Did I love this movie . . . NO.
Did I enjoy this movie . . . YES.
Is it worth seeing . . . ? ABSOLUTELY.
Is this kind of a mixed message . . . . I don't care.
I love this character. When he's well written. And he's damn hard to write.
He can be violent, passionate, energetic and charming...and this film does capture all of those things rather than making him a stilted boy scout whose main superpower is spewing platitudes on the devastated masses.
Is Henry's Kal-El as charming as Christopher Reeve . . . ? No absolutely not, no comparison, not even close. But the 70's were a different time in films and this is trying to be the bigger better modern version.
There is no winking at the camera in this film. I know some of the older people I've spoken to miss that level of grace and charm. I don't miss the wink but I missed the grace and charm. This movie had collateral damage, a few cute little charming winks, but not the kind of fluff you would have got from the older film. It's simply not that film.
But it's also not dark like the Batman films either. It has fun jokes peppered throughout if you pay close enough attention and it has its light hearted moments (like a giddy flying training sequence, that's kinda fun, but also kinda cheesy and in all honesty I didn't like that much, but it does mean the movie did try to have a fun sequence and for that I give it credit. I warmed up on this sequence upon second viewing) and it has one or two other playful sequences. Superman should have these things...after all HE'S NOT BATMAN!!!...and that's okay. And Snyder didn't try to make it like the Dark Knight at all! So just because Nolan's name is attached people should stop making this comparison cause it's just not true. Is it less tongue and cheek than Superman of the 70's? Yes of course its trying to be the definitive modern version. And "Superman Returns" doesn't count because all that film did was homage the Reeve's pictures.
It's not a masterpiece like I'd hoped. It's not a space opera like I wanted. It tried. It didn't fail but it limped by...passing grade C-. But I'll add 3 bonus points extra credit for a few scenes I absolutely loved so it's a C+.
Lets get down to the nuts and bolts oh and now is the time I use the "S" word. ***SPOILERS***
. . . The "S" doesn't stand for 'Hope' or 'Super' it stands for *SPOILERS*
Sci Fi Gobbldy Guck Crap- The opening sequence should have been quiet and emotional, with a little bit of spectacle to taste. But their are way too many elements going on to follow at first glance. It's like performing a magic trick while telling a self involved story that really goes nowhere. The drama of this sequence should be that their planet is dying and their son is the last hope for their race. Yeah introduce Zod it needs to be done. But all the language about 1st birth, codex, a giant dragonfly lion named something . . . WHO CARES!?! Stop throwing spices into the pot and over complicate a dish that should just be simple. And that's one weakness of science fiction. You should never be explaining your society. You should always just show how it works but if you have to explain the culture keep it natural and simple and let it flow...this doesn't feel natural and simple it feels like a forced exposition. It's setting up a pay off I don't honestly care about. Planet dying, Superman born, Zod bad...done.
But it is pretty. That's for damn sure. Zack can shoot the hell out of an action sequence.
It introduces Russell Crowe as a thoughtful caring Dad. Which is important. It introduces Krypton's doom in a rather convincing way about how the elders are being pretty naive and somewhat acquiescence. Then Zod and his army try to overthrow the council. And spouts off some crap about 'bloodlines' . . . that never pays off later on in the film. (sorry to say, I guess there are winks at what he means but not really just another ingredient the dish didn't need and dialog that appeared forced and doesn't push the story forward really) He kills someone, it's super cool, blue flames, loud noises, someone drops a hat. There is a chase . . . it features a dragonfly lion. Russell Crowe beats the super sh*(*@(t out of his captures and leads them on a merry chase . . . with the dragonfly lion. The Kryptonian technology kinda works like an extremely high tech version of . . .
It's a departure from the monotone look of Krypton from the Reeve's pictures (Aka; white and crystals), it's kinda cool. It shows this society has more than just you know "crystals" which I always thought was kinda weird. But the look is kinda awkward design wise. Even though every time they use the technology it makes me think of this thing pictured above, which kinda takes me out of the 'oohhh space technology' awe feeling, but then again how many different ways can you see holograms in films? They wanted to try to differentiate the look from both the comic Krypton and the Reeve's pictures Krypton. A new look. I don't much care for it but eh that's just personal taste for me.
Superman flies off. Zod is looking for this plot device called 'the codex' which Jor-El (Russell Crowe) stole and apparently hid aboard his son's spacecraft.
Then before the planet implodes Zod and his minions are sentenced to be frozen and flown out in space.
It's not a bad opening sequence. There is simply just way to much stuff going on. And the stuff that is going on (cause I saw it twice) doesn't make more sense the second time around like a great mystery would. It is simply just their to keep the first act more busy than it really needed to be. It should have been personal and dare I say operatic in a way like an opening scene should be, it should have also been just a little mysterious, rather than tell us everything they're doing in the dialog maybe just show us and reveal it later (which they kinda do) but they still explain a lot and over pepper too much.
* Seriously look at this face, dude's pissed *
The Begining of the Film:
Boom, he's on a boat crab fishing. This is that sequence from the trailers. But the opening sequence already was kind of a jarring let-down that took the momentum out of me and left me confused. But now this is the true blue beginning of the film....
Clark is on a fishing boat. He is gruff. A quiet loner. The crew of his boat call him 'green horn' apparently the crew doesn't know his real name. He is in training, testing his abilities. Over the dispatch they hear a distress call from an oil rig. And now for the first truly 'Super' moment of the film. Suddenly he's on the flaming oil rig. He rips the door off to save some trapped crew and leads them to a helicopter that flies them away. As the helicopter flies he holds up the oil rig's massive flaming beam in just enough time before it falls over to let them fly away safely. It is an awesome moment, he strains and cries, you can see the pain on his face holding this massive chunk of steel and iron. It knocks him back into the water.
Between now and throughout the film there are a series of flashbacks that annoyed me my first time watching but felt right the second time. I guess I understood the flow they were going for more the second time and the first time feared they were just trying to be artistic. It works though to get through his story in a different way than I expected they would a more traditionally paced film.
Flashback 1. He is young, in a classroom and instead of getting bad acne and his voice breaking he gets X-ray vision and super hearing. Awkward for any young child just hitting super puberty. He runs into a closet crying. He can hear the kids make fun of how weird he is. His mother comes to get him and gives a speech about 'pretending the world's an island'. Nothing about this speech feels natural. It works in a trailer but feels really stupid in the film. It's trying to create a moment but that's not how Moms talk to young kids when they're just scared...even super kids. That analogy comes out of nowhere and it's basically the writing equivalent of masturbating. He just thinks it's too clever to let it go.
Flashback 2. He is a little older. A bus crashes off a bridge and he pushes it and all the children to safety. One of the mother's of the rescued kids tells the Kent's that their son is a gift from god. Pa Kent (played amazingly well by Kevin Costner) reveals to the young Clark about how they found him in a capsule that fell to earth and as cheesy as it sounds Costner delivers ever line he is given with weight and gravitas that makes me feel warm inside. He feels like a real Dad. For me he is one of the strongest things this movie has going for it.
There are several other flashbacks where he holds back from bullies which is cool and one I'll mention later. But Costner is the glue in all these sequences, given those same lines we hear and are conditioned to hear in every Superhero film from either Alfred, Pa Kent, Jarvis, or Aunt Mae, Costner delivers them better than anyone else I can think of in the superhero genre as of late.
The Lois Plot:
Clark is now in the arctic working with a team that's trying to pull something out of the ice. (A several thousand year old Kryptonian space ship) and this scene introduces Lois. Who is a feisty great reporter (Here in this moment in this scene I believe Amy Adams is "Lois" and gets the character.) Well she snoops into the ice after being ill advised to and finds Clark just walking around in a nice thin shirt, Clark discovers that this is an old Kryptonian space ship and finds the hologram of his true father and learns his true name. Then Lois is attacked by a robot and he cauterizes the wound with his laser vision and sets her away and flies away. Then Lois asks to run an article about the mysterious alien through Perry White (Played Lawrence Fishburne), who I kinda like.
So Perry laughs at the Alien article and says no one will believe it but if they do how will it affect the world (which is horrible naive in this day of media people post all sorts of crazy articles and no one believes them) and let's be honest at this moment Lois switches from being Lois to being this woman personality wise. The whole VO about how she must have seen something feels so derivative of Scully's final words in numerous X-Files episodes I can't escape it. But maybe I just figured that myself cause Lois I always thought was more skeptical and grounded but than again Dana is too, it just felt too um...off for me. That's she's buying into alien beings way too easy. And the tone of the the introduction of Zod feels that way too, like why isn't their rioting the moment an alien announces his presence to earth? This isn't the Marvel Universe where these kinda things are common occurrence and this is trying to be more realistic than other comic book films, so why not a realistic reaction to that sort of thing. Everyone just seems to placidly accept it. Where's my panic dammit! Oh their it is. (Yes I made a "Widespread Panic" joke in my Superman review.)
So anyways Lois tracks him down and prints his story to a Conspiracy Theory website and gives her story to a guy named Woodburn. Which stuck out to me cause it seemed like a reference, like a little writer's inside joke. I wonder if the movie picked this release date cause it's only a week from the Watergate scandal 41 years ago. (June 17th 1972) (I doubt it I'm just being silly now.) Anyways blah blah blah, Lois tracks him through a series of flash cuts to Pa Kent's grave, flashback blah blah blah Kevin Costner dies in a ...
Wait, now their is a scene of note that probably divided the audiences. Pa Kent's death.
Yes a tornado hits Kansas (as one does) in the middle of traffic and they evacuate their car but OH NO the family dog is trapped in the car. Clark is older than the kid (played by Henry playing a younger version of himself later in the film), he's younger for sure I'd say about 17 - 18 he's suppose to be he has a typical movie dad argument, that I actually believe, it feels very natural. Anyways tornado hits, and Clark knows he can easily get the dog, but their are people around who will see his Super nature so Pa volunteers to get the dog, get's trapped and lets the hurricane take him away flagging his son down asking him not to save him, not to show off again. That's part of the theme of the child Superman's storyline to keep his alien half a secret. The father's trying to keep him safe from the harm of men...and you know what. I LOVE this scene. (Despite the dog is an old cliche.) It shows a character moment between a father and son and that he trusted his father and it was more powerful to show him wait as a character moment than to show him do something 'cool and super' in that moment and screw all the haters cause that scene needed to happen in one way or another.
Anyways, I'm getting bored with explaining the rest of this Independence Day derivative plot. Zod asks for Superman to surrender, he does, flies up to to their space station, they change the atmosphere, he's weaker, crappy dialog, backstory and exposition. Amy Adam's meets Russell Crowe's hologram who leads her out on an escape pod (which gets dinged up on the way into the atmosphere) so the Russell Crowe hologram tells him he can save them...save them all. So he actually picks up her escape pod as it's falling and flies her sensually to safety. A cool little action sequence for sure.
Anyways a dream sequence that's kinda cool but the trailers use shots from it that made me think it wasn't a dream . . . aka the pic below.
Explains that Zod will use the 'World Engine' a device Kryptonian's use to change planets atmophere to acclimate to Kryptons...cause they can't wear that silly armor all the time. oh wait sorry that's from "Prometheus"
Okay that's Zod's armor. (It's better than this ridiculous looking armor *Zod's armor from the comics.)
Anyways blah blah blah Zod argues with holograms, blah blah, Superman tests his powers and fights other Kryptonians, like sexy mic fem fatal.
Sexy role playing, I'll be the Superman and you'll be the Kryptonian woman, it's time for a super spanking...anyways...she and some other grunt worker kick Superman's ass for a little bit but she's actually more of a badass than Zod. Zod starts freaking out when part of his helmet rips off. (I think this scene actually came earlier but seriously after they get on the space ship the 3rd act is blur, until the very end.)
Anyways the next like hour or 45 minutes of the movie is nonstop fighting, maybe some plot happens during this, maybe it doesn't. But whatever who cares. Anyways, eventually Superman takes out the 'world engine' it weakens him a little, as an atmospheric generator would anyone. Blah blah blah Zod get's acclimated 'finally' for a general he's been bitchy most of this movie. But not too much. So Zod and Superman have their heroic collateral damage fight scene that Superman fans have been waiting for. And it's pretty good well it would be pretty good if they didn't already show off their flying through walls tracking shot effects for 30 minutes previous but visually it's pretty impressive, it moves around a lot though but they're Super people realistically that's how they would move. I know some people hated it but I loved it but it's one of those cool effects I wish they would hold back for special dramatic moments, I think they definitely overused it and it lost it's luster. You can't show your monster too much and you can't overuse a good special effect cause it just felt like it was the only trick the movie had in it's arsenal to show off his Superness and there are other things he can do.
So sorry cool line moment paraphrased 'I trained my whole life to be a solider, where did you train...on a farm!'
Anyways he eventually corners Zod in like a Central Station type place and chockholds him. As Zod declares 'it ends only one way, I die or your do'...So Superman SNAPS HIS *((*&(*&@* neck in half...and IT'S AWESOME. No it filled me with a sense of awe yeah. And some people hate this. Clearly these people only know of the character from just Christopher Reeves and aren't familiar with
Or the fact that this character isn't as predictable and rigid as "Superman doesn't kill" that's horribly juvenile to think a hero in these stakes shouldn't or bandaid him with such a blanket statement. The character needed this moment. Because if he just fought a robot who gives a crap. This character needed this moment he had to make an adult choice for his race or the race that adopted him that didn't even like him at first. And sorry for all the haters but I don't think you understood this character clearly. Obviously he was deeply conflicted.
He's Superman not Super Guy...and this was a man descision. It needed to be their. Also screw you Superhero purists Michael Keaton's Batman murders 2 people (Light's a man in a devil costume on fire in "Batman Returns" and he throws Joker's henchmen off a building in "Batman", Batman doesn't kill, yeah right...also anyone remember the ending of Superman II? THOSE KRYPTONIANS LOST THEIR POWERS, THEY'RE ALL DEAD!!! They're not less dead because this movie is more tongue and cheek. It's just less of a dramatic moment.)
Read "Kingdom Come" if you want my idea of what make's Superman great. It's sincerely one of the very best graphic novels ever written at least for a fan of Superheros.
Okay there are two buttons on the end of the movie 1 is kinda cool the other is total fan service and lame. Superman throws a satellite dish at the grumpy general established earlier to be like a skeptic and says 'Hey I'm not going to let you see where I hang my cape'. A cool little confrontation ruined by a girl saying 'he's kinda hot' her blushing was enough, she didn't need to say what was clearly obvious. Also you should never tell your audience how to feel about a character you should show the character and they'll make up their minds. Maybe their are exceptions the line just felt unnecessary and awkward.
The other button is he joins the Daily Planet and puts on his glasses...and I bet throughout the entire movie you DIDN'T EVEN MISS IT. I know I certainly didn't. I never missed him working at the Daily Planet, it's an obvious distraction that leads to such questions as...um why doesn't anyone notice him. That is one thing this movie got right. And yes their is absolutely no mention of Kryptonite in this movie.
PLUS'S and MINUS'S of this movie:
1.) Dialog is forced and awkward in most instances.
2.) The pacing is uneven and smoothens out a little but never crescendos to a classic movie moment.
3.) They misuse the score...it's peppered in their yes, but it never pulses to create that perfect movie moment.
4.) They overplay their action set peaces. They should have paused a hell of a lot more for dramatic character moments in the third act.
5.) I think his flying training sequence is dumb. I warmed up the second time, but that sequence would have been the perfect time to incorporate a great musical theme to accompany it.
6.) HOW DOES HE GET THE COSTUME? I MEAN IT MYSTERIOUSLY APPEARS I KNOW IT'S A LITTLE THING? BUT SERIOUSLY THIS BUGS ME IT LOOKS NOTHING ELSE LIKE KRYPTONIAN ARMOR SO WHY IS IT LIKE THAT? IT JUST MAGICALLY APPEARS IN HIS SHIP?
7.) Zod's kinda a bitch. Until the third act. (Which is good I like that final fight scene...but he doesn't really fight or act like a badass until then. It's a little thing that doesn't really bug me all too much but worth a note.)
8.) The Kryptonian's designs, and that's just a personal aethstetic thing, the armor looks cool but the rest of their technology looks rather generic from a design standpoint. It doesn't really pop. It's like stock sci fi design.
9.) Cliche scene set pieces, like the dog and the kissing scene, and a lot of the structure of the film. I wasn't really surprised too many times. It's a typical formulaic Superhero structure with a few things done differently.
Things I liked:
1.) Kevin Costner is great.
2.) Russell Crowe's hologram scene with Lois is light hearted and fun.
3.) The emotionality and depth they tried to put into this character.
4.) The action looks amazing, although it is overplayed.
5.) The score, yeah they don't use it well in the film but I bought the soundtrack and it's fantastic.
6.) Zod's death and final fight has some true emotionality and worldly stakes to it.
Everyone has their own idea of what this character should be, that's why every nuance of this film has already been picked apart. You shouldn't go into thinking of 'what you'd like to see' but merely examine what is their. But this film I still felt lacked poetry, operatic nuances, and true dramatic gravitas. I think the film's editor and of course director are to blame. I think enough of the elements are their to be milked. I'm hoping their is a sequel and I'm hoping the sequel is written with that and with cute little dramatic winks like Reeve's had winking to the camera. But not too many. It's not the 70's anymore. This was as said a base hit. A solid bunt. This is not a home run or grand slam. But in the first "Superman" with Christopher Reeve he rewinds the world...that's kind of dumb as hell. That's not a perfect movie. But it does have weight and light hearted humor which this film doesn't, not much of anyway, but should this film have? Maybe a little more than it did. It's not a fail, it's not a total loss, it's not a bad movie, it's just weak compared to what it could have been, what it should have been, and selfishly what I wanted it be. Tarantino has proved that two men talking in a room can be just as intense if not more so than all the explosions in the world. And I think this movie didn't need as much action as it had, it just needed some more great character moments. It had moments that took my breath away though but many more moments that made me yawn. Superman can be more than platitudes, exposition and character introductions...he deserves better.
Tonally however this movie kinda reminds me of . . . (at least in terms of sheer destruction and some framing choices.)
(Obviously "Akira" is a much better film.)
I still love this trailer. I wish the movie had as much weight as this trailer made me think it would.