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Batman: Assault On Arkham [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Batman: Assault On Arkham [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Jay Oliva
Price: £9.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ASSAULT ON ARKHAM: Makes THE DARK KNIGHT Look Like BATMAN & ROBIN - For ADULT Guy Ritchie/Horror Fans, 17 Aug 2014
In July of 2013 at the San Diego Comic Con, the DC Animation Panel announced BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM as a fall 2014 release, intended to tie-into Rocksteady Studio's latest "Batman: Arkham" game - which at that time was set for an October 2014 release. It sadly reeked of DC/Warner Bros. interdepartmental cross-promotion, and left little for fans to look forward to.

Fortunately, the talent assigned to the film had their own agenda with regard to what type of film they wanted to make. When it was decided the plot would focus on sending the Suicide Squad into Arkham on a mission, everything began clicking. Co-director Jay Oliva, who looks for distinct stylistic approaches for each of his films, saw the opportunity to turn the DC Universe Film into one unlike any other - a Guy Ritchie stylized pic: "Normally, I direct epic, sweeping animated films, but this one I wanted it to be more like a Guy Ritchie film. If I'd directed like I'd directed an earlier project I'd done in the past, it might not be so good, so I pitched it as a Guy Ritchie film or a Soderbergh film. Like "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels". So that's how we did it. Even the music isn't done in the operatic style, the Hans Zimmer feel. It's more contemporary, and it made it more fresh. It was a challenge." (www.flickerkingmyth.com, SDCC Interview: Jay Oliva, director of Batman: Assault on Arkham, AUGUST 4, 2014 BY GARY COLLINSON)

Screenwriter Heath Corson wasn't just a fan of utilizing the Suicide Squad in the film, he was in total sync with director Jay Oliva's `Guy Ritchie' heist approach, and had a specific Steven Soderbergh film on the brain as well: "I said it's sort of like "Ocean's Eleven " if, at every step of the way, Brad Pitt is trying to kill George Clooney...They really liked that and they wanted me to go in that direction. ... I realized I had pitched a heist movie and heist movies are super hard, so I had to build it from the ground up...It's not an adaptation (of the video game), so I had a little bit of a freer hand to (pace it) as fast as I could...Also, because we're doing a heist movie, those things are breathless. They gotta move so quickly that you're just keeping up. So that sort of was baked into the concept, that it needed to move as fast as it possible could." (www.animationmagazine.net, Heist Style, AUGUST 8, 2014 BY THOMAS J. McLEAN)

And move it does.

An action-pact opening involves Batman (legendary Kevin Conroy back in great form) defeating Government Agent Amanda Waller (the great C.C.H. Pounder) and her attempt to capture Edward Nygma (Matthew Gray Gubler). Once directors Jay Oliva & Ethan Spaulding, along with writer Heath Corson, set-up their plot, and the film hits the 32 minute mark, it's an insane, dark, profane, sexualized, hilarious, sick wild ride, right down to the last notes of Robert J Kral's energized end titles, which equal the balance of his greatly varied, highly stylized overall score.

Once you're a half-hour in, BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM moves faster and hits harder each minute as it builds upon and exceeds the previous 60 seconds. Like the best work of Guy Ritchie, Steven Soderbergh an Quentin Tarantino, the film hits that stride of outrageous unpredictability. That line-shattering mix of the entire gambit of humor, combined with 'traditionally' inappropriate subject matter that drives America's conservative, senior citizens crazy when they accidentally stumble into it at the cinema.

In this case? A hilarious scene with a couple of exploding heads, and a certain villain who picks one up -post dismemberment from its body - for a casual conversation. An Arkham Guard who is suckered via a VERY partially nude female Suicide Squad member, only to end up facing off with the `Jaws' of a hilarious cannibal, who announces after eating the guy, "He hates Italian."

If your tastes include films such as Ritchie's SNATCH, Soderbergh's SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, and Quentin Tarantino's RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS and DJANGO UNCHAINED, odds are high while watching BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM, you will find yourself unable to restrain your own verbal reactions.

Don't be surprised if the film's countless, unexpected, and character-motivated moments of perfectly mixed hilarity, one-liners, horror, over-the-top violence, sex and vulgarity elicit verbal responses such as: "Oh no they didn't!"; "Holy (fill in your favorite expression)!"; "Now that's how it's done!"; and countless other reactions (from G to NC-17 rated, depending upon your tastes and whomever else is in the room).

Jay Oliva has noted, "I'm a huge horror fan. I would watch "R"-rated films that I was way too young to watch, and I think that kind of influenced me a little bit...I love "The Shining" and "The Exorcist". I've done a film here that is very psychological, and I tried to hearken back to what I loved as a kid. I tried to balance the videogame feel to the heist movie and a little bit of scary elements at the end. It's my nod to Sam Raimi and John Carpenter. I've been asked how I took on my directing style, and my style comes from studying the greats. You learn something from everyone. I've tried to integrate everything." (www.flickerkingmyth.com, SDCC Interview: Jay Oliva, director of Batman: Assault on Arkham, AUGUST 4, 2014 BY GARY COLLINSON)

With the goal of the Directors and Writer being to make a film in the style of both Guy Ritchie and Steven Soderbergh, it should come as no surprise that BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM is the most flat-out violent, sexually graphic, profane, dark, twisted and ADULT DC Universe Animated Original Film ever produced. The film is laced with several moments of partial nudity, exploding heads with blood splattering, corpses taking gunshots, a heated night of sex for 2 characters, violent knife and chain-hook fights with bloody body impaling. BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM makes Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT look like Joel Schumacher's BATMAN & ROBIN.

The MPAA must have found Oliva, Spaulding and Corson's first 30 minutes of plot `set-up' so hard to follow, they fell asleep. More than any other DC Universe Animated Original Film, this one EARNED an "R" rating. Furthermore, its seems that - in just this one case - Rocksteady Studios and DC Universe Animated Original Films would have WANTED an "R" rating on the film. It hits the demographic of the "Arkham Game" series, and it would have gotten the film and upcoming 2015 "Batman: Arkham" game some real publicity.

This isn't to say the film is perfect. Following the opening action sequence, the plot set-up could have used much more `one-liners,' humor, and tighter editing. A surprise early plot appearance by one of the Gotham's Rogues is a nice touch.

These are minor flaws. What could have been nothing more than a throw-a-way promotional tie-in, Directors Jay Oliva & Ethan Spaulding, along with writer Heath Corson, Casting and Voice Director Andrea Romano, Composer Robert Kral, and the entire cast - especially Kevin Conroy - deserve high praise for delivering one of the best and unique DC Universe Animated Original Movies since the days of Bruce Timm. The praise doesn't get ANY higher for a DC Universe Animated Original Film.


Dcu Justice League: War [Blu-ray] [US Import]
Dcu Justice League: War [Blu-ray] [US Import]
Dvd ~ Sean Astin
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £12.18

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Justice League: War": The End is Near - For DCUOMs?, 8 Feb 2014
For the casual moviegoer, the DC Universe Original Movie "Justice League: War" is simply an uneven and ultimately wasted 79 minute running time. For longtime fans of the previously titled DC Universe Animated Original Movies, it's a heartbreaker.

Skilled action and dramatic director Jay Olivia does his best with a screenplay by Heath Corson that is solid, although dialogue and characterizations could have used a second pass. Both are undermined by this being the most miss-cast film in the DCUOM history. Even legendary Voice Director Andrea Romano can't squeeze the right emotional performances out of this cast at virtually any moment, crucially the critical ones.

Returning composer Kevin Klieisch ("Superman Unbound") delivers another 'low-budget, overtly synth sounding' score that has fans longing for the DCUOM days of the master Christopher Drake, along with past composers Kevin Manthei, Robert J. Kral, and James L. Venable. Why Frederick Wiedmann, who nailed DCUOM's previous release "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox" with a sound that was both organic and fresh was NOT brought back to score this new film is a travesty.

The plot is a relatively straightforward, and at times improved, adaptation of Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Scott William's first 6 issues of DC Comic's The New 52 title 'Justice League,' giving audiences a Joss Whedon 'Avengers' origin take on the classic 'Justice League' story. It's the first team-up for Superman, Batman, Wonder-Woman, the Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg.

For the film, writer Corson swaps out Aquaman for Shazam. Believe it or not, it's a wise move. Shazam is played by Oscar nominee, SAG winner, and LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy star Sean Astin.

He seems to be the only one having fun and perfectly cast in his role. Christopher Gorham (TV's 'Covert Affairs') is a passable Barry Allen/The Flash, while Michele Monaghan's part as Wonder Woman is so poorly developed, you can't really fault her for playing the role as written and directed. Justin Kirk of TV's 'Modern Family' appears to be playing Hal Jordan/Green Lantern as an over-the-top arrogant 'Plastic Man Green Lantern,' but he fails to find humanity nor any humility in his performance. Ditto Alan Tudyk of TV's 'Suburgatory' and 'Arrested Development' as Superman. Rarely has the Man of Steel been annoyingly, and disturbingly, arrogant, aggressive, violent and unintelligent.

Shemar Moore does shine as Cyborg, and the subplot involving his relationship with his father is one of the best aspects of the film. Finally, there's DCUOM's new Dark Knight - Jason O'More, of TV's 'Terra Nova' and last season's 'The Good Wife.' He has his moments, but he mostly reaffirms Kevin Conroy and Bruce Greenwood's performance dominance of the role in animation from 1992 - 2014.

And this very reasonably budgeted voice cast is the key to what makes this film fail. If we don't buy the vocal part of an animated performance, not even a master like Jay Olivia delivering his trademark phenomenal visuals can sell the emotional core of the story. And the cutting of pennies in dropping seasoned composers like Christopher Drake means scores in which synth effects were intentional, but absent when orchestral strings, brass and woodwinds were meant to be heard, are now at times replaced with Kliesch's obvious Saturday morning/ 90s afterschool synth strings and obviously electronic orchestral arrangements.

Up until Bruce Timm's departure, the DCUOMs were - more often then not - sophisticated, adult fare, with HIGH caliber acting talent to match the incredible animation, music and sound effects. Since his departure, I think it's safe to say the days of hearing an Emmy and SAG winner like Bryan Cranston play a Jim Gordon; a Kevin Conroy, Bruce Greenwood or Peter Weller play Batman, or an Oscar nominee such as James Woods play a key villain like Owl Man are over.

If this is what passes for 'epic' now in the world of DC Universe Original Movies, the end of the entire line may be near.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 12, 2014 7:38 AM GMT


Dcu: Batman: Dark Knight Returns [Blu-ray] [US Import]
Dcu: Batman: Dark Knight Returns [Blu-ray] [US Import]
Dvd ~ Peter Weller
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £14.34

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DK Returns Full Feature & New 70 Miller Doc= No Double Dip!, 10 Oct 2013
For fans thinking they are being 'double dipped' by this DC Universe Animated Original Movie 'Deluxe Edition' release of 'BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS,' think again. You only need look at what you are getting for your money to realize Warner Bros. animation is offering up a totally new 'viewing experience' for this groundbreaking animated achievement, along with phenomenal new extras well worth the investment. The full-length, uninterrupted version of the film clocks in at 2 hours and 29 minutes. This uninterrupted viewing experience of Director Jay Olivia and Writer Bob Goodman's brilliant, epic adaptation of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" may be the closest fans will ever get again to an adult, serious and hard-core Christopher Nolan 'Batman' film.

The fact the film features a crew commentary track with Olivia, Goodman and Voice Director Andrea Romano - exclusive to this 'full-cut' - means that fans get a creative perspective on the film as a whole. Had commentary tracks been recorded and released on each of the separate 'Part 1' and 'Part 2' releases, the filmmakers would have been inhibited from discussing their overall approach to the writing, directing, scoring and overall work on the production as a 2 and 1/2 hour epic film, as each commentary would have focused exclusively on either 'Part 1' or 'Part 2.' In this full-length feature cut commentary track, fans hear what it was like to tackle a such a massive undertaking. The creative efforts that went into this project were phenomenal, expensive, and unprecedented for the DCUAOM team. This is a film that Warner Bros. Animation gave a high budget to and lost a significant amount of money on. The total gross for both 'Parts 1' and '2' was less than 5 million dollars, when packaging and advertising are factored in. DCUAOMs used to gross 5 million PER TITLE, minimum.

The inclusion of the new and impressive 70 minute Frank Miller documentary "Masterpiece: Frank Miller's 'The Dark Knight Returns,' focused on both Miller's rise in the comic book industry and the creation of the graphic novel itself, is the type of bonus material the DCUAOMs have virtually never included. Miller is notoriously 'tight-lipped' about his creations, and particularly, this historic graphic novel. The fact the documentary is comprised of extensive new interview footage with Miller himself makes it the definitive documentary of both Miller and 'The Dark Knight Returns' - one of the most important graphic novels ever written.

The carry-over of all bonus materials from the separately released 'Parts 1 & 2' is, of course, obligatory. Many fans, though, will enjoy the 4 exclusive collector cards included in the set which will feature never before seen artwork. Given the fact the graphic novel itself has seen various special anniversary, hard-cover and limited release editions, it seems perfect that the animated version is getting this treatment.

Kudos to Warner Bros. Home Video for taking a second chance on this title by giving it to fans in a format they really wanted it in, including a comprehensive NEW commentary track, and the 70 minute definitive documentary on Frank Miller and the Graphic Novel itself. Given the low sales of the original releases, this might turn out to be another 'break-even' release for the division. And, if that's the case, it's the fans who will end-up being the sole winners yet again.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 17, 2013 12:50 PM BST


Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox [Blu-ray] [US Import]
Dvd ~ Justin Chambers
Offered by Moref Designs
Price: £18.16

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gutsy and Brilliant - The `Watchmen' of DCUAOM's JL Films, 2 Aug 2013
"Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox" is a revelation. An all-too-rare gem of a film that goes to places with classic comic book superheroes you can't imagine any group of filmmakers would dare. It's one thing to read and see a story like this on the page. It's an entirely different thing to experience it on a visceral level as a motion picture.

Based upon the DC comics storyline "Flashpoint" by Geoff Johns, "The Flashpoint Paradox" is - at heart - an emotional, introspective journey centered on one of DC's lesser-known heroes, Barry Allen aka the Flash.

Screenwriter Jim Krieg skillfully manages to adapt most of Johns' main storyline while adding an original prologue that emotionally anchors the film in Barry Allen's tragic childhood loss of his mother, and the guilt he carries into his adult life in not having saved her life. Krieg has also scripted a smart, humorous and sophisticated opening action sequence involving the main Justice League characters. Like most great screenwriters, Krieg knows if you're going to deconstruct the most famous DC superheroes throughout your script, showing them as brutal vigilantes and ruthless killers for the balance the film, you better first give them all a moment to shine at their heroic best.

This is a time-travel story into an alternative universe, and following these opening scenes, Barry Allen awakes from dozing-off at his workstation to find a world inverted. DC's most enduring heroes are now the most violent, out-of-control threat the planet has ever faced.

Bruce Wayne was killed, not his parents. His father Thomas Wayne is the Batman, an alcoholic consumed by loss who dispatches his victims with a gun in each hand or a toss off a rooftop. Aquaman and Wonder Woman are at war, with the Amazons having invaded the UK, slaughtering millions, and turning it into their new Paradise Island. Kal-El didn't land in Kansas to be raised by the Kents. He instead crash landed in Metropolis, where he has been kept underground and experimented on by the government.

In 1985 when Alan Moore was developing the graphic novel "Watchmen," his intent was to utilize established superheroes from the Charlton Comics line that DC had just purchased. DC managing editor Dick Giodano vetoed the idea, concerned that depicting the characters in a "dysfunctional" manner, or showing them being killed off in the mini-series would hurt their `brand potential.'

The approach producer James Tucker, writer Jim Krieg and director Jay Olivia have taken in adapting "Flashpoint" is in many ways what Moore wanted to do with "Watchmen." Moore had reasoned "as long as readers recognized them (the characters) ... `it would have the shock and surprise value when you saw what the reality of these characters was.' " Or, in the case of "The Flashpoint Paradox," when you see what the reality of the characters are in a dark alternative universe.

While the alternate universe `versions' of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are the result of an anomaly in the `DC timeline,' seeing them commit graphic acts of violence and murder against each other, additional characters from the DC Universe, and a global mass populous elicits a very disturbing and shocking viewing experience. Like the DCUAOM release "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Part 2," the level of graphic violence makes it inconceivable that the MPAA gave the film a PG-13 rating as opposed to a R rating.

But, let's be very clear on this point. Every moment of graphic violence, adult language and mature situations is VITAL to making this film work on a complex sophisticated level very much in the vein of Bryan Singer's two `X-MEN' films, Zach Snyder's adaptation of "WATCHMEN," and Christopher Nolan's `DARK KNIGHT' trilogy. This is a film for adults, not kids. To water it down is to destroy it artistically.

Like the "Watchmen" graphic novel and Zach Snyder's feature adaptation of it, "The Flashpoint Paradox" is a film for adults who aren't afraid to explore the dark notion proposed by Johns' "Flashpoint" series. A dark notion that "The Flashpoint Paradox" brings to full fruition with maximum emotional and intellectual impact. Namely, dark consequences would befall powerful superheroes and the world if one tragic twist of fate impacted their lives on a deeply traumatic emotional level.

The film is able to reach these heights thanks to just how far the creative team was prepared to go, and how high they were willing to claw their way up to reach.

Director Jay Olivia ("Batman: The Dark Knight Returns") knows how to do action - he was one of Zach Snyder's storyboard artists on "Man of Steel." With "The Flashpoint Paradox" he has deftly mixed multiple approaches in character design and animation techniques. Traditional anime, anatomic realism and exaggerated physique designs vary from scene to scene. This yields a wider range of emotions than the previous DCUAOMs Justice League titles have contained and explored, save "New Frontier." The results also pay-off in a higher level of kinetic energy in his action sequences. At times, all three animation approaches appear on screen at once - with the genius being it all rings true and works.

Legendary Casting and Voice Director Andrea Romano's work on the film yields phenomenal detail. Justin Chambers ("Grey's Anatomy") delivers the best Barry Allen/The Flash performance in a DCUAOM since Neil Patrick Harris portrayed the character in 2008's "Justice League: The New Frontier." Chambers' balances a newfound level of gravitas for Barry Allen with the humor that has always been a key element of the character.

C. Thomas Howell buries himself in the roll of Professor Zoom, and its obvious he had a ball playing the film's central villain. Michael R. Jordan (currently starring in "Fruitvale Station") walks the line between sincerity and naivety as Cyborg without ever giving into being less than the best soldier the US has. Cary Elwes ("The Princess Bride," "Saw") gives a majestic, bold and tense presence to his role as Aquaman.

Towering above them all is Kevin McKidd (also from "Grey's Anatomy") as Thomas Wayne, aka Flashpoint Batman. Disillusioned, cynical, unpredictable and violent, McKidd's performance is laced with both overt and repressed rage throughout. Yet, he hits great beats of humor and pathos.

This time out, the detail in Romano's Casting Work is amazing. Both "Batman," "Superman" and "Justice League" animated series veterans Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany and Nathan Fillion are back in their roles as Batman, Lois Lane and Green Lantern. The fact their appearances are virtually cameos didn't deter her from getting them. More importantly, their performances add just as much as the lead actors' do to the overall artistry of the piece as a phenomenal example of `Ensemble Acting' in an Animated Motion Picture. Romano even managed to get Ron Perlman ("Pacific Rim," "Hellboy") and Danny Huston ("Hitchcock," "Wrath of the Titans") to take very minor roles.

Getting Conroy back was of vital creative importance for the film's final and very emotional closing scene. It's worth crediting his loyalty to DC Animation that he recognized, for this film, his small contribution was major.

Frederik Wiedmann's original score must be given its due as well. Rich and layered with textures specifically designed for the emotional range of the film, Wiedmann also delivers distinct themes for the Amazons, Aquaman's army, the Flash, and Flashpoint Batman. Here's hoping when Christopher Drake isn't available to score future DCUAOMs, Wiedmann gets the assignments.

Finally, DC Animation Supervising Producer James Tucker must be acknowledged for his courage and artistic integrity in backing the film's daring content and artistic achievement.

His statements to the press upon replacing Bruce Timm as the DC Animation Supervising Producer made it clear that DCUAOMs were headed in a new, commercial direction. No longer would direct adaptations of graphic novels be done as DCUAOMs ("Batman: Year One," "The Dark Knight Returns"), and `brand names' like `Justice League' would be embraced as vehicles to introduce new characters. After DC Animation's announcement that two `Justice League' titles in 2013 would be followed by two `Batman' titles in 2014, it seemed DC Animation was possibly being co-opted by the Warner Bros. Live Action division to support and promote their plans for a JLA film, along with Zach Snyder's challenge in rebooting Batman for his "Man of Steel" sequel.

However, if "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox" is indicative of how Tucker plans to meld any potential Warner-Bros. mandated commercialism and cross-promotion of DCUAOMs with his team still taking huge creative risks and maintaining the artistic integrity of DCUAOMs, Tucker is truly taking DC Animation and their films into a new, exciting and subversive direction for fans.

If the upcoming "Justice League: War" and "Batman and Son" are as daring, uncompromising, challenging and adult as "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox," James Tucker will have initial nay-Sayers like myself eating crow and crying `mea-culpa' pretty damn fast.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 2, 2014 10:46 AM BST


Man of Steel [DVD]
Man of Steel [DVD]
Dvd ~ Henry Cavill
Price: £4.50

15 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MAN OF STEEL - The Superman of the 21st Century, 29 Jun 2013
This review is from: Man of Steel [DVD] (DVD)
MAN OF STEEL delivers one of the most visual and dramatically rich films of the year. Brilliantly crafted and realized by director Zach Snyder, the film wastes not a moment in weaving a complex tapestry that redefines the greatest superhero in history on an unheard of epic scale.

And make no mistake, this is the Superman of the 21st Century. Director Zach Snyder and writer David S. Goyer have combined elements and touches of the most definitive Superman comics and graphic novels of the character's last 27 years to insure MAN OF STEEL is a faithful reboot, unlike Bryan Singer's failed "Superman Returns." References and scenes abound from `Man of Steel,' `Earth One,' `Secret Origin,' `Battle of the Supermen,' `Birthright,' `Last Son of Krypton,' `Secret Identity,' and `New Krypton,' along with the New 52 re-launches of `Action Comics' and `Superman.' Snyder and Goyer also courageously mix in new mythological elements that address our own world's controversial geo-political issues, all of which are grounded in the character's high morals and science-fiction mythos.

Those with pacemakers, heart conditions or in walkers better get out of the way - this is also 21st Filmmaking at its best. Snyder has become one of the leading stylists in a new breed of directors who mix film stocks, exposure speeds, camera movement styles, visual effects and processing textures for narrative purposes - and he's never been more in tune with his gifts than he is here.

At times, the tone and drama of the dialogue and performances fly at you just as fast as his visuals, with each line and intonation as vital as his visual effects. The extended opening on Krypton is layered with as much philosophy, religious contemplation, and environmental debates as it is with stunning renderings of technology and creatures.

Yet, Snyder takes time to slow down when emotion, performances, earthbound reality, and narrative tone demand it. Writer David S. Goyer has structured his screenplay in a fashion similar to "Batman Begins," which he co-authored with MAN OF STEEL co-producer and co-story author Christopher Nolan. While Nolan maintained a consistent pace and stylistic approach in "Batman Begins," while cross-cutting `timelines' in that film, Snyder utilizes stylistic shifts to allow his visuals to become a visceral extension of Goyer's screenplay structure and dialogue.

With regard to the film's performances, the casting could not be more perfect. Henry Cavill embodies his triple roles as Kal-El, Clark Kent and Superman with levels of subtlety, regret, humanity, humor, compassion and - above all - humility. He paces himself in each scene as `evolution' is the key demand of the role. This is really a Clark Kent story, as film reveals to Clark just who he is and who he is destined to be. In the first half, Cavill portrays a Clark Kent expressing loneliness, heroism, determination, and - yes - wit and humor as he wanders the country, struggling with a personal crisis - who am I, and what should I do? Once he discovers his Kryptonian heritage, and identity as Kal-El, he `suits-up' as Superman. Tragically, he must immediately face General Zod and his troops. Cavill is a Superman who has yet to be anointed with that name by the people of earth. Worse, he has yet to gain their trust. For the balance of the film, we witness a Superman learning how to use his powers, protect the people of earth, and realizing you must have faith in people first before trust can be established. It is a lesson he instills on the US military - those who most doubt his insistence he is a loyal American, through and through. By the end of the film, Cavill delivers audiences' expectations of seeing the fully formed Superman and Clark Kent.

Amy Adam's Lois Lane is the exact embodiment of what we'd expect from an aggressive, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. She expresses hard-edged yet beautiful humanity when she stumbles onto the story of the century, only to realize she can't run it as it means ruining a man's life. Michael Shannon brings to Zod a level of depth beyond just rage and vengeance. A key revelation in his character is a tragic one. We learn that he faces fulfilling a destiny he did not choose for himself. As Clark's mother, Diane Lane balances showing concern and fear for her son as his powers emerge and he begins questioning why God made him this way. Lane treats her Kryptonian adopted son as she would any child, hiding her fear and learning how to help her son control his powers. Her goal is that of all mothers - teaching her son that childhood is just a phase of life, not its end.

In the Superman saga, the most important parental figures have always been the fathers - Jor-El and Jonathan Kent. It's the casting of Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent that illustrate to audiences who Clark is when we meet him, and how he becomes Superman by the end of the film. In Snyder's MAN OF STEEL, it is done better than in any previous cinematic version of the character.

Costner's Jonathan Kent is a complex man. Upon learning young Clark has saved a school bus full of his classmates from sinking into a river, Costner is angered. Insisting Clark must keep his powers a secret, when young Clark asks him if he should have let them die, Costner honestly responds, "Maybe." He is a father desperate to protect his son from a world he knows is not ready to accept him. A world he fears will turn its mightiest weapons against his son to kill him.

Yet, with each flashback featuring Costner's Jonathan Kent, the wisdom he departs deepens, as does the love he has for his son. And Costner's Jonathan Kent imparts unto his son the ultimate example any father who truly believes in principles can - showing your son that you stand behind them at all cost. It's the film's most moving sequence.

Russell Crowe's Jor-El is equally full of dimension. His role in the film is not limited to his scenes on Krypton. When Kal-El finally discovers a way to download his father's `consciousness,' Crowe plays the scenes with kindness, reason and - above all - a powerful conviction of faith in his son. Crowe is able to balance acknowledging the burden his son will face as he reveals Kal-El's Kryptonian origins to him, and the awesome responsibility Jor-El as a father is asking of Kal-El as a son to use his powers in becoming an inspiration and symbol of hope for the human race. Like Costner's Jonathan Kent, Crowe inspires confidence in his son by reinforcing principles.

There is a sense of consistency in the values of Jonathan Kent and Jor-El as played by Costner and Crowe - a bridged gap that seems almost cosmic. As if the two fathers are at once separate, yet part of a whole.

This is not a Superman for those clinging to the Fleischer animated shorts, the Reeves TV series, or the Richard Donner film. And it doesn't need to be. For those longing for those depictions of Superman, they will always exist - wonderfully preserved on Blu-Ray and DVD. MAN OF STEEL does not negate these past incarnations, and it shouldn't. Audiences should always treasure these previous versions of Superman.

Yet, the vitriol and anger expressed by critics and some Superman fans against MAN OF STEEL mystifies. The accusation that the last hour of the film is just an over-the-top, empty, bombastic, visual effects laden disaster movie? Not true. There's as much drama, character development and emotion to be found in these scenes as there is in the rest of the film. Furthermore, the film's climax is a `toned down' version of many modern Superman PG-13 animated films, graphic novels and comic book sagas, including the classic 1993 "The Death of Superman" story.

In 2007, the DC Animated Universe division released a direct-to-video film of this story entitled "Superman: Doomsday." Rated PG-13, it contained more killings, violence, brutal action sequences, destroyed cities and adult content than MAN OF STEEL - and its running time was only 75 minutes. I can only imagine what critics and many Superman fans would be saying this weekend had Warner Bros. chosen to release that 5 year old animated film instead of MAN OF STEEL.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 15, 2013 4:47 PM BST


Man of Steel
Man of Steel
Offered by Books2anywhereUS
Price: £12.37

7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Zimmer's Worst Ever-Made Obvious By Included Demos, 23 Jun 2013
This review is from: Man of Steel (Audio CD)
Hans Zimmer's work on Christopher Nolan's DARK KNIGHT trilogy proved to be the sign of a composer evolving. His theme for Batman was two simple notes, varied in pitch, and performance by different instruments, backed with either heavy percussion or strings. His theme for the Joker - an almost unbearable high single note on an oboe or violin string, combined at times with the taping of pencils on a hard surface, an entire string section, a rapidly played single violin, single building blasts of percussion, intermixed properly for each second the character appeared on screen. For THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, his brilliant theme for BANE was a haunting, imposing primal chant accompanied by a distinctive, powerful military percussive movement that retained the same primal elements of the chant. The theme then evolved into one that captured the terror and anarchy Bane brought to Gotham City. In the same film, Zimmer utilized a mysterious and elegant melodic piano movement followed by slinky strings to define Selina Kyle's character. For Batman, he inverted the two note theme's imposing nature with the use of piano and slow strings to reflect a fallen Bruce Wayne and Batman of the film's first half. For the film's final act, he combined his Bane and Batman themes with constant, pulsing, bombastic percussion to insure the tension Nolan wanted over the film's final act remained at the 'high' level the director wanted.

Zimmer insisted throughout the production of MAN OF STEEL that the music needed to be different than his DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY scores. That Superman was a different character, one of 'light,' not 'darkness.' Then he delivered the mess that is his score to MAN OF STEEL. Prior to the release of each Nolan Batman film, listening to Hans Zimmer's scores were akin to a 'preview' of the characters and drama to come in the films. Listening to his MAN OF STEEL soundtrack (DISC 1: FLIGHT, of this 2 disc set) was to simply hear three soft piano notes, a LOT of over-the-top horns, and track after track of RELENTLESS AND POINTLESS BOMBASTIC PERCUSSION POUNDED INTO YOUR EARS. The score is akin to left-over scraps of outtakes from the final half of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES - minus any sense of 'character' or 'narrative.' You don't miss John Williams theme to "Superman: The Movie" - you miss anything that resembles a film score! You miss anything that resembles cohesive music!

Its effect in the movie is predictable - it has none. MAN OF STEEL is a magnificent film. Visually stunning, with a sophisticated narrative structure, thought-provoking dialogue, great performances, incredible special effects, and - as any movie featuring Superman battling Kryptonian bad guys - a very complex, layered and loud sound mix. THANK GOD director Zach Snyder, writer David Goyer, and producer Christopher Nolan delivered a film SO GOOD it functions perfectly WITHOUT NEEDING A MUSIC SCORE. Upon a second viewing of the film, I did determine that Zimmer's score does serve one function in MAN OF STEEL - his bombastic percussion is utilized as 'sound effects' in the battle sequences, allowing the SFX editors and mixers to take down levels of breaking glass, collapsing buildings and explosions. After seeing MAN OF STEEL twice, I still can't think of one moment where the music plays a key role in any scene. Fortunately, I can't remember a moment where the film suffers from not having a film score.

The only reason I'm giving the product 2 STARS is the inclusion of the second disc, DISC 2: EXPERIMENTS FROM THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE. The disc features Hans Zimmer's musical demos or 'sketchings' for the film. And it is SHOCKING to hear JUST HOW DAMN GOOD A LOT OF IT IS. In particular, the first track 'Man of Steel (Hans' Original Sketchbook)' runs over 28 minutes and reveals he WAS developing a rich, orchestral theme for Superman BEYOND THE FILM'S THREE PIANO NOTES. The other tracks demonstrate that Zimmer was also developing separate and - potentially - rich full orchestral themes for Clark Kent, General Zod, and different battle sequences. HOW IN THE WORLD MUSIC THIS RICH WITH SO MUCH POTENTIAL WAS WHITTLED DOWN TO THE SLOP USED IN THE FILM IS PATHETIC.

Zimmer has reached a point in his career where he needs to cease scoring films in the manner he has for THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY and MAN OF STEEL. He has become such a minimalist that instead of just leaving the meat on the bone, he's turning in bone marrow and calling it a film score.


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