Revisiting Man of Steel

man_of_steel_ver2_boxartWith the upcoming release of Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I decided that it may finally be time to revisit Man of Steel. A film that I had avoided heavily re-watching since its first release. Let’s just say that like a large portion of the general public, the film did not sit well with me. However, now that some time has passed and my initial rage has subsided (mostly), it’s time to answer the question. Was Man of Steel any good?

In short, no. The critics and general public alike have made no secret of the films flaws. Given the length of time between viewings and the changing of your perceptions over time though, I had to wonder. Had my hatred of the film been sharpened by the constant criticism the film was receiving? If only the flaws are being discussed, are they the only memories I will retain and revisit? Causing a deeper hatred than the film may have disserved.

screenshot_1244With a character such as Superman, or even Clark Kent, there is a certain weight and expectation that exists in the mind of the viewer, even before the film is experienced. This makes the film incredibly hard to separate from the character’s history. Cavill will always be compared to Reeve. Reeve is the definitive Superman to a lot of people, even to those that do not read the comics, this already stacks the deck against Cavill before we even saw him in action. One can’t help but feel sorry for the actor, for the fact that he is not being judged on his own ability, but by his predecessor. The darker tone of the film only hinders this fact, as the films blatant attempts to cash in The Dark Knight‘s success, forces the character into an atmosphere and tone that, while can and has been explored throughout Superman’s history, is not his natural state. The tone and format, retelling Superman’s history in a miss matched order, are elements taken directly from that of Batman Begins in the hopes that the familiar storytelling devices and now bankable formula, would win the film some good graces. One would hope that this was done to allow the creators to use the format to complement the differences between the two films, but sadly all it does is create a Batman clone in Kryptonian garb.

9053_4Superman is not Batman. While both characters can be equally enjoyed by the audience, their motivations and raison d’être’s are separate. Leading to a difference in personality and appeal. While the brooding superhero has undoubtedly become popular in recent years, what Hollywood must remember, is that it is not a necessity. Something that I fear Batman Vs. Superman will unfortunately reinforce.

Throughout Man of Steel, the man we watch grow and supposedly root for, stands as neither the classic Clark Kent nor the traditional Superman. The films decidedly dark tone 106056_zpsac36da8b.png~originalplays a key role in this matter, depicting a man that attempts to embody the icon but fails to comprehend it. Though glimpses of childhood embrace Clark’s frustration and attempts to appear normal to the world, providing some of the films greatest (and briefest) moments, remain promising as they play off the mood well. Clark as an adult, shows a man far more self centred and arrogant than previous incarnations. While it’s only natural for children, particularly those that are adopted, to have moments of friction or argue over their future, Clark’s interactions with his parents, particularly Jonathan, are cold hearted and do little to ground him to his life in Kansas. Rather than a being of two worlds, equal in his loyalties, Clark stands as simply a Kryptonian living on Earth. At multiple times, reminding Jonathan and Martha that they are not in fact his real parents and simply found him. Compounded by the fact that his first words to Martha after being gone for a considerable time, based on her reaction, is to state that he “found his real parents”. In order to sell an actor as Superman, you must also convince the world that he is Clark Kent, Something Cavill fails to do. It is in fact more tempting to refer to him as Kal than Clark, for the mere fact that his preoccupation with Krypton outweighs his bonds to the Earth.

Man_of_Steel_teaser_trailer_screenshot_10_460x259The controversial “neck snap” scene, while originally anger inducing for its general existence, brings about more controversy in hindsight. The taking of a life is seen in Superman’s eyes as crossing the ultimate moral line, in the few previous crossings, the weight bears so heavily on his mind that he exiles himself from society. In the case provided, the situation does become dire enough that crossing that line becomes morally expectable, even if it feels wrong. However, taking into account the previous destruction of the city and the countless lives most likely lost in the incident, the fact that a single family becomes his deciding factor creates a hypocritical flaw in his own judgement.

While Cavill bears the brunt of the backlash, it is clear that he has the ability to portray a true Superman, as well as an honest Clark. If only the darker tones enforced upon the project could be loosened. Allowing him to break free of the Kryptonite shackles that is studio mandate, could provide us with the next definitive Superman actor.

man-steel-sequel-superman-lois-laneIn contrast, Amy Adams’ portrayal of Lois Lane provides not only a strong willed centre, but a faithful embodiment of everything Lois has stood for overtime. She’s not afraid to put herself in harm’s way for a story, charging in when she knows it’s the only way she will get her answers. In contrast to the hollow shell of a Superman story the film becomes at times, Adams plays an honest character, a stand in for those as curious enough to investigate Cavill’s Superman rather than a scared onlooker, too frightened to comprehend a world beyond the familiar Reeve.

Screen-Shot-2013-04-17-at-4.11-600x369The film is most definitely a flawed production, confusing a stand in of Superman with embodying his principles and life. It’s stigma in the media proves that its missteps have not gone unnoticed, and with Batman Vs. Superman on the horizon, it is hopeful that the criticism from Man of Steel has been taken on board. However, with Snyder’s continued defence of the film, it seems that the ‘Batman-afying’ of Superman sees no clear end. The fact that Superman has been sidelined in his own sequel unfortunately, leads us to conclude that the dark and gloomy times are yet to see an end. May Dawn of Justice, shed some much needed light onto the character and franchise, so that once again Superman can bask in the sun.

 

Did the news impact Spotlight’s ‘Best Picture’ Oscar win?

3600The time period in which a film is released plays a large part in judging the film as a whole. Looking back at certain films from a 21st century standpoint heavily recolours our opinion of them. For example films dealing in terrorism pre-9/11 are viewed very differently from their modern day counterparts, and even some of Bond’s womanising antics in the Connery and Moore days are heavily criticised by some as being overtly sexist. To ignore the context in which a film is made could almost be as much a mistake as disregarding the writer or even the director. This may be most commonly argued in older creature features pre-CGI, as numerous effects can be looked back on as corny or laughable, but were cutting edge at the time of release. Or even when regarding overt racism that can be seen in some older films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. With this thought in mind it may be worth asking if the current attention to scandals such as Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris and Bill Cosby have coloured the way in which we view this years ‘Best Picture’ Oscar winner, Spotlight.

There have been several films in the past that brought home the gold, only to be questioned a year or two later. How Green Was My Valley winning over Citizen Kane in 1941, and Crash over Brokeback Mountain in 2005 both come to mind. The King’s Speech, for example, was released in 2010, just as Prince William announced his engagement and swept the country into a somewhat enhanced form of patriotism. Granted the film was in production before the announcement, it seems worth questioning as to whether or not the coinciding announcement led to the film gaining more attention, combined with the performances of both Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.

11201558_oriSpotlight had some tough competition this year, going up against films such as The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, and Bridge of Spies. Spotlight was somewhat of an underdog, with a number of film websites and magazines placing their bets on The Revenant. Its success is not only a surprise but a breath of fresh air. Since the Oscars were less than a month ago, it seems unfair to judge whether or not it deserved the Oscar for Best Picture at this point, it is truly an excellent film, well directed and written with a superb cast that is hard to find fault with. But with the subject matter of the film, and the overabundance of the scandals in the news, it is interesting to wonder whether this is a case of the times affecting the Oscar outcomes.

If the current influx of child abuse scandals in the news are indeed one of the reasons why the film gained so much attention in the academy, then it has certainly earned it. The events that inspired the film were essentially a catalyst for not only the investigation of the church, but publicly acknowledging that child abuse does happen and that it shouldn’t be swept under the rug and ignored, even when committed by people that we wouldn’t normal think capable of such actions. If the news is responsible in part for Spotlight’s Oscar win, then it only proves that the events of the film were just as impactful on film and television as they were on the rest of the world. Truly, Spotlight’s Oscar win is not only impactful for the film industry and the creators, but a win for the hard working journalists that fought to bring these truths into the spotlight.

(Damn, that was a bad pun)…