Sunday, July 21, 2013

Movie Break - Man of Steel and Why Everything Christopher Nolan Does is Overrated

     Even though I do not consider myself a loyal or faithful fan of Superman, I was excited for Man of Steel. I enjoyed the Richard Donner Superman movies, and enjoyed parts of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns.

In spite of my excitement for the release of Man of Steel, I find myself woefully disappointed with the movie as a whole.

There are things I love about this movie, the casting in particular. Laurence Fishburne works as Perry White, Michael Shannon is amazing as General Zod, I love Amy Adams no matter what she does, and Henry Cavill is a good choice for Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman.

The action is great, and the decision to level a good portion of Metropolis was both bold and necessary for the chosen direction of the movie.

There are also things I don't care for in this movie. More than I can merely list.

First off, why is everything Instagrammed to a drab color? They may say only the flashbacks are done in a specifically gray tone, but everything looks on the verge of post-apocalyptic.

Now for the real problems, and maybe some nitpicks.

I'm fairly certain that Kevin Costner's version of Jonathan Kent was secretly a time-traveling Lex Luthor sleeper agent sent back to the early days of Clark Kent's life to create a sociapathic killer Kryptonian.

Clark saves a bus full of his peers from drowning and dying horrible deaths. Papa Kent says, "Maybe you shoulda let 'em die, son."

I understand the effort and measures necessary to keep Clark's extraterrestrial origins under wraps, but to put it so far above saving lives is ludicrous!!

Oh hey! There's a twister a'whippin' through town, and it's headed our way. Everyone makes it safely under the bridge except the Kent's dog, who is stuck in the backseat, scared sh*tless by the act of nature bearing down on him.

Clark could literally, LITERALLY, sprint to the car and back in the blink of an eye, save the dog and be back under the bridge before anyone can process the fact that the dog wasn't there a second ago.

Chalk it up to shock. You didn't see Clark disappear and reappear with a dog in his arms. You don't know what you saw, you just know you survived a f*cking tornado, and that's good enough for you, right?

No. Mr. Kent decides to run back to the car to get the dog, and when the twister overtakes him, he waves off Clark who is waiting, prepared to wrest his father from the clutches of certain death.

Once again, Clark's sole male role model in life to this point has told him twice, on camera, to disregard the life or lives of others in order to maintain his secret.

Are you sh*tting me?

Superman, who is supposed to be a symbol for hope. Not even a symbol, a beacon. The 'S' on his chest stands for hope, and he's being taught that it is better to keep his identity a secret than to spare even a single human life from an unnecessary death.

This character development completely ruins the dramatic ending where Superman snaps General Zod's neck in order to end his threat to humanity.

"But Superman doesn't readily kill his enemies or threats to the world" you may say. Well this Superman does.

Having been raised to be an *sshole, Superman's execution of Zod lacks the potency the writers intended. Then again, they can't have intended it to be potent at all since they A) ignore the fate of the family Zod was attempting to fry with his eye beams and B) follow it up with a scene featuring clunky one-liners and a demeaning remark from a female officer in the military.

"I just think he's kinda hot..." Really, Captain? Because thousands of people in Metropolis died in the battle between Superman and the Kryptonians. But I guess it's cool because Superman gets your motor running...

Let's talk about that destruction.

Superman vs. Zod and Co. causes immense amounts of property damage, which is apparent from the wide shots we get of the city during and after the fight.

What is lost in the exchange is the human lives that were lost. Does it suddenly not matter that there are people living in the city? Or is it implied that everyone was evacuated or escaped unscathed with almost zero notice of these aliens starting sh*t with Supes?

The whole Superman snapping Zod's neck is a big deal because Superman is forced into the act because Zod is using his heat beams to threaten a small family trapped in the train station the battle spills into.

Superman is trying to hold him back, but can't and then breaks Zod's sh*t supersonic style. Superman screams out of apparent agony of having to take a life, but the family he was so desperate to save isn't shown scurrying away or even gaping at Superman having just killed a guy, or having just brushed with agonizing death.

Nope. Nothing. That one family, the thousands of families in the newly rubbled city, none of them matter.

And how about Zod's powers? They don't really make sense of you pay attention to the story, and the science presented by Superman's real father, Jor-El.

Jor-El says that the Earth's sun will strengthen Kal-El's body, and grant him abilities he wouldn't ordinarly having growing up on Krypton. We see his x-ray vision and super-hearing manifest sometime in elementary school.

It makes sense because he had grown up under the Earth's sun, giving his powers time to develop.

What doesn't make sense is why within five minutes of being on Earth, Zod and his pals get the x-ray vision, heat vision and super everything else.

I understand the strength, speed and ability to fly, but they shouldn't instantly get the powers that took Kal-El close to a decade under the Earth's sun to develop.

And why is Zod able to not only rein the powers in when they manifest all at once, but exert complete control over them with a deep breath, forceful blink and subsequent angry, determined stare?

And if being under the Earth's sun for 33 years strengthened Kal-El beyond that of Krypton, why wasn't he more powerful than the three of them combined?

Not only does he have an entire 33 years of exposure to the Earth's sun, the roaming Kryptonians had been living in the atmosphere of Krypton, not that of Earth or under the rays of Earth's sun. So they shouldn't pose the sort of threat they ultimately do in the movie.

Here's a question: Is it just me, or is Christopher Nolan a fan of turning otherwise harmless or even helpful things into weapons?

Not that Nolan wrote Man of Steel but much like the clean energy reactor to nuclear bomb trick in The Dark Knight Rises, Kal-El's ship is made into a black hole generating bomb that conveniently disposes of the villains.

Science doesn't work that way!!!

The complicated technology of a Kryptonian spacecraft, which was magically repurposed and reprogrammed with Jor-El's somehow sentient consciousness, is almost immediately figured out by the scientist who sets the bomb off.

How did he know the device needed to be turned vertically before it would accept the crystal? Did Jor-El walk him through that one, but he just forgot until that moment?

Also, why when this black hole making bomb goes off does Lois Lane fall? Everything from the ship, the people on the ship down the piles of rubble on the ground is being violently sucked into whatever oblivion has been created with this device.

But apparently Lois Lane doesn't give a f*ck about physics.

She'll just lose her grip on the cargo bay doors and fall downward at a varying speeds until Superman spots her, grabs her and sets her back down on solid ground. Disregard the fact that she was close enough to the singularity to be wrested from the world we know and into the unknown abyss of space...

And once Superman grabs Lois, he is visibly strained against the pull of the black hole, and only through sheer force of will and F*CKING SUPER POWERS is he able to escape its clutches.

But Lois Lane? Nope. She's largely unaffected by the pull of the black hole, save for her fall being minimally slowed before being saved.

Oh, and let me talk about Lois Lane. Here role in Man of Steel is an utter waste of time.

We all know who Lois Lane is. She's determined, strong-willed, too busy digging for stories to notice Superman in glasses working right next to her.

The MoS version of Lois Lane expects her credibility to be beyond reproach when she all but stamps her foot like a child while whining to Perry White that she's a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, which is apparently the quickest and only way to convey to the audience that THIS Lois Lane is important, and has a necessary role in the movie.

Which she doesn't.

Even though Superman is the focus of the story, his impact on the world around him is embodied in his relationship with Lois Lane, which is lost in this iteration of the origin story.

Lois Lane stumbles upon Clark when she's doing a story on some huge Arctic anomaly that turns out to be a Kryptonian ship. Then she spends an indiscriminate amount of time tracking down any and all leads she can find to put together a story about aliens that Perry White won't touch with a 10-foot pole.

So she puts it on a tabloid site and it spreads like wildfire.

Lois Lane is a crack journalist, but she's childish and annoying in Man of Steel.

What basis is there for the kiss she has with Superman at the end? She has known him for maybe a week and she goes from wanting to dissect him to "ZOMG!!! Do me Superman!!!"

With no character development in between, mind you.

Lois Lane is supposed to be enamored with Superman, which she is in the end of MoS, but the impact is deadened by the fact that she knows Superman and Clark Kent are one and the same.

The amazing thing about the relationship is that she works with Clark Kent, who is an awkward, clumsy fixture at The Daily Planet, and she develops a love for Superman, but can't put it together that they are the same person despite being this amazing journalist.

When you don't have that perpetual tension of Clark's disguise being almost entirely reliant on a pair of glasses, there's no reason to care about Lois with Superman, making all the Superman-centric stories she writes, where she tries to discover who he really is, impossible.

So she's going to have to quit being a journalist...

And when you reveal Clark getting his job at The Daily Planet, there's no doubt that it is just Superman in sh*tty glasses, that are not suited for Henry Cavill's face.

And did you like the heavy-handed Jesus references, with Kal-El being a savior and sh*t?

Jesus was 33 when he was crucified. Kal-El is 33 when Zod tells the people of Earth to give him up, calling Kal-El out or face the consequences.

He just happens to tell us all he is 33 when he is talking to a priest, in a church, where he sits in such a way so the camera can shoot him against the stained glass windows where he appears side by side with Jesus.

There's also the Jesus beard Clark wears during his fishboating days.

I get that when you think of saviors in this day and age that Jesus is the figure that comes to mind, but why can't we just establish Superman as a savior rather than simply tell us, every 47 seconds, that he is a savior, a beacon and a symbol of hope?

It would probably have more traction with the audience if his surrogate father didn't spend his formative years teaching him to give no f*cks about humanity.

And let's flash back to scene at the end, where we see Clark as a kid, playing with his dog, and wearing something resembling a cape, striking a very Superman-like pose. Might I ask where he got the reference from? Were there Superman comics to be read?

That might have been a fun little foreshadow if it hadn't come in the last two minutes of the movie.

It doesn't help that it comes after a scene where Clark and Martha visit Jonathan's grave, and Martha takes to praising Clark's strength and reinforcing the idea that he was raised to bear the weight of the world, because he trained, ate his vitamins and said his prayers, brother...

Did we forget that a city was just reduced to rubble, with thousands of people dead, dying, and trapped under buildings and debris, or that the planet just endured several minutes of a forced terraforming process that probably doesn't just go back to being the way it was, thus permanently altering human existence forever?

I still don't know why Russell Crowe was in this movie...

Reviews for Man of Steel note that it doesn't stray from the formula (false), but is entertaining (false) and leaves the door open for sequels (debatable), while possibly starting a DC Comics version of the Marvel universe with a sustainable and successful run of movies for their top heroes and characters (false beyond words mere mortals can fathom).

But hey, we're apparently going to get a Batman/Superman team-up in Man of Steel 2, which has people excited, I guess. 

I just don't see how Nolan, who created a Batman that exists in a very grounded, real world, can bring such a character into a world where Superman exists. You can't have it both ways. It cannot be gritty and real but also spacey and grandiose. It just doesn't f*cking work.

Tell me again why Superman couldn't have flown around the Earth to turn back time in order to save the world and spare Metropolis a hefty death toll?

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