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How Would You Rank The Christopher Nolan Films?

nolan

This past week, there’s been the usual discussion between Nolan nerds over how his latest film, Dunkirk, fits in with the rest of his work. I normally stay out of these ranking conversations because my rule of thumb with Nolan is that his movies take time to process and analyze, for better or worse. Sometimes, his movies seem better on the second watch or months later. Sometimes, they’re worse. I doubt Dunkirk will be any different, either way.

Go on…How Would You Rank The Christopher Nolan Films?

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Unopinionated: ‘Man of Steel’ Isn’t the Superman Movie We Asked For

esman of steel unpopular opinion

Every week, readers send me their unpopular opinions, and on Unopinionated, I explain why they’re unpopular in the first place.

From my inbox: “Man of Steel is a lot better than people give it credit for. In fact, it’s pretty much flawless.” – Shadan

The first “can’t put my finger on it” issue with Man of Steel is its identity crisis. Is it a space opera or a superhero movie? While some of the best superhero movies attempt to mix genres (the spy thriller undertones of Captain America: The Winter Soldier are a fine example), Man of Steel fails to commit fully to its aesthetic, bouncing themes and ideas around without any sort of thread that connects them.

Make a better world than ours, Kal. – Lara Lor-Van

This is partly because Man of Steel spends most of its long running time explaining what Kryptonians are, rather than who they are. And this of course carries over to Superman himself, who is so embedded in mainstream culture at this point that any sort of follow up has to sell him in a unique way in order to be effective.

The structure is overtly reminiscent of Batman Begins, and for good reason. Nolan’s 2005 rebirth of the Batman film franchise led to WB’s critical and financial smash hit, The Dark Knight, oft cited as the best superhero movie of all time. It makes sense that the studio would want to retell Superman’s origins with the same kind of flashback-focused narrative that combines backstory with the drama of the hero’s first journey.

In Batman Begins, however, there’s a clear vision that unites these flashbacks with present day, mostly because Christopher Nolan had creative authority. In Man of Steel, which was helmed by Zack Snyder, it’s clear that some parts of the film had separate influences. To put it bluntly, it’s jarring to jump from a Zack Snyder sci-fi movie to a Christopher Nolan origin story (with some vague Dragonball Z aesthetics thrown in during the final act).

man of steel unpopular opinion

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent is a double-edged sword of satisfaction. He absolutely looks the part, and his early wanderings in the movie are a highlight. Watching him show restraint in the face of overwhelming opposition (only to sacrifice the mystery in order to be a hero) is both a clever and unique way to make sense out of why he wants to be Superman in the first place.

Aside from this, Clark Kent is a character with very little to do, and even fewer critical decisions to make (which is why it feels bizarre when he does finally do something surprising). Instead, he merely reacts to everything around him as he scrambles from plot point to plot point. True, the script tries to add depth to his character with carefully worded interactions between him and the supporting cast, but they’re offset by impossibly moronic character decisions, notably with Jonathan Kent’s guidance and ultimate sacrifice that makes very little sense constructively.

People are afraid of what they don’t understand. – Jonathan Kent

Clark Kent is presented as a blank character who has more symbolism thrust upon him than any of the humanity (or Kryptonianity) that would make such symbolism feel substantial. Before the movie has a chance to actually go somewhere with Clark’s future and motivations, an all-out brawl erupts that monopolizes the final act, undercutting most of the thought-provoking ideas that would have justified the movie’s exposition. By the time the end credits start rolling, the audience is left with a titular character who is actually quite boring.

man of steel

Some of this could have been forgivable if Man of Steel had better handled its Lois Lane, which is likely the levity-filled saving grace of the first few Superman films. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Amy Adams’ Lois and Cavill’s Superman stumbles around in order to feel a little less forced than it deserves. The characters exchange few lines before major reveals (and out-of-context romance) take place, which could have been a novel idea if the film had offered more weight to these crucial moments.

Despite all of this, Man of Steel is not a terrible movie. In fact, it succeeds in many ways that its predecessors fell short. It gracefully omits typical Superman lore (Lex Luthor, kryptonite, etc.) in order to put attention on a unique narrative, complete with an awe-inspiring reimagining of Krypton. The action scenes are certainly eye-catching, discounting the egregious IHOP product placement and overly extended set pieces.

But overall, much of what Man of Steel offers in terms of themes, characters, and plot simply doesn’t mix with the established mythos of Superman. This wouldn’t be a problem, of course, if the movie wasn’t trying to tackle the most recognizable superhero of all time.

Hi, Lois Lane. Welcome to The Planet. – Lois

A gritty, more realistic take on Batman made sense because the character himself is already  somewhat grounded, making his internal struggle as endearing as it is believable. To replicate this, Snyder doubled down on how Superman is essentially Earth’s “messiah,” an enduring (and obvious) interpretation of the source material. The problem is that this isn’t what people actually love about the character, despite how fundamental the Jesus story is to Clark Kent. What people love about Superman lies elsewhere, far removed from a 33-year old Superman posing on a figurative cross in outer space. That kind of Superman is, for lack of a word already mentioned in this review, boring.

Simply put, Snyder’s Superman is a messiah, a son, a hero, and a wanderer. But strangely enough, he’s never a character. Not an interesting one, at least. And that’s all anyone was asking for.

Grade: C


Do you have an unpopular opinion you want challenged? Let me know in the comments and I’ll take it on in a future Unopinionated article. Or you can email nowconspiring@gmail.com

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

 

The ‘Zorro’ Reboot Will Probably Make Us Sad

Zorro, our favorite California crime-fighter from the 1800s is coming back in a big way (for the people!) Let’s talk about it.

The Mask of Zorro has always been my favorite adventure movie, even ahead of A Knight’s Tale. Speaking of Heath Ledger, this new reboot—that is actually happening—is planned to emulate a certain franchise the late (and great) Heath Ledger himself elevated: The Dark Knight.

That’s right, the new Zorro is planned to be leaner, grittier and emotional—er. I’m not really sure why.

Because amidst of all of the quasi-realistic adaptations of famous costumed crime-fighters, few have actually been well-received. Yes, Man of Steel was a hit financially, but the cultural significance of the Marvel movies proved to us that you don’t need gritty storytelling to tell a good story.

What worries me is that we’re losing the campy fun and swashbuckling adventure that made me (and many of you) fall in love with Zorro when we were kids. After watching Banderas don the mask twice, I became entranced with the old Zorro movies because it was a proper homage, but what will a “serious” reboot pay tribute to for the next generation?

But we don’t have to be overly negative. There are two primary possibilities: this will either be akin to Batman Begins or Man of Steel.

In other words, it’s either going to be good or just decent.

In the case of Batman Begins, the writers found a great way to shift the dramatic narrative associated with Batman, who is frequently portrayed as a serious character in a goofy world. To put it another way, we got the Batman we deserved.

Then they tried the same thing with Superman, which followed the same basic formula. It was liberal with the story arc, had beards and tried to be as intense as possible, but it didn’t work quite as well. We left theaters feeling underwhelmed, and I’m honestly not sure why.

And that’s my honest fear about what they’re planning to do for Zorro, a character I actually cherish above Superman and Batman (don’t yell at me).

Of course, this won’t be the only iteration of Zorro vying for our attention. You may have also heard about another movie coming out called Zorro Reborn, a sci-fi remix of the original character that plants the Fox in a post-apocalyptic world. I know, but let’s just give it a chance.

What do you think? To reboot or not to reboot? Let me know with a passive aggressive Tweet or comment.

Thanks for Reading! You can subscribe to this blog by email via the prompt on the sidebar. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@JonNegroni). I’ll follow you back if you say something witty and awesome.

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