Tag Archives: Man of Steel

Shazam! (2019)

Is the DCEU still a thing? Conceived as the answer to Marvel’s unfathomably successful Cinematic Universe, DC’s interconnected supertales never quite coalesced the way they were intended to. You could point to any number of reasons for this derailment: a lack of a Kevin Feige-type visionary at the helm, or a violent shift in tone from one movie to the next, or poor casting in crucial roles, or the general cart-before-the-horse nature in which this series was rushed into existence. Those are all blameworthy when considering the ineffectiveness of a franchise. But because each individual film in the DCEU — Man of Steel, Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Aquaman — is mighty flawed in a vacuum, I’m inclined to point to crappy, one-note villains as an unfortunate recurring theme which, if given proper TLC, might just right the DCEU ship.

Well, you’re saying, that sounds like a massive oversimplification. It is, probably, considering we’re now in an era so dominated by superhero movies that the more experimental outings are the most interesting ones. Deadpool, Logan and Into the Spider-Verse all have villain types we’ve seen before, but they still manage to break the mold. Exactly, you’re saying, and besides, I happen to like General Zod and some of the other DC villains. Granted, ascribing a matter of opinion as the sole reason for the failure of a billion-dollar film franchise could be a stretch. Definitely, you’re saying, and besides, aren’t you supposed to be talking about the new one instead of whining about the old ones?

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Film & TV News: March 18

News

  • It’s Batman Week on Motion State for several reasons, not least of which is because no self-respecting film criticism consortium would ever be caught dead hosting a Superman Week.
  • Zack Snyder will be tackling the first installment of the Justice League two-parter following Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and now he’s stated that he also wants to adapt…The Fountainhead? Will Howard Roark be the hero we deserve?
  • J.K. Simmons will be taking the role of Commissioner Gordon in that Justice League movie, presumably leaving behind any chance of him playing J. Jonah Jameson again. Gary Oldman’s got some big shoes…
  • In other Batman news, the animated Killing Joke released a teaser photo to mark the start of production. The exciting prospect of adapting Alan Moore‘s comic with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Bats and Joker is almost enough to wash away that nostalgia for the more endearing animation of Batman: The Animated Series in favor of the new style. Almost.

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Man of Steel (2013)

Okay: let’s get linear.

The critical conversation surrounding Man of Steel has always been only moderately interesting at best, founded largely on qualms with Superman’s less-than-super demeanor and with the Metropolis-leveling final act of the film. There are no shortage of detractors who do their detracting based solely on Zack Snyder’s position in the director’s chair, which, okay, fine. I saw Sucker Punch in theaters. I hear you.

But that’s neither here nor there. Of all the labels to slap on Man of Steel — laudations and/or criticisms — the one we’re concerned with today is that of Most Non-Linear Time-Jumpy Superman Movie Ever Made. Yes, a high achievement, to be sure.

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Escape from New York (1981)

Welcome to A Review of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, or: A History of the Cinematic Infodump.

As far as narrative exposition goes, the infodump is traditionally one of the more crass methods of conveying the ways in which the world of the film differs from the world of…the world. Here Is Everything You Need To Know, the infodump says before the film gets going. Preludes, prologues, epigraphs, whatever. Presumably, the more akin to “reality” a film pretends to be, the less exposition it should have — and, yeah, even though that’s definitely not always true, it’s science fiction and fantasy that demand large chunks of information be delivered as inconspicuously and efficiently as possible. That way we can get to enjoying the movie without wondering what the heck a Na’vi is, or a replicant, or why legions of Things That Aren’t Humans are fighting over this little gold ring, or why we should care about any of that at all.

Some films elect to disseminate the good stuff throughout the course of the film, like Inception or certain Star Wars installments (looking at you, midichlorians…I mean I’m not actually looking at you, because you’re so small, which I know because Qui-Gon told me mid-movie, but I’m looking in your direction). Escape from New York, the 1981 John Carpenter jaunt destined to become a cult classic and eventual ostensible subject of this very article, certainly has plenty of exposition peppered throughout the film in this fashion.

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Batman Returns (1992)

‘Tis the season! ‘Tis a time for merriment, gaiety, festivity, and a bunch of other synonyms! ‘Tis also a time in which box-office turnouts for fifth and sixth installments of Saw or Fast and Furious vastly outweigh those for fresh, original film — a time in which the popularity of one kind of movie seems almost contingent on the failure of the other. ‘Tis a good time for cynicism, evidently.

Batman Returns is a superhero sequel, obviously, but it’s not the kind of assembly-line movie that phrase conjures up today (it’s also a Christmas movie, hence my yuletide cheer). This isn’t an instantly forgettable Marvel sequel like Iron Man 2 or Thor: The Dark World, seemingly intent only on filling the space between Avengers team-ups. Returns, like Burton’s first Batman film, takes pride in originality even in the face of decades of established Bat-lore, flipping things upside down and ignoring long character histories and comic book arcs in favor of new things, for better or worse. So in Batman we discover that the Joker is the one who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne, not some nobody named Joe Chill; here in Returns, Penguin isn’t a respected sophisticate but instead a literal man-bird. Returns basically says f*ck you to so much of the Batman canon that it’s difficult to imagine it being released today without causing fanboydom to implode.

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The Big Sleep (1946)

Our Director Series on Robert Altman is partially responsible for a look at The Big Sleep, as the overlapping rapid-fire back-and-forth dialogue characteristic of Altman’s films was first characteristic of the films of Howard Hawks. Toss in the fact that the source material is by Raymond Chandler and the fact that William Faulkner himself helped write the screenplay, and The Big Sleep is still one of the finest American film scripts ever committed to celluloid.

Private eye Philip Marlowe has appeared in a few films – notably portrayed by Elliott Gould in 1973’s The Long Goodbye (also Altman) and then by Robert Mitchum in both 1975 and 1978 – but Humphrey Bogart’s time in the role is the most valuable. He’s Marlowe in the way that Sean Connery is Bond: it’s not the only portrayal of the character…but yeah, it’s the only portrayal of the character. Marlowe’s investigation into a whole host of strange occurrences rolled out one after another, starting with the disappearance of one Sean Regan, provides the drive for the film. But one solution inevitably leads to two more problems in The Big Sleep, and there’s little hope of piecing everything together into a neat little answer to “so what actually happened?”

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