If you’re not familiar with the story of Superman at this very moment as you read this, then you’re arguments are nullified 🙂 Fact is, Superman is the most iconic figure with the most recognizable symbol (the ‘S’ on his chest) second only to the Christian cross. His cultural relevance, fame and impact cannot be matched by any other fictional character, or superhero regardless of how successful any film adaptation may have been of those characters. Superman stands above them all. Despite that enviable fame and impact, the character has has one major daunting hurdle: translating him to the Big Screen successfully and maintaining that success…
Those familiar with the previous notable reinterpretation of the character onscreen will know that the first two Superman films starring the late Christopher Reeve were the best, before the next two installments still starring Christopher Reeve but under different direction, started giving people a bad taste in the mouth… Fast forward to some two decades later after some failed attempts by directors Tim Burton and J.J. Abrams to get a Superman film flying, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns (2006) was met with some fair amount of love by critics BUT backlash by fans and the intended sequel never saw the light of day and things were quietly swept under the rag until word and rumors of a reboot titled Man of Steel started being seen in the sky…
The visual guru and fanboy at heart Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) was attached to direct, under the supervision of Christopher Nolan (Inception, Batman Trilogy), that alone is a match made in heaven. But did they deliver?
“A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.”
First of all, the creative minds behind Man of Steel had to balance between reintroducing the character, modernizing him without stripping away or diluting the age-old attributes or lore that make Superman what he is while leaving him recognizable to the stable of fans who have known him throughout the years and drawing in a new generation of fans.
The delicate yet necessary balance above, led to an interesting choice of story telling and editing , and this is probably what most people had a problem with; the jumping back and forth between current ongoing events and events in the past of our titular character, Clark Kent who later becomes Superman our Man of Steel. The problem with the employed style of editing and story-telling means there is no direct/obvious linear story build up. You have to pay close attention to what’s happening, connect the dots, and have a functioning memory. In short it’s not a campy superhero story, but at the same time not too complicated.
The term ‘erratic’ has been used by one review site to describe the style used, a style that makes you feel that there is no story being told, and things are all over the place, back and forth, forth and back etc… But there is a story being told. Nevertheless it’s still one of the film’s main flaws but easily dealt with if one pays attention. Apart from the usual loopholes and ‘too much coincidence’ in some areas, the other bone of contention would have to be the sort-of minor roles familiar faces were given to play. There was a lot of buzz about the caliber of supporting cast attached to this film, to the most part they don’t do too much if you look at the significance of the characters they are playing in relation to Superman’s history, but you get the feeling this film wasn’t about them, but more about Superman, and they were given introductory roles with further development coming in the not-so-far-away sequel. It sort of balances out then in that light.
The visual is the selling point of this film. Spot on! Russell Crowe’s casting as Jor-El and how he portrayed the role sets the pace for everything early on in the film when we see a magnificent yet dying Krypton. No Superman film in the past has spent that amount of time detailing Krypton and getting us more attached to Superman’s biological parents than this one does. That was a pleasant surprise. Not only was it a surprise and of visual significance, it lays the foundation giving the viewer the understanding of Superman’s heritage and background, the circumstances of his arrival, making it quite easier to leap ahead in time to when he is fully grown, bearded and a wanderer…
The story being told is pretty simple, built on the notion that a being with such power yet unaware of his origin and purpose at first would feel lost and literally alienated on a planet where everyone else compared to him is a mere mortal. Should he reveal his true abilities and possibly risk rejection? His family being victimized in some way? Or should he conceal them, try to fit in yet never really fit in, inevitably feeling lost and alone… Henry Cavill carries the weight of the character and film quite well on his shoulders. As a lost Clark Kent he plays it perfectly, the concealed struggle of emotions evident on his face; displaying relief and wonder after the knowledge of his birthright as Kal-El; finally as Superman, we see the balance, perfect look of stage-fright mixed with ‘its now or never’ mentality and ‘i won’t give up’ when he has to stand up to Zod.
Speaking of Zod, Michael Shannon was menacing. The threat of Zod wasn’t necessarily in his abilities at first, but in his nature, age and military knowledge. We believe Zod was the perfect choice of a villain, i mean who else is powerful enough to properly introduce Superman? What other villan can cause Superman to come out in all his glory both physically and morally? We’ll tell you; Zod. Faora his second in command quite nearly if not completely stole the show from him! The best actors are those who can successfully convey their roles with body language coupled with the fewest lines, Antje Traue did that! The characters who were given much to do in this film delivered, embracing heir roles and relaying the importance and urgency of the situation.
All in all, it’s a great visual masterpiece with a simple yet effective story that i believe serves it’s main purpose well; reintroduce the character and set the stage for DC Comics shared universe. The epic battle scenes stand way above anything and everything presented by any superhero film of late, yes, even The Avengers doesn’t match up! Your emotions are tugged at, your enthusiasm stoked and most importantly, the seriousness of it all sinks in. Superman is not a hero because of his abilities, but because of what he believes in, his heart and principles, perfectly relayed by the circumstances that compelled him to introduce himself to the world. It was is no cliche way by the way 😉 There’s a burden that comes with wearing that ‘S’ on his chest, there’s a legacy he has to honor and a new one he has to chart, it’s no easy job.
If you’re looking for a serious superhero film where there is actual danger and you get connected and invested this is it! Hans Zimmer’s score goes a long way in matching the mood of every scene. Watch this for yourself, it has its flaws like every other film true, but the biggest crime would be you not experiencing it in Cinema for yourself and for the sake of the EPIC battles between Superman and Faora and Superman and Zod. Superman is back, with a bang!
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
IMDb Rating: 8.2/10
MOVIE JABBER Rating: 3.5/5
Man of Steel opens to the Kenyan public June 21st, Friday.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS & MONSTERS | Review
The latest addition to DC’s animated universe is another Justice League movie, but this time, not a single cape in sight! Justice League: Gods and Monsters is based in an alternate universe where Superman is the son of Zod who crashed on earth from a destroyed Kyrypton and was raised by Mexican immigrants, Batman a scientist mutated into a vampire and Wonder woman is from Apokolips. Totally an original story Directed by Sam Liu and Produced by none other than Bruce Tim, who has overseen numerous DC animated projects, with this version by far being the most diverse and furthest away from the Justice League we have known since…forever! There have been alternate universes and “what if” scenarios in the past, but this one takes the cake!
The story is centered on the Justice League and how the world around them responds to their presence. Some fear them, others worship them. They spend their time in the Justice Tower ready to answer to distressful circumstances and save the day. Sure, that about the JL hasn’t changed at all, only they use a zero tolerance approach to every situation. This is made clear at the beginning of the movie when they tear apart a terrorist cell and make quick work of them, with Superman pounding baddies to a pulp, Batman sucking the blood from their bodies dry, and Wonder Woman putting her sword to good use, blood paints the floor literally! The authorities detest this executioner style of justice and are ever plagued with the question, “Do the JL serve the world? Or themselves?” Their loyalty and intentions are put on the line when a sinister force begins to murder some of the world’s top scientist in a fashion resembling the Justice League’s tactics. Framed for these acts, will they take the righteous path and try to clear their name? or is this beneath them as they answer to no one…
Violent and bloody, this one is definitely not for the kids. This is a dark movie, very dark and a lot of disturbing imagery has been used! These guys don’t mess around! The usual Justice League would either put bad guys in jail or vanquish them to some dimensional world, but here they butcher them! I, on the other hand, appreciated this approach despite how far away it was from what we’ve come to expect from the JL trio. I’ve always wanted to see a merciless Superman who doesn’t hesitate to kill his enemies. The whole boy-scout shenanigans were growing old and this new perspective on the man of steel truly felt more efficient. The theme was very mature, edgy and lot of the violence goes down in an unsettling way, but it doesn’t feel as though it was forced into the movie so as to make it look more appealing to mature audiences, rather the violence fuels the story beautifully as it impacts the world of the characters.
The story is decent enough to keep you entertained all through, but what really stood out were the origins of the characters. While not done all in one go, each character’s back-story is revealed in the form of a flashback at different points through the movie. Superman’s was at the very beginning then Batman and Wonder woman’s came at their own time. These segments were rather long and often made me come close to forgetting the movies main plot, after every flashback I’d be like, “Oh yeah! What was happening again?”, but still they were thrilling and intriguing, especially Batman’s.
A few weeks before Gods and Monsters released, there were 3 shorts titled JL: Gods and Monsters Chronicles that introduced us to this radical change in the characters. Thanks to chronicles, I jumped into this movie knowing what to expect and it helped save the time of trying to relate to the characters when watching the movie for the first time. On top of everything story related; If there’s one thing that I rarely feel in these DC animations, it’s an emotional impact on me. Most times it’s just a matter of action to a kickass soundtrack and an acceptable storyline. Gods and Monsters rises above that and really tugs on your emotions at times.
The art was fantastic and very visual with color grading definitely suited to the nature of the story. Bruce Tim’s style was quite notable and great work was done, although in some scenes the art did seem inconsistent and not as solid all through the movie. Character design though is where I see a big split in opinion. Superman and Batman looked great to me, but I wasn’t too fond of Wonder Woman’s design. White is a subtle color, and using it on the character with the highest body count could have been some sort of an irony thing or just for laughs, but all in all I didn’t like her design. Music was pretty much the usual Superheroie tunes we hear now and then and sound effects were as great as any of these DC animated movies, they pretty much don’t fail there as far as their sound libraries go.
Having already covered how violent this movie is, the action is definitely within those boundaries. The action was great but not too memorable given how much it was lacking in choreography, but for a more story driven movie, that doesn’t drop its rating. Apart from Superman, the others possess some very new and interesting abilities and they are depicted well in the action scenes. The only thing different in Superman’s powers is that he uses them to the fullest and without holding back. Voice acting was great all around! Michael C. Hall as Batman was what won it for me, a cold and lifeless voice was quite fitting for the character, though he could have left that voice tone out of the flashback to portray a different Batman before his mutation.
Apart from the minor things like the inconsistent art and wonder woman’s design, the only major disappointment of the movie was the main Villain and how they didn’t justify their reason for their acts well enough to convince me. The stakes are high but the villain was just an utter disappointment. The other thing was the characters that retained their familiar personalities that we know well, Lex Luthor, Amanda Waller and Lois Lane. All make quite insignificant appearances! Sure Lex is involved in the story a bit more towards the end, but they felt more like cameos for all of them.
The overall concept of this movie is great! I mean, seeing that The Justice Tower is a penthouse where the heroes chill out and sip on some whiskey, that alone could have sold it for me, but this movie is more than that. It doesn’t sit back and dwell on “Look! Look how different I am, Superman kills!” No, none of that. It tells a compelling story that matters and could pass for anything canon. Despite being a dark tale, it’s shines a positive light of hope in that people with powers and a god-like stand in community still try to save the world. In fact, can this become a thing? I would watch another Justice League based in the same universe. Should this ever become a franchise, I’m in! Go, watch it!
ANT-MAN | Review
There are a lot of things that you could say go right in a movie, but isn’t it so much more fun to say what went wrong?
Now, the main thing that is wrong with this movie is that, for me, Paul Rudd can do no wrong, which has led me to watch a few of his unwise decisions, like I Love you, Man (which, ok, to be honest, wasn’t half bad). Point is, I will watch anything Paul Rudd touches. In fact, slightly poetically, I watched this movie on the weekend that was the anniversary of the first movie I ever saw him in: Clueless, the epitome of teen movies, one of my favourites to this day.
So I lied – that is not the main thing that is wrong with this movie. I just needed space to certify my undying love. What is really wrong with this movie is that it is just one of the many Marvel disappointments of the year.
Avengers 2 was atrocious. Let’s all admit it. Because of that, I wasn’t feeling particularly excited about anything Marvel is doing (I’ve learnt my lesson, and been heartbroken, now I am in the bitter phase, which involves aggressively looking forward to Suicide Squad). So I knew not to be too excited about this one.
Hank Pym discovers a chemical that will change the landscape of warfare as the world knows it. And he knows it – so he chooses to keep it hidden and become a hermit. But not everyone agrees with his plan, and when his protege replicates the chemical, his hand is forced to find someone who can protect the world the way he used to.
There is a nod to the Avengers in the movie which I have a problem with. Don’t read the comics and expect the film to stick to the story – you know the movie is for the money (which is why it is even more surprising that the marketing for this movie was so wack. It’s like they didn’t even care. There was no furore whatsoever in comparison) and so will sound almost nothing like the book.
The casting was fine. The villain was obvious. The romance was weak. The humour was good, and there were a couple of great supporting characters – but it isn’t the type of movie that Marvel should be making. Especially for a character like Ant Man. They very clearly needed to just put out a movie – any movie – so they did. An entertaining one though it was, it was only about a 6 ½ rating worth of entertainment.
The author blogs at akello.co.ke