MovieBob - Intermission
And Who, Disguised as Clark Kent

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 14 Sep 2012 12:00
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Be Sexy

Speaking of director/producer differences on this project, if there's one thing that makes Christopher Nolan stand out from his blockbuster brethren it's that he might be the most (aesthetically) asexual filmmaker working in Hollywood right now. That's not necessarily a criticism, just an observation. A constant theme in his films is the distraction of Very Serious Men from their Very Serious Work by female sexuality (in Inception, everyone's life is literally imperiled because Leonardo DiCaprio can't stop being thinking about his hot, dead wife). If you ever wanted to understand just how much personality and sex appeal Anne Hathaway brings to a role, just watch her manage to be sexy as Catwoman in The Dark Knight when the camera couldn't care less if she's in a scene unless she has exposition to deliver.

Zack Snyder, on the other hand, is probably the most sexually blunt filmmaker working in top-level genre entertainment at the moment. Not necessarily in a sleazy way, but in a "not pretending this isn't already there" way. His adaptation of 300 was called "homoerotic" mostly in jest - way of needling notoriously faux-macho Frank Miller - but it caught a basic truth about Snyder's approach to the movie. Whereas other genre filmmakers had taken to downplaying or outright ignoring the sexualization of the male form in action iconography, he made it the focal point of the film's visual motif. Forget the chiseled abs and speedos - watch how much 300 loves its money-shots of massive spears stabbing across the screen amid slo-mo blood spurts. Subtle.

While Superman definitely doesn't require Watchmen's level of self-awareness for the innate kink aspect of costumed crimefighting, it could definitely stand the influence of a filmmaker who won't blush at the notion of its adult characters having interest in one another (and the audience in them, for that matter) beyond starry-eyed chaste affection. There's always been an element of slightly-more-grownup fantasy to Superman and Lois Lane; liberated (for the 1930s) career girl Lois walks all over Clark "Smallville" Kent, unaware that it's a put-on and he's actually the (literal) Ubermensch and the only man powerful enough to impress even her.

There hasn't been much released in terms of costumes or character shots from Man of Steel as yet, but anyone who saw Immortals can tell you that new Superman Henry Cavill already looks like he just walked out of a marble sculpture - presumably, this movie won't be letting that go to waste. (For what it's worth, the film's main villain apart from General Zod is supposedly Faora Hu-Ul, a Silver Age female enemy from Krypton whose central hang-up was a pathological hatred for all males.)

Be About Something

Not every movie needs a message, but they at least need a theme - some kind of animating central idea that says "this is why I exist" apart from "Warner Bros. really wants to still own this character a year from now."

In '76, the Donner film made the big question mark of making the film in the first place ("Is Superman relevant in the modern world?") the theme of the film itself. When Superman first introduces himself to Lois Lane, he makes it clear that he's very much the Big Blue Boy Scout everyone was expecting. Lois, a thoroughly modern cynic and the nominal voice of the audience, laughs off his sincerity. He spends the remainder of the film proving her (and us) wrong.

More than anything else, this is what Man of Steel needs to have found: something about its characters and/or story that it thinks is important enough to command a few hours of an audience's time. These themes can be complex (The Dark Knight is about the disconnect between what we want our heroes to be and what we need them to do) or they can be head-slapping simple (every frame of The Avengers is about reinforcing "It's good to make friends."). This is the difference between movies that connect and movies that don't. If "Man of Steel can find it, it will work.

Simple as that.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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