Tag Archives: Super Hero Movies

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel

Directed by Zack Snyder, 2013, US

By D.G. McCabe

My kingdom for a decent Superman movie.

When I last checked Rotten Tomatoes, Man of Steel was sitting at 56%.  I don’t know what movie those 56% percent of critics were watching, because it certainly wasn’t the same one I saw this evening.  It’s bad.  How bad you say?

It starts off promisingly enough.  With Christopher Nolan working on the screenplay and production, you get a little bit of Batman Begins…oh wait, Superman isn’t Batman.  Superman doesn’t walk the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu.  There is enough complexity in the character already without having to turn him into Bruce f’ing Banner already, and a lot of that complexity is hereto unexplored in film.

Still, I could get behind a reluctant, nomadic Superman if the director, Zack Snyder, would have followed through on that concept.  It’s too bad he doesn’t.  And after two hours that feel like five, you realize that Snyder should stick with ridiculously stylized movies about shirtless, ancient Greek meatheads.

The second half of the movie consists of nothing but smash smash, boom boom.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve defended smash smash, boom boom at times, but usually I expect that crap from Michael Bay films not a Superman movie.  There’s a difference between “all I want to see is giant robots fighting each other” and “I’m looking at my watch to see how long this never ending action sequence is.”

And the dialogue.  Maybe this crap was fine on TV’s Lois and Clark, oh wait, that show is bloody Shakespeare compared to this crap.  Now, Nolan’s scripts sometimes hit you over the head with exposition a bit too much (“That’s why the military invented dream sharing” from Inception for example), but I expected more of him.  After plenty of mustache-twirling villain exposition and lots of “release this against Superman” or “unleash that against Superman” I started laughing like I was watching friggin’ Anchorman.

Apparently, Nolan and Snyder decided to farm out the second half of their screenplay to an eleven year old who got into the coffee again.  So Superman fights the bad guys and smashed up the town, then they move to the city and then he’s gotta fly to the other side of the world and fight this other thing and then he’s gotta go back to the city and fight Zod in the big climax and boom!  Boooooooooom!

After sitting through this BS, it made me want to do to this movie what a completely out of character Superman does at the end of it.  Apparently there are two sequels on the way from these clowns, let’s hope they learn from their mistakes instead of doubling down on crappy dialogue, complete lack of romantic chemistry, and stupid jokes like Star Wars Episode II did.

You might like Man of Steel if: You have no interest in the Superman character, or wish that he was Batman, or you have completely merged video games and movies in your mind.

You might not like Man of Steel if: You have any knowledge at all about the character of Superman or you just don’t have the endurance to sit through a ninety minute action sequence that doesn’t even look all that great and never f’ing ends.

(c) 2013 D. G. McCabe

Iron Man 3 & Comic Book Films

Iron Man 3

Directed by Shane Black, 2013, U.S.

If there ever was a film that would be critic-proof, it would be Iron Man 3.  The previous three films with Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark combined to gross more money than the GDP of entire countries sure, but with no significant time lag or cast changes, the film is destined to continue the Marvel empire’s chain of successes (and it’s initial box office returns have confirmed this to be fact rather than prediction).

Iron Man 3 is a lot of fun, and I would recommend it to anyone who just wanted to spend a few hours in a movie theater and watch an super hero action movie.  Even if criticism did make any difference, it would be hard to point out any significant flaws in the film in attempting to accomplish what it is trying to achieve – the satisfaction of Iron Man fans and casual moviegoers.  In fact, most of the reviews that I glanced at seemed to be more concerned with the film’s derivative or cliched elements than any actual problems with the acting, writing, effects, directing, or other commonly understood benchmarks of film quality.  For example, almost no one criticizes any of the performances, but it seems that having an action scene set in an abandoned shipyard draws a collective “yawn” from the film intelligentsia.

Still, have these critics every read a comic book?   Sure, the comic book artform has become more sophisticated since the 1980’s but complaining that a movie based on a comic book from the 1960’s is derivative or cliched is a bit like complaining that Chaplin’s films are silent or complaining that a giraffe is  tall.  It’s in the thing’s nature as pulp mythology – there is only so much you can do to a storyline that’s been around for five decades without turning off the fans who are paying many millions of dollars to see that storyline on screen.

That isn’t to say that comic book films can never be creative or are doomed to “B-Movie” status.  The Dark Knight (2008), Spider-Man 2 (2004), and Tim Burton’s original Batman (1989) stand as clear examples of creative takes on well known characters.  But I would argue that it isn’t only the creativity of the aforementioned “upper echelon” of comic book films that make them stand apart from the masses of super hero films, good and bad, that have come out in the last twenty-five years or so – it’s their execution.  After all, a well executed, derivative comic book film like Iron Man 3 is still far preferable to a creative but poorly executed  film like 2009’s adaptation of “Watchmen.”

Iron Man 3 belongs in the same category as Batman Returns (1992),  Spider-Man (2002), and the original Iron Man (2008) – fun adaptations of familiar stories that are well executed and satisfactory to movie-goers and fans alike.  It isn’t a classic of cinema or even near the top of it’s particular genre, but if we’re going to criticize it for being derivative or cliched, let’s at least put some context around it first, shall we?

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe