Not A MAN OF STEEL Review

WARNING: The following contains MAN OF STEEL spoilers, as well as way too much personal information about me…

I’ve seen MAN OF STEEL twice in two days and have been trying to write a review of it since the first viewing. No one asked me to review it, but I love the character and have very, very strong feelings about the way this movie represents him. Over 2,000 words into my first review, I realized it’d just gone off the rails. I started again and ended up at almost 4,000 words. It was a rambling summary with my own interjections and opinions here and there. I’m not a movie reviewer, really, though I used to do it all the time. I started wondering if I’d lost it or something, but it might be that I just can’t review this movie. I’m too close to Superman. Granted, a lot of people love the character as much or more than me and were able to write reviews (wise and talented people such as Mark Waid and Adam P. Knave). I know what they did and should be capable of doing that… yet I have finally accepted that can’t. Whatever I start typing just ends up being a summary with some pointless observations thrown in. My nearly 6,000 words of attempted review fall flat and are, for the most part, oddly impersonal.

This is bizarre, because my love of the character of Superman is very personal. My first memories are of Christopher Reeve as the character and of myself running around in Superman Underoos with an “S” spit curl my mom had to help me get right. I’ve always loved Superman for as long as I can remember, and he’s just as important to me now as he’s ever been. I feel like I need him. I need someone, even a fictional character, who I believe not only knows what the right thing to do is, but has the power to do it. As a kid, he felt like my personal hero.

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I was raised Christian, but, for some reason, this comic book character in blue tights and a red cape made me feel a security I never got from Sunday school. There’s always talk of Superman being interpreted as a Christ-like figure, despite being created partly as a Moses allegory by couple of Jewish kids named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The character, over the years, has been reinterpreted as almost a reaction to questions of why God doesn’t just step in and help us out. It’s oversimplified, and the character is primarily for entertainment, but he really meant a lot to me growing up. I feel like we’re born with our own senses of morality, of right and wrong, and that we shouldn’t need to be told to help people instead of hurt them… but it helps to have some good examples.

And Superman using all his amazing powers to help regular people like me meant so much to a young child who always felt kind of frightened and a little overwhelmed by life and everything I was taught about what comes after — both the good and the bad. I knew he wasn’t real, but knowing that a character like that could exist meant so much, and it still does.

I realize that fictional characters; especially ones that have been around as long as Superman and are owned by corporations instead of the creators are open to interpretation. Changes in the mythology don’t bother me, and, in fact, MAN OF STEEL makes some good ones. The world and history of Krypton is expanded in ways that make for very fun cinema. The central relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent is fundamentally changed in a very smart way. Most of it, frankly, delights me. There is a lot of good in this movie I can’t seem to legitimately review.

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There are great performances, starting with a perfectly cast Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent (pointedly not named Superman in the credits or, of course, in the movie’s title). Everyone is committed to his or her roles, in front of and behind the camera. The design and feel of the movie is appropriately epic and, while not as light on its feet and fun as many of the best Superman stories, still earnest and full of the humanity and caring.

It is, for the majority of its running time, a very well done and well thought-out version of this character I love. For the first two-thirds it’s the best I could’ve hoped for from a blockbuster movie in this day and age. Superman is finally a modern feeling character, and the movie is filled with interesting actors and big ideas. My heart didn’t swell as I’d expected it to, and I didn’t get as misty eyed or teary as I’d feared I would watching a movie with my friends, but it felt good and right.

Then it takes a turn from which it cannot recover. Lots of people are talking about it, and for good reason. The amount of wanton destruction in violence in this movie, even though it’s digital and bloodless, is out of control. It goes from being exciting and gripping in the Smallville battle to just over-the-top in the worst ways in the destruction of Metropolis, first from Kryptonian ships, and then from a brutal one-on-one fight between Superman and General Zod. And all the while, this version of Superman is more concerned with using his fists than he is with saving the lives of all the superpowerless humans caught in the excruciating disaster porn insanity.

Everyone wanted more action in this than the last time the character was on the big screen in SUPERMAN RETURNS. The demand for Superman to use his power in a more visceral way via big punches in fights was heard by the filmmakers, and they overcompensated. What happens in this movie is just insane and ultimately numbing. Near the end, everyone I talked to agreed that the fight just went on for too long. There was too much destruction. CG allows filmmakers to do almost anything they can imagine with a budget like MAN OF STEEL has, but sometimes more isn’t better, it’s just more.

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The ultimate solution to this battle is a moment I still feel traumatized by, as silly as that might seem to people who don’t cling to this type of fiction the way I always have and probably always will. My hero since childhood, a character that, to me, stands for everything I aspire and usually fail to be, snaps the villain’s neck.

Yes, the filmmakers put him in what they thought was an impossible position. He had to do it to save people directly in front of him (never mind all the forgotten about and ignored thousands who had to have died in the type of fight that just took place in a huge city). They showed him struggle and plead with Zod. In the end they tried to show that, though he had no choice, he felt horrible about it, crying into Lois’s arms.

It’s a horrifically out of character moment. The fact that most folks I talked to after watching the movie weren’t that bothered by it shows that the Superman I love just isn’t the character he now is to the audience at large. That was a goofy, boring throwback to many of them. This version is what’s more palatable now. This character who is a good man, but not as good as the Superman I pretended to be when I was a little boy. That Superman would’ve found a way to do what’s right, to save the day, without resorting to murder. And that’s what it is, no matter how poignant the end of the scene, no matter how justified the filmmakers try to make it. They made the ultimate superhero, the ultimate symbol of hope and justice, a killer.

And that’s not what I want from my hero. All the good the movie does, and there is so much good in it, is ultimately negated to me by the ridiculous violent climax and disturbing resolution. The final scene, introducing glasses-wearing Clark Kent most of us remember, with the smart twist that intrepid reporter Lois Lane isn’t fooled by glasses but still plays along is stylishly directed, entertainingly written, and wonderfully acted. But it doesn’t wash away the bitter taste left over by the scenes of brutality that are just out-of-place in a Superman movie — at least the type I want to see.

It breaks my heart that this movie is, to my mind, inappropriate for someone the same age as I was when I fell in love with Superman via movies. I’m not suggesting that Superman stories have to be for little kids; they absolutely don’t. They can be sophisticated and thought-provoking and harrowing and exciting — and still be all-ages. All-ages doesn’t mean for kids. It means for everyone, regardless of age. That’s what Superman should be, and that’s where this movie ultimately fails.

The fact that murder, no matter how justified in the moment as scripted, makes a hero more modern and relatable is troubling. The “S” stands for hope, but, in the end, this new movie version of Superman does not.

The Adjustment Bureau reviewed by me for some reason.

Why a review of The Adjustment Bureau when it’s been out for almost a month now? Because I just saw it and a smart person suggested I do a review of it when I was complaining I didn’t write enough, that’s why. As to why I saw it so late, well, I get these free movie passes from donating blood platelets, and they only get me into movies that have been out a while. It was between this and Rango, which I also would like to see, but The Adjustment Bureau‘s show time was more convenient for me.

So, with that kinda need to see and passion, I was in for a superlative movie-going time. But first I had to get popcorn. This is where they get me, because, yeah, the movie is free, but now I’m spending money on popping corn, and, oh, gotta get soda to wash that down. Now we’re at $9.50 for a movie I only kinda want to see, and only then if it’s free. Oh well. I like popcorn.

Actually, I did want to see The Adjustment Bureau when I first started adds and cool billboards for it started popping up everywhere. I like the title and the Twilight Zone feel the movie seemed to have. Plus, what a swell cast. Matt Damon is swell, even if I always hope he’ll whip out some Jason Bourne moves in movies even when it’s not appropriate, Emily Blunt is lovey (and talented, but I’m a superficial bastard), and, c’mon! It’s got not only Roger Sterling, but General Zod as members of the sharply dressed title characters! (Yes, the dashingly silver haired actors who play Sterling and Zod have real names. Yes, I know what they are. No, I don’t want to call them by anything other than Sterling and Zod.)

Look, so, this is a review, right? There are going to be some spoilers. Nothing major, but if you don’t want anything about a month-old movie ruined for you, stop reading. You have been warned.

Anyway, Damon is this smooth talking, earnest, genuinely decent though sometimes rough around the edges fella with a tragic past who wants to be a senator. Blunt is a pretty dancer lady. They meet cute after Damon loses an election, and her playfulness and love of life or whatever rubs off on him, inspiring him to give a candid concession speech that makes him more popular than ever and a shoo-in for the next election. That’s the last they’re supposed to see of each other. Then chance or whatever sets in, and they meet again. And again.

The Adjustment Bureau, who might be kinda angels (and their unseen boss, “The Chairman,” might as well be God), don’t want these two crazy kids to get together because it’s not part of the mysterious plan, which is cooly represented in their journals as some kinda animated maze-lick schematic or something. So, basically, this becomes a sci fi romance of “will they or won’t they”? shenanigans versus fate or God or whatever.

There are some great themes, nice performances, and a good visual style. Unfortunately, the film’s score and soundtrack seemed… inappropriate to me. The score, by Thomas Newton, had a vaguely 80s action movie or drama feel. I barely remember it now, but at the time it did get in the way of my viewing pleasure. And then, at the end, during this go for broke chase scene involving cool Adjustment Bureau-y secret modes of travel and hats and running, they have a remix of the song “Fever,” which was just… weird. To me, anyway. Maybe it’s a bold choice that I just don’t get.

Aside from this weird soundtrack hang up I have, the movie is pretty fun. Questions of free will versus fate are always intriguing to me, and they’re presented well here. There’s some real tension and interesting twists. Damon and Blunt’s relationship is mostly believable, though Blunt’s character sometimes falls into the manic pixie dream girl trap. She’s very poised and smart, but at one point she drops Damon’s phone in a cup of coffee, and then later she “cutely” punches him in the stomach to win a playful race. Ladies, please don’t get ideas here. No matter how cute you are, most fellas will get justifiably pissed if you ruin their phones or gut check them.

The Adjustment Bureau folks themselves are all snazzy dressers who work out of a very nice office built with fine mahogany. They’re very similar to The Watchers on Fringe, but with hair and more personality, so they’re cool in different ways. Proceedings get kinda corny at various points right up to the end when it, but, all in all, it’s worth a viewing.

This has been D.J.’s just writing for the sake of writing something review of… The Adjustment Bureau!

 

Waking Up Right

Look, as I wrote a couple days ago, I have issues with waking up in the morning. So many so, that I slept through yesterday. A whole day! I guess my 7:00 AM alarm went off for a while, then stopped… then went off again at 7:00 AM this morning, and it stirred me from my epic slumber. And even after a whole extra and unplanned 24 hours of sleepytime — I still groaned and grumbled about getting out of my slightly too short for my body length bed!

The part of not liking getting up in the morning that I can change (as I have to go to work regardless, which is the other unlikeable part), is my alarm music. Currently it’s a “melody” on my 12-year-old girl appropriate Samsung Rant phone called “Sunny Day.” I picked this due to it’s name, which I’d hoped would translate into a g’mornin’ smile. It’s got a nice, brassy beat and a celebratory feel… and is incredibly annoying.

I think there is only one bit of music that I’d be happy with interrupting my dream time…

This would make me wake up with purpose! Gotta find that ringtone and then figure out how to download ringtones and if I can even do stuff like that on my Raaaant.

Yeah! Wakin’ up in style! Heroically!!!