Monday, June 17, 2013
Superman: my review
Every opportunity for humor, compassion or plausible responses to otherworldly phenomena is buried beneath product placements and CGI special effects.
- Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The greatest movie ever made!
-- James Olsen, Metropolis Daily Planet
The filmmakers still didn’t get it right. Even with the “genius” of Christopher Nolan and the wonders of today’s special effects.
Superman is arguably the toughest superhero to adapt to the big screen. There is the legend that goes with him, the concern that his sensibilities come off as corny, and he’s indestructible so what do you do with the big lug? What Hollywood has decided is that there are only two Superman stories – he battles Lex Luthor who has Kryptonite, or General Zod from his old planet. 75 years of comic books, but it’s one of those two plotlines. In this version we get story number two. Yawn.
“Genius” Chris Nolan, director Zach Snyder, and screenwriter David S. Goyer asked the wrong questions. It’s not “how can we make Superman relevant to today?” It should have been “how can we do a 2 ½ hour movie that’s not boring as shit?” And maybe “how can we do a movie that’s FUN?”
“Genius” Chris Nolan went back to his dark, brooding, bleak bag of tricks – figuring I guess “it worked once, it can work again.” Or “don’t question me, I made a boat load of money for this studio.” So the end result was a joyless, tedious, exercise in excess. Endless “epic” battles, mind numbing mass destruction, and loud explosions mixed in with a convoluted story and flying prehistoric creatures for some reason (yes, that’ll make him seem more contemporary).
Perhaps I take this a little personally because Superman has always been my favorite superhero. I suppose I just identify more with him than the others. But I want to be thrilled by a Superman movie. I want to cheer when he arrives on the scene to save the day. I want to feel exhilarated when he flies. And I want my Superman to enjoy being Superman. Even for five minutes.
I want him to take delight in knowing that he has a secret. I want some humor. And yes I want to see him do amazing stunts, but more than anything I want him to ultimately triumph by using his brain. I want him to outsmart his super-foe, not just outlast him.
I can hear the story conferences. “It’s a struggle between his people and earth people.” “Oh, that’s so cool.” “So the theme is identity.” “Yeah, yeah, that’s awesome.” “It’s the existential struggle we all face. What kind of person are we going to become?” “Oh yeah, the kids will sooo identify with that.” “He’s on a quest, a search to find the real him.”
Well, that’s all bullshit.
Superman should be fun, a thrill ride, a shot of adrenaline, a fantasy. Oh why didn’t Joss Whedon make this movie instead of “genius” Chris Nolan?
Let’s go through it, good and bad.
First, it was still way better than the last Superman reboot. But so was the TV episode where Superman flies a little girl around the world in a couple of hours and all she needs is a little sweater at 40,000 feet and her skin doesn’t get ripped off her body from the G-forces.
I guess I should say SPOILER ALERT. There's a scene at IHOP, and folks in Metropolis get their snacks at 7-11 and their emergency kits at Sears.
You could lose the whole first half hour on Krypton. We know the legend. This looked like Zach Snyder had all this unused footage from 300 so he used it here. Like I said, prehistoric birds. Why? Who gives a shit? You could’ve done the whole segment in five minutes.
Now a half hour of identify crisis. Clark Kent doesn’t fit in. He’s different from the other kids. “Ooooh, our target Millennials will eat that up. That should be good for at least another $100 million worldwide.”
Finally, he puts on the suit. Thank God already. In fairness, Henry Cavill did a nice job. He wasn’t Christopher Reeve, but he didn’t have as much to play as Reeve. The last guy was essentially George Lazenby. He doesn’t count. Full disclosure: My favorite Superman is still George Reeves from the TV version. So what if the Man of Steel is 38 and has a gut? You never forget your first love.
From the time I was a kid I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if there really was this alien from another planet who landed in Kansas, and was here to protect “truth, justice, and the American way?” But with this movie, seeing all the destruction that resulted, I wish he had landed in Nizhmy Tagil. Destroy Moscow for a change.
I read the weekend reports that say MAN OF STEEL received A- Cinemascores. So you may love this movie despite my objections. If so, great. But the reports also say the film did huge boxoffice numbers. And the Sunday matinees were running +18% over Saturday’s, which is highly unusual. But I saw it Sunday afternoon at the Village Theater in Westwood, one of the largest screens in the city, and there was no one there. Zero lines. The theater was three-quarters empty. Trust me, when there’s a mega hit there’s a line around the block the first weekend. This felt like a 10 PM showing on a Thursday two weeks into the run. There’s a disconnect somewhere.
The Superman suit looked great; the cape was especially effective. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Ma & Pa Kent cashed thier paychecks, and Russell Crowe didn’t sing. Aylet Zurer played Clark Kent’s birth mother. Since she’s Israeli then Superman must be Jewish. That at least explains the angst.
The effects themselves were top notch, but when you’ve seen Superman smash through a thousand walls you’ve seen ‘em all. And somehow the stunts aren’t thrilling because you know they’re all fake. Everything is blue-screen and later computer generated. There’s probably a $1.99 app that allows you to do the same thing on your iPad.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY devoted their entire magazine this week to Superman. Page after page after page, and then they reviewed the movie and gave it a C. I had to laugh then have to agree.
This time around the S on his chest stands for "substandard." Lex Luthor and Kryptonite -- you're up next. Good luck.