Saturday, June 15, 2013

Man of Steel

[NOTE: This isn't as much a review as it is a rant. This article does contain spoilers, so if you wish to experience Man of Steel with fresh eyes, come back later. Also, I'm pretty emotional and tired, so that may contribute to my opinions and the content of this post as well.]

In the 1990s, DC Comics developed a storyline in which a character named Doomsday would appear and kill the once-thought invincible Superman. Many fans viewed this as an unnecessary stunt to boost comics sales and met the event with heavy backlash. To some, "The Death of Superman" included concepts that outright insulted fans of the character. It is with a heavy heart I find that Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder's reintroduction of Superman into popular culture, has transgressed just as much.

Before I get into the meat of the subject and the commenters have a go at me, I should probably mention Man of Steel's positives. The all-star cast is great, and Henry Cavill plays an excellent Kal-El. Much of the Kryptonian architecture looks cool, and there's a few adjustments to the Superman mythos that lead to a more sensical story. Are those enough? Okay, cool.

There are plenty of complaints to be had with the film, so I won't get into all of them here. I especially won't mention the rampant product placement (like the indestructible Sears, the extended shots of IHOP, or the Uhaul trailer with the pricing listed on it). However, one area in particular stuck with me: The unnecessarily dark tone, and, by relation, Superman's utter disregard for life. About halfway through the film's bloated runtime, a large battle between Zod and his cronies and Superman commences. What happens from then on is... appalling.

For about an hour or so, the audience is pelted with imagery of countless citizens being crushed by buildings, caught in explosions, and tossed around like rag dolls. It's all done to raise the stakes and make the need for a hero all the more dire, but there's a problem: Superman never shows up to save them. So there I was, watching a sizzle reel of death and destruction, all of it shocking and none of it impacting anything. And the worst part? The onscreen hero doesn't even care. The concept of being unable to save everyone he encounters has always been a hurdle for the character of Superman; instead of Man of Steel leaping over it in a single bound, it just...avoids it. As a fan of not only this one but all other heroes, I found Superman's laissez faire approach to the death of innocents on display here sickening.

One could compare the film's battles in Smallville and Metropolis to the one found in last summer's The Avengers, in which New York City takes a major hit from an alien attack. A similar amount of destruction occurred in that film; but since the movie never actually showed people dying in the streets, the illusion that most if not everyone was saved was put out. As unrealistic as that was, I didn't mind - the heroes were successful and I wasn't left depressed.

Man of Steel brings a conclusion as oddly as it brought a climax. Superman has Zod in a headlock in a crowded train station. In a last-ditch effort to break Superman, Zod starts to aim his laser vision at an innocent family. Instead of putting his indestructible hand in front of the beam or simply moving Zod, Superman breaks his neck. It's done with the aim of showing that he had to test his morals to save those he cares about, but it all just feels uncomfortable.

I wouldn't recommend Man of Steel to any fans of the character. In fact, there's three groups of people I imagine would be downright offended by the film. The first is those like me: Not exactly fans of Superman, but fans of other heroes and those with enough respect for Superman that they know when he's been tampered with. The next would be those like my parents: They grew up with the lighthearted Christopher Reeve films, and this one's tone steps all over that. The last group hurts the most to me: The kids having their first experiences with a superhero. Costumes and comics shaped the majority of my childhood, and to think that such a gray and grim version of a classic role model is being distributed to those needing someone to look up to is simply unacceptable.

At the end of the day, Man of Steel doesn't make me angry. It only makes me sad. It makes me sad to see that such a classic and admirable character can be made out to have such a blatant disregard for his fellow man. If you ask me, the death of Superman isn't a tattered cape on a flagpole or a bloody "S" symbol, but rather what I saw earlier this evening. If there's a Justice League franchise to be built here, there's a lot of work that needs to be done.

I apologize if this article was a bit over the top and melodramatic. However, superheroes are a topic I tend to get riled up about. Also, if Snyder can be over the top and melodramatic, I don't see why I can't. Have a good night, everyone.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This Is The End Review: Spoiler, Everyone Dies

Have you ever seen a demon's wang? Did you want to? No? Well, if you sit in on This Is The End, this summer's high-profile comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, you'll see a couple. But if it's any consolation  you'll also see one of the funniest and enjoyable films of the year.

But really, you'll want one of these. You know, for the devil penises.
This Is The End exists to basically ask the question, "How would a group of comedians handle the apocalypse?" Interestingly, the film is self-aware, so the actors onscreen are portraying the...actors onscreen. As far as comedies go, this cast is pretty impressive. You have your essential group of Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson, with some supporting work from the likes of Emma Watson, Danny McBride, and Michael Cera, among others. With an ensemble of this caliber, I was a little worried that some actors would get more screentime or jokes than others; but luckily, each character plays well off each other, and no one feels slighted. It should be noted that much of the fun had while watching This Is The End comes from the self-deprecating humor of the actors' personalities and acting history. If you're usually pretty bitter about this group's work, the movie won't change your mind (But if you need a reason as to why people find Michael Cera funny, don't overlook his role here - he's awesome as a coked-up party boy).

Admittedly, Nick and Nora didn't have nearly enough Rihanna butt-smacking.
The film opens with Jay Baruchel meeting Seth Rogen for a weekend together in Los Angeles, the bane of Jay's existence. Seth drags Jay to a party at James Franco's house with Seth's new celebrity friends, where we find out how much Jay despises this crowd. So when he and Seth leave to get cigarettes, it's only natural that the end of the world swings into motion, and Jay is forced to survive with the very people he hates. As far as comedies go, this one gets...pretty dark, actually. There's enough gore, violence, and rape jokes to categorize this as a black comedy, if not a horror/comedy film.  Scott Pilgrim gets impaled, several people get run over by cars, and there's more than a couple decapitations. It's not for the faint of heart.

One thing I wasn't expecting to impress me as much as it did was the film's special effects. For a summer comedy, I thought I'd see some cheap green screen usage or some generic monster models. However, This Is The End features fully conceptualized creatures, and yeah, they have dongles. But impressive cast and special effects aside, the film is, at its core, very funny. There are great gags and riffs, the most memorable being a fight between Danny McBride and James Franco regarding McBrides "me time." If you look closely, you see even Seth Rogen unable to keep it together.

After seeing This Is The End, I'm anticipating a bit of controversy. Ironically, after several apocalypse movies over the past few years, this raunchy comedy is the first to reference the Biblical Judgment Day. Any sticklers who tend to be easily offended by media that messes with theology won't enjoy this particular movie. Much of what the film asserts as the "rules" of the apocalypse don't really align with what Christians believe. However, as a Christian myself, I can happily say that This Is The End never craps on religion. It only plays with it, and nothing winds up feeling offensive.

But I was cool with Dogma, so grain of salt and all that.
Potential whininess aside, This Is The End is well worth seeing. It's a fun time with a lot of great comedy thrown in, even if it gets a bit too dark for its own good at times. Most importantly, though, I can't say how relieved I am to see a truly enjoyable film. After a summer that's been laced with mediocrity (Star Trek, Now You See Me, After Earth, The Purge), This Is The End provides the amount of excitement we expect from summer movies but haven't actually received since Iron Man 3. Check it out as soon as possible, because we all know Man of Steel will be the only movie discussed after this weekend.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fanboys Must Die: It's Nothing Personal, Just Business

My goodness. Last night at their E3 press conference, whether by pure serendipity or a change in their model made that very afternoon, Sony executed the best possible business move against their Microsoft opponents. In response to the revelation that the Xbox One would not support used games or the lending of games to friends (at least not very well), would basically have to always be connected to the Internet, and would cost $500, Sony countered by saying the PlayStation 4 would treat used and lent games as consoles always have, would not require an online connection, and would cost about one hundred dollars cheaper, with a price tag of $400. As someone who was, to say the least, concerned about Microsoft's assertions, this sounds pretty freaking awesome.

Take note, douchebag.
Yet, I also got a little worried. I had played everything on a 360 this generation, so shouldn't I move onto a One next generation? After some minor deliberation, no, I don't think I should.

Through my time as an Xbox 360 owner, I guess I've unfortunately fallen into the "fanboy" realm, meaning I've closed myself off to anything not put out on or related to the 360. And this isn't an unusual occurrence. You can take a trip to that small corner of town called the Internet and see fanboyism everywhere, and for the weirdest of things.

You can also see sexy fanfiction about dinosaurs, but I won't tell you how to Internet.
However, once you remove my fanboy tendencies, Microsoft has given me no reason to stick onboard for the transition to the next generation. The price is high, none of the exclusives tickled my fancy, and, oh yeah, all that other garbage. Not even my library of 360 titles will keep me on the green side. Want to know what the Xbox One and PS4 have in common? Neither plays my 360 games.

Once you strip away the pageantry, you realize that Sony didn't "kill the Xbox One," and they didn't "bury Microsoft." They just made an impressive business decision, and it's enough to hook me. So if you're in the same boat as me, take a step back and see if, in terms of business, the Xbox One is something behind which you want to put your money. And if your a Sony person who's really interested in the One, do the same. Furthermore, feel free to be passionate about the system you buy. Just don't be petty, because you don't owe these manufacturers anything.

Have fun with the rest of E3. I suddenly have the urge to look up pictures of triceratops.