Tag Archive: Zack Snyder


BVS-1It is no secret that I am not a fan of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, the first in Warner Bros. attempt at a DC Cinematic Universe (or the DC Extended Universe, as they appear to be calling it). It was a glum, poorly written, pretentious, and dumb attempt at dragging the icon of Superman into the 21st Century. It fared relatively well at the box-office but both fan and critical reception was divisive to say the least. It is for that reason that this ‘sequel’ to Man of Steel comes with a little added Caped Crusader. The decision to reboot Batman in only the second film of the Extended Universe must have been driven by the desire to reach bigger box-office numbers, and perhaps more favour with fans. Some may say that they were setting themselves up to fail, what with the widely beloved Nolan Trilogy still incredibly fresh in collective memory. As a result, the film hasn’t stormed the box-office as desired, what with a barrage of scathing reviews. Batman v Superman is as inelegant as blockbusters come, perhaps even more so than Man of Steel. But, to say it isn’t fun is to ignore aspects of what is possibly the strangest comic book movie to arrive in recent years.

With the arrival of Superman (Henry Cavill), the world has had to face up to the fact that mankind is not alone in the universe, and must also address who Superman is, what he stands for, and if he can be trusted. In the wake of the destruction in Metropolis caused by Superman’s battle with Zod, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who also practices vigilantism as the Batman in Gotham City, doesn’t believe the Son of Krypton can be left unchecked. With Batman keen to find a way to put the Man of Steel in his place, eccentric entrepreneur Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) sees an opportunity to pit the two together in order to rid the world of Superman for good (or something like that).BVS-2

BvS is a fundamentally flawed film, and that is largely down to a screenplay that fails to carve clear paths of motivations for its various characters found within (and boy, are there a lot of characters). It is an un-structured, cluttered, often aimless, loud, obnoxious mess. It is a collection of set-pieces, dream-sequences, Senate meetings and email correspondences that all amount in a film that while often difficult to follow, is not unlike reading a DC comic-book. Calling upon imagery from The Dark Knight Returns, the art of Alex Cross, story arcs of Dan Jurgens and further Frank Miller texts, this feels a great deal more like a comic book movie than Man of Steel, and in a way more so than The Dark Knight trilogy. It doesn’t entirely forgive it for its sloppy story-telling, but it gives it a relentless sense of pace and means that it is not afraid to get weird. And boy, does it get weird.

Much of the strangeness comes courtesy of Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. His performance belongs in an entirely different film, something that wouldn’t be amiss in a Joel Schumacher Bat-flick. His twitches and eccentricities cloud his agenda, but do make him a credible threat, as it is often hard to predict exactly what he’s going to do next. His motivation is murky as hell, and he is too far removed from Luthor in both the pages of the comics and previous screen incarnations, but he feels dangerous enough to pose a threat, and to push our heroes buttons to get them to rumble in the concrete jungle.

The two heroes themselves are something of a mixed bag. Let’s start with the good. Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman is a strong contender for being the best screen incarnation we have seen thus far. What about Bale, I hear you cry. Bale’s Wayne was infinitely more successful than his oft parodied Batman, complete with gruff growl, this Bat is made of much meaner stuff, and cuts a far more imposing figure than Bale ever did. The writing does let Affleck down, but he imbues both his Wayne and his Bat with a heap of regret that perhaps only a man with Affleck’s past could. The choreography attributed to this Bat is also a wonder to behold, as his brawler styling truly characterises him as one pissed-off vigilante who is way beyond the point of giving a shit about the lives of the scum of Gotham City. It is a controversial decision, but provides enough weight to suggest that this Batman is one with a history, and not a particularly colourful one. BVS-3

Superman is another matter. Cavill is once again given very little to do in a film which should have been his sequel. This is a Superman who seems to blatantly refuse to state his position in the world, for no good reason other than he’s a bit moody. One of the the biggest fundamental mistakes of this film is having both Batman and Superman as two characters who seem at odds with the world, and whose tactics at deploying justice are not too dissimilar, despite what the film may want you to think (they both kill people for chrissakes). The main reason these characters work well in a universe together is that their approaches to justice are so different, so when you have both of them being depressed individuals, the dynamic simply doesn’t work. This Superman becomes so passive through the course of this film that it is truly hard to invest in him as either a hero or a dubious figure. The actual bout between the two DC titans is well choreographed, but ultimately fails to work emotionally, as the motivations are unclear, with the factor that puts a stop to the fight coming across as hilarious rather an smart.

What truly hampers the film is its attempts to address the criticisms of Man of Steel and in its world-building, namely with attempting to draw threads for next year’s Justice League. The main criticisms of Man of Steel that it aims to address concern the amount of destruction and sheer number of civilian causalities that seemed to be entirely disregarded by the writers (and therefore by Superman). Its constant asides to acknowledge that a certain area is clear are often unintentionally hilarious, and in the end rather pointless as the final act simply descends into the same moronic, button-bashing action stylings that coloured most of Man of Steel. 

The Justice League set up is where the film is at its most lazy and its most laughable. While Wonder Woman, in the form of the beautiful but rather bland Gal Gadot, is present (complete with a rollicking theme), she is disappointingly very inconsequential to the proceedings, seemingly only present so that Bruce Wayne can send her an email containing video clips of other future Justice League members. What Marvel took their time to do over the course of five films, BvS attempts in an email, and it is just as lazy, dumb and uninspired as that sounds. BVS-4

BvS does seem to have weakened the DC Extended Universe more than it has strengthened it. While I enjoyed myself a darn sight more than I did in Man of Steel, there is no escaping that Snyder and co. still get a hell of a lot wrong. Snyder remains a strong visualist, but one who has a poor sense of judgement when it comes to character, while my hatred for David S. Goyer requires another post entirely. What we have here is a strange and disparate movie, one akin to dumping a bucket load of bouncy balls on a table top n the hope that some stay on the surface. It remains to be seen how DC’s future will pan out, and for the sake of the characters (most of whom I have a great deal of affection for), I hope this extended universe can be both critically and commercially successful. Guess we’re just going to have to be patient.

2/5- BvS is Blockbuster Cinema at its most unsophisticated, resulting in an un-intentionally hilarious, only occasionally inspired, yet never dull take on two pop culture icons. 

 

 

 

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manofsteel1Superman. To some, the quintessential superhero, the one that started it all. Approaching the grand old age of 80, Superman is a character who has not been shy to the big screen. In 1978, Richard Donner produced what is still held in regard as the benchmark comic-book movie; once again, Superman was the one to start it all, the first film to prove that a comic-book could work as a film if taken seriously, the key word on set being verisimilitude. That film was followed by a worthy sequel, but the cinematic history has since been in a constant state of flux. Spearheaded by Superman 2‘s care-taker director Richard Lester, Superman 3 was more of a slapstick comedy than a super-hero movies, losing that all important verisimilitude. The less said about the noble but horribly produced Quest for Peace the better. After years of aborted projects, with many worthy names attached, Superman did indeed return in Bryan Singer’s, err, Superman Returns. While lovingly homage-ing the Donner original, it lacked excitement, took the mythology too far and felt out of touch with the times. In the wake of Christopher Nolan’s success with the Batman trilogy, it was only a matter of time before Superman got a similar treatment. And here we have it. And after many years of abandoned projects and possible outcomes for this film, I only have one question for Warner Bros; is this really the best you could do?

It has taken me a great deal of time to bring myself to write this review. Partly because of being busy, but also because I simply cannot bring myself to admit how much of a disappointment it truly was. Adopting a somewhat muddled and pointless non-linear narrative, we are re-introduced to the origins of Superman, a la Goyer-Nolan, as we witness Jor-El (Russell Crowe) saving his newly born son from the destruction of their home planet of Krypton. Landing on Earth, the baby, Kal-El, is raised under the watchful eyes of John (Kevin man-of-steel-3Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), and grows up to become Clark Kent (Henry Cavill). Struggling with coming to terms with his other-worldly powers, Clark wonders the Earth looking for answers to his identity, to discover who he truly is, and fulfill the destiny Pa Kent always deemed he was meant for. He may get more than he bargained for however in the form of the arrival of General Zod (Michael Shannon), a fellow Kryptonian survivor, who with his fellow banished soldiers, has been searching the galaxy for the son of Jor-El in order to exact his furious revenge. In order to save the city of Metropolis, Clark must fulfill his destiny and become the one and only Superman.

Director Zack Synder starts proceedings in a suitably epic fashion on the planet Krypton. While not particularly original in design, this new Krypton feels much more organic and effectively establishes the more grounded aesthetic (even if I do miss the gloriously bright Krypton of the Donner-age). Russell Crowe also makes for a commanding presence, perhaps the only man in our day and age who can take on a role previously played by Marlon Brando and come out with a performance that is equally stirring and dignified. The opening also establishes Michael Shannon as a ferocious force as Zod. Yet, even in these, the film’s stronger moments, David S. Goyer’s dialogue brings the action crashing down hard. Filled with needless exposition and quite simply laughable statements (he makes Russell Crowe quote 300 for christ-sakes). And once it throws itself into the tiresome non-linear approach, Goyer’s script becomes increasingly poor and Snyder’s direction progressively more dull and moronic.

As the film builds to its ultimate climax, the progression to seeing Clark become Superman is constantly interrupted, destroying the chance of any momentum to be established (something Richard Donner did perfectly). Despite Kevin Costner’s sombre and affecting performance, the script once again lets his efforts down by ensuring that all his scenes are merely variations of exactly the same message. The character of John Kent also loses much of what he is supposed to symbolize in his death. John Kent is supposed to die from a heart attack, to demonstrate that Clark, despite his powers, cannot prevent death. Here, it seems that Snyder and Goyer just thought it’d be cool to have a tornado in their movie. The only reason the scene works on any emotional level is through the warmth and care Costner has put into his performance. man-of-steel-2

The final act must be said does gain momentum through the script losing the non-linear template. Yet the action comes to represent the moronic mindless action that should not be found in a movie that is striving to make audiences take Superman seriously again. With an over-abundance of whip pans and zooms, superfluous explosions and extreme over use of CGI reiterations of the characters involved, the action quickly becomes repetitive, unremarkable, and plain stupid. It is impossible to invest in a character who becomes a video-game avatar and punches other characters mindlessly with little coherence. Did you not listen to the criticisms nailed into the coffin that contains Sucker Punch Zachery!? Where Joss Whedon revolved the big climatic action in Avengers Assemble around the theme of unity and coming together, and he did so in a very coherent fashion. Man of Steel certainly takes a leaf out of the Michael Bay Action Handbook; loud, chaotic, and wholly mindless.

The cast of Man of Steel all suffer as a result of the script; Amy Adams Lois Lane is a poor shadow of the character but again, not the fault of the actress. The weakest link in the cast is, unfortunately, Mr. Henry Cavill. My fellow Channel Islander, while certainly physically impressive, only looks comfortable when he is in the chain-mail esque suit. His Clark is dull, laboured with incredibly heavy expositionary dialogue and reacting unconvincingly with most of his CGI surroundings. It is a shame, but with stronger direction (Snyder’s strength has never been with actors) I can imagine Cavill turning in a more assured and confident performance.  man-of-steel-4

As with most Zack Snyder movies, Man of Steel is certainly visually splendid; de-saturated somewhat, but with the potential to be very poetic and with a rather nice edge to it. There are some memorable images and Hans Zimmer’s score is absolutely fantastic, a real driving force, imbued with emotion, excitement and passion . He certainly knew what he was doing, but the film itself fails to strike a tone. It jumps from stupid summer blockbuster to the attempts to produce a deep existential look at a beloved superhero, but all it had to offer in respect to the latter was revealed to us in the trailer. What we are left with is a film that is completely disjointed; it has the elements there to produce a good movie, but none of them seemed to have fitted together. It does not leave one with a sense of excitement for what is to come in the DC Movie, if anything, it has left me with a sense of dread. We deserved better. Superman deserved better.

2/5- There is a good film in here somewhere, but it lacks the intelligence to allow it to thrive, with tonally uneven direction and a script weighed down with so much exposition that it could match a case of lead. A crushing disappointment.