Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Looking at Two Pop Culture Staples


By Eilis Flynn

Over our anniversary week, the hub and I went to see three movies. Since I was laid off, we haven’t been indulging in such expensive fripperies, but it was our anniversary week (29 years!), so we figured, heck, why not. Last week on Otherworld Diner, I looked at the first of these three movies, Iron Man 3, and why it just didn’t have the same charm and even, if you’ll pardon the term, magic of the previous two. And The Avengers, but since that movie made more than a billion dollars, it must have charmed a lot of people (or magicked them, but that’s another topic altogether). Today, I’m going to tell you why Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness also didn’t have quite the charm and (yeah yeah) magic that we were hoping for. It’s a good thing we had a good anniversary week, because otherwise, collectively they were three movies with serious flaws.

First of all, Man of Steel. The hub and I met through comic books, particularly from the source comic book company, so we have an emotional bond with Superman and his Supie family. But the previous Supie movie, Superman Returns (SR), was terrible. No way around it, it was terrible, terrible, terrible. I will never be able to look at Kevin Spacey or Parker Posey again, and let’s not mention Brandon Routh. (Seriously, let’s not. He was tolerable in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but I get a tic when I think about his performance in Superman Returns.) Man of Steel was much better. It still had pretty serious flaws, but one of them was not the casting of Henry Cavill, an Englishman best previously known for another costume drama, The Tudors. Cavill was (I assume) cast for his acting credits and not because he had some vague resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve, because he really made me believe that a man could fly. And be all Midwesterny super-heroey. (His line toward the end, when he comments that the American military wants to know “where I hang my cape,” must have been one that a native Brit had fun chewing on. And why not? You don’t get to use idioms like that in The Tudors!)(Then again, knowing Shakespeare’s tendency to come up with slang that has lasted through the centuries, maybe he invented that too. Anyway.)

So Henry Cavill was the bright spot. As a villain, Michael Shannon was good too. Except for the disappointing casting of Amy Adams as Lois Lane (better than Kate Bosworth, but still not very good), I couldn’t complain about the casting that much. Too bad they couldn’t bother to think about the script as much as they did the casting. I have a rating system that, instead of stars, uses “rewrites.” Great movies don’t require rewrites at all or very few, while bad movies need many. (Example: Superman Returns I rated a four to five rewrites. And that was kind. I also wanted to dump my stock. In fact, I think I did.) This was a movie that did fairly well in that regard: There were chunks that clearly needed rethinking—Jonathan Kent’s death was horribly orchestrated and frankly made no sense, for example. It was a bit that read as though it had been written by a video game junkie who hadn’t been allowed out of his room for a decade. The destruction and carnage of not one, but two cities/towns, had clearly been plopped down there by the same video game junkie who sat in front of the screen drooling and no longer had the higher mental capacity to come up with a more sophisticated scene. And the final solution for the villain? Sloppy, sloppy writing. So many better choices, but the drooling video game junkie can only come up with a poor one.

Then there’s Star Trek Into Darkness. Sigh. Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel were remarkable in their widespread carnage and destruction, and that seems to be the theme for the summer. While there are rough totals out there on the Internet about how much projected damage would have been caused in a real-life situation in both cases (if, of course, a super-humanoid had fallen to Earth and an insanely wealthy genius had built a computerized, sophisticated suit of armor), there can be no such projected damage for that caused in this latest Star Trek movie, being as it’s all set in the future. At first glance, the destruction on first glance is less, until you start thinking about the destruction caused across space. The first Trek movie by JJ Abrams had promise; for the most part I liked the casting, even though the script there had its own problems (including the equivalent of Dad giving Junior the keys to the Ferrari because he’d done an adequate job of washing it). This film wastes that potential, and it was clear that the drooling video game junkie was at it again. The battle scenes were less onerous and a bit shorter, but the logic was equally missing. (Benedict Cumberbatch must be the palest human being on Earth not actually suffering from albinism. No spoilers or anything, but the casting here, even though he is a wonderful actor, is just WRONG. And also: at one point he twists his lips in such a way that it became obvious to me that he had studied the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas cartoon. He IS the Grinch!)

Anyway, there are plot points that make it clear that rewrites have fallen by the wayside in favor of destruction and slapping in bits from the original Star Trek TV series, courtesy that same drooling video game junkie. Not to mention the Starfleet Academy uniforms reminded me of Nazi uniforms, which really was an uncomfortable realization. Was it Abrams making a point, or did he let that video game junkie drool on something he shouldn’t have?

All three movies had good points, and they all had bad ones. If nothing else, all three gave us hours of discussion over dinner. And after 29 years of marriage, that’s not such a bad thing!

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook (@EilisFlynnAuthor), Twitter (@eilisflynn), or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com. See these movies to make up your own mind! But keep an eye out for the drooling video game junkie.

3 comments:

  1. Well, a belated and much deserved Happy Anniversary. I'm a bit nervous now about seeing Man of Steel. I'm a big comic book fan as well, and try to watch every super hero movie. Most fall flat. I'm one of those who LOVED Superman Returns. I think it was that one, seems like it was real emotional with Superman and Lois parting on the roof or something. I liv 50 miles from the nearest movie theater so hub has to really be convinced to go - he says a movie costs about $60, lol. Of course he has to have drink, large popcorn and candy.

    Enjoyed reading your reviews. Very thorough and probably accurate. I've yet to see the last two Ironman(s) or Star Trek(s).

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