Andrew Hates… STAR WARS – THE FORCE AWAKENS

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster

Dir: J.J. Abrams, 2015

The prequels left a bad taste in our mouths. You can sugar-coat it by dwelling on the good – Duel of the Fates, Darth Maul, Order 66 – but ultimately Master Lucas squandered our trust. Of course, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull didn’t help. Yet when the green logo of Lucasfilm Ltd glimmers across the screen before the Episode VII trailers, a long-dormant sensation awakens inside us. You’ve felt it. That is because for better or worse, George Lucas is the man who introduced us to lightsabers, Millennium Falcons and the all-powerful Force and that cancels out any Trade Republics, midichlorians and Jar-Jar Binkses we had to endure along the way. The heart of The Force Awakens lies in J.J. Abrams’ recognition of that fact.

The fanfare and opening crawl gives us our first soupçon of actual plot. The Galactic Empire has risen again in the guise of the First Order and is determined to rid the galaxy of Luke Skywalker, the last remaining Jedi Knight. The Rebel Alliance, now calling themselves the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa send their most talented fighter pilot Poe Dameron to the desert planet Jakku to retrieve a map that leads to Luke’s location.

The Star Wars saga has always been style over substance. For every boy who is struggling to find a different path than the one paved by his father’s footsteps, we have a legion of X-wings and TIE fighters. Each teenager we see living in poverty, wistfully watching the horizon is drowned out by the sound of blasters and hovercrafts. Accepting this, there are no surprises in Abrams’ execution and yet there is a disturbance in the film’s structure. Cinematographer Dan Mindel’s spaceship battles are ecstatic; the practical set design brings an intimidating realism we’ve never seen before and Han Solo’s humour is back in full swing. There is plenty of joy to be had in this film. It’s the emotional spectrum that has disappeared from the franchise.

A truly astonishing realisation given that the screenplay was penned by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Inside Out). The film has no problem with inducing nostalgia overloads – the resurgence of the Millennium Falcon is a blissful set piece – but there’s only so much emotional connection you can rely on John Williams’ spectacular score for. The fundamental setback is bringing light to our three new leads, only one of whom we are properly introduced to in John Boyega’s Finn. Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is an enigma even to herself while the motivations of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are described so briefly that the character’s actions seem senseless. Admittedly, this is space opera and not Shakespeare but at bare minimum we require a bold protagonist and a fearsome villain and after one film, I’m not sure we have them. This new trilogy is clearly intended as a passing of the torch but Abrams and company would do well to ensure the receiving arms can handle the weight of the Star Wars world.

It’s no secret that Abrams is a lover of the series and The Force Awakens gives us many things we’ve craved for some time. Stormtroopers being a terrifying symbol of sovereignty, the Force employed to torture and tear truths from innocent minds and some other things that I’ll allow the film to fill in. There are moments, mostly seen in the trailer, that will cause hearts to swell and a particular third act scene that will undoubtedly break the internet but many of the scenes in the film’s latter half either come across as too video-gamey or hark back to reactions from Abrams’ previous feature Star Trek Into Darkness where it was all a little bit of history repeating.

There are fascinating, fresh stories to be told in the thirty years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens but we don’t get to hear them (yet). The last thing we need is another set of prequels and even if we’re apprised as expected in the opening scene of Episode VIII, we are still being asked to judge this new trilogy as a whole instead of as individual films and I think the fans have waited too long to be told to wait another eighteen months for their same questions answered. The Force Awakens may not live up to the hype but the hype itself was worth seeing another Star Wars film and, while significantly flawed, Episode VII may be the most fun since The Empire Strikes Back. That should be enough but for a tremendous Star Wars geek such as myself, I yearned for bigger and better.

If this is the beginning of a new trilogy paying tribute to the Star Wars of yesteryear, then truly The Force Awakens is J.J.’s A New Hope, reservedly and respectfully setting up pins for Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII to knock them all down. The force isn’t strong with this one, but we’re only just getting started.

★★★☆☆

Watch the trailer here.

Andrew Hates… PIXELS

Pixels

Dir: Chris Columbus, 2015

When a time capsule containing footage of eighties arcade games is sent into space, aliens intercept it and misinterpret the videos as a declaration of war. As they begin to attack the Earth in the form of these retro video games, U.S. President Will Cooper must call on his old friends and arcade experts Sam Brenner, Ludlow Lamonsoff and Eddie “Fire Blaster” Plant to save the world from an invasion comprised of Centipede, Galaga, PAC-MAN and Donkey Kong.

It’s incomprehensible to think that The Goonies, Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire all came from the man who now punishes us with Pixels but then we’ve watched Chris Columbus work, nay, fall down the ladder of success for some time – at least as far as the quality of his films is concerned. The aforementioned are classic examples of family films with universal appeal to audiences of all ages whereas Columbus’ more recent projects are anything but and Pixels is no exception.

The evolution of nerd culture in the past decade, let alone three, has been significant. Most significant is that it’s no longer ‘nerd culture’, it’s now geek culture (‘nerd’ being considered more of an insult whereas ‘geek’ is a point of pride). So it’s unsurprising that this redefining facet of its own demographic is something that Pixels completely overlooks, just as it does everything else about its audience.

The blitzkrieg of nostalgia intended to accompany these beloved classic arcade games is squandered on anyone born in the last twenty-five years and the sense of humour on offer is far too lowbrow for those whose maturity precludes them from enjoying Grown-Ups. The special effects are the sole bonus in a world of game-overs but the action set pieces are driven with absolutely zero charisma which is what a film depicting retro arcade figures attacking Earth sorely needs.

Ironic that such a film comes out the same week as Trainwreck, the gender politics of Pixels are as antediluvian as its cultural references and are the foundation for the most misjudged third-act gag since Kingsman: The Secret Service. Not to mention the thought process behind Kevin James’ bewildering role as Paul Blart: Mall President while 30 Rock’s hilarious Jane Krakowski is cast aside as the ‘seen but not heard’ First Lady.

Whenever successful movie stars deliver sluggish performances in summer blockbusters, the modus operandi is to defend the actors by citing the script’s inferiority. With Pixels, the actors seem to be in collusion to act down to the script’s level and then some in a twisted race to become the film’s lowest common denominator. An enormous feat as there is almost no facet of the film that isn’t offensively abhorrent.

Adam Sandler continues to create movies that belong alongside MerMan and the other faux-films of Sandler’s character in Funny People, Peter Dinklage juxtaposes his grounded performance as Tyrion Lannister by chewing the CGI-scenery like he’s just fallen off the acting wagon and Josh Gad follows up The Wedding Ringer with another enthusiastic attempt to eviscerate Olaf the Snowman for those who enjoyed Frozen. Dan Aykroyd appears merely to plug his own brand of vodka and Sean Bean is present for one scene, the entirety of which he looks like his presence in the film is due to him losing a bet with Sandler.

There is nothing original about Pixels except that it manages to assuage all the fears of the misogynist, do-nothing, man-children by singing them a synthesized lullaby in which those endless hours they wasted playing video games and masturbating about Lady Lisa will be fruitful as one day they will save the world and win beautiful, voiceless women as trophies for their hard-earned victories.

An insipid, morally reprehensible slog of a film, Pixels is as enjoyable as watching someone else play video games for two hours… and that’s being very kind.

★☆☆☆☆

Watch the trailer here.

Andrew Hates… MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Dir: Christopher McQuarrie, 2015

Exasperated by their increasingly reckless activities, CIA chief Alan Hunley disbands the Impossible Mission Force and reassigns its agents. But the timing couldn’t be worse as Ethan Hunt and his team discover the existence of the IMF’s terrorist counterpart – a mysterious agency known only as ‘The Syndicate’.

For the past two decades, the Mission: Impossible franchise has established a reputation the like of no other action series in the world – it has taken its leading man and utilised his death-defying mantra to dumbfound its audience with some of the most astonishing practical stunts that we have ever seen. Like him or not, where Bourne brandishes ballpoints and Bond wields Walthers, Cruise achieves the impossible. Not only that, he embraces it.

The fifth in the series, Rogue Nation makes good on the franchise’s promise and does one better. Whereas its predecessor Ghost Protocol built the film around that spectacular set piece with Cruise climbing the tallest building in the world with Abu Dhabi’s Burj Khalifa, Rogue Nation is daring enough to place that Tom-Cruise-clinging-to-a-plane stunt at the opening of the film in a pre-credit sequence that is more exhilarating than anything 007 has ever fired at us. The fuse ignites and burns up and down in rollercoaster fashion for the next two hours as we are lavished with exotic locations, tongue-through-cheek humour and bonkers plots which act as welcome excuses for Cruise to jump off things.

The cast reunites Ving Rhames as old-school Luther Stickell, Simon Pegg as tech-savvy Benji Dunn, Jeremy Renner as company man William Brandt and Cruise along with newcomers Rebecca Ferguson portraying Ilsa Faust, an ambiguous “M:I-5” ally of Hunt, and Alec Baldwin as the weary CIA chief who grows more discontent with Hunt’s devil-may-care attitude by the minute. McQuarrie, writer of The Usual Suspects and director of Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher, has such a tailored cast to work with that it shines a harsh light on the likes of the Marvel franchise which is compelled to establish solo stars before uniting them as an ensemble. With Rogue Nation, every member of the cast bounces off one another that it’s difficult not to yearn for ‘The Adventures of Ethan and Benji’ or ‘The Odd Couple starring Luther and Brandt’.

If there is a slip in Rogue Nation’s step it’s with its antagonist, Solomon Lane, played by Borgias alumni Sean Harris. With an adversary as dramatically compelling as an anti-IMF, surely there should exist some mirror image of Ethan Hunt? Regrettably we do not get such a battle of wits or fists but the remainder of the cast click so well and the film in itself is so exhilarating that it’s hard to dwell on its shortcomings. Luckily Rebecca Ferguson’s mysterious rogue British agent keeps us playing the guessing game long enough as to her true nature that the thought of any fixed villain is abandoned.

Dodging its Christmas Day release date and the Star Wars/Bond competition that comes alongside it, Rogue Nation slots into a last-minute summer placement. Not primo-positioning for an ageing movie star trying to keep a franchise alive in its fifth instalment but Cruise and co. prove that Mission: Impossible is the unorthodox, adventitious blockbuster that abolishing would be a mistake we may regret.

Mission: Impossible remains an innocuous pleasure where logic is tossed aside faster than Michelle Monaghan and stunt coordinators take precedence over writers. Nevertheless, Rogue Nation is a mission so bold and bright that it’ll keep me clinging to the side of my seat until their next one, should its audience choose to accept it.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Watch the trailer here.

Andrew Hates… ANT-MAN

Ant-Man

Dir: Peyton Reed, 2015

Recently released from prison, master thief Scott Lang is sought out by retired superhero Dr. Hank Pym and persuaded to wear the Ant-Man suit – a weapons prototype which allows its wearer to shrink in size and increase in strength – in a last-ditch effort to pull off a heist that would protect the secret of the Ant-Man technology from falling into the wrong hands.

This is the twelfth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The twelfth. Which means we’re a little over halfway through the films that Marvel have authorised to consume our summers from 2008 until 2019 (and most likely onwards). So it’s not surprising that it’s becoming hard to find a new story with fresh characters and atmospheres for us to devote ourselves to while superheroes hurl each other through buildings. It’s nice to have your cake and dunk your face into it too, right?

And yet following on from the Cold War, fearmongering subtext of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the facetious space-western Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man plays as a recycled Marvel outing salvaged from the scrap metal of the original Iron Man film. Both are tales of much sought-after weaponised outfits that put the ‘war’ in ‘wardrobe’ but Iron Man’s post-9/11 cultural significance dramatically outguns Ant-Man’s post-Avengers superhero canon. In addition to Corey Stoll’s slimy, spoilt brat of an antagonist failing to fill the villainous void that Jeff Bridge’s Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger exudes in Marvel’s first foray.

Putting motifs aside, the blazing comic book exuberance that previous director Edgar Wright would have undoubtedly brought to the front is also clearly lacking, replaced by the hollow, muted voice of Yes Man director Peyton Reed. What was blatantly designed to be the latest in irreverent, sharp-tongued protagonists is instead neutered and transformed into a heavy-handed Robin Hood with a disdain for violence and a string of bad luck to boot.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing about Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang is the utter superfluity of his character. Evangeline Lilly portrays Hope van Dyne, the daughter of Hank Pym, who has the necessary skills, temperament and charisma to follow in her father’s footsteps but is repeatedly swatted away by Pym, noting a secret yet ultimately contrived reason that expresses more of a motivation for Marvel to keep its line of super-males dominant (despite their announcement of the forthcoming Ms Marvel film). Rudd, while no Chris Pratt, is a fun figure to watch exchange quips on-screen but not punches whereas we’ve seen Lilly hold her computer-generated own in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy.

Where the first hour of the film dwells on the laboured introductions of the characters and plot, the second half is where the faint vestige of Wright’s involvement and the bounce of co-writers Rudd and Adam McKay’s script begins to mesh, culminating in a vastly publicised action sequence involving a train set in a little girl’s bedroom. The ant-sized sequences are compelling enough to occupy adults whilst enchanting children and the gags provide sufficient chuckles to get you through Douglas’ scientific mumbo-jumbo. Unfortunately, this Ant-Man results in a playful placeholder in the MCU that serves its purpose in tiding us over until next summer’s Civil War but could’ve massively benefitted from a step in the Wright direction.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Watch the trailer here.

Andrew Hates… JURASSIC WORLD

Jurassic World

Dir: Colin Trevorrow, 2015

Jurassic Park is fantastic. I mean, just isn’t it? It’s terrifying, it’s exciting, it’s enlightening and it’s wonderful. I remember it being one of the first films I ever saw in the cinema and I recall vividly how it caused my imagination to explode into a billion pieces, reaching far and wide across the realms of impossibility. And yet, I thought, this could happen. Now, not this exactly but even then I could understand how, as Dr Alan Grant would come to say in the less-than-positively received Jurassic Park III, some of the worst things imaginable are done with the best intentions. And yet, I don’t see even the slightest bit of aspiration or well intent in Jurassic World. I see big, cartoonish dollar signs in its eyes.

As Sam Neill’s hat and Jeff Goldblum’s chest hair are retired into the Jurassic canon, we are introduced to our new heroes [sic]. Twenty-two years after the events of the first film (apparently ignoring the second and third entries), the park is now open to assumedly wealthy patrons with Bryce Dallas Howard’s operations manager overseeing the integration of a genetically engineered hybrid amongst the park’s attractions. When it breaks out, Howard must call on raptor-wrangler Chris Pratt to contain the beast and save her teenage nephews, who are lost in the wilderness of Jurassic World’s restricted areas.

Chris Pratt is fast becoming Mister Hollywood, fresh off the back of the relatively sleeper-hit Guardians of the Galaxy and amidst rumours of Pratt donning that fedora in the near future, so how does the film manage to put across Pratt as incredibly dull? Simple, there is not a single character developed in this film or written with a drop of charisma or profundity. Dallas Howard’s character is made out to be some sort of definition of the 21st century woman – successful, intelligent, sophisticated and yet is ignorant toward every responsibility that comes her way. This is a film whose gender politics are so skewed to the point where the moment Howard’s character’s nephews see her dispatch a pterodactyl in badass fashion, they immediately opt to go with Pratt’s conventional ‘man’ character, whom they had never seen before let alone seen do something of equal measure to Howard’s turning point.

The big bad of this piece is the Indominus Rex (an appellative cousin of Unobtanium, no doubt) a genetically-modified dinosaur that can camouflage its exterior, mask its thermal signature, etc. all tricks to “up the wow factor” among Jurassic patrons who are bored by regular dinosaurs and who have complete faith in this new and improved dino-island because the word “Park” has been replaced by the word “World”. I don’t know about you, but the thought of a ‘til-recently-extinct, ravenous predator snapping at my heels is scary enough without needing to give it superpowers.

Then, there’s possibly the dumbest of the dumb in Vincent D’Onofrio’s military contractor Vic Hoskins. Fresh off playing a layered villain in the sympathetic yet sociopathic Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin) in Netflix’s Daredevil television series, D’Onofrio cashes in as Jurassic World’s human antagonist who is determined to employ the velociraptors as super-soldiers for the United States military. If a villain is indeed meant to be the most misguided of all the characters, D’Onofrio certainly clinches it, but only just.

Admittedly, Jurassic World is meant to be fun, whereas the first of the franchise was entertaining and intelligent with a very precise message and with compassionate, cleverly written characters to create an empathetic audience – such is the nature of science fiction. Jurassic World does no such thing, throwing idiotic plotlines and protagonists at the screen haphazardly and hoping they’ll stick, with tired and lazy action set pieces that we’ve seen time and time again. A T-Rex attacking a jeep is replaced with an Indominus Rex attacking a gyrosphere; pteranodons attacking Alessandro Nivola are replaced by pterosaurs attacking faceless extras. The essence of chaos, indeed.

Not to say that Trevorrow and co. didn’t even aim for subtext, there are parallels with the Hollywood film industry and images of Jurassic World’s Samsung pyramid are quickly followed up by an enthused takedown of corporate sponsorship by New Girl and Safety Not Guaranteed’s Jake Johnson in a gag that seems to play more like an excuse than satire. But the greatest piece of subtext that Trevorrow succeeds in getting across is the film itself. The idea of Jurassic Park itself is an arrogant demonstration of mankind’s meddling in its vie to control that which is greater than themselves – nature. Jurassic World is an arrogant demonstration of film studios’ meddling in their vie to control that which is greater than themselves – film. And as long as we keep paying to see said demonstration, capitalism will, uh, find a way.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Watch the trailer here

Andrew Hates… THE WOLVERINE

Image

Dir: James Mangold, 2013

Haunted by the death of Jean Grey, Logan has once again retreated into the wilderness of the Canadian mountains, giving up the moniker of Wolverine. There he is found by Yukio, who convinces him to travel to Tokyo as the final wish of dying Japanese billionaire Yashida, whose life Logan saved during World War Two’s bombing in Nagasaki. Upon arrival, Yashida declares he wishes to repay Logan for saving his life by making him mortal.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine was not well received. Many criticisms were made of the over-abundance of mutant characters, the lacking script and the butchering of fan-favourite Gambit. But of course, it was extremely profitable and therefore a sequel was never out of the question. So, producer Lauren Shuler Donner enlists The Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie and director Darren Aronofsky, who is bent on securing an R-rating. Already things are looking up. That is, until Aronofsky drops out and rewrites are made to McQuarrie’s script.

As much as The Wolverine’s pre-production resembles a game of musical chairs, director James Mangold does enter the void with all the best intentions. It’s clear that Mangold is aiming for an Origins antidote, maintaining the focus strictly on Logan and keeping the mutant counter to a minimum (apart from including the maddeningly dull and confusing “Viper”). However despite sidestepping the little mistakes that Origins made, The Wolverine dives head-first into the bigger ones all the while trying to convince us that this is a different film.

The Wolverine depicts Logan in exile, more lost than ever, vowing never to hurt anyone again. Of course, this vow lasts all of ten minutes until some poor saps make the mistake of killing a bear and Logan comes looking for vengeance in full PETA-mode. Then we’re introduced to the cute yet staggeringly badass Yukio who brings Logan to Japan and it’s there where a whole load of nothing happens.

As bizarre as this sounds, Origins is a hard film to follow-up because there isn’t much of a story left to tell. We’ve seen Logan become the Wolverine, we’ve seen his X-peditions with that lovable mutant school and now what? Well we have Logan daydreaming in cleavage-heaven with Jean Grey, having nightmares about the events of X3: The Last Stand (and so say all of us) but as far as heightening the drama for the character, this just doesn’t fly. Mostly because these interludes with Famke Janssen force audiences to reminisce about that disastrous third film, which is akin to vividly imagining bowel movements before tucking into a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

The action scenes are refreshingly intimate compared to the Metropolis-destroying, aircraft-crashing set pieces of the summer so far, but they’re far too formulaic and feel like Mangold has a timer of no more than fifteen minutes before the claws must come out. Samurai tropes are thrown around frequently but the energy and innovation of the bushido are lacking, replaced with stringently edited violence and CGI mechanical monsters. This is very much a Hollywood film set in the Far East.

The Wolverine lacks the courage to commit to both its story and its setting, instead revelling on a half-immortal Wolverine and a beautiful Japanese backdrop that is spoiled by every Asian cliché under the sun, including chopstick gags, bathhouses and Yakuza versus Samurai. Ultimately, the audience is reminded of what could have been under a different writer and director and instead left with a mid-credits scene that overshadows the entire film.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Watch the trailer here

Andrew Hates… MAN OF STEEL

Image

Dir: Zack Snyder, 2013

On the faraway dying planet of Krypton, Jor-El and Lara dispatch their newborn son to Earth, along with the means to prolong their race, before Krypton is destroyed. Raised by foster parents who urge him to keep his identity secret, the boy adopts the name Clark Kent and through his lineage develops superpowers. Now fully-grown, Clark encounters the traitorous Kryptonian General Zod, who means to destroy Clark’s new home.

Upon completing his Dark Knight trilogy, Christopher Nolan enlists Zack Snyder to do for Superman what Batman Begins did for the Caped Crusader. After a bombastic opening in which Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon snarl at each other with a backdrop of Star Wars prequels meet Apocalypse Now, Man of Steel leaps right into the life of a self-exiled Clark Kent. Most films, particularly origin stories, feature an overtly prominent character arc. For instance if your first projection of Superman is one where he’s in hiding, debating his own morality and struggling to find his place in the world, then the rational third-act standpoint for his character is fighting for truth, justice and the American way. Snyder explores this inner conflict and emphasises it in some notable scenes with Kevin Costner but it’s all too easy. The laborious progression into heroism is absent because this is not the story of Clark Kent nor even Superman. This is an account of Kal-El, the last son of Krypton.

For a film about a hero faster than a speeding bullet, Man of Steel’s narrative is painfully slow to the extent where a bullet sounds appetising. David S. Goyer’s screenplay nods its head to many films from The Matrix to Inception but I hesitate to anthropomorphise the script for fear of creating the misconception that there is any life in it. The first two-thirds of the film consist of several scenes linked together in as sanctimonious a fashion as the comic book world has ever seen. Topped off with a third act that is an overwhelming indulgence of SFX porn the likes that would transform Michael Bay into (even more of) a lecherous wretch. Man of Steel’s gruelling banality swells and swells until you’re being begged to poke holes in the film. Now some would call dwelling on the inconsistencies of such a film’s breed of fantasy-science nitpicking but when the story is a loud, muddled outburst of chainmail tentacles, magical fertility skulls and the destruction of every building ever constructed ever, you’ll permit me my pointing out of minor plot errors.

Possibly Man of Steel’s greatest shortcoming is its inability to promote empathy for its protagonist. On that note, let’s backtrack a little. Christopher Reeve donned the red cape because he had charm, confidence and a strong chin. Brandon Routh headlined Bryan Singer’s underrated Superman Returns because of his uncanny Christopher Reeve impersonation. With Henry Cavill, Snyder is clearly trying to replicate the brooding nature of Christian Bale’s Batman but shoots himself in the leg by presenting a comparison between the two. Ultimately, Batman has more to offer audiences and it can be boiled down to the simple, basic fact that he’s human. There are rare bully-related encounters where Cavill erupts and a vision of caged anger jolts an interest in the character but when overshadowed by the vacancy of Cavill’s performance and paired with the nomadic first act, Superman begins to look like Wolverine on Xanax. Prior to the finish, a female army captain comments that Superman is “kinda hot” in such a bizarrely offhand manner that it sounds as if Snyder is justifying his hiring of Cavill in the first place. Nice try Zack, but I wouldn’t advise seeking absolution from die-hard comic fans.

The other performances are either jaded or draw from shallow wells. Amy Adams’ stereotypical role of the passionate researcher in that of Lois Lane contributes nothing except that of the compulsory flailing damsel to be plucked up in mid-air by the rugged hero – I wonder what a superhero blockbuster without a love interest would be like. Shannon’s scenery-chewing, erratic portrayal of General Zod is formidable, if not for being drowned in an obnoxious demonstration of CGI gone wild. Returning to Man of Steel’s emotional core, Snyder is torn between two father figures and therefore giving neither of them any lasting impression. Crowe’s deceased Jor-El flaunts about the film, his presence there supplied via a Superman USB flash drive, and Costner’s Jonathan Kent delivers Uncle Ben speeches whose poignancy is drained by a cameraman who seems to have had one too many cups of coffee. Case in point, when your film’s dramatic summit is the clichéd sub-plot of freeing an arbitrary character from her prison of rubble in the final act, you’ve got a deeply serious problem.

Nolan and Goyer’s bleak re-envisioning of Superman falls flat due to a lack of the fundamental albeit discreet campiness that breathes life into the character. Pair that with a director who simply cannot draw from his actors and has a fetish for brash, uncontrollable action orgies, Man of Steel is a wasteful bastardisation of a comic book hero whose rugged side is yet to be shown with any tact and probably never will – unless you count Unbreakable.

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Watch the trailer here.