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Monday, 24 June 2013

Balls of Steel

I could not help myself there...

Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.
This is the first thing I am contemplating whenever I have to deal with the case of Superman, for it is a case of absolutes. The first hero in comic books that was absolutely indestructible, all powerful, immortal, essentially he was a sort of deity personified in human form – with the most ridiculous disguise in the history of disguises…

Superman was created a few years before the beginning of WWII and he was the product of a – now legendary - pair of comic book artists, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The inspiration behind this “Übermensch“, as this is the German translation for “Superman” used by Friedrich Nietzsche, is not exactly defined, with some traces of biblical heroes like Samson, Goliath and also traces of Jesus Christ in its origins. What proved to be more important than his origin, was the influence of Superman to the USA and the American psyche. 

In 1939 the American public was not eager to participate in another bloodbath 5000 miles away from their doorstep and even when it got involved eventually, it would not accept it that easily. Superman – alongside with Batman – provided the public with new icons to identify themselves with. I find it quite plausible that some GI’s would have adopted Superman as their projection in the battlefield, a sort of “good luck charm”, a mental image of invulnerability and complete control of any situation, be that a fire-fight in Micronesia or the first wave on D-day . Superman was the embodiment of absolute power. Naturally their creators provided their “golem” with a kind heart and not an evil  mind and will. For who could ever stop Superman, if he was a villain instead of a hero?

This is my main concern about this character – and by proxy, about all the comic book characters with godlike powers (Wolverine, Phoenix, Xavier, Lobo, Thor, Hulk, etc.). On this most helpful picture we can see the moral alignment of some of the most known comic book, movie, TV series and literature characters according to the character specs of AD&D.

See where Superman is, right on the Lawful Good position, which can easily be identified as the Paladin class alignment – the most dull, unimaginative and predictable class of them all…

Superman CAN NOT be anything else, even in the story lines were he turned slightly evil – him or some other part of his Super family (Superboy) - in the end he was not stopped by his only known vulnerability, Kryptonite, rather than HIMSELF!! He’s the only person that can control all this immense power. And having being used by the American government as the role model and icon for all that America stood for in the 80’s, that boy scout in the red slip clearly had some issues to resolve if we wanted to make a comeback in the 2010’s…

This is the most important aspect in the latest cinematic version of Kal-El, Man of Steel. The so called "Man of Steel" is in fact a man of doubt. He doubts everything, from his own powers to the reasons for using them, even the point of using them FOR the American people. He is not the clear-cut, single-minded and resolute Paladin of Coca Cola and apple pie. How could he be anyway - he is the first Superman WITHOUT the super-curl on his forehead. 
In the last decade the US are not exactly a beacon of freedom, humanity, tolerance, progress and - most importantly - peace. But they're trying Ringo, they're trying reaaaal hard to become that again... And one can see that in MoS, in Clark's decision to take that "leap of faith" and trust the humans, above all trust the Americans. In one of the most ironic lines of the film Kal-El states:

 -I grew up in Kansas general, how much more American can I be? 

(H. Cavill was born in the Channel Islands. Just goes to show that UK and European actors are slowly taking over Hollywood - Dr. House was British, half of The Walking Dead's cast are limeys, True Blood is from all over the Commonwealth, not to mention the ENTIRE cast of GoT are Irish). 

Monday, 29 April 2013

Iron Man 3 review: Why I hate Michael Bay

A guy with his dog walk in a park, time is late afternoon, location is random urban environment. The guy stops, goes for the dog’s collar and unlocks the line. The dog jumps and breaks into a run…. Then they both EXPLODE in a huge fireball, engulfing everything in its path, causing secondary explosions of nearby trees, rocks, benches and culminating to the spectacular Überblast of the park’s pond.

This image is a pretty accurate summary of most Michael Bay films. The dogma here is: “Dissilio, ergo sum”. Nothing is more important than the non-stop attack of the viewer’s senses with images and sounds cranked up to 11. Realism, continuity, acting, even chemistry and physics are out of the window. And sometimes this works, unfortunately most of the times it’s just a waste of money and an excellent reason for some serious comedy.

You may now ponder upon the question “Dafuq has Michael Bay to do with Iron Man 3?” Allow me to elaborate.

Iron Man 3 is a hybrid film, one part action comedy and one part Transformers 2, the bad parts of that movie – hence the Baysplosions title for this entry. For the first half of the film we see Starks struggle with the events that took place in the Avengers encounter. He appears anything but “super”, has frequent panic attacks and is disassociated from everyone around him. Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, he challenges the Mandarin just to get in on the action – War machine…ehm, apologies AMERICAN PATRIOT, was having exclusivity on the guy – and ends up in the bottom of the sea with his Thunderbird mansion on top of him.
Still, could be worse... It does get worse. Witness the first AI that …falls asleep!!! After that we get to see Tony Stark become MacGyver and 007 in an attempt to rescue Pepper and the president of the US – who used to be an international terrorist until he got “yippee kiyay-ed motherfucker”. After that things go downhill really fast. Mercifully before we hurdle ourselves to the mindless roller coaster of CGI chaos that will ensue soon after, Sir Ben Kingsley speaks! And everyone in the theatre just lost it!! We could not stop laughing, it was EPIC, a most unexpected performance from such an actor and it’s a genuine show stopper.

For the second part of the movie –or the last part, say last 35 minutes – Shane Black goes all Bay on this one and directs his own version of Transformers, courtesy of the 40+ suits Tony has built in his spare time. What a strange coincidence then that the Mandarin has created a shitload of supercharged minions using his highly experimental, unstable and potentially explosive gene manipulation treatment. Yeah right… (Come to think of it, why didn’t Stark called in on one of his suits earlier on, when he was captured in the Mandarins villa…even more, why didn’t he send a suit to save Pepper from the Mandarin since the suits are encoded for her as well!) Also, this thing with the “human bomb” factor, where have I seen that before…where
And in this mayhem of a finale EVERYTHING explodes – with the biggest and dumbest explosion that of a container falling on the peer and creating a fireball the size of a football field! [I know that the whole peer was covered with oil barrels but come on people, get real!!! Shit just doesn’t blow up like that!]

This is the closing part of a trilogy – or so it would appear, RDJ claiming that he will not put on the MK48 suit – that has left us with both positive and negative memories. The main thing, however, that we gained from the Iron Man movies is a new type of super hero, the “IDGAF-knowitall-spoiled-brat-genius-philanthropist-playboy-I’m-only-human” hero with a razor-sharp humour and even quicker comebacks than Robin Williams on his good day. Iron Man is Marvel’s answer to DCs best detective in the world in a black spandex. Just like Batman in the “Dark Knight” trilogy, Tony Stark is a mere mortal without any superhuman powers, who uses his wits and billions of dollars to become a super hero. The only difference here, RDJ is born for this role, Christian Bale is trying to fill the shoes of the Batman, but somehow falls short of the expectations we have from such an iconic character. The Iron Man trilogy is a one man show thanks to the captivating performance of RDJ, this third part being a true tour-de-force from a great actor that acts not a scripted character, but his real life. At least his life while on drugs and alcohol..

The movie opened to a whooping 193M international box office weekend, equalling the Avengers opening and making a firm statement: Comic book movies are the current blockbusters, forget cop/thriller/action films. Even sci-fi films have to up their game if they want to reclaim their throne of ultimate blockbuster.

Waiting for this one now, will see it with sunglasses though if J.J. Abrams insists on using SO MUCH GODDAMN LENSE FLARE!!!!!