Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel

(PG-13) 2h, 23min

Plot Summary: Kal-El, one of the last of an extinguished race disguised as an unremarkable human, is forced to reveal his identity when Earth is invaded by an army of survivors who threaten to bring the planet to the brink of destruction.

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay & story), Christopher Nolan (story), Jerry Siegel (Superman created by), Joe Shuster (Superman created by)

Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Must See) This is new and improved Superman. Today’s audiences generally don’t care for flawless characters who are all-powerful, morally inpenetrable, and have all the answers to every problem in life. Snyder and company dirty Superman up a bit, focusing on his formative years. You can recognize Nolan’s influence on this film. Viewers get to observe as young Kal struggles with impossible situations to develop his moral compass, as well as to survive battles in which he is the underdog. Theology fans will appreciate the many subtle biblical analogies inherent throughout the movie.

As we discussed in Episode 23, Part 1, of the podcast, not since Christopher Reeve has any actor embodied this role so effectively that it becomes hard to picture anyone else playing Superman, and Cavill does so while changing the direction of the character. Not only is Cavill utterly convincing in his gritty portrayal of Superman’s loneliness, confusion, bottled-up anger, idealism, and loyalty, but he even looks more like Superman than anyone else that has ever worn the costume.  Beyond having the strong jaw, cleft chin, and piercing blue eyes, acccording to IMDB, Cavill trained for 11 months to take his already-V-shaped physique to the next level, ingesting five 1,000-calorie shakes a day to bulk up, then dropping to 1,500 calories a day to shred to 7% body fat, all while shunning steroids and working out with Gym Jones trainer Mark Twight until he couldn’t walk out of the gym. Snyder made it a point to include shirtless scenes in the film just to show that Cavill’s hard work on his body was real and not just the costume or CGI.

However, at least from an acting perspective, Cavill does not do all the heavy lifting by himself. The rest of the cast is top-notch.  As also discussed on the podcast, Shannon established his own intense and unyielding interpretation of General Zod. Adams portrays Lois Lane as a combat journalist, which gives the character a very different dynamic than the passive, helpless cheerleader that she has been in the past. Russell CroweAyelet Zurer, Diane Lane, and Kevin Costner not only make you care about Superman’s parents through their charismatic performances, but their characters are also legends to the map of Superman’s psyche, through which you can recognize aspects of his personality and moral code.

The visual effects in this film are stunning. They are everything that you could ask for in terms of big explosions, mind-blowing CGI, and breathtaking scenery. Krypton is its own character in this movie.

My only disappointment was that some hokiness was present throughout the film, beyond what is inherent in a comic book. For instance, it is silly to have a school bus full of kids plummet off a bridge, hit the water, and cut to every kid in the bus still sitting in their seats, unharmed; the impact with the water would have resulted in numerous injuries and kids flying all over the bus.

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The Amazing Spiderman (2012)

Amazing Spiderman

(PG-13) 2 h, 16 min

Plot Summary: After Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically altered spider, he gains newfound, spider-like powers and ventures out to solve the mystery of his parent’s mysterious death.

Director: Marc Webb

Writers: James Vanderbilt (screenplay & story), Alvin Sargent (screenplay), Steve Kloves (screenplay), Stan Lee (based on the Marvel comic book by), Steve Ditko (based on the Marvel comic book by)

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Worth Watching)  As we discussed in Episode 23, Part 1, of the podcast, we love the Spiderman character, and Garfield not only does him justice, but he also presents a unique and charismatic version of Peter Parker that is even more interesting than when he dons the mask. Emma Stone brings The Girlfriend Experience, making Gwen Stacy endearing in her own right, not just because of how much the hero cares for her. Martin Sheen and Sally Field not only make you care about Uncle Ben and Aunt May, but they show you aspects of Spiderman that Garfield can’t by himself. Denis Leary really manages to walk that fine line between pompous jerk and loyal protector right into the viewer’s heart. In short, the acting is phenomenal.

Unfortunately, the storyline is nothing special, and the movie is too often unnecessarily hokey (Really? Is it that easy to break into a high-security lab with genetically unstable spiders?), which conflicts with the film’s more gritty tone. This film feels more like a background setup for sequel, which I have yet to see, but which I’m hoping will take the franchise to the next level, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did for its franchise.

Green Lantern (2011)

(PG-13) 114 mins

Director: Martin Campbell

Writers: Greg Berlanti (screenplay & screen story), Michael Green (screenplay & screen story), Marc Guggenheim (screenplay & screen story), & Michael Goldenberg (screenplay)

Stars: Ryan ReynoldsBlake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, & Tim Robbins

Best Boy Grip: Gerald Autin

CraigMakk:(Don’t Bother) Goddamn you, Hollywood. Seriously? You get access to the entire Green Lantern Corps, you bring the excellent and intimidating Mark Strong on as Sinestro, and you even get Ryan Reynolds, a self-professed comic (he already played the equally awesome yet ultimately reviled portrayal of the Deadpool character) and Green Lantern fanboy, to play Hal Jordan…and you still are able to screw it up? What the hell is going on up there in Hollywoodland? Honestly, I want to know. Next time, just ask me to write the script for you. Or at the very least take a shit on the script before handing it to the poor actors. Either of which would have been infinitely better than the crap you dumped out on the world.

Okay, at the very least I can say that Ryan Reynolds is pretty charming as the normally cool under pressure Hal Jordan. While he sometimes has a hard time being less “Ryan-Reynoldsy”  in his movies, this character called for much of the one-liners he is famous for. His ability to showcase the strength of humanity in the face of overwhelming doubt from a galaxy full of aliens (Note: if you thought the Star Wars Cantina had too many aliens, wait until you see the first shot of the Green Lantern Corps homeworld, Oa) who believe us to be “too immature” is incredibly believable. Mark Strong, however, steals the show as the “greatest lantern of them all”, Sinestro. He is both aloof and terrifying, and his begrudging respect for Hal would have made his  (SPOILER ALERT…Not really) eventual turn to become his  greatest enemy in the sequel even more emotional.

Instead, however, they decided to make this movie. Which is pretty bad. I mean, other than a few special effects sequences, including an entirely CGI costume for Hal himself, this movie makes no sense. Hector Hammond is thrown in as a villain for approximately eight minutes. And apparently Hal and he have been friends since they were children, but the movie makes no attempt to demonstrate that fact other than with a quick, “Hey remember how  we’ve been friends since we were children?”-kind of statement. In addition, they clearly took notes from “Fantastic Four‘s” horrendous portrayal of Galactus  when designing Parallax, as he is designed as a corny-looking cloud with a face in it. Wow. At least Kilowog looked cool.

In the end, this movie suffers from “bad comic movie”-itis, which encompasses: a) not quite understanding the source material, b) changing the key characters (origins, powers, look, etc) purely for the sake of change, and c) failing to understand the traits and characteristics of the heroes themselves that make the stories fun and relatable. A guy with a power ring who can create anything his mind can imagine as long as he feels no fear is cool, but the true theme is that overcoming fear is more important than not feeling it at all. A movie shouldn’t reduce the theme to one line like a movie review does. But boy, does this one ever. If you are at all interested in Green Lantern, I recommend you simply read Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Sinestro Corps Wars instead. And pray to God that Ryan Reynolds doesn’t get screwed in the (potentially) upcoming Deadpool movie.

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