Grateful List 10/9/13

  • Having a roommate who is understanding and willing to let me do what I need to do jobwise and isn’t terribly concerned about rent.
  • Parents I know that I can turn to 
  • Supportive and encouraging friends
  • A vibrant and successful theater career, including another show that opens this coming Saturday
  • A fridge and freezer full of food I can cook at any time
  • Having recently lost 30 pounds
  • Over half a tank of gas in my car
  • A bed that isn’t on the floor anymore
  • A six month supply of contacts on hand
  • My friends Randy and Peter coming to opening night of Witness For The Prosecution

My Summer of Movies #9, The Lone Ranger: It isn’t THAT bad…

There’s been a couple of scapegoats among the summer of box office bombs that have been out there.  Aside from the horrible After Earth (No review for that one, folks.  It just plain sucked), and the poorly timed White House Down,the other one getting harped on is Disney’s The Lone Ranger.  And it’s not all that deserved.  Sure, there’s problems with the picture, and at times it’s really confused about what kind of movie it wants to be.  But is it as awful as everyone says it is?  No.  It’s actually better than both Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel.  

The always enjoyable Johnny Depp stars as Indian guide Tonto, who encounters a young starwalt lawyer named John Reid (Armie Hammer).  Young Reid’s respect for the law knows no bounds, and tries to uphold it as best he can. Tonto is a realist who understands that laws sometimes, like the men who “enforce” them, must be challenged.  It’s a classic odd couple type scenario that gets broken up with Young Reid meets Old Reid to go on a posse chase to find some bad guys.  As anyone over the age of 50 knows, Old Reid is killed, Young Reid survives, and with the help of Tonto he becomes the masked man known as The Lone Ranger.  Over the course of over TWO AND A HALF HOURS, the two seek justice for Tonto’s past and Old Reid.  

Biggest issue here is, of course, the length.   The movie plods along at a snails pace in parts, and then at a summer blockbuster type pace in others, much more akin to what audiences are expecting this time of the year.  Thankfully, there are some great moments of humor to liven things up.  Thanks in large part to Depp giving his trademark quirks to the role, and a surprisingly comical horse.  As far as action sequences, there are a few entertaining ones, but nothing really stands out.  There is a bridge sequence which is amusing, but it’s not at all memorable.  When the bar has been set by some of the previous summer films, and considering the helmer of this flick gave us the wonderful Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl,I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed.  

Depp does show us why he’s good at doing the oddball characters, but sadly there’s nothing spectacular here.  Instead of making a character from the ground up like he did playing a swashbuckler, we get an Indian version of Captain Jack Sparrow.  Don’t get me wrong, the role still suits him.  But we know that he’s done better.  

The plot is confusing and muddling at times.  It’s hard to figure out who is after who, who wants revenge over what, who is telling the truth, etc.  It’s so much that it takes away from the film.  Did it have to be as long as it was?  It could have easily been trimmed down by a half hour.  Maybe even 45 minutes.   

This isn’t a Pirates movie.  But it is escapist fun that does make for an enjoyable, albeit incredibly long, way to kill an afternoon.  It’s worth a peak, but really nothing else.  And based on the box office numbers, I doubt we’ll be seeing a sequel.  

Bottom Line: Heigh-Ho Meh… Away…

Rating: 2/4 Stars

My Summer of Movies #8, The Wolverine: Crouching Logan, Hidden Wolverine

Let me start out by talking a bit about Hugh Jackman.  He’s become the constant actor in all of X-Men films.  He’s appeared in every single one, even had his own origin story (we’ll not talk a lot about that one for obvious reasons).  I’ve gone back and forth with him as the clawed hero all throughout franchise.  He got the rage and brooding of the hero down, but there always felt like there was something off about him.  His height?  Maybe.  The fact that Jackman is such a talented singer/dancer and hard to take him seriously as the ball of rage that is Logan?  Maybe.  Either way, a good portion of my doubts are silenced, as The Wolverine finally gives us the solo film the character deserved.

image

Using the celebrated and excellent 1982 story by Chris Clearemont and Frank Miller as source material, Wolverine has abandoned his X-Men title and is living his life in seclusion.  Flashbacks and haunting dreams of him saving a Japanese soldier from the Nagasaki bombing and the presence of his lover and colleague Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) plaque our hero, adding to his angst.  One day, he encounters a young Japanese mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima).  Logan travels to Japan, only to discover that the man, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), has ulterior motives. Not wanting to die, he explains that he’s figured out how to transfer mutant powers from one person to another. Since Logan has grown weary of being immortal – which prevents him from from ending his constant suffering– Yashida offers his technology as a solution to both their problems. Logan declines, then ends up becoming a protector to Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who is targeted by the Yakuza after she inherits his technology business. During this adventure, he also experiences an inexplicable loss in his healing powers and comes face-to-face with the mutant known as Viper.

 

Much like Iron Man 3 focused on Tony Stark, The Wolverine puts its focus on Logan as the tortured man.  The struggles in the film are no small feat for him.  Losing his powers, mourning the loss of a love, embracing his mutant identity whether he likes it or not all make for an interesting character study.  Logan/Wolverine is a character that should never be completely happy, and this movie keeps it that way.  Director James Mangold knows that Wolverine is most interesting when he’s conflicted, and there’s plenty of that to be seen.  It’s almost seeing the character, and in large part Jackman, in a whole new way.  This is no small feat, considering this is the sixth movie to feature the character and actor.  Like Iron Man 3 before it, there’s enough of a mix of substance and thrilling heroics, which is a trend I’m enjoying from the Marvel world.   

There’s a few moments where the film stalls, particularly when discussing the family dynamics, all of which seem one-dimensional.  Had they been fleshed out a bit more, it could have deepened Logan’s connection to them and added weight for their importance.  But these moments aren’t dominating the movie, which is a positive thing.  And I’ll gladly trade them for some pretty kick-ass fight scenes.  Including one train sequence which puts anything The Lone Ranger tried to do to shame.  Also, there’s ninjas.  And who the hell doesn’t like ninjas?

After the huge disappointment that was Man of Steel, it was nice to see a comic book movie that wasn’t overblown with CGI.  The action was kept as natural as possible and gave a chance for a beefed up Jackman to really shine.  Also, stick around after the credits.  Marvel gives you a nice preview of what’s the come next for the mutants.

All in all, if this is a hint of where the franchise will be heading for future outings, consider me in.  I’m still hoping for the day when both Avengers and X-Men cinematic universes exist in the same realm.  Someday.

Bottom Line: Finally, a Wolverine movie all fanboys and girls can be proud of.

Rating: 3/4 Stars

My Summer of Movies #7, Pacific Rim: The Apocalypse is Indeed CANCELLED

Doing a bit of catching up here.  Sorry for the lateness on a couple of these.  Particularly with this review, as I christen it the second best movie of the summer since Iron Man 3.  Seriously, Pacific Rim is that damn good.  Seeing the trailers for this film made me sketchy, until I saw that Guillermo del Toro was at the helm.  Once his name flashed on the screen, I knew I’d give the movie a shot.  And I’m glad I did.  So very glad!

Taking place in the not-to-distant future, deadly creatures (Jurassic Park dinosaurs on steroids) start emerging from a rift in the Pacific ocean.  Appropriately named “kaijus,” they create massive PUNISH against any city along the rim of the ocean, until humans build giant robots, or “jaegers,” with a pair or trio of pilots to stop the menace.  

With only the basic amount of exposition needed, we’re thrust right into the action when jaeger pilot Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) suffers a tragedy that makes him rethink his piloting skills, until tough as steel military leader Pentecost (played by the always enjoyable Idris Elba) urges him to jump back into the head, literally, of the fighting robots.  Along the way he has to quickly sync up with rookie pilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), all the while two scientific greats are trying to figure out who the kaijus really are and what their plan is (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman in some wonderful comedic moments).  

There’s all the trimmings of this film that made Independence Day such a success: humanity fighting for its existence, great interplay between the characters, amazing special effects (seriously, the texture on the kaijus and jaegers is jaw dropping), and just enough heart to keep things going between the action.  We learn why Mako and Pentecost have a special bond, and there’s some great father and son moments between Aussie jaeger pilots played by Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky.  There’s even a rah-rah speech delivered by Pentecost to get the crowd surged up for an impressive final showdown between machine and beasts.

I mentioned it before, but I can’t say enough just how awesome the effects were in this film.  The fight scene in downtown Hong Kong is particularly impressive and worth the price of admission alone.  Anytime a giant robot wields an ocean liner like Gimli’s axe, I’m on board.  Also, I’m usually not too big on the whole 3D IMAX thing, but this is one movie where you NEED to see it on a big screen and in 3D.  Shell out the extra couple of bucks and thank me later.  There’s even a few subtle nods to the robot movie of my youth, and the one that I seem to be the only fan of: Robot Jox.  Peppered throughout are plenty of nods to Godzilla and dozens of animes that better fanboys than myself will certainly acknowledge and love.  

 

I’ll sum it up in two words that are often overused, but incredibly appropriate for the film: Epic and Awesome.

 

Bottom Line:This movie is why IMAX was invented.  Go Big or Go Home.  And Pacific Rimwent big!

Rating: 3.5/4 Stars

4 notes

My Summer of Movies #6, The Heat: The Best Female Buddy-Cop Movie Since… Ever.

We’ve all seen a buddy-cop movie.  It’s a tried and true genre that’s given us the classic Lethal Weaponseries, as well some well known duds that I won’t mention here for mercy reasons.  We all know the cliches and we all know what the conventions of them are.  So why see another one?  The Heat gives us the answer in the form of what made the aforementioned action movie staple above so successful: chemistry of the stars.  In this case, the back and forth between Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock.

Bullock is a no nonsense FBI agent who doesn’t get along well with people, but is good at her job.  McCarthy is a crass, tough and violent Boston detective.  And together, they have to stop a drug ring, and learn to work together!  IN!  Derp a derp a teedletump a tump!  Yes, it’s basically every single buddy cop movie plot that’s out there, which is pretty much what we all expected it to be.  Again, it’s the chemistry between the stars that really make this movie standout.  I don’t think the stars, or director Paul Feigcare about the case they have to solve.  Really, it’s a showcase for the great comedic team that the two actresses are and how well they work together.  They never stop talking, they never stop arguing and they never try to one up one another, no matter how ridiculous the situation is.  

And in those moments where they are working the case, they are introduced to a cast of crackpots and yahoos.  An albino DEA agent who looks “evil as shit, (Dan Bakkedahl)," a tired police seargeant played by the sorely missed Thomas “Biff” Wilson (“This job is killing me.  I’m 43.  My son calls me grandpa.”), and a criminally (get it?) underused Jane Curtain who play’s McCarthy’s mother, and we first see flipping her off as she drives by.  

While there are some very funny moments, the movie does have the right amount of heart to not become one note and to keep everything grounded.  Whether it’s the two women acknowledging the uphill battle they face in a machismo-centered profession like law enforcement, or the two sharing their different family backgrounds, these moments never get too sappy and always end up back to the funny business just when you think it might get a bit schmaltzy.  

Any quips about an uneven pace or the “same old same old” plot are quickly tossed out the window for me as I watched these two women struggle through a door, try to shoot their way out of a tough jam, or drink themselves into a stupor and do it all with gusto.  Interesting characters and actors who play well of off each other often times will elevate a movie and make people overlook any flaws it might have.  In The Heat’s case, it did just that, and it was funny as hell to watch.

Bottom Line:Give me Bullock and McCarthy together in anything, and I’ll watch it.  And laugh my ass off.

Rating 3/4 Stars

1 note

My Summer Of Movies #5, This Is The End: Bringing Bromance Back

Last year, and every year leading up to it, I remember the craze about the world ending and everyone flipping their shit about this prophecy and how this could be the sign of the times, etc.  I even remember going to three different “end of the world” themed parties.  And the fact that I’m still here now writing kinda tells me there wasn’t an apocalyptic event.  But there is that age old question of what would you do if it were the end of the world? With This Is The End, we get a glimpse of what would happen to some famous people if the world ended.  And the results?  They’re pretty funny.  

What starts off as a seemingly “look at me” kind of comedy about James Franco throwing a party where guests include  Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and Emma Watson, friends and fellow Canadians Seth Rogan and Jay Burachel attend, against the wishes of Jay, who was more content to just hang out with his buddy Seth.  Also at the party are Rhianna, Michael Cera and Aziz Ansari.  The whole movie takes a turn once Michael Cera gets impaled by a lamp post, and it’s a turn for the better.  

The book of Revelations is coming true, and plenty of people are either being sent up to heaven, or are staying on earth to suffer the consequences.  For James, Jonah, Jay, Seth, Danny and Craig, they stay on the earth and must try to survive while surrounded by demons, lack of water, and a seriously (and hilarious) pissed of Hermione Granger.  

Danny McBride is one of the highlights as an extremely crass and loud version of himself, and Craig Robinson’s ramblings are always guffaw inducing.  But there are moments where it does fizzle out and it feels like it’s one dick or shit joke too many.  However, what does end up being the movie’s strong asset is the subtly added friendship element between Jay Burachel and Seth Rogan throughout the movie.  They each have their reasons for trying to stay friends and why it’s been difficult for them, and it’s grappled with plenty as the film does its best to explore a sense of morality among all of the cum and fart jokes, of which there are plenty.  (Including a great and hilarious in-between from Franco and McBride.)  The later part of the movie almost dives into a Seventh Seal style morality examination, with the movie giving a well deserved happy ending in which the power of bromance triumphs all.  And all without ever taking its self too seriously.   

There are times where the movie feels like it is just a 90 minute SNL sketch, but it is funny.  And that’s enough of a reason for me to enjoy.

Bottom Line: A bit uneven, but still pretty damn funny.

Rating: 2.5/4 Stars

3 notes

My Summer of Movies #4, World War Z: Hooray! It doesn’t suck!

I first read World War Z when it was released in hardback.  Since then I’ve collected the paperback edition, the initial audiobook and I’m now downloading the newest audiobook version which features even more of an all star cast.  Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Common and Mel Brooks join the already stellar original cast of Mark Hamill, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner and Henry Rollins, among others.  Suffice it to say, I’m a huge fan of the book and I’ve read/listened to it enough times to know it better than most.  If you wonder why I’ve returned to this masterful work so many times, then you just haven’t read it.  So go read it, and then you’ll understand.  

image

Read More

My Summer of Movies #3, Iron Man 3: Setting The Bar

With my last two reviews being fairly negative, I thought I’d finally sit down and write the review about the movie that not only kicked off the summer season, but also set the bar that all blockbusters thus far have failed to live up to.  Iron Man 3.

I’m a self confessed Marvel fanboy, and have been ever since the 90’s animated Spider-Man.  Not the 60’s version with the hilariously bad memes that claim it, but the one with the great theme song done all metal style.  You know what I’m talkin about!  And as I said in my first review, Marvel does indeed have their crap together when it comes to their movies and the franchises they have built around them.  The original Iron Man is the best example of that, and that trend continues with the excellent summer tentpole Iron Man 3.

The first post-Avengers film starts off with a flashback and a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments that give a nod back to the first film released in 2008 before we see how Tony Stark and company are dealing with a world where an alien race tried to take over the planet and Norse gods are the real thing.  At the film’s core, aside from great special effects and terrific performances, is a heartfelt message to all of the geeks of the world: technology can save the world.  And if something’s broke, you fix it.

Tony Stark is suffering from panic attacks and a bit of PTSD after Manhattan’s epic battle.  He doesn’t sleep at all, spends hours in his workshop building more suits and is starting to crack up at the wrong times.  All this time a new threat to America has emerged: an evil terrorist known only as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley in the best thing he’s ever done.  Yes, better than Sexy Beast and Ghandi).  Mr. Mandarin has started to blow up parts of the United States, and when Stark’s old pal and former bodyguard Happy Hogan (the director of the first two films) is put in a coma, Tony gives a kick-ass “bring it on” challenge to the bad guy.  This doesn’t go so well.  Rockets are fired, the Malibu mansion starts to crumble and some thrilling heroics later give the audience a big question: “what next?”

Unconsciously, Tony’s suit pilots him to Tennessee to investigate another Mandarin explosion.  He does indeed investigate, sans suit and with a young boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins) offering a hand.

Robert Downey Jr. has pretty much invented the modern day lovable smartass, and he’s in top form with this film.  Gwyenth Paltrow’s role of Pepper Potts has been expanded to much more than just a supporting hero, and she takes it and runs with it.  Guy Pearce does something completely 180 from what he’s done before, and of course, Sir Ben Kingsley, does the best thing he’s ever done.  At least the best thing since Sexy Beast

The strongest element of this film, aside from the technology centered plot, is the focus on Tony Stark as a man, not him as Iron Man.  There’s no other actor who could play Stark like Robert Downey Jr.  He’s got the right delivery, the great sense of timing, the cocky swagger and the surprising vulnerability to pull off the role and be one of the most satisfying actors to watch these days.  

Where the second film stumbled was focusing on the spectacle and the suits, not so much the man inside the suit.  That wasn’t the case at all with this one.  Director and co-writer Shane Black was smart to focus on Tony Stark outside of the suit, indeed doing so by destroying suit after suit after suit after suit (there were a lot of them), making the statement that they don’t at all matter.  Stark can always build more.  But the one ingredient that’s irreplaceable?  Tony Stark himself.  

Iron Man 3 is another excellent addition to the Marvel cannon, and ends on an excellent note: “You can take away my house.  All my tricks and toys.  The one thing you can’t take away: I AM Iron Man.”  Amen to that!

Bottom Line:Less Iron and more Man makes for great!

4/4 Stars

1 note

My Summer of Movies #2, Star Trek Into Darkness: The Search for Originality

Playing catch up again, this movie was another that I was excited about when I first saw the trailers and when it was announced.  Even after viewing the 2009 Star Trek film, I was excited.  I thought that the reboot gave the franchise a nice hypospray to the neck with new life, despite my major qualms about the lazy plot device about an alternate timeline and Grandpa Spock being a real thing we have to accept.

 

I grew up watching the original series with my dad, and TNG with my sister and cousins, and I’ve been there for every movie since Star Trek Generations.  I’ll still count Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock and The Voyage Home as a fantastic space opera with excellent science fiction, great characters and a wonderful little trilogy in the realm of Star Trek mythos.  

If I called what the 2009 film did with its plot lazy, then Star Trek Into Darkness seemed to be dead set on raising the laziness bar while scrapping all originality and everything that made Star Trek what it is today and why it’s so beloved across the world and for almost 50 years.  

The basic plot concerns a “mysterious” man named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch, in the film’s only worthwhile performance).  Fun fact, John Harrison was a crew member who was incapacitated by a superhuman villain in the original episode “Space Seed.”  So for me, any and all “surprise” about who Harrison really was got tossed out the window.  So yes, **SPOILER ALERT**, Harrison really is KHAAAAAAN!  Khan’s after the Federation for personal reasons, and the crew of the Enterprise make a pursuit to bring him down.  All the while they uncover a fiendish plot by the Federation involving Section 31, a secret branch of the Federation that’s been involved in every incarnation of Star Trek since the original series.  There’s some twists, some chases (actually a lot of them), a lot of action and an excess of a frenetic pace that made me think the movie should have been retitled Star Trek: The Bourne Federation.  Now that there’s the basic plot hashed, I’ll explain why I hated this movie.  And this is coming from a lifelong Star Trek fan.

First, Abrams and his screenwriters are so eager to thrust in your face what we already know and love about the characters that it feels like they want to choke their audiences with it.  The film is peppered with nods, homages and blatant fan service that’s nauseating.  Whether it’s Kirk’s horn-dog nature and “damn the torpedos” style of thinking, Spock’s denial of his human side and feelings, McCoy’s cantankerous attitude, Scotty spouting that he “canna” do something, acknowledgements to tribbles, Harry Mudd (where the hell is his own movie, by the way?), Klingons, the Neutral Zone and the running joke of how the crew always seems to violate the prime directive, regardless of it being one of the Federation’s benchmark principles.  Plus, the central plot both refers and steals from the most well known and celebrated storyline involving the original crew, invoking many of the original moments from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, but doing so in a way that is insulting the memory of Gene Roddenberry and what he envisioned of both the future, and Star Trek.  I remember the original series having very little action sequences, and it was more about the drama and relationships between the characters and the ideals of the good within humanity.  Not shakey-cam inspired chase sequences.

Before this turns into an angry rant, I’ll sum up the biggest problems with this atrocity in a few short bullet points.

  • Every character became a caricature of themselves.  Bones was always cranky.  Spock was always repressing his feelings.  And poor Sulu and Chekov had nothing to do in this film.
  • When did Khan go from a buffed out, intelligent super being with a  sense of flare to his villainy with Ricardo Montalban to a lanky, honey soaked baritone voiced Cumberbatch?  Again, he was the best, and only, good part of this film.  But still so vastly different from the Khan we all know and love that it took me awhile to get on board with him.
  • For being the planet that is the seat of both the Federation and the birthplace of the human race, Earth is the WORST defended planet in science fiction.  A rogue Enterprise can just crash into the atmosphere or cityscape and no one raises the alarm bells?  
  • It’s the 23rd century.  We can travel faster than the speed of light.  Teleport ourselves long distances.  But somehow people are still paralyzed?  Was Obamacare repealed in the 22nd century or something?
  • Every five minutes of this film can be summed up with “Lie down, you’re dead!  Nevermind, you’re alive again.  Let’s fight!”
  • The reversal of Kirk sacrificing himself instead of Spock just doesn’t work.  When William Shatner can die on screen more believably than you can, you’ve got a problem, buster.
  • I saw Spock screaming “KHAAAAAN!” from a mile awhile, and that’s probably why I laughed out loud.
  • Khan’s “essence” has regenerative powers, so we just inject a dying Kirk with some Khanjuice, and he’s cured.  That’s an incredible copout.
  • And in perhaps the most audience and fan insulting moment in the history of Star Trek, let’s call up Grandpa Spock to tell us why Khan is so bad.  Seriously?
  • Kirk NEVER EVER SAYS “PUNCH IT!”  NO ONE IN STAR TREK EVER SAID THIS!  NO ONE!  EVER!  ZILCH, ZERO!  You know who did? HAN FUCKING SOLO.
  • Also, it’s called “Into Darkness.”  But with the usual amount of Abrams lens flare in the movie, the whole thing was lit up more than Clark Griswald’s house during December.

Abrams so badly wants to be the next Spielberg, but he should really try to be Abrams first.  With this film, he’s given the middle finger to the franchise’s core fan base and went for a generic action film devoid of anything close to Star Trek and what the series stood for.  And this is the guy who we’ve given the keys to Star Wars?  I’ll remain as optimistic as I can, but if he repeats this mess in 2015 with my beloved Rebels, then prepare for a nerdrage like you’ve never seen…

Bottom Line: Suck Trek Into Suckness

.5/4 Stars.  

My Summer of Movies #1, Man of Steel: Get your Crap Together DC

Because I’ve been envious of a friend of mine whose gotten back into the movie review game, and because of my disappointment over some of the bigger movies released this summer, I’m going to review a new movie each week.  I’ll be doing some back tracking since it’s well into June and plenty of films have already been released.  So the very first entry is going to be the one movie that’s still fresh on my mind after my midnight show: Man of Steel.

The whole movie looked promising.  From the great supporting cast, to the somewhat unknown casting of the title hero in Henry Cavil, and the addition of Christopher Nolan as the film’s lead producer.  I remember watching the first teaser trailer with Kevin Costner narrating over a brief series of clips to the film before ending with Supes breaking the sound barrier.  My inner nerd was tingling and I couldn’t help but be giddy with excitement.  But while it looked promising, there was a lot of hype and pressure for this picture to deliver.

Marvel has been eating DC’s lunch when it comes to film adaptations of their comic heroes.  Since 1998, when Marvel released Blade, the studio has pumped out 28 movies with the release of Iron Man 3 this past May.  That’s almost 2 (1.8) movies a year, compared to only 9 movies in the past 13 years from DC.  A note that this doesn’t include imprints from either publisher that were made into films (DC: A History of Violence, Marvel: Men in Black).  Without any real prospect of a game-changer in the works, Man of Steel was tasked with successfully rebooting the long dormant and fledgeling Superman franchise, while also set up a whole new line of other films based on DC heroes.  In short, DC is dripping with Avengers envy.  

As expected, Man of Steel tries to do all of these things, and so much more, at once.  Origin story, effects spectacle, angsting the hell out of Krypton’s last son and throwing a fish out of water element in the mix every so often.  And with a deep history of many great Superman storylines, director Zack Synder and screenwriter David S. Goyer had plenty to pick and choose from to bring the best story they could.  

But with this much pressure, their task is ultimately an impossible one.  And the final product shows it.  

Man of Steel starts fresh without anything related to either Richard Donner’s excellent 1978 release, or Bryan Singer’s unfairly judged 2006 offering.  But the origin story is one we all know well.  Wise Jor-El (Russell Crowe) says Krypton is going to go ka-boom, and there’s nothing that can stop it.  Jor-El and Lara-El give birth to a son, which happens to be the first natural born baby in a long time, name him Kal-El and then ship him off to earth to escape the destruction of the doomed planet.  Once again, General Zod (Michael Shannon, in the film’s best performance hands down), vows to destroy the boy at any cost.

 

There’s a bit more here than just Zod simply seeking revenge and making Kal-El kneel before him, which I won’t get into here for two reasons: 1) as little spoilers as possible, 2) trying to keep it as short as possible and it’s almost a Metal Gear Solid level of explaining it.  In your typical origin story of how a hero became the hero, the film lags incredibly in the first hour.  Thankfully, the momentum the picture gets when Zod and company show up to Earth and threaten the planet to handover Kal-El is much needed, but sadly it’s short lived.

Lois Lane (Amy Adams in a sexy, but always falling out of shit performance), discovered the truth behind Superman before before he’s able to put on glasses and then magically not be recognized.  This was an interesting turn, and it made Lois more of a conspirator instead of a dim-whited puppet when it came to knowing the truth about the hero.  

Superman at one point is faced with trying to be the hero of two worlds: his home planet and people of Krypton, and the people of his adopted planet Earth.  Reasons for picking either side are obvious, and they do present an interesting moral problem for the angst bucket Kal-El.  But this, along with the above mentioned, are elements that were all promised and unique to the story to give it an interesting take, but never take off or fail miserably. 

Somehow, Man of Steel keeps finding ways to drop the ball.  There’s little emphasis on the scenes in Smallville, which are so brief and are always tossed in the middle of the movie for a flashback sequence that never truly pays off.  There’s an overall lack of consistency with the tone of the film as it switches from a quiet and introspective moment to bombastic action at the drop of a hat.  Henry Cavill’s Superman is certainly a handsome dude, and he does his best to carry the film, but the scattershot tone of the film makes it hard for him to get a firm grip on anything.  Particularly near the end when when Man o’Steel Man is confronted with a deeply moral-shattering moment that’s instantly ruined by an abrupt cut that destroys an possible reflection.

The final act is nothing but a mishmash of fight scenes that are overblown, far too long and get pretty repetitive pretty quickly.  For being so focused on saving humanity, the title hero seems to have no qualms about destroying half the city and half the population with collateral damage while fighting Zod.  It’s all booming noise with complex choreography that does nothing to capture our attention and emotionally invest us.  The heft might be there, but for a director who is all about style of substance, Zack Snyder fails to deliver the dramatic heft.  Plus, by the time the final fight between Zod and Supes came around, the one that I had been waiting for the entire damn movie, I was as bored as I had been at a movie theater since Reign of Fire.  

I can tell you exactly the movie lost me and I knew that there was not going to be any hope of it bringing me back.  All throughout the movie, Pa Kent (a good, but underused Kevin Costner) keeps telling young Clark that “you are my son, but somewhere out there you have another father, who sent you here for a reason.”  Later on this motif is beaten to death and done with about as much subtly as a punch in the face from Hulk when a conflicted Clark is talking to a priest while a stained-glass image of the Garden of Gethsemane frames him throughout.  Thankfully, the scene is over in the blink of an eye.  

Hans Zimmer’s score felt like it was just pieces left over from hisNolan Batman Trilogy days strung together with scotch tape.  It really made me long for the fanfare by Mr. John Williams.

Ultimately, the fim is disappointing, overly long, inconsistent and squanders a rich history and a talented cast.  Supes got his due in 1978, and I’ll still say he got a nice reboot in 2006.  Based on what the numbers are saying, it’ll make a mint at the box office.  But is it going to pack as much punch as Christopher Reeve’s original did?  Not at all.  Not even close.

Bottom Line: It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  It’s a huge mess!

1.5/4 Stars