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

A Review of Zack Snyder’s “300”

I think the huge success of 300 can be attributed to its glorfication of at least one dark desire of just about everyone.  It unites us through our vices.  I was entertained by the spectacle of it and sickened by its message.

One Nation Under a Raving Lunatic, 13 March 2007
David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Zack Snyder’s gleefully insane adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, “300” just may be the first movie to appeal to both radically hawkish hard-line conservatives and to the most outgoing section of the gay community. Zack Snyder, it seems, is a uniter, not a divider. “300” is over-the-top visually and thematically, morally corrupt, erotically jingoistic, and infected with both nihilistic and fascist sensibilities.

In an attempt to make the onslaught of computer generated images appear more like film, Snyder decides to add a faux-graininess to many of the more elaborate shots, which makes much of them hard to see. Of course, some of these images aren’t without their artistic merit, often visually transfixing and compelling in their composition. Overall, he does a commendable job in his literal translation of comic book images to the big screen (much in the same vein as the far superior “Sin City.”) Some of it (like most of the well staged and fantastically gory battle scenes) is amazing, but much of it (even the Spartan soldiers’ abs look computer generated) is just plain silly.

For a movie that attempts to be so trailblazing from a visual perspective, the storyline stays alarmingly close to the conventions of both macho-man war epics and comic book action films. The dialogue is mostly screaming and vague speeches about “honor and liberty and justice” backed-up by glaring and pompous music. It makes the script from “Gladiator” seem like Shakespeare in comparison. As far as the cast goes, the beautiful Lena Headey lends herself nicely to the film’s aesthetics and acts as if she is staring in a far more refined historical epic. In the lead role of mad King Leonidas, Gerard Butler does a wildly entertaining impersonation of someone doing a spoof on a young and robust Sean Connery. He’s the only one seeming to have fun with the self-seriousness of the whole endeavor, and dare I say it, this could be a star-making role for him.

Lambasting “300” for historical inaccuracies would be like condemning “American Idol” for not allowing presidential candidates to debate on the show between songs. History is not what this film is about. In some ways it feebly tries to channel the spirit of Greek myth. In its celebration of physical beauty, view of courage as how loud you can scream and how many people you can decapitate, and idolizing the mentality of “freedom at any costs,” it appeals to both ancient Greeks and unfortunately, a certain segment of the modern audience. Ultimately, this is just another film that fetishizes death and martyrdom over the innate will to survive. Even Mel Gibson’s equally violent “Apocalypto” recognized man’s unshakable will to live. Willing a glorious death is no way to spend one’s life, and as entertaining as much of it is, “300” panders to our basest desires of self annihilation.

Originally published on the Internet Movie Database