While it’s easily the best Superman film in the last 34 years, Man of Steel could put off some longer-term fans due to playing fast and loose with what they may be expecting. Which is particularly interesting coming from Zack Snyder, whose Watchmen movie suffered from trying to stick too closely to the source material.
The film constantly raises and subverts your expectations, and as a result, at times, feels like a sequel rather than a reboot, as it deals with storyline points you wouldn’t normally expect from a film that also has to act as an origin story.
As a result, the film hits the ground moving and barely stops for breath. Disconcertingly, this means that it feels partially like Casino Royale (in slowly establishing the important elements of the character, until we finally get the recognisable and complete character) and partially like Star Trek Into Darkness (in having lots of action, with not much time to let anything settle).
There are brave story choices here, which means that you’re going to have to drop your preconceptions of what you’re looking for from a Superman movie. This may well be partially a reaction to both Watchmen and Superman Returns, both of which were overly reverent.
It’s a film about trust and faith. Now, this is where it departs from this reviewer’s usual reasons for liking Superman. The main thing I like about Superman is that he aspires to be human. Clark Kent is someone he desperately wants to be, and he sees a potential in us to be more magnificent than he can ever be. This film doesn’t have that – he is repeatedly told as he’s growing up that he’s better and more important than the rest of us. But, the film pulls it off, by turning it into a theme where Kal El desperately wants to trust us, and for us to trust him. In the moments where this works, it works magnificently. At the moments where it doesn’t work, it feels like the tagline for the movie could be “Super-Jesus is here to save us!”. But it’s more the former than the latter.
This is due, in no small part, to Henry Cavill. He inhabits the role of Superman more completely than any actor has inhabited a superhero role since Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man. It’s also due to Zack Snyder, who has often felt like he was all about the visual over the heart, but here delivers a film with a solid emotional core. This is backed by Hans Zimmer’s score, which is generally beautiful, if possibly not quite iconic (although it may be a grower, much like his Batman scores).
This doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. Amy Adams is as watchable as ever, but she didn’t quite feel like Lois Lane. And this is important, considering that Lois Lane is one of the most iconic fictional women of the 20th Century, and not just in comic books. In early scenes, she’s tracking down this mysterious man, and it feels like, in an early draft, she was the viewpoint of the audience, and her journey would be our introduction to the character. But somewhere, it was decided that we needed to balance this with the origin of the character, which means that it doesn’t work quite as well. She’s good (it’s Amy Adams – you don’t need me to tell you that she’s good), but it didn’t feel like she lives and breathes the role quite as well as Cavill does.
Richard Schiff is, likewise, as watchable as ever, but he’s given a rather thankless role. The same with Laurence Fishbourne. In places, it feels like casting great actors has been used as a replacement for writing great characters. And be warned – you may get sick of Russell Crowe. He’s in it a lot.
Also, while there’s a scene that shows that buildings are being evacuated, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that, realistically, a lot of people die in this movie. A lot of people. Like, 9/11 level. And the film plays up that association. It’s uncomfortable at times, although it’s also fair to say that it doesn’t flinch from showing the devastation two super-powered beings fighting in a major city would cause.
If this is the start of the new DC movie universe, and if it is indeed the first step towards a Justice League movie, it’s an exciting one. Overall, it’s a bold movie which is exciting to watch, suprisingly dark in places, but centres around hope and love. It’s a fitting 75th birthday present to Superman – updating him, and allowing a lot of people to love him again.
Henry Cavill (“Immortals,” TV’s “The Tudors”) in the role of Clark Kent/Superman, under the direction of Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen”).
A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.
The film also stars four-time Oscar® nominee Amy Adams (“The Master”) as Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane, and Oscar® nominee Laurence Fishburne (“What’s Love Got to Do with It”) as her editor-in-chief, Perry White. Starring as Clark Kent’s adoptive parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent, are Oscar® nominee Diane Lane (“Unfaithful”) and Academy Award® winner Kevin Costner (“Dances with Wolves”).
Squaring off against the superhero are two other surviving Kryptonians, the villainous General Zod, played by Oscar® nominee Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road”), and Faora, Zod’s evil partner, played by Antje Traue (upcoming “The Seventh Son”). Also from Superman’s native Krypton are Lara Lor-Van, Superman’s mother, played by Ayelet Zurer (“Angels and Demons”), and Superman’s father, Jor-El, portrayed by Academy Award® winner Russell Crowe (“Gladiator”).
Rounding out the cast are Christopher Meloni (“42”) as U.S. military man Colonel Hardy, Harry Lennix (“State of Play”) as General Swanwick, Michael Kelly (“The Adjustment Bureau”) as Steve Lombard, and Richard Schiff (TV’s “The West Wing”) as Dr. Emil Hamilton.
“Man of Steel” is being produced by Charles Roven, Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Deborah Snyder. The screenplay was written by David S. Goyer from a story by Goyer & Nolan, based upon Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster and published by DC Entertainment. Thomas Tull, Lloyd Phillips and Jon Peters are serving as executive producers.
Zack Snyder’s behind-the-scenes team includes director of photography Amir Mokri (“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”); production designer Alex McDowell (“Watchmen”); editor David Brenner (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”); and multiple Academy Award®-winning costume designer James Acheson (“Restoration,” the “Spider-Man” films) and costume designer Michael Wilkinson (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 and 2,” “Watchmen,” “300”). The music is by Academy Award®-winning composer Hans Zimmer (“The Lion King,” “Inception”).
Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, and told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster “300,” this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh battlefield—on the sea—as Greek general Themistokles attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war. “300: Rise of an Empire” pits Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and Artemesia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.
Warner Bros. Picture presents and Legendary Pictures presents, a Cruel and Unusual Films/Mark Canton/Gianni Nunnari Production, “300: Rise of an Empire.” The action adventure stars Sullivan Stapleton (“Gangster Squad”) as Themistokles and Eva Green (“Dark Shadows,” “Casino Royale”) as Artemesia. Lena Headey reprises her starring role from “300” as the Spartan Queen, Gorgo; Hans Matheson (“Clash of the Titans”) stars as Aeskylos; and Rodrigo Santoro stars again as the Persian King, Xerxes.
The film is directed by Noam Murro, from a screenplay by Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad, based on the graphic novel Xerxes, by Frank Miller. It is produced by Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder and Bernie Goldmann. Thomas Tull, Frank Miller, Stephen Jones and Jon Jashni serve as executive producers
The creative filmmaking team includes director of photography Simon Duggan, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, editor Wyatt Smith and costume designer Alexandra Byrne. The music is composed by Federico Jusid
“300: Rise of an Empire” will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
Starring Sullivan Stapleton (“Animal Kingdom”), Eva Green (“Casino Royale”), Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”), Callan Mulvey (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Jack O’Connell (“Skins”), Rodrigo Santoro (“Love Actually”) and directed by Noam Murro, 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is the prequel to Zack Snyder’s 2006 comic book adaptation of Frank Miller’s historically inspired 300.
Unlike many others, I quite enjoy 3D movies at home. OK, so they are not as spectacular as when you go to see a well-made 3D movie at a well-appointed cinema (Avengers Assemble is the top 3D movie to date for me), but on a 50 inch LG 3D HD TV (wow, there?s a lot of initials!) in the company of good friends and with snacks and a drinky, 3D movies really can work well in the home. However, so far, I?ve struggled to find one that I would consider using as the go-to movie to show off the system to doubting Thomases. Avatar 3D is superb, but not quite the experience I thought it would be. Tron legacy is somewhat flat. Thor and Captain America look nice but the 3D action can be blurry. Only the animated films, such as Up, Toy Story 3 or Despicable Me really bring home the 3D bacon, and even then it doesn?t always make me think ?Wow!?
So, ?Legend of the Guardians?, drops in through the letter box, all lenticular covered and cheesey-looking owls, and I have no clue that this CGI movie is going to make my jaw drop. First off, this is a Zack Snyder movie, yes the man who splits opinion (personally I love 300 and Sucker Punch but hated Watchmen?for many others it is the other way around!) and is chock full of top antipodean (and UK) acting chops. The movie is fully CGI, no mish-mash of styles. And what animation?! This has to be THE definitive 3D movie experience for the home. A movie accessible and entertaining for kids and adults, never too twee, never too adult-themed. The animation is stunning, glorious, beautiful, unsurpassed. Honestly, I know I am laying it on thick, but this was a revelation for me. I love animated movies and have a massive collection of them, but Legend of the Guardians tops everything. The owls look sumptuous, the environments are eye-achingly wondrous, and the 3D is so well handled that you almost forget you are wearing those annoying glasses.
OK, let me tell you about the movie. It is a tale of two young owl brothers, one a realist the other a dreamer. They are kidnapped by some evil owls (stay with me on this) and forced to join an army of fascist owls who want to take over the owl world (keep up). The realist owl joins up, while the dreamer escapes (with a tiny female owl in tow) and tries to reach the legendary Guardians, good owls who legend tells defeated the evil ones once before. On the way he meets new owl chums, a mad prophet echidna and learns all about what it means to be a Guardian. Then there is a big owl battle with extra evil bats thrown in for good measure, some brother-on-brother owl fight action and a whole heap of touch-feely moralistic mumbo jumbo. Yup, it wins no prizes for originality or subtlety, but so what?! It is a fun, entertaining plot with funny characters, interesting locations and relevant ethics.
I will have to say it one more time, the 3D on this movie is exquisite. No blurring or jerkiness, none of the usual ?out of the screen? nonsense. Snyder & co have used the 3D to great effect and done so without gimmicks. The depth is impressive and the feeling of ?real world? works extremely well. The 3D pulls you in rather than sticking out at you. I will definitely be using this movie to show off 3D at home to friends and family.
The 3D Blu-ray package is good value, including the 3D and 2D Blu-ray editions plus a digital copy. There are plenty of extras including an ?explore the world of Ga?hoole? feature, the original bedtime story, music video, artwork galleries and a great documentary about real owls. All in all a great buy that will entertain just about anyone. For me, this is another success for Zack Snyder and his team. Great use of CGI in a way that is mesmerising and memorable. 5 out of 5.
See new addition, Sucker Punch Featurette, below the Sucker Punch Trailer
Sucker Punch is an epic action fantasy that takes us into the vivid imagination of a young girl whose dream world provides the ultimate escape from her darker reality. Unrestrained by the boundaries of time and place, she is free to go where her mind takes her, and her incredible adventures blur the lines between what?s real and what is imaginary.
She has been locked away against her will, but Babydoll (Emily Browning) has not lost her will to survive. Determined to fight for her freedom, she urges four other young girls?the outspoken Rocket (Jena Malone), the street-smart Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), the fiercely loyal Amber (Jamie Chung) and the reluctant Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish)?to band together and try to escape their terrible fate at the hands of their captors, Blue (Oscar Isaac), Madam Gorski (Carla Gugino) and the High Roller (Jon Hamm).
Led by Babydoll, the girls engage in fantastical warfare against everything from samurais to serpents, with a virtual arsenal at their disposal. Together, they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice in order to stay alive. But with the help of a Wise Man (Scott Glenn), their unbelievable journey?if they succeed?will set them free.
Born from the creative vision of filmmaker Zack Snyder (?Watchmen,? ?300?), Sucker Punch features an ensemble cast of young stars, including Emily Browning (?The Uninvited?), Abbie Cornish (?Bright Star?), Jena Malone (?Into the Wild?), Vanessa Hudgens (the ?High School Musical? films) and Jamie Chung (?Sorority Row?). The film?s main cast also includes Oscar Isaac (?Robin Hood?) and Carla Gugino (?Watchmen?), with Jon Hamm (?The Town,? TV?s ?Mad Men?) and Scott Glenn (?The Bourne Ultimatum?).
Whilst it can be said of pretty much any work of literature, WATCHMEN is a book that is defined by those that have read it and those that haven?t. To clarify, those that have read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon?s 1985 magnum opus (myself included) are typically fiercely in love with the piece, often to the point of obsession. Converts harp on about the intertwining narratives, the rich psychology of the characters ? the sheer depth and quality of the thing. As for the rest of the population, people who have no idea who Rorschach is or why it matters that the Comedian is dead, WATCHMEN, until recently, probably wasn?t even on the radar. You might have heard of it in passing, but that would be it.
With the arrival of Zack Snyder?s big budget rendering of the graphic novel, WATCHMEN has become front page news. People who didn?t before know about it now, thanks to posters, teasers and Smashing Pumpkins infused trailers that have flashed across global screens since THE DARK KNIGHT conquered the world in July. Meanwhile, devotees of the graphic novel either revel in the books newfound cool or get a knotted sense of fear in their stomachs, imagining their prised tome being mangled by corporate Hollywood. Suddenly, WATCHMEN is everywhere, and everyone seems to have some sort of opinion on the film. To all intents and purposes, the film has been subsumed into the mainstream before anyone has even seen it – which is fascinating, because the movie is arguably one of the least accessible, least straightforward blockbusters a major studio has ever put out.
Set in an alternate 1985 where now outlawed superheroes once kept the peace and Richard Nixon is enjoying a third term in the White House, WATCHMEN is a dense, visually rich picture that demands the viewer pays attention. In general, the casting is great – Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach, Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl and Jeffery Dean Morgan as the Comedian are pretty much bang on what their characters needed to be. Billy Crudup is suitably detached as Doctor Manhattan, but effects wise the character didn?t always hit the mark, oddly working far better close up than in long shot. When it counts however (in a pivotal scene on Mars, towards the end of the movie) Crudup?s acting coupled with the work of the special effects boys produce something truly brilliant. Malin Ackerman as Silk Spectre II and Matthew Goode as Ozymandias are certainly the weakest of the group, but still perfectly acceptable in their roles. Supporting players were equally as good, but the film loses credibility any time a character in old age make up appears on screen ? the prosthetic work on WATCHMEN is truly dire, rendering Richard Nixon – a minor, yet key character, difficult to take seriously. Luckily, these effects are not leant on too hard by the movie, and don?t take much away overall.
For the initiated viewer who has already read the book the first twenty to twenty five minutes of the movie are pretty much bang on perfect. The feel, history and story of the original text are replicated almost perfectly – I was grinning from ear to ear throughout the five minute long title sequence accompanied by Bob Dylan?s ?The Times They Are a- Changin??, enthused with the sense that Snyder had done the impossible and captured the essence of WATCHMEN and committed it to celluloid. The main source of enjoyment in the opening scenes was the overwhelming sense that WATCHMEN was being done right.
The extraordinary fealty to the original text marks this movie out from not just other comic book adaptations, but book to film adaptations in general. And, for the most part, WATCHMEN the film is unbelievably faithful to WATCHMEN the graphic novel. I say ?unbelievably? because there was no serious reason for the seasoned movie goer to suppose that a book of this complexity and depth would be put on screen so literally in a major studio movie. Zack Snyder has used possibly all the capital he had with 300 to get this movie made ? allegedly the studio wanted to cut out diversions to Mars and Antarctica, and go for a more simple, closed off ending. Snyder battled for the original ? and won. As a result, if you have a favourite scene from the book, it?s almost certain that it?s in here in some form. Crucially, Snyder has avoided the sense that he was just ?ticking the boxes? and getting favourite scenes in the right order. This was a problem that beset THE GOLDEN COMPASS ? a film where everything I loved in the book was there, but felt homogenised, flat and soulless. WATCHMEN largely follows the books structure, and events happen in a similar order as well, but the film has some kind of grungy, quasi-noirish feel and mood to it, a sense that Snyder doesn?t just want to rush to the next cool bit.
However, whilst I believe the film does have a mood and a feel to it ? WATCHMEN does lack a really strong, overall tone. It?s been noted elsewhere that for a film about Cold War paranoia, WATCHMEN lacks a sense of dread and fear, and whilst I didn?t really register this when I left the IMAX after seeing the movie, in retrospect it was a major element of the novel the film failed to translate onto the screen. The film looks gorgeous, the characters (to a large extent) are analogous to their two dimensional incarnations, but crucially, there is no strong sense of threat that ties everything together. The audience should feel the palpable fear of nuclear war, the graveyard stench that pervaded so many lives in the 1980s. Snyder battled to keep the period setting, yet strangely never gets close to using it to its full potential. Arguably this comes from the necessary pruning of supporting characters ? Rorschach?s psychiatrist, a New York news vendor and his young customer, a pair of bickering lesbian lovers ? characters that didn?t add to the overall plot, but elegantly constructed a mood of fear in relation to the mutually assured destruction of global nuclear war. They were normal people, scared shitless that they could be blown to bits in the next five minutes. And whilst their exorcism is perfectly understandable in the context of an already long film, it leaves WATCHMEN feeling a little toothless. I would argue that this question of tone is the reason so many reviewers have struggled to pin down their views on this movie. Struggling to identify the lack of a strong, overall tone is a nebulous, elusive thing to do, and working out what is wrong with WATCHMEN ? a film that broadly gets so much right ? is a hard thing to do, especially when that problem is an abstract feeling.
But potentially more problematic is the issue that, as a movie, in the conventional sense, WATCHMEN just doesn?t work. The movie is a quite literal rendering of the comic book on the big screen. The book employs a jumbled, twisting narrative, flashing backwards and forwards through time, wholly at odds with the traditional three act, single central storyline format we expect from modern cinema. To try and explain, I?ll try and use a metaphor – I?ve always compared the experience of reading WATCHMEN the graphic novel as something akin to walking down a busy street with market stalls on either side. Essentially you start at one end of the street and walk along it to the other end, but along the way you look at different stalls, sometimes turning back, sometimes moving ahead. Occasionally you might visit the same stall twice, approaching from a different direction, or sometimes you might miss a stall entirely. This approach is fine for a comic book ? you can afford to jumble the story when you can flip back a page or two to check things out. But a movie can?t work like that for obvious reasons. Returning to the street market analogy, the best, or at least the established way to tell a story on film is to start at one end of the street, progress forwards, get what you need from each stall, one after the other and reach the end of the road without moving forwards too quickly so you overlook something or tracking back on yourself and ruining your forward momentum.
A lack of momentum, a sense that one scene is a logical progression of the last, is a major issue in WATCHMEN, perhaps the major issue. Sticking so closely to the style of the source material means that the movie frequently stops dead, putting the central story (who killed the Comedian and why) on hold, stepping back and dealing with the back story of each of the key characters in turn. In a comic book, this works ? a graphic novel can drop in and out of the story as the need to get things over and done with in two and a bit hours isn?t an issue on the page. But elegiac, poetic portions of the book ? Doctor Manhattan on Mars for example ? feel in the movie like they are bloating an already busy story. Whilst Manhattan?s ?birth? is a fascinating, intellectual conceit, it seems extraneous, battling against the way we know a movie is supposed to work. The side-steps through time, the backwards and forwards storytelling, ends up weighing things down, rather than adding a sense of richness and quality that they did in the book.
Having said all that, I?m now going to completely contradict myself, as WATCHMEN?s greatest strength is how faithful it is to the book. Whilst it doesn?t work as a film in the typical sense, WATCHMEN is a great adaptation of an awe inspiring piece of literature. As a literal example of WATCHMEN the book ripped from the page and jammed onto the screen to see what sticks, an example of a film ignoring the conceits of mainstream storytelling because that?s not what the book does, this is great stuff. So much has been retained or hinted at from the original work that it can?t possibly be appreciated in a single sitting. The movie doesn?t always feel like the WATCHMEN readers know and love, but it definitely looks and sounds right ? indeed, the dialogue is often word for word from the novel. As a live action record of WATCHMEN, an attempt to stick closely to something revered by so many, this is a success. So I fully admit I contract myself when I say that whilst the scenes of Doctor Manhattan on Mars and the sheer number of flashbacks in general weigh things down, I wouldn?t want to see a version of WATCHMEN without them. For those of us who have read and re-read this masterpiece, going to see a film version without these elements is pretty much unthinkable. It?s a massive dichotomy and one that almost everyone who read the book and then saw the film experienced ? the film is too loyal to the book – but at the same time, I wouldn?t want it any other way. It?s notable that so many other reviews I?ve seen have a problem with the changed ending of the film ? pretty much the only major deviation from the source material in the whole movie. And yes, the new ending does jar, but frankly I would argue that?s because having settled into such a faithful adaptation for two and a half hours, a sudden move away from slavishly following the original shook me a little. Time and further viewings will be the judge of how well (or not) the new ending works.
Overall, WATCHMEN is as close, as faithful an adaptation of the graphic novel as you could hope to get. This is also its biggest problem, because slamming the shape and pacing of a graphic novel into the shape and pacing of a motion picture creates something that doesn?t sit properly in either camp. As something you sit down and watch for three hours, WATCHMEN doesn?t work. But any problems the movie has in terms of storytelling are also things I want to see from an adaptation of the book and would be furious if the film chopped out. Indeed, I?m planning on buying the longer, and no doubt more unruly cut of the film when it hits Blu-Ray later this year. It won?t work any better as a film, but I can?t help but want to see more of Zack Snyder?s wonderfully faithful, if flawed, take on a classic.
WATCHMEN has long been branded unfilmable. Whilst Snyder and crew seem to have technically disproved the naysayers, the old argument still seems partially accurate ? creating a faithful version of Alan Moore?s WATCHMEN, preserving the layers and detail of the book, whilst crafting a truly satisfying movie experience may well have been an impossible task.