Tea Party Wish Fulfillment, Messianic Fetishism and the American Way in Man of Steel

Muh ha ha...I am a god.

Muw ha ha…I am a god.

To be the smartest man in the room.  It’s a nice place to be.  Christopher Nolan has reached a point in his career where he is the smartest man in the room.  Warner Brothers begged him to reboot the Superman film mythos, but Nolan wisely decreed that he was the last person who should do that.  He knew after his successful reboot of Batman that lightening doesn’t strike twice.  Yet Hollywood lives off the delusion that lightning can strike twice.  So, Nolan, not wanting to bite the hand that fed him, agreed to produce and bring along many of his cohorts (notably screenwriter David S. Goyer and epic score maestro Hans Zimmer) to help breathe life into a stale franchise.  He gets paid no matter what, and if this things bombs, hey, he wasn’t the director (meanwhile he’s busy crafting his own original film, Interstellar).  In comes Zack Snyder, a keen visual stylist who too often succumbs to his own fetishes involving shaky camera-work and overblown non-sensical FX spun into a blender, to direct.  The result is the overstuffed but weirdly entertaining Man of Steel – which brings great comfort to the writer in me, for it’s Goyer’s script (thoughtful, though full of holes and far from perfect) that rises above Snyder’s bombastic attempt to derail the film at every turn.

Man of Steel’s greatest assets (apart from Zimmer’s score) are the cast members.  The filmmakers wisely brought on two of this generation’s greatest character actors to take on key roles: Michael Shannon, enraged and menacing as General Zod and quadruple Oscar nominee Amy Adams as a feisty and smarter than usual Lois Lane.  It’s a real treat to watch Shannon not so much chew scenery as he does annihilate it (literally, his super-alien romper-room shenanigans with our title character bring down buildings) and it’s refreshing to see Adams’ Lois get in on the action and discover Clark Kent’s true identity from the start.  She coos and pants in his arms when he rescues her, but she’s no fool and unlocks the key to bringing down Zod.  Meanwhile, enjoyable cameos abound with Russell Crowe overacting as Jor-El; Kevin Costner under-acting as the senior Kent; Diane Lane pretty, naturally aged and forlorn as Ma Kent; Laurence Fishburne sadly wasted as Lois’ boss; and Christopher Meloni as a noble military man. Continue reading

Captain America Wants YOU to Get Excited about The Avengers!

Stop...and look at these great period details!

 
I’ll be the first to admit to suffering from superhero fatigue. It seems every summer is overrun by comic book adaptations and superheroes, most of them wallowing in mediocrity and indistinguishable from each other only in levels of awfulness. I choose my poison carefully, and this year I’ve found it refreshing that Hollywood has decided to do comic book period pieces, first with the fun 1960’s set X-Men reboot, and now with the workmanlike 1940’s set Captain America.  This is essentially one of many prequels to Marvel’s upcoming Avengers multi-superhero-mega-comic-book-all-star-uber-blockbuster-spectacular, which we get a preview of after the credits. I can’t say that I’m very excited about it, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy Captain America on its own merits.
 
Joe Johnston, your poor man’s Steven Spielberg and long-time likeable hack director, channels his Rocketeer roots with this WWII-based expository film about Captain America’s origins and his battle with Red Skull. Continue reading