Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Man of Steel


Well, I finally made it out to this one yesterday, and I've heard a lot of what's been said about it too, even before going in. Ready to hear this Superman fanboy's opinion? I'll give you a hint, I didn't feel at all like CinemaSnob or Nostalgia Critic, though I agree with some of the stuff they said.  So, let's take a quick look at...



Okay, "Man of Steel", where do I start? Well, first, let me clear up something I said before. Yeah, I'm a huge Superman (and Batman, and Spidey, and Hulk) fanboy. However, while I read a ton of comics as a kid and still do when I have time, my comic fandom was for three things above all others, Disney comics (Uncle Scrooge and such; don't knock 'em, they inspired not only the TV show DuckTales, but also stuff like Indiana Jones's adventures) and Star Wars and Indy, my other big obsessions after Disney. In other words, my superhero fandom did not come from comic books. There's a derogatory word the comic fans have for that kind of fanboy, and I forget what it is, but I know it exists. However, I am still a huge fan, my fandom coming from growing up when the Reeve movies were out, the 60's Batman show was in syndicated reruns, the Hulk series was around, Spidey had a Saturday morning show, and of course the Superfriends, and in junior high and high school, the Burton Bat-films and the Bruce Timm cartoons..., eventually Marvel going crazy on the bigscreen while I was in college through to now. I am a huge fan of superheroes, because I LOVED ALL that stuff. I even have the whole series of Smallville on my shelf, even though that show lost its mind about halfway through its run (and lost Kristin Kreuk, who was reason enough to tune in religiously to ANY show without fail). But, enough about me...

"Man of Steel" is a long needed Superman bigscreen reboot. Honestly, Superman Returns would have been a lot better if it had been a reboot. There were things I really liked about it, but it suffered most, I think, because of the connections it was trying to make to the first two Christopher Reeve movies (Routh's performance aside, which I liked, even if he was playing Reeve; Reeve was amazing, so no complaints). It had other problems too though: A lack of action, which this film definitely makes up for, and a GORGEOUS but very miscast Lois Lane. Don't get me started on the direction they went with the love story, either. I didn't care for any of that. I may get my Superman canon from the Bruce Timm shows, but honestly, those shows were awesome, and I am unhappy when things stray from my idea of canon, as most fanboys are. Anyway, in this new film, we start out with Superman's birth on the dying planet of Krypton. We see Superman's biological parents and meet General Zod, who will be the villain of the film and gets sent to the Phantom Zone in the beginning. Little Kal-El (Superman's name, if you didn't know) gets sent to Earth in a spaceship so he may survive the death of his planet. Normally, this is where we'd see him being discovered by the Kents and being raised on a farm in Kansas, discovering and developing his powers, etc... Here, we instead jump to seeing Superman in his early 30's, working on a fishing boat and doing other jobs as he travels north in search of the truth of his existence. Bits of his life growing up in Smallville are shown in introspective flashbacks brought about by things that occur in his journey of discovery that soon becomes his first outing as Superman when General Zod suddenly shows up in search of the son of El. Is that a run-on sentence? I can never tell. 

Anyway, using fake names and history, Clark Kent, soon to be known as Superman, finally makes his way to a site where the U.S. military and reporter Lois Lane are investigating a spaceship found in the Arctic. Here, Clark meets Lois and... hang on,.... spoiler alert time....

SPOILERS IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH - SKIP IT IF YOU MUST
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Clark ends up saving Lois Lane for the first time on this first meeting. She eventually tracks him down, being a good reporter and being that Clark's never been very well-disguised, right? So, yes, in this film, she knows his secret identity from the get-go. Anyway, Clark and the ship travel together, much further north, where an image of his father, Jor-El, sets him up to be Earth's hero, Superman. Right on time, really, since General Zod simultaneously arrives and announces on televisions across the world that Earth must turn their alien visitor, Kal-El, over to him or suffer the consequences, which begins with a terraforming machine called the "World Engine" that kills everything in its path. Superman shows up, the most epic onscreen action ever ensues, and, shocking moment, Clark actually kills Zod in the end to save a family that is about to get the bad kind of laser eye treatment. This is a big deal, if you know Superman. Superman never kills anyone... Anyway, soon after this, we see Clark get his job at the Daily Planet and all is right with the world.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

END SPOILERS FOR NOW

If you didn't read the previous paragraph, basically, Superman and General Zod have an action filled fight, and in the end, we see Clark/Superman start out on his life as a reporter/Superhero, making this truly a "Superman Begins" kind of film (sorry if you consider that sort of stuff "spoilers", but, really?). It's an origin film that the net critics I watch have been tearing up for not putting its back story in order. Frankly, I think the way they edited in the back story was fine, creative, effective. I can agree with certain critics that this movie needed more dialog instead of just speeches. That it needed more heart and emotion, not counting the brooding/angst, sure. It is not a perfect movie. However, it's still a thrilling and very satisfying movie. Does it have some big flaws? Yes, it has some huge ones. However, honestly, not ignoring its flaws, I loved this movie. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Do I wish it didn't have those flaws? Yes. But I still had a ball watching this movie. I still think that it is probably the best live-action Superman movie to date.... in MOST ways, anyway. It has to share some credit with the first Christopher Reeve film, which had more heart and charm, and understood some aspects of the character more than this one did. However, this one understood a lot too. People who say this film didn't understand the character at all are only half right. You'd have to combine aspects of this one and aspects of the Donner film to get the perfect Superman movie. Aaaand, you'd have to change how the villain is taken out.

Admittedly, one of the three biggest problems I have with this movie is the way the villain is taken out in the end. Superman's whole thing is that he is smart enough to avoid that, and if you're going to go that route, at least save it for the third film or something. THAT could have worked. That could have been powerful after a good build up, and it's true what some folks have said, this film didn't build up to that scene or follow it up well enough to give it the implied meaning and impact. So, yeah, that was one of the big problems. However, I am able to deal with it. Maybe better than I could deal with Batman's frequent willingness to quit in Dark Knight Rises (he had already quit in the beginning, and he quit again in the end, something Batman never does). But, moving on. Another big problem, a disappointment really, was the performance of Amy Adams as Lois Lane. I adore Amy Adams, and I expected the perfect Lois from her. Spunky Amy should have provided a very spunky Lois! I thought she was going to be like she was in Talalladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, in that one scene where she's giving Ricky a good talking to. But, nope. When critics have been calling all the actors in this film too drab, this is the one I agree totally on. I didn't feel it so much with anyone else, but for sure, Lois Lane should have been a little firecracker, and I thought Amy was the one who could do that like no other. I believe she could have. But, no, her character didn't seem to get very excited about anything. Besides that, I'll get superficial for a moment and say the film style here wasn't very flattering to her, but she sure has gotten her figure back since The Muppets! That scene where she is walking into the Daily Planet, wow! But, as for the other big thing, maybe the worst moment in this film (that, again, I liked a lot as a whole), that would have to be the (mild spoiler alert) ...... the death of Jonathan Kent, Clark's adoptive father. This has been done before always as a heart attack, something that Clark/Superman couldn't  do anything about. This time, it is a stupid, sacrificial lesson to Clark that sometimes he will have to make hard choices to keep his secret. That seemed the big message when it came to Jonathan Kent: Protect your secret. But, the way his death went down, it was just ridiculous. It was ridiculous because there was no reason for it. Clark could have easily saved him. It was a really poorly written scenario, and it wasn't as important a message anyway as the "some things you can't stop" message of the Reeve film. It was probably the biggest mistake in this film.

There are other things one can quibble about. Some of the ones pointed out by other critics I feel are overblown. Some of them are weird and I don't love them, but they didn't bother me THAT much, like Jenny Olsen instead of Jimmy Olsen. She's supposed to be Jimmy's sister. I'm giving them a pass in hopes that Jimmy will be introduced later. Also, I am one person who hates the look of the Superman costume without the red trunks/underwear part. I'm getting used to it,.... but it's taking time. Honestly though, that's about all I can say bad about this movie. So, why do I love it so much?

Superman looks like Superman. Visually, most aspects of this film are awesome, even if it's not very flattering to the ladies. It is probably a darker film than it should be. Heck, it definitely is. Superman is not Batman, as all the critics of this film are saying, and that's true. But, what I'm talking about here is that you have a buff Superman, a really buff Superman, and it looks great, even if it doesn't make sense that Superman would have any muscles at all if everything he lifts takes zero effort for him, ha. And, the action scenes, wow. People are complaining about the shaky cam, but I didn't even notice to a degree that bothered me. I just sat back and enjoyed it. Many of us have long waited for an action-packed Superman film (though the action in Superman 2 seems to have been forgotten or is underrated (or my memory is overrating it). That would be the other film where he went up against Zod (he originated in that film, I believe, and he also appeared on the TV series, Smallville). Besides that, I liked the way the story was told. The they made a Superman origin film that wasn't just a standard, getting a little boring now, superhero origin film. It wasn't just a retread of the first Christopher Reeve film. Could it have been better? Sure. Some performances could have been better, there could have been more heart and more powerful lessons that developed the character more clearly. There are for sure areas in which this film fails. But, this film delivers some important stuff that past Superman films have failed to do. It delivers the action, it delivers the epic-ness at the modern level, which means pretty darn epic, it delivers a higher realism (aside from the stupid Jonathan Kent death), it delivers a good villain with a good, villainous plot and a Superman I could actually see in a Justice League film down the line, though I don't know if that's what they have planned for this series. 

So, yeah, this film lacks some of the stuff that the first Reeve movies were best at: The character development, the heart. Important stuff. But, this one delivers qualities lacking in those films. The action, the serious/realistic tone (yeah, it wouldn't have hurt for it to have a bit more humor and smiles, but I mean... there was no spinning the world backwards to turn back time) yet with a very comic-book hero type feel thanks to the story and action, and I see a lot of potential here for the future. Maybe the problems can be avoided next time. My friend felt there was no chemistry between stars Amy Adams and Henry Cavill. Personally, I don't know that I've ever felt Superman and Lois were two characters with a lot of chemistry. I always felt Lois looked at Superman with fangirl eyes. Plus, Amy's performance was so bland... I guess I didn't think much about the chemistry because I was just thinking there was something going wrong with Amy's performance (probably the director's fault), or maybe it's just that their romance was very shoehorned in. I'm not praising the film for that aspect of it, though I won't full on say they had no chemistry. I don't feel like the romance side was very well written, more like the film was saying, "That's Lois and that's Superman, so you know they fall in love, so boom, they're in love." Well, regardless, I would say this film is as great as the first Christopher Reeve movie since they both had some major problems, yet they both had some major high points. I think that's the best way I can put this. Where one failed, the other succeeded, and vice versa. And I love them both, even if there are some very frustrating things about both. One thing that cannot be topped though, is John Williams' music. I'm not noticing the music very much in these Superman and Batman reboots. I guess you're not supposed to notice movie music, but still, when it's so good that you have to notice it, like with John Williams' many movie themes or Danny Elfman's Batman theme, that's even better than the music that does its job the way it is supposed to, barely noticed in the background. I also have to give the best Lois Lane award to Erica Durance on TV's Smallville. That girl was an amazing Lois. Her and the animated version from the 90's. I don't know if the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini animated DC comics universe of the 90's and 2000's will ever be topped, but I still say this movie is on the level with the Christopher Reeve film, just in all the opposite ways. Go see it if you're a Superman fan!



And, on an added note, if you collect toys like me (and you can't afford "Hot Toys", like I can't), I highly recommend the Movie Masters line by Mattel. I currently have most of the figures from the Dark Knight trilogy lines, a Hal Jordan Green Lantern from the Ryan Reynolds film (amazing likeness to Ryan), and now the Movie Masters "Man of Steel" Superman figure. Let me tell ya, they look amazing together. I have Superman, Batman, and Lantern standing together on my desk right now, and it looks like the beginnings of one heck of a Justice League movie. Currently, they have figures of Jor-El, General Zod (with or without armor, and one in shackles), and Zod's female counterpart, Faora. I may seek out Zod in his armor (I don't like the look of the no armor version; big head, no goatee) and Faora. If they make Jor-El in his hologram outfit, I may pick one up, but not the current one. And I certainly hope they do a Lois Lane figure in the future, but I won't hold my breath. In the meantime, I am still looking for a 6 inch Iron Patriot figure (Target had them when I was broke, grrrr), eagerly awaiting the 60's Batman figs (coming in August, I think; and I hope they make a Batgirl in a later wave!), and still praying for a 6 inch Avengers movie-version Black Widow. Maybe with Captain America 2? It is so lame that they stiffed us on that one! Anyway, catch ya next time!


5 comments:

  1. Good review. It’s a solid superhero movie, but could have been so much more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Agree with you, yeah. It's a shame when filmmakers could have made it practically perfect. The information should all be there. Like I said, if they'd just kept the stuff that was good from the previous versions... Always gotta wonder why they make some of the choices they make.

      Delete
  2. Erica Durance is: the BEST LOIS LANE.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to agree. I thought Amy Adams would give her a run for her money, but she didn't. :(

      Delete
  3. I was very disappointed with Man of Steel, but I enjoyed reading your review and your perspective on it. I agree about Amy Adams...I like her a lot and she has potential to be a great Lois Lane, but her character was too drab for me. I think Superman was very well cast, but I felt they dropped the ball too much with this film. While the plot could have been interesting, it just wasn't fleshed out properly. Agree with you also on how his Dad dies...over a dog no less. Like he would let him die over that! Pah-lease! But my biggest complaint of all, which you are welcome to disagree with me, was the overuse of CGI BIG TIME! Now this is a major pet peeve to me because I feel movies like this that overdo it are trying to make up for lack of content. It was so in my face that I couldn't even follow what was happening half the time, and honestly, I didn't care. There is no intense build up when a million things are happening at once...no sitting on the edge of your seat. People are dying by the thousands and I'm just popping popcorn in my mouth like it's nothing. It devalues human life. Last, but not least, I leave with another thing I agree with...it was wayyy to early in the series to make Superman break his moral code to not kill. It was just very anti-climatic to me. So, that's my general feelings about the film. :)

    ReplyDelete