Clash of the Titans

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice overcame terrible reviews to crush the box office over the weekend. If you believe the critics, it’s pretty much the worst movie of all time and if you like it in any capacity then you are a stupid pathetic excuse for a human being.

As usual, I feel that the critics have vastly overstated the movie’s badness. Batman V Superman is not a terrible movie, unfortunately, it is also not a particularly good one.

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Batman V Superman joins the ranks of Spider-Man 3, Iron Man 2, and Avengers: Age of Ultron as a vastly overcrowded superhero movie. It is the kind of movie that has so many things it needs to accomplish that it threatens to collapse under the weight of its many parts. It’s a sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, it introduces several iconic DC comics characters, it sets up future sequels and spin-offs, and on top of all that it still has to attempt to tell its own story.

As a result, it sometimes feels like the movie is going through the motions, checking off items on the list of things it needs to accomplish. This is really too bad, since this movie had so much potential, but the end result is a little disappointing.

I didn’t leave the theater feeling like my spirits were completely crushed. Instead I was left feeling vaguely unsatisfied, which is not a good thing given the movie’s two-and-a-half-hour running time.

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But at the same time, there were things about the movie that I liked. The opening scene, for example, is terrific. It presents the climactic city-levelling battle from Man of Steel from the perspective of the people on the ground, as Bruce Wayne rushes through the city, dodging falling debris as he attempts to reach one of his Wayne enterprises buildings. It conjures images of 9/11, and gives the movie a sense of real-world relevancy.

Unfortunately, this feeling doesn’t last for the entire movie, since it goes overboard by the end. This is exemplary of much of the rest of the movie: it has good ideas but doesn’t know what to do them, and ends up feeling like it’s going through that superhero-movie checklist.

For example, a lot of people on the Internet complained that the final battle in Man of Steel caused far too much collateral damage, and that Superman was irresponsible for allowing so much destruction to happen. The new movie runs with this idea, and presents some intriguing questions about what could happen if Superman’s godlike powers went unchecked. This does lead to a very bizarre dream sequence, where Bruce Wayne has this crazy nightmare of the end of the world that could happen if Superman turned evil, which involves black-clad Stormtroopers with Superman S-logos on their shoulders and weird winged creatures of some kind.

Wait, what? Yeah, it’s a weird scene. As soon as it started I knew it had to be a dream sequence of some kind, since there was no way that it could actually be happening. The scene contains some cool imagery but feels cheap, since you know from the start that it can’t be real, and it isn’t.

The movie was directed by Zack Snyder, who is a fantastic visual stylist but struggles with making the stories in his films as compelling as the visuals.

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Take Lex Luthor. Theoretically the main villain of the movie, I honestly could not figure out what his motivation was. Seriously, what was his deal? Why did he do anything that he did? Is he just a power-hungry, absurdly rich megalomaniac? Does he just like screwing with people? I dunno. He’s basically an evil Mark Zuckerberg.

And Jesse Eisenberg’s performance didn’t really help. I like Eisenberg, but I feel he was miscast in this role. Snyder’s direction to him must have been “be as quirky as possible,” because Eisenberg spends the entire movie trying to out-quirk both Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey. Eisenberg’s is a truly odd performance, full of so many strange little tics that you’re never sure what this dude is thinking. Normally I would be okay with that, I don’t mind a little ambiguity but in this case the weirdness of Eisenberg’s performance leaves the movie’s central villain feeling like an enigma.

Not every performance in the movie is quite so frustrating, however. Amy Adams is perfect as Lois Lane, Henry Cavill makes an appealing Superman, Laurence Fishburne is fun as Perry White (Clark and Lois’ boss at the Daily Planet) and Diane Lane as Superman’s earth-mom Martha Kent gives the movie some much needed warmth.

But we’ve seen these actors play these characters before. Let’s talk about the real elephant in the room: how is Ben Affleck as Batman? The internet exploded when his casting was announced, does he totally butcher it like stupid people on the internet said he would?

Well…no. No, he doesn’t. He’s fine. Not fantastic, but fine. He won’t make you forget Christian Bale any time soon, but he does solid work as the Dark Knight. Much of the inspiration for the film’s interpretation of Batman comes from Frank Miller’s 1986 graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, which is a personal favorite of mine. The Batsuit Batman wears and the armored Batsuit he uses to fight Superman look pretty much exactly the same as they do in that book, and there are a couple scenes from the book that are directly referenced in the film, which is cool to see as a comics nerd.

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Sadly, the movie muddles the Batman mythology. We see the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, and young Bruce falling into the Batcave, and that’s about all we get for Batman’s origin. This is fine, since the movie has so much other stuff to get through and there’s a good chance many viewers will be familiar with Batman’s origin if they’ve seen any of the previous Batman films.

But that’s not where the problems come in. The movie presents Batman as a grizzled crimefighting veteran, multiple references are made to how he’s been fighting crime for 20 years. But this doesn’t jibe for me. I can’t make it work with how everyone seems to view Batman in the movie: he still seems like a complete mystery to the inhabitants of both Gotham and Metropolis. If he’s been around for 20 years, how come nobody seems to know anything about him? Even the cops don’t seem to know what to make of him, and there’s no Commissioner Gordon in the movie to tell them otherwise.

I don’t know, maybe this is something that would become clearer to me on subsequent viewings. But on my first viewing, it seemed jumbled. I certainly didn’t hate the movie’s version of Batman, Affleck was pretty good and I also liked the various bat-vehicles on display. But trying to condense so much of the character’s history (there are also Joker and Robin references) into a fairly limited amount of screentime can’t help but feel rushed. I’m not saying the movie would have been better without Batman (blasphemy!) but it’s a movie that would not have suffered by getting rid of a subplot or two.

One thing the film does deliver on is the action. The centerpiece title fight between Bats and Supes delivers the awesomeness. It’s a satisfyingly brutal battle that delivers on the promise of the trailers, and it is undeniably thrilling to see these two iconic characters on screen together. Zack Snyder may be uneven as a director, but one area he really excels in is the action scenes. He is a very good action director, staging fast-paced and brutal fights that are easy to follow and exciting to watch. I absolutely loved the scene where Batman busts into a heavily-guarded warehouse and lays down some serious whuppins on about 20 henchmen. That scene alone is probably the best Batman fight scene ever put on film. As a hardcore Bat-fan, it was just about the best thing ever.

The movie climaxes with a rather silly battle against an ugly monster called Doomsday. If you are a comics fan you know what Doomsday is most famous for in the comics, but this film handles him poorly. Most of the time I like big monster fights, but in this case I thought the monster was just kind of…stupid. Doomsday is a big, ugly, stupid brute with no personality. The only reason he exists is so that Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman can have something to fight against that is stronger than they are individually, so they have to team up to defeat it. I understand that, but this movie doesn’t handle that idea nearly as well as the Avengers movies did.

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Part of what made the first Avengers movie so good was that it felt like a payoff. It had five movies of buildup leading up to it, so when it finally happened, it felt like a big deal. It felt like its own movie, and didn’t seem too concerned with setting up more sequels. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a clunky name for a clunky movie. It had all the necessary ingredients to be great, but instead has to settle for being merely okay. I didn’t hate it as many other people seem to, but I didn’t love it either.

And I forgot to even talk about Wonder Woman. She’s played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot from the Fast and Furious movies, who I thought was pretty good in the role. She shows up intermittently throughout the movie in her civilian guise and makes her actual appearance as Wonder Woman during the climactic battle. I liked Gadot but Wonder Woman’s inclusion in the movie felt like more sequel-baiting (she’s getting her own movie next year).

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It also bothers me that Batman kills people in this movie. He blows up several truckloads of henchmen and brands criminals with a bat symbol, and there is never any discussion about whether or not he is taking things too far. Alfred is in the movie, played by Jeremy Irons, but he is relegated more to tech support and his usual role as Batman’s moral compass is largely if not entirely absent.

Was I disappointed by this movie? Overall, yeah, I was. For me it’s not that it was completely terrible, it’s more that there was so much potential that the movie didn’t live up to, it can’t help but feel like a bit of a letdown.

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2013: The Year in Villainy

2014 is almost here, and with it, the yearly “Best-of” lists from all corners of the Interwebs. Best movies, best books, best TV shows, best Tuesdays, you name it. But we don’t really go for that sort of thing here at thezombieroom. Instead, we prefer to reflect on the year in all of its evil cinematic glory. Here then, in no particular order aside from the first two, are my favorite movie villains from 2013.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of ALL movie villains from 2013, just my favorites. Not included are any villains from movies I haven’t seen yet. Also, there may be SPOILERS.

Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness

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My favorite villain of the year was Khan, played so wonderfully by Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness. He was everything a classic movie villain should be: a smooth, suave, super-smart, creepy badass. It was a very good year for the Batch of Cumbers. He gave a great performance as Khan, and made him into a character you could feel sympathy for instead of just a two-dimensional bad guy. Even though it’s a character who’s appeared in other versions of Star Trek, Cumberbatch put his own spin on Khan, turning him into a guy you kind of felt sorry for (sort of), even as he was committing horrible acts of evil. It just didn’t get any better for cinematic villainy in 2013.

Kruger in Elysium

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Coming in at a very close second is Kruger, played by the wonderful Sharlto Copley. In addition to having an awesome name, Copley is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. I’ve only seen him in three films (District 9, The A-Team, and Elysium), but in those three films he’s shown he has a lot of range as an actor. The characters he plays in all three of those movies are completely different, but he makes all of them work. The character of Kruger in Elysium isn’t as multilayered as Khan in Star Trek, which is a little unfortunate. Not much explanation is given for his psychotic evil badness, so he is admittedly a bit two-dimensional in that respect. You could also argue that the lack of backstory for him makes him even creepier, but what is never in doubt is that holy crap is he scary. Copley turns him into the kind of character who scares the crap out of you, but at the same time his performance is so magnetic he steals every scene he’s in.

General Zod in Man of Steel

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Zod is a classic example of a bad guy who is 100% convinced that what he’s doing is right. He’s motivated, and he’s committed, and that makes him scary. Man of Steel was a controversial movie among superhero fans, I still stand behind it as a good movie, although some of its flaws have become more apparent to me. Michael Shannon’s performance as Zod, however, is not one of those flaws. Shannon gives an intense, crazy-eyed performance that makes Zod a formidable enemy for the Man of Steel. One of the problems I’ve had with Superman as a character is that it’s hard to be concerned about him when his survival is never in doubt because he’s so much more powerful than everyone else, but Zod turns that into a moot point. When the hero is as powerful as Superman, you need a villain who is just as powerful, and Zod fits that description nicely.

Viper and Silver Samurai in The Wolverine

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I really like The Wolverine. It got a mixed reception, but the more I watch it the more I like it. When I first saw the movie, I didn’t really like the character of Viper, I guess I didn’t get what her purpose was in the story. But on subsequent viewings, something clicked for me. She’s extremely creepy, especially in the face-peeling scene above. I also understood more how she fit into the story, so that helped.

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I am also a big fan of the Silver Samurai. He’s so fricking cool. There’s a plot twist involving him that I know turned some people off, which I can understand. But for me it worked. Two memorable villains in a movie that was, for me, the best X-Men related movie since X2, all the way back in 2003.

The Kaiju in Pacific Rim

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Guillermo Del Toro loves monsters. The monsters in Pacific Rim are of both the mechanical and biological kind, and they are all badass. They’re big, scary, and extremely powerful. The kaiju are the towering Godzilla-esque monstrosities that emerge from the sea to destroy us. Just look at that big dude up there. You don’t need me to tell you why he’s awesome. Del Toro’s monsters speak for themselves.

The Mandarin (sort of) in Iron Man 3

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Ok, so, everyone knows by now that Ben Kingsley’s character wasn’t actually the Mandarin, right? He was just a decoy and Guy Pearce was the real villain. It’s a weird plot twist, and (as with much of the plot of Iron Man 3) I’m not entirely sure where it came from. The reveal that Kingsley’s character was just a drunk, washed-up stage actor was kind of funny, even if it didn’t make much sense. Guy Pearce is a great actor who plays a great bad guy, even if his character’s motivation in Iron Man 3 also didn’t make much sense.

You know what? Let’s just move on.

The Zombies in World War Z

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This movie caused a bit of a furor among fans of the book when the first trailer was released, showing the movie’s unconventional take on the undead. This is another movie I like more with repeat viewings, and I think the filmmakers deserve credit for putting a new twist on the zombie-apocalypse subgenre, even though the movie’s zombies are pretty much the polar opposite of the book’s zombies. The movie and the book may share the same title, but I think they should each be taken on their own terms.

Space in Gravity

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This one is a bit existential, since the villain of this film wasn’t an actual physical entity. But was any other villain as relentlessly committed to killing its film’s protagonist as outer space was? Seriously, space really, REALLY wanted Sandra Bullock dead. Gravity is a harrowing 90 minutes, and makes you grateful to be standing on solid ground.

Owen Shaw in Fast and Furious 6

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Fast Five was a fun movie, but its villains were a bit boring. Drug cartel bosses and corrupt cops are boring. With Fast Six, they fixed that problem with Owen Shaw, a thoroughly dastardly fellow played by an actor I like named Luke Evans who always kinda reminds me of Orlando Bloom only, you know, manlier. He kidnaps the wife of one of the protagonists and runs over a bunch of civilians in a tank, so you know he’s not messing around. When you can hold your own in a fight with Vin Diesel and Dwayne “Samoan Thor” Johnson, your bad guy cred is pretty high in my opinion.

The Blanks in The World’s End

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The World’s End was my favorite movie of 2013, and its glowy-eyed robots were both funny and creepy, much like the villains in the previous two films of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright’s epic Cornetto Trilogy.

Butch Cavendish in The Lone Ranger

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The Lone Ranger was the weirdest movie I saw in 2013. The WTF factor of this movie was higher than both Iron Man 3 AND G.I. Joe Retaliation, which for me is really saying something. I still don’t know what to make of this movie, but one thing I do know is that William Fichtner gave a great performance as Butch Cavendish, the cannibalistic outlaw whose gruesome visage is way too scary for a kid’s movie.

Loki and Malekith in Thor: The Dark World

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Loki is a great character, he’s got to be one of the most charming villains around. He’s so popular that fans want him to get his own movie. Who knows if it’ll ever happen, but it would be fun to see. You can tell that Tom Hiddleston has a blast playing this character, and it’s not hard to see why. He has so much personality and is always fun to watch. You’re never quite sure what’s going on in that scheming head of his, and an unpredictable character is an interesting character.

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Malekith doesn’t have as much personality as Loki, but he’s still a badass villain with plenty of equally-badass henchmen, and he proves to be a formidable opponent for The Mighty Thor. You probably wouldn’t guess that he’s played by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, which is also pretty cool.

So there you have it, thezombieroom’s annual roundup of the cream of the crop in cinematic villainy. Who knows what dastardly evil awaits us in 2014?

Happy New Year, everyone!

Some Really Bad Movies

My moviegoing philosophy is to try to find something to like in every movie I watch. Here, in no particular order, are seven films that made that extremely difficult.

Torque

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Whenever I think about the worst movies I have ever seen, Torque is always one of the first that comes to mind. Talk about not being able to find anything to like in a movie. This movie isn’t even fun in a silly-action-movie, so-bad-it’s-good sort of way. It’s so bad it’s just really, really bad. It’s a braindead, plotless, terribly executed, mind-numbingly stupid Fast and Furious rip-off. Just watch this video and tell me that isn’t some of the stupidest crap you’ve ever seen. In the immortal words of Roger Ebert: “I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated it. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.” Ebert wasn’t writing about Torque, but he might as well have been.

The Core

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Why, Aaron Eckhart, why? You’re such a good actor, why do you keep making crappy movies? You were so good in The Dark Knight! I haven’t seen Olympus Has Fallen, but you’re a perfect choice to play a movie president! Hell, I’d vote for you in real life! You wouldn’t even have to have a platform! You could just say, “Hey, I’m Aaron Eckhart!” and I would say HELL YES and commit some kind of voter fraud on a massive scale to give you a couple million more votes! That’s how much I like you! But The Core is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen! You did your best to make it watchable, but even you couldn’t save this crapfest!

Please Aaron, I’m begging you.

Come back to us.

Please.

Stealth

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Speaking of Fast and Furious rip-offs, here’s the director of the original The Fast and The Furious film trying to rip off his own damn movie. Hey, let’s make FF again, but with PLANES!! Great idea, right?

No dude, it wasn’t.

It really wasn’t.

Batman and Robin

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Now here’s one that really, truly needs no introduction. This movie was so infamously bad that director Joel Schumacher freaking APOLOGIZED for how bad it was!! Bat-nipples!! Ice puns!! Everything in this movie was so inconceivably bad I have to use two exclamation points to express how bad it was!!

Perhaps even worse is that I loved this movie when I was a kid. It came out when I was ten so I think that says a lot about its target audience.

I was young and naïve!

Please don’t judge me too harshly.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

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This obviously isn’t even the actual movie poster, and yet it sums up so perfectly what this movie is all about.

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Whoops, where did that come from? Honestly, I have no idea.

I will defend the first Transformers movie, but Transformers 2 represents bloated Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking at its absolute worst. This and Batman and Robin are hands-down the two worst big-budget summer blockbusters I’ve ever seen. In both films, the characters are grating and obnoxious, the plots nonexistent, the action boring, the…

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Gah!! How does this keep happening??

What was I saying? I don’t even remember anymore. I hate Transformers 2 so much. Ebert called it “a horrible experience of unbearable length,” which couldn’t be more accurate.

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LEAVE ME ALONE MEGAN FOX!!

Miami Vice

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Getting a bit more serious for a second, it really pains me to put this one on here. Michael Mann is one of my favorite directors. Collateral in particular is one of my top-ten favorite films. Heat is a modern crime classic, and Mann’s adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day-Lewis is thoroughly epic. I even enjoyed Public Enemies, as flawed as it was. Miami Vice even has the distinction of being the first R-rated film I ever saw in a theater by myself, which makes it something of a milestone in my film-going career.

If only the movie itself were as memorable. I really couldn’t tell you anything at all about the plot, because there really wasn’t one. As good of a director as he is, Michael Mann’s main priority in this film seemed to have been to give every one of his main cast members multiple shower scenes. It’s just a boring-as-hell movie, which is really disappointing since it could have made for some good trashy fun. Instead it was just overly long, overly complicated, overly serious, and ultimately forgettable.

Sucker Punch

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Zack Snyder is one of the more polarizing directors working these days. The man has his share of strengths and weaknesses to be sure, but for the most part I’ve liked his movies well enough. His remake of Dawn of the Dead was actually pretty good as far as modern remakes of classic horror movies are concerned. 300 is something of a guilty pleasure and I thought Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen was about as good a film of that book as anyone could realistically be expected to make. I’ll even defend Man of Steel against its (surprisingly many) haters, but even I have to admit that HOLY CRAP SUCKER PUNCH WAS BAD.

The plot is utterly nonsensical in ways I don’t have time to explain here. The characters have stripper-sounding names like Baby Doll, Rocket, Amber, Blondie, and Sweet Pea. The action scenes admittedly look pretty cool, even if nothing in them makes any sense. Why are these stripper-sounding gals suddenly fighting dragons, robots, giant samurai, and World War I steampunk German zombie soldiers? Who the hell knows? Because Zack Snyder directed this movie with a part of his anatomy other than his brain, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, there are seven really, really bad movies. It’s my birthday today, and my gift to myself is that I don’t have to watch any of them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a (good) movie to…

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AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As American As It Gets

I didn’t use to like Superman.

I thought he was boring. I didn’t like his “kitchen sink” powers. It always seemed to me like having every kind of superpower was somehow cheating. I didn’t like how much of a goody-two-shoes he was. I get that he’s an American icon and everything, I just never found him very interesting.

But I have a somewhat newfound respect for Superman.

I think it started with Superman Returns.

I know, I know, it isn’t cool on the interwebs to admit that you actually liked Superman Returns, but I did. I liked it a lot. It’s not perfect, of course. It’s overlong, the plot is a bit hokey, and Kate Bosworth admittedly may not have been the best choice for Lois Lane. But I still found a lot to like about the movie. I thought it managed to be a very human story. I rooted for Superman the whole way through. It helped that Bryan Singer is a good director, and he directed the film with what I thought was a very genuine appreciation and care for its many iconic characters. Kevin Spacey was also great as Lex Luthor.

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Warner Bros. also does a really good series of DC comics animated films, many of which feature Batman and Superman.

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Like this one. Seriously, check these out. They’re all really good. Great voice acting and animation, lots of action, and fun stories, many of which are directly based on specific, well-known stories from the comics.

So I’m actually a fan of Superman now. And 2013 brings us Man of Steel, a megabudget remake or reboot or re-imagining or whatever they’re calling it these days. The success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy helped convince Warner Bros. to greenlight a new Superman project, with Nolan overseeing the film (he produced it and has a story credit). Zack Snyder, best known for his other comic-book adaptations 300 and Watchmen, was chosen to direct the film from a screenplay by David S. Goyer, who co-wrote all three of Nolan’s Batman films.

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Snyder is a somewhat polarizing director. Some people like him, some people hate him. His detractors argue that he’s all style over substance, preferring glossy visuals to telling a good story. I’m mostly a fan, since I liked 300 and Watchmen and his remake of the classic George Romero zombie flick Dawn of the Dead was also pretty solid, especially as far as horror remakes go. Though Snyder’s 2011 film Sucker Punch was really, really bad.

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Ugh, so bad.

Anyway, Man of Steel caused something of a stir when it was announced that British actor Henry Cavill had been chosen to play the most American of superheroes (aside from Captain America, anyway). One review I read of the movie described Cavill as “blue of eye and square of jaw”, which, as you can see from the poster above, is an apt description both of Cavill and the Man of Steel himself.

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Also he’s dating Gina Carano.

Snyder’s film also boasts an impressive cast, including Russell Crowe as Superman’s Kryptonian father Jor-El, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as his earth parents, Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor Perry White, and a perfectly-cast Amy Adams as Lois Lane.

The film is an origin story in the most literal sense, since it begins with nothing less than the birth of the Baby of Steel himself in the very first scene. There’s an extended prologue on Krypton, where we find out that Jor-El’s son is the first natural birth on Krypton in centuries. They grow babies or something, which was a little weird but whatever. We also discover that Krypton’s core is shutting down, which will lead to the planet’s destruction. Jor-El and his wife send their son blasting off to Earth in the middle of a coup led by Michael Shannon’s thoroughly evil General Zod, who is none-too-pleased with recent events. I won’t go into much more detail here since you should really go see the movie.

But it was an effective prologue, both for setting up the rest of the story and as an introduction to the world of the film. It also gives us some cool glimpses of Krypton itself, including some various Avatar-esque winged creatures and flying spacecraft. Jor-El’s Kryptonian battle-armor is also extremely cool.

This prologue also demonstrates two things about director Zack Snyder. Say what you will about his abilities as a storyteller, the man 1) has a hell of an eye for eye-popping visuals and 2) knows how to film a damn fight scene. I’ll talk more about the action later on, but suffice to say that this movie has some of the best comic-book style epic smackdowns between superpowered beings that I have ever seen in a movie.

After the prologue, we skip ahead to Clark Kent as an adult, he’s a drifter, trying to find his place in the world while knowing how different he is from everyone else. The film shows us flashbacks of his childhood and his discovery of his abilities when he was just a young boy in school. To me, these scenes really emphasized just how much of an outsider Clark really is. He didn’t really have many friends in school, everyone thought he was weird. We all think it would be awesome to have superpowers, and in some ways I’m sure it would, but it never really occurs to us how hard it would be to discover you have these abilities as a child growing up.

I also liked how the filmmakers explained certain elements of Superman that I had always found puzzling. Such as, if Superman can hear everything at once, how does he not get completely overwhelmed by it? How does he even have superpowers in the first place?

The film explains these things in a way I really liked. It shows how his mother, played very touchingly by Diane Lane, helped him focus by just listening to the sound of her voice. It’s not a very specific explanation as to how he learns to focus and control his abilities, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a very human explanation, showing how Jonathan and Martha Kent’s love for him helped him focus and really discover who he was.

It humanized Superman a lot to me, which is something I had had trouble with regarding Superman in the past, that he was so godlike he was hard to care about because nothing could hurt him. Man of Steel makes him vulnerable. Some would argue that Superman shouldn’t be vulnerable, but I really liked this take on the material. There weren’t a whole lot of scenes showing young Clark with Ma and Pa Kent, but what scenes there were I found moving. Snyder also doesn’t let these scenes slow the film down, but to me they lasted as long as they needed to.

Eventually, Clark discovers his Kryptonian heritage and General Zod reappears with a suitably nefarious plan for world domination. I won’t spoil the rest of the plot, but I found it very satisfying.

Man of Steel is in many ways a different take on the Superman mythology. There’s no Kryptonite, no Lex Luthor (although the name Lexcorp does appear on the sides of a few semi-trucks), not much Daily Planet, and no nerdy Clark Kent glasses (not until the end, anyway). But the film still tells a complete story in a way that honors the legacy of its iconic protagonist and his equally iconic supporting characters.

The acting is solid throughout, and Amy Adams is particularly good as Lois Lane, making Lois tough and likable without being annoying or overbearing (“What can I say, I get writer’s block if I’m not wearing a flak jacket,” she tells one soldier). She’s also smart. I mean, sure, she requires rescuing a few times, but never due to her doing something stupid. I hate it when screenwriters make characters do something dumb just to create drama, it always feels forced.

David S. Goyer wisely avoids this. He also gives the traditional Clark/Lois relationship a twist by (spoiler alert) having her discover who he is fairly early on in the film, which provides a fresh spin on the relationship between them, and also cleverly eliminates the pesky “how does Lois not know Clark is Superman” question.

And the action. Boy howdy, the action. One valid criticism of Superman Returns is that it didn’t have Superman really fighting anybody, which is mostly true. There were some good sort of “save the city” action scenes, but there weren’t really any super-powered beatdowns.

Well have no fear action fans, because Man of Steel delivers on that front and then some. If, like me, you’ve ever wondered what it would really look like if two (or more) superpowered beings just threw down and beat the holy hell out of each other, look no further. The epic battles in Man of Steel could have been lifted directly from the pages of a comic book.

The best way I can think of to describe the fights is to liken them to this fight scene from the Superman/Batman animated movie I pictured above. So take a few minutes to watch Superman and Darkseid beat the living crap out of each other. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Done? Okay, now picture that sort of thing, but in LIVE ACTION with REAL people getting tossed through REAL buildings and REAL stuff exploding all over the damn place, and you’ll have at least an inkling of what the superbattles in Man of Steel are like. Needless to say, the film’s special effects and overall visual presentation are top-notch throughout.

I’ve heard people say the film is too dark for a Superman movie. I disagree. Sure, it may be dark for a Superman movie, but to me that doesn’t really mean the film is dark per se. does that make sense? I dunno, I just think people complaining that it’s too dark are just looking for something to complain about. It’s nowhere near as dark as Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, though the influence of Nolan’s films is pretty apparent (you could call Man of Steel “Superman Begins” if you really wanted to).

The film has done better with viewers than it has with critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 56% approval rating (a “rotten” score despite being mostly positive) but if you peruse the user reviews on IMDb you will see a lot of ratings of 8/10, 9/10, and even 10/10.

In conclusion, see this damn movie. It’s another example of summer blockbuster escapism done right, and it and Star Trek Into Darkness are my two favorite films of the year so far.

“I grew up in Kansas, General,” Superman tells a skeptical army officer late in the film. “I’m as American as it gets.” You’ll be right there with him.

 Metropolis - Final

And you gotta love this retro poster.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.