusp of profitability. Ancillary sales, including the domestic home video release, should push it into the black before the year is out. Box Office Mojo notes that it may not have soared to the heights anticipated by Warner Bros and its DC Entertainment subsidiary. In dollars, it ranks tenth as a comic book adaptation, although it is the top grossing Superman film dating all the way back to Superman and the Mole Men.

Rotten Tomatoes says the film was perceived as only 56% fresh, dubbed by major media critics as too somber. Richard Roeper, for example, noted, “There’s very little humor or joy in this Superman story.” Fans were divided over this sterile and somber version of the archetypal superhero, sharply criticism the filmmakers and DC for letting Superman commit murder. In comparison, this weekend’s Thor: The Dark World is already trending at a strong 75% fresh.

DC Entertainment has bet a lot on this interpretation, letting it be known that this should be considered the first installment in a unified DC Cinemaverse. Already shooting for a summer 2015 release is a sequel which will include a Caped Crusader owing much to Frank Miller’s groundbreaking The Dark Knight Returns. Fans already have their knives sharpened for flaying Ben Affleck’s performance as the Darknight Detective without seeing a single frame of film, a habit that can be traced back to the first announcement of Michael Keaton donning the cape and cowl. The sequel is also rumored to be introducing Diana, the Princess of Themyscira with current theory being that Jamie Alexander, Lady Sif in the Thor series, is in talks with the studio.

What is expected to follow would be a Justice League movie while DC and Warner have been coy about whether or not the television reality seen in Arrow and its intended Flash spinoff would also be set in the same reality. Given the success of Disney, Marvel and ABC has had with integrating Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the feature films, one would think they would follow suit.

Look for our Man of Steel review next week.

Martha Thomases: My Take On Affleck

Thomases Art 130830Gold Art 130828Like my colleagues on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I have been confounded by the negative energy directed at Ben Affleck after the announcement by Warner Bros. that he would play Batman in the next Superman film.

The Internets almost always hate every announcement from Hollywood that has anything to do with nerd culture. I remember the howls when Christian Bale was announced to play Batman in the Nolan movies, and how Heidi McDonald ran photo number eight from this slideshow in her defense of the casting. Worked for me.

The objections seem to stem from fans’ displeasure with some of Affleck’s earlier work. They especially cite Daredevil, which I kind of liked, even though it’s overwrought, and Gigli, which I haven’t seen. And don’t intend to ever see.

I love Ben Affleck. I have loved him at least since Mallrats and definitely Chasing Amy. When I had a chance to talk to Kevin Smith at some industry event, I told him I thought Affleck would be a great Superman. He agreed. He even said Warner Bros. wanted Ben for the part. That was more than 15 years ago.

Which brings me to the reason I believe.

I can only imagine that the Internet complainers never saw Hollywoodland. It’s the story of a private detective investigating the death of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman in the original television series. Affleck plays Reeves in a performance that, in my opinion, should have earned him an Academy Award nomination. He not only creates a layered, believable portrayal of George Reeves, the man, but he vividly recreates the Reeves we knew from television. The way he holds his body changes when he is on-camera and when he is off.

This performance alone should tell us that Ben can be both The Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne. I’m not the only fan of the character who thinks so. The actor previously rumored to be the next Batman agrees with me.

So does Patton Oswalt, whom I love very dearly (and chastely, from afar). He said:

“A Batman portrayed by someone who’s tasted humiliation and a reversal of all personal valences — kind of like Grant Morrison’s “Zen warrior” version of Batman, post-Arkham Asylum, who was, in the words of Superman, “…the most dangerous man on the planet”? Think for a second and admit that Ben Affleck is closer to that top-shelf iteration of The Dark Knight than pretty much anyone in Hollywood right now.”

That quote should establish Oswalt’s geek credentials pretty well. And make his point.

Like Denny O’Neil, I have my qualms about a movie that features both Superman and Batman. It could be fun, but I’m not sure that Zack Snyder, the director of Man of Steel, is the person to direct it. He has cited Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns as his inspiration, and that’s not my favorite interpretation of the characters. I like it when Batman and Superman are friends, when Superman’s optimism lightens Batman, and Batman’s realism ground Superman.

I’m less happy when they fight. Especially if they aren’t going to team up and save the world together at the end.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Dennis O’Neil: Super-Success

O'Neil Art 130620Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…

Superman, crossing his eyes, thumbing his nose and sticking out his tongue. He’s directing his scorn toward all the nay-sayers who predicted a cool reception for The Man of Steel. The picture officially opened Friday morning and by Friday afternoon one web news site was describing it as “disappointing.” Disappointing, maybe, to Marvel Comics execs, but most of the rest of us thought it was pretty darn okay. The reviews were mixed, but the theater exit polls gave it an A minus and it ended up reaping enough profit to be the biggest June movie opening ever.

I think it deserves its success. The director, Zack Snyder, and the writer, David Goyer, did exactly what they had to do, and what previous film makers failed to do – reinvent an elderly icon for a contemporary audience. Way back in 1959, editor Julius Schwartz, did that for the comics and now Snyder, Goyer, and their posse, along with a few other creative teams, have done it for the multiplex.

I won’t go into particulars here… Okay, one particular: the villain. He was played by Michael Shannon, our best filmic heavy, both in movies and on television, and he didn’t think of himself as an evil doer. On the contrary: he considered himself to be a savior whose actions were done “for the greater good.” Something familiar about that? In what I’ll hesitantly refer to as real life, those who perpetrate war and genocide and wholesale slaughter always do it for a cause, often religious nor nationalistic, they believe to be vital and benevolent. They’re the heroes and their opposition is villainy and the poor simpletons who are crushed along the way are necessary sacrifices or, as the current terminology has it, collateral damage. Fanatics, these “heroes,” who believe that they could not possibly be wrong. Michael Shannon’s General Zod can stand as their avatar.

Time was when characters in superhero stories were occasionally referred to as “supervillains” and I don’t recall them denying the eponym. In fact, some of them belonged to a kind of miscreants club, pretty much limited to folk who dressed in odd costumes, that called itself “The Secret Society of Super Villains.” The comic book of that title was published by DC in the mid-seventies and collected in a hardcover anthology. The stories were written by Gerry Conway, one of the medium’s major talents, and were fine for their era, when comics were in their adolescence, unsure of what, exactly, they should be and still in thrall to the notion that they weren’t…respectable. Or serious. Or art or… something. Many of the baddies seem to exist only to give the goodies somebody to beat. Now, in both comics and their lumbering descendants, the flicks, writers are willing and able to acknowledge and dramatize the world’s real evil, which can be tragic.

Consider The Man of Steel a parable for our times. An entertaining one.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Emily S. Whitten: Superman and Man of Steel

Whitten Art 130618As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been a Superman fan pretty much forever. Superman was my first encounter with superheroes, beginning with watching the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie when I was very small. Through the years, Superman has remained one of my favorite superheroes. Sure, I love Deadpool (obviously!), and I’ve always been a big X-Men fan… and Batman… and Spider-Man… and I could go on and on from there – but Superman, the most unequivocal and steadfast symbol of hope and ethical humanity in the whole collection, has always been there in the background, informing my appreciation of the rest of the bunch.

Some people say that Superman is a boring character. He’s too perfect. He’s incredibly powerful and can do almost anything, way beyond what most of us can fathom, and he’s constantly doing the “right” or noble thing. How interesting can someone like that be?

Very interesting, I think. It’s Superman’s decision about how to use his power; his nobility; and his steadfast idealism in the way he decides to live his life for humanity and constantly be striving to do that right thing that have made him a multi-generational symbol and inspiration. At the same time, it is also his choice to live for humanity that drives him to live amongst humanity, and thus empathize with their plights, and, eventually, fall in love with one of them – Lois Lane.

Lois is the other half of what makes Superman so interesting. She’s a strong character in her own right, as she has to be to match up to someone as powerful as Superman. But she’s also only human, with human difficulties. Lois humanizes Superman, she pulls him back to Earth from the skies in which he might otherwise constantly float above us all. Sure, as a child, Superman is in touch with humanity, anchored by his parents and their desire to raise him with a strict moral code that respects and teaches responsibility for humanity. But once Clark seriously takes on the Superman persona and is living far from his parents as an adult in a strange city, someone else’s influence is needed. Enter Lois.

In most iterations of Superman, Lois does not, for at least a significant period of time, know that Superman and Clark Kent are the same man. Various reasons for this remaining the status quo of their relationship exist, from the potential danger to Lois if she knows Superman’s secret identity to Clark’s insecurity about her feelings for him as Clark, or his desire for her to, essentially, “like him for him,” and not for being some kind of alien demigod. This dynamic not only serves to anchor Clark, but also to drive the story – as a lot of the drama, humor, and interest of the Superman story stems from Clark’s attempts to live a double life and somehow still win over the woman he loves and attain a very human kind of happiness.

Superman’s power and nobility, combined with Clark’s very human relationship with Lois Lane, are what make him such an interesting character, and what make me throw up my hands in disbelief when someone says that Superman is boring. Because how could an interaction of our human struggles with our human desire to be heroic be boring? How could it be just another story? Well, if people make it that way, I suppose. If people stray from what makes Clark-and-Superman great, and try to instead fit him into the box of every other superhero out there.

Now, let’s talk about Man of Steel.


On a strictly is-it-an-enjoyably-watchable -movie level, I liked Man of Steel. Except for the overly long fight scenes (of which there were several), the pacing is pretty good. The cinematography is good. The story is fairly cohesive and easy to follow (despite some odd plot holes/questions, like how Superman’s costume was just hanging around on a ship that had been buried in Earth’s icy caverns thousands of years before the destruction of Krypton). Henry Cavill is delicious, and also shirtless in pretty much his very first scene. Shirtless and on fire. And it’s hot (all puns intended). Amy Adams is also adorable. Overall the acting is pretty top-notch. And there are many recognizable genre, TV, and mainstream actors to clap about (including at least two Battlestar: Galactica dudes, Tahmoh Penikett and Alessandro Juliani). There is also some blatant product placement…that works (Clark’s childhood friend Pete Ross works at an IHOP. After watching the movie, my friend and fellow journalist Alicia and I were forced, forced I tell you, to go to IHOP because we suddenly had IHOP cravings. But it was delicious, so that’s okay).

On a Superman mythos level, things get a lot shakier. One thing I did enjoy was the minor Superman character name-drops. Pete Ross, as mentioned, shows up in both Clark’s flashbacks and present day. Dr. Emil Hamilton is there as a military scientist or consultant. Steve Lombard is working at The Daily Planet. And there’s a wee Lana Lang on the flashback bus when it goes into the river. I also actually really enjoyed the first part of the movie, from Krypton through about the first two or so flashbacks. This is one film I’ve seen that actually world-built Krypton to a realistic extent and then spent some time there. Sure, there are echoes of what’s been developed before, and the combination of technology and organic, mythical-looking creatures was a bit weird at first, but I loved details like the floating silver orbs that are a combination of personal assistants and bodyguards, and also allow for a sort of 3-D video communication (or for a 3-D ultrasound!). And I liked the extent to which they managed to make the look of Kryptonian attire realistically tie in with Superman’s costumed appearance.

After Krypton, the first few scenes establish a Clark who’s wandering the world, interspersed with some growing-up time. These scenes are very enjoyable. The current scenes show a Clark that, like a well-developed Krypton, we don’t usually get to see much on screen. Clark’s soul-searching and wanderings as a young man are referenced in several versions of the Superman story, but we don’t often actually see them. And each of the early flashbacks shows a young Clark who is learning about his powers, and about his responsibilities, in a way that is organic and not heavy-handed.

Once the movie has spent some time on this, however, it moves more firmly into the present day origin story, with just a few more flashbacks here and there. These are of an older Clark and, while I get that teens are difficult and superteens perhaps even more difficult, these scenes are devoid of the familial love and warmth that marks the earlier scenes. They also include a scene in which Clark literally stands fifty feet away from his dad and watches him get swept away by a tornado. While the movie tries to make this into a character development point, it’s such a wrong note for Superman that I just couldn’t get behind it. Keeping his powers a secret or not, no Superman I’m interested in would be that selfish, even if his dad was telling him not to save him. It’s around this point that the movie also moves firmly into being, essentially, an alien disaster movie that happens to feature Superman.

Given the trailers we’d been seeing, and the fact that both Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan were signed on, I feared that we were going to get a very grimdark Superman in Man of Steel. And although the first several scenes were all fairly serious, since they cut back and forth it relieved the grimness somewhat, and I thought maybe my fears were going to be unfounded. Well, not so much. After the first few cuts back and forth, things turn continuously grim and grimmer in Man of Steel. Death and destruction (on a global scale) begin to appear everywhere and only increase for the rest of the story; and boy, is it exhausting to watch. It’s also not what I wanted to see in a Superman movie.

During Man of Steel, we are told by Jor-El that the S on Superman’s chest means “hope” to Kryptonians. And that’s exactly what Superman is supposed to be for us – a symbol of hope. He is our hope that there are people like him out there, and that it’s okay to believe they exist – which is important, because if they do exist, and succeed at existing, then maybe it’s not so unrealistic for us to try to be a little bit like them. Maybe we can be heroes too, at least now and again. In a way, Superman is the first part of that iconic last line of The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current…” Superman reflects the best of human idealism, and the struggle to move forward, despite obstacles, and to continue moving forward. Superman is a symbol of hope…but this is not a hopeful movie.

There are a lot of dark superhero movies out there. The recent movies of Superman’s sometimes-partner Batman, for instance, are dark; and that works for him. I loved The Dark Knight, but I don’t need a hundred Dark Knights. The world is depressing enough right now, and I don’t need to constantly see destruction and death on the big screen; because we see it every day. What I need right now, what I crave, is a movie that shows me a hero who strives and succeeds at being better than that. At being better than all of the “reality” we are facing both in reality and in our current media. At actually “saving the world,” and not being beaten down by it in the end. At being a steadfast constant who won’t break under the pressure. And what I really want to know, after seeing Man of Steel, which could have been the perfect vehicle for this, is: why couldn’t this movie’s producers have been “the brave and the bold” movie team who dared to actually celebrate an ideal and a hopeful future in which disaster is not an inevitable and acceptable norm? In which there is somebody who can actually stop the world from being destroyed before half of it is gone?

Instead, they opted for a Superman whose introductory film features a final body count that at least equals if not exceeds that of the villain, General Zod (and that includes General Zod, since Superman, albeit reluctantly, straight-up snaps Zod’s neck in the end). As someone on Twitter said, “There is no Man of Steel criticism more stark than the fact that Earth would have been better off had Kal-El died on Krypton.” And as writer Brian Reed snarks, a conversation between Zod and Superman that would easily fit in this movie could be: “I’ll kill all of these humans you love.” “I punched you through 30 buildings. I’ve probably killed more of them than you at this point.” That…is a sad state of affairs.

Along with all of the death, the film also features a metric ton of property (and Earth) destruction, and Superman and the Kryptonians constantly whaling on each other to the point where my soul was craving even a smidge of character development, and welcomed Perry White and Steve Lombard’s struggle to free some random Daily Planet intern from rubble. You know your Superman movie is in trouble when a watcher is more interested in that than in Superman. Maybe because your Superman movie tries but fails to show the complexity or nuances of being both Superman and Clark Kent? Because it’s too busy showing things blowing up and the whole world falling apart? Yeah, maybe that.

One way in which the movie does try to humanize the adult Clark is via the introduction of Lois, and his interactions with her. But in my view, this is another great failure of the movie. Lois, as a character in Man of Steel, is great. She’s smart and upbeat and determined and fearless and loyal and successful and kind and has a strong sense of what’s right. She goes after the story, and gets the story, and has earned the respect of her editor and fellow reporters, and she is all around the sort of Lois I want to see. Lois and Superman, in their interactions, are also very strong.

But do you notice what’s missing about the previous sentence? Any mention of Clark. The meeting of Lois and Superman in this movie is just that – a meeting in which Lois knows him as Superman from the get-go. Yes, his name might be Clark, and she knows that too, but that’s incidental to all of their interactions. And while that may not greatly affect the dynamic of this particular movie as a movie, what does it do to the Superman mythos and to any potential sequels? Well, it strips out the human factor, the fun, the heart, and the drama that all come from the original Lois and Clark dynamic. It strips out a large part of what makes that story great.

As mentioned, when Superman is forced to be Clark around the woman he loves, and to wonder if she’ll ever love him for himself, rather than just for his powers as Superman, it brings him down to Earth, and to humanity, and gives him a reason to strive to be a better human, as well as a better superhero. It also makes the story a lot more fun; even if eventually, Lois does discover the truth. The story leading up to the reveal makes the reveal that much better, and also makes the relationship that much deeper. But here, it’s like they decided to skip right to the third season of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – when those first two seasons were what makes anything after them work at all.

To catastrophically misunderstand this dynamic to such an extent was so unbelievable to me that, even though it’s a weak storytelling element and has been done before, in Man of Steel I kept waiting and hoping for amnesia. I seriously thought that when Superman saved Lois from the burning Kryptonian escape pod and she said, “I’m sorry…” the sentence was going to end with, “…but I don’t remember how I got here.” I couldn’t believe that they’d seriously set up the entire relationship to be Lois and Superman-who-also-happens-to-masquerade-as-Clark-to-other-people. And yet, they did. What a disappointment. Sure, maybe they can make it work if they do another movie, or a Justice League movie, or whatever; but it won’t be the Superman I know anymore, or the Superman I love.

In our post-mortem discussion of this movie, my friend Alicia said that Henry Cavill, while very good, would never be her Superman. And while I love Henry Cavill, and think he acquitted himself as well as the script would allow, I agree with her with a bit of a rephrase (because really, Henry Cavill isn’t the problem). Man of Steel will never be my Superman. And while I realize that heroes can be re-made for modern times, and sometimes should be to keep things fresh, Superman is one of those rare few where messing with his core story too much just flat out ruins who he is.

Superman is known as the Big Blue Boy Scout for a reason. Sure, the nickname is affectionately snarky; but it’s also a great compliment – a nickname for a hero who always does the right thing and acts to help others, and who is always prepared to solve the world’s problems and deal with its disasters. The goal of making a movie about Superman should be to maintain the bright ideal he has always been when at his best, without making him unrelatable or cheesy. I don’t know what Man of Steel set out to do, but in the end, it certainly didn’t feel like that. If I don’t leave a movie about Superman feeling like there’s some hope in the world, then that movie is not about the Superman I love. And Man of Steel didn’t leave me with much hope.

Well, that’s about all the movie analysis I can manage for one day, but until next time, Servo Lectio!




Watch the final “Man of Steel” Trailer

CCI: Man of Steel Teaser Poster Arrives As First Footage Debuts

From Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures comes “Man of Steel”, starring Henry Cavill, directed by Zach Snyder. The film also stars Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Henry Lennix, Christopher Meloni and Laurence Fishburne. In theaters June 14th.



Marc Alan Fishman: Man Of Steel, Heart On Sleeve

No doubt those of you who troll the Internets or saw The Hobbit were privy to the new trailer for Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel. My Facebook feed was deluged with tons of praise, mirth, and, most scary to me… hope. Maybe it’s being in the company (and five-a-day e-mail chains) of Mike Gold, but color me doubtful. Not that Mike isn’t anything short of a ray of sunshine mind you… but I digress; I’m none-to-impressed with the footage. That is to say, I didn’t see anything that makes me less uneasy about the future of the DCU on film.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, let me first state: the trailer looks good. Great even. There’s a metric ton of things to like about it. Much like it’s Darker-Knightier cousin, the film embraces a realism that the House of Mouse is way to scared (or smart, maybe… more on that later…) to attempt. The cast is absolutely top notch. Kevin Costner’s Pa Kent is one part Field of Dreams and zero part Water World. Amy Adams is both easy on the eyes and known to be more than being easy on the eyes. And supporting cast like Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, and Laurence Fishburne? Well, it’s not a surprise that the hype machine is already on overdrive here. And what we do see when the tights are put on? A CG’ed Big Blue that feels weighty, and dare I say… awe-inspiring. Even if the suit looks like it’s been run roughshod through the ‘Texturizer’ filter in Photoshop.

The key though, to me, is the tone and direction of the film. I’m not saying Warner Bros. shouldn’t be trying to replicate the success of the Nolan-verse. What I am saying though is that it takes the one thing about Superman above all else, optimism, and smashes it to oblivion. From the waning palette Snyder and his cinematographer employ, to the numerous long-shots of angst, sadness, and emoting… it certainly feels like this film will take every last second of its running time to get us to a place of joy. And while I trust Nolan as a producer, and Goyer and Nolan to write the film wonderfully, I can’t help but be tepid to declare anything but skepticism until I see it. Not because I want to be an internet troll, hell-bent on hate. But because I’ve been burned before by the Brothers Warner. Fool me once, shame on me.

Imagine my glee when DC decided to launch big-budget-dollars into a GL picture. They snagged a director who handled action before. They landed a star who could fight Chris Evans for funniest-but-could-be-serious-and-is-good-looking-in-spandex with Ryan Reynolds. It was lauded by Geoff Johns as being everything he’d hoped for. And we went to the multiplex, oath memorized. And we left the multiplex, trying forever to forget it. While there will be debate amongst people which of the Marvel-Avengers-Verse was imperfect (perhaps the Hulk movie, or maybe Thor?)… Green Lantern couldn’t even lick the dirt of the bottom of Mickey’s yellow bootie in comparison. And this was supposed to be the first DC film to rival Marvel.

Let’s do the math. Let’s envision the best possible scenario from Man Of Steel. Say it’s everything we wanted and more. The story, in spite of any cues in the trailer, is full of joy, and more important… action. Good looking action. Empowered by a top notch script akin to The Dark Knight; heady, but satisfying. And better yet? It’s a box-office smash!

Now what?

This is where my real fear lay. Because, I truly want this film to succeed. I love DC in spite all the venom I’ve spit at it lately. If Man Of Steel is a rousing success, there’s no doubt in my mind that WB will dictate that the eventual Justice League movie will now need to match the Nolan-verse. And for those keeping score, a gazillion sites have posted rumors that Joseph Gordon-Leavitt will play Batman in that film. Movie-goers may be able to buy that Spider-Man and The Hulk can be rebooted every 3-4 years. But would they believe JGL as Bruce Wayne when the last time we saw him he was Robin-Cum-Batman? And if his newly-gifted Batsuit makes him the man behind the cowl, WB is essentially resting the weight of the world on Christopher Nolan’s shoulders. And who here could say that a movie with 7 super-heroes could still feel weighty and realistic? It may by the straw that breaks Nolan’s back (and interest). And then, the helm will be passed to someone (anyone) who wants to not make their version of the Justice League… but the Nolan-version so dictated by Brother Eye. You dig?

And what of the tone and realism? In a Batman movie, playing things close to reality isn’t so much a stretch. Batman is, for the most part, as believable as one would get when it comes to super-heroics. But Superman? Well, that’s the polar opposite. No matter how much super-science you throw at it, it’s still a guy defying every law, be it biological, chemical, or physical… in order to preserve the peace. By his very nature, Superman is the anti-thesis to the real world. And look if you will, to the competition. Marvel presented the world with Iron Man, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor. Each of these movies balances the surreal with the real, and when it came time for the big team up?

We got golden gliding mindless aliens to smash for the better part of an hour. And we ate it up to the tune of a billion or so dollars. Marvel aimed and fired into the heart of the 13+ demographic, and hit the bulls-eye a hundred times over. Batman Begins / The Dark Knight / The Dark Knight Rises did brilliantly too, of course, but as I’ve certainly argued… it wasn’t hard to do it. And let us all be honest again. Rises was good, but not great. Man Of Steel in its 150 second trailer, contained more angst in it per frame than every Marvel movie in the last decade combined. Will it be too much for the movie going public to spend 59 minutes in perplexed sorrow for the final action sequence when Kal-El excepts his destiny and power-punches Zod to oblivion? More importantly… how will we react to it, when the dust settles… and no one asks to get a schwarma?

It’s all speculation, I know. But I couldn’t help myself. When the social media boards light up with praise and joy, I second guess it. Man Of Steel has the potential to do the impossible. But I won’t believe the miracle until I see it with my own eyes. Up, up, and away.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander