Sunday, April 24, 2022

Man of Steel (2013) - Revisited

man of steel movie poster

Back when I saw this movie in 2013, I found it to be a disappointment. I enjoyed exactly two scenes in the entire movie: the Superman flight scene and his aerial rescue of Lois (preceding the Smallville fight sequence). I also liked Antje's performance as Faora. Other than that, the movie did not impress me.
I found Man of Steel (MoS) to be the polar opposite of the Richard Donner/Chris Reeve 1978 Superman: The Movie:
  • Cavill's Clark Kent/Superman is almost 100% humor/smile free (except for the last shot at the Daily Planet)
  • Like Clark, the movie itself has a grim tone, which would befit Batman or Punisher or Spawn better.
  • The cinematography choices is also dark and is probably one of the main reasons this movie did not strike a chord with me
  • Lois Lane already knows Superman's secret identity, even before they meet. Plus the chemistry between Henry Cavill and Amy Adams is non-existent.
  • Hans Zimmer's soundtrack does not have a single romance track. John Williams' love theme is still one of his best works.
  • The action sequences are way overdone. The movie starts with one (set on Krypton), the second is set in Smallville and the finale in Metropolis. Except the first one, the special effects in the the remaining ones appear unfinished multiple times. We can overlook the lack of humor and the characterizations, but the way these action sequences have been handled is puzzling.
 henry cavill superman poster
Revisited MoS after a long time and finally came to terms with it. This is a modern take on Superman in the same vein as BBC Sherlock is on the 20th Century Victorian detective. The obvious difference is that while the BBC show also takes deviations, it is a very well made show with great casting choices (among other things). MoS still remains a mixed bag. Yes there are some positives, but the movie still suffers from a number of weak spot. Let us get started.
The opening prologue on Krypton feels unnecessary and serves only to remind us that Warner Bros had provided only one mandate to Zack Snyder: make the movie as action packed as possible. If further proof is required, look no further than the casting and characterization of Jor-El. Clearly, Snyder is a fan of Gladiator - in addition to Russell Crowe, we have Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta and Hans Zimmer providing another bombastic soundtrack. One final link would Joaquin Phoenix who played Joker.

Back to the prologue - a good example of a prologue well done would be the one at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. That was such a good beginning to the movie and the trilogy. The Krypton sequence on the other hand looks generic and Jor-El is a martial artist/scientist who can go toe to toe with General Zod (Michael Shannon) and ride dragon like beasts (reminded me of Avatar though). 
This entire sequence could have been done away with and the money would have been better spent on making the Smallville and Metropolis action sequences better. The city wide destruction and Superman snapping Zod's neck has been widely criticized and commented upon. I can understand that these were justified from a story point perspective, but the low quality of graphics in the fight sequences is something that Zack could have improved on.
superman science fiction movie
To give Zack and the movie due credit, I liked the scene where Faora-Ul (Antje Trauje) gives special breathing gear to Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in the Kryptonian ship. Also Superman struggling to adjust to the Kryptonian atmosphere was another nice touch. I mention this point specifically for one main reason: When watching Avengers: Endgame, I was struck by how Tony Stark, Peter Parker, Dr Stephen Strange and other humans were able to adapt so quickly to the atmosphere on Titan and breath without the help of any special instrument/aid. So kudos to Zack and team.
The other aspects that the movie absolutely delivered are the flight scenes featuring Supes and the Kryptonian ships. The design of the alien ships is another strong point. 
The final and the best thing about the movie is Hans Zimmer's soundtrack. Following John Williams' iconic work is a daunting task. Hans delivers a great theme to both Supes and Zod. The movie would lose half its impact without the soundtrack. Superman's first flight scene and his aerial rescue of Lois are two examples. Some might complain that it is bit loud, but I nevertheless enjoy the soundtrack and think of it as a great companion piece to Williams.

martian manhunter man of steel snyderverse
I did find couple of loop holes in the plot:
  • In Zack Snyder's Justice League, it is revealed that General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) is actually Martian Manhunter in disguise. The question is: why did Martian Manhunter not help Supes against the Kryptonian invasion? He could have helped and still maintained his secret identity. Related query: how come Supes did not see through Manhunter's disguise, considering that he would have some anatomical differences from regular human beings?
  • Another thing to note is that probably half of Smallville know's Superman's secret identity. After being rescued by Supes, Lois arrives in a police car at Clark's home in Smallville and addresses Superman as “Clark right within hearing distance of the cops. So what was the point of General Swanwick's 12 million dollar worth satellite to keep tabs on Supes. Plus, cannot Swanwick (as Martian Manhunter) just read Supes mind and know his true identity. 

All in all, MoS is a better Science Fiction movie than a Superhero movie featuring Supes. I think of it as an alternate universe take (similar to JL: Gods and Monsters). 

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Image Sources: Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures, Syncopy

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) Teaser - Review

chris hemsworth thor love and thunder movie poster

Last time we saw Thor (Chris Hemsworth) at the end of Avengers: Endgame, he was engaging in playful banter with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and had taken up with the Guardians of Galaxy or Asgardians of the Galaxy” as he had rechristened them. The teaser makes it clear that Thor has checked out on his superhero duties and is looking to enjoy his life. Similarly, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is bored taking care of New Asgard. The teaser ends with our first look at female Thor (or Mighty Thor as per IMDB).

Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) continues the colorful and playful tone of the previous movie. Can't help but point out how different this movie is from DC's latest offering (The Batman). The latter is dark not only in terms of lighting and cinematography, but even content wise. I personally enjoy both flavors of superhero movies and would like both the studios to play to their strengths. DC does standalone movies well and Marvel has pretty much written the rulebook on creating a shared cinematic universe.

Check out the trailer below:

Back to the movie - Korg too returns. The biggest addition to the cast is arguably Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher. Very smart marketing decision by Marvel Studios to not feature Gorr in the teaser. Russell Crowe portrays Zeus and we get a fleeting glimpse of him. Both these actors have portrayed DC Characters before (Batman and Superman's dad respectively) and would be great additions. 

Chris Hemsworth's Thor is enjoying himself as the God with no plan and is living his life to the fullest. He is seen briefly as a pirate on a ship and this reminded me of Drax's description of Thor from Avengers: Infinity War as being the child of a pirate and an angel. Hemsworth has great comedic timing and has an excellent chemistry with Chris Pratt. I look forward to their interactions in this movie and beyond.
Kevin Feige is taking the MCU in a new direction in Phase 4. Dr Strange: Multiverse of Madness looks set to bring in the X-Men (and possibly Fantastic Four) into the fold and is rated R. Now we have a female Thor - Natalie Portman returns to the MCU and looks beefed-up for the role. This is an exciting time for MCU fans and I cannot wait to see how the MCU is shaped by the events that transpires in these two movies.
Trivia: The song Sweet Child O' Mine” by Guns N' Roses is played in the teaser. 
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Image Sources: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures