150 Movies in 90 Days: Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

June 24: #25, Lincoln

Four score and seven years ago...was the last time I watched a movie

Lincoln begins with a short, but effectively brutal look into the messy realities of the Civil War, as the Battle of Jenkins Ferry is raging when the film opens. Black and white soldiers fight one another not with guns, but with bayonets and fists while sloshing in several feet of muddy water. From the filthy opening that shows the price of change, we enter a film that is as much about the sloppy business of getting anything done in politics as it is about Abraham Lincoln itself.

Director Steven Spielberg says that he decided to focus on the four-month period of Lincoln’s life leading up to the ratification of the 13th Amendment because otherwise, the scope of the project would be so large that a single film couldn’t contain it all. It’s a fair assessment, and there’s something to be said for the fact that we do get to see many sides of Lincoln- father, husband, idealist, and stubbornly obsessed politician- even though the film covers just four months of his historic life.

So why does it all feel so boring? Part of it is surely that many of the cast members do not bring the understated brilliance that Daniel Day-Lewis, who is clearly the greatest living actor in the world, brings to the title role. Others, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as Lincoln’s oldest son) bring too much emotion to roles that require a touch more subtlety. Then there’s Sally Field, who even in a role that demands occasional hysterics, manages to overplay it.

The exception to the rule is Tommy Lee Jones, who is great as Thaddeus Stevens, a member of the House of Representatives and staunch abolitionist. Jones knows when to show some subtlety and when to let it all hang out, even if he does take on a role with less complexity than the others, being as Stevens is one of the only people in the film that knows what he wants from beginning to end and does not waver.

The film is technically sound, with Spielberg knowing how to bring out the epic feel of important moments while filming the more private moments of Lincoln’s life in a more familiar, intimate way. It’s just a shame that there aren’t more of those moments. Lincoln’s dedication and will are at center stage here, even if the reasons why he is so determined are left for the viewer (especially one who is not well-versed on Lincoln) to decide for him or herself. The film is notable for a couple of great acting performances, and it is interesting to see that even with such a no-brainer of an amendment (hindsight being 20/20, of course), some dirty dealing had to go on to make it all happen. However, I can’t help but feel that the film as a whole is a bit of a missed opportunity. Grade: B-

June 25: #26, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Way better than George Washington: Zombie Killer

Watching these two back-to-back seemed like a cute idea, but immediately became problematic for a number of reasons. One of which is that while I am not the kind of person who goes into an action film looking for Academy Award-level acting performances, it’s hard to watch Daniel Day-Lewis knock the role of Abraham Lincoln out of the park, then see Benjamin Walker stumble through a rough approximation of the man where he basically just says things in a slightly deep voice and with as much seriousness as he can muster.

If I hadn’t watched Lincoln, I wouldn’t have minded the inferior performances of any of the cast members in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, nor the fact that the timeline of Lincoln’s kids is entirely thrown off so that his oldest son, Will, can be used in a plot point later in the film.

I mean, none of that really matters in a movie about Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires, right? In fact, for the first half of the movie, you wonder why it has to be Lincoln and not just any old person fighting vampires, other than the obvious novelty of it. It isn’t until the film is fast-forwarded (which means you have to believe that the vampires who want to ruin him just leave him alone all of a sudden for 25 years) that the whole thing gets tied (rather ludicrously, but still) into the Civil War and you see that there’s some creativity at work here.

When you see that young Abraham Lincoln’s training for the rough and tumble world of vampire hunting consists only of a) fighting in the dark and b) axe twirling, you know that the action scenes will be not be moored to reality. And oh, man, are the action scenes batshit-crazy. I mean, if you think the concept of Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires is crazy on its own, wait until you’ve seen Abraham Lincoln hunting a vampire during a stampede of about a thousand wild stallions, vaulting from one horse to the next, or Abraham Lincoln hunting a vampire while on a moving train that is racing at high speeds across a burning bridge.

While the dramatic scenes are bland, the action scenes come alive and are stylishly done, with moody skies, vampires jumping out of paintings, and great special effects. Mostly, the stylistic choices work for director Timur Bekmambetov. The exception is when he goes to the well too many times, as when he does the “slow motion, followed by extremely fast motion, followed again by slow motion” trick that is meant to highlight the best parts of any particular fight. It’s cool in small doses, but it happens ALL THE TIME and becomes obnoxious here. Grade: C+


150 Movies in 90 Days: The Entire Fast and the Furious Series

June 17: #19, The Fast and the Furious

"I live my life a quarter mile at a time."

Other than the first installment, I hadn’t seen any of the films of this franchise, and I’d only seen that one once. To be honest, I didn’t have much interest in it until Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson signed on for the fifth installment. Johnson has had four films in theaters already this year (in four consecutive months, actually), and my brother and I are pretty big fans, so we’ve seen three of the four so far. To complete Rock-a-thon 2013, we’re going to see Fast & Furious 6, so I figured I might as well re-watch the first and check out the rest of the series for the first time, while I’m at it.

Plus, I just watched Citizen Kane. It only makes sense to follow it up with The Fast and the Furious, right?

So, the Fast series is home to bad acting, terribly stereotyped characters, and ugly neon cars with stupid-looking paint jobs, and it all begins with the original. Right off the bat, we get our first ridiculous/awesome stunt, as a car drives under a semi during an extremely high risk high-jacking of said vehicle. 

Fortunately, the sweet stunt soon gives way to awful acting and dialogue. When a jealous guy shows up, angry that the protagonist, Brian O’Conner (played with zero charisma by Paul Walker) has been eating every day at the diner where the girl that he likes works at, he says angrily to his buddies as he approaches, “What’s up with this fool? Is he sandwich crazy?!?” Later, Brian’s superior in the police force (he’s an undercover cop, naturally) responds to his request for more time with, “You want time? Buy the magazine. We don’t have time.” Ugh.

No, the dialogue doesn’t help this movie at all, nor does Walker, with is super dorky and sports an awful pseudo-‘stache. Vin Diesel, though, isn’t bad. Even when he’s saying ridiculous things (“You ‘had me’? YOU NEVER HAD YOUR CAR!” to which the huge crowd at the illegal street race collectively says “Oooooooh”), he’s better than anyone on-screen. 

You can also watch it for a good laugh or two. I like cheesy action films, but the problem is that this one doesn’t really own the cheesiness. It’s fun in spite of itself, mostly because of the action sequences at the beginning and the end (the crash at the end is great), but it’s not trying to be fun. It’s trying to be cool, which is just kinda sad. Without Diesel, this is drops a full letter grade. Grade: B-

June 18: #20, 2 Fast 2 Furious, #21, The Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift, #22, Fast & Furious, #23, Fast Five, #24, Fast & Furious 6

So, the second installment would start one trend that would plague the series and continue another. The trend it started was over-stylized, nonsensical titles that would reach their pinnacle when the fourth film would simply be called Fast & Furious, even though it was the fourth in the series. The trend it continued was featuring a rotating cast of stars that more often than not, aren’t really actors at all. While the awful Ja Rule was confined to a brief appearance in the first, in the second film we get the barely-tolerable Ludacris, as well as R&B singer turned “actor” Tyrese as the co-star. Gone is Vin Diesel, though we still get Paul Walker. Yay?

Brian (Walker) is no longer a cop in 2 Fast, 2 Furious, having completely fucked up his assignment in the first film by letting Dom (Diesel) go. So, of course, he makes the most logical move, which would be street racing illegally for cash. Of course, the writers quickly realize that they need somebody to be undercover, so they have the FBI trap Brian and force him to go undercover again.
So, if you’re keeping score, when you’re inept as an undercover agent and get canned by the police, the FBI instead enlists you to go undercover for them in almost exactly the same capacity that you failed miserably in the first time.

John Singleton directed this, and boy is he slumming it after starting his career with Boyz N The Hood. He flubs the first race pretty badly, as half the time we see close-ups of determined faces, gear shifting (these cars all have 100 gears, apparently), and pedals being slammed to the floor. The other half of the time, the cars are driving in a line, one after another, yet swerving nonsensically. It’s as if Singleton watched the part of a Nascar race where the race hasn’t actually started yet and the drivers are swerving to warm up their tires and thought, “That looks pretty cool! Let’s do that at full speed!”

Oh, and in the same race, the guy who organizes the racing itself has the bridge near the finish line manipulated to become a huge ramp. This pretty much totals one car and leads to another crash, but nobody’s like, “Hey, dick, you just wrecked my car by making me do a forty-foot jump!” 

Later on, the action picks up, including a moment where a car gets pin-balled between the wheels of a speeding semi, then run over. The closing sequences are pretty good, too, including a ridiculous stunt where a car is ramped onto a moving yacht that set the scene for the even more ridiculous stunts to come later in the franchise.

Everything else is pretty bad. The characters are grating, at best. Everybody is a mish-mash of the same persona, a mix between gearhead/urban wanksta/fraternity douche. Tyrese is terrible as Roman Pierce, but he at least gives the film some unintentional humor with a smoldering bromance between himself and Brian. Tyrese, Walker, and Singleton clearly wanted Roman and Brian to appear as “close friends who have issues to work out” and instead land squarely on “supposedly heterosexual guys in denial of the obvious sexual tension between them.” It lends some humor to moments like when Roman chastises Brian for checking out Eva Mendes, who also plays an undercover agent (go figure). “Whatchu checking her out for?!?” he asks, as if it’s crazy for a supposedly straight guy to check out Eva freaking Mendes.

But hey, Eva Mendes! And the action sequences are solid. This one, though, like the first, would have been better if it would have embraced its own cheesiness and owned it, instead of trying to play it straight (pun intended) and failing. Grade: C-

The series goes in a completely different course with The Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift. I thought about skipping this one entirely because a) none of the series’ regulars play a major role, b) it’s got freaking Bow Wow in it, c) I thought the “drifting” gimmick was stupid, and d) it’s got freaking Bow Wow in it.

But hey, if you’re going to watch them, why not watch them all? This starts with Lucas Black playing Sean Boswell, a gearhead type who doesn’t fit in with the preppy kids of his school. He flirts with the wrong girl, as all Mysterious New Kids do throughout film history, and ends up in a confrontation with Douchey Football Player. Douchey Football Player throws a baseball through Sean’s rear window, which leads to a near fight until Sean shows that he’s going to fight Douchey Football Player with a fucking wrench, revealing himself to be a douche as well.

So, of course, they race. They do so through an empty housing development, and when DFP refuses to put his $80,000 car on the line, his girlfriend puts herself on the line instead, because apparently women are just prizes to be won and she has no self-worth. During the race, DFP is so incensed at the idea of losing that he tries to ram Sean off the road, and both end up crashing pretty spectacularly. Let’s get this right: you won’t put your $80k car on the line, but wrecking it is no big deal?

Anyway, this all leads to Sean being shipped off to Japan to live with his dad, where he immediately catches the eye of the wrong girl (Neela, played by Nathalie Kelley) there, too. This leads to a rivalry between Sean and the girl’s boyfriend, DK (played by Brian Tee). DK is a nephew of a local Yakuza figure and thinks he’s a little gangster by proxy, and Tee plays him just like the spoiled prick he should be. 

In fact, all of the acting here is done surprisingly well, with Black, Kelley, and even Bow Wow doing commendable jobs with the characters they’re given. Sure, they’re not tremendously well-written characters, but it’s a Fast movie, for God’s sake. In particular, Han (Sung Kang) is a good character as the Mr. Miyagi to Sean’s Daniel-san. 

See, Sean doesn’t know how to drift, and that’s how they race in Tokyo Drift. That leads to all of the racing, fights, and rivalries you would come to expect in the series, and again, it’s all done pretty damn well. Even the one-liners aren’t bad: I was caught off guard when Sean once again got into trouble pursuing Neela, who is Australian, and Han said, “Why can’t you just find a nice Japanese girl like all the other white guys around here?” There’s even a surprise Dom appearance at the end! Grade: B

As mentioned before, the fourth installment is confusingly named Fast & Furious. Why? Because the title is much FASTER without “The”. Also, ampersands are SUPER FAST. Movie audiences can’t be trusted, so even though Tokyo Drift was the best real film in the series yet, producers reacted to slightly disappointing box office performance by bringing back Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Michelle Rodriguez for the fourth installment.

Right away, it’s clear they’re not messing around. I take a few notes when I’m going to write a review and in my notebook for the opening of Fast 4, I just wrote, “Holy shit haha.” I’ll be honest with you, a day later, after having seen 1,000 car crashes in less than a 24-hour period, I don’t remember the specifics, but I know that it involves pure stunt craziness. That’s all back, along with plenty of other Fast signatures: Illegal races where scantily-clad models outnumber men 3 to 1! Everyone’s drinking Coronas! Brian (Walker) uses his weak-ass jiu-jitsu again in a fight! It’s like being home again, people. 

The series finally starts to realize it shouldn’t be taking itself seriously here, too. When Dom is asked (by a beautiful woman, of course) whether he prefers cars to women, he answers, “I’m one of those guys who appreciates a fine body regardless of the make.” Ha! I love it. Later on, Dom straight-up murders a dude by running into him with his car, and then simply says, “Pussy”. It’s not exactly Arnold-esque, but it’s amusing(-ly bad) and suits the character.

I realized after watching parts five and six that this one was actually set before Tokyo Drift, which makes it a lot more understandable when a character who is supposed to be dead just pops up out of nowhere. That’s not explained in any explicit way, though, and you just figure they’re completely crapping on the third installment and doing away with the death altogether. 

Things end up going about as you’d expect, until Dom is captured and sentenced to 25-to-life with no chance of parole. What?!? Doesn’t this judge know there are more movies to be made? This sets up a cliffhanger that lets you know the series is far from over and bridges to the fifth installment nicely. At this point, perhaps it’s having watched four of these things in less than 24 hours, but damn it, the series is growing on me, one-note characters and all. Again, great action and the presence of Diesel buoys this one, though it doesn’t represent the series meeting its potential. Not yet. Grade: B-

In Fast Five, the decision to just completely randomize the title (again) is symbolic of a huge shift in how the series is approached. Honestly, Fast Five is a heist move. It’s got fast cars in it, but it’s no longer really about racing, and that’s okay.

Furthermore, Fast Five brings together characters from all four of the previous movies, and I’m not going to lie, I was happy to see all these fuckers again. I know, I KNOW! It sounds crazy. I feel like I’ve developed Stockholm Syndrome after sitting through all of these today. Why do I care about these people? I don’t know, but I do, damn it, I do.

And there’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has been great in just about anything he’s ever been in. Okay, I haven’t seen Doom, but whatever. He’s a pretty one-dimensional hardass/tough guy type here, but he can play that with ease. He gets your typical badass cop lines, but hits them out of the park with an unusual mix of toughness and charm. There hasn’t been a foil quite like The Rock as Agent Hobbs in this series, even if he isn’t truly a villain, and the confrontations between Hobbs and Dom are great.

Meanwhile, Brian (Paul Walker) has gone rogue, just as any sense of realism has gone rogue within the Fast series. Let’s get you caught up: Brian was a cop in the first film, was fired after letting Dom go, was forced by the FBI to work for them in the second, then hired on as an agent by the fourth, and now he’s on the run as a criminal because once again, he choose his criminal friends over his duties. You’d think the FBI would, I don’t know, conduct extensive background checks and psychological profiles before hiring these guys, wouldn’t you?

Anyway, before you know it, the story is in full swing. More people from the earlier films show up, Dom is rescued from the prison bus (with a spectacular crash; it’s like these people KNOW WHAT I WANT), the guy who played “Bucho” in Desperado is revealed as the bad guy, someone’s pregnant, and we get a three-way hug, even. Roman is back, and I’m even kind of glad to see him (and not just because Tyrese has gotten crazy old, either). Right away, he shoots a jealous glare at Dom, reminding us instantly of the not-so-heterosexual tension between Roman and Brian. Great stuff. Of course, all of this culminates in…wait for it…”ONE LAST JOB”.

That job is the focus of this film, and if you don’t believe it’s a straight-up heist film, consider that when Dom and Brian go to a street race to win a car for the heist, the race isn’t even shown. The heist itself is terrific, too, with plenty of twists and even a pretty ingenious usage of exploding toilets, if you can believe that.  Grade: A-

Finally, we arrive at Fast & Furious 6. I knew I had to see this movie when I saw a CAR DRIVE THROUGH A BURNING PLANE in the trailer, people. This film is what happens when you take your silly action franchise and completely release it from the laws of physics, reality, or what the human body can do- and it’s glorious.

Agent Hobbs (The Rock) is back, and he’s got an offer Dom (Vin Diesel) can’t refuse. One last (LAST) job, and not for money, but to find out why his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) has been seen alive recently when she has supposedly been dead for some time after a fiery crash.
Before you know it, the crew is assembled again, with Brian (Paul Walker), Han (Sung Kang) Roman (Tyrese), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Tej (Ludacris), and newcomer Riley (Gina Carano) joining as Hobbs’ right-hand (wo)man. I love Carano, by the way, and she’s outstanding in the fight scenes here. She’s passable as a stereotypically-cold agent who is 100% focused on the job at hand, too.

Anyway, in case you weren’t convinced that the Fast series wasn’t taking itself seriously any longer, Letty hasn’t been dead or anything all of this time, she’s just had amnesia. Yes, the oldest plot device of all-time returns and explains it all away. On top of that, she’s running with the villain, Shaw (played just viciously enough by Luke Evans). 

The film leads to many questions, such as, “Why would Dom’s new live-in girlfriend say, ‘Yes, Dom, go put your life on the line AGAIN to find out about your ex that you thought was dead’?”, or “Why would Mia (Jordana Brewster) let Brian run off on this crazy adventure when the two of them just had a baby together and were planning on getting away from such antics?” Finally, you ask, “Do women like that really exist, and if so, where does one meet them?” Hypothetically speaking, of course.

If Fast Five was a heist film, Fast & Furious 6 represents the film just going into straight-forward action mode, without any pretense of being about racing. For the first time I can remember, there are more than a couple of fights in a Fast movie, and they are all creatively choreographed and exciting to watch.

More than anything though, this is fan service at its best. You get the characters that you’ve grown to love, with the actors and actresses reprising their roles with (I hope, anyway) tongues firmly planted in cheek. Also, anything that you find yourself hoping happens in this movie ends up happening. You want to see Hobbs take on the huge bodybuilding type in Shaw’s crew? Done. Want to see people fighting on top of speeding cars like it’s no big deal? No problem! In need of a second round between Riley and Letty? You’ve got it!

Everything you’d expect from a Fast film is here, from Dom spouting pseudo-philosophical one-liners in monotone to an obligatory trip to an illegal street race where apparently every model within 1,000 miles hangs out, complete with short skirts and creepy, low angle butt shots. And to top it all off, there’s a post-credits scene that finally ties the last three films in with Tokyo Drift and makes you really, really want a part seven. 

This is the perfect dumb action movie. I mean, it culminates in about a 15-minute chase scene on a runway, and who gives a shit if the runway would have to be about 23 miles long for it to happen the way it was shown? The impossible has happened, and this series has finally won me over while simultaneously reaching its potential. Grade: A


150 Movies in 90 Days: Citizen Kane

June 16: #18, Citizen Kane

"I don't think any word can explain a man's life."

I admit, I was a little nervous to watch Citizen Kane. Why? Because I didn’t really expect to like it. All I’ve ever heard is that Citizen Kane is a classic, Citizen Kane is the best film of all time, and so forth. What if I watch it and I don’t like it? Can I give Citizen Kane a C+? What if I found it boring? Does that reflect poorly on the film or on my own lack of attention span?

Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about any of that for very long, because Citizen Kane is awesome.
I knew that one of the reasons why Citizen Kane is so respected is that it was ahead of its time and very influential, but I didn’t want to look at other people’s thoughts so much before watching it, because I wanted to be unbiased and draw my own conclusions. One thing I do remember reading is that critics loved Citizen Kane’s use of light and dark. 

That is on display early on, as the film opens with Kane’s death, and the nurse who comes in to check on him has a face that is shrouded in darkness, even when she bends to check on him. Later on, when forcing his second wife to continue performing on stage when she doesn’t want to, the scene is framed in such a way that she is engulfed in darkness from his shadow. Furthermore, the reporter who is investigating Kane’s life and the meaning behind his last word (“Rosebud”) is never fully shown on screen. The viewer could easily be the one getting to the bottom of what Kane’s life meant, and really, the viewer is the one doing so.

Simply put: Orson Welles is a genius, both as an actor and director. In the first scene, a chain-link fence gives way to iron bars and finally, the fancy gate of Kane’s estate, symbolizing that the haven Kane has built himself is also a prison of sorts. When Kane is about to die, he’s looking at a snow globe and we get an extreme close-up on his mouth as he says “Rosebud”. When he dies, he drops the globe, which breaks. When the nurse rushes in to check on him, though, we don’t look away from the broken globe. Instead, we see her coming in from the globe’s reflection, which is not only a slick trick but shows the importance of the globe- important enough that we don’t look away from it, even to follow the action.

Welles the director is a master of deep focus, especially when a character is being discussed while not actively a part of the scene. When Kane’s second wife refuses to speak to the reporter, the reporter goes to a nearby pay phone to pass on the news, and the whole time, Kane’s ex-wife is in focus in the background, slamming down drinks and trying to keep her emotions in check. 

Another great scene features Kane doing a dance number with some female performers while his closest associates debate over whether Kane will be influenced by all of the new hires for his newspaper (who are all highly-respected reporters). It harkens back to a very pivotal scene where a young Kane plays alone in the snow, unaware that his future is being discussed inside. While the plan is set to have Kane move far away and go to a private school under the care of a legal guardian, we see Kane in the background through a window, playing happily (and obliviously) in the snow.

It makes sense, then, that one of the things that lead to Kane’s eventual downfall is a need to have control. My favorite part of the film is when Kane gets busted for spending time with an aspiring singer while still married to his first wife. When the newspapers come out with the story, they refer to her as a “singer”, scare quotes included. Kane resents it, and therefore, when he ultimately marries her, he goes so far as to build a theater for her to sing at. He is maniacal in his pursuit of respect and adoration, which makes him a brilliant focus for a character study.

A leaked photo from the Citizen Kane reboot
The acting is great all around, led by Welles. If I had to compare him to a modern day actor, it would be Leonardo DiCaprio, who also has terrific range and the gift of being able to show tremendous amounts of intensity in his face one scene while appearing charismatically friendly in another. The other actor I really enjoyed was Fortunio Bonanova, who plays Signor Matiste, the voice coach of Kane’s second wife. He steals the few scenes he’s in. On the other side of the spectrum, Erskine Sanford is awful as Herbert Carter. Sanford plays Carter like a caricature, huffing and puffing like a cartoon character to show his frustration in a film where everybody else is playing it straight.

Long story short- if you’re worried that you’ll find Citizen Kane boring because it’s 70 years old or filmed in black and white, don’t be. It’s a great film with an excellent story and a satisfying ending that manages to provide resolution to the story without spoon-feeding the viewer the way that movies do today. Is it the greatest film ever? Hell, I don’t know, mostly because thinking that you can crown a single film from a single genre as the greatest ever is silly. But it’s an excellent film, nonetheless. Grade: A


150 Movies in 90 Days: Man of Steel

June 15: #17, Man of Steel

By the way, when Superman flies, it's really just telekinesis

With fan reaction (if not critic reaction) having been positive by the time I saw Man of Steel yesterday, I figured I would end up liking the movie. After all, I generally like superhero films, and I’m one of the few that actually liked Superman Returns. What I wondered was whether the film could live up to the promises delivered by the trailers, which showed a subtle, personal take on Superman’s origin story.

For the most part, the answer was “yes”.

To me, the most interesting parts of the movie were in the first half, when Clark Kent was not yet Superman and instead was drifting from place to place, unsure how to life his life and occasionally having flashbacks to the even earlier times of his childhood. Kevin Costner is perfect as a Kansas farmer and Superdad who imparts the values in Clark that he’s known for almost as much as his superpowers.

Diane Lane is great too, although to me, she still looks too good to be a simple farmer’s wife who’s supposed to be pushing 60 by the time the story starts picking up in the modern day. That’s Hollywood, though, where men get to play a decade younger and women have to play senior citizens by the time they hit their mid-40s.

The action sequences are amazing, which we all expect by now. Warner Bros. spared no expense, either, with very liberal amounts of flying, fighting, and fiery explosions throughout the movie. Whether young Clark is lifting a bus out of a lake, young adult Clark is single-handedly holding up an oil rig to allow workers to escape, or Clark has become Superman and is battling Zod (played mostly effectively by Michael Shannon), everything is top-notch and often jaw-dropping.

In fact, one of the questions left behind by Man of Steel is how quickly the actual human beings inhabiting Earth could trust or forgive him after the billions of dollars of wreckage that is caused by his battles with Zod in the film. After all, while Zod clearly isn’t someone who can be trusted, the fact is that if Superman hadn’t landed on Earth, Zod wouldn’t have followed and knocked over a dozen skyscrapers years later.

Where Man of Steel falls short of earning elite status among comic book superhero movies is the rivalry between Zod and Superman. If the pacing feels off, it’s likely because the moment that Clark dons the iconic cape, Zod shows up and demands he turn himself over to them. Though Zod claims that he will not harm anyone if Superman complies, Supes doesn’t trust him. Why? We don’t know. He’d known him for all of zero seconds at that point and had only discovered his own true origin just before Zod showed up.

Zod was himself sentenced to what would have seemed to be an eternity’s worth of imprisonment, and I’m not entirely sure how he escaped in the first place. Anybody who knows anything about Superman knows that his home planet explodes, but Zod’s escape is kind of glossed over. I believe the escape had something to do with Krypton blowing up, but they knew Krypton was going to blow up. By sending Zod off to the Phantom Zone, they actually allowed him to live while all of the law-abiding citizens of Krypton died. Now that’s being tough on crime, right?

Let's be honest: it's kinda hard to follow TERENCE FUCKING STAMP, though
Another problem with Zod’s quick arrival is that the predictable romance between Clark and Lois Lane seems very forced as a result. Ultimately, it’s just kind of a shame that once we get deeper into the film, the personal element of the film is ditched in favor of action set piece after action set piece.

I’m nit-picking, though. What doesn’t bother me is the end of the film, which I won’t spoil on the off chance that you haven’t seen it yet. Suffice to say that we’re back in the same old argument about what a superhero who’s been around for decades “would” or “should” do, with comic book fans crying foul about one of their icons acting in a way they deem to be incompatible with the character himself.

Well, deal with it, fanboys. Interpretations of characters change, and there are dozens of examples I don’t even need to cite here, including plenty of changes that have been made to Superman himself over the decades. Ultimately, I had no problem with that, although Clark showing up at the Daily Planet with glasses and a bad haircut hardly makes sense. Isn’t there supposed to be at least a half-assed explanation of how people magically can’t recognize Clark as Superman or something? Instead, someone who would have been the world’s most famous person after the events of Man of Steel walks around anonymously because he puts on some glasses. Still a great movie, though. Grade: B+