Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Steel Vision

Krypton's favorite son comes of age in the Superman movie we've all been waiting for in Warner Brother's Man Of Steel


ARTH VADER (AV): Finally! the summer blockbuster the world has been anticipating has arrived on earth! Opening to solid (if not somewhat mixed) reviews, Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel opened on June 14 and helped us all get a glimpse of what a 'real' Superman movie could do. Following the hugely under-performing (but NOT awful) Superman Returns (2006) starring Brandon Roth, this Superman is a lot less ridiculous and lot more dark and gritty. Not since Christopher Reeves Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) have we had a thoroughly entertaining Kal-El story. I for one was excited when I entered the theater. What was your take old friend?

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): This film only roughly follows any storyline that I’ve ever seen in any comic book. When I say rough, I mean really rough. The element of Zod trying to take control of Krypton, being defeated and imprisoned in the Phantom Zone...and later released from it to travel to Earth are still present. Everything else in the film, apart from Kal-El being raised by Ma and Pa Kent, is liberal embellishment made to entertain us...and succeeding in super fashion!


AV: To be fair, there were some casting blunders in this film, namely the casting of Laurence Fishburne as Perry White and Amy Adams as Lois Lane. While neither felt like those characters to me, both were decent performances. The true miscast of this movie was Diane Lane as Martha Kent, she just didn't feel right in that role...BUT none of these hurts the overall experience of Man Of Steel. In fact my favorite cast member was Russell Crowe (Jor-El). While I thought Henry Cavill was stunning, Crowe's performance stole the show. The other directing points was the jump-around story sequencing, which was an interesting takes but many times borderline confusing to follow. Pontificator? 

TP: The casting of this film is superb Vader. Henry Cavill has carved out his own brand of Superman. Michael Shannon had me actually sympathizing with General Zod. Russell Crowe has resurfaced his talent. Antje Traue was menacing while sizzling up the screen. Christopher Meloni played up the hard edged Colonel role convincingly. Kevin Costner has finally emerged from obscurity as one of the best versions of Jonathan Kent. Round all that out with Laurence Fishburne... and this movie boasted some serious performing substance. The direction of the film had a calculated momentum and I found the flashbacks to be well timed and relevant to character development. The only detraction for me was the choice of Lois Lane. At the very least they could have at least dyed her hair black if they weren’t going to use someone more suitable for the role.


AV: Ponty, I have made a decision, I want to move to Krypton! Well, pre-planet-exploding Krypton more specifically. The first (roughly) 30 minutes of this movie take place on Superman's home world, pre-final disaster. Those effects shots were some of the most stunning imagery in the film (or in any recent film) and took my breath away. This was the jump start to many breathtaking effects shots, most notably, the final fight sequence. At more than 30 minutes, the final showdown between General Zod and his rebel Kryptonian cronies is almost physically breathtaking. Watching entire city blocks get pulverized and seeing whole skyscrapers tumble under the onslaught of the Kryptonian Gods among us, was waaayy worth the price of admission. Ponty, did you survive?

TP: Outstanding Vader... I live! Take away Superman, and you still have a spectacular science fiction film complete with all the special effects trimmings. Once again I treated myself to IMAX 3D, and loved every minute of it. The CGI is flawless as space ships race across the screen and buildings tumble like a bad Jenga move. The world of Krypton was well done, conveying a decadent advanced technological society, sufficiently alien even though the inhabitants sparked familiarity. The Kryptonian powers were done brilliantly from the simplest displays of flight to the riveting sequences of super speed. Overall, and epic display of SFX.


AV: Well, Pontifcator, I must say that, while not a perfect film, Man Of Steel does not disappoint. This tale shares a darker, grittier, more conflicted Superman. One who is unsure of whether to lead, follow or get out of the way. He is on an adopted home world but–films end–is the harbinger of the entire DNA of Krypotn's dead race. This adds an incredible burden to Superman's very existence and adds a level of tension and turmoil not ever before seen in a Superman cinematic or televised story line. While I could argue this movie is far from a precursor to the greatness of Nolan Dark Knight trilogy or a rumored Justice League starter point, Man Of Steel is a strong franchise reboot. 

TP: I admit that I saw this film twice already...and will probably see it a third time, so please forgive my indulgence here. The humor was sparse and I think adding more of it to the film would have taken away from the overall seriousness that gave it so much (dare I say) gravity. The flashback sequences were an excellent way to show us why Kal-El struggled with the issue of trust when faced with the choice between his people and the people of Earth. A lifetime of human cruelty will have you doing a lot of soul searching when you’re a resident alien. On that same issue of trust, one of the films most dramatic and touching scenes comes from Clark having implicit trust in his adoptive father... to the point of letting him die when it was within his power to save him. Unlike past stories where Clark must grapple with the limitations of his powers because of his inability to save his father (i.e. heart attack), here he must grapple with the limitations of his all too human spirit... living with the agony of a choice made from profound trust in a person he loved and admired. I believe all this is what gave him the strength to make another tough choice at the end of the film.

Labeling General Zod as a “villain” really wasn’t accurate until the end of the film. Although his methods were extreme in the service of his goal, the irony of it all is that he was the exact opposite of Superman, being devoid of any real ability to make a choice that ran counter to what he was specifically genetically engineered to do. A tornado isn’t a villain, it is an act of nature. Zod was also a natural occurrence, of his societal ecosystem, and this made him far more dangerous than some petty villain.


AV: Oh, I am quite sure this movie will enjoy stellar box office success and become the lynch-pin for at least a strong trilogy of films to come. To this effect, one of the last scenes had a meager-looking Clark Kent show up in the Daily Planet's newsroom but Lois (Amy Adams) knows its him and plays along beautifully. This dispels the unbelievable notion and frustrating myth that Superman can simply put on a pair of horn-rimmed specs and 'blend in.' A master stroke of genius from the film's brain trust.

TP: The word is that this is the first of a trilogy, and I’m very excited to see where they go from here. With the bar set so high, I’m hoping they didn’t take us to the apex only to steadily decline over the next two films. That said, I’m giddy with excitement at the thought of this film being the least of the three... because that means the next two films will be a step beyond epic.


ARTH VADER rates Man of Steel: Not without a few continuity and casting holes, most of which are not even worth calling out, Man Of Steel brings a steady dose of ass-kicking, hi-octane, white knuckled action and blasts it at you faster than a speeding bullet. A worthy installment in the Superman franchise and a heck of a re-boot, Man of Steel easily leaps nine (9) busted blocks in a single bound. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Man of Steel: I knew way back in our year end post two years ago that this film was going to be something special...  I just didn’t know how special. After all the years of presenting Superman in a way that didn’t quite fit with the rest of the real world, it was refreshing to see him taken seriously and given an honest representation in the society we live in. This film super punches, then uses heat vision to melt nine (9) blocks into oblivion.

Man of Steel—9/10 Busted Blocks

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