Man of Steel

Man of Steel.

Man of Steel.

Okay, here it is folks. The review you have all been waiting for. Here is a review of a movie that I have been waiting several months to see and I originally was supposed to attend a special opening night screening of this movie that was sponsored by Walmart this past summer but then Mother Nature decided to cancel my plans and give us a flood warning instead so I couldn’t be able to go. And so I waited and waited and waited until I finally bought it on DVD. Well I finally watched it and since I still owe everyone this review now seven months later I am finally going to deliver. Ladies and gentlemen, here is my long-awaited review of this past summer’s Superman reboot as produced by Christopher Nolan (who successfully reimagined Batman for modern audiences) and directed by Zack Snyder (300 and Watchmen.) And without further ado, here is Man of Steel.

When this came out, I was shocked at the fact that it holds a 56 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the reception for this movie has everyone on the Internet split right down the middle as far as whether this movie is good or this movie sucks. Now what do I think about it? Well, I actually thought that the movie was pretty good for a reboot of a character that many people cannot really relate to as I mentioned in my review of Superman IV. I mean, how can people relate to a man from another planet that appears somewhat God-like? I guess that was the whole point of the reboot: How to make Superman more relatable to a modern audience, hence the reason for the dark tone of the movie. In this movie, Superman is portrayed more as an outsider who is conflicted about what his lot in life is. He has all these powers, he’s indestructible and all that stuff. But he’s torn over whether he should use his powers for good or evil. He was practically raised to do the right thing but as an outsider, he is conflicted. Like he says at the end of the movie, “I’m from Kansas. That’s as American as it gets.” And for generations the Midwest has been known for its good moral values.

So why does this movie have everyone split down the middle? Let’s find out.

The movie opens on Krypton (of course, this is an origin story) and the Krypton scenes are very well done, almost to the point where it looks more like Pandora from Avatar than it does the Krypton we saw in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.  On Krypton, they ride winged creatures as well as space vehicles. Russell Crowe is actually pretty badass as Jor-El and he turns in a pretty decent performance and on the plus side, at least he doesn’t sing  in this movie.

"I WILL FIND HIM!" Must be the 21st Century's version of "Kneel before Zod!

“I WILL FIND HIM!” Must be the 21st Century’s version of “Kneel before Zod!”

The scene where they put the baby Superman (Krypton’s first natural birth in centuries as opposed to everyone else who are actually harvested like in the Matrix movies) into the spaceship is handled with a bit more emotion than in the original version. At the same time, Krypton is under attack from General Zod, an ex-military general who wants to take over Krypton. Here he’s played by Michael Shannon and like Crowe as Jor-El, he is more badass than Terence Stamp although Terence Stamp’s interpretation of Zod in the Reeve films is still iconic. I mean, Zod in this movie doesn’t even say “Kneel before Zod!” like he does in Superman II. The closest he gets is when he shouts “I WILL FIND HIM!” before he is sent to the Phantom Zone.

Of course everyone knows the story up to this point. Baby Superman flies toward Earth; General Zod gets sent off to the Phantom Zone; Krypton go boom; Baby Superman crashes on a fishing boat. Wait, what?

Well, I guess the remainder of the first half of the movie plays like a remake of Batman Begins recast with Superman.

Right after the Krypton scenes, we cut to the grown-up Clark (now played by Henry Cavill) who is working on a fishing boat when they come up on an oil rig that is about to explode. Clark saves the people on the rig, but then we cut to Clark as a boy in school discovering his powers. Then we cut back to him as a man and then we cut to the young Clark saving a school bus full of kids. And you pretty much get the idea.

And here’s where we come to the first real low point of the movie: Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent. When he chastises Clark for exposing himself to save a bunch of kids, it shows you how much of a dick he is in this movie. And I agree with a lot of the Internet reviewers on the grounds that Kevin Costner is the worst Jonathan Kent ever. As far as I’m concerned the best Jonathan Kent ever was Bo Duke on Smallville with the guy who played him in the original Superman movie a pretty close second. The part that pissed a lot of people off (myself included) was when Clark asks, “What was I supposed to do, let them drown?” To which Kevin replies, “Maybe.” I literally shouted “What the hell!” I mean, this is not Field of Dreams Kevin Costner. This is not Dances With Wolves Kevin Costner. Hell, this isn’t even The Bodyguard Kevin Costner. This is Waterworld Kevin Costner and this is the Kevin we’ve known for the last 20 years.  Does that mean that every movie he’s done since The Bodyguard was bad? No, but unfortunately he hasn’t had any good ones either. The last Kevin Costner movie I actually enjoyed post-Bodyguard was 3000 Miles to Graceland and that was because he was so hilariously bad in that movie as the psycho Elvis impersonator. And to think Kevin passed up Django Unchained for this. You know what? Maybe he should have done Django Unchained.

As far as Jonathan Kent telling Clark to let the kids die instead of risking exposure, I don’t buy it for a second. You’re supposed to be raised to do the right thing and then you turn around to let kids die? If I had super powers and I had to deal with a busload of kids drowning, I would have done the same exact thing Clark did: Save the freakin’ kids!

And later in the movie when Jonathan dies in a tornado, it’s basically done for the stupidest of reasons. He tries to rescue a dog and ends up breaking his leg. And this is something that he could have sent Clark to do but you know Jonathan, he doesn’t want Clark exposing himself because he’s afraid those pesky scientists will take him away and experiment on him. So he ends up getting swept away by the tornado. And the reason I don’t like this is because it cheapens Jonathan’s death to the point where the audience does not feel sorry for him when he buys the farm. I’m sorry but I’m not sorry to see this character go. At least with Jonathan Kent’s death scene in the original film, him dying of a heart attack and Clark being powerless to save him, at least that scene had more emotional oomph than Kevin Costner’s death in this movie.

But anyway, I don’t want to drag this on any longer, let’s continue. Right after the whole Kevin Costner controversy, we revert back to the present time where after being humiliated by a truck driver and later avenging that by crucifying his truck on an electric pole, Clark heads up to the North Pole where the US Military have discovered an unidentified object which turns out to be a Kryptonian ship buried in the ice. This also attracts the attention of reporter Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams, who is actually the best Lois Lane ever.) This Lois comes off as gutsy, independent and a risk taker as opposed to someone who just gets into trouble just so Superman could save her. And at least this Lois has the guts to say to Colonel Hardy (played by Christopher Meloni from Law and Order: SVU,) “Now that we’re done measuring dicks, you want to tell me what you found?” Let’s hear Margot Kidder say a line like that.

And the less said about Kate Bosworth the better.

So anyway, Lois sees Clark entering the Kryptonian vessel and follows him inside only to be attacked by one of the robots which Clark destroys and he heals her wound with his heat vision. Then he dumps her outside the vessel and takes off with it. And while Lois attempts to get her story of the spaceship out, Clark is learning all about his destiny and heritage from a hologram of Jor-El which leads to him putting on the costume (which in this case actually looks like a special body armor but not that far removed from the iconic costume that we all know and love) and learning how to fly.

And while that’s going on, let’s talk about another member of the cast: Laurence Fishburne who is playing Perry White (in a little twist of racial irony.) When we first meet him, we think he’s going to be another dick like Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent but at least Perry White has a valid excuse (he’s the editor of a newspaper.) When he first refuses to run Lois’ story, she considers putting it out on the Internet, but she eventually reconsiders running the story when she eventually tracks Clark down to Smallville. I actually like the fact that she knows that Clark is not of this world before he actually turns into Superman as opposed to her finding out later like she does in both comic and film canon.

However, General Zod resurfaces (apparently after Krypton was destroyed he and his followers were automatically released from the Phantom Zone) and takes over the world’s communication systems in an X-Files meets Independence Day sort of way. He demands that Clark surrender to them or they will destroy the planet. And so Clark arrives in costume and surrenders himself to the military to show them that he is not a threat and he talks to Lois (who had also been arrested by the government for what she knows) and here’s where we finally learn what the S on his chest really means. And the S doesn’t mean Superman. It is actually a symbol on Krypton meaning “hope” which makes sense because Superman is supposed to be the embodiment of hope.

Eventually Zod’s soldiers (including an Ursa lookalike) arrives to collect Clark and they take Lois too and Clark cannot adapt to Zod’s vessel’s atmosphere because it’s Kryptonian and he has been on Earth all his life. Well, you get the idea there. And it is here where Zod tries to get Clark to join him because Zod has a terraforming device that he wants to use to create a new Krypton. And if you remember Star Trek II (the original Star Trek II not the JJ Abrams version,) when a terraforming device is used on a planet where life exists, all life will be wiped out.

A new Superman for a new audience.

A new Superman for a new audience.

And with that, Lois and Clark escape from Zod’s ship with the assist of the hologram Jor-El and set out to stop the Kryptonians from destroying the Earth with their terraforming device which they have two such devices installed: One over Metropolis and the other over the Indian Ocean.

After saving Smallville (what’s left of it after the battle and finally convincing the military that he really is on the side of good,) Clark finally becomes known as Superman and sets out to destroy the terraforming device that is over the Indian Ocean while Lois and the military try to destroy the one over Metropolis. They eventually succeed but not before Metropolis ends up looking like 9/11, therefore making Man of Steel the second summer movie released in 2013 with said references (the other one being Star Trek Into Darkness where Khan attempts to crash the USS Vengeance into Starfleet Headquarters.)

And the final fight between Superman and Zod begins with even more destruction and this was also heavily critcized by audiences primarily because of the collateral damage assuming that Superman was also responsible for several deaths even though we don’t actually see any dead bodies in the wake of the falling debris. And here is where we come to the most controversial scene in the movie: The part where Superman breaks Zod’s neck.

Now before you get started on the whole “Oh, Superman doesn’t kill people!” rant, he has killed before, both in the comics and in Superman II and in both instances, the victim was General Zod. The point is that Superman does not enjoy killing people which is why he has that code in place and since this is an origin story, we need to see how Superman gets his no killing policy. And the main reason why he kills Zod was because Zod gave him NO OTHER OPTION! He was actually going to kill those people with his heat vision despite Superman telling him to stop. And it also shows Superman screaming in remorse even though in this case he did the right thing.

And as far as whether or not that scene bothered me, it didn’t.

However, the ending is kind of rushed although the joke about the female army captain remarking how hot Superman is was actually funny. And the movie ends with Clark finally donning the glasses and working for the Daily Planet.

And now on to performances. Henry Cavill actually did an awesome job and gave us a fresh take on the character. And here is the difference between him and Brandon Routh in Superman Returns. While Brandon Routh was trying to play Christopher Reeve, Henry Cavill was trying to play Superman. However it’s safe to say that Christopher Reeve’s legacy is safe. Amy Adams is by far the best actress to play Lois Lane. It erases the bad taste in my mouth that I got from Kate Bosworth in the last movie. Michael Shannon I mentioned before; Russell Crowe I mentioned before; Kevin Costner I mentioned before so no need to revisit that again but I do have to make one more remark about that: You know your Superman movie is in trouble when Russell Crowe ends up being the better father figure than Kevin Costner.

As far as everything else goes, Zack Snyder did a pretty good job with directing. Visuals were good even though it suffers from the same problems that many people accuse the JJ Abrams Star Trek films of: Too many lens flares and the Battlestar Galactica Shakycam effects. Hans Zimmer’s score is good even though I miss the John Williams score.

So as far as Man of Steel goes, it is at least as long as the original Superman movie (just under 2 and a half hours) and while it seems to fit right in with the movies that are released for people with short attention spans and expect movies like Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. However, Man of Steel is actually a pretty good movie. It fixed most of the problems that plagued Superman Returns (except for the whole Superman as a religious figure idea.) In short, Man of Steel is good despite its many flaws. Is it as good as the first two? No. Is it better than the other films? Yes.

And some final thoughts on Batman vs Superman which is currently set for release on May 6, 2016. How do I feel about Ben Affleck as Batman? Well I guess I’ll have to wait until that movie comes out. Christian Bale will be the best Batman ever but if Ben can pull it off then more power to him. Same goes for Gal Gadot (the hot girl from the Fast and Furious franchise) who had just been cast as Wonder Woman.

So my final thoughts: Don’t let the negative publicity surrounding this film dissuade you from seeing. If you want to see this film, see it with an open mind. If not, well just stick with the Christopher Reeve films. Well, except for Superman IV because we all know that was the worst Superman film ever.

 

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness. Better run, JJprise!

Star Trek Into Darkness. Better run, JJprise!

Well last week I reviewed the first big summer movie of the year, Iron Man 3. Today I am going to review another one of the most eagerly awaited movies of the year: Star Trek Into Darkness.

But before we begin, let’s look back at the last movie, 2009’s Star Trek reboot that was directed by JJ Abrams and written by the dream team of fanboy movies: Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. This movie, which reintroduced Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew of the Starship Enterprise to a new audience after the franchise was nearly killed by endless sequels and spinoff TV shows. Many people were skeptical as to whether or not the movie would be successful enough to reinvigorate the franchise. The end result was a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (which as far as I know still stands to this day,) positive reviews out the wazoo, and a nearly $400 million dollar worldwide box office haul which is the most a Star Trek movie has ever grossed at the box office, therefore making it cool to like Star Trek again.

But the film was not without its haters, or as people like to call them “Star Trek purists.” This group could not resist watching the movie and finding something to bitch about, be it the fact that JJ Abrams retconned 40-plus years of established canon in the first 10 minutes of the movie; Spock getting into a relationship with Uhura; the fact that they didn’t like the redesign of the Enterprise (or the “JJprise” as it’s less than affectionately known) or the fact that it was built in Iowa rather than in space; and probably the biggest complaint of all: JJ Abrams is more of a Star Wars fan (and I’ll get to that in a minute) and they criticized Abrams for making the last movie more like Star Wars. However, Orci and Kurtzman are in fact Trek fans, most notably fans of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and they attempted to recapture the emotion, spectacle and action that made that film so beloved both by Trek fans and moviegoers in general. And judging by the positive reception, they succeeded. And that continues in this movie.

So is Star Trek Into Darkness better than its predecessor? Let’s find out. Punch it.

The movie opens on an alien planet where Kirk and Bones (played again by Chris Pine and Karl Urban respectively) are being chased by angry natives while Spock (Zachary Quinto) attempts to prevent a potentially devastating volcano eruption. By the way, this scene was part of a 9-minute sneak preview that premiered with The Hobbit over the holidays so chances are you probably seen it already so it’s hardly a spoiler. At one point, Spock becomes trapped in the volcano and the Prime Directive (if you are an established fan of the franchise, you will know that the Prime Directive is a rule that prohibits Starfleet officers from interfering with a primitive culture’s natural development) expressly forbids them to rescue him without exposing themselves to the culture. But you know Kirk, rule-breaking cowboy that he is, rescues Spock anyway. How he does it actually pisses off Starfleet to the point where Kirk gets the keys to the car (meaning the Enterprise) taken away because he has not fully grown up.

Yes, folks. This scene is  in the movie.

This summer’s hottie to watch. 😉

However, there is more going on at Starfleet than Kirk’s blatant disregard for authority. And the main reason why people want to see this movie this year surfaces. And that reason can be summed up in two words: Benedict Cumberbatch. He plays the mysterious John Harrison, an ex-Starfleet officer who has declared war against the Federation, committing all sort of terrorist acts against key Starfleet installations, including Starfleet Command. And faster than you can say “Warp speed, Mr. Sulu,” Kirk is ordered by Admiral Marcus (played by legendary sci-fi actor Peter Weller) to take out Harrison. If Peter Weller is playing an admiral, then I guess it’s only fair that I rename him “Admiral Robocop.” And his daughter, Carol Marcus (if you don’t know who she is, see Wrath of Khan for further details) manages to sneak aboard the Enterprise as they go off on their mission. She is played by Alice Eve, one of the hot women to watch this year, and here’s where I am going to give out the only real spoiler in this movie. Yes, folks. The picture to your left is in the movie and no, she and Kirk do not do it.

Along the way, there are going to be some nods and winks to the original continuity in which I will only name a few of them because if I name all of them, we’ll be here all day. For starters, the Klingons are in this movie. The Klingons were originally written into the last movie but their scene was cut and the only way to actually see it is if you buy the 2-disc DVD version of the last movie which contains the deleted scenes which includes the scene where the Klingons are torturing Nero with those eel creatures that Nero later uses on Captain Pike and if you saw that scene, you’ll note that the Klingons are wearing metal helmets which at first glimpse would seem that JJ remade the Klingons to look like the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica. Here, you actually get to see one of the Klingons without the helmet. So does JJ stay true to the design of the Klingons as depicted in the original continuity? Well, watch the movie and find out.

In addition to the Klingons there is also a reference to Christine Chapel, who was a regular character on the original series. Here, Carol Marcus is telling Kirk that she knows Christine Chapel which seems to imply that in the JJverse, it was implied that Chapel was one of Kirk’s conquests at the academy whereas in the original continuity, Chapel was in love with Spock (not that this little factoid gives JJverse Uhura any comfort.)  The confrontation between the JJprise and the renegade Starfleet vessel the USS Vengeance (which is literally the Enterprise on steroids with a darker paint job) has shades of the final battle between the Enterprise-E and Shinzon’s ship in Star Trek: Nemesis. Not to mention that there are many more numerous references to Wrath of Khan, including a certain scene that will forever remain synonymous with that movie.

Thankfully, JJ eased up on the Star Wars references this time around. Don’t get me wrong. They’re still there. For instance, the order to go to warp speed is still “Punch it!” The other one is the Vengeance which can also be described as Darth Vader’s Super Star Destroyer in The Empire Strikes Back redesigned as a bigger, meaner, and nastier Starfleet vessel.

Now on to the performances. Chris Pine once again shines as Kirk, who starts out as though nothing has changed since the last movie but the audience will get to see him grow up as the movie progresses. Zachary Quinto brings even more depth to Spock than he did in the last movie. Zoe Saldana has even more to do as Uhura and you even get to see her mix it up in some really big fight scenes. And here’s another thing that separates the original series from the JJverse. When Star Trek first came out, it focused on the trinity of Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy. However, in the JJverse, the trinity is now Kirk, Spock, and Uhura. True, Spock and Uhura are still in a relationship but whenever they fight over Spock’s inability to show emotion, they try to bring Kirk into the argument. Hey, Uhura, you knew what you were getting into when you decided to date a Vulcan. Well with a trinity like this, it’s no wonder the JJverse’s Bones is grouchy in this.

Simon Pegg is still funny as always as Scotty and he has a much larger role this time around. The rest of the crew is kind of relegated to the background, with the exception of John Cho who actually gets a badass moment when Sulu is put in temporary command of the Enterprise and orders Harrison to surrender.

"Shall we begin?"

“Shall we begin?”

But the movie rightfully belongs to Cumberbatch. From the first teaser for this movie, it was clear that he was going to own this movie. He is definitely a much stronger and more menacing villain than Nero was in the last movie. Plus he is also a multi-layered character where you actually begin to question his motivation and yes, in typical Chris Nolan fashion, there are numerous twists and turns that affect both his character and the character of Admiral Robocop.

And Kirk and Spock’s interrogation of Harrison has echoes of Batman’s interrogation of the Joker in The Dark Knight, a scene that has been duplicated since then in such movies as The Avengers and the recent James Bond movie Skyfall.

And now to the million dollar question: Is John Harrison the JJverse’s version of Khan? My answer: Watch the movie! And if you have seen the movie, do not post the answer in the comments below the video in case anyone who watches this review have not yet seen the movie.

So as far as the movie goes, is it as good as the last one? No. It’s better. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and manages to recapture the spirit of the original franchise even when dealing with a hot-button topic which the original series and films have been known for. It’s one of the few TV series that actually dared to do that when it first came out in the 60’s. In the case of Into Darkness, the topic here is terrorism and there are shades of 9/11 here as well. In fact, if you stay past the credits, you’ll see that the movie is dedicated to the 9/11 first responders. The action is really awesome and once again, it’s story and character-driven rather than effects-driven. It’s good to see the friendship between Kirk and Spock take center stage again and this was a good move on JJ’s part.

The JJprise definitely looks like it's seen better days.

The JJprise definitely looks like it’s seen better days.

And all you haters of the JJprise will not want to miss this movie. As you’ve seen in the trailers, the JJprise gets more than a little beat up in this one.

And with that being said, some more questions are being raised now that JJ Abrams is heading over to direct the next movie (still unknown if he’s directing the whole trilogy) of that other sci-fi franchise. The biggest one of all being, will he be coming back to direct his universe’s version of Star Trek 3, which at press time is slated for 2016, the franchise’s 50th anniversary? I guess only time will tell.

Okay, I know this review went kind of long because I had a lot of territory to cover. And as I mentioned last week in the Iron Man review that it’s kind of hard to review a big movie like this without giving anything away. So that being said, I hope you enjoyed this review/editorial of one of the biggest movies of the year.

That being said, 2 summer blockbusters down. Now bring on Man of Steel!