Over the last few weeks we've seen several movies. Two of them I was actually really excited for. One of those two was quite good--the other was not. Man of Steel takes Superman, a character that I often struggle to empathize with (and writers often struggle to challenge him meaningfully too, which is why there's a rash of really stupid Superman stories out there--see this link to see a little bit of what I mean. So, perhaps my expectations for Man were a little on the low side. As it turns out, I greatly enjoyed it. I think it may have been a little long, and the flashback storytelling style was an experiment that worked, but I can't really say that I preferred it. It was perhaps necessary to set up the conflict that came later when General Zod and the rogue Kryptonians showed up to threaten Earth. Although I've gotta think by now that retelling the origin stories of well-known characters like Batman, Superman or Spiderman is superfluous, and I hope that future "reboots" forego it and just move on to us already accepting that the superhero is a superhero without having to show us all (again) how that happened.
Unlike in Bryan Singer's tepid Superman Returns, the titular character actually manages to be likeable and charismatic, as well as not a brooding social outcast (that probably says more about the writers than anything else that Garfield's Peter Parker was changed into a somewhat sociopathic, irresponsible, social outcast who rebels against authority and structure rather than simply a bit of a shy nerd, as Stan Lee wrote him as originally, for instance. The same could be true for Singer's version of the Man of Steel.) This makes watching him much more interesting, although a few changes felt more like deja vu than they probably should have (why does Clark's earth-father have to do an Uncle Ben and die, after encouraging Superman to not use his powers, for instance?)
However, when the movie really gets going, it has some of the best superhero on supervillain action we've ever seen on film. So much so, in fact, that my 11 year old son bizarrely told me that the movie had too much action (I didn't agree; I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. But he's not the only one to make that claim.) If The Avengers really raised the bar on what we can expect to see in terms of wild and crazy superheroes banging away at each other and blowing things up and smashing things, then Man of Steel seriously raised it even further. Makes me wonder what Thor 2 is going to accomplish this fall, since in many ways, Thor is a comparable character to Superman (in terms of what he can do and the "yahoo" factor in action scenes that feature him, anyway.)
Now, The Lone Ranger, on the other hand, was a movie that I hoped would be good and which wasn't. Kinda the opposite situation, in a way. Not only was it too long and fairly slow and tedious at times, but it just got it all wrong. Pundits and analysts can't ever seem to figure out why folks don't like certain movies (according to some post mortem I've read on this movie already, which is also already considered a bomb after one weekend) but for my money, the problems were as follows:
- Like I said, slow and tedious for most of the movie.
- I have a pet peeve about characters who know what needs to be done, but who spend most of the movie (or book, or whatever, as the case may be) refusing to do it on principle only to come around finally near the end. The Lone Ranger as a reluctant hero--a pacifist nearly, in fact, who refuses to carry or use a gun--is just stupid. It also seems like the kind of story that someone would write who knows absolutely nothing about guns and has an agenda around them--probably a poor choice for the writers of a movie about cowboys.
- Is it not tiresome to see this ahistorical reenactment of appeasement and white guilt? The Comanche were represented as totally friendly innocent bystanders to white manuevering, which is absurd--there was no living with the Comanche. It wasn't just the Spanish, Mexican, Texan and American forces who were consistently raided, killed, kidnapped and tortured to death by the Comanche--the Apache, the Kiowas, the Utes, the Shoshones, Tonkawa, Blackfeet, etc.--all of them hated the Comanche because of the violent and barbaric practices that they had.
- Lest you think I'm simply being "sensitive"--there was one scene in which Tonto, after waking up from being unconscious and finding himself surrounded by Chinese rail workers, says something about John Reid being a "stupid white man" and the Chinese all nodding knowingly. This movie actively set out to offend and insult the majority of its audience!
- The characters of Tonto and the Lone Ranger are nothing like the prototypes from earlier works that they supposedly resemble. What's the point of making them the same characters if you're going to change almost everything about them?
- The love interest was uncomfortable. A love triangle is a fine situation for a movie plot to resolve, but when two of the principles are brothers... yeah, nobody wants to see that.
- My in-laws also pointed out that the action was cartoonish and silly. Knowing that this was the same team that did the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, that didn't surprise me (also--I actually saw the trailers for the movie, where they showed some of it.) It's still something to consider. This is a far cry from a gritty New Western.