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Non-Review Review: Man of Steel

There are moments of brilliance in Man of Steel. I like the golden-hued Malick-esque glimpses of Middle America, evoking the work of Norman Rockwell. (Indeed, the earliest glimpse of Clark Kent’s life on Earth seems to evoke Teacher’s Birthday.) I like the decision to cast Jor-El as a pulpy science hero rather than a stand-in for God. I like the way that the movie embraces the concept of exceptionalism, and doesn’t shy away from the American ideals embodied in Superman’s mythology. I appreciate the development of the Kents into more than generic slices of apple pie.

However, for all of these lovely moments, there’s a sense that Man of Steel resents the fact that it is a superhero origin film. It’s easy to understand why. Superman origins are a dime a dozen, and it’s hard to imagine anybody could be unfamiliar with the broad strokes of the story. However, Man of Steel does find an interesting and nuanced angle on that first crucial Superman story… only to become something radically different. A little under half-way through, the film morphs into a big budget superhero spectacle, sandwiched between the outline of an origin story and chunks peppered throughout like some form of tossed salad.

Man of Steel suffers because it’s a lot less interesting than it might have been, and it revels in that comfortable blockbuster mediocrity.

High flyin'...

High flyin’…

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Watch! New Man of Steel Trailer!

It’s safe to say that I’m somewhat skeptical of a new live action Superman movie, particularly after the mess that was Superman Returns. That said, I’m growing cautiously optimistic about Man of Steel. The latest trailer helps, and it seems that David Goyer and Christopher Nolan (and Zack Snyder) have hit upon some of the character’s core themes – particularly the idea that Superman is more of an aspirational figure than a guy who can hit things really hard. The new trailer offers glimpses of the supporting cast. Amy Adams sounds pretty great as Lois Lane, not that there was any doubt. It’s also nice to see the wonderful Michael Shannon in full-blown villain mode. Although it looks like Zod will swear vengeance against the House of El again, Shannon’s performance looks to be a completely different tack from Terrence Stamp’s iconic performance. And that’s a good thing, as much as I love Stamp’s Zod.

Anyway, check out the trailer below, and let me know what you think.

Superman & Relevance: (Yet) More Thoughts on Snyder’s Superman…

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way.

Dear Hollywood,

I am a movie fan. I am not an American. I didn’t read too many comic books as a child, and those I did never featured Superman. I say this as a means of introducing myself. I’ve been somewhat frustrated that you have been consistently unable to produce a good Superman film since Richard Donner was unceremoniously booted off the set of Superman II over 30 years ago. I know you’re working on a new film, so I thought I’d pen this open letter.

I’m sure David S. Goyer is a great writer, and look forward to his screenplay. After all, I appreciate his work on Nolan’s Batman Begins trilogy and his work with James Robinson on Starman (plus he helped kickstart this whole “superhero movie” business with Blade). Still, I can’t help but be a little concerned about this new Superman reboot you have to produce by the end of next year, lest the rights revert to the creators of the character.

Anyway, I want to talk to you about the relevance of Superman, as I’m sure it’s something you’ve talked about quite a lot, and perhaps it’s something you’re still concerned about.

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Superman: Secret Origin (Review/Retrospective)

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way.

I have to admit that I quite enjoyed Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics. Johns has been one of the most influential writers working at DC over the past couple of years, so it felt right to see him tackling Superman, after years of working on titles like The Flash and Green Lantern. It was an extra special treat because he brought Richard Donner with him for the introductory arc, which restored a sense of continuity between the comic book superhero and his cinematic iteration. You ask anybody to picture Superman, and I promise you that they will imagine Christopher Reeve with his cape flapping in the wind – it feels like the definitive version of the character. And I felt that Johns really tapped into that aspect of the icon. So, I have to admit that I was pretty excited when it was announced that Geoff Johns would be returning to tell the character’s origin story, his Secret Origin, if you will.

That's one super life he's lived...

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 5 (Stars My Destination)

The Starman Omnibus, Volume V covers a very rocky period in the history of the Starman mythos. The wonderful thing about the little after-words that James Robinson has provided for each of these volumes by way of annotation is that they offer you a hint of the context of everything that is going on around the series. Starman as a series had just lost an editor in Archie Goodwin and an artist in Tony Harris. Robinson himself was going through some very personal issues, and he confessed that he was seriously considering just hanging up the reigns on the book.

He didn’t, and ultimately saw the comic book through its full 80-issue run, but it gives you a sense of the instability surrounding the title at that period of time. And what did Robinson do with, with everything so uncertain around the book? He moved the series from the streets of Opal City into the depths of DC’s shared cosmic universe and took on David S. Goyer as a co-plotter for Stars My Destination, which was an interesting direction for one of the nineties’ most down-to-earth characters.

A "cluster" of Starmen?

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Riddle Me This… Is The Riddler Really An Ideal Choice for Batman 3?

Last week I outlined why I didn’t think that Harvey Dent should be brought back for the sequel to The Dark Knight. If Nolan comes back, I trust him to do whatever he feels like doing with the franchise – he’s demonstrated that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to directing Batman. If he wants to recast the role of the Joker – or if he doesn’t – that’s fine with me. So, it’s ultimately futile to speculate about films that haven’t even entered production, but that’s never really stopped me before, has it? It keeps coming down to the Riddler – Johnny Depp or Eddie Murphy or whoever. It seems that everyone is expecting The Riddler to be the villain (or at least play a supporting role) in the next film. But I’m skeptical.

When the Riddler heard he was the new host of Bullseye, he didn't know that people would take the title so literally...

When the Riddler heard he was the new host of Bullseye, he didn't know that people would take the title so literally...

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Magneto’s Magnetism…

Another day, another superhero movie. Still, the long-rumoured X-Men Origins: Magneto is a project which has aroused quite a bit of my interest, if only because it has the potential to be unlike any other film in that genre. And if – as it appears – the superhero film is here to stay, we should at least welcome those that are willing to deviate from the norm, even a little bit and even if they don’t work out. Still, I wholeheartedly accept that it could end up being as pointless and soulless as Wolverine was, so I won’t be priming my hopes too much.

"You shall not recast!"

"YOU SHALL NOT RECAST!"

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