Action without narrative – Man of Steel

Man of Steel - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Man of Steel – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Man of Steel (2013)

Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay and story), Christopher Nolan (story), Jerry Siegel (Superman created by), Joe Shuster (Superman created by)
Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon.

A good action film should have some great action sequences but there also should be a good story controlling the action. To have action just to show off a character’s abilities and special effects is not justification for action in a film, especially not a blockbuster. There have been lots of films that have done just that. They’ve also probably made a lot of money. But it doesn’t make them great films. It makes them bad films. With so many action films being pumped out each year it must be hard to compete and come up with new and exciting ideas for how to construct a good action film. With Marvel and DC Comics competing on the big screen there is a lot of speculation and comparison. After The Avengers making box office history last year and the Batman trilogy being a big success, Man of Steel was always going to be under scrutiny and highly produced. So why did it end up being so pathetically average?

The moment the film lost me was when Superman was trying to fly and smashed through a mountain. He could’ve missed it, hit the top of it, skidded along the side, but the movie makers decided that sending Clark Kent through the thing was the better option. And coming out the other side unscathed, yep that’s a way to win a human audience over. This was basically what the majority of the film was, unnecessary action sequences to show that Superman was indestructible and so was his enemy, so how do you defeat an indestructible enemy? Oh yes, you try to smash him into every building you’ve ever seen, because that’s really going to make a difference. It wasn’t that the film was bad, it was just that the action was so unnecessary that it detracted from the film.

Man of Steel takes a different kind of look at Superman’s story, his origins, and how he became the hero. It covers different ground than previous Superman films and gives Clark Kent a broader scope of character. Henry Cavill cannot be faulted for his performance as Kal-El (Clark Kent’s Kryptonian name) and Amy Adams brilliantly portrays the strong and determined investigative reporter Lois Lane. But their characters, the narrative development, and the character development are overlooked and the action takes first priority in the film. I expected more from the guys that brought us the Batman trilogy.

Man of Steel lacks substance. It lacks reality. It lacks faithfulness. If you looked simply at the narrative scenes and were able to re-cut the film so that the action was removed you’d have a far better film. This film is the perfect example of how big budgets can wreck beautiful films.

I feel a bit sad that I didn’t enjoy this film because deep down I really wanted to love it. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams were perfect on screen, and I’m usually a big fan of Christopher Nolan’s work, but Man of Steel is just one big indestructible disappointment.

2.8/5

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PTSD and the objectification of women – Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Iron Man 3 – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Iron Man 3 (2012)

Director: Shane Black
Writers: Drew Pearce (screenplay) & Shane Black (screenplay), Stan Lee (comic book) and Don Heck (comic book) and Larry Lieber (comic book) and Jack Kirby (comic book)
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley and Don Cheadle

Iron Man 3 was always going to have to compete with the success of Avengers and I for one was hoping it could live up to my incredibly high expectations. Avengers was my favourite film last year and after the bomb of a film that Iron Man 2 was I was hesitant to want to expect too much of this next instalment. But if there is one thing the Marvel Universe know how to do it is to rise to the challenge and defeat the bad guy of negative reviews. This film was incredible.

Iron Man 3 focuses on Tony Stark after the events of the Avengers film. Tony is back in his lofty life as a billionaire, play boy, philanthropist but is having troubles adjusting after saving the world by traveling through a portal into another part of the universe with a nuclear missile on his back and then falling back down to earth. And thank goodness they brought that up because if he had just gotten back on the horse after that film then he wouldn’t have been a man any more. He would be something other than the Iron Man we know and love.

Of course you have your psycho villain who wants to destroy the world again, now in the form of the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and the ever so helpful rival scientist mad man of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) who team up to create a formidable opponent. There are a few nice little twists to the villain which provide some good entertaining scenes, especially between Ben Kingsley and Robert Downey Jr. The expected epic battles, the near indestructible villain, and some very high tech special effects create a fast-paced and action packed ending.

But I want to talk about the middle of the film.

Tony Stark is stuck in Tennessee with a ruined suit and some kid who keeps triggering his newly discovered panic attacks. Now you would think that if Tony needed to find technology, computers, etc, then there would be a logical place to find these things, but the makers of this film have decided that a T.V. station van outside a beauty pagaent in the middle of winter when the ladies are in bikinis is completely logical. This scene infuriated me, as did the lack of any substantial female parts apart from Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). The reason it got to me was because comic hero films have an opportunity unlike most films to really portray all people equally awesome and with intelligence and substance, but Iron Man 3 has decided that there will be many scenes with skimpily clad ladies just standing around the men who do all the work and all the action. And I know what you’re probably thinking, “chill out! It’s just a film, it was just a small part of the film, there are strong women in the film like Pepper and Maya Hansen.” But it still bugs me and it is what I left the cinema thinking about. I want female characters I can look up to and aspire to be like. Pepper Potts is the typical damsel in distress for the majority of this film and yes Tony is a mess for most of it as well, showing the depth of character that we want. After Avengers I wanted more female leads, they started well and could have improved their rep even more, but alas it wasn’t so.

Okay, feminist rant over, now onto Tony’s PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of those things that I’ve never really experienced but seeing it on screen makes me happy that it is getting more publicity because so many war veterans suffer from it, as do those who have been through major trauma. Robert Downey Jr may not have got it bang on but Stark’s humour and flippancy are powerful contrasters for his panic attacks and especially with the kid beside him. You see Tony struggle and become powerless in his fight against the stress. The increased depth of character is something that really made this film for me. It’s balanced with the action and fits well in the plot line and pushes the character of Tony Stark to new levels.

All in all I loved this film. I will see it again and again and apart from that little issue of bikini clad women through the whole film, I really do think this is one fine comic book hero film.

4.6/5

Assemble and Flirt – The Avengers

The Avengers - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Avengers – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Avengers (2012)

Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon (screenplay), Zak Penn (story), and Joss Whedon (story), Stan Lee (comic book) & Jack Kirby (comic book)
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson

This movie could not have been more awesome if it had tried. I have raved and raved about this film to my friends and I’ve seen it multiple times at the cinema and will continue to go back for more. There is something about it that just works. I grew up watching action films with my brother and so have a bit of a love for comic book hero stories. This, however, is the first time that I’ve fallen in love with the evil dude as well as cheering on the good guys. I don’t know what Tom Hiddleston does to get into Loki’s head but he can keep doing it forever in my head. That man can play evil and you still want to take him home and introduce him to your mum, and he has the most wonderful smile. As well has the wonderfully evil Loki, Joss Whedon’s creation of the Avengers and his script are perfection for an action film. It has the crazy evil plot, the heroes fighting against one another which only makes them come together even more, it has humour, it has a hot Scarlett Johansen in a tight black lycra body suit, it has the best Hulk/Stark dynamic and it has the enigmatic Agent Coulson. There are so many moments in this film when I caught myself wriggling in my seat with a massive grin on my face thinking “THIS IS SO FREAKING GOOD!!!” and getting so excited about the film even as it was happening. Even now I get excited jitters about how incredibly good this film was. It’s hard to explain the euphoric feeling that The Avengers gives me. It’s like being a teenage girl in love with a crush and having them pay you a compliment, you go all gooey inside and can drift through the next week in a daze. That’s how the Avenger’s makes me feel, like a stupid, cupid-struck, teenage, fangirl… and it feels amazing.

If you don’t see this film you will be missing out on one of life’s great blessings. I want to thank Joss Whedon and Marvel for bringing together such an incredible cast, a good scriptwriter and director and for spending the big bucks to make this film all we could have ever asked for and more.