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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Superman The Movie Review

This is going to be a controversial review. I have not read the comics and I will not be judging this film on the comics or the comics on this film. I won't however be viewing it in complete objectivity. A man is the some of his memories, a reviewer even more so.

First lets tackle the elephant in the room: Superman's use of time travel.
I could very easily rip this to shreds. You probably know why. To time travel Superman spins the earth backwards. This would result in, at best, global confusion, at worst, earthquakes, tsunamis, massive death and destruction. To spin the Earth backwards, Superman flies through the atmosphere really fast, in the opposite direction to its spin, which would just be the most badass butterfly flapping its wings to create thousands of hurricanes. I could rage at this but to do so would be to ignore a few things.

Here's why the time travel works:

1. On Krypton, the Kryptonians talk about humanity and call themselves humans. This might be an interesting implication on the idea that just as the humans and Kryptonians evolved reasonably similar bodies despite the vastly different circumstances, so we might have evolved similar speech and names. This idea is however contradicted by the idea that when teaching Kal-el, the holographic Jor-el refers to knowing about many worlds and races, including what we humans call ourselves. It seems particularly odd that the Kryptonians would be so aware of what us primitives call ourselves and be so willing to acknowledge that when they themselves are called the same thing. It'd be like finding a bunch of monkeys in the Amazon calling themselves humans, you would want to refer to them as something different. Therefore the film is using a translation convention.

2. The timetravel is foreshadowed. Not only does Jor-el declare ominously that Kal-el is forbidden to interfere in human history several times but on Krypton while preparing to launch his son away from the planet, Jor-el talks about Einstein's Theory of Relativity, the only possible explanation for why it apparently takes Kal-el three years to reach Earth (confirmed by Lex Luther) yet Jor-el's hologram says he'll be dead by many thousands of years by the time Kal-el hears the message.

3. The film never bothers to explain anything as I'll talk about later.

4. There is enough time after Superman goes back in time and rescues Lois for him to leave a note for his past self to go back in time and rescue Lois even if his future self has done just that. We aren't watching the creating of a paradox, we're watching the creation of a stable ontological paradox, only it isn't really ontological since we're watching the beginning of it, even if in future timelines Superman was just given a note by his future self to go back in time and save Lois instead of deciding to go back in time after he'd found Lois dead.

5. Because of the above four points what actually happens is that Superman flies faster than the speed of light, using the slingshot effect to help achieve this, you know like in that Star Trek movie with the whales. Only because there's no convenient Vulcan to explain to the audience that Superman is going back in time, the Director decided to just show Superman flying in the opposite direction of Earth to alter its spin to show time travel because sometimes breaking the laws of physics is easier than writing exposition.

Right now that we've got that out of the way lets get into the meat of the review.

Superman is a fantastic actor, the way he manages to portray a punchable clumsy harmless buffoon is amazing and those glasses really do help. The over-sized glasses make his face look doughy and his eyes so small they're struggling to see. I'm not being facetious either, Christopher Reeve does a sterling performance but so does Superman in-universe.  Clark Kent is the person you'd least expect to be Superman and he's such a loser. I honestly wonder why Superman is willing to play such a dormouse in his secret identity. It's not even like Batman where the secret identity is just supposed to throw people off the scent. Superman's secret identity is supposed to be his private life, the life where he can relax, enjoy himself and fall in love. Yet he chooses to make Clark an un-charismatic bumbling klutz.

All the actors in Superman are amazing and I think I saw Ian Chesterton on Krypton. The effects are largely good too though I did not enjoy the dodgy cross fade between a falling Clark and a flying Superman. That was just wrong.

The biggest problem I have with the film is the script. I am fond of Joseph Campbell's theory of the Monomyth and the Hero of a Thousand Faces. I like the classic narrative arch of the hero from nowhere who through many trials earns the right to take on the big bad and save the day. It happens a lot in Superhero movies. Superman is one of the exceptions. It's not David versus Goliath, it's Goliath versus David. The super strong, nigh invulnerable champion versus quick witted, prepared, intelligent but otherwise completely outmatched new guy.

There is a reason you don't give the Doctor or Batman a gun unless they're really outmatched and that's  because they are so confident and have such a history that if they actually had a significant advantage there would be no conflict. Superman is what happens if you cybernised the Doctor or gave the Batman a healing factor. It's an interesting idea but it needs a villain who can turn the strengths into weaknesses, make nigh invulnerability a curse. Lex Luthor could be that villain and I do love his underdog spirit but Kryptonite is his greatest weakness as well as Superman's. It's basically a massive cheat to have something so powerful yet so vulnerable. A magic bullet to take out the hero and give the villains a chance but one that is harmless enough that all it takes is for the nearest person to pull the Kryptonite off him. If Lex wanted to kill Superman he should have found a way to fire him into a black hole or the heart of the sun.

Another problem with the writing, one that can't just be attributed to my own preference of story telling is that nothing is explained. Oh we get some info dump at the beginning but the closest we get to explanations about Superman's powers are that he's got dense molecules and gets his power from the sun. That's not good enough. His powers aren't even consistent, they handwave it by saying that Superman's still discovering his powers but he goes from being slightly better than Captain America to being able to turn back time just by flying. Which is just ridiculous by the way because it never mentions how he flies. If it's by utilizing the power of the sun then that is stupid because A. The only possible way the timetravel could work would be by flying faster than the speed of light so how the fuck is he still getting power and don't say he has reserves of energy because flying closer to the speed of light requires an exponential amount of energy the closer you get. And B. How is he utilizing this solar power? Is he farting a jetstream or something because I don't see any sign of propulsion.

I did not like this film. The acting was great, the cinematography was good and the effects were surprisingly good but the script makes me want to weep. And this is the Superman Origin Story that was deemed so good we're only just now getting a new one now? I just hope Christopher Nolan gives us some explanation of why the smug tight wearer with the retarded private life can defy the laws of physics.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Batman Review


Starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. This is what you get when you mix Batman Begins with the Dark Knight. A story about the two enemies. The emo rich kid that is Bruce Wayne and the insane mobster that is The Joker.

Better than Batman Begins but not as good The Dark Knight, Batman is the only Tim Burton thing I've seen and all the worse for it. Dark, dingy and downright panto in places. The film is slow at first and I really miss Michael Caine and Gary Oldman as Alfred and Jim Gordon. Surprisingly the one person I don't miss is Heath Ledger because while I found his portrayal as a diabolus ex machina interesting Jack Nicholson gives the Joker humanity, giving us his complete story. Michael Keaton has no chin but is otherwise better than Bale in every way.

Batman does the fantasy approach to the less mundane parts of the story with barely a lampshade to explain how Bruce Wayne has so many wonderful toys. This is very much a story where the audience is supposed to either be familiar with the comics or character or just generally be capable of working out that since Jack Napier works for Axis Chemicals and Bruce Wayne is rich enough to have a butler, that's how they get such wonderful toys. Part of me hates this since I do so love exposition but the assumption that the audience can connect the dots is marvelous in an age where fans pick apart lines of dialogue for hidden meanings that just aren't there.

My one major gripe with this film is how 80s it is. When the Joker and the gang raid the museum they look ridiculous in their baggy clothes, dancing to their boombox and dear god the rap music is atrocious. I wouldn't mind something by Eminem or even 50cent  but Prince just sounds like a whiny love struck fool.

Overall it's a good film but its time period lets it down.