Tag Archives: superman

Review – Man of Steel (12a) [2013]

Man of Steel - title banner

Star Rating: 2.5/5

Director:

Producer:

  • Christopher Nolan – The Prestige, Inception, The Dark Knight I-III, Transcendence

Cast:

Music Composer:

Zack Snyder, who became a major film director following 300, is renowned for making movies that are pleasing on the eye, but have little by way of substance. Watchmen attempted to be profound without much success, and the less said about Sucker Punch the better. But could the input of the exceptional Christopher Nolan give Snyder the tools to change his ways and make the reboot of Superman, Man of Steel, a masterpiece?

Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) working as a blue-collar worker, unsure as to who he really is or where his life is taking him.

Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) working as a blue-collar worker, unsure as to who he really is or where his life is taking him.

  Man of Steel begins with Jor’El (Russell Crowe) sending his baby son, Kal-El to Earth before Krypton implodes. On Earth, Kal-El grows up as Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) in America, aware of his strengths, yet uncertain as to who he is.

However, when General Zod (Michael Shannon) threatens Earth with destruction unless they hand over the ‘alien among the people,’ Clarke learns of his past and that he must confront his father-on-Krypton’s enemy.

Man of Steel begins in an interesting way by briefly showing audiences the politics on Krypton and why the planet foundered. It is accompanied by some stunning special effects to give viewers a true feel for the nature of the planet itself, including how babies are born, which bears a striking resemblance to how people are formed in Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World.

Following the prologue of Krypton’s self-destruction, the film goes back and forth, illustrating Clarke Kent’s confusion throughout his life, in the wake of him becoming Superman. The most interesting aspect of this development is when Clarke’s father-on-Earth, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), asks/advises Clarke on the sort of man he wants to grow up to be. This attempts to give Clarke a third dimension, as well as some much needed depth to Man of Steel.

General Zod (Michael Shannon) declaring his strategy on Krypton.

General Zod (Michael Shannon) declaring his strategy on Krypton.

Alas, the movie otherwise lacks complexity and has the feel of Snyder’s Watchmen and, particular, Sucker Punch. Worse, as Snyder makes his eponymous character to be a God-like superhero, there is no sense of peril when watching Superman fight. Consequently, the half-dozen Matrix-style action scenes go on for far too long they become repetitive and boring quickly.

Length, in general, is a problem for Man of Steel. At 143 minutes, it is tediously long, especially as the plot only really starts when General Zod threatens Earth about an hour and fifteen minutes into the movie.

Furthermore, Man of Steel is not assisted by the characters. Although they’re all derived from the comic books, none of them are particularly interesting. That is not to say that the actors do a bad job with what they’re given, but the material does not allow them to excel. Henry Cavill fits the build and is adequate as Superman. But Superman lacks the charisma of Tony Stark/Iron Man or the multi-faceted personality of Bruce Wayne that Nolan superbly exploited in his Dark Knight Trilogy. Superman, in short, is just a traditional (ordinary) hero. The good, moral hero has been done to death, and viewers are right to demand more from filmmakers on this matter, even if the character is strictly in accordance with the comic books.

Similarly, Michael Shannon does a decent job as General Zod. Yet, Zod is more or less an old school, stereotypical villain, which is not interesting anymore. Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe playing as Clarke’s two fathers have the simplest roles in the film, but they are the most interesting characters by a distance (although Crowe’s part for much of the storyline is a deus ex machina, which is very frustrating).

Superman, flying in to save the city and the people from General Zod.

Superman, flying in to save the city and the people from General Zod.

Unusually, however, Amy Adams does not do herself justice as the journalist, Lois Lane. Whenever Lois speaks about Clarke’s supernatural/alien powers, Adams does not look like she believes in what she is saying, even though she attempts sincerity. (Then again, it is hard to criticise Adams on this matter, since the more serious one tries to be when talking about supernatural forces or aliens, the more laughable it appears.) And, strangely, the music by Hans Zimmer sounds average and unmemorable, which is most unusual for him, and that probably sums up Man of Steel.

Over-all, Man of Steel has a few stimulating ideas and some fantastic CGI that is worth seeing alone. However, the ideas are under-employed, and much of the film, including the major fight scenes are monotonous and boring. Thus, Man of Steel lacks what made Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies so engrossing, and it disappointingly bears the hallmarks of Zack Snyder’s films: all gloss and no substance.

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Review – Immortals 3D (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

300 and Conan The Barbarian had much in common. Both were the ultimate guy’s film, with plenty of action, swordplay and spilt blood (and for women, there were hulking men with CGI-enhanced torsos). Immortals follows the same theme, just being an inferior version of the two aforementioned movies.

Theseus (Henry Cavill), all ripped and ready to throw himself into the thick of the action.

Set in Ancient Greece, the Heraklion King of Crete, Hyperion (Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler, Iron man 2, The Courier), is hell-bent on destroying the gods, since they failed to answer his prayers to save his family from illness. To do this he needs to unleash the Titans from Mount Tartarus. But he can only set them loose with the Epirus Bow. Yet, the bow is missing and only the gorgeous virgin oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto – Miral, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Black Gold), knows of its location. Thus, King Hyperion marches upon the holy site where she dwells in order to extract the information.

En route, and almost simultaneously, Hyperion’s army pillages a small village where a young peasant, called Theseus (Henry Cavill – Red Riding Hood, The Tudors, Man of Steel) lives with his mother. Theseus has been trained since childhood by an ‘old man’ (John Hurt – Harry Potter I, VII(i) & VII(ii), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, In Love With Alma Cogan), who is really Zeus (Luke Evans – Clash of the Titans, Tamara Drewe, The Hobbit I & II) in human form, for a war that will make him immortal. Before long, only Theseus’s abilities will be the barrier between Hyperion and his awful ambitions.

The storyline is simple and easy to follow. One may not come out with a greater understanding of Ancient Greek societies (other than their belief in polytheism), and at 117 minutes Immortals might be a little long; nevertheless, one is unlikely to become bored during the movie. Like in 300 and Conan, it may not be intellectually stimulating. But there is more than enough fighting and bloodshed to keep viewers occupied, even if the combat and battle tactics appear very similar. (And what is it about this genre and men walking around and going into battle bare-chested?)

The beautiful Phaedra (Freida Pinto), dressed for a dinner-date, tending to Theseus’s wounds. Perhaps if he had worn some body armour, his injuries may have been avoided?

However, there is much that Immortals lacks in comparison to those other two films. First, it lacks the (far from subtle) political connotations of 300, entailing that the film has no hidden message (in fairness, nor does Conan). Second, the dialogue in Immortals might be less crude than in 300 and Conan, but it is more contrived, less amusing and more predictable, which never bodes well. (At least the dialogue in the atrocious Season of the Witch was so terrible it was funny!) Third, Immortals lacks the strong, massive main character that Gerard Butler and Jason Mamoa respectively portrayed, and which is needed in a film like this. Despite a muscular (and painted) six-pack, the relatively-small Henry Cavill gives a pitiful and unconvincing display as the hero, Theseus. This does not augur well for him, considering that his next major role is in the upcoming Superman film, wherein he plays the eponymous man of steel himself.

The rest of the cast, in the main, are no better. Worse, they all take their roles seriously, which exacerbates the poverty of their performances, to the extent of making the supporting cast in 300 look like professional warriors. The exception to this in Immortals is Mickey Rourke, since he takes his role as a joke. Consequently, Rourke comes out with some credit, as he puts across Hyperion’s shallowness character and incalculable cruelty well in equal measure. Although, the price Rourke pays is the risk of Hyperion becoming slightly pantomime, in a similar manner to Rodrigo Santoro as Emperor Xerxes in 300 or Stephen Lang as Khalar Zym in Conan. Not that it matters, since none of these movies can be taken remotely seriously.

King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) pontificating to a defector, before inflciting inhumane cruelty upon him or her. If one looks carefully, one can see the scars over his left eye.

The acting in Immortals may be generally pathetic, but the film has some attributes that are not utterly terrible. The director, Tarsem Singh (The Cell, Mirror, Mirror), has put the movie together smoothly; the music may not be memorable, but it is still fitting for the scenes; and just like with 300 and Conan, one doubts how much of the background sceneries are real in Immortals, but the special effects are quite decent (even if the 3D is virtually non-existent).

On the whole, even those who like the genre may well be disappointed with Immortals. The film may have some worthwhile CGI and combat scenes; nevertheless, one is more likely to go away remembering the weak acting and dialogue. In short, Immortals is just a poor man’s 300 and Conan The Barbarian.

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Review – The Fighter (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 4.5/5

‘Why do we fall down, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.’ Thomas Wayne may have asked his son this question in Batman Begins; yet, the question (and subsequent answer) is an equally valid motto for another excellent movie: The Fighter.

The Fighter is based on a true story. Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg – The Lovely Bones, The Italian Job, We Own The Night) comes from a deprived area in Lowell, Massachusetts. He is a street-sweeper by trade and an aspiring boxer on the side, struggling to make an honest buck. Mickey has been taught everything he knows by his older brother, Dickey (Christian Bale – The Machinist, The Dark Knight, 3:10 To Yuma), who is an ex-boxer that never quite made it big. In recent times, Dickey has become a crack-addict. As much as he is Mickey’s best aid, Dickey is also his brother’s greatest liability. Mickey’s mother and manager, Alice (Melissa Leo – Hide and Seek, Conviction, Red State), as well as the rest of this family (possibly minus his father), are not much better either.

Mickey does and, simultaneously, does not have the right kind of support. His confidence is low; he hasn’t done well in his previous fights. He’s struggling. It’s only after he meets Charlene (Amy Adams – Catch Me If You Can, Enchanted, The Master), a not unattractive college drop-out with little going for her; takes a battering against a boxer with twenty pounds more muscle on him; and after he recovers from a broken hand, that Mickey’s fortunes begin to change for the positive. But it does not come without an immense amount of hard work and sacrifice.

The plot may not move at breakneck speed, but it is still quite inspiring and entertaining. The quality of the acting by Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams and Christian Bale is undoubtedly the best feature of the film. Due to Wahlberg’s performance, one has little difficulty empathising with Mickey. Wahlberg wonderfully captures the timidity of a humble person that suffers from low confidence and dejection, without being melodramatic. Likewise, Wahlberg maintains his character’s dignity admirably when he regains his self-assurance. This is no easy feat. Why Wahlberg was not nominated for an Oscar is a mystery.

One who was nominated for an Oscar is Amy Adams. Here, she plays the role of Mickey’s highly supportive girlfriend splendidly. Charlene has her issues as well, buttressing Adams’ performance because it makes her act more realistically. The only thing that works against Adams is that Charlene does not have an overly challenging personality. This may stop Adams from an Oscar triumph.

The same cannot be said for Christian Bale’s acting in The Fighter. In arguably his finest performance yet, Bale outshines his co-stars. When he’s not on-screen, one almost wishes him to return as he is that good. One could feasibly believe that Bale is a drug-addict from this movie, such is the intensity and energy he puts into the role. (And this is saying something for a man who has played many diverse roles extremely well throughout his career.) If he wins an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, it will be fully justified.

The cast could not have acted so well without brilliant scripts. For this, credit must go to the script-writer, Scott Silver (8 Mile), and the director, David O. Russell (Three Kings). The scripts may not be as elegant and witty as that in The King’s Speech, or as intelligent as that in True Grit. Still, the dialogue between the characters in The Fighter is indicative of the environment from which Mickey, Dickey and Charlene come from, and, therefore, gives the movie a greater sense of realism.

Charlene (Amy Adams) at the bar where she meets Mickey.

If one were to be ruthless, one could argue that the choreography and the music in The Fighter were not as sublime as the above films. Some scenes did not flow as smoothly as they could have done; and, with regards to the feel-good factor, the music here was not as uplifting as the scores in The King’s Speech. Similarly, it is also a shame for the director that the cinematography could not have been as beautiful as in other films (for example The Way Back), since The Fighter is shot in depressing neighbourhoods. This should not, theoretically, take anything away from the film. Nevertheless, seeing miserable areas is not as aesthetically pleasing as picturesque landscapes. Again though, this is being very harsh (and semi-unfair) on the director.

All-in-all, The Fighter, despite some minor defects, is a fantastic film and has a cast worthy of their nominations; Bale particularly so. The movie also has plenty of moral messages. It illustrates how bad environments can hinder one’s progress and shows us the possible results of drug addiction. But most importantly of all, The Fighter emphasises that when one gets knocked down by life’s challenges, one has to learn how to stand up again and fight on.

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