The Summer of Meh

I love summer blockbuster season. I am marginally a film critic and I do enjoy good, prestige movies. I watch innumerable independent films as well but I love a big action movie and summer is the season for those. I had high hopes this year but it has not panned out very well.

Iron Man 3: The Disneyfication of Marvel. Forget Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan, the Black Widow, and War Machine, let’s give Tony Stark a cute kid sidekick. Can we call him Short Round?

The Great Gatsby: A film adaptation of a book where the director honestly didn’t understand what the book was about.

Star Trek: Into Darkness: The plot is utter nonsense but this was a lot of fun just the same. I mean really just the same.

Fast & Furious 6: The World’s Longest Runway. I’m just saying.

Epic: Generic

After Earth: Hmm I already used Afterbirth for Asylum’s take on this film so maybe Crash & Burn. Sorry Will – people like you but are apparently not so keen on your forcing your son on us. Another nail in Shyamalan’s career.

Man of Steel: The Anti-Superman movie – way to Kryptonite the franchise yet many people enjoyed it and the sequel will feature a non-Bale Batman.

World War Z: IF you can forgive it for not having anything to do with the book (hope you enjoyed the payout Mr. Brooks) and don’t mind a PG-13 zombie movie, it was pretty intense and intelligent.

Monsters University

Monsters University: Fun but not the classic that Monsters, Inc was.

White House Down: White House Dumb, Olympus Has Fallen part Deux

The Lone Ranger: Actually Tonto – the movie would have been a lot shorter if Tonto had let him die.

Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2: Fun but not as good as the first PLUS I had to endure innumerable McDonald’s Happy Meals to get the toys for umm my granddaughter – yes my granddaughter wanted them.

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim: Godzilla Meets Transformers but I still love monster movies. This could have been a lot better but was a bright spot this summer.

Red 2: More nonsense from folks who did not really understand what made the first one kind of, sort of, work. Still I love watching Helen Mirren kick butt.

R.I.P.D.: Men in Black 4, only supernatural instead of science fiction and poor CGI.

Turbo: Generic Cartoon 2: Electric Boogaloo

The Wolverine:X-Men 6 minus all the X-Men save two, and one of those is dead for the whole movie. The saving grace is the post-credits scene.

This was pretty much a summer with no new ideas. Of course the twelve-year-old boy inside of me enjoyed going to all of these movies even if the half-century old man knew most of them were duds.

Man of Steel = Bizarro Superman

Some July 4th thoughts on Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Pardon my beating the dead horse – I hope this will be my last post on this topic. Previously I covered why I felt that Man of Steel wasn’t a good movie. Now I’d like to cover why this isn’t even a Superman story. Almost all of the characters come from a bizarro Superman world where they say and do things antithetical to their nature.

Bizarro Superman
* Watch Jor-El ride an insect dinosaur!

* Gasp at Lara’s hesitation over whether to save their infant son!

* Listen to Jonathan Kent argue the merits of letting children die!

* See Martha Kent risk her husband’s life because they left the family dog in the car!

* Witness Superboy irradiate his teacher and classmates giving them cancer!

* Feel Superman’s rage outweigh his common sense!

* Wonder as you find out that the ‘S’ does not stand for Superman!

* Marvel as Jor-El and Superman argue FOR genocide!

* Yawn as Perry White speaks against journalistic integrity!

* Cha-ching! at all the in-your-face product placement, from Nikon to Nokia, IHOP to Sears!

* Gape as Superman deliberately endangers the lives of everyone in Smallville – repeatedly!

I would also like to make the argument that Zod is actually the tragic hero of the story, desperately trying to save his people. First he fights against the corrupt and decadent government, just as Jor-El does, then Zod tries to uphold the law and prevent Jor-El from stealing Krypton’s heritage. He tries to help Kryptonian outposts after the destruction of Krypton. Unlike Jor-El, he respects his foe and has regrets. Everything he does is to try and save his people.

There are plenty more reasons for my above arguments but I don’t post spoilers. Man of Steel is not egregiously bad and the fight scenes are fun. I just had to vent some more.

Man of Asbestos

Man of Steel

Man of Steel (2013): I had very high hopes for this. I love director Zak Snyder’s update of Dawn of the Dead (2004) and his comic book movies, 300 (2006) and Watchmen (2009). These fooled me into thinking he was a great director. He then made the vanity project, Sucker Punch (2011), which was truly awful, despite having some nice visuals.

Christopher Nolan co-produced and co-wrote the story. David S. Goyer co-wrote the story and penned the screenplay. He worked on all three of Nolan’s Batman pictures. This was a really good sign as all of those were tightly, smartly written. The only concern would be that Batman’s darkness would carry over to Superman. Unfortunately it did in a number of areas and the titular Man of Steel does not feel like Superman.

The good: Some of the fight scenes are intense and quite well done. There are a handful of cute moments (when Lois first decides what to call him, a scene involving a copier, Lois finding out what anonymous means).

The bad: Everything else. Seriously. Henry Cavill is not bad as Superman but he is certainly no Christopher Reeve and he has absolutely zero chemistry with Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Russell Crowe underplays well in what should be a cameo as Jor-El but is in way too much of the film and many of his later scenes undercut any tension. The writing of Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent is pretty much the exact opposite of the way Jonathan has always been played and his final scene is absolutely ludicrous. The most egregious offender is easily Michael Shannon as Zod. Every scene has him playing his character on ’11’ – moderation and nuance are not in this actor’s repertoire.

Snyder uses flashbacks willy-nilly and to terrible effect. Ditto with his soft-focus on the camera. Ditto ditto with his jump cuts. The special effects are serviceable but many of them look cheap. Hilariously, the flying in Superman from thirty-five years ago looks better than the flying in Man of Steel (except the sonic booms).

The dialogue is pretty bad. The re-imagining of Krypton started off interesting but quickly became ridiculous and went on for far too long. Man of Steel could have used about thirty minutes cut from the running time. Man of Steel also appears to have used last year’s blockbuster, The Avengers, as a template, particularly the last half hour.

Finally, as with Iron Man 3, the ultimate resolution could have been used much earlier, saving countless lives. At least Man of Steel has less unnecessarily slow dipping mechanisms to employ than Iron Man 3. Also less fun.

Wife POV: “Superman: now with less chemistry, less logic, and more flying insect dragons than ever before. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You’re welcome.”

Rich Superman, Poor Superman

Rich Superman: Superman (1978) became Warner Bros. biggest selling film of all time (since surpassed) and spawned four sequels. Well, not unexpectedly, the reboot Man of Steel did record-setting business over the Father’s Day holiday ($125 million for the weekend – biggest June opening) and Man of Steel II has already been greenlit.

Man of Steel

I was a very small part of that. Jenny and I caught it at Biltmore Grande’s super deluxe RPX theater on Sunday. I used a FREE ticket from my Cinnamon Toast Crunch for hers and upgraded a FREE Regal Crown ticket to RPX ($5.50 even though the actual difference in ticket price is $4, go figure) for mine. The machine spat out a FREE popcorn (woohoo!) and Jenny and I both used their $3 off a soda mobile coupon of the week. Woot! $11 for two large sodas, a small popcorn, and two RPX tickets – score! Plus the tickets also spat out a FREE advance showing of The Heat on Tuesday evening for RCC members.

RPX

Speaking of RPX, the picture and sound quality are undeniably awesome. However, one of the major benefits is not listed on their advertisement. Because the base price for an RPX ticket is an additional $4, the theater is sparsely populated while the regular ones are full. Still I couldn’t imagine buying multiple $12 – $15.50 tickets without the various offers I take advantage of.

Poor Superman: Well, that would be Man of Steel in a nutshell but first, what happened after Superman?

Superman II (1980) was really just a continuation of Superman (especially as much of it was filmed at the same time) and was quite good. Many consider it better than Superman and there are two versions on home video – one by Richard Donner and one by Richard Lester.

Superman III (1983) was pretty bad – No Zod, no Luthor, no Brainiac, our villain is just a businessman. Worse, Superman essentially shares top-billing with a computer hacker played by Richard Pryor. Worse again, Lois receives less than five minutes of screen time. The only thing likely to make you forget how bad Superman 3 is…

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987): Yay for bringing back Hackman as Luthor and Kidder as Lois Lane but this movie is just awful. The special effects are horrendous, the story (co-written by Christopher Reeve) is just as ridiculous as Superman III (though more heartfelt), and only Christopher Reeve seems to want to be in this.

Superman Returns (2006): Almost two decades since the last sequel, they got the brilliant idea to have Bryan Singer helm this. Strangely, this was disastrous on two fronts. First, because Singer was helming this, directorship of X-Men: The Last Stand fell to Brett Ratner. Second, Singer, a marvelous director and clearly skilled at handling comic book movies, decided to slavishly ape the first two Superman movies. Themes that worked in the first two Superman movies had become trite and cornball in the new century.

Kevin Spacey was a good choice to replace Hackman as Luthor though he wasn’t able to do much with the role. Luthor again is an egomaniacal real estate tycoon (as in Superman) – making the plot feel stale. Adding to the staleness is the return of Marlon Brando as Jor-El in some previously unused footage. A salient plot point revealed late in the film is obvious to everyone from the beginning, except, apparently, Superman.

Superman Returns was not a disaster – it just wasn’t good. It wisely ignores the events of Superman III and IV and you can ignore it.

Man of Steel: Tomorrow