Thursday, June 27, 2013


Yes, wow.

I don't mean it in a good way.  The word "wow" can express your sentiment in two extremes.

In the case of "Man of Steel,"  it's "wow, I can't believe I actually paid money to see this."

The latest Superman reboot is that bad.  Reprehensible.  Vile.  Revolting.

Okay, now that I have your attention.

I can also tell you that "Man of Steel" may be one of the top five worst films I have seen in my life. That's a lot of movies, folks.  But this one does its darndest to repulse me.  And mostly succeeds.

Just for the record, I am a huge fan of the Superman character.  I used to read the comic books.  I ate up the reruns of the TV series with George Reeves.  I enjoyed the movies in the 70s which even the ultra-wooden acting of Christopher Reeve couldn't ruin.  I even liked the 90s TV series with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher, even if the dialogue made Clark Kent and Lois Lane come off more like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

About seven years ago, there was another attempt to restart the film franchise with somebody named Brandon Routh as the caped super hero.  It was largely forgettable as we had already seen the story before.  How Superman is born on Krypton.  How he comes to Earth.  How he gets to the Daily Planet.  How he stops crimes and shepherds good over evil.


But, Warner Brothers, never missing an opportunity to make a billion or three, saw an opening for a massive recharge of the franchise.  They turned it over to producer Christopher Nolan, who already had destroyed the Batman character with three movies.  Why not have Nolan shit all over Superman like a cocker spaniel who's been eating the tinsel off the Christmas tree?  When I first heard that Nolan was now involved in Superman, I shuddered.

My fears have been completely vindicated.  He and his hack director Zack Snyder have destroyed the Man of Steel forever.  There's no turning back now.  And once Warner Brothers counts the dough, I'm sure they will order up a sequel or five.

None of which will be seen by yours truly.  Especially if Hollywood wunderkind Christopher Nolan is involved.  I pray each night to God that he doesn't try a remake of something I really love.  Maybe his version of "I Love Lucy."  Where the Mertzes are former Nazi officers on the run from their Holocaust crimes and Lucy is manic-depressive married to an alien not from Cuba, but a planet where wives are sacrificed to a pagan god.

You get the idea.  Nolan has an unhealthy and completely sinister view of the world around him.  He wants it to be ours as well.  The sooner he and his Range Rover do a flip-and-burn on the 405 Freeway, the better for all of us.  Hollywood studio execs love the genius of Nolan movies.  But, then again, Hollywood studio execs, who are mostly between the ages of 22 and 35, can be drug addicts, philanderers, tax cheats, and domestic help abusers.  If Nolan's world vision is as dark as the back of a hall closet, he certainly knows his audience.

But why should that viewpoint be one we need to swallow at the local cinema?  Movies are supposed to be escapist fare where audiences can forget the job they just lost or the teenage child at home they can't reach or the rent they can't pay.  You take that ride for exhilarating fantasy, not grim reality.  Why sign up for more of the same? 

Don't get me wrong.  I love a good action movie that makes your buttered popcorn go down quickly.  The most perfect example of that genre is the very first edition of "Die Hard."  Loud, noisy, explosive, but still with human emotion and heart at its core.  Hollywood escapism at its best.

The only trouble is that "Die Hard" came out in 1988.  Twenty five years ago and there's a lot of Ritalin now in power all over Hollywood development offices.  A generation raised on video games where somebody always just got killed and there is no remorse to their actions.  Frankly, the first target for any of those gun control fanatics is not the NRA, but the likes of Christopher Nolan.

So, Hollywood has long since forgotten how to make a good summer action movie and "Man of Steel" is a rousing example of this inability.  Most particularly with the Superman franchise, this film has lost all the joy and...yes...happiness that many of us have experienced in our years following this beloved hero.  In the hands of Nolan and Snyder, he's just another brooding extension of their own anger and frustration.  Back in the day, Superman was around to stop some robbers who just held up the First National
Bank of Smallville.  Now, he's here to save the planet from ruthless aliens who float around with more electronic hardware than the stock room at your local Best Buy.  Everybody is looking to kill somebody. 

And, as these battles play out ad nauseam, you realize very quickly that you are watching the same special effect for 143 minutes.  Over and over and over and over.  Somebody picks up somebody else and throws them through a building.  That's it.  You see it once.  You see it a thousand times.  It gets old very quickly.  And, in "Man of Steel," that's all the battle between good and evil has been reduced to.

For real fans of Superman, your franchise has been tinkered with needlessly.  There's no Lex Luthor.  No Jimmy Olsen.  In the body of the always annoying Lawrence Fishburne, Perry White is now...ahem...Black.  And, as played by Amy Adams, Lois Lane is no longer just a newspaper reporter.  She's an interplanetary warrior princess. 

As for the newest Superman, Henry Cavill is suitably handsome and has a physique that must be Photoshop-ed.  The relationship between Superman and Lois is key to any story told in this franchise.  Here, Cavill and Adams are completely devoid of any passion and spark.  If they have any chemistry together, it's during fifth period class at Fairfax High School.

You do get Ma and Pa Kent as well as Superman's baby daddy, Jor-El.  Diane Lane is Ma and I kept thinking that it was only about ten years ago where she might have been up for the role of Lois Lane.  Kevin Costner might be the best thing in the film as Pa Kent and that's when you know the acting choices are really bad in a film.  He's involved in a scene with a tornado that should make this movie banned from any Oklahoma showings.  Meanwhile, as Jor-El, Russell Crowe buys it in the first reel and then keeps coming back in every subsequent reel like he's the corpse in "Weekend at Bernie's."  At least we can all be grateful that, at least, he doesn't sing in "Man of Steel."

But, in any movie that looks like it belongs on your living room X-Box, the acting means nothing in a mess like this.  You come for the explosions and the noises and the violence. 

Over and over and over and over.

There was a screenwriter listed on the credits.  I doubt he typed a single word into Final Draft.

The final big battle, if there is one now that I think about it, consumes the last 45 minutes of this swill.  That's where "Man of Steel" and the cinematic images of Nolan and Snyder become the most grotesque and disgusting.  It's the big war over Metropolis (although I don't remember the city name being mentioned) and aliens are flying all about.  Aircraft are flying into glass skyscrapers.   Particles and debris are falling down onto people running for their lives on the streets below.    Other unlucky folks are falling 110 stories out of their buildings.  You see one happen from that person's own POV.

Sound familiar?

It was all on the Nightly News of September 11, 2001.  A day that was unsettling for all of us.  Visions that many of us still hold close to our hearts.  Yet, for Nolan and Snyder, it's just fodder for their movie's big set piece.  How shameless!  We remember the handwringing of Hollywood at their dastardly act of terrorism.  A decade later, we see that 9/11, for them, was merely a trailer for every action movie made after 2010.

And that's when "Man of Steel," at its nadir of disgust, mystically and almost inexplicably gets even worse.

Lots of people clapped at the end of this movie.  I know some friends who liked it themselves.  Good for them.  I hope the Goobers and Sno-Caps were tasty.  As for me, I left the theater worrying just a little bit more about the state of American film and society, in general.  Am I missing something?  Or are they?

I recoiled to a recent Blu Ray DVD purchase.  Back in the 40s, the Fleischer animation studios made 17 cartoons devoted to the adventures of Superman.  They have been lovingly restored and released for the buying public.  I watched four of them and enveloped myself again into what the Superman character was to me as a child.  These shorts were exciting and fun. 

If you're a fan of Superman, that should be what you're spending your money on these days.  Not the bloated excesses of some Hollywood douchebags who probably hit their wives and kick their dogs. 

So, in the very short period of Len actually giving movies a rating, "Man of Steel" is the first film to earn this auspicious grade.


Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just a salad.

1 comment:

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