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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Won’t you marry Me?

In an error of judgement worthy of Boris Johnson I got Ang the Soldier Solder boxed set for Christmas.  Downton Abbey for those of us who like a bit of rough, starts off with a badly realised version of Northern Ireland during the troubles and an IRA funeral – you know they’re IRA because everyone has a mullet.

Even though it’s 1991, the UK still looks like the worst part of the 1980s: huge hair, huge shoulder pads, huge telephones. In fact, the only thing that isn’t big is the production values.

But the scariest part of all isn’t even Ang’s incomprehensible desire for Robson and Jerome – the bastards who kept Unchained Melody in the charts, long after we’d gotten over Ghost.

No, it’s a very young Cersei Lannister playing a squaddie’s wife:

The future queen of Westeros representd
The future queen of Westeros

And she hasn’t. Aged. A year.

That’s some dark, dark magic.

 

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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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God does not build in straight lines

In 1974, Dan O’Bannon produced a science fiction comedy about a transport ship which ran into trouble with a sentient bomb. Dark Star was a critical and financial flop so O’Bannon’s revenge was to invade the nightmares of a generation with the Ridley Scott helmed Alien. Thirty-three years, five movies, four forests worth of comic books, umpteen video games and toys later and Scott has returned to play in the Alien universe once again.

Owing more to Nigel Kneale and Erich Von Däniken than Agatha Christie, Prometheus is as sprawling and ambitious as Alien was claustrophobic and intimate, and feels like those old 1950’s hard scifi epics of yesteryear. Unfortunately, while it’s entertaining and visually stunning, the increased sense of scale belies a lack of depth in the story.

There are several plotlines, each of which could be a movie in its own right: the Dänikenesque Engineers, the search for God and subsequent meditations on the nature of faith, the political machinations of a multi-planetary corporation, the creepy alien that just wants to be a real boy. But because we only get to play in the universe for just over two hours nothing can be followed up in a truly satisfying manner.  Just like The Chronicles of Riddick – opening up a universe does not always mean the stories can justify it.

And while the performances were perfect (especially Fassbender’s David), the sets beautiful, the sense of creeping terror in keeping with the tone of the original Alien, Prometheus still feels like a synthesis of old ideas none of which really gel.

Unlike the movie’s namesake, Scott has failed to steal fire from the Gods, ultimately giving us a very stylish adventure which lacks substance.

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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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2012 in Alternate History

2012
Image by drspam via Flickr

According to io9, it’s more than just the end of the world that we need to worry about for 2012.  Their predictions for this year include:

They missed out on a couple though:

  • Whitley Streiber (famous for being anally fingered by aliens) wrote about the boundaries between three parallel earths thinning in a parade of mental illness that would make David Icke blush;
  • Dan Brown’s apocalypse, which can only be preferable to reading any more of his dross;
  • Endless parkouring assassins jump around trying to give conspiracy theorists more to do than in any other year.

Still, it looks like the US isn’t going to get its first female president in time.

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Symphony: Even for Monkey Shaggers

Tom Baker has to be one of the biggest loons ever to act on British television:

One tortured soul I know who suffers from amazingly premature ejaculation — I mean so premature that he hasn’t got any children after eleven years of marriage — was told by the priest that it was probably a blessing in disguise. What a piece of advice to give to a poor sod who comes off at the sound of his wife’s car in the drive.

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Arachnowar

 

Patrick Farley
Image via Wikipedia

The Spiders is an online comic by Patrick Farley based in an alternate universe where the Afghan War was fought using mind-altering drugs and robotic technology. At first it seems like the usual war-time nonsense but as you get deeper in it raises some thought provoking points. The first three and a half parts have been finished and the author’s working on the final episode as we speak. Enjoy.

Via MetaFilter

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