Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Musings

I'm committing a heinous crime to many by judging a movie I haven't actually seen, but I've been feeling the need to express some concerns of mine over Zack Snyder's new Superman movie. I recall when seeing TDKR last summer being genuinely excited over the teaser trailer for Man of Steel. It was clearly announcing itself to be the movie of the 2013 summer season, a new and intense superman origin story in the vein of Nolan's Batman trilogy. Now, it was not the dark, somber approach that had me excited, but the fact that Nolan's batman movies, whatever their shortcomings may be, made people truly excited. They replaced traditional hype with feverish anticipation because you really felt you would see something that went beyond summer blockbuster spectacle. If Snyder, with the assistance of Nolan and David Goyer, could make a summer movie with such courage and confidence without falling prey to the typical summer action tropes, then I felt that Man of Steel might be something much more than a disposable product.

Now, when I say I haven't seen Man of Steel yet it should be quite obvious why: there's a strong consensus that this is not a great movie, and to many hardly even a good one. I can't recall a film that caused such a letdown when expectations were so high. Ten years ago I would have happily rushed to see it, but because of the standards set by Batman Begins, and even more so The Dark Knight, the negative word-of-mouth is close to crushing. How could Zack Snyder let this happen?

But then I realized that this is a Zack Snyder movie, and Snyder is a man whose career has been defined by action and excess, who takes the notion of style over substance to new extremes, and whose passion project was the abominable Sucker Punch. As much as I enjoyed Watchmen, how could I really have gotten my hopes up for this thing? I imagine that the producers at Warner Bros. were looking for the best of the both worlds by having the Goyer/Nolan name and the Snyder brand attached to the same product. Goyer and Nolan were there to provide a cool, new origin story to satisfy those expecting a Batman Begins-type reinvention, and then they put Snyder in to satisfy all the ADHD viewers longing to see pyrotechnics. It's a frustrating collaboration to say the least.

Why do I say such things without having seen Man of Steel? Largely because I really do think I know exactly what I'm going to get, and that pisses me off. I can't stop thinking about the way Nolan worked the action scenes in his Batman movies and how refreshing they were to watch. Sure, the composition of the scenes may be sloppy at times, but it's the whole idea that Nolan was intricately planning these sequences and thrilling the viewer based on the architecture of the scene rather than repetitive CGI destruction. Nolan gave us cinematic moments we hadn't seen before, while Snyder, however loud and visually stunning his metropolis action sequence may be, is giving us something familiar and frankly dull. 

Of course I'm not going to say this is a bad film when I haven't seen it (and I do plan to, just not yet), but I already know that there are things that I dislike about it, and that concerns me. It concerns me that this whole thing feels programmed by Warner Bros. and very unnatural. It concerns me that the studio started fast-tracking a sequel before the first one even came out, and that Snyder is once again attached to direct.

Finally, I want to briefly move on to one of the other major summer films, Monsters University. It comes out this Friday, and the word is out that while the movie's fun, it's below the Pixar standards. This is the third year in a row we've heard this. If it keeps up, those high Pixar standards won't even be talked about anymore. And yet one thing that's important to consider is that these movies that people talk about when discussing Pixar gold come largely from the minds of Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter. Those names can't be found if you look at this trio of mediocre Pixar movies: Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University. Just something to keep in mind. 

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