3 1/2 out of 5 Cookies
As an 8 year old in 1978 I vividly recall attending Superman with Christopher Reeve at my local theatre with a friend. We attended sans parents and, in fact, walked to the tiny local movie theatre, a single screen venue in a concrete rectangular building with a small popcorn counter. I also saw Star Wars and the Jeff Bridge’s version of King Kong in that uno-plex of long ago.
It was a different time to be sure. Not only did we walk to the movie theatre unaccompanied, but back then movie theatres played the same couple of movies all summer long, as opposed to these days when some entertainment news outlets already proclaimed Man of Steel a loser on Friday morning due to some less than stellar reviews during Thursday night’s screening. We live in a jaded time to be sure. A time when entertainment often seems like so much detritus and is rarely gazed upon thoughtfully, critically, or even as art. They are, in their lowest common denominator, seen as commodity, worth only as much as their opening weekend box office. So often movies seem chewed up and spit out before the flavor has even soaked in with the next item already being consumed mid-vomitus. Last week’s output already is considered hopelessly dated and 6 months ago is forever.
But, yeah, it was a different time. My pal and I walked to the theatre to see Superman and flew home – as literally as we could anyway. I recall running along the sidewalk, arms outstretched in Superman’s signature style pretending to fly. I also remember being sort of freaked out by Lois Lane’s death by earthquake – Margot Kidder being buried in gravel until it was filling her mouth.
Gravel: Its what’s for dinner.
A few years later, still a kid and highly susceptible to movie magic, Superman II came out. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the original could be topped, but here was Superman throwing around city buses with 3 bad guys with his same super powers. Some of these effects still hold up today as far as I’m concerned.
In short, as far as superheroes go, I’m a Superman kind of guy. But as far as that goes, I’ll be the first to admit that besides those two movies, Superman has never been done right. Superman III was a total wash and I don’t think I’ve seen it all the way through – ever. It’s not for lack of trying either. It just doesn’t keep my interest long enough to prevent me from giving up on it or falling asleep. Superman IV – The Quest For Peace, although certainly Chris Reeve had his heart in the right place when he produced this clunker, the movie is cheesecake and reminds me of everything that’s wrong with squeaky, clean Superman.
All of this preface is to explain that I have a certain personal history with Superman built firmly upon the opinions of my former 8 year old self. Opinions that, right or wrong, are unswayable because you just can’t fucking win against your 8 year old self.
Don’t you have a bill to go and pay? Leave the thinking to those who have time for it.
So when I heard about Man of Steel I was curious. Superman Returns was on par with Superman IV in my book: Cheesecake. A better looking cheesecake to be sure, but cheesecake none the less. In the superhero renaissance that has taken place in the last decade, there just was no place for the extra good good-guy. But Man of Steel, by its title alone, was going for something different. The very moniker was gone.
And when I heard Zack Snyder was directing? I was all in. I will be the first to admit that I am a Snyder fanboy. When I walked out of the Dawn of the Dead remake years ago, I noted his name, and he has yet to disappointment me. Whether you like his movies or not, the man has got a definitive style – and even his less than stellar projects like SuckerPunch have a visual flair to recommend them. His music sequences alone – check out the opening of the aforementioned SuckerPunch, or even better, the opening of Watchmen – are worth the price of admission.
Then the first stills started appearing across my internet feeds about a year and a half ago. A bearded Clark Kent who looked little like the nerd that Christopher Reeve created, and thankfully nothing like the milquetoast from Superman Returns. The supporting cast made my feeds – Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner. This thing kept looking better and better.
Everything was looking so good I decided to do something I’ve never done before. About six months ago I liked the Facebook page. My Facebook feed starting filling up with bullshit immediately. Links to this and that, promotions here and there, advertising sponsors left and right. None of this stuff was really all that informative or interesting, it was all just shill. After a few weeks I decided to unlike the Facebook page as it was having the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of getting more excited about the movie, I was rapidly becoming less excited about the movie. Despite my unliking of the page, several times a week their posts would still show up in my feed as sponsored content. I resented this terribly as with each succeeding post the little 8 year old inside was becoming more and more suspicious that Man of Steel wasn’t going to fill the Superman void that had been left since 1980.
Look, 60 Ways To Be An Asshole!
And so, Friday night, my 40-some year old self, informed by all the baggage of nostalgia herein described up to this point, drove to the 22 theatre multiplex with my son and took in Man of Steel in a full theatre. I will add, a theatre full of some others who must have also been informed by some edge of excitement, an air of fandom for Superman. How else to explain the whooping as the corporate logos danced across the opening, and clapping and cheering as the end credits came up.
My three and a half cookie review is as follows; This is less a Zack Snyder movie and seems to be more of a project that Snyder was hired to direct. A lot of the things I love about Snyder’s movies in general are not present here. There are no musical interludes or slo-mo sequences. That said, the Americana aspect most clearly seen in the Smallville sequences with Kevin Costner worked for me, and in fact, were the most interesting part of the movie for me. This is not the Superman of my childhood, but he is a Superman I can live with – and for the record, his inner conflicts worked for me. Basically, what didn’t work for me were the action sequences. Shaky cams and nonsensical blurring destroyed the sense of place in many of these portions and really seemed, in a word, lazy. It seems that Zack turned in his slo-mo card used so well in 300, for membership into the Michael Bay school of action wherein if you make it so they can’t see shit, they’ll think they saw some shit. Which just doesn’t work for me.
But you know what? It’s hard to talk about this movie without bringing in Christopher Nolan’s producing credit and his Batman pedigree. It was only in hindsight, after The Dark Knight, that I developed an appreciation for what Nolan brought to the table in Batman Begins. In short, Batman Begin was really just the first part of The Dark Knight. And so too do I hope it is with Man of Steel, that now, with the origin story out of the way, the real movie can begin.