Monthly Archives: July 2013

Option C — Edge of Darkness

By Steven Moore

I’ve notice that each of us on Buried Cinema chooses our pairings to the movie under review differently. Kevin often chooses a pairing that has the same actor, Tom by director, Nate by whatever Korean (or foreign, if he has to reach wider) film he can make fit. Oddly enough, Brian and I are the closest in how we pair movies, going for the thematic link. The difference is Brian often chooses movies he has already seen and wants to share with us, for good or bad. I, on the other hand, try to choose movies that most of us, if not all of us, haven’t seen (when I’m not staging a coup d’état on the choice entirely, of course).

One of the things I love about doing a weekly podcast with these guys is the process of discovering a movie together. There’s something about watching a movie for the first time, trying to process it, and coming to an understanding about what succeeds or fails that just can’t be replicated on a second or third viewing. Usually, I’ve already made my mind up at that point and am just trying to confirm my opinion. The discussion becomes more about proving my point of view than discovering what I think.

With that mindset, I chose Edge of Darkness  as my Option C pairing for 12, the Nikita Mikhalkov remake of 12 Angry Men. Edge of Darkness was Mel Gibson’s 2010 attempt to return to his action roots, not long after the various controversies he was involved in began to settle down. I chose this in part because IMDb suggested it, but also because I had heard it was an edgy (pun intended, sorry) revenge thriller that explored the consequences of finding the “truth.” This being the essential thematic idea behind 12, I figured it would make a good pairing. Although it turned out to be a surprisingly good action movie that kept my attention, I will ultimately only remember it for a few mind-blowing scenes.


edge of darkness

Mel Gibson, getting ready to blow somebody’s mind.


No matter what you think of Mel Gibson, he’s a great action star. In the same class as the Bruce Willis action hero, he’s not a muscled, invincible meathead or impossibly skilled martial artist. He gets by on luck and grit, and when he’s pissed, people better run. The man may be a terrible person (or not, who really knows?), but he is able to infuse what would normally be a mindless action character with a sense of pathos that few other actors can. Where Bruce Willis is a master at the nothing-left-to-lose persona, Gibson can convey a sense of desperation that drives him to forget not only the law, but also morality in his attempt to “set things right.”

This is exactly the character he portrays in Edge of Darkness, a man who is desperate for justice and the truth. He plays Thomas Craven, a respected Boston police officer who has lived his life for his daughter. While I’d like to go into more of a synopsis of the film, the surprises are so much a part of the experience of watching this movie, I hesitate to say more. There were several times when I said out loud, “Holy hell, did that just happen?” Although some of the characters are obviously not going to make it out of the movie alive, the suddenness or method in which they make their exit keeps surprising. The shock moments keep the movie propelling forward, at an admittedly herky-jerky pace.

What’s interesting about this revenge thriller is its pacing. There are many long series of scenes where not a lot happens. People talk, papers get exchanged, someone says something a little revealing, and Gibson looks defeated. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose, and I was left trying to reconstruct what just happened for the next 20-30 minutes while people continue to talk, papers continue to get exchanged, someone says something a little more revealing, and Gibson looks even more defeated. While the tropes of the revenge thriller are there, the characters, the ones that matter, are unexpected and surprisingly well written.

After watching the movie, I realized it would have been a perfect pairing for 16 Blocks, the movie Brian paired with 12. As it is, I’m sorry that we didn’t cover it on the podcast. It may not be one of Gibson’s best action movies, but it’s definitely worth talking about.


About the Author:

Steve was just a hapless young kid who couldn’t get into Starfleet, but by sheer wit, determination, and a hell of a lot of luck, he was made full ensign of Starfleet’s flagship anyway, despite having never even attended the Academy. He told me I could write anything I wanted about him here, as long as I said that he was like Nate, but better. When he’s not brooding over the graves of dead Irish poets, he is our talented Webmaster. We also record our podcast in his barn, so we’d be doubly non-existent without his considerable talents… and barn. His favorite films include Chinatown, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and anything Brian hates.

Enough Already: a Rant Pad rant

By Hawco


marc webb


I understand that many moviegoers can and do, in general, just relax and enjoy themselves no matter what film they are seeing. I often envy them. I guess I can’t shut off my critical brain sometimes.

I say all this because I have been struck by the horrible quality of Hollywood’s remakes over the last few years. This post isn’t expansive enough to lament the lack of originality in Hollywood overall; I won’t even begin to cover how most big-budget movies are sequels, remakes, or adaptations (and bad ones at that).

But I will briefly cover two recent offenders: Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. I caught up with The Amazing Spider-Man a year after its release, so I saw these two comic book adaptations for the first time within a month of each other.

There is no hope of Hollywood letting up on its deluge of comic movies; they simply make too much money. I have accepted this, yet my appetite for all these superheroes on screen was satiated by, like, 2008. The standard of quality for these blockbusters, particularly in the screenwriting, is just too low, and that is a double shame because all of these comics provide years and years of rich story material to adapt.

Amazing was widely recognized as a cash-grab. Sony pictures had to make another Spider-Man movie or lose the rights to the character. But this movie didn’t need to be made. It was an origin story. We just saw the same basic origin story ten years ago, with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002. Everything from the spider bite to the discovering of powers to young romance and Uncle Ben’s death was all seen, only with different performers in front of the lens and an (arguably) different tone. Spider-Man launched a trilogy that ended just five years before the remake. I was amazed (pun intended) at how similar The Amazing Spider-Man was overall to its predecessor.

Superman: The Movie (1978) is one of my favorite films of all time.  Directed by Richard Donner, it tells the story of Superman’s origin, including the destruction of his home world, his acquiring a job at the Daily Planet newspaper, his meeting love interest Lois Lane, and his discovering of his heritage and destiny. Snyder’s over-long and over-loud remake covers the same thing, only without any humor or subtlety. Why did audiences need to see this?

(And in defense of Superman Returns, that film was a love letter and a sequel, but it did not try to retell Superman’s origin.)

Am I off base, here?  Did anyone else feel that they were watching the exact same movie over again, only weaker?

Steve Hawco spent too many hours in the shadow-strewn offices and steamy alleys of 1941 San Francisco. After suffering one too many double-crosses in his search for a black figure of a bird, he decided to put his fedora away and enter the sunny world of Rant Pad criticism. His favorite films include Seven Samurai, Once Upon a Time in the West, Blade Runner, Aliens, and Sunshine. He also has Kind of a Movie Blog.

Option C — The Call of Cthulhu

By Tom Kapr

Each week on the Buried Cinema podcast, one of us podcasters chooses a movie and another chooses a second movie to pair with it. This past weekend, we covered Brian’s pick of Pacific Rim and Steve’s somewhat odd pairing, Odd Thomas. Here’s the film I would have paired with Pacific Rim; this is Option C.

Nearly three years ago, I did something I called the 30 Days of Madness, in which I watched and reviewed 30 horror films (one per day, more or less) throughout October leading up to Halloween. I didn’t review the big movies that everyone knows; I stuck mainly to more obscure stuff. One of the best movies I watched that month was The Call of Cthulhu. I am re-publishing my review of that film as this week’s Option C. The more obvious connection here is “giant monsters from the sea,” but the less obvious connection is Pacific Rim writer/director Guillermo Del Toro’s long-gestating passion project, which has been stuck in development hell for years (and will likely, and unfortunately for all of us, stay there).

Here it is, from October 3, 2010; my review of The Call of Cthulhu:


“That is not dead which can eternal lie, and in strange aeons even death may die.” –H.P. Lovecraft

The Call of Cthulhu (2005) Written by Sean Branney. Directed by Andrew Leman.



H.P. Lovecraft is one of the most celebrated writers of horror fiction in the history of the genre, his name unabashedly spoken in the same breath as that of Poe, and his works have inspired the likes of Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and Stephen King. Unfortunately, I have not read but snippets of Lovecraft’s stories, so this film is my introduction to a full-fledged Lovecraft narrative. I trust the faithfulness of the film’s narrative, and with good reason — it was produced by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

Aside from its immersion in Lovecraft mythology, The Call of Cthulhu is also immersed in cinematic history. It is a silent film — yes, a silent film released in 2005 — and it displays its makers’ knowledge of the styles and techniques of the silent film era. The makeup and acting imitate the conventions of the era, as do the impressive art direction and the rousing orchestral score. I was pretty excited to see some Harryhausen-esque special effects. As a huge fan of Jason and the Argonauts and an admirer of Ray Harryhausen’s work in other such mythology-based productions, I often long for the days of stop-motion in this CGI-heavy digital era.

The filmmakers even replicate the usual negative scratches and projections of hairs caught in the lenses that viewers will often see in copies of films from the 1920s and earlier. If I have one criticism, it is that the film very much looks like it is trying to imitate these old films, rather than looking like an old film itself. It is obvious that this film was shot on modern technology and then aged in post-production. I wish they had instead used the old technology, or shot on 8mm, to reproduce the look of the silent era, as it would have added a layer of genuineness to the production that I found lacking.

This criticism aside, however, The Call of Cthulhu is a cool little film, coming in at under 47 minutes, and is great fun to watch, especially for students of the history of the medium of film and for admirers of Lovecraft’s work. It is an interesting look at the ability of madness to move from person to person like a virus, as the obsession with the mysteries of the cult of Cthulhu infect each new individual who hears the story from the last person to be driven mad by it.


Tom was once a mere temp worker until he was kidnapped by mad scientists and imprisoned on a satellite in outer space where he was forced to watch bad movies with a couple of sarcastic sentient robots. He escaped over a decade ago, yet still he sits alone in a darkened room watching bad movies, whispering wisecracks into the dark. His favorite films include City Lights, Casablanca, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Amélie, Stagecoach, and the Toy Story trilogy. He edits the Rant Pad and the Buried Cinema podcast.

Tom’s Tuesday Rant — Why Pacific Rim is sinking

By Tom Kapr



I did not want to see Pacific Rim. But then we covered it on the podcast, so I watched it. And it’s the best movie I’ve seen at the theater this year. It absolutely deserves to be seen and to be a hit. But it’s tanking at the box office. Why?

I believe there are several reasons. There’s the reason why I almost didn’t go to see it. The marketing made it look like nothing but giant CGI monsters fighting giant CGI robots, an assault of CGI with no plot or characters. Thankfully, it is so much more than that. Oh, it’s giant CGI monsters fighting giant CGI robots — or, more accurately, giant mechanical suits piloted by a couple of Rangers in the cockpit who control it by “drifting” with each other and the machine (that is, they control it by joining minds in a sort of left brain/right brain function for the giant mechanical suit).

But it also has a good deal of well-though-out sci-fi elements, like the mecha-suit I’ve just described, the “drifting” through a “neural handshake,” and the nature of the monsters and the means and reason why they are emerging from a hole at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. More than that, it has a great cast of actors playing interesting characters in an emotionally engaging human drama.


There is one character I wouldn't mind being a little more engaged with, if you know what I mean. Oh, maybe you don't know what I mean. Yes, I know Charlie Hunnam looks great with his shirt off, but... look, just forget it.


On top of that, the special effects are top-notch, the pacing is perfect, the musical score is rousing, and the cinematography is beautiful.

Pacific Rim is also original, and this is another reason it’s not doing so well. Steve went into it a little on the podcast, and I agree. Now, when we say “original,” we mean it’s not based on a pre-existing property with a built-in audience. It is the latest in the long tradition of the “kaiju” genre (which we’ve explored before), and little about the story is particularly original, except for a handful of the more creative sci-fi elements and one of the relationships at the hub of the story. As far as an audience goes, it should attract fans of Guillermo Del Toro and of the kaiju genre. (Of course, I’m a little bit of both, and it took Brian basically forcing me to see it — for which I’m grateful. You’ve got to stop being right, Brian.)

The only real criticism I have is that Charlie Hunnam can’t do a convincing American accent. I don’t know why they didn’t either hire an American actor or an actor who could play an American, or, just, you know, let him speak naturally. It didn’t really matter where he was from. After all, Idris Elba’s a Brit, and his character spoke with a British accent. But that’s my only problem, and it’s minor. Otherwise, Hunnam was fine in the role.


Actually, my only real problem is that Zangief Pompadoursky and Gwen Stefanikov didn't get more screen time.


Steve mentioned something that I feel I also have to mention: as an original story — that is, not a sequel or an adaptation of a popular series of books — with a no-name cast (unless you’re a movie geek, in which case you should recognize at least six names in the cast), the studio had no idea how to market it.  They started wising up just a little too late when they began showing that it did indeed have humans in the cast. (I’m not sure whether to be frustrated or encouraged by that.) As far as the cast goes, they should have at least relied a little bit on the actors’ TV fan bases (starring Sons of Anarchy‘s Charlie Hunnam, The Wire‘s Idris Elba, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Charlie Day… and, I guess, Beauty and the Beast‘s Ron Perlman — Ron freaking Hellboy Perlman — since as Kevin’s pointed out, he apparently had quite a following back in the day. (Somehow bestial makeup made Ron Perlman look weirdly handsome in a way his natural face just, um, doesn’t. And I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.)

So, I blame the studio for not being smart, or perhaps being too apathetic, about the marketing. I blame the general movie-going populace for not caring about a movie not based on something they already knew. And I blame guys like me who weren’t willing to give a truly talented and original filmmaker like Guillermo Del Toro the benefit of the doubt when they saw “giant CGI monsters fighting giant CGI robots” as the main marketing draw and should have known there would be more to it than that.

Hopefully, Pacific Rim will make a killing overseas and on home video (that’s still a a thing, right?), but I fear it will cause studios to react negatively by putting less faith in the next original story from Del Toro or some other blockbuster auteur. I fear it will also make it twice as hard now for Del Toro to get the funding needed for his Lovecraft adaptation. Which, if this is any indication, is a damn shame.

Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to enjoy this for now.


Tom was once a mere temp worker until he was kidnapped by mad scientists and imprisoned on a satellite in outer space where he was forced to watch bad movies with a couple of sarcastic sentient robots. He escaped over a decade ago, yet still he sits alone in a darkened room watching bad movies, whispering wisecracks into the dark. His favorite films include City Lights, Casablanca, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Amélie, Stagecoach, and the Toy Story trilogy. He edits the Rant Pad and the Buried Cinema podcast.

Option C — Rango

By Tom Kapr

Every week on Buried Cinema’s podcast, one of us chooses a film to review and another chooses a second film to pair with it. This is Option C.

This past week we reviewed the new blockbuster from Pirates of the Caribbean director/star team Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, The Lone Ranger. It was terrible.

But the question remained: Could these two make a good Western under other circumstances? The answer is yes. Under other, very strange circumstances.

Whether or not Rango qualifies as a “buried” film is, I suppose, open for debate. But since I’m the one who coined the phrase, I’m just going to go ahead and say, hell yes, Rango qualifies. It’s an endangered film at the very least, one that could be buried by time, lack of the proper audience, and a misunderstanding of its nature. It has no doubt been viewed by lots of kids and passively enjoyed by their parents, but the audience Rango truly deserves are any and all serious lovers of the art and history of cinema, because it revels in both. It is a surreal homage to the Great American Western, and it is, simply, a beautifully animated film.



Rango is filmed as if it were a live-action production, one of the few CGI films I’ve seen that actually seems to have a sense of cinematography; not only is it bright, but it seems deliberately lit. (With Roger Deakins on the crew, this is not so surprising.) On top of the live sense of photography, the performances are the pinnacle of what can be achieved with CGI characters. Rango may be an animated lizard that looks nothing like Johnny Depp, but Depp’s performance comes through so clearly that, in his mannerisms and even his facial expressions, one can see Johnny Depp’s mannerisms and facial expressions. The rest of the cast of characters is no less impressive, with actors such as Isla Fisher, Stephen Root, and Ned Beatty giving great performances, as well as Timothy Olyphant doing an impeccable Clint Eastwood as the “Man With No Name”-inspired Spirit of the West. (Also, Johnny Depp manages a brilliant cameo as a character from one of his earlier films; it happens during the highway scene early in the film.)

Rango has a great sense of fun, of adventure, of humor, and even of drama. A thrilling stage chase through a canyon is one of the highlights. This is actually quite a mature film in its sensibilities, with plenty of gunplay, violence, and irreverent humor full of double entendres that only the adults will get. Though the plotting gets just a little sloppy during the finale (par for the course in spectacle films like this), it is a brilliant, textured, loving homage to the Western genre. It may be Verbinksi’s most accomplished, classic-status-worthy film.

As Nate said on the podcast, Verbinski should have accepted his Oscar (yep, this film won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film) and walked away from the Western genre. We may not have a good Lone Ranger movie, but as long as it’s not forgotten, we’ll always have Rango.

Tom was once a mere temp worker for a disreputable science lab, until he was kidnapped by a mad scientist and imprisoned on a satellite in outer space where he was forced to watch bad movies with a couple of sarcastic sentient robots. He escaped over a decade ago, yet still he sits alone in a darkened room watching bad movies, whispering wisecracks into the dark. His favorite films include City Lights, Casablanca, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Amélie, Stagecoach, and the Toy Story trilogy. He edits the Rant Pad and the Buried Cinema podcast.

A rant for 3D

By Hawco

I have a lot to say about the current trend of 3D video. As a home theater nerd, I have to have an opinion on it. I have a basic understanding of the various ways 3D is displayed, both in theaters and in the home. I know that if you purchase a 3D TV and glasses and enjoy the experience, you will still end up disappointed at the lack of available content, especially through cable/satellite providers. I know that, wherever you watch it, 3D glasses will limit the amount of light getting to your eye, thus detrimentally dimming the image.



I… love… 3D.  Despite its shortcomings, I believe it is spectacular when done correctly. 3D Blu-rays look almost as good as a theatrical presentation (see Prometheus), and video games on the Playstation 3 and XBOX 360 are twice as cool in 3D (see Uncharted 3).

However, Hollywood is killing me. 3D is being treated like a gimmick, and it has to stop. Here is the problem: movies are being shot in 2D and converted to 3D, without the proper care, in post-production. The results, in live-action movies, are always, always, underwhelming-to-embarrassing. Basically, the trend of Hollywood doing this so that they can charge moviegoers more money started soon after Avatar, with this hunk of garbage.

Unfortunately, I went to see Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel on opening night. But let’s not focus on that tragedy; the point was the 3D. It was flat. The post-conversion was garbage. It was a waste of money, both for Warner Bros. and audiences.

I have only seen three films in theaters (PrometheusTransformers: Dark of the Moon, and Avatar) that blew me away with their sense of immersion, depth, and tangibility thanks to 3D, and all of them were shot using James Cameron’s 3D cameras. Check out what he says if you don’t believe me that post-converted blockbusters aren’t up to par.

Steve Hawco spent too many hours in the shadow-strewn offices and steamy alleys of 1941 San Francisco. After suffering one too many double-crosses in his search for a black figure of a bird, he decided to put his fedora away and enter the sunny world of Rant Pad criticism. His favorite films include Seven Samurai, Once Upon a Time in the West, Blade Runner, Aliens, and Sunshine. He also has Kind of a Movie Blog.

Korean Cinema — Secret Sunshine

By Nathanael Griffis

I’d seen a lot about Secret Sunshine, and the plot seemed simple enough. A mother and her son move back to her deceased husband’s home town of Seoul. Everything is going fine until her son is kidnapped. From the synopsis it seemed like a typical Korean crime thriller that was right up my alley. Instead this film completely surprised me, and became an in-depth and honest analysis of man’s relationship to God. This film tackled some of the hardest spiritual and philosophical questions directly without pulling any punches or feeling preachy.

The previous synopsis does not adequately describe the experience this film is. Do-yeon Jeon plays the grieving mother Shin-ae trying to raise her child in a new town. Kang-ho Song joins as the single desperate man Jong Chan who is willing to do anything to make Shin-ae love him. The film tackles difficult questions with respect and never shies away from the reality of the situation.

I’m speaking in broad terms because I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but I’ll do what I can to relate to you the experience at least. This films addresses the fact that a relationship with God is a choice and a solution to grief. It doesn’t show conversion though as an immediate or easy decision. Shin-ae struggles with the decision mocking Christianity as useless, yet somehow is drawn to it. She initially finds peace, genuine peace, after accepting Christ, but that is not enough. A life with God does not simply end all suffering and hardship. Shin-ae begins to wrestle with God over questions like, why does God allow bad things to happen, why is he forgiving of all sins, and why does he still draw us in despite our rejection of him?

What I appreciate most is that it doesn’t water anything down. The characters are definitely flawed: Jong Chan never truly converts, and spends his entire time pretending just so he can get close to Shin-ae, yet he at times makes the better moral decision. Director Chang-dong Lee here challenges the idea that morality is only capable in Christianity, an idea that often, and to my great annoyance, is a the focus of most Christian filmmaking. A person is very capable of making a moral decision without  being a Christian. God doesn’t make us moral; he desires for us to choose to be that way. A person doesn’t have to know him to make that choice.

Shin-ae at one point begins to wrestle with God, actively seeking to destroy him and those who love him. She tempts a church leader toward adultery, attempts to attack people in a prayer meeting, and disrupts a revival conference by playing secular music over an altar call. It might seem boring, but the way it is handled is fascinating. It all has a strong sense of unabashed honesty. The world and Christians are not perfect; we make bad decisions. Frequently ones that have lasting damage.

It’s foolish, pretentious, and dishonest to present an image of Christians as perfect citizens. Christians struggle with the same decisions as anyone, and they don’t always find peace. Yes, sometimes they do, and the movie shows this. It doesn’t disparage God. I believe it shows Christianity, a relationship with Christ, and acceptance of forgiveness as the solution to grief. The church community she attacks and damages is understanding and forgiving. It just presents these issues without the usual rose-colored glasses of Christian filmmaking.

On the technical side, the acting is stupendous. The film never ceases to surprise, and the range of emotion that is asked of Do-yeon Jeon is staggering, but she delivers. Kang-ho Song never fails to impress, and I look forward to him hopefully gaining more exposure to American audiences with Snowpiercer later this year. The direction by Chang-dong Lee shows a rare balance of respect for material blending with excellent filmmaking.

This is not a film I would recommend to anyone. If metaphysical questions about our relationship with God don’t interest you then you’ll probably find this film boring. If you want to see a film that upholds Christians as model citizens and moral action as the ultimate goal of Christianity then this film will probably offend you. If you, like myself, had been striving to find that one film that wasn’t afraid to tackle issues honestly and not disparage God or Christians, but show them in the light of honest humanity, then this film will not disappoint.

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Tom’s Tuesday Rant — The sole voice of dissent (and/or reason)

By Tom Kapr




It can be difficult when you are the one person out of five people on a podcast about movies who thinks a movie isn’t good. Worse still when you’re also the one out of the five who wasn’t present for the conversation. Even worse, when you then have to listen to that conversation and edit it into the podcast we present to our listeners, without bias. (Believe me, the temptation to just chop out opinions that you think are totally wrong is like being cajoled by inner James Earl Jones-ian voices to go over to the Dark Side.)

I was dreading the editing on the Man of Steel segment last week, but strangely, even though those fools gave it a grade of two A’s and two B’s, I spent most of the time thinking, “that’s a fair point.”

The truth is, I found Man of Steel nigh unbearable to watch, but that’s not because it’s a complete failure of a film. Oh, it’s a failure of writing and directing and in some cases acting, but it has its merits. I actually love the direction they took the character. I love that for most of the story, he’s just Clark Kent from Smallville trying to figure out who he is, where he came from, why he’s different, and what he’s meant to do. I love that they show him as a human with frailty, weaknesses, uncertainties. I love that he doesn’t really know how to wield his power. I loved Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent; they were two phenomenal father figures and fully-rounded characters. Amy Adams was fine as Lois Lane, and Henry Cavill was fine as Kal-El.

If only all that had been put into a script that had some sense of pacing and wasn’t full of cringe-inducing dialogue. If only all that had been directed by somebody who knew how to balance the carnage with some sense of respect toward its subject matter. If only all that had been directed by somebody who knows what to do with a camera.

The guys on the podcast think I’m blanketly (is that a word? well, now it is) a Zack Snyder hater. I’m not. Well, I am, but I wasn’t always. I remember when I went to see his re-imagining of Dawn of the Dead. That is one of the best zombie movies ever made. I came out of the theater thinking, where did this Zack Snyder guy come from? This was his first movie, and it was freaking amazing. Then of course his most popular film came along, 300, which I dislike for moral reasons, but not, like the rest of its detractors, for its aesthetic. I even enjoyed Watchmen for the most part, despite having finished the book an hour before going to the theater. But then came along Sucker Punch, a melange of imagery that should have been interesting but was somehow intensely boring, not to mention, again, morally reprehensible.

Still, I was willing to give Snyder another chance with Man of Steel. Especially after I saw the trailer (which is still one of the coolest trailers I’ve ever seen), I was excited to see this movie. Now I see that Snyder is a director who knows how to capture fascinating images (a lot of the shots in this film are surprisingly artistic and beautiful), but not how to bring them together cohesively. Especially the opening 20 minutes and the seemingly never-ending destruction of the finale are little more than tons of CGI being thrown at the audience with no sense of cinematic artistry. The camera zooms in and out seemingly at random. I thought the cinéma vérité style of the trailer was a fascinating stylistic decision for this movie. Now I feel I can only credit that to, maybe, Snyder getting lucky with a few shots, or perhaps cinematographer Amir Mokri, and probably more than a little to whoever edited the trailer. Maybe that person should have edited the movie.

I have a laundry list of complaints: the character of Zod is interesting but I felt didn’t quite have the sense of consistency he should have, even with the great Michael Shannon in the role; Diane Lane seemed to almost be playing Martha Kent for camp, and I usually love Diane Lane (though I hated Must Love Dogs); the movie felt interminably long, especially when it became a constant stream of CGI with no sense of environment; it was way more violent than it needed to be; the Christ-imagery, while inherent to the character, was ham-handed in its delivery; a few scenes were eye-rollingly cliché; the color palette was one of the bleakest I’ve seen outside of a Dogme 95 film; even some of the dialogue scenes were way too CGI-heavy (I’m thinking of Jor-El’s Fortress of Solitude Exposition Extravaganza); and the scene in which Clark watches his second, earthly father die is hopelessly contrived. You mean, Jonathan had to be the one to go back and save the dog from the twister? Sure. It’s in the script. At least Costner delivered.

I feel that they tried to cram too much story into one movie. This is basically the story of Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman and its immediate 1980 sequel mashed into one movie–with, admittedly, a far more interesting Superman at the center. I know Christopher Nolan shepherded this movie through its scripting phase, and I find it interesting that I had this thought completely separate from that knowledge: I wish they had broken this story up into two movies, just like the originals were, and followed more of Dark Knight trilogy arc: the first film, an origin story about a hero who had to go on a journey of self-discovery before he could take his place as protector. There was absolutely no sense of Superman as protector in this film, and that is its gravest trespass. I know he needs to find that in himself first, but the movie never got there, or didn’t care to (I suspect the latter), which is the only real reason I felt a sense of disrespect for the character on the part of the filmmakers. Not because he inadvertently causes almost as much destruction as his enemies or because he makes the decision, the necessary decision, to break Zod’s neck and kill him, but because the storytellers made no effort to give Kal-El a sense of duty to help people who are in danger.

I mean, sure, he saves the planet, but listen, this is the moment when I decided to really hate — not just dislike, but hate — what the filmmakers were doing: Superman saves Lois Lane (yada, yada) and they land in what used to be Metropolis (now a barren wasteland), and they start making out. While thousands are still dying in the rubble around him. Thousands of people that Superman should be able to hear crying for help. Superman stopped the Earth Destroying Device just in time to keep Perry White and two of his reporters from being killed, and the woman (a character who was not established prior to this sequence) says: “He saved us.”

At that point, I whispered loudly enough for the person next to me to hear, “Well, he saved four of you.” And then the film went on to knock down more buildings and kill thousands more people. Look, I know you have to up the ante these days, but you can tell your story without a Transformers-level disregard for humanity.

That scene also contains an exchange between Superman and Lois Lane that is one of the worst pieces of dialogue ever in a movie. Ever.

As I was saying, this level of darkness and destruction might have fit better in a Dark Knight-esque sequel. Like Batman was faced with the formidable Joker, a sequel in which Superman had to face Zod would have paced this character’s and this story’s arc better. He would have already been established as a protector character in the first film, and the second film would have pushed that protector role past Superman’s limit, fighting a force of foes that have him out-manned, out-gunned, and out-classed in every way — every way but being on the side of goodness and compassion.

Forgive me for the rambling nature of this article. This is just my Tuesday rant, after all. I just have so much to say against this movie where others have done little but heap praise on it. Praise that, to a great extent, I understand. There is a lot of good stuff in this film, at least conceptually, and there are even a lot of great scenes. It just wasn’t all put together that well, and Zack Snyder became so focused on showing as much wanton destruction as possible that he lost sight of what was important.

I believe there are good places to go from here with this franchise. I just sincerely hope the next film isn’t directed by Snyder.

Having said all that, be sure to listen to our podcast and also to read this well-written article defending the movie I just trashed.

Oh, by the way: Superman Returns might have a less rich concept of Superman as a character, but it’s still much better filmmaking. Yeah, I said, it’s the better film.

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