More Thoughts on Man of Steel

If you want non-spoilery thoughts on the movie, go check out my review. Here I’m going to talk more in-depth about a few of the more controversial bits of the movie, which do contain major spoilers.

These are scenes I’ve seen several people mention when they’re talking about what they didn’t like about Man of Steel.

Now, as you may have guessed, I liked Superman and Superman II and enjoyed Superman Returns, but they’re not the be-all end-all of Superman portrayals for me. Plus, I’ve never read the comics, so everything I know about the character comes from the pop culture I’ve consumed and more than a few conversations with my much-more-comically-well-read roommate.

I’m coming at this from the point of view of someone who is a superhero fan in general and has a passing familiarity with Superman and his story.

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Movie Review – Man of Steel

Man_of_Steel_10Superman has never really been one of my favorite superheroes. For one, I’ve always been more of a Marvel girl at heart, and for two, he just seemed too perfect. I’ve enjoyed overall what I’ve seen of him in TV shows and movies, but he’s never really been one that I completely fan out about the way I do some other heroes.

But I’ve been excited for Man of Steel ever since I found out Christopher Nolan was involved, even if only as a producer. Plus, with David S. Goyer handling the screenplay, and Zack Snyder directing, there was a lot to recommend the movie.

After actually watching it? This is, hands-down, the best live-action Superman movie* I’ve seen.

I loved the way the movie started, with the prologue on Krypton. It sets up so much: the culture Superman came from, his biological parents, who Zod is, and not to mention the absolutely fabulous visuals and action sequences. I mean, holy shit, I felt like I’d gotten my money’s worth after the first 15 minutes of the movie.

Once we get to Earth, we bounce back and forth between present day and Clark’s childhood in Kansas. The flashbacks integrate his growing up with the man he’s trying to become, and keep the story moving without taking us chronologically through all the significant events of his life. It really shows you what he’s had to deal with, being so different from everyone else, trying to command his insane powers when he’s only six or seven years old.

In fact, the pacing was fantastic overall, which was one of my biggest problems with Superman Returns. Man of Steel never felt like it dragged; in fact, I was surprised to see how much story they fit into two and a half hours. It bordered on almost overwhelming a couple of times, but really, they did a brilliant job with it.

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I didn’t expect to like Russell Crowe as Jor-El, but he was amazing. I’m really glad we got to see more of him than we have with Jor-El in the past movies, particularly at the beginning.

Henry Cavill made a phenomenal Clark Kent/Superman. He never came across as self-righteous or smarmy, and he did a great job portraying the struggle to understand himself, his history, and what kind of man he should be. I actually liked him and felt for him. You see the weight of his choices.

And Zod? WOW. He was far from a one-note villain. You actually got to know him, to know why he took the actions he did and why he was so intent on finding Clark/Kal-El. By the end of the movie, I almost felt sorry for him, even as much as I wanted to see him go down. Michael Shannon was great.

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I also loved how most of the human characters had a crowning moment of awesome. It was like we were getting glimpses, at least on an individual level, that humans were worthy of the hope that had been placed in us.

I did have a couple of gripes: while I liked Amy Adams as Lois Lane and thought she did a great job overall, the relationship between her and Superman didn’t feel too fleshed out. I thought they made a great team, but the romantic aspect felt a little forced.

And there was a tornado scene that very nearly had me screaming at the movie in the middle of the entire theater. It was easily my least favorite scene in the movie, not because of its significance (I totally got what they were trying to do with it), but because of how poorly it was handled. In fact, considering how important it was, I really, really wish it had been handled better.

Fortunately, the rest of the movie was strong enough that the missteps didn’t ruin it. The visuals were gorgeous (though I didn’t catch it in 3D), and Hans Zimmer once again puts together a fantastic score, memorable enough that it was still in my head the next morning.

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Fair warning, though: This movie is loud. I originally thought it was just our theater and so didn’t really think much of it, but apparently other people have had the same issues. I think it’s even louder than normal, because I don’t recall noticing the noise level with Iron Man 3 or Star Trek Into Darkness in the same way.

Much like Batman Begins (which is to date my favorite superhero movie), Man of Steel is about how Clark Kent really becomes Superman. Even if he’s been helping people for years, this is how he figures out what kind of man he wants to be and how he wants to interact with the world. Because his human father is right: he can’t stay hidden forever, and at some point, he will have to make those decisions.

If you get a chance, check this one out in the theater. It was well worth the trip, and the audience at our showing gave the movie a hearty round of applause.

*I still think the best Superman movie I’ve seen is an animated one on Netflix called Superman vs. The Elite. It was the first one that really brought home to me how powerful Superman was and how absolutely vital his moral code is to his character. It’s seriously fantastic and if you haven’t seen it, check it out. I beg you.

Trailer Park – Giant Mechs and Superman

First off, a couple of links if you’re interested in donating to help those affected by the tornadoes this past week:

Rebekah has a pretty comprehensive post with links, places to donate, and donation information, particularly if you live in Oklahoma.

And Becca is doing a query/first page workshop to benefit those hit by the storm. Basically, all you have to do is donate and then forward your receipt to her, and you get to have either your query or your first 250 words critiqued. Excellent, yes?

ON TO THE MOVIE TRAILERS.

So within the past week, we’ve had a couple of awesome new trailers hit for a couple of the movies coming out this summer: Pacific Rim last Thursday, and the newest trailer for Man of Steel yesterday.

I am stoked, you guys. STOKED.

Check them out below!

Pacific Rim

Man of Steel

The next two months are gonna be great.

What summer movies are you looking forward to?

A to Z Challenge – S is for Spider-Man 3

We interrupt your regularly scheduled A to Z post because “S” is also for…Superman! The new Man of Steel trailer debuted last week and oh. My. God. Behold:

I’m insanely excited for a Superman movie now. Good show, DC.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled A to Z post and the Marvel universe!

spiderman-3-posterConsidering that I loved the first two Spider-Man movies, you’d think I’d be over the moon for Spider-Man 3 no matter what. A superhero movie, third in a trilogy that was getting exponentially better, two new villains including one fan favorite…it had to be good, right?

All I can say is that if this is an indication of how the movies are going to play out this summer, it’s going to be a long, long, long three months.

In Spider-Man 3, things are going just rosy for Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), which is quite a change. He’s doing well in school, everybody loves Spider-Man, and he and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) are happily an item. Granted, there’s still that little issue with Harry (James Franco) wanting to kill him because he believes Spider-Man killed his father, but that’s just peanuts, right?

Things are going so stinking well that you almost can’t wait for something bad to happen. It does, in a number of ways: Harry, now the New Goblin (instead of Hobgoblin), attacks Peter; the convict who really shot Uncle Ben, Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), escapes from prison and gets turned into Sandman thanks to a particle physics test facility; and new photographer Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) shows up to challenge Peter’s position as the sole Spider-Man photographer for the Daily Bugle.

To top it all off, a weird black goo from outer space has followed Peter home, and attaches itself to his Spidey suit. The alien symbiote amplifies his Spider-Man powers, but has the unfortunate side effect of amplifying Peter’s aggressive tendencies as well, giving him a thirst for revenge and making him more of a jerk. It has the equally unfortunate side effect of making him wear eyeliner and comb his hair so that he looks like the fifth member of Fall Out Boy.

Apparently instead of making somebody more powerful, bonding with an alien symbiote just makes them emo. I half-expected a scene that showed Peter updating his LiveJournal with a whiny blog about how nobody understands him and how it’s just so damn hard being a superhero.

That’s bad enough, but what’s worse is that it gets to the point where you’re rooting more for Sandman or the Goblin as opposed to Spider-Man. It’s frustrating to be forced to watch a character you hate and be told that you ought to be rooting for him.

The whole thing about the movie is that sometimes the greatest villain come from within, which is a great theme that has been done excellently before. I don’t know if it was the script or Maguire or both (I’m leaning toward both), but it just didn’t work the way it should’ve. You should be genuinely worried about Peter succumbing to the dark side of his nature. Instead, you just want to backhand him and tell him to man up. It’s not cool; it’s annoying.

It also doesn’t help that the movie is too long. That’s it. It’s just too damn long, and since you spend the bulk of the two-and-a-half hour runtime wanting to wrap your fingers around Peter’s throat, it feels like forever.

Not all is bad, though. The supporting characters shine, especially Auny May and J. Jonah Jameson. (J.K. Simmons alone is probably reason enough to watch the movie, at least once.) They made a pretty big deal that Bryce Dallas Howard was playing Gwen Stacy, and though she does a fine job, she’s not in that much.

The villains are also done well, especially Sandman. His back story is fleshed out just enough to make him a sympathetic villain. He’s not a calculating genius like Doc Ock, but a big, brawny guy who’s going about trying to save his daughter the only way he knows how: steal the money for her medicine.

It’s most unfortunate that Venom, probably the most anticipated villain of this movie, has only minimal screentime. Grace plays Eddie Brock as a smarmy jerk who pretty much gets what he deserves, but it would’ve been cool to see him as Venom more.

I guess the ultimate thing about Spider-Man 3 is that it’s disappointing. It wasn’t terrible, but there are so many “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve’s” involved. It could’ve been tighter; it could’ve been cooler; it could’ve been better. It’s a hard thing to see a weak link in an otherwise solid series. They had the opportunity to blow us out of the water, and it just didn’t happen.

Here’s hoping the rest of the summer movies do more than just meet expectations.

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies. This is one of the reviews I originally wrote during that time.

A to Z Challenge – H is for Hollywoodland

hollywoodland-poster-mainAdmittedly, I love summer movies. I love the big action and movies that are so bad they loop back around to being good just because you can laugh at them. But like any good junk food, eventually it starts to back up on you and you want something more.

That’s why movies like Hollywoodland are so welcome. No big action pieces. No frenetic cameras. No one-liners. Scenes that don’t look like they belonged in a music video. Just actors and a real plot, a mystery that takes its time to wrap you up in it and doesn’t rush you along. They show you things and leave it up to the viewer to draw conclusions, rather than spelling it out and smacking you over the head with it.

“Relaxing” and “relieving” probably aren’t two adjectives normally used to describe movies, but that’s what comes to mind after Hollywoodland. It’s a relief to get back to movies like this, a welcome reprival from the summer mindset.

Hollywoodland is a movie for those who question every celebrity death, who suspect something sinister lurks under the glitz and glamour we see on screen. The suicide of George Reeves, TV’s Superman, is one of Hollywood’s most famous. Was it a suicide? Or murder? That’s what Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) is hired to find out. Unfortunately, this is one case that people want to keep closed, and Louis is going to make some of them pretty mad the way he keeps prying.

Of course, that makes him sound like a saint, like he’s searching for truth, justice, and the American way. He’s not. Louis weasels the case out of a friend of his, and takes it for the money. He’s not particularly interested in whether it was a suicide or murder, but in making headlines that will keep him on the case. But slowly he gets drawn into it, putting together the pieces, hypothesizing different ways Reeves’s death could’ve happened.

Diane Lane and Bob Hoskins also put in some fantastic performances as Toni Mannix and her husband, Ed, respectively. Ed is the vice president of MGM, a studio head ruling with an iron fist. Toni takes George as a lover, making him a kept man. Her and Ed’s marriage is less a marriage and more a close friendship, a partnership.

Lane is absolutely luminous. She does a magnificent job as Toni, who is one minute a kind and caring lover, the next a jealous one. We’re never exactly sure of her motives, either. Does she just want a kept man? Or does she really love him?

But the person who likely benefits the most from this movie is Ben Affleck. Yes, I’m throwing in my hat with everybody else on this one. Affleck needed something after movies like Gigli and Surviving Christmas, something with which he could get us critics to shut up and take back his career. This is it.

Affleck pulls a wonderful turn as George Reeves, the man who was Superman to millions and yet was still only a man. He wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, but a job he took simply to make some money suddenly typecast him and gave him all sorts of fame and responsibility he didn’t want. No matter how he tried, he can’t change how people see him, and it’s unfortunate. You can’t help but feel truly sorry for him.

The movie switches seamlessly between Louis’s current investigation and Reeves’s life, from the time he meets Toni up until the party where he ended his life. As we learn what Louis does, the case is made for both a murder and a suicide. As for which it is, well…that’s up to the viewer to figure out. People are going to have different theories after this, and whether any are “right,” it’ll certainly make for some interesting discussions.

I went into Hollywoodland expecting to come out depressed. Instead I came out feeling relieved and rejuvenated. Yes, it is possible to make an aesthetically excellent drama that makes you think, entertains you, and doesn’t put you into depression. Yes, it is possible to make a movie without action scenes and montages. Yes, it is possible that Hollywoodland should be on your short list of movies to see in the theater. It’s two hours well spent.

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies. This is one of the reviews I originally wrote during that time.

Trailer Park: Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness

Oh yes. It’s a good week for movie fans, as some of the biggest films of next summer are putting out their teasers and trailers and getting us all SORTS of excited for 2013.

Man of Steel

Superman has never been one of my favorite superheroes, and while I enjoyed Superman Returns, it certainly didn’t outrank Batman Begins or X2 as my favorite superhero movies (at the time).

However, Man of Steel has several things going for it:

1) Christopher Nolan is producing, and Christopher Nolan did such a mind-blowingly awesome job with Batman that I will trust him to turn out a good movie with just about any superhero property. Yes, that includes Aquaman. He’d find a way to make it work.
2) Zack Snyder is directing. He’s a little bit more hit-or-miss, but I loved 300 and liked Watchmen. Teamed with Nolan as a producer, I think he’s got a style that will make this work.
3) David Goyer is writing. He wrote the three Nolan Batman films. Enough said.

With that kind of crew behind it, I find myself really, really looking forward to Man of Steel. And with a trailer like this, well…yeah, next summer will be good for superhero movies.

Star Trek Into Darkness

The full teaser for this will be coming out on December 17, but this “announcement teaser,” as it’s called, is pretty freaking fantastic. Benedict Cumberbatch has a great voice, and knowing he’s going to be the villain in this movie? So very many kinds of awesome.

The 2009 Star Trek movie was excellent, and I can’t wait to see more from the sequel. Yes, squeaky fangirl noises abounded when I watched this the first time.

What movies are you guys most looking forward to next summer?