Movie

My Man of Steel Review…of Sorts

(SPOILERS ALL OVER THE PLACE!!!)

It’s taken me a long time to write something outside of discussions about Man of Steel. I was conflicted in the theater and I am now. When I first saw it I had a person to the left of me (I’ll leave out names to protect them) who hated it and a person to my right who loved it. They both displayed their feelings for it as they were watching the movie a the midnight release of the movie. It was as close to having an angel and a devil on your shoulders as a person can have and yet…which was which?

Today is the day I knew I needed to commit my thoughts down to be cataloged by Google and indexed for all to find. One reason is that we recorded our Man of Steel Podcast today. I’ll post a link here once we get it up. I was pretty prepared for it because I’ve had so many discussions online as well as read articles, watched videos, and listened to other podcasts on the topic. A month later and the only thing we can all agree on is that it’s one of the most divisive movies in a long time. Most either love it or hate it and for all kinds of different reasons. What can be said is that it was wildly financially successful. So much so that today’s San Diego Comic-Con announcement (second reason for writing this now) that a Superman/Batman: World’s Finest Movie is on everyone’s lips.

I’ve decided so much has been said about this movie in-depth that I am going to just focus on a few items I liked and a few items I didn’t like. Let’s get started:

Liked

Trailer

This is my favorite trailer of all-time. It has so much emotion and is amazingly concise. The Man of Steel trailer brought an honest tear to my eye when I first saw it. I must have watched it ten times in a row when it came out and once every day after. I still think it’s pretty much perfect. Have you seen the original Superman and/or the 1989 Batman trailer? I was trying to get a feel for other super hero movie trailers and Man of Steel is about 1000 times better. Here’s what I mean:

 

Jor-El

Jor-El was awesome. The first words I said leaving the movie theater were: “I want to see a Jor-El on Krypton movie next!”. The whole world of Krypton was really well fleshed out. I felt like I understood his point of view and really connected with him as a heroic character. He was not just a man of science but a man of action and conviction. Similar to the opening sequence in the 2009 Star Trek movie (of which this movie also borrowed a lot of visual devices from), you see a hero father give everything he can to ensure his son has the opportunity to survive and you also emotionally connect with this father. It’s one of the best opening sequences in a super her movie and, like Star Trek, sets up the villain of the piece.

Lois Lane

I don’t think Lois has ever been fully realized in almost any medium. A lot of people have feelings on who she really is but every medium has just as much contradictory behaviors. She is an independent reporter in the comics and YET spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get Superman to marry her. The fact that she is constantly in need of Superman to save her from peril also doesn’t bode well for her independence. This movie did, however, do away with one of the problems that has nagged her fans from the beginning – not being able to tell that the two men she is with the most are the same person because of a pair of glasses.

Lois not knowing Clark was Superman made her an idiot to anyone watching or reading her exploits. Superman/Clark use to wink at us, the views, in the Adventures of Superman TV show to underline just how dumb she truly was. The Lois Lane of Man of Steel is a true investigative journalist. She did the work and figured out his identity before she met either Superman or Clark officially. She was capable enough to work with Jor-El to help save the Superman reversing years of her only being the damsel in distress (even though he saves her a few times in this movie too). Amy Adam’s Lois Lane is capable, smart, and someone I want to see more of in future movies. Her importance can no longer be relegated to par of a fake love triangle so there’s a much better chance for her to make a big impact on the story in another way.

Hans Zimmer

I was ALMOST looking forward to the Man of Steel score as much as I was the movie! Hans Zimmer scores are some of my favorite pieces to listen to. Like I mentioned, the trailer blew me away but a lot of that was the theme. Who in their right mind tries to follow John Williams’s Superman theme? Almost not Hans. He didn’t want to do it until Christopher Nolan prompted him to on behalf of Zack Snyder. Zack and Hans had a discussion about themes and the broad strokes of the movie and that sold him on giving it a try. The one note that Snyder gave Zimmer was “It would be cool if the theme was humble”. That’s not really a thing in composition and yet…you can hear it in the finished piece. He did it. It’s really an exceptional score that I’d argue has more heart than the actual film!

Visuals

I’ve never seen two super powered beings fight each other in a movie that looked more spectacular. The best fight between two beings of this power level in my head has been the Superman/Captain Marvel fight in Justice League Unlimited…and that as animated. This was the promise of comics realized in three dimensions. It was a spectacle that then became…something else. Still, for a while, I was enthralled.

Zod

I think this movie gave us a Zod with a real clear motivation beyond conquest for conquest’s sake. He reminded me of the Eradicator when he first appeared in Superman comics. He was built to preserve and defend the Kryptonian way of life even to the degree that he was compelled to try and take over Krypton in order to save it. Zod did things he didn’t want to because he felt he had to. He even showed moments of compassion. I was impressed with this version of the character up until the final third of the movie. I understand why he became a mad dog but…it made him less interesting.

The first Two Thirds of the Movie

Well, most of it any way. The flashbacks worked for me as a story telling device. Lois as our window into his world really worked for me too. Her looking into his past was a conduit for exposition that explained why he was doing what he was doing when we find him. Clark was very brooding but it made sense. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life and Jonathan Kent didn’t give him the tools he needed to decide. It was the story of a man who wanted to do good but was ruled by fear because it’s what he was taught. What came next never really paid off where this was all going.

Didn’t Like

Hope

tumblr_monfc8npX11qb5hhzo1_500Clark/Kal/Superman doesn’t deliver on the promise that Jor-El made. This promise, to me and lot of other fans is the very point of Superman. Here’s what Jor-El says:

 You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

What does he do in this movie to deliver on any of that? The people of Earth no he’s an alien, he has immense power, and that he is willing to kill (more on that later). He never connects with the citizens of Earth while in costume other than Jenny noticing him and saying “He saved us.”…which didn’t feel very organic. He never moves his fight to a cornfield in Kansas (as Mark Waid suggested in his review) nor does he worry about debris in his LONG disastrous battle in Metropolis. He comes into town and people run in doors. His powers are his muscles and not his heart.

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He wears the Kryptonian symbol of hope but it doesn’t seem like hope is his mission. I’ve put this out there before and many people tell me this will come to fruition in the the next movie (how a Superman/Batman movie will have a focus on hope, I have no idea) but that doesn’t change the fact that in THIS movie, he offer nothing to aspire towards. He is a brute who fights another brute. Sure, this brute is fighting for us but why? What are his ideals? What can he teach us that will help us catch up to him so we can join him in the sun?

Disaster Porn

No review of Man of Steel would be complete without the use of the phrase “disaster porn”, right? I made mention that the Superman/Zod fight was the best super powered fight I have ever seen on the big screen but…did it go too far? Was there a diminished return? I think so. I was really into it for a while and then there was a point in all the devastation that I thought…doesn’t he care about the people? Why aren’t they showing him saving anyone?

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The World Machine was created by the writers in order to have a good enough excuse for Superman to be as far as way as possible to maximum amount of destruction can befall Metropolis. Combine that with Zod becoming a mad dog that wants to be put down and you have the recipe for a fight that went on so long it made me go from enjoying it to wanting it to end. It didn’t sit well with me and a lot of other movie goers.

Jonathan Kent

If I had to describe Jonathan Kent in one word it would be “Fear”. His fears were really the main lesson that molded Clark’s life. He lives his entire life going from place to place never really growing or making something of himself because his father told him humanity would reject him.

Clark Kent: My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they’d reject me… out of fear. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?

Then there’s the often quoted “maybe” from Pa Kent:

Jonathan Kent: You have to keep this side of yourself a secret.

Clark Kent at 13: What was I supposed to do? Let them die?[brief pause]

Jonathan Kent: Maybe…

Was he just working this out and saying something he didn’t really mean? Maybe. But, you don’t get it a counter point to this at any other time. He doesn’t really leave Clark with any lessons other than people will fear him and the conflicting story that he was sent there for a reason. It’s too bad he couldn’t take a stab at why he might have been there (to help people?). Instead, the heavy lifting is done by a hologram of his birth  father. Some feel his death was a poignant lesson. I found it close to suicide. I hope that dog was worth it.

Humorless

On the whole, this movie is almost without any semblance of humor. It’s not a comedy; I get that. It does contribute to the “darkness” of this movie (the other ingredients are the lack of inspiration given by Superman, destruction of metropolis, and the no way out execution at the end). Marvel Studios execs have said that they want to create a world where you wish you could be a citizen of. DC has not followed this path. Their modern films are dark places of fear, isolation, and mistrust. This Superman is very much of that world. It almost feels weird when he smiles. The lack of humor in the character combined with his aimlessness at the beginning, plus his fear of people knowing who he is created a very sad person in Superman.

Bechdel Test

The movie fails it. Not something I recognized when I first watched it but true none the less. Don’t know what that means? Google it!

The Jesus Analogy

I’ve never been much for Superman as a Jesus analog (always seen him as more of a Moses and you know his creators did too!). That said, it’s not a new idea. It’s just that the subtlety was completely removed this time around. When he talks to the priest (which felt OK and made sense) the image of Jesus RIGHT OVER HIS HEAD was so in your face I thought it was an IHOP or Sears sign. That is NOTHING compared to Jor-El (the father) telling Kal (the son sent to Earth) “You Can Save Everyone” right before he falls to Earth in a crucifixion pose. My eyes rolled so slow they almost came out! That’s all fine (sort of) IF you pay it off. What’s the payoff of this Jesus-like character? He has no choice but to snap his enemies neck. It just doesn’t work as an analogy. Like a lot of things in this movie, they threw a lot of ingredients into the mixture but forgot to see how it turned out.

Overall

I liked a number of things in this movie but the feeling I had coming out of the theater wasn’t excitement, hope, or inspiration. Maybe that was never the point of this movie but those feelings were the point of the source material. It was an amazing spectacle but it never gave me joy (except the Jor-El on Krypton scenes). I just don’t think it delivered on the promise that brighter days are ahead because we have Superman to show us the way.

Well, maybe things will be different in Superman/Batman: World’s Finest. Maybe adding Batman will make the movie less dark and offer more hope!

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I’ve been collecting memes and links about this movie since I saw it so I can articulate better how I feel. Here’s a collection:

Links:

Images:

sstandsforhope

I made this one :)

2uh9wxy

This is a good point. I think Batman letting Ra’s die is in some ways worse because he had other options plus…he actually knew him!

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As humorless as Superman is and as masterfully light as Tony Stark is, it would be great to see these two together.

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Every other Lois is dim compared to Man of Steel’s Lois

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Batman lets Ra’s die at the end of Batman Begins. If he had snapped his neck, though, it would have gained a different reaction.

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I’m in the critics corner on both.

Comic Panels

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This never sat well with me when it came out. Superman wrestled with this for a long time after too. At least he didn’t do this during his first few hours as Superman.

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Where was THIS Jonathan Kent?

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Well the kids got what they wanted with Man of Steel

especially-not-superman

He’s super because he finds a 3rd way.

 

Iron Man 3 In Review

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Adam and Nick discuss the latest Iron Man movie. Iron Man 3 was a Shane Black movie through and through and it had a lot of charm. This was part super hero part 80s action movie and very fun. We go over what made this movie different than the other Iron Man movies as well as the big twist in the movie. This review has spoilers!

Listen to the Episode Directly.

Listen to the Episode on iTunes.

iTunes listeners: HELP US OUT!

Win Free Marvel Comics of your choice by leaving us iTunes reviews. Click HERE to find out how!

Have something you’d like us to discuss? Please email us question at info@shortboxpodcast.com with “Listener Topic” in the subject line and make sure to let us know if we can use your name on the podcast. Thanks for listening!

What Makes A Great Superman Movie?

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Adam and Nick welcome Mikey back to the show to talk about the REAL Superman trilogy: Superman, Superman II, and Superman Returns….and maybe just a little bit of Superman III and IV. Just the tiniest bit.

The Superman movies directed by Richard Donnor (Superman I and the edited “Richard Donnor Cut” of Superman II) and the 2006 movie: Superman Returns (directed by Bryan Singer and inspired by Donnor’s vision). Superman I is the benchmark that all Super Hero movies have been tested against since it’s 1978 release.

This episode is SUPER! Why is the first Superman from 1978 still considered one of the best super hero movies of all-time? Why aren’t movies like this being written today? Why didn’t Superman Returns launch the Superman franchise again in 2006?

These questions will be answered by three big Superman movie fans.

Listen on iTunes.

Or listen/download the file here.

An Unexpected Journey

I was able to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on New Years Eve. Being a fan of the book I have been waiting for this movie ever since the end of the Lord of the Rings movies. The Hobbit was always one of my favorite J.R.R. Tolkien books. A simple adventure to save a kingdom from a Dragon named Smaug.The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first part of this film series, followed by The Desolation of Smaug, and finally There and Back Again. It seemed odd at first that they would split this one book into three movies. Lord of the Rings was actually written as three books so it made sense, but ever since the Star Wars trilogy it seems expected to have three movies. Movies also make more money if they’re a trilogy as opposed to just one movie.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, The Hobbit is about Bilbo Baggin’s adventure to the Lonely Mountain. Gandalf the Grey visits Bilbo’s home, The Shire, to invite Biblo on an adventure to help a group of dwarves save their home from the dragon, Smaug.

The beginning of the movie starts off a little different than the books. They introduce you to an older Bilbo Baggins, who is writing his book for his nephew Frodo. The time is established that this scene takes place right at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring, right before Bilbo’s birthday party. Even though this scene was not in the book it is a nice transition between both movie franchises. Elijah Wood, who played Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings franchise, returns to his role for a short time in the film.

Thorin’s Map

I loved the music in this movie the most. A lot of the songs used in the movie we taken directly from the book. If I didn’t hear any of these songs, the movie wouldn’t have felt right. The main theme for the movie is a song about The Lonely Mountain that is directly from the story.

The dragon, Smaug.

The movies main antagonist is a dragon, Smaug, who you don’t actually see a full shot of in the entire film. I love it when filmmakers hide the main villain till the very end. The book is really not that different in this aspect in hiding the villain. You are told about Smaug and you know he is a dragon, but that is about it.

I am really happy with how they put this film together. When I first heard that there was going to be a movie made based on The Hobbit I assumed that it was just a cash grab. Not to say that it still isn’t, because it definitely is that, but it is also a very well made movie. I definitely will be seeing the next part of this film series.

Frank Miller! Never has a name been so synonymous with success and abject failure. (Except for maybe Sylvester Stalone.)

Frank Miller is an American comic book artist/writer who’s famously popular for his tenure on Daredevil (Marvel) and his crimebusting comeback of Batman in Dark Knight Returns. He’s also the original creator of one of my favorite films Robocop. And Writer/Director/Artist to the Sin City film/comic series . He’s got a very identifiably artistic style that is easy to pick out of a crowd and is great for Noire or Batmans…

…and that’s all most people know about Frank Miller if they know anything at all…The comic book reading audience however shares a different view of the once great Miller, with his slow crescendo of utter madness from the utter trash of Dark Knight Strikes Again to the total crap of All Star: Batman and Robin and let’s not even talk about The Spirit.

It’s suffice to say that Mr. Miller has fallen from grace, most people say post Sin City is all junk and I would tend to agree…But today we are looking at the movie adaptation of his definitive Batman comeback story DKR…no not that dumb DKR we’re talking about The Dark Knight Returns Pt 1.

Now for those of you whom are unaware let me say this. Every single thing that DC has licensed into Animated Film or Television shows has blossomed into solid GOLD! Bruce Timm was the man behind the mask driving the studio from Batman: The Animated Series (1992) all the way through Batman: Gotham Knight (2008). Gotham Knight is an amazing cross between the Animatrix and Batman ala Bruce Timm even including an amazing adaptation of the VERY BEST episode of the Batman : The Animated Series where a group of kids describe their run-ins with the Batman himself. Bruce Tim was also Co-Director on Batman Superman: Doomsday where the World’s Finest fight Mad Hatter ooh wait no Doomsday. I could literally geek out about Bruce Timm all day. Maybe another day… basically Dark Knight Returns Part 1 takes it’s rightful place amongst the awesome collection of the DC Animated Universe.

Now before I get onto some other kind of post let’s talk about DKR:P1. This movie is a faithful and stylish recreation of the comic it was based on (at least the first half). All your favorite scenes are there from Carrie Kelly run in with the Mutants to the Bat-Tank and even when the Dark Knight Returns! (Oh that’s why it’s called that!)

I really don’t want to ruin any of the movie, but it’s a really good one. The only thing missing from the comics is Miller’s trademark “monologues” inside Batman’s head, which aren’t imperative but when Peter Weller (Robocop) is playing Batman it’s hard to know that he’s silent for 75% of the film. All the voice actors are right on, Ariel Winter is a great Robin and Peter Weller does a great Batman it’s not gruff growling, it’s a unique take of Batman. The animation also deserves a special nod for greatness as it really set’s up the Batman universe well and has a lot of great keynotes from the pages of the DKR comic. Also Batman is huge in this story but he’s also old, and he moves mostly on the ground preferring to stay on his feet rather than flipping around, he feels really heavy. How old bats would move.

Overall I’d strongly suggest this for fans of Batman, Good Miller, and Peter Weller. I’m giving it 8 Batmans out of 10.