My Photo


David Thompson
Subscribe
Blog powered by Typepad

« Elsewhere (95) | Main | Will No-One Think of the Artists? »

June 16, 2013

Comments

Steve

David,

"..Feel free to share your thoughts..."

Will you be sharing yours?

sackcloth and ashes

'Quite a few critics, perhaps those of a certain age, seem to be pining for Richard Donner’s decidedly non-threatening film from 1978'.

Oh seriously? You mean the one in which Marlon Brando got paid a shit-load of cash for a weak cameo? The one in which Lex Luthor is turned into a Liberace-style dandy complete with a comedy sidekick? The one that went on to inspire increasingly crap sequels ('Superman IV: The Quest for Peace', anyone?)?

That's like saying that you think Christopher Nolan buggered up all the good work that Joel Schumaker did for the 'Batman' franchise, or regretting that Bond films no longer achieve the quality set by 'Octopussy' or 'A View to a Kill'.

David

Will you be sharing yours?

Um, well, I was hoping to avoid spoilers until any regulars who want to see it have done. I will say that it’s rarely less than visually spectacular and sometimes quite beautiful, but it doesn’t really muster the emotional oomph that it ought to have. I did like a lot of the details, though, like the tweaked version of Krypton and its politics, which lends the basic mythology a bit more dramatic plausibility, and there are one or two nice emotional moments – little beats amid the mayhem. In terms of scale, it certainly tops the final battle of Avengers Assemble by quite some margin, thanks largely to a piece of Kryptonian hardware that has some eye-widening (and rather terrifying) effects, although this is actually a mixed blessing. There’s only so much exquisitely-rendered destruction the human mind can stand.

If you’re planning to see it, I’d recommend seeing it (and hearing it) in an IMAX theatre.

David

The TypePad spam filter is still in need of a good kicking. If anyone has trouble posting comments, email me and I’ll shake them loose.

sackcloth and ashes

I should have added that my rant was not directed against David.

I'm probably going to watch this, as I haven't had a cinema trip for months, and this looks like as good a film as any to see in a multiplex.

David

I’m probably going to watch this, as I haven’t had a cinema trip for months, and this looks like as good a film as any to see in a multiplex.

Oh, I enjoyed seeing it – especially loud and large. I’m not sure I’d want to see it again, at least not straight away (which I did with the Avengers film), but I did enjoy it more than many of the reviews had led me to expect. The focus on Superman as an alien being was an interesting approach. If anything, it reminded me of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Only with explosions, more explosions and fist fights that last half an hour.

The one in which Lex Luthor is turned into a Liberace-style dandy complete with a comedy sidekick?

Yes, that baffled me even as a child. As should be obvious from the trailers, there’s none of that in Snyder’s film. And no Terence Stamp in organza disco pants either. Or deadly cellophane ‘S’ logos. In fact, one of the things Snyder gets right is a sense of just how alarming inhuman strength and heat vision would be.

[ Added: ]

Oh, and the fact that Zod, Faora and co are so determined and physically dangerous also forces our hero to do something quite, um, drastic in the final battle, which seems to have upset a few purists, but which, for me, made perfect sense within the context of the film.

WTP

Doesn't matter. Superman's a big p***y. Big man, comes here from Krypton, but if you bring a tiny piece of Kryptonite anywhere near him, he crumbles like a third world sweat shop. Did Neil of Buzz fall apart on the moon when they got back to the lunar module? Big fish, small pond. One wonders what his REAL story is.

svh

forces our hero to do something quite, um, drastic in the final battle, which seems to have upset a few purists,

I'm not a big Superman fan but judging by the epic nerd fights between people who've seen it I'm tempted to buy a ticket.

David

but judging by the epic nerd fights between people who’ve seen it I’m tempted to buy a ticket.

It’s not that the film is without flaws, far from it. It doesn’t often reach the emotional notes it would like to hit, the hand-held camera work gets wearing, a few jokes wouldn’t have gone amiss to offset the bombast and melancholy, and it’s overlong, especially the extended city-levelling fight with Zod, which, after 20 minutes or so, is a little numbing. There’s also the casual glossing over of what happens to the thousands of people who are presumably cowering inside the buildings that are being pulverised. Evidently, Snyder’s attempts at ‘realism’ only go so far.* The earlier battle in Smallville sets the tone of indiscriminate carnage, as Superman deliberately slams Zod through any number of buildings including several shops and a petrol station. As the station explodes in a huge ball of flame, the unfortunate staff and customer, whose car is clearly visible at a pump, are seemingly incinerated. Not quite the stuff of heroes.

But some of the reactions have been, well… odd. There’s an awful lot of baggage being dragged about. Some commenters at MetaFilter sneered at the film’s “social-conservative themes” and “nationalist military fetishism,” both of which escaped me; one disdained the film as “right-wing twaddle,” and others managed to dislike Superman being “white, male and American” - three markers of evil, no doubt. One reviewer, a chap at Slant, took great exception to the film’s “risibly overt sense of nationalism and pro-military sentiment.” This “risibly overt sense of nationalism” seems to be a reference to a five-second line of dialogue that suggests our hero is quite fond of the place where he grew up, i.e., Kansas rather than Krypton. This nod to national (or rather regional) attachment bothers him because it isn’t satirical or ironic, which such feelings always should be, apparently. And I didn’t actually register any “pro-military sentiment,” beyond the fact that the military isn’t presented as corrupt, dumb or inherently villainous, as is the custom in some circles. Oh, and the reviewer also has issues with the film’s depiction of masculinity, which I probably don’t need to say any more about.

[ Added: ]*

Incidentally, the issue of mass destruction and thousands of unseen bodies is also why the climax of Star Trek Into Darkness struck an odd and unconvincing note. In that film, a kilometre-long starship falls from the sky and ploughs through San Francisco, levelling several buildings and presumably crushing the people inside them. The aftermath of this spectacular carnage isn’t acknowledged dramatically and is followed minutes later by an upbeat final scene: “Yay, we saved the day. Kirk’s alive. Right, off into space!”

John D

others managed to dislike Superman being “white, male and American”… the reviewer also has issues with the film’s depiction of masculinity

Leftwing reviewer crams leftwing politics into review shock.

WTP

Here's how I see the schtick...FWIG, the movie sucks. But since it's Stuporman, it's gonna get a lot of attention. If the movie sucks, you never let a crisis go to waste, as some "folks" say. So if it sucks, ultimately there will be a reason for its succatude attached. Thus the opportunity to attach your enemies to the disaster. Why not let it be to your side's advantage. With years of observation of the cultural/political scene (not that I'm special in this regard) one can find politics anywhere. If one can find politics in a mound of ants, Fathers' Day, or how to buy a rutabaga, one can easily find politics in a movie about, well damn near anything. Ipso facto, it's a right-winger's disaster.

Eda Indc

I saw it today with high expectations. It was a boring film with 3D-motivated cinematography and an endless climax of destruction...and just numbed me.

Bob Smith

Anybody else think the producers were reading DESTROY!! (Eclipse Comics) when putting this film together?

Matr77

Spoilers in this (long) post... I saw Man Of Steel last night. Although I didn't have high expectations, I wasn't prepared for the mess of a film I was served. Like all great disappointments it had the potential, but failed to deliver. Superman is still one of the great modern cultural myths and it deserved much better than this. This movie will sink without a trace amongst every other Giant-Fighting-Robots-Trashing-Planets movie currently getting greenlit. It began well enough: the deeper story on the origins/politics of Krypton added some context and gravitas to young Superman's plight beyond what the 1978 version gave us, and the introduction of Zod early-on set up the good vs. evil succinctly. The flashback story-telling, at first I thought was awkward, but actually it was handled well and the first act of the movie I really enjoyed. However, as soon as Zod and crew descended, the script seemed to go out of the window and the rest of the budget was blown on CGI to little effect, in fact destroying the third act which really just blended into the second. Yes, explosions, fireworks, fights...great. I wanted that. But I never thought I would actually get BORED of watching people being thrown through buildings. Then trains, then another building, then....who cares. The cumulative effect of this was that all plot setup thus far was lost in a cloud of burning rubble, and it descended into a dumb fight over whether Zod would stay and be very evil, or not. The greatest travesty was that Superman is supposed to have two weaknesses: Kryptonite, and the human race. Which for me is the finest jeopardy device in the whole myth: the alien willing to fight his own kind to protect his foster race he has grown to love. The Kryptonite thing was handled with a nice touch (rather than the old blob of green crystal around the neck), but the latter was given an extremely poor and hypocritical token gesture when Superman cried out as Zod tried to zap the All American Nuclear Family, despite (Superman) having just taken part on the near complete destruction of Metropolis himself - no doubt wiping out millions of people in the process - in an *utterly* hackneyed 9/11-esque NYC city destruction I have seen a hundred times before in any apocalyptic movie from the last decade. Perhaps the biggest let-down was Christopher Nolan's name as a writing/production credit. Apparently, it is only his brother who writes the good stuff...

David

WTP,

So if it sucks, ultimately there will be a reason for its succatude attached. Thus the opportunity to attach your enemies to the disaster.

Yes, possibly. Though the film’s shortcomings aren’t definably political so far as I can see. If a reviewer is railing against “social-conservative themes” and “nationalist military fetishism,” they really are stretching things beyond parody. Aside from the points already mentioned, the major problem, I think, is the film’s lack of emotional clout. It’s all very spectacular and often lovely to look at - even the violence and destruction is rendered aesthetically - but the few emotional notes that are reached are fairly minor compared to the mayhem. For instance, the ‘learning to fly’ scene, or Perry White staying with his trapped co-worker as their doom approaches. And too often the emotional notes are missed altogether. Jonathan Kent’s demise, for example. A heart attack apparently wasn’t dramatic enough, so… hey, I know… a tornado. It fluffs the poignancy of Jonathan’s death in favour of an unconvincing contrivance and some more CG. And that’s the thing. Snyder is a fine visual stylist but when it comes to emotion he’s a little tone deaf. [ Edited for clarity. ]


Matr77,

…but the latter was given an extremely poor and hypocritical token gesture when Superman cried out as Zod tried to zap the All American Nuclear Family, despite (Superman) having just taken part in the near complete destruction of Metropolis himself.

Bingo. A big part of this emotional flatness seems rooted in the fact that Superman is pretty hopeless as a protector. Yes, he saves the world, just, but he does this largely by punching Zod through buildings that supposedly have people in them and which promptly collapse. Saving one family from Zod’s heat vision doesn’t really compensate for the thousands of people presumably being flattened by tons of falling concrete. Given the heavy-handed religious allusions, our hero-cum-saviour’s apparent disregard for human collateral damage is just a tad jarring.

Still, I did like the gag with the photocopier. So there’s that.

Matr77

FInal point: if the only character who draws any authentic empathy from an audience is Kevin Costner, you know something is deeply wrong.

Torquil Macneil

"if the only character who draws any authentic empathy from an audience is Kevin Costner, you know something is deeply wrong"

Poor old Kevin Costner, everybody hates him, but he has made so many marvellous movies.

carbon based lifeform

Just to keep things in perspective…

http://youtu.be/QWNqbqcV4dU

Matr77

@carbon based lifeform - it's a good point, and one well made

David

In short, then…

The good:

The visuals. It’s a spectacular, handsome film.
Krypton not being paradise (even before it’s doomed).
The emphasis on Superman being an alien.
Michael Shannon chewing the scenery.
Lois knowing straight away.
Her final line of dialogue.

The bad:

An uncountable number of doomed bystanders.
Shortage of joy.
Death by tornado.
Screaming “Nnnoooo!!”
Needlessly underlining every religious connotation.
Slugfest overkill (and the robo-tentacle hoohah).

The bizarre:

Jor-El’s dragon.

Paul Saxton

I haven't seen it yet but the trailers have left me unimpressed. It seems too dark and gritty and busy. I like my Superman bright and light and full of humanity, wonder and joy. And I really like his red pants. Where are his red pants?

They should have made a version of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superman_for_All_Seasons

David

Where are his red pants?

His lack of pants was not at all troubling.

sackcloth and ashes

'[Others] managed to dislike Superman being “white, male and American”'

Assholes. Richard Pryor took care of that forty years ago:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0HWOdN7OTQ

JuliaM

". There’s only so much exquisitely-rendered destruction the human mind can stand."

Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay really hope that's not true. They don't fancy starving.

Anna

His lack of pants was not at all troubling.

Snort.

Watcher

Am looking forward to seeing Man of Steel as I like the Superman 'message' way more than, say, Batman. As for the '78 movie, I was much taken with the shots in the rolling, golden wheat fields and much less enamoured with the the boy Clark racing a train. If anything said 'piss-poor special effect' it was that ludicrous shot. But overall, a solid film for the times.

Only one question troubled me from that movie: if Superman could save everything by turning back time, why didn't he do it all the time? I still worry about that...

David

if Superman could save everything by turning back time, why didn’t he do it all the time?

And think of the unintended consequences. It’s fine for Lois in California – she has Superman’s attention - but what about everyone else? If Superman is rewinding time around the whole world, as seems to be the case, what else is happening twice but without the happy ending? Is someone in Australia falling down stairs repeatedly?

AC1

Well at least this 80s retro game is really fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dofacvjRkc

Dr Canasta Stove-Pipe

All the above criticisms are valid, I guess, but I would go see it again.

Henry Cavill is stunning - especially when he wrenches open the oil rig hatch and is literally ON FIRE. My inner 8 year old considered him to be totally awesome and from that moment he WAS Superman.

What he does to the truck of the a^^hole in the bar is really funny, and the table cloth cape was a lovely touch.

Lois Lane actually had a personality and she seemed to posses the necessary feist and spunk (I didn't believe Margot Kidman was an actress, never mind an investigative reporter) and Zod is actually a bad guy.


Book-ended by the trailer we saw in the theatre for

ELYSIUM (Matt Damon as a cyborg OWS ninja battling to blow up orbiting capitalist and right bitch Jodie Foster)

and the non stop TV spots today for

"DIAZ: Don't clean up this bloodstain" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1934234/ (The tribulations of a group of lovely, eco-friendly, TOTALLY peaceful, right-on Anti-capitalist G8 protestors, to whom the are police really mean)

somehow, an absence of jokes, the inclusion of Kevin Costner, over long fights and several "Nnnnnnoooooooooo's" didn't spoil my fun.

"Chacun a son gout" as they say in 75% marginal tax rate France

TimT

Not another fucking Superman movie. There, those are my thoughts.

David

Lois Lane actually had a personality and she seemed to possess the necessary feist and spunk

She does have more to do, which is good. And I do like the fact that Lois knows straight away. It always seemed odd that this award-winning investigative journalist could be fooled by a side parting and a pair of specs. (Not recognising a man she’s kissed and been rescued by, dramatically, hundreds of times suggests a woman with deep psychological problems.) The whole reporter-in-specs disguise is summed up quite nicely here.

ELYSIUM (Matt Damon as a cyborg OWS ninja battling to blow up orbiting capitalist and right bitch Jodie Foster)

Heh. Yes, it looks bloody awful. Socialist sci-fi for the kind of people who get upset that Superman is white and male.

sackcloth and ashes

'Yes, it looks bloody awful. Socialist sci-fi for the kind of people who get upset that Superman is white and male'.

This is Neill Blomkamp's second film after 'District 9'. It suggests that for some promising directors going to Hollywood is really not a good idea.

rjmadden

Not recognising a man she’s kissed and been rescued by, dramatically, hundreds of times suggests a woman with deep psychological problems.

They should make a film where all the 'Superman' stuff is only in her head and Lois has been sectioned because she keeps throwing herself off rooftops to prove he exists.

RightofGenghis

Two levels of Man of Steel: On the cinematic level, it was a bit too frenetic (not unlike another film I thoroughly enjoyed for similar reasons - "The Avengers" ).... On a cultural level it was a HUGELY refreshing experience. There was an unabashed celebration of individuality; manliness; self-sacrifice; liberty; personal responsibility; loyalty to family; and the exceptionalism of Western morality.

No wonder the left hates it.

Newbe

the unfortunate staff and customer, whose car is clearly visible at a pump, are seemingly incinerated. Not quite the stuff of heroes.

It's the first Superman to make sure innocent people are always directly in the line of fire. Thanks, Zack.

David

It’s the first Superman to make sure innocent people are always directly in the line of fire. Thanks, Zack.

Which is a fairly significant shortcoming in a superhero, when you think about it. And it’s also why, despite the apocalyptic destruction, there’s not much sense of jeopardy and tension. As a character, Superman is hard to put in real jeopardy, what with the practical invulnerability and all. Dramatically, his main vulnerability has usually been his concern for innocent people – a concern that gives his opponents a certain leverage. (Can Superman stop the bad guy and save bystanders from harm? “One more step and this busload of orphans is toast,” etc.) But Snyder delivers a Superman who repeatedly puts innocent people in mortal peril – tens of thousands of them- seemingly with no regard for their safety, or indeed their lives. So an obvious angle for dramatic tension is frittered away, along with any elation at his resolving the situation. This kicks the emotional legs out from under Snyder’s film. There’s plenty of spectacle and destruction porn, but there isn’t a set piece that delivers the elation of the ‘Lois and helicopter’ scene in Donner’s film or the rescued airliner in Singer’s. I’m not sure elation is something Snyder knows how to do.

Col. Milquetoast

You'd think that the Kryptonian government would make a backup copy or 2 of the codex necessary for the continuation of the species but also store it with more security than going "here's a good spot for it, someone would have to take a short swim to get to it!"

Kryptonian technology can make an interactive Jor-El hologram that looks as real as anyone else and can have conversations but when they do a Kryptonian version of sonogram and when the Jor-El hologram shows Supes the history of Krypton it all looks like clay or computer animation from the 1990s

Perhaps I missed it but did General Zod have a particular reason for stripping down to his underoos and discarding his presumably useful armor? (at times Zod looked like he was drawn by Jack Kirby).

I realize that Zod's minions were bred, raised and trained by Krypton's central planners to be warriors but I couldn't help but notice that Jor-El, scientist, and Lois Lane, puny human and spunky newspaper reporter, each seemed to be more than a match for them even when outnumbered.

Note for my plans for world domination : Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite and dust.

At the end Ma Kent says they always knew he would be something special etc, and then it cuts to (yet another) flashback of young Clark wearing a cape and posing as a dog looks up at him. So Superman's relationship to mankind is akin to man and a dog?

My nephew summed the main problem with the movie on the ride home when he asked why Superman didn't help all those people in the collapsing buildings.

Col. Milquetoast

It's the first Superman to make sure innocent people are always directly in the line of fire.

Yup. Superman pushes Zod away from the Kent farm (population : one), through a field of crops devoid of people and into a fight in the streets of Smallville. Some may not realize this but the vast majority of towns in Kansas are surrounded by farmland, pasture and/or wilderness. Odds are he could have pushed Zod a bit further in any direction and be outside of a populated area.

And no Terence Stamp in organza disco pants either. Or deadly cellophane ‘S’ logos

btw, I would note that the Flash Gordon movie also doesn't quite hold up as awesome as I remembered it as a kid.

David

Col. Milquetoast,

Perhaps I missed it but did General Zod have a particular reason for stripping down to his underoos and discarding his presumably useful armour?

I’m guessing manoeuvrability. That, or some kind of forthright sexual overture. Hey, it’s a Zack Snyder film, so it’s probably done for the same reason everything else is done - to look dramatic. Which isn’t necessarily the same thing as being dramatic, but there we go.

Some may not realize this but the vast majority of towns in Kansas are surrounded by farmland, pasture and/or wilderness.

See above. Toppling skyscrapers look more exciting than flattened corn.

it cuts to (yet another) flashback of young Clark wearing a cape

Which raises the question of exactly who young Clark is pretending to be. Zorro? A medieval knight? Or is he genetically disposed to certain, slightly camp, fashion solutions?

Col. Milquetoast

it’s probably done for the same reason everything else is done - to look dramatic. Which isn’t necessarily the same thing as being dramatic

There was some of that.

Which raises the question of exactly who young Clark is pretending to be

Clearly, DC comics as we know it wouldn't exist so a young Clark Kent would be reading Marvel comics. What Marvel hero in the 1980s wears a cape? Thor, Doctor Strange, and ... anyone else?

Marvel did have other cape wearing characters that might influence an impressionable young Clark : Doctor Doom, Loki, the Mandarin, Mole Man, Magneto, Mephisto, Mysterio, the Owl, the Cobra, Baron Mordo, the Hobgoblin, Mister Sinister. I think I sense a possible explanation as to why Superman was so blasé about all the destruction.

sackcloth and ashes

'Think I'll wait for this...

http://geektyrant.com/news/2013/6/2/the-sharknado-is-coming.html'


Oh wow. I can see some other pitches now. Let's start with ...

'Sharkageddon' - A meteor strikes Earth, and all the survivors of the Extinction Level Event have to avoid being eaten by all the Great Whites that hitched a ride on it.

The comments to this entry are closed.

For Amazon US use this link .

Your filthy consumerism supports this blog.

Blogroll