Movie Review – Man of Steel

*** WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS ***

There’s always pressure on a reboot to perform, especially when its a second attempt, so I was genuinely happy to see the brilliant job done with the new Man of Steel after the 2006 attempt (Superman Returns) failed to live up to the hype.

Right off the bat one has to notice that unlike Superman movies of the past, this one takes a lot less for granted. There is an extensive look at the back story, as opposed to the normal 5 minutes of a spaceship in a barn, a blanket with an ‘S’ on it and then Brando’s “Kal-El, you are my son”. We really get to go into the death of Krypton and the reason for Kal-El’s presence on earth. There is also a significant amount of time given to character development, albeit through the generally hackney tool of flashbacks (though they were blended quite well here). It shows you glimpses into his childhood – dealing with the responsibility of having superpowers and deciding to hide them because the world was not ready for him.

But Supes wasn’t the only one. I was also quite pleased with the treatment of Zod, our main antagonist. Unlike the prior incarnation, where he was simply a egomaniacal baddie, this new vision saw him as a driven soldier, bred and created for the sole purpose of ensuring Krypton’s survival, even at the cost of the human race – which puts him at odds with Kal-El who comes to the decision that “Krypton had its chance”. At the same time though, you can see that this is not a decision made lightly, and his hand is forced by the opposing forces of the surviving Kryptonians and the human armies, neither willing to share, as Jor-El envisioned. The friend that I watched the movie with was rather disappointed with the choice of Zod for the villain, but I beg to differ. I think for the story that they were trying to tell – Superman’s origin and reconciliation of his two identities and final acceptance of Earth as his true home – Zod was the obvious choice.

But character development doesn’t mean they skimped on the action – not at all! The fight scenes are rather brilliant. And thankfully they are quite watchable, as opposed to the Transformers/Iron Man trend of everything moving so fast you can barely tell what’s happening. It’s always cool to see super-beings go up against each other and Zod second in command, Faora-Ul was particularly bad-ass! I wonder though if the next movie will address the issue of collateral damage – its something superhero movies don’t usually touch on – who pays when a fight Superman levels half of Metropolis

Shout out to the brilliant casting for this flic. Russell Crowe kind of stole the show most of the time with his wise yet bad-ass Jor-El. While no one could ever really replace Brando in his iconic portrayal, Crowe has definitely reset the bar high. Similar props for Henry Cavill. Christopher Reeves, the real life Superman, has been a role that no one has been able to touch in decades so its a real testament to Cavill that he absolutely nails it! He’s broody, yet good-old-american boy, with a little angst and turmoil thrown in – perfect Superman recipe. And lets not forget Michael Shannon, the man who done an impeccable job in the role of Zod – I actually felt for the guy – that’s saying something for a super-villain!

While I thought this movie was quite awesome, I will point out that there are some things that purists will probably take issue with.

  • Lois Lane’s hair – While strictly speaking she’s still a brunette (I think – the 3D glasses made the screen really dark!) she doesn’t have the classic jet black, but rather Amy Adams’ almost redhead locks.
  • Perry White, Editor-in-chief of The Daily Planet isn’t white – The role went to Laurence Fishburne, who I think, for the 5 seconds of screen time that he had, did a great job.
  • No Jimmy Olsen?!
  • Jonathan Kent dies! (Rather dramatically too might I add) – In teaching his son yet another lesson, Jonathan Kent sacrifices himself to protect his son’s identity, knowing that the world has not ready for his powers, or perhaps it was his son that was not ready? Disappointing – I really like Kevin Costner
  • The suit – Now in our classic Superman its mama Kent that makes him the suit, using the blanket he was wrapped in as a child (thus the ‘S’/Kryptonian symbol for the house of El) – But here it’s presented to him by Jor-El (more correctly a computer program emulating him) as some form of battle-suit?
  • No spit-curl – Oh but how will Clark Kent’s brilliant disguise work now?

Personally, I don’t think any of these changes affects the movie at all. But you know how we Geeks are, we fill find a reason to complain ; p

All in all, while I’m not going to get in line right away to watch it a second time like I did for Dark Knight, I definitely think its merits a second watch. And a word of advice – watch in 2D if you can – there’s nothing in this movie that makes it a must watch in 3D so enjoy a cheaper ticket and more comfortable watch instead.

EASTER EGG – Let’s see if you can spot this one – during one of the fight scenes Superman gets thrown into a sign at a construction site that says “160 DAYS SINCE LAST ACCIDENT” (or something like that)  and the 1 and 6 get knocked off as he collides with it so that, for a fraction of a second, the sign says 0 days instead – I only barely caught this one. My friend did not, which is why he was wondering why I started chuckling in the middle of a fight scene.

Advertisements

Movie Review – Star Trek: Into Darkness

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

In the fallout of Iron Man 3 I almost forgot that the sequel to the Star Trek reboot was coming out this week. Don’t you make the same mistake. With all the hullabaloo this year over movies like Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, World War Z and The Wolverine, Star Trek seems to not be too high on people’s “must watch” lists, indeed it wasn’t really on mine. Again, this was my mistake!

Though I am familiar with the show and have seen some of the movies, I was never a “Trekkie” per se, or “Trekker” if you prefer. So maybe that’s why my level of excitement over the Star Trek reboot/relaunch wasn’t as massive as the idea of an Iron Man series or an Avengers franchise. Indeed there are so many superhero movies coming out these days its hard to be a fan of them all. But the new Star Trek has really delivered where many other “big summer blockbusters” have fallen short. J.J. Abrams has done a masterful job of bringing an old and long beloved collection of characters back to life, and even more impressive, he’s done it in a way that hasn’t brought upon him the wrath of hardcore fans worldwide – not an easy task trust me (Geeks can be quite ferocious at the helm of a keyboard).

Abrams’ sequel cements the great job the first new Star Trek did in 2009 – I remember being quite impressed with the job Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine did – not easy considering they were following the legendary and immortal Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as First Officer Spock and Captain James Tiberius Kirk. But the excellent casting isn’t limited to them. Kark Urban as Dr.Bones” McCoy (“Damn it Jim I’m a Doctor not a Mechanic”); Simon Pegg as Scotty; Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov and John Cho as Hikaru Sulu – the combined effort of bringing the original legend to life is simply marvelous. And speaking of excellent casting, one cannot move on before giving a most deserved mention to Benedict Cumberbatch for his truly spine-tingling portrayal of Kirk’s arch nemesis Khan. Cumberbatch’s involvement in the sequel took it to a whole new level of awesome and I truly hope the role is revived in the third installment.

But casting only gets you half way. The other brilliant move by Abrams is to take so many iconic moments/plots from the old series and be true to them while at the same time flipping them around. The prime example being Spock‘s shouting “Khaaaaaaaaaaan!” to the heavens as Kirk breathed his last in front of  a crying Spock after saving his entire ship from certain death – the inverse of the iconic scream by Shatner in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is well-known and parodied. But it wasn’t done as a joke or an “easter egg”, the moment was truly moving, even moving the lady behind me to tears. And this is one of its greatest achievements – the movie does an amazing job of showing the evolution of the relationship between the “cocky and brash” Captain and his “cold and logical” First Officer – not easy to reproduce in 132 minutes, especially when the first one did it over 3 seasons and 4 movies.

Yes I wasn’t a massive Star Trek fan growing up. So maybe I am able to watch these movies with less expectation, but if you ask me, Abrams and his stellar cast have done an amazing job of being true to the original while at the same time evolving its own personality for the next generation (pun intended!) and I look forward to them making another movie and once again boldly going where no man has gone before… well, at least not since 1998 ; p

Though it remains to be seen whether it will retain its flavor, seeing as Abrams isn’t going to be available to direct the next movie, at least not if its going to be out in time for the 50th Anniversary of the show in 2016. But he’s not leaving altogether – he’s announced that he will still be around as a producer, at the very least (yeah, I saw how that worked out for Iron Man 3 with Jon Favreau!).