Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Man of Steel Film Review (Spoilers)

Having waited for all the fuss to die down my wife and I ventured out to see Man Of Steel at the weekend around a week after its release, I had managed to avoid the spoilers and deliberately kept away from any reviews or podcasts that had a hint of Man of Steel about them. This was for me the most anticipated film of the year as a DC fan I want, no I need to have good DC hero films, and after the poorly received Green Lantern (I didn’t think it was that bad) the balance was restored by The Dark Knight Returns. As comic fans we needed this reboot of Superman to keep DC films in the ascendency, and did it didn’t disappoint until the final scenes of the film but I’ll get to that later.

Firstly the cinematography of this film is absolutely outstanding Krypton has never looked so good, the early  Christopher Reeve films had Krypton as a bland ice plant but here we see a Krypton that is vibrant, colorful and full of all types of life. Which is a pity as in keeping with the Superman mythos it’s also a planet that is on the edge of destruction, brought on by the over mining of the planets core in the pursuit of more resources.
The Cast:
The film boasts an impressive cast with Russell Crowe as Jor-El giving one of his best performances in a long while, his role has clearly been expanded as he appears several times throughout the film as a hologram to help the now grown up Kal-EL. You even get a reminder of Russell’s old Gladiator days when he goes hand to hand with General Zod, a pre-conditioned warrior who’s only thought is the continuation of the people of Krypton no matter what the cost. General Zod is played brilliantly by Michael Shannon and it’s to his credit that you do have some sympathy for his character, he sees himself not as a villain but as the savour of his people and if millions have to die to achieve that salvation then so be it.

Clarke’s Earth parents Jonathan and Martha Kent are played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, Costner is a little underused but good value for the screen time that he has. Whilst Diane Lane excellently portrays a rather feisty Martha Kent a Mother who has no issues telling Zod and his crew to go to hell when they come face to face, despite been thrown across the farm yard and having a pickup truck dropped on her house. Laurence Fishburne plays Daily Planet editor Perry White and Laurence plays him in the same way he plays everyone, I could have been watching Morpheus from the Matrix or Dr Ray from CSI but it’s a small role so I didn’t let it detract me from the film.

Amy Adams is Lois Lane and to be fair she plays a better one than Margaret Kidder or Kate Bosworth ever did in previous films, her Lois is one that uses her investigative skills and know how to track down and find the identity of the mysterious man who saved her life. Unlike previous Lois’s who used to sit across from him for around 8 hours a day, failing to work out that Clark Kent is Superman because he hides behind a pair of glasses. The problem I had with Amy’s portrayal of Lois is there was little or no chemistry between her and Caville when they are on screen together; this is supposed to be one of comic’s greatest romances but it just wasn’t there. That brings me to Henry Caville as the main man himself I had major worries about his ability to play the Superman role, I am not questioning his acting ability but everything I had seen from trailer clips to the stock photos he just didn’t look right to me, he didn’t look like Superman. Well how wrong was I, Caville was every inch the Superman I hoped he would be both in his actions and his presence on screen. The updated costume with no outside pants worked perfectly and although he must have worked tremendously hard to fill it out, I still think it would have looked better on me my wife confirmed as much when I raised the point with her as we sat having a drink and meal together after the film so it must be true. Cavills’ Superman is a lonely untrusting individual who has hidden away all his life trying to ensure no one finds out about his powers, a boy who was bullied knowing full well he could take down anyone who bullied him. Despite his mistrust he is still compelled to help those in need which he does as he wanders the world looking for clues as to who he really is, Clarks earlier life is show in flashbacks which works well and helps to explain why Clark is as untrusting in his fellow man as he is. Cavill plays this darker broodier Superman very well which includes his growth as his trust in mankind begins to slowly grow, this is probably the deepest look into who Clark / Kal-EL really is and the film is all the better for it.
The Action:
One of the main complaints about the last Superman film is there was very little action in it well this is not something you can complain about in this one, from the early scenes as Jor-El fights his way across a Krypton in the clutches of civil war to the films final confrontation between Kal-El and Zod the action never pauses for too long. The battle in Smallville between Superman and Zod is nothing but a taster on what’s to come, just when Zod is about to be beaten the ongoing battle between Kal-El, Zods right hand woman Faora-UL and the US military ramp the action up to spectacular proportions. I just need to add here that Faora-UL played by Antje Traue is a more frightening opponent than Zod, General Zod is driven but Faora-UL is psychotic and not afraid to hold back on anything be it jet fighters or some poor infantry man who happens to be in her way.

The final fight between a desperate Zod and Superman takes action and violence in a hero film to a whole new level, if you thought the Avengers destroyed Manhattan in their fight that was nothing compared with the destruction of Metropolis in this one. Which finally brings me to the scene that changed the whole feel of the film for me the killing of General Zod, up until this point this was the Superman film I had always hoped it would be, a little violent perhaps but still a great film then Superman broke Zod’s neck. Now I know in the context of the film he had no choice my wife pointed this out to me as we dissected the film over drinks and a very good pizza, but my one answer was Superman always finds a way, what that way is I don’t know but Superman would know and that’s my point he always knows.
Final Thoughts:

The whole character of Superman for me is one of hope he is the shining example other heroes aspire to be, by killing General Zod you move away from that ideal which is something I was not comfortable with when I saw it and on reflection I’m still not comfortable with now. So for me a great film was spoilt by that one action no matter how much he regretted doing it, having said all that its still a film well worth going to see and I know I will buy it on DVD when its released and you will see me in the queue to see Man of Steel 2 when its released. 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Constantine #3

Constantine continues his search for the final piece of a compass an artifact that has the potential to find any magical resource in the world, such is its danger in the wrong hands it has been split into three and hidden around the world. John has found and lost the needle but is now in possession of the dial and closing in on the lens which he discovered has been hidden in London. Hot on his heels also chasing the compass are Sargon the sorceress and the blind Mage Mr.E an name to strike terror in anyone heart if ever I heard one, Constantine managed to escape from Mr E in issue 2 mainly because Mr.E couldn’t see what he was up to a chink in Mr. E’s armour I suspect that needs addressing.

Once back in London Constantine begins to suffer from a blood curse (origin unknown) that seemingly slowly drains the life out of him when he visits the capital, I have to admit London has that effect on me but it’s usually down to seeing my football team getting beaten or the prices pubs down there charge for flat beer but I digress.

John has a cunning plan (cue Baldrick) to deal with his curse which involves a ride in an enchantment protected car a cunning plan indeed, unfortunately John and his driver take an unexpected trip to an alternate dimension where he strikes a bargain for his and his drivers life with the demon who is trapped there, the Riddling Butcher (now there's a name take notes Mr.E)

Back in the real world the final confrontation between Constantine, Sargon and Mr. E takes place in an antiques lens shop, where Constantine seemingly trapped in a magical circle is forced to explain that the hidden lens for the compass is in fact the eyes of the shop owner. A man who is been tortured by the two Mage's to reveal where the lens is, it transpires that the shop owner is the son of the man who built the compass.  As with all things Constantine you know he is one step ahead of everyone else and just when all looks bleak he unleashes the Riddling Butcher on Sargon and Mr.E, we find out it was Sargon’s farther was the one who trapped the demon in the alternate dimension and he wants revenge if not on him then on his daughter. Everything goes to hell the lenses are lost in the grizzly way you would expect, Sargon and Mr E are left fighting for their life’s against a very upset demon while Constantine escapes their trap and teleports out of London leaving them to their fate, although later back in New York during self reflection he admits they would probably survive and would be out for revenge.


So that’s the first story arc over and for this long time Hellblazer fan it has been a pleasant surprise as I found the book more to my likeing than I thought I would, its a good introduction story for anyone who wasn’t aware of Constantine and for long time fans it had enough of the Hellblazer elements to keep us interested. Ray Fawkes and Jeff Lemire have made a good start in establishing Constantine into the DC Universe while still keeping some of the elements of the character established in the Vertigo one.

My one complaint about the book (I always have one) is that its just too bright and colourful, I prefer my Constantine stories drawn dark and gritty but this is a new universe so I will have to live with it. I would like to add that the last statement is not a knock on Renato Guedes’ art which is excellent, but the first 3 books have had just a little too much colour for me.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Aquaman #20

The Others first introduced in Aquaman #7 have been asked by Aquaman to search out a Atlantean glove that has the power to punch through rock, the glove is one of many weapons that were lost during the resent Atlantis war with the surface world. The atlanteans are searching out any weapon's left on the sea bed but the glove has managed to find its way to the middle of the desert, and as its pointed out the desert is not the best environment for water dwellers.
The Others consist of military style man know as The Operative, Ya’Wara the animal woman and the Prisoner of War also added to the mix is a young Indian girl called Sky Alchesay, Sky walks between the land of the living and the dead and talks to her dead mother Kahina, who was previously a member of the Others prior to her death at the hands of Black Mantra?
The hunt for the glove begins once every gets to meet up via the will of the lightening gods, who bringing down the Others plane in the exact spot where Sky is standing waiting for them (I will point them in the direction of Ryanair Air they can give them some tips).

The glove is been used by a skin walker who is trying to free a lost group of skin walkers buried deep in a cave underground, the skin walker with the power glove turns out to be Sky's uncle Carl (poor name for a villain) who was briefly introduced earlier in the story trying to recruit Sky over protective brother. Having released the trapped skin walkers Carl plans to do whatever skin walkers do, however he didn’t count on the Others coming to thwart him and take away his glove trapping both him and the briefly freed skin walkers in a cave beneath ground, so plan thwarted then.

The issue ends with the Others leaving presumably to take the glove back to Aquaman and when Sky is asked if they (Others) will see her again, Sky replies that if they need her they know where she is then turns and walks back into the desert, man you have got to love an enigmatic ending, well I do.

Issue 20 is a fill in issue which takes you away from the excellent Death of a King story line that has been running in this book, not only is it a fill in but resident scribe Geoff Johns who has done so much to revive the fortunes of Aquaman is not writing it. Add to that very little Aquaman presence as the story revolves mainly around the team know as The Others, who are at best a rag bag team that Aquaman used to run with in his younger pre Justice League days and you would think it had the makings for a for disaster of an issue. However your thinking like mine would be wrong because the issue is so much more than a fill in book, writer John Ostrander does a wonderful job telling a story that is both entertaining and interesting, while dropping little hints and subplots that will surly play out in future Aquaman issues to come.

I did have a few minor points with the book one is that it felt a little rushed especially at the end as the team battled against the skin walkers, and why did Aquaman ask the Others to find the glove why not ask someone of his present team to find it. Surly Wonder Woman, Superman or the Flash could have done the job a lot quicker, but as I said these were minor points and didn’t detract from or spoil the story for me.

I will go as far to say that I would be happy to buy a monthly comic that featured the Others as they proved to be a very interesting group of characters, and to be honest DC have given worse characters their own books since rebooting the Universe so the Others are surly worth taking a chance on.

Come on DC you know you want too