Henry Cavill

Man of Steel

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2013

Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures/DC Entertainment

Directed by Zack Snyder

Produced by Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas & Deborah Snyder

Screenplay by David S. Goyer

Based on “Superman” created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Sooner or later it always comes down to real estate in a Superman movie, doesn’t it? I mean, in three of the previous Superman movies the plot revolved around extraordinary real estate schemes. And in MAN OF STEEL General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) plan for world conquest could be considered the ultimate form of gentrification. He intends to terraform Earth and make it uninhabitable for humans. But first he’s got to extract The Codex from the cells of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) and resurrect the Kryptonian race. And it’s not that it’s a bad plan at all. I just wish it wasn’t such a slog to get to it.

MAN OF STEEL is yet another retelling of the origin of Superman, which we didn’t need. So I guess that’s why Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer threw in such unnecessary details such as: a Kryptonian civil war. Making Kal-El the literal savior of the Kryptonian race by having his cellular structure infused with The Codex which if I understand it correctly pretty much means that Kal-El’s cells contains billions of DNA sequences. Making General Zod and Kal-El’s dad Jor-El (Russell Crowe) best buds who have a falling out over this pesky civil war as Jor-El insists they don’t have time for this rubbish as Krypton is going to blow up any day now. The Krypton sequence is one of the best things about the movie. And not only because we see that Jor-El knows how to rumble, young man, rumble. The architecture, technology and costuming had me wishing that we could get a “World of Krypton” movie. This is the first Superman movie that actually made Krypton look like it would be a really cool place to live. If it wasn’t for the blowing up part that is.

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Okay, so you know the drill after that: Krypton blows up, Kal-El gets rocketed to Earth, found by kindly Jonathan and Martha Kent  (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. But then that’s when the plot goes into a whole other realm as we get scenes of Clark going walkabout, roaming the world, taking odd jobs and using his powers in secret to help out where he can. In between we have Lois Lane (Amy Adams) Colonel Hardy (Christopher Meloni) and Dr. Emil Hamilton (Richard Schiff) investigating an alien craft found in the Arctic that has a connection with Clark and ultimately leads her to Kansas.

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But here comes General Zod and his posse again, having been freed from The Phantom Zone when Krypton blew up. They’ve been wandering around the universe all this time and thanks to Clark’s fooling around, they come to Earth. Zod looks around and likes the property. He’ll take it. Clark has to convince Lt. General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) that he’s here for Truth, Justice and The American Way and they have to work together if they’re going to stop Zod.

I realize I’m being a little more flippant in this review than I usually am but that’s only because I wish MAN OF STEEL had been a little more flippant itself. This is a movie that takes itself way too seriously and moves ponderously from one drama drenched scene to another groaning under the weight of its own solemnity. It’s not a fun movie and there’s not a single moment where I felt like standing up and cheering when Superman flies in to save the day. Which is what I want to see when I go to a Superman movie.

There’s going to be plenty of Superman fans who are going to like this movie because they want their superhero movies to be stonefaced serious. Me, I think you can be serious and have some fun. Maybe I want too much, I dunno. I know that Superman fans desperately wanted to see a Superman movie with some action and him hitting things. Well, with a bunch of Kryptonian villains all with superpowers, there’s plenty of that. And the final throwdown between Superman and Zod will satisfy in the amount of sheer destructiveness. I myself don’t believe there’s a building left standing in Metropolis after the day the Kryptonians came to town.

I have no complaint with the acting at all. Especially Henry Cavill and Michael Shannon. Bravo, Mr. Shannon. I believe he’s one the best and most underrated actors working today. The guy’s Brando level good, trust me. And if you’re not familiar with his work then you need to be.

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As to what I didn’t like: so much added to the Superman origin story that I thought wasn’t needed was put in there simply so that audiences wouldn’t feel they were watching the same old same old. The fate of Jonathan Kent. The wonky direction by Zack Snyder in the fight sequences which really surprised me. In his past movies Snyder’s fight scene were really crisp, clean and well-choreographed, leaving no doubt as to who was getting hit and by whom. Here in MAN OF STEEL most of the fight scenes are just blurs going from one side of the screen to the other.  The ghost of Jor-El showing up just when he’s needed in places he has no business being. Superman’s resolution to the General Zod problem. I mean, I realize full well Zod left Superman with no choice but the Superman I know would have found another way.

And at the end of the day I suppose that’s really all it is. This isn’t a Superman I felt was my Superman. That’s not to say that he’s a bad Superman. He’s pretty good, in fact. Henry Cavill is a new Superman for a new generation and he does the character proud. But I’ll still stick with the 1978 model if that’s okay with you.

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143 minutes

PG-13

Immortals

2011

Universal Pictures

Directed by Tarsem Singh

Produced by Mark Canton and Ryan Kavanaugh

Written by Vlas Parlapanides and Charley Parlapanides

When I first saw “The Cell” way back in 2000 I knew right there and then that Tarsem Singh was a director I’d be watching.  When so many directors are content to offer us product, Tarsem Singh goes way out there in order to give us movies that are visual treats.  “The Cell” is perhaps the most original serial killer movie I’ve ever seen in terms of story and visuals.  I wasn’t as excited with his second feature, “The Fall”.  Oh, it’s gorgeous to look at and at times even eye-popping but the story is muddled and while watching it I wished mightily that Tarsem had done it as a straight-up adventure fantasy and left the real world stuff for another movie.  It’s worth watching, believe me.  But it’s an effort to try and marry up two totally different movies into one and that trick rarely works.

So where does IMMORTALS stand when placed up against this director’s other two movies?  I still say that “The Cell” is his best movie and “The Fall” his poorest so I guess that leaves IMMORTALS in the middle.  It’s as outrageously visual as those other movies and indeed, I’d recommend the movie solely on that basis.  But I gotta be honest and tell you that the story could use work.  IMMORTALS is a very confused movie as it flip-flops back and forth because it can’t make up it’s mind if it wants to be “300” or 2010’s “Clash of The Titans”

In ancient Greece, the ruthless and powerful King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) runs amuck.  He’s looting, killing, pillaging, raping and generally carrying on cranky in his quest to find The Epirus Bow.  Once wielded by Ares himself, The Epirus Bow is the only thing that can release The Titans from their imprisonment deep in the bowels of Mount Tartarus.  Now if The Titans are released, that is going to mean very bad things not only for humanity but for The Gods of Olympus.  To put it mildly.

Zeus (Luke Evans) the King of The Gods of Olympus forbids his fellow gods to interfere, decreeing that the humans must be allowed to exercise free will and settle this matter themselves.  That’s all well and good and noble, Zeus’ daughter Athena (Isabel Lucas) says wisely.  And just as wisely she points out that it’s their immortal asses The Titans are gonna come for when they get free.

But Zeus has placed his faith in Theseus (Henry Cavill) a humble peasant who nonetheless demonstrates astounding fighting skills that would wring tears of envy from a Spartan.  Theseus has no belief or faith in the gods and would rather be left alone and not get involved.  But fate has other plans for him and soon, Theseus finds himself on a quest to find The Epirus Bow for himself, joined by the Oracle Phaedra (Frieda Pinto) and the wily master thief Stavros (Stephen Dorff).

I can’t stress enough how amazing the movie looks.  I’d love to see what Tarsem could do with a movie based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric or Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser.  And Tarsem does a great job of swiping Zack Snyder’s style of directing fight scenes.  There’s a scene where Theseus is trying to rescue his mother by cutting his way through a bunch of soldiers who apparently were tired of living and if I didn’t know I was watching IMMORTALS I’d have sworn it was a scene from “300” And there’s a kick-ass throwdown between The Olympians and The Titans that is simply astounding.  There just isn’t any other word for it.

That’s the good stuff.  The bad? We’ve got big long gaps between the awesome fight scenes and those are scenes that are way too serious for this material.  Let’s be honest here: IMMORTALS at its core is a 1950’s Italian sword-and-sandal epic on CGI steroids.  And only Stephen Dorff seems to realize that’s what it is and acts accordingly.  He’s nothing but fun every time he’s on screen.  Mickey Rourke is also fun but in a different way.  I’m convinced he was channeling Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now” He’s got several scenes where he’s sitting in shadow, delivering these baffling speeches about destiny and legend and leaving his footprint on the world.  I’m convinced that his army wears masks all the time so that the confused looks on their faces won’t give them away and incur Hyperion’s wrath.  But still, he’s Mickey Rourke and I wouldn’t have missed seeing him in a fantasy adventure movie for all the sugar in Cuba.

What else?  Henry Cavill reminded me a lot of Sam Worthington in 2010’s “Clash of The Titans” in that he looks and acts appropriately heroic as he’s supposed to.  As his Oracle, Frieda Pinto is drop-dead gorgeous.  But can she act? you ask.  You can keep on asking.  I dunno.  She’s drop-dead gorgeous, I toldja.  I quite enjoyed Luke Evans as Zeus even though his wardrobe leaves a lot to be desired.  Say what you want about Liam Neeson’s sparkly armor, as least he knew how to dress like the King of The Gods.  Still, Luke Evans and Isabel Lucas provided me with some of the movie’s best scenes.

So should you see IMMORTALS?  It depends. I hesitate to recommend a movie simply on it’s visuals but that is the strongest aspect of IMMORTALS.  And those visuals are best enjoyed on a movie screen.  However, if you’ve got one of those wall sized flatscreens, it should look amazing on Blu-Ray. I recently watched it on Netflix as it’s currently available for streaming and it still looked gorgeous.   But however you see it, IMMORTALS is worth seeing because it’s the vision of a truly talented director with a remarkable style of his own.  One worth nurturing and supporting.

110 minutes

Rated R