Man of Steel: It’s not a Metaphor unless it’s the size of Mount Rushmore

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What is this thing you call, “subtle?”

 

In 1978 we were told that we’d believe a man can fly and Richard Donner not only delivered on that promise, but re-created a legend on the silver screen. It’s thirty-five years later and the only thing Zack Snyder makes us ask is, “Why?” Man of Steel is a joyless, obnoxious, and painfully artless mess that has no redeeming features at all.

The opening act takes place on a Krypton that looks like Liberace threw up and created a planet, which is still dying but also is embroiled in a civil war about how to save it. On the one side you have General Zod, played by the normally excellent (if ranine) Michael Shannon, who rants about racial purity and absolute power and, on the other,super-scientist Jor-El (Crowe murders another accent) who wants to save everyone through his son. Needless to say, Jor-El dies, his son is fired off to Earth, Zod and his gang loses and are sentenced to eternity in the Phantom Zone. This is where things go silly: they’re ferried off in what can only be described as penis pods. Sure, the Phantom Zone is daft enough, but Space Cocks?

Not the cock ship. Anything but the cock ship.
Not the cock ship. Anything but the cock ship.

 

Snyder must have been watching Paul Thomas Andersen movies all summer, because we then jump to pre-Superman Clark drifting about various dead-end jobs while he figures out who, what, and why he is, alternately saving some people and flashing back to a past that’s so much less than the original. With the help of a hidden Kryptonian ship, Crowe playing both Ghost Dad and the exposition fairy he becomes Superman in time for Zod to come back and threaten the Earth.

This is where any pretense of subtlety is thrown out the window: when Clark has a crisis and goes to talk to the local pastor about what he should do in the background is a stained glass window of Jesus the size of Mount Rushmore, because, you know, metaphor. Not to mention every time Supes takes off, he spreads his arms as if he’s on a crucifix. You can almost hear Snyder yelling, “Make the metaphor bigger or no-one will get it.”

"Really?  You think they'll get it now?"
“Really? You think they’ll get it now?”

 

Once he’s decided what to do, that’s the end of the movie really. What’s left is a ninety minute fight scene that’s louder than Michael Bay directing Brian Blessed in a thunderstorm and by the end I just wanted it to stop. Thank Clark I saw it in 2D – I imagine anyone coming out of the 3D screening will have migraines for weeks.

Where we once had Christopher Reeve’s easy charm matching Margo Kidder’s sassy Lois Lane, we now have abs, CGI, and Amy Adams playing a role that’s clearly beneath her. Gone are the villains with personality to be replaced by a monotonous Hitler analogue screaming nonsense about racial purity. In fact, everyone speaks in monotone soundbites and fortune cookies – I can only guess that it was so dull on set, they decided to have a William Shatner impersonation contest.

Zack Snyder doesn’t make movies; he makes moving storyboards which are all style and no feeling whatsoever and this is no exception. The only thing I left with was a profound sense of loss for Christopher Reeve. Time to toss in the Superman I Blu-ray and forget all about it.

Pass the tequila.
Pass the tequila.
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The no-longer tolling bell

Whenever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Whenever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there… I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build why, I’ll be there.

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (Chapter 28)

Ma Joad and Tom Joad discuss Tom's future.
Ma Joad and Tom Joad discuss Tom’s future. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The latest British Social Attitudes survey suggests the UK is becoming less charitable; looks like compassionate conservatism is here to stay.

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Feeling the Olympic Spirit

English: Congestion on the London Underground
English: Congestion on the London Underground (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s arrived. That doom-laden, apocalyptic, end-of-days event has hit London together with a million extra tourists, spectators, athletes, and entourages. We feared the Olympic lanes, we were told to consider staying at home for two weeks, maybe go on a holiday, take up walking or just plain get over it. But it’s great for the London and of course will be a moment to tell your grand-kids about when they take you out to dinner (as long as you don’t ask for chips).

Well the trains didn’t break down, the traffic kept moving, and the city looks more like the start of 28 Days Later than Soylent Green, so I’m glad to have shared my train with the one commuter in the whole of the south-east who wasn’t feeling a part of Team GB.

On a fairly empty Victoria Line train I managed to get a seat, while this paragon of British stoicism stood in the middle of the carriage. I usually get up before the train hits Oxford Circus to give me time to pull myself together because no-one needs to see me waddle around like the bastard offspring of Winnie the Pooh and Carroll’s White Rabbit, so I did, and it was slow, and there was room.  Cue a full-on charge from our Olympic champion, culminating in a body-check on this bear of very little brain.

“Carefull!” I tutted, wondering why what can only be a plain-clothes courier carrying a heart and lungs ready for transplant, judging by his desperate speed, is travelling by Tube.

“We all have to get off the train mate and you stood up too slowly.”

“That’s not a pushing offense last time I checked.”

“Well…” [and this sums up everything] “… you had a great old time sitting down, so shut up.”

“…”

What else could I do?  I avoided his vacant vacant gaze until the doors opened and when my new best friend thought it’d be fun to stand in my way, I barged and hit him with a bag that held an 800 page psychology text.

I hope the irony wasn’t lost on him.

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Why does the sun go on shining?

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.
The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve just been to see a movie about the extinction of all life on this fragile ball of rock and it was the most uplifting two hours I’ve spent in a cinema this year. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, begins with the announcement that a seventy mile wide asteroid (with the sinister name of Matilda) is going to collide with the Earth in three weeks and follows Steve Carell and Keira Knightley’s road trip as they try to get back to their respective long-lost love and family.

Lorene Scafaria’s second movie feels like the pretty sister to von Trier’s Melancholia, with the end of the world acting as a backdrop to what really matters, Carell, Knightley and a mutt called Sorry‘s search for what they need to get through the rest of their – foreshortened – lives.

SaFftEotW is a much more heartfelt and touching piece of work than Scarfaria’s previous movie, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, mainly because Steve Carell can bring a sense of pathos and charm to any role; I suspect he could reprise the role of Hitler in a remake of the now infamous Downfall and we’ll all lie down like Sorry and have our tummies scratched.

On top of that, a great collection of the funniest women (Oh, Connie Britton you’ll always be my Mrs. Coach) and men in Hollywood turn up to add colour to a perfectly realised end of days, not least of which is President Bartlett himself, who in less than ten minutes screen time almost manages to steel the entire film. I think Ang is starting to worry that my admiration for Martin Sheen (and Carell) is turning into something about which we need to have a conversation.

Go see Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll question your sexuality, but you won’t be bored.

Excuse me while I call my Mam.

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The Geek shall Inherit

In the UK only one of the six-hundred and fifty Members of Parliament has a scientific background. Homeopathy and chiropractic are available on the NHS, while effective and proven medicines are shunned. Our newspapers and television constantly report non-effective and dangerous practices as if they were fact. Even when they report on scientific work, scientists are misrepresented and used to score political points which leaves the public believing that there is no use in funding research any more. The UK is turning from a centre of excellence, a candle in the darkness, to a Thunderdome where ever-decreasing funds are fought for by our scientific community.

Enough, says Mark Henderson – the head of communications at the Wellcome Trust, and sets forward a manifesto to reclaim our culture of scientific inquiry and build a government where decisions are made based on evidence rather than fear, uncertainty and doubt.

In order to try to force our MPs to listen, Dave Watts pledged to send a copy of The Geek Manifesto to all MPs if enough volunteers stepped up to share the load and, oh boy, did they?  Not only that, Transworld Publishers donated 150 copies to make sure the pledge could be met.

My own copy is now on its way to Julian Huppert (MP for Cambridge), who certainly doesn’t need it but our own MP, Andrew Lansley, was the first to be snapped up. No surprise there. Let’s hope they read and act on it so the country doesn’t fall back into the dark ages.

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Just Trust Joss

Cabin and Woods
Cabin and Woods (Photo credit: DCZwick)

Remember the last time you saw a movie without knowing anything about it?  No, me neither – it’s impossible to see anything these days without having been subjected to a six-month long campaign of press junkets, teasers, trailers, and even teasers for the trailers.  The Internet has turned the wait for a new movie, book, or television series to come out into a gauntlet of neck-bearded, socially maladroit, anonymous sources rushing to gain whatever kudos they think exist for leaking story details on to the internet so that by the time you finally smack your £10 down on the counter you know everything that will happen. And that’s just Ain’t it Cool News.

Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt (2011) ran an experiment which measured the enjoyment of undergrads who read short stories that were either spoiled or unspoiled.  They found that, if the student was spoiled before the story, there was no impact on their enjoyment at all.  So the scientists tell you there’s no reason to spend all your life on internet lock-down until you’ve read the latest Harry Potter, finished Lost, or seen Prometheus.  However, where Joss Whedon‘s long awaited postmodern horror, Cabin in the Woods, is concerned SCIENCE IS WRONG!

You owe it to yourself, your children, and their children’s children to go see this movie without knowing anything more than this: it’s about five college students (including Thor himself) who go off to the woods for a weekend to blow off steam, then BAD STUFF HAPPENS.  Then very good stuff happens.  Trust Joss, he’s given us Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and soon Avengers Assemble (a silly name in the UK to avoid audiences expecting Honor Blackman and Patrick Macnee; as if they could fight crime at their age) so just go and be blown away by the best horror since…

…since…

…well, since ever.

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Ein kleiner Schritt für einen Menschen, ein riesiger Sprung für die Menschheit

Since Rare Exports, Troll Hunter, and Let the Right One In, Scandinavia has become the place to go for original genre pieces.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX2cS8wvQHI&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

Based on these opening four minutes, Iron Sky could be ready to join this Scandtheon. We’re in for a treat on the 20th of April.

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